February 16, 2012
Eating San Miguel de Allende [SLIDESHOW]
In my editor’s column I wrote about attending Shabbat services at the small congregation in San Miguel de Allende during a recent trip there.
But man doesn’t live by shul alone. He lives by shul occasionally, and food obsessively. Or that’s just me.
When we travel Naomi tends to look up minyans, I look up restaurants and markets.
We stayed at a house with friends who had rented it complete with a cook. She insisted on providing kosher meat for Naomi, the only one of us who keeps kosher. That decision entailed many calls to contacts in San Miguel, then more e-mails and calls to a contact in Mexico City, from where the meat would come. These sparked an ongoing debate via email and more phone calls between the eight of us over whether it was easier to just buy the meat at Trader Joes and carry it down. That prompted calls to various Mexican friends as well as the Mexican customs agency, and the checking of web sites to determine if frozen meat could be carried into the country—ambiguous answers. That led to more debate over whether to rely on uncertain kosher meat from an unknown source in Mexico City, or risk carrying certain kosher meat all the way from LA. That led me, in the middle of Trader Joes, to get out my iPhone and start translating the prices from peso to dollars, from kilos to pounds, and comparing the costs, then finally, our friend made a decision. She bought the meat through a friend in Mexico City. It was transported to a store in San Miguel, and we picked it up on arrival.
“It was easier to bring eight live people to the middle of Mexico than one piece of dead cow,” said my friend.
But kosher isn’t about easy—part of the point of it is, it’s hard.
Our cook made the chicken enchilada style, that is, robed in a roasted chili sauce. We cooked the meat on the outdoor, rooftop grill, and served it with salsa and rajas. That salsa recipe will rate a future post of its own.
As for where we ate outside the home, I can recommend:
Owned by British Columbian Chef Jason Malloff, Cafe Rama is a San Miguel highlight. Borscht in Mexico? Yes. It is one of the best borschts ever, a traditional Malloff family recipe that uses a little butter and cream. If your bubbie had cooked for the Romanoff’s, she would have made this version, too.
Some rotisserie chicken place on some street.
The non-kosher among us decided this might be the best chicken of our lives. Split, spread-eagled and rotisseried in front of an inferno of mesquite. Marinated with pineapple and, I think, achiote. One whole chicken was five dollars. The seven of us fell on it like wolves. Look at the slide show, and in another post I’ll find more info.
A Neopolitan Chef, Andrea Lamberti, in the outskirts of San Miguel, serving homemade food in a vaulted cavern that used to be a horse stables. Ravioli with huitlacoche, a mushroomy corn fungus, and snapper (huachinago) with marsh asparagus, or samphire, were the standouts.
Jason at Cafe Rama said this was the town’s best coffee, and, aside from the cafe at his place, it was.