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'Tis the Season for Spirits and Cheese: (Reposado) Tequila Edition

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This holiday season, turn the tables on the traditional "wine and cheese" combo by pairing cheeses with your favorite hard alcohol. In this special series, I'll be investigating which fromages go best with distilled spirits as well as offering tips on how to construct a tasting without breaking the bank.

Before I moved to Texas, I thought there was one type of tequila: the kind that made me throw up. Blame my ignorance on very limited experience. I had tried tequila exactly once, in a freshman dorm in snowy Boston, to the tune of several shots taken with a stale limes.

Thank God I left Massachusetts. During my past six years in Texas, I've dropped my guard, attended a number of tequila tastings and explored some varietals on my own. Fortunately and unfortunately, I've discovered two things: (1) there's a big wide world of delicious tequilas (2) I have expensive tastes.

So, when I was planning for this latest spirits and cheese posting, it was hard for me not to stray from the "on the cheap" theme and indulge. I needed to restrain myself, just not too much, because Lord knows no cheese on earth could improve a horrific, cheap-o tequila.

Overwhelmed by contrasting reviews online, I went to Spec's and blindly picked out a lower-end tequila that didn't at least look too bargain basement:

Pairing cheeses with the Xalisco was a bit challenging thanks (or no thanks) to its mellow tones and slight, slight honey flavor. I wanted to bring out some of its subtler notes but at the same time not overwhelm the spirit (which would undermine the entire point of reposadao aging). I took a chance at Kroger and upon recommendation of their cheese steward, Dena, I bought a small wedge of Yancey's Fancy Hot Sauce cheddar, for contrast, and a semi-hard Spanish goat cheese.

A fail on the spanish goat cheese, whose rough, jagged interior and bland richness didn't liven up the tequila. A win, however, for Yancey's. Soft in texture, strong in pepper flavor, the cheddar simultaneously brought out some the smoky, oaky notes of the tequila but also was balanced by its level-headed agave tones.

In far less nuanced terms, this pairing made me feel like I was eating spicy buffalo wings bathing in creamy blue cheese sauce. "Roar, ooh, roar," went my tastebuds. The introduction of some Fritos only heightened the experience with some salty grains. Win-win-win.

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