Monday, December 28, 2020

New Tacos Hit the Mark

With all the great tacos in town, I should never name the Taco of the Year before December 31st at midnight.

Another two tacos hit the mark at Aquila; one as original as the Jicama Taco at La Azotea – the principal taco in SMA for the past 16 years. 


The Jicama taco is a texturally adventurous bite - the shell is a thin slice of Jicama topped with lightly breaded shrimp, chipotle mayo and a tamarind sauce. The fried leek finish put this taco in a class by itself so leave it to the same group (La Azotea, Pueblo Viejo, Atrio and Aquila) to create another winning bite: a taco shell made with cecina and stuffed with suckling pig. You’ll adore this confit, which is cooked for 16 hours. The Mexican sauce that topped this taco was recently replaced with a new Peruvian criolla sauce of Chinese pea, purple onion, sesame oil, Togarashi (a Japanese spice and Tiger milk. 4 generous portions are $290 pesos.

The second taco is Sweetbreads Chicharron with a finish of Tomatillos and Morita chili peppers. Four sizeable tacos are $240 pesos.

Beautifully complementing this meal was Chorizo – possibly the best we’ve eaten - a delightfully rich Cebolla Llorona ($110 pesos) and a salad: a mix of baby lettuce, Figs, sunflower seeds, feta cheese and a cognac reduction for $190 pesos. These three dishes - the Chorizo, onion and salad – are a meal in itself and can be split by two for just $225 pesos each. Aquila is well priced; from a pan of Chorizo that will run you $150 pesos to a Rib Eye steak at $1250 pesos. The wood grilled meats are exceptional. The experience made perfect with a roof that opens to the sky.


One thing we know - you’ll be crazy about anything you order at the new Aquila, especially when it’s off the wood fire and you’re accompanied by a chef who loves their food as much as I do.

A great addition to the SMA food scene, this is unquestionably one of the best new restaurant openings in SMA in 2020.

Aquila

Jesus #3, Centro

Daily: 1:00 PM - 10:00 PM.

Note: Check with the restaurant; the closing time is currently regulated by the city.

All safety protocols followed.

Masks removed for photographs and consumption.

Health First certified by the city of SMA.

 


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Introducing AQUILA: Our 2020 Meal of the Year

There’s a new restaurant in San Miguel de Allende, AQUILA, and we can’t stop talking about it; especially when we found one of our favorite chefs in the kitchen. Good food is good food but it’s always defined and oft times elevated by the chef. Three years ago, we called Chef Arturo Sandoval the best new chef of 2017. With his arrival at Atrio that year, he offered some of the most creative and delicious cuisine in the city. Now, 10 dishes into his new menu at Aquila, we’re crazy about this restaurant and we’re just getting started. We’ve pledged to try every cut of meat on the menu, cooked in a charcoal and wood oven. The quality of the products and the elegant but simple way they were prepared is something we’ll remember about this meal; one of the best we’ve eaten in Mexico.

Aquila was a daylight club and for months, catered mainly to weekend visitors from Mexico City. Today, no restaurant in SMA boasts a stronger pedigree: owners, Jose Maria Calvo (Chema) and Jesus Manuel Calvo (Chus), have gifted SMA with some of the city’s most popular restaurants – Atrio and La Azotea – and have transformed Aquila into their finest property yet. Their standing, as the top restaurateurs in SMA, has been recognized once again with the addition of Aquila.

The ceiling of the dining room is open to the sky, covered in billowing fabric to shade the diners below; it’s the most spectacular feature of the restaurant. The décor is clean with cozy, modern accents. The menu is peppered with interesting dishes of Mexican and International origins but the New Jersey beef is the star of the show. The beef comes from all Black Angus steers that are 100% hormone and antibiotic free; the animals are raised on small, family owned farms and finished on corn to develop the marbling. There’s no better beef in SMA; we know - we’ve tried them all.

Every dish and detail of this meal was over-the-top; our 2020 Meal of the Year with two short months to go. The restaurant also has first-class service, opulent side dishes, great wines, and gold standard cuts of meat.

With the perfect balance of a crusted, salty exterior and a medium-rare, buttery interior, we’ve finally met our match for the best, “new” restaurant in SMA this year.

Buen Provecho!

Our Menu:

The start - Mexican and Peruvian appetizers:


Tostada de Aguachile Negro de Camaron, Pescado y Pulpo/ Black Aguachile Toast with Shrimp, Fish and Octopus. Seafood lovers rejoice – this is your dish, especially of you love Pulpo.

Cappaccio de Rib Eye: Laminas de Rib Eye Marinado en Sambal con Chicharron de Cebolla y Salsa Mexicana/ Rib Eye Cappaccio: Sambal Marinated Rib Eye Laminates with Onion Chicharron and Mexican Sauce.This is one of the most festive dishes on the menu. The Sambal gives this dish a well-defined kick; the rib eye sliced paper thin. 

Chile de Lengua – Chile Guero: Relleno de Estofado de Lengua en Pipan Rojo y Xoconostle/ Chile de Lengua - Chile Guero stuffed Tongue Stew in Red Pipan and Xoconostle. The red Pipan mole from Oaxaca, made from dried chiles, ground seeds and nuts, lifted the flavors of the tongue. We especially loved the fork tender meat.

Causa de Atun: Causa Limena Envuelta en Atun y Camaron Roca/ Cause of Tuna: Cause Limena wrapped in Tuna and Rock Shrimp. A typical entrée of Peruvian gastronomy, this version was made with yellow potato. Chef Sandoval is an expert in Peruvian-Japanese style cooking.

Cono de Atun: Masa Ceocante Rellena de Tartar de Atun y Guadamole/ Tuna Cone: Ceocante Dough Stuffed with Tuna Tartar and Guacamole. Combined with the crispiness of the mini cone, the dish was finished off with a surprise stuffing of good guacamole. The dark red color of the tuna is a sign of its freshness and quality.


Meat: The Rib Eye

There’s nothing better than a top cut of Rib Eye cooked over wood and charcoal, producing a meat flavor that’s rich, complex and not easily forgotten. The chef’s secret, all we know is that most everything with this chef involves a lot of butter. This was the BEST RIB EYE WE’VE HAD IN SAN MIGUEL in the almost 9 years we’ve been here. Besides, here in Mexico, we love anything that’s finished off with corn.

Sides:


Espinacas con Crema/Spinach and Cream – so deliciously heavy on the parmesan cheese, we actually forgot we don’t like creamed spinach.

Is there anything better than a freshly-baked pan of homemade dinner rolls with beef? A small, cast iron fry pan of soft and buttery homemade rolls, a little on the sweet side, was a delicious complement to the meat. Even the bread was remarkable.

Desserts:

Arroz con Leche: Mil Hojas de Arroz Al Coco Con Brulee de Limon/ Rice pudding: Thousand Leaves of Coconut Rice With Lemon Brulee.

The sweet, crispy crust made this dessert.

Cheesecake de Macadamia: Palomitas de Caramelo y Macadamia Tostada en Salsa de Dulce de Leche/ Macadamia Cheesecake: Caramel Popcorn and Toasted Macadamia in Dulce de Leche Sauce. Our favorite dessert; this tasted more like Panna Cotta than Cheesecake. 

Aquila

Jesus #3, Centro

Daily: 1:00 PM - 10:00 PM.

Note: Check with the restaurant; the closing time is currently regulated by the city.

All safety protocols followed.

Masks removed for photographs and consumption.

Health First certified by the city of SMA.


Friday, October 30, 2020

Bringing On the “A” Game

We ate our way through San Miguel de Allende the entire month of October.


Between openings: The Monkey Bar at Hotel Matilda, Petit 4, Mama Mia, Mesa Marrakesh and Chef Abel Hernandez and Rodrigo Gomez Tagle’s Anonimo Rooftop at Hotel Selina, that boasts one of the best new views in the city, culinary projects like Claroscuro - celebrating the gastronomy of SMA and post-covid menu changes at many of San Miguel’s restaurants, we also found the best Taco and Dessert of 2020, and it’s only October. 

With 2 more months to go, we’re pretty sure these two restaurants – La Hija del Manantial and Bastardo - will survive the competition.


We salute all of the chefs who brought out their “A” game this past month: Nomada cocina de interpretacion,
Marsala, cocina con acentos, La Dona, The Rosewood SMA, Barrica de Fuego Smokehouse and Grill at Vinedos at los Sendaros, Aperi/ Makan.mx, Bastardo, The Monkey Bar, Belmond Casa Sierra Nevada, Casa de Café, Mesa Marrakesh, Pork Belly, Atrio, MiVida, La Parada, Chef Linnea Rufo, Chef Michael Coon, Ojo de Agua, La Santisima Trinidad’s San Lucas Winery, Mania Restaurant at La Playa in Los Senderos, Petit 4, Mama Mia, La Hija del Manantial, Hotel Selina and to the Claroscuro project to promote the city’s restaurants.

Here’s some of what we ate, proving once again that the best things in SMA can always found on a plate.

Buen Provecho!

Nomada cocina de interpretacion:

Our favorite spot is the view from the new Chef’s Table at Nomada; a special place to watch the master at work. Here Chef Marco Cruz is one; you can’t separate the genius from the elements - the fire, the complex sauces, the always perfect spice and the passion for what he creates every time he walks into the kitchen. Chef Cruz has a gift when it comes to creating modern, Mexican food that’s both visually beautiful and delicious. His Wednesday Tasting Menu is legendary.

Great chefs just keep on getting better; Marco Cruz is one of them.

Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion, Doce 18 at Relox 18, Centro Phone: 415 139 5021 Hours: 12:00 Noon – 9:00 PM. Closed Tuesday. 

Marsala, cocina con acentos:

We have so much AMOR for this former Top Chef Mexico contestant, Chef Marcela Bolano, who is one of the most popular chefs in SMA. Besides the fact that you’ll always get great food, she was one of the first chefs in SMA to do a Sunday brunch, complete with music, Mimosas and stone crab. It use to be one, large table filled with homemade offerings: warm breakfast scones with natural honey, fresh made pates and Greek yogurt with seasonal fruits but with a no share order in place these days, Marcela has been creative in presenting many of her same great dishes in packages and jars. There is a welcoming selection of Marcela-style brunch dishes; we’ve tried them all and every one of them is a fabulous. Marsala’s Eggs Benedict are unique; a lesson on how to eat more food than you possibly can in a single sitting. My favorite: the legendary waffle and duck. Hands down, it’s the best duck in SMA.

Great food and a virtual hug from Chef Marcela Bolano and partner, Ximena De Leon Campomanes, instantly puts the magic back in dining out.

Marsala, cocina con acentos, Hernandez Macias 48, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Hours:Friday – Saturday 1:00 PM – 10:00 PM/ Sunday 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM/ Monday – Thursday 1:00 PM – 9:00 PM Phone: 415 152 0080

La Dona:

It was a celebration of great food at SMA’s La Dona, with an unbelievable assortment of dishes- fabulous, every one of them - prepared by La Dona’s young chef, Juan Manuel Galvan Lopez; he’s only 26.Chef Juan Manuel Galvan Lopez is no stranger to being in the limelight. Two years ago this past June, he was named the Chef of the Year of the Cultural Destination of Mexico at a national competition. La Dona’s menu offers a fresh twist on many of the Mexican classics; always inventing a total surprise for your palate. Our meal: Roasted cauliflower in a wood fire oven marinated in dehydrated tomato chimichurri with seasoned Gorgonzola cheese dressing; seared tuna Peruvian ceviche with Jamaican crust, avocado spheres, soy vinaigrette and Serrano pepper; Pork Chamorro cooked for four hours over low heat, barbecue style accompanied with rustic mashed potatoes and fresh purslane; Chicken breast in black mole with fried plantain, homemade red rice and Chilies en Nogada, Bunuelos with guava “ate”, fresh cheese, piloncillo honey and orange with café de olla ice cream and the new dessert called Campechana, made by pastry chef Liliana Rodriguez with Take campechanas, quince paste, creamy cheese, guava tatemada with chili and cotija cheese.

The restaurant has two Covid safety measures that everyone will embrace: a hand washing station at the front door (we’ve never seen this at any other restaurant) and a gigantic rooftop where social distancing is a given. For food, ambiance, service and safety, La Dona is your home away from home.

La Dona de San Miguel, Hotel Nena Centro, San Francisco #32, Zona Centro Hours: Monday – Wednesday 1:00 PM – 10:00 PM/Thursday – Saturday 1:00 PM – 11:30 PM/ Sunday 1:00 PM – 9:00 PM Phone: 415 688 3131

The Rosewood SMA:

With a new Pacific Rim menu, Chef Emma Romero, in charge of the sushi kitchen at The Rosewood, has created an excellent menu assortment to satisfy all of your Asian cravings. We savored the Vietnamese Rolls with Tamarind Sauce, California rolls with shrimp, cucumber, Avocado and Tobiko, Chicken Ramen with Coconut and Lemongrass, Tuna Sashimi and Lemongrass Ice Cream. This is the best sushi we’ve eaten in SMA; now served daily in the 1826 Tequila Bar.

While you’re at it, take the climb upstairs to catch some breathtaking views from Luna Rooftop, one of the most popular spots in SMA. These spots are on our list of the best places to go in SMA; the fireplace at the 1826 Tequila Bar for winter and the view from Luna Rooftop to carry you through the rest of the year.

If there’s one place that will remind you of why you are living in magical SMA, The Rosewood SMA is it. 

The Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, Nemesio Diez 11  Phone: 415 152 9700 

Barrica de Fuego Smokehouse and Grill - Vinedos at los Sendaros:

The highest form of BBQ with the most famous butcher and one of the best chefs in Mexico, Aaron Mizrahi. An expert on the grill, the chef has dedicated his life to his utmost passion: meat. SMA chef, Marcela Bolano, was at his side to cook one of the most delicious meals I’ve eaten in SMA. 

He’s cooked for notable celebrities and well-known politicians and now for a group of well-known SMA chefs who were gathered at Vinedos at los Sendaros restaurant, Barrica de Fuego Smokehouse and Grill, to honor a new project to promote San Miguel’s gastronomy, which include the photographs of the Master, Gunther Maier.

I was also recognized by many chefs and restaurants on this day of celebration. Thank you to the city, Rose Ruiz, Laura Torres Septien,Alberto Cinta Laborde, Daniela Doig and so many other people who made this day a special one for me. I appreciate everyone who took the time to join in the celebration.

Barrica de Fuego Smokehouse and Grill at Vinedos at los Sendaros, Carretera 51, A, Dolores Hidalgo - San Miguel De Allende km 3.5, Nuevo Milenio, 37800 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Phone: 55 6319 5477 Hours: Thursday – Saturday 1:00 PM – 10:00 PM/ Sunday 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM/ Monday – Wednesday closed.

      Photo: Aperi
Aperi/ Makan.mx 

Introducing Singaporean chef, MaryAnn Yong, creator of the new Asian flavors available for takeout at Makan.mx. The menu emphasizes the harmony of salty, spicy, sour, sweet, and bitter; typical, Chinese flavors made with Chef Yong’s original, artistic twist. Try the sweet corn soup or a plate of the Black Pepper Beef; tastes that we’ve been craving since we left Chicago. This Home Delivery only Asian restaurant can be reached on WhatsApp +52 415 170 5942 or email her at info.makanmx@gmail.com.

Chef Yong is currently collaborating with one of SMA’s best restaurants, Aperi. She worked with Chef Gaggan Anand of Bangkok, Thailand who, for 4 years, was selected as the best chef in Asia by the 50 Best Restaurants. She has another project going in Mexico City as well. Previously, she worked with one of our favorite chefs there, Eduardo García, of Maximo Bistrot and Lalo!

Aperi, Quebrada 101 Phone: 415 152 0941 Hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and Monday 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM and 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM/ Friday – Saturday 2:00 PM – 9:00 PM/ Tuesday: Closed

Makan.mx - Home Delivery only  WhatsApp +52 415 170 5942

Bastardo:

Chef Avendaño’s cuisine is characteristically International, with a double dose of affection for the Vegetarians in SMA. Who doesn’t love a head of Cauliflower dripping in burnt butter? 

The feast: Roasted Cauliflower with Burnt Butter and Nuts; White Bean Hummus; local Burrata with Pasilla Chile sauce and Avocado; Juicy Lucy, local Chicken with Goat Butter, Carrot and Lemongrass puree, Stewed Beef Shank with yellow corn Polenta and baby Spinach; Beef Filet with smoked Hollandaise sauce; Pea and Asparagus Risitto; French Toast with Lavender Ice Cream, Whipped Cream and Marmalade and the best Mesquite Honey Creme Brulee I've eaten in Mexico. What did we like the best? The Stewed Beef Shank and the Beef Filet with smoked Hollandaise sauce; the meat from Rancho El 17. With the Hollandaise sauce, the butter is smoked first.

Like going home for a family dinner – mine with Chefs Michael Coon and Linnea Rudo, Mushroom authority, Arif Towns Alonso and Rancheo Viejo’s Maribele Gerez of RAD, - you’ll get high off of all of Bastardo’s food; it’s that good. This culinary hotspot is just 10 minutes from your front door with some of the best food you’ll eat in SMA.

Bastardo, Highway to Dolores Hidalgo, km 7.4 - passing Hacienda la Presa 37770  Phone: 415 181 7045 Hours: Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday: 1:00 PM – 8:00 PM/Friday - Saturday: 1:00 PM - 9:00 PM/ Monday -Tuesday closed

The Monkey Bar:

We don’t just like this bar – we LOVE it! The Money Bar at Hotel Matilda is the perfect place to celebrate SMA in the new normal; it’s outside, poolside and teeny tiny – there are five bar stools which immediately went down to three after our visit. You can reach across the bar and practically touch the back wall, it’s that cozy. Some additional seating spills into Moxi, Matilda’s flagship restaurant. The space is also outside. The smallest bar in SMA has the biggest offerings when it comes to spirits and service. For the serious cocktail aficionado, The Monkey Bar offers an out-of-the-box experience. No need for a beach vacation this year - you wouldn’t need one with this view - lush vegetation, bluer-than- blue SMA sky, Matilda’s colorful mural by artist, Claudio Limon and the constantly moving reflections off the pool. At the Monkey Bar, the cocktail story is intoxicating. One of the best Mixologists in town, Mike Espinosa, is one of its guardians. We can’t think of a better bartender to mix a Tito’s martini or make a novel cocktail using SMA’s best tequila, Casa Dragones. Mike will also educate you on why we should be drinking a craft beer from a glass instead of a bottle. Did you know that more than 70% of taste comes from your sense of smell? When you bring the glass up to your mouth, you’re actually inhaling the aromas. You’ll also get a welcome cocktail; refreshing blends of lemongrass, ginger, mesquite honey and lavender.

 

The rebirth of the Monkey Bar in NYC was a second coming, much like the one SMA is going through right now, post- pandemic. Its story inspired Matilda owner, Bruce James, to open a Monkey Bar in SMA. One of the features we love is the monkey figurines perching around the bar. We’re waiting to hear when their newly named; stay tuned. They’ll instantly put you in a good mood; inspiring you to get your monkey business on after four long months in lockdown.

 

We think good things come in small packages these days - the Monkey Bar at Hotel Matilda is it!

The Monkey Bar at Hotel Matilda, Aldama #53, Centro Open daily 1:00 PM – 10:00 PM


Casa Sierra Nevada:

Talk about timing! Chef Jetzabel Rojas Barragan, was introduced in a press release on March 11, 2020 and a week or so later, SMA shut down because of the pandemic. This young chef is a breath of fresh air; born in Veracruz and raised in Sonora - two areas of Mexico that have a strong, culinary pedigree. Our meal: 4 courses followed by 2 desserts: a Spring Mix salad with Grapes Tomatoes, Zucchini and Epazote Dressing; Chicharron Soup with Tomatillo, Pico de Gallo, Sour Cream and Ranchero Cheese (this was the dish that convinced the Belmond management team to hire her); 24 Hours Braised Pork Shank with Three Dry Chilli Adobo, Mashed Potato and Purslane; Chile En Nogada: Poblano Chilli Stuffed with Beef Picadillo and Seassonal Fruit, Topped with Walnut Sauce and Granate and the desserts - Zazil Chocolat (one of the best in Mexico) with Mole mousse, Cocoa sponge, Caramelized Nuts and Expresso Ice Cream and Bunuelo de Viento with cream, roasted sweet potato and nata cream.

If authentic, Mexican food is what you’re looking for, Casa del Parque Restaurant has got it. Go there for lunch and don’t forget Andanza for breakfast (the delicious pancakes at Andanza are a sweet addition to your morning routine) and The Blue Bar for late afternoon drinks. This triple hit - Casa del Parque, Andanza and The Blue Bar - is hard to top; all beautiful and enchanting properties from Belmond Casa Sierra Nevada. 

Casa del Parque Restaurant at Belmond Casa Sierra Nevada, Santa Elena 2 Open 12:00 Noon – 10:00 PM Phone: 415 150 201

Andanza Casa Sierra Nevada and The Blue Bar at Belmond Casa Sierra Nevada, Hospicio 35 Opens 7:30 AM for breakfast/ Snacks and drinks in The Blue Bar until 10:00 PM  Phone: 415 150 2018

Casa de Café:

Casa de Café is one of the best kept secrets in SMA, so how did we rediscover it? Nothing gets our attention faster than dessert and the Pan de Elote at Casa de Café belongs on a pedestal in a category all by itself. It’s the best cornbread we’ve eaten in Mexico in over 50 years, and we’ve eaten plenty. A cross between bread pudding and custard, it’s not as sweet as most of the cornbreads we’ve eaten in Mexico; lighter on the corn with the perfect texture. Casa de Cafe has made it in-house for over 30 years.

When’s the last time you had a picnic lunch for breakfast? Casa de Café also serves delicious sandwiches on ciabatta bread from Buonforno, one of our favorite bakeries in town. Today, it was ham, tuna or chicken salad with a double scoop of potato salad. This vegetable-loaded sandwich was a deal at 70 pesos. I fact, you can bring a $200 peso note and order the works. You’ll get enough change back to do the Elote all over again tomorrow. Their coffee is fantastic; an interesting blend from three different regions in Mexico: Oaxaca, Veracruz and Coatepec. This is serious brew; the kind you want to wake up to every morning. Apparently some in SMA already know this; there was a steady stream of regulars through the door this morning to grab a cup to go. You can also get the Pan de Elote and other treats curbside. Casa de Café has been on Hospicio for over 13 years; before that, in Marisela’s family home on Hildago. In 1986, Marisela Garcia de la Soto, started tourist business – PMC or the Promotion of Mexican Culture - providing airport transportation and vans for sightseeing and for archeological digs throughout Mexico. Her husband, Don, is an anthropologist. She was Miss San Miguel de Allende in 1968 – 1969; her elegance is ever present today. She is one of SMA’s true pioneers.

A trip to Casa de Cafe feels like home and that’s exactly how Marisela wants it to feel. But it’s not just the coffee that brings people in to Casa de Cafe these days; it’s the expectation that this SMA institution will still be here when you want a cup of comfort next week.

Casa de Café, Hospicio #31, Centro Phone: 415 152 0121 Hours: Daily 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM

Mesa Marrakesh:

Lunch, a short list of delicious Hummus, Kebabs and sides with the same great flavors created by Chef JJ JJ Castaneda, now at his new restaurant, Mesa Marrakesh. We devoured the spicy lamb kebob like it was our last meal it was so delicious. We also loved the fresh Lemonade with mineral water, made at the bar at Mercado del Carmen. Mesa Marrakesh is his first solo act, having supported other restaurants since 1994. We first got to know his fabulous, Mediterranean style as the former chef at Café Casa Blanca and Fatima where he is shown in the picture above. JJ received a lot of press last year and rightfully so; he was our pick for the best new chef in SMA. JJ splits his booth with another new restaurant at Mercado del Carmen: Bhaji Curry House owned by Chef Adrian Groton. They both share a waiter, a delightful Andrea Salto, who gave us some of the best service when we dined there last week.

Mesa Marrakesh is a great addition to the growing list of ethnic restaurants inside Mercado del Carmen. We love this concept because the diner is always up close and personal with the chefs. Congratulations to JJ for making that leap of faith and venturing out on his own. We love chefs who take risks; especially ones that are brave enough to do it post-pandemic. We know, you’ve been in quarantine for awhile so make Mesa Marrakesh your coming out party. You’ll like his food so much; you’ll probably want to try the entire menu. There’s nothing like a little trip to the Mediterranean to get your palate back in shape for some serious eating. Welcome home chef JJ Castaneda; you were missed.

Mesa Marrakesh at Mercado del Carmen, Pila Seca 19 Hours: Tuesday – Thursday 1:00 PM – 8:00 PM/Friday – Sunday 1:00 PM – 9:00 PM 

Pork Belly:

A most welcomed arrival to Stirling Dickinson is Chef Erick Medina and the newly relocated Pork Belly. With a great new concept he’s currently working towards – Smoked BBQ downstairs and Organic and Vegetarian on the upper floor - Chef Medina is committed to growing all of his own vegetables for the restaurant. They’re already using homegrown citrus and herbs from the back gardens, making bacon (bacon lovers, get your taste buds up because this is some of the best homemade bacon in SMA - I would go there just to eat the bacon) and their own ketchup (go ahead, diners have been known to eat it by the spoonful. All the breads and desserts are made by Chef Medina’s niece, Brenda Cuellar Medina.

We’re a burger hound; there’s nothing we love more than a great burger and this one hit the high mark. Even the French fries were impressive; sprinkled with malt vinegar and topped with Parmesan cheese. The Mac and Cheese is to die for; made with Manchego, cheddar and those magical ingredients: blue cheese and bacon.

From Kansas City, Memphis, St. Louis, Tulsa and Central Texas, we love BBQ so much that we’ve traveled just about everywhere to eat it. The techniques and taste may vary but two ingredients remain the same: smoke and meat. We even went to the Memphis World BBQ Championship one year to spend the week with the judges. How crazy is it now that we’re adding Pork Belly to our list of favorite places to eat BBQ. After all, SMA is not the most logical place in the world for BBQ. And to think that it was all made possible by a very passionate, bearded smoke chef from London.

Pork Belly, Stirling Dickinson n. #10 Hours: 10 AM - 7:30 PM/Closed Monday 

Atrio:

We only write about restaurants that we love and Atrio is high on our list of places to go in SMA. We can’t say enough about the food, prepared by Atrio’s master chef, Arturo Sandoval. His creativity, changing menu and use of high quality ingredients makes Atrio’s food some of the best in the city.

When your martini’s are made ice cold and your rib rice is cooked to perfection, you always go away happy. Precise attention to detail, flawless execution and outstanding service define its dining profile. 

If you want to know what an exceptional dining experience looks like, Atrio is it — which is why it’s always one of our picks for the best restaurant in SMA. 

Atrio, Cuna de Allende 3, Centro Phone: 415 688 1405 Opens 1:00 PM Daily

MiVida:

We’ve ordered this combination from MiVida so often - homemade pizza with sausage + Gelato - that we’ve decided we should make it easy on Chef Greta Ortega Casanas and just move in.

Hands down, this is the best pizza and gelato in town. 

MiVida, Hernandez Macias #97. Phone: 415-152-7482

La Prada:

We’ve been dreaming about the smashed potatoes at La Parada for months now and decided it was time address our obsession. If there’s one thing Chef Alexandra Gutt has perfected, it’s potato recipes… and just about everything else on the menu, including a new, Mexican dish: Carnitas – the one dish we love to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. This slow-cooked, pork sandwich was a pleasant pause from a normally, all Peruvian fare. It was topped with an Oregano cream sauce and Salsa Criolla. 

Like most chefs these days, Chef Alexandra Gutt has shortened the menu at La Parada to include those items which are considered the specialty of the house like the Chicken Livers and all the delicious Ceviche recipes under $200 pesos. She has always been on the top of the list of best chefs in SMA.

Go for the food but also the ambiance. This delightful, outdoor space has consistently been in the top ten restaurants in SMA since they opened.

La Parada, Recreo #94, Centro Hours: Wednesday – Monday 12:00 Noon – 9:00 PM/ Closed Tuesday Phone 415 152 0473

Chef Linnea Rufo:

And this was, as the chef described it, just our “family dinner.

When a thick cut of beef steak is perfectly cooked in a cast iron pan on top of the stove by one of the best chefs in SMA, you don’t need words, just pictures.  

Linnea Rufo Events, Salida a Queretaro #77, San Miguel de Allende Website: https://www.linnearufoevents.com/ Email: linnearufoevents@gmail.com

Chef Michael Coon:

Dietary restraint usually come in January, not September, so when I was invited to join in on an all Vegetarian meal, I mentally prepared myself by devouring a hamburger for lunch that day. Chef Michael Coon was doing the cooking so I assured myself that if I didn’t like his Vegetarian food, the chef I’ve been eating with for over 8 years, I wouldn’t like any anybody’s. In all the years I’ve been writing about food, I’ve never had an all Vegetarian meal on purpose until now. Much to my surprise, I not only liked the meal, I LOVED it. I managed to get through all five courses without thinking about meat once. Just goes to show that a great chef can make anything taste good - even vegetables. His menu for this meal included these outstanding, Asian dishes: Chickpea Miso Mushroom soup;Yellowtail sashimi with Ponzu and spicy sauce; Charred Eggplant fritter with Sriracha and Unagi sauce; Bok choy spinach squash sezchuan stir fry and coconut jasmine rice and Pumpkin cake with Pomegranate Tuna sauce and whipped cream with Santo Cuviso Bacanora.

Soon to do a special, Asian meal at one of SMA’s best restaurants, Chef Michael Coon also does private dinners in your home, like this one for Gunther and Dorothee Maier, and cooks with other chefs in SMA and Mexico City. Contact Chef Michael Coon by calling 415-117-6570; go on his Facebook page or Instagram account - cookcoon. You can also email him at Michaelalbertcoon@gmail.com.

Ojo de Agua:

Chef Ana Pereyra from Monterrey is the new chef in the kitchen at Ojo de Agua. This chef is a natural; for years she worked in BIKO in Mexico City.  Everything she prepares is deliciously creative; using the freshest ingredients in everything she makes. Thank goodness there’s not one thing that doesn’t qualify as breakfast food in Mexico because you never have to wait to eat the good stuff for dinner; like this deli, roast beef sandwich with grainy mustard.

Like every restaurant in town, it’s time to support your favorites; Ojo de Agua is one of ours. A chain out of Mexico City, the restaurant prides itself in delivering healthy food that tastes good; words that are typically not used in the same sentence.

So which one of these dishes was our favorite? I might have to try another round just to be sure.

Ojo de Agua, Pila Seca 32 Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 AM – 8:30 PM/ Saturday – Sunday 8:00 AM – 6:30 PM

San Lucas Winery:

We celebrated the wine harvest at a private party with friends; a most welcomed celebration from last year, when hundreds of people attended the Vendimia at San Lucas; one of the wineries of La Santisima Trinidad.

Savor the harvest; enjoy the wines of La Santisima Trinidad. We love a vineyard who can adapt to the new normal. Book a one-of-a-kind, private harvest party if you have 10 people or more by contacting the vineyard at 415 566 1059 or reserve a spot at the next 2020 variety of the Vendimia at San Lucas.

San Lucas Winery, Carretera Queretaro –San Miguel de Allende km 26 Restaurant hours: Call 415 688 2210 (WhatsApp) for a reservation Hours: Thursday 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM/ Friday – Saturday 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM/ Sunday 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Wine Tasting: Call 415 688 2210 Ext 3003 or Email: VINICOLA@VINEDOSSANLUCAS.COM Daily: Monday- Thursday and Sunday 11:00, 1:00 and 3:00 PM/ Friday – Saturday 11:00, 1:00, 3:00 and 5:00 PM

Mania Restaurant:

At Mania Restaurant at La Playa in beautiful Los Senderos, there was a gathering of friends for a night of celebration for Mexican Independence Day last week. Congratulations to owner, Fran Fischer, for the outstanding event; well-organized and executed by Malula Sanchez. Los Senderos was exquisitely decorated; white tents crossing the sky with red, green and white visible just about everywhere you looked. Being nearby water was like being home for me; I claimed the lifeguard chair as my own during the cocktail hour. Chef Montserrat Vázquez cooked a mini-feast; all Mexican, including the traditional Mexican dish, Chiles en Nogada. 

 

Not since I last saw Luis Miguel in an outdoor theater in Monterrey, Mexico back in the 90’s have I been this excited about a Latin singer, who was totally off my radar until recently. This was a private concert; a most intimate relationship with the artist. Enrique de Allende is the total package: movie star good looks, steadfast cultural pride, a timeless elegance and powerful yet eloquent vocals. His connection to traditional, mariachi music is his foundation. Los Senderos had their own fireworks to top off the night; we also watched another display across the lake. No matter what your view of the fireworks, it was a rare show; staged in seven different locations around the city. The most spectacular one in recent history, it was ten minutes of oohs and ahhs that will hold you until 2021.

 

I will remember this event as one for the history books; a wonderful part of my own Mexican story. 

Mania Restaurant at La Playa in Los Senderos, Carr. San Miguel a Dolores Hidalgo, 37759 SMA Daily: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Closed Monday Phone: 415 155 9594 

The Claroscuro Project

The most amazing day for the Claroscuro project to promote the gastronomy of San Miguel de Allende. The men of the hour: Master photographer, Gunther Maier, and special honoree, Chef Donni, who embraced the Guanajuato G that’s on the corner of the Parroquia. 

A press conference at the Hotel Selina, the lineup for a first - a group chef photo, followed by a ribbon cutting at Galeria Codigo Postal, a lunch at Chef Linnea Rufo’s and the gallery opening of Gunther’s photographs at Galeria Codigo Postal was a huge success thanks to everyone who participated, including local and visiting press.

The Claroscuro project, directed by Rose Ruiz and Alberto Cinta Laborde of Gloss Media, in conjunction with Laura Torres Septien and the city of SMA, will be ongoing and will include many events over the course of the year in tribute to the remarkable and diverse gastronomy of SMA.

A special thanks to all of SMA’s beloved chefs.


SMA voted the best small city in the world again!

In 2008, UNESCO designated San Miguel de Allende as a World Heritage Site and so began its rise from a small, artist colony in the mountains of central Mexico to the number one city in the world; a cultural capital known for its inherent beauty, Baroque to neo-Gothic, 16th century Spanish colonial architecture and outstanding food, just to name a few.

I moved to SMA back in 2013, when it was first named the number one City in the World by Conde Nast Traveler.

In 2016,Travel + Leisure named San Miguel de Allende the third best destination in the world and the best destination of Mexico, Central and South America. It was also the year that many new restaurants opened in SMA; San Miguel de Allende took seventh in the Ten Best International Cities for Food from Travel + Leisure that year.

In a double dose of bliss for the city, both Conde Nast Traveler  and Travel + Leisure named San Miguel de Allende the number one city in both 2017 and 2018.

San Miguel de Allende was named the American Culture Capital for 2019 by the International Bureau of Cultural Capitals. This was more good news for the chefs in the city, who worked hard to make the culinary scene an essential element in SMA’s standing as the best city in the world. By then, SMA was already one of the top destinations in Mexico for food; tourists came here just to eat. 

Fast forward to today, 2020, when The Rosewood SMA became the ideal spot to celebrate SMA being named the 2020 Best Small City in the World by Conde Nast Traveler  again. It took second place on the list of Best City in the World at Travel + Leisure; honors that make us so proud to live here.

The hotels receiving awards for the 2020 Best Hotels in Mexico by Conde Nast Traveler ; four of the top 15 are located in SMA:

1. The Rosewood

2. Hotel Matilda

5. Casa Rosada

13. Dos Casas Hotel and Spa

The grounds at the Rosewood never fail to take my breath away. The vista from the rooftop is one of the best in the city so it’s no surprise that we took our time getting to the party - stopping along the way to savor every view. For once, I was not one of the first but the last to arrive at party; just in time to take a few pictures of the celebration before the sun set.

It’s still incredible to me that every day, someone in the world is finally discovering what we already know: San Miguel is the Best Small City in the World.



A Preface to Day of the Dead:

Funny how you’ve always wanted to do something but it’s never a priority until you make it one…

After years of never getting the timing right or realizing the significance of the event, I was determined to see the fields of marigolds grown for Day of the Dead this year. I thought I would have to travel; certain by the time I got to Michoacán, they would be fully harvested and I would miss them again - these beautiful fields that have eluded me for over 50 years.

My friend, Billy Mervin, delivered the dream last Monday, taking me to see the fields that he’s been buying from for over 6 years; outside of Comonfort, 26.3 km from San Miguel de Allende.

You’ll be delighted with the aftermath - over 5,000 flowers will adorn his beautiful Hotel Nena and La Dona restaurant for the Day of the Dead celebration this year. You can see them starting Saturday.

This experience is one of my ultimate highs in Mexico; wandering in fields of orange and red as far as the eye can see. Words can’t describe how I felt when I had this powerful connection to Day of the Dead. I’ve finally come full circle.

Somewhere outside of Comonfort, the fields of Marigolds and Mano de Leon were harvested this week by Luis and his crew. All of them were joyful.