Distrito’s Maria Schmidt Charts a Course For Oaxaca

Distrito's first floor cantina
Distrito’s first floor cantina Photo: Distrito

Maria Schmidt, chef de cuisine at Distrito, the Jose Garces Mexican number in University City, says the challenge of creating an Oaxacan tasting menu presented to her by her boss the Iron Chef has been a thrill. The five-course dinner, which is available tonight and next Wednesday, spotlights the tastes of the southern Mexican state and the food traditions of its indigenous Zapotec people. “Focusing a tasting menu on a specific Mexican region was something that Jose had in mind for Distrito from the beginning,” Schmidt told Grub Street. “I like the challenge, because it gives me the opportunity to educate myself more on different regions of Mexico.”

Schmidt explained the menu features some traditional dishes and others with a more modern approach. She added that she only takes some of the credit for their creation. “It’s kind of a collaboration,” she said. “Jose had some specific ideas of what he wanted to see, and we bounced a lot of ideas off of each other.”

Going forward Schmidt says she’s eager to explore other regions of Mexico with similar tasting menus. “I’m really into the idea of Veracruz,” Schmidt said. “I’ve always loved cooking fish, and love that it’s a little bit more of rustic approach to food.”

Distrito’s Oaxacan Tasting Menu

Guacamole, mashed avaocado, jalapeno, cojita cheese and housemade tortilla chips

Cocido Verde, pork barbacoa stew with garbanzos, chayote, cabbage and Serrano escabeche

Nopales Zapotecos con camerones, grilled shrimp, cactus, black beans, poblana rajas, queso Oaxaca, corn tortillas

Mole Negro, roasted pheasant, toasted black walnuts, arroz blanco

Empanada de Platanos, sweet plantains, spicy Mexican chocolate, Mexican crema, toasted peanuts

Distrito’s Maria Schmidt Charts a Course For Oaxaca