Postcard from Oaxaca, Mexico: Reunion with La Biznaga and Los Danzantes

Have blogged numerous times over the past few years about Biznaga. Still has what we regard as the best margaritas we have ever been served, whether made with tequila or mezcal. Despite the Mister’s online reading comparing pulque to the flavor and consistency of wallpaper paste, we even found the milky white house pulque (pictured above) a refreshing starter.

La Biznaga is always our first stop and final meal in Oaxaca. The menu is so varied, it suits any mood – soup, salads, full blow-out meal.

The plump shrimp perched atop rice and mole and the tuna with asparagus kept us returning as well. First time trying the jamon focaccia with great fresh chips and the flavorful memelas de chamorro. Only managed to make it once all the way through to the luscious coconut flan.

The patio of Los Danzantes is so beautiful; the presentations always are spot-on; and the experience is always relaxing. However, Danzantes upped the prices of cocktails substantially mid-visit, which made it not quite as welcoming. Yet the hierbabuena mezcal cocktail is an amazingly good drink. And Danzantes’ unusual pink peppercorn ice cream now ranks among my all-time favorite flavors.

The frequency of our patronage was hampered by the Danzantes’ increased popularity; lunch-time reservations definitely are recommended.

For us, Christmas San Antonio-style means Mi Tierra

Every Christmas Day save two of the past 40 years has found us hoisting margaritas and brunching at Mi Tierra Café y Panaderia, the heart of San Antonio’s Market Square since 1941.

We are far from alone celebrating in the restaurant known for its festive over-the-top Christmas decorations, most of which remain year-round. Seemingly thousands of other San Antonians choose to embrace the city’s Tex-Mex roots for the holiday. Year after year after year.

Wait time for a table hovers around an hour, but that provides the opportunity to take a number at the bakery to purchase some of the best and freshest pralines ever to melt in your mouth. And, of course, there is the bar.

Feliz Navidad!

Postcard from Oaxaca, Mexico: Photo menu of a few local spots

Have some friends flying into Oaxaca about now, so wanted to do a quick photo menu for them of a few flavorful options. Our trip in August was shorter than most, so we did not visit quite as many places as normal.

As always, La Biznaga remains on the top of our list. The best margarita in the world is a major drawing card. Whether it’s for simple quesadillas for a light lunch or an upscale rare tuna atop roasted asparagus and crowned with an avocado mountain, we always leave happy. We had never tried the fish ceviche (featured photo) before or the stuffed Portobello mushroom and recommend both.

The patio of Los Danzantes is one of the most pleasant dining spots in Oaxaca, and it is a great place to sample mezcal cocktails. A major plunge into bold Oaxacan flavors is the ancho chile filled with huitlacoche (corn smut) and goat cheese atop a puree of platano, sweetened with a piloncillo sauce and swarming with a few of those prized chapulines (grasshoppers).

Rarely hungry at night, no wonder, we almost missed that El Olivo Gastrobar is open for lunch on Sundays. While popular for its tapas, it features two of our favorite dishes, arroz negro colored with squid ink and filled with seafood; and luscious large shrimp and serrano ham in a pernod sauce. Both could easily be split.

No fancy cocktails, but a nice house mezcal is offered at Casa Taviche. The draw is a delicious three-course lunch for 75 pesos. That’s right, less than $5. Everything is so fresh and well presented, from salads to small desserts. The choices for starters and entrees vary daily and usually include meat, fish and vegetarian options, such as chicken with poblano chiles or a vegetable tarta of layers of sweet potato and spinach. On weekends, Casa Taviche prepares perfect pork tacos, both cochinita pibil and al pastor.

And, on the other extreme, there is Criollo. A child of the famed chef of Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme in New York City, Criollo gets quite the buzz in food media. We simply were far from blown away by the flavors. I admit we got off on the wrong foot when they were out of the $42 red wine at lunch time and could not offer us another for less than $1500 pesos, a major jump. I’ll link you directly to the New York Times write-up so as not to prejudice you. Lunch at Criollo is a leisurely seven-course well-presented sampling of dishes using local seasonal Oaxacan ingredients prepared using traditional techniques. Aside from our disappointment on the wine front, it’s not outrageously expensive. But we simply enjoyed our experiences at other places much more. To me, what the young chefs of Mixtli are pulling off in their railcar parked in San Antonio is far more interesting.

Hating to sound negative again, but last year we recommended Mezquite. The upstairs rooftop is such a nice setting, and the amuse-bouche of corn esquite is a nice starter. The cochnita pibil was a mushy mess of a sandwich, but the tuna tostada was still nice and refreshing. Mezquite bills itself as a mezcal bar as well, yet the cocktails they served us were as sweet as the Shirley Temples we were offered as children. We ordered two perros oaxaquenos, described as containing mezcal artesenal, citrus and sal de guisano. They were pink edging toward red. We asked our server if we had the correct drinks; he assured us we did. We ordered additional lime juice on the side. After adding an ounce of lime juice to each, they were still too sweet to drink. Go for the view, and maybe order straight mezcal.

Have to sign off now. All these pictures made me hungry.