Thursday, March 31, 2022

One of the Best Chefs in SMA: Chef Marco Cruz

Just last week, we enjoyed a five star, healthy lunch at Nomada Cocina de Interpretación- a plate of Lobina with chili ash, cabbage, lemon, purslane, watermelon radish and a Balsamic reduction - for just $220 pesos; proving once again that although some restaurants in town are getting pretty pricey, there are still great deals out there - especially ones that are cooked by five star chefs. In fact, you could eat lunch every day at Nomada Cocina de Interpretación - and there are weeks when we have - and still not break your budget. We first met Chef Marco Cruz at Bu’i – cocina de campo back in 2015. Never have we been so instantly taken by a chef more than at our first meal with him, which I can still remember: a Mole de olla – Short Rib (Sous vide) with carrot pure and baby corn. Chef Marco Cruz worked at Au Pied du Cochon, a highly rated restaurant in Mexico City’s Polanco district that is noted for its French food and was also part of Chef Enrique Olvera’s team. After working with Chef Olvera at Pujol, he joined Daniel Estebaranz to open La Estacion in Mexico City. In the beginning, Chef Olvera created the menu and Marco applied his recipes and techniques. Marco became the Executive Chef at both B'ui – cocina de campo in SMA and La Estacion in Mexico City a few years later.
In 2015, Chef Cruz opened his own restaurant, Nomada Cocina de Interpretación, in SMA. Since then, we have eaten with the chef over a hundred times in the seven years we have known him including the opening night at Nomada; we’ve been with him since day one. Since he settled into his home in Doce 18 two years ago, our favorite spot has been the view from the Chef’s Table, a special place to watch this master chef at work. 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. Because of new management at Doce 18, he’ll relocate to a new spot in Centro. Stay tuned for an announcement.
Food is ultimately about flavor and Chef Marco Cruz has the ability to build incredible flavor profiles that carry you to one of the many places he’s traveled or to a field in the campo, where native ingredients speak to the chef as simply as we talk to each other. Chef Cruz has always cooked healthy; protein and a lot of vegetables. What makes the meal magical is the flavors of his sauces; they are like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. Applying innovative techniques, the results are beyond ordinary; many times brilliant. Creative and passionate, his staff adores and respects him. Eat with him and you’ll swear you just had one of the best culinary experiences in San Miguel de Allende…and you did!
We eat with our eyes first so I am, as a rule, impressed with presentation. Everything that comes out of the kitchen at Nomada is visually picture perfect. Chef Marco Cruz guides a well orchestrated team, using ingredients in ground-breaking ways, like a slice of cecina in place of an ordinary tostada. Just look at his eyes and you can tell how focused he is. In our most recent comida at Nomada last week, we realized that after seven years and over 100 tastings, Chef Marco Cruz is still at the top of his game. Without a doubt he is one of the best, if not the best, chef in SMA. Nómada Cocina de Interpretación Relox 18, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende Phone: 415 121 6165 Daily: 12:00 Noon - 10:00 PM

Friday, March 25, 2022


You can discover a new cuisine by its spice rack so prepare your taste buds for some new revelations from the Mediterranean at Bocaciega, one of SMA’s best new restaurants. More Greek than anything else, Bocaciega uses Lebanese spices; an important element in the creation of its menu. Bocaciega offers a smaller number of dishes and does them all really well. We last counted 21 items on the menu; easy to navigate when you’re hungry and wondering what to order. It can be said that the dishes are centered on the concept of mezze, a dining style that, unlike tapas, composes an entire meal with a spread of small plates. It’s the best way to enjoy a feast at Bocaciega; you can order dishes designed to feed just one or two people or a crowd. I did small plates of many of the dishes; enough to appreciate the mysteries of Chef Bazan’s cooking. The food is very complex; leaving you with flavor memories that make you want to come back for another round. My second meal was as good as the first; my third was even better. Owner, Tono Aranda Lav, says of his latest project “We consider Bocaciega to be a creative vision, taking on a very different style of Mediterranean food.” Growing up,Tono’s father wanted to be a chef (he’s an architect) but he still cooks Spanish cuisine with passion in his home kitchen – estofados, paellas and langostinos - his recipes so good that he won a paella contest in Mexico City. His mother is from Merida and her family has always been in the restaurant business, cooking traditional Yucatan food. The Lavalle family is of Lebanese heritage and Tono fondly remembers all the spices his mother used in her cooking when he was growing up. Tono started working in restaurants in Mexico City when he was a student. He worked in Litoral, owned by renowned chef Azari Cuenca. His brother, Andres, joined the team and Toño and Andres later opened La Choperia, now La Chope, eight years ago in San Miguel de Allende. Tono then opened another popular SMA restaurant spot, Tostevere, three years ago. Bocaciega is his third restaurant in SMA; opening just seven months ago. The chef at Bocaciega is Jose Bazan. His experience is impressive; coming from the kitchens of major hotels like The Embassy Hotel and the Fiesta Americana in Mexico City and also cooked at L’Alsase, Au Pied de Cochon and La Mansion, gaining the best experience that only French cooking can provide. Carmen Vasquez is the sous chef. A recent assessment of both the management and the kitchen staff is that she’s already blossoming into a great, young chef. Local SMA chef and friend, Davide Giribaldi, has also helped Bocaciega with its techniques and menu design. Tono Aranda Lav is an avid cook and Giribaldi has curbed his enthusiasm by providing kitchen discipline and making him cook each recipe using the original techniques before he was allowed to experiment on his own. Yes, chefs have no fear when it comes to telling the boss what to do, especially when it comes to cooking. Their yogurt based Naan bread is a standout, served with butter grissinis (breadsticks) roasted beet jam, Jocoque (labneh) and spiced infused olive oil with pepita seeds. The spices include Orégano, Pimentón, Cúrcuma, Cumin, Cinnamon and other ingredients; a secret we’re not about to give away. We loved this dish for dunking; its one of the most beautiful, colorful and delicious plates of the meal. For the Gyros, they mix leg of lamb and beef filet; the favor of the lamb and the tenderness of the filet work well together. They also used pickled red onions, Tahini sauce and a mixed salad with a light vinaigrette dressing and lemon on a side; the acidity playing an important role in the dish. This is definitely not the traditional version of Gyros that we came to know and love at the restaurants in Greektown in Chicago but the dish has got some interesting twists; a very modern version of the original recipe. The Greek Salad is classic with a few adjustments: Kalamon olives, green olives, fresh red onions, fresh tomatoes, local dried goat cheese, Koroneiki olive oil with the addition of beautiful, pink grapefruit and Basil leaves. For the Falfel, they make a mixture of cilantro, parsley, rustic homemade hummus and lime zest served with a Tahini sauce. Some special accompaniments -the homemade veggie pizzela was topped with a generous portion of squash blossoms in addition to mixed vegetables, the lobina whitefish was cooked in a flavorful hoja santa leaf, the hummus was enhanced by dried beet chips and the Tabouleh salad was accompanied by roasted pineapple. The lamb chops have three cooking steps – the Sous vide, the oven and a searing. They use balsamic vinegar and roasted guava. They coat the chops with dried bread crumbs, mint, lemon zest, Za’atar and parsley and serve it with a carrot puree. The exterior of the chops are mint green in color; the taste is simply divine. Both times, they were cooked to perfection. The roasted guava makes an appealing compliment to the dish and left me wondering why I had just discovered the marvels of Guava some fifty years into Mexico. It’s one of the most underrated Super foods on the planet. The Spaghetti Nero is outstanding; this favorite is made with squid ink pasta, Jocoque and Basil sauce, garlic, clams, shrimp, zucchini, flamed white wine and Parmesan. I hesitated before I lifted my fork, staring at the dish for a long time, wondering if it was too beautiful to eat. The flavors are really fresh; a big surprise, especially with the consistency and color of the pasta. Bocaciega complements their vegan fans on the desserts with the Chocolate Frio by preparing a chocolate sorbet. They use Belgian chocolate and a Pacojet - a kitchen appliance that micro-purees foods into ultra-fine textures such as sorbets, ice creams and mousses, without thawing them and limits the recipes to very few ingredients – in this case water, sugar, salt and chocolate. They also decorate the plates with different fruits, depending on the season. The Baclava is Filo dough hydrated with a light honey and lime dressing. It’s made into a roll and placed in the oven to get it very crispy. It’s then filled with walnuts and pistachio mousse and served with homemade pistachio ice cream. We’d order this dish again just for the pistachio ice cream. Our advice: Make a reservation - the earlier the better; this restaurant fills up fast, especially on the weekends. The service is as good as the food; we saw team work every time we went. The atmosphere is inviting; the interior pleasing to the eye and the layout perfect for sharing conversation as well as food. The only caution we share is to avoid falling into the floor-based pool behind the far tables because the wine list looks pretty inviting. Put Bocaciega at the very top of your list; it’s one of our favorite new restaurants in SMA. We give it an extra star for its overall performance; everything was perfect and for a new restaurant, that, in itself, is a major achievement. Bocaciega Quebrada 18A, Centro Hours: Monday, Wednesday – Saturday 1:00 PM – 10:00 PM Sunday 1:00 PM – 9:00 PM Chef: Jose Bazan Sous Chef: Carmen Vasquez All safety protocols followed. Masks required/removed for photographs and consumption Health First certified by the city of SMA

Tuesday, March 8, 2022


When you can’t decide which pastry you’re having for breakfast, you just order them all. These pastries, baked by Daniela Flores of Charlie’s Sweets, are also available at another coffee place we love, Geek and Coffee. Between the two of them, they pretty much have both ends of town covered; Lolita on Salida a Celaya and Geek and Coffee at the opposite end of town at Fabrica la Aurora. Lolita has Covid-friendly seating outside on the front patio where you can sip a Zenteno coffee from Coatepec, Veracruz; one of the premium coffee brands in Mexico.
Owner, Lizette Angel took over Lolita from her Uncle, Dr. Raul Zamora. Dr. Zamora opened Lolita 9 years ago; a very popular breakfast spot, especially on the weekends.
Lizette Angel has made a lot of changes to increase her client base. That’s evident when you count the slices of bacon on your plate at breakfast. Lolita serves a great American breakfast but also has a lot of delicious, Mexican specialties on the menu, including items for pick up and home delivery.
Photo: Lolita Now featured at Lolita’s is Jose Ignacio Avila Padilla; one of our favorite Mixologists in SMA. Lolita Cocina Mexicana and Bar Salida a Celaya 52, Zona Centro, 37760 Chef: Fernando Guarneros Owner: Lizette Angel Mixologist: Jose Ignacio Avila Padilla Food Pick Up and Home Deliveries Daily 9:00 AM – 8:00 PM All safety protocols followed Health First certified by the city of SMA

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

As de Guia SMA: Finally Fresh Seafood in SMA

Fresh seafood is finally the new reality in SMA and it’s been a long time coming with Chef Christian Herrera officially opening his new restaurant, As de Guia SMA; one of the best new restaurants in SMA. We attended the inaugural lunch and will be the first to admit that 20+ rounds of seafood is a once in a lifetime dining experience. Chef Herrera works with the distribution company, As de Guia Origen who ships the freshest seafood to Mexico, Asia and the U.S. His new restaurant, As de Guia SMA, has a primarily seafood menu; flying it in fresh every week from Ensenada. Chef Donnie Masterton is also ordering from As de Guia Origen for The Restaurant. All the seafood for this event arrived LIVE from As de Guia Origen the day before. Chef Christian Herrera cooked with Chef Masterton so we got a second helping of the El Sargazo’s grilled octopus with Aguachile; the one Chef Masterton prepared for Outstanding in the Field that we couldn’t stop raving about. Together, these two chefs created one of the most memorable meals we’ve eaten; in our top ten food events of a lifetime. Their seafood mix included two other proteins: Lechon and Short Rib. 20+ dishes were prepared by different methods and we loved everything we tasted. There wasn’t a dish we tried that we wouldn’t order again. Chef Herrera owned Irene Food Truck in Ensenada. In 2017, he started a new project in Valle de Guadalupe, Asador Campestre, at Casa Frida, where he spent the last few years sharing his kitchen along with his fishing and cooking experiences from his many gastronomic trips. Chef Herrera interprets Mexican gastronomy taking up taste memories: the memories from his childhood, local products and using much of what beautiful Mexico has blessed all of us with. He feels lucky to live in a region so rich with great wines, splendid olive oils and treasured products from both the sea and land. His favorite ingredients are chili and smoke. He loves the sea and experiments with the fishermen, looking for alternatives for his cuisine. We had both raw and cooked seafood: Raw: Pai pai and Kumamoto oyster, Chocolate and Geoduck clam, Sea urchin, Secretary crab, Argentine shrimp, Lobina, octopus, Blue sea giga oyster. Cooked: Wild Abalone,/Special Pairing with Casa Dragones Tequila, Tuna, Farmed Abalone, Shredded Bass, Sole, Chione Clam, Pata de Mula clam, Lobina, Totoaba, Suckling Pig, Short Rib. A La Carte: Shells platter tasting, oysters, chili and chorizo, green ceviche, roasted octopus and Aguachile by The Restaurat. Pictured are the: Rockefeller grilled oysters from San Quintin Baja California … Classic dishes never die. Smoked wild abalone with oyster tartar sauce Shrimp with Caviar Chocolate clams with sake and oyster oil Crab salad from Ensenada Octopus and Aguachile Lobina and dry edged tuna with Lenguado y Totoaba Chione with lechón and kimchi Mashed potatoes with cheese and dehydrated vegetables; the chef said he likes to make his vegetables the center point in the meal. Lechón cooked in the caja china Short Rib with carrots Desert … Lemon pie with sea urchin from Ensenada Scallops in honey and chocolate mousse Some of the seafood is caught sustainably so, depending on the seasonality of the fish, they don’t know what they’re going to get until they catch it. Other products are grown and are on the menu often. Here’s the timeline: the fishermen make their catch by 5:00 AM and by the time they pack it up and ship it by plane - that happens usually on Thursday - the restaurant receives the product, dock to plate, hours after they catch it. How’s that for fresh seafood? As de Guia SMA Casa Hoyos Boutique Hotel Mesones No 14, Zona Centro, San Miguel de Allende, Gto 37700 Phone for reservations: 415 152 0002 Chef: Christian Herrera Open: Thursday to Tuesday from 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM. Closed on Wednesdays.