Now I’m not saying this happened. But what if? What if I’d gone out last Thursday night. Leaving Don Day’s Wife in the company of the much more attractive MDs on Grey’s Anatomy? And what if I’d had a couple of margaritas. And a beer. And three mezcals. And three more beers. And then lost count around the time I attempted to sing with the band. And then what if the keyhole in the front door had mysteriously shrunk while I was out and after numerous attempts at inserting the key, I was only able to locate the button for possibly the only thing louder and more annoying than me. And what if, when Don Day’s Wife unlocked the door, she didn’t say, “Hello, Honey, you’re home.” Where would you take her the next night for dinner? diezmosign Without question, it would be La Casa del Diezmo. Because, after the sun goes down in San Miguel de Allende, and the lights go on in La Casa del Diezmo‘s courtyard, there is nowhere in San Miguel de Allende more romantic. Nowhere that a woman would want to go for dinner more with a handsome resident at Grey Sloan Memorial or a not-so-handsome resident of a doghouse. La Casa del Diezmo translates as the tithe house and, three or four centuries ago, it housed the administrative offices of the Roman Catholic Church. It was there that you went to pay your 10% tax and, as often the tax was paid not in currency but in goods, the rooms of the house were used to store crops, livestock, textiles, leather, gold and silver. diezmoexterior The house is huge, with about 50 metres of frontage on Calle Jesus. Despite its size though, La Casa del Diezmo never has that feeling of emptiness that most big San Miguel restaurants suffer from. The reason is the way it’s divided. By walls in the interior. And by vegetation in the exterior. But, if you arrive after dark, totally forget this place has an indoors. Because the outdoors is somewhere between Shangri La and Xanadu. diezmojunglelights There are two rooms in the courtyard. One is straight ahead when you walk in. The other is on the right. It’s what I call the jungle room (with apologies of course to the king). It’s under the loquat tree if you’re Canadian like me. Or under the nisperos tree if you’re Mexican like everyone else who sits there. diezmogreenerylights When the turquoise, violet, orange and gold lights shimmer through the mature vegetation, it really is paradise. It appropriately reminds me of a Mexican saying. “You can go to the Yucatan before or after you die.” image La Casa del Diezmo splits its dishes between International cuisine and the cuisine of the Yucatan. I go there only for the Gastronomia Yucateca because I’m still working on that side of the menu. There are a lot of regional cuisines in Mexico but there isn’t another that’s as distinct as the dishes that come from the big toe in the foot of Mexico. There are a couple of reasons why the cuisine is so different on the Yucatan Peninsula. First, the Yucatan was quite isolated from the rest of Mexico due to some tough terrain and rough roads. Second, due to its deep water ports on the Gulf of Mexico, it had more influences from the rest of the world. A list of the most popular Yucatan dishes would include poc chuc, salutes, panuchos, xnipec, papadzules and cochinita pibil. You can get all of these dishes inside the walls of La Casa del Diezmo. Cochinita pibil is the only one I know you can get outside the walls. diezmosharona Both Don Day’s Wife (did I mention how particularly beautiful she looked on Friday night) and I started with soup. Because Yucatan cuisine and La Casa del Diezmo have some very interesting and very flavorful soups. diezmolimesoup I ordered the sopa de lima, an almost clear broth that starts as a fairly traditional chicken soup but then, with the addition of one ingredient, is lifted to incredible heights. The additional ingredient is, as I’m sure you guessed, limes. The culinary skill comes from being able to judge when there is just enough but never too much lime. This kitchen nails it. diezmosharonsoup Don Day’s Wife ordered another Yucatan soup, one not as famous as sopa de lima but a seasonal one that deserves almost as much acclaim. La premiada combines pumpkin with epazote, habanero essence and Edam cheese. Dutch cheese finds its way into a lot of Yucatan dishes but no, I have no idea why. I mentioned earlier that the only people I’ve ever seen in the La Casa del Diezmo are Mexicans. That’s right not one American. Not one Canadian, except for the people that I’ve been with. The fact that the restaurant is frequented mostly by Mexicans presents a couple of problems but, as they have much more right than me to be there, I can’t complain. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to share those disappointments with you. The busiest time at La Casa del Diezmo appears to be between 2:00 and 6:00 pm when well-dressed Mexican couples enjoy long, leisurely lunches. For that reason, when I arrive around 7:00 pm, I never get to hear the live music. I only get to see the musicians packing up their gear. Those well-dressed Mexican couples enjoying long, leisurely lunches seldom drink wine. In fact, the average Mexican consumes just over half a litre of wine per year. That’s right, per year. On nights when Don Day is not consuming margueritas, beer, mezcal and more beer, he alone usually drinks just over half a litre of wine. What those Mexican couples do drink is liquor. And beer. And sometimes both at the same time. So La Casa del Diezmo has a tequila list. Even a vodka list. But it doesn’t have a wine list. In fact it only has a choice of two wines. diezmowinebottle The red we had on Friday night was a Chauvenet Malbec/Ruby Cabernet. Chauvenet is the same company and Ruby Cabernet (a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan) is the s
ame grape that’s sold in those big tetra pak boxes. It’s drinkable but that’s about it. Oh what I’d give for a better selection of better wines. diezmowaitertakingorder I looked at our waiter and how good he looked in the courtyard’s flattering lighting. I wondered if I looked at least half that good to Don Day’s Wife. When I looked at the photo of our waiter on Saturday morning, I decided I’d do something I hadn’t done in a long time. I’d make one more attempt at portraiture. diezmowaiterportrait For Don Day’s Wife’s main course she chose a starter. But one that’s as big as some mains. Papadzules are traditionally tortillas stuffed with chopped eggs and covered in a tomato and pumpkin seed sauce. Papadzules el diezmo are instead stuffed with the most famous of all Yucatan dishes, cochinita pibil. diezmosharonentree I’m not usually in favor of messing with the classics but the achiote and pumpkin seed sauces swim together as beautifully as those women with nose clips and blue eye shadow that show up on television about every four years. diezmocarneasado I stepped out of the state of Yucatan for my main but not far. Carne asada, a hammered thin steak that usually comes from a flank or skirt cut can be found all over Mexico. Carne asada a la Yucateca is a little different. The steak is marinated in a sauce very similar to the achiote used for pibil, then paired with barely heated onions and black beans. diezmohabanero Carne asada also comes with something else on the plate. Something you’ll see on almost every plate in the Yucatan and at La Casa del Diezmo. And something that, despite all of the lectures we both received when we were kids about children starving in the third world, is never cleared from Don Day’s Wife’s plate or Don Day’s plate no matter how many margueritas, beers, mezcals and more beers he’s had. It even makes an appearance in Don Day’s rule of three: Poblano always. Jalapeno sometimes. Habanero never. diezmoflan For dessert I wanted to ask for the traditional Yucatan papaya in hollandaise sauce but being an even more sensitive guy than usual on this evening, and remembering Don Day’s Wife lack of enthusiasm for papaya, I chose something I know she loves, the chocoflan, a rich, moist chocolate cake topped with traditional egg custard. We walked up Calle Jesus and pondered why one of the best restaurants in San Miguel is almost void of expats despite a fascinating regional cuisine, fabulous ambience and very fair prices (there’s not a dish over $200 pesos). We turned up Calle Umaran towards the jardin and took in a tune from my favorite band in the competitive world of mariachi, not necessarily the best musicians but the best dressed in those royal blue and gold suits. We carried on to La Noche, our traditional place of last call in San Miguel. The band played Crazy Love and we danced. And when the first chorus began, Don Day’s Wife moved closer to me. I asked Johnny Favourite to sing Let’s Stay Together and, at the end of the song, Don Day’s Wife agreed that we should have an early night. The keyhole in our door had miraculously swollen back up to its original size. La Casa del Diezmo is located at Jesus #36 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The restaurant is open from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm, every day except Wednesday.

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