There is everything to love about Oaxaca.
Let’s start with the food. Holy mole. I thought I had eaten mole before but that was a big, fat lie. Now, to me, mole only exists in Oaxaca, in all its glorious colors and flavor variations. Mole aside, all the food is good. Seriously. I was fortunate enough to feast at some of the finest restaurants in Oaxaca, including Criollo (featured in NYT after we got back; good for them, bad for ease of reservations going forward), La Origen and La Olla (love this place!). But really, some of the best food is in the totally unfancy places, like the market stalls in the 20 de Noviembre market. There you can warm up with a pan de yema and Oaxacan hot chocolate (I like mine with water) before diving into filet de res with enmoladas (mole and tortillas), all for a few bucks.
Then there’s the mezcal. In case you didn’t know, Oaxaca is mezcal mecca. You can drink all the rare, illegal, wild, hard-to-find mezcal you can stomach. I did this one night, and ended up singing—not well, mind you—an old Mexican ballad by Los Panchos in a local bar, accompanied by guitar. My friend Dania, who is Mexican and first introduced me to this wonderful music, put me up to it. It was worth it.
I never tired of looking at the church of Santo Domingo, and was enamored with the adjoining botanical gardens filled with cactuses for days.
There’s also a vibrant art scene in Oaxaca. All kinds of art and artists: street art, young artists, traditional craftsmen. I picked up a couple pieces of jewelry by young, local designers who, as I really love, create modern pieces using traditional methods. I also met a master bead worker based in Oaxaca, and relieved him of his largest, most audacious and beautiful pieces.
One thing I could live without: fireworks. Nasty, dangerous little things. One almost took off my friend’s leg at New Year’s Eve dinner. Children, who actually seemed to be supervised by their parents, set off bottle rockets at us in the main square that night as well, prompting me to quickly understand why there was braille on the street signs at every corner.
--Jess, Founder & Principal Shopper