Travelling for me means eating* so what better way to see Mexico City than to take a food tour!
We opted for the historical centre tour with Sabores Mexico Food Tours and were able to book online.
The meeting place was Oaxaca en Mexico and we were the first to arrive. The restaurant wasn’t open yet but we sat at a table and watched the staff hang pretty paper flags across the ceiling. When the tour guide, Rodrigo, arrived it turned out we would be the only ones on the tour that day which felt like a bit of a shame.
Not knowing what to expect we had eaten a late-ish breakfast at around 10:30am before heading to the start point for 12:00. This was a huge mistake! The meeting place was actually the site of the first tasting and the dish we were presented with – one each – was essentially the size of a main meal. We also received a bottle of water and a map with a list of places we would be visiting which included discount vouchers for future use, bonus!
At Oaxaca en Mexico we tried chicken enchilladas with black mole, a traditional Oaxacan sauce made with over 30 ingredients, which had complex flavours, notably of chocolate and chile.
The second stop was the Mercado San Juan, Mexico City’s gourmet food market. Along the way Rodrigo gave a historical narrative about the area and the architecture, something he is clearly passionate about.
At the mercado we had 3 (and a half) tastings. The first was Delicatesen La Jersey Gourmet where we sat at a bar alongside the stall and were presented with a small glass of red wine. We ate a type of open sandwich, or bruschetta, which showcased their specialty cheeses and cured meats. Again, the food was plentiful as was it delicious.
The mercardo itself was quite a sight with incredibly fresh seafood and various animal parts on display. On the way to the next stall we were able to sample popular street snacks such as dried grasshoppers and chocolate flavoured ants. I have eaten insects before but these were particularly ‘juicy’ and quite sour as I think they are soaked in lemon juice.
The next stop was El Gran Gazador where we viewed their extensive range of exotic meats including lion and crocodile! Around the corner was the cocina where we were able to taste boar prepared according to a preHispanic method known as pibil. Traditionally it would have been wrapped in leaves and cooked underground, however the modern variation is more similar to sous-vide.
Rosse Gourmet was the final market stall, a bountiful display of gourmet fruit, vegetables and micro-herbs. It is hard to remember what we ate here because tastings were offered at such a rate. One memorable sample was a popular snack of dried pineapple coated in chilli powder. We also ate a number of fruits, including juicy mango and rather delicious cactus fruit (a first), as well as tiny sprigs of garlic flower that were more pungent than chewing on a whole bulb! It was fascinating to see the miniature radishes and carrots that would likely end up as garnishes in some nouveau-cuisine restaurant. The grand finale was a dessert that consisted of a whole edible rose flower, liberally doused in fig jam and mascarpone.
Upon leaving the mercado feeling well and truly stuffed we were all too soon stopping again at a street food stall. This was El Caguamo, site of some of the best mixed cerviche I have ever tasted! It was served with avocado and cooked prawns on a tostada. We also had a small cup of seafood broth which was equally delicious, though by this point we were battling to make room.
Next (there’s more?!) we headed to La Mascote, a traditional Mexican cantina. The waiters here, impeccably dressed, took our drink order (dos cervezas, por favor) and asked whether we wanted to eat. The way a cantina such as this works is that you pay for drinks and then receive your meal for free (NB Sabores will contribute half the cost of an alcoholic beverage). There is generally one main meal choice and it rotates by day. Unfortunately we were just too full to eat anything else at this point, but I have heard that the food is actually very good. The tables are set up with a cup holder on each leg so that patrons can play dominos on the table top without spilling drinks – why haven’t other countries cottoned on to this? Apparently this place gets busy at night with a live band (I’m picturing the chipi chipi moment in The Motorcycle Diaries).
In direct contrast we then visited La Bipo which is a modern style cantina. This place was pretty funky and reminded me of bars in the Raval area of Barcelona. Rodrigo told us that the back of the establishment is used for live music at night and some famous bands have started out playing here. We ate more food, which we remember as being very good but I honestly cannot recall what it was other than being tapas style.
By the end of the tour we were rather weary and could not face anything else to eat so were glad that the stop into Dulceria de Celaya, one of the city’s oldest sweet shops, was perfunctory. We admired the front of the building before heading inside to admire some more. The old fashioned glass cabinets were stacked with all sorts of sweet delights. We tried a candy made with burnt milk and then promptly left as the shop was getting overcrowded. This marked the end of our tour and thus provided our opportunity to waddle home for a siesta.
I would highly recommend the Sabores tour as an interesting and delicious way to learn about Mexico City and to discover that there is more to Mexican cuisine than tacos and burritos 🙂 Just remember to make sure that you are very hungry!
*the reason why I now have a personal trainer in Cartagena