Guest Reviews

Average Rating (13 Reviews)

Our class at the Mexican Home Cooking School
Christian -- Mar 24, 2013 06:55 pm
Flying to Mexico for a cooking class in the middle of a Minnesota winter seemed a perfect way to restore the circulation in our frostbitten fingers and toes.
As the van that picked us up from the airport rounded a final bend in the road and the generous gardens and patio of Jon and Estella’s bougainvillea laced hacienda came into view on the hill, it appeared that we were off to a fine start. Indeed, we were.
Our 5 days and nights at the school far surpassed even the best of our fanciful expectations.
Our accommodations were beautiful and serene, filled with light and classical Mexican architectural detail and design. The corner fireplace was a delight as we sat up in our enormous bed, watching the flames, sipping our morning coffee.
After a leisurely breakfast, served on the patio by Maria, our housekeeper – assistant cook – and excellent maker of margaritas, our classes began at 10:00.
The intimate size of the classes (6 maximum; there were 5 in our party) insures that everyone has ample time to make fools of themselves, and to celebrate as a particular technique is mastered, all in the good humored and comfortable atmosphere of the big, cheerful kitchen.
Jon is the Sous Chef, quietly instructing us in the hands-on capture and dissection of the many varieties of chili peppers, and the shaving of cactus leaves, the preparation of herbs and spices, and in the art of mixing the masa and stuffing the tamales.
He is also an occasional interpreter for his wife, Estella. Her English is limited, though she possesses an articulate array of dramatic gestures and facial expressions, leaving no one in doubt of the meaning of what she is saying, even if her verbs are occasionally askew, or a noun here and there startlingly redefined.
There are techniques and tricks for cooking certain of the recipe’s ingredients that are critical to the success of the dish, and we are each given a turn at the stove to practice them. This would be difficult to learn from a book, But Estella’s watchful eye and friendly hand guides us through the steps.
We watch, we do, we laugh, we learn.
Estella is the reincarnation of a long line of Pueblan grandmothers, at whose knee she learned her art and craft. She has made it her mission to keep alive the knowledge and techniques that she fears may someday be lost.
At the end of each days’ class, we will have made 6 or 7 dishes: appetizers, soup, salad, side dishes, entrees, and dessert, which Estella and Maria set out on the dining room table, beautifully plated and garnished, looking like the shiny cover of everyone’s favorite cooking magazine.
It is irresistible; everyone takes out their camera. Some of these dishes will be served at lunch; others are for our evening meal. A proud day’s work.
After lunch, we are free to nap, play Scrabble or Bananagram, read, wander the local village, or socialize. (We met a delightful and interesting couple who’d signed up for the week’s classes, as we had, making us a party of 5 apprentices of varying experiences.) There is no t.v. at the school, thank goodness, though there is internet access.
Several afternoons, we took the easy, reliable taxi service to some of the neighboring towns and archeological sites. One day, we spent the entire afternoon in the city of Tlaxcala, mingling with the local people, crowded in the sidewalk cafes awaiting the Mardi Gras Carnival parade. There were troupes of dancers and musicians, many in costumes and masks, and clowns on stilts, children and adults, dogs, donkeys; all making their way to the town square for the crowning of the King and Queen.
It was a wonderful crowd, invariably polite, as we were among the few Norte Americanos, and it was especially fun watching the little children around us, excited, trying to catch the candy and treats tossed out from the passing floats, while the waiters threaded their way through the crowd bringing us the good Mexican beer.
Given the news that we often hear, I have to say that for our entire stay at the school and the several visits to towns large and small, there was not a moment when any of us experienced even a hint of uneasiness or danger. We felt entirely safe the whole time.
On the morning of our departure from the Mexican Home Cooking School, each of us received a diploma, and a notebook with freshly bound copies of the recipes we used through the week. It felt to us that we were leaving people who were not only our teachers, but who had become our friends. Hugs were exchanged all around. We’d love to return for a second course!
Christian and Sarah

Mexican Home Cooking
nancy -- Mar 04, 2013 01:14 pm
we just returned from a fabulous week with Estella and John ( and MARIA ) at their home cooking school in Tlaxcala. The hacienda is gorgeous and very well designed for guests to feel comfortable. Each guest suite is beautifully decorated and very clean. The firewood is stocked daily so we enjoyed a morning and evening fire to deal with the very mild chill.. Days were sunny and warm and perfectly paced. We had lively cooking sessions in the mornings and the afternoons were free to pursue any adventures we wanted. Estella is delightful and the master of her craft. John has mastered the art of being friendly,helpful and informative when needed, then disappears to give his guests privacy. We laughed a lot during our lessons - John&Estella kept us amused as they showed us their love of each other and the food they were teaching us to make.
We learned very valuable cooking techniques- not just recipes - that allowed us to return home and use what we had learned. Every detail has been worked out to guarantee a great time. ( they even have a fleet of drivers who insured our safe transport to any destination we chose.)
Maria, their helper, is a sweet delight - she seems to appear out of nowhere at just the right moment to provide a delicious Margarita or fresh orange juice.
We ate like kings, felt like royalty but also part of the family.
I highly recommend this adventure.

Loved our stay!
Tom -- Feb 27, 2013 08:22 pm
Our week at Casa Carmelita was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable vacations that we’ve had. My wife is an accomplished cook, and interested in learning more about traditional Mexican cooking. I’m a novice cook, and interested in pre- and post-Columbian Mexican history and culture.

The cooking lessons at Casa Carmelita were fantastic. We both found them fun and engaging (notwithstanding the disparity in our cooking experience). Estela and Jon shared numerous tips with each recipe that we used. The lunches and dinners that Estela and Maria cooked from the food that we prepared during the lessons were fabulous. If forced to pick a favorite, it would probably be the tamales. They were so delightfully better than any that we have previously had.

Each day between lunch and dinner, we ventured to various historical and archeological sites, museums and cathedrals in and around Tlaxcala. The waiters, museum staff and others that we met were friendly and tolerant of my rudimentary Spanish. We heard “bienvenidos” many times.

While there are currently many areas in Mexico that are not safe, we never felt apprehensive during any part of our trip. Tlaxcala and Puebla are tourist areas that have not suffered the extreme drug related violence that plagues many parts of northern Mexico. With respect to getting from the airport to Casa Carmelita and traveling from Casa Carmelita to the central district of Tlaxcala, Puebla and the archeological sites that we visited, Jon has done an excellent job in lining up dependable drivers (and he keeps tabs on them).

In short, we learned and had fun. In addition to Estela’s classes, I enjoyed the numerous discussions that Jon and I had about Mexican history, culture and “modismos mexicanos.” Estele, Jon and Maria were attentive hosts. The food was delicious, the weather fabulous and the area interesting. What’s not to like? We plan to return.

A Wonderful Vacation
Allan -- Feb 27, 2013 11:59 am
A Wonderful Vacation – Exactly as Advertised
Pickup at the Mexico City airport was flawless and we had five great days at the hacienda. We stayed in the Casita which was like having our own little house. Breakfast at 9 and cooking from about 10 until 12:30. Lunch at 1 pm with the afternoon available to explore the area. We made about 30 dishes – ranging from the relatively simple like arroz rojo to the complex like mole poblano with 20 ingredients; all following Estela’s grandmother’s recipes. One day we went to the City of Puebla to shop for Talavera pottery. Another day we went to the Cacaxtla/Xochitecatl archeological site to view murals painted by the Mayans about 2000 years ago. A third day we went to the local town of Tlaxcala to see the carnival parade along with at least 50,000 residents lining the streets. The weather was perfect – highs in the 70s and lows in the mid-40s every day. We had a fire in our fireplace every morning and evening to take the chill away. In response to everyone’s question – we felt safe 100% of the time in this part of Mexico. A perfect getaway from the snow and cold at home.

Paradise Found!
Lynn -- Dec 27, 2012 05:20 pm
My week at Casa Carmelita was perfect. The location is idyllic, staff welcoming and classes brilliant. The morning cooking sessions were enjoyable and extended beyond the recipes to Estella's cooking philosophy. Afternoons were free for excursions, reading or wandering around the gorgeous property. My accommodations were magical, full of character and fresh flowers. I hope to go back to experience another insider's look at Mexican Cooking in the future. Thanks, Jon and Estella

Cooking Vacation was Exceptional
Josh -- Dec 16, 2012 06:18 pm
The Mexican Cooking Vacation was a wonderful experience all around, and is highly recommended if you're looking for something "off the beaten path." The accommodations were rustic but very cozy and nice. The cooking experience was similar to my experience in many US cooking classes-- hands-on work involved a lot of chopping, mixing, some dough rolling, and tamale filling, with much of the actual cooking being performed by Estela while we all looked on. Classes were taught in serviceable English. A different breakfast was served every day (with fantastic coffee), and the food we prepared got progressively better as the week went on, and they gauged the spice tolerance of our group. Apart from the school, our group visited a couple of archeological sites and some pottery shops, and while I missed a lot of the nuance at the sites due to my limited Spanish capabilities, they were breathtaking nonetheless. I found the whole trip to be an incredible experience, and would heartily recommend it to those looking to experience interior Mexico.

Casa Carmelita Review
Linda -- Nov 23, 2012 12:36 pm
We just returned from a wonderful week at Casa Carmelita. Estela, Jon, and their assistant, Maria, are warm and thoughtful hosts; they made every effort to ensure our comfort and to enhance our Mexican experience. An added bonusMaria makes one hecka great margarita.

Estela and Jon are outstanding teachers. Along with sharing their knowledge of Mexican cuisine, they shared cultural and philosophical perspectives on life and living. We learned new words, new cooking tips, and fresh viewpoints. The days flew by, filled with laughter and learning.

We stayed in La Casitatruly a charming and comfortable home-away-from-home. Casa Carmelitas location isnt in town (part of its charm), but Jon is an expert at arranging transportation for trips to surrounding sites and cities. His chauffeurs are punctual, courteous, careful drivers. We would recommend the Mexican Home Cooking School to anyone who wants to learn traditional Mexican cooking in a relaxed, enjoyable setting.

Linda and Simon
Sacramento, California

Our Puebla Culinary Vacation
Judith -- Nov 12, 2012 02:37 pm
Estela and Jon made us feel very comfortable and we had a blast with our fellow students. Our accommodations were first class, spacious, fireplaces, fresh flowers and all on beautiful grounds. It was so much more than we expected. We would do it again in a heartbeat.

Tlaxcala cooking school
Paula -- Nov 12, 2012 10:09 am
I thoroughly enjoyed the classes that were held by Jon, Estela, and with Maria's assistance. It was very informative, my room was very comfortable, and the staff was very accommodating. The only thing is that it is not within walking distance of a town to go shopping or see the sights but they can easily arrange a reliable driver to take you into town & to visit archaeological sites to explore the area.

Exceeded my expectations for sure!

Charm and Taste
Bill -- Oct 27, 2012 11:02 pm
Beautiful location with nearby lake and mountains (Popocatepetl, Ixtaczihuatl, and La Malinche). Hacienda is charming with very comfortable accommodations. Jon and Estela are welcoming and helpful, and the classes are fun and highly instructive. Well organized with lots of fun things to see and do, especially the visit to the market in Tlaxcala. A great taste of the heart of the real Mexico. We had a great time and would recommend this trip without reservation, and in fact would like to return ourselves.

Wonderful experience
Jamie -- Oct 21, 2012 08:59 pm
My grown daughter and I decided to take this trip together and learn to cook some authentic dishes at the same time. We had a wonderful time. Each day, we were given recipes of the dishes we would learn so we could make notes right on the recipes. After class, we had free time to relax or explore the area. Jon and Estela were very welcoming, very informative and very patient when some questions were asked repeatedly over the course of the week. The food was delicious and plentiful. I have already made 2 of the dishes we learned and today I purchased ingredients for 2 more dishes to make this week for family dinners. My daughter found this vacation opportunity for us and I am very glad that she did!

Casa Carmelita es PERFECTO!!!!
Kate -- Aug 06, 2012 01:59 pm
I had an amazing experience at Casa Carmelita!!! The casa is beautiful, comfortable and well-maintained - and the views are breath taking! Our days included cooking, lounging and site seeing time, balancing everything into vacation perfection. Everything that we made was absolutely delicious - and I have been able to feasibly replicate the recipes for friends and family! They provide all the necessary culinary instruction that accommodates any level of cooking experience. I love that I got both the experience of seeing parts of Mexico and that I was able to bring the recipes back home so I will always have something more from my vacation than simply pictures and memories. Casa Carmelita is a must-go destination!!! John, Estella and Maria are the best!!!!

Great learning experience
Dan -- Apr 13, 2010 01:38 pm
What a great vacation. We started each day with an excellent breakfast, learned to cook many excellent dishes, enjoyed the fruits of our labor at lunch time and then had the afternoons free to lounge around or go on day trips to the nearby towns, mountains or anchient ruins (I don't recommend the hot springs excursion!). Then in the evening relax with a drink or two as you enjoy more items you cooked earlier in the day for dinner. The hosts are friendly, knowledgeable and flexible. I would definately go back here again. If you're considering going here and have questions feel free to contact me.

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