Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rachel's Tasty Travels: Mexico!

No, not THAT Rachel. My real life friend Rachel! She went to Mexico for two weeks and I asked her to tell me everything she ate. She went to Chiapas and Oaxaca, both places I've never been. I looked up some pictures so I could better picture her experience.

(Alex in) Chiapas


Here is her thorough report.

while in Chiapas and Oaxaca for 10 days last month, I ate:

Chicken in salsa roja with refried black beans, guacamole, rice, handmade tortillas, quesillo, and queso fresco with herbs and chile. To drink: limonada, beer, mezcal
This was made by my friend's roommate who hosts a community lunch on their roof every Friday to make money. It was one of the best meals of my life.

Vegetarian Tlayuda. To drink: Cafe de olla

Tlayudas are sort of like a giant quesidillas but that description really doesn't do them justice. They are about a foot long and folded in half and crunchy on the outside. They are made from fresh masa and cooked over a charcoal fire, which gives them their smoky flavor. This one was filled with quesillo, black beans, tomatoes and cilantro, and was made by Diego's mom and served to me as breakfast in bed. It was heavenly!

Tejate, served in a hollowed out gourd:
Tejate is a pre hispanic drink made from flor de cacao, mamey seed, toasted corn meal and probably other things as well. Honestly, I don't even know. All I can tell you that it's heavenly. It's a little nutty and chocolatey and corn-y tasting, and forms an odd sort of froth on the top. This particular tejate was drunk in an organic weekend market in the shade of a giant flowering tree.

Mangoes. Many

Over the course of my trip I ate mangoes sliced with chile and limon, peeled and stuck on a stick like a popsicle, mashed up with limonada and mezcal for the best cocktail ever, and at least four mango pinas, the best type of mango of all.

Rajas con Queso:
Nopales, pepers, corn, cheese and cream, cooked together into a delicious sticky mess. Again, cooked by Diego's mom, and served to me in bed by Diego, who may be my favorite person on earth.

Black Bean Soup:
The Caldero, one of the best restaurants in San Cristobal, makes their black bean soup with three kinds of pork. The enormous bowl has pieces of chorizo and bacon floating among the beans and epazote. The plate of garnishes on the side comes with lime, cubes of cheese, and chicharones. It will kill you, it is that good.

Molletes are one of those foods that are so obvious you can't believe you didn't think of them yourself. They are toasted pieces of french bread covered in refried beans and melted cheese. They are deeply satisfying.

You might think it's dumb to eat falafel in Chiapas, but honestly there is better Mexican food in Chicago than there is in San Cristobal. This falafel came in home made pita, with thick garlicy hummus, raw cabbage, tomatoes, onions, and radishes. It was pretty great falafel.

Here's a picture of Rachel just to break up the text.

Juices, assorted:
The standouts include mandarin and carrot, and carrot, orange and beet.

Assorted foods on toast:
There's a new wine bar in San Cris that offers you tapas with every order of wine. The tapas are all crustini based, and all slightly disappointing. Think tuna salad, or a slice of deli ham on toast.

Things cooked in pots, accompanied by cafe del campo:
For my two days building a cistern in Comitan, we were served giant pots of deliciousness with every meal. Think delicious beans that have been boiling all day, or mole de olla- a country stew of beef, corn, squash, yucca, chayote and potato. With every meal there was coffee served as they drink it in the communities: sweet enough to put you into a diabetic coma.

Nieves are the official frozen treat of Oaxaca. Fresh fruit ices served in tall sundae glasses at charming wraught iron tables in a church courtyard. Mine was guyabana, a mystery fruit that looks a little like a giant, spiny, mishapen avocado and tastes slightly like guava but better.

Mezcal, Assorted:
Among the various kinds of mezcal I drank, there was the certified organic mezcal, and the mezcal sold in liter water bottles out of the back of a bodega. There was also a cocktail I invented out of everything in Diana's kitchen: Squeeze the juice out of one half mango-pina, then mash up the pulp in the bottom of the glass. Add a shot of mezcal, a spoonfull of sugar, and top off with limonada. Then celebrate international women's day by getting drunk in the living room.

Two hand made tortillas, one with potatoes and chorizo, shredded quesillo, guacamole, and salsa. The other with sauteed fresh mushrooms, quesillo, guacamole and salsa.

Comida at Viznaga's, accompanied by mojitos, margaritas, a pitcher of agua de jamaica, and a cranky baby:
For our last lunch in Oaxaca, we ate at Viznaga's, one of the top five restaurants I've ever been to. Our menu included fresh spears of slightly pickled carrots and jicama, dusted with sesame seeds, a salad of spinach, grapefruit, bacon and pecans, ceviche, sopes de tinga de pollo, seared tuna crusted with amaranth, served over mashed potatoes and garnished with pickled shallots, and flan covered in pecan/mezcal/caramel. It was unsane.

Terrible Breakfast:
At the airport in Mexico City, I ate breakfast at the only sit down breakfast place in my wing. I had huevos a la mexicana, a small pool of refried beans, three sad tortillas, coffee, and grapefruit juice. It cost about 2/3 as much as our entire lunch for three at Viznagas.

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