Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Guide to Cooking Classes in San Miguel de Allende

Food plays an important part in Mexican culture. It’s a key element in many of its traditions and now you want to cook it. If you’ve already decided to take the definitive cultural immersion and sign up for a cooking class while you’re here, this list will help you narrow down your options from the many classes available from 15 different schools in SMA. Whether you want to learn to make a local or regional dish, master the art of pastry, have more meaningful connections with locals through food, undertake a series of specialized classes to bring your cooking to the next level, educate a local employee, work on perfecting the flavors that are Mexico, get healthier or just have some fun, there is a class for you.

Gone are the days when a handful of schools taught the same class about cooking Mexican traditional dishes. All of the instructors listed are trained in Mexican cuisine but each has their own specialty. The cooking classes span everything from Mexican to Pastry, Cajun, Italian, Healthy, Asian and other ethnic cuisine. Some of the classes are made-to-order and can be scheduled with a 24-hour advanced notice. They cover basic and advanced cooking techniques. Try to sign up for classes in advance; sometimes there’s only room on a waiting list when SMA is in-season (Mid-December through March).

Now, get your kitchen skills ready for some serious entertaining. Best of all, you wouldn’t have to do the dishes.

Buen Provecho!

Michael Coon, Casa de Cocinas
Chef Michael Coon conducts cooking classes, tasting dinners and culinary tours on many subjects from the 29 countries he’s traveled. Tours include cooking and eating with some of the best chefs in the world. Besides being one of the city’s best chefs, Michael is a well-known storyteller, seasoned by his culinary treks throughout the world.

Class Information:
When: Year round. Send Michael an email to get on his mailing list.
Where: Colonia San Antonio.
Focus: International.
Duration: 3 hour tastings to week long culinary tours.
Cost: Dinners US$45.00. Classes US$75.00 to US$95.00, check, cash, or peso equivalent. Tour pricing on request.

Chef Michael Coon
Casa de Cocinas 
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico 

About Michael Coon:
Well-known for his cooking classes, themed dinners and culinary tours, Chef Michael Coon has traveled all over the world - 29 countries to be exact - with many of the world’s top chefs. As former director of the International Travel Programs at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), he provided participants with exclusive access to some of the best global, culinary experiences. He has also consulted for General Mills, Sur La Table and Mondavi, Sebastiani and Beringer Wineries, among many other food and wine companies. He was recently featured in the The Atencion San Miguel, SMA’s weekly, bilingual newspaper. Michael is also working on his first book.

Linnea Rufo, Casa Linnea
This former pastry chef and event planner has just one question for you when it comes to cooking: are you ready for the magic? In Chef Linnea Rufo’s kitchen, you'll have a relaxed and fun cooking experience. Jump into the interactive flow, creating friendships over food. Gather around her kitchen island because the cooking experience here is always a total celebration. A bonus: the view of SMA from her large kitchen window is incredible. 

Class information:
When: Year round.
Where: Centro.
Group Size: 1-8 people.
Focus: International. Recipes provided following each class.
Duration: 3 – 5 Hours.
Cost: US $95.00 or peso equivalent.

Chef Linnea Rufo 
Casa Linnea
Phone: 415-138-6336

About Linnea Rufo:
Chef Linnea Rufo worked in Wheatleigh, MA as a pastry chef, then went on to gain her know-how as Chef/Owner at Galleria Cafe and Catering, at the Inn at Brookside, MA as an Innkeeper, Owner and Special Events Planner, was a Special Events Consultant in NYC, worked as a manager at The Mercer Kitchen in NYC and ultimately was the Innkeeper, Owner, Special Events Planner and Executive Chef at The Bee and Thistle Inn in Old Lyme, CT. She has expertise in a wide-range of cuisines and has collaborated with chefs like Jacques Pepin and Dorie Greenspan. Her years of comings and goings have been featured in the New York Times, National Geographic, the Huffington Post and Zagat.

Gilda Carbonaro, Culinarian Expeditions
If you want classes in Mexican or Italian cooking, Gilda Carbonaro is a perfect choice. Her classes revolve around the freshest and best ingredients, with zero kilometer availability wherever possible. She chooses her recipes to encourage people to cook; authentic, family recipes with relatively few ingredients and a focus on technique.

Class information:
When: Wednesdays and Fridays starting May 10 until July 28; Mexican cuisine on Wednesdays and Italian on Fridays. Email her for class information on other dates.
Where: Centro.
Cost: Between US $75.00 and $100.00 or the peso equivalent for a 3 to 4 hour class depending on the menu. Email Gilda to get information on her culinary tours.

Gilda Carbonaro
Culinarian Expeditions
Phone: 1 301 792-8854

About Gilda Carbonaro:
Gilda Carbonaro is deeply rooted in two cultures, her own, which is Mexican and her adopted culture, that of her Italian husband. She lives part of the year in Florence and the other part in San Miguel de Allende. As owner of Culinarian Expeditions, she teaches cooking classes and leads small groups to Mexico and Italy for a hands-on culinary experience. Gilda studied at both Cucina Lorenzo de Medici and Cordon Bleu in Florence, Italy. She got her Masters degree in Linguistics from Georgetown University and was the Director of the Spanish language program at Georgetown. For over thirty years she taught in private schools in the D.C. area, including the prestigious Saint Albans School, an all boys’ school - grades 4 through 12. Gilda created a summer program, Saint Albans in San Miguel de Allende, to bring students here to learn about Mexican culture, including language, soccer, cooking and dance. The program is now in its twelfth year. A blogger, she and a friend, Gilda Claudine Karasik, created Dos Gildas, a blog dedicated to authentic Mexican cuisine, recipes, and stories surrounding the Latin culture. The blog was recognized by NBC Latino. 

David Jahnke, Cooking Lab San Miguel
     Chef David Jahnke, a respected instructor of Gastronomy at the University of Celaya, AC, teaches a wide range of classes on the weekends for everyone from amateur cooks to advanced professionals.

Class information:
When: Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday.
Where: Colonia San Antonio.
Group Size: 1 – 5 people; more with advanced notice.
Focus: Classic and Authentic International Cooking with an emphasis on natural, local and preferably organic products.

Chef David Jahnke
Cooking Lab San Miguel
Cellular: 7441363963

About David Jahnke:
Chef David Jahnke was certified as a professional from the Germany Chamber of Commerce and Industry and certified as Chef Educator by the France World Association of Chefs. He has his licensed academic degree in Gastronomy and a Master degree from the University of Barcelona. For 25 years, he has worked as an international chef in both Europe and Mexico, with 5 years of teaching Gastronomy at the university level. Chef Jahnke also taught at the University of Barcelona, participated in the writing of two books, developed two nonprofit projects to elevate the quality of hospital meals and for people with Diabetes.

Paco Cardenas, El Petit Four
Chef Paco Cardenas’s class is an all-day culinary adventure. From shopping at the local markets to working hands-on in his beautiful, outdoor kitchen, you get the full Mexican cooking experience when you sign up for Paco’s class.

Class information:
When: Monday.
Where: Chef Paco Cardenas’s Outdoor Kitchen. Transportation available.
Focus: Traditional Mexican.
Duration: All day for the market tour and cooking. 1½ hours for market tour only.
Cost: US $150.00 or the peso equivalent for a market tour and cooking class. US $50.00 or the peso equivalent for a market tour only.

Chef Paco Cardenas
El Petit Four
Mesones No. 99-1 Centro, C.P. 37700
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato México
Phone: 52+ 415-154-4010

About Chef Paco Cardenas:
Since he was a child, Paco’s been cooking with both his grandmothers and great aunts in their kitchens. In 1994, he got a degree in Graphic Design and worked at the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City. He switched careers just two years later and went to work as an apprentice in the pastry shop at the JW Marriott Hotel in Mexico City. In 1998, he moved to San Miguel and opened El Petit Four pastry shop and café. He’s taught Mexican cooking at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mx., Sazon Cooking School in San Miguel de Allende,Mx., The Ocean Reef Club Cooking School in Key Largo, Fl., the CIA in San Antonio,Tx. and was the assistant to Diana Kennedy for classes dedicated to making regional tamales for chef/instructors in the US. He’s also taught  cooking in Italy at Chef Paolo Monti’s Cooking School in Lucca and with Judy Witts Francini in Certaldo. He’s been featured in Bon Appetit, Dove Magazine (Italy), OUT,, Travel and Leisure, Coast, Libido, Better Homes and Gardens, ZINK, Viajar ABC (Spain) and El Universal.

Victoria Challancin, Flavors of the Sun International Cooking School
An experienced educator, cook, and traveler, Victoria has an excellent reputation for teaching classes that translate to your everyday cooking experiences. Her classes in Spanish for Mexican cooks are renowned.

Victoria Challancin’s new eight-week course will begin on Wednesday, May 31st. The theme will be a continuation of Healthy and Fresh, focusing on using as many organics as possible and international food with a generally lighter touch. Techniques such as braising, roasting, working with specialty doughs (such as phyllo and/or puff pastry), and how to use herbs and spices for maximum effect will be covered. The recipes will all be new, of course, many of them gleaned from the most current cooking magazines and websites—all geared for seasonal enjoyment.  There will be some comfort food, plus plenty of recipes suitable for casual or more elegant entertaining. Recipe packets will be given in both English and Spanish and the course is taught in Spanish.
Class information:
When: Course begins Wednesday, May 31st.
Where: Colonia El Atáscadero.
Focus: Seasonal Food: Healthy and Fresh.
Duration: 8 weeks – once per week.
Cost:  US$350, check or cash, or peso equivalent.

 For information on other culinary classes available from Flavors of the Sun International Cooking School, contact Victoria by phone or email.

Victoria Challancin 
Flavors of the Sun International Cooking School 
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico 
Telephone: 52-415-152-5912 

About Victoria Challancin:
A 29 year resident of San Miguel de Allende, Victoria Challancin was born in Belle Glade, Florida, received a Bachelor’s Degree from Florida State University, and a Master’s Degree from The University of Georgia in English Education. She established a school under the auspices of the Alabama State Board of Education for an American company in Abu Dhabi and taught at the University of Bahrain for six years. She’s lived in Paris and London and has traveled extensively throughout Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. A popular tour guide, Victoria leads small groups to locations around the world including Morocco, Paris, and Istanbul. As a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, she studied with world-class chefs and teachers including Jaques Pèpin, Juila Child, Madhur Jaffrey, Rick Bayless, Wolfgang Puck, Martin Yan, and Steve Raichlin. She worked as a Culinary Producer for Mexican Made Easy, Season Three for the Food Network and on Life’s Adventures: “Castaways San Miguel de Allende”  for the Fine Living Channel. She also finds the time to blog ( Articles about Victoria have appeared in Ladies Home Journal, The Smithsonian, The San Francisco Chronicle, Mode Magazine, Weight Watchers, The Austin Chronicle, Chile Pepper Magazine, The World and I, and Texas Monthly. In 1998, she wrote the popular bilingual cookbook Flavors of San Miguel de Allende.

Kris Rudolph, La Cocina Cooking School
This cookbook author, culinary teacher and tour leader, who also develops recipes for Tabasco brand products, teaches a variety of classes for cooks of every level.

Class information:
When: Year round.
Where: Colonia San Antonio.
Classes: Traditional Mexican, Chiles Rellenos, Moles, Naturally Healthy Mexican, Market Tour and Seasonal Cooking, Full-Day Mexican Cuisine and Culture Intensive, Modern Mexican Fusion and Italian Favorites.
Focus: La Cocina offers more than cooking classes—-they delve into the country's fascinating heritage and history, allowing you to transport a true culinary experience into your own kitchen. All classes are hands-on and include full meals and margaritas.
Duration: 4 hours or full day.
Cost:  US$95.00 – US$150.00 per person or the peso equivalent.

Kris Rudolph
La Cocina Cooking School
Colonia San Antonio, San Miguel de Allende 
Phone: (415)154-4825 in Mexico/ 1-888-407-3168 (toll free from US)

About Kris Rudolph:
Kris Rudolph has 35 years of experience and is the owner of El Buen Café, La Cocina Cooking School and Delicious Expeditions culinary tour company. A cookbook author, culinary teacher and tour leader, she still finds time to blog about her adventures, as well as consult and develop recipes for Tabasco brand products. She also teaches Mexican cooking in the U.S. Academically she concentrated on the business end of the industry, graduating with a Masters in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration from the University of Massachusetts. While she was there, she taught cooking and banquet management to undergraduates in the department. Her book,”Voices of San Miguel”, an oral history of SMA, is coming out this year. La Cocina has been featured in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Chronicle, Texas Monthly, Miami Herald, Tucson Citizen, Austin Home and Living and Edible - Dallas/Ft.Worth.

Laura Buccheri, Agrodolce Cooking School 
One of the most accomplished Italian chefs in SMA gives you her secrets on cooking the best pastas and sauces, making fresh cheeses, breads, puff pastry and Italian desserts. A purist, Laura shows you the easiest method to make everything from scratch. Laura and her husband Justin currently make over twelve different types of cheese, all of their own bread and Limoncello in her kitchens at Trattoria da Laura a Los Mezquites. 

Class information:
When: Weekdays, by Appointment.
Where: Trattoria da Laura a Los Mezquites, 10/15 minutes from SMA Centro. Transportation available. Also will teach classes in your home.
Focus: Italian.
Duration: Half or full day.
Cost: US $60.00 or the peso equivalent for groups up to 6 people. US $100.00 or the peso equivalent for one-on-one classes. 

Chef Laura Buccheri
Agrodolce Cooking School 
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico 
Phone: Phone: 415-124-2435 or 415-100-6934

About Chef Laura Buccheri: 
Chef Laura Buccheri grew up in Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto, in the Messina province of Sicily. She was an actress for 10 years, and then got her professional cooking start in one of the finest restaurants on Lake Como, Trattoria da Angela, where she learned about Italian cuisine from French-trained chef, Adriana Zedda. She went on to work at AGO, Robert de Niro’s restaurant in Miami and later took a job cooking on private yachts. She eventually became the personal chef for a Russian tycoon. She cooked in South Africa and went on to work for another AGO property in Los Angeles, then traveled to Greece to help her uncle out in his own restaurant. She also worked at the Raya Hotel on the Island of Panarea in Italy and as the restaurant and hotel manager at Villa las Estrellas in Tulum before coming to San Miguel. Laura and Justin own a Bed and Breakfast in Siracusa, Italy. They lead culinary tours in Sicily and teach Italian cooking classes. Laura’s restaurant, Trattoria da Laura a Los Mezquites, is located just 10/15 minutes from downtown SMA. She also owns La Spaghetteria in Mercado Sano.

Chef Gabriela Green Pizarro, La Fonda Rosa Cooking School
Chef Gaby Green shares a lot of interesting history about recipes and stories from her family’s kitchen. What makes Gaby’s classes unique is that they are specifically designed for your group. She also offers vegetarian and vegan options. Bring your questions, curiosity and a big appetite; you’ll have a Mexican comida with Gaby after you cook.  

Class information:
When:  Every Wednesday.
Where: Colonia San Antonio.
Focus: Authentic, Mexican Cuisine. Gaby also has Asian and Cajun food on her menu at times and teaches these classes as well.
Classes: Every class is hands-on, allowing students to do as much as they would like. You receive the recipes from your class so you can make your own authentic Mexican dishes at home.
Cost: US $100.00 or peso equivalent. US $30.00 or peso equivalent for the Market Tour.

Chef Gabriela Green Pizarro
La Fonda Rosa Cooking School 
Pipila 3A, San Antonio,
Telephone: 52-415-150 7387

About Chef Gabriela Green Pizarro:
Chef Gaby Green is on top of her game at Aguamiel cocina rustica, her fifth restaurant and some say her best venture yet. Gaby was born and raised in Mexico City by Mexican and European grandparents. Both of her grandmothers were great cooks from different cultures but with an excellent sense of food. Gaby had a successful career in film before she started cooking. During that time, she did a lot of international travel which included eating in some of the world’s best restaurants. Twenty years ago, she found herself under the spell of San Miguel and wanted to stay. Still in film, she brought the first art film festival to San Miguel. Cooking was always her other passion and she ultimately decided to change her career path for something more personal that she could share with people. Gaby has that instinctive feel for what pairs well together and understands how to balance flavors. Her restaurant, Aguamiel Cocina Rustica, is recognized as one of the best restaurants in San Miguel de Allende.

Kirsten West, La Piña Azul Escuela de Cocina
This former Test Kitchen Director for Chef Rick Bayless and a Private Chef to musician Mick Jagger, teaches classes in authentic Mexican cooking. A frequent speaker on the history of Mexican food at the Instituto Allende, Kirsten is also the Co-Producer of SMA's annual Food in Film Festival.

Class information:
When:  By Appointment. This flexibility allows visitors to fit the classes into their schedules.
Group Size: 4 – 12 students.
Where:  Colonia San Antonio.
Focus:  Mexican. Classes are with some hands-on but mainly demonstrations. Students will get a complete meal with foods prepared in class and includes a recipe book. Non-alcoholic beverages are served but students are free to bring their own wine or beer. Kirsten selects a menu that reflects true Mexican cuisine and is easy to prepare from ingredients that are now mostly available everywhere. She weaves interesting and historical information about the foods into the lesson.
Duration:  3 hours.
Cost: US$75.00. Check, cash, or peso equivalent.

Kirsten West
La Piña Azul Escuela de Cocina  
Colonia San Antonio, San Miguel de Allende
Telephone: Mexican cell: 044-415-101-4155/ US phone: 312-602-9650

About Kirsten West:
Kirsten West, a true culinary explorer, is the Mayora de Cocina at La Piña Azul Escuela de Cocina. Her entire life has been devoted to food; her most rewarding were the eight years she spent as Director of the test kitchen for Chef Rick Bayless. At her office in Chicago, she was surrounded by the collection of Bayless cookbooks; the largest, privately-owned collection of Mexican cookbooks in the U.S. An authority on Mexican food and ingredients, she gives cooking classes and speaks at the Instituto Allende on the history of Mexican food. Her friend, Diana Kennedy, and former boss, Rick Bayless, taught her about the Mexican cuisine she is now so passionate about. When Kirsten started a catering company, she was asked to be Mick Jagger’s (the Rolling Stones) private chef, a short term job that turned into a four-year gig. After fifteen years of catering, she moved to Chicago to work for Rick Bayless, where they developed Mexican food lines for such industry giants as Crate and Barrel, Williams-Sonoma and Whole Foods. She said she has deeply ventured into the mysteries of moles, experiencing some ‘near religious experiences’ preparing them. Kirsten is the Co-producer of the Food in Film Festival in SMA; a benefit for DIF (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia).

Maria Laura Ricaud, Marilau Mexican Ancestry Cooking School
Loyal to tradition, this Mexican Ancestry chef teaches you everything about Mexican food and flavors including the insightful use of time-honored cooking methods and ingredients. With her deep-rooted Mexican heritage, you’ll encounter far more than just cooking when you’re in her kitchen.

Class information:
When: Daily, except December 25 and January 1.
Where: Colonia San Antonio.
Two Days Working with Chiles.
Select a Menu.
Working with Corn.
Mexican Finger Foods – Tacos, Salsas and Antojitos de Comal.
One Week Mexican.
Contact Maria Laura Ricaud for many other classes available.
Focus: Ancestry Mexican.
Group Size: 2 – 8 people.
Duration: Half day to one full week.
Cost: $2000.00 MXN per day. Ask about special pricing for week long courses.
Maria Laura Ricaud
Mexican Ancestry Cooking School
28 de Abril sur # 9A at la Luz St.
BEHIND San Antonio’s Church
Phone: +52 415-152-4376

About Maria Laura Ricaud:
Maria Laura Ricaud (Marilau) is the owner of Marilau Mexican Ancestry Cooking School and has been a force of Mexican cooking tradition for over thirty years. Her grandfather was a gourmand; influenced by his French parents. Both of her grandmothers, all of her aunts and her mother were impressive cooks. Loyal to tradition, she developed a true pleasure for Mexican ancestry cooking. Fiercely independent, she’s always been her own boss. Her family tree is as Mexican and influential as it gets; a pedigree from the Who’s Who of early cooking in Mexico. Marilau’s kitchen is a museum; she’s inherited cazuelas, ollas and other kitchen treasures from her family. Maria Laura Ricaud is the keeper of a remarkable piece of Mexican culinary history: Handwritten family cookbooks, one of them from 1798. Marilau has written articles for Texas Monthly, Lifestyle + Travel, Saveur and Better Homes and Gardens.

Patricia Merrill Márquez and Mónica Navarrete Merrill, Mexican Cooking Vacation
This mother-daughter team pair up to bring you a whole new perspective on cooking traditional and modern Mexican cuisine. The learning doesn't stop with the cooking; history and insights into every day Mexican life are a part of this wonderful cultural experience as well.

Class information:
When: Scheduled classes are currently July 2 to July 8 and October 15 to October 21. Individual classes for groups can be arranged through the school.
Where: Arcos del Atascadero B&B.
Focus: Traditional Mexican, Ethnic, Mexican cuisine with a cultural overview.
Cost: US $1650.00 - $2150.00 includes transportation to and from airport, 6 nights accommodations, 4 days Mexican Cooking instruction, Market Tour, Field trip to Guanajuato and copy of The Buen Provecho Cookbook.
Contact the school to provide pricing on individual and group classes.

Patricia Merrill Márquez and Chef Monica Navarrete Merrill
Mexican Cooking Vacation
US Phone: 301 591 4129 

About Patricia Merrill Marquez and Chef Mónica Navarrete Merrill:
Patricia Merrill Marquez, whose parents Yaya and Don Ricardo, pioneered Mexican culinary tourism as a “vacation with a purpose” back in the late sixties, is keeping up with Yaya. She’s the author of “The Buen Provecho Book”, a collection of traditional and contemporary Mexican recipes that also contains insights into every day Mexican life. Her company, Mexican Cooking Vacation, is an extension of her parents business, International Memorable Learning Experience (IMLE), where celebrities like Diana Kennedy, Rick Bayless and Barbara Hansen passed through the kitchen. Patricia’s daughter, Mónica Navarrete Merrill, has a Diploma in High Cuisine and is a 2010 gastronomy graduate from the Instituto Gastronómico de Estudios Superiores. She also attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York City. Patricia has brought culinary tourists to SMA from all over the world. Their business was featured as one of the “Top Ten Girlfriend Getaways in the World” by Travel and Leisure magazine. Humor and Surprises in Mexican Cooking and Culture, a lecture series, will be held at the Biblioteca; dates to be announced. 

Patsy Dubois, Patsy’s Place
Patsy’s classes are unique; with her laid back attitude, she teaches in her Ranchito in the countryside outside of San Miguel de Allende. Some of the ingredients for her classes are picked directly from her beautiful gardens. You start with botanas and eat your way through every class. Each one is personally designed by you, often from the dishes found on Patsy’s website. Everything is hands on. Margaritas and beer are served with comida and all of her printed recipes are included.

Class information:
When: By Appointment.
Where: Patsy’s Place. Transportation provided.
Focus: Mexican.
Duration: Half day.
Cost:  US$100.00 or peso equivalent.

Patsy DuBois
Patsy’s Place
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico 
Phone: 415-185-2151

About Patsy DuBois:
A free spirit in every sense of the word, Patsy Dubois learned to cook in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the early age of five. Her father put her on a wooden box in front of the stove and said “if you can read, you can learn to cook.” And she did. She attended the Instituto Allende, getting her Masters of Fine Art there. At the time, there were over six hundred students from twenty three countries attending the school. After graduation, she went to Mexico City and taught at the Modern American School and did private tutoring. She had a favorite student and was invited to live with his family at Los Pinos for five years. She returned to SMA and started a catering company, Fiesta Party, with a group of friends. In 1994, she wanted to try something new so she started cooking; doing catering from her ranchito and teaching classes. The ranchito grew into a venue and party pavilion where people went to celebrate their holidays. She does private parties, lunches and cooking classes by reservations plus catering in private homes. She also goes to New York City twice a year, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood eating. She just returned from a trip to Bali and New Zealand. She’s currently building a new house, making plans to travel throughout Mexico again and will start on a cookbook this year.

Alicia Wilson Rivero, Pura Vida Kitchen:
Give your healthy cooking curiosity an eye opener with a series of classes on health and nutrition. Cooking classes highlight both international recipes and basic nutrition for the home kitchen. Pura Vida provides training for all sorts of food preferences and needs and offers a variety of specialty classes that concentrate on healing through diet.

Class information:
When: Ongoing.
Where: Mercado Sano, Ancha de San Antonio 123.
Focus: Healthy. All the classes offer ways to prepare whole, real foods with instruction on recognizing healthy fats, proteins and carbs. 
Duration: 2.5 hours sharing three recipes in each topic.  
Cost: $500 MXN (public or scheduled classes) to $1000 MXN (private groups).
Other Classes: Privately arranged individual or group classes run 3.5 hours and offer a meal. All classes include digital recipe packs and the ingredients.

Pura Vida Kitchen also offers a job training program for women in the community seeking work as cocineras (hired cooks). Pura Vida Kitchen has a 10 class ‘certificate’ program which includes nutrition basics to international recipes and sourcing seasonal foods from the local area. Contact Pura Vida for pricing.

Alicia Wilson Rivero
Pura Vida Kitchen
Phone: 415-152-6671

About Pura Vida Kitchen:
Alicia Wilson Rivero was born in Brooklyn, NY and lives in San Francisco and San Miguel de Allende. She studied Pastry at thwe Culinary Institute of America, Rhinebeck, NY, apprenticed with Chef Felipe Rojas Lombardi and is a certified Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Alicia Wilson Rivero is passionate about food; focusing on a therapeutic approach to help heal. Her devotion to healthy eating began in May of 2009, when she opened La Mesa Grande, a bakery in SMA. Shortly afterwards, a doctor told her that he suspected she had gluten intolerance. Selling the bakery two years later, fatigued and battle worn, she went for three months without croissants, crusty breads and pasta. That was the beginning of a transformation that started a whole new relationship with food; lifelong, chronic health issues cleared up like magic. In 2010, she opened up a juice bar and cooking school, establishing a career of working with people individually and in groups to offer guidance on how to eat for their health without sacrificing all the sensuality and pleasure that food has to offer on a daily basis.

    Photo by Moises Fuentes

Chef Carlos Hannon, The Rosewood Hotel:
The cooking classes at the Rosewood Hotel take place in one of the most beautiful sections of the hotel and the newest venue: Los Pirules Artisan Kitchen and Garden Bar, an outdoor space featuring two artisanal kitchens, a communal table, a bar and one of the most stunning views of the city. Chef Carlos Hannon and his staff are some of the top, international chefs in SMA and offer classes that provide cooking skills to create remarkable Mexican food in your own kitchen. The culinary team also gives pointers on selecting the perfect drinks to pair with the food. Savor the food you prepared and the amazing views when you finish in the kitchen.

Class information:
When: Year round.
Where: Centro, Rosewood Hotel.
Focus: Mexican.
Duration: Half Day.
Cost:  US$150 per person, check or cash, or peso equivalent.

Rosewood San Miguel de Allende
Nemesio Diez#11, Centro
San Miguel de Allende
Phone: (415) 152 9700

About Chef Carlos Hannon:
Chef Hannon leads the talented culinary team at the hotel’s three distinctive dining venues: 1826 Restaurant, Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar and La Cava. Chef Hannon is back at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende and the Rosewood brand, having last served as executive chef at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende from 2010 – 2012 as a part of the hotel’s pre-opening team. Chef Hannon also played an important role on the pre-opening teams for Rosewood Mayakoba and Rosewood Sand Hill, and also was the executive chef at Rosewood Little Dix Bay in 2012. Most recently, Chef Hannon was the executive chef at Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights in Dubai.  During his two-year tenure, Chef Hannon played an integral role on the pre-opening team and oversaw the acclaimed hotel’s culinary operation at the hotel’s four restaurants as well as the Regency Club and The Lobby Lounge. Before joining the Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights team, Chef Hannon served as the chef patron at The Restaurant Group, Jumeirah at Hotel Mina A’Salam, Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai, where he spearheaded the opening of the new concept of Mexican Kitchen and Bar.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Taking A Bite Out of San Miguel de Allende: The Best of the Rest

The series continues with our final post, The Best of the Rest; just a few more reasons to fall in love with San Miguel de Allende.

Buen Provecho!

Best Bar: Nena Sky Lounge, Nemesio Diez No.10
This intimate patio gives you a feel for why SMA is at the top of everybody’s list. The fireworks from the Rosewood next door are so close, you’ll get caught in the afterglow. Come dressed to kill. The beautiful people who frequent this rooftop make it the best place in town for your favorite activity: people watching.

Best Caterer - Traditional: Guadalupe Ramirez Agundis’s Banquetes Marcela,Juan de Dios Peza #37, Colonia Guadalupe
With 56 years of cooking experience under her belt, she won a major award in 2016 at the International Summit of Gastronomy, IV Meeting of Traditional Kitchen, in Guanajuato. Her grandson, Chef Jose Pedro Hernandez Trejo, is in the kitchen now so Guadalupe can do what she does best; take nurturing care of all of her long-standing customers.

Best Chef’s Table: Aperi, Quebrada #101
The hottest table in town has one special ingredient: Chef Matteo Salas. Scoring the chefs table at Aperi is a priceless experience worth sharing with thirteen of your closest friends and family. You’ll likely see a rising star here, hoping to polish their culinary know-how with the master before going out on their own. Look for a long list of guest chefs - Mexico's Who's Who in the culinary world - in 2017.

Best Club: Bar Plata, Zacateros 73
A talented singer and inspiring storyteller, our favorite pairing with anything is LADY ZEN. A one-woman show on Broadway would be perfect for her so let’s embrace her while we can.

Best Consistency: Café Muro, San Gabriel 1, Barrio del Obraje
At Café Muro, Gerardo Artega is a bit obsessed about making his customers really happy, which means doing whatever possible to make that happen. A feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds, you’ll not be lacking for anything here. That's what we love about consistency; you can count on the same great food and service each and every time you go.

Best Cookbook: The Spice Companion
If you’re like Chef Mariana Gonzalez Gutierrez at Aperi and read cookbooks in your spare time, you’ll love this book. I knew about half of the spices listed in the book so it will give both your brain and taste buds a workout. Author Lev Sercarz offers historical and buying information with never before published recipes for spice blends, along with magnificent photography and botanical illustrations on over100 spices.

Best Cooking Class: El Petit Four, Calle Mesones # 99-1
When I arrived in SMA, I wanted to learn how to cook Mexican right and my first cooking class was with Chef Paco Cardenas of El Petit Four. It’s still one of the best in SMA.  An all day session, you’ll start with shopping for the ingredients at Mercado Ignacio Ramirez and wrap up with a sit down feast, complete with Valle de Guadalupe wine. In between, Paco’s expert knowledge of Mexican food will get your cooking skills ready for some serious entertaining. Best of all, you don’t have to do the dishes. 

Worth the price of the class was the fact that he introduced us to so many quality vendors at the Mercado my first week in town that I didn't have to take the time to learn who the best ones were.

Four years later, I’ve taken many outstanding cooking classes here in SMA, all of which will be listed in an upcoming post. 

Best Dinnerware: Stelara Ceramica Stoneware, Mercado Sano, Ancha de San Antonio 123
You can see the most remarkable and gorgeous place settings at this stand inside Mercado Sano. Custom designs, like the gordita plates and esquites bowls that are used at Jacinto 1930. Chef Marco Cruz at Nomada also uses the stoneware.

If Chefs Matteo Salas and Marco Cruz don’t have elevated taste in food presentation, who does? Affordable prices for the quality.

Best Drink Menu:Jacinto 1930, Doce 18, Relox 18
Cocktails share the reputation with the evolving food scene and rightfully so. Heavy on agave spirits, this menu respects clean ingredients the way the chefs at Jacinto 1930 do. Always ahead of the curve, you’ll find fresh, new trends you’ll still be talking about tomorrow. Look for exciting things to happen with the cocktail culture in 2017; it will definitely be in the limelight if Adrian Evans, Jacinto’s mixologist from Wales, has anything to do with it.

Best Farm: Rancho La Trinidad, Camino a San Miguel Viejo #8
No matter where we search for produce, we keep going back to Rancho La Trinidad, a local, certified organic farm located just outside of SMA. You can't beat the freshness… or the prices.

Best Festival Organizer: Angela Lewis Serrano, Sabores San Miguel
As a former event organizer, I know how difficult it is to pull off a major event. It’s all in the details and Angela makes everything look so easy, especially Sabores San Miguel, the most successful food show in the city.

Best Fireplace Bar: Casa 1810, Hidalgo #8
A large fireplace dominates the lobby next to the tiny bar. A perfect spot to stay warm and experience welcoming drinks with friends. If you’re into vino, wander down to the wine cellar for another glass of Mexican red. Warm and cozy may just be an understatement. In fact, this fireplace is so good-looking, Chef Linnea Rufo had one built in her dining room. Fine dining restaurant, Trazo 1810, will open on the rooftop of Casa 1810 shortly.

Best Fireplace Restaurant: Andanza at the Sierra Nevada, Calle Hospicio #35 
With the most fireplaces in a single restaurant, you’ll never have to worry about getting the warmest seat in the house. Every room is cozy with stately ambiance and beautiful décor. Chef Antonio Arzola is in the kitchen, ready to serve you a number of delicious dishes off his menu. This feast is well worth going out in the cold for.

Best Food Art: Nomada cocina de Interpretacion, Codo #36
Art has featured food for thousands of years but when did food become art? We’re pretty sure that anything Nomada puts on a black plate – or a white one for that matter – is art. Too beautiful to eat? Not to worry; we’ve got this one covered.

Best Food Festival: We LOVED them all!
What was the best food party of the year?  

If you want to try everything in San Miguel all at once, SABORES SAN MIGUEL is the festival for you. The Lamb Shawarma Taco created by Chef Donnie Masterton of The Restaurant, is reason enough to go back. The question is, will the city hold Sabores again this year? That’s still is a question.

If you want to meet many of the chefs who make the food you love to eat, try SMA Food Festival (SMAFF). They also feature guest chefs; last year, it was the celebrated chefs of Tabasco, brought in by SMA Chef Armando Prats Leal, who has Tabasco roots himself. The event at the end of the festival is always the best party of the year.

If you want to stomp the grapes that make your wine, the San Lucas Fiesta de la Vendimia festival is perfect, paired with all of the incredible BBQ made by Chef Mariano Alvarez of Buenos Aires Bistro.

At Billy Mervin’s infamous celebration of all things lamb and Mezcal, we discovered remarkable food and amazing, new Mezcals. 16 food and beverage tastings later, we hit our max. The Lamb and Mezcal Festival is also one of the best deals in town.

In the small town of Tequisquiapan, we embraced the local food and wine culture with so much gusto, we almost forgot we were on a detox.

These local festivals inspired us to travel to the largest food festival in Latin America, MISTURA, in Lima, Peru last fall.

Best Food Enthusiast: Preston Engebretson
A gastronome, bon vivant, gourmand or connoisseur; any of these words would describe Preston Engelbretson, who is passionate about food and cooking. One could say he’s got that 6th sense about food.
I personally think he’s more of a food nerd; the one person who knows one too many things 
about how something is produced or who can tell you the difference between 100 varieties of mushrooms. Knowledge that only the Sheldon Cooper of food world would know.

Best Food Resource: Daniel Estebaranz, B’ui cocina de campo and Milpa
From wines to the latest trends in Mexico, this guy knows food. He’ll try things nobody else will, like a Pueblan- style cemita and then make three more versions of it just to get it right. Owner of B'ui Cocina De Campo in Otomi and Milpa in SMA Centro, Daniel is the winner of the 2016 Grand Luxury Award from the Association of International Hospitality. He’s unquestionably given me plenty of food for thought. Gracias Daniel!

Best Foodie Day Trips:

Foraging for Mushrooms with Arif Towns Alonso
One of the best day trips we took last year was foraging for mushrooms with local expert Arif Towns Alonso. We found dozens of species of mushrooms and a little bit of paradise in the mountains of Santa Rosa de Lima. We left off some of the Lactarius Indigo blue mushrooms for Chef Magda Elisa Pablos and her sous-chef Ari when we stopped by her kitchen at El Vergel on the way back to SMA to have lunch. The very next day, Chef Maro Cruz of Nomada prepared the most delicious dinner of blue mushrooms in a mezcal and miso sauce. It was the best meal we ate all year.

Quesos del Rebano, Mar Meridional 2A, Col. Las Hadas 76160 Querétaro.
Get cultured with the queen Maestra Quesera, Gabriela Flores Silva, in a defining moment of cheese making. Gabriela is the sister of Marene Flores, the pastry chef at Jacinto 1930. Quesos del Rebano is Gabriela and Marene's family cheese farm outside of Queretaro where they create some of the best cheese in Mexico. We loved the property and grounds but most of all the Maestra, who is extraordinarily knowledgeable about cheese making worldwide.

Best Food Gift: Russet Potatoes
OK – the secret’s out. Buried in a box on the bottom shelf at an unnamed organic grocery store, these were a birthday gift from food and travel blogger Valen Dawson.

I haven't seen them lately so I guess I’m back to potato chips.

Best Food Trip: Lima, Peru – the highlights

After 17 courses of elevations, the food experience at Central, the #4 restaurant in the world and the #1 restaurant in Latin America, was the best we’ve had; one that everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. So what were my taste buds telling me I needed after feasting on 17 courses that were innovative, thought-provoking, and artistically complex? A day off from eating.

Meeting Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino of Malabar was also a highlight. He’s known as the "jungle chef" and works incessantly to highlight the foods of the Amazon jungle and Amazonian cuisine.

My heart belonged to Lima five minutes into my first meal at MAIDO. At the ultimate Amazon Nikkei Experience, Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura’s multi-course Nikkei, Japanese inspired Peruvian menu, was the perfect beginning to my education on Peruvian cuisine. I definitely started at the top and every meal I had in Lima was compared to this one. Although many of them were outstanding, none of them ranked higher than MAIDO.

In Lima, the most important decision of the day is deciding where to eat. We hit the Surquillo district to try out two popular spots for street food: Al Toke Pez and the Surquillo Market. My tab for breakfast and lunch: S/25 or $7.45 USD.

Canta Rana is a go-to place in Lima for both locals and tourists alike. A landmark since 1985, this little hole-in-the-wall was the perfect come down from my 17 course meal at Central, walking to the Barranco section of Lima in less than 30 minutes. Filled with Argentine soccer memorabilia, this place is long on atmosphere and good ceviche. The price was right at 60 soles. Barranco is Lima's Soho; one of most trendy areas with historic buildings, bars, restaurant, cafés, street artists and musicians. It’s also where the restaurant Central is moving to.

MISTURA Food Festival: The VIVA MEXICO pyramid colorfully stood out against the gray, Lima sky. In the Gran Mercado, 300 Peruvian growers educated me on the ingredients of Peru; many of them dressed in their native clothing and all of them excited to talk about their produce. This was the highpoint of the show.

Huaringas Bar has been at MISTURA since the beginning; all 9 years of the fair. In addition to the bar in Lima, they have another location by the same name in Cusco. The bar is renowned for its take on the traditional Pisco Sour; infusing passion fruit and grapes with Pisco. The recipe was created by my friend Rosario Dulanto’s daughter and chef, who recently died at age 35. Young Rosario researched and tested ingredients from different regions in Peru, creating an extraordinary range of cocktails with Pisco and fruits. The bar has over 200 different cocktails and is renowned for changing the Pisco culture in Peru. Look for the altars in the bar that pay tribute to Pisco and Chef Rosario.

The top restaurants were not at MISTURA but the top Chefs were; promoting the food of Peru is both their mission and their passion. What restaurant’s were there - regional ones like The Ramadita Campestre Warmy Pepe and Laura from Huaral, 78 km north of Peru; an expert in cooking meats over firewood where I spent a great portion of my time. The lines to get smoked pork were long but the flavor was unbelievable; seasoned only with salt. At this station alone, I think they cooked enough pork to feed all of SMA.

Peru is a multicultural country filled with people who love to eat. Honestly, I’ve never met more people who love to talk about food so it was only right on my last day in town that I made a stop at Astrid & Gaston. With restaurants in over a dozen countries, Gaston Acurio is the unofficial ambassador of Peruvian food and is responsible for taking Peruvian food global. What I wasn’t prepared to love was the tomato butter that accompanied the homemade bread; it was topped with blackened tomato skins. When I asked our waiter what was in it, because at that point I had eaten two platefuls, he smiled and insisted the ingredients were simple: tomatoes and butter. Who would have thought that something so simple would taste this good.

My last supper was a testimonial to the food of Lima. I was finally full.

Best Food Truck: Mio Bistrock SMA Julian Carrillo 7
Lorelai Cordova, sister of Maye Cordova and Aunt of Jimena Tamayo Cordova, who own Garambullo Fonda Gourmet, opened this delightful food truck in Colonia Guadalupe in a colorful, little lot that's full of local charm and adorable, mismatched furniture. Lorelai, who cooked in Acapulco, Cuernavaca and Italy, specializes in Mediterranean food and has a large variety of seafood on the menu. We delight in everything she cooks, especially the lamb burger.

Best Gourmet Dinner: Blue Mushrooms with Mezcal Miso Sauce at Nomada cocina de interpretacion , Codo 36
We like to think that the wild mushrooms foraged in Santa Rosa de Lima – one of our favorite small towns in the mountains of central Mexico - tasted so good because we picked them but Chef Cruz and Chef Nicacio at Nomada turned these blue mushrooms, the elusive Lactarius indigo, into a work of art with a sous vide and a sauce of miso and mezcal. Leave it to great chefs to change your mind about what you will or will not eat. I've never loved mushrooms; just photographing them. And did I mention they tasted just like truffles?

Best Hospitality: Gabriel Avila at Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion
You wonder how anyone this young can know so much. Gabriel Avila is always well versed on the food and beverage offerings at Nomada cocina de interpretación. We love dining at a restaurant that takes hospitality to this over-the-top level.

Best Influencer – Food, Art and Fashion: Victor Hugo
The word that comes to mind when I think of Victor Hugo is impeccable. After reading his Facebook and Instagram posts this past year, I believe that if I have another life to live, I would come back as Victor. We don’t think that anyone in SMA has more fun than he does.

Best Ingredient: Sweetbreads
Sweetbreads; they’re revered by chefs and food aficionados everywhere, especially in Mexico.

The first time we had them, Chef Eduardo García of Máximo Bistrot in Mexico City prepared them in a rich, brown sauce. Instant addiction.

Chef-owner Elena Reygadas of Rosetta, Mexico City, prepared our second taste of sweetbreads with yogurt, peppermint and Granada. Milk-fed veal sweetbreads are the best and it was another food moment.

Third time’s a charm when Chef-owner Rodolfo Castellanos of Origen Oaxaca and Top Chef Mexico, used them in a crispy, mini-gordita with nopales.

Fourth time was at VINO + TAPAS, Insurgentes 63, where Chef Stefania Rosales pulled off a sweetbread tapa with cheese like she’s been cooking them all her life.

We would love to see more sweetbreads on the menus in SMA.

Best Kitchen Store: Williams Sonoma, Queretaro
This one was easy…because we went to cooking classes at the one in Chicago every week and bought every piece of kitchenware there for the past 30 years. We know the quality and continue the tradition in the Queretaro store that just opened last year. It’s good to know that the latest Le Creuset and All Clad are just 45 minutes away.

Shopping isn’t our thing but we could certainly get in trouble in this store.

Best Lunch: La Parada, Recreo #94
It’s always a treat to eat with Chef Alexandra Gutt, one of the best chefs in SMA. Her specialty dishes, like Ceviche Contracorriente and Higaditos Asaltados or Sauteed Chicken Livers, are delicious and served with Papas La Parada. We could eat her papas by the pound. The secret is to fry them, smash them and fry them again. The chicken livers don't taste like liver at all; we love the texture and the taste. They are sauced in anticucho sauce with a base of dried chili, vinegar and oregano.

The sauce is also used in a Peruvian street food dish incorporating beef hearts that are marinated, skewered, and seared over the grill. We had them this past year at MISTURA, the food festival in Lima. Ale is also responsible for recommending the best meal we’ve ever eaten at MAIDO in Lima.

Best Property Manager: Angela Nieto of Doce 18, Relox 18
With a consistent enjoyment for what she does, we frequent Doce 18 just to get her daily dose of sunshine.

It's contagious, so we like to pass it on!

Best Meal: The Chefs of SMA
We traveled a lot last year. One of the things we learned early on - some of the best meals we’ve eaten in Mexico have been in our own back yard.

We salute all the chefs who feed us well and have created some of the most interesting and artistic menus in Mexico.

Best Meal outside SMA: Maido, Calle San Martin 399, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
This Amazon Nikkei Experience was the most amazing meal we’ve ever eaten anywhere. Don’t miss this experience if you visit Lima in 2017.

Maido is lucky #13 on the World 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America; it was our favorite place to eat in Lima. Here’s a list of the courses that wowed us:

Snack: Crispy chicken skin, pachikay sauce.

Rice senbei, regional sausage, roasted plantain, sachatomate emulsion

Churros: Rivers snails, chalaca, dale dale foam

Paiche sandwich: Steamed bun, crispy paiche, lulo criolla

Amazonic cebiche: River prawns, pejerrey, nikkei leche de tigre, charapita, chonta, farina

Chancho con yucca: Pork belly stew with yucca, mishquina, crispy pork skin, ramen reduction, cocona

Sacha soba: Sachapapa soba, vongoles, crab

Sushi – earth: A lo pobre- sweetbreads

Gindara: Gindara, miso, fermented casho, bahuaja nuts, sangre de toro potato cream

Short rib: Wagyu short rib – 50 hours, egg yolk, cecina fried rice, amazonic chilli (this dish is the best we’ve ever eaten)

Cacao: Amador cacao – piura – 70%, yazu, shica shica ice cream, mochis, bahuaja nuts, cacao nibs.

Best Mercados:

Daily: Mercado Sano, Ancha de San Antonio 123
The open-air Tianguis Orgánico San Miguel de Allende (TOSMA) farmers market is held here Saturday, where most of SMA enjoys breakfast and the one-stop shopping for the organic and sustainable.

The Don Petro family leased the space to local merchants, 90% who are Mexican, and that for me is reason enough to support it.

Weekly: Tuesday Market - El Tianguis
A real market experience, I go every Tuesday because nothing in SMA says local like the Tuesday market. Three tents full of colorful stands give you everything you need or want just for the sake of a bargain; from daily essentials to kitchenware, produce and plenty of gifts and souvenirs.

For anyone who loves food, Tuesday can't come soon enough. I’ve eaten everything there at least a dozen times. If you don’t eat street food, you’re missing out on some of the best food in SMA. I usually start my day with a tasty plate of Carnitas or a torta at Bautista Brothers, then on to Don Santos for Beef Tacos or if it’s a cold day, nothing tastes better than a cup of the Rodriquez Family Caldo loaded with Barbacoa. Fresh squeezed juice and a churro finish off my weekly rounds but like all the vendors there, we change our routine weekly.

Monthly: Mercadito Rural (Rural Market)
This market is held the first Sunday of every month in front of Via Organica, Margarito Ledesma 2, Col. Guadalupe. The market is small but includes a wide-variety of authentic items for purchase. With the beautiful hand painted tortillas by Cocinera Juana, we always go to eat and never fail to finish the morning off with something sweet.

Gourmet Market: El Vergel Bistro and Market, Camino a El Vergel 37880 San Miguel de Allende Phone: 4151102254
Because any product you want, that’s the finest quality you can find, is on the shelf here, from cheese and charcuterie, to wines and beers, Bosco ice creams, breads, cookies, organic grass-fed beef from La Canada de la Virgen, olives, coffee, teas, pastas and super foods.

Our mind-set on good food: it’s always worth the drive to get the best.

Best Mexican Food Destination: Oaxaca
They say that travel changes you and this trip did. A month of immersion in Spanish language and Oaxaca cuisine included eating at all of the best restaurants, taking a trip down the Mezcal trail, visiting the markets at  Tlacolula, Octolan and Etla and cooking with award-winning, international chef and culinary expert Susana Trilling at Seasons of My Heart in Etla and Top Chef Mexico winner Rodolfo Castellano at Origen Oaxaca. Both are considered to be two of the best chefs in Mexico and we wouldn’t pass on the opportunity to cook with either one of them again.

Everyone has their reasons for taking a cooking class. The most important thing it did for me was to resurrect my love of cooking; I suddenly wanted to be back in the kitchen again. That was a defining moment for someone who has spent the last four years eating out every day.

If you can pick one place in Mexico that will change you, Oaxaca is it.   

Best Newcomer: Marsala, cocina con acentos, Hernandez Macias 48
Eat just once at her enchanting, new restaurant and you’ll find out why she’s on Top Chef Mexico this season. The Mediterranean food is some of the best in SMA; the caramel pudding legendary…not to mention her pink hair. 

Make a reservation; it's always packed, especially when Top Chef Mexico is on TV and the hometown crowd is there to cheer her on.  

Best Newly Discovered Cuisine: Tabasco, Mexico
I’m always open to new tastes but a whole new cuisine? Last year at the San Miguel Food Festival, I discovered the food of Tabasco, Mexico. It was an eye-opener.

Chef Nelly Cordova Morillo of Cocina Chontal made an extraordinary dish called Horneado de Cerdo en Barro, a pork dish; typical Tabasco comfort and fiesta food, that challenged explanation. It was served on a plate called comal de barro ahumado that’s smoked in a Barro oven for months before using. The flavors of this dish were both surprising and complex. Nelly also made a beautiful Estofado de Lengua de Res at the Chefs table at night.

Chef Lupita Vidal Aguilar was also there. Last year, she received the Excellence Award to the traditional culture of Mexico. Her restaurant, La Cevicheria, is a restaurant that rescues, safeguards and showcases the culinary values of the state of Tabasco. This award was granted by the Conservatory of the Mexican Gastronomic Culture during the World Forum of Mexican Gastronomy in Mexico City. It's was the first time anyone in the state of Tabasco has ever received this award.

Best New Ingredient: Hoja Santa
If I had a green thumb, I would be growing it. I’m so addicted to the taste. I first had it in the chicken soup in San Martin Tilcajete, Oaxaca. It's now one of my favorite Mexican ingredients. I brought back a starter plant from Jane Robison’s garden at Casa Colonial where I stayed for the month. Interestingly, one of her older plantings had grown to the size of a giant tree.

Best Opening Party: Doce 18 and L’Otel, Relox 18
Doce 18 and L’Otel opened at Relox 18 this past year and changed the face of SMA forever. Even when L'Otel was being built, it was stunning.

Powered by impressive food, top-notch VIP service and glamorous people, these two parties defined the social calendar for 2016.

Best Produce:
Cutting out the supermarket distribution chain is your first step to finding good produce. We like to know where our food comes from and there are four places we shop for hard to find vegetables and fruits:

Alex’s stand in front of the old Mercado Centro

Leo, the vegetable guy, in from of the old Luna de Queso

Saturday Organic Market, Mercado Sano, Ancha San Antonio 123

Via Organica, Margarito Ledesma 2, Col. Guadalupe

Best Service: La Azotea, Umaran #6
Eduaro Perez Calvo sets the gold standard for service in SMA. This Centro favorite will always treat you like the king or queen you are. In fact, we think the service is almost as memorable as the Jicima Tacos.

Best Spanish Food Word: ENCAMOTADA
I never heard the word before until Chef Armando Prats Leal used it in a Facebook post on MARSALA, cocina con acentos. He explained the term to me: "In the restaurant jargon in Mexico it means that the workload is such that you cannot even think straight, the kitchen looks like a bunch of "headless chicken.” We’re still laughing.

Best Street Food Chef: ANDY of Andy’s Tacos, at the corner of Insurgentes and Hidalgo
Because, after all these years on the street, he confessed that he still loves cooking for you.

Best Surprise Food City: TULSA
You heard us right and you’re surprised as we are. When we lived in Tulsa years ago, great restaurants were hard to find. Now, you get an unforgettable food fix just about everywhere you go. At The Tavern, Chef Ben Alexander’s local preparations use simple ingredients; he created one of the best meals we ate in Tulsa last Christmas. We’re also devoted to the food at Burn Co BBQ, Tallgrass Prairie Table, Mahognay Steak House, Napa Flats, Bordean Seafood, and Red Rock, just to name a few. Also, the Celebrity Club in Tulsa started out as a private club in 1963 and in 1984, founder Mike Samara contributed to the writing of a bill to legalize liquor by the drink in Oklahoma. I remember; I lived in Tulsa then. Celebrity Restaurant was issued the state’s first liquor license and opened its doors to the general public. Known for their table side Caesar salad - named Oklahoma’s “Best of the Best” 10 years in a row – they are also famous for their Lobster, steaks and cast-iron skillet fried chicken served with biscuits and gravy. The delicious brandy ice tasted just like the Brandy Alexander my dad use to make back in the 60's. For that reason alone, we would have loved it.

Best Sweet Shop: Artenasa at the Rosewood Hotel, Calle Nemesio Diez #11
We can eat a dozen of their chocolate fudge cookies in one sitting… and then start on all the rest.

Best Table:
Without a doubt, the sweetest tables in town without the view are in front of the window at La Canica and Buenos Aires Bistro.

Of course, that would all change if Chef Donnie Masterton created that table for two on the roof at The Restaurant. Just saying

Best View: Luna Roodtop, Rosewood Hotel, Calle Nemesio Diez #11 AND Antonia Bistro, San Francisco #57 AND Quince Rooftop, Cuna de Allende #15 AND ZUMO, Calle Orizaba 87-9
A feast for the eyes, devouring the beauty of San Miguel is on the top of the list of things to do in SMA. Tourists will tell you it’s one of their favorite things to do.

We can now claim four restaurants – soon to be a fifth with FATIMA  - with landscapes to take in the views. Even the locals get nostalgic when they get the 360-degree shot that takes your breath away at sunset.

Best Wine Bar: Vino + Tapas, Insurgentes #63
It started out as a wine store but Vinos+Tapas, opening just one year ago, now carries many labels from both Mexico and Europe. They are priced a bit higher than other restaurants but all you have to do is taste these wines to figure out why. We have a lot to learn when it comes to wine and Chef Rosales is a willing educator. Look for the rooftop to open next month. Getting a ride to and from the restaurant is just one of the perks of being a customer. Think of how many wines you can get into with a ride home.

Best Wine Cellar: Seleccion de la Casa by Santisima Trinidad, Doce 18, Relox 18
Seleccion de la Casa, the inviting wine cellar by Santisima Trinidad at Doce 18, also houses SMA's most beautiful tasting table.

Best Wine Expert: Arael Gomez Tello of Argot del Vino
Arael Gomez Tello, a passionate culinarian and promoter of the world of wine, is one of the most knowledgeable wine experts in SMA.  We kept making the rounds but it was at his booth, at a local food festival, where we experienced some of the best wines from Mexico. Arael’s company, Argot el Vino, has a wine portfolio that includes close to 300 labels and continues to grow.

Best Wine Store: Cava Sautto, Hotel Sautto, Hernandez Macias # 59
This wine store, hidden behind the registration desk in Hotel Sautto, has a remarkable cellar that is stocked with well-known labels, including Casa Madero and other fine wines from Mexico, South America and Europe.

The most expensive wine they sell? Dominio de Pingus is a Spanish winery located in Quintanilla de Onésimo in Valladolid province with vineyards in the La Horra area of the Ribera del Duero region. Their wine is considered a cult wine and sold at extremely high prices while remaining somewhat inaccessible. Hand over 20,300 pesos and it’s all yours at Cava Sautto.

You can spend hours hanging out in their one-story-up wine cellar studying labels but you’ll have more fun taking them home to taste.


Victor Palma:
One of SMA’s most respected chefs, Victor Palma of the Rosewood Hotel, was appointed Executive Chef of the Rosewood CordeValle in San Martin, Ca. this past year. CordeValle’s cuisine is true to the standards of its’ five star quality. The resort also has an 85 acre winery and vineyard.  We’re already missing his fabulous cooking, especially the Roasted Beetroot and Date Salad with caramelized pumpkin seeds, rocket lettuce, marinated cherry tomatoes, fine herb vinaigrette, Granny Smith Ice Cream and Medjol dates. 

Returning chef, Carlos Hannon, has some big shoes to fill.

Dona Reyes:
Sad to hear of the passing of culinary legend Dona Reyes. Dona Reyes was your beloved grandmother reincarnated. She owned Fonda Dona Reyes in Mercado Ignacio Ramirez for over 46 years. Caldo de Pollo con Arroz with a whole chicken leg and a bouquet of fresh cooked vegetables, smothered with chilies and condiments, was a jolt you never experienced at breakfast before. Miss you, dulce abuela.

Mercado Centro, Codo 36
Now, there’s one less place for those addicted to good food to eat. We heard a lot of speculation as to why it failed. Our though: it shouldn’t have and we’re really sad it’s gone.

La Abastera Nacional at Clzda. La Estacion 59
We loved the high-quality of the just-picked produce and the generally good vibe of this market. It was a great effort by Pablo Torres, but the timing was off. We’re sorry to see it close and hope that he'll open another location in SMA. Thanks Pablo!