If you prefer your Mexican food in nacho form, then you might want to stop reading right here. It’s not all tacos and tequila anymore, and even a newly minted food lover can get into the spirit—and flavor—of Mexico’s exciting culinary scene at the San Miguel de Allende Food Festival (SMAFF), kicking off on July 14. Graced with historic charm and a sea of rooftop terraces, San Miguel would be an idyllic location for any sort of festival, but its proximity to Mexico City’s gastronomic hotbed makes it an especially mouthwatering destination for a three-day food celebration. Even better, the city is experiencing an art-and-design resurgence, which means there’s plenty to do after—and during—meals.
For generations, San Miguel has been a haven for weekending chilangos (residents of Mexico City) and ex-pat artists, so it comes as no surprise that some of the edible innovation brewing in the restaurants of Mexico City has spilled over into the little colonial city. Recently Bravo’s smash hit Top Chef hosted its season 12 finale in San Miguel, and one of the finalists on Mexico’s spinoff Top Chef Mexico was San Miguel’s own Matteo Salas, executive chef at Áperi and Jacinto 13. And as the buzz has migrated north, it has brought some big-name chefs with it. Even Enrique Olvera, whose Mexico City restaurant Pujol was named one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, set up shop at Moxi restaurant in San Miguel.
With all that excitement going on, this year’s food fest promises to be the biggest to date. That quaint mountain town will play host to tasty treats from 50 national and international chefs and 100 exhibitors bringing delicacies from all over Mexico—from the wine of the Valle de Guadalupe to smoked oysters from Tabasco. Highlights of the weekend will be a collaborative kick-off dinner by the aforementioned hometown heroes, Olvera and Salas, as well as the main event, the Chef’s Table. A series of meals (two each day), the Chef’s Table will feature dishes prepared by teams of chefs, including Salvador Garcia from San Miguel’s Rosewood resort and the internationally acclaimed Najat Kaanache Amghiraf.
When you’re not hopping from station to station at the tasting tables, watching cooking demonstrations while sipping fine mezcal, or rocking out to one of the four popular Mexican bands slated to play over the weekend (including Los Rumberos de Massachusetts and Elliot the Furniture), there’s plenty to explore in the city. You still have time to hang your hat at one of the city’s art-gallery-turned-boutique hotels such as Hotel Matilda, Dos Casas, or Casa 1810 Hotel Boutique. San Miguel might be small, but it is home to seven churches. Keep an eye out for weddings at the iconic and central Parroquia de San Miguel. While those winding cobblestone streets hide countless galleries, make sure to stop in at Fábrica la Aurora, an art complex housed in a former textile factory. And, if you’re willing to get up early, enjoy a sunrise hot-air balloon ride over the mists of the city with Globo San Miguel or take in the waters at La Gruta hot springs—or a luxurious spa treatment at Escondido Place (about 15-20 minutes outside of town).