Wednesday, August 24, 2016

SMA Food Festival: Five Things We're Still Celebrating


Coming off the heels of the highly successful food show, Sabores San Miguel, just weeks before, the SMA Food Festival had a challenge. With a new location, no longer held at the historical Instituto Allende in Centro, the show rolled out a whole new look and format.

I loved SMAFF for one reason; I got a culinary education having discovered so many new wines, tequilas, chefs and a whole new type of cuisine from Tabasco, Mexico.

For me, it’s always about the total experience. Here are some of the highlights.

Buen Apetito!

The Chefs from Tabasco

This was my first introduction to the food of Tabasco, a state in Mexico’s southeast bordering Campeche to the northeast, Veracruz to the west, Chiapas to the south, and Guatemala to the southeast and all I can say is BRING IT ON! It’s not every day you discover a whole new type of cuisine.

The Tabasco lineup of chefs was put together by a favorite, local chef Armando Prats Leal, who is from Tabasco. The Team consisted of chefs Lupita Vidal, Alfonso Castañeda, Alejandro Vidal and the captivating Cocinera de Humo (traditional smoke cook) Nelly Morillo. Jesus David, founder of Come Tabasco, came along for the festivities.

Nelly made an extraordinary dish called Horneado de Cerdo en Barro, a pork dish; typical Tabasco comfort and fiesta food that defies explanation.

What was interesting to me is that it was served on a plate called comal de barro ahumado that is smoked in the Barro oven for months before using. The flavors of this dish were both surprising and complex. Nelly also made a beautiful Estofado de Lengua de Res at the Chefs table that night.

The experience of tasting Tabasco food and meeting the chefs left me curious and hungry for more. Interjet makes it so affordable to take a weekend trip to Villahermosa just to eat.

I’m also pulling for a Barro oven for Christmas.

The Chef's Tables

The Chefs tables ARE what this event is all about and if you didn’t get a ticket, you missed out.

We spent time with the chefs in the morning as they begun their morning preparation; Chef Allen Williams with his spring rolls and here with Chef Bricio Dominguez and sons Chef Alonso Domínguez, Chef Luis Pablo Dominguez and nephew Chef Pablo Domínguez.

We enjoyed the Saturday night dinner with Chef Marco Cruz of B’ui, Milpa and Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion along with Chef Lucy Noriega, Chef Guanajuato; Chef Carlos Segura, Rosewood; Chef Fernanda Prado, Espaisucre and Chef Carlos Zamora, Matilda.

Two of the dishes I still crave from this meal were Marco’s Esquites and Mushroom Pipian Tecomate, which he recreated for me the following week in the kitchen at Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion.
 On Sunday, we took in the brunch, with Chefs Magda Elisa Pablos, El Vergel Bistro and Market, Chef Sandor Emmanuel, The Restaurant; Chef Gabriel Ordoñez, El 58 and Chef Eduardo Ruiz, Monin Syrup.

Chef Magda’s Blueberry Mimosa was definitely one of the high spots.

Chula Parranda Extra Anjeo Tequila

“The longer we stayed, the cheaper it got.” I’m still laughing at this comment from my friend Ricardo but for me finding this tequila was worth the price of admission. It’s the best tequila I’ve ever tasted.

I consider myself a fairly educated tequila drinker having worked in the Tequila industry for years with expert Cesar Mascorro and downing my fair share of both good and ghastly tequila shots.  In all the years I’ve enjoyed Tequila, I’ve never run across one like Chula Parranda Extra Anjeo.

Is it tequila or cognac? It’s difficult to tell.

Now, the challenge is on to find a better tequila. Good luck with that one.

Arael Gomez Tello

Arael Gomez Tello, a passionate culinarian and promoter of the world of wine, is one of the most knowledgeable wine experts in SMA.  We kept making the rounds but it was at his booth where we got our wine education and experienced some of the best wines from Mexico.

Arael’s company, Argot el Vino, has a wine portfolio that includes close to 300 labels and continues to grow.

The Oyster Fest

Last year, it was the BBQ on Sunday afternoon that stole the show but this year, the chefs of Tabasco showed us all how to party. Hundreds of oysters on the grill and a group of thirsty chefs was the festive conclusion of another great food weekend in San Miguel de Allende.