Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sabores San Miguel

                                                                                                                  The Great Flavors of Mole...

My timing for coming to San Miguel was perfect, don’t you think? The May/June celebration San Miguel Gourmet was a feast.

This past weekend, Sabores San Miguel, a “Taste of Chicago” style food show was held for the first time and measure up it did with a wide variety of restaurants, hotels and both wine and spirit vendors showing off the best of what San Miguel has to offer.
I was impressed with the wide-range of restaurants including my menu favorite, El Tomato (Mesones 62), which served a mini-beef sandwich topped with a light mushroom sauce. The beef was so delicious I returned on Sunday for a second bite and also had lunch at the restaurant this week.

Churrasco with Chimichurri
Recipe from the new issue of Food and Wine

2 bunches curly parsley (8 ounces), thick stems discarded
1/3 cup garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 pounds trimmed center-cut beef tenderloin
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

In a food processor, combine the parsley and garlic with the 3/4 cup of olive oil and the vinegar and pulse until smooth. Refrigerate the chimichurri for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.

Using a sharp chef’s knife, make a 1/4-inch, lengthwise cut in the top of the tenderloin. Turning the tenderloin and rolling it out as you go, spiral-cut the meat until you have a long, rectangular piece about 1/4 inch thick.

Light a grill. Season both sides of the tenderloin with salt and pepper. Rub all but one-third of the chimichurri over the meat and grill over moderately high heat, turning once, about 4 minutes for medium-rare meat; let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the remaining chimichurri and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the steak.

On Saturday, the theme “Gourmet Food” let the restaurants showcase what they typically serve to their customers. 
Sunday’s theme was Street Food. Here, restaurants were allowed to play around with their menu in order to pay tribute to Mexico’s markets...a fundamental part of the city’s gastronomic scene. Mexico is known for its great street eats.

The bonus? All food and drink was 20 pesos or $1.50 US. I’m certain what the restaurants shelled out to be there was made up by an increase in their customer base. Honestly, there wasn’t a restaurant there I would not support.

I can think of so many reasons to celebrate food every day. This was one of them and now I’m excited that there is a whole new food scene here for me to explore.

Buen Apetito!

Cooking Classes with Chef Paco Cardenas, Petit Four San Miguel

When I heard there was a really good bakery in town, it was one of my first stops. I’m an easy target for good pastry and may actually go back to Chicago one of these days for some classes at the French Pastry School. I decided after this week that Paco Cardenas, Petit Four’s Master Chef, would be a great guest chef at the school.

The Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwich I had at Petit Four, along with the Cappuccino, were delightful. You’re at the top of my list when you use good ingredients and Petit Four uses only the best.

Here are my versions of the lunch. Their Cappuccino did not have liquor in it.

Mexican Cappuccino

1 shot Kahula 

1 shot Tequila 

In a large coffee mug, pour the kahlua and tequila into the bottom. 

Brew cappuccino per the instructions for your machine.

Fill the cup with espresso, top with the frothed milk and serve.

Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwich

1 loaf Italian bread, sliced in half lengthwise
1 pound mozzarella, sliced into ½” rounds
1 large tomatoes, sliced into ½” rounds
½ cup olive oil

Preheat a grill to medium heat.

Remove the top half of the bread and layer the mozzarella and tomatoes on top of the bottom half.

Drizzle with olive oil and place top half of bread on top of sandwich.

Place entire sandwich on the grill and cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until cheese begins to melt and sandwich is well marked.

Chef Paco Cardenas was my first cooking instructor in San Miguel this past week and will be the standard by which I measure all the other classes I take here. Nothing like starting with the best!

He was taught to cook by his grandmothers and his aunts (one who lives in Chicago) and began with an apprenticeship in the pastry shop at the JW Marriott Hotel in Mexico City. Petit Four and Chef Cardenas has been featured in Bon Appétit, OUT Magazine, Travel and Leisure, and Coast Magazine.

Of all the mentors I’ve worked with over the years, he is one who genuinely loves food and cooking…and it shows.

More about what we learned later this week…

Buen Apetito!

6800 Feet Above Sea Level

Two Margaritas = One Margarita too many!

Buen Apetito!

For The Love of Fried Chicken…

I’m craving good Fried Chicken. 

This fried chicken from Café Rama (Nueva, 37700 San Miguel de Allende) was good but it was loaded with Cinnamon.

Where can I buy fresh leaf lard and ham hock? 

Stay tuned.

Buen Apetito!

Two New Breakfast Drinks

Two new breakfast drinks I had and loved this week are Atole and a Smoothie topped with Amaranto.

Some call Atole the traditional Mexican comfort drink. It is corn based and is typically served with tamales for breakfast. Atole can also be prepared with rice, flour or oatmeal in place of the masa. I like it with a little brown sugar. Wonder why I’m wanting to put brown sugar on everything here?

This Raspberry smoothie is topped with Amaranto. Amaranto is a cereal with twice the iron and four times more calcium than wheat. They also use Amaranto to coat Mexican candy.
I like it already.

Buen Apetito!

Dia De Los Locos

It is said that San Miguel de Allende has more fiestas than any town in Mexico. I’m believing it. One thing I know for sure: Mexico loves to party! Any excuse for fireworks, church bells, loud music, flowers, food, tequila and plenty of colorful costumes. The excuse last weekend was Dia de Los Locos.

The parade was scheduled to begin at 10:00 AM. In true Mexican style, it did not kick off until after noon. Que sera sera. This always-on-time-never-late Chicago girl has finally slipped into dutiful Mexican bliss. Didn’t take that long, did it?

We had been at the start of the procession since 9:30 AM and found a great spot on the edge of a fountain to view the parade. Or so we thought.

The parade, very reminiscent of carnival started at the Church of San Antonio and took a slow 3 hour trek to the center of town. To say it was colorful is an understatement. There were costumes and masks of every shade and color and material… from beautiful, hand painted paper mache to simple wire and masking tape. 

Caricatures of time both foreign and celebrities were there. In true Mexican style, young and old came together to celebrate. 

Cross dressing was the order of the day and elements of the parade were almost reminiscent of a Gay Pride parade in the states.

One of the pure joys was the inordinate amounts of candy thrown at the spectators. The minute the tossing kicked off, the umbrellas went up and turned upside down to catch the candy. Me, I let the candy land at my feet as I anxiously tried to take photos. I’m not sure at what point I gave up shooting as it was impossible to catch anything on camera other than a bunch of colorful umbrellas. They were beautiful and my day would not go unrewarded.

Already a late afternoon tradition, we went to our usual table outside Ten Ten Pie for a Margarita. About 15 minutes into our drinks, people flowed down the street in front of the restaurant with the music blaring and still in full revelry. It turned out that every single group from the parade had to make their exit from town down the street in front of the restaurant.

And since there were only a few of us there, I was about to get my own personal parade.

Buen Apetito!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Food Glorious Food…Again!

Saturday: Sabores San Miguel. Coming from Chicago, I called it The Taste of San Miguel. This gathering of some of the best eating establishments in San Miguel and I was able to knock 15 restaurants off my list all in just one sitting. 

The winner? An Argentinean beef sandwich that was so good, I couldn't wait to go back the next day for Round II.

Sunday: Dia de Los Locos. You didn’t need an excuse to be crazy. This carnivalesque atmosphere gave me just another reason to love San Miguel. 

Monday: Cooking Classes with Chef Paco Cardenas of El Petit Four

After all these years of coming to Mexico, I finally had an intimate moment with Mexican food. More about this amazing chef who is so passionate about what he does, you can’t help but just sit back and freefall in his moment. He, however, has other ideas and it’s a hands-on day in the classroom with Chef Paco.

From a tour of the San Miguel market (I finally know where to buy everything from fresh lemongrass to corn to comals) to his spur of the moment decision to put carnitas on the cooking menu that day, this was the best cooking class I’ve been to…and I’ve been to a lot of them.

Tuesday: Just like in the Carnita restaurant in Toluca I use to go to, it’s Carnitas for breakfast and I can’t think of any better time to have them.

Carnitas Bautista is on the menu this morning and Paco will join all of us from the class again to show us another great place to get carnitas in San Miguel besides his very own kitchen.

I’ve heard the gorditas are flat and filled, instead of being puffy, split and stuffed. Either way, I'm sure I'll eat a stack of them.

More about all of these amazing experiences later this week!

Buen Aptito!