Centro Mexican Kitchen celebrated two of Mexico’s most time-honored culinary traditions—mole and mezcal—at their second annual Festival de Mole y Mezcal last Thursday, March 23. Their head Chef Duane Walker prepared three different moles, rojo, verde and negro, while the bar offered three rare, specially crafted Oaxacan mezcals not on their normal menu. Let us explain why mescal and mole are so special to the Mexican heritage and why they are so delicious and often hard to come by here in the States.
Mole is the classic, ancient Mexican sauce made from chilies, seeds, nuts, and spices, among other ingredients. There are as many legends about its origins as there are types of mole, with variations ranging from negro and coloradito to poblano and almendrado. Some moles have as many as 30 ingredients, and family recipes are heavily guarded and passed down from generation to generation. “So much history, heritage, passion, and love goes into making a solid mole,” says Chef Walker. “It's all about building flavor, which takes time. To me it's the foundation of Mexican cuisine.” His recognition of mole’s history and his attention to detail was apparent in the rich, flavorful negro mole and toasted coconut coating the duck leg dinner special we tried. He had paired it with a dulce de leche sauce as well and served the duck with broccolini and risotto style rice with nuts and raisins. The dish was so savory and the sauces were much more succulent than sweet and matched perfectly with the various flavor profiles of the duck and sides. The duck was filling and full of flavors like warming spices, chilies, chocolate, smoke, game and we learned it was dry rubbed overnight until cooked in duck fat. Talk about a decadent duck dish!
Taking our meal up several notches on the delicious and memorable spectrum was a flight of mezcal. Mezcal is a Mexican spirit made from the heart of the agave plant, or piña. Unlike tequila, which is made using only blue agave, mezcal comes from over 30 varieties of agave. This, coupled with countless variations in the distillation process, allows for an astonishing variety of mezcals across the country. Some heirloom recipes include ingredients like cinnamon, pineapple, plums, cloves, and even raw meat. The three on special for their Festival were Mexicano, Madre Cuixe and Ensamble en Barro from the Mezcal Vago label. They were amazing, but because they aren’t offered here any other time I will tell you about some of the mezcals you can order anytime at Centro.
We tried three small samples from the Del Maguey family – Minero, Chidricapa, and Domingo Alban. They were all especially great with a bite of lime or orange and paired with food. The Minero was refreshing, but unlike most tequila, it has tasting notes of vanilla and caramel in addition to the agave taste. The Chidricapa was lighter and crisper than the other two, and resembled typical tequila in its agave and citrus forward taste, but with a bit of wood/oak flavor found in aged tequilas. The Domingo Alban mezcal was a bit sweet, agave forward and crisp, but with a smoky aftertaste. If you’re a fan of tequila and whisky/bourbon, mezcal is your kindred spirit and you’ve got to try a few varieties. As mentioned, mezcal comes from over 30 varieties of agave and is coupled with countless variations in the distillation process, thus you absolutely should not judge based on a past experience or just a couple of mezcals. There are so many flavor profiles to match many palettes, unless you just hate tequila/agave. So head over to Centro Mexican Kitchen for one of the best selections of mezcal in Boulder and Denver. They even have mezcal in a couple of cocktails or you can add it to a margarita to make your first time a bit more approachable.
In addition to their great mezcals and mole, Centro has a large menu of soulful, imaginative Mexican cuisine. Centro also packs their calendar with fun events and weekly specials that continue to make their restaurant a fun, affordable and popular place to dine and drink. Two upcoming events include Easter Sunday and Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Centro is celebrating Easter Sunday with a festive brunch, happy hour, and dinner specials. Cinco de Mayo at Centro will have a pig roast on the patio, and served out in the form of tacos, tamales, and enchiladas all day long. There will also be $5 Suerte Coin Margs (while supplies last), $7 Shot & Beer (El Charro Silver and The Post Brewing Co. Top Rope Mexican Style Lager), and $15 Top Rope Buckets. They've also got some awesome weekly programing—Breakfast Burritos, Sunday Family Night (live music, dancing, kids eat free), Monday All Night Happy Hour, Tamale Tuesdays, Weekend Brunch, and Happy Hour food and drink specials daily!
Review by Tiffany Candelaria