SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, GUANAJUATO – Estábamos perdidos. We were lost. Somewhere in the lush, verdant central Mexican backcountry 10 kilometers outside of San Miguel de Allende. The dirt road we were on was pitted, pocked and recently puddled from one of the region’s daily June afternoon downpours.
El Gringo and photographer Cintia Soto, were in town to report on the 2015 San Miguel Food Festival. This first annual event held June 26-28 came hot on the heels of Sabore, San Miguel de Allende’s premier food and wine extravaganza. Both festivals celebrate and promote the rising culinary culture in the El Bajio region, particularly in San Miguel.
After three great days of food, fun, interviews and photos, event co-organizer Daniel Estebaranz invited us to visit B’ui Cocina de Campo, the restaurant he owns and operates, and B’ui’s executive chef, Marko Cruz.
With my old amigo Jim at the wheel, we set Siri on my iPhone to find B’ui at the Otomi Equestrian Center. Unfortunately, everyone’s favorite GPS vixen doesn’t do well on unsigned country roads in Mexico. We shut her down and resorted to what I like to call “Mexican Mapquest”, asking directions of the always helpful and friendly locals in any given town.
We’d passed the soda-sipping teenagers with the two dogs twice, and were reluctant to roll down the window and ask them for directions again. Their previous guidance took us in a complete circle around their small, ramshackle farming village.
Finally, a vision appeared in front of us…an old ranch hand in leather chaps and classic gaucho gear atop a stout, saddled steed. The horseman slowed and resolutely instructed us back the way we’d just come, adding, “…just follow the Otomi signs until you see the big, green fields.”
Arriving, we made our way to B’ui. Located on an “island” in the middle of two large, very green equestrian pitches, the small, modern restaurant is not confined to its glass walls, as tables, chairs and diners spill out onto the patio for an excellent view of the grounds and countryside.
During our interview earlier in the day, Estebaranz explained, “There is another restaurant scene in San Miguel de Allende, happening outside of the city. There are a couple of vineyards beginning to make good wines here in our small Ruta de Vino. There are more restaurants now outside of town, closer to the farms and vineyards where they are sourcing their ingredients and some wine.”
“My restaurant B’ui Cocina de Campo is one of these restaurants,” Estebaranz continued. “We try to do a relaxed, chic, simple experience of food out in the country.”
Estebaranz met his executive chef Marko Cruz when he was heading up the kitchen of Mexico City’s Hotel Condesa. Cruz still spends some time in the capital as executive chef of La Estacion, which was started by Estebaranz and Mexican top chef Enrique Olvera five years ago. “Most of our meat is sourced from Mexico City,” Cruz shared. “And we use local produce after making sure the flavor profiles are good.”
As far as we could tell at B’ui, the flavor profiles were spot on. First up was a whole artichoke in a creamy goat’s milk mozzarella. The artichoke was boiled, and then baked to soften up the meaty flesh on the bottom of the leaves. The dish was rustic and delicious. I dabbed at the remainder of the goat’s cheese with a bit of bread.
To accompany our artichoke, we enjoyed a simple salad of locally grown spinach and cherry tomatoes. The salad was finished with a sprinkle of goat’s cheese and almonds.
Next, we sampled the salpicon with local vegetables, cilantro and avocado. The vinaigrette was a perfect balance of sweet and piquant, and the snap of the fresh vegetables complemented the tender beef perfectly.
Chef Cruz’s dorado with lemon, spinach and pumpkin seed pesto was very nicely prepared. I typically don’t expect super fresh seafood this far from the coast in Mexico, but the Baja California-sourced fish was meaty, moist and toothsome.
B’ui offers two menus: The Menu of the Day features the chef’s recent culinary creations as a multi-course meal at a fixed price. The regular menu offers a number of hearty a la carte options. My amigo Jim called B’ui’s hamburger with bacon, onion rings, goat cheese and a sweet barbecue sauce “…the best hamburger I’ve ever had!”.
Chef Cruz brought out a just-roasted chicken he’d prepared for another table. The smell was amazing and the skin had just the right amount of char. We devoured it with our eyes.
For desert, the chef presented a cup of panna cotta with raspberry, strawberries, merengue and cardamom. Atop the glass was a thin coffee biscuit. As instructed, we broke the biscuit and then mixed it with the panacota. It was a light, sweet ending to a very good meal.
Twice a year at the Otomi Equestrian Center, there’s an international jumping grand prix. During this event, around 450 horses and 2,500 people converge on the grounds over a single weekend. Esparanz, Cruz and their capable staff cater the crowd with a rustic, Mediterranean menu and spot-on service.
“This helps bring the impression of SMA up, because a lot of these people leave and tell their friends about the restaurant and the scene here,” Estebaranz concluded.
Your Gringo in Mexico and Photographer,
Scott & Cintia
All Photos ©2015 Cintia Soto Photography
B’ui Cocina de Campo is located on the equestrian grounds at the Otomi residential area outside of San Miguel de Allende. Km 2 Camino a San Miguel el Viejo, C.P. 37 700, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato. +52 415 688 0021, http://www.otomi.mx/bui.
DISCLAIMER: We were graciously invited to dine at B’ui Cocina de Campo as guests of owner Daniel Estebaranz. We enjoyed the food, setting and service very much, and would return on our own peso without hesitation. My opinions are my own, and no compensation was received from the restaurant or its affiliates for writing this article.