In late June/early July, Andy and I spent about 10 days in Mexico, divided between Mexico City (or DF, short for Distrito Federal) and Oaxaca City. Rather than do a blow-by-blow of what we did each day in each city, I plan to write about the highlights of our trip in five parts: the food, the drinks, the sights, public life (eg, neighborhoods and such), and a final post about the B&Bs we stayed at and any other loose ends/logistics.
First up, the food.
To make a general statement, the food we ate in Mexico was excellent. We made an effort to eat local, unique food from small restaurants and food stalls, many of which we (and by we, I mean Andy) researched ahead of time online and in travel books and blogs. As a pescatarian, I didn’t have too much trouble finding things I could eat, although reading menus was intimidating and figuring out what the options were at food stalls that had no listed menus was even more intimidating. I did have a few less-than-stellar meals because the only option on the menu that didn’t have meat was also gross. I’ll admit that I thought I would have to eat meat when in Mexico, and that I convinced myself that I could relax my standards and be okay with that on vacation. But when push came to shove, I found I couldn’t do it: in most cases, I was just too grossed out by the meat to try it, meaning I did have at least one meal consisting of peanuts and beer. But generally, the food was fantastic, particularly in Oaxaca.
We stayed at bed and breakfasts in both Mexico City and Oaxaca, and both served excellent, gigantic breakfasts. I eat breakfast every day but it’s always something healthy and not too heavy, so having a giant hot, savory, spicy breakfast was a bit much for me. Regardless, some of our desayunos were the best meals we had.
At the Red Tree House in Mexico City, we had options of fresh fruit, juice, pastries, cereal, yogurt, and (weak) coffee every morning, and that was just to start. I quickly got accustomed to having a churro every morning with coffee and yogurt and fresh fruit: so good.
There was a hot breakfast every morning, which was good but more than I really wanted or needed. Each day the hot meal was different, and always traditional Mexican cuisine: toasted crusty bread with veggies and melted cheese and beans and salsa; enchiladas with black beans; huevos rancheros.
At Oaxaca Ollin, we were served a plated fruit and yogurt platter every morning with baskets of fresh pastries. And there was a hot, savory offering each morning, served with some of the best salsa we’ve ever had, served fresh daily. At each B&B, the hot offering included meat for Andy and was veg for me.
Lunches, dinners, and street food:
Depending on how much we ate for breakfast, we sometimes had a later lunch and skipped dinner, or had a light lunch and a larger dinner. There was no way we could eat three large meals a day, and we were usually happy to just have street food or a snack for some meals.
Some of the highlights:
Tacos. Of course! Andy could not get enough of authentic tacos al pastor, bisteca, and all sorts of varieties of pork and meat.
We went to both famous places and random streetside stalls – El Huegito in Central, Califa in Condesa, El Tizoncito in Condesa – and El Tizoncito was probably our favorite. I had some excellent vegetable tacos (although not every place offered these) and loved the varieties of salsas and dipping sauces that most places provided.
I also loved the fish tacos at a cantina in Condesa, the neighborhood we stayed in, while watching the Euro 2012 final:
Quesadillas in a market in Coyoacán (DF). We sat a lunch counter and ordered quesadillas, which were deep fried (!), and Mexican coke. I had queso con frijoles negros (cheese and black beans) and another with huitalocoche (a fungus that grows on corn). Freaking incredible.
Esquites: a street food snack of grilled corn mixed with herbs, chiles, lime juice, mayo, cheese, chili powder. Totally amazing:
In Oaxaca, the best discovery was tlayudas, a large tortilla grilled with toppings, served open-face or folded like a sandwich.The first one I had was at La Olla, a bar/restaurant that we went to for lunch on our first day in Oaxaca. I had a tlayuda filled with refried black beans, spinach and peppers, and Oaxacan cheese, and it was fabulous:
Andy nearly died over this tlayuda, stuffed with chorizo and grilled over a charcoal grill on the street, that he got late one night:
Mole in Oaxaca was out-of-this-world-amazing, of course. Thick, spicy, sweet, with flavors of chocolate and coffee and fruit and chilis all at once. Incredible. Andy had chicken mole, and I had tlayudas with mole on top. Freaking incredible.
Another fabulous place that we went in Oaxaca was Itanoni, which is located a bit north of the main center of town and serves a corn-based menu of variations on the tortilla. They have very strange service and don’t allow photos, but offered excellent varieties of tacos, quesadillas, tetelas, all sorts of filled tortilla treats, accompanied by giant glasses of fresh juice and with views of the huge traditional stone grills in the open kitchen. Amazing. Go here for photos.
I have to say that by the end of our trip I needed a break from Mexican food. I managed to get some fresh salads here and there in addition to the fresh fruit every morning, but there’s only so much fried food, cheese, and corn a person can take. I didn’t really stress out about eating healthy since we did a ton of walking every day and I didn’t feel like we ate a ton of food on the trip, and once we were home I was back to my normal salads and such. After all, one of the best things about traveling is trying new things and experiencing things you can’t get at home, gastronomic and otherwise.