The problem with our line of work is that our palates are spoiled. We have the privilege and plenty of opportunities to eat the best and drink the fantastic wherever we go. The result is that our expectations are high. It also means that our standards are ever-increasing.
We do have our favourites, though. Ever-so-often, we have to circle back to what we refer to as "our people". They are our friends where to we travel. Visiting them, eating and drinking the best they have on offer is like wearing a familiar pair of comfortable shoes or sitting in a favourite chair. There is no pretence. It is the casual and a part of us.
This is how our love affair started with Margarita, until Laura at Aroma Mexican Restaurant in Canmore, Alberta made it enduring.
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A margarita is a cocktail consisting of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice, often served with salt on the rim of the glass. The drink is served shaken with ice (on the rocks), blended with ice (frozen margarita), or without ice (straight up). Although it has become acceptable to serve a margarita in a wide variety of glass types, ranging from cocktail and wine glasses to pint glasses and even large schooners, the drink is traditionally served in the eponymous margarita glass, a stepped-diameter variant of a cocktail glass or champagne coupe.
There are various stories about the origins of the drink during the earlier parts of the last century. However, most people know its murdered cousin found at the typical all-inclusive Mexican hideaway or passed-off as a drink-of-choice for riotous partying Springbreak youngsters in warmer climate locations.
We've discovered that the real Margarita is a drink with character and a power that should not be underestimated. Laura at Aroma Mexican Restaurant in Canmore introduced us to her. Aroma is now our favourite place for our Margarita-time because we've not succeeded in duplicating their version. This spurred us into action. We had to find out more about the secrets behind their particular version that makes it so uniquely delicious.
Chef Jose Castillo and Laura Matamoros were both born in Mexico City and raised in the kitchen. In 2009 they introduced the Bow Valley to their authentic and traditional Mexican cuisine in the Bow Valley. The restaurant has a warm and cozy atmosphere. It emulates the intimacy felt around a Mexican’s family kitchen table. Jose, himself is behind the stove in the kitchen.
He offers a fusion of Indigenous and Spanish cuisine, traditional sauces, tortillas, and desserts. All are artisanal homemade and slow cooked from scratch for each order. It is worth the wait if you are lucky to get a seat during the busy times. We know Jose and Laura personally, so it is our weekly culinary gourmet trip to Mexico. There is always a special table reserved for us, the "familia".
Laura took us on an expedition of Margarita discovery without divulging a single secret. From that perspective, we failed in our quest to know how to make an excellent Aroma Margarita.
Instead, we journeyed through the traditional, the flavourful, the herby, the fruity, smokey and the savoury. Just as our faculties began to fail at number four (or was it six), Laura managed to wake us with the kick of a spicy Jalapeno signature Margarita. After that, it all became a blur!
Aroma is not a "fancy" restaurant. Jose and Laura succeeded in keeping it personal and homey with really good traditional, but refined food. If you take time to get to know them, you will find it quickly turns into a friendship. For us, it is a welcome friendship because it includes frequent rendezvous with the fabulous Margarita.
P.S. Some Margarita's are only available when Laura is in attendance, and you won't find it on the menu. She guards her recipes that closely ;-)
P.S.S. If you have the guts, ask for the Two Cowboys version. See what happens!
Hendrik van Wyk
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