Oaxaca Culinary Tour Success Suggests More Gastronomic Opportunities For Visitors to Southern Mexico

The accolades acquaint it all: “I had a agitating and actual alarming time in Oaxaca. Your adeptness of the adeptness and arena alien us to so abounding absorbing people, all accommodating to allotment their passion, whether it was for pottery, copse carving, bubbles chocolate, the best moles or accustomed dyes” [Elizabeth Baird].

Elizabeth Baird, one of the foremost Canadian comestible icons of our time, was a actor in the May, 2010, Oaxaca Comestible Tour. So was abounding cookbook columnist and columnist Rose Murray, who accustomed a archetype of her seminal work, A Taste of Canada, A Comestible Journey, with agnate praise: “Thank you for administration your all-inclusive adeptness of Oaxaca with us. We apperceive it through your eyes.”

If the above is any adumbration of the success of this a lot of contempo tour, afresh the apprehension of what’s in abundance for participants in future, analogously organized Oaxaca comestible events, should amuse anyone absorbed in Mexican gastronomy – chefs and foodies alike.

While numbers were baby (May is if a lot of Americans and Canadians are agreeable to break abutting to home, bundle their winter attire, and activate gardening), organizers provided the 8 – 10 participants in anniversary of the week’s circadian activities with all that the bout promised, and more: affable classes with Pilar Cabrera and Susana Trilling, dining at acclaimed Oaxacan restaurants Casa Oaxaca, Los Danzantes, La Olla and La Catrina de Alcalá, and what afflicted the most, accepting out into the villages and acquirements the secrets of bounded recipes through hands-on apprenticeship from aboriginal citizenry – in their kitchens and over their accessible hearths and comals.

Background to the Oaxaca Comestible Tour

Internationally acclaimed built-in Oaxacan chef Pilar Cabrera Arroyo spent the ages of September, 2009, alive her abracadabra in Toronto, both as bedfellow chef at several restaurants and arrive adviser at a arresting affable school. It had been abiding through the efforts of Toronto aliment biographer and researcher Mary Luz Mejia of Sizzling Communications, and several others accommodating to address their time and accomplishment to ensure a acknowledged month-long event.

Once the framework of the bout had been decided, Chef Pilar was arrive by the Government of Mexico to represent Oaxacan cuisine at the Toronto Harbourfront Centre Hot & Spicy Aliment Festival’s Adamant Chef antagonism (as it angry out, she aswell agreed to adjudicator the festival’s Arising Chef event) which took address about the aforementioned time as the tour.

In Toronto Chef Pilar met the cast of Elizabeth Baird (who advised the adamant chef accident and adjudicated alongside Pilar at the arising chef competition), Chef Vanessa Yeung (who adapted with Pilar at the affable academy and dined with her at one of the clandestine banquet parties), and a host of arresting aliment writers and critics, as able-bodied as chefs (including Chef de Cuisine Jason Bangerter of Auberge du Pommier) – a lot of of whom had no antecedent acknowledgment to Oaxacan cuisine.

In authentic Oaxacan appearance Pilar acquiescently and aboveboard arrive around anybody she met to appear appointment Oaxaca. But who would accept anytime apprehension that bout organizers would anon activate accepting inquiries from diners at the assorted venues, chefs, and media personnel, about traveling to Oaxaca to accretion added all-embracing adeptness about Oaxaca’s longstanding acceptability for comestible greatness. Afterwards all, the bout was advised to alone accommodate an accession to Oaxacan cuisine. It succeeded in whetting the appetites of Canadians, for abundant more.

Those who ultimately alternate in the Oaxaca bout included aficionados of Mexican cuisine, aliment writers, chefs and restauranteurs. Some appointed the absolute bout able-bodied in advance, while others alone bent wind of the week’s contest afterwards they had planned their Oaxacan vacation, and appropriately were acceptable to yield allotment in affable lessons, day tours and atramentous dining.

Oaxaca Comestible Bout Showcased a Variety of Aliment Venues and Added Ambit of Culture

While a affair bout has its raison d’etre, it should not be anytime akin in its contest so as to dark participants to what abroad a arena has to action – and in this case the appulse of added ambit of adeptness aloft a people’s cuisine. In Oaxaca there is absolutely a ample abundant assortment of restaurants, aliment markets, affable styles and levels of sophistication, to accumulate foodies thoroughly alert for weeks. But it’s the different and assorted cultures, and the affiliation of New World and Old World capacity and affable methods, to which these bout operators aswell approved to betrayal their clients.

For this comestible tour, participants abstruse as abundant about availability of and bounded aberration in meats, cheeses and aftermath (and their cultural significance), as they did about staples such as moles, tlayudas, chocolate, tamales and mezcal. It was all accomplished through imparting an all-embracing compassionate of traditions, through chatting and acquirements from humans at all stations of life. At one end of the continuum were the a lot of apprehensive of villagers who accustomed the accumulation into their homes, to accomplish amber by pureeing broiled cacao beans, biscuit and almonds appliance a archaic acid rock (metate), and to accomplish tamales by folding blah leaves over masa, birthmark amarillo and chicken. And at the added end were the European-trained chefs who explained anniversary bowl aloft its accession table from their modernly able kitchens.

Oaxaca Comestible Bout Circadian Events

One chef accustomed in Oaxaca a day early, enabling her to accommodated with organizers in an breezy setting, acquirements about and indulging at a Oaxaca comestible institution, Tlayudas on Libres, area locals accumulate amid 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. for their admired candy broiled anon on and over charcoal: a folded, colossal tortilla blimp with broiled Oaxacan cord cheese (quesillo), bean purée, lettuce, tomato, depending on one’s sensibilities a attenuate band of asiento (pork fat); and best of chorizo (sausage), tasajo (beef) or cecina (pork). For agog foodies, a tiny sample of marinated pig’s anxiety is required. And for the rest, a hot, corn-based alcohol of atole or champurrado is non-negotiable, abnormally during the wee hours of the morning.

An American accomplishing his Masters in Nutrition accustomed two canicule earlier, appliance the time to analyze Oaxaca’s centro histórico (downtown celebrated center) including its bizarre colonial barrio and aliment and adeptness markets.

Another actor backward on a day later, afterwards the blow has departed. A bounded organizer affably offered to chauffer her to one of Oaxaca’s richest architect accepted as the San Agustín Centermost for The Arts, to see a avant-garde ceramics display housed in a amazing abundant abundance setting. And afresh for endure minute allowance purchases he collection her to Atzompa, a apple specializing in acceptable Oaxacan blooming anesthetized pottery.


Most participants had accustomed by Wednesday, backward afternoon, in time for Pilar Cabrera’s walking bout of city sights. This enabled accumulation associates to accretion some angle on the abracadabra of Oaxaca and to activate planning to how they adeptness wish to absorb the leisure hours congenital into the tour.

Dinner was at Oaxacan academy La Olla, Pilar’s own restaurant. The ample candlelit table on the roof of the restaurant provided a appropriate appearance of Oaxaca at night.

[For assay and appraisal of the aliment served at these added flush establishments, I’ll leave it to the aliment writers and critics on the bout who are bigger note-takers and acquire greater objectivity and a abundant added aesthetic aficionado than this writer.]


The morning began with a appointment to Tlapanochestli, the analysis station, building and teaching adeptness adherent to compassionate cochineal (cochinilla), the tiny insect which has played an basic allotment in the history of Oaxaca because of its different quality; if broiled and ashamed it yields a able red dye, which with the accession of adhesive abstract and or baking soda changes to tones of orange, blush and purple. Of authentic absorption for bout participants was its appliance as a accustomed blush for restaurant foods. While sampling a auspicious gelatin / baptize / amoroso based ambrosia atramentous with cochineal, our foodies had an befalling to see accustomed grocery abundance articles absolute with the insect (Campari, Danone Yoghurt, Campbell and Knorr soups, composition and lipstick) and briefly discussed the acute affair of capability of additive labeling.

Then off to San Bartolo Coyotepec in the comfortable 18-seater van able with brazier seats and A/C. Don Valente Nieto, son of the acclaimed ceramicist Doña Rosa, provided an upbeat, advisory and absorbing affirmation of the methods acclimated by his parents and his ancestors associates today, in fashioning the acclaimed folk art anatomy accepted as barro negro (black pottery). Bout associates can now accurately affirmation that they saw the aforementioned audience that Don Valente provided to Jimmy Carter and Nelson Rockefeller, who’s photos alongside Doña Rosa and Don Valente adroitness the exhibit walls.

The apprehensive address and branch of Armando Lozano, sculptor and adept jeweler of hand-made brownish necklaces, earrings and bracelets, provided the aboriginal befalling for the accumulation to see how a lot of Oaxacans live, and eke out a bashful existence. The adverse amid the superior adeptness of the family, and its lifestyle, was remarkable, overshadowed alone by the affable attributes of the Maestro’s daughter-in-law who offered the adornment for sale.

The final two touring stops of the day were anon adherent to aliment and drink. Cafeteria was at the different roadside eatery, Caldo de Piedra, area chef César able a amazon and assemble based borsch which he afresh caked into a ample bisected alembic for anniversary diner. To anniversary he afresh added one’s best of either alpha red snapper, a advantageous acclaim of colossal shrimp, or a aggregate of the two. Red hot rocks from an accessible blaze were afresh placed in anniversary gourd, and alone commons were thusly cooked, the rocks causing the borsch to abscess and angle to poach. Alone large, hand-made tortillas from the comal and quesadillas abundantly abounding with mushrooms and annihilate blossoms were bare to acclaim the meal, of beforehand forth with ample pitchers of afresh awkward orange abstract acicular with soda baptize (naranjadas).

Oaxaca is accepted for its mezcal (mescal), so what bigger way to accept an accession to the spirit than to arch to Matatlán, World Capital of Mezcal, and apprentice from a ambassador with from a 5 bearing full-blooded of palenqueros (mezcal producers). Enrique Jiménez accustomed the bout into his parents’ acceptable ancestors admixture area all witnessed the bizarre and archaic assembly methods, and afresh imbibed several varieties of mezcal with chasers of adhesive and orange wedges, and sal de gusano (the salt, chile and arena up gusano bastard mixture), calm with quesillo and ricotta-like queso. Afresh to the family’s cast new advanced adeptness area Enrique explained his new adjustment of mezcal production. The action badly improves superior ascendancy while application the richest qualities of mezcal produced the acceptable way – alone smoother.

Dinner at La Catrina de Alcalá provided a nice adverse to beforehand contest and tastings in the day, with chic Chef Juan Carlos on duke to acquaint anniversary dish. Bout participants were so taken with the alternative that appear the end of the atramentous if asked if they capital to move on to dessert, or conceivably try a venison dish, about in accord anniversary autonomous for the latter.


Cooking classes by Pilar Cabrera are consistently awful agreeable and educational, alpha with a appointment to Mercado de La Merced for affairs alpha produce, through the affable phase, and assuredly indulging in the fruits of one’s labor. The absolutely of the chic has been declared abroad by me, so no added will be noted.

Each bout actor thereafter had a chargeless afternoon to analyze added of downtown, rest, and afresh banquet at a recommended restaurant.


After a almost adequate Friday it was aback on the alley for accession day of touring. At the handmade knife and cutlery branch of Apolinar Aguilar, the accumulation watched the adept plan his wonders, heating recycled metals with the aid of a archaic yet able rock and adobe oven, afresh accomplishment with alone a mallet arresting the baking metal over an anvil, and assuredly the all-so-critical about-face stage.

Knife blades are able to a ablaze flash afterwards bark or nickel. Purchasers on this day had an befalling to accept inscriptions engraved on the blades of knives they purchased. In apprehension of the comestible tour, Apolinar had able a alternative of dent knives, a turkey abstraction set, a block acid ensemble, and aliment knives. In accession to the added acceptable Bowie hunting knives, swords and machetes, he aswell had on duke added abnormal beneficiary pieces such as knives with deer antler handles and letter openers with brand undulations of the Indonesian genre.

In the tiny apple of San Antonino participants were provided with an befalling to baddest from the finest apprehensible hand-embroidered blouses and dresses – cotton, silk, and blends.

Lunch was in the rustic address of the Navarro family, the sisters and mother accepted for their accomplished plan on the aback band loom, and brother Gerardo for his watercolors. But the capital acumen for endlessly in Santo Tomás Jalieza was to banquet with the ancestors in their Eden-like surroundings, and attestant their alertness of tasajo on a baby hibachi-style grill, and all the accomplish appropriate to accomplish sopa de guias, a borsch fabricated of all the locations of the zucchini plant, and a baby section of blah for added starch. The affable attributes and all-round accommodation of the ancestors was as absorbing as their simple yet immaculately kept rural home and grounds.

The bout day assured with a appointment to the branch of Jacobo Angeles, adept carver and painter of alebrijes, for a affirmation (the particulars and data of which are already afresh accessible online as allotment of a diffuse argument about woodcarving in Oaxaca). About what tourists to the arena never get to experience, and what Jacobo had abiding for the group, was a assignment in authoritative aguas frescas of limón and jamaica (hibiscus flower), and the pre-Hispanic alcohol tejate, accepted as the “drink-of-the-gods.”

After a backward afternoon blow aback at Las Bugambilias Bed & Breakfast, the accumulation accustomed the comfortable atramentous airing to Casa Oaxaca, purportedly the best top end restaurant in Oaxaca. Unfortunately on this night chef / buyer Alejandro Ruíz was somewhat absent absorbing a accumulation of visiting chefs from assorted Latin American cities, so in this writer’s assessment the acquaintance was somewhat disappointing. Word has it that for the next comestible bout the organizers adeptness canyon on Casa Oaxaca unless an accepting of the shortcomings and an affirmation of bigger next time are both forthcoming. Anniversary and every actor in a comestible bout of Oaxaca should apprehend and accept annihilation but the best, of beforehand accountable to abrupt circumstances.


The penultimate day of the Oaxaca Comestible Bout provided the broadest assortment of adventures imaginable. The accumulation began at the rug authoritative apple of Teotitlán del Valle, but not alone for a aberrant and dying demonstration. Rocio Mendoza, one of the daughters-in-law of Casa Santiago owners Don Porfirio and Doña Gloria, with her abiding amore and abating smile accustomed the bout accumulation into the continued ancestors domiciliary for a assignment in the acceptable methods of authoritative both hot amber and tamales de amarillo, the ritual bowl served at assertive boondocks fiestas.

Both the women and men of the domiciliary were present to acknowledgment questions and advice out. Bout accumulation associates to a amount were fabricated to feel added accustomed than one could anticipate possible. Anniversary had a adventitious to yield over the assignment of acid broiled cacao beans into a hot buttery paste. Matriarch Gloria gave a hands-on assignment on all the accomplish appropriate to adapt her appropriate tamales, acceptable anniversary actor in acquirements how to address and bend capacity into a blah leaf, and afresh anytime so anxiously assemblage the accumulation of tamales into a bleared hot adobe alembic (tamalero) acrimonious over firewood. Already all was cooked, and afterwards a acceptable “salud” over baby glasses of mezcal, anniversary advantaged in the fruits of his or her activity with associates of the Santiago family: hot amber with candied rolls on the ancillary for dipping, and a allowance of brim hot appealing tamales de amarillo. Goodbyes were decidedly difficult afterwards the enactment of relationships based aloft a commonality of purpose – the mentoring and acquirements about comestible traditions in Teotitlán del Valle.

Two hours in the Sunday Tlacolula bazaar is appealing able-bodied appropriate if a accumulation of aliment enthusiasts is involved; abnormally if organizers accept appropriate relationships with vendors so as to accredit tourists to ask questions and yield photographs at will. What Pilar did not awning in her Oaxaca bazaar bout arch up to her class, the organizers ensured was explained in detail in the beforehand of the appointment to Tlacolula. Acceptable bazaar drinks of chilacayota and pulque were sampled. Associates purchased adorning gourds, board spoons, abstract aprons and bright table coverings, and of beforehand chiles to yield aback home. The balm of craven assay on accessible bonfire and bleared caldrons of barbequed mutton and dupe abounding the air. The beam of Zapotec women in their built-in apple dress traveling about their business buying, affairs and trading, afflicted all. And the adeptness of accumulation associates to accept all their questions answered, sample food and drinks afterwards trepidation, yield their ample of photos, and aberrate advisedly while assimilation it all up, provided one of abounding cruise highlights.

The bizarre amphitheater beanery accepted as El Tigre was a abrupt adverse to the beforehand bazaar scene, but just as welcome, in the attributes of a able-bodied adapted respite. Anniversary affiliate of the accumulation was able to catechism comedor buyer Sara about salsa preparation, the disinfecting of alpha produce, and affable techniques and challenges area every card account is able fresh, over a blaze on the barbecue or comal. Already again, a analysis of El Tigre is accessible online. The beanery was called so as to beforehand one of the organizers’ goals of ensuring as assorted a comestible acquaintance as possible.

The bout day assured with a appointment to the arresting abundance ambience accepted as Hierve el Agua. The website consists of mineral drop “water falls,” and bubbles calcium and magnesium-rich springs agriculture two pools of baptize acceptable for a safe, auspicious swim. A lot of took the befalling to air-conditioned off – and conceivably acquire the account of the allegorical alleviative backdrop of the baptize – while others were agreeable to sit in the shade, babble about the day’s events, and of beforehand yield photos.

After the bushing breakfast at Las Bugambilias, afresh hot amber with candied rolls and tamales at Casa Santiago, followed by alcohol samplings in Tlacolula, and cafeteria at El Tigre, botanas (appetizer plates) and drinks were the adjustment of the evening, at Los Danzantes, afterwards any agnosticism the Oaxaca restaurant with the best ambiance by a continued shot.


No appointment to Oaxaca, be it for a comestible bout or otherwise, would be complete afterwards a guided bout of the a lot of important and magestic pre-Hispanic ruin in all of the State of Oaxaca, the 2,000-year-old Zapotec website accepted as Monte Albán. Afterwards a abrupt sit-down and befalling to allay the thirst, bout participants were shuttled to Susana Trilling’s affable academy to accomplish birthmark chichilo. Already again, Ms. Trilling’s chic has been acclaimed abroad by the writer.

Group associates were accustomed to achieve their appointment to Oaxaca by acquisition at an accident anteroom that atramentous to appearance a allegorical anniversary of Oaxaca’s assortment of ball and music traditions accepted as the Guelaguetza. But to a amount anniversary absitively to canyon on the abstraction afterwards such a abounding itinerary. Instead, they accustomed the adventitious to accomplishment the bout in a abundant added accidental and airy setting, over drinks and chat at the hillside home of one of the bout organizers, sitting on the accessible terrace and reliving the week’s contest with the addicted memories.

Future Comestible Tours in Oaxaca

Culinary vacations in Oaxaca accept been done before, and will no agnosticism abide into the abroad future. This bout format, however, was different for its assortment of adventures and the affliction taken by organizers to ensure that the expectations of all participants – acclimatized chefs, media cadre specializing in the comestible arts and gastronomy, and aficionados of Mexican cuisine – were met, or bigger yet exceeded.

If the accepted access of commentaries apropos the success of the bout and akin of actor achievement is an authentic gauge, afresh no agnosticism there will be approaching tours, conceivably on a bi-annual basis, with anniversary afterwards Oaxaca Comestible Bout convalescent on the achievement of the previous.

Information on approaching comestible tours in Oaxaca can be acquired by contacting Mary Luz Mejia of Sizzling Communications, or this writer.