Stayed up late last night waiting for everybody to arrive. Apparently a volcano near Puebla, Mexico, erupted, so flights were delayed an hour (and no wonder Mexico City looked so smoggy in our plane transfer). After everybody checked in, some of the guys were hungry so we ventured out... to a sandwich stand in front of a hospital. It was the only food around, it being midnight and everything. This lady assembled sandwiches in the dark. (No, none of us got sick.)
The morning started early at the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca (ICO), where we had a surprise awaiting us in the kitchen - breakfast! We assembled eagerly around this long wooden bench.
Señora Soledad, a cook since the age of 9, taught us how to make hot chocolate the Oaxacan way. You start with hot water and bars of chocolate. Once all the chocolate is dissolved you pour the mixture into a jarro (jar) and roll the molinillo (wooden implement) between your hands until the chocolate foams up.
And then you pour it into a cup and enjoy it with some bread (or pastry of choice).
Then we had an introduction to all the traditional kitchen implements we'll be using, such as the mortar and pestle (el molcajete y el tejolote), the tortilla roller/spice grinder (el metate, which Soledad demonstrated on her hands and knees as it is traditionally used on the ground), and all the different clay jars that impart earthly flavors upon the dishes.
After that we had a short orientation to Oaxaca, and then onto Spanish class. We were separated into different levels depending on our level of fluency, with me and two others in the intermediate/advanced class. We talked all about food, which was brutal considering it was the afternoon and we hadn't even had lunch break yet. Also some mosquitos bit me through my leggings, which was vicious and scary since I didn't think it would ever happen here.
After class Chef took us to La Hormiga, the best torta stand around. The lunch crowd was huge.
I ordered a torta tinga (spicy chicken). We ate it in the square where all the couples make out because they can't do it at home (socially conservative Catholic country and all).
For dessert, Cris and I got churros at this small place that pretty much only sold churros. And all the churros were piped by this cool machine.
After lunch we went on a walking tour of Oaxaca city center, where many many churches abounded. We stopped at the beautiful cathedral I mentioned in the last post. Apparently the inside is even more beautiful (all gold, and everywhere).
The tour ended at El Origen, a famous restaurant here in Oaxaca. The chef, Rodolfo Castellanos, is currently competing for the title of Best Chef in Mexico. And later he'll be teaching us a workshop!
Dinner was exquisite, featuring such delicacies as soft-boiled egg, octopus, and this sous vide chicken.
By the end of the day we were very full (in all senses of the word). Can't wait to actually get our hands on and start cooking tomorrow!