Photos: Mezcal and Oaxacan Cuisine at Adelitas Cocina y Cantina

Custom-made mezcal cups at Palenque.EXPAND
Custom-made mezcal cups at Palenque.
Mark Antonation

Mezcal is finally beginning to earn respect in Denver, as was evidenced last night at a mezcal dinner hosted by Brian Rossi, owner of Adelitas Cocina y Cantina. The dinner featured the spirits of Nuestra Soledad and El Jolgorio, and proved enough of a draw to fill the dining room at Adelitas as well as the new Palenque Mezcaleria, a separate bar with a side entrance. Asis Cortés, who is a sixth-generation mezcal producer in Oaxaca, Mexico, presented cocktails and tastes of his family's mezcal alongside dishes from several Denver chefs and one visitor from Los Angeles.

That visitor was chef Sean Yontz, who made an impact on the city's Mexican restaurant scene with his work at El Diablo, Sketch, Tambien and Mezcal, among others, before moving to Los Angeles three years ago. He's been back for previous mezcal dinners, and for this one he created a chicken confit dish studded with crispy bits of chicken chicharrón and surrounded by a pool of velvety mole verde. Yontz has spent considerable time in Oaxaca recently, and says that Denver is ripe for the seasonal, vibrant cuisine of Mexico's most creative culinary region.

A cocktail made with Nuestra Soledad mezcal and Giffard Bananne du Bresil.EXPAND
A cocktail made with Nuestra Soledad mezcal and Giffard Bananne du Bresil.
Mark Antonation

Silvia Alaya, chef and co-owner of Adelitas, presented a dessert of nicuatole (a firm gel made from corn and sugar), prickly pear ice cream, fried plantain and tamarind-cocoa bean sauce. Alaya has been adding regional Mexican specialties to the menu at Adelitas and is also responsible for the small menu of Oaxacan fare served at Palenque.

Also on hand were Sterling Robinson, chef/proprietor of North County; Jose Avila, chef/co-owner of Machete; and Martin Campos, chef at Comida at the Source. Robinson prepared goat carnitas with chanterelle-mushroom tamales and mole negro. Campos presented a light plating of pickled seasonal vegetables with fried queso-masa balls; and Avila dished up mini-tlayudas with sea urchin and bay scallops. Each dish was served with a mezcal cocktail from visiting bartender Eric Giardina, who works as a brand ambassador for El Jolgorio.

Adelitas and Palenque owner Brian Rossi pours mezcal.EXPAND
Adelitas and Palenque owner Brian Rossi pours mezcal.
Mark Antonation

One of Rossi's goals with his restaurant and neighboring bar is to promote the beauty and terroir of mezcal, which expresses the skill of its distillers, the soil of the villages where the mezcal is produced, and the many maguey (also known as agave) varieties used to make the product. He has been hosting mezcal dinners every year since opening Adelitas three years ago, but he and Yontz have teamed up for the annual celebrations at various other locations for more than a decade.

While cocktails are a great introduction to the smoky, flinty and vegetal flavors of mezcal, sipping one-ounce pours from Rossi's well-stocked collection alongside recipes inspired by the cuisine of Oaxaca aids in understanding why he's so passionate about the distinct spirit. The flavors of mezcal have evolved over generations to match with the chiles, corn, avocados and other abundant produce of Oaxaca, which rivals California's Central Valley in terms of the variety of fruits and vegetables grown and its reputation as an agricultural center of Mexico.

While the dishes served last night won't be on the menus at Adelitas and Palenque, there are plenty of moles, tlayudas, ceviches and other rare, regional treats that pair perfectly with mezcal, and Rossi's staff is well-versed in explaining the subtle flavor variations in the many labels, geographical origins and maguey varieties represented. Keep reading for more photos of the food and drinks at Adelitas and Palenque.

A bite-sized tamal topped with mole.EXPAND
A bite-sized tamal topped with mole.
Mark Antonation
Sea urchin and scallop tlayuda with hoja santa, chile manzano and red-worm salt from chef Jose Avila of Machete.EXPAND
Sea urchin and scallop tlayuda with hoja santa, chile manzano and red-worm salt from chef Jose Avila of Machete.
Mark Antonation
A mezcal cocktail with sour beer and mezcal-soaked grapes.EXPAND
A mezcal cocktail with sour beer and mezcal-soaked grapes.
Mark Antonation
Chef Martin Campos of Comida made queso-masa balls with cherry escabeche, chapulín purée and seasonal vegetables.EXPAND
Chef Martin Campos of Comida made queso-masa balls with cherry escabeche, chapulín purée and seasonal vegetables.
Mark Antonation
Corn silk was frozen into an ice cube for this mezcal cocktail.EXPAND
Corn silk was frozen into an ice cube for this mezcal cocktail.
Mark Antonation
Mezcal cocktails at Adelitas.EXPAND
Mezcal cocktails at Adelitas.
Mark Antonation
Chicken confit with chicken chicharrón, mole verde, parsnip purée and caviar crema Mexicana from chef Sean Yontz, visiting from Plan Check in Los Angeles.EXPAND
Chicken confit with chicken chicharrón, mole verde, parsnip purée and caviar crema Mexicana from chef Sean Yontz, visiting from Plan Check in Los Angeles.
Mark Antonation
Chef Sterling Robinson of North County and Billy's Inn made green-chile goat carnitas, a chanterelle-mushroom tamal, mole negro and squash ratatouille.EXPAND
Chef Sterling Robinson of North County and Billy's Inn made green-chile goat carnitas, a chanterelle-mushroom tamal, mole negro and squash ratatouille.
Mark Antonation
Mezcal bottles behind the bar at Palenque.EXPAND
Mezcal bottles behind the bar at Palenque.
The bar at Palenque.EXPAND
The bar at Palenque.
Mark Antonation
Hacienda-style seating at Palenque.EXPAND
Hacienda-style seating at Palenque.
Mark Antonation
Inside Palenque.EXPAND
Inside Palenque.
Mark Antonation
Images of agave varieties decorate the walls at Palenque.EXPAND
Images of agave varieties decorate the walls at Palenque.
Mark Antonation
Use Current Location

Related Locations

miles
Adelitas Cocina y Cantina

1294 S. Broadway St.
Denver, CO 80210

303-778-1294

adelitasdenver.com

miles
Palenque Mezcaleria

13 E. Louisiana
Denver, Colorado 80210

303-778-1294

www.palenquemezcaleria.com


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