The SUV rolls up in front of my place right around 7:30 and our private driver for the night holds open the door for me. We pick up our other passengers and head to the tour's first stop: a grocery store. A little strange, true, but it's actually not groceries we're after. In front of the grocery store is an esquites stand whose proprietor releases waves of fragrant steam into the air every time he lifts the cover off his kettle of boiling corn. I've never tried esquites before and I don't have high hopes that I'll like them. Unfortunately for my waistline I discover their particular combination of corn slathered with mayo, grated cheese, chile, and lime are exactly what I like.
This stand and the next few stops of our tour all take place in Mexico City's Condesa neighborhood, a hip and artsy borough filled with Art Deco buildings and lots of high–end restaurants. We stop for tacos ?rabes, tacos al pastor, volcanes de bistek y queso (a heavenly mix of crispy taco with melted cheese and chopped beef smothered in spicy green salsa) with a final stop at a night stand that sells tacos filled with tongue, stomach, and cow's head. In between all this eating our guide, Anais, takes us to a Oaxacan–style mezcaler?a where we sample four different kinds of mezcal — espad?n, madre cuixe, arroque?o, and a blend of three types: tobasiche, espad?n and madre. The alcohol percentages are 54.5%, 52%, 49.6% and 52% alcohol respectively. The sample sizes allow us to keep walking upright.
To go with the mezcal we are served slices of oranges with chile powder and salt made from maguey worms, plus a bowl of tiny, roasted crickets. I try to convince the squeamish girl in the group that insects are going to save the world's hunger problems one day but she looks at me disbelievingly. She eventually pops one in her mouth and admits that they aren't as bad as she had imagined in her head.
After mezcal (and before more food) we stop at a bar next door and get a Mexican craft beer. Craft beer is a growing obsession in Mexico right now, with lots of new, exciting breweries popping up all over the country and not just in the usual places like Tijuana and the rest of Baja California. I drink a Sirena by the brewers Agua Mala. It's a light, slightly citrusy pilsner, just right for a night of eating.
Food Tour Companions
Part of the fun on both my tours were the people eating along with me. My fellow tour goers for the Late Night tour are two 30–somethings from Chicago. We compare their new bike sharing program with Mexico City's, the two cities? food scenes, and discuss all of the places (and all of the food) they have experienced in the past few years.
?We are still deciding on the whole kid thing,? they tell me, ?So we are trying to get in as much traveling (and eating) as we can.? Since Chicago now has a direct flight to Mexico City they assure me they'll be back — and back on another one of Eat Mexico's tours — in the future.
By the end of the night we are happily stuffed. Everyone has gone out on a limb at least once (esquites with mayo, crickets, and tripe tacos), feeling like we have done our duty as adventurous eaters. The truth is that even the most risky of eaters likes to be guided through a new place, explained the ins and outs of eating there, and given a list of the not–to–miss items. Eat Mexico tours help you sample with confidence in a new culinary landscape. Once you've taken one of their tours you are off and running to try everything else...but it's a slow run until the food settles.
If you go:
If you are going to be in Puebla or Mexico City and want to tour with Eat Mexico just go to their website www.eatmexico.com and check their tours page to book. You can join a public tour or book a private one.
You can also contact them through their website and they will help you create a custom tour designed around the elements of Mexican cuisine you are most interested in learning about.
Tours run anywhere from US$65 to $145 per person (or more for a custom tour) depending on which tour you take and how many people you have in your group.
Story and photos by Lydia Carey