Monday, April 21, 2014

Tasting the Difference

When I was back in the states and on an expense account, I still looked at menu prices. I know people who didn't. With the exception of all-you-can-eat buffets in Vegas, the price of hotel food was often more than double the cost of a meal at an outside restaurant. So when I hear people dismiss hotel restaurants as a good dining option, it does not surprise me.

But that was the states. This is Mexico where more than ever, quality matters when you talk about the price of food.

Just ask Chefs like Enrique Olvera and take the Mole madre at Pujol as a prime example.

The preparation requires the sauce to be reheated for weeks... around 170 days in fact in order to achieve its distinctive, aged flavor. The foundation behind this recipe? Quality ingredients.

Take my breakfast at Hotel Matilda...

After being pleasantly surprised with a bowl of thick, Greek-style yogurt, homemade fruit and honey, a beautiful plate of seasonal, fresh fruit but most of all a bill for 55 pesos, I ordered the same thing the following day at another restaurant where all of the same ingredients were mixed together. The bill was 70 pesos. The other restaurant's yogurt was thin and runny, the fruit was day old at best and the granola was not homemade.

So which breakfast would you rather have?

15 pesos is not a sum that most people would ever pay attention to. What I did notice however was the difference in both the quality of the ingredients and the eating experience.

In addition to the high-quality food, the breakfast at Moxi was served on beautiful tableware with fresh flowers, homemade breads and marmalades. My view was the hotel pool.

My experience at the Sierra Nevada has been pretty much the same. Beautiful surroundings and high-quality food are expected but many people think it's too costly.

Think again. The pancakes with Cajeta butter are just $77 pesos and Eggs Benedict with homemade, fresh-out-of-the-oven Chorizo is $145 pesos. In fact, the Chorizo is some of the best I've had in Mexico.

What made their breakfasts so good? The quality of the ingredients they use. You can taste the difference. And by the way, the surroundings didn't hurt the experience either.

Having just come from Mexico City and Oaxaca where the food is exquisite more often than not, I had the same experience again this past week at 1826, a restaurant in the Rosewood Hotel.

Without question, 1826 was one of the best meals I've had in San Miguel. Why? Sorry to repeat myself again but quality ingredients and I didn't need much convincing to return later in the week for lunch. Finally, fish tacos worth writing about.

So, did we get what we paid for?

Ask Barry. I didn't have to pick up the tab which was another reason worth celebrating.


Argula Roasted Beetroot and Dates

Caramelized pumpkin seeds, rocket lettuce, marinated cherry tomatoes, fine herbs vinaigrette and Granny Smith Ice Cream, Medjol dates.
170 pesos

I split this dish with a friend. Half a salad was the perfect portion.

The magic was in the ice cream, the ingredient that really worked and pulled all of the flavors together.

Moro Crab Salad

Habanero pepper, cilantro sprouts. Sweet lime juice
160 pesos

Crispy Unshelled Crab

Organic Vegetables in "escabeche", Saffron Aioli and onion rings
160 pesos

I'm now asking myself if I will ever be satisfied with Hank's Softshell Crab sandwich again after eating this? Seriously, you'll have to convince me.

Homemade Fetuccini with Lobster

Basil Cream, Roasted Garlic, Guajillo chilies and Reggiano Parmesan Cheese
330 pesos


Apple and Cinnamon

Roasted warm apple tart with Cinnamon Crumble, Meringue and Vanilla Ice Cream
105 pesos

Cajeta- Goat Milk Caramel

Creamy Cajeta Caramel Custard enhanced with Lemon Grass and Pecan Crocant
105 pesos


    Antique Taco 

Crispy Red Snapper Tacos

190 pesos

Actually, I haven't had a good fish Tacos since I last ate at Antique Taco in Chicago. These two plates were very similar and about the same price.

Copa San Miguel

Vanilla, Chocolate and Goat Milk Caramel Ice Cream, sauce with Baileys, Caramelized Banana and Creme Anglais.
96 pesos.

This dessert was served in a large glass. It was good but I expected a little more after the fabulous desserts we had earlier in the week.

...but then any excuse is a good excuse to try another dessert.

Buen Apetito!