Uncle's Fixins offers yin-yang of fruity drinks, spicy elote
Anyone who has been to Mexico has likely seen “aguas frescas” – translated in English to “fresh waters” – which are commonplace at most any street market. History of the agua frescas has been connected to the Aztecs, who, according to New Mexico Magazine, would travel the waterways of Tenochtitlán, where modern day Mexico City is, to gather fresh fruit to mix up for a refreshing drink.
Today, this can be accomplished at your local grocery store by using kiwis, pineapple, watermelon and any other fruit that will yield a fair amount of juice. The addition of sugar, herbs, such as basil or cilantro, and peppers, like a pinch of cayenne, can be a great way to add depth to your drink. However, if you are unable to talk yourself into going to find these ingredients or simply do not have the time to make one at home, there is a place in downtown Durango offering these delicious beverages.
Uncle’s Fixins, a food truck located at 11th St. Station, offers three choices: watermelon, pineapple and the “flavor of the day.” The day I visited, it was around lunchtime and the sun beamed down on me as I decided to go for watermelon. In addition to the cold beverage, I ordered their “Elote in a Cup” to compliment the refreshment.
The drink featured fresh watermelon and natural sugar cane, and the aroma transported me to summer days as a kid. The drink was not overly sweet, allowing for the fresh fruit to remain center stage.
As for the elote, it consisted of a 14-oz. cup of white corn covered in butter, mayo, chili powder, cotija cheese, lime juice and Valentina hot sauce. Since the elote is served in a cup, it made for easy eating as compared to corn on the cob. The butter, mayo and lime juice made the corn juicy and flavorful. The spicy additions of chili powder and Valentina hot sauce gave the dish just enough heat to add another dimension of flavor, and the cheese balanced out any over-powering intensity. The combination of the refreshing drink and the semi-spicy elote complimented each other nicely for a great midday snack.
After tasting these delicious treats, I needed to find out more. I was able to meet the co-owners of Uncle’s Fixins, Chris Chavez and Suzanne Vargas.
Originally from Albuquerque, Chavez said he grew up drinking aguas frescas and became passionate about learning to make them on his own. Chavez said he prefers to hand-pick organic fruit for his aguas frescas from local vendors whenever possible. He also mentioned that he uses Zulka Morena sugar cane instead of other granulated sugars. Zulka Morena is an all-natural, unrefined and non-GMO pure cane sugar.
Chavez said once the fruit has been prepared, he adds it to a straining bag to press and separate any pulp from the juice. When the juice has been separated, the natural cane sugar is added.
Traditional methods are used when preparing his drinks, including with the horchata, which the food truck also offers. For the horchata, a creamy, traditional drink featuring cinnamon, vanilla and milk (in this case, rice milk and cream), they use only Mexican vanilla and soak the rice for a minimum of 24 hours before squeezing it to produce the rice water essential to the drink.
The two started the food truck with the idea to serve only aguas frescas and paletas, a style of Mexican ice cream bars. However, that premise grew, and by the time Uncle’s Fixins opened in January, the menu had grown to include starters, soups and loaded potatoes in addition to their original dessert and non-alcoholic drink options.
Chavez said he is happy to be in Durango, and exploring the area has given him inspiration in the kitchen. He spoke about a recent trip to Spud Lake that gave him an idea for a new loaded potato that would include a mountain of fixings intended to serve at least two people. This platter of food is still being fine-tuned before it lands on the menu; however, there are a variety of other possibilities to choose from, and I look forward to my next visit.
Mocktail curious? Join Lucas for “Mixing Mocktails” this Thurs., July 27, from 5-6 p.m. Space is limited and registration is required by calling (970) 375-3380 or visiting durangogov.org/library.