Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eating Oaxaca - Part Two

We slept well, and took the Metro from Insurgentes Station to San Lázaro Station, which resurges next to TAPO (Terminal de Autobuses para Pasajeros al Oriente)
but first bought a few supplies at the Farmacia San Pablo, across the Avenida Álvaro Obregón from the hotel. We breakfasted at the passable, but nothing special Bisquets Café de Paris, on the corner. (This area of the broad, Parisian style Avenida Álvaro Obregón is notable for having at least two locations of the the justly popular restaurant chain, Los Bisquets, Bisquets de Obregón, of which more, later.)

We arrived at TAPO without any real difficult. (I often advise newly arriving visitors to el D.F. not to take the Metro from the Aeropuerto to the Centro Histórico, as the route involves at least one transfer and several flights of stairs, and factoring in altitude, jet lag, and possible crowds, it just isn't a wise move. Our trip was straightforward, without transfers, and it was a relatively quiet Sunday morning. Nevertheless, seats were scarce and at least one of us had to stand.

At TAPO, we erred in going to the TicketBus booth not far inside, rather than continuing on to the ADO counters in the main , "Spaceship" concourse. TicketBus, a ticket agency for various bus lines, did not have any departures with INAPAM seats available until 13:00 hours, so we bit the bullet and bought full fare seats on the 11:00 bus. The total fare was about $760 pesos, including the small commission that TicketBus charges. The bus was an ADO Primera Clase, which is actually one of the lowest classes of service, but really, reasonably comfortable, no beverage or food service aboard, single restroom, onboard movies (we got to watch Flyboys for the second time in two days.); making one, brief stop at Nochixtlán, about an hour short of Oaxaca. I bought a couple of Tortas Cubanas (a sort of Mexican "Dagwood" sandwich) and we had our canned Jugos V-8 along, and plenty of bottled water. The trip takes a little over 6 hours. Plenty of time to watch 3 movies, or look out at the spectacular desert, canyon and mountain scenery after Tehuacán.

As we slowly entered the outskirts of Oaxaca, I turned to Susan and said; "It reminds me a lot of West Plains, Missouri."
An absurd statement, of course.

The new First Class Bus Terminal is a great improvement over the old, crowded one that we remember. The location is the same, but the exits are onto the street a block south of where it formerly exited. It took a few moments to get oriented.
Since we were traveling lightly, with backpacks, we walked the 6 blocks to Casa Arnel through Colonia Jalatlaco. The barrio seemed attractively painted and refreshed, while keeping its traditional Oaxacan charm. Just before reaching the Casa, we were surprised to see a fairly snazzy Italian seafood restaurant, La Marinera. Our friend, Geri Anderson, who lives in the area, recommends another, somewhat expensive restaurant, La Toscana, located on the cross street, Alianza, between Aldama and Calzada de La República.
It was very pleasant to arrive at the door of Casa Arnel. It was like coming home again. Inside, the gringos were gathered in front of a giant screen TV, watch the Super Bowl. After exchanging greetings with Sr. Arnel, and settling in to our nice although not plush room, we rested before going out in search of supper.

We had a craving for good pizza, and we knew where we could get it: at Pizza Rústica, on an east-west street, toward the northern end of the Andador Turístico, in an old mansion. We'd eaten there years ago, and remember the pizza as outstanding. The ground floor was empty except for a few unused tables, but a fine staircase went up to a quiet and somewhat elegant dining room, with windows overlooking the street.

The menu nowadays offers far more than pizza, including pastas, soups and meats, but we stayed with our original plan. We ordered the eponymous Pizza Rústica; with a light tomato sauce on a thin, crisp crust, dressed with mushrooms, onions, flores de calabaza, and chile Poblano. (We requested the latter in place of sweet green pepper.) The salads were very good, served in wooden trencher bowls. With a glass of red wine, two mineral waters, the bill came to just under $300 pesos.

We had no problem sleeping in Casa Arnel that night.

The next morning we joined the other guests at table in Casa Arnel, for a light but delicious breakfast of Granola Completa, unsweetened amaranth and oat granola, covered with freshly cut tropical fruits, and bathed in creamy yogurt. ($35 pesos). There is good coffee, hot cakes, pan salado, Huevos a la Oaxaqueña and more. The restaurant at Casa Arnel is mostly a breakfast place, although they can make up sandwiches and box lunches.

A couple of hours later, we walked to Centro, the Zócalo and the Mercado 20 de Noviembre. A large procession of protesting campesinos was filing past the Zócalo, but there were no obviously physical conflicts.

In the bustling Mercado, we quickly located a likely fonda; Abuelita's. There we ordered a second, more substantial breakfast; Huevos Revueltos con Chorizo Oaxaqueño
for me; and a Tlayuda con Tasajó for Susan. We both drank Chocolate Caliente de Agua, con Pan de Yema. The chocolate was quite good but the pan was not especially eggy nor even all that fresh. My dish was tasty, if rather greasy, and Susan felt the Tlayuda to be overly dry and was unable to finish it. I helped and to me it was tasty, but could have been prepared better.

We walked back to Casa Arnel, packed our stuff, and paid. We could have walked to La Casa de Los Sabores in about 15 or 20 minutes, but the sun was reaching its zenith, so we saved strength
and took a cab. There, Martha greeted us, and placed us in the "Gardenia" room. It was spacious and had a King bed.

We must have been well filled by our two breakfasts, as I can't remember any more meals we ate that day. (Incredible!) Maybe it was few Tacos Árabes. (see below)

We spend a lot of time walking, just looking and visiting bakeries, markets and a few shops. We are not crafts fanciers nor are we big on museums. Among the intriguing restaurants, we noticed "El Balcón de La Lechuza", specialists in Tacos Árabes. we got to try them the next night. Pork is grilled on a rotary spit in front of a charcoal fire. They're a relative of Tacos Al Pastor, but without the spicy adobo marinade, and onion takes the place of the pineapple garnish. Mild yet very good. The accompanying salsas were a garlicky vegetable sauce and a thin and picante salsa chipotle. They were mellow and quite delicious, especiallly with the melted white cheese on them.
Breakfast at Los Sabores started with an attractive and artistically fashioned fruit plate; a quesadilla de quesillo, nopales y epazote, and lots of coffee. There was a basket of the same whole grain bread as served at Restaurante La Olla. There was a fruit juice blend also.

Susan was coming down with a cold. Various remedies were applied and taken.
But two days of bed rest proved most efficacious.

(To be continued, in Part Three)

No comments: