Apr 2006: The food isn't that good in San Miguel de Allende! Or, at least it was disappointing in the five days I was there for my niece, Mandy's wedding. But, don't give up—I still have a great recipe for you!
The truth is that we have all heard so much about San Miguel how it is so quaint, historic, cultural, and how so many Americans are buying up property there. All of these things are true; but they certainly aren’t apparent in the first couple of days. Most noteworthy at first are how narrow the streets are with all the buildings jammed right up against them; and how hard it is to walk on the sidewalks and streets, mostly made of small stones. In the first couple of days you can’t really figure out where the good shops are, or where the cool restaurants are; or where the nice homes are. The reality is that in the old part of town, all of these may be on the same street. The walls are thick, there are no display windows, and a grand home might be behind one of the doors right next to a tiny shop selling soda.
The story is that Mandy’s mom, Robin, has lived in San Miguel de Allende for 11 years, and her mom, Bobby, has lived there for 30 years. They share a darling house about a mile from town where it is very peaceful and quiet and the air is clear. Robin and Mandy organized the most fun wedding you can imagine. About 60 friends and family flew in from all over. On our arrival Wednesday evening I had dinner of Sopa Azteca and chicken enchilada at our hotel, the Villa Jacaranda.. The next day many of us went to the mercado or the hot springs or hung around the pool at the house Mandy and Brad rented. On Thursday evening we watched the sunset over the city while drinking margaritas and eating Spanish tapas, a great alternative to a formal rehearsal dinner.
The next day some of the men played golf while the women attended a lunch hosted by Emily, Mandy’s sister. Each of the women brought a silver charm for Mandy’s bracelet which represented a memory of significance from the giver. We had salad, crepes, or lasagna. The most interesting thing about all the food served in the five days I was in San Miguel, is that it is all prepared when it is ordered—not before—even the guacamole. No one seems to mind the wait—the food really benefits from being very freshly made.
Saturday was a truly beautiful day for the wedding. The bride was beautiful; the men and women in the wedding party were colorful and fun; and every one was very proud. After a simple ceremony at the local Episcopal church; we all went back to Mandy and Brad’s house where there were masses of flowers; cheerful tables and chairs; candles all around the pool. After a long cocktail hour, where we were entertained by a terrific mariachi band, a scrumptious buffet of Mexican food was displayed. The most interesting dish was a local specialty of poblano chilies filled with chicken in a walnut sauce with pomegranate seeds.
After the mariachis came a live band and after than came a disco player. Of course, the drinking and dancing went on to the early hours of the morning. Every generation had a blast. And, I met some very dynamic women who live there, one of whom took some of us on a driving tour around San Miguel. This was the day that I really got to see something of how and where the newcomers to San Miguel live. We had lunch high above San Miguel at Italian restaurant called Landetta in a former hacienda. The food was truly delicious—wild mussels in white wine and shallots; and grilled quail with vegetables. The chocolate mouse for dessert made with Mexican chocolate was a fine finish. That evening my family all ate together in our hotel—the grass fed ribeye steak was memorable—this is definitely beef country.
So, now that we had the parties and a sense of the lay of the land, it was time to take the bride and groom to the markets and small shops to taste the local food. First, there was no passing the roast pork store. The owner and his father actually own a hog farm on the outskirts of town, and bring the roast pork into their little store where the son keeps it warm and juicy. He made us each a taco of roast pork which we could eat with pickled onions and/or tomatillo sauce—so good! Then on to the mercado which was clearly not as prosperous as others I have been to in Mexico. The best is big fingers of jicama in a plastic bag that they sprinkle with chili powder, salt, and squeeze on fresh lime juice. You can also get a snack like this of fresh garbanzo beans, but to eat them you have to suck the beans out of their shells. And, the bags of napale (cactus) salad with chili and onions are interesting. . Then, on to the roast chicken store—even though it was late in the afternoon, we had to order the crispy rotisserie chicken. It could be eaten with the salad or in tortillas with salsa. (In the photo’s the bride and groom have dark hair, and he is in the Tante Marie t-shirt, so thoughtful.) There are also photos of me with the bride’s sister, Emily, and her cousin Nick having breakfast.
It seems to me after five days in San Miguel de Allende, that the way is life is very appealing. It is a walking town, a cafe-society, there are indeed many places to explore, and places to eat. The ex-pats have a great life of volunteering, attending classes, visiting the hot springs, and socializing. Most of all, the Mexicans are gentle and sweet; easy to smile; and good at trying to figure out what I am saying in Spanish. I had a great five days, even though most of the Mexican food doesn’t come close to what we can get easily in San Francisco.
Here is my interpretation of Sopa Azteca. If you have a chance, do go to San Miguel. When you get tired of walking the streets, definitely take a taxi to one of the many hot springs, and return here relaxed and well-fed as I have. But, even more important all the best wishes in the world to my loving niece, Mandy and her devoted husband, Brad. Congratulaciones!