Oaxaca Food

So, I’m sitting in Oaxaca. This is my second trip here and I realized I never posted a blog on my first trip. That’s just neglect because it was an experience. There are beautiful works of art, historical architecture, historical ruins, and so many other things to enjoy here. But you know me. I was all about the food. I came down for 10 days back in February to cat sit for a friend. Ya, you read that right. My friend lives here and she was going to go do a yoga retreat (she owns a yoga studio and is an instructor) and for this particular trip, Jubilee was not permitted on the premises. She posted a Facebook post asking if anyone wanted to come to Oaxaca for a week. I bit. well, as they say, the rest was history.

This trip had dual purposes. I am learning Spanish and so it was a great opportunity to work on that. And I just love to travel and eat around the world. I can’t say I’ve really been enough places to say I do it around the world, but I want to! That counts, right?

So, I did post about my cooking class while I was down here, but I didn’t tell you all about the rest of the food adventures and there were many. My adventures started in Mexico City airport. Yep, I have to admit that not all airport food sucks. I ate at this cute little place called Salut. Whatever, I could care less about its name. The tacos were amazing. I know tacos seem like the safe option, but these were some amazing tacos and a great appetizer for the 10 day meal that was to come.

After I arrived, my friend Kelli and I decided we wanted to go try this amazing little neighborhood (not her neighborhood, but a neighborhood) taco place that she loves. Unfortunately, there was a bloqueo. This is a form of protest in Mexico in which large trucks, vans, tour buses, and such block the streets. We couldn’t get there. We finally were just getting hangry and so pulled up to the first restaurant we saw. It was a seafood leaning Mexican restaurant. I know almost no words related to seafood in Spanish. So we just ordered random stuff. We ordered way too much food and my food waste meter yelled at me, but we tried so many delicious things. The grilled, garlic crusted octopus was one of my favorites and i don’t usually like octopus. The seafood fundido was new to me. It was good, just strange. I even ate some cooked fish, another thing I don’t normally do.

The next morning, she had a meeting, which turned out to be a job interview, though she didn’t know that, and so I went to the Zocalo to explore. I ended up sitting down at this kind of touristy place and ordered the Oaxaquenian breakfast. It was a mole tamale. It was amazing. I have historically shunned mole. This cannot be shunned. It had just the right amount of cocoa without feeling like a chocolate. It wasn’t sweet. It wasn’t even super peppery. It was a perfect combination. I have been converted on mole.

In the afternoon, I walked a long way from her bungalow and ended up stopping at a pizza place. I know, I ate pizza in Mexico. It’s pretty good. I even ordered from the later in my trip for delivery. This particular afternoon, I just had a caprese salad and a glass of wine. Did I mention it was a weekend day? Kelli and I stumbled into this “secret bar” looking place up the street from her for dinner. She was getting ready for her trip and we just didn’t feel like looking for a place. It turned out to be adorable. I had a dish that is made with tortillas and refried beans. There’s a name for it that escapes me. I tried to google it, but no luck. Kellie had an almost Osso Buco like dish, kind of a soup.

Along my walks, I picked up some toast. It’s like a loaf of bread, but it solid like toast, almost like crouton meets bread. And I picked up some crema. Crema is amazing. I don’t know if it’s truly a cheese or some hybrid between a cream and a cheese. But slap that on the toast and have with fresh fruit and it’s a great way to start every day. Also, I was working during my trip, so I kind of couldn’t just head straight into town and eat.

My husband joined me the second weekend and that was so much fun. Our first night, we wandered out walking toward Oaxaca City. From San Felip del Agua, that’s a good forty minute hike. What we didn’t realize was that restaurants aren’t open as late as we are used to at home. We hit about nine and just started finding closed places. We ultimately went to an Italian restaurant. Yes, you can make fun. The food was okay, but the atmosphere was beautiful. They had this very romantic second floor balcony where we ate and watched the night life around us.

Day two and so on went a bit better for us. I had some amazing frijole breakfast thing. I have no idea what it was. I had taken him to the place I had the mole the first day and of course, he didn’t even order the mole and then he complained about what he did order. It’s okay, he was trying to be adventurous. We did end up having some excellent food. We discovered the Mercado Viente Noviembre. They have a meat hall! I’ve vowed to get better pictures of that on this trip. But basically, you wander up to a meat counter, order a selection of meats and they cook them right there on a grill! There’s another individual that does that actual grilling, helps you find a table, and brings your tortillas with your cooked me. There’s a third individual that takes your order and delivers “salads”, which is actually all the sides and toppings you may want. And a fourth individual takes your drink order and delivers those. It can be overwhelming because you pay each separately and in pesos. And did I mention that very little English is spoken in Oaxaca. This place is no exception.

We also did a mole and mezcal tasting. My friend had told me about it and so I booked it. Did you know there are different kinds of mole? Did you know that Oaxaca is known for mole? We tried seven varieties! And each was paired with a different mezcal. Yes, there are also many styles of mezcal. And Oaxaca is also known for the Mezcal. I would not do the history justice to explain why. Just come down here and go to the Mezcal and Mole tasting. Just be prepared to open your wallet because you are going to want to take many of them home…both the mezcal and the mole!

I finally did find and try that taco place Kelli and I were trying to get to. It’s absolutely adorable. It is unfortunately well known in guide books and so I got to watch an arrogant American act annoyed with the server who didn’t speak English. Like, he didn’t even try. I know I’m learning Spanish and put a lot more effort in than some, but my husband speaks very little and still respects that it’s their house. Anyway, I tried huitlacoche and squash blossom quesadillas and had some tasajo tacos. I was not a fan of huitlacoche. These are the mushrooms that can grow on corn and in the US we discard them. In Oaxaca, it’s a delicacy. I respect that, they are just not my preference. But I’m not a huge mushroom person. I’m sure the girls would like them.

Oh shit. I forgot to talk about the chapulines. These are also delicacies in Oaxaca. They are seasoned and fried grasshoppers. Don’t make that face unless you’ve tried to eat them. My husband and I were given a handful at the market when I said I just wanted a small amount to try. They were quite awful. I think it was the seasoning and not being in anything. Although I did try them on a tostada later and had the same reaction. We are still convinced it’s not the actual crickets, but whatever that marinade is that we don’t like.

I did a second mole tasting. This one was at a restaurant and they actually make a meal of it. You get seven tiny bowls with a little mole and whatever meat, protein, or vegetarian thing you choose. It’s kind of a big meal even though each is just a couple of bites. I was further amazed at how the same varieties of mole taste different based on the family recipes.

After Kelli returned from her trip, we went out for another great dinner. When she said mango ceviche, I looked askance as I don’t generally love mango. However, it was excellent. And we had molotes, which were amazing! Kelly had some kind of Isthmian seafood tacos and I had tamales. It was delicious and a great send off for my last dinner of the trip.

My final meal for the trip was in the Mexico City airport. I had some fundido and an empanada. The fundido was fine. The empanada was not great. Thus far, terminal 1 in Mexico City was not as good of an experience as terminal 2 on my way down.

So, as you can see, my Oaxaca trip was not about museums and history, though they have a lot of that. I was all about that food. I’m now back in Oaxaca for an even longer trip. I’ll tell you more about that later. And I imagine food will likely still be the center of my trip.

Oh, and don’t forget to check out my block My Authentic Oaxaqueña Cooking Experience! It’s all about the cooking class I took on this first trip.

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