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Posts tagged ‘mezcaloteca’

On touring and other such things

The cueva collection at the Mezcalosfera palenque.

I get a lot of inquiries about how to visit palenques while in Oaxaca and I am quick to recommend different kinds of experiences depending on what people are looking for. We have a standing guide to tours and I am happy to add a new one to the list – Mezcouting from Andrea Hagan. She’s got a great background in food sovereignty and in her years in Oaxaca has worked with the University of Vermont, Susan Trilling, and Mezcaloteca. She’s crafted her tours, like the others we recommend, on the relationships she has developed in different communities thoughout her years here. You want hands on traditional cooking classes – with deep dives into milling and processing and masa making with your mezcal visits – this is your person.

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Mezcal Heavy Métl

William Scanlan highlighting his wares

William Scanlan highlighting his wares

William Scanlan has been a man on a mission for quite some time. You may have seen him toting bottles of Real Minero, Rey Campero, and Mezcaloteca to tastings across the United States. Now you will see those bottles independent of the bespectacled man at bars, restaurants, and on the shelves of better liquor stores across the country because William’s quest to bring them to North America is finally certified and legal.

His story has many of the elements common to mezcal and opera: He met mezcal, fell into a torrid romance, and spent the rest of the dramatic acts resolving all the problems. In his case it was the work of importing and distribution which, as many others similary bewitched by mezcal can attest, is more than a simple chore. But the time and effort involved probably made him better prepared for the road ahead. It’s not easy out there for a mezcal importer.

A few of the Heavy Métl portfolio

A few of the Heavy Métl portfolio

First, the mezcal

Before we do anything else let’s get to the serious stuff. The mezcals. Here’s what’s being imported to Texas by Virtuoso Selections, Washington by Agave Oaxaca, and fresh this week, California courtesy of JVS Imports. As William’s import company, the aptly named Heavy Métl, gets its tentacled arms across the country he will open more states with strategic partner Skurnik Wines starting with New York in October.

Real Minero

DOM Santa Catarina Minas

NOM O37X

Maestro Mezcalero: Don Lorenzo Angeles

– Barril (Agave Karwinskii)

– Largo (Agave Karwinskii)

– Field Blend of 4 agaves (barril, largo, and tripon from the Karwinskii team and espadin, Agave Angustifolia haw.) This is the sort of blend that probably comes closest to recreating the original mezcals. Traditionally mezcals were made from whichever mezcals were ripe at the time of distillation and less emphasis was placed on type. 

– Pechuga: Triple distilled espadin (Agave Angustifolia haw.) with the addition of creole/wild apples, pineapples. platano de castilla, orange, almonds, white rice, the skinless breast of a free range chicken that hasn’t laid eggs, and more. 

– Arroqueno: (Agave Americana var. Oaxacensis) Though this was an extraordinarily limited production run of 65 liters for Real Minero’s launch in the United States. It’s heavily allocated so don’t be disappointed if you can’t find any.

Rey Campero

DOM – Candelaria Yegole

NOM – O185X

Maestro Mezcalero: – Romulo Sanchez Parada

– Espadin (Agave Angustifolia haw.)

– Cuishe (Agave Karwinskii)

– Madreuishe (Agave Karwinskii)

– Tobala: (Agave Potatorum) This is the only Rey Campero mezcal made from wild agave harvested from a different village, San Pedro Martir at about 6000 feet above sea level. The high altitude and cooler climate favors tobala from San Pedro Martir but only during the dry seasons because these plants are especially sensitive to rain. 

– Mexicano (Agave Rhodacantha)

– Jabali (Agave Convallis) 

– Tepextate: (Agave Marmorata) This just arrived in the United States and is now available in California but it will take a little longer to get distributed everywhere else.

– Later this year William plans to import Rey Campero’s Arroqueno (Agave Americana var. Oaxacensis) and Sierra Negra (Agave Americana), ideally as something special for the holidays so start saving now!

Mezcalosfera by Mezcaloteca

William is working away on bringing Mezcaloteca’s various bottlings into the United States. The name is different because it reflects Marco Ochoa and Silvia Philion’s idea to distinguish between certified and non certified mezcals. William will only be importing certified mezcals. At least for now! With luck we’ll start seeing these bottles later in October just in time to snap them up for holiday gifts!

Who is William Scanlan?

Like many of us William fell in love with mezcal and immediately set to work figuring out how to make it part of his life. A native Texan and fluent Spanish speaker, he’s lived on both sides of the border for his work. He first encountered mezcal 12 or 13 years ago at his local Mexican restaurant in Austin where he’d hang out and sample the latest tequilas with the staff. One day the manager told him “‘come in tomorrow night for a mezcal tasting, you have to taste it, it’ll change your perspective and you’ll never like tequila again.’ I thought that was a bold statement so I showed up and the man leading the tasting happened to be Ron Cooper. Back then he was still driving mezcal up from Oaxaca himself. I hung out and talked to him for a while and that’s really when I first became enamored with mezcal. I had never tasted that level of quality before.” For anyone that doesn’t know, Ron Cooper is the founder of Del Maguey, the original artisanal mezcal in North America. 

The mezcal obsession really got going in 2006 when he moved to Oaxaca and later Mexico City. He’d been mulling the idea of his own mezcal brand and traveling to all the mezcal meetings at Agave Fest, Expo Mezcal, Dardo, and anywhere else that would help him learn about the spirit and the industry. Then two years ago his good friend and mentor, Erick Rodriguez of Alma Mezcalera, grabbed him at Agave Fest and told him that he really needed to taste this new mezcal called Rey Campero. “I went over and tasted them and it was right then and there that I broke the idea of doing my own brand. I decided that being an importer was what I wanted to do because it was much more than about the brand, it was about the culture, regions, biodiversity, and traditions of the families that produced these mezcals.”

What’s the Rey Campero story?

Rey Campero is the perfect example: The brand is really a family of brothers, cousins, and nephews – Romulo is their maestro mezcalero in the community of Candeleria Yegole about two hours south-west of Oaxaca City. The village may be familiar to you because Mezcal Vago hails from the same area as do many smaller producers. Romulo learned how to make mezcal from his dad and worked in the palenque until he was 20 but, like many people in his village and the whole country, when the economy went bad and mezcal wasn’t a viable business he emigrated north and worked in North Carolina.

When Romulo returned to Mexico in 2003 he moved to the City of Oaxaca and thought about returning to the mezcal business but it wasn’t until 2012 that he made the leap, moved back to Candeleria Yegole and got the business started. He pulled his brothers and nephews into the project and they have been working away at it ever since. The fact that they’ve really only been a formal company since 2012 tells you everything you need to know about the evolution of mezcal; it’s young and growing fast.

Romulo and his family still do everything on the production side even if many of them live in the city of Oaxaca. As William told me, “they prepare the ovens, roast and plant the agave. They may be in charge of sales and administration but they’re actively involved in the grunt work.” And that tradition shows through in the mezcals: Almost all of them are truly the fruit of wild agaves with their espadin being the only cultivated one of the bunch. 

As for the name, Rey Campero means “King of the Countryside” and was chosen to reflects the landscape, hard work, wild agaves, and “superior mezcals” that the brand produces. William told me that the connection to the countryside is critical to all concerned because “it’s a reference to the difficulty of harvesting maguey from the steep slopes and canyons in the countryside where you can not use trucks to remove the maguey.” In other words, Rey Campero runs on the backs of its farmers and burros.

Special guest Graciela Angeles Carreño walks guests through the many variations of Real Minero, her family's mezcal which will soon be on sale in the United States. Photo by Michael Skrzypek

Graciela Angeles Carreño at Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle 2014. Photo by Michael Skrzypek

 

Becoming Real Minero’s conduit

Anyone who has tasted Real Minero knows how good they are. Graciela Angeles Carreño is the leader of the brand and an upholder of a family tradition. She fully understands the weight of that burden and has defined her family’s business and distilling tradition with a precision and discipline seldom seen in the mezcal business. William said that when he first visited her palenque, “it blew me away how clean and organized the palenque was. I told her ‘this is incredible, it’s the most organized and most clean palenque I’ve ever seen,’ and she told me “this is what happens when you have a woman in charge of running a business.””

Working with Real Minero took time and lots of intention exactly because it’s a family business with so much at stake. Like many of these things it’s all about the relationship. When William first met Graciela she was entertaining offers from a variety of importers. Whatever he offered her and represented must have resonated because he ended up with the contract. As he puts it “Ultimately, she decided to work with me, I’m very grateful for that.” Having met both William and Graciela my guess is that they have something like an extended familial relationship of fantastic respect and understanding which is the foundation of the business. 

Anyone who has met Graciela can testify to the precision and care she brings to the business. The same goes for her entire operation, Real Minero produces just 5,000 liters a year for the Mexican and European markets. The plan is to slowly ramp up with demand from the United States while maintaining high quality in their low production.

Mezcaloteca rising

If that wasn’t enough, Heavy Métl will soon bring select Mezcalosferea by Mezcaloteca bottles into the U.S. Mezcaloteca is the embodiment of cult status. Physically a tasting room in Oaxaca City just up the street from the botanical garden as well as a label which brings many small producers to the attention and delight of mezcal aficionados fortunate enough to make the trip. They represent much more, founding member Marco Ochoa is one of the intellectual guides for the mezcal world while his business partner Silvia Philion continues to run the show. Screaming Eagle eat your heart out because you can still go to Mezcaloteca and meet the people behind the brand with their products nightly. Bringing that vibe and product north is a trick – so much so that there won’t be many bottles and they will be few and far between; as in real collectors items. As William says, “The idea is to keep production low and maintain the true sense of Mezcaloteca, once it’s gone it’s gone.”

Mezcaloteca’s bottles are famous for their exact descriptions of who produced the contents and how. They adapted a traditional structure and have paved a path for the rest of the industry. Their focus has always been on the purely artisanal producers who, by necessity, only create small batches because other things like stable incomes derived from farming cash crops take priority. And, because they’re so small, most of Mezcaloteca’s producers aren’t certified by the CRM as makers of mezcals. William told me that only a single Mezcaloteca producer is currently certified so he’s working with Marco and Silvia to build a new collaborative palenque. “we’re creating opportunities for people in the community who would like to certify their production – like this 22 year old kid who is making amazing mezcales at his father’s palenque but since his dad is against certification he has no where else to go to certify his mezcal. So we want to give opportunities to people who want to be certified and are faced by certain obstacles.” Given that state it’s going to be a while before Mezcaloteca’s bottles start appearing in the United States; optimistically this fall, realistically the new year. Hope in the mezcal world springs eternal.

The future

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the name because it’s just so awesome. No, William isn’t a lover of Danzig, Metallica, or sundry other bands that could have inspired him naming his business “Heavy Métl” which, in this new variant of Nahuatlish or Englitl, is the perfect combination of North American pop sensibility and the Nahuatl word for agave. Nahuatl being the language common to the peoples of what is now central Mexico like the Aztecs, when the Spaniards arrived. The “Heavy” part harks back to the colloquial meaning in the seventies, as in “deep” or “profound.” It refers back to that idea of “that’s heavy man.”  refers back to that. band reference. I’m at a loss, why didn’t we or anyone else think of it. But William has it sewn up, he gets the cred for that and gifting himself with the title “Chief Mezcalhead.”

Heavy Métl has been nearly a decade in the making and just started importing this summer so I’d expect things to ramp up slowly but it sounds like William has been overwhelmed with orders and is sitting on top of a successful operation. As he told me last week “my projections were way too conservative which is really exciting for these families and me.” He’s been so busy supporting the few states where Heavy Métl already imports that he’s only been able to go to Mexico for a few days in recent months. Sounds like it’s high time for a new hire,  but he isn’t resting on his laurels just yet. He told me that Oaxaca is just the beginning. “I’m starting with mezcal from Oaxaca because that’s where everyone thinks where mezcal comes from so I decided to bring the best of the best. I’m building my name as an importer, but the only reason I’m trying to draw attention to myself is so that when I plop another amazing mezcal down in front of a consumer from Guerrero, San Luis de Potosi, Durango, or somewhere else, there will be some consumer awareness that ‘this is the guy who brought Mezcaloteca, Real Minero, or Rey Campero, I’m going to trust him.’ I need to develop that confidence and trust before I can expand.” 

And expansion is clearly on his mind because one of the last things he said was Part of this project is rooted in me getting tired of drinking the same mezcales every time I came to the United States. It’s rooted in my experience and education. Not that stuff here is bad, there are some great mezcales, but I feel that mezcalophiles want new stuff.” The rumors of what that ‘new stuff’ might be are incredibly enticing, more as we can confirm it…

When an espadin is not “just” an espadin

File under things that have been weighing on my mind. So many times I have heard the following words – oh, it’s just an espadin. With the heavy focus on silvestres, and the more exotic the better, espadins have somehow become sidelined, forgotten, and well just plain ole maligned. This maguey of course makes up the bulk of what is in the market – almost 85% – so to make it out to be the industry’s merlot, well is just ridiculous.

So, on my most recent trek down to Oaxaca, I made it a point to try as many espadins as I could, really to remind myself of how utterly different and complex they are and how immensely talented those palenqueros are to get so much flavor and differentiation out of one kind of maguey – showcasing their true mastery in making mezcal.

This is how I found myself one night doing a tasting of “just” espadins at Mezcaloteca. The oh so knowledgeable and charming Andrea Hagan and I talked about some of the different ones they had and then she put together a pretty bold selection: an espadilla (wild espadin) fermented in leather, distilled in clay and from the Mizteca region, an espadin from the state of Guerrero, an añejo from 1998 (in glass the whole time) and a regular ole espadin from Miahuatlan. I really like how Mezcaloteca runs their tastings, and how they pair your palette and interest to the mezcals they have on hand rather than the pre-selected flights so many of us are used to.

I tasted through these in the order listed and of course found huge variety in flavors and strength. And that regular ole espadin from Miahuatlan, well, in this tasting order where it was last, it frankly wasn’t very interesting. So I spent the next half hour or so changing up the tasting order to see how i could get the most flavor out of each espadin. And what I found was by putting the one from Miahuatlan first, pretty much guaranteed it had a better showing no matter what followed in whatever order. And what made the añejo stand out? When it was third up. The two other mezcals were so bold in their flavors it didn’t matter which was second or last.

So, the lesson here – order of tasting is everything to get the most out of the mezcals, and perhaps even greater – an espadin is never “just” an espadin.

PS – I bought the one from Guerrero (Sanzekan) as I am trying to expand beyond my Oaxacafile focus.

Los Borrachos – throwing a mezcal tasting when #lovewins

It takes some cojones to throw a mezcal tasting in San Francisco during the annual SF Pride celebration. Add to that the historic Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage, a Giants home game, and the farewell Grateful Dead concert, and you are looking at truly committed mezcal lovers who made their way through mayhem to taste some really new and exciting mezcals, paired with great eats.

Erick Rodriguez and Adrian Vazquez, Los Borrachos, put together this tasting event at Bartlett Hall to showcase traditional mezcals. In addition to brands already in the market like Wahaka, Tosba, Del Maguey, Don Amado, Alipus,  and Mezcalero there were some new bottles from the Heavy Metl fold – Rey Campero, Mezcaloteca, and Real Minero – which will soon be imported to the United States as well as fresh bottles from Erick’s Almamezcalera label. Totally new to the market and making their debut were Mezcal Los Gentiles and Chaneque.

IMG_3829

How you pace yourself at events like these is the big question. I go for tiny tastes. I also try to focus on mezcals I’ve never had first and see how it goes from there.

Erick Rodriguez of Almamezcalera

Erick Rodriguez of Almamezcalera

My first stop was with Almamezcalera. Erick was pouring three new mezcals all distilled with spices and herbs and made from espadilla, a wild espadin, and distilled in clay and wood. I will not call these “healthy” mezcals, as I think mezcal holds medicinal properties period. I started with the Cilantro and Hoja Santa which was incredibly herbaceous (of course) and vaguely anis like. At 54% it was big, spicy and smooth. Next up was the mezcal distilled with ramos – considered a cleansing herb – and at 61% it was surprisingly non-alcoholic, very green and herbaceous. It felt more medicinal in the same way that Fernet does. Last up was the cinnamon and cacao, also at 61%, which was neither sweet nor perfumey which was what I was expecting and why I tasted it last. All three of these mezcals would work great as both aperitivos and digestivos.

IMG_3831

Next up was Chaneque, a major reason I braved the insanity to come to the tasting. I had tried their madrecuishe once in Oaxaca and was intrigued. Juan Carlos Rodríguez, owner of Chaneque, had the whole lineup, and a couple of special mezcals under the table. I rolled through the 59% Coyote from Matatlan; the Mexicano from Sola de Vega (surprisingly musky and not the usual hot sweetness I’ve come to expect from Mexicanos); a 52% 8yr aged (in glass) Espadin from Zoquitlan which blew my socks off with its thickness and richness, and proof of why an Espadin should never be considered pedestrian; a very dry and mineral 52% Tepestate from Sola de Vega that had a strong bite in its finish; and finally a 47% Tobala from Matatlan that had the perfect sweet finish to it. Chaneque should be in the market in a couple of months with the Espadin, Madrecuishe, and Tobala.

Clase Azul Cenizo Mezcal

Clase Azul Cenizo Mezcal

The 49% Mexicano from Los Gentiles was very subtle and had the lovely sweetness you get with this maguey. I saved their collaborative project from Clase Azul – a 44% Cenizo from Durango – for last. This project is an experiment with only 6,000 liters produced (a drop in the bucket for this tequila brand). Created with the idea of economic development and jobs – it is part reforestation/cultivation of a wild agave, part art project with is ceramic black bottles, and beaded tops, and a price point of $225.

Creme de Poblano soup from Mayahuel

Creme de Poblano soup from Mayahuel

Thankfully among all the mezcal was some pretty delicious food from Lolo, Uno Dos Tacos, Colibri, Mosto, and Mayahuel in Sacramento which wins the prize for most dedication to come all the way to SF in the midst of the traffic nightmare. And their creme of poblano chile soup – delicious. For me the true treat was the delicious drunken cake from Polvorón Panaderia in Hayward – course textured, moist and only slightly sweet. And their Tres Leches is the bomb. If you can’t get to Hayward, don’t worry, you can get the cake at Uno Dos Tacos.

Pastry from Polvorón

Pastry from Polvorón

 

 

 

Mezcal club updates price and releases new shipment

Correction: Tory Smith got into contact with us after seeing this post to correct two points, the original post has been updated accordingly.

  1. The last shipment contentained Nuestra Soledad San Baltazar, El Tinieblo Edition Especial, and Sabios de Lua.
  2. The Buen Viaje Ensamble will only be shipped to Gold Club members. Regular members will recieve the Buen Viaje Espadin.

Correct post follows:

Just got word from Tory Smith over at the mezcals.mx Mezcal’s Club (sic) that there have been a few changes to the program. They added an extra bottle to each shipment so the price has risen from $295 to $395 US/shipment. Tory assured me that “Those who signed up for the last one will still get the same rate of $295.”

The last shipment contained Nuestra Soledad San Baltazar, El Tinieblo Edition Especial, and a pleasant surprise – Sabios de Lua. We were pretty impressed, especially with that Sabios de Lua because it’s impossible to find in the US. The next shipment contains the Marques Salmiana from Guanajuanto, the Sangremal Espadin from Oaxaca, and the Buen Viaje Espadin from Oaxaca. They have a little promotion running through July 1 where you can get an upgrade to their Gold membership if you’re one of the first 100 people to sign up so act soon if you want in on that.

As I hinted in my previous post about Mezcal’s Club there is at least one other mezcal club out there, this one is called Club del Mezcal. They have an active Twitter and FaceBook presence but I haven’t been able to get through to them so if you hear anything please give me a buzz. There are numerous other options should you live or receive shipments in Mexico. Oaxaca’s justifiably lauded Mezcaloteca sells its stock within the country so if you’re lucky enough to have that option definitely email them about their current catalog.

Marco Ochoa dives deep into the world of mezcal

Mezcaloteca founder Marco Ochoa (no, not that one) gave a great presentation at Mesamerica 2014 which I wish we’d attended. Check out their program to get a sense for how awesome it must have been. Studded with stars like Alice Waters and Mario Batali but also plenty of local talents with plenty to say. Take a look:

Truth in mezcal labeling, for once a positive trend

Urbana has full descriptions of what's in mezcals, part of a growing trend on the part of producers and bars.

Urbana has full descriptions of what’s in mezcals, part of a growing trend on the part of producers and bars.

It’s a long tradition reinvigorated by Mezcaloteca but now the full monty label detailing exactly what’s in bottle of mezcal is becoming a trend. Makers like Vago are putting that information right on their labels and are even being superseded by bars and restaurants like San Francisco’s Urbana which affixes a sheet of paper on their bottles detailing all the information you’d expect.

Saluting the blends

I dropped into Mezcaloteca the other night with some friends. It was an oddly quiet night since it was a Friday, the end of the month which is payday for everyone. It also happened to be the night before the big government change – Felipe Calderon to Enrique Peña Nieto (aka EPN). There was confusion over la ley seca (dry law) and if there was, in fact, one going into effect that night. As it turned out, it was only for Mexico City.

But back to Mezcaloteca and the 40 odd mezcals they have. They do a great job of providing information about each mezcal, clearly spelling out on the labels who the producer is, where it is from, alcohol percentage, what the maguey is, what it is distilled in (copper/clay/etc). In fact, with all that information, I had to pull out my reading glasses.

David in deep thought over mezcal

My friend David was working behind the bar that night and he made some great recommendations that included a raisilla from Guadalajara. It’s a wildly different flavor from mezcal, despite being maguey based and produced in a similar fashion to mezcal. Musky, that is how I would describe the one we tried.
But then there was the utterly delicious arroqueño and coyote blend that had an effervescence like nothing else I have ever tried, exploding on the front of the mouth and then slowly dissipating on the back of the tongue. The next blend was a 70% madrecuishe and 30% espadin that had such an intriguing soft sweetness, balancing out the usual green and minerali flavor of madrecuishe.

Rocking good espadin from Matatlan

 

Finally, we finished up with a 100% espadin from Matatlan – clocking in at 54.6% alcohol. Despite its high alcohol content, it did not have a strong flavor of that and was in fact surprisingly smooth.

I’ll have a follow-up piece about Mezcaloteca and their project in the coming days.

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.