Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hitting The Sweet Spot: San Miguel de Allende's Top Pastry Chefs

I’ve always had this dessert thing down; I’ve never ruined a dessert by eating too much dinner.

When I first came to SMA almost five years ago, the dessert menus, if a restaurant even had one, were filled with flans, churros or tres leches cakes. Today, you still can find those time honored, Mexican desserts on the menus but you’re also likely to see signature, taste-bud altering creations like the fake sushi created by Pastry Chef Ulises Delgado Altamirano of Aperi or the Leche sin Leche produced by the duo of Alonso Dominguez and Juan Manuel Galvan Lopez, the young chefs at Nextia in Hotel Nena.
A new generation of pastry chefs has emerged in SMA. They know the rules when it comes to pastry but experience has taught them where to bend and even break them. All of them are gifted, showing enormous talent when it comes to creating the course you’re expected to order last.

Sometimes it’s the thing we order first; other times its breakfast. What’s candied, caramelized, butter loaded, chocolate double dipped, glazed, sugar coated or frozen is a whole different language in the kitchen. More science than art, five years ago, you could count the number of pastry chefs on one hand. Today, there are many working their way onto the rolls of SMA’s most popular chefs.

In the world of pastry, there’s a trio of queens in SMA: Sofia Antillon of Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion, Greta Ortega of MiVida and Abi Verde of Trazo 1810. They continually create picture perfect desserts with classic textures and flavors.

We all know that Demetrio, the head chef at Cumpanio, is the king of  bakery in San Miguel, along with Paco Cardenas over at Petit Four, but who’s doing desserts in the restaurants? You’ll be surprised to find young chefs, like Ulises Delgado Altamirano of Aperi and Fernando Arias of Jacinto 1930, who are blazing their way at Chef Matteo Salas’s kitchen, eager to make their mark as San Miguel’s next best pastry chef.

Even chefs with no pastry training at all are creating great desserts, like Chef Marcela Bolano at Marsala Cocina con Acentos, whose caramel pudding and carrot cake are two of the best desserts in town.

With all these innovative desserts, you see a lot of new ingredients like Yuzu Juice and Dukkak. I didn’t know what they were until I did a taste test at Trazo 1810. Chef Alan Carias has introduced many new flavors this year and his pastry chef, Abi Verde, has applied them to some of the most remarkable desserts.

Mexican ingredients are being used in some of these desserts as well, like the avocados in the delicious ice cream created by Monica and Alexander over at La Mezcaleria. Their Avocado Ice Cream is one of my favorites.
 There are desserts that I consider classics, like The Restaurant’s Burnt Caramel Sundae with Marshmallow and Peanuts. After nearly five years of an ongoing love affair with this dish, it’s still our favorite dessert in SMA.

If you’re looking for great desserts, these Pastry Chefs have your sweet tooth covered. Get to know them on a first name basis. I suspect they’ll be seeing a lot of you after this.
Buen Provecho!

Sofia Antillon
Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion
Marchanta Comedor

Sofia owned her own pastry company in Guadalajara, moved to SMA and worked as the Executive Chef at Café Ramaa and as the Pastry Chef at B’ui cocina de campo in Otomi. Sofia and her husband, gifted Chef Marko Cruz, opened Nomada cocina de interpretacion, where she has established herself as one of the most accomplished pastry chefs in SMA.
Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion will be moving to a new location this October, directly across the street from the Pocket Theatre on Calle del Dr Ignacio Hernandez Macias. In early October, at the location where Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion is currently located, Marko and Sofia will open a new restaurant, Marchanta Comedor, that will serve a line of delicious, contemporary Mexican desserts.
What’s New: Lemon cake + passion fruit + meringue
Always a favorite: Pavlova with Passion Fruit, Kumquat and Eureka Lemon.

Why do we love the Pavlova? It has a crisp outer shell and a soft, liquid-marshmallow-like center.
Abi Verde
Trazo 1810

Born and raised in Celaya, Abi worked as a Pastry Chef at the Matilda before coming to Trazo 1810 last year to head up the dessert menu. She’s worked with great, international chefs like Benoit Gaillot, Karen Man, Kenny Kuri and Enrique Olvera. She’s one of the young, new pastry chefs to watch in 2018.
What’s new: Chocolate texture: a creamy chocolate spice crumble, chocolate-haired ginger ice cream, tonka bean scratch and mango chamomile sorbet with turmeric and honey pistachio dukkak with yogurt.

Always a favorite: Almond crumble, lime zest, baby basil and mint jelly, meringue, lime mousse and natural goat yogurt ice cream and the creamy Yuzi almond cake, cherry, macadamia nut, lime granite and caramel gelatin.

What’s best? What Trazo 1810 is doing with ice creams is sinfully delicious. We’ve loved every one we’ve tasted.
Greta Ortega
Cecy Alvarez
Greta Ortega studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Mexico City, where she received a diploma in cuisine and pastry. She participated in the Atelier Boulangerie workshops, received a Master’s degree in Nutrition from the Latin Ameican University, Santa Fe campus and did her undergraduate at Metropolitan Autonomous University, Xochimilco. She did internships at Bistrot The Bourgongne in Mexico City, The Glass Bar and at the Hotel Hyde Away in Playa del Carmen. She opened MiVida in 2006. This past September, she traveled to Albany Novella, Italy and studied under Chef Alessandro Neri. We salute Chef Ortega for being one of the first female chefs to take the helm of a major, fine dining restaurant in SMA. This fall, she will introduce an entirely new menu at MiVida and we can promise you the flavors will be as amazing as this chef continues to be. She always surprises us.
When sous-chef Ana Cecilia Alvarez graduated from La Universidad Tecnologíca in SMA, she did her internship at Restaurant Il Grecale in Novello, Italy. She also studied pastry from Chef Christophe Rhedon in Mexico City and Mexipan’s artisan ice cream making by Italian master Angelo Corvitto. She was Chef-in-Charge at Casa de Path in Los Senderos and later took her current position as sous-chef and bakery-in-charge at Mi Vida Restaurant. 
What’s new: Dark chocolate mousse, mango gelee with passion fruit foam and Pistachio Semifreddo with a dark chocolate biscuit, chocolate truffle and a white chocolate sphere.

Tip: Order two desserts; we can’t decide which one we like the best.

Always a favorite: Apricot Semifreddo with chocolate mousse stuffed cannoli (this is one of the best cannoli we’ve ever tasted; made with puff pastry and lightly sugared) and the classic, homemade Mango fruit sorbet.

Juan Salvador García Valdés
Rosewood San Miguel de Allende
Born in Cancun, Salvador has been the pastry chef at the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende since 2014. With a solid background at four and five star properties, he was previously the pastry chef at Secrets The Vine Cancun, The JW Marriott Cancun, Hotel Le Blanc Resort And Spa Cancun, The Iberostar Paraiso Beach Cancun, The Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Cancun, The Maroma Spa Hotel and Resort in Playa del Carmen and was Corporal Baker for the Mexican Navy. He’s also taught pastry at the Universidad De Celaya and the L'ecole des Chefs College in Cancun.

Our Favorites: Last year, we voted Garcia’s chocolate ecstasy cookie our favorite cookie… and it still is. You can buy them in the Artesana Boutique at the Rosewood Hotel where they sell some of Garcia’s top pastries and confectionery. Look for one of our all time favorite desserts, Bananas Foster, on Garcia’s dessert menu in the 1826 Restaurant at the Rosewood.

Eduardo (Lalo) Lopez Torres
The Restaurant

After graduating from UTNG (Universidad Technologica del Norte de Guanajuato), Lalo took a job as a chef at The Restaurant and has been working there for eight years. He likes working for owner, Chef Donnie Masterton, who he considers a great chef and mentor.
The Dessert Menu: We love the entire dessert menu. From the fall Pear and Apple Galette and the Panna Cotta to our favorite dessert in SMA, the Burnt Caramel Sundae with Marshmallow and Peanuts, we think the quality of the desserts served at The Restaurant are exceptional. Just take one bite of the chocolate tart and you’ll figure out why. 

Ulises Delgado Altamirano

Twenty four year old Ulises Delgado Altamirano is passionate about desserts, especially when he can give them a Japanese twist. He graduated from the Autonomous University of Queretaro last June and worked at SUSHI ITTO in Queretaro in order to master Japanese cuisine. During his education, he did a practice for two months with Aperi to learn more about contemporary Mexican food and it was at this time that he developed an interest in pastry. He returned to Queretaro to study and learn more about confectionery and pastries. A second practice took him to L´ecole de patisserie, where he met and studied under Chef Benoit Gaillot, refining his pastry techniques and skills. Two months after finishing his bachelor's degree, he was offered the position of Pastry Chef at Aperi.

“The aesthetics and delicacy of Japanese cuisine, the taste and precision of French pastry and of course the fine art of Mexican cuisine is an interesting combination” he says. He loves the creative atmosphere at Aperi, where he can experiment with desserts like his fake sushi, which we found to be the most innovative on any of the dessert menus in SMA. This dish will be offered on Aperi’s tasting menus, at the chefs table and to guests of Dos Casas Boutique Hotel.

Fake sushi:
The first piece of Gunkan of fake wakame: coconut mousse, with chocolate tile, agave honey with balsamic and green tea gelatin and white sesame.
The second piece Gunkan of false masago: Mousse of praline of pistachio and almond, chocolate tile, orange spheres and raspberry sauce.
The third piece is a fake tuna gunkan: pistachio and almond praline mousse, chocolate tile, lemon cream, raspberry jelly with bergamot oil. This was our favorite as was the last piece of Gunkan of fake fresh salmon: coconut mousse, carrot wrapped with rice vinegar, banana compote and caramel, and mango jelly, passion fruit and lemon yellow.

A long time favorite of mine is the Meringue with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, guanabana sorbet, passion fruit and Jamaica gel, lemon curd with ginger and raspberry paper. This deconstructed dessert had all textures - gel, foam, meringue, cream and raspberry paper - that work well together. I also liked the addition of the lemon curd, which is one of our favorite flavors.

Fernando Arias
Jacinto 1930
Fernando Arias was born in Morelia, Mexico. When he was just sixteen, he started to sell cakes in town to save up for culinary school. While he attended the Universidad Tecnologica de Morelia, from which he would later graduate, he did a practice at Restaurante San Miguelito, where he learned a lot about traditional Mexican cuisine and was able to cook in symbolic places like the Palacio de Gobierno and Palacio Clavijero in Morelia and The Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City.
In both 2014 and 2015, he cooked on the morning show HOY Michoacan and in 2016, he worked at St. Patrick College in Morelia as an instructor of cuisine for children. In December last year, he started with Jacinto 1930 as their new Pastry Chef. He loves working alongside Chefs Matteo Salas and Israel Loyola to create exquisite, traditional Mexican desserts with a modern touch.
What’s New: Corn cake made with local, white corn and presented with "pepitoria" (caramelized pumpkin seeds), vanilla from Papantla ice cream and black atole made with burned corn hair and Lemon pie presented with lemon cookies, cookies ice cream, lemon meringue, confited lemon and chocolate de metate.

In addition to Pastry Chefs in San Miguel de Allende, there are six other chefs who are also making remarkable desserts:

Laura Buccheri
Trattoria da Laura a Los Mezquites by La Cucina di Afrodita
Spaghetteria La Cucina di Afrodita
Nuova Spaghetteria La Cucina di Afrodita

Chef Laura Buccheri is one the most accomplished Italian chefs in SMA. She grew up in Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto, in Messina province, and like any large Italian family, food was a key part of their life. She got her professional cooking start in one of the finest restaurants on Lake Como, Trattoria da Angela, where she began learning about Italian cuisine from French-trained chef, Adriana Zedda. Like Adriana, Laura has a talent for desserts; her panna cotta and lemon custard desserts come directly from Adriana's little book of culinary secrets. She went on to work cooking on private yachts. She eventually became the personal chef for a Russian tycoon where she was 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 his own 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. Laura and Justin own a Bed and Breakfast in Siracusa, Italy.

In addition to her restaurant, Trattoria da Laura a Los Mezquites, located just 10 minutes from downtown SMA, she opened La Spaghetteria in Mercado Sano last year and this year opened Nuova Spaghetteria La Cucina di Afrodita in Mercado del Carmen. Laura uses only authentic, Italian ingredients in her dishes and if she can’t find them, she makes them.
What’s new: Tarte Tartin with caramelized apples. This is one of Laura’s most popular desserts.
Always a Favorite: Flourless Chocolate Cake and Lemon Meringue Pie; simple, basic desserts with classic, flavors. We think Laura’s desserts are some of the best in SMA. We should know; we’ve tried them all.

Marcela Bolano
Marsala Cocina con Acentos
Chef Marcela Bolaño started cooking when she was four, growing up in a home where the most important place in the house was the kitchen; its where all the magic happened. Her first job was with renowned chef Pablo San Roman. She then traveled to Hydra, Greece where she studied and learned to master Greek cooking. She returned to Mexico City and started her own catering business, serving celebrities like Madonna, Jennifer Aniston, Sharon Stone and Filippa Giordano. Later, she accepted a position as executive chef at Como Aristóteles en Polanco.
In 2016, Marcela opened her own restaurant, MARSALA cocina con acentos, at Hernandez Macias #48; it’s one of the most popular restaurants in SMA.
Always our favorites: Caramel pudding and carrot cake. Marcela’s carrot cake is the only recipe she’s never shared with her kitchen staff.

Gonzalo Martinez
Erick Rojo
Twenty eight year old Erick Rojo is from Queretaro. He studied at the Instituto Culinario de Queretaro when he ultimately became a Master Chocolatier, receiving a Master’s in Fine Pastry and Pantry. Throughout his career, he’s worked as a Chef in restaurants, hotels, the industrial sector, banquets and catering, most notably at Casa de la Marquesa, a luxury boutique hotel property. The historic Baroque gem, located in Queretaro, is one of the most exclusive hotels in Mexico.

For the past two years, he’s worked as the Sous Chef at Quince Rooftop for Chef Gonzalo Martínez, whom he considers a great mentor and the best Chef in SMA.

Quince Rooftop has consistently produced high quality, delicious desserts since they’ve opened. We can never decide what to order when we go so the dessert sampler is a excellent option.

What’s new: Pablano Mousse,Triple Chocolate Semifreddo and S’mores Affogato and the sampler platter.

Always a Favorite: Take your pick of a moist corn cake or an attractive plate of sugar-coated bunuelos; we love them both.

Alonso Dominguez
Juan Manuel Galvan Lopez

Twenty three years old Juan Manuel Galván López is from San Miguel de Allende and learned to cook from his parents and grandmother, who today remain his best critics. He graduated from UTSMA and did practices at the Real de Minas and the Imperio’s Angeles, worked with Chef Ana Lilia at Chamonix and became a chef at Nextia, where he continues to show his avant-garde, molecular style of cooking.

This past August, Manuel won first place at the Chef of Guanajuato contest held at ICON University where twelve other chefs participated in the competition.

Chef Juan Manuel Galván López works alongside Chef Alonso Dominguez, part of the family of chefs that father, Bricio Dominguez, has mentored.

What’s New: Arroz con Leche sin Leche : (Rice with milk, without milk).

A rice emulsified with olive oil from Spain, with orange juice and grated citrus (lima, lemon, grapefruit and orange) and a sorbet of mango.

Always a Favorite: Texturas de Cacao: (Textures of Cocoa). Made up of thirteen textures: chocolate mousse, chocolate air, chocolate tile, chocolate foam, chocolate jelly, hot sponge, cold sponge, chocolate earth, chocolate powder, chocolate ganache, chocolate sauce, chocolate caviar and chocolate tuile.