Last week, as part of Vancouver Agave Week, I had the opportunity to attend a Oaxacan cooking demonstration at La Mezcaleria on Commercial Drive. In case you didn’t know, La Mezcaleria is La Taqueria‘s sister restaurant which only opened last year. While La Taqueria is a quick, grab and go taco joint, La Mezcaleria is a sit-down restaurant with a more varied menu. They are also quite well-known for their tequila and mezcal cocktails, with Kelly Woods being the expert behind the bar.
Oaxacan cuisine has been praised and promoted by many food experts, and it also happens to be a huge draw for tourists. The Mexican state of Oaxaca boasts the most variety of cuisine in Mexico due to its varied climates and cultures. Although their cuisine is based on staples like corn, beans, and chili peppers, there is also a great variety of other ingredients and food preparations including seven notable varieties of mole sauce.
Mole coloradito is one popular type of mole which is often simplified and sold as an enchilada sauce. We were fortunate to have renowned author, chef and television host Susana Trilling on hand as the guest chef. She runs Seasons of My Heart cooking school in Oaxaca, and would treat us to a cooking demonstration in which she would prepare this traditional mole. Making mole from scratch can be a huge undertaking and in Oaxaca, sometimes it requires the efforts of an entire village to pull it off. As she didn’t have time to prepare the mole sauce from scratch, she did bring her own mole paste with her. However if you’re interested in her mole recipe, feel free to check out this post by fellow Vancouver blogger Jay Minter.
Left: Members of the media with front row seats watching and waiting attentively.; Right: With the help of La Mezcaleria’s head chef Alejandro Cruz, Susana demonstrates the process of making mole from paste. Even this took a long time, so I can only imagine how long it must take to do everything from scratch.
Left: We also enjoyed several drinks, including this delicious spiked watermelon and Thai basil agua fresca.; Right: Once the mole coloradito was finished, it was servered with enchiladas. The mole was rich in flavour and depth, and the lightly fried tortillas complemented the sauce nicely.
In Oaxaca, enchiladas are traditionally made with mole coloradito or mole rojo. We always use queso fresco made by Rosa, our neighbor, but you can find many varieties of this “fresh cheese” in Mexican specialty stores. The parsley is important to the dish, as it gives a fresh green taste as well as color. Enchiladas are red (the mole), white (the cheese and onions), and green (the parsley) — the colors of the Mexican flag, which makes a patriotic dish. ¡Viva Mexico!” – Chef Susana Trilling
Left: Last weekend, I also attended the 3rd annual Vancouver International Tequila Expo Grand Tasting Hall at the Hyatt Regency, where I had the opportunity to sample a variety of tequila and mezcal from all over Mexico.; Right: Amy and I wandered from booth to booth sampling Mexico’s national spirit from several distributors and manufacturers.
Left: Some manufacturers really go the extra mile with their branding and packaging, as we saw bottles in all shapes, sizes, and colours. Some of these bottles can definitely be reused in a decorative capacity.; Right: The friendly gentlemen at the Tequila Celestial booth. Their Añejo is double distilled and aged for 18 months in Kentucky bourbon barrels. With a slightly higher than average price point, it still maintains a good balance of quality and value.
Left: What better way to clean your palate than to nibble on some roasted chapulines (grasshoppers). This was the first time I’ve tried them, and they’re not bad. They were like spicy nuts. The roasted garlic was also good, but not much of a palate cleanser, as it’s quite overpowering with a lingering aftertaste. Right: Several food vendors were handing out food samples as well, including La Mezcaleria, The Mexican Corner, Las Margaritas, Joe Fortes, and more. Shown here is some tasty guacamole from The Mexican Corner.
The Vancouver International Tequila Expo is Western Canada’s largest tequila festival. As someone who doesn’t really drink tequila on a regular basis, it was really eye-opening, and I came out of it with a greater appreciation for Mexico’s number one export spirit. It’s a good thing (for my liver) that this event only happens once a year. 😉