A delight during my May trip to Mexico was a chance to join three fellow southerners for a cooking class in San Miguel de Allende. The lively day took us from market to table, with plenty of Mexican cooking basics to keep us occupied in between. A brightly hued soup of roasted poblano peppers was the perfect starter for a superb meal served with flair on a rooftop terrace overlooking the city.
Shopping in San Miguel’s central market
We met Chef Paco Cárdenas, owner of Le Petit Four French bakery and patisserie, at the Plaza Cívica, beneath the statue of Ignacio Allende on horseback. After introductions, en route to the nearby market, we stopped to peek into small eateries.
Once inside the market, we spent almost two hours shopping, meeting Paco’s favorite vendors, and picking up last-minute items for our class. Along the way, we had a chance to sample snacks and salsas, and pick up dried chilies to take home with us. Mangoes were especially plentiful and beautiful to behold. At one stand, we tasted Manila mangoes, juicy and sweet.
In Paco’s rooftop kitchen
Paco’s teaching kitchen is on the rooftop terrace of his home on a hillside overlooking San Miguel. For several blissful hours, we ignored the view of the city, and cooked our way through the booklet of recipes he had organized for us.
The instructions were straightforward, and Paco was ever ready with encouragement. My cooking companions, friends on a week-long holiday together, readily included me in their banter. It was a lively, stylish day, culminating in a lovely meal on a sun-flecked terrace.
Paco served a Mexican wine with our meal, a Shiraz from Casa Madero. Founded in Coahuila in Valle de Parras in 1597 (yes, the 16th century!), the wine estate was named Hacienda de San Lorenzo until 1893, when the winery was purchased by Don Evaristo Madero. Thanks to high altitude and a relatively cool climate, balanced ripening of the grapes makes for some very high quality wines. The one we had paired beautifully with the meal.
In addition to the wine, Paco presented us with two tequilas: a “blanco” to be used for the dessert; and a barrel-aged Don Julio Reposado, golden amber in color, with a rich, smooth finish.
At the table
We gathered for our meal around a table set with a colorfully embroidered cloth, silver napkin rings and a vase of roses. It was a treat to see our hard work so beautifully presented!
We may have chopped, pounded and cooked most of the meal, but Paco prepared the dessert himself, with us looking on, explaining as he went. Seeing him melting, mix and shave the dark chocolate into curls had us all eager to get to the dessert course.
The result—dark chocolate and tequila delight—was indeed a delight!
The ambiance and the food in Paco’s class combined to create a special memory of my time in San Miguel de Allende. It was a splendid day! To create your own memories like these, visit the El Petit Four website and check out course information.
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