I’m always hungry. Hungry for travel, knowledge, friendship and it goes without saying, food!
If presented with an à la carte menu of excursions or adventures, a food tour is always my first choice. Hey, a guy has to eat!
These ever growing foodie tours are popping up all over the globe and I’ve been fortunate to participate in my share. Rarely will you witness gourmet cuisine venues amicably coexisting alongside street taco stands but so is the harmonious diversity of the food scene in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Sticking with my list of good travel intentions, joining a Taste Of San Miguel tour was my headline event.
The company has enjoyed tremendous success with their operations in Puerto Vallarta and given the cross section of cultures in San Miguel, expansion was inevitable. Although they offer several versions of cuisine appreciation tours, what could be more synonymous with Mexico than a Tacos and Tequila option.
Just a few minutes after sharing pleasantries with our exuberant young guide Oscar at La Cocina, we experience a palate cleansing swig of Mezcal served with a side of information on the drink’s heritage and of course the ubiquitous chips and pico de gallo.
Although this is a Taco and Tequila night, no food tour of México would be complete without experiencing some version of mole. Mole is a deep rich sauce that comes in a variety of combinations with nut, fruit and chilis as essential ingredients. In our case we indulge in an ample plate of enmoladas, chicken enchiladas topped with a chocolaty mole sauce. The plate is garnished with a handful of crispy chapuline, seasoned with chili and lime. To avoid you rushing off to google this delicacy, it’s fried grasshopper.
With tastebuds reeling for more, we make a beeline down a side street to Don Taco Tequila to savor a vegan fashioned taco of tequila sautéed mushrooms and a cheese made from cashews. A side of nopales, boiled and julienned cactus paddles meets the vegan criteria but we slyly deviate back to our night’s culinary theme with a margarita.
Movin’ On Up
Secret insider venues are always a treat for us touristy folk and Oscar leads us up a discretely hidden stairway to the rooftop La Azotea. We all know taco shells as the soft or hard type made from flour or corn meal but here we dive into a taco de camarón jicama, a shrimp taco wrapped in a wafer thin jicama shell and topped with fried leek shavings and a chipotle mayo sauce with tamarind. (Good enough to justify a return trip the following two nights).
What makes these food tours so appealing is that they are part culinary experience and part pedestrianized sightseeing. Walking through the Jardin Allende at the base of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel is an opportunity to witness the local color and harmony of humanity at play.
Pointing out landmarks, explaining history and answering questions without pause, Oscar opens the door to a nondescript lobby that leads up the stairs to Baja Fish Taquito. Everyone I know has had a fish taco but I assure you none as authentically prepared and enjoyed as the one here. Recalling the tequila component of our tour, we prepare our very own paloma, a salt rimmed glass of tequila mixed with fresh grapefruit juice.
Takin’ It To The Streets
Hunger pangs have long since disappeared but our night on the town continues to a backstreet corner with a queue of street diners lined up around a portable cart. Tacos Insurgentes, or locally known as Andy’s Tacos is a local institution, reputed to serve the best street fare in the city. Taco al pastor (spit grilled pork) or chorizo, served with onions cooking over the grill stokes visions of taco heaven. At less than 50 cents per taco, I’d come back for seconds or thirds anytime.
So as our night on the taco trail approaches an end it’s only fitting that we cap it off by busting through the well worn swinging doors of one of the oldest tequila joints in town, Cantina Cucu. For me (and I’d guess many others), tequila leaves an indelible mark on the brain with memories, some festive, others not so pleasant to relive.
But tonight a celebratory toast to Oscar, our host with the most and the staff of Taste of San Miguel is essential. “Arriba (glass up) · Abajo (glass down) · Al Centro (glass to the front – health for all of you!) · Y Pa’dentro (inside)“. (Gulp)!