Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My walking tour in San Miguel de Allende

This is day two of my Artisan & Architecture tour.  After a wonderful evening the night before, we finished breakfast at Casa Luna and I headed out with my group for a walking tour of San Miguel de Allende. It was not my usual guided walking tour that I do for my San Miguel tour but one that included visiting some amazing homes and meeting some of my favorite artists at their studios in town.  Our first stop was the Hyder home which is a museum in itself.  Above is the kitchen which I find so colorful and check out all the copper pots.
One of the many sitting rooms in the Hyder home.  This property has 13,864 sq. ft. of living space, ten bedrooms and eleven bathrooms!  And it is right in the middle of the historic center of San Migul.
 The pool was really inviting, I easily could have dove in.  The Hyder's have been coming down to San Miguel since 1959.
 The view of the Monjas church was spectacular.
Some of the my group up on one of the miradors (roof top patios).  When my family first came to San Miguel de Allende, over 35 years ago, the countryside behind my group was bare.  There were no houses, no buildings, nada.
 After a full hour of touring the Hyder home, we set off up Calle Canal and then down Calle Zacateros to Frank Garner's gallery.
Everyone loved Frank's paintings and one of the ladies bought a beautiful scene of San Miguel that Frank had just recently painted.
Here is Frank along with Eileen.  A graduate from the Rhode Island School of Design, Frank captures the pure essence of Mexico from the colorful marketplaces, a procession in front of the church in Atotonilco to dramatic landscapes.  He is certainly is one of the top artists in town.  Check his gallery out at Calle Zacateros 75 and tell him Robin sent you in.
The day is not over yet.  Check out my blog on Friday to see what we did next.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The First night in San Miguel de Allende

I just recently completed my special tour, Artisans & Architecture.  What a great week we had exploring San Miguel de Allende and Patzcuaro and some of surrounding villages in the state of Michoacan.  Everyone in my group arrived on a Saturday afternoon and once they settled into their room at Casa Luna B & B, they walked a short block and a half over to my house for guacamole & chips, spicy peanuts and wine.
We were all up on my mirador (roof top patio) enjoying the beautiful weather and the outstanding views of the Parroquia church and the Monjas church.  Rick, Bonnie and Debra were chatting up a storm.
Everyone was busy getting acquainted.  
After a while, we walked over to one of my favorite restaurants, Casa Blanca, for dinner.  We started by ordering margaritas and then the hors d'oeuvres arrived; rollitos (fried flour tortilla rolls stuffed with cheese and tomatoes) and deliciously flavored sauteed mushrooms.
Beth and her daughter, Betsy, were contemplating on what to order for their entree and dessert.
Yvonne and Debra were giving their order to Luis.  I ordered my favorites; a bowl of cream of spinach soup, chicken crepes and vanilla ice cream for dessert.
After a truly delicious dinner, we strolled back through the jardin and I had my group sit on the half wall that wraps around the jardin.  This gentleman in the middle of all the ladies was not part of my group, but he sure was a good sport.  I was joking with him when I told him the ladies on each side of him were single. 
One of the songs I requested was Perdido (the lost child).  One or two trumpets will position themselves away from the group and will play when the others stop.  It is such a beautiful song.
And of course, to end the evening, they played Los Caminos de Guanajuato.  It was a perfect evening and what a way to jump start the week!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Artisans & Archticture in San Miguel de Allende

I just came back from San Miguel de Allende from one of my special tours, Artisans & Architecture.  It was a great adventure with a fabulous group of people.  We had some special days in San Miguel de Allende, Patzcuaro and the surrounding areas.  Below is a book of some of my photography that I had especially published for this tour.  I wrapped the books in brightly colored tissue paper and it was one of the items I had in every one's gift bag that was waiting for them upon their arrival at Casa Luna B & B. 
Take a peek at my book and see just some of the sights we encountered.  This last tour was such a success that I am planning on leading another Artisans & Architecture tour in February 2012.  I already a few people signed up.  If you would like to join me, you may contact me at
I hope you enjoy my book.  I certainly had fun making it!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Conde Nast Traveler magazine reports, "Visit San Miguel de Allende now!"

The April 2011 issue of Conde' Nast Traveler has a special report on "The 15 best Places to See Right Now."  Mexico was among the 15 listed and San Miguel de Allende was specifically mentioned.  "Why go?  Because you don't have to cross the ocean to enjoy foreign culture and fantastic food."  They hit it right on the head.
San Miguel de Allende is a 450 year old colonial gem of a town loaded with beauty and charm, not to mention some of my favorite restaurants around.  Join me for my next tour, June 7 - 13, for six days where we will explore the hidden treasures of San Miguel and the surrounding areas. 
Check my posts dated February 16 and 18 to read more about this once in a life time tour.
You may contact me at or call me directly at 303-322-7031.
Buena Viaje!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Duck Confit, one of my favorite meals

Making duck confit is not that hard but its a process that is very time consuming.  Thank goodness I have a variety of Le Crueset pots in both of my kitchens, Denver and San Miguel de Allende, because it makes the process a lot more easier.  As you might have gathered, we had duck over the weekend.
If you are going to go to all this work, I suggest you buy at least 12 duck leg and thigh pieces. First you start by trimming the excess fat off duck. In a large baking dish, lay half the duck pieces (skin side down) in the pan.  Sprinkle with sea salt (I prefer Maldon), pepper, at least 20 garlic cloves and sprigs of fresh thyme on the duck.  Top with the rest of the duck (flesh side down.  Cover and refrigerate over night.
Remove the duck from the refrigerator and brush off some of the seasoning.  In a large pot, put the trimmed duck fat, garlic and thyme in.  Lay the duck on top, skin side down.  Add olive oil to completely cover.  Bake for 8 hours in a 200' oven.
Duck should almost fall off the bone when done.
Carefully remove duck from the oil/fat liquid.  Strain the oil/fat and store in the refrigerator for another use (great for sauteing potatoes). If not using the duck immediately, I wrap each piece with "press and seal", put them in a freezer zip loc bag and freeze for future use.  And save the roasted garlic for another use!
For dinner, I served Gratin Dauphinoi (love this potato recipe from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook) and the duck confit.  I dredged the duck through seasoned flour, then into an egg wash and then dredged them in fine bread crumbs.  Then I fried them in olive oil until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels before plating.  The duck meat falls of the bone.
I have also dredged the duck parts through an egg wash and then instant potatoes that I had added my own seasoning too.  This works well with fish too.
And if you have not had enough duck, try Duck Rillette with Crostini.  Take the meat from one leg and thigh piece, 1/8 cup minced onion, 1 tablespoon minced parsley, a healthy dash of brandy, 3 tablespoons butter (room temp), 1 tablespoon reserved oil/fat and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix in a Cuisinart (just a few pulses) or with your mixer with the dough hook.  You do not want to turn it into mushy paste.  Serve it in a ramekin along with the crostini.
If  not serving immediately, cover the duck rillette with a layer of the reserved oil/fat.  It will keep in the refrigerator for one week.

To make the crostini:  cut a baguette about 1/4" thick.  Brush one side with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes at 350' (check often so they do not burn).  They are done when the center of the bread piece is firm to the touch. Remove from oven and rub each crostini with a garlic clove.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Beautiful embroidery found in the market

Color is everywhere you look in Mexico, especially in San Miguel de Allende.  At the market in San Miguel you can find the Otomi embroidered fabrics in all sizes and colors.
The Otomi villages in the state of Hidalgo in the Tenango de Doria region are well known for their embroidered textiles.  The designs are drawn on muslin (manta cloth) and then the embroidery is done which can take months to do one large piece.  I have read that the original designs for the textiles came from ancient wall drawings that can be found on the cliffs outside of San Nicolas.
I have seen headboards and chairs upholstered in these fabrics along with throw pillows and it makes such a great statement.
At the new Rosewood Resort that just opened in San Miguel, the tables are set using the Otomi fabrics in a light beige and white color scheme.  What a pretty table.  It makes me want to head over to the market and buy a few tablecloths for my summer entertaining on the patio.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Murals of all kinds

Not far from San Miguel de Allende is the old silver mining ghost town, Pozos.  This mural depicting Pozos in its hay day with huge haciendas and mine shafts is in the Posada de Las Minas bar.
At Artes de Mexico in San Miguel, this scene of life in the campo (countryside) is so full of activity and life.  My brother, Carter, and I had looked at buying this for our casa but unfortunately it was about two feet too long. 
I had the best lunch of grilled chicken and home made potato chips over at El Cono, just outside of Dolores Hidalgo.  The bathrooms were outside the restaurant and how clever they were in painting the "Dama" for the ladies bathroom....
and "Caballero" for the mens bathroom.
This is the sign for the bathrooms at the Posada de Las Minas in Pozos.  The woman is wearing the typical national costume of Mexico, a long, full green and red skirt worn with an embroidered white blouse and a rebozo.  The name for national costume became known as "china poblana," the maid from Pueblo.
This renaissance style mural is in the main sitting room at the beautiful Hacienda de San Antonio located 18 miles north of Colima. 
The hacienda was built in 1879 on the grounds of a 5,000 acre working ranch, farm and coffee plantation.  This mural depicts life on the ranch with its sometimes active volcano, Volcan de Fuego (fire volcano),  and the dormant 14,000 foot El Nevado de Colima (snowy volcano) in the background.
Tacos Don Felix is in San Miguel.  It is a wonderful place to go for Mexican food, great prices and outstanding service.
It is just so interesting to see the diverse styles of all these murals from the cartoonish rendering above, to the folk art scene of ranch life to the more elaborate pictorials at the Hacienda.  Everywhere you turn, a creative artist has made his mark.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Camotes are good!

I love the food stalls in San Miguel de Allende and over in Patzcuaro, my two favorite towns in all of Mexico.  This man was roasting Camotes, sweet potatoes.  How colorful is that?
The sweet potato is native to Mexico and was cultivated from early pre-Colombian times. 
It grows well in poor soil with little water.   According to Diana Kennedy, to achieve the best flavor, one must take the newly dug up potato (do not wash the dirt off) and leave it sitting in the sun for a 3 to 5 days.  This intensifies the natural sugars.  Camotes are used in soups and stews, baked and eaten whole, boiled and mashed with other ingredients and reduced to a paste with sugar for a sweet dessert.
The sweet potato ranks highest in nutritional value of any vegetable around.  It has 6 grams of fiber, 160 calories (of course that does not include all the melted butter!) and is full of potassium, vitamin A and C. 
There are many varieties but the most common are those with either an orange or white flesh.  I love a good sweet potato and I just love the markets.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Life is Good in San Miguel

San Miguel de Allende would not be the same without its music.  Banda Amistad was waiting for a wedding party to leave the Parroquia church so they could join the party.
Even when they are not playing, they still look like they are having fun.
I was in my favorite talavera store over in Dolores Hidalgo with my group and this man was serenading us from the doorway.  His guitar certainly has been around.
On the way back from the market, La Pirulera Banda was setting up in front the the San Francisco church.  So I sat down and enjoyed the music before heading back to my casa.
These three set up on the street and played for cars and pedestrians as they went by.
In front of the Teatro Peralta, this gentleman played Sweet Lorraine per my Dad's request for my Mom, Lorraine.  He he did it beautifully.
These men were just warming up.  They were promoting an art fair that was setting up at the Instituto Allende.
A "One Man Band" in front of the Parroquia Church.
I was over I Patzcuaro with my parents, Bob and Lorraine, and two nights in a row we listened to these guys from the country play for us in the Don Vasco Plaza.  I am sure they work the fields all day and in the evenings they come in to try to make an extra peso or two.  Believe me, they would never make it to the finals of "singing with the stars" but the experience is so worth it.
My Mom, Lorraine, insisted on paying the ole guys a few extra pesos and she was just as excited to give them the money as they were to receive it.  What fun we had.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Carmen Miranda is full of flowers

I love to have flowers in my home, whether I am in Denver or San Miguel de Allende, and especially when I entertain.
I bought this crazy vase several years ago.  It reminded me of San Miguel de Allende with its "Carmen Miranda" look.  For this arrangement, I used green hypericum berries, hot pink daisies, golden yarrow and a dusty pink blooming dessert broom (Chamelucium).
"Carmen" is wearing a light purple statice (Limonium) around her face with beautiful green Bells of Ireland and fragrant hot pink and creamy yellow stocks (Matthiola).
The orange sunflowers were the base to her headdress accompanied with red Crocosmia, greenish yellow Cestrum, deep purple delphiniums and grasses (Setaria).
Carmen took on her native garb when I chose large tropical leaves, ruby red kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos), yellow orchids and just a touch of little purple flowers.  I have not Incorporated any fruit into her headdress, maybe next time.made it to her
I am at my casa in San Miguel de Allende and I am about to head out for breakfast and then over to the market where I plan on buying some of my favorites, hot pink glads, purple-blue agapanthus and the fragrant white tuber roses.  Mmmm, I can smell them now!