We like tequila shots in early May as much as the next guy, but celebrating Cinco de Mayo has the potential to be a whole new excuse to take a long weekend. And we have got a particular hotel in mind — the new Hotel Matilda in San Miguel de Allende. A charming, Colonial Mexican city, San Miguel de Allende is an unlikely home to this new modern hotel. Despite looking sleek and disparate from its surroundings, all the materials used to build and furnish the hotel were locally sourced. So says the hotel’s new chef, Bernie McDonough, anyway. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Nomade Moderne)
We got the chance to chat with chef Bernie about all that they’re doing at the progressive Hotel Matilda and, as we’d dared hoped, he spoke all about the cuisine in Mexico (his and others’) with passion and abandon. From a farm nearby where they grow their own produce to their methods of making their own cheese, chef Bernie says he is most interested in using local Mexican ingredients and techniques in new ways. He concedes that, as an American living in Mexico, he can’t cook authentic Mexican cuisine as well as the hole-in-the-wall down the street, so his mission is more concerned with utilizing locally sourced items to create newly inspired dishes. (Photo courtesy of Hotel Matilda)
“With such a large expat community in San Miguel, I decided early on that one of my goals would be to have the best hamburger in town,” Bernie says. It took him over a month to make his ideal brioche bun, he grows his own lettuce and tomatoes, and, he says, his labor of love was the burger’s secret sauce.
This burger was the catalyst for making their own cheese, which now plays a huge role in many other dishes. “The cheddar [for the burger] was a huge issue. Instead of it being a problem to find cheese locally, we decided to make our own traditional British farmhouse, bandage-wrapped cheddar.” They even raise their own bees to make raw honey, and practice sustainability with clay-pot irrigation systems. (Photo courtesy of Hotel Matilda)
Since moving to San Miguel to help open this hotel, and specifically the restaurant, chef Bernie has had little time for exploring the town. He did unveil some of his favorite local bites, though, including the carnitas tacos at Carnitas Bautista, tacos al pastor at Taqueria Brasileira, and he says he finds great barbacoa at the Tuesday farmer’s market in town.
A place that honors its surroundings and the ingredients they produce seems like the perfect place to celebrate this traditional Mexican holiday; it also seems like the perfect place to celebrate whatever excuse you used to get a couple extra vacation days.