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Where

OAXACA

Group Size

8 - 12 Travelers

Duration

8 Days, 7 Nights

When

Mar 19 - Mar 26, 2024 Join Waitlist

April 18 - April 25, 2024 Join Waitlist

Oct 21 - Oct 28, 2024 Join Waitlist

Price

4,000 USD per person

Rich mole, fresh fruit paletas, warm corn tortillas: these are the flavors of Oaxaca. In this weeklong trip available only to the Milk Street and Culinary Backstreets audiences, you’ll get a perspective on Oaxaca that casual tourists never get to see. Your guide this week is Maria Itaka, a Oaxaca native who has guided Christopher Kimball on his trips there. Resident chef Iliana de la Vega, a regular at the Milk Street Cooking School and on Milk Street Radio, will show you the secrets of shopping like a local at Oaxacan markets and will guide you in two hands-on cooking sessions.

We begin with a walking tour of historic Oaxaca structured around corn, a key pillar of Oaxacan cooking and eating. You’ll see corn’s journey from kernel through processing all the way to a warm tortilla coming off the comal. You’ll appreciate modern interpretations of Oaxacan cooking at spots like Sabina Sabe and Zandunga. We’ll spend two days exploring markets, cooking, drinking and eating alongside Iliana de la Vega, who will welcome you into a private Oaxacan home and treat you to meals served in a quiet courtyard. We’ll get out of town to visit traditional producers in the village of Etla, famous for its Oaxacan cheese, and get a glimpse of a huge collection of rare mezcals. You’ll visit the Tlacolula market, a once-a-week event where you’ll sample everything from hyperlocal chocolate to crunchy chapulines. At the home of ceramicist and agricultural advocate Isabel Sanchez, you’ll get a rare glimpse into her seed bank of heirloom corn varieties. And you’ll meet multiple Cocineras Tradicionales, the women keeping Oaxaca’s culinary traditions alive.

Join us to experience Oaxacan home cooking, tradition and innovation up close.

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Hear

Hear

In this weeklong trip available only to the Milk Street and Culinary Backstreets audiences
Hear

Hear

In this weeklong trip available only to the Milk Street and Culinary Backstreets audiences
Hear

Hear

In this weeklong trip available only to the Milk Street and Culinary Backstreets audiences
Hear

Hear

In this weeklong trip available only to the Milk Street and Culinary Backstreets audiences
Hear

Hear

In this weeklong trip available only to the Milk Street and Culinary Backstreets audiences
Hear

Hear

In this weeklong trip available only to the Milk Street and Culinary Backstreets audiences
Hear

Hear

In this weeklong trip available only to the Milk Street and Culinary Backstreets audiences
Hear

Hear

In this weeklong trip available only to the Milk Street and Culinary Backstreets audiences

Your itinerary

Day 1

Arrive and meet the group

Arrive and meet the group

Welcome to Oaxaca. After getting settled in at your home base for the week—the boutique Hotel Casa de Sierra Azul in the city center—we’ll gather for an intimate welcome dinner at one of the most unique spots in town, the restaurant Cocina de Humo. There, a rising star of Oaxacan cuisine, Thalia Barrios Garcia, will prepare our meal tableside over a smoky clay griddle. We’ll enjoy vegetable-forward specialties from her home region in southern Oaxaca, where the desert meets the tropics.

Arrive and meet the group

Day 2

Follow corn from kernel to tortilla

Follow corn from kernel to tortilla

We’ll get familiar with the city of Oaxaca as we set off on a culinary walking tour of the historic center. We’ll visit market stalls and neighborhood restaurants to enjoy snacks and tastings that represent the many microregions of the state of Oaxaca. As we walk, talk and taste, you’ll gain an appreciation for corn, from nixtamalization and milling all the way to warm corn tortillas at lunch. After some free time to rest or explore independently in the afternoon, we’ll regroup to experience Oaxaca by night at one of Milk Street’s Editorial Director J.M. Hirsch’s favorite cocktail lounges, Sabina Sabe, for inventive drinks and small bites.

Follow corn from kernel to tortilla

Day 3

Shop & Cook with Iliana de la Vega

Shop & Cook with Iliana de la Vega

After breakfast together, we’ll spend this day in the hands of our resident chef, Iliana de la Vega. A Oaxaca native and celebrated chef, Iliana will introduce us to the rhythms of Oaxacan daily culinary life with a strong focus on local ingredients. We’ll begin with a trip to the market, where we’ll devise our menu for lunch according to what looks best at the stalls. After shopping, we’ll walk to a private Oaxacan home where Iliana will lead us in a hands-on cooking session. We’ll enjoy what we cook around a table in the home’s private courtyard. You’ll have this evening to explore Oaxaca on your own; if you still have an appetite, we’ll point you to our favorite tlayudas stand.

Shop & Cook with Iliana de la Vega

Day 4

Get out of town for Oaxacan cheese

Get out of town for Oaxacan cheese

After breakfast in town, we head out to Etla, a center of Oaxacan cheese production. There, we will visit a traditional cook and cheesemaker in her home for a day of cooking and eating together. This is no streamlined kitchen, but rather a traditional workspace with an enormous stone metate for grinding, a wood-fired comal for cooking and a heavy press for tortillas. You’ll be shoulder-to-shoulder with your host as we make cheese, tamales and more for our late lunch. In the evening, we enjoy an agave spirits tasting with a local expert who has a collection of obscure artisanal mezcals.

Get out of town for Oaxacan cheese

Day 5

Get Back to the Kitchen with Iliana

Get Back to the Kitchen with Iliana

Today we reconnect with resident chef Iliana de la Vega for a second hands-on cooking class with our resident chef. Our late lunch will be paired with refreshing cocktails or mocktails and served al fresco in the courtyard of our host’s home. After lunch you’ll have free time to visit local artisans, explore or rest.

Get Back to the Kitchen with Iliana

Day 6

Learn from a Traditional Cook

Learn from a Traditional Cook

Today, we’ll head out to Tlacolula, a small town that hosts a weekly market that attracts vendors and shoppers from all over the region. We’ll join them in the Sunday ritual of eating tender, slow-roasted barbacoa tacos. We’ll also sample hyperlocal chocolate, fruit popsicles and perhaps crunchy chapulines. Between the morning market and our afternoon cooking class, we’ll visit the Capilla del Señor, a jewel-box of a church with a fascinating history. Then, we’ll retreat from the bustle of the market to the private home of Catalina Lucas, a Cocinera Tradicional (Traditional Cook) who will welcome us into her kitchen to learn to make her mole negro and share a meal that you simply can’t get in a restaurant.

Learn from a Traditional Cook

Day 7

See Ceramicists at Work

See Ceramicists at Work

On our final day together, we’ll meet two more protectors of Oaxacan tradition: one in the kitchen and one at the potter’s wheel. We’ll head out to a small town in the valley to spend the morning with Isabel Sanchez, one of the region’s most respected ceramic artists whose works grace restaurant tables worldwide. You’ll also get a rare glimpse into her corn seed bank, which preserves heirloom varieties, and enjoy a lunch together. Back in Oaxaca, we’ll convene for a farewell dinner hosted by Cocinera Tradicional Aurora Toledo at her celebrated restaurant Zandunga. The dishes you enjoy there will tie together the lessons you’re learned throughout the week about corn, agave, chocolate, Oaxacan produce and more.

See Ceramicists at Work

Day 8

Say Goodbyes and Depart

Say Goodbyes and Depart

Say Goodbyes and Depart

Meet the Crew

We are firm believers in the power of local knowledge. Our guides and the culinary masters and other artisans who are part of our trips all deeply reflect that. Meet some of our local heroes:

  • MARÍA

    MARÍA

    Born and raised in Oaxaca, María has a major in English Language and Literature from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), with a specialization in translation.
  • JALIL

    JALIL

    Born and raised in Oaxaca, Jalil is a professional photographer, specializing in food photography.
  • LUIS

    LUIS

    Luis was born and raised in Oaxaca in a multi-generational household where a pot was always bubbling on the stove.

Where you’ll stay

Milk Street

Traveling the world has always been part of what we do at Milk Street. We work alongside home cooks. We sample street food. We get behind the scenes in restaurant kitchens. We explore bustling markets, family farms and small-scale producers. Now, after years of traveling the world, it’s about time we took you with us. Milk Street’s culinary tours, designed in partnership with Culinary Backstreets, give you an up-close and personal opportunity to see the world the way we do: filled not only with great food, but with fascinating stories, profound lessons and incredible people. Join us and a small group of curious fellow travelers to experience destinations and flavors that will change the way you cook.

Milk Street

Hear what travelers are saying

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Traveling the world has always been part of what we do at Milk Street. We work alongside home cooks. We sample street food.

Culinary Backstreets

Culinary Backstreets
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Traveling the world has always been part of what we do at Milk Street. We work alongside home cooks. We sample street food.

Culinary Backstreets

Culinary Backstreets
Icon

Traveling the world has always been part of what we do at Milk Street. We work alongside home cooks. We sample street food.

Culinary Backstreets

Culinary Backstreets

Know before you go

PRICING AND ACCOMMODATION

The total cost of this trip is $4,000 per person in a shared accommodation. For travelers wishing to have single accommodations during the trip, an additional $700 will be due at the time of the final payment. A $500 non-refundable deposit per traveler is required to secure space on the trip. The balance is due 90 days prior to the start of the trip.

ACTIVITY LEVEL

Travelers should be reasonably fit and feel comfortable walking 2 to 4 miles each day and remaining on their feet for long periods of time. Keep in mind that Oaxaca is a bustling and crowded place!

ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE

For flights in and out of Oaxaca International airport, we suggest you arrive by 3 p.m. on Day 1 and depart any time on Day 8. We are happy to book you extra nights at the group’s hotel; just email us to arrange that after booking your spot on the trip. We’ll also provide suggestions for things to do and see in the area on your own if you choose to extend your visit.

INCLUSIONS

• All accommodation throughout the trip in stylish, boutique hotels.
• Professional guides throughout the entire experience.
• All meals and drinks included in the above activities.
• Admission to all proposed activities, locations, and events.
• Private coach for visits inside and outside the center city
• A hungry group of Culinary Backstreets and Milk Street travelers, excited to explore all that Oaxaca has to offer!

EXCLUSIONS

• Private individual arrival & departure airport transfers
• Airfare and transportation to/from the start and end destination
• Meals beyond those specified in the itinerary above
• Alcoholic beverages other than those served at the table
• Accommodations outside those noted, including pre- or post-trip hotel nights
• Activities, tours & entry fees not included above
• Personal purchases and incidentals at hotels
• Travel insurance
• Trip Leader tips

DIETARY RESTRICTIONS

We encourage an adventurous palate! We try our best to accommodate dietary restrictions, though ingredients cannot always be substituted or omitted from particular dishes. This trip can feature plentiful vegetarian options and is easily adapted for a gluten-free diet. If you have other food allergies or intolerances, please contact us to find out if this is the right trip for you.

NOTES ON ITINERARY

Itineraries and daily schedules are subject to change. We expect to do everything listed in the itinerary, though the order may be rearranged based on weather or other local conditions.

OUR COMMITMENT TO SAFETY AND SUSTAINABILITY

At Culinary Backstreets, we have reinforced our commitment to sustainability and safety with new guidelines to assure maximum safety of our guests on our trips while maintaining the quality of the experience. All of our experiences are designed to have minimal impact on the community and environment. For more details on our precautions, read here. Our cancellation policy is extremely flexible to deal with changes in travel plans.

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