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Sneak peak at Lolo SF’s new spot

We had a chance to check out the soft opening of Lolo’s new location on Valencia Street in San Francisco Monday evening. We wouldn’t have thought it possible but the decor is even more lively and funky than their dear, departed, 22nd St. location.

photo photo (1) photo (2)With an open kitchen about 4 times the size of the previous one, it is great to see the guys in action. Even proprietor Jorge Martinez joined the line now that he doesn’t have to duck his head all the time! The space is centered on a larger bar, with more seating. And the line-up of mezcals is mighty impressive. The nice surprise is an extra bar, completely dedicated to all things bottled maguey. If you miss all the other cues that mezcal is the focus the image of Benito Juarez, Oaxaca’s favorite son and the first President of Mexico, are repeated across the wall. We can only hope for a special invite to pour mezcal back there and talk all things agave.

A side note – the specials on the menu are always divine, but the fried avocado tacos, never a favorite of mine, were quite spectacular. Lightly dusted, quickly fried and accompanied with a lovely creamy sauce. The nine year old at the table, a very vocal avocado hater, devoured my share, saying “Sue, taste buds evolve,” when I called him out. Solution – we just ordered more.

COMERCAM Meeting in Oaxaca

We got a heads up on a big COMERCAM meeting happening in Matatlan, Oaxaca this Saturday (full article here.) We are especially interested in this as some pretty contentious issues will likely be discussed including heavy crackdown on uncertified mezcal (small batch/small production mezcal) being sold into the market, domestic vs export market production, and regulatory controls. We’ll have a complete report next week about the meeting and what it might mean for the mezcal industry, or more specifically, small producers.

Music+Art+Mezcal=Fun

A tremendous thanks to all of you who stopped by Sub-Mission Gallery this past Saturday for our Music.Art.Mezcal. extravaganza. It was a dream come true to organize an event like this. For me, I can’t imagine mezcal existing in a vacuum without music, art and food to accompany it. It’s personal for sure and goes back to that moment in time in 2003, in the panteon in Oaxaca, surrounded by Dia de los Muertos altars, banda musica, dancers and a bottle of mezcal being passed around.

Of course a huge thank you to the artists whose work adorned the walls: Calixto Robles, Joaquin Newman, Txutxo Perez, Lapiztola Stencil, Yescka, Lorena Zertuche, Viet Chévez and Knut Hildebrandt. All of the art is for sale, so if you see something in the below gallery that catches your fancy, let us know and we’ll connect you with the artist!

We were also blessed with delicious mole and empanadas from Soul Cocina and a mezcal mocha banana creme brulee from The Creme Brulee Man that was heaven on earth.

Max and I had a great time talking mezcal, sharing the stories (and tastes) of mezcal from Don Pedro Garcia, Reyna Sanchez (Reinita) and Mezcal Tosba.

Check out the great photos that hopefully capture the energy of the night. There is something potent and magical about the combination of food, art, music and mezcal. We are hoping this is the first of more – and in fact, plans are underway for another extravaganza at the end of July.

Again, thanks for such a fun night!

Art by Yescka

Art by Yescka

Photos by Knut Hildebrandt

Photos by Knut Hildebrandt

Los Magueyes by Lorena Zertuche

Los Magueyes by Lorena Zertuche

Photos by Viet Chévez

Photos by Viet Chévez

Lapiztola Stencil

Lapiztola Stencil

El tigger by Lapiztola Stencil

El tigger by Lapiztola Stencil

Art by Joaquin Newman

Art by Joaquin Newman

 

Max talking mezcal

Max talking mezcal

happy attendee

happy attendee

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Admiring the art

Admiring the art

Txutxo Perez

Txutxo Perez

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Food by Soul Cocina

Food by Soul Cocina

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Mezcal Tosba

Mezcal Tosba

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Lorena Zertuche and her wall of Los Magueyes

Lorena Zertuche and her wall of Los Magueyes

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DJ Ricardo Ibarra of Radio Indigena spinning tunes

DJ Ricardo Ibarra of Radio Indigena spinning tunes

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Yescka and friends

Yescka and friends

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Art by Txutxo Perez

Art by Txutxo Perez

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Art by Txutxo Perez

Art by Txutxo Perez

Stencil by Lapiztola Stencil

Stencil by Lapiztola Stencil

Mezcal photo wall by Knut Hildebrandt

Mezcal photo wall by Knut Hildebrandt

T-shirts by Yescka

T-shirts by Yescka

Mezcales Don Pedro y Reinita

Mezcales Don Pedro y Reinita

Artist Calixto Robles and his daughter

Artist Calixto Robles and his daughter

Jaguar y Magueyes by Calixto Robles

Jaguar y Magueyes by Calixto Robles

Art by Joaquin Newman

Art by Joaquin Newman

The patio at Sub-Mission

The patio at Sub-Mission

The chefs

The chefs

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Experiencing Mezcal at Mezcalaria – Part 2

On July 21st and 28th, the quaint neighborhood of Jalatlaco in Oaxaca, Mexico played host to two nights of a mezcal extravaganza called Mezcalaria. Each night paired four different mezcals with four different dishes. Our on the ground Mezcalista Ana J.B. was there.The original Spanish was translated by Alice Groves.

It was a long eight days of waiting for the second Mecalaria event. I couldn’t wait to see what Invigorating and tasty dishes Chef Diaz would create to pair with different mezcals selected by Ulises Torrentera and Sandra Ortiz from Los Amantes, Mezcaloteca, In Situ and Cuish.

There was also the presence of new patrons, and seeing their wanting and expectant faces, anxious to know what this event was all about, made me even more excited. I was ready to truly capture these new aromas and flavours in my mouth.

In this second round of Mezcalaria, the organizers of the event clearly felt more confident, but I never lost sight of their ever present nervousness and preoccupation that everything go according to plan.

It was time to meet new people and hear more about what brought them to this pairing here in the garden of such a magnificent house in Jalatlaco, a cozy neighborhood adjacent to Oaxaca’s bustling centro.  Karina, a young lady from Guadalajara, sat across from me and was accompanied by her Taiwanese boyfriend Oriundo.  They had just returned from a road trip to mezcal country having taken some time to stop in with Don Alfonso Sanchez and his brothers at their palenque in Chichicapam (they are definitely some of the best mezcal producers in the region.)

Chef Jose Luis Diaz plates one of the courses

1st pairing

Mezcal:  Espadín

Agave: Espadín

Producer: Los Amantes

Selected by: Leon Langle

Produced in: San Luis del Rio

This special mezcal from Los Amantes, which has a tasting room just a few feet from Oaxaca’s standout cathedral Santo Domingo, was distilled with lemongrass.  This form of distillation, incorporating herbs, is reasonably common but rarely is distributed beyond Oaxaca or the palenques. Palenqueros can add nuts, fruits or herbs to add flavor and complexity.

Salad of verdolagas (leafy Oaxacan greens) with a ceviche made of mushrooms and tepejilote (much like heart of palm and very regional) soaked in passion fruit marinade, avocado ‘criollo’ (a local variety), pomegranate seeds, and a plantain and chili pepper vinaigrette.

The mezcal was young and while initially sweet had a full bodied, explosive middle and a very bitter lemongrass finish.

2nd pairing

Mezcal:  Bicuixhe

Agave: 50% Cuish (wild maguey) and 50% Madre Cuish (wild maguey)

Produced by: Mezcaloteca

Selected by: Mezcaloteca

Produced in: Miahuatlan de Porfirio Diaz

2nd plate:  Mole coloradito with diced shrimp, bean paste and cheese from the Istmo (or, the Isthmus region of Oaxaca, is about five hours south of the city and host to a very different cuisine.)

The dish was surprisingly sweet, with a subtle spiciness. The delicate seasoning was a little over powered by the strong and earthy flavors of the mezcal.

3rd pairing

Mezcal:  Papalomet

Agave: Papalomet

Produced by: Farolito

Selected by: Ulises Torrentera

The roasted agave was crushed in a tree trunk and then fermented in cowhide.  It was then distilled in a clay tank and has an extremely limited 50 liter production.

3rd plate:  Tasajo beef hamburgers with hierba santa (rootbeer leaf), a guajillo chili pepper sauce, marmalade and fried dandelion leaves

The mezcal was richly flavored with musky hint of meat and filled the mouth and throat with full flavors. It opened the taste buds up perfectly to match with the meaty hamburger.

4th pairing

Mezcal:  Espadín

Agave: Espadín

Produced by: Cuish

Selected by: Felix Hernandez

Produced in: Ixcatlan

Dessert:  Chocolate nut brownie with cuajinicuil (a sweet tropical fruit from the area) topped by a guajillo chili pepper drizzle, diced fresh ginger, and pitiona (a local herb).  It was accompanied by dollops of a ginger fig marmalade. A great combination.

I truly enjoy these types of events that have a very different concept of how to educate people about what they are eating and drinking, and the variety of ways in which local (and primarily organic) ingredients can be used to open the mouth to new experiences. And while I never doubted the success of the evening, I was completely satisfied in the end. I congratulate this great team on putting together such a unique and delicious event. As a good friend of mine says; by sharing the mezcal we all we all come out winners.

Experiencing Mezcal at Mezcalaria – Part 1

On July 21st and 28th, the quaint neighborhood of Jalatlaco in Oaxaca, Mexico played host to two nights of a mezcal extravaganza called Mezcalaria. Each night paired four different mezcals with four different dishes. Our on the ground Mezcalista Ana J.B. was there.The original Spanish was translated by Alice Groves.

 

It’s hard to believe that in the land of mezcal and food that this hadn’t already happened – a night of four unique mezcals, paired with four unique dishes. But Mezcalaria was something brand new here in Oaxaca. Created by Sandra Ortiz, Ulises Torrentera and chef José Luis Díaz, with the express purpose of promoting small production, artisanal mezcals and talking about it rich cultural history and significance. The team worked with the following mezcalerias to select rare and hard to find mezcals: Los Amantes, Mezcaloteca, Cuish, and In Situ. They were joined by master mixologist Erick Rodriguez.

One of Chef Jose Luis Diaz’s creations

Chef Diaz of El Teatro Culinario rounded out the two nights by creating dishes that drew upon local ingredients and enhanced the flavors of each of the mezcals – drawing out their complexities and highlighting how closely linked the food and mezcal experience is.

Some details on the pairings for the first night evening:

We were greeted at our tables with an hors d’oeuvres called Amuse Bouche – a squash flour stuffed with honey and requesón, a rich ricotta-like Oaxacan cheese, served on a hand made corn tostada.  It was an exquisite taste, delightfully creamy and sweet.

1st pairing

Mezcal: Penc verde

Agave: Penc Verde

Producer: Farolito

Selected by Ulises Torrentera

Produced in San Pedro Totomochapam

Special Edition – 50 liter production

The Penc Verde is a rare wild maguey that requires 12 years to mature.

1st plate:  tepejilote (like heart of palm and very regional), quintoniles y verdologas (local Oaxacan leafy herbs) with salsa de chile guajillo.

The mezcal had an explosive yet woody flavor and its consistency paired perfectly with the flavors of the salad and salsa, leaving your palate wanting more of its unique, herbaceous taste.

The combination of sipping mezcal and nibbling on food naturally causes one’s body and soul to slowly relax. The simultaneously calming, yet boisterous ambiance, further allowed our senses to open and better distinguish the aromas and flavors to come. The energy was contagious and we were all excited and anxious to know what would come next. Diego, my friendly table neighbor seated to my right, and I were completely enveloped by the good vibes and ready for more.

2nd pairing

Mezcal:  Rodacanta

Agave: Agave Mexicano

Producer: Los Amantes

Selected by: Leon Langle

Produced by: Yogama, Ejutla

2nd plate:  Tasajo marinated in chili peppers and lime with slices of cuajinicuil, a sweet, tropical fruit, native to Oaxaca’s coast, neatly placed over a bed of salsa of chili guajillo.

I would never have imagined enjoying this combination, something completely different from anything I have ever experienced in Oaxaca (we don’t usually combine meat and fruit here), but found it to be quite gratifying. After all, this was an evening of experimentation.

3rd pairing

Mezcal: Ensemble

Agave: 70% Espadin and 30% Madre cuish

Producer: Cuish

Selected by: Felix Hernandez

Produced in: San Isidro, Yautepec

3rd plate:  Shrimp topped with Oaxacan chorizo accompanied by refried beans and hierba de conejo (another herb native to Oaxaca), sprinkled with charred onions and slices of chile verde.

This was another combination I would have never thought of in my wildest dreams that went down with ease.

At this point we were graced with the expertise of mixologist Erick Rodriguez of Alma Mezcalara in Mexico City who refreshed our throats with a cocktail of basil, pineapple and mezcal.  This was very refreshing and we recommend it highly. The mezcal cocktail culture is new to us Oaxacans– we have a long history of drinking it neat so it was a very pleasant surprise.

I found myself so elated by the combination of flavors I have known all my life but in a way I had never tasted giving me the feeling that I would finish this tasting feeling like a Oaxacan who is no longer from Oaxaca.

4th pairing

Mezcal:  Arroqueño

Agave: Arroqueño

Producer: Mezcaloteca

Selected by: Mezcaloteca

Produced in: Santa Catarina Minas

The Arroqueño maguey takes 18 years to mature. It’s wild, reasonably rare and one of the more prized agaves. It was crushed by hand, rather than by the usual tahona stone mill.

Dessert:  Truffle of chocolate flavored yolk bread drizzled with basil cream and a chile guajillo reduction.

The desert was exotic – refreshing and spicy and not too sweet. It paired perfectly with the very bold mezcal, and the combination of the flavors balanced perfectly.

My hope in going to this event was to discover new flavors and combinations. They were all distinct and unique, and a real pleasure to try.  The idea of educating via a pairing of traditional food ingredients and mezcal is a truly welcoming and special way to learn.

 

So many bottles, so little time, what to do, what to do: AKA Food pairing lessons in the world of Mezcal

What does one do after a series of mezcal road trips and the accumulation of multiple bottles of mezcal, especially when there is no way you can transport them all back to the US?

This was my dilemma each day as I gazed upon 12 bottles sitting on my kitchen counter, labeled with masking tape as to type and where they were from.

Collection of mezcal

Prompted by a visit of friends (and fellow Mezcalistas blogger Max) from San Francisco, José Luis (chef extraordinaire) and I talked about doing a pop-up restaurant at my apartment complex. The idea was to create a mezcal pairing menu and come up with a five-course menu. This of course meant having to set aside an afternoon of tasting and comparison to figure out what would enhance what flavor, what the order of tasting should be and how to make it all happen.

Pairing food with mezcal can be tricky – do you want the food to enhance the mezcal, or vice versa? Do you want to start with the strongest mezcal and then move to the smoothest? How do you keep one flavor from overpowering another? Or is it best to stick with the aperativo/digestivo model and just drink beer with the meal? Can you keep your audience from getting completely drunk so that they can enjoy the full range of gustatory sensations?

These were the questions that José Luis and I tossed around as we tasted and re-tasted the various mezcals. We also wanted to create a food menu that built on each flavor and used a basic foundation (i.e. a fish broth) through out the meal. As the afternoon and tasting progressed our ambitions only grew: Eventually we managed to figure out a sustainable path to world peace, the silver bullet for reinvigorating the Mexican economy and how overhaul the local food system. Someday we’ll remember the solutions.

Prepping the ingredients

The next day, I was sent to the market to procure the herbs and greens for the meal – a daunting task as I had no idea what much of the stuff was and could only go by smells, and that very important question – can you eat this. While I was sent on this task, José Luis completely re-vamped the menu, based on what was available at the market, and well, his own change of mind. This also meant a last minute scramble to re-pair the mezcals with the new menu.

So, 10 strangers sat around a large table, with an incredibly eclectic mix of tableware, glasses, and chairs borrowed from various neighbors. Everyone got to know one another, something made easier by the eclectic mix of personalities, and of course the mezcal.

Salad of mixed wild herbs and greens

We dined on a salad made from herbs and verdologa and purple tomatillos with a chapulin dressing (paired with the Espadin from San Dionisio), shrimp agua chile (a ceviche) with pomegranate (paired with a tobaciche from Chichicapam), fish roasted in a chile guajillo and hierba santa infused broth (paired with a Mexicano from Chichicapam), a shrimp mole that had us all licking the plates (originally paired with a tobaciche/tobala blend, but then we brought back the espadin) and a dessert of basil infused cream with strawberries (paired with a tobala.) It was divine, and a giant success.

Sauteeing shrimp shells with guajillo chiles for mole base

Making shrimp mole

Basil infused creme with strawberries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for what worked? As with any food and liquor pairing certain details are lost to the experience but my notes show that:

1. The espadin worked with the salad because it helped balance out the strong herbal flavor of the greens with its clean, strong flavor and worked well as a palate cleanser for the next course.
2. The ceviche with the tobaciche worked well together because the lime and heat of the chile balanced with the earthy pepper of the mezcal.
3. To be honest, by the time we got to the fish course, I was a bit tipsy from the previous mezcals and forgot to take down comments. I think the fish and the broth were so fantastic that nothing else really mattered.
4. We switched back to the espadin with the mole because it had a softer flavor and didn’t overpower the mole like the blend did. Also, I think we really liked this mezcal and wanted to go back to it.
5. The cream with the tobala because it was so smooth and played on the sweet of the dessert. and ending a meal with tobala is always a good choice 🙂

We’re going to keep on working on the food pairing question because Max and I have experienced many great pairings and a few that were rather plain. Traditionally mezcal is served with orange slices and chile gusano salt to give it a sweet and spicy foil. But we think that the range of certain mezcals is much wider. Stay tuned for reports about future tastings.