Yes, this whole thing is a candle. Oaxacans uses such candles as part of their courtship ritual.
This magnificent, spacious, friendly spot does it all: Las Barbacoas de Mexico slow-cook meat underground, they ferment underground, they grill, roast and bake. Super delicious place that you should not miss if you visit Oaxaca! (Full disclosure: It's owned by the Ruiz siblings, including Chef Alex Ruiz, who are friends. It's still fricken great.)
Portozuelo's Camping Under the Moon event with Chef Alex Ruiz and guest Chef Rodrigo Martinez involved this spectacular fire-roasted goat. This was slow cooking over the fire for hours before being chopped up and fulfilling its destiny to be part of some of the most delicious tacos ever. (That's the one and only Chef Alex applying herbs.)
This is a variation on a super popular snack here in Oaxaca. Normally, they just combine roasted peanuts and roasted grasshoppers, plus chili and other flavorings. This one, served at Los Barbacoas de Mexico, also has roasted agave larvae -- also known as agave worms or picudo del agave.
Amira and I attended Portozuelo's first-ever Camping Under the Moon event with Chef Alex Ruiz and guest Chef Rodrigo Martinez. Alex brought in a young mezcal maker to set up a coal-fired still and distill mezcal on the spot. (First, he sealed the parts of the still with corn flour.) He infused it with lavender and rosemary, and it was delicious. We drank it all night and then had more for breakfast. This is, after all, Oaxaca.
Seated from left to right, Chef Rodrigo Martinez, food super-influencer Salt Hank, the greatest cook in the world, Amira Elgan, me, the King of Oaxaca, Chef Alex Ruiz, some guy and, finally, Jesus Ruiz, who (along with the other Ruiz siblings) owns the amazing restaurant we're eating at and some other restaurants in Oaxaca.
The restaurant is an amazing new barbeque place called Las Barbacoas de Mexico where they slow-cook meat under ground.
Corn, cheese and hand-made salsa. I could eat these ingredients every day.
(I’m in the Oaxaca Valley at our friend’s organic farm and restaurant, called Portozuelo.)
It's a tiny one-room place in a tiny town in the Oaxaca valley. The lady who makes it just ladles the stuff out of the plastic buckets she ferments it in. So fresh and good. (Pictured above: The outside of the place; below: my pulque lady with one of her customers and also her pet goat, who happens to be peeing on the floor in this picture.)
One of our friends in Oaxaca surprised us by taking us to a restaurant called Almú in the tiny and remote town of San Martín Tilcajete in the Oaxaca Valley.
As we drove through town, our car was blocked by dozens of men and boys dressed like devils and painted black pretended to rampage through the town as part of how Oaxaca celebrates carnival. It's a tradition called the "La Danza de los Diablos" or "Dance of the Devils," a name coined by Spanish missionaries. I got out and took a few pictures.
When the Spanish first came to Oaxaca in the 16th Century, Zapotecs (the main indigenous ethnic group in Oaxaca) tried to scare them away by painting themselves black and acting like monsters.
It's part of Zapotec tradition since before the Spanish arrived. The black "paint" is made with cooking oil mixed with charcoal. Many also paint their faces white, red, or black.
Until recently, only men and boys participated, but a few years ago a few women and girls started joining in.
Traditionally they wore shells around their waists to make a racket while running around town. Nowadays, they use bells. They try to scare people, and, if they can they wipe some black coloring on the faces of women and girls -- the "kiss of the devil," a way of flirting with them.
The tradition has variants around Oaxaca, but it's particularly strong in San Martín Tilcajete, and the town is locally famous for it.
Also: There's drinking involved. As we drove through the town after our four-hour lunch, some of those devils were conspicuously hammered.
Café de olla -- the old fashioned way.