Hot Chocolate at Casa Mayordomo, Oaxaca, Mexico

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Oaxaca is now officially one of my favourite cities, anywhere. The people are incredibly friendly, the food is delicious and there are so many different things to do. It is also a great city for walking with lots of streets dedicated to pedestrians. The whole downtown area is made up of beautifully colourful colonial buildings filled with museums, artisan cooperatives, cafes and restaurants. Crossing the center of town are a number of pedestrian streets, one of which, Macedonia Alcala street, goes past the beautiful Santo Domingo Church. If you are lucky, and we were lucky several times during our trip, you will see some sort of celebration here. A few steps away from the church is your first and most important stop; Casa Mayordomo.

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(Click on video below)

There are two main brands of chocolate millers in town, and most of the chocolate comes from one of the two. By far the most popular one, and the one with more stores is Mayordomo. Mayordomo Chocolate was started in 1956 and is a family business from the region. This is Mayordomo’s restaurant where they sell a range of local specialties as well as the only two choices of hot chocolate in Oaxaca (or chocolate as they call it here. It is assumed when you asked for chocolate that you want to drink hot chocolate since no one eats chocolate). You can get it with milk or with water, big or small. We sat down inside and ordered one of each in small (although I would recommend the big). A few moments later one of the waiters arrived with two large green ceramic jugs, one with the milk chocolate and the other with the water chocolate. He used the molinillo, a wooden stick used to mix the chocolate together well and then whisk up the liquid to create a fantastic frothy top. He then filled our little cups as high as they could possibly be filled. And all this for just 20 pesos. Safe to say that the chocolate here was my favourite on our trip to Oaxaca. It was creamy and light, with a hint of cinnamon. Just beautiful. The food here was beautiful as well. We had the mole rojo with pollo, as well as the pozole de pollo, a beautiful soup, although just calling it a soup doesn’t do it justice. All excellent.

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Once you have made your body happy with this magical drink, continue your walk down Macedonia Alcala until you hit the Zocalo, the main square and the cathedral. Here again you are likely to see some sort of a party. Today they had several young children dancing traditional dances dressed in beautiful elaborate and colourful outfits. To continue your loop turn around and walk back up the street parallel to Macedonia Alcala called Garcia Viglio. The first part of this road isn’t pedestrian but the second part is. As you get to the end of the non-pedestrian part, right back near the Santo Domingo Church, stop in at a tiny bakery on the corner called Pan&Co. They have the most incredible Pan de Chocolate I have ever had. I was so obsessed with these we ordered several each day. They fill them with Oaxacan chocolate of course. Grab a couple, and then continue down the road past several great restaurant options for dinner. Soon you will reach the old aqueducts and your loop is complete. Beyond these main pedestrian streets you can pretty much walk in any direction in Oaxaca and you will fine something interesting; a local park, interesting stores and restaurants. You can spend hours getting lost (safely) in Oaxaca.

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Verdict: Simply a must – start your Oaxaca trip here! Casa Mayordomo, Macedonia Alcala n. 302 Oaxaca, Mexico

July 1st, 2015|Mexico, Oaxaca|0 Comments

Hot Chocolate (Champurado) at Mercado Sanchez Pascuas, Oaxaca, Mexico

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Oaxaca has a number of beautiful markets , each specializing in something different. The Mercado 20 de Noviembre sells bread and chocolate (my kind of market), mercado Benito Juarez has ceramics, coffee, leather, textiles, and lots and lots of grasshoppers (a local delicacy). Mercado Abastos has ceramics, wooden figures and wrestling masks, and of course among other things. Our local market, Mercado Sanchez Pascuas is known for rugs and ceramics but we know it for being a really good daily market with lots of fantastic produce and fresh meat, colorful juices and fantastic food. Perhaps because of its location away from the center, it is calm and happy and people are incredibly friendly and interesting.

Traditionally the markets in Oaxaca have two different names, a religious one which comes from the location of the market, and a civil one controlled by the city. Mercado del Carmen Alto is the religious name for this market since it used by be located right across from the Carmen Alto church. But the locals mostly know it by its civil name now, Mercado Sanchez Pascuas, given to this market over 40 years ago when it was first opened

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Every day when we were in Oaxaca, we visited this small market for breakfast. There were two food stalls that we preferred and we alternated each day. You can enter the market at Calle del Gral Portirio Dias and Hialgo, through one of two small doors hidden by a beautiful big tree, some interesting graffiti on the wall and a stunning flower stand, and walk through to the other side. There near the back entrance you will see a stand making fresh juice and right in front of that two tables with small red plastic chairs and table clothes on one side and women  preparing the food on the other.

There are three separate stands in the row. The first sells tamale, a traditional Mesoamerican dish made with masa (a corn based dough) which is steamed in a leaf. These are filled with meats, cheese and other fillings. Our favourites here were the mole tamale (because of course when in Oaxaca you must eat mole) and also the chepil tamal, chepil being a small green edible leaf very popular in Oaxaca that has an interesting taste that resembles watercrest and spinach. These are easy to buy to go too if you prefer.

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The second stand sells memelas. The woman pressed each tortialla fresh as we ordered and it is first cooked on the hot comal. Then a thin layer of lard is spread on it (to make it taste even better although you can ask for it without but why would you really!). Then a layer of bean paste is spread before your choice of toppings. There are a lot of toppings in the different plastic containers on her tiny table and we tried all and they were all equally good. My favorite though was anything with quesillo, the traditional Oaxacan cheese that is stringy and gooey and just delicious. The memelas are presented flat on a simple plastic plate but the easiest way to eat them is by folding them in two and just devouring them while they are nice and hot. Six of these (which are a good size) cost 90 pesos which is nothing for the amount of happiness they gave us and our stomaches. One is probably enough for most people…but we couldn’t get enough.

The third stand is a family selling atole, a traditional masa based beverage. They sell one that is both plane and one sweetened with brown sugar…and of course the very popular atole flavored with chocolate; the champurado. I fell in love with champurado in Mexico City and would be happy to start every day with this drink (as many here do). This one comes in a beautiful clay bowl that had green and blue flowers painted around it for about 15 pesos. A bowl full is almost a full meal in itself. You can get this to go as well.

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Verdict: Highly recommend this breakfast combination if you are visiting Oaxaca. My mouth is drooling as I write this. So good. During the week the women pack up right around lunch so make sure if you go for lunch you go early.

June 23rd, 2015|Mexico, Oaxaca|0 Comments

Hot Chocolate at La Soledad, Oaxaca, Mexico

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If you are a lover of hot chocolate, there are a few places in the world that you absolutely have to visit, and Oaxaca is one of them. In this magical city of about 200,000 people, everyone drinks hot chocolate, or simply chocolate as they call it. Families have their special blends that they get made up at their local chocolate store, and people usually drink it at home with water, but sometimes with milk. They take their chocolate,  choose how much sugar they want added to the chocolate as well as any other ingredients such as cinnamon, almonds or chili. They then bring their recipes to a number of stores around the Chocolate and Bread market downtown where the staff carefully place them in grinders and lovingly put together their mixes for them to prepare at home.

There are two main chocolate brands available in the market, both have several stalls and stores in the area all with grinders. One is Mayordomo which I will review soon. But today we started off at La Soledad, mostly because locals had recommended it. La Soledad is a family business that started in the 30’s. Back then there was a demand for places to grind the chocolate since most people before then were grinding them by hand, a slow and laborious process. The mills, which originally weren’t made to grind cocoa, were tweaked by the family to make them more effective at producing the slightly rough chocolate texture favored here. Families would arrive with their ingredients and then these would be passed through the molido twice in order to thoroughly mix the chocolate, sugar, cinnamon and almonds. Customers had the choice of receiving their personalized mixes in either rectangular or round tablets or small balls. Because of the popularity, La Soledad soon after started selling the necessary ingredients in the store so that customers didn’t have to bring their own ingredients.

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Whether you are a lover of chocolate or not it is worth a visit inside. The walls and counters are made of beautiful intricately engraved wood carvings, made in a local village that specializes in this type of thing. One side of the store has the chocolate for sale with samples of the different hot chocolate mixes they have already prepared as well as mole. In the middle there is a small café area, which is also the breakfast area for the Hotel Chocolate which is housed in the same building. On the other side is the chocolate mixing area. Here you can buy the chocolate pastes already pre mixed but in bulk and can also sample them.  The idea is that you then tell them how much sugar you want added and they make you a personalized mix.

When we arrived, a man had arrived at the same time with not just a family recipe but his own ingredients. A member of the staff took the cocoa nibs and put them through the grinder. Out came this beautiful rich cacao liquor which he let us taste. Completely unsweetened and rough in texture it was quite warm from the friction of the mill. It had a powerful yet pleasant taste, you could really taste the subtleties of the chocolate flavor itself without the distraction of sugar and other ingredients. He then took that chocolate liquor and added almonds and cinnamon and put it through another mill again before mixing in a large scoop of sugar. The whole mix was put into a plastic bag and handed back to the very happy client.

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We decided to sit in their café to try their hot chocolate. The café was pretty rough around the edges, with green tartan table clothes and a woman cleaning the walls with a powerful disinfectant as we sat there. But the café was bright and spacious with the same beautiful wooden carvings throughout. We ordered two hot chocolates, their basic with water and their especial (special) with water which has almonds and cinnamon. The chocolate was beautiful. We had tasted the original chocolate a few times in the store and knew that. But we felt somewhat let down as it wasn’t the best of the hot chocolates we had while in Oaxaca (and we expected it would be, but it did have a lot of competition!), too much water and not enough of their beautiful chocolate.

You will not find any other chocolate products such as chocolate bars and treats here. In Mexico people do not eat chocolate bars. Chocolate is sold for two main reasons; to make hot chocolate and to make mole. Oaxaca is famous for its mole and has 7 different types of moles. Several of the moles, in particular mole negro, have chocolate added to them. Making mole is a very elaborate and time consumer process and requires dozens of different ingredients all prepared in a particular way. For example the Mole Oaxagueno has 21 different ingredients! For that reason many buy mole paste and mixes from the market rather than making their own. La Soledad sells a range of moles ready to use at home.

 

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Verdict: Buy a few different types and bring them home to prepare in the comfort of your home rather than having them in store. La Soledad might have a few things to learn from competitors Mayordomo on presentation of their hot chocolate….more on that soon. Regardless, beautiful chocolate and an incredible experience seeing the milling process.  La Soledad Chocolate y Mole, Oaxaca, Mexico

June 17th, 2015|Mexico, Oaxaca|Comments Off

Hot Chocolate at Fabrica de Chocolate Artesanal Maya Chocol Haa, Valladolid, Mexico

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Valladolid is a colonial city in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, about 130 km West from Cancun, and about half way across to Merida. Often visitors drive nearby on their way to visit major tourist sites such as the impressive Chichen Itza or the ruins of Ek Balam but few take the time to make a stop. Too bad, as they definitely should. It is one of Mexicos “Magical Villages”, given this title because of its natural beauty, cultural riches and historical importance to the country. Before it became a modern city it was a Mayan settlement called Zaci which means ‘white hawk’. Today the streets are still lined with multicolored colonial buildings and 19th century structures. The people, like most across the Yucatan, are incredibly friendly and are most often found in great numbers in the main plaza with large shady trees and s shaped chairs or ‘confidenciales’ set up to encourage friends to chat or lovers to cuddle.

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A short and pleasant walk from the main plaza brings you to Calzado de los Frailes, a beautiful road with a mix of unique Mexican branded stores and restaurants. Right at the beginning of the street you will pass the Fabrica de Chocolate Artesanal Maya Chocol Haa. Easily missed, this building houses an ode to all things chocolate and is a great stop. Part café, part store and part museum, the dark little museum is laid out in a loop made up of 4 square rooms. The first room is the entrance where you are greeted by a very friendly woman who quickly brings you back to room number two. Here she very briefly introduces the museum and encourages you to try all 10 flavours of chocolate that they make, all flavoured with honey rather than sugar as was the traditional Mayan way. There is chocolate with ginger, with aniseed, with chili, 100% cacao with no honey. The next little square room has a number of really interesting old hot chocolate holding vessels, from France, the UK and of course Mexico and if you are lucky sometimes they have a live display of women grinding cocoa beans behind a glass window. The last room has some pictures of the cocoa growing process.

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The most interesting part of the whole museum is through a little door between the 3rd and fourth rooms. This brings you out to a beautiful bright and colourful terrace where you can order one of their hot chocolates. A number of square wooden tables are surrounded by brightly painted chairs, scattered throughout an interesting secret garden with cactus and a small. A miniature door at the edge of the garden gives a view of the street outside.

For 25 pesos the woman at the counter highly recommended the hot chocolate ancestral served in a traditional Jacara or dried gourde. They had several other options including one that was made of 100% cacao but we went for this one. It had a nice mix of spices, a secret recipe she told us, and was very enjoyable.

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Verdict: Valladolid is a really nice stop full of energy and beautiful buildings….and a great hot chocolate. Fabrica de Chocolate Artesanal Maya Chocol Haa, Calzado de los Frailes on the corner of sisal, Valladolid, Mexico

June 10th, 2015|Mexico, Valladolid|0 Comments