Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Eating Oaxaca -Un Paseo por El Llano

There's some noteworthy restaurants around the leaf-shade Parque Júarez (usually called "El Llano", where lovers smooch and Oaxacan families come to walk, jog, bicycle, skate board and generally enjoy the fountains and each others' company. Marco Polo is one favorite, a seafood restaurant, specializing in clay oven roasted fish, and it can be very good when simply prepared with a light chile salsa; or it can be mediocre, ruined by a largesse of rich elaboration.

At the Parque El Llano, you can also get a hot dog or a hamburguesa, a lunchmeat tostada, but most notable are the pickled fruits and vegetables sold at a stand or two, and pucker up at the Oaxacan specialty snack, piedrazos.

Here is an account that I wrote on the Thorn Tree, Mexico Branch.

There were various elotes and esquites ladies, with boiled corn on the cob, served on a stick; and the esquites, (designed for neatniks), a cup of corn in its broth. Either way, you may choose it topped with lime, chile, mayonesa and/or chile.

Next door was hot dog and hamburger cart. The man was deftly slicing tomatoes, in a TV Whiz Chef manner. When he lit his gas lantern , I ventured over to try a hot dog. It wasn't by any means the best I've ever had, but the condiments made up for the blandness of the tube steak. What do you expect for $6 pesos?

At a stand at the north end, a man was making tostadas with a smear of frijoles negros, then putting what appeared to be diced luncheon loaf ( a sort of cold cut, vaguely resembling a terrine.), topped with typical local condiments. I quickly decided that was not my dish.

I don't want to fail to mention the conserved fruits stand, run by an abuelita. There are big glass jars (a friend in Pátzcuaro told me they´re known as "Doña Juanas". These were filled with a variety of pickled fruits and vegetables. I dared to eat a pickled mango, with more salt and chile on it. Whooooooooooo! Very acidic, and as I ate down toward the pit/stone, it became very astringent. I'd take a wild guess that they are cured in cal before being brined in vinegar and chiles de árbol. I felt a layer of my tastebuds vanish.

We went to wash this all down at a paletería called "Popeye's". It was refreshing, but not very natural tasting of fruit. (We´re accustomed to the high quality paletas La Michoacana .)

I noticed a big jar filled with red, chile infused vinegar. Alongside was another jar filled with dry, toasted bread heels. The idea is to dip the dry bread inthe seasoned vinegar, y ¡ándale! The only rationale, if there is one, for the Oaxacan penchant for sour, salty, astringent "treats" is to provoke thirst in order to drink more fluids, and possibly, replace electrolytes lost to perspiration.

Over all, a paseo por El Llano is a very pleasant and tranquilizing experience. Tonight's direction was counter-clockwise. Maybe it's always that direction.
(Just keep it tranquil by avoiding the pickled fruits.)


Ms Unpacked2.0 said...


I just wanted to say hello and thank you for your blog.
My father was from Mexico and I have never been there. But inside me I have this imborn desire to cook mexican food. And with finding your blog. I get to see things that just make me so happy inside.
I will someday, go back to my fathers land and eat the food of my people.
Thank you...and please don't stop.

Don Cuevas said...

My, Isabel, what an unusual "handle" you have. I think that when you sign up, you're supposed to delete the part about "My name here".

But, that's ok. I appreciate your comments.


Theresa in Mèrida said...

I am really enjoying the posts from Oaxaca.
We are planning on seeing the rest of Mexico over the next few years and Oaxaca is high on the list.