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Teotitlan del Valle, about 30 minutes outside of Oaxaca City, is home to exquisite weavers and a must on every tourist's itinerary. It is also home to the rather famous Tlamanalli restaurant, where the Mendoza sisters reign with their food representing this village.

Now, visitors can learn first hand about the distinct foods from this village by attending a cooking class at Casa Cerro Sagrada that is perched above the village proper.

For only $65. USD., the class, which includes transportation to and from Teotitlan, begins with a quick tour of the morning market. Quick is the operative word here as the market is over in a matter of two hours or so.

This market is where you will be introduced to the some of the more unique offerings of the village. Toasted and ground black bean powder to make soups, also a black bean paste that is aromatic with avacado leaves, hand ground to a paste on the stone metate - still very much a mainstay of the Zapotec kitchen here and precursor to the blender. We pick up some warm blandas made from yellow corn, much bigger than a tortilla.

We pick up a treat in the form of pan de cazuela - a chocolate and raisin stuffed bun brought in from neighbouring Tlacalula.

Armed with ingredients we are driven to the top of the mountain to Casa Cerro, a 12 room guest house. The garden is filled with hoja santa, wild tomatoes the size of an 'o', mint, avacadoes and passion fruit vines. The classes are taught by resident cook, Reyna Mendoza who regularly teaches visiting classes from all over the U.S.

Today the menu is a tamal de Mole Negro, a mole enchilada, a salsa de chile pasilla de Oaxaca (a smoked chile from the region), a salad of nopales, tomatoes and avacado and for dessert a banana ice cream. We dine overlooking Teotitlan and the surrounding hills toasting the event with shots of the smooth house mezcal.

During the class we learn many cooking tips; excess heat from soaked chiles can be eliminated or reduced by discading the soaking water and rinsing the chiles in hot water. And the very helpful hint when straining a sauce of a chile mixture, you can stop struggling with trying to extract every last bit by throwing the remainders back in the blender since you are blending in batches. (I hope that made sense).

The salsa preparation was fascinating as the chilies were "cooked" in the hot ashes - very distinct here. The chiles were buried in the ash until they puffed up and changed colour,tops cut off and seeds removed. Some of the ash is left in (and no, you cannot taste the ash).

There were only five of us in the class this day, but Casa Cerro can accommodate up to 25 and a minimum of four. So perhaps you can gather some friends together and check it out. The classes are held every first and third Friday of every month but during Christmas they were being held every second day.

Check their web for more info or fire off your enquiries to info@casasagrada.com and their web is www.casasagrada.com

Missing Mexico,

Shelora

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I didn't take the class you talked about, but I've been meaning to post either here or Chowhound about the cooking class I took in December with Susana Trilling. This was in Oaxaca state pretty close to Oaxaca City as well. Guess I'll take your posting as a signal and post here.

 

Around 8:30 in the morning, the driver met me at our hotel in Oaxaca, collected the rest of the group, and drove us about 10 km to the town of Etla. We began a tour of the church area and market in Etla. It was market day -- Wednesday -- and the market was extremely vibrant. The tour guide for the market (Roger) is an american ex-pat living just outside Etla. He had a lot of good information and took us around and introduced us to a lot of the vendors in the market.

 

We ate at an ice cream place (I had some kind of cactus ice cream, and burnt milk ice cream, which must be an acquired taste because it certainly does taste like, well, burnt milk), a tejate vendor (tejate is a drink with yeast and mamey pit among other things), and a food stall called Conchitas. The mole at Conchitas was probably the best food I had in Oaxaca, absolutely phenomenal and rich and complex. We also sampled yams and pre-hispanic candies in the market, plus champulines (grasshoppers). Every time we ate something new, I was very thankful to have Roger there, because without him, I wouldn't have had any idea which places were safe to eat. The tejate in particular was great and looked quite dangerous in that it was a cold tub of liquid full of fermenting yeast which had been sitting around all day -- I would have been too cautious.

 

Brought home a bunch of chile pasilas de oaxaca and some paste thereof. I've been putting a pinch of it in my miso soup every morning.

 

The market itself on Wednesday was great -- not to be missed. The bustling scene of vendors and customers on one hand, yes, but there were also singers and even a marching brass band playing danzon music for tips. Woah.

 

The cooking class itself was pretty good, though I am not the kind of cook who is good at following directions. The fun part was using the comal (clay oven) to toast seeds and peppers and the metate (stone grinder) to grind sesame seeds. We would have been grinding seeds all day if we hadn't had help. Her cooking studio or whatever you call it is out in the hills pretty far away from any town and it's a nice ride out there. She herself is quite warm hearted and open and talkative. I enjoyed the cooking class pretty well, but the market tour was the tour de force for me.

 

She gave me some specific low-end restaurant tips in Oaxaca city. I've been trying to find where I wrote them down. If I find them, I'll be sure to post them, probably on CH where people who are going to Oaxaca will notice. I only had time to eat at one of the places, Tacos Roy near the Alameda (park). They're a taco joint, which means they open at 8 pm, but I walked past all day while they were preparing their food, just smelling the food. When evening rolled around, we had tacos carnitas (they were pretty good) and a bowl of amazing pozole, which is what Susana recommended.

 

I really liked Teotitlan del Valle as well, but there isn't much of a market there I don't think nor anyplace really interesting to eat except for Tlamanali. Tlamanali is excellent for sure, one of the most special meals I've had anywhere. We spent the better part of a day in TdV walking around town looking for rugs. In a previous trip we bought a few rugs for our apartment there; my feet are dangling on one right now.

 

Can you tell how much I want to go back?

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Thanks for your welcome, everybody. I'm glad to be here.

 

Guajalote - that dessert sounds like it was made from the black fruit called, zapote negro. It is so weird in a wonderful way. We ate them on the street in Uruapan when they were in season during the winter season. A creamy custard consistency, very rich.

 

And yeah, Susana Trilling is an excellent teacher. I too have taken a class with her, after the market tour to pick up ingredients we cooked all day at her school. Big cauldrons of mole cooking over an open fire outside, stirring and tasting, drinking cold beer and then eating all together, I think there was 30 of us that time.

 

S

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I have found a language/cooking school that I am considering taking. It's approximately $500 a week, exclusive of accommodations, but you can stay with a family for $7 a night. And that includes breakfast. You study Spanish all morning, and then cooking all afternoon, whereupon you eat what you cooked. I am thinking about taking the class for one week, but then staying with the family for an additional three weeks.

 

I am just beginning to investigate this, so don't know more right now. Also, my current situation (taking care of my elderly parents) means my time frame is a little out of my control.

 

Does anyone know of anyone else that has taken this sort of language/cooking combo? Any recommendations as to schools? The ones I am considering are in Oaxaca, but there are schools all over Mexico. Any info is helpful.

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Does anyone know of anyone else that has taken this sort of language/cooking combo?  Any recommendations as to schools?  The ones I am considering are in Oaxaca, but there are schools all over Mexico.  Any info is helpful.

 

Sister, I'll go with you! Really.

 

Language and cooking sounds perfect.

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All right, you're on.  We'll start doing some investigating.  I'll go anywhere with you, as long as you can go to the bathroom by yourself.  That in itself would be a big change from my current situation.

He can. But keep him off his soap box when he's down there, y'hear?

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I've been making Tarasacan bean soup ever since some fellow Internet pals discussed it online. It calls for a particular bean called the Bayo which I'd never seen until I grew it. So I've been making this delicious soup which is basically one third Bayo beans and some broth, one third roasted tomatoes and one third chicken broth. Top with cheese and fried tortilla strips (and in at least one recipe, fried chile strips.) Well in turns out the Bayo I grew was originally from the south and called Bayou and it's in the cranberry bean family. I just got some Mexican bayos and they're completely different. So last night I made the proper soup and I don't like it near as much. Go figure.

 

But this is a longwinded way of saying if you have leftover beans and can't eat them one more night as is, make a soup.

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