I first met Mark Broadfoot back when we were Scouts in middle school, and ever since then I’ve known him to be fond of sharing. The first time it caught my attention was on a snowboarding trip to Utah, where, after the first bite of what I assumed would be an over-priced and under-loved slice of ski-lodge pizza, he slid his plate across the table and, beaming, said, “You’ve got to try this.” And he was right. It was excellent pie in the least-expected location.
1250 Prospect Street, La Jolla
2259 Avenida de La Playa, La Jolla
So it only seems natural that Mark’s penchant for introducing tasteful food and drink to others has taken him to California Modern-George’s at the Cove in La Jolla, where he works as “key personnel of captains” — a factotum of fine dining. As of late, the 30-year-old has been exploring new frontiers as beverage director at Galaxy Taco, a project of George’s executive chef and partner Trey Foshee. It was Foshee who introduced Mark to mezcal, an agave liquor traditionally produced in Oaxaca.
“Most people, if they have even heard of mezcal, will think of it as a cheap version of tequila with a worm,” Mark relates from the couch of his North Park home. “If you know a little bit more, you know that it has a smokier flavor profile. Other than that, it can still be a mystery, even to well-educated spirit drinkers. Part of that, as I’ve been studying, is how different each and every bottle is. They very much are an expression of their respective areas, similar to the wine concept of ‘terroir.’ That’s why I fell in love with it. I had so much wine background coming in to studying mezcal that I immediately wanted to break it down like you do with wine: you know a region, you know the soil type and their mineral profile, you know the exact grapes being grown, and how those grapes will taste in different parts of the world. So I approach mezcal in the same way.”
One reason that mezcal remains so enigmatic to San Diegans, Mark says, is cost: “It’s one of the most expensive spirits on the market. An entry-level artisan mezcal is typically around the same price point as a high-end vodka.”
As an introduction, Mark may recommend a more affordable label such as Montelobos ($30 retail) or the mid-level Mezcal Vago ($55).
“Mezcal Vago is infused with corn, which allows it to pair well with food. In fact, we have a corn beer on tap at George’s and Galaxy brewed by Benchmark. It uses the same non-GMO white corn that we are making our masa and tortillas with at Galaxy Taco.”
Another way Mark makes mezcal more accessible is by toning down some of its more pronounced flavors by mixing, for example, in his San Diego Sour.
“I use egg whites and avocado to round out the harshness and astringent profile of the mezcal. You still get some of smoky elements in a way that plays with the profiles of a guacamole. So when you shake the egg white with the avocado it emulsifies and makes it into almost an avocado mousse. Adding mezcal with the lemon-lime makes it pretty much a Pisco Sour, substituting mezcal for pisco and chili bitters for Angostura. It’s very savory, and it goes great with Mexican food.”
Ever the ambassador, Mark pours us a glass of one of his favorite producers, Pierde Almas, while offering instructions on how best to enjoy the drink: “You don’t want to stick your nose in the glass like with wine. Just waft it over, take a sip, let it coat your mouth, take it down, and breathe out.”
The stuff is fantastic, and I remark about its smoky character.
“With mezcal, consistency is in character, not necessarily repeating the same flavors,” he replies. “A good mezcal consistently gives good character. If you’re willing to accept that, then you’re going to love mezcal.”