Latin-fusion favorite and summer hot-spot, Maya de Sol, boasts an outdoor patio more than doubling the size of their restaurant. Frigid temperatures bring a more intimate feel to the festive Oak Park eatery, but their spicy global fare and thoughtfully crafted cocktails bring heat to the winter chill.
When tasked with creating Maya's perfect winter food and drink pairing, General Manager Chris Ramirez suggested marrying an order of platanos de ropa vieja from the appetizer menu with a zipakna margarita made with mezcal.
Mezcal, like tequila, is distilled from Mexican agave plants. Mezcal distillers bury the agave hearts, known as pinas, in fire pits filled with red-hot rocks and allow the plant smolder for days. The slow roasting process give brings out the natural sugars in the agave pinas and imparts a signature smokey flavor in the finished spirit.
Mezcal has become a trendy ingredient among mixologists in recent years, but Maya del Sol has been well ahead of the trend for years; the zipakna margarita, featuring Oaxacan mezcal, has been on Maya de Sol's menu for nearly a decade.
"Craft cocktails are on the rise," says Ramirez, "and this drink makes artisanal mezcal accessible."
The zipakna margarita pairs family-made Del Maguey mezcal with a dash of bitters, a splash of orange liqueur and Maya's hand-made limonada. The drink appeals to scotch and whiskey drinkers and has enough backbone to stand up to some heat.
Since mezcal marries naturally with spicy flavors Ramirez suggests sipping on a zipakna while savoring a plate of plantanos de ropa vieja drizzled with a fiery aji amarillo aoioli. The hearty appetizer blends four cuisines in one bite using ingredients from, Mexico, Equador, Cuba, and Peru.
A sauce made from Peruvian peppers, gives Maya's plantain and braised beef appetizer its signature bite. The peppers, known as Aji Amarillo, are similar in heat level to cayenne peppers, but boast a fruity flavor to balance out the heat. They are prized for their unique flavor and slice through the rich braised beef and starchy plantains with ease.
The zipakna erases the heat with every sip making each bite of ropa vieja as good as the first. "Both flavors are unique," says Ramirez, "but neither overpowers."
Try Maya's Perfect Paring:
Platanos de ropa vieja-plantains, stewed beef, queso fresco, aji amarillo aioli (3 for $9)
Zipakna margarita-del maguey mezcal, gran torres, bitters, fresh lime juice ($14/$7 on Wednesdays)
Maya Del Sol
144 South Oak Park Ave
Oak Park, IL 60302
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