Posts Tagged ‘mole’

Valentine’s Day in Mexico is known as Día del amor y la amistad (Day of love and friendship) and I had the extremely good fortune to spend it in Teotitlán del Valle (one of my favorite places in the world) among friends at the thirtieth anniversary celebration of the restaurant, Tlamanalli.

Iconic Restaurant Tlamanalli tapete.

Special garlands of papel picado fluttered above the heads of the 150-200 invited guests, centerpieces of jicalpextles filled with handmade sugar flowers, papel picado flags, and marshmallows wrapped in colored tissue paper graced the tables, and each place setting included a commemorative menu.

Papel picado celebrating 30 years of Tlamanalli.

One of Teotitlán’s several bands was positioned just inside the door and played throughout the afternoon.

Musical entertainment to accompany the dining.

The open kitchen was a beehive of activity and, no doubt, had been for at least two weeks — in preparation for this auspicious anniversary.

Family working together in the kitchen.

Four courses honoring their Zapotec heritage were prepared with love and respect by world famous cocinera Abigail Mendoza Ruiz, her sisters Adelina, Marcelina, Maria Luisa, Rosario, Rufina, and her niece Diana.

Soups: Higadito de fandango, Flor de calabaza con quesadilla, and Garbanzo molido con tortillita.

Tamales: Chepil en totomoxtle, Mole amarillo con carne de conejo en hoja de milpa, and Frijol en totomoxtle.

Moles: Rojo con carne de gallina, Seguesa con lomo de puerco, and Negro con carne de guajolota.

Desserts: Nicuatolli de maiz azul con tinte de cochinilla, Flan Tlamanalli, Dulce de calabaza, Nieve de zapote negro, and Nieve de pétalos de rosa.

And, I got a bit of a chuckle when it was pointed out to me that it was the men in the family who were on washing and drying duty.

The men continued washing and drying throughout the day.

We were surprised we recognized so few of the attendees — only later discovering, thanks to this article, that many were dignitaries (not our usual crowd). However, we were more than delighted to have been seated at one of the tables in the section reserved for family members, several of whom we knew, and where conversations were in equal parts Spanish and Zapoteco, with only bits of English thrown into the mix — keeping us on our toes!

Commemorative jicalpextle centerpiece.

What an honor it was for us to be invited to share this special day with the Mendoza family — a day filled with love and friendship and very good food!

(For more photos and commentary, check out Chris’s blog post.)

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My BFF (since age twelve) has briefly escaped Alaska’s winter to spend two weeks with me in Oaxaca.  A couple of things happen when I have out-of-town guests.  The first is that blog posts are few and far between.  The second is the reason why.  It’s because I’m too busy going places and doing things that I’ve always wanted to do!  Thus, a couple of days ago we walked down to the zócalo to meet Agustín of Cooking Classes Oaxaca.

After all six budding Oaxaca street food cooking students had gathered, we proceeded to mercados Benito Juárez and 20 de noviembre to begin our lessons in products and cleanliness.  We then hailed a couple of taxis to take us up to Colonia Reforma to our classroom for the day, where we gingerly wound our way up the narrowest and steepest spiral staircase I have ever encountered.

Once at the top, we were introduced to our teacher Esperanza (“Hope” in English), shown where the beer was stocked, and oriented to the many types of chiles we would be using. Then commenced the hands-on work, beginning with making two salsas (verde and rojo), guacamole, and chicken tinga.

Next up was making tortillas.  We mixed the masa placed a “3-finger” size ball onto the tortilla press, pressed, turned, pressed, turned, pressed, turned and removed our thin and perfectly shaped tortilla.  Piece of cake!  However, the most difficult task of the day was yet to come.  Believe it or not, laying the tortilla on a very hot comal proved to be incredibly challenging for most (not all) of us.  Holes and wrinkles happened more often than not, but Esperanza provided patient and gentle guidance and encouragement and occasionally we were rewarded with a nicely puffed tortilla.

Following a brief snack of chicken tinga wrapped in our freshly-made tortillas, we turned our attention to quesadillas filled with epazote leaves, flor de calabaza (squash blossoms), a sliver of jalapeño, and a generous pinch of shredded quesillo.  We then folded, fried, and topped each with guacamole, chapulines (grasshoppers), guaje seeds, and queso fresco.  We took our creations out onto a table thoughtfully set on the rooftop with tablecloth, utensils, glasses, and a bottle of water.  Ooops, that wasn’t water, it was mezcal!!!  By the way, if we had cooked our quesadillas on a dry comal, they would have been called empanadas.  Either way, they were light, tender, and delicious!

Once fed and refreshed, we returned to the kitchen for the day’s crowning achievement — mole coloradito.  We separated various types of dried chiles from their seeds, added pinches and “lady” handfuls of herbs, spices, nuts, onions, garlic, ginger, raisins, and more to a pan to sauté.  However, I admit, we all fled the room when Esperaza began cooking the chiles, but returned for the blending, stirring, and simmering.

Once Esperanza discovered one of our class members was a vegetarian, she adapted a portion of each recipe for her.  Thus, while the carnivores among us prepared and savored chicken bathed in a silky smooth chicken broth-based red mole, our vegetariana dined on a equally divine water-based red mole enchilada.


As rave Trip Advisor reviews attest, our smiling and satisfied group was not alone — there have been many happy customers.  The handwriting was on the wall…


Agustín Canseco

By the way, for my Bay Area friends and relations, Agustín used to cook at the Hayes Street Grill, Zuni Cafe, and Vicolo Pizza, among other popular San Francisco restaurants.

Tomorrow, BFF, several friends and neighbors, and I head out for a day of mezcal tasting.  Hmmm… I wonder how long it will take to work that into a blog post?

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Oaxacan cuisine, with its pre-Columbian roots, is a major attraction and the state’s tourism board and restaurant association continue to do their utmost to promote this cultural heritage during the Guelaguetza festivities.  Last Friday, set amidst the beauty and tranquility of the Jardín Etnobotánico, it was the opening degustación (sampling) for the Festival de los Moles.       P1110341This was my fourth time attending this buffet luncheon celebrating the 7 moles of Oaxaca.  And, like the previous years, my plate was swimming in moles and I came away sated and smiling!

P1110337 The Expo Feria del Queso y Quesillo in Reyes Etla beckoned on Saturday.  When we arrived, students from the Universidad Tecnológica de los Valles Centrales de Oaxaca were giving a demonstration on the cheese making process.

P1110422Despite how tempting the various cheeses looked, I only managed tiny tastes of a couple; Alas, I was just too full from the previous day’s feast to fully appreciate them.

P1110426However, by Sunday, my mouth was watering for wild mushroom empanadas, but we were foiled in our attempt to head up into the mountains for the Feria Regional de los Hongos Silvestres in San Antonio Cuajimoloyas.  A bike race had closed the highway and several of the major streets getting into and out of my part of town and, as you can imagine, alternate routes were gridlocked.  Grrrr…  I think the Guelaguetza events committee needs to rethink the schedule and transportation logistics!

Lucky for me, the Plaza de la Danza is only a block and a half from Casita Colibrí and so, late this morning, there were no impediments to walking over to the 10th Annual Feria del Tejate y el Tamal.  The women from the municipality of San Andrés Huayapam (about 7 kilometers northeast of the city), were ready and waiting to welcome visitors with their ancient drink and variety of tamales.

P1120599 The leis the women (above) are wearing are made from Rosita de Cacao flowers, one of the ingredients in tejate.  For the uninitiated, tejate is a foamy, quite refreshing, and nutritious non-alcoholic pre-Columbian beverage made from nixtamal corn, mixed with tree ash, toasted cacao beans, mamey seeds, and Rosita de Cacao flowers and is called, “la bebida de los Dioses” (the drink of the Gods).

P1120562The tejateras of the Unión de Mujeres Productoras del Tejate prepared and served their tejate to inquiring novices and aficionados, alike.  The sale of tejate is the main economic activity in San Andrés Huayapam.


And then there were the tamales… Pots and baskets, covered with hand embroidered and crocheted tea towels, were filled with steaming tamales nestled in corn husks — verde, chapulin, amarillo, frijol, dulce, rajas, chepil, and chichilo.  If you’ve never tasted tamales in Oaxaca, you are missing something!

P1120551Huayapam’s chichilo tamales are well-known and loved.  Chichilo is one of the seven moles of Oaxaca and it is only served on special occasions, such as weddings and christenings or when the crops have been harvested.  It is made from chilhuacle negro, mulatto, and pasilla chiles; blackened tortillas and seeds of the chiles; and avocado leaves, the latter imparting a subtle anise flavor.  Of course, no tamal festival would be complete without mole tamales wrapped in banana leaves…

P1120557Today and tomorrow (July 22 & 23), if you are in Oaxaca, the Plaza de la Danza is THE happening place for tasting some delicious local specialties between 10:00 AM and 8:00 PM.  ¡Buen provecho!

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And, then there was the Festival de los 7 Moles opening buffet lunch set amidst the beauty and tranquility of the Jardín Etnobotánico.  Serendipity and synchronicity brought us there… running into a friend, conversation, investigation (see pots below), and her enthusiasm and powers of persuasion (gracias, Rosa!) had us purchasing tickets on the spot.

While kitchen staff prepared the serving platters and bowls…

Woman in apron and wearing hairnet, scoops cooked rice out of a large bucket.

Dancers gathered on the Alameda for a calenda that would lead people the luncheon.

Two women displaying their long  colorful full skirts

They included a number of small children…

Woman squatting down and clasping hands with a toddler-age boy - both in indigenous dress

The calenda, including the requisite marmota (giant cloth balloon), monos (giant puppets), band, dancers with canastas (see yesterday’s post), and the sponsoring banner of CANIRAC (national association of the restaurant and food industries), made its way up the Alcalá…

Procession with marmota, monos, and banner

before turning onto Constitución and entering the Jardín, where wait staff and divine moles awaited.

Wait staff, wearing black, white, and grey gathered next to table.

Yummm, mole negro

Large green pottery bowls filled with black mole.

Mole amarillo

Green pottery bowls of red colored moles

Mole coloradito

Green ceramic pot with red mole.

Mole verde

Green mole in green ceramic pot

There was also mole chichilo, mole manchamanteles, and mole rojo.  I tried them all!!!  And, I haven’t even mentioned the cervesa, mezcal, aguas, and appetizers of quesillo, chicharon, and tacos filled with guacamole and chapulines (grasshoppers).  You’ll have to switch over to Chris’s blog to see those and much more.  Oh, and for dessert, a scoop of each of my favorite nieves (sherbet); leche quemada (burned milk) and tuna (cactus fruit).

A day filled with light, color, music, fabulous food, and, most of all, wonderful friends — the recipe for a perfect day!

(ps)  There are almost 50 restaurants around town that will be featuring mole as part of this 12-day festival.

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And now we have the sixth annual Festival del Tejate y el Tamal de San Andrés Huayapam!  A large tent covers half of the Plaza de la Danza and over 100 “tejateras” who belong to the Unión de Mujeres Productoras del Tejate set up shop early this morning to sell refreshing cups of this pre-Hispanic beverage made from corn and cacao.

The festival is part of an effort to preserve the food culture of the Zapotec.  San Andrés Huayapam (aka, San Andrés Huayapan) is about 7 miles north of the city and its main economic activity is the sale of tejate.

Packages of tejate lined up on a table

The festival also features empanadas, hot off the comal…

Empanada being cooked on a comal

and six kinds of tamales:  Salsa verde, Amarillo, Rajas, Verde, Chichilo, and Tamal de mole.A variety of tamales in a metal bucket

I wanted them all!  However, for today’s comida, I opted for chichilo from this gal…

Woman serving tamales

Why chichilo?  The answer is, because I’ve never had that kind before!  Chichilo is one of the seven moles of Oaxaca and is only served on special occasions, such as weddings and christenings, or when the crops have been harvested.  Chilhuacle negro, mulatto, and pasilla chiles; blackened tortillas and seeds of the chiles; and avocado leaves, the latter imparting a subtle anise flavor, give it its distinctive flavor.

Woman reaching into steaming hot cauldron of tamales

She picked out a good one… it was delicious!

People sitting and eating at long tables.

¡Buen provecho!

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