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This year I spent my birthday on an airplane, but I didn’t mind, because that plane was headed to Oaxaca. My aunt is helping me work on a special project (to be revealed soon), and we thought it would be our best chance to get together there and meet some producers. I have been to Oaxaca many times, and it holds a very special place in my heart, as well as for my family. We have had some great moments there together, and it is always a pleasure to go back, for whatever reason. And I seem to always invent a good reason! I arrived very late the first night, and my aunt and her friend Cynthia were waiting for me at Casa Crespo. They have a lovely restaurant and make artisanal chocolates, with a myriad of flavors that are interesting and delicious. I love their hot chocolate with anise. Hot chocolate is one of the things that you have to drink and take back with you if you go there. Oaxaca is famous in Mexico for its hot chocolate, and there are plenty of companies that make it there. You can even make your own molienda with the proportions of cacao, sugar, cinnamon, and almonds that you would like to have. Just know that the freshly ground chocolate will harden, so you have to mold it within a couple of hours. And go for the bitter varieties, as the traditional versions tend to be on the sweeter side.
It was in Oaxaca that I discovered my favorite drink, a Margarita de Mezcal con Tamarindo. It can be ordered in various ways, and most restaurants in Oaxaca have a mezcal-based cocktail with fruit choices, so you don’t have to go through the trouble of saying “margarita de mezcal”. However, in other places you might have to explain more thoroughly. It was in Tulum that I discovered this, as I asked for my drink and caused a lot of a confusion for the barmen. Eventually, I got freshly pounded tamarind, seeds and all, in the most amazing version of this cocktail, which was very delicious, and shows the extent of how great Mexican service is. They told me it was a “margarita de mezcal con tamarindo”, and it has worked ever since. Below is my cocktail from Los Danzantes, my favorite restaurant in Oaxaca. This cocktail there is call “Los Danzantes”. That is worm salt lining the rim, by the way. Enough said.
We also ate a few Tlayudas, which are unique to Oaxaca, and you will have a very hard time finding in other parts of the country. It is basically a large, flat cornmeal based disc (like a large tostada), topped with lard, meat or fish of choice, cheese, lettuce, salsas, etc. At Los Danzantes, we had this amazing shrimp one with a delicious salsa and beans. They folded it over, which is why it doesn’t look like a large, flat disc, as I just described. Below is a photo of another one that we had at a cute cafe, this time with carnitas.
We also had an amazing meal at Casa Oaxaca. You don’t just eat at Casa Oaxaca, you learn, you discover, you grow. I never feel over-indulged there, because despite the richness of the experience, you feel like you are part of this amazing act of food culture. They use so many local ingredients and work with small farms from the area. Half of the things on the menu I have never heard of before, and I love discovering new chile peppers, herbs, salsas, and preparations. It is such a great pleasure to see that amount of care and quality going into a dish; it reminds me of why I love food and cooking. I didn’t take photos of every dish (I really don’t love doing it!), but I did sneak a shot of this tableside tomato salsa that they prepared in a molcajete in front of us. I know that they do this all the time with guacamole here, but the tomato salsa was just so simple, and just the perfect detail.
These were my lovely companions. We had a lot of fun! This is us in front of Santo Domingo Cathedral.