I was recently invited to a media dinner at Sonny’s on Exchange St. to sample some food representative of the new direction in which they will be taking their menu and also to try some Del Maguey Mezcal to go with it. With the opportunity to not only try the food and beverage, but also get some insight as to how the spirit was produced, I looked forward to learning almost as much as eating.
My evening started with a beverage, the Pufferfish – mezcal, cocchi rosa, dry curacao, lemon, absinthe. The drink was light pinkish in color and nicely permeated by citrus with a smokey mezcal highlight. It was an excellent drink and a particularly appropriate prelude to the meal. I sipped it and mingled for a bit before it was time to be seated for some food.
The meal started with Fish Chicharron. The raw fish bite wasn’t exactly what I was dying for considering that I’m not much of a connoisseur of raw seafood. However, when I finally unearthed the courage to eat it, I found it to be pretty solid and maybe an indication that I should try more raw swimmers in the future. I don’t have much to compare it to, but I felt it would be worth eating again which surprised me. This course was paired with Chichicapa mezcal.
Our second food of the evening was Moqueca Custard – coconut, chile, octopus. Not exactly a custard, the take on a Brazilian stew was delicious with a bit of heat throughout from the chile. I love octopus, and the pieces of the eight-legged sea squirmer were quite the tasty topper to the thick, creamy broth.
Next up was a “Chicken Caesar” Taco. The small taco was absolutely delicious with its soft shell a great holder to the bird, greens, and other flavor enhancers. I took a few bites and it was quickly gone. Then I commiserated with others at the table about how we wondered if there were more of them available.
Huarache with fermented salsa and epazote – or Mexican tea – was the fourth course. It was paired with Santo Domingo mezcal. Normally made with meat, the hurache was vegetarian and might have been one of the tastiest meatless dishes I’ve had. Sitting on a tortilla, the offering was teeming with flavor. A really well put together item, I was a little sad when it was done.
Last on our plates in the savory category was Cochinita Pibil and a taster of Minero mezcal. Marinated and wrapped in banana leaves, the hunk of Yucatan style meat was served in a large rectangular portion. Tender and very tasty, there was so much food, that I was somewhat full after eating it all, which was fine since it was essentially the entree.
As a pre-dessert dessert, we had the opportunity to try Tepache with meringue, canela, citrus. Tepache is a sweetened, fermented beverage made with pineapple. With fruit, flower petals, and hard crisps of meringue that were cooked at a low temperature for 18 hours, the plate was light and tasty with plenty of acid, some of which was from lime.
The final dish was “Mole” – almond tortilla, smoked chocolate, fruit nixtamal. There was a scoop of whipped cream next to it all. The nixtamalization of the fruit refers to soaking it in an alkaline solution – lime based in this case – to soften it. The chocolate was much better than the standard and added a great component to the combination. Chocolate and fruit is always great, but the smoke and citrus notes earned extra credit. Tobala mezcal rounded out the final course.
Sonny’s meal was a fun experience and the Latin food was truly enjoyable. The tacos and huarache are certainly worthy of menu appetizer status. The other items seem like they would do well on there too. Either way, if this is the type of menu Sonny’s is working toward, it seems to be a good choice. The food has flair, flavor, and doesn’t feel like other restaurants in Portland.
Del Maguey mezcal was excellent too. We had the opportunity to try four of them per above and they all had their own unique qualities. Each made by a single family in a different village in Mexico, the spirit supports producers who are competing against major corporations to sell their wares. There are significant flavor differences in each one, the result of differing agave species, growing regions, ages, roasting durations, fermentation times, and the like. Find all the details on their website at delmaguey.com.
If you are looking for a mezcal a bit on smoother side, you may want to try the Chichicapa or the Minero. The Santo Domingo was a little harsher up front as was the Tobala, though a little less so. Try any of the Del Maguey mezcals and remember that if you’re drinking Del Maguey, you’re helping to support a hardworking family in Mexico. Since drinking is a philanthropic endeavor, head over to Sonny’s to have a mezcal cocktail and a bite to eat and feel good about yourself.
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