Registration is now open for our September 30 – October 7, 2017 tour.
Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca is a magical place that is a feast for all the senses. It is known for its concentration of incredibly talented artisans who weave, sculpt, carve, paint and embroider amongst many other forms of art, not to mention that it is home to one to the world’s most complex and exciting cuisines. In Oaxaca, the mercados (markets) are the heart beat of each village and city; it is where locals and chefs still gather daily to buy and barter centuries-old food staples as well as exotic produce that is so beautiful to behold. Oaxaca’s rich history continues to be lived as generations fight to preserve their ways of life and of eating.
It is simply a fascinating place to explore. Join us Fall 2017 as we return to further learn from and experience the riches of the central valley of Oaxaca, Mexico. We’ve hired Oaxaca’s best chefs, traditional cooks, artisans and guides to lead us through several days of hands-on classes and workshops. Please contact us directly for more information or to register (208) 676-8784.
Price of Oaxaca Culinary, Art and Cultural Tour: starting at $2,800 per person (double occupancy); $3,100 per person (single occupancy).
Luxurious hotel accommodations.
Spacious transportation while on the tour.
Daily breakfast and most lunches with some dinners.
We encourage all of our tour guests to arrive in Oaxaca at least a day prior to our tour. This will help you acclimate and rest before we begin our busy week. We can help you arrange accommodations and airport transfers. Below is a sample itinerary of our tour; activities are subject to vary by day:
We’ll begin our tour at 1pm at the grand Hotel Quinta Real Oaxaca in the historical neighborhood of Santo Domingo, just 2 blocks away from the 600 year old Dominican church by the same name. You’ll be shown to your rooms and allowed to settle in before our meet and greet later that afternoon. We’ll share drinks and snacks in Quinta Real’s stunning garden patio where we’ll become accommodated with one another through a brief tour orientation. Next, we’ll walk down the cobblestone streets to tour the Museum of Oaxacan Culture before returning to Hotel Quinta Real where we’ll feast on traditional Oaxacan foods and we’ll be dazzled by an evening of folkloric dances. Beautiful women and whistling men will bring the stage to life while showing off stunningly vivid dresses and dance moves while they tell the stories of each region of Oaxaca.
After a three-course Oaxacan breakfast we’ll roll ourselves out to explore San Agustin Etla, just a short drive from downtown Oaxaca. We’ll visit CASA, an art school founded by Oaxacan master artist Francisco Toledo. The grounds themselves are worth visiting, but the many exhibits this school presents draw in visitors from all corners of the globe. We’ll also visit the nearby paper factory before heading to our first cooking workshop. Reyes Etla is the birthplace of stringy, melty, delicious Oaxacan cheese and we’ll visit with a family who will teach us the art of Quesillo. After making quesillo, we’ll eat if of course! Our instructors will also help us prepare fresh corn tortillas and salsa to accompany all of that melty goodness.
After our cheese-fest, we’ll head back to Oaxaca City and hit a few of the local museums. Our highest recommendations are: the Oaxacan Culture Museum and Botanical Garden at Santo Domingo Church, the Textile Museum, the Modern Art Museum, and the Tamayo Museum. Of course, this wouldn’t be a bad time to swing by Nieves Manolo, an ice cream shop that it considered to be a “museum of Oaxacan flavors”…try the goat cheese and holy herb or the tamarind with grasshoppers and mezcal!
Today we meet one of Mexico’s most celebrated chefs, Alejandro Ruiz. He has an amazing story along with so much to be proud of, yet he is also one of the most down-to-earth guys you’ll ever meet. Most of Oaxaca’s other well-known chefs started out working for Alejandro as he was the first who dared to step out and create something NEW with traditional Oaxacan ingredients. His food is uniquely upscale and unexpected but each dish tells the story of the land. Many an American chef and restaurateurs have spent time with Alejandro in hopes of learning more about his magical vision of food. Today we’ll have the pleasure of touring a bustling mercado with Alejandro; he’ll create a menu based off of the seasonal ingredients we find then we’ll head back to his workshop and create a magical meal under his direction. Every day of this tour will be the best day, but today really will be one of the best!
By now, you’ll have noticed that Oaxaca is REALLY into their Mezcal. Actually, they have been for centuries and now the rest of the world is finally starting to catch on. Even for those of you who may find this agave-based spirit too strong for the belly, you will find that the history and technique of making it is more than fascinating. 40 km south of Oaxaca City is Ocotlan de Morelos where Lorenzo Angeles-Mendoza and his family stand out among the hundreds of mezcal producers in Oaxaca due to the fact that their certified organic production still holds very true to tradition. They begin by cultivating their own agave, then they cook it in an earth pit filled with oak and mesquite woods, then they distill it in earthenware pots, resulting in an extremely smooth and special small batch of mezcal. Lorenzo and his family take pride and pleasure in sharing and educating any and all about their operation. After we become enlightened with mezcal facts and history, we’ll be lucky enough to share a meal with Lorenzo and his family. On our way back to Oaxaca City, we’ll stop in San Bartolo Coyotepec, home of Black Pottery. We’ll have a workshop with one of Oaxaca’s finest potters before heading back to our hotel.
One of our favorite things about Oaxaca are the huge frothy bowls of CHOCOLATE that greet us every morning. Today will be a fabulous day because today, we head out to the ancient Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle to be taught all things chocolate by Reyna Mendoza. Some years ago, Reyna worked under chef Rick Bayless when he came to her village seeking to learn to make her family’s tamales. He encouraged her to teach and share her knowledge in the kitchen which she acquired from her mother and grandmother. Reyna now receives visitors from all around the globe on a daily basis. Her cooking classes begin with a visit to the local mercado which is one of the oldest in Oaxaca, then we’ll get to it in her more-than-inviting lovely outdoor kitchen. Look around and you’ll be delighted to see our cooking tools: metates and the comal. Today is all about doing it the traditional way; we’ll be learning what makes Oaxacan chocolate so Oaxacan and we’ll have fun grinding and creating our own unique flavors.
Next, we’ll drive another 20 minutes to the village of Mitla to meet a very special artisan who has been recognized all around the world. The dying art of making rebozos is being kept alive by Don Arturo Hernandez. The rebozo, or shawl, is a symbol of Mexico’s cultural identity; rebozos have so many uses. They carry babies and bundles. They are wrapped like a crown to balance a basket filled with fruit or tamales or flowers. They are folded and put atop the head for sun protection. They protect shoulders from the evening chill. They cover the breast as baby takes nourishment. They are the embodiment of Mexican life. Don Arturo works only with naturally dyed wool and cotton and today he allow us to peak into the world of natural dyes made from the cochineal instect, wild marigolds, pomegranate, walnuts, indigo, etc. He’ll allow us to dye his wool and will teach us to use his looms. Don Arturo was a featured artist in the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, in Mexico City’s recent exhibit: El Rebozo, and when we first met him, he’d just spent a month sharing his art in New York City where he was honored for his “green” and sustainable productions.
What a treat today will be. After breakfast we’ll drive a half hour to the village of San Martin Tilcajete which is known for it’s production of Alebrijes. These are whimsical creatures, carved from the imaginations of each artisan and into soft copal wood. Sometimes natural dyes are used while other times acrylic paints are used to adorn each creature with intricate symbols and color patterns that will blow your mind . The Fuentes family is widely recognized throughout the world for their fine work in Alebrijes. Today we’ll visit Efrain and Sylvia Fuentes in their home where they will teach us how each piece is meticulously produced, then we’ll each have the opportunity to paint our own creature.
It’s likely that all of that painting has made you hungry so now we’ll head 5 minutes down the road to Santo Tomas Jalietza to the home of the Navarro family. Las Crispinas as they’re known, are a family of three sisters and a brother who are all artists. Gerardo paints very raw and primitive works that are also rich and endearing as his canvas will always tell the story of life in the campo. Many of his works can be found in cafes and hotels in Oaxaca City. While Gerardo paints, his sisters are busy winning award after award for their skills in weaving very fine ribbons with the use of the backstrap loom. This too is a dying art which these women are keeping alive. This family has been featured on the Gourmet Channel’s “Diary of a Foodie: Episode 44” due to the fact that they also love to cook in the traditional Zapotec way. They rarely accept tourists into their home but they seem to love tour hosts Carlos and Colomba! The Navarros have become our very dear friends and they say that any friend of ours is a friend of theirs. The will graciously provide a cooking experience in their outdoor kitchen; we’ll make tortillas and share another memorable meal with people who you’ll never forget!
After a busy week you’ll be ready for a leisurely day to spend either getting some more shopping done or by visiting some more museums. Today will be a free day to do as you like. We’ll meet up for one last meal together which we’ll share on the terrace of Chef Alejandro’s award-winning restaurant Casa Oaxaca.
Departures, Adios Oaxaca! Until next time.
*Our schedule of activities may be subject to change. A final itinerary will be provided 4 weeks before the tour to all tour participants.
Deposits/Payments: To hold your spot in the tour a deposit of $500 US is required. Any single supplement charge should also be included with the deposit. Approximately 6 weeks before the beginning of the tour, half of the total for the tour is due. You will get an email reminder when payment is due. Final payment is due 2 weeks before the course/tour in US dollars. You can also choose to send full payment in advance of the course/tour.
Cancelation and Refund: If tour hosts Carlos and Colomba Aguilar cancel the tour, all fees paid directly to Carlos and Colomba Aguilar will be refunded. We try to allow as much time as possible for student registration before canceling a course. Please check with us to see how the registration is progressing before purchasing non-refundable airline tickets. We also strongly encourage trip insurance in case of unforeseen events.
Cancelations by Student: If the student cancels their registration for the course, 60 days in advance, they will receive a partial refund of $250 of the $500 USD deposit. Single supplements paid are fully refundable, if applicable.
Cancellation by student 59 days to 30 days prior to the course, a refund of fifty percent of the total price paid will be given. Single supplement will be returned in full, if applicable.
Cancellation by student anytime between 29 days through the first day of the course: no refund will be given unless the space is sold to another participant. If the space is filled, a refund of fifty percent of the total fees paid will be refunded, once when we have confirmed another participant to fill the space. Single supplement will be returned in full, if applicable.
Carlos and Colomba Aguilar must receive a written notification of cancellation prior to refund.
Responsibility: We assume no liability or responsibility for any delay, loss, damage, injury or accident with regards to persons or property caused by fault or negligence of any hotel, transportation, or local operator rendering a part of our services. We shall not be responsible for any expense caused by loss or damage of personal items. It is the participant’s responsibility to be adequately insured. We strongly recommend traveler’s insurance. The acceptance of our verbal or written confirmation, and a deposit or final payment for services, constitutes your acceptance of the terms and conditions listed on this page. Carlos and Colomba Aguilar reserve the right to make any changes, with or without notice, which might become necessary.