Saturday, November 28, 2015

Get Your Merry On: Local Holiday Gifts for Food Lovers

You don’t have to take a trip to Mexico City to purchase Christmas gifts for your favorite food lovers. There are places here in San Miguel that have one-of-a-kind gifts you wouldn’t find any place else.

From dining out and cooking lessons to a Chef’s Table experience at a food festival, here’s a list of gifts that will make your special food lovers sparkle and shine.
Lesson #1 when holiday shopping: You can’t keep these gifts for yourself no matter how much you love them.

Savor the hunt and Buen Apetito!

Buying memorable experiences…

Dinner Out

What’s the ideal gift for food lovers? Dinner out at their favorite restaurant. Try these celebrated spots for a truly joyous, holiday experience:

 In downtown SMA:

The Restaurant at Sollano #16
Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday from 12 to 10pm and Thursday, Friday, Saturday from 12 to 11pm

Share a variety of the appetizers – all of them exceptional; Shaved Brussels Sprout and Kale Salad; Hamburger night Thursday; Pineapple Margarita and the Coffee and Ancho Chili Braised Pork Cheeks. Don’t forget the desserts.
Chef Donnie Masterton consistently delivers on everything he creates. Look for his new restaurants, Birdies Burgers and Tacolicious, to open after the first of the year.

In the Country:
B’ui Cocina de Campo at Km 2 Camino a San Miguel el Viejo, C.P. 37700, San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Phone: 415 688 0021.
I call it “The B’ui Experience” because I was captivated, not just by the setting - in stunningly beautiful Otomi - but by everything; from the superior food and wine, to the extraordinary service and the state of its’ simple, country elegance. From start to finish, you can easily do three hours here.
We had the most incredible experience AGAIN at B’ui this past Sunday. Order the tasting menu for the best culinary experience and value. For wine the Espacio en Blanco Chardonnay from Valle de Guadalupe or the Casa Madero 2v, 50% Chardonnay, 50% Chenin Blanc from Parras Coahuila, Mexico are splendid choices.
We think Chef Marko Antoine Cruz is one of the best chefs in SMA. You will too.
In San Antonio:
Zumo at Orizaba 87
There are only a handful of restaurants in SMA that have it all: great food, creative drinks, world-class service and a million dollar view to match. ZUMO is at the top of that list.

Part of the pleasure of this experience is the incredible staff. You will be completely wowed by the service.
Open for dinner Tuesday – Saturday, with seating at 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM. Soon to be open for Sunday brunch. Order the tasting menu any night or go on Tuesday night just for Tapas and Artisan Cocktails.

This striking dish is Chef Gabriel Ferrant’s Conde soup with Mexican sausage, baby squid, black beans, crispy jalapeño tortilla strips and fresh Oaxaca cheese aioli.
Something new…

La Canica Calle Pila Seca #2

Chef Bricio Dominguez’s latest street food restaurant with partner, Chef Paco Roncero, a well-known Michelin star chef from Spain, is enchanting. They landed in a beautiful, old home on Pila Seca and put together a fun menu that changes weekly.

Delightful back patio with lights strung above to remind you that twinkle is what you do when you’re dining with your best foodie friends at SMA newest restaurant.

The merriment starts here…

La Azotea at Umaran #6, is the place for a party, large or small. An attractive rooftop with killer views, La Azotea is one of our favorite spots because of the tremendous staff and its signature dish -- a taco shell made from jicama that is filled with lightly-breaded shrimp and topped with fried leeks, chipotle mayo and a tamarind sauce.
For people-watching, the list of personalities who frequent this high-style eatery goes on and on.

An edible Christmas…

La Lonja Carniceria at Mesones 33 and Colegio 21

Love Hansen’s Prime Rib but want to cook it at home? You can order any meat from La Lonja to make that special meal for the person you love.
Open 7:00 AM to 6 PM, they also have home delivery. Steaks: T-bones, rib-eyes, fillets, New York; ground-beef, sausages, lamb-and-pork cuts; and poultry: chicken, ostrich and turkey.
From Your Kitchen:

You’re such an incredible cook, no reason not to make something mouth-watering and box or bottle it up for your special Foodie.
Buying experiences with built-in delayed gratification:

Cooking Classes:
Chef Michael Coon at Casa de Cocinas
Chef Michael Coon teaches cooking classes, does food tours, Mexican day trips and has magnificent tasting dinners in his kitchen every month. Michael has traveled just about everywhere and his knowledge of world food is significant.
The theme of this particular dinner was tequila and his menu boasted some pretty superb tequila combinations.
Get on Michael’s email list. Write him at
Chef Laura Buccheri at La Cucina di Afrodita
Phone: 415-124-2435

Laura has the wonderful ability to create dishes such as this homemade cocoa tagliolini with walnuts, gorgonzola sauce and mesquite smoked bacon. It was an unusual combination of ingredients but the flavors worked so well together.
Call Laura for private or group cooking lessons. She specializes in desserts and I can personally recommend every one of them. I’ve tried them all.
She also conducts culinary tours of Italy. You can email Laura at

                                                                  Photo: El Petit Four website
Chef Paco Cárdenas at El Petit Four
Mesones 99-1

This was the first cooking class I took in San Miguel and still one of my favorites. In addition to learning how to make many classic Mexican dishes, Paco takes you to the market and around San Miguel to meet the food vendors he buys from. I still use the same vendors today. The minimum to open a class is 4 people; maximum 6.
The Chef’s Table Experience: SMA Food Festival
The chefs table at the SMA Food Festival was the hottest food ticket in San Miguel last year. $100 USD for a multi-course meal and you pick the chef.
Create a clever I Owe You to tell your favorite food lover you are treating them to this experience.
Look for a confirmation of the dates on . They sold out early last year so be sure to book right away. This is #1 on my own wish list.
Hot Air Balloon Ride: Globo San Miguel
Want to get an aerial view of beautiful SMA? Make it a champagne flight followed by breakfast at the Rosewood. This is my idea of lofty living. Gift certificates are available.

Contact Guadalupe Garza for additional information.

Sabores San Miguel at Parque Benito Juarez

Tell the kids to start saving their pesos and treat you to the best family food experience in San Miguel, Sabores San Miguel. They will be hard pressed to spend $15.00 USD which will get you 10 tastings.
The festival will be held again this year in mid-June, the same weekend as the Fiesta de los Locos. Look for more information on
Sketching Classes: Susan Dorf
Do you daydream about keeping a sketching journal with all of your favorite food and restaurants? Take a class from Susan Dorf who publishes her sketches in Atencion San Miguel each week. Susan swears she can teach anyone to draw, even me.

Email for information and to register.
Don’t forget to package the gift with lots of colored pencils, pens and a beautiful sketchbook from one of the many markets around San Miguel.
A trip to the Food Capital of Mexico: Oaxaca
For years, I've been told that the food in Oaxaca was the best in Mexico but I had to see for myself. It took just one plate of dark, rich, and wonderfully sweet and spicy mole negro at Catedral Restaurante and Bar in Oaxaca to convince me.

Food lovers will also enjoy the markets in Ocotlan on Friday and Tlacolula on Sunday. Indigenous people from the villages all over the central valleys of Oaxaca come for market day. You will be seduced by the smells, the sights and the sounds.
This trip is inexpensive:
A flight on Interjet, my favorite airline in Mexico, is usually under $100 each way from Mexico City. Interjet Website

Grab a room at Casa Colonial for as low as $45 USD. This bed and breakfast is in an ideal location and a short walk to downtown. You’ll love the communal breakfast in the morning with others from across the globe. Want to splurge? You can also book a room at Casa Oaxaca, the #2 hotel in Oaxaca and home to Casa Oaxaca Restaurante.

You can also take a Wednesday cooking class at Seasons of my Heart Cooking School with Susan Trilling for just $85.00 USD which includes a trip to the Etla market.
Gifts with instant gratification…
Charitable Giving
Giving to a charity is one of the BEST ways to celebrate the holidays. My favorites are:

Nourish Mexican school children through programs at Feed the Hungry
Celebrate the fact that you are giving a family their own kitchen to cook in at Casita Linda.

While you’re at it, a great gift to give yourself is to volunteer at Feed the Hungry or Casita Linda. Nothing outshines the gift of your time.
A REAL Christmas Tree

There is something heavenly about waking up in the middle of the night to twinkling lights and the smell of fresh pine. Size the tree perfectly to the person you are giving it to. At Costco. $900 pesos.

15 Pesos will get you an adorable little reindeer and a hug from Guanayadra and her mother Erica.

In the Jardin every afternoon until Christmas. Skip that cup of coffee and you can buy two.
High spirited gifts…
Wine Festival: Cava Sautto Wine Fest at Hotel Sautto, Calle del Dr Ignacio Hernandez Macias 59

Reserve wines are in abundance at this show as well as high end liquors like Hennessy, Dewar's, Bacardi, Johnny Walker, Herradura, Chevas Regal, Bruxo, Grey Goose and other leading labels. For 300 pesos, you sample any of the wines or liquors featured at the event. At the end of the night, take your ticket stub into Cava Sautto, Hotel Sautto’s wine shop and you get a $200 peso credit against any bottle in the store. 

Mark your calendar for the next Cava Sautto Wine Festival on February 6, 2016.
Give your Foodie a bottle of Casa Madero wine from Cava Sautto when you gift them.

Cerveceria Dos Aves

This brew, made in San Miguel, won major awards this past year in the 2015 Mexico Professional Beer Competition, with gold medals in both Pale Ale and Stout Imperial.
Dos Aves makes a Christmas brew every year, so look for it in stores around San Miguel.

Make a Christmas Party Kit: Put bottles of Dos Aves in a wooden case and package it with handmade coasters, and vials of glitter and confetti.

Gourmet Food, Wines and Liquors…
Carnevino at Ancha De San Antonio 24 has a wonderful, extensive selection of wines, liquors and high-end meats from Sonora. You’ll need at least an hour to explore all of their offerings.

Carnevino also carries the exquisite Carmen Chardonnay that I had at ZUMO the other night

Visit La Europa at Canal 13 and create a Bellini kit with your favorite Champagne or Cava and seasonal fruits.
Ask Felipe about other distinctive tequilas and mezcals on their shelf including San Miguel’s own Tequila Casa Dragones.
Your favorite food lover can’t have too many…
Festive Gifts: Abrazos at Zacateros 24

There should be a sign on the door: Smiles Happen Here! This place is an experience.
Nothing shouts MEXICO more than Abrazos. When you walk in, you’ll be tempted to throw a fiesta, or handfuls of confetti, buy something rosa, build an altar, count your primos, down a bottle of tequila, set off fireworks, ring the church bells, sing with the Mariachis, plant a chili garden or play the Loteria with your favorite group of Lucha Libres.

Abrazos carries a full line of kitchen gifts including festive aprons and chef coats. You’ll fall in love with the Mexican designs like Jardin de Frida, Elotes Amarillos, Chiles Fiesta Azul, Dia de Los Muertos, even festive Pinatas.

It’s my happy place when I want to be reminded of why I am in Mexico. Owner Patrice Wynne will likely be there to inspire your choices.
Gift up to persuade your food lover to come back for another visit because three weeks was simply not long enough. They’ll love you for reminding them that the party’s here in Mexico and happens every day.

Floor Cloths

Beautiful and artistic floor cloths by Joy Wesson.

Kitchen Gadgets: Blime at 50 B Esp. Nunez

Blime is a one-stop cooking and gadget store. From garlic crushers and whisks to a good set of pots and pans, it’s so nice to finally have a kitchen supply store in SMA. If you can’t find it here, ask them to order it.
Blime is opening another store on Ancha San Antonio soon. Ask for Marisol.
Spices and Chilies: A Granel at Puente De Umaran 27
When I want fresh, this little store, up from the Mercado Ignacio Ramírez, has everything: seeds, chilies, sweets, spices , grains  and many other raw ingredients.
Load up a basket and give it to that food lover along with a recipe or two. 
Something Extravagant: Sollano 16 at Sollano 16

Beautiful, elegant gifts for your favorite food lover including Chamba, the handmade black pottery from Colombia and milky white Astier de Villate from Paris.

Stunning coffee table books from all over the world. My go-to shop when I am looking for something extravagant. You’ll be surprised at the a good way.
Ceramics and Pottery: Arte y Artesanias Paloma at Ancha de San Antonio #28

Lovely and unusual ceramics and tableware from all over Mexico. This shop is tiny but has plenty of items for all the food lovers on your list.
Fair prices along with first-class service. It’s another one of San Miguel’s best kept secrets.
The Galleries at Fabrica Aurora

Explore the Galleries at Fabrica Aurora and find great food gifts like these antique bowls from Le Spezie.
Also check out Cantadora Cantera (415 154-8302) and Algarabia (415 154-7505) for attractive gifts you wouldn’t find at any other store.
Bilingual Food Shopping Guide: Biblioteca Pública de San Miguel de Allende at Insurgentes #25
How do you say Pie Crust ready-made in Spanish? This little book converts all the culinary terms to make for instant Spanish. From meat cuts, vegetables and fruits, to the most exotic spices, you’ll want to take this book with you when you shop. 150 pesos.


I loved this book from the first time I saw it and realized what a resource it is. Tacopedia explores everything about Mexico’s favorite food, the taco, including all of the different traditions and regions in Mexico. You’ll also get 100 authentic Taco recipes adapted from the Mexican best-seller; from fillings and tortillas to salsas and sauces.
My favorite part of this book is the wonderful graphics, photographs and illustrations. I say they make the book. What do you think?

I purchased my copy from Michael Coon at Casa de Cocinas. Email him at this address for availability.
Handpainted Tableware: Ceramicalopez at Recreo 10-A
Ceramicalopez sells eye-catching, handpainted tableware.

I love this little oval dish with a matching coffee cup to use at breakfast, my favorite time to plan the day. Fill the cup with peppermint sticks and hand write a special holiday note.

Cazuelas: Josefina at Losa Barro Local #3, Mercado Ignacio Ramírez
A cazuela is as important as a cast-iron pan is to a Southern cook. 

These clay pots are great for cooking soups, beans or stews. It holds a steady heat allowing foods to cook both slowly and evenly.
It’s no wonder that Cazuelas are collected by Mexican families and handed down through the generations. Some people are so attached to them they even give them a name. I call mine FLACO trusting that the calories will burn out of whatever it is I'm cooking.

This stand, inside Mercado Ignacio Ramírez, sells cazuelas for the best price.

Claudia’s Pies
Too lazy to cook? Give your foodie a day off and order Claudia’s pies. Call 415-151-0146 or email her at
My favorite: this Lemon Meringue. She also sells at La Pulga; next one December 13th.

Chocolates: Joferej
This is one of my favorite places to hang out, enjoy a cup of high-end hot chocolate from Tabasco and buy a box of top quality chocolates to gift your fellow chocoholics. Open from 10 AM -8 PM daily expect Sundays 11 AM -8PM.

How do you get a chocolate jolt? In addition to hot chocolate, they also serve Chocolate Espeso (thick chocolate) with bitter at 70% and semi-bitter at 60% for 45 pesos.
Ask for Alejandra. Online orders at
Pottery: Santa Rosa de Lima

Make it a day trip and go to Santa Rosa de Lima, Camino Real s/n, Santa Rosa de Lima, Gto, México. Phone. +52 01 (473) 102 50 17 
One of the most beautiful Mexican pottery stores in the area, you can find anything and everything for your food lovers’ kitchen.
While you’re on your way out of town, stop at the town bar, Alto’s Cantina, for a bottle of delicious orange flavored Mezcal. You’ll wonder how anything this good can cost just 80 pesos.
Something Sweet: Artesana Boutique
Open for a month, this new little shop, tucked away inside the Rosewood Hotel, sells Salvador’s baked goods including the most decadent chocolate that looks like a taco topped with fruits and nuts.
Designed by Tables and More out of Guadalajara, the shop is drop-dead gorgeous and has outdoor seating.
You’ll likely find the coffee crowd here as they also serve Starbucks for the same price as the Starbucks in town.

Can’t Find What You Want? Time to Hit the Department Stores

Liverpool - San Miguel 
Liverpool recently started carrying both Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn, my go-to Christmas stores back in the states.

Plaza La Luciérnaga, Libramiento José Manuel Zavala Zavala 165 4A, La Luciérnaga, 37745 San Miguel de Allende or shop online at:

El Palacio de Hierro - Antea Lifestyle Center Queretaro at Paseo de la República, Juriquilla, Querétaro, Querétaro
Great gifts for chefs including one of my favorite lines: Emile Henry.
The TAJINE POULET will set you back $2,690.00 pesos but think about the dinner you’ll get
the first time they use it.
I’m already savoring every bite just thinking about it.