This is probably the meal I've been looking forward to most. Usually when I'm back in Austin, I'm at family events "forced" to do brunch in someone's home so this is the first time in maybe 10 years that we've had Sunday to ourselves.
We arrived at Fonda San Miguel on for the Hacienda Brunch promptly at 11am. I believe its $38 per person with $3 Mimosas & Bloody Marys.
Our waiter kept our drinks filled and brought fresh plates for each visit to the buffet. He was very good -there when we needed him, responsively chatty but not intrusive. He didn't rush us at all, we were there for about two hours.
Miguel Ravago was at the buffet the whole time explaining dishes to guests, answering questions and was very engaging. The food is set up in four categories - mains, hot sides, cold sides and desserts.
Regarding the names of the dishes below - if I know the Spanish name, I'll use it otherwise I describe it in English.
My strategy was not to overload my plate and make as many trips as I could manage. That way, I could focus on particular dishes and not "muddy" my food.
So my first plate was a small pile of rice surrounded by the four mains. All four main dishes were excellent - Chochintia Pibil; a dark rich chicken mole; a gorgeous pork Pipian Verde (apparently it took three days to make and thus will probably only be at the brunch occasionally) and a light but tasty chichen in a tomato & pepper sauce (Veracruzano?).
My second trip was to the Cold Sides table. There was so much choice, it was hard to not overload - Ceviche Veracruzano, Ensalada de Nopalitos, Ensalada de Jicama con Melon, Ensalada de Espinaca (with cilantro-basil dressing), Guacamole, Chiles Relleno (small jalapenos stuffed with cheeses) and some sort of fish with chipotle mayo (for fish tacos), roasted onions, Escabeche de verdudas (pickled veggies), Cebollas Rojas en excabeche (pickled red onions), and chips. The melon was very refreshing. The spinach salad was lovely and I am definitely going to start making it at home. The ceviche was nice without being outstanding. The nopalitos was surprisingly good but that's because I've had so many bad versions. The fish was good but not my thing. The chiles relleno were good and not too spicy.
By my third trip, I was in trouble but I had to experience the hot sides. While they were very small portions, I did manage to get a taste of the
Chilaquiles en salsa de chile pasilla, Budin de Elote,
Camote & Pina, and Black Beans. I love green sauce chilquiles and FSM's version was excellent. And I'm definitely going work the corn pudding into my own repetoire. I think I'm leaving items out but my general impression of all these dishes was that they were solid, yummy renditions.
We took a bit a breather, had some coffee, then rallied and put together a couple of dessert plates that we all shared. There was Almond Flan, a selection of cookies, Bread Pudding, Tres Leches Cake, Rice Pudding, Cajeta, Poached pears and I'm sure I've left stuff out. Everything was good, but I was full and only one cookie seemed like a "Best in Class" version to me.
I think the main issue for me is that a number of the dishes - flan, poached pears, rice pudding, bread pudding - are done by many cultures and I don't really consider traditional Mexican renditions to be significantly better. But that's just me.
In any case, we staggered out very full and very happy but also sad that this wonderful restaurant is not in our town so I bought the Fonda San Miguel cookbook so I can make their dishes at home. I'm particularly interested in the soups, the albondigas and, of course hosting my own Hacienda Brunch - maybe for Cinco de Mayo?.
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