Paola + Murray Let their Stomachs Wander in Oaxaca
Even if you’ve never been to Oaxaca, you’ve eaten Oaxaca. The food culture that comes out of the southern Mexican city takes up a great deal of real estate at American Mexican restaurants, and the flavors are familiar. Whether it’s their famous seven moles or a bottle of mezcal, Oaxaca is everywhere – but there’s nothing like eating through the actual city. That’s what Paola + Murray did while on assignment with Food & Wine, following around Chef Rosio Sanchez. “It’s one of the best eating destinations in the world that we’ve come across,” says Murray Hall, who makes up Paola + Murray with his wife Paola Ambrosi De Magistris. And Murray would know, they constantly travel all over the world and are themselves multicultural. “I was not expecting it to be as amazing for food,” says Paola. “I come from Italy and I have this thing where I think we have the best and most varied and most amazing food, and I was super, super surprised to actually see how varied and fantastic the food was in Oaxaca.” “And also just the energy there,” Murray jumps in. “The people are just incredible.”
The assignment was simple: follow the Chef for a couple days and come back with an awesome take of the eating scene there. But they couldn’t stop with just that. They ended up extending their trip from a few days to more than a week so they could fully experience the place and bring it back for us to experience along with them. This wasn’t tacos and tamales by the hotel. This was an immersive experience. At one point they jumped into the back of a pickup truck with some prickly pear ice cream to go make some mole. “Little did me know that we were going to Zimatlan de Alvarez, a small town 40 minutes from Oaxaca. That was the closest to a true local experience we have come across,” Paola says. A surprise 40-minute trip in the back of a pick up can be a challenge – but the ice cream certainly made it easier. But it’s little surprises like those that make the experience valuable.
“The next morning we went to the Mercado de Abastos and we discovered our favorite breakfast spot,” says Paola. They found Dona Vale in the middle of the market making fresh memelitas and chocolate de agua: the perfect breakfast. “We fell in love with her and a few days later we decided to go back but it took us ages to find her in such a maze of a market,” says Paola. They found her in the nick of time: she was just packing up for the day but stayed to make them breakfast. Not only that, she brought them along to her store so they could bring some hot chocolate mix back home with them and continue the magic. “Dona Vale is a true legend and one we will definitely go find next time we are in Oaxaca.”
What Oaxaca has to offer can be found all over the US and the world. But there's nothing like the real thing.