Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Week of Indulgences

After a crazy work week, I’m all about indulging in things that make me feel good.

For me, it’s not about a massage, smoking a good cigar or staying in my PJ’s all day.

My pleasures are all about food and drink. Here are some of them.

Buen Apetito!

Monday: Casa Madero
2V Chardonnay Chenin Blanc
Carretera 102 Paila-Parras, Km 18.5, Hacienda San Lorenzo, Parras, Mexico
Available: Cava Sautto, Hernandez Macias No. 59, San Miguel de Allende

It’s no wonder we hate Mondays. Just when we’re starting to enjoy our weekend, it’s time to go back to work. The Monday Blues are so common that they have become a cultural phenomenon. No better reason to start your night than with a liquid indulgence; a glass of Casa Madero 2V Chardonnay Chenin Blanc.

Wine professionals tell me that 2v has a pronounced nose of peach and crushed pineapple with persistent flavors of citrus, white pepper and spice. What I know? I love the taste.

The Parras Valley is a small wine region in the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains of central northern Mexico. Although 90% of Mexico’s wines come from Baja, this area has great historical significance because Casa Madero, the oldest winery in Mexico, is located there. Founded in 1597, Casa Madero produces some of the best wines in Mexico.

I first discovered this wine at a little Italian restaurant in Mexico City called La Vineria Restaurante Y Vino Bar, Avenida Fernando Montes de Oca 52, Cuauhtemoc, Condesa. After a lengthy conversation with the owner about Mexican wines, he was so confident that I would enjoy Casa Madero 2V Chardonnay Chenin Blanc, he delivered a bottle to our table. We consumed not one but two bottles that night and I’ve been captivated by the taste ever since.

I love the entire line of Casa Madero wines including some of the reds, which I seldom drank until I had them at the Cava Sautto Wine Festival two years ago.

I’m up for a visit to Casa Madero. Rumor has it that a top SMA chef will lead a group to the Parras Valley and the winery sometime next year. Stay tuned.

Tuesday: Bautista Brothers Carnitas
Breakfast Carnita Torta
Available: Tuesday Market, San Miguel de Allende

I am a carnivore. I love beef, chicken and lamb but pork weighs in first when it comes to eating meat in Mexico.

I’ve eaten so much pork in fact, I’m at the point where I can tell great carnitas from good ones.
What makes Bautista Brothers Carnitas, a stand in the middle tent at Tuesday market, a weekly Tuesday indulgence? The pork is simmered in lard and cooked low and slow until fork-tender. Everything is eaten, so pick your favorite part, from the tip of the nose to the curl of the tail.

Call this one obsession you don’t want to renounce any time soon. 

Wednesday: Casa Dragones
Tequila, Mexico
Small batch, luxury Tequila producer
Available: La Azotea, Umaran 6

My nickname, the Tequila Queen, came during a stint I did as a consultant to develop new tequila markets in the US with my good friend César Mascorro Pérez who still travels the world promoting both Tequila and Mezcal.

The name stuck. It’s no secret, I LOVE tequila…good tequila.

Casa Dragones is a handcrafted, small batch, luxury tequila and was rated by Wine Enthusiast at 96/100 – the magazine's highest tequila rating.

My first experience with Casa Dragones was at the Grand Cru at Chicago Gourmet 2012 sponsored by Bon Appetit. I was surprised to find tequila among the many fine wines at this show so naturally, it was my first taste.

It’s one Wednesday indulgence that is definitely worth its’ price tag.

Thursday: Aperi
Beef shoulder, carrots and onions, burned cabbage, wine reduction and burnt bread infusion and Chocolate in textures
Dos Casas Boutique Hotel and Spa
Quebrada 101

Pick one restaurant in SMA that delivers the most flavorful food and Aperi would be my choice, not just because chef/owner, Matteo Salas, is a really nice guy but because he’s one chef that’s worthy of all the hype.

The first time I had this meal, I wrote: “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.”

I went back for round II and topped off this appetizing dish with the Chocolate in textures dessert.

If you’re going to do a single indulgence this week, this is the feast.

Friday: The Restaurant
Braised Rabbit Tostadas
Solano #16, San Miguel de Allende

There are many indulgences on The Restaurant’s menu and the Rabbit Tostadas are it for me. Why? Because rabbit is one thing I never prepare at home.

The rabbits are natural, free range rabbits raised locally in San Miguel.

Topping the braised rabbit is cumin scented black beans, cilantro, radish and lime crème fraiche. Honestly, I was surprised when sampling this dish because it really delivers on the taste.

Love double indulgences? Finish with the burnt caramel ice cream sundae with marshmallow sauce and salted peanuts.

Saturday: Simbiosis
Mushroom Vendor
Available: Saturday Organic Market, San Miguel de Allende

As a mycophagist, you could grow them at home but once you see the selection of mushrooms from this vendor at the Saturday Organic Market, you’ll want to buy a basket and head home to cook.

From Oyster’s to Morels, mushrooms are the Saturday indulgence that will add a well-defined flavor to your cooking.

So, what time is dinner Saturday night?

Sunday: The Perfect Steak
My House!

I always thought that the BBQ grill was the one essential tool for cooking a great steak. Ask me after cooking one of the BEST STEAKS EVER and I will tell you that I can be convinced to give up my Weber for a cast iron pan…at least when it comes to steaks and chops.

The recipe is from Prime Steakhouse in Las Vegas and was featured on the cover of Saveur’s April 2012 issue.

This method is so simple and a Le Creuset grill pan was the charm in the mix once again.

Don't have a glass of wine until you've finished the cooking. The high heat demands your undivided attention.
1 2” thick porterhouse steak
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
2 tbsp. Canola oil
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
6 sprigs thyme
1 lemon

Season steak with salt and pepper and let sit 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 500 degrees.
Heat a cast iron skillet on high. Add canola oil and when the pan almost smokes, add the steak and cook 5 minutes.
Flip the steak and place in the oven for 7-10 minutes longer.
Pour off the pan drippings and return to the stovetop. Melt butter. Add thyme and lemon and brown for about 4 minutes.
Serve butter and lemon over the steak.

Note: Watch your cooking time carefully. I determined the perfect cooking time for my oven is 5 minutes on the stovetop and 7 minutes in the oven. Get the timing down to a science.