Sunday, June 21, 2020

Raise Your Glass: SMA Restaurants Finally Reopen

What’s my favorite thing to make after having 90 days to think about it? RESERVATIONS! It seems like a lifetime ago when I last had a restaurant meal and although delivery is a welcomed extra these days (60+ restaurants in SMA now deliver, including La Parada, who added delivery service last week) I’m also done with cooking. My thoughts after three months in isolation: there’s absolutely nothing better than eating out at a restaurant. I would say it again but you’re probably already thinking it.

For takeout and delivery this past month, our list was long: 
Chef Armando Acosta’s fabulous ribs; 
Buenos Aires Bistro’s delicious Sweetbread and Pork Belly sandwiches; 
Birdies Burgers always fabulous Brisket sandwich with Mac and Cheese;  
Chikatana’s bag loaded with ingredients to make our favorite ethnic dish: Bibimbap; 
Costco for,what else, a hot dog fix; 
The Restaurant for weekly produce; always fresh and just picked from the garden; 
The best souhern chicken in SMA: Kenten’s Fried Chicken (KFC) with all the sides; 
Lizette Angel’s Lolita Cocina Mexicana and Bar for a one pound burrito; 
Marsala, cocina con acentos for a Cuban Sandwich and her famous Carrot Cake; 
Moxi at Hotel Matilda for take-out bags to make Lobina and cheesecake
Nómada cocina de interpretación for a steak and salad with a delicious apple, sea salt caramel and cinnamon crumble; 
Panio for a brunch box (which included Chocolate Croissants, Brioche with cream cheese, Kouign Amann, Ham and Mushroom crepes, Fig mermelade, Macarons in a variety of colors, a loaf of sourdough and Pinelli Cuvee Brut Prosecco); 
Chef Armando Prats for Mexican Aguachile Tostadas and Ensenada Fish Tacos; some of the best around
Ruby Joy for Chopped Salads, Fried Chicken and tasty Orange Chicken with eggrolls; 
Rustica for the works: Chicken Milanese, Canada de la Virgen beef sandwich, brownies, cookies, Buenforno’s Almond Croissants and ice cream; 
and the best BBQ Brisket and Ribs from Smoked N' Low;
Chef Laura Buccheri's Cocina di Afrodita for Caramel Cheesecake 
and Sea-salt, caramel and chocolate tart with caramelized almonds from Chef Isabelle Ortega at Madame la Lune. 
We also got lost in the vineyard one afternoon at Los Senderos for a brief distraction from reality.
What did we cook at home? Easy dishes, like Yogurt, fruit and granola; Chicken Soup; Iced Coffee;Baked Oatmeal; French Toast; Chicken Stir Fry, Biscuits; Potato Soup with Ham and Green Beans; Spaghetti Bordelaise – with and without pancetta; Baked beans and Smoked Blue Cheese Potato Salad, not to mention an overkill on Costco tuna. 

 I’ve decided that I’ll leave the home-cooking to Jana Koplen, Franklin Terry and Mark Bastian; the real superstars of the SMA home kitchen during the pandemic.
Have you looked at the Facebook posts of Chef Linnea Rufo (above) these past few months? Just who makes a Salmon Belly Caesar Salad, Chicken thighs with peppercorn cream and Cognac sauce with mushroom, asparagus and shallot hash or a Chicken Pot Pie that looks like it just graced the cover of Bon Appétit? Whatever her plans are for the future, we’re in them.

Good service in a restaurant is a glorious thing and there’s something about getting it from a recognizable staff. You really appreciate them now; the tribe who knows you by name and brings your drink before you even get a chance to sit down and order it. You want to taste every dish that was created by the chefs during the pandemic, because they finally had time to make them, but all you really want right now is a taste of the familiar; the comfort foods that take you home to the SMA you know and love.

We celebrated with some of our favorite restaurants once they reopened: we were there for the opening of Atrio (above) 

Marsala cocina con acentos

and The Restaurant. 

We also savored the traditions that define Rustica (above)

Luna Rooftop at The Rosewood (with Rosewood staff: Chef Emma Romero, Gustavo Vidargas, Theresa Garcia and Luis Moreno). Try their new lighter-than-light Almond Croissant.

El Vergel


Nirvana and 3 days of retreat in the country with Chef Patsy Dubois at Patsy's Place. 
With strict protocols in place, we felt safe dining in every restaurant we went to. 

Some people say the expectation of going somewhere is often better than the actual experience but in this case, it wasn’t. And if you think we were excited, just look at Chef Donnie Masterton (The Restaurant), Chef Arturo Sandoval (Atrio) and Chef Marcela Bolano at Marsala, cocina con acentos. 

How can you find out if a restaurant is certified by the city? Here’s the current list. For those who don’t speak Spanish, push the link and "Conoce aqui la lista de establecimientos que cuentan ya con el Certificate Primero la Salud" will come up in large letters. Press on the letters and it will go to an automatically, updated list of restaurants and shops that have been certified.…

Do Eggs Benedict taste better with a 360 degree view of city? You bet, especially when you haven’t seen this panorama for what seems like forever. I was mesmerized by the view and if you want to fall in love with the city all over again, Luna is the perfect place to go. It’s entirely al fresco dining now; Luna is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM. 1826 remains closed for remodeling and will open with a new menu. There’s also a major surprise; to be announced before the end of the year that will delight the locals. In fact, many of the restaurants in SMA have embraced locals; offering new menus, along with attractive prices and specials.

Chef David Jahnke’s online cooking classes filled a void but ZOOM forgot the sniff button; we really missed the aromas of his cooking. Chef David Jahnke Cooking Classes Lab is the top cooking school in SMA and was recently voted one of the best cooking schools in Mexico.

As SMA slowly opens up, there are things we’re looking forward to,like Mui at Hotel Marilda; a new Ramen bar (photo by Hotel Matilda) that will serve many delicious varieties of ramen, all priced under $200 pesos. Expect a lot of changes over the next six months as restaurants adapt to the new normal. 

For now, SMA has made progress - you can now get creative cocktails delivered to your front door, along with a bottle of SMA’s premium tequila, Casa Dragones. There’s also a new cocktail book coming out shortly from SMA artist, Jane Dill and her husband, Roger Adell, featuring the 50 quarantine cocktails they created during lockdown; a really fun project for everyone who followed them. The photo above is from Jane's Facebook page when she was reshooting the cover with her iPhone.

We also love Panio’s new bread subscription - $450 pesos for 4 weeks/3 boulangerie + a special treat every week.

You’ll see limited menus but all of the restaurants are offering a short and sweet list of their best dishes. Hours will also change.

There’s a plan in city government that will allow some restaurants to utilize their outdoor spaces, including streets and sidewalks; hopefully expediting permits and helping the restaurants breeze through the process in order to increase the capacity of their now, limited dining rooms. Let’s hope it will get approved soon because all people want to do right now is dine outdoors. In fact, rooftops and restaurants with outdoor patios will definitely have the advantage.

Mask up and take your seat; you’re favorite restaurants are still the same, only now they have stricter protocols in place. Also, continue to support them by ordering take-out and delivery.

Make sure all your favorite restaurants survive. If you want to return to the food scene the way it was prior to 2016, stay at home and cook. We know you’re a great cook but what are your thoughts if cooking at home is now your only option?

Buen Provecho!