San Miguel de Allende: Saturday Organic Farmers Market

Entering the Saturday Organic Farmers Market one of the first things we notice is an outdoor dining area under the shade trees filled with people eating. Then the aromas of tortillas and gorditas frying on the griddles. Two Mexican families are cooking and serving up a storm of tacos, tamales, quesadillas, and huaraches – their tables covered with earthy brown pottery pots of all sizes filled with beef in red mole, guacamole, lamb stew, chicken in green sauce, chorizo and egg, grilled onions, spinach, beans… we quickly decide that this is the place to have Saturday brunch.

Fillings for tacos and huaraches at San Miguel de Allende Organic Farmers Market
Beautiful ceramic pots full of fillings for tacos and huaraches.
Gorditas at the San Miguel de Allende Farmers Market
Gorditas on the griddle.
Tamales and huraches at the San Miguel de Allende Farmers Market
Our delicious lunch of tamales and huraches.

Before or after filling your stomach there is the rest of the market to discover. A row of organic farmers selling their fresh vegetables – our weekly list includes avocados, kale, chard, tomatoes, cilantro, radishes, and a beautiful bag of mixed salad greens. Then there are the bakeries with delicious homemade desserts, breads, donuts, pastries, and pies. Other booths are selling natural skin care products made from distillations of cactus, wonderful small batch dark chocolates with ginger or orange, colorful embroidered pillow covers, rugs, and jewelry.

Penon de los Banos Cooperative at the San Miguel de Allende Farmers Market
Penon de los Banos Cooperative with their fresh produce.
Bakery at the San Miguel de Allende farmers market
La Buena Vida Bakery with their pastries, donuts and bread are hard to resist.
Organic honey at the Farmers Market in San Miguel de Allende
Organic honey and such fill the tables at the market.
Artesanal breads at the Farmers Market in San Miguel de Allende
Crusty artisanal breads to go with the organic cheeses.

One of the food stands is Via Organica where they sell fresh organic eggs and other foodstuffs from their store. We visit Via Organica store during the week to restock on organic fresh vegetables, pick up freshly made almond or peanut butter, gluten-free crackers & cereal and baked goods (gluten-free and regular). Their café serves delicious Mexican and international dishes which you can also get as take away. One visit we picked up some cilantro pesto which we have enjoyed on everything from veggies to pork. Via Organica is one part of Organic Way AC – a Mexican non-profit organization whose mission is to promote good nutrition through organic farming, fair trade, a healthy lifestyle and protecting the planet. During our stay in San Miguel they had several viewings of the film, Food, Inc., which lifts the veil on the U.S. food industry, exposing how our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment.

Having just spent time in avocadoland I can’t resist sharing this recipe from a blog I enjoy ~ With Style & Grace ~ Inspiration for a healthy and gluten-free life. Lisa adapted the recipe from Martha Stewart’s Whole Living.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding (Chocomole?)

Ingredients

2 medium avocados
5 tablespoons of cocoa powder
3 tablespoons honey OR 6 dates, pitted and soaked (to soften, if necessary)
3 tablespoons coconut milk or water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
sea salt

In a food processor or heavy-duty blender – puree avocados, cocoa powder, honey OR dates, coconut milk, vanilla extract and orange zest until smooth. Before serving, sprinkle with sea salt. Serves two.

Surprisingly good and best made a day ahead so the flavors meld.

Gluten-free, dairy-free & vegan.

Enjoy.

p.s. While in San Miguel, I wrote a blog post each week, click on each week below to view photos and read about our adventures:

San Miguel de Allende: Le Segundo Semana

Indian parade in San Miguel de Allende
Indian dancers and drummers parade in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

The day is just dawning this Sunday morning when we hear the sound of drummers very close by… Jay quickly dresses, grabs his camera and heads out the door. Men and boys dressed as Indian dancers and drummers are parading down a nearby street, creating a rich drum beat in rolling 4/4 time, as they dance and chant together. A ragtag procession of campesinas follow, carrying an altar on their shoulders. At the head of the parade an old man carries a wire contraption, from which he launches fireworks, signaling the imminent arrival of the parade to neighbors down the road.

The morning progresses with our walk down and around the Jardin Botanica, then breakfast at Cafe Buen Dia on Callejon Pueblito. During breakfast, a new acquaintance, Ruth, recommends the tamarind margarita’s on the rooftop terrace of La Posadita. We make a mental note. Ruth is a realtor in San Miguel and has a lovely property in the historic center of the town with two rentals. Comfortably elegant and private, you can view them on VRBO: Villa and Casita.

La Posadita restaurant in San Miguel de Allende
La Posadita restaurant has amazing views, good food and tamarind margaritas.

As the evening approaches we decide to walk over to Cuna de Allende and experience our first tamarind margarita as the sun sets. We walk up the narrow stairway to La Posadita, settle down at one of the rooftop tables and order our margarita. It’s wonderful and intense, not like anything I’ve ever tasted. Neither of us knows what a tamarind is. (I research later and learn it is the sweet & sour fruit of a tropical tree. It looks a bit like a carob pod and is an underlying flavor in Worcestershire sauce.) In the evening sky the city lights begin to glow and twinkle and the panoramic view from La Posadita is breathtaking. Next week when our friends arrive we will definitely return for dinner… and another margarita.

San Miguel de Allende at night.
View of San Miguel de Allende at sunset.

Walking home through the Jardin we once again step into La Parroquia to absorb its quiet magnificence.

Interior of La Parroquia in San Miguel de Allende
Evening view of La Parroquia interior
St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in San Miguel de Allende
We arrive early for a piano concert at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church.
Donkey carrying potting soil in San Miguel de Allende
Donkey carrying potting soil for sale in our neighborhood.

Peñon de los Banos, is a women-owned sustainable organic farm cooperative, a short ride from San Miguel de Allende. Jay and I are part of a field trip, organized by The Center for Global Justice, visiting the Campo (farm), to learn more about their work.

Residents of this small dairy farm have been part of a traditional ejido system for generations. Ejidos are communal lands, for growing food, shared and co-managed by the people of the community. The system was developed during ancient Aztec rule of Mexico. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has forced the Mexican government to do away with the ejido system, and open the land up to foreign agri-business. To read the full story, see: Peñon de los Banos, a women-owned farm cooperative.

Greenhouse at Penon del Los Banos
One of 8 greenhouses at the Penon del Los Banos Cooperative.
Comida at Penon de Los Banos
Sharing a midday meal, "comida", prepared by the women of the cooperative farm.

Cafe Teatro Athanor, just around the corner from where we live (this month) is a gem of a theater that holds about 20 people or so. Most nights they show a thoughtful foreign film and this week we saw El Mural – a UK film about the renowned Mexican artist, David Siqueiros, and his time spent in Argentina painting a mural. A political, historical and romantic drama that we recommend. But on Friday nights they have a musical event – The Magic Mystery of Flamenco – featuring two female dancers/singers, a male dancer and a wonderful classical guitarist.

Flameno in San Miguel de Allende
Flamenco performance at Cafe Teatro Athanor.

Sunday morning ritual is a walk, and the Saturday morning ritual is the outdoor Organic Market. Entering the market one of the first things you see are tables of fresh organic vegetables – lettuces, spinach, kale, tomatoes, avocados, herbs… then you notice the tables and chairs under the shade trees and the smell of tortillas grilling and coffee brewing. Pottery pots filled with chicken in green mole, lamb stew, guacamole, chorizo and egg… next week we will skip breakfast at home and eat here. And that’s not all – there are homemade breads, cheeses, baked goods, natural skin care products, fresh eggs and a small selection of hand crafted items.

Cover of San Miguel de Allende bookMany ex-pats frequent the market and today we meet John Scherber, an American ex-pat and author of San Miguel de Allende: A Place in the Heart. His book explores the possibilities of starting an exciting new life in Mexico by sharing the experiences of 32 people who confess why they left the United States and show how their new life is more fulfilling than they ever dreamed. Imagine sitting down for a heart-to-heart conversation with people who made it happen.

Organic Farmers Market, San Miguel de Allende
Saturday Organic Farmers Market in San Miguel de Allende

Ever since American Stirling Dickinson arrived here in San Miguel de Allende in 1937, the Mexican town has been a magnet for artists and U.S. expatriates:

Garden statue in San Miguel de Allende
Garden statue in San Miguel de Allende

“In 1937, after several months spent traveling through Mexico, a gangly, 27-year-old Chicago native named Stirling Dickinson, who had been somewhat at loose ends since graduating from Princeton, got off a train in San Miguel de Allende, an arid, down-on-its-luck mountain town 166 miles northwest of Mexico City.

Taken from the ramshackle train station by a horse-drawn cart, he was dropped off at the town’s leafy main square, El Jardín. It was dawn, and the trees were erupting with the songs of a thousand birds. At the eastern side of the square stood the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, an outsize, pink-sandstone church with neo-Gothic spires, quite unlike Mexico’s traditional domed ecclesiastical buildings. The first rays of the sun glowed over mountain ridges to the east. “There was just enough light for me to see the parish church sticking out of the mist,” Dickinson would later recall. “I thought, My God, what a sight! What a place! I said to myself at that moment, I’m going to stay here.”

Click on the title to read the entire Smithsonian article by Jonathan Kandell : Under the Spell of San Miguel de Allende.

p.s. To read our other posts from San Miguel de Allende, click below:

New York City

Ice pops made from anything brewed: tea, root beer, espresso; markets galore – artisan, farmers, flea, antique; and exploring Brooklyn… here are some fun tips on the big Apple.

New York’s New Frozen Treats

“I HAD never been so grateful to see a banana. Peeled and skewered, just plucked from the freezer, it was nearly smoking from the cold. It was then plunged into molten chocolate, sprinkled with sea salt and slowly twirled under a shower of crushed almonds.”

36 Hours in Brooklyn

Brooklyn, New York City’s most populous borough, is a destination in its own right. Ideas are where to stay, what to do and where to eat.

Markets of New York City: A Guide to the Best Artisan, Farmer, Food, and Flea Markets

markets of new york cityThis lovely little book is a guide to the traditional, charming and edgy markets of New York City: antique and flea markets, artisan markets, farmers’ markets, seasonal markets, and more. Markets of New York City also includes recommendations for great food in and around the markets and suggested routes for full or half-day excursions.

Astoria, Oregon

Sunday morning… hot tea, New York Times… good article in the travel section on the waterfront town of Astoria, Oregon. Good tips on dining, lodging, and things to do. Enjoy the read and maybe a visit sometime.

Astoria, Oregon, Discovers a Waterfront Chic

Astoria Oregon Waterfront
Cannery Pier Hotel, Astoria, OR (photo credit: Leah Nash for the NY Times)


Eat, drink and find provisions in Eugene, Oregon

eugene oregon restaurant notesHow fortunate are we to be in Eugene, Oregon with a list of food favorites from a friend who knows Eugene!

Restaurants

  • Cafe Soriah a Eugene favorite for almost twenty years, is defined by ancient Mediterranean world spices and the Northwest bounty of ingredients. We visit on a bustling Friday night and both dine on lamb – I have the Lamb Shank, braised in a caramelized onion au jus… it melts in my mouth. Jay chooses the Rack of Lamb, hickory smoked & served with herb aioli… no doubt a hit as Jay consults with the owner about how it is prepared. Good wines by the glass, great service. Lunch is served during the week and dinner is offered every night at 384 West 13th Avenue… check out Prose Dress right next door.
  • Marché takes it’s name from the French word for market — a word that describes not only the location in Eugene’s bustling 5th Street Market, but also their philosophy of cooking. The menu is based on the foods you would find at a farmers market — fresh, seasonal, and regional. Have not eaten here but our friend has heard great things about it and the menus (lunch, dinner and bar) would draw us in next time we are in town. The bar menu is appealing with small plates for the times when your appetite is light or time is tight… think handmade pizzettes, steak & frites, oysters, mussels…
  • The Vintage restaurant and dessert bar is the dream of two childhood girlfriends. Opening in January of 2006 it was voted Best New Restaurant later that year. Located in an old funky house with a great atmosphere it is famous for its cheese and chocolate fondues, sweet & savory crepes and seasonal cocktails. Open Tuesday – Sunday at 837 Lincoln Street.
  • Adam’s Sustainable Table is a casual and family friendly restaurant, serving an eclectic mix of culinary styles – from Northwest Regional to home cookin’ and affordable comfort foods. Farm to table, certified green restaurant that accommodates vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free needs. Located at 30 East Broadway.
  • Pizza Research Institute eclectic pizzas in a funky warehouse setting at 530 Blair Boulevard… Granny smith apples, smoked gouda & roasted walnuts sounds delicious to me, or how about Chevre, marinated eggplant & carmelized onions.
  • Sushi Domo a favorite in Eugene… won Readers Choice for freshest sushi in 2009. They strive to perfect the art of making only the finest sushi and the most delicious delicacies in true Japanese fashion. Located in the Delta Oaks Shopping Mall at 1020 Green Acres Rd. #10.
  • Papas Soul Food Kitchen for BBQ, fried chicken, gumbo and and blues… at 400 Blair Boulevard.

Coffee Shops, Bakeries…

  • Hide Away Bakery as you can see in the note, this is our friends “favorite place to go in Eugene! It’s great for breakfast, coffee/tea, lunch, or a snack. They have a full bakery with organic, gluten-free & vegan options”. Their fabulous breads are sold at the farmers market if you don’t find them at 3377 E Amazon Drive behind Mazzi’s.
  • Wandering Goat is a cafe, coffee roaster, bakery, community, art, music and performance venue. All of their baked goods are vegan, made with organic ingredients, and baked fresh each day. Located at 268 Madison Street, downtown.
  • Sweet Life Patisserie our yoga teachers choice… known for their cakes, pies, cheesecakes and pastries, they also make a fine latte or a pot of organic tea to go with dessert. Expect a line on the weekend at 755 Monroe Street.
  • Vero Espresso House holds court in a big yellow house and as one reviewer said “is one of the most beautiful coffee houses I’ve ever been to”. Comfortable atmosphere to relax and enjoy your coffee from Stumptown Coffee Roasters… 205 East 14th Avenue.
Vero Espresso House Eugene
Vero Espresso House (photo by Brad C via Yelp)
  • Full City Coffee Roasters is a recommendation from yet another friend from Eugene. With over thirty years of roasting/brewing experience they roast their beans each day. Palace Bakery is now part of Full City and bakes all the muffins, scones and “best pumpkin cookie around”. Cafes at 842 Pearl Street and 295 E 13th Avenue.

Food Markets…

  • Sundance Natural Foods features certified organic and local produce. The Kitchen and Deli is all vegetarian, mostly vegan, and features many raw foods entrees. You will find a large selection of bulk, mostly-organic, culinary and medicinal herbs & spices and a bulk foods department. Sundance is affiliated with Sundance Wine Cellars and has a wide selection of Oregon and NW Pinot Noir, and other great NW wines. Single location at 748 E. 24th Avenue.
  • Capella is a neighborhood market with “world class variety” from a produce department stocked full of organic and local fruits & veggies to the meat department with hormone & antibiotic free choices… and Capella Market has a growing selection of gluten-free products. Located on the south side of town at 2489 Willamette.
  • The Kiva is a Eugene original and a few blocks from us so we stop by this small downtown grocery store for some nuts, crackers and snacks. Sandwiches, salads and soups are offered during the day and they have a good selection of local organic produce, meats, cheese and wine. 125 West 11th Avenue in the heart of downtown.
  • Provisions part of the Marché family located at the 5th Street Public Market is an upscale specialty food store with gift baskets, wine, chocolates and sweets. They have a full bakery with organic, gluten-free, and vegan options. Great place to get lunch or a snack!
  • Market of Choice has three locations in Eugene (think Whole Foods) and offers an extensive selection of conventional, natural, organic, and health conscious products at affordable prices. Find new recipes created by their chefs at the website – including a Flourless Chocolate Torte and Curried Apple-Stuffed Pork Loin and Indian Pulao (I substitute gluten-free bread for the challah).

Eugene is a town of neighborhoods with 21 neighborhood associations… In the 1970s, Eugene was packed with cooperative and community projects, and continues to have small natural food stores, cafes and coffee houses in many neighborhoods. According to Wikipedia, Eugene has a significant population of people in pursuit of alternative ideas, and a large original hippie population. Cool. Ready to return!

Book gifts for travelers & food lovers

Today I read about two interesting books – one for the travel lover and the other for the food lover on your gift list (or to add to your own wish list, as I have).

Seattle folks know Nancy Pearl as their librarian until 2004… now many of us know her as a book reviewer for National Public Radio (NPR) where she travels the world talking about books and writes. Book Lust to Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers is her latest offering. Whether you are up for an adventure or looking for a good armchair read, Pearl recommends fiction and nonfiction titles for over 120 destinations around the globe.

In an interview with the Seattle Times, Nancy talks about her favorite reads:

Michael Mewshaw and his book Between Terror and Tourism: An Overland Journey Across North Africa. I had given up reading Paul Theroux because he’s so cranky, but Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town was great. Eric Newby’s A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (ironically titled — the walk is not short). Colin Thubron (Shadow of the Silk Road; In Siberia). Peter Fleming (Brazilian Adventure), who was the brother of Ian Fleming.

My next find of the day is Food Heroes: 16 Culinary Artisans Preserving Tradition by Georgia Pellegrini. Browsing the first chapter I learn that Pellegrini is a supporter of local growers and authentic flavors. Her chapter titles disclose the nature of her heroes: The Potato Breeder, Fighting for Salami, Butter Poetry, The Persimmon Masseuse… and each chapter closes with a couple recipes using those foods.

Pellegrini is a professional chef who attended the French Culinary Institute in NYC and worked at the renowned Gramercy Tavern. She now travels the world tasting good food and meeting the people who make it.