Nibbles And Sips Around Town: José Andrés Kicks Off Oyamel’s Tequila & Mescal Festival

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The Greatest Mexican Fiesta in DC

Jose Andres Kicks Off Oyamel’s Tequila & Mescal Festival.
Jose Andres Kicks Off Oyamel’s Tequila & Mescal Festival. Photo by Jordan Wright.

James Beard Award-winning Chef José Andrés and his partner Rob Wilder are at it again with the seventh annual Oyamel Cocina Mexicana’s Tequila & Mezcal Festival celebrating the heritage of these unique Mexican spirits. Beginning March 10th and continuing through March 23rd, Chef Colin King will highlight the flavors of Oaxaca and Jalisco, Mexico with a fabulous special menu and new tequila and mezcal cocktails.

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It all gets underway with a kickoff party on Monday, March 10th from 6 to 9pm along with live Latin music from Montuno. Food stations set up around the entire restaurant will pay tribute to Mexico’s exciting street food culture serving guacamole with comal-fired tortillas, whole baby pig cochinita tacos, street-style ceviches, goat leg barbacoa, esquites and comal-fried quesadillas. All to the strains of live Latin music from the band Montuno. Tickets for this event are $60.00.

Cocktail Miramir and El Jarochoc. Photo by Greg Powers.
Cocktail Miramir and El Jarochoc. Photo by Greg Powers.

Cool cocktails created especially for the two-week fiesta include the signature Oyamel Margarita and an assortment of tequila and mezcal specialty cocktails – the Naranja Dulce, Limón Partido, made with Reposado tequila, chamomile, orange blossom honey and roasted lemons; the El Jarocho, with Añejo tequila, house-made ancho chile pepper liquor and Cocci Americano Rosa; the Rosa de Oaxaca, made with Mezcal, hibiscus, raspberry, and lemon, and the Agave en Leña, with Mezcal, Benedictine, agave nectar, and house-made Oyabitters.

Limón Partido and Cocci Americano Rosa.
Limón Partido and Cocci Americano Rosa. Photo by Greg Powers.

For the tastings and Q&A events there are samples from Del Maguey Mezcal with founder Ron Cooper; Siembra Azul Tequila with founder David Suro: and more from Maestro Dobel Diamone Tequila, Pierde de Almas Mezcal and Tequila Ocho. Learn more about the two-week festival here. Complimentary tequila & mezcal tastings will be held from 4pm – 6pm on March 11th -13th and March 17th – 20th. After the each tasting event the restaurant will host an intimate dinner featuring Ostiones con Salsa Piquín, oysters on the half shell, topped with salsa piquín, onion, and cilantro; Ceviche Estilo Culiacán, marinated bass with Serrano, lime, onion, cilantro, tomatillos and house-made hot sauce; Ceviche de Chamoy, sliced Hawaiian Ono dusted with chile piquín, with mango and chile mulatos, chamoy, peanuts, cucumber, onion, lime, and cilantro. Other highlights include Encurtidos, a variety of pickled winter vegetables with tomatillo, queso cotija and chile piquín; Cueritos, pork skin and chicharrons dressed with lettuce, lime, cilantro and salsa Cascabel; Veal Breast Birria, a braised veal breast with refried Rebosero beans, salsa guajillo, lettuce and radish, as well as Jalapeño Escabeche Relleno con Carne Seca, pickled jalapeños stuffed with dried beef and topped with chopped tomatillos.  Just think — by Cinco de Mayo you should be able to dazzle your peeps with your exceptional knowledge of all things to eat and drink Mexican!

 Let the World Be Your Oyster

Chef Cory Bahr of Cotton Restaurant. Photo by Jordan Wright.
Chef Cory Bahr of Cotton Restaurant. Photo by Jordan Wright.

Those were the words on the Gulf Oyster Industry Council’s swank invitation for a party at Acadiana where oyster shuckers, chefs (Chopped winner Cory Bahr among them), iconic restaurateurs and industry pros came together with the East Shellfish Grower’s Association to celebrate the coveted mollusk and ready the troops for Mardi Gras. The best of the bivalve was served to over a hundred guests including Senator Mary Landrieu, author and political strategist Donna Brazile, and WUSA9’s Andrea Roane. On the raw side were Point aux Pins from Bayou La Batre, Alabama and Karako Bay rock oysters from St. Bernard, LA served up alongside local oysters from Rappahannock Oyster Co. and a unique oyster from Cape May, New Jersey whose meat was pearly white. Side tables held oyster condiments from mignonette and red cocktail sauce (heaven forbid!) to tartar sauce for the fried oysters.

Randol’s Serves Up Oyster Rockefeller Soup.
Randol’s Serves Up Oyster Rockefeller Soup.

Using Bay Courant oysters from Lafourche, Louisiana Randol’s of Lafayette, Louisiana served up their lusciously rich Oyster Rockefeller Soup; Cory Bahr of Cotton in Monroe, LA created Whipped Parmesan Cheese Gulf Oysters with sea beans, radish and caviar; Ruffino’s famed Baton Rouge Chef and Cookbook Author Peter Sclafani made Open-faced Oyster Ravioli; Drago’s of Metairie, LA Head Chef Tommy Cvtanovich made their signature Oyster Voisin, and all while servers passed around the best crab cakes ever from Acadiana’s Executive Chef Jeff Tunks. I even ran into transplanted native son David Guas of Bayou Bakery who gave me a few tips on making muffulettas for an upcoming Mardi Gras party.

Chefs Peter Sciafani, Katie Gross, and Gino Sciafani from Ruffino's.
Chefs Peter Sciafani, Katie Gross, and Gino Sciafani from Ruffino’s.

While shuckers were as busy as alligators in a chicken house, P&J Oyster Company President Al Sunseri talked with Whisk and Quill about the merroir of oysters. “Each Atlantic and East Coast oyster comes from the same species, Crassotrea virginica, yet oysters from different waters don’t taste alike,” he explained. “There’s a big difference in salinity and texture from inlet to cove and bay to bayou in Louisiana.” Sunseri should know. His family business has been operating in New Orleans’ French Quarter since 1876. Before we left Chef Randol graciously gave us permission to print his restaurant’s recipe for their fabulous Oyster Rockefeller Soup. “Why not! You’re far enough away,” he assured us.

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Oyster Rockefeller Soup.
Randols Oyster Rockefeller Soup. Photo by Jordan Wright.

RANDOLS OYSTER ROCKERFELLER SOUP
4 tablespoons of butter
½ a diced onion
½ a green bell pepper
1 rib of diced celery
3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 pint of heavy whipping cream
½ pint of fresh Louisiana oysters w/ juice
1 teaspoon of ground red pepper
¼ teaspoon each of white pepper, dried basil, dried thyme
8 ounces of chopped frozen spinach (drained)
½ ounce Pernod kosher salt to taste

Melt butter in a 4-quart saucepan. Add onions, bell pepper and celery and sweat until translucent, being careful not to brown. Stir in the flour and cook until dissolved. Add chicken stock, red pepper, white pepper, basil and thyme and reduce by one third. Add in the heavy cream and chopped spinach and reduce by half. Add the oysters and their juice and simmer for 5 minutes. Finish with Pernod and season to taste with kosher salt. Serve in a toasted bread bowl. Serves 4-6.

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Jordan Wright
Jordan Wright is an accomplished writer on food, spirits, travel, and theatre. Her clients include the tony Georgetowner and hip sister publication the Downtowner, the Washington Examiner and San Francisco Examiner, as well as LocalKicks.com, DC Metro Magazine, Washington Life Magazine, Washingtonian Magazine, MDTheatreGuide.com, The Alexandria Times, Hartkeisonline.com, and now DCMetroTheaterArts. Her articles feature restaurant openings, food and wine events, food-oriented film reviews, farmer’s markets, food trends, restaurant reviews, food memories, new food products, hotels, spas, resorts and interviews with the country’s leading chefs – from Jose Andres and Top Chef’s Carla Hall, to CakeLove’s Warren Brown and Top Chef’s Spike Mendelsohn. She has also interviewed famed chef and TV star, Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert, cookbook author Joan Nathan, and director Robert Kenner for an in-depth article about his film Food, Inc. Photographs by Wright accompany many of her articles and NBCNews.com has picked up and used several of her stories. Jordan Wright hails from three generations of show business. Her grandmother, Betty Morton, was a Ziegfield Follies girl; her step-grandmother Corinne Griffith, a noted author and silent screen star wrote Hail to the Redskins; her father, Georgie Price, an entertainer and founder of The Lamb’s Club in New York, as well as a CBS radio show host, songwriter and vaudevillian; her sister, Penny Larsen Vine, a theatre critic both on radio and in print for Variety, a former longtime member of the Outer Critics Circle, and a lead performer in countless national touring companies; one brother, Peter Price, appeared in leading roles in over 16 major motion pictures for MGM; while her other brother, Marshall Price performed at Carnegie Hall. Niece, Stephanie Vine, was the final Annie in the original production of Annie on Broadway, and niece, Liz Larsen, has received two Tony nominations and a Helen Hayes award for lead actress in Sunday in the Park with George. Wright sang with Columbia Records in New York and Barclay Records in France. In the sports world her grandfather was the original owner and founder of the Washington Redskins football team. Wright has traveled throughout four continents and currently resides in Old Town Alexandria.