Give Walter Lewis credit for the dish being on the menu. That’s him front and left at lunch the week before. Enjoying the pozole at the very charming Mexiquito.
Walter was asking me about Hansen’s, the San Miguel restaurant that closed its doors late last year. “Do you think the owners are ever going to open something else? Do you think I’m ever going to taste that chicken liver pate again? I can’t tell you how much I miss it!”
Hansen’s wasn’t the best looking restaurant in town. And it certainly wasn’t in the best location. But Hansen’s had some very dedicated followers. Hansen’s customers liked the steaks. They liked the osso buco. They loved the prime rib. And they adored the chicken liver pate.
The chicken liver dish goes back further than Hansen’s. To a placed called Romano’s on Hernandez Macias that had something no other San Miguel restaurant has had since. Lineups. That same chicken liver pate was on the menu at Romano’s. Because the creator of that chicken liver pate was a partner in Romano’s before he was a partner in Hansen’s.
The creator of that chicken liver pate that Walter Lewis cherished was Dick Weber. He was a guy that was hard to describe without using the word gentleman. He was a guy especially liked by another creator of a fine chicken liver pate, Don Day’s Wife. She would be amazed that, even though Dick Weber was nowhere in sight, the pate Don Day’s Wife’s ordered would come to the table at Hansen’s with slices of a plain baguette, not the garlic bread that every one else’s came with. For Don Day’s Wife didn’t want “anything messing” with the taste of Dick Weber’s chicken liver pate.
Sooner or later, Dick would make his appearance at the table and, where you and I might talk about music or movies, they would talk about their pates. “Do you use shallots or cebollitos?” “There’s definitely apple in there, isn’t there?” “Do you find it makes any difference using good versus cheap brandy?”
I’m not sure but I suspect both Dick’s and Don Day’s Wife’s recipes began life on the pages of The Joy of Cooking. Well I know Don Day’s Wife’s did but, even when she started making it, it had already gone through a lot of changes. She inherited it from our friend Jim Pokorchak who had already done a little doctoring to the recipe.
Whatever the source and whatever the alterations and improvements, Dick Weber and Don Day’s Wife ended up with, perhaps, the two finest chicken liver pates I’ve ever tasted and I really don’t think I could tell them apart.
So back to Walter Lewis’s question, I told him that Dick Weber had returned to the U.S. last year, was now back in the restaurant biz, and I was doubtful that we’d see him or his pate in San Miguel again.
I felt sorry for Walter Lewis. I still had Don Day’s Wife’s pate. He just had a hunger. So I came up with a plan.
Walter was coming to the “gentlemen’s lunch” the next week at Mon Bistro, the new restaurant with the fine look of a 19th Century wine cellar. Would Gilles Vachon and Alexandra del Villar, the owners of this new French Canadian restaurant, serve Don Day’s Wife’s pate as the first course? Gilles told me they would be happy too.
There was one tiny problem. I had forgotten to ask Don Day’s Wife. But a little flattery (OK and a lot of begging) later Don Day’s Wife was making chicken liver pate for 25 men. And at the lunch at Mon Bistro, before the onion soup (superb, by the way), the filet mignon and the pouding chomeur came a small sample of Don Day’s Wife’s chicken liver pate.
“What a treat”, said Walter Lewis.
Next, a quiz. Name five famous Canadian dishes. OK, name four famous Canadian dishes. OK, name one. Now imagine the challenging time Gilles Vachon has had putting together a Canadian menu for Mon Bistro. Because, well let’s face it, we Canadians have never invented anything particularly tasty. One of our prime ministers, Joe Clark, called it “a cuisine of cuisines”. Which really means we are pretty good at begging, borrowing and the occasional outright theft of other nations’ best dishes.
One of those not quite Canadian dishes is pate de foie de poulet, the chicken liver pate dish that, as you can probably tell from what it’s called, Canada stole…sorry, borrowed…from the French. I asked Gilles Vachon what he thought of Don Day’s Wife’s version.
“I love it”, he said. “I want to put it on the menu.”
So, Don Day’s Wife shared her recipe. And Mon Bistro’s chef Jose Reyes has begun making it. And Gilles and Alexandra have added it to their menu.
Is it as good as Hansen’s? I know only one way to find out.
Mon Bistro is located at Mesones #56 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The restaurant is open from Tuesday to Thursday from 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Friday and Saturday from 2:00 pm to 11:00 pm. Sunday from 2:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Closed Mondays.