Mole poblano, a traditional Mexican dish, is showcased during Journey Mexico’s culinary tour through Puebla. // © 2017 Journey Mexico
Feature image (above): Intrepid’s Real Food Adventure takes guests to a traditional Mexican street market. // © 2017 Intrepid Travel
It’s not by mistake that UNESCO placed Mexican cuisine on its list of “intangible cultural heritage.” With diverse roots, complex flavors and a rich history, the food of Mexico is a delight for the palate. And tour operators large and small make it easy to sample a wider variety than you could ever try north of the border.
Travelers looking to eat their way through a wide-ranging array of destinations can sign up for food tours from companies such as Intrepid Travel, which offers a nine-day Real Food Adventure excursion that includes a “taco crawl” and a city center food tour in Mexico City; a culinary tour and Lucha Libre wrestling show in Puebla; and visits to markets and a mezcal distillery in Oaxaca to taste the increasingly popular distilled beverage made from the agave plant, as well as a fishing expedition and ceviche breakfast in Zipolite.
Journey Mexico offers customizable itineraries such as its Culinary Tour Through Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca, which offers travelers the opportunity to sample artisan chocolate and take cooking classes with local chefs in Mexico City and Puebla, as well as learn the secrets of traditional Oaxacan cuisine with a Zapotec family.
Local tour operators and hotels in several Mexican cities offer a variety of one-day food outings, too. Guests at The St. Regis Mexico City can sign up for a Saturday tour of the San Juan market, in the historic city center, with Olivier Deboise Mendez, executive chef of the hotel’s J&G Grill, or sous chef Daniel Silva. Both provide expert insight into the produce, edible flowers, seasonings, sauces — and even insects — that imbue Mexican cuisine with its unique flavor.
Sabores Mexico Food Tours also offers flavorful excursions into Mexico City’s historic center, with a 4.5-hour outing that highlights everything from pre-Hispanic to contemporary cuisine — with stops at Dulceria de Celaya, advertised as the oldest candy store in Mexico, and Rosse Gourmet, a San Juan market venue that specializes in edible organic flowers and vegetables. Sabores also leads groups on a 3.5-hour tour of Mexico City’s trendy Roma district, with stops at a microbrewery, a French bistro and a traditional Mexican eatery that serves mezcal.
Eat Mexico Culinary Tours offers street-food tours in Mexico City, with stops at tiny stands, sprawling markets and homey taquerias. A similar tour in the nearby city of Puebla take guests to Mercado de la Acocota, a traditional market.
Mexican Food Tours operates day excursions in multiple destinations. The company’s Mexico City offerings include a visit to the upscale Polanco district for a three-hour food and cultural tour that includes tamales, “cochinita pibil” (slow-roasted pork) and Mexican seafood, topping off the day with a serving of freshly made Mexican ice cream. In Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city, Mexican Food Tours takes groups to the popular Tlaquepaque district, with an emphasis on the area’s most traditional food, including “birria” (a stew made with beef or goat), “torta ahogada” (literally, “drowned sandwich,” smothered in sauce) and tequila, which hails from the nearby town of Tequila.
The torta ahogada is also a featured item in excursions led by Guadalajara Food Tours. The company’s GDL Taste Tour of the city’s historic downtown starts at La Rinconada, a restaurant located in a 19th-century mansion. From there, stops include Cafe La Flor de Cordoba, which opened in 1938 and is billed as the city’s first coffee shop, and La Mutualista, where live music often accompanies the drinks and traditional Mexican cuisine. For night owls, Guadalajara Food Tours offers the GDL Pub Crawl, which highlights the city’s vibrant nightlife in the Colonia Americana neighborhood. Operating only on Fridays, the outing pairs snacks with a variety of spirits, including mezcal and beer.
The UNESCO-recognized city of San Miguel de Allende is another hot spot for foodies. Tour operator Taste of San Miguel offers a three-hour walking tour that features food tastings in eight different venues, ranging from family-owned restaurants to street stands. Delicacies include sweet churros, Oaxacan black mole and ceviche. The company’s more elegant evening tour showcases samples from award-winning chefs at popular restaurants such as Aperi, La Azotea and The Restaurant. Taste of San Miguel rounds out its offerings with an evening Taco and Tequila tour centered on authentic regional tacos and tequila-based cocktails.