It took her until her second day here in San Miguel de Allende, but my granddaughter Rayne (and yes, I teasingly call her Lluvia when she’s visiting us in Mexico) finally asked the question. Though Rayne recently traded in her sneakers for stilettos, and gets more of Grammie’s good looks every day, Aguamiel remains her favorite San Miguel restaurant.
Aguamiel was a lot of people’s favorite last year. Thanks to voters like Rayne, it won the Smart Award as San Miguel’s best restaurant. And I think I may have finally figured out why.
I think the days of people ordering an appetizer, soup or salad, main and dessert are going, going, almost gone. My grandkids want to try almost anything and almost everything, not in platefuls but in small helpings, a bite of this and a bite of that. And so do I.
I think that’s why Aguamiel is the grandkids’ favorite. The heart of Chef Gaby Green’s cuisine at Aguamiel is Mexican. But the soul of the cuisine is international. And a lot of it comes on small plates suitable for sharing.
We passed around Aguamiel’s attempt to put Glade out of business (those are cloves piercing the lime) for everyone to sniff and checked out the change-every-month menu.
Each of the four granddaughters were given one pick and, as I thought they would, they all picked something from the starters section. Three out of four of the kids are mostly non-red-meat eaters so no one picked the garbanzos with chorizo, ham and bacon. Darn! No one went for the corn cakes topped with bone marrow either. Double darn! But the other four starters were all a go.
I asked Fernando, our very efficient server (water and wine constantly refilled, dirty plates and flatware constantly replaced), to double up on the order and he asked, “How would you like it? In what order? Are you sure that’s enough?”
“Any order you want”, I replied. “As soon as anything’s ready. Bring it all at once if you want. And throw in a corn cakes and bone marrow. We’ll reassess the appetites after.”
Five plates arrived. Then four more. Seven forks went on the attack. The squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese went first. Maybe it was the color of the very fresh tomato sauce contrasted with the disks of emerald green jalapenos. Maybe it was the thrill of what was under the batter.
“Are these really flowers, Grammie?”, asked Ever. “Awesome.”
I suggested they leave the deep fried Cuban bean and plantain balls until last as they were almost like dessert.
“But then I’d have to also wait for their blue cheese sauce”, said Rayne.
Meanwhile, the shrimp and mushroom pot stickers had done a magical disappearing trick and we already knew another order was a must. The tamarind sauce got some of the credit.
The huitlacoche and bean crepes were the slow mover. Maybe it was the color. Maybe it was the fungus word on the menu. But Grampie and Grammie came to the rescue and scraped the plate, with Grampie, not the grandkids, leaving his mark on the tablecloth.
”We’ve got to leave room for dessert but can we have one more thing?”, said Rayne. “Can we have the salad?”
We did and the shrimps were big and plentiful and the greens beautifully dressed.
If you’ve ever been to Aguamiel, you probably know what was coming next. Gaby’s Flan is, let’s say, legendary. And our daughter Chantelle, despite dragging me through Guanajuato’s Mercado Hidalgo two days before in search of a flan with “a gallon of caramel”, had never had Gaby’s Flan touch her tongue.
Now there are two ways you measure a flan. The first of course is taste. The second, which is almost as important, is consistency.
When Gaby Green and Don Day’s Wife speak in flan talk they speak of some woman named Bain Marie. They scorn other people’s flans with words like airholes, scrambled eggs, spongey and runny. And then Grammie dips in her spoon, looks at Gaby and says, “I believe this is the best flan I will ever taste.”
I tell it a little differently and a little more succinctly. When you jiggle most people’s flans, they just sit there and look at you. All it takes is a one second video to show you that when you jiggle Gaby’s, it shimmies and it shakes.
“Oh my god,” (a term she obviously learned from her other grandparents), said Estelle, “this flan is the best.”
“I would come here just for the flan”, said Estelle’s mother and Don Day’s daughter Chantelle.
“Can I steal just one more bite, Grampie”, said Rayne.
We said goodbye to Gaby and Jennifer and walked down to Calle Stirling Dickinson, knowing we’d be able to flag a couple of cabs there and, between her search for Pokemons, I said to Rayne, “Do you think you might be coming back to San Miguel next summer?”
“Do you think we’ll be going to Aguamiel?”, said Rayne. “Do you think there’ll be flan, Grampie?”
Aguamiel Cocina Rustica is located at Calle Pipila 3A in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. They are open from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm on Monday, Friday and Saturday; 11:00 am to 4:00 pm on Sunday. The telephone is 415 150 7387.