Friday, May 16, 2014

Oaxaca: What Was Your Experience?

A woman told me the other day that she had just come back from Oaxaca and had the worst food she's ever eaten in Mexico. This was the first time I've heard that the food in Oaxaca was anything but wonderful.

As you know by now, my own Oaxaca experience was very different. In fact, it was nothing short of transforming.

So what accounts for the difference between a good experience and a bad one?


I spent weeks reading about the food in Oaxaca. I knew exactly what to expect when I got there. I used phone apps and read every internet article and guidebook I could get my hands on.

More importantly, I asked more than a few people where I should eat. Not people who had been to Oaxaca ten years ago but people who were there in the past year.

I read food blogs because the information is current and will steer you in the right direction when it comes to finding great food. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a food blogger with parallel tastes who covers the city extensively.

I email both chefs and food bloggers with specific questions. I usually have a lot of them and they almost always answer.

When I get to a city, I follow the crowds, ask a million questions and read local papers and magazines. I also read between the lines and always consider the source of my information.

I am the first person to admit that you can never have too much information when it comes to making a food choice.

I have a meal plan when I get to a city. Most menu's are online so I pretty much decide what I'm going to eat ahead of time. In most cases, I've memorized the menu and am familiar with the chef. I do remain flexible and always ask the waiter for specific recommendations and specials. 80% of the time I go with what I pre-selected.

I seldom order the least or most expensive item on the menu unless a half a dozen or more people have told me it can't be missed.

Half the fun of traveling is exploring local markets and grocery stores. We ate a lot of our meals on the balcony of our hotel in Paris because we found such good food and wine buys in the local markets.

Don't forget to make lunch your main meal. Most people in other countries do so you'll fit right in with the locals.

I frequently ask for a hotel room upgrade to the concierge level, where continental breakfast and afternoon drinks are included. Even if I can't get an upgrade for free, sometimes the cost differential is less than what you pay for the extra meals.

Remember, many bars offer free food during happy hour. In Spain for instance, tapas are always served whenever you order a drink.

If you do your research before you go you'll always have great food experiences.

And, no matter what you do on the road, don't forget to splurge. It's the one thing I always least once.

Buen Apetito!