Since it opened its doors, Calavera has been all about creating an eclectic, authentic — and, dare I say, eccentric —experience, from housemade hominy and Mexican roasted grasshoppers, to hand-rolled tortillas and more tequilasthan you can count.So when it came time to put outa menu in honor of Mexico's most decorative celebration — Día de los Muertos — the team that concocted salt-whipped margaritas didn't hold back on culinary creativity.
Though un díais only 24 hours long, Calavera is celebrating through Nov. 4. The special menu includes a rotating selection of nine Oaxacan moles and an equal number of inventive, mostly mezcal-based cocktails. While it will rotate over the course of the celebration, this snapshot of offerings should give you a good glimpse of what to expect.
Margarita AncestralMade with Wahaka Espadín (mezcal), lime, and orange Curacao, this savory little cocktail comes with a foam of pepper salt and the essence of larvae shipped all the way from Mexico.
Dreams of CoyoacánA tincture of reposado tequila, mezcal vida, Sonoma green apple juice, lemon, and a hint of Green Chartreuse is poured into a decanter of swirling applewood smoke and then poured over globes of celery-rosemary ice, resulting in a cocktail with a kick that cools as the ice dilutes, releasing herbaceous flavors to complement the spirits.
Carne Apache de Corazón de VenadoThis tartare of venison heart is not for the faint (or those who order anything well-done). Diced with pickled cactus and dried chile peppers, the dish is served like a ceviche, over smears of pumpkin seed mole and with housemade blue corn tortilla chips.
Horchata TropicalFruity, without getting too punchy, guava, sour orange, and ginger blend withWahaka Espadín (mezcal) for this easy-sipping cocktail, topped off with horchata “air,” which is something like inhaling a graham cracker.
Tacos de ChapulinesIf you've made it past the venison heart, you're ready for grasshopper tacos. Sautéed in chipotles and pearl onions, the shredded chapulines have the texture of crispy braised beef or pulled pork. Served on housemade tortillas with a mole verde of kale, parsley, cilantro, and other green things, I'd be surprised if you made it last more than three bites.
Charlie & the Chapulin FactoryIf you didn't get your dose of insects via taco, you can take them in a cocktail. This mezcal concoction is surprisingly sweet, mixed with peanuts, pineapple, lime, egg whites, and chipotle morita —also called blackberry chile. It's made by smoking red ripe jalapenños slowly over a wood fire, resulting in a full, fruity flavor with tobacco and chocolate overtones. Coating the rim with grasshopper salt and dusting with gold makes it hard to resist, even if you do find a few stray legs at the bottom of the glass.
Drinking ChocolateEven if you think you've had enough after a couple of cocktails and some adventures in eating, you'll want to make room for Calavera's salted Oaxaca drinking chocolate, spiced just right. It's like drinking molten mousse.
In addition to featured foods and custom cocktails, there's also the atmosphere. Calavera's indoor space has been decked out in marigolds, with an altar of flowers, candles, animal statues, ancestral foods, andmezcal in honor of departed spirits. Keep your eyes open for special tributes in honor ofMexican-American Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez (played by J. Lo circa 1997). And if you want to totally immerse your whole self in the festivities,a face painter will be stationed on the patio brushing on traditional sugar skull faces from Halloween through the Day of the Dead.