Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Best of 2017: A Preview

San Miguel de Allende got another influx of new restaurants this past year, significantly expanding our choices for the Best of 2017.

We’re giving away a few of our picks in advance of the extensive list of what made the cut. Here’s a sneak peek at some of best of 2017.
Buen Provecho!


Rib Rice
Chef Arturo Sandoval, Atrio Restaurant and Lounge
The combination of Chef Arturo Sandoval and the Josper Charcoal Oven from Spain are magical. Atrio owners José María Calvo (Chema) and Jesús Manuel Calvo (Chus) have been talking about bringing this dish to SMA for as long as we can remember; now we have it. Atrio’s Rib Rice is THE BEST DISH OF 2017. How do we know? We’ve eaten it more than a dozen times; we ate it again today and we’ll probably eat it tomorrow. Trust us on this one; there’s not another dish that’s even close.

Lobina with Green Sauce
Chef Marco Cruz, Nomada cocina de Interpretacion
Making an exceptional sauce is the sign of a great chef and Chef Marco Curz is the master of sauces, layering each one with rich, complex flavors. I never liked anything on fish until I tried this sauce made from green tomatoes, lemongrass and butter. It was the best seafood dish on the menus in SMA last year.

Chef Israel Loyola, Jacinto 1930
If you would have asked me a year ago if I would be eating tongue, I would have told you no way but this dish, slow cooked for 12 hours by Chef Israel Loyola of Jacinto 1930, isn’t just any tongue; it’s certified organic, grass-fed, grass-finished and locally raised at Cañada de la Virgen. And that’s the difference, along with a lot of imagination from Chef Israel Loyola. The chef has a version of this dish on the menu at Jacinto 1930. It was the surprise dish of 2017; one of the best things we ate all year.

Chef Pablo Nicacio, Nicasio Comedor Mexicano
The best way to crown a bolillo; Molletes with all the essential ingredients: frijoles refritos, chorizo verde, bacon, pico de gallo and an egg to top it off. And don't forget about the best part: fresh, sliced avocado; the good fat.

The best breakfast in town? We think so. You’ll be amazed at the flavors.

Lasagnetta Croccante
Chef Laura Buccheri, Trattoria da Laura a Los Mezquites
We’ve never had anything quite like this lasagna. Made of fresh pasta discs that are fried, the pasta dough is made with eggs and semolina flour. The cherry tomatoes confit, organic basil pesto and caprino cheese were used to fill the layers. So unique, it was our favorite Italian dish last year and the hit of the summer food festival season.


Loaded Baked Potato Fries
Chef Donnie Masterton, Birdies Burgers
There’s no competition on this one. A pile of skinny fries covered with cheddar cheese, crema, bacon and green onions sent our taste buds into overdrive this past year. Most people split this dish; not us. If we’re going to indulge, we’re going all out. It’s our favorite splurge dish of 2017.

Fulvio Carbonaro
So many people have said to me "I love pizza but not necessarily in San Miguel de Allende." Well, we just found the best pizza and it's not available in a restaurant. This pizza has a charred exterior edge and a soft center; it's also not easy to prepare correctly. It was made by certified pizza maker Fulvio Carbonaro, husband of maestra Gilda Carbonaro of Culinarian Expeditions.  Fulvio told us the key to making good pizza is simplicity; if it’s got more than 5 ingredients on the top, it’s too many. Of course, using top quality ingredients is the key.

Fulvio will do a class for chefs in SMA in April, 2018 when he returns from Italy. This was our favorite pizza of 2017.

Pork Belly Bao Bun
Chef Arturo Sandoval, Atrio Restaurant and Lounge
Chef Marcela Bolano, Marsala cocina con acentos
Our latest Asian addiction: the Pork Belly Bao buns. At Marsala, cocina con acentos, it’s pork belly with piña ahumada in a fluffy steamed, homemade bun. At ATRIO Restaurant and Lounge order Tacos Orientales Pan Bao al vapor for Pork Belly cooked and caramelized in a Josper oven, the hottest indoor barbecue available, perfectly sauced and garnished with pickled cucumbers and Chinese parsley (cilantro).This is one of Atrio's signature dishes; the Bao imported from Guadalajara.

French Fries
Executive Chef Paul Bentley
Chef Miguel Alejandro Nuñez Salas
Sous chef Raúl Ocaranza Partida
Bovine Brasserie
I’ve read a lot of articles on how to make perfect french fries. This upscale brasserie has it down to a science; all six steps of the process. We loved the added dash of cheese. We like this side dish so much we could have it as a main course.

Dan Dan Wontons
Chef Michael Coon, Casa de Cocinas
Some of the best ethnic food we had all year was from the kitchen of Chef Michael Coon. Dan Dan Wontons is just one of the many outstanding dishes you’ll get when you sign up for a dinner at Casa de Cocinas and the chef doesn’t stop at Asian; you’ll get cuisine from just about anywhere in the world. His knowledge of global foods is remarkable.
Avocado Toast
Chef Marco Cruz, Nomada cocina de Interpretacion
Chef Sofia Antillon, Nomada cocina de Interpretacion
Simple Avocado toast is easy but when it comes to delivering one of the healthiest breakfasts in SMA, Chef Marco Cruz creates intricate flavors to keep you guessing what’s in the mix. The taste of this dish was not what we were expecting, all the way down to the very last bite. The mystery ingredient
was a simple base of goat cheese mixed in with the avocado.

Duck with Waffles
Chef Marcela Bolano, Marsala cocina con acentos
The duck, perfectly cooked so that the skin is crispy, the meat is succulent and there’s no sign of grease what so ever, along with a crispy waffle, is one of the top choices on the menu at the best Sunday brunch in town. 

Softshell Crab Taco
Chef Arturo Sandoval, Atrio Restaurant and Lounge
We use to eat softshell crabs on white bread with mayonnaise, salt and pepper, then we were introduced to Atrio’s version in a soft, flour tortilla complimented with pico de gallo and red cabbage. When we picked a flour tortilla over a piece of white bread, we crossed the line. We always knew we were Mexican; now we have proof.

Steak Frites
Chef Marcela Bolano, Marsala cocina con acentos
The best steak frites in town just got better. First, take a look at the size of this steak and besides all that, russet potatoes are used to make the fries, which we went crazy over when we saw three bins of them in plain sight in Marcela’s storage cupboard.
Life made simple; russets have arrived in SMA and we’re ecstatic.

Chef Cesar Garcia, Marchanta Comedor
Chef Arturo Sandoval, Atrio Restaurant and Lounge
We’re up for all the good Ramen we can get so don’t even ask us to pick just one place; they’re both worth the slurp. We didn’t ask how long they boil their bones for or if they make their noodles from scratch. All we care about is that getting good ramen is now a reality at not one, but two restaurants in SMA. We’re pretty happy with that.

Outdoor Cooking
Chef Mariano Alverez, Buenos Aires De Campo
If you’re attending one of the many food festivals in SMA, you’ll find Buenos Aires de Campo; it’s the one with the longest lines. Our first choice is Chef Mariano Alverez’s grilled pork belly sandwich but we wouldn’t turn down a single dish that has his name on it.The authority when it comes to cooking outdoors; this Argentinean chef has been doing it all his life.

Soft bread and Gouda
Chef Marco Cruz, Nomada cocina de Interpretacion
Man cannot live on bread alone? Try me on this one!

BBQ Brisket
Smoked N’ Low Food Truck
The original trailer is unique; made to order by one of the best smoke houses in St. Louis. It’s totally worth the long drive just to eat here. We've had great BBQ all over Oklahoma, Texas, St. Louis, Kansas City and Memphis and this is some of the best brisket we've ever eaten.
The gold standards that still taste as good as the first day we had them…

Blue Cheese Burger
Chef Donnie Masterton, The Restaurant
In the ongoing battle to be crowned SMA’s best hamburger, there are many worthy contenders. We singled out this Blue Cheese Burger from The Restaurant as the one to beat. Afterall, everything is better with blue cheese on it, especially a burger made from Canada de la Virgen grass-fed beef. Too bad we can only get this on Thursday; we could seriously eat this burger every single night.

Tacos al Pastor
Andy’s Tacos
We hit the streets of Mexico City for a month last fall to see if we could find better tacos al pastor; we came home empty handed. Andy’s is our choice for the best street food in SMA again last year. A favorite of partygoers looking for the after-hours feast, some of our favorite regulars are kids; one who whispered to me just last night that it was her favorite excuse to stay out late. Mine, too!
Carla Janet Cuevas Soto of La Azotea is always in a festive mood during Day of the Dead

Best Service:
Carla Janet Cuevas Soto, La Azotea
Mireya Cerroblance, The Restaurant
Teresa Villegas, Lavanda Café
There aren’t too many women in highly visible service positions in SMA but in 2017, we can all take a lesson from the ladies. These are three of the best.

                             A glass of wine at Casa No Name is always a great choice

The top drink picks of 2017…

Saints and Sinners Drink
Mike Espinoza, Quince

One of the best mixologists in SMA, Mike changes up the drink menu daily and has one of the best selection of drinks using seasonal ingredients, local and craft spirits. The drink he created for Day of the Dead in 2017; a Saints and Sinners classic. Follow Mike Espinoza on Facebook to see his latest catalog of cocktail creations. We think his program at Quince is one of the best in SMA.

Gin Drinks
Sergio Alberto Vazquez, Hendrick's Gin Bar
You don’t need Friday as an excuse to have one of the best martinis in town. In fact, try them all, just not all on the same night.

Lucky for us, this little bar is only open on the weekends. We love the atmosphere so much, we’re sure there’s a barstool with our name on it.

Adalberto Garcia Moreno, Head Bartender, Mama Mia’s
Bigger is better? In this case, it is. Just close your eyes when he pours all of the liquors in your glass; you don’t want to calculate the damage up front.

Pepino with Pineapple
San Mike Restaurante
One taste of this drink, laced with mezcal, will surprise and engage all five of your senses. This was our favorite new drink in 2017.

Happy Hour
La Azotea
Happy Hour can’t possibly get more high-spirited than with 2x1’s at our favorite bar in SMA. If you sit in the back, you’ll get the aerial ballet of the birds out the back window. It’s a sight to see, along with all of SMA’s picturesque sunsets.

Casa Madero
The best pedigree of wines starts with Casa Madero; just ask the CMB International Wine Championship who awarded them three metals in 2017.

This past year, we discovered we love their rose, ice cold, almost as much as we do the Chardonnay. We’ll admit that were a wine snob when it comes to Chardonnay. Always a favorite: Casa Madero Chardonnay 2016. We like our Chardonnay to taste big, full bodied, fat, creamy and buttery, it’s that simple.

Corona Del Valle Chardonnay 2016
When they didn’t have a Casa Madero as a first choice, local wine expert Arael Gomez Tello selected this bottle of Corona. Beautiful fruits border vanilla and butter and define this wine.
Another Mexican white we fell in love with this past year, we forgot we were drinking our second choice halfway through the first glass.

A Tequila Shot in the Streets of SMA
Tequila always tastes sweeter when there’s a parade involved. When you’re in SMA, this is what you do.
Classic Desserts…

Burnt Caramel Sundae
Chef Donnie Masterton, The Restaurant
After nearly five years of an ongoing love affair with this dish, it’s still one of our favorite after dinner treats. We don’t need an excuse to indulge; it’s a classic.

Chef Sofia Antillon, Nomada cocina de Interpretacion
When it comes to dessert, we’ve got you covered on this one. It’s the best, only better, smothered in berries and cream. It’s one of our favorite desserts of 2017 again.

Caramel Pudding
Chef Marcela Bolano, Marsala cocina con acientos
Death by caramel; OK, we’re in!

Texturas de Cacao/Textures of Cocoa
Chef Alonso Dominguez and Chef Manuel Galvan Lopez, Nextia
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, this remarkable dessert has a bit of molecular magic behind it. There’s always an interesting selection of new desserts when you treat yourself to the after dinner menu at Nextia in Hotel Nena.


Corn Cake
Chef Gonzalo Martinez and Chef Erick Rojo, Quince
We love a lot of things about Quince and one of them is they’ve kept their best dessert on the menu since day one: sweet corn cake; now another classic.

Chocolate Tart
Pastry Chef Eduardo (Lalo) Lopez Torres, The Restaurant
We’re double dipping on this dessert. It’s been on the menu forever and we just found it this past year. We missed out on all of those chocolate moments over the years but nothing says we can’t make up for lost time; and we are!
2017 Sweet Treats…

Almond Crumble
Chef Abi Verde, Trazo 1810
Creative, complex desserts are an everyday thing for Chef Abi Verde of Trazo 1810; this is her best with lime zest, baby basil and mint jelly, meringue, lime mousse and natural goat yogurt ice cream. It was one of our favorite desserts in 2017.

Cheesecake de Mandarina
Chef Arturo Sandoval, Atrio Restaurant and Lounge
Anything covered in Mandarina is on my list. This frozen cheese cake takes the cake as one of the best in town; one of two desserts from Eduardo Pérez Calvo on the menu at Atrio. It’s another one of our favorite desserts.

Chef Sofia Antillon, Nomada cocina de Interpretacion
Because everyone should eat buñuelos for breakfast, or any time for that matter, especially when they’re stuffed with of some of the best quality chocolate in town and garnished with fresh berries.  

Carrot Cake
Chef Marcela Bolano, Marsala cocina con acientos
One bite and you’ll know why this is the only recipe that Chef Marcela Bolano never share with her staff. We’ve never liked carrot cake but this version stole our heart. Chef Marcela Bolano has a way of doing that. She’s one of the best all around chefs in SMA; from main courses to desserts.

Almond Cake
Chef Abi Verde, Trazo 1810
Almond cake with lima granite, caramel ice cream, mixed seasonal fruit of peaches and cherries; another great creation by one of SMA best pastry chefs.

Fake Sushi
Chef Ulises Delgado Altamirano, Aperi
One of the most imaginative desserts in SMA, we were wowed by Chef Ulises Delgado Altamirano’s take on sushi as dessert:
Gunkan of fake wakame: coconut mousse, with chocolate tile, agave honey with balsamic and green tea gelatin and white sesame.
Gunkan of false masago: Mousse of praline of pistachio and almond, chocolate tile, orange spheres and raspberry sauce.
Gunkan of Fake tuna: pistachio and almond praline mousse, chocolate tile, lemon cream, raspberry jelly with bergamot oil.

Gunkan of fake fresh salmon: coconut mousse, carrot wrapped with rice vinegar, banana compote and caramel, and mango jelly, passion fruit and lemon yellow.

Pistachio Semifreddo 
Chef Greta Ortega , MiVida
Because anything put in a white chocolate cage get’s our vote, especially when it’s detailed with a decadent, dark chocolate biscuit and a tiny chocolate truffle. Chocolate overload never tasted this delightful.  
The Best Meals of 2017:

Dinner with Chefs Matteo Salas at Aperi and Eduardo Garcia of Maximo Bistrot, Lalo! and Havre 77
Pair up two of our favorite chefs in Mexico and we’ve got one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten any place in the world. All of the dishes and beverage pairings were both exquisite and exciting. We especially loved the dish Chef Salas created of Duck foie gras with brioche, crispy lentils with spices, agave honey, sherry vinegar, potato and goat yogurt foam.
The evening was priceless; the meal we’ll never forget.

Casa Linnea, Chef Linnea Rufo

Coming off of a fabulous party at Casa Linnea for Tommy and Jessica York a few weeks before, a fantastic Lucky 7 dinner put on by Chef Mariana Gonzalez Gutierrez and partner Chef Jesus Vasquez Reyna (Mariana made the best mole we had all year) and now this Thanksgiving holiday dinner, Casa Linnea was three times a blessing and a cause for celebration.
Chef Linnea Rufo has a style that few chefs in SMA can match. We feel at home here, where great food and company is always a given. 

Comida at the Hacienda of Canada de la Virgen
Our definition of happy valley: Canada de la Virgen.  A garden-fresh, just picked comida in SMA’s most beautiful surroundings + an ice cold Rose. Died and gone to heaven and never coming back.
We loved our trips to Canada de la Virgen more than any other place in SMA last year.

Fish at Trazo 1810, Chef Alan Carias
Trazo’s fish couldn’t be any fresher: caught in the morning, shipped to Queretaro in the afternoon and cooked at Trazo that night.
Expect the unexpected when it comes to dishes created by Chef Alan Carias. His Caribbean flavors are second to none.

SMA Food Festivals
Food Festivals are all about discovering some of the best food and drink you’ve tasted all year and we found them all; every last one of them. Look for a few surprises in 2018.