Wednesday, July 29, 2015

SMA Shorts: July 2015

1826 Tequila Bar at the Rosewood Hotel

Alex, the resident Tequilier (tequila sommelier) helps guests to learn more about the selection of 120 tequilas and 20 mezcals at the 1826 Tequila Bar in the Rosewood Hotel. We love this bar for the range of tequila selections.

Need something enjoyable and unusual to do when guests come into town? You can book a tequila class anytime with a minimum of three people for 600 pesos each.

Alex’s favorite: Don Julio Real. I recently took a survey of tequila lovers, many who preferred Don Julio.

We also love Casa Dragones, whose spiritual home is in San Miguel. I first had this tequila at the Grand Cru at Bon Appetit’s Chicago Gourmet show. Rosewood also serves Casa Dragones and is one of the few bars in town to carry it. This photo was taken at one of our favorite rooftops in town, La Azotea.

My favorite Extra Anejo? Atelier Del Maestro. I love the bottle. It’s hand painted, this one by Oaxaca artist Rafael Avala. The bonus:The person that takes the last shot gets to keep the bottle.

Another brand to try? Remember my reference to 1-2-3 Tequila in a previous post? Rosewood carries its accomplice, 3-4-5 Extra Anejo Tequila, a superb mélange by architect, distiller and master blender Enrique Fonseca of 30% three year, 40% fourth year and 30% five year Extra Anejo tequila aged in French oak.

The Restaurant

I popped into The Restaurant for a Shaved Brussels Sprout and Kale Salad and the Duck Confit Tacos. Best meal in town x 2!

We’re already hungry for their new restaurant, Tacolicious, to open in November. Stay tuned.

Lavanda Café

Three of the many reasons we love Lavanda Café at 11:00 AM…breakfast, lunch or coffee!

Casa de Cocinas

We recently got another taste of Michael Coon’s Okonomiyaki pancake. It’s made with cabbage and shallots and is topped with crispy pork belly, bonito flakes, Japanese mayo, bulldog sauce and toasted nori. 

Still gets our vote for the best ethnic dish in San Miguel.

Instituto Allende

It wasn’t until the SMA Food Festival that I realized just how beautiful the Instituto Allende is…both inside and out.

Funny how I see things in a different light when I am eating.

La Sirena Gorda

In about a month, the old Sirena Gorda will close. We loved the original place, the oldest cantina in San Miguel, for its atmosphere. The new restaurant is located at #85 Hernandez Macias.

We stopped in for a Torta Ahogada de Chamorro (Pork Hock Torta). It was delicious; stuffed with pork, avocado and red onions and smothered in a sweet sauce of tomatoes and chili peppers. We haven't had an ahogada sandwich this good since last year in Guadalajara.

Our travels are defined by the meals we eat…

When did I ever like a main course more than the dessert? Yesterday, at Aperi. Chef Matteo Salas stunned me by a simple ingredient, a carrot, that completely altered my view of vegetables and how chefs cook them. It’s a day later and I can still taste the flavor. 

More on Aperi in August. PS: The dessert was really good, too!


Heaven on earth…were certain of that. Look for a post in August. We're going back first for another round. We just can’t get enough of this place. 

¡Buen Apetito!

Monday, July 27, 2015

La Dolce Vida: Living the Sweet Life

When was the last time you made puff pastry from scratch? I thought so. Me, too. Puff pastry is possibly one of the most labor-intensive things that you can make in the kitchen besides croissants but don’t tell that to Laura Buccehri who thinks nothing of doing it the day before she puts on an enormous Italian feast for a cast of hungry San Miguel food lovers. I am one of them.

Laura Buccehri is the latest addition to San Miguel’s growing base of personal chefs.What sets Laura apart from the rest of the pack? She does everything with love. You can taste it in her food. Like the remarkable, full blooded Italians in my own family, brother-in-law Phil and sister-in-law Liz, she embraces the fact that for most Italians, food isn't just nourishment, it is life. 

Laura has the wonderful ability to create dishes such as the homemade cocoa tagliolini with walnuts, gorgonzola sauce and mesquite smoked bacon that we had this past Sunday. It was an unusual combination of ingredients but the flavors worked so well together. It was one of my favorite dishes. She got the inspiration for the dish from her craving for both chocolate and cheese. I’m with her on those two.
One of the few female chefs in San Miguel, Laura’s experience is both extensive and diverse. Laura grew up in Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto, in Messina province, and like any large Italian family, food was a key part of their life. 

Messina is famous for cakes and ice-creams which she learned to make from her mother and her grandmother when she was just a child. Pretty soon, she was thinking about how things would taste and smell, learning about Sicilian ingredients, sampling delicious Italian flavors, devouring books and conversations about food. It’s safe to say at this point, food was in her blood. She cooked with her grandmother a lot and some of the most traditional dishes Laura cooks are her grandmother's original recipes. She claims she never got to do those recipes as well as her grandmother. We beg to differ because we can't imagine how anything could taste better than the Sicilian food she cooked for us, including her mother's Lemoncello recipe, which is the best I've ever had. 

Laura got her professional start at age 19 in one of the finest restaurants on Lake Como, Trattoria da Angela, where she began learning more about Italian cuisine from the French-trained chef, Adriana Zedda. Laura would spend hours in the kitchen watching her cook and writing down all of her secrets. Like Laura, Adriana had a touch for desserts. In fact, Laura's panna cotta, lemon custard and a couple of other desserts come directly from Adriana. 

She went on to work, cooking on private yachts and ultimately as the personal chef for a Russian tycoon. At this point in time, she become accustomed to cooking dinners for 75+ on a two hour notice for many well-known guests including Vladimir Putin.

She cooked in South Africa, then traveled to Greece to help her uncle out in at his 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. The only thing she misses in San Miguel is the sea. I’m with her on that one, too.

Her multi-cultural experience shines through in her cooking and when you have the pleasure of sitting down to one of her comidas, you will be surprised to observe that she cooks it in a tiny kitchen which was recently upgraded with a chefs table. Laura somehow makes it work and maximizes every square inch of space.

Laura and Justin own a Bed and Breakfast in Siracusa, where Justin comes from. One of the oldest towns in Italy, it is on the sea and is rich with ancient Roman and Greek remains; a reminder of the enormous power and wealth it had in those times. Laura and Justin will be leading culinary tours in Sicily when they’re not in San Miguel and will teach Italian cooking classes. 

From my recent class with Laura on puff pastry and sponge cake, I can tell you that Laura is a natural born teacher.

Her husband Justin tends to the large garden on their property where many of the things you eat at Laura’s table are grown. Just seeing it, along with their greenhouse, will inspire you to grow your own. The mixed organic green salad she served on Sunday (lettuce, kale, tatsoi, and arugula) was divine. Her menu changes weekly with whatever happens to be growing in her garden at the time.

To give you a taste for her food, here are the menus for the two days that I was there:

1st Sunday:

Cocktail: Shrimps cocktail profiteroles. 

Starter: Pistachio and sesame-seed crusted Salmon with homemade orange- 
mayonnaise and pan focaccia with extra virgin olive oil and rosemary. 

First Course: Risotto ai Frutti di Mare in a parmesan nest.

Second Course: Sicilian style stuffed baby calamari in pinot grigio wine sauce with
butternut squash and cinnamon mash stuffing.

Desserts: Parfait with croccante di mandorle and hot chocolate sauce.
Individual lemon meringue tart.

Bianco e Nero (whipped cream filled profiteroles in chocolate and hazelnut sauce).
Affogato al caffe.

Second Sunday:

Appetizer: Onion pudding in parmesan zabaglione sauce.

Main courses:
Homemade cocoa tagliolini with walnuts, Gorgonzola sauce and   mesquite smoked bacon

Filetto di maiale in crosta (pork fillet in puff pastry coat stuffed with prosciutto crudo and mushrooms cream) with apple sauce.

Salad:Mixed organic green salad (lettuce, kale, tatsoi, arugula) from our vegetable garden.

Dessert: Delizia al limone…her lemon sponge cake with homemade lemoncello. 

I can attest to the fact that she probably does Italian desserts better than anyone in San Miguel. I didn't just sample four desserts, I ate four full-size portions and refused to share  them with anyone, including my good friend Preston, who helps Laura and Justin out whenever they have a full house… which happens to be most days lately.

Laura's charismatic partner and husband Justin started La Cucina di Afrodita with Laura last year. Justin was a police officer for 20 years and was selected to represent his country for the United Nations mission in Kosovo, where he served for over five years as a criminal intelligence officer. In addition to doing weekend dinners, he also works as a landscape designer for Viveros del Desierto, a nursery specializing in rare desert plants and teaches private Italian classes. In order to go to Italy prepared to experience it to the fullest, plan to take a basic Italian class from him before you travel.

Contact Laura for a reservation at

It was just yesterday that I was living the sweet life, out in the country, soaking up the sun, happy on Italian food and wine, chatting with a group of 18 people (many who have been to Italy recently or are going) who love food as much as I do and certain that in our next life we're all coming back as an Italian from Sicily.

La Dolce Vida is as good as it gets!

Buon Appetito!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

SMA Food Festival: San Miguel’s Chefs Take Center Stage

It's incredible that San Miguel put two food shows, two weeks apart, into the record books this past month. Thanks to Sabores San Miguel producers Donnie Masterton and Angela Lewis Serrano and SMA Food Festival's principal trio: Ricardo Pare Trejo, Daniel Estebaranz and Jorge Alarcon L.  

Although some people made an effort to compare the two shows, they were both very different. While Sabores highlighted San Miguel’s restaurants, the SMA Food Festival was a celebration of its chefs. Both shows did a great job to further position San Miguel as an emerging culinary center in Mexico.

If you haven’t noticed, San Miguel is in the middle of a food revolution right now that is not about to slow down any time soon. In fact, the entire Bajio region, including Queretaro, is fast becoming a place to go for food in Mexico. 

No one is more surprised than DF food writer Nick Gilman, who lived in San Miguel and was pretty certain that the food was nothing to write home about until he recently popped into town, under the radar, and was inspired by the talents of Aperi’s Matteo Salas. 

I'm happy to be living in San Miguel in order to document the transformation. That’s why I came here. The best news is that food lovers in San Miguel no longer have to travel to Mexico City, Oaxaca, Tijuana or Puebla just to get great food… although I love eating in these culinary hubs and always uncover some surprising things about Mexican food when I go.

So what’s responsible for the change in the food culture in San Miguel these past few years? 

Blame this food revolution on Donnie Masterton, Chef/Owner of The Restaurant and one of the producers of Sabores San Miguel. Back in 2012, Chef Masterton put on a trendy, pop up dinner with Tacolicious owner Joe Hargrave.

Later that year, Mexico City superstar chef Enrique Olvera took over Moxi in Hotel Matilda. About that same time, former Director of the CIA’s culinary tours, Michael Coon, was ramping up his dinners and tastings over at Casa de Cocinas.

Casa Dragones, a handcrafted, small batch, luxury tequila with its spiritual home in San Miguel, was rated by Wine Enthusiast at 96/100 – the magazine’s highest tequila rating.

In 2013, the readers of Conde Nast Traveler selected San Miguel Allende as the number one city in the world. CNN turned around and did the same thing. Tourism increased significantly since then and the demand for high-quality food surfaced …finally.

Even Andy’s, San Miguel’s most popular taco cart and street food, was written up by the Wall Street Journal last year.

Matteo Salas arrived on the scene from Mexico City to head up the kitchen at Aperi and television’s popular series, Top Chef, filmed three episodes in San Miguel.

        iPhone Photo
      iPhone Photo
     iPhone Photo
Then, an unlikely trio of entrepreneurs, Ricardo Pare Trejo, Daniel Estebaranz and Jorge Alarcon L., launched a Bon Appetit Chicago Gourmet style show in San Miguel and the rest is history.

The SMA Food Festival

So what were the things we liked about the first San Miguel Food Festival besides the fact that everyone is talking about San Miguel being the new place to go for food in Mexico?

 The Chefs

This show made its debut with a lineup of distinguished chefs including San Miguel’s all-stars: Chef Victor Palma of The Rosewood; Chef Mateo Salas from Aperi; and Chef Donnie Masterton of The Restaurant.

It was all family business for SMA’s celebrated foursome; father, Chef Bricio Domínguez, sons Chef Alonso Domínguez, 21 and Chef Luis Pablo Dominguez, 16 and a nephew Chef Pablo Domínguez, 24. The next time you see Bricio, thank him for building a dynasty of new, young, chefs… all from his very own family.

Also at the show were local favorites Chef Davide Giribaldi and Chef Greta Ortega from Mi Vida; Chef Salvador Garcia from The Rosewood, Chef Allen Williams of The Food Factory, and Chef Marco Cruz of Bu’i Cocina de Campo.

Bu’i, by the way, is SMA Food Festival organizer Daniel Estebaranz’s restaurant, located about 10 km outside of San Miguel in the Otomi Equestrian Center. We’ll catch a visit soon but from all reports, the food is pretty remarkable.

Also making appearances were Chef Dante Ferrero of Neuquen who orchestrated the sensational BBQ Sunday afternoon; Chef Leonardo de La Sierra of Equip de San Miguel Gourmet, Private Chef Jonathan Alvarado and our local favorite, Chef Julián García.

Chefs Juan Emilio Villaseñor, Armando Prats and Enrique Farjeat did the brunch on Sunday.

Chef Table Dining

The chefs table at Aperi in Dos Casas is the only one in San Miguel. It’s also the most sought after reservation in town, so creating chef table dining at the show was genius. 

I selected the Saturday lunch because some of my favorite chefs were cooking; Chef Matteo Salas of Aperi, Chefs Victor Palma and Salvador Garcia from The Rosewood and the team of Chef Greta Ortega and Italian Chef David Garibaldi from Mi Vida.

The menu:

Mivida’s Amouse bouche: Ceviche of rockot with balsamic vinegar and raspberries.

1st Course: Matteo Salas’s Baby squids cooked in brown butter and lemon, charred oyster mushrooms, dry prosciutto and fried parsley.

2nd Course: Davide Giribaldi and Greta Ortega’s Tortelloni of roasted beef, pancetta and oporto reduction.

3rd Course: Victor Palma’s Tlayuda with shrimp and red snapper in salsa chintextle.

4rd Course: Matteo Salas’s crispy suckling pig from Celaya, gel of orange and Mezcal, mustard leafs and acid sauce of sherry vinegar.

5th course: Matteo Salas’s burned sweet potato with almost burned cream, ice cream of brown butter and salt. 

Note: We loved watching this young guy get a culinary education just by opening his casserole.

6th Course: Salvador Garcia’s Bubulubu of foie gras, marshmallow of vanilla and raspberries jam.

Petit fours: Mivida’s Cantuci, Aperi’s Chile of Chocolate and The Rosewood’s Chocolate Bonbon with Basel.

The set for the chefs table was built and sponsored by Casa Armida in San Miguel. We loved the simple elegance of the design.

The Front of the House

There was a good mix of vendors in both the front and back room, many who were not at Sabores San Miguel. 

There was a cheese maker from Puebla; the one who keeps us healthy, Katie of Spirulina Viva; jello shots from Sanchots (who has been in business for just one month); Los Reyes Meat Company, a mother-daughter team specializing in meat from Monterrey; Poptails, frozen paleta cocktails on a stick and 

the Beer, Tequila, Mezcal and Wine vendors from all over Mexico including Cerveceria Vopper from Mineral de Pozos (affiliated with the beautiful Posada de las Mina's Hotel in downtown Pozos); Gracias a Dios Mezcal (who also makes the only gin we love, Ginebra de Agave, made from Mezcal. We discovered it at the Cava Sautto Wine Festival back in February thanks to the charming Ricardo Wolf who was also at this show) and Traspatio Winery

        Love the name of this wine!

Filiberto Martinez Romo, owner of Traspatio, named the small winery in Valle de Guadalupe after his father, who he made wine with in their backyard (traspatio) when he was growing up.

     Photo of Alessa Brava by unionjalisco

The Back of the House

This is where all the glitz and the glamour was including the Miss Jalisco, Alessa Brava, chefs in full force, vendors including SMA’s own Mark Taylor of Dos Aves, Blime Cookware and Kitchen Stuff (the new kitchen store in town) and 

Rafael Mendiolea of Gourmet Grill who cooked for a large crowd on Saturday with made-to-order Arrachera and Hanger Steaks.

The one constant at both shows? Buenos Aires Bistro. We love Chef Mariano Alvarez who does everything right from answering a tough critic on Trip Advisor to cooking the best pork belly and sausage sandwiches we’ve ever eaten. It was some of the best food at the show and we’re hoping he’ll put them on his comida menu soon.

We also had fun with Mixologist Sam Marchiatto of Mixologiarocks, who paired up with Helados Bok of Ajijic, to present the Dark Side of the Ice Cream; pairing beer-based cocktails with goat’s milk ice cream. Honestly, there wasn’t a drink I didn’t love that Bacon Ice Cream with.

Another frontrunner was Dante Ferrero's Sunday BBQ. The spectacular display was worth waiting for… and studying. For anyone who wants to build a BBQ, this was the way to do it.

It was some of the best lamb, pork and cow BBQ we’ve had in a long time.

The Venue:


The Instituto Allende is as good as it gets. How can you beat the stellar view of La Parroquia as a backdrop and at sunset, the light was magical.


The Communal Tables:

Want to meet your neighbor (that actually happened) or steal a bite off his plate when he’s not looking? We loved these tables for their “meet” factor.

By the way, we met Gail Marie Barros of Gail Marie Artisan Chocolates and her husband Bob. Their son Nick of Barros Productions was the videographer for the show; see his video at You Tube.

We stayed late but didn’t make it to the 3 AM closing. Nothing that a few 2 AM Marachias wouldn’t cure next year.

The Music:

We favored the sounds of Elliot The Furniture and so did the five young girls sitting next to us.

Vocalist Andrés Mendoza was really impressive, as was Onier Bacallao who rocked the terrace with his Trumpet. René Garcin, Aldo Organista, Fito Delgado and Cache rounded out this terrific group from Guadalajara. Watch for their video to be released soon.

The Price:

I know. Next year you’re going to book the chefs table. You and hundreds of other people. One piece of advice: Book it early. The VIP ticket was a steal at 1500 pesos.

The entry fee was only 120 pesos for all three days and although you had to pay for some food items, the prices were low… 10 pesos for a Jello Shot and only 50 pesos for that Pork Belly Sandwich from Buenos Aires Bistro.

The Effect:

Producing an epic is always a huge risk when you've just come off of a highly successful show two weeks before.

Five years from now, ask me about the very first SMA Food Festival. Calling it epic may just be an understatement.

Buen Apetito!