Monday, September 29, 2008

San Miguel and Master Chefs Ready To Honor Coyote Convoy

Good friend Mary Murrell from San Miguel de Allende has a great writeup in the current edition of ATTENCION SAN MIGUEL which is the local paper in San Miguel. Not only is it a great article but it talks in detail about the gala celebration as well as the sophisticated, world class cuisine that is being prepared by master chefs just for the occasion.

By Mary Murrell September 26, 2008 San Miguel de Allende

Panamericana Gala
Concurso de Motorsports weekend
Sat, Oct 18, 7pm
Hotel Refugio del Molino
Salida Real a Querétaro 1

An important part of the Concurso de Motorsports is the arrival of the convoy of cars and drivers who visit San Miguel on their way to start the Carrera Panamericana Mexican road race.

The Panamericana Gala will be a tribute to the Carrera racing teams and racing legends in Mexico, and it will be an example of the importance of community collaboration in San Miguel. Where else would one find experienced chefs willing to create an outstanding evening, not as individual stars, but as part of a team of stars?

The gala showcases how healthy food can be delicious, especially in Mexico. Why? Because original Mexican cuisine, one of the most sophisticated in the world, is a delightful and delicate blend that tastes good is also good for us.

Kirsten West, who has 35 years of experience in designing and producing extraordinary meals, is a key member of the team. The ancient culture and cuisine of Mexico has been a focus for her during the past 20 years. After studying in Michoacán with Diana Kennedy—one of the world’s top scholars of Mexican cuisine—West worked as her assistant. Together they shot 26 shows on Mexican cuisine for the Discovery Channel.

She has also worked with Rick Bayless, America’s foremost authority on Mexican cuisine. Bayless and his wife, Deann, own the highly acclaimed Mexican restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago. West acted as a recipe researcher and kitchen director for his PBS show Mexico, One Plate at a Time. She also worked on his companion cookbook of the same name, winner of the James Beard Foundation award (foodie “Oscars”) for 2001 in the international category.

West is now the managing director of Rancho Casa Luna Culinary and Organic Garden Event Center ( Rancho Casa Luna has a large organic garden, state-of-the-art kitchen facilities for cooking classes and beautiful dining spaces for large groups. Conceived as a way for visitors to better understand the culture and cuisine of Mexico, Rancho Casa Luna is located in the countryside very close to town.

Another experienced chef and caterer, Fernando Padilla, is contributing his extensive knowledge of the finest-quality local ingredients and his skills in cooking for very large events. Padilla is from a family of chefs and learned the importance of memorable meals from his grandmother, who ran a successful catering business in Mexico City.

Padilla has worked in France, Belgium and Israel to learn other cuisines and is a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He directed the Lando Grille in Mexico City, selected by Condé Nast Traveler magazine to join their list of top new restaurants. Now he lives full-time in San Miguel, teaches cooking classes at Sazón and runs his catering business, Chef y Más ( He also produces a line of natural gourmet products sold across Mexico.

Together the two chefs have created a menu for the Panamericana Gala reflecting what original Mexican cuisine is all about: healthy eating.

As West pointed out, “Whenever I made this statement, with conviction, in teaching classes about Mexican cuisine, my students gave me this incredulous look of disbelief. They thought of Mexican food as combo plates served smothered with blankets of melted cheese.”

She says, “The gala dinner includes many indigenous foods but, mind you, healthy is not boring. It is fabulous and tasty. It is not covered with cheese or too spicy for sensitive palates. Come and indulge.”

European influences of chicken, beef and nuts will be paired with the foods of pre-Hispanic Mexico—squash, chile, potatoes, corn, herbs and tomatoes. The finale will be a unique Carrera dessert—fruit from Mexico and the glorious crown of global enrichment from the New World: chocolate.

This memorable meal also includes verdolago, a plant seen in the local markets quite often. Many of us have no idea what it is or what to do with it. “The plant has both European and ancient Latin American origins, a global weed so to speak,” West pointed out. “It is the latest new miracle food besides the nopal, with more omega-3 fats than most fish. We are getting closer to healthy Mexican food, without sacrificing flavor.”

Hotel Refugio del Molino, only nine blocks from the Jardín, hosts the Panamericana Gala. It promises to be an exceptional evening. In addition to the wonderful meal, the winners of the Concurso de Margaritas in July—Hecho en Mexico and Dila’s Restaurant—provide their traditional and exotic margaritas.

An exhibition of rare automobiles from private collections will be open only to gala guests.

Most of the gala ticket price goes to two outstanding nonprofit organizations, CASA and Casita Linda. You can reserve tickets over the internet at or order tickets and pay by credit card at

Visit for more information about Concurso de Motor Sports.

Concurso de Motor Sports Panmericano Schedule

A weekend of classic cars, vintage motorcycles and motor sports entertainment

Fri, Oct 17, Carrera de Pokers, a “poker rally”

Drivers pick up cards from five locations around San Miguel, Dolores Hidalgo and Guanajuato, lunch, then return to lay down their hands. Highest and lowest poker hands win prizes.

US$20 registration

Sat, Oct 18, Panamericana Gala

Homage to legendary driver Hershel McGriff, the first driver to win La Carrera Panamericana

Hotel Refugio del Molino

“The Coyote Convoy” arrives in San Miguel

Sun, Oct 19, Exhibit of racing cars


October 24, Carrera cars race back to the Texas border, via Querétaro on
October 26 and San Luis Potosí on

October 27. The race also visits Aguascalientes and Zacatecas before ending in Nuevo Laredo on October 30.

Mary Murrell is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Concurso de Motor Sports and a CASA volunteer.

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