Do chefs really deserve celebrity status? Well I’m a foodie and even I’m of mixed opinions. Yes, I understand why people who cook are now being treated like people who rock. But I’d still rather have dinner with Bruce Springsteen than David Chang (unless maybe I could break bread with The Boss and have the bread baked by Chang).
Which brings us to an upcoming event. Sabores San Miguel. It’s almost undoubtedly the most important weekend in this town when it comes to exciting our palates. And no, we’re not going to get a taste of The E Street Band at Parque Juarez. But some of the world’s greatest chefs are coming to the park to cook their very best for us. And do it in one of the most appetizing formats I could ever imagine.
This is the third year for Sabores San Miguel, the town’s Festival Gastronomico, and it just keeps getting better. We’ve always had the very best dishes from San Miguel’s very best local chefs at the very best (make that bordering on ridiculous) price of just $25 pesos a small plate but, in 2015, we’re starting to attract some of those rock star status chefs from beyond Mexico’s borders.
One of Southern California’s most celebrated chefs is Neal Fraser. Like me, you may have seen him on the show Top Chef Masters.
Neal’s restaurant is Redbird in Los Angeles and he’s used to serving small bites. In a seductive setting that was once the rectory of a magnificent cathedral, he features “kickshaws” that Neal’s wife Amy Knoll Fraser told the LA Times, include “tempura-crusted smelt with grilled lemon and spiced aioli; shishito peppers with bottarga and togarashi…and something called the Whole Hog, which has flavors of pozole.”
And what “kickshaw” will Neal Fraser be featuring at Sabores San Miguel?
Chef Neal told me, “I want to grill octopus because it’s one of my favorite things to cook on the grill.”
The simple (the chef’s adjective) accompaniments include black chickpeas, tomatoes, frilly mustard and anchovy vinaigrette. Sounds simply delicious to me.
Quinten Frye is the executive chef of Big Bear Cafe, a restaurant that sounds like it should be in the state of Washington, but is actually in Washington, D.C. Chef Quinten is making a return appearance to San Miguel de Allende for, early in his career, he worked in Donnie Masterton’s kitchen at The Restaurant. Since that time he’s gone from local hero to being talked about in Conde Nast Traveler, Bon Appetit and Food & Wine.
Chef Quinten is serving two different dishes at Sabores San Miguel. One of them is a head cheese carnitas huarache with charred poblano, orange relish, pickled habaneros and cotija cheese.
He told me, “The huarache dish was the first thing I had to eat when I went to San Miguel and it was the first time I’d ever had a huarache. So that dish left quite the impression on me and I wanted to re-create it with some of my inspiration.”
Lily Jones is a baker. And, according to magazine, newspaper and food blog writers, a superstar baker (and, as you know, those food writers are always right).
Lily Jones gets almost as much press as the Kardashians. “One of the most sought-after artisan bakers of her generation”, said Stylist. “The queen of baked goods”, were the words in ES Magazine. And “It’s thanks to artisans such as Lily Vanilli that baking has never been so hip”, came from the pages of the Sunday Times.
Chef Lily will be travelling over 9,000 kilometres from her bakery, Lily Vanilli in London, England to San Miguel de Allende where, according to an email she sent to me, she’ll be making six different desserts. See if these descriptions (and those photos) make your mouth water as much as mine. I think I could spend a day at the food festival just eating her desserts.
Maca & Blood Orange Cantucci
Lime Hazelnut Rochers
Hibiscus, Beetroot & Coconut Macaroons
Lime & Cacao Friands with Mandarin Ginger & Rye Shards
Mezcal, Lime & Coconut Macaroons
Pear Cakes with Chili, Ginger & Chamomile syrup & candied spiced pepitas
Sabores San Miguel is happening from June 12 to 14, in Parque Juarez. Admission is free and all the dishes and all the drinks are 25 pesos each. In addition to Neal Fraser, Quinten Frye and Lily Jones, the list of international chefs includes Ted Corrado from The Drake in Toronto; Carlo Mirarchi, the Michelin-starred chef from New York; Bret Thompson from the Mexican-inspired Pez Cantina in Los Angeles; and Joe Hargrave from San Francisco’s (and soon San Miguel’s) Tacolicious.
I figure it would cost about 50,000 pesos in airfare if you wanted a taste of all of these acclaimed chefs. At Sabores San Miguel, the world tour could cost you less than 200.
Sabores San Miguel is being held from Friday to Sunday, June 12 to 14, in Parque Juarez, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. For times and more information, including details on a very worthwhile charity event the night before the festival begins, check out saboressanmiguel.com.