Gunpowder Falls – Jerusalem Mill

Today, Dan and I went for a hike (more of a nature walk, really) with friends in the central area of Gunpowder State Park, from Jerusalem Mill. The weather was lovely – not as warm as the past few days (mid-70s), but I think it was high 50s or low 60s and full of sunshine. It was also great to visit with these friends. Clio got to run around just a bit and test out the water of the Little Gunpowder Falls.

Dan and I had hiked in this area once before. I think it was late Fall that time, and the area was pretty deserted. It was also at a time when the Jerusalem Mill stuff was all closed – there is a museum, a blacksmith shop, and a visitor’s center I think. It’s very charming and cute. Today, there were many more people around, and the main parking lot was full when we arrived. When Dan and I hiked here last time, we went south from Jerusalem Mill along the Little Gunpowder Trail (white on the map below). I think we probably took the yellow Horse Trail on our return. We got to see the Jericho covered bridge along the way, which was charming. Something I read this morning said that the area is currently under construction, and Dan wanted to try something new, so today we went north.

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We hiked along the white-blazed Little Gunpowder Trail to and past Bel Air Road. It was mostly along the river (creek? Falls?), so not very hilly except for one main hill in the middle where the trail left the river for a bit. The trail ran very close to the water after Bel Air Rd, and it was very clear and calm. Looking at the map now, it looks like we could have made a loop by returning on the blue Quarry Trail, but we turned around somewhere in the middle and came back. We took the blue-blazed Jerusalem Mill Trail on the way back.

In all, we went about 5.3 miles in two fairly leisurely miles, according to Endomondo.

We stopped at Chaps Pit Beef on the way home. Yum. Both Dan and I had eaten Chaps at the Baltimore Farmer’s Market, but never been to the actual restaurant. I thoroughly enjoyed my pit beef with a million different sauces (multiple types of BBQ sauce, tiger sauce, vinegar, horseradish, etc.), french fries, and onions and peppers, damn the industrially-produced seed oils I’m sure it was all cooked in and made with.

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She Eats in Oaxaca

Dan and I met up with my parents in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico last week. We arrived on Monday after a day of flights via Atlanta and Mexico City. My parents arrived a day ahead of us, traveling from their home outside Guadalajara and spending a few days at the beach on the south coast of Oaxaca (the state). We left on Saturday, so had five nights and four full days of food and fun.

We really went there for the food, which is distinct to the region.

Everything we ate was good (honestly, I can’t think of anything I had that wasn’t good), but we had two amazing meals. One was at a restaurant called La Biznaga on our second night in a fun part of town just north of the main downtown/Zocalo area. The area has a lot of other restaurants and also art galleries, coffee shops, and bars. My father was talking about his ceviche appetizer for the rest of the trip. Dan and I split a salad, I had the zanduga (pollo, mole de guayabas, y platano macho), and Dan had the milpa alta (puntas de filete c/ nopales, jalapeños, y cilantro). I also had a locally brewed pale ale on draught. My mom ordered this cheese covered in hoja santa leaves, which we saw a lot in dishes. The leaf has a slight anise-y flavor, but not overpowering.

 

The second amazing meal was our last night, at Casa Oaxaca Cafe, which is the third Casa Oaxaca restaurant in the Casa Oaxaca family (the others being Casa Oaxaca and Casa Oaxaca Restaurante). It’s located about a mile and a half from the zocalo (city center) in aIMG_9359 more suburban-y area. We walked there, and it was really nice to go through different areas. This location is the least fancy of the three and was relatively casual, but was still fine dining. The service was AMAZING, as was the food. Really. One of the best overall dining experiences I’ve had in a long time. Dan and I had mezcal cocktails, and we ordered a Mexican wine made with nebbiolo grapes that we all really liked (which was a pleasant surprise… I don’t think of Mexico as a wine-growing place, and I’m definitely no wine connoisseur, but we really thought it was quite good and interesting). We split a ceviche appetizer and Dan also ordered some octopus taquitos that I tried one bit of. I had arrachera de res (tenderized beef, grilled), rajas con cream (slices of poblano peppers with creme), and papas quebradas (which I think might also be mashed potatoes, but in this case was fried potato pieces). Dan had beef tongue and beans (it’s not on the menu online right now, so I can’t remember what all the dish had in it). He decided to order the weirdest thing on the menu. He likes tongue – he eats in tacos sometimes, so it wasn’t a totally new thing for him – but I don’t think he’d ever had a hunk of it like that. I had a bite. It was not unpleasant :-).

 

Aside from those meals, I ate a lot of mole (which comes from Oaxaca!). And some fresh stuff like salads and juices, and some simple meat and beans dishes. Oh, and this very simple but amazing poached whole fish wrapped in an hoja santa leaf and stuffed with cheese and an amazing tomato and onion sauce.

 

So that was the food. We also tasted several mezcals. Mezcal is mostly made in Oaxaca, from the maguey plant (a type of agave). Mezcal is made from 30 something types of maguey plants, one of which is the type that tequila is made from. So tequila is a mezcal. We got to visit a mezcal distillery and learn about the process (and see some of it in action!). Dan and I also went to the very small and somewhat bizarrely-decorated small mezcalaria (mezcal bar) to taste more.

And believe it or not, we didn’t just eat. We also spent time walking around Oaxaca, peeking in the churches, and touring the nearby sites – including the widest tree (in the world? I think?) in Tule and natural mineraly springs called Hierve el Agua (The Water Boils) which run over the side of a cliff leaving mineral deposits that make it look like a waterfall. Dan and I also spent a day mountain biking. The trail was actually a mountain road, not single track. The first hour and a half was all. up. And then we got to ride down! It was hard and a bit scary and exhilarating. And the views were great. I’m definitely glad we went.