Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Road To Oaxaca Part 1

Announcement: I won't be italicizing Spanish words from here on. It's just too much extra work. So enjoy these last italic lines while you can.

We recently made a trip to Oaxaca, with a couple of nights in México, D.F. and Puebla, both to break up the trip, visit with friends, and spend some time exploring Puebla.

We met our friends in Colonia Roma Sur, where we walked to el Mercado Medellín. There we embarked on a serious seafood meal at Ostionería La Morenita. This was our second meal there. On this occasion, the broiled sierra al adobo was excellent, although the other dishes, in my opinion, such as Caldo de Camarón, were undistinguished. The setting is merry and festive, with candy sellers and a string of
very good roving musicians to entertain.

From Mexico City-Puebla 12/30/08 8:03 AM

Susan and I also ate at Pozolería Tizka, on Calle Zacatecas, passing up a chance to have a hamburger at the great street-side stand on Calle Morelia at the corner of Colima. The Pozole Verde was tasty but could have been hotter (temperature). As before, the optional avocado was semi-ripe. I probably wouldn't choose to eat there again.

From Mexico City-Puebla 12/30/08 8:03 AM

We also "discovered" a fascinating Arabic foods store, Diwan, on Av. Cuautéhmoc, about a block south of the intersection of Av. Álvaro Óbregon. They have a big selection of nuts, dried fruits, baked-in-house pastries, and a small coffee shop. I had doubts about the freshness of the filo pastry assortment we bought for our friends, but their children enjoyed it.

To research the interesting foods of Puebla, I relied heavily on the Mexico Forum of Chowhound.com I was less interested in Mole Poblano than in Tacos Árabes and Cemitas. One contributor, "RST", on Chowhound's Forums was especially helpful and very generous in sharing his in-depth knowledge of the cuisine. "RachelJana" was also helpful in sharing her knowledge of inexpensive comedores in Puebla Centro.

Soon after arriving in Puebla, we headed out from the Hotel Imperial to a recommended Tacos Árabes place, La Rana. We enjoyed our meal of these savory and meaty tacos, cooked on a vertical spit like tacos al pastor. It was also enjoyable for the energetic cooks and the interesting clientele.

From Mexico City-Puebla 12/30/08 8:03 AM

The next morning, after the very light Continental breakfast at the hotel, we walked a few blocks north and eats and got a real breakfast of delicious huaraches (there called "gorditas") at "Antojitos Claudia" (no sign), set up inside a doorway.

From Mexico City-Puebla 12/30/08 8:03 AM

About 1 1/2 blocks east of the hotel is a branch of a bakery, "Pan de Zacatlán". The cheese filled rolls were notable, but the tamales, for which we returned at 7:30 p.m., were quite ordinary.

Next day, we made a long walk to the Mercado del Carmen, where several notable cemitas restaurants are located. The best known is "Las Poblanitas". Before settling in to really serious cemita wrestling, we walked around the fairly small mercado. A highlight was finding shelled, fresh pecans at a decent price. The nice lady also plied us with samples of luscious fruits, but we couldn't buy any.

Las Poblanitas is a phenomenal sight: girls pounding and breading milanesas at one end; guys slathering avocado and ham or "pata" (gelatinous pickled cartilage from cows' hoofs) on split cemita rolls. These are specially baked rolls, vaguely resembling a Kaiser Roll, but sturdier and chewier. A milanesa (thin, breaded meat cutlet) seems de rigeur, followed by a heap of string cheese, and chiles chipotles plus papaloquelite complete the very perfect model of a Poblano gut bomb. It was too much for me to finish. The milanesa wasn't particularly good. Still, I'd recommend visiting Las Poblanitas and attempting to absorb the scene as hundreds of sandwiches are made.

From Mexico City-Puebla 12/30/08 8:03 AM

To finish our Puebla sojourn, we had to try some dishes in the Mole Poblano style. We ended up at a small and unpretentious comedor just around the block, north of the hotel, "El Paraiso". Susan had Mole de Pollo Poblano and I, Enmoladas. They were good, but really, we are not great fans of mole. This mole was strikingly black, almost suspiciously so.

The next morning, we headed out to Oaxaca. At the CAPU bus station, the only easily accessible foods to go were tortas de milanesas. They were o.k. and filled a void.

Note: there are also some beautiful buildings in Puebla in addition to beautiful foods.

Postscript: As in every Mexican City of any size, there is at least one Chinese restaurant. This one was noteworthy, but we didn't eat there. It was en route to Tacos Árabes La Rana.

From Mexico City-Puebla 12/30/08 8:03 AM