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Posts Tagged ‘cuisine’

Can you believe it?  It seemed that no sooner had last month’s Oaxaca Sabe culinary adventure concluded, than the seventh annual Saber del Sabor: Festival Gastronómico 2015 kicked off.  This past Friday, the Plaza de la Danza was tented and decorated for a buffet dinner prepared by cooks from the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca.

For only 300 pesos (approximate $18.50), one could feast on a mind-blowing and waist-expanding galaxy of gastronomic delights.

Menu inauguacion Saber del saborThe dinner seeks to recognize and promote Oaxaca’s traditional cuisine.  Always a highlight are the maestros of barbacoa, who brave blistering heat and eye-stinging smoke as they turn and tend the spit-roasted piglets, lambs, and chickens.   Alas, this year by 8 PM the line was too long and I elected to miss these always succulent and mouth-watering delights.  However, I was in no danger of starving!

Of course, the chefs were the stars of the show and young and old alike savored their creations.

This year El Saber del Sabor is honoring two regional chefs:  Young chef, Ixchel Ornelas from Tlaxiaco, in the Mixteca Alta region of Oaxaca and Teotitlán del Valle’s own, Abigail Mendoza, who has done so much to promote and bring respect for Oaxaca’s traditional indigenous methods and flavors.

The festival continues with lectures, workshops, and gourmet meals prepared in the kitchens of Oaxaca’s top restaurants by celebrated chefs from all over Mexico — as well as a couple from Spain and the USA.

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As if Thursday’s Thanksgiving of 2 turkeys, 2 styles of stuffing, 2 kinds of cranberry sauce, 2 types of potatoes (sweet and garlic mashed), and 2 desserts (pumpkin pie and chocolate cake) weren’t enough….  Believe it or not, Friday night, eating was again on the minds of neighbors (and co-Thanksgiving Day cooks) David and Marilyn and I, as we walked over to the Plaza de la Danza for the kickoff cena (dinner) of Oaxaca’s annual El Saber del Sabor gastronomy festival.

The transformation of the Plaza de la Danza began on Wednesday.

By Friday night’s dinner, it had morphed into an elegant banquet hall, with an open air rotisserie pit.

Fifty traditional cooks from the eight regions of Oaxaca offered guests a sample of the culinary wealth of the state.

The results were dazzling and delicious.  All for only 300 pesos (a little over $20 US)!

On a clear cold night, with the Basílica de la Soledad looming above, there was also mezcal and music to warm body and spirit!

Following Thursday night’s inaugural banquet, the festival moves to Oaxaca’s upscale restaurants and other venues where, along with workshops and lectures, seventeen renowned chefs from around Mexico will be offering specially created gourmet menus.  El Saber del Sabor closes tomorrow afternoon with a tribute to chef Pedro Ortega of Grupo Estoril, accompanied by a comida prepared by Ortega and three other distinguished chefs.  Yummm…  Alas, at 1500 pesos, it’s a little too pricey for me.

In previous years, El Saber del Sabor was held in late August and early September.  I don’t know why this year it was moved to the end of November, but I do know Friday night was a little chilly for an outside venue and, for gringos, it was way too close to Thanksgiving — the gluttony was almost (but not quite) too much!

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A couple of days ago, above the Plaza de la Danza, a mound of sand and a pile of bricks.

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There were guys doing the heavy lifting — bricks on their shoulders and buckets of sand in hand — carrying load after load down the ramps and stairs to the plaza below.

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The sand was spread and leveled and the bricks were carefully laid in a herringbone pattern.

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What were they up to?  Preparing a barbecue platform for last night’s gastronomic festival, El Saber del Sabor Oaxaca 2013, opening night buffet.  The entire Plaza de la Danza was tented, tables and chairs were set up, lights were strung, and by yesterday afternoon, all was ready.

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Last year we missed out on the barbecue — spit roasted lamb and pork — it looked and smelled divine, but the line was too long and then it was gone.  This year, we were not to be denied and so our strategy was to be first in line.

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That meant standing for at least 20 minutes in front of the newly constructed barbecue at the Cuenca station, where we had plenty of time to study the menu and salivate, as smoke from the BBQ permeated our clothes and burned our eyes.

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José Domingo Cruz Cobos from Tuxtepec did not disappoint.  I can’t even begin to describe how succulent the meat and how crispy the skin.  It was well worth the wait!

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However, this was only the beginning.  Cooks from the other 7 regions of Oaxaca were also there, preparing their signature dishes.

Aurora Toledo of Zandunga restaurant with chef and evening honoree, Patricia Quintana.

Aurora Toledo of Zandunga restaurant with chef, teacher, author, and the evening’s special honoree, Patricia Quintana.

Gluttony makes for a hazy memory, but in addition to the above, I had mole negro and tamalitos from the famed Mendoza sisters of Tlamanalli in Teotitlán del Valle, garnachas from Aurora Toledo of Zandunga in the city, and ???  Oh, and then there was wine, mezcal, and a cajeta flavored paleta for dessert.

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All this, and much, much, much more for only 350 pesos (about $27 US).  It was a lovely and delicious night.

And for those with deeper pockets, multi-course lunches and dinners with wine and mezcal pairings are being prepared by the top chefs from all over Mexico, at select restaurants throughout the city, including Alejandro Ruíz of Casa Oaxaca and Jose Manuel Baños Rodriguez of Pitiona, each recently named to Latin America’s 50 Top Restaurants.

¡Buen provecho!

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Thursday night was the kickoff event for the 5th annual El Saber Del Sabor (literally, the knowledge of flavor) Festival Gastronómico Oaxaca 2012.  Early in the day, the Plaza de la Danza had been tented and turned into a colorful banquet hall.

Interior of large tent decorated with multicolor tableclothes and papel picado on ceiling

A couple of the evening’s chefs arrived early and were cooling their heels, waiting to begin doing what they do best.  Hmmm… what’s with the bricks on top of the cantera?  (Stay tuned!)

2 chefs sitting behind brick platform

By 9:30 PM the tables had filled and cooking was well underway.

Young man in chef's toque sauteeing bananas.

Casa Oaxaca chef and event host, Alejandro Ruiz Olmedo circulated, greeted old friends and fans, and was interviewed by a crush of press.  Cameras and microphones were omnipresent — good for publicity, bad for navigating the aisles en route to food!

Chef Alejandro Ruiz Olmedo talking to a table filled with people.

To begin the evening and ready the palate, wines, beers, aguas, and (of course!) mezcals were offered.  We sampled a couple of mezcals from El Jolgorio and all I can say is, Wow!  (BTW, that’s a good, “Wow!”)

Bottles of El Jolgorio Mezcal on a table.

The festival seeks to promote and protect Oaxaca’s traditional cuisine and to inspire innovation.  For this evening’s event, we were invited to sample an incredible range of appetizers, side dishes, main courses, and desserts from 23 cooks, representing the 8 regions of Oaxaca.

A bowl of a stew surrounded by platters of limes, rice, cilantro, and onions.

I think I must have tasted at least 30 dishes — and this was late at night.  Needless to say, no breakfast for me the next morning.

Serving pans of food.

And, remember the bricks?   My favorite sight of the evening were the little piggies roasting on bamboo skewers over red and white-hot coals.  The tag line for the festival is, “tierra, fuego y cocina” (earth, fire, and kitchen).  Yes!!!

Roasting pigs on bamboo skewers over hot coals.

From the Plaza de la Danza, the festival moves to restaurants throughout the city, where 36 renowned chefs from all over Mexico have come to prepare innovative cuisine that pays homage to Oaxaqueño foodstuffs and traditions.

A big “thank you” to Henry and Rosa (Amate Books) for inviting me to share such a delightful and delicious evening!

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