A Taste of Mexico

This week Dublin is getting a Taste of Mexico, thanks to the return of the annual ‘food and culture festival’. I’m reliably informed that tequila and mezcal are counted as the latter (culture) and I imagine that they have in their time been considered by some as the former (they’re certainly delicious enough) but either way, both feature big in this week’s celebrations.

Last night I attended a free tequila talk & tasting in the Cervantes Institute in Lincoln House, Lincoln Place, off Nassau Street. (The same spot plays host at 7pm tonight to a free mezcal tasting – see more details below for this and other mescal events at the weekend.) We tasted three styles of tequila: fruity and punchy blanco, spiced but soft reposado, and caramel-mellow anejo. Both reposado and anejo tequila have been aged in white oak barrels, for at least two months or one year respectively. We sipped them and scanned the overhead screen to ascertain which of tequila’s many potential aromas and flavours we were getting. It was great fun, and pretty darn delicious too!

Betcha you didn't get all those subtleties from your last shot of tequila, eh?

Betcha you didn’t get all those subtleties from your last shot of tequila, eh?

Before the tequila talk, a visiting Mexican chef talked us through Mexico’s vast and varied dishes. Helma Honda waxed lyrical about such delights as ant’s eggs and grasshoppers and other Mexican delicacies (some of which are promised at tonight’s mezcal tasting). Then when she had our attention with those curiosities, she explained that in a country that is nine times the size of the UK, containing 30 separate states, each with at least 100 of their own signature local dishes, it is hard to say what might be a ‘typical Mexican dish’. Certainly what is typical are many of the base ingredients which they introduced to the rest of the world, including chocolate, vanilla, tomatoes, chillies and corn. And typically most Mexican cooking takes a sophisticated approach to chillies, mixing three or more types in one dish for subtlety of flavour. It’s not all about subtlety however, as our taster of this tangtastic ‘hot and salted tamarind pulp candy’ proved. Wow! I can still taste it today!

chilli-hot, salted and tangy tamarind – where were you all my life?

chilli-hot, salted and tangy tamarind – where were you all my life?

All of this talk made us hungry for more authentic Mexican flavours so we hightailed it to 777 on Sth Great George’s St where bartender extraordinaire Leo Molloy whipped us up a sneak preview of two stars from their new margarita menu, one featuring grapefruit and thyme and the other (my favourite) a take on the classic pairing of jalapenos and coriander. Savage, the pair of them.

Sorry for the grainy shot, but it's dark and moody in 777, innit?

Sorry for the grainy shot, but it’s pretty dark and moody in 777, innit?

Leo also told us that 777 were neck and neck with their top competitors in the race to claim title of Best Taco in Dublin. (You can still vote here before the final cook-off takes place tomorrow at the Mansion House.)

AND it turns out that Sergio Inurrigarro of the Association for Mezcal Culture will be hosting another mezcal tasting in 777 on Saturday lunchtime at 2pm (€20 including lunch), so if you miss him tonight you have a second chance to catch him. Actually, it’s a third chance, because later tonight he’s hosting another free tasting in Lillie’s Bordello at 10pm (email guestlist@lilliesbordello.ie to book a place).

Wherever you catch him, do try to. The guy is quite the character, and the last time I tasted mezcal with him (two years ago, at a Slow Food ‘Mezcal and Irish farmhouse cheese pairing’ event) he came armed with some really interesting bottles, so be prepared to fall in love with this very traditional Mexican drink.

Because mezcal can be made from any type of agave plant (vs tequila, for which only the Tequila Weber blue agave plant can be used) and because it is for the most part a small-scale artisinal affair (vs the vast commercial scale of many tequila brands), different mezcals really do taste quite different, from smoky to very pure and lots inbetween. According to Sergio, it is a “mystic, magic aphrodisiac and an extraordinary drink”, one that “when drunk with measure… wakes the spirit, tames enmity, stimulates imagination, clears resentments and accompanies solitude.”

You heard it here.

What are you waiting for? Did I mention they'll be serving grasshoppers too??

Sergio himself. He’s waiting for you, armed with mezcal.




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