Food Travel America / Mexico

Oaxaca! The 2015 edition

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I am not posting in chronological order. I had the hardest time writing at the start of my Oaxaca trip. I am out of practice. I had other stories in mind. I was distracted by the wonder of one of my favorite cities. But this is how my OAX adventure began this year:

My trip began with 2 hour delay adding to the 14 1/2 hours of travel door-to-door, lost luggage and a horrible night of sleep adjusting to the street noise, but all was ok as I woke up the first day and took place in front of the view above as I’ve done every morning of my weekly trip, for the past 4 years. I am in Oaxaca again. Back to enjoy another week exploring this wonderful city.

After a great year of travel that has taken me to Manzanillo (Mexico), Rome/Paris, New York, Long Beach (Ca), San Francisco, and Los Angeles, I am always happy to end my travel year in Oaxaca. It’s a pleasure to come back to a city that I can navigate comfortably, with the knowledge there will be something new and exciting each year I visit.

I have a list of “need to return to” and  a few”like to try” places, and only 1, “must do my best to try” places to eat.  After another year of seeing Oaxaca occasionally blipping across my news feed, I am again shocked how little new information there is about food scene. I know there is a surge in new mezcalerias, and I had a long list of these that I wanted to check out, but no plethora of new food places were calling out to me as something I had to try.  I wasn’t worried though, I knew no matter what, I’d be eating well in Oaxaca.

Landing in OAX later than I’d anticipated, my dinner options narrowed, and by the time I dealt with my missing bag situation, I was starving and wanting food now. When I arrived in town, I quickly dropped my bags at my casa and walked 2 blocks towards Murgia and Libres Streets where I knew I’d have 2 late night options. Being exhausted, I chose tacos from El Lechoncito del Oro rather than going to Tlayudas Libres.

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Tacos eaten after midnight on an empty stomach are always more delicious.

This year, the gang staying at the Casa totaled 9, and on Sunday we tried (foolishly) to go to the Merced market together for chocolate con leche, and other sweets and savories for breakfast. Unfortunately our group was too large to go to my favorite Fonda Florecita so we settled into a large table at Fonda San Diego. So instead of my regular eggs and salsa, I was convinced to try the San Diego breakfast special which turned out to be a monstrosity.

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Egg, black beans, queso fresco, chicharron bubbling away in salsa rojo.

"merced oaxaca chocolate"

I’m normally not a hot chocolate fan, and I’m never a dipper, but there’s something about dipping a lovely sweet firewood baked bun into a chocolate con leche that is a milestone marker in my return to Oaxaca each year.

"merced oaxaca Churro"

And if you find fresh churros, you must buy them and consume them quickly.

This year, Ben decided to make a return to Oaxaca. He’d only been once 8 years ago when we stayed in the mountains of Huayapam outside the city centre. It was a totally different experience of Oaxaca than that I’ve come to know comfortably, so I knew with new blood in the mix of the group, there would be some different (non-food related) adventures explored. I was happy when Lucha Libre was something the gang started talking about, because it’s not anything I’d have ever sought to see, but when I found there was going to be an event during my trip, I just had to be included!

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We only stayed to watch the lower end matches (as we’d gotten the point after an hour and a half…) but it was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen.

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After working up an appetite from so much laughter, I wanted to start crossing “would like to try’s” off my list and I started with the much-hyped Expendio Tradicion just 1 block from where I was staying. I’d seen them working on this place last year and it looked like a lot of time and money was being poured into whatever they were building. It came as a bit of surprise to see it blip across one of my feeds a few months ago. But a new, cool spot in Oaxaca, with great mezcal cocktails, a solid food menu and design by one of Oaxaca’s most famous artists, Francisco Toledo, I just had to see what it was all about.

Expendio Tradicion Oaxaca mezcal cocktail

Los Cuerudos  with mezcal, aguacate, limon, romero y chapulines con sal de gusano. I’m a sucker for avocado in my cocktail and this cocktail was a good example why. I’m not usually a fan of anything gusano (worm), but salted on the rim, it really worked in this drink. While I don’t usually shy away from grasshoppers, these were just too large to be enjoyed as a garnish.

"Expendio tradicion memelitas Oaxaca"

Memelitas tinga (chicken with tomato), flor de calabaza (zucchini blossoms), tasajo (grilled beef), de guisado con pulpo (octopus stew) and champinones (mushrooms).

"Expendio tradicion oaxaca salad"

Ensalada de tomates criollos – Local heirloom tomatoes with watercress, sprouts, cheese and pumpkin seeds. This salad reminded me of one of the many reasons why I love Oaxaca, where vegetables taste deliciously vegetable-y.

"Expendio Tradicion Oaxaca ceviche"

Ceviche of prawns was brightly acidic, but I felt that the prawns could have been better off left to “cook” in the marinade a few moments longer before serving.

"expendio tradicion oaxaca pulpo"

Pulpo con grill con poblano – Grilled octopus is one of my favorite things to have in Oaxaca, I find they serve it with a tenderness that can’t be matched elsewhere. This dish was a perfect example of that.

A few days in, and I’d already realized I wasn’t going to be able to eat and drink at all the places I have on my list. But I was determined to experience as much food and drink the city had to offer and was comforted again in the knowledge that even if I didn’t get to everything, I knew I’d be back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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