It’s National Margarita Day. We figured we’d run this past interview with the great Dean Fearing.
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For nearly three decades, Dean Fearing has spent his time creating some of the best dishes in not only Texas, but the entire country. But his creative dishes and culinary creativity always seemed to have a common accompaniment, at least in one form or the other: The Margarita. It was an ever-present drink on the tables of his patrons at the Rosewood Mansion and continues to be at his present place, Fearing’s at the Ritz-Carlton. We sat down with Dean to discuss the impact of the Margarita on Texas cuisine, his favorite variations, and the time Julia Child proved she was no lightweight.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Dean. To start, what is your perception of the Margarita’s role in Dallas cuisine?
Well, you know, I really do think that the margarita is the town drink. It is probably the second drink that I had when I moved to Dallas in ’78 -the first one being a Shiner Bock or a Pearl. And then my next drink was a margarita, and that’s what I see a lot of the time at the restaurant when people come in from out of town.
When you look at our restaurant specifically, every other table – or every third table – is having margaritas here. Then, when it gets to the weekend, it’s probably every other table that is having margaritas to start with. I think that’s the other part: when people know you have a good margarita, it kind of goes back to the classic cocktail hour. You know where you should go, and if someplace doesn’t have a good margarita, you probably go straight into white wine. But here, I’ve noticed that on the weekends that people will start off with margaritas because they know they’re good.
What are some of your favorite variations of the Margarita?
You know, it would be a one-third, one-third, one-third. That’s the way I had it my first time in Mexico. I was at Patricia Quintana’s ranch about 30 years ago, and it was a hot summer day. She took a pitcher of ice and put a third amount of Cointreau in it, a third amount of fresh lime juice, and great tequila. She shook that baby up and put it in glasses, and I said “Why have I not been exposed to this one?”
What’s the craziest variation you’ve seen?
I’ve probably came up with some of those on my own! When Julia Child was at my house, I made her a watermelon margarita. She was just putting out her second master chef series and I was in it, so we were doing a little tour of Texas and I had her over for barbecued chicken and watermelon margaritas. And she loved it. That was, of course, the first one she’s ever had of that variety, and she drank down three of them down in about 15 minutes – again, it was perfect because it was one of those hot summer days.
But I also love mango Margaritas. The addition of true peaches; when Parker County peaches come in and you puree that up, it doesn’t get any better than that when you’re using great, ripe fruit. I think it takes a certain fruit to make a good margarita; mango, peach, watermelon, those are some of them that make a good, hot-day margarita.
So is there a secret to making a great Margarita?
You know, the intelligence of the margarita is still lacking. Not everybody gets it. You can go from bar to bar, and still find some pretty bad margaritas. You would think that eventually everybody would know, but they really don’t. It’s like a club that knows good margaritas. As simple as it is, I don’t know why the lime juice thing is such a big deal. We use fresh, but a lot of these places, instead of using premade mixes, could just buy a good lime juice processed; they could call their produce company and get a case of lime juice. Is it the same as fresh? No, but you know what? It’s the next best thing. And really, after you shake it 20 times with a bunch of ice, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference.
Thanks for the time, Dean. Just out of curiosity, when was the last time you had a margarita?
Oh shoot, last weekend. I can’t wait for my next one this weekend!