Wednesday, October 31, 2012

 Over the weekend I had a little Day of the Dead dinner party.  And at the last hour, I decided that I had just enough time to carve the pumpkin and have it at the front door to greet my guests. 
When everyone arrived, I offered mini shots of tequila out of my etched skull glasses.
Over the years I have accumulated Day of the Dead candelabras, some that I have bought and some that my parents had given me.  The Picasso-esqe dinner plates are from Dolores Hidalgo, a town known for it ceramics only half an hour from San Miguel de Allende.
 Ceramic candelabras mixed in with tin ones along with ceramic prickly pear cacti. 
 I had made these stuffed jalapenos before but with shrimp.  This time I used the same cheese (Gouda and cream cheese) but added fried chorizo and sliced scallions.  Excellent.
As another hors d'oeuvre, I made Bloody Mary Shrimp served in Chinese soup spoons.  I just love the little bowl with the pinata motif on the inside that had I bought at Gorky Gonzales's studio this last trip over in Guanajuato.  Another winner.  
Once everyone was seated, I served a Cream of Cilantro soup that had strips of fried corn tortiallas and Crumbled Queso Fresco in the bowl.  So very light.
For our main course, I made a tossed salad with mangoes and julienned jicama dressed with a cilantro vinaigrette.  And a Chicken dish with salsa verde, Chihuahua cheese, fried corn tortillas and strips of roasted poblano peppers.
Then for dessert, an Avocado Ice Cream that I had drizzled Amaretto  over it along with a sprinkling of toasted slivered almonds.  Mmmm, so good. 


       1  tablespoon vanilla
       3  avocados
1 1/2  cups honey
       6  cups heavy cream

           Toasted slivered almonds

Heat 2 cups of cream with the honey.  In a food processor, blend the avocados.  Add the honey and cream.   Add the rest of the cream and vanilla.  Pour into a container and freeze.

Half an hour before serving, move container to the refrigerator.  Scoop into serving bowls and top with the Amaretto and almonds.

Buen Provecho!

Monday, October 29, 2012

What a wonderful group of ladies!!!!

I just recently returned from San Miguel de Allende from leading one of my tours and I have to tell you, I had a phenomenal group of ladies join me this time and most of them I did not know and many did not know each other until this trip.  That changed immediately when they all came over to my casa for the welcome reception and dinner.  The photo above was taken in front of the Cervantes sculpture over in Guanajuato's main plaza:  Benita, Louise, Gail, Mary, Bobette, Paula, Liz, Millie (kneeling) and Janey.  If you can believe it, Gail and Liz had been on a previous San Miguel tour and they just had to go again.  Benita found me through my blog.  When Benita got back home to Austin, she wrote me, "Thanks for a wonderful trip - the best San Miguel trip I have been on. And I have been on many.  Your daily attention to detail were great, food, places, etc.. Keep me on your mailing list."
Gail posing for a few photos in front of the Don Quixote sculpture at the entrance of Posada Carmina in San Miguel.
After we had toured the San Francisco church, we stopped in one of my favorite places where I buy my Mexican blouses, Chaskis.  Myra and her mother, Ethel were there to help us.  But before we all started trying on a few blouses, Bobette had to model the hand-knit doggie hat for me.
Not wanting to be left out of all the fun, Louise modeled another hat for me.
Benita is posing next to this piece of art at Anado's gallery out in the countryside.
On Saturday, a few of us went back to the market to do some shopping.  I had to pick up some cilantro and mangoes for the salsa that I was going to make for the farewell dinner the next evening.  Outside of one of the little grocery stores were some children rides or should I say rides for ages 2 and up....  Millie looks like she was born in the saddle.
But Janey (AKA Annie Oakley) looks like she could ride right out into the arena, waving to the crowd.
One of the stops we had made in the market was at a little stall selling wrestling masks.  Of course we bought a few.  At my farewell reception, I pulled them out at the end of the evening.  Everyone and I mean everyone had to try them on!  Mary has such a nice white mullet that matches her blouse.
Paula showing off the devil mask with her new outfit that she had bought that afternoon at Girosol Boutique and Gallery on San Francisco 11.
And then there is Liz, something right out of the blue lagoon!

We had a full week of sighting seeing and fabulous meals but what stands out was the great group of ladies and all the laughs we had.  Again, never a dull moment in San Miguel.

If you are interested in joining me on one of my tours, I have scheduled one for the first part of June and I already have some fun people signed up!  San Miguel is a colonial gem with its graceful Baroque mansions, cobblestone streets, stunning architecture, vibrant markets, art galleries and friendly people.  Each day is a completely different experience.   As Janey wrote me, "Thanks again for sharing your beautiful city with us ~ and mostly, thanks for your warm friendship and wonderful SELF!"

Join me.  After a week in San Miguel, you will leave with memories for life and new found friends!

You may reach me at

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Never a dull day in San Miguel

I had to laugh when walking along Calle Hernadez Macias the other day.  Someone had parked their little car with a roll-down back roof right under a canale (downspout) and someone above had watered their pots up on their mirador (rooftop patio).  Well, the excess water had come out of the canale and given the interior of this red number a pretty good washing.
Then I turned the corner onto Umaran and this oldie being used as a garbage truck was barely held together by thin rope in the front and being loaded down with huge bags of trash.
Then a pretty gal walked by with a wicker basket full of colorful paper mache flowers.
Heading down Calle Hidalgo on the way to lunch at Casa Blanca, I giggled by the way in which this painting project was taking place.  The man on the left was supervising but I really could not see what he was contributing.
Ooops, time to move the ladder.
By the time we were finished with lunch, the painters were almost done.  I have never been able to figure out most painter's technique in San Miguel, they start from the bottom and paint up....
Never a dull moment.   Never a dull day. Viva la Mexico.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Chinelos Dancers celebrate in San Miguel

Another colorful aspect of the procession celebrating St. Michael in San Miguel de Allende, is the Danza de Los Chinelos.  The Chinelos dance is a regional folk dance that originated in the state of Morelos, south of Mexico City. The dance itself has pre-Hispanic rituals. The dance is called the bricon or the jump. Chinelo comes from the Nahuatl Indian word Tzineloa which means "I wag my hips." Chileno dances are always accompanied by a brass brand.  The live music is an essential part of the dance , like most celebrations in the Mexican culture. Chinelo dancing is passed down from father to son.  Over the last ten years, woman have joined in on the activities.
The dance evolved during the colonial period when Maximilian ruled and later Porfirio Diaz. These dances became a mockery of the Spanish with their fancy clothing, arrogant ways, fair skin and beards. It is a similar story like the creation of the Catrina by Posada that I wrote about on July 21, 2010.

Each town and dance group has its own distinctive costume. There are a variety of different colored tunics, many of them adorned with beads, coins, sequins and embroidery.
The hats are ornately decorated with decorative fringe, beads, mirrors and plumes. Anonymity is another element of the Chinelo's dress. A bandanna covers the neck and chin. The masks are made of mesh and papier mache featuring an upturned beard, a big mustache and light eyes. Gloves are even worn to hide the dancers identity. To ensure ones hidden identity, costumes are closely guarded and even new costumes are worn every year.

What a great procession with such creative costumes, masks and hats. I am in a short sleeve shirt and it is warm out. I can not imagine wearing these suffocatingly hot costumes, jumping and dancing in the hot sun for hours. All I can say, Viva Mexico and I am glad to be here, but not in costume!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Chamonix Home, a darling boutique in San Miguel

Chamonix Home is a wonderful little boutique right at the entrance of the restaurant, Chamonix.  I often find something for myself (and it is usually a set of plates or some serving piece that I need like a hole in the head) or a gift for a friend.  Ana Lilia and her sister, Toni, really have that special touch when it comes buying and displaying their merchandise!
There is an assortment of throw pillows, aprons, linen hand towels, photo frames, candelabras, lamps, trays, vases....
Such classic, white dishes that look good on any table whether you have a very traditional home or a contemporary one.  The silver ice buckets and pitchers are just stunning.
What a wonderful display piece with the concho shell at the top.  The concho (or cockle shell) is a design element that was brought over from Spain and can be found in many churches, homes and fountains around town.   The biggest inverted cockle shell is above the doorway of the San Rafael Church, just east of the Parroquia.  This goes back to the symbol of St. James and the badge the pilgrims wear in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. 
The ladies are always seem to find the most interesting, exquisite jewelry, often made my local artists. Next time you are on Calle Sollano,  stop by for a bite to eat at the restaurant and instead of having dessert, hit the shop on the way our and treat yourself to something new. 

La Chamonix Home
Sollano 17
San Miguel de Allende

Thursday, October 11, 2012

La Chamonix, one of my favorite places to dine in San Miguel

La Chamonix is one of my favorite restaurants in San Miguel de Allende. This figure of a waiter serving Perrier Jouet Fleur de Champagne, shades of Guy Buffet, is painted on the stucco wall at the entrance of the restaurant. I just love it.
Anna Lilia, the chef and owner of La Chamonix not only knows how to cook well, she plates her food beautifully and I always look forward to seeing her with her bubbly, contagious personality! 
Ana Lilia and her sister, Toni, are always changing things at the restaurant.  I love how they had the metal chairs painted a celadone with the denim seat cushions.  And when it is chilly out, the indoor dining room is a perfect spot to dine with the wood-burning fireplace.
The new umbrellas are so pretty next to the hot pink bougainvillea and the deep, blue sky.
 And the service is wonderful.  Mauro and Alejandro always great me with a big smile.
One of my favorite starters is the artichoke soup.  So fresh and so tasty.
The Chicken satay with a peanut sauce is great with the soup or just as an entree on its own if you are not too hungry.
You can not go wrong with one of the salads:  wild greens, figs, goat cheese, prosciutto and fresh mango.
One of my favorites, fettuccine with sauteed shrimp and a creamy lemon sauce.  I never tire of this entree.
When I have one of my groups in town, we always have one of our special comidas (lunches) here and Ana Lilia makes a special entree for me and my guests.  A phyllo-wrapped roasted poblano stuffed with sauteed vegetables and Chihuahua cheese served with a light cilantro sauce and a large Parmesan cracker.

Just some of the people on one of my last trips.  What a great place to dine.  The food, ambiance, service, Ana Lilia's presence, everything.  Stop in for comida or dinner and tell Ana I sent you in!

La Chamonix
Sollano 17
San Miguel de Allende

PS:  As you enter the restaurant, there is a darling little boutique
        to the left,  Chamonix Home.  
        I will be writing about that on my next post.  Great stuff!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Christopher Columbus - around the world

This photo was taken in 1942, seventy years ago of the San Francisco Church in San Miguel de Allende.  To the far left is a statue of Christopher Columbus. 

 Today is his day.  Look how the trees have grown.
His monument has been decorated with a wreath of flowers and a sash "Caballeros de Colon".
Across the ocean, 6,200 miles from San Miguel at the bottom of Las Ramblas in Barcelona you will find a 200 foot column with Columbus pointing out to sea.  This was the spot were he landed on his return to Spain from discovering the Americas.  He is standing on a sphere representing the world with "tierra" inscribed on it.
At the base of the column you will find Columbus holding scrolls.
An elevator inside the column will take you to the top with a phenomenal 360 degree view.  You overlook the port, back up La Rambla and even the Sagrada Familia.
There are eight bronze bas-relief panels inserted on the octagonal plinth (base) of the column depicting scenes of Columbus's first voyage to the Americas.
This bas-relief depicts Columbus meeting King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in Cordoba.
The idea of a monument to Columbus came in 1856 from Antoni Fages i Ferrer, who proposed that it be constructed entirely by Catalans.  In 1881 the city passed a resolution to finally build it.  A contest was held for Spanish artists to submit their designs.  The winner was GaietĂ  Buigas i MonravĂ , a Catalan.  
Most of the money was privately raised, with only 12% coming from public funds.   (FYI - All the funds for Gaudi's Sagrada Familia have been private donations!)  All of the funding came from Spanish sources and the entire construction was done by Catalans.  Construction began in 1882 and was completed in 1888 in time for  the Universal Exposition in Barcelona which paved the way for new architecture and the Modernismo Movement.

Spain gained tremendously from Columbus discoveries where as from a Mexican viewpoint, it was not a good day when he landed on their shores.  Some refer to the day as "Dia de la Raza" (Day of the Race).  It was the beginning of a new race, Mestizos, a blending of the Indigenous people of Mexico and that of Europe.  Columbus also brought the slave trade and genocide.  

As in all cultures, there are good and bad influences.   Let's look at the good influences in something I love to do, COOK!  I love the influences the Old World had on the New World when it comes to cuisine!  The Old World brought wheat, rice, onions, peas, almonds, citrus fruits, distilled liquor and CILANTRO.  But in my book, boy did the Old World gain from the Indigenous foods of Mexico:  Avocado, beans, chayote, chilies, chocolate, corn, jicama, nopales, oregano, sweet potatoes, pine nuts, squash, tomatillas, tomatoes and vanilla.  

"The secret of good cooking is first, having a love of it...  
If you're convinced cooking is drudgery, 
you're never going to be good at it, and 
you might as well warm up something frozen."
                                                                       James Beard