Oyamel will be hosting their annual Tequila & Mezcal Festival from March 14th to 27th, 2011. The restaurant holds this annual event to showcase the popular spirits of Mexico and highlight their staff’s creativity in blending them with other traditional and modern flavors of the region.
On Monday night, members of the media were invited to sample from the special cocktail and food menus that will be featured during the festival and mingle with chef José Andrés of the ThinkFoodGroup which owns Oyamel and spot chef and White House senior food policy advisor Sam Kass.
On the warm-colored walls were projections of photographs of Oaxaca taken by Oyamel’s executive chef Joe Raffa on a recent food-research trip. Raffa was so taken with some of the produce he sampled that he has even convinced a local farmer here from whom he buys tomatoes to grow a special varietal for Oyamel to put on the menu this summer and this commitment to sustainable, local agriculture shows throughout the restaurant’s offerings.
The festival menu includes a dozen cocktails designed to highlight a variety of tequilas and mezcals. Among the creations are twists on classic cocktails like a Bee’s Knees (here done with Milaragro Reposado) or a Mint Julep featuring Del Maguey Mezcal Vida, rye, honey, and another mist of mezcal atop the dome of crushed ice. There are original drinks as well, such as the delightful Tangelo which starts with El Tesoror Reposado infused with the namesake citrus and spicy fresno chilies and adds pineapple, lime, Benedictine, and agave nectar to a sweetly-rimmed glass.
Special foods available include a taco filled with a combination of goat, veal, and lamb in a cilantro-chili-onion sauce and a dish called Huarache de Pato – a fried masa cake with shredded duck confit, topped with a sauce of ancho and guajillo chilies, Negra Modelo beer, and Mexican cinnamon, which looked so good that, after a couple of the fantastic cocktails, it was almost enough to tempt this long-time vegetarian reporter.
In addition to the special menu items, there are complementary tastings each weekday from 4 to 6pm and special guests will be on hand to talk about various brands of tequila and mezcal.