Tour de Stage Oaxaca—Day Two
Casa Oaxaca—Our second stop
Chef Alejandro Ruiz has been recognized for his accomplishments most notably on Latin America’s Best 50 list with his Casa Oaxaca Hotel. His food in all his establishments reflects the depth and breadth of the cuisine of Oaxaca. When Laura spoke with Chef Alejandro, he shared a unique vision and mission for his restaurants that was, in part, colored by the country’s ongoing political fraud and the previous day’s gubernatorial elections. “We’re working very hard to change the perception of Mexico,” said Chef Alejandro. “We’re working against great odds to share all the great things about Mexico with the rest of the world.’’
When we walked into his kitchen early the next morning, we were welcomed by the a.m. production crew. The thing that stood out to us first was the amount of structure and established processes in the kitchen. As an engineer, Sayat is always excited to find cooks that start the day with a production check list, that’s his geeky side. In the land of seven moles, Chef Jorge leads the production of sauces with his team.
So of course, our stage at Casa Oaxaca, focused on moles. Sayat has always been passionate about Le Bernardin’s sauce program, so finding a very sophisticated sauce program at Chef Alejandro’s restaurant was a delight. While Le Bernardin brings global sauces to the New York diner, Casa Oaxaca focuses on the depth of Oaxaca’s mole culture and Mexico’s tomato and pepper salsas.
Mole Negro, simmered to perfection!
This mole is prepared ahead but brightened with fresh ingredients daily
The first thing we do when we go into a kitchen is to find spoons so we can taste every ingredient, sauces at different steps in the process, and final dishes. I cannot imagine a stage without a tasting spoon!
Though it’s not explicitly stated, we found with every dish at Casa Oaxaca the sauce is the star of the plate. Alcaparrado de lengua (tongue with mole alcaparrado) is a dish often served at weddings. Mole alcaparrado is one of the seven moles and it’s characterized by sourness from capers and tomatillos, nuttiness from almonds, sweetness from Oaxacan raisins, and bitterness and spice from the toasted chilies. Veal tongue is a fairly assertive ingredient to match with a delicate yet complex mole. The mole transformed and elevated the veal tongue’s rich flavor and velvety texture to something luscious and heavenly.
Veal tongue with capered mole
Casa Oaxaca closes its kitchen twice a year not only to clean and reorganize the restaurant but also to throw a little celebration for the entire family that contributes to the name. The family was so joyful the next morning in their welcome, despite the short duration of our stay, they embraced us as part of the team. Thank you so much to Chef Ruiz and the team at Casa Oaxaca.
For more food photos, adventures and stories from the travels, visit Sayat and Laura’s instagram at @LauraAndSayat.