May 27 – June 4, 2018
Mexican food may be a staple on U.S. grocery store shelves, but it bears little resemblance to the authentic flavors, aromas and colors that adorn the open markets and streets of Mexico. The country’s cuisine is as diverse as the territories and geography it inhabits. The food itself can tell a story or recount a cultural history that dates back to pre-Hispanic civilizations. Join Los Angeles Times regional culinary experts and local chefs as you explore Mexico from a culinary perspective; from the bustling streets of Mexico City, to the vibrant markets of colonial Oaxaca, through pre-Hispanic villages still carrying on centuries-old traditions, to the splendid beauty of the agave fields. As you journey through central and southern Mexico, gain an appreciation of the country’s rich cultural history by tasting, savoring and experimenting the very best the country has to offer.
Lesley Téllez is a journalist, culinary tour expert and Mexican cookbook author living in Los Angeles. Her book Eat Mexico: Recipes from Mexico City’s Streets, Markets and Fondas, was published in June 2015 by Kyle Books, and was an Amazon bestseller. Lesley’s writing, which focuses mostly on food and Mexico, has been published in The New York Times, Food & Wine, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, Serious Eats, The Kitchen, and other publications. From 2009 to 2015, she authored the award-winning Mexican food and travel blog The Mija Chronicles. In addition to writing, Lesley runs a top-rated company offering culinary walks focusing on street food, markets and local food history in Mexico City. Born and raised in Southern California, Lesley has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University and a diploma in Mexican gastronomy from the Escuela de Gastronomía Mexicana in Mexico City. She’s an active member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. She lives in L.A. with her husband and son.
Welcome to Mexico
Arrive in Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International airport. Transfer to your hotel and check in. Gather for a reception and welcome presentation by your LA Times culinary expert on Mexican cuisine and culture. (R,D)
Depart on foot from the hotel for a culinary adventure. Gain an overview of one of the most vibrant street food scenes in the world, set in a neighborhood full of hungry office workers. Moving from stand to stand, sample fresh tamales, squash flower burritos, tlacoyos (griddled corn masa patties topped with cactus) and more. Learn about the history of each dish along the way, and discover a little more about how the street food system is organized in a typical neighborhood. Take a break at the Mercado Roma’s rooftop biergarten for a cerveza. After lunch, head south to the tree-lined streets of the of Coyoacán neighborhood. Visit Frida Kahlo’s home and studio, Casa Azul. A guide will discuss the private and public lives of Frida and husband, Diego Rivera, as you tour the unique artist home and workshop. For dinner, channel the coastal feel of Baja California at a trendy seafood restaurant. (B,D)
From Market to Table
Set out for the Roma neighborhood for a unique cultural and culinary experience. Accompanied by two locally renowned cooks, start the morning next to the Medellin Market, where you will sample authentic Mexican tortillas made with traditional dough. Discover the colors, aromas and deep-rooted tradition of an authentic Mexican market. With a shopping bag in tow, interact with local merchants while tasting spices, cheeses, ice cream, single origin coffee from Chiapas, and much more. After tasting and selecting the freshest ingredients for your menu, take a quick walk to Casa Jacaranda, a beautifully restored mansion for a hands-on cooking lesson. Generations-old culinary secrets and techniques are shared during this gathering while you chop, grill, marinate and steam to create a 3-course menu with sauces and garnishes. Dine on your creations, paired with Mexican wine and a tasting of craft mezcal from Oaxaca. Work off your culinary adventure this afternoon with a walk through Chapultapec Park. The evening is at leisure tonight. (B,L)
Start your day with a walking tour of the Centro Histórico and the Zócalo, including the Palacio Nacional, Mexico’s federal executive building. Trace Mexico’s political past, from pre-Hispanic civilizations through its colonial power structure through the Mexican Revolution to its modern political state. Visit the Cathedral and the pre-Hispanic ruins of the Templo Mayor. Get your first taste of chocolate at a boutique marketplace that houses the artisanal chocolatier, Qué Bo. Sample contemporary versions of traditional Mexican chocolate and experience flavors of fruit, caramel and flowers infused in the bonbons and truffles. Enjoy lunch at the Central Plaza and savor traditional mole. Then, participate in a workshop at Mexico City’s chocolate museum, Mucho Mundo Chocolate. Learn how the native cacao bean has been used since pre-Hispanic times in foods both savory and sweet. Test your skills in chocolate production. This evening, bid farewell to Mexico City at one of the city’s up and coming restaurants. (B,L,D)
Check out of your hotel and board a bus to the historic town of Puebla (approximately 2.5 hours away). Experience a Poblano-inspired private cooking class at Mesón de la Sacristía. Learn more about local cuisine including: salsa verde, salsa roja, chalupas, pipián verde, arroz con leche and fresh water hibiscus infusion while you prepare the dishes. Enjoy the fruits of your labor over lunch. Next, set out on a walking tour of Puebla. Founded in 1531, the city’s historic district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its older buildings are characterized by Baroque architecture. Explore Puebla on your own for dinner. (B,L)
Check out of your hotel and board our motor coach for Oaxaca. En route, stop near the city of Tehuacán. The surrounding valley lays claim to having the most ancient forms of cultivated maize, dating back over five thousand years. Enjoy lunch before continuing on the drive to the beautiful colonial city of Oaxaca. After checking into your hotel, enjoy a walking tour in Oaxaca’s historic city center. (B,L,D)
In the morning, drive one hour to the Mixtec archaeological site of Mitla, known for its unique stone work. Meet with a local family for a special cooking demonstration in their home. After lunch, continue through the valley of Oaxaca to visit two small towns: San Dionisio Ocotepec and Santiago Matatlan. The towns are premium mezcal producers with authentic distilleries that use the traditional copper still and pre-Columbian clay in their production. Taste the different agave types of Mezcal: Tobala, Espadin, Cuishe and Tobaciche and appreciate the nuanced flavors. Return to Oaxaca for dinner on your own. (B,L)
Start your morning with a trip to the countryside with a local top chef to learn about the contemporary flavors that continue to attract international attention to Oaxaca. Visit the great central market and discuss the ancient traditions and alternative approaches to a range of local dishes, including fresh string cheese, agua de chocolate and even grasshoppers. After the market visit, the chef will guide you to experience different flavors of Oaxaca in a private cooking class while sharing his gastronomical knowledge along the way. Enjoy your final special meal along with a selection of artisanal mezcals and celebrate your culinary adventure across Mexico. (B,L,D)
Check out of the hotel and transfer to the airport for your return flight home. (B)
Located on Mexico’s most famous avenue, the Marquis Reforma is a premier luxury hotel equipped with all modern amenities. Named by Conde Nast as one of the top Leading Hotels in the country.
This upscale, contemporary hotel occupies 3 former 16th-century houses with original features. It’s a 14-minute walk from the main attractions. Featuring handcrafted wood furnishings, the refined rooms offer free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and minibars, as well as marble bathrooms.
Set in a traditional colonial structure with a central courtyard, this trendy boutique hotel is centrally located. Contemporary, minimalist rooms come with flat-screen TVs, minibars, iPod docks and free Wi-Fi.