Mexico Finish your beet - there's sober kids in India.

Published on April 1st, 2017


MEXICO: Sips and Eats

My one-and-only reason for hopping on another silver cigar-tube and heading to Mexico so soon after my marathon in the Balkans was ONLY to see those bazillion Monarch butterflies before they flew off to Canada for another year.  But that doesn’t mean I didn’t make the utmost good use of my brief time in Mexico City.

Mexico City Salsas

Questiion is – with but a day and a half to explore one of the World’s most extraordinary cities, where does one even BEGIN?

The museums? The art? The markets? the ancient Aztec ruins? Nosiree, none of the above. While no doubt all those things would prove fascinating, with such limited time – my first thought was F-O-O-D.  Indeed, while there are many reasons why I travel, sampling local cuisines is among my foremost passions.

I’d done my research, and had already signed on to an evening of mezcal tasting, along with a full afternoon of sampling the locale cuisine on a food tour upon my return from the butterflies.  As for the latter, I’d dithered between a choice of two tours offered by Sabores (rated #2 on TripAdvisor, and among the more economical), each with an entirely different array of unique foodie stops.

The Sabores’ Historic Center Food tour leaned towards traditional Mexican eats including open-air markets and crunching on exotics from the insect world (think grasshoppers, crickets – both of which I’ve sampled a’plenty in Asia).  And of course living here in Cuenca, I’m no stranger to local mercados – after all, I shop in them most ever day.  So in the end I’d opted for Sabores’ more contemporary food tour amid the trendy Roma District.

Mexico Day of the Dead Sugar Skulls.

But there was one stop on the Historic Center tour that really intrigued me – the “Dulcería de Celaya”, founded in 1874 and apparently filled with all manner of exotic sweets.  So I’d Googled for the address, and on my first morning in CDMX I skipped out of my hostel to visit the tiny shop on my own.  Turns out, the shop was but a couple of blocks from my hostel (which itself, was most conveniently located nearly ON TOP of the Metropolitan Cathedral), and…

Mexico City candy shop

…coincidentally, whilst gaping at the sweets in the shop’s window, I bumped into 2 lovely lasses from NYC – accompanied by the guide for the Sabores Historic Center food tour!  While the Dulcería goodies were a bit “gringo priced”, I did buy a few sweets to take home to my chums and neighbors in Cuenca.  I verily SWOONED when I tasted the “Limon con Coco” morsels – a yummy macaroon-type mixture stuffed into candied lime shells.  Apparently one of artist Frida Kahlo’s favorite sweets – I found the recipe online, and fully intend to try making some myself.

And upon my early afternoon return by bus from the mountains, I had a few spare hours before my evening of mezcal tasting, so I again set out on a my own to sample some of the CDMX street food (and grab a couple quick geocaches while I was at it, of course!)

Mexico City tostadas and other street eats.

Palacio de Bellas Arts, Mexico City, Mexico

Later, I met up with a small group for my Mariachi and Mezcal Tasting tour.  And I have to say – though I’m generally not a nightlife kinda gal (much less a boozer) when I travel, for just $25 the “tour” proved to be the perfect way for a solo lass to spend an evening in a strange foreign city.

We met our guide (also named Diane) outside the Palacio de Bellas Artes (magically aglow in the night) and headed on foot to Plaza Garibaldi, famous for its nightly array of eclectic mariachi bands.  The eats were tasty, and the mezcal? Likewise smooth and silky down-the-hatch.

Mexico City Mezcal Tasting

Quite different from tequila (which – by law – is made from the single “blue agave” plant), mezcal can be concocted from a variety of agave plants which results in a wider range of mezcal flavors.  I tasted three different mezcals, and my favorite?  “pechuga” – yup, that’s “breast” in Spanish!  And nope, you can’t make this stuff up!  Apparently there’s a whole (prized) class of “mezcal de pechuga” – made when “a finished mezcal is re-distilled with local fruits, grains, and nuts, and a raw chicken or turkey breast is hung over the still, cooking in the emanating vapors supposedly adding to the spirit’s final flavor.”

Also, unlike tequila, which tends to be chugged in a single “shot”, mezcal’s more smokey flavor is said to be best “kissed”, i.e. savored slowly in sips, as you would fine whiskey or cognac.  And then there’s the side accouterments – instead of tequila’s ubiquitous salt and lime, with mezcal it’s a nice sweet orange wedge with… um, would you believe – ground WORMS?

And if sucking on ground worms isn’t quite enough excitement for you – how ’bout a “shock” of electricity?  Yup, a lad was wandering around the cantina with his portable shocker machine, and for a mere 2 bucks we all held hands and let that sucker buzzzzz through all of us at once!

Mexico City nightlife: Mariachi bands and a little electricity...

Geez, more than a THOUSAND words here already – an I’ve not even yet shared the main event: my amazing Roma Food Tour!

Mexico City Roma Foodie Walking TourSuffice it was absolutely FABULOUS!  My last (and only full) day in Mexico City, and I honestly couldn’t have picked a better way to spend the afternoon.  Another tiny group (a young couple from Washington D.C. and myself) and Paula our guide (a culinary student that plans to be a food journalist one day) was chock full of foodie, as well as cultural, and historic trivia as we ambled through the lovely Roma neighborhood

The food?  Amazing and bountiful!  Each stop so well timed, and each tasting so beautifully presented and tasty.  We visited seven different restaurants and sampled more than a dozen eclectic sips and eats.

The pics tell the story:

Mexico City Roma Foodie Walking Tour, Fish Tacos

Mexico City Roma Foodie Walking Tour - French Bistro

Mexico City Roma Foodie Walking Tour, - 3 tamales

Mexico City Roma Foodie Walking Tour - Shrimp tostada

Mexico City Roma Foodie Walking Tour - Beer Tasting

Mexico City Roma Foodie Walking Tour - Oaxacan Food

Mexico City Roma Foodie Walking Tour - Mezcal Tasting

Mexico City Roma Foodie Walking Tour - Hoja Santa Vegetable Cheese dish

Saving the best for last – my favorite stop was at the end – a full-blown coffee tasting (with each our own tray of assorted tasting paraphernalia) that included sippings before and after a taste of honey/coconut and raisins/nuts – in both an “open” and a “closed” glass.

(btw, note the reduced price of coffee – by simply adding a cheerful “Buen día” and a “por favor”. That’s the way it is down here in Latin America – a little politeness goes a long way.

Mexico City Roma Foodie Walking Tour, Coffee Tasting

Bottom line?

For this die-hard DIY independent traveler – such organized, small group day tours can nonetheless be not only great fun, but excellent value.  Indeed, there’s no way I could have sampled as many Mexico City restaurants in a single afternoon on my own.  And between gaping in awe at those bazillion butterflies in the mountains, and my amazing sips and eats in CDMX this quick skip into Mexico proved to be the perfect little getaway!

Food Tours are the BEST! Check out the Mezcal Tasting and Roma Foodie Walking Tour I took in Mexico City.

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About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!

6 Responses to MEXICO: Sips and Eats

  1. Your photos make my mouth water and I have to agree that you made a great choice for how to spend your limited time, Dyanne! Does ANYTHING beat the sheer flavor and taste explosions of Mexico’s amazing food? What we loved as we traveled through southern Mexico and the Yucatan were the changes in regional cuisines which made our journey as much about the food as the Mayan ruins we were visiting. Your post on the butterflies and now the food have me very tempted to make a return visit and explore more of central and northern Mexico… hmmmmm!
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Lent and Semana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala: Alfombras, Christ Floats and ProcessionsMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      “Does ANYTHING beat…?” Nope. Nada. You’ll get no argument from me Anita on the delights of authentic Mexican eats (though I still maintain that Vietnam’s cuisine is my all-time favorite).

      And yes, yes – if I learned anything on this trip’s foodie adventures, it’s that I surely need a serious (as in weeks/months-long) skip around the many different regions of Señora Mexico.

      Do lemme know if you head there for the butterflies next winter. I’d welcome an excuse to gawk anew, and extend my explore of MX. And finally meet you two IRL!

  2. Steve C says:

    Hey Dyanne, me again,
    Thank-you, thank-you for your tips. I was on the bus all day yesterday, what a trip that was! Sadly, I’d already made a reservation in a hotel. I went to Mai’s website and your digs look really nice. My place, Phuong Huy Hotel 1, is only 7 bucks a night, but totally adequate for me for only 7 days.
    I went out this morning for a wander and walked completely around the lake! Next wander: Slow down and smell the roses (see the details)! Gonna try to find those “rice paper tacos” you suggested I try. Only been here one day and already I love this place, warm shower and all! Not as much traffic as Saigon too.
    Had a coconut milk coffee in the huge “Pod” structure. Wow, was that ever good!
    Thanks again,
    Steve C

    • Dyanne says:

      Glad you’re enjoying your stay in Dalat, Steve. Do drop in and say hi to my dear friend Mai at L’Auberge Ami.

  3. Steve C says:

    Hey Dyanne,
    Boy, you sure know how to pack in a lot into a short stay! Love Mexico and have been there on many trips (from neighboring California) but never have I done either the butterfly’s or a foodie tour. Looks like you hit two keepers!
    So, here I am in Ho Chi Minh City heading to Da Lat tomorrow morning for a week stay. Knowing you spent awhile there, and speaking of food, got any tips on food in Da Lat? Should I do a foodie tour there? haha
    I plan on another month and a half in Vietnam, heading north after 10 days in Phu Quoc down south (after Da Lat). I will eventually fly out of Hanoi. So, I’ve got a lot of food tasting in my future. I’ve been overwhelmed here in Saigon already!

    • Dyanne says:

      Vietnam, eh Steve? And especially Dalat – what can I say? #ubermiss! Sounds like you have a fine agenda for exploring that wondrous land (w/ its even more wondrous people).

      Dunno about foodie tours there (but I must say, I’m now S.O.L.D. on them, most anywhere I travel), so yes – if you can do one anywhere (indeed, both north and south, as you’ll no doubt find widely different cuisines in each region).

      Among my fondest foodie memories of Dalat is: do be sure to try the rice paper “tacos” (“bánh tráng”) grilled on a tiny hibachi along the curb. That and… I can also recommend a motorbike tour of the surrounding countryside with the “Easyriders” (retired Vietnam war vets) – sampling roasted crickets, visit a (not the least “touristy”) silk factory, oh and coffee planatations (but puleeze, don’t sample the “weasel coffee”!),etc.

      Oh, and speaking of “coffee”, good lord – surely by now you’ve already swooned over the caramely Vietnamese coffee slowly dripped from a tin cup into sweetened condensed milk, yes?

      And yes, yes – Phu Quoc, as well as take the train to Sapa in the north. And (at least 1, if not 2 nts.) on Ha Long Bay of course!

      (btw, if you truly want a treat – get in touch with my dear Vietnamese “sister” Mai at L’Auberge Ami ( where I once lived – do stay there if you’ve not already got accommodations in Dalat)

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