Sure, we have a soft spot for pounding coronas and 3am burritos, but we dug deeper to uncover six small-batch makers hawking Mexican inspired goodness north of the Rio Grande.
NW Elixir // Verde Hott // Portland, OR
Toss on a blindfold and walk the streets of Mexico City and you’ll find a life altering taco faster than a peeking cheater can hit a piñata at a birthday party. Part of the reason is properly made Salsa Verde. This revelation of roasted tomatillos, fiery serranos and fresh cilantro is traditionally mashed up in a molcajete (a mortar and pestle made of volcanic rock) and is a staple at most street carts south of the border. Up in Portland, Chef Andrew Garrett took a swing at replicating the stuff and has since cornered the market on mind blowing US of A Verde.
Just Cook // Ancho Rub // San Francisco, CA
Despite the proliferation of Old El Paso dust packets in households across America, 50 year old Scott Lucas decided to leverage 20 years of software sales experience and take a stand. Wait, what? A software guy making spice rubs? Yep, like the quiet kid in the corner of the class that secretly knows Karate, Scott has a knack for kicking things up. Ground ancho chiles (the dried version of a poblano, which originated in the Mexican state of Puebla) are cut with smoky chipotle and aromatic orange peel. Just rub on chicken or snapper, grill and toss in a tortilla with a stripe of Verde. Tasty and easy enough to execute after one too many tequilas.
Liber & Co. // Texas Grapefruit Shrub // Austin, TX
It can be tough to remember that tequila expands beyond the cuervo soaked college kids of Cancun and neon green blended slushies, but the “Paloma” is worth its salt. Traditionally, a combo of tequila, grapefruit soda and lime in a rimmed glass and more popular than margaritas in many areas of Mexico, we sub in Liber & Co’s Grapefruit Shrub. A shrub is an infusion of fruit, vinegar and sugar that traces back to American colonial days and a couple Texan boys pay tribute to their hometown grown Rio Star grapefruit with this one. Mix with soda for a fresh-off-the-tree brightness that’s fit to wash down any plate of chorizo and eggs (Paloma Recipe: Mantry.com/recipes)
Fiddyment Farms // Chili Lime Pistachios // Lincoln , CA
Recently turning 90 years young, David Fiddyment has definitely shelled a pistachio or two in his day and is not the gent you want to find yourself in a thumb war with. But you are going to want to get your hand on a cerveza and start chasing swigs with these zesty gems. A popular Oaxacan bar snack (traditionally roasted in pork fat) lime and chile flavored nuts can also be bartered off vendors throughout Mexico. We’d like to cheers this pistachio pioneer on 30 siesta-less years of growing, roasting and packing premium pistachios on his family farm in the heart of California.
Olive & Sinclair // Cinnamon Chili Bar // Nashville, TN
The Music City knows a thing or two about duets and producer Scott Witherow allows fragrant ceylon cinnamon and a hint of cayenne heat to play off each other in this handcrafted number. A recipe sampled from the Aztec and Mayan people, who would grind cocoa with spices and chile, Scott starts each bar off with whole beans that are slow roasted and stone ground. Around his tiny factory, Scott (who has a Grande diplome from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy) makes sweets with a distinctive Southern twang. Buttermilk White Chocolate?` Smoked Brittle? No need to find a golden ticket to celebrate.
Aurelia’s // Dry-Cured Chorizo // Boerne, TX
One of the most memorable parts of eating your way around Mexico are the breakfasts. Waking up steeped in a morning fog from one too many foamy beers the night before, it seems as if Mexican food was devised with a hangover in mind. Stumble up to any roadside stall and within minutes appears a plate of nourishing beans, sizzling eggs and garlicky chorizo all adorned with fresh pico de gallo. In a small town an hour north of Austin, Leslie Horne makes some of the best dry-cured chorizo in America, packing similar punch to the fresh Mexican variety. Slept through breaky? Nothing says ‘¡Vamos!’ at kickoff like chorizo nachos (Mantry.com/recipes)