I am a fortunate person for so many reasons. I recognize this, but I also know I make the most of my good fortune. I embrace positivity and jump as opportunities present themselves, and because of this, my good fortune seems to grow exponentially.
One of the things I feel fortunate about is my ability to return each year to my favourite restaurant to be treated to a spectacular meal. For some that wouldn’t be a big deal, but for me it is, especially considering my favourite restaurant is located in Oaxaca, Mexico.
After Chef Rodolfo Castellanos won Top Chef Mexico, I wondered how this year’s visit to Oaxaca would be for me. Would the Chef have time for me? How would the restaurant have changed? Would his cooking have changed? Would he have changed???
I’ve documented in previous posts from this year’s visit to Oaxaca, that I had nothing to worry about. Chef Rodolfo was the same kind and generous person to me that he had been in years previous, actually even more so.
This year I was honoured to be invited into Rodolfo’s parent’s home to have a meal prepared by his mother Evelia. Walking into their home, I was struck with the similarities to my own family home, down to the same couches surrounding their television which sits next to the dining room table, which was topped with the same lace tablecloth my mother has.
I found myself with a huge grin throughout the meal watching my father-in-law Henry interact with Rodolfo’s father Gerardo in the same way he does with my father and by watching Evelia, too busy with serving to sit down at the table, just like my mom. I was touched to be invited into their home to share a family meal and was comforted in the similarities Rodolfo’s family shared with my own.
All of Evelia’s food was amazing and prepared with so much care, but her chile rellenos were to die for!
Rodolfo invited me to go to Etla the next day with his family and the staff at Origen for an outing. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I’d be taken on an adventure that most people would never get to experience. And really, aren’t those the best adventures to take?
We met in the morning and loaded onto a bus up to Etla. When we arrived in the little town, we poured out of the bus and into a small restaurant for breakfast.
We were served coffee, champurrado and plates full of bread. Of course that was just the start, as the real breakfast was to follow. I left the food ordering to Rodolfo and as always there was too much!
After breakfast, we wandered through a tiny market and down to the fantastic Centro de las Artes San Augustin. The group then decided to take a hike up along the town’s aquaduct to an old hydroelectric plant. Again, I had no idea what to expect (and it turns out we were a bit underprepared in terms of the heat & our need for water), but upon reflection, it was amazing nonetheless.
One last stop on our way back to the city and that was for dinner. I was surprised when we pulled into the parking lot of a Chinese/Asian restaurant. Chinese food in Oaxaca? Yup, and it was pretty good!
On my last day in Oaxaca, the day I always choose for my dinner at Origen, I started wondering again what my meal would be like? Winning Top Chef hadn’t seemed to change Rodolfo. He was the kind and generous person he’s always been to me, but had it changed him as a Chef? I was excited to find out.
Before I would have these questions answered, I had one last must on my Oaxaca itinerary. A mezcal tasting at Mezcaloteca.
Mezcaloteca is a seriously informative place to learn about mezcal if you’re an English only speaker like myself. Last year, I had a great tasting with Andrea and left with a very special bottle which is now one of the prizes of my collection. This year, Omar arranged for a tasting with owner, Sylvia who took our group, who was at various levels in our mezcal education, through a series of different tastings.
Our meal at Origen was arranged to be at the Chef’s Table downstairs, rather than upstairs in the dining room. I was happy with that because I prefer sitting downstairs. Call it nostalgia to when I first ate at Origen more than 4 years ago, but it’s also the best place to get a view of the kitchen while seated.
When we arrived at Origen, we were seated downstairs for a cocktail and were told Chef Rodolfo would be right down. It turned out there was a huge party of VIP’s upstairs and when I went up to peek on the action, he looked to seriously be in the weeds. Not wanting to interrupt, I snuck back downstairs to begin my Origen experience.
After he finished upstairs, Chef Rodolfo came down to chat with us while we were enjoying our cocktails. I love that the Chef makes time for his guests and appreciate that he connects to his guests not only with his talents as a chef in the kitchen but also because he’s willing to make time to share his mind as well. It’s probably the main reason why a meal at Origen is always a favourite.
And with that, Chef jumped into his downstairs kitchen to start our meal. I’ll admit, another reason why I love eating at Origen is that Chef allows me into his kitchen, and while I try to be as unobtrusive as possible, I can’t help but peer closely.
“Foie gras torchon at Origen? No! And something he’s able to source locally? A total surprise to me. But I’m learning that surprise, or perhaps better described as wonderment is an appropriate feeling for the meal that I was about to be served.
I know it’s the feeling of being spoiled in my dinners at Origen on my last night in Oaxaca that leaves me with the longing to return even before I’ve boarded the plane for home. Couple that with being so fortunate in spending time with such amazing people, well this year, I can’t wait a whole year to return.