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  • Don Day: Our last San Miguel dinner. At a superb restaurant, prepared by a very talented chef.

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    Don Day wrote: It seems hard to believe but, looking back to 15 years ago, I can’t recall a single Asian-influenced dish on any menu in San Miguel de Allende. Oh, there were Chinese restaurants and there was a Japanese restaurant. But none of those restaurants that added a splash of this, a hint of that, a sprinkle of this, or a pinch of that, ever took some familiar dish to unfamiliar new heights.

    Then a guy called Donnie Masterton came to town and opened a restaurant called The Restaurant and added flavors like teriyaki, cumin, soy and ginger to an array of never-seen-before-in-this-town dishes. With many other plates and bowls, he elevated them to new heights by including Mexican spicing. For a few years, The Restaurant was the restaurant in this town. For foodies like myself, it was a weekly dose of culinary medicine.

    Other restaurants followed, not necessarily copying The Restaurant, because the whole world was adding Asian and Mexican influences to their menus and, now, you’ll find many of those dishes that were on The Restaurant’s original menu…pork riblets, tuna tostadas, shrimp pot stickers…in restaurants all over San Miguel, all over Mexico, all over the world. ...

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    The Restaurant is located at Sollano 16 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It’s open on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday from Noon to 10:00 pm; Thursday, Friday and Saturday from Noon to 11:00 pm. For reservations, email or telephone 415 154 7862.

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  • The same good old Zumo. But a whole new crowd.

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    Don Day wrote: It’s been happening for a few years now. The decline of 50+ expats out on the town. And their rapid replacement by 20+ nationals. But I really noticed it on Sunday. First, on the streets of Centro. And then at lunch at one of our favorite San Miguel restaurants.

    “Remember when the granddaughters came down about 15 years ago and we had to do the mini-lecture about wearing shorts in the jardin”, said Don Day’s Wife. “Did you notice how short some of those cut-offs were today.”

    “Oh yes, I definitely noticed”, I replied, “and I took a couple of turnaround looks. And I recall that even I wouldn’t wear shorts in Centro 15 years ago. Remember when you couldn’t get into a church with bare shoulders?”

    We were meeting up with Ben Penman and his wife Cheryl. Ben was one of my best buds in Toronto during the seventies and that friendship was rekindled when Ben joined the snowbirds who flocked to San Miguel each winter. ...

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  • Sushi a la Mexicana. A feel-good foodie flick.

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    Don Day wrote: My latest foodie film recommendation came from an unlikely source.

    My friend Dilia Suriel is a living, breathing version of IMDb when it comes to recommending movies, especially those little sleepers that often slip by unnoticed. But this was a film about sushi and sushi’s about eating rice and rice puts on weight and I just couldn’t imagine Dilia liking anything to do with anything that puts on weight.

    The first time I met Dilia she was on a diet. The second time I met Dilia she was on a diet. The last time I met Dilia she gave me a draft of her new book. It’s called The Thin Woman’s Metabolism and, yes, it’s about losing weight but, in Dilia’s words, “from an in-depth scientific perspective and an evolved consciousness”. All I know is quite a few centimetres have disappeared from her waist since that first time I met Dilia Suriel. ...

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  • Still lovin’ the lobster. But there was something missing from Mario’s.

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    Don Day wrote: I’m from north of the 49th parallel, from the country that eats more lobster, per capita, than any other country in the world. The lobster we Canadians eat comes from cold waters. It has powerful claws not floppy Martian-like antennae and, until a few years ago, I was under the impression that it was the only lobster in the world. I was a full-blown, out-an-out, absolute lobster snob.

    It wasn’t that I hadn’t tried those warm water lobsters, those rock or spiny lobsters as they’re commonly known. They were irresistible when I was on holiday in the Caribbean. But those pangs were enhanced by the demon rum and the absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder magnet when I was away from my cold-water-with-claws lobsters.

    Then one day, about eight years ago, in a town called San Miguel de Allende, I got totally turned around. A new restaurant opened up called Mario’s Mariscos Frescos and unlike most of the local restaurants with the word mariscos in their name, this one didn’t specialize in previously frozen shrimp cocktails and battered tilapia tacos. Mario’s featured very fresh oysters, scallops, red snapper and rock lobster. ...

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    Mario’s Mariscos Frescos Estilo Mazatlan is located at Salida a Celaya #83A in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The restaurant is open from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm, seven days a week.

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  • Seven steps to a restaurant’s success. And one restaurant that has climbed to the top of the ladder.

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    Don Day wrote: It was about three years ago that it opened. A delightfully charming and very respectful redo of an early 19th Century home just outside of San Miguel de Allende’s prime Centro. I loved the look of the place. It was classy but still casual, two traits that are tough to combine.

    I liked that the restaurant was owner-driven and the owner was omni-present. At every other new upscale restaurant in this town it seemed the owner was AWOL. I thought the owner of this new restaurant was perhaps a little too confident in the kitchen. There was nothing terribly exciting or imaginative coming from the stoves. It was honest, flavorful food. It was traditional. It was old-fashioned. Which was not necessarily bad for most people but not necessarily good for a follower of food fashion like myself.

    The restaurant was called Casa Nostra. I once owned a business called Our House. So how could I not like the name of the place? I liked the name of the owner as well. Marco Massarotti. Sounded like a Formula One driver. Wouldn’t I love to have a handle like that? ...

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    Casa Nostra is located at Terraplén #8 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The restaurant is open Wednesday and Thursday from 6:00 to 10:00 pm, Friday and Saturday from 2:00 to 11:00 pm, Sunday from 1:30 to 8:00 pm.

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  • A local red wine takes on a couple of the world leaders.

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    Don Day wrote: I had lunch at Terruño, the restaurant at local San Miguel winery, Tres Raíces, a few weeks ago. On my way out, I bought a bottle of one of their reds, their Tempranillo. It was a significant…no, make that very significant…purchase. It was the most expensive bottle of Tempranillo I’d ever bought in my life. And I’ve bought a lot of Tempranillos and I’ve lived a lot of life.

    So why, you might be asking. Well it’s primarily because I’ve got this “buy local” thing in my blood though, at the price I paid, probably not in my brain. I’ve got this must know motivation to sample the wines of what is now called the Rutas del Vino de Guanajuato. You could call it the underdog attitude, checking out the young upstarts as they take on the seasoned pros.

    Now you have to be careful when you’re buying local. Because what you think is local may actually be from far, far away. I remember about ten years ago raving about a local Nebbiolo only to be embarrassed to discover it was made from juice that had been trucked in from Baja, California. ...

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  • San Miguel’s favorite restaurant. One year later.

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    Don Day wrote: It was our anniversary. Our first anniversary. An entire year since we had eaten dinner indoors at a restaurant.

    So, where to go? Actually an easy choice. We’d simply go to the restaurant that’s been San Miguel’s favorite for four of the last five years. And the last three years running.

    But first though, let me take you back a year. We had just finalized the plans for the Smart Awards annual dinner, the night we celebrate San Miguel’s top ten restaurants as judged by the readers of Don Day in SMA. The menu was set. The wines were ordered. The invitations were sent. The dinner sold out in seconds. And then the whole world turned upside down. ...

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    Firenze is located at Recreo #13 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

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  • The fave of Instagram foodies is a San Miguel staple.

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    Don Day wrote: The fever started in L.A. Then, with a boost last month from Eric Asimov in the New York Times, it became a frenzy.

    I’m talking about birria. And you’re excused if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Because birria may be, not only the most unrecognized, but also the most unknown heavyweight champion of Mexican cuisine. I didn’t have my first birria until a few years ago and I’ve been coming to Mexico a lot more years than a few. And in those early years, it was almost always to Jalisco, the home of birria (with the occasional and perhaps irrational argument from a few other Mexican states).

    So what is birria? It’s a stew, traditionally a goat stew. The origin of the dish is, in fact, one of the better folk tales of Mexico. In Celebrating Latin Folklore, Maria Herrera Sobek says, “…legend has it, the dish was invented by accident during the eruption of a volcano, when a shepherd was forced to abandon his goats in a cave only to return a few days later to find that the heat of the lava and the steam from the humidity in the cave had cooked them so perfectly, leaving the meat tender and the skin crunchy. In face of this tragedy, he had the idea of collecting the meat and adding some hot sauce, thus creating the dish.” ...

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  • New book celebrates the cuisine of Mexico City.

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    Don Day wrote: “Some residents of Mexico City have roots there that date back generations; others have come more recently from places as far-flung as tropical Chiapas or remote villages on the Isla Guadalupe, an island off the southwest coast. Whether from a region best known for cloud forests or for cattle ranching, each resident brings his or her specific attitude to cooking and eating influenced by both family and regional history. These myriad traditions have melted in the vast, fast-paced city to create a distinct sensibility at the table. It is a cuisine that defies easy description, yet it is recognizable to those who live there.”

    Despite a lot of chefs having a lot of free time for the last year, I haven’t seen a lot of new food books. The demise of paper publishing is the obvious reason but that’s been happening for a couple of decades. So it was a welcome sight to see a brand new book in the food and drink section and even nicer to discover it focused on Mexican cuisine.

    World Food: Mexico City was penned by James Oseland, a writer I’m most familiar with from his time as editor-in-chief of the magazine Saveur and his Cook’s Playbook column in the Wall Street Journal. Back in 2006, Oseland also created perhaps the best book ever on the cuisine of some of the lesser known countries of Asia with Cradle of Flavor. ...

    You may have problems locating a copy of World Food: Mexico City. The only retailer we found was Amazon.

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  • The six best Mexican cheeses. According to the Mexican family that knows cheese.

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    Don Day wrote: I was telling Juan Pablo Lozano that I wanted to write an article about the best Mexican cheeses and I was looking for someone who’d be willing to step up and make a commitment, someone who’d actually say these are the cheeses our country can be most proud of.

    “We’ll do it”, said Juan Pablo. “Juan and Ana and I will do it.”

    And they did.

    Juan and Ana are Juan Pablo’s parents. Together they operate a business called Los Rehiletes, a cheese-focused retailer with two locations in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We agreed to meet at Las Barricas, the wine bar located above one of Los Rehiletes locations in San Miguel’s Mercado Sano to talk and taste cheese. ...

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    Los Rehiletes has two locations in San Miguel de Allende. The first is at Ancha de San Antonio 28C and is open from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm, Monday to Saturday; closed Sundays. The second location is in the lower level of Mercado Sano at Ancha de San Antonio 123. The hours there are 9:00 am to 5:30 pm, Monday to Saturday; 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, Sunday.

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  • Got a friend with a car? Tell them about Tres Raíces.

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    Don Day wrote: I did a count today. There are now eleven wineries within an hour of San Miguel de Allende that welcome visitors. Five more if you add a few more minutes to the journey.

    Pick up a copy of the state government’s “Rutas del Vino de Guanajuato” and you might be tempted to check three off the list in a single day. Don’t.

    Visiting wineries isn’t even really about drinking wine. Standing in a stinky dark barn listening to someone reciting winespeak and knocking back an ounce or two of seven different wines in the space of 30 minutes isn’t really that much fun. Especially by the time you get to the third winery.

    To get me to visit, a winery needs something that we used to call a USP back in my days in the ad biz. USP stood for “unique selling proposition” and the USP that a few of the local wineries are now offering is food. I haven’t been to all of the Guanajuato wineries that have a restaurant (yet) but I already have a favorite. ...

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  • I’m a creature of comfort. I’m a customer of the king and queen comforters.

    Don Day's new comfort food favorite in SMA. Delivered to your door.

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    Don Day wrote: With covid meaning that we have now gone 329 days without placing our butts on barstools, the eating habits of Don Day’s Wife and I have changed. A lot.

    I’ve always been a creature of comfort. Always a jeans and sneakers guy. One of the first songs I search for when I’m in a new karaoke bar is Howlin’ Wolf’s “I’m built for comfort. I ain’t built for speed.”

    Comfort isn’t something that often shows up on our dining room table though. I am blessed to have married a woman with a multitude of culinary skills. It results in me dining internationally and extraordinarily well on restaurant-quality meals in my own home. But I married a chef not a cook. So often those dishes are fancy dishes not everyday dishes. ...

    You’ll find The Feast Co.’s menu on their Facebook site. To order call 415 126 1921, email or message them through Facebook. And please allow 24 hours notice.

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  • Making pickled Mexican onions. You only cry when they’re all gone.

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    Don Day wrote: Ahhh, memories of the sound of Susan Christie’s sensuous whisper accompanied by a honking kazoo. I loved the Sixties novelty song “I Love Onions”. Because, well, I love onions. Especially when they’re pickled.

    Now I know what you’re saying. Don Day you usually write about Mexican food. Why would you write about pickled onions? Have you been drinking too many Gibsons?

    Well, no. It’s because this week I was chided. And when one is chided, one must make amends. A while back, I wrote a blog about cochinita pibil but, in that blog, I did not even mention the traditional accompaniment to cochinita pibil. And that is onions. Pickled onions. Mexican style. ...

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  • If you know Tony, tell him about these wings. Please.

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    Don Day wrote: There’s a guy in town called Tony. I don’t know Tony very well. But I know Tony’s from Buffalo. Which gives us something very much in common. Because I’m from a suburb of Buffalo called Canada.

    As a once-teenaged Canadian, I lived in a land where people were not considered responsible enough to consume barley and hops until their 21st birthday, where the sidewalks were rolled up promptly at 11:00 pm for fear that we would not rise early enough to be able to confess our sins the following morning, where music in a place that served barley and hops was forbidden for fear it may result in dancing and, subsequently, sexual activities.

    So, on Saturday night, I (and many others) would shuffle off to…well you know where, that place that Tony is from. ...

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  • Tantalized long enough. Last night I ordered tantamen.

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    Don Day wrote: About a year ago, Chikatana added Chef Satoru Takeda as a partner. About a week later the restaurant had four different ramens on their menu. About four days after that I had a decision to make. Which one would I order?

    I love ramen. Don Day’s Wife loves ramen. We both have our favorite ramens. That first time wasn’t really a dilemma. We ordered our favorites. The miso for her. The tonkotsu for me. Those hearty ramens had us heartily agreeing that we now had our regular ramen source in San Miguel.

    It wasn’t long after that I tried Chikatana’s shoyu, Japan’s (and Chef Sato’s) favorite ramen, and, though it didn’t challenge the tonkotsu, that number one ramen on my hit parade, it became the solid number two. ...

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  • Hey Lucy, you got some ’splainin’ to do.

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    Don Day wrote: Four different people had sent me emails about this new restaurant. But the name of it. Fit&Pig. What the aitch was a fit and pig? Maybe some obscure Mexican food reference? Maybe something like the obscure (to me) ten ten pie?

    Anyway, one of those four emailers was a very trusted fellow, fellow food blogger, Bob Glaze. If Bob liked Fit&Pig, I was pretty sure I’d like Fit&Pig. I asked Bob if he’d join me there for lunch.

    Fit&Pig is on restaurant row, that dusty stretch of Salida a Celaya, where a young couple with a dream to own their own restaurant might just find a place with a reasonable rent. ...

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  • My must-have moussakas. In San Miguel.

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    Don Day wrote: Long before the words “all” and “inclusive” were hyphenated, I journeyed from Toronto to an almost undiscovered little town called Rethymnon on the island of Crete. I was dreaming that someday the island might be my home.

    I was madly, deeply in love with Greek food and my favorite Greek dish was moussaka. Restaurants encircled the harbour and my plan was that on my 14-day, 13-night, breakfast not included visit, I would also encircle that harbour and eat moussaka on seven different occasions at seven different restaurants.

    Outside of each and every restaurant there was a glass case to show off the catch of the day, an aproned shill to tell you his catch was the freshest and finest, and a lectern on which sat an oversized menu. I dipsy-doodled my way around the hustlers to the restaurant that was missing their shill, picked up the menu and was stunned. There was no moussaka. No moussaka on a menu in Greece? Every Greek restaurant outside of Greece has moussaka. ...

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  • This KFC ain’t like that KFC.

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    Don Day wrote: “Welcome home”, said the woman in the monogrammed mask, as we walked through the glass doors into Kenten’s S.M.A.

    “Welcome home”, I thought. Do I know this woman? Have I been here before? How drunk was I?

    It was almost two hours later, heading out through those same glass doors, before I really got it. Kenten’s is about comfort, about companionship, about casual, about camaraderie. By the time you leave, you’re family.

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  • Yes, my darling, it’s incredible, how this dish is unphogettable

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    Don Day wrote: I’d been back in San Miguel for two weeks and I was pining, a word that The Oxford Dictionary defines as “suffering a mental and physical decline, especially because of a broken heart”. Well maybe it wasn’t quite a broken heart. Because I know, from that Bee Gees ballad, that broken hearts can never be mended. This one was just a slightly wounded heart that could be easily repaired with an iPhone and a forefinger.

    Why was I pining? In one word, in three letters, pho. That Vietnamese delicacy that is a once-a-week, every week addiction when I’m Toronto.

    There are three places in San Miguel de Allende that I knew served pho. I’d seen that my go-to place had adjusted to times of covid. They now delivered. They could now be my sent-from place. I messaged them. And messaged them again. Nothing.

    But I’d seen something on social media. A fourth source of pho. Should I give the rookie a go? ...

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  • The curtain rises again on Santiago y Macarena. Please take your seats for the second act.

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    Don Day wrote: It was a dazzling debut. Perhaps the best new restaurant to open in 2019.

    It had all the ingredients for success in San Miguel de Allende. Or anywhere else. Sophisticated but casual. Classy but cozy. Trendy but traditional. Elegant but not expensive.

    I only went to Santiago y Macarena twice. Before I got there a third time, I received a call from Santiago Hiriart, one half of the husband and wife team of owner/chefs. He told me our reservation had been cancelled. The curtain had come down. After just four months, the restaurant inside Hotel Essencia had gone dark. ...

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  • A superstar San Miguel chef now has his own show.

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    Don Day wrote: You don’t meet a lot of guys like J.J. Castañeda in San Miguel de Allende. He’s too big city, too fast talkin’, too street smart and, according to Don Day’s Wife, too ruggedly handsome.

    There’s only one other San Miguelense that I can compare him too and that’s his mentor, another man with black-framed glasses, Donnie Masterton, a guy who may just be the smartest restauranteur in town.

    “It was 2017, I was back in my home state of Texas when I got the call from Donnie”, said the chef. “It was Hey J.J., I want to talk about your future.” ...

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  • Give me this day, my daily bread.

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    Don Day wrote: So there I was, standing in arrivals at Mexico City airport, after five hours of being sardined into a middle seat, now standing and watching an empty carousel rotate for an hour.

    “I better go and try to put the brakes on the shuttle”, said Don Day’s Wife. “We’ll rendezvous right outside customs.”

    So, after another half hour of round and around hypnosis by the spinning carousel, there I was inside customs and wouldn’t you know it, I lost the red light/green light game.

    “¿Tiene algún producto alimenticio en sus maletas?”

    “Yes, I think there may be some food in my wife’s bag.”

    “Abrelo por favor.” ...

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  • Oh how I’ve mished their mixiote!

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    Don Day wrote: After having been bunkered up in Toronto for far too many months, on my return to San Miguel de Allende, the very first restaurant I headed to was El Pato. I had been dreaming for weeks…no, make that months…about mixiote served by El Pato’s always welcoming Pilar Ortiz.

    Mixiote. 20 years ago, I’d never ever heard or even seen the word. I had no idea what mixiote was. I was missing something that is, not just in Mexican cuisine but in world cuisine, very, very special.

    I wasn’t alone in not knowing what mixiote was. I have met many Mexicans who don’t know what mixiote is. I’ve met Mexican chefs who don’t exactly know what mixiote is. I’ve read fat books about Mexican cuisine that don’t even mention it (including those by one of my heroes, Rick Bayless). So what exactly is mixiote? ...

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  • What I’ll be eating on Christmas Eve. And what chef will be cooking it.

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    Don Day wrote: I can’t remember exactly when I first tasted bacalao but I think I already had a three as the first digit of my age. I don’t really know what took me so long either. There weren’t too many other dishes that hadn’t somehow landed on a plate in front of me.

    I think it had something to do with bacalao having this rep as a “peasant’s dish”, the “dish of the poor”. I didn’t want to eat what the poor ate. I wanted to eat what the rich ate. Even though I was poor. And yes, I guess, pretentious.

    I think it also had something to do with that Spanish word, bacalao. It sounded like a board game. Or the cry some wild animal might make on a full moonlit night. No matter if you called it bacalhau in Portuguese. Or bacalla in Italian. Or worst of all, in English, the brutally boring salt cod. I couldn’t understand why would you take what was then the world’s most common fish and hit it with more shakers of salt than Jimmy Buffett had ever sung about. ...

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  • The queen of Toronto tacos will soon be sharing some very tasty information.

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    Don Day wrote: Don Day’s Wife and I had a beef taco, a pork taco, a chicken taco and a fish taco for lunch today. And we’re not in San Miguel de Allende, not even in Mexico; we’re in Toronto, living in exile during these covid times.

    The woman who created the tacos for us has rapidly become Canada’s most celebrated Mexican chef and, next month, she’ll be sharing some of her culinary secrets in an episode of Fall Fanfare, an online presentation brought to you by Amistad Canada in support of its project with the San Miguel charity, Patronato Pro Niños.

    The chef’s name is Elia Herrera. You could say she was born into the business. ...

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  • The world’s foremost authority on Mexican cuisine is 97 years old and English.



    Don Day: Her name is Diana Kennedy. She wrote the first book I ever read about Mexican cuisine. It is still, in my opinion, the best book ever written about Mexican cuisine. It started a passionate love affair I have with the food of Mexico that continues today and, today, I learned a lot more about the fascinating woman who wrote it.

    Four years ago, Diana Kennedy, published her ninth book on Mexican cuisine. It’s title was Nothing Fancy. This year, filmmaker Elizabeth Carroll used the same title for the feature-length documentary about this five-foot-tall fireball and, this afternoon, I watched it.

    In 1953, 30-year-old Diana Southwood left her home in the southeast of England to emigrate to Canada. Four years later, on a holiday to Haiti, she met Paul P. Kennedy, a correspondent for The New York Times in, among other places, Mexico. A few months later, the two moved in together in Mexico City and, shortly after, they were married. ...

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  • I come to praise Caesar. In the middle of Mexico.

    Don Day: We Canadians apparently drink about 400 million of them a year. The rest of the world combined apparently drinks only 150 million. I’ve always been bewildered as to why. Their loss, our gain, I guess.

    I’m talking about the caesar or, as its sometimes known, the bloody caesar. The younger brother of that far more popular lady, bloody mary. The drink that much to the dismay of many, but the delight of many others, includes clam juice in its ingredients.

    Though I found documentation of clam and tomato juice making an appearance in a cocktail at New York’s Polonaise nightclub as early as November, 1953, we Canadians consider the caesar to be the creation of Walter Chell, restaurant manager of the Calgary Inn. ...

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  • One of my favorite Mexican dishes. And where it got its start.

    Updated: Added the link.

    Don Day: I had been starving for a new Mexican cookbook for quite a while. Yet there it was. Sitting on that virtual shelf of my local library. Easily discovered in the cuisine section of their e-books selection since last year.

    The title was My Mexico City Kitchen. Not the kind of title to get you in a tizzy but the subtitle, Recipes and Convictions, was appetizing and, hey, when you’re hungry.

    The author was Gabriela Cámara. The name rang a bell but it was just a tinkle, not a clang. In went her name to the search engine (including the accent on the a) and, before I even read a word, I recognized an image. That woman in the red apron, that’s the woman who emerged to applause when she ventured out from the kitchen of Contramar. Contramar, one of my most very admired restaurants. I like the look, the food, the buzz, the attitude. Contramar’s kitchen was her Mexico City Kitchen? I hit the download button. Firmly. ...

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  • “No Mom, it really doesn’t cause acne.”

    Don Day: My name is Don Day and I am a chocoholic. I have been clean now for 11 hours and 35 minutes. I have not touched a single brown beauty since I lay in bed last night reading Like Water For Chocolate and hoovered the entire 250 gram bar of Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut that a most thoughtful person gifted me on my birthday. I have tried so hard to follow the 12-step program but I have found that the only steps I take always take me closer to the cupboard where Don Day’s Wife attempts to hide the chocolate.

    The moment this pandemic is over (or, perhaps, almost over) I will be returning to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where the temptations will grow wilder and stronger. For Mexico is not only my favorite winter home but the year ’round home of my favorite chocolate.

    I still remember my final day in San Miguel back in March. Don Day’s Wife was packing up the kitchen and said to me, “You know what you forgot don’t you?” Wives ask questions like that knowing men have no clue what they forgot or they wouldn’t have forgotten it in the first place. And it’s always “what you forgot” never “what we forgot”. ...

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  • “About as perfect as a lunch can be.”

    Don Day: I wrote this in March during the days when we first added the word covid to our vocabulary. With restaurants locking their doors, the timing certainly wasn’t right for a rave review. Now, those doors are opening again in San Miguel de Allende, so here it is.

    Those quotation marks in the headline are around words that came out of my mouth. I use the word “perfect” very hesitatingly.

    But that’s exactly the way I felt recently after sharing three dishes with Don Day’s Wife at a San Miguel restaurant. The ingredients, the imagination, the preparation and the presentation were as good as I think you can get in this town. ...

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  • I’m so sorry. But my favorite chile isn’t Mexican.

    Don Day: I’m a home team guy as much as anyone. I root for the red, white and green as often as some homegrown Mexicanos. I still think Lorena Ochoa was a better golfer than Annika. Plus I’ve read enough scientific papers to be convinced that Mexico and, more specifically, an area not too far east of San Miguel de Allende, was the original home sweet home of all chile peppers.

    But, this year, my favorite chile became an import. Originating far away in Japan, this cultivar of capsicum annuum (words I learned from reading those scientific papers) absolutely blew me away. Now, before you stop reading, let me tell you that I wouldn’t be writing this if the pepper wasn’t now available locally (or at least semi-locally) in Mexico.

    We first had it back in July at the Toronto restaurant Core. Our server almost demanded that we try their very talented chef Hyun Jung Kim’s new shishito peppers dish before we even thought of ordering anything else.

    “How hot are these shishitos”, said Don Day’s Wife, ...

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  • Three Mexicans I’m Missing.

    Don Day: In Mexico, I drink a lot of Mexican wine. In Canada, where I’m holed up these days, I drink none. Not one single bottle.

    Despite what you may hear about the international success of Mexican wineries, there is only one winery that I know of who has distribution here, and they have only three of their lowest end wines available. In Toronto, even someplace called the Republic of Mondova has better penetration of the market.

    So what might I be drinking if, like originally planned, I was spending some of my summer in San Miguel? ...

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  • I don’t care what you call it. I still like tilapia.

    Don Day: My Kiwi Neighbor: “We have a different name for that fish in New Zealand.”

    Don Day: “Oh yeh. What do you call it there?”

    My Kiwi Neighbor: “Cat food.”

    I rarely eat tilapia. It’s not that I don’t like the taste.

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  • “OK, I’m ready for ramen. But which one?”

    Don Day: I think it might be the toughest decision to make in the whole wide world of dining. Just pick up the menu in almost any ramen restaurant and you’ll find at least ten, maybe twenty different ramens to choose from.

    You’ll see words like shio and shoyu, hakate and hiyashi, le-kei, kare and kitakata, wakayama and takayama. I think there are people who live in Tokyo, where there are more than 5,000 ramen shops, who don’t even know what some of these ramens consist of. I’ve been a ramen regular for about ten years now and I can’t tell you what half of them taste like.

    In San Miguel de Allende, being a ramen regular is a little easier. There’s only one restaurant with a wide array of ramens and, mostly, they’re the most well-known ones. ...

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  • “I’ve got what in my mouth?”

    Don Day:
    I wrote what’s written below back in early March when San Miguel de Allende was still open for business. The “gentlemen who lunch” met at Crow that day to experience two very different but very tasty cantina specialties that are virtually impossible to find anywhere else. Crow was one of the first restaurants to close its doors during the pandemic, just a few days after our lunch, but I thought I would still share a description of those dishes. Crow was located on the third floor at Hernandez Macias 43B. Here’s hoping I will soon be climbing those stairs again.

    Should I or shouldn’t I tell them? What a difficult decision. If I did tell them, no one might touch them. If I didn’t tell them, they might cut mine off when they found out. ...

    I decided to wait until everybody had eaten at least one, wait until most guys were on their second, when I threw out the question.

    “So what do you think we’re eating?”, I asked. ...

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  • The pizza that people like me forget.

    Don Day wrote: Pizza restaurants are like sports teams. Almost everyone has a favorite. Almost everyone cheers for their favorite. And almost everyone likes to tell other pizza lovers why their favorite should also be your favorite.

    I eagerly watched a discussion…some might say a debate…some might say an argument…on social media this week about who’s delivering the best pizza in San Miguel de Allende these days.

    Eight different pizza makers were mentioned, including the two that I usually order from: Neopolitan for a Naples style cracker crust. Pizza Guy for a more traditional, New York style pie.

    But I also started thinking about a couple of restaurants that didn’t get any mentions. Places that I’ve always thought of as destinations not delivery spots, as places to dine out not dine in. ...

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  • My favorite San Miguel taco. Without the trip to a taco stand.

    Don Day wrote: They’ve never been places I’d purposefully go out to. They’re more places I’d just end up at when I’d go out. And, most often…which was very often…after a drink or two or maybe three.

    I’m talking about taco stands. The most basic yet the ultimate Mexican dining experience.

    I hear that a lot of San Miguel taco stands are still open during the Covid-19 crisis. But I also hear that not a lot of them are doing any business.

    I get it. People aren’t going out. And if people don’t go out, people don’t eat tacos.

    So how do you get your taco fix when you’re bunkered up, even when the only series you have left to watch on Netflix all have subtitles? Well, yes, I have a suggestion. And it’s for a taco that I (a guy who can be very shy with superlatives) once called the best taco in San Miguel de Allende. ...

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  • We all could use a little comfort now.

    Don Day wrote: Comfort food. I wasn’t sure the term existed when I was a kid. So I looked it up. The Oxford English Dictionary officially added it to our vocabulary in 1997. Long after I was a kid. Long after my kids were kids.

    Yet when I think of comfort food I think of dishes I ate long before those words were official. Two dishes especially.

    The first one brings memories of sitting at a chrome and turquoise formica table in the kitchen. My mother yanking the tea towel from where she tucked it into her apron string. Opening the Moffat and using the towel to pull out a beat-up bread pan that never once saw bread dough, but once a week was stuffed with a mixture of bread crumbs, ground beef and onions that was bathed in a tomato sauce spiced with parsley, thyme and sage. ...

    The spatula would pierce the caramelly, crusty top and on to our turquoise Melmac plates would be placed a juicy bubbling rectangle of comfort. Meat loaf is still today one of my favorite dishes. ...

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  • If Don Day’s Wife won’t come to the barbacoa, let the barbacoa come…

    Don Day wrote: It’s always been a struggle getting Don Day’s Wife to El Pato. Despite the fact that it’s one of San Miguel’s most acclaimed (currently #2 on Trip Advisor) restaurants, it takes some very serious arm twisting to get her there.

    Primarily it’s the distance. We live in the southeast corner of San Miguel de Allende. El Pato is in the northwest corner of San Miguel de Allende. I call that a jaunt. Don Day’s Wife calls it a journey.

    There’s a frequently running bus that takes us all the way to the town’s most celebrated barbacoa from a bus stop just three blocks away. But one of those blocks requires climbing what I call a hill and what Don Day’s Wife calls a cliff. Obviously, it’s another stumbling block. ...

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  • Oooooooooeeeeeeeeee! San Miguel’s best food bargain is back.

    Don Day wrote: I don’t think there’s a better restaurant value anywhere in town. And though I’m not even in San Miguel these days, I was very sad to see it disappear a couple of weeks ago.

    Noren Caceres, chef/owner of one of San Miguel’s most reliable restaurants had, apart from some special dishes during Passover season, closed the big green doors to La Frontera due to the Covid-19 crisis. Of course, I understood why she did it. I probably would have done the same thing. But I couldn’t help still mourning that, at least for a while, there would be no more Wednesday specials. There would be no more filet mignon. There would be no more of what I consider the best food bargain anywhere in San Miguel de Allende.

    The pricing at La Frontera had always been exceptional but that Wednesday special outdid them all. ...

    So the good news: I was reading social media this morning and I saw a post. Those big green doors on Refugio were opening again for pick-ups and deliveries. ...

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  • A love story. In six chapters.

    Don Day wrote: I wrote what’s below back in January, with little intention of ever publishing it (the photos, especially, were never meant to be shared) and, if I remember right, it was written after a second bottle of wine was opened. A lot of what I wrote has little relevance in this time of Covid-19 but I thought it did capture what I wanted to convey today: my enthusiasm for the extraordinarily brilliant cuisine at Nomada. Their Wednesday tasting menu has been put on hold. But, during the crisis, chefs Marco Cruz and Sofia Antillon are still creating imaginative dishes in the kitchen ready to be delivered to you. You will find the menu at the bottom of this article. To order…perhaps even create your own tasting menu…telephone 415 124 8864.

    A love story. In six chapters.
    It was a Wednesday. And I don’t think there’s a place in San Miguel I’d rather be on a Wednesday. For Wednesday is Menú Degustatión day at Nomada. Six courses. 550 pesos. A miniscule investment considering the extraordinary return.

    Chapter One. The introduction.
    Braised celery, grilled squash, spinach, cherry tomatoes, chapulines, blue cheese cream. ...

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  • Pastrami in the time of pandemic.

    Don Day wrote: I wanted a good old-fashioned deli-style sandwich delivered to my door today. I thought it would be easy. Every restaurant here in Toronto is hooked up these days with Uber Eats or Foodora or Skip The Dishes or their nephew with the 10-speed.

    There are about three million people in Toronto. Six million if you count the suburbs. And I can’t get a simple pastrami on rye. Avenue Open Kitchen closed at 3:00. Yitz’s is gone forever. Schmaltz is locked up tight. Porchetta “asians” their sandwich up too much. Pancer’s and Montreal Delicatessen say I live too far away.

    Thinking of too far away, I thought of San Miguel de Allende. I wondered if Don Lupe was still serving their Wednesday pastrami special. I had to know. I messaged Don Lupe’s owner Javier Robledo. ...

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  • Denver delivers but, darn it, not this far.

    Don Day wrote: One of my favorite chefs in San Miguel is Denver Reyes. No, let me change that. One of my favorite human beings in San Miguel is Denver Reyes.

    Now Denver is not a lot like other San Miguel chefs. If I’m hanging out with other San Miguel chefs, we’re usually climbing on to bar stools. If I’m hanging with Denver, we’re usually climbing the Sierras, with a burro or two in tow.

    Denver Reyes is the classic example of a “nice guy”. In the ten plus years I’ve known him, I can’t remember one single occasion when he ever annoyed, upset or disappointed me.

    Denver is the chef/owner of Denver’s Los Olivos in San Miguel de Allende. Denver was born and raised in San Miguel de Allende. But Los Olivos is not a Mexican restaurant. Thanks to some priceless experience working for one of the world’s most successful restauranteurs, north of the border, Denver’s is one of those classic Italian/American restaurants serving classic Italian/American food at very affordable prices. ...

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    More about Denver Delivers:
    Operators are standing by … from 10 to 6pm … Wednesday thru Saturday. Or … at least Chef Denver is. Ready to help you make your choices and arrange delivery or pick up.

    415 150 0239 and 415 167 3861

    For complaints, revisions, suggestions, whatever (or get on the mailing list) ... it’s muffun @ mac . com

    The menu is attached at the Denver Delivers link below.

    Ciao 4 niao ...
    Denver Delivers ...

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  • What I’d be eating tonight. If only I could be in San Miguel.

    Don Day wrote: I’m in Toronto, hibernating with Mama Bear. Or maybe it’s Mother Hubbard because our cupboard is very bare.

    Our restaurant round-ups are called food delivery apps and we’re struggling. After seven days in the cave, after seven different apps, after burgers and sushi and Chinese and chicken and ramen, we’re itchin’ for something high class. But all we’re finding is burgers and sushi and Chinese and chicken and ramen and this and that. What we really want is the world’s finest cuisine.

    We want French food. Nous voulons de la nourriture française. Queremos comida francesa.

    That, unfortunately, isn’t possible. For French is almost always fancy, almost always froufrou. And, understandably, the fancy-dan places in Toronto have all locked their doors.

    So it came as a bit of a shock, a huge measure of jealousy, and a lot of respect when I found out that, in San Miguel de Allende, ...

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  • What? You’ve never tried birria?

    Don Day wrote: I’m not surprised. I hadn’t tried it until about ten years ago. And I’m a guy who scours the back streets of San Miguel on a constant search for anything new and different. Especially anything Mexican.

    The problem with birria is it’s a regional dish, a very regional dish. In the state of Jalisco and, more specifically in its capital, Guadalajara, you may never be further than five blocks from a birrieria. In San Miguel de Allende, there’s really only one. La Milagrosa.

    So what is birria? It’s a stew, traditionally a goat stew. The origin of the dish is one of the better folk tales of Mexico. In Celebrating Latin Folklore, Maria Herrera Sobek says, “…legend has it, the dish was invented by accident during the eruption of a volcano, when a shepherd was forced to abandon his goats in a cave only to return a few days later to find that the heat of the lava and the steam from the humidity in the cave had cooked them so perfectly leaving the meat tender and the skin crunchy. In face of this tragedy, he had the idea of collecting the meat and adding some hot sauce, thus creating the dish.”

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  • The Dude. Delivered.

    Don Day wrote: It was our first day of hibernation, our first day of ordering in, our first day of almost running out of new Netflix goodies. What would be our first choice of food?

    Of course. A burger. A pretty basic burger. A bacon and cheese burger. A Birdie’s Burger. The one called the dude.

    Donnie Masterton, San Miguel’s most successful restauranteur, had emailed that day: “We are going to close all locations tomorrow and go online delivery only.”

    He also told me that they’d switched from the the now defunct and departed Comidomi to Uber Eats for Birdie’s Burgers, Tacolicious and The R (what Donnie calls The Restaurant) for deliveries. ...

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  • “This is what happens in history books. This isn’t what happens in real life.”

    Don Day wrote: It was originally going to be a celebration of the joys of lamb at Dila’s, San Miguel’s Sri Lankan restaurant. ...

    I had fifteen couples on my guest list. I had chosen four wines to accompany our feast. The best little rock ‘n’ roll band in the middle of Mexico, the Mavericks, were scheduled to get us off our lamb-stuffed asses and make it nigh on impossible not to dance the night away.

    And then my selfish, food-obsessed world stopped spinning. What had been some not-to-worry-about, never-ever-heard-of disease in some couldn’t-even-pronounce Chinese city was now crawling through Iran and cropping up in Italy and Spain. ...

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  • San Miguel de Allende’s very best favorite restaurants.

    Don Day: Tonight was supposed to be the night of the 2020 Smart Awards dinner, the night when, for the last six years, we have applauded and cheered and raised our glasses high in praise of San Miguel’s very best restaurants.

    This year, for obvious reasons, the dinner was cancelled. So the ovations this year must be virtual. But the honor of being chosen as one of the best places to eat in one of the world’s most competitive markets is still as relevant as ever.

    First, a big thank you to everyone who voted. There were 624 of you this year, up from 529 in 2019. You cast votes for 87 different restaurants, one more than in 2019.

    There were 16 restaurants this year that stood out above the rest, that had double digit numbers in their vote count. The honorable mentions, numbers 16 down through 11, were ...

    And then there were the top ten (with comments straight from the mouths of the voters). ...

    See who won at Don Day in SMA: San Miguel de Allende’s very best favorite restaurants. More #DonDay.

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  • Seven of San Miguel’s best dishes are right at your fingertips.

    Don Day: I was very surprised when I went to visit Uber Eats this week. They have grown like crazy. And they’ve added some of the very best dishes from some of San Miguel’s very best chefs.

    With an emphasis more on lunch than dinner, and a focus on affordability, here are seven of my favorites. I’m betting some might soon become your favorites, too. ...

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  • Nine places in San Miguel with tasty takeout.

    Update: Lots of delivery options in the comments.

    Don Day: When fellow foodie “Pirate John” Burger suggested the timing was very right for a blog post on restaurants with good takeout dishes, I obviously agreed. When Pirate John volunteered to also write the post, even better. Here are his nine hearty recommendations:

    1. La Pozoleria: Pozole, of course.
    If you name your restaurant after a dish it better be good. And it is! Perfectly seasoned verde or rojo broth with hominy and lean chunks of pork. Plus all of the requisite complements, ie radishes, chiles, lettuce, oregano, and sweet onions. Like a great Vietnamese Pho, it must have something to do with cooking in large batches. Dinner for 4, a liter of Pozole Cerdo only 190 pesos.

    Calzada de la Luz 53. 415 150 0068.

    2. Mr. Crunchy Chicken: 1-1/2 pollos (12 pieces) on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
    Are you chagrined that we don’t have a Chick-fil-A or Popeye’s restaurant here so we could join in on the battle for the best fried chicken sandwich? Don’t be. Crunchy Chicken makes the world’s best fried chicken and it comes with delicious coleslaw, rolls, papas, and enough hot sauce for a whole bag of totopos. Download Chick-fil-A’s (https://dinnerthendessert.com/chick-fil-a-sauce/) copycat sauce recipe, whip up a batch, and assemble the world’s best fried chicken sandwich. Sorry USA, we win. Dinner for eight only 220 pesos.

    Ancha de San Antonio 47. 415 152 6019.

    Seven more and an important tip at the end at Don Day in SMA: Nine places in San Miguel with tasty takeout. More #DonDay.

    More in the category Restaurants.

    More in the category Cooking.

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