Thursday, March 23, 2017

Taking A Bite Out of San Miguel de Allende: The Best of the Rest

The series continues with our final post, The Best of the Rest; just a few more reasons to fall in love with San Miguel de Allende.

Buen Provecho!

Best Bar: Nena Sky Lounge, Nemesio Diez No.10
This intimate patio gives you a feel for why SMA is at the top of everybody’s list. The fireworks from the Rosewood next door are so close, you’ll get caught in the afterglow. Come dressed to kill. The beautiful people who frequent this rooftop make it the best place in town for your favorite activity: people watching.

Best Caterer - Traditional: Guadalupe Ramirez Agundis’s Banquetes Marcela,Juan de Dios Peza #37, Colonia Guadalupe
With 56 years of cooking experience under her belt, she won a major award in 2016 at the International Summit of Gastronomy, IV Meeting of Traditional Kitchen, in Guanajuato. Her grandson, Chef Jose Pedro Hernandez Trejo, is in the kitchen now so Guadalupe can do what she does best; take nurturing care of all of her long-standing customers.

Best Chef’s Table: Aperi, Quebrada #101
The hottest table in town has one special ingredient: Chef Matteo Salas. Scoring the chefs table at Aperi is a priceless experience worth sharing with thirteen of your closest friends and family. You’ll likely see a rising star here, hoping to polish their culinary know-how with the master before going out on their own. Look for a long list of guest chefs - Mexico's Who's Who in the culinary world - in 2017.

Best Club: Bar Plata, Zacateros 73
A talented singer and inspiring storyteller, our favorite pairing with anything is LADY ZEN. A one-woman show on Broadway would be perfect for her so let’s embrace her while we can.

Best Consistency: Café Muro, San Gabriel 1, Barrio del Obraje
At Café Muro, Gerardo Artega is a bit obsessed about making his customers really happy, which means doing whatever possible to make that happen. A feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds, you’ll not be lacking for anything here. That's what we love about consistency; you can count on the same great food and service each and every time you go.

Best Cookbook: The Spice Companion
If you’re like Chef Mariana Gonzalez Gutierrez at Aperi and read cookbooks in your spare time, you’ll love this book. I knew about half of the spices listed in the book so it will give both your brain and taste buds a workout. Author Lev Sercarz offers historical and buying information with never before published recipes for spice blends, along with magnificent photography and botanical illustrations on over100 spices.

Best Cooking Class: El Petit Four, Calle Mesones # 99-1
When I arrived in SMA, I wanted to learn how to cook Mexican right and my first cooking class was with Chef Paco Cardenas of El Petit Four. It’s still one of the best in SMA.  An all day session, you’ll start with shopping for the ingredients at Mercado Ignacio Ramirez and wrap up with a sit down feast, complete with Valle de Guadalupe wine. In between, Paco’s expert knowledge of Mexican food will get your cooking skills ready for some serious entertaining. Best of all, you don’t have to do the dishes. 

Worth the price of the class was the fact that he introduced us to so many quality vendors at the Mercado my first week in town that I didn't have to take the time to learn who the best ones were.

Four years later, I’ve taken many outstanding cooking classes here in SMA, all of which will be listed in an upcoming post. 

Best Dinnerware: Stelara Ceramica Stoneware, Mercado Sano, Ancha de San Antonio 123
You can see the most remarkable and gorgeous place settings at this stand inside Mercado Sano. Custom designs, like the gordita plates and esquites bowls that are used at Jacinto 1930. Chef Marco Cruz at Nomada also uses the stoneware.

If Chefs Matteo Salas and Marco Cruz don’t have elevated taste in food presentation, who does? Affordable prices for the quality.

Best Drink Menu:Jacinto 1930, Doce 18, Relox 18
Cocktails share the reputation with the evolving food scene and rightfully so. Heavy on agave spirits, this menu respects clean ingredients the way the chefs at Jacinto 1930 do. Always ahead of the curve, you’ll find fresh, new trends you’ll still be talking about tomorrow. Look for exciting things to happen with the cocktail culture in 2017; it will definitely be in the limelight if Adrian Evans, Jacinto’s mixologist from Wales, has anything to do with it.

Best Farm: Rancho La Trinidad, Camino a San Miguel Viejo #8
No matter where we search for produce, we keep going back to Rancho La Trinidad, a local, certified organic farm located just outside of SMA. You can't beat the freshness… or the prices.

Best Festival Organizer: Angela Lewis Serrano, Sabores San Miguel
As a former event organizer, I know how difficult it is to pull off a major event. It’s all in the details and Angela makes everything look so easy, especially Sabores San Miguel, the most successful food show in the city.

Best Fireplace Bar: Casa 1810, Hidalgo #8
A large fireplace dominates the lobby next to the tiny bar. A perfect spot to stay warm and experience welcoming drinks with friends. If you’re into vino, wander down to the wine cellar for another glass of Mexican red. Warm and cozy may just be an understatement. In fact, this fireplace is so good-looking, Chef Linnea Rufo had one built in her dining room. Fine dining restaurant, Trazo 1810, will open on the rooftop of Casa 1810 shortly.

Best Fireplace Restaurant: Andanza at the Sierra Nevada, Calle Hospicio #35 
With the most fireplaces in a single restaurant, you’ll never have to worry about getting the warmest seat in the house. Every room is cozy with stately ambiance and beautiful décor. Chef Antonio Arzola is in the kitchen, ready to serve you a number of delicious dishes off his menu. This feast is well worth going out in the cold for.

Best Food Art: Nomada cocina de Interpretacion, Codo #36
Art has featured food for thousands of years but when did food become art? We’re pretty sure that anything Nomada puts on a black plate – or a white one for that matter – is art. Too beautiful to eat? Not to worry; we’ve got this one covered.

Best Food Festival: We LOVED them all!
What was the best food party of the year?  

If you want to try everything in San Miguel all at once, SABORES SAN MIGUEL is the festival for you. The Lamb Shawarma Taco created by Chef Donnie Masterton of The Restaurant, is reason enough to go back. The question is, will the city hold Sabores again this year? That’s still is a question.

If you want to meet many of the chefs who make the food you love to eat, try SMA Food Festival (SMAFF). They also feature guest chefs; last year, it was the celebrated chefs of Tabasco, brought in by SMA Chef Armando Prats Leal, who has Tabasco roots himself. The event at the end of the festival is always the best party of the year.

If you want to stomp the grapes that make your wine, the San Lucas Fiesta de la Vendimia festival is perfect, paired with all of the incredible BBQ made by Chef Mariano Alvarez of Buenos Aires Bistro.

At Billy Mervin’s infamous celebration of all things lamb and Mezcal, we discovered remarkable food and amazing, new Mezcals. 16 food and beverage tastings later, we hit our max. The Lamb and Mezcal Festival is also one of the best deals in town.

In the small town of Tequisquiapan, we embraced the local food and wine culture with so much gusto, we almost forgot we were on a detox.

These local festivals inspired us to travel to the largest food festival in Latin America, MISTURA, in Lima, Peru last fall.

Best Food Enthusiast: Preston Engebretson
A gastronome, bon vivant, gourmand or connoisseur; any of these words would describe Preston Engelbretson, who is passionate about food and cooking. One could say he’s got that 6th sense about food.
I personally think he’s more of a food nerd; the one person who knows one too many things 
about how something is produced or who can tell you the difference between 100 varieties of mushrooms. Knowledge that only the Sheldon Cooper of food world would know.

Best Food Resource: Daniel Estebaranz, B’ui cocina de campo and Milpa
From wines to the latest trends in Mexico, this guy knows food. He’ll try things nobody else will, like a Pueblan- style cemita and then make three more versions of it just to get it right. Owner of B'ui Cocina De Campo in Otomi and Milpa in SMA Centro, Daniel is the winner of the 2016 Grand Luxury Award from the Association of International Hospitality. He’s unquestionably given me plenty of food for thought. Gracias Daniel!

Best Foodie Day Trips:

Foraging for Mushrooms with Arif Towns Alonso
One of the best day trips we took last year was foraging for mushrooms with local expert Arif Towns Alonso. We found dozens of species of mushrooms and a little bit of paradise in the mountains of Santa Rosa de Lima. We left off some of the Lactarius Indigo blue mushrooms for Chef Magda Elisa Pablos and her sous-chef Ari when we stopped by her kitchen at El Vergel on the way back to SMA to have lunch. The very next day, Chef Maro Cruz of Nomada prepared the most delicious dinner of blue mushrooms in a mezcal and miso sauce. It was the best meal we ate all year.

Quesos del Rebano, Mar Meridional 2A, Col. Las Hadas 76160 Querétaro.
Get cultured with the queen Maestra Quesera, Gabriela Flores Silva, in a defining moment of cheese making. Gabriela is the sister of Marene Flores, the pastry chef at Jacinto 1930. Quesos del Rebano is Gabriela and Marene's family cheese farm outside of Queretaro where they create some of the best cheese in Mexico. We loved the property and grounds but most of all the Maestra, who is extraordinarily knowledgeable about cheese making worldwide.

Best Food Gift: Russet Potatoes
OK – the secret’s out. Buried in a box on the bottom shelf at an unnamed organic grocery store, these were a birthday gift from food and travel blogger Valen Dawson.

I haven't seen them lately so I guess I’m back to potato chips.

Best Food Trip: Lima, Peru – the highlights

After 17 courses of elevations, the food experience at Central, the #4 restaurant in the world and the #1 restaurant in Latin America, was the best we’ve had; one that everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. So what were my taste buds telling me I needed after feasting on 17 courses that were innovative, thought-provoking, and artistically complex? A day off from eating.

Meeting Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino of Malabar was also a highlight. He’s known as the "jungle chef" and works incessantly to highlight the foods of the Amazon jungle and Amazonian cuisine.

My heart belonged to Lima five minutes into my first meal at MAIDO. At the ultimate Amazon Nikkei Experience, Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura’s multi-course Nikkei, Japanese inspired Peruvian menu, was the perfect beginning to my education on Peruvian cuisine. I definitely started at the top and every meal I had in Lima was compared to this one. Although many of them were outstanding, none of them ranked higher than MAIDO.

In Lima, the most important decision of the day is deciding where to eat. We hit the Surquillo district to try out two popular spots for street food: Al Toke Pez and the Surquillo Market. My tab for breakfast and lunch: S/25 or $7.45 USD.

Canta Rana is a go-to place in Lima for both locals and tourists alike. A landmark since 1985, this little hole-in-the-wall was the perfect come down from my 17 course meal at Central, walking to the Barranco section of Lima in less than 30 minutes. Filled with Argentine soccer memorabilia, this place is long on atmosphere and good ceviche. The price was right at 60 soles. Barranco is Lima's Soho; one of most trendy areas with historic buildings, bars, restaurant, cafés, street artists and musicians. It’s also where the restaurant Central is moving to.

MISTURA Food Festival: The VIVA MEXICO pyramid colorfully stood out against the gray, Lima sky. In the Gran Mercado, 300 Peruvian growers educated me on the ingredients of Peru; many of them dressed in their native clothing and all of them excited to talk about their produce. This was the highpoint of the show.

Huaringas Bar has been at MISTURA since the beginning; all 9 years of the fair. In addition to the bar in Lima, they have another location by the same name in Cusco. The bar is renowned for its take on the traditional Pisco Sour; infusing passion fruit and grapes with Pisco. The recipe was created by my friend Rosario Dulanto’s daughter and chef, who recently died at age 35. Young Rosario researched and tested ingredients from different regions in Peru, creating an extraordinary range of cocktails with Pisco and fruits. The bar has over 200 different cocktails and is renowned for changing the Pisco culture in Peru. Look for the altars in the bar that pay tribute to Pisco and Chef Rosario.

The top restaurants were not at MISTURA but the top Chefs were; promoting the food of Peru is both their mission and their passion. What restaurant’s were there - regional ones like The Ramadita Campestre Warmy Pepe and Laura from Huaral, 78 km north of Peru; an expert in cooking meats over firewood where I spent a great portion of my time. The lines to get smoked pork were long but the flavor was unbelievable; seasoned only with salt. At this station alone, I think they cooked enough pork to feed all of SMA.

Peru is a multicultural country filled with people who love to eat. Honestly, I’ve never met more people who love to talk about food so it was only right on my last day in town that I made a stop at Astrid & Gaston. With restaurants in over a dozen countries, Gaston Acurio is the unofficial ambassador of Peruvian food and is responsible for taking Peruvian food global. What I wasn’t prepared to love was the tomato butter that accompanied the homemade bread; it was topped with blackened tomato skins. When I asked our waiter what was in it, because at that point I had eaten two platefuls, he smiled and insisted the ingredients were simple: tomatoes and butter. Who would have thought that something so simple would taste this good.

My last supper was a testimonial to the food of Lima. I was finally full.

Best Food Truck: Mio Bistrock SMA Julian Carrillo 7
Lorelai Cordova, sister of Maye Cordova and Aunt of Jimena Tamayo Cordova, who own Garambullo Fonda Gourmet, opened this delightful food truck in Colonia Guadalupe in a colorful, little lot that's full of local charm and adorable, mismatched furniture. Lorelai, who cooked in Acapulco, Cuernavaca and Italy, specializes in Mediterranean food and has a large variety of seafood on the menu. We delight in everything she cooks, especially the lamb burger.

Best Gourmet Dinner: Blue Mushrooms with Mezcal Miso Sauce at Nomada cocina de interpretacion , Codo 36
We like to think that the wild mushrooms foraged in Santa Rosa de Lima – one of our favorite small towns in the mountains of central Mexico - tasted so good because we picked them but Chef Cruz and Chef Nicacio at Nomada turned these blue mushrooms, the elusive Lactarius indigo, into a work of art with a sous vide and a sauce of miso and mezcal. Leave it to great chefs to change your mind about what you will or will not eat. I've never loved mushrooms; just photographing them. And did I mention they tasted just like truffles?

Best Hospitality: Gabriel Avila at Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion
You wonder how anyone this young can know so much. Gabriel Avila is always well versed on the food and beverage offerings at Nomada cocina de interpretación. We love dining at a restaurant that takes hospitality to this over-the-top level.

Best Influencer – Food, Art and Fashion: Victor Hugo
The word that comes to mind when I think of Victor Hugo is impeccable. After reading his Facebook and Instagram posts this past year, I believe that if I have another life to live, I would come back as Victor. We don’t think that anyone in SMA has more fun than he does.

Best Ingredient: Sweetbreads
Sweetbreads; they’re revered by chefs and food aficionados everywhere, especially in Mexico.

The first time we had them, Chef Eduardo García of Máximo Bistrot in Mexico City prepared them in a rich, brown sauce. Instant addiction.

Chef-owner Elena Reygadas of Rosetta, Mexico City, prepared our second taste of sweetbreads with yogurt, peppermint and Granada. Milk-fed veal sweetbreads are the best and it was another food moment.

Third time’s a charm when Chef-owner Rodolfo Castellanos of Origen Oaxaca and Top Chef Mexico, used them in a crispy, mini-gordita with nopales.

Fourth time was at VINO + TAPAS, Insurgentes 63, where Chef Stefania Rosales pulled off a sweetbread tapa with cheese like she’s been cooking them all her life.

We would love to see more sweetbreads on the menus in SMA.

Best Kitchen Store: Williams Sonoma, Queretaro
This one was easy…because we went to cooking classes at the one in Chicago every week and bought every piece of kitchenware there for the past 30 years. We know the quality and continue the tradition in the Queretaro store that just opened last year. It’s good to know that the latest Le Creuset and All Clad are just 45 minutes away.

Shopping isn’t our thing but we could certainly get in trouble in this store.

Best Lunch: La Parada, Recreo #94
It’s always a treat to eat with Chef Alexandra Gutt, one of the best chefs in SMA. Her specialty dishes, like Ceviche Contracorriente and Higaditos Asaltados or Sauteed Chicken Livers, are delicious and served with Papas La Parada. We could eat her papas by the pound. The secret is to fry them, smash them and fry them again. The chicken livers don't taste like liver at all; we love the texture and the taste. They are sauced in anticucho sauce with a base of dried chili, vinegar and oregano.

The sauce is also used in a Peruvian street food dish incorporating beef hearts that are marinated, skewered, and seared over the grill. We had them this past year at MISTURA, the food festival in Lima. Ale is also responsible for recommending the best meal we’ve ever eaten at MAIDO in Lima.

Best Property Manager: Angela Nieto of Doce 18, Relox 18
With a consistent enjoyment for what she does, we frequent Doce 18 just to get her daily dose of sunshine.

It's contagious, so we like to pass it on!

Best Meal: The Chefs of SMA
We traveled a lot last year. One of the things we learned early on - some of the best meals we’ve eaten in Mexico have been in our own back yard.

We salute all the chefs who feed us well and have created some of the most interesting and artistic menus in Mexico.

Best Meal outside SMA: Maido, Calle San Martin 399, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
This Amazon Nikkei Experience was the most amazing meal we’ve ever eaten anywhere. Don’t miss this experience if you visit Lima in 2017.

Maido is lucky #13 on the World 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America; it was our favorite place to eat in Lima. Here’s a list of the courses that wowed us:

Snack: Crispy chicken skin, pachikay sauce.

Rice senbei, regional sausage, roasted plantain, sachatomate emulsion

Churros: Rivers snails, chalaca, dale dale foam

Paiche sandwich: Steamed bun, crispy paiche, lulo criolla

Amazonic cebiche: River prawns, pejerrey, nikkei leche de tigre, charapita, chonta, farina

Chancho con yucca: Pork belly stew with yucca, mishquina, crispy pork skin, ramen reduction, cocona

Sacha soba: Sachapapa soba, vongoles, crab

Sushi – earth: A lo pobre- sweetbreads

Gindara: Gindara, miso, fermented casho, bahuaja nuts, sangre de toro potato cream

Short rib: Wagyu short rib – 50 hours, egg yolk, cecina fried rice, amazonic chilli (this dish is the best we’ve ever eaten)

Cacao: Amador cacao – piura – 70%, yazu, shica shica ice cream, mochis, bahuaja nuts, cacao nibs.

Best Mercados:

Daily: Mercado Sano, Ancha de San Antonio 123
The open-air Tianguis Orgánico San Miguel de Allende (TOSMA) farmers market is held here Saturday, where most of SMA enjoys breakfast and the one-stop shopping for the organic and sustainable.

The Don Petro family leased the space to local merchants, 90% who are Mexican, and that for me is reason enough to support it.

Weekly: Tuesday Market - El Tianguis
A real market experience, I go every Tuesday because nothing in SMA says local like the Tuesday market. Three tents full of colorful stands give you everything you need or want just for the sake of a bargain; from daily essentials to kitchenware, produce and plenty of gifts and souvenirs.

For anyone who loves food, Tuesday can't come soon enough. I’ve eaten everything there at least a dozen times. If you don’t eat street food, you’re missing out on some of the best food in SMA. I usually start my day with a tasty plate of Carnitas or a torta at Bautista Brothers, then on to Don Santos for Beef Tacos or if it’s a cold day, nothing tastes better than a cup of the Rodriquez Family Caldo loaded with Barbacoa. Fresh squeezed juice and a churro finish off my weekly rounds but like all the vendors there, we change our routine weekly.

Monthly: Mercadito Rural (Rural Market)
This market is held the first Sunday of every month in front of Via Organica, Margarito Ledesma 2, Col. Guadalupe. The market is small but includes a wide-variety of authentic items for purchase. With the beautiful hand painted tortillas by Cocinera Juana, we always go to eat and never fail to finish the morning off with something sweet.

Gourmet Market: El Vergel Bistro and Market, Camino a El Vergel 37880 San Miguel de Allende Phone: 4151102254
Because any product you want, that’s the finest quality you can find, is on the shelf here, from cheese and charcuterie, to wines and beers, Bosco ice creams, breads, cookies, organic grass-fed beef from La Canada de la Virgen, olives, coffee, teas, pastas and super foods.

Our mind-set on good food: it’s always worth the drive to get the best.

Best Mexican Food Destination: Oaxaca
They say that travel changes you and this trip did. A month of immersion in Spanish language and Oaxaca cuisine included eating at all of the best restaurants, taking a trip down the Mezcal trail, visiting the markets at  Tlacolula, Octolan and Etla and cooking with award-winning, international chef and culinary expert Susana Trilling at Seasons of My Heart in Etla and Top Chef Mexico winner Rodolfo Castellano at Origen Oaxaca. Both are considered to be two of the best chefs in Mexico and we wouldn’t pass on the opportunity to cook with either one of them again.

Everyone has their reasons for taking a cooking class. The most important thing it did for me was to resurrect my love of cooking; I suddenly wanted to be back in the kitchen again. That was a defining moment for someone who has spent the last four years eating out every day.

If you can pick one place in Mexico that will change you, Oaxaca is it.   

Best Newcomer: Marsala, cocina con acentos, Hernandez Macias 48
Eat just once at her enchanting, new restaurant and you’ll find out why she’s on Top Chef Mexico this season. The Mediterranean food is some of the best in SMA; the caramel pudding legendary…not to mention her pink hair. 

Make a reservation; it's always packed, especially when Top Chef Mexico is on TV and the hometown crowd is there to cheer her on.  

Best Newly Discovered Cuisine: Tabasco, Mexico
I’m always open to new tastes but a whole new cuisine? Last year at the San Miguel Food Festival, I discovered the food of Tabasco, Mexico. It was an eye-opener.

Chef Nelly Cordova Morillo of Cocina Chontal made an extraordinary dish called Horneado de Cerdo en Barro, a pork dish; typical Tabasco comfort and fiesta food, that challenged explanation. It was served on a plate called comal de barro ahumado that’s smoked in a 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 at night.

Chef Lupita Vidal Aguilar was also there. Last year, she received the Excellence Award to the traditional culture of Mexico. Her restaurant, La Cevicheria, is a restaurant that rescues, safeguards and showcases the culinary values of the state of Tabasco. This award was granted by the Conservatory of the Mexican Gastronomic Culture during the World Forum of Mexican Gastronomy in Mexico City. It's was the first time anyone in the state of Tabasco has ever received this award.

Best New Ingredient: Hoja Santa
If I had a green thumb, I would be growing it. I’m so addicted to the taste. I first had it in the chicken soup in San Martin Tilcajete, Oaxaca. It's now one of my favorite Mexican ingredients. I brought back a starter plant from Jane Robison’s garden at Casa Colonial where I stayed for the month. Interestingly, one of her older plantings had grown to the size of a giant tree.

Best Opening Party: Doce 18 and L’Otel, Relox 18
Doce 18 and L’Otel opened at Relox 18 this past year and changed the face of SMA forever. Even when L'Otel was being built, it was stunning.

Powered by impressive food, top-notch VIP service and glamorous people, these two parties defined the social calendar for 2016.

Best Produce:
Cutting out the supermarket distribution chain is your first step to finding good produce. We like to know where our food comes from and there are four places we shop for hard to find vegetables and fruits:

Alex’s stand in front of the old Mercado Centro

Leo, the vegetable guy, in from of the old Luna de Queso

Saturday Organic Market, Mercado Sano, Ancha San Antonio 123

Via Organica, Margarito Ledesma 2, Col. Guadalupe

Best Service: La Azotea, Umaran #6
Eduaro Perez Calvo sets the gold standard for service in SMA. This Centro favorite will always treat you like the king or queen you are. In fact, we think the service is almost as memorable as the Jicima Tacos.

Best Spanish Food Word: ENCAMOTADA
I never heard the word before until Chef Armando Prats Leal used it in a Facebook post on MARSALA, cocina con acentos. He explained the term to me: "In the restaurant jargon in Mexico it means that the workload is such that you cannot even think straight, the kitchen looks like a bunch of "headless chicken.” We’re still laughing.

Best Street Food Chef: ANDY of Andy’s Tacos, at the corner of Insurgentes and Hidalgo
Because, after all these years on the street, he confessed that he still loves cooking for you.

Best Surprise Food City: TULSA
You heard us right and you’re surprised as we are. When we lived in Tulsa years ago, great restaurants were hard to find. Now, you get an unforgettable food fix just about everywhere you go. At The Tavern, Chef Ben Alexander’s local preparations use simple ingredients; he created one of the best meals we ate in Tulsa last Christmas. We’re also devoted to the food at Burn Co BBQ, Tallgrass Prairie Table, Mahognay Steak House, Napa Flats, Bordean Seafood, and Red Rock, just to name a few. Also, the Celebrity Club in Tulsa started out as a private club in 1963 and in 1984, founder Mike Samara contributed to the writing of a bill to legalize liquor by the drink in Oklahoma. I remember; I lived in Tulsa then. Celebrity Restaurant was issued the state’s first liquor license and opened its doors to the general public. Known for their table side Caesar salad - named Oklahoma’s “Best of the Best” 10 years in a row – they are also famous for their Lobster, steaks and cast-iron skillet fried chicken served with biscuits and gravy. The delicious brandy ice tasted just like the Brandy Alexander my dad use to make back in the 60's. For that reason alone, we would have loved it.

Best Sweet Shop: Artenasa at the Rosewood Hotel, Calle Nemesio Diez #11
We can eat a dozen of their chocolate fudge cookies in one sitting… and then start on all the rest.

Best Table:
Without a doubt, the sweetest tables in town without the view are in front of the window at La Canica and Buenos Aires Bistro.

Of course, that would all change if Chef Donnie Masterton created that table for two on the roof at The Restaurant. Just saying

Best View: Luna Roodtop, Rosewood Hotel, Calle Nemesio Diez #11 AND Antonia Bistro, San Francisco #57 AND Quince Rooftop, Cuna de Allende #15 AND ZUMO, Calle Orizaba 87-9
A feast for the eyes, devouring the beauty of San Miguel is on the top of the list of things to do in SMA. Tourists will tell you it’s one of their favorite things to do.

We can now claim four restaurants – soon to be a fifth with FATIMA  - with landscapes to take in the views. Even the locals get nostalgic when they get the 360-degree shot that takes your breath away at sunset.

Best Wine Bar: Vino + Tapas, Insurgentes #63
It started out as a wine store but Vinos+Tapas, opening just one year ago, now carries many labels from both Mexico and Europe. They are priced a bit higher than other restaurants but all you have to do is taste these wines to figure out why. We have a lot to learn when it comes to wine and Chef Rosales is a willing educator. Look for the rooftop to open next month. Getting a ride to and from the restaurant is just one of the perks of being a customer. Think of how many wines you can get into with a ride home.

Best Wine Cellar: Seleccion de la Casa by Santisima Trinidad, Doce 18, Relox 18
Seleccion de la Casa, the inviting wine cellar by Santisima Trinidad at Doce 18, also houses SMA's most beautiful tasting table.

Best Wine Expert: Arael Gomez Tello of Argot del Vino
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, at a local food festival, where we 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.

Best Wine Store: Cava Sautto, Hotel Sautto, Hernandez Macias # 59
This wine store, hidden behind the registration desk in Hotel Sautto, has a remarkable cellar that is stocked with well-known labels, including Casa Madero and other fine wines from Mexico, South America and Europe.

The most expensive wine they sell? Dominio de Pingus is a Spanish winery located in Quintanilla de Onésimo in Valladolid province with vineyards in the La Horra area of the Ribera del Duero region. Their wine is considered a cult wine and sold at extremely high prices while remaining somewhat inaccessible. Hand over 20,300 pesos and it’s all yours at Cava Sautto.

You can spend hours hanging out in their one-story-up wine cellar studying labels but you’ll have more fun taking them home to taste.


Victor Palma:
One of SMA’s most respected chefs, Victor Palma of the Rosewood Hotel, was appointed Executive Chef of the Rosewood CordeValle in San Martin, Ca. this past year. CordeValle’s cuisine is true to the standards of its’ five star quality. The resort also has an 85 acre winery and vineyard.  We’re already missing his fabulous cooking, especially the Roasted Beetroot and Date Salad with caramelized pumpkin seeds, rocket lettuce, marinated cherry tomatoes, fine herb vinaigrette, Granny Smith Ice Cream and Medjol dates. 

Returning chef, Carlos Hannon, has some big shoes to fill.

Dona Reyes:
Sad to hear of the passing of culinary legend Dona Reyes. Dona Reyes was your beloved grandmother reincarnated. She owned Fonda Dona Reyes in Mercado Ignacio Ramirez for over 46 years. Caldo de Pollo con Arroz with a whole chicken leg and a bouquet of fresh cooked vegetables, smothered with chilies and condiments, was a jolt you never experienced at breakfast before. Miss you, dulce abuela.

Mercado Centro, Codo 36
Now, there’s one less place for those addicted to good food to eat. We heard a lot of speculation as to why it failed. Our though: it shouldn’t have and we’re really sad it’s gone.

La Abastera Nacional at Clzda. La Estacion 59
We loved the high-quality of the just-picked produce and the generally good vibe of this market. It was a great effort by Pablo Torres, but the timing was off. We’re sorry to see it close and hope that he'll open another location in SMA. Thanks Pablo!