Why Here: The land of the seven moles (the chocolate based sauce) is also the rugged home of spectacular food markets and a regional cuisine that’s stunningly unforgettable. Sure, it’s not home to big, easy resorts nor is it on the beach but, for honeymooners, it offers unpretentious and delightful eats in a romantic colonial setting.
Where to Eat: Located on the colorful zocalo (main town square), El Asador Vasco sits in a beautiful colonial home with a large, elevated terrace. Admittedly, the menu is pricey for the area, but this meal is as much about the setting as what is on the plate. Start with tortilla soup, a creamy blend of corn and poblano pepper, or a cheese dip called queso fundido, followed by beef in yellow mole sauce or a spicy mix of beef and pork chichilo, the darkest of the seven moles.
What to Do: Sign up for classes at ex-pat Susana Trilling’s Seasons of My Heart Cooking School, and she’ll spoon-feed you the best that Oaxaca has to offer. The day starts with steaming cups of cinnamon-laced Oaxacan hot chocolate at the local market, where vendors offer samples of regional string cheese, fried pork rind called chicharron, and even chapulines. (These crispy fried, um, grasshoppers won’t knock your socks off, but they’ll give you some true foodie street cred.) You can buy dried chilies and glazed earthenware to take home as well as molcajetes (mortar and pestles) and molinillo, the adorable wooden contraptions used to whip hot cocoa until frothy. Then, return to the cooking school and spend the day making a traditional six-course Mexican meal that includes all seven moles of Oaxaca, the cooking of which is a long drawn-out process that will both wow you with the tasty results, and give you resolve to leave all that work to the experts.
The table is set at the homey Seasons of my Heart Cooking School in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Where to Stay: The intimate boutique hotel, Casa Oaxaca, has long been the best choice in town. Housed in a candy-colored row house on a main strip just a short walk from the central plaza, Casa Oaxaca was an art hotel before anyone even coined the term. Regional arts and crafts—carved wooden animals, black clay pottery and hand-dyed rugs—fill spacious guest rooms that are situated around a lovely courtyard with a pool. In the morning, the stone terrace is set with tables so you can start the day with eggs and cactus or yummy huevos rancheros, fried eggs served with corn tortillas, tomato-chili sauce, beans and avocado, and a cup of dark-roasted coffee (room rates start at $187 a night and include contintental breakfast; casaoaxaca.com.mx).