Oyamel Tequila & Mezcal Festival Returns March 2-15

Oyamel's Tequila & Mezcal FestivalOyamel‘s annual Tequila & Mezcal Festival is back with a new theme this year: Mexican chiles! Since it’s almost March and we’re still getting hit by snow, I’ll take a little heat wherever I can get it… and that includes in my cocktails! At last Tuesday’s preview party, I got to sample the drinks and dishes that will be served during the festival’s opening party on Monday, March 2 . Let’s start with the food. It was great, it always is at Oyamel, with various chiles highlighted in every dish, including dessert (chili-infused Mexican chocolate cookies)! If you enjoy the Nopalitos salad on the restaurant’s regular menu and enjoy a bit of spice, you’ll love the extra kick added to the cactus by Oaxaca chili oil and serrano chiles. For meat lover, we were treated to a birria de cabra, a spicy stew made of goat meat from the Mexican state of Jalisco. Here the marinated goat was served as a taco and given an extra kick with Guajillo chiles.

Oyamel's Tequila and Mezcal Festival

Beverage Manager Jasmine Chae and Executive Chef Colin King talk about the festival behind the Guajillo chiles marinated goat

Now let’s talk about the drinks. Ever since I had the tequila flight at Masa 14 (bad idea at 2AM) I’ve tended to shy away from blue agave liquor. And that’s my loss because properly mixed in a craft cocktail it can be absolutely amazing. I also know very little about tequila’s cousin mezcal, a spirit made with maguey plant, a type of agave. But who better to learn from than a level four Mezcalier? (I assume that’s the equivalent of a master sommelier, but for Mezcal.) For the Tequila and Mezcal festival, Oyamel‘s Beverage Manager Jasmine Chae crafted four spicy cocktail featuring either tequila and mezcal (obviously) but also the chiles that are the theme of the festival this year. My favourite was La Capital. Between the smokiness of the Herradura Anejo Tequila and the heat of the Guajillo chili it was by far the spiciest offering at the preview party. So much so that I was happy to cool my mouth down with the more refreshing Pica Penino, another tequila-based cocktail made with Milagro Silver, triple sec, cucumber serrano chili and lemon juice.

La Capital Cocktail at Oyamel

La Capital Cocktail at Oyamel’s Butterfly Bar

If you’re curious about tequila and mezcal, Oyamel is offering complimentary tastings between 4-6pm in the newly expanded whimsical butterfly bar (I need to know where Jose Andres gets all of his wallpapers!!) throughout the festival, on Tuesday, March 3 – Thursday, March 5 and Monday, March 9 – Thursday, March 12, with brand representatives on hand to provide all sorts of information. For a full taste of all the dishes and cocktails crafted for the festival, attend the festival’s kick-off party on Monday March 2nd, 2015. The kick-off party will feature premium tequila and mezcal tastings, along with the above mentioned food and drinks (you can see a full menu here), plus live music.

Live Music at Oyamel's Annual Tequila and Mezcal Festival

Live Music at Oyamel’s Annual Tequila and Mezcal Festival Preview Party

Tickets for the kick-off party are $60 and available online here. Use the code french15 when purchasing tickets for a $15 discount.

Recap: Art and Soul’s Biscuit Bash

Last night, Art & Soul in the Liaison Capitol Hill Hotel kicked off patio-season with a friendly biscuit competition benefiting Hospitality High, a preparatory high school for D.C. students interested in the hospitality industry.  Good thing I recently traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina, to brush up on my (American) biscuits because biscuit means two completely different things in France and in America. In France, biscuits are typically sweet, more like cookies. In America, they’re more like bread. Either way, I would have enjoyed any event named biscuit bash!!

With the assistance of students from Hospitality high, five chefs battled it out for the title: Jason Gehring of Menu MBK; Hamilton Johnson of Vidalia; Dylan Fultineer of Rappahannock River Oysters; Brian McPherson of Jackson 20; & Susan Wallace of BlackSalt. My personal favourite was Brian McPherson perfectly buttery biscuit (it was pan toasted in a butter,) which featured Mangalica ham from D’Artagnan, farmers’ greens and tomatoes, pickled ramps and thyme aioli. 


Jackson 20's Buttery Biscuit for Art & Soul's #BiscuitBash

Jackson 20’s Buttery Biscuit for Art & Soul’s #BiscuitBash


My wooden token was not enough to tip Jackson’s 20 biscuit though, and Vidalia‘s Hot Mess was crowned best biscuit. (Can you believe I’ve actually never eaten at Vidalia?)


Vidalia's Hot Mess Biscuit for Art & Soul's #BiscuitBash

Vidalia’s Hot Mess Biscuit for Art & Soul’s #BiscuitBash

The winners of Art & Soul's  biscuit bash pose with Tommy McFly, chef Art Smith and the student from Hospitality High who assisted them.

Chef Hamilton Johnson of Vidalia and his team pose with Tommy McFly, chef Art Smith and the  Hospitality High student  who assisted them throughout the evening.


Now if eating your way through biscuits on a gorgeous patio and for a great cause doesn’t already make for a great evening, there was also bluegrass music from the Drymill Road Band, a whole lamb roast from Border Springs Farms, oysters from Rappahannock and cocktails from Southern Efficiency. Derek Brown’s bartending staff generously donated their tips to Hospitality High as well…


Cocktails from Southern Efficiency paired perfectly with the messy biscuit sandwiches.

Cocktails from Southern Efficiency paired perfectly with the messy biscuit sandwiches.

Oysters from rappahannock river - try them at Union Market or Dereck Brown's Eat The Rich

Oysters from Rappahannock river – try them at Union Market or Eat The Rich


A huge thank you to Tricia at the Liaison Hotel for inviting me to Biscuit Bash yesterday. I can’t wait to have more of Art & Soul’s own biscuits throughout the summer. The restaurant is actually serving them as a side with their new fried chicken to-go picnic lunch for two ($35, includes biscuits, potato salad and beans along with fried chicken, starting memorial day weekend.) Oh, and of course, they’re always available at the restaurant and on its fabulous patio!