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NYTimes has a guide to the city...     Travel section  

And I want to thank you for getting back with us and letting us know how it went.   All too often, folks give advice and recommendations and suggestions...   And then never hear nuttin'.   Fr

I'm not surprised. I think the whole Rancho Gordo thing is a scam. Mexico has pinto beans, black beans, and green beans. All these other things Rancho is selling are synthetic. Just wait.

Los Pacos is a very good, mainstream, somewhat tourist-oriented "alta" (but not too alta) Oaxaquena restaurant. It's good for people like Stone, who want to try different cuisines but find it unpleasant to eat anything too "weird" (you're not gonna escape being in a room with chapulines -- but they'll only serve them to you if you expressly order them).

 

Their original location in the residential Reforma neighborhood is supposed to be the better. But their second location in the Centro was just down the street from my hotel, so it was the obvious choice.

 

I liked it. The food is well-prepared, cleaned up but not toned down. And they make it easy to get an overview of Oaxacan cuisine.

 

I started with a Botana Oaxaquena, a selection of snacks. Chicharrones, various cornmeal cakes with various toppings, a very very good Chile Relleno (good deep flavor in the picadillo there), very nice.

 

Then their famous Mole Combinado -- six of the Seven Moles* over various meats on rice. These were not the best iterations of these moles I've ever had, but they were fine. And it's fun to have a chance to compare and contrast.

 

I didn't do it that way, but this would be a good first dinner on vacation in Oaxaca. If nothing else, you can even better appreciate how miraculously good Casa Oaxaca is when you've already had a perfectly good "upscale" version of the cuisine.

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* The Seven Moles is a strange thing. Everyone agrees there are seven -- but there doesn't seem to be general agreement over what the seven are. It doesn't help that one of them -- estofado/almendrado -- goes by two different names.

 

It would be like if everyone agreed that there were Seven Dwarves, but some people called Dopey Doofy, and different people said that the seventh dwarf was Douchey, Farty, or Doc.

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Los Almendros is an unassuming family place that somehow got picked up by the Tourist Press. I'm not sure it's better than all other similar places, but it must be better than most; there's no dispute that it's very good. (Maybe it derives some sort of favorable press associations from the legendary Yucatecan chain that bears the same name -- but of course no affiliation.)

 

It's on a side street in the lower Reforma neighborhood.

 

The welcome is warm. The elderly owner introduces himself and chats, with pride and courtesy -- to the extent your Spanish will permit. Then the waitress arrives for her shift. "Ella habla Ingles," the owner exclaims. The waitress kisses him. "Is that what you get for being the boss here?" I ask. "He's my grandfather," she giggles.

 

The food is good. Their barbacoa is famous. I'm not saying I didn't like the barbacoa I got at a stall in the Mercado 20 de Noviembre better -- it was remarkably moist -- but there was nothing whatsoever wrong with this one. (And it's not like barbacoa is so easy to come by in Mexico -- at least in my experience -- that anyone's going to complain about having it twice in a week.) I kind of wish I had the estofado de lengua, but the waitress really wanted me to have the barbacoa.

 

I think the Tourist Press has picked up on this place because it's the kind of place that people who travel to Mexico want to eat in. I can't say it's undeserving. I'd go back.

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Having had nearly a decade to think it over, I'd like to declare my preference for Soledad chocolate over Mayordomo.

 

The latter also appears to have declined somewhat. Were they bought out? Did a new generation take over?

 

(Of course, RG and others will castigate me for going as corporate even as Soledad. I'm sure there are much cooler chocolate sources.)

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So over to this inviting mezcaleria I'd passed earlier in the day. It was called El Cortijo (on Cinco de Mayo), and it turns out to be a fairly newly established -- within the last year or so -- in-town outlet for a country distiller.

 

This stuff was beyond praise. I had a Pulquero, which was powerful but subtle in flavor. I followed it what has to be the best Pechuga I've ever had. Surprisingly, the dominant flavor was citrus: they use a lot of orange in it.

 

i hope you're bringing back some of this stuff!

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What's the difference between pavo and guajolote?

 

I've seen them both listed in different dishes on the same menu.

 

They're the same animal (although of course pavo can be pavo real too). I think it depends on the origin (and therefore the name) of the dish.

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So over to this inviting mezcaleria I'd passed earlier in the day. It was called El Cortijo (on Cinco de Mayo), and it turns out to be a fairly newly established -- within the last year or so -- in-town outlet for a country distiller.

 

This stuff was beyond praise. I had a Pulquero, which was powerful but subtle in flavor. I followed it what has to be the best Pechuga I've ever had. Surprisingly, the dominant flavor was citrus: they use a lot of orange in it.

 

i hope you're bringing back some of this stuff!

I'm too lame.

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Same. The really good ones are great neat and the lesser ones make terrific cocktails with a strong hit of smoke. Been living on mezcal, luxardo orange, dried chiles, a splash of blood orange juice and lime juice.

See, El Cortijo's Pechuga almost already is most of that.

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