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Not your street variety tamal: this one has huitlacoche and Ocosingo cheese and is pared with a white wine. Not your street variety tamal: this one has huitlacoche and Ocosingo cheese and is pared with a white wine.

Tamales move up to gourmet status—paired with wine, no less

Culinary school restaurant kicks them up a notch

Tamales, the pre-Hispanic snack food served on street corners throughout the land each morning, are getting a gourmet makeover for Candlemas.

Though they’re traditionally paired with chocolate, coffee and the corn-based beverage atole, one Mexico City restaurant wants to enhance the tamal experience by complementing them with Mexico’s finest wines.

The chefs at Nido, the restaurant of the Advanced School of Gastronomy, have teamed up with the Mexican Vinicultural Council to offer epicures a unique seasonal tasting menu. For the week before Candlemas, which falls on Sunday, sommelier Jimena Cuevas paired tamales with wines from various parts of the country to put a new twist on the old Mexican recipes.

The combinations can be sampled at the restaurant’s Barra de Maíz (Corn Bar), a 10-seat bar that customarily offers an eight-course menu of dishes made with corns native to Guerrero.

One such pairing is the tamal made with the fatty cut of beef called suadero and the acidic chile morita served with a glass of Calixa blend (cabernet sauvignon and petit syrah) from Monte Xanic, in Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe.

A beef tamal with chile morita served with Calixa from Monte Xanic.
A beef tamal with chile morita served with Calixa from Monte Xanic.

The wine gives the tamal a smoother flavor and balances out its acidity, spice and stickiness.

The blue corn tamal made with huauzontle (a native Mexican plant similar to amaranth) and creamy Mexican ramonetti cheese is paired with the pinot noir of Coahuila’s Bodegas del Viento.

This complex, aromatic wine with hints of cacao, nuts and fruits contrasts perfectly with the herbal flavors in the tamal, said Chilango magazine, which called it the best pairing on the menu.

White wines with a bit of flavor from the barrel pair well with the strong flavors of cheese. Such is the case with the tamal stuffed with huitlacoche (corn smut) and Ocosingo cheese and served with Ocho Blanco from Baja California’s Bruma winery.

According to wine expert Cuevas, sparkling wines are the best companions for sweet tamales because they refresh the palate from greasiness and enhance the flavors of fruits and spices. So for dessert she paired the bar’s roasted pineapple tamal with a sparkling wine from Querétaro.

This tamal, made with natural vanilla from Papantla, Veracruz, has an almost cookie-like texture that’s suitably topped by caramelized pineapple and cheese ice cream. The bubbles from the Brut Nature Gran Reserva of the Freixenet winery make the dish even more playful.

Nido is located in Mexico City’s stylish La Condesa neighborhood, and the tamal and wine menu is only available until Saturday. Call ahead to make the required reservations.

For a more traditional tamal experience, head to the 28th annual tamal fair at the National Museum of Popular Cultures in Coyoacán.

Source: Chilango (sp)

Editor’s note: After we published Tuesday’s story on the tamal fair a reader advised that the singular of the word tamal is tamale in English, and he was right — according to the dictionaries we checked. When the question was put to MND writers, most leaned toward tamal. Why tack an “e” on the end anyway? We invite your comments below.

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