Pairing food with the right cocktail can make all the difference for the dish.
This is one facet of the Ceviche Project, a new 5-part dinner series launching July 25 at the Skybar at Mondrian in West Hollywood. Continuing once per month through October, the event pairs gourmet seafood from Project Chef and Founder Octavio Olivas (pictured above) with handcrafted DeLeón Tequila cocktails.
Dave Whitton, DeLeón Tequila Southern California Trade Ambassador, is charged with matching Olivas’s creations to the ideal drinks. Whitton is a 17-year veteran of the bartending industry, and has created cocktail menus for a variety of venues including Dodger Stadium, Sunset Marquis Hotel and Villains Tavern.
The first dish from Olivas features three oysters in cucumber-champagne, with cilantro-fresno, and caviar. Whitton’s cocktail contribution is the “Voodoo Doll,” which combines DeLeón Reposado, tangerine fresno chile syrup, lime, pineapple, cilantro and bitters.
“With the caviar and oysters, you have a really nice saltiness. So I wanted to help make that pop with the sweet pineapple and then the spiciness on the back end,” Whitton explains. “It really balances back and forth.”
Up second from Olivas is a Hawaiian kampachi crudo, with melon, fresno chile, jicama, mint, mustard seed, tomato-cucumber water. To pair, Whitton crafted the “Taza de Jalisco,” with DeLeón Platinum, fresh lime, simple syrup, cucumber and Himalayan Salt.
“There’s a lot of ingredients in that dish, and I know you could be exploring around in there to pick out all the flavor profiles,” Whitton explains. “So I did something simple, and something with the opposite effect of the first cocktail. This is really light, islandly, floral and refreshing.
Third on the menu is a tuna and sea urchin ceviche verde tostada. Olivas mixes in avocado, jalapeño, lime, heirloom tomato, pickled radish, salmon roe, roasted pepitas and chive. Whitton’s response was the “La Perla,” with DeLeón Reposado, Manzanillo Sherry, Mathilde Pear Liquor and Lemon Oils.
“Again, there’s a lot going on in there,” Whitton says. “And once again, I met that with something simple.”
The fourth entry is Parrot fish ceviche, with white ponzu, yuzu-kosho, togarashi, red onion, avocado and sesame seed. Whitton’s pairing is the “Platinum Paloma,” made of Deleon Platinum, fresh Ruby Red Grapefruit, Simple Syrup, lime, with a lime wheel garnish.
“Usually with a Paloma I would put in something like ocean salt or grey salt,” Whitton explains. “But because there’s already so much of that going on in the dish, I really wanted to use the grapefruit to pull the citrus flavors out of the dish.
Last up is dessert, to-be-determined, involving either strawberry or peaches. Whitton plans to whip up an Old Fashioned digestif with ingredients dependent on the chosen fruit. Either the cocktail will be lemon-flavored for the strawberries, or honey for the peaches.
“These were some really fun pairings,” Whitton says. “They let me dive into every area of my expertise.”
The other four Ceviche Project dinners at Mondrian are scheduled for July 23, August 20, September 24 and October 22.