“Escape Your Winter Woes with a Mezcal Dinner at Saloon”

The invitation from Liz Green of All Heart PR was just perfect – “Escape your winter woes with a Mezcal dinner at Saloon” – perfect for several reasons. First, I’d never been to Saloon and it was on my “go-to” list. Secondly, aside from a single wonderful cocktail at Brick and Mortar, I didn’t know much about Mezcal – but I’m ever the adventurous student. And finally, February had been a stormy, messy month. Accordingly, I rsvp’d with “Certainly!”.In best speakeasy fashion, the entrance to Saloon is unmarked; I had to ask for directions. Once inside, the prohibition vibe carried through with an abundance of dark carved wood, mirrors and mellow-yellow lighting: instant comfort. The dinner was in the bar’s semi-private dining room, a large alcove where the Mezcal seekers were comfortably seated. My tablemates were an interesting and lively group – two young women nearly arrived in Boston looking for the lowdown on the best restaurants and night spots and a couple most knowledgeable in Boston’s food and cocktail culture.  As we were seated, the friendly staff presented us with a welcoming cocktail. Next, Manny Gonzales, Saloon‘s Beverage Director, offered a concise overview of Mezcal and its production. And then we were off on our Mezcal adventure.

 

Our Welcoming Cocktail - A well balanced mix of Mezcal, St.Germaine, grapefruit juice and sparkling wine.

Our Welcoming Cocktail – A well balanced mix of Mezcal, St.Germaine, grapefruit juice and sparkling wine.

 

First course

Spicy Shrimp Tostados

Spicy Shrimp Tostados

 

Paired with

Oaxacan Sour - Mezcal with muddled avocado, lime and clementine, egg white and soda splash

Oaxacan Sour – Mezcal with muddled avocado, lime and clementine, egg white and soda splash

 

Second Course

Carnitas & Chorizo Rellenos

Carnitas & Chorizo Rellenos

Paired With

Pascal's Fire - Mezcal, Spanish brandy infused with winter squash, Carpano, Tequila infused with cocoa & jalepeno, chocolate mole bitters and Spiced Dram

Pascal’s Fire – Mezcal, Spanish brandy infused with winter squash, Carpano, Tequila infused with cocoa & jalepeno, chocolate mole bitters and Spiced Dram

Third Course

Almond Cajeta Flan with Candied Squash

Almond Cajeta Flan with Candied Squash

Paired with

Cabritas y Almendras - Mezcal, Benedictine, house-made almond goat's milk, Mexican coffee with a Galleta Flaca ("skinny cookie")

Cabritas y Almendras – Mezcal, Benedictine, house-made almond goat’s milk, Mexican coffee with a Galleta Flaca (“skinny cookie”)

By the end of the dinner – and after four cocktails – I had a much better understanding and appreciation of Mezcal and the various ways it lends itself to a wide range of cocktails.

  • The “Welcoming Cocktail” was smoky and vegetal, yet balanced by the sweet floral attributes of St. Germaine; the grapefruit juice which can ruin a cocktail with its brashness played a subdued background role; the sparkling wine gave a lift of lightness.
  • “The Oaxacan Sour” was smooth, rich and bright – attributes of the avocado, egg white and citrus. (At last, a smoothie I could get excited about!)
  • “Pascal’s Fire” was fiery – as one of my tablemates said it was like a fireball – it began mellow then ratcheded up the heat to end quite tropicale. Also, I love the “cola” flavors and depth that Carpano adds to a cocktail.
  • And finally, “Cabritas y Almendras” – a wonderfully updated riff on the (oft infamous) “International Coffees” of the previous century.

Enough of this mixology geekiness. This was a fine dinner. Though the food was advertised as “small plates”, the servings were abundant – and excellent. All the courses were well done – flavorful and carefully prepared. Kudos to Chef Clough and his caballeros. And value-wise, it was a steal – four cocktails, three courses all for $35! (For more info on upcoming themed dinner at Saloon, check out the website.)

Additional thanks to Manny Gonzales and his staff of bartenders for this intro to Mezcal and Liz Green for the generous invitation.

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