This was without a doubt the highlight of my trip. Mexico/Oaxaca has many markets. I could literally go from town to town and just tour these markets but I know maybe .01% of what is being sold.
Susanna Trilling took us to her neighborhood market in Etla where they introduced us to their personal vendors. I learned so much about what was being sold. I was instructed to keep an eagle eye out for the old senora sitting on the floor and not just focus on the vendors who had actual stalls. In many cases, she had come from many miles where that morning she had harvested things like green coffee beans and had maybe two handfuls to sell.
We had tastes of just about anything we could taste. Chaupalines (crickets) which tasted almost vegetal, Oaxacan string cheese which was very close to mozzarella, pan de yema (egg yolk bread), pan de dolce, nieves (who wouldve thought that smoked milk ice would be so delicious), pumpkin seeds, etc.
From their spice lady I bought Mexican saffron, cumin, cloves, epazote. All incredibly fragrant. All for about 90 cents total.
There was a man devoted solely to Oaxacan pasilla chiles. These chiles are integral to Oaxacan cooking. I could sleep on a pillow made from these chiles, I just want to bury my nose in my chile bag. I bought 100 of his chiles and he also had a homemade chile paste that consisted of these chiles, garlic and I have no idea what else. A couple of days later, I saw this same man at a small neighborhood market in Oaxaca.
The pottery, it is unreal and unbelievably cheap. I got I large bowl, a beautiful pitcher and a bowl to grind spices/garlic, etc all for $4.70. If I wasnt schlepping round Mexico for another week I wouldve thrown caution to the wind and go crazy on pottery.
Then a full lunch. I have to go back and look at my notes to remember exactly what the dish was called but I believe they took tortillas, soaked them in mole and then folded them in quarters. More mole to cover along with crumbled cheese, onion and cilantro.
Afterwards we brought all the ingredients back to their absolutely breathtaking ranch house. The kitchen was the kind of kitchen that you dream of having in Mexico: huge, open, breezy with lots of beautiful tiles and pots. Oh and of course an outside fire and comal to make to tortillas and toast chiles. Susanna had selected several recipes for our group of about 12 people to make. We split up in pairs and each made a dish. This took a couple of hours and during this time we were supplied with anything we needed, including beer. I left the recipes at home so I cant remember the actual names of things but there was an appetizer, a garbanzo soup (made by moi), chicken marinated and steamed in a banana leaf, cilantro rice and a mango pudding.
She had lots of foodstuff to buy, I loaded up on her homemade chocolate, Isthmus salt and vanilla extract from the Yucatan.
You can buy Susannas homemade chocolate at Zingermans:
Theyre trying to convince Zingermans to also carry their moles so if youre interested, shoot Zingermans an email.
Seasons of My Heart:
The school also does culinary tours, I'd do any of them in a heartbeat.