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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.