Ocho Semanas en Oaxaca: Episodio 4

There were a lot of tacos at the beginning of June. I was diagnosed with Covid on the 3rd, so then I didn’t really go places except the taco stand up the street and the outdoor market in San Felipe in the second half of my little quarantine stint. But they were some damned good tacos. And I did order Al Hambre, because if you’re going to be in quarantine, it seems like a good idea to order a dish that can last a few days. However, here is a helpful tip: the tortillas don’t stay fresh that long.

After my ten days, my husband came to visit! He truthfully came in on day 10, but I did take a test and it was negative, so we felt pretty safe I wasn’t going to give him Covid. And we had a fantastic time while he was there. Because of the way weekends and such fell, he ended up getting to stay 10 days. And that man had a goal to try as much local food as he could manage, so we had some amazing meals.

It’s actually difficult to say what my favorite part of his visit was because we did so much. We hiked all the way from San Felipe into Centro, which is quite a distance even if you went the direct route, which we did not. We explored Monte Alban with a tour guide. He even let me book it with the private taxi/tour guide and so the tour was in Spanish. But this guide is really demonstrative, so he was able to understand much of it and I translated some of the more complicated parts.

We did a food tour which was incredible though I thought I was going to burst from all the food. We booked it with Me Encanta Oaxaca again because the tour guide is just amazing! We had food from a puesto de comida, or food stand. He got to try cafe olla, which is this amazing coffee with cinamon and I don’t know what else going on it. We had two different kinds of tamales, chocolate, traditional breads, tlyudas, tunas (that’s a fruit, not the fish), tejate, pulque, guaje pods, chapulines (crickets), chicatanas (ants), gusano rojo (worms), and of course, we ate in the meat hall at Mercado Benito Juarez. Again, it was a LOT of food!

I got a haircut and died my hair pink and purple on my husband’s last full day in Oaxaca. I hated that it took up part of our time, but at the same time, I probably wasn’t inviting a stranger expat to my little bungalow if I was there alone. It took 7 hours! But I did love it. And afterwards, we went out for a fancy dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Zocalo. We had these amazing croquettes with an herbed butter. For our main course, I ordered yet another tasajo dish and he ordered a milanese. Both were delicious.

Sadly, after he left I may have found some of the best foods. Well, not as good as my taco stand, but fantastic. I discovered this cute rooftop restaurant in Jalatlaco where I enjoyed a mixed taco plate. The restaraunteur was incredibly chatty and friendly. I learned more about the culture in the area, which I love. The views were also amazing.

And then I took a tour to San Martin to see the alibrijes. I’ve sinced watched Coco, but if you have not, these are the figurines that the movie was based on. They are incredible and the skill required to paint them is amazing. I did purchase a tiny one to bring home, but I’d love to get a bigger one someday. Along our tour, we also stopped at a cute outdoor restaurant where I got to have some really good tasajo memelas. We also stopped in Barro Negro where they make these beautiful traditional black earthenware dishes.

A few days later, I stumbled onto this plaza where all the vendors sell icecream. It was more like sorbet, but still, so amazing. I had a mezcal sorbet. I know that sounds weird, but it was delicious. They have so many flavors! And it’s right outside this ancient church with a cute little musuem. I don’t know how I hadn’t found this before.

I also found this incredible restaurant that was more of an experience than simply a place to eat. You can watch the women that prepare the tortillas and basically anything that contains a tortilla right there in front of you. And the food is amazing. Locals celebrating some occasion made it feel really homey. And it was great fuel as I stumbled into the Pride parade as I left the restaurant.

Oh, I have to talk about the tasting menu. Criollo, an amazing little restaurant west of Centro, is an amazing experience. It was six-course tasting menu that did not dissappoint. It is a bit expensive for eating in Oaxaca, but it was my last night, so I splurged. The meal started with an amazing soup, roasted cauliflower, and a molote. From there, it moved to this sort of black bean soup that I swear I must figure out how to recreate. Then there was this tamale topped with some fancy zucchini blossom thing. I wish I could remember the full descriptions or names of these dishes, but they were amazing. There was a tyluda which had seared tuna (the fish) on it. It was incredible. And the mole! There was a fish with mole verde sauce and it was the best mole verde I’ve ever had. And I had quite a bit of mole verde while in Oaxaca. Also, I don’t like fish and I ate every bite of that dish. So, I guess I’m changing my mind on fish, too. Oaxaca definitely changed my pallet for the better. The dessert was this traditional cake that they serve in the area, but with a chef’s twist. Sadly, I don’t remember what the cakes are called.

Sadly, my food adventures in Mexico did not end on a high note. On my way home, I ate in the Mexico City airport. By the time I arrived in Chicago, my stomach was in full rebellion. I then spent an entire month with serious stomach issues. I won’t share the gory details with you, but ultimately, I ended up having to take a lot of probiotics and it took over a month to get back to an ability to eat and function normally. I don’t blame Mexico though, just that one particular airport restaurant. Next time, I’m going to eat a taco from the fastfood stands. And I will definitely return to Mexico, especially Oaxaca. It was an amazing, life-changing experience.

Me Encanta Oaxaca!

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