Posts tagged ‘mosto’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A recent conversation with a fellow aficionado about the absence of mezcal sommeliers or someone relatively knowledgeable about mezcals in many restaurants or bars with big bottle lists has been rattling around my head. While mezcal is exploding in popularity it’s incredibly difficult to find anyone to help you find something to match your tastes. And, given that a glass will run you $15-20, that creates a huge problem. What neophyte is going to give it a shot without a little orientation? It may even be tricky to shake a long time drinker out of a habit because sometimes you need a prompt to try something new.
We’re pretty lucky to have a few places in San Francisco where at least one person behind the bar knows the list. Restaurants like Lolo, La Urbana, Tamarindo, Prizefighter, and Mosto are pretty reliable. (While we’re at it there’s this reminder that we need to visit Mosto and check out their resident guide to mezcal.) Then I noticed that Mexicano, a new restaurant in LA is playing up a mezcal sommelier as part of their launch media. Worst case that’s just marketing hype but, hopefully it’s a trend because the more seriously the bar and restaurant world takes mezcal, the higher the standards and, in the ideal salutory cycle, more informed consumers with more developed palates spending more on mezcal.
I am a cheese addict – one could say it is like crack for me. The mere suggestion of doing a cheese and mezcal pairing, well it sent shivers down my spine. It doesn’t seem like an obvious pairing, but when you think about how well whiskey or scotch pairs with cheese, this is really just a natural extension.
We had a chance to crash a casual exploration of this combination last night at Mosto. Raza Zaidi of Wahaka Mezcal provided the mezcal and Kirstin Jackson of Solano Cellars and the blog www.itsnotyouitsbrie.com (she also has a book It’s Not You, It’s Brie: Unwrapping America’s Unique Culture of Cheese,” publishing in November) brought the cheese. We set up shop at the dark, back corner booth, drawing the immediate attention of the very loud (and yes, drunk) birthday party sitting next to us.
Nine cheeses and five mezcals, and a few Victorias were spread across the table.
The cheeses: Creameax de Citeax, Bent River, Mirabelle, Oma, Tomme Bruleé, Pecorino Foglie de Nocci, Bayley Hazen, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar from Jasper Hill and queso fresco with ate membrillo (generally quince, occasionally guava, paste)
The mezcals: Wahaka’s Joven Espadin, Reposado con Gusano, Tobala, Madrecuishe and the Ensemble (Espadin, Tobala and Madrecuishe blend). Note – we’ll have a full review of the line next week.
We first went through the mezcals to get a sense of their flavors, and then Kirstin went to work to try and pair up the different cheeses with the different mezcals. It was an interesting and tricky work determining which of the tangy, pungent, musky, sweet cheeses contrasted best with the mineral, earthy, hot, smokey flavors of the mezcals.
Not surprisingly, the cheddar and the pecorino paired well with all of the mezcals. We assumed that the salty pecorino would pair well given the known flavor match of salty and spicy flavors with mezcal but the the big aged cheddar’s performance was a nice surprise. The strong body brought out the brine and mineral flavors in the mezcal. I liked the Creamean with the Madrecuishe because there’s something about the tangy triple cream that contrasts with the minerally/green flavor of the mezcal. The Tomme with the Joven totally brought out the heat in the mezcal, and the queso fresco with the ate brought out an amazing caramel flavor in the Resposado.
The tasting sparked quite a few dreams of other pairings. One conversation decided that Parmeggiano just wouldn’t stand up to mezcal while another affirmed that Manchego and Gruyere would probably pair exceedingly well. Which is to say that we look forward to expanding the range of the tasting soon.
Had a chance to re-visit Tres last night. This time the bartender knew his shit – Guerrero born with family originally from Oaxaca. He was a great guide and assembled a mixed flight for us that was off the menu: Del Maguey Minero, Chichicapa, Fidencio Madrecuixe, Los Nahuales and the Agaves Cortes añejo. Fidencio Madrecuixe was a repeat winner. Los Nahuales showed the worst because it was overly perfumed compared to the understatement of the other mezcals in that tasting.
We also dropped into Mosto to see how their mezcal operation is progressing. We talked to the new bartender – Eric Giardina – who used to be a brand ambassador for Fortaleza and knows his agave. We had the Pierde Almas Pechuga, a wonderfully complex mezcal that explodes in the front palate and then softly mellows. Then we tried the Wahaka Ensemble, a blend of 50% espadin, 25% tobasiche and 25% tobala that was surprisingly flat. That is probably due to its 40% alcohol content while most mezcals weigh in at 45%. Then we tasted the Mezcalero San Juan del Rio, a blend of tobala and tepeztate, two wild magueys. It had a fresh and bright flavor, even a bit green. We concluded with a lightning tasting of Del Magueys that we hadn’t touched earlier in the evening. .
Mosto apparently has a special mezcal tasting night the last Monday of every month, with the next one set for April 30th. Check with them to be sure.