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Posts tagged ‘jose luis diaz’

Ranch to Table in Oaxaca with Chef José Luis Díaz

This is a cross post from one of our frequent collaborators, Ferron Salniker. You can read her excellent blog Ferronlandia here. This piece was originally published on 4/9/16. You can read the original here.  For those who don’t know, José Luis Diaz is an amazing chef who has come up with stunning combinations at pop ups and now, Chilhuacle Rojo, so definitely visit on your next trip to Oaxaca.

I met José Luis Diaz at his restaurant, Chilhuacle Rojo, in the Oaxaca centro. He has a deep voice, two chile pepper tattoos on his forearm, and uses yadadayadayada to finish out many of his sentences, but never— as I noticed during our breakfast tasting menu— when describing a dish.

Breakfast here was one of my best meals in Oaxaca. It was thoughtful with the pacing, our palates, and especially in the selection of ingredients. Read more

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.