Food Travel / Mexico / Mexico / Peak Experience / Perfect Days

My wonderful (last) day in Oaxaca

I have come to love the slow and easy pace of my annual week in Oaxaca, but towards the end of each trip, in order for me to accomplish all that I want to do when I’m there, I have to push a bit to fit it all in. Luckily this year, on my last day in Oaxaca, all of the things “I had to do before I left”, were all wonderful things, so I spent my last day living Oaxaca to the fullest, which is really the best way to leave it for the year.

I was in the home stretch of the trip, when I realized that for the 2nd year in a row, I hadn’t eaten a good tlayuda. Tlayudas are one of the things I crave when I think of Oaxaca throughout the year, yet I don’t make it a priority when I’m actually there. My difficulty is that it’s usually best eaten as a late-night snack, but I’m not much of a late-nighter in Oaxaca. But rather than being shut-out for one more year, I decided I’d use my last market trip to La Merced (to pick up the dry-goods I pack home) as an excuse to eat a brunch tlayuda at Fonda Florecita.

Oaxaca Merced Fonda Florecita

Oaxaca Merced Fonda Florecita tlayuda

Tlayuda with chorizo and cecina is one of the most perfect hand foods in my opinion. I’m so happy my tlayuda craving was satisfied for the year.

Aside from food, Oaxaca keeps me engaged each year with its engaging and diverse cultural scene. Almost every day I find myself wandering in and out of museums or exhibitions or spending evenings watching music concerts, all in beautiful spaces. There is a great Oaxacan calendar that keeps you in the loop of what’s going on in town and you can find great things to do almost every day. I am more willing to take chances on shows that I know nothing about because most are accessible at no or low cost. I’ve also gotten in the habit of taking photos of posters I see around town as a reminder to myself on what’s going on while I’m visiting.

Oaxaca cerveza artisinal On my first day in Oaxaca, I noticed an advertisement for an artisanal beer festival happening on my last day. This sounded like something right up my alley, so I spoke to a few people about the event and there was interest and some buzz. The festival came up again in my conversation of all things food and drink with Chef Rodolfo on our adventure to El Mangalito and we made plans to check it out together. It seemed perfect as I would be dining at Origen for my last supper in Oaxaca.

But before the beer festival, I made time to check one last thing off my “must see” list.

I love street art and it’s something I seek out whenever I travel. The great pieces, small and large in Oaxaca are one of the things I love about the city and the group Lapiztola have some of my favorites. Unfortunately, it’s becoming harder to find the great big murals covering sides of buildings as the government quickly orders these works of art to be removed.

I had been meaning to wander around the streets in search of street art on my trip, but never got around to it, so I made a point on my last day to go to Piedre Lumbre, a mezcal bar I was unable to make it to on this trip, specifically to see one of Lapiztola’s works. I stood in front of this mural mesmerized by its intricacy. I’m especially happy I did, because the piece has, since then, been painted over.

"Oaxaca Piedre Lumbre mezcal Piztola"

Later in the afternoon, I met Rodolfo at Origen and we made our way over to the beer festival with his sous chef Fernando. It was busy, but easy enough to walk around and sample the many beers being featured at the event. I remember when I first started visiting Oaxaca 8 years ago, where having a beer meant you had to choose something from one the 2 giant beer companies. But as is happening all over the world, small batch brewing is talking off in Mexico, and it was so much fun for me to learn (and taste) more from the growing beer community.

On this trip, I’d started seeing more local beer being offered at restaurants, but was shocked that at the event, all 12 vendors were from Oaxaca state. While not all the beer was fantastic, I still enjoyed tasting and getting to know more about the beer scene of Oaxaca.

The one thing I had a tough time with was  there were a lot of seasonal stouts being featured and even though it was winter, I couldn’t wrap my head around drinking stouts in the warm climate of Oaxaca. But no matter, there was still enough other beer for me to sample!

"consejo cervecero oaxaca"

rey o baby cerveza beer

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IMG_9867

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My time at the festival was a great Oaxacan experience. It was fun to hang out with Chef Rodolfo and his sous Fernando at a cool event feeling not as much like a tourist as I usually do, (especially because I tend to stand out wherever I go in Oaxaca).

"Chef Rodolfo Castellanos Susy Bando Oaxaca"

I am spoiled coming from a great craft brewing city like Vancouver, but I was still able to find some great beers to drink. My only “complaint” would be that more of the vendors could have offered smaller sample size glasses so that I could have tasted without feeling like I was going to ruin what I knew was going to be a fantastic dinner ahead.

I will admit, we lost track of time and realized it was past our 8pm “reservation” as we left the festival. We rushed back to Origen where Rodolfo and Fernando headed straight into the kitchen and I found myself at a full table ready to eat as I took my seat. I only wished my tummy wasn’t so full of beer at this point, but I knew I had no choice but to push through for this highly anticipated meal.

I will mention I had a camera fail earlier in this day, (where I was reminded why I shouldn’t put a water bottle in the same bag as my camera), so my photos from the day were taken with my iPhone and a point and shoot.

My annual trip to Oaxaca means that I have the opportunity once a year to eat a meal at one of my favorite restaurants prepared by a supremely talented chef. Knowing I can count on it as being a great experience is the reason why I leave my annual dinner at Origen to the end of my trip. This year, I was excited to be getting the full meal deal from Chef Rodolfo, as last year’s Origen dinner came as part of Festival Saber del Sabor festival where Rodolfo shared the stage with Alex Stupak and Pablo Salas. When I arranged for this dinner a few days earlier, I asked Chef Rodolfo, “to serve me whatever he please, and to knock my socks off with the meal”. Normally I wouldn’t be so bold in my request, but with Rodolfo, I have come to know that my high expectations are always exceeded.

"origen oaxaca rodolfo castellanos potatoes"

Local Potatoes with Oaxacan chiles, tomato sofrito and aioli was described as a Mexican patatas bravas.

Origen Oaxaca Rodolfo Castellanos tripe

Marinated tripe – I have never met a tripe I have liked before this one.

"origen oaxaca tepache"

Tepache (fermented pineapple juice), sal de gusano, cilantro and white onion

Oaxaca Origen Rodolfo Castellanos squash

Roasted spaghetti squash, almonds, quintoniles and cherry tomato

"oaxaca origen pozole"

Medregal (amberjack) with manila clams, chicharron and pozole verde (pumpkin seed sauce)

Getting a bit full, I decided to take a wander back to the kitchen to catch some of the action. I find there’s a definite correlation of my enjoyment of a meal to the connection I have with the process so I’m appreciative at Chef Rodolfo’s patience with me as I wandered through his kitchen, taking photos and chatting with him as he worked.

Rodolfo Castellanos Origen Oaxaca

Rodolfo Castellanos Fernando Origen Oaxaca

"origen oaxaca tiger cacao mole"

Tiger cacao mole (white cacao) enchilada with shaved foie gras and grapes. I have eaten a lot of mole in my life, but this was sublimely luscious and so different from the “pow in your face” flavours of a more typical mole.

"origen oaxaca rodolfo castellanos tigre cacao mole"

White cacao? Why yes, and here’s Chef Rodo to show it off!

Oaxaca Origen Rodolfo Castellanos barbacoa

"Origen oaxaca rodolfo castellanos"

Oaxaca Origen Oxtail

Oxtail and sweetbread barbacoa, hoja santa leaves

"origen oaxaca ice cream"

Pumpkin canolli, curry ice cream and mandarin

"oaxaca origen corn pudding"

Corn pudding with ice cream quesillo cheese, pineapple and rosemary

My meals at Origen are always the perfect way to end my adventure in Oaxaca for the year. Chef Rodolfo’s meals make me feel like I’m getting the best of the best of Oaxaca and each year I leave already pining for my next trip back. My culinary adventures take me all over the world in search of extraordinary experiences but all roads keep leading me back to Oaxaca each year. It says a lot, as I find myself in new eating adventures over different continents each year, my meals at Origen keep ranking in the top. Gracias Chef Rodolfo for keeping the bar high in my food expectations which keeps me pushing in my travels, and also pulls me back to Oaxaca each year.

"origen oaxaca Susy Bando Rodolfo Castellanos"

One last note, Chef Rodolfo is currently competing on Top Chef Mexico, seen in the US on NBC Universo, Thursday nights at 9pm. I guess it goes without saying that I’m on #TeamRodo for #TopChefMx all the way!

 

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