Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Oaxaca Sojourn— Part 9: Eating Locally

Gelatinas at a stand in the Mercado La Democracia 
We normally prefer to eat in small, local restaurants rather than in celebrity chefs' beaneries. Barrio La Merced, where our hotel is located, has some good eating places. Besides the nearby branch of Marisquería La Red (we haven't eaten there, just at the Centro matriz La Red.) and El Muelle (a pretty good seafood restaurant, but not worth a special journey.)

I've already described the nearby Mercado La Democracia and some of its fondas. The last fonda in which we breakfasted was Fonda San Diego. I ordered chilaquiles verdes with one egg on top. Two eggs arrived. What the hell. They were good chilaquiles, but with almost no chile. I asked our young waiter for some salsa verde más picante. He seemed baffled. Soon, the burly head cook/chef/boss came to our table and asked "What seems to be the problem here?" (In Spanish, of course.)

I told him that there was no problem, and the food was good, but that I would be pleased to have some spicier salsa verde.
He turned to the kitchen and bellowed, "¡SALSA!".

But time passed, perhaps 10 minutes, and no salsa there came our way. A passing junior waiter in the required chartreuse bellhop like uniforms) asked "Is everything o.k. 'here'?"

My wife or I told him that I would like some salsa picante verde. Within 5 minutes, we heard the whirring of a blender, and we were presented with a bowl of salsa verde. It was good; loaded with chopped cilantro, but only the slightest "bite". Sigh ... I guess you just have to go with the flow when in México.

Freshly made salsa verde at Fonda San Diego
Chilaquiles Verde, Fonda San Diego, Mercado La Democracia 
Doña Cuevas asked for Huevos Rancheros en Salsa Verde, and this is what she got:

Two eggs in a pool of salsa at Fonda San Diego

Fonda San Diego, Mercado La Democracia
Food: ****
Service: ***
Price: $ BARGAIN!
Keywords: "Go with the flow."

The day before, when we'd tried to eat at Fonda San Diego, but it, and all the other fondas of the mercado were absolutely jammed with hundreds of protest marchers stoking up, in preparation for a long day on the streets.

So we left, after getting our daily juice at La Victoria, and went a few blocks west to Restaurante Tierra del Sol. It's quite nicely appointed and the food is decent. We both had Enchiladas Mixtecas, which are Enchiladas de Pollo en Mole Negro with a lettuce and onion (supposed to be radishes, too, but not present). The mole was not too thick and the flavors were nicely balanced. But the champurrado was inferior and poorly blended compared to that of the fondas.

The chef, Olga Cabrera, is of the same family as Pilar Cabrera, of Restarante. La Olla fame. Tierra del Sol also has some connection with renowned cantante Lila Downs, who is a part owner of a restaurant of the same name in San Sebastían Tutla, outside of the city of Oaxaca.
(Lila didn't join us for breakfast. Maybe she had a rehearsal.)

The jury is still out on this restaurant. It was o.k. But nothing wonderful. After all, it was just breakfast. However, their website, at least for the mother restaurant, shows some very tempting looking traditional dishes.

Enchiladas Mixtecas at Tierra Del Sol
The local branch is at Avenida Mártires de Tacubaya, between Morelos and Murguia.

Tierra del Sol Breakfast packet specials
Almost across the street from TdeS is a restaurant/taquería called "El Embrujo". We had breakfast there Tuesday morning. A speciality are tacos de cabeza de res y consomé de res. Breakfasts and comidas are also offered.

El Embrujo. Av. Mártires de Tacubaya 218, Oaxaca
Tacos de cabeza are common in the Pátzcuaro, Michoacán area, and most are pretty good. But the consomé at El Embrujo is in a class by itself. It's deeply rich and flavorsome and seasoned with a complex of spices and mildly picante chiles. There was a distinct taste of an anise like herb. Could have been hoja santa but I'm betting that it was hoja de aguacate. I had three, pretty good tacos, trying all three salsas caseras and the tangy pickled onions, plus a substantial bowl of consomé. I could have eaten more, but I restrained myself.

Consomé de Res, at El Embrujo
Spike your tacos with El Embrujo's good salsas

Oaxaca Joy Juice

I have referred several times to the juice bars inside the mercado. Of the four or five I've seen, La Victoria is the newest and slickest, and the very friendly staff serves good juice combinations. We especially like the Vampiro, combining orange juice, carrot juice, a bit of celery, a small, deseeded apple, and a hefty slug of fresh, raw beet juice. Not only does it taste great, it will stimulate your intestinal motility.

L-R: Vampiro; Jugo de Pomelo
I also had a jugo verde, a Mexican health drink classic, that ensures you get about 300% plus of your daily fiber and chlorophyll quota. I tried one at the adjacent Teresita's juice bar, and it was also good. Teresita (also friendly) asked if I wanted honey in my jugo verde and I found that a small glug makes the drink taste better.

But wait! The Jugo de Toronja or  de Pomelo is wonderful, too. And there's more. We just haven't gotten around to trying other juices.

A small sampling of the juices available at La Victoria
There are two other, older looking juice-a-rias close by, and one other across from the antojitos regionales bars in the northeast corner of the mercado. Prices start at $25 pesos for a generously filled glass.

NOTE: We observed the juice makers handling money, then the raw fruits and vegetables without taking the hygienic precaution of wearing a plastic glove or bag or handwashing. But we have suffered no ill effects. You will have to decide for yourself whether you are willing to risk "problems".

I could go on telling more but all good things must end sometime. In fact, we will leave Oaxaca tomorrow on the bus to México City.We've been here just 12 days. It has been a very enjoyable visit.

WAIT! There are still two more restaurants to review. One, La Coronita, we liked so much we ate there twice within four days. The other, the last, will be El Quinque, where we will lunch today.


Felipe Zapata said...

I'm not a fan of huevos rancheros, and don't understand how anybody else is either. The eggs are invariably raw. Call them what you will, but raw pretty much says it right.

DonCuevas said...

I have never had them raw or close to it. You were just unlucky.

Don Cuevas

Felipe Zapata said...

Yeah, yeah. Huevos rancheros are routinely served one centimeter shy of raw. Not only is the yellow uncooked, the white is virtually uncooked too. In other words ... it's raw, amigo. Take it to the bank. Sad but true.

Tancho said...

I am surprised that you had any food left on your plate by the time the salsa was presented to you. I have learned to pick my battles down here, depending on how much energy I have and if my wife is around to provide additional verbal direction.
We find that we eat more at comida correda place where the expectation level is never stellar, there at least we are usually surprised especially for the value and lack of employees in the chain of command to screw something up.
And as always thank you for providing your reviewing efforts, they are a window into reality.

DonCuevas said...

Tancho, thank you for your perceptive and kind comments.


DonCuevas said...

Andean, the salsa verde is usually made from boiled or roasted tomatillos plus garlic, onion and the chile of your choice.

Google "Salsa Verde Mexicana". Example:

Don Cuevas