Monday, July 4, 2016

The 6th Annual Lamb and Mezcal Festival

The 6th Annual Lamb and Mezcal Festival was held in SMA again this year on Saturday, July 2nd at the Hotel Real de Minas. With 20 restaurants and 18 Mezcal companies participating, it was a fantastic culinary deal at $400 pesos a ticket. Be sure to put it on your list of festivals in 2017 as you wouldn't want to miss it. Who was there? Take a look...

Mezcal and Lamb are recent obsessions so what made Billy Mervin, organizer of the festival, think I was qualified to be a judge this year? I’m not sure of the reasons but was confident, after 18 rounds of Mezcal, that I could recite every one of them to him in perfect Spanish.
There’s nothing in my preferred book of foods that ranks much higher than lamb. Leg of Lamb, Rack of Lamb, Lamb Chops…you name it and I’ll eat it. Tacos de Pierna, Lamb Shank, Lamb Shoulder; Lamb Barbacoa happens to be one of my favorite breakfast foods in Mexico.

16 tastings later, I still love lamb...and all the chefs who prepared it.
If you like Tequila, you’ll love Mezcal…
Mezcal’s global rise to popularity has moved swiftly in the past few years. I’ve been down the Mezcal route in Oaxaca twice. Since falling in love with the Amores brand back in 2013, I’ve been fixated on finding more great Mezcals in Mexico.
In 2014, I discovered 8ViBoras, a wonderful brand, when I was at a trade show in Mexico City. I’ve also uncovered a remarkable, orange Mezcal from a no-name dive bar in Santa Rosa and another brand from San Luis Potasi, however the distillery is unknown. I tell everyone when I find a good Mezcal but some enthusiasts keep their sources a top secret.
At the SMA Lamb and Mezcal Festival this year, I discovered Tierra de Canto and Mezcal Legendario Domingo, two of the many great Mezcals from Oaxaca. The magnificent part of the festival is the opportunity to taste 18 different brands in one day. It will definitely put your Mezcal education on the fast track.
When I was in Oaxaca this past March, every restaurant I visited offered a long list of Mezcals to choose from. It’s truly the pride of Oaxaca.
When I asked the 34 female chefs I am writing about to recommend a good wine, Luvia Esmeralada de la Rosa, the only woman of the 34 from Oaxaca, asked if she could recommend a Mezcal instead. Luvia is a chef at Jacinto 1930 in SMA, where Beverage Operations Manager, Adrian Garcia-Evans, has created a long list of creative Mezcal cocktails including his infamous Mole Martini. Jacinto 1930 is owned my Top Chef Mexico finalist Matteo Salas and is the latest in a line of restaurants in SMA to have sizeable Mezcal offerings.

Mezcal is made in eight regions of Mexico:  Oaxaca, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacan, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas.  The center of the Mezcal world, most are made in Oaxaca.
For those who don’t know, Mezcal has genuine flavor and is terroir-driven; two Mezcals made from the same variety grown in sites only a few hundred yards apart can taste entirely different. Mezcal offers so much variation in both the type of agave and the method they are cooked, even down to what type of wood you use to smoke it. You can also get into the types of agave used: Espadin, the most common; wild agave like Arrequeño, the most esteemed; and Tobalá, the hardest to find.
In and around the villages near Oaxaca, I met families who have their own recipes for Mezcal and have for generations. It can be said that Mezcal producers are more like great winemakers than distillers.
In Mexico, they have an expression that Mezcal is meant to be kissed. In other words, sip it slowly to allow a deep bond and if you don't get an instant connection, try it again. Don’t worry, with Mezcal you don’t get the hangover you can with Tequila.

So what does this Tequila Queen prefer after all the Mezcal tastings at the festival this year?

Another round and a spot at the judges table again next year!

Buen Apetito!