Restaurateur David Wilhelm is best known for developing many Orange County and Los Angeles restaurants over the past three decades. Wilhelm’s tenure in Orange County began in the ’80s and since then, he’s opened more than a dozen significant restaurants such as Kachina, Bistro 201, Barbacoa, Saltwater Grill, Diva, Sorrento Grille, French 75 and more. Wilhelm’s latest concept is Tavern House, set on Balboa Bay. A self-taught chef, he’s been credited in his career as being on the vanguard of promoting, among other things, modern Mexican cuisine. This month we asked him to share the delights of one of his favorite sources of inspiration, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
WHY SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE?
It was voted the Best City in the World for two years in a row by Travel + Leisure for good reason. The town is an incredibly charming colonial hill town that reminds me of the hills of Tuscany. The architecture is truly one of a kind and features vibrant colors that are rarely found elsewhere. There are a lot of American and European expats who live there, contributing to the blending of unique and beautiful cultures. Also, throughout the year, there are a handful of rich cultural festivals. It requires extra travel, time but it’s well worth the effort.
Visit La Azotea. It is a large rooftop terrace that’s done in a Palm Beach style, with tables, benches and stunning views of the sunset.
Visit the Mayan Baths, an underground catacomb of warm mineral baths lighted with candles just 25 minutes outside the city. It’s truly an amazing experience! My favorite activity though is simply walking the downtown streets both during the day and night and stumbling across an unending number of shops, cafes and restaurants.
TIME IS RIGHT
The weather is moderate year round, but I think spring is the best time to visit, as the jacarandas that dot the entire city are in full bloom – you don’t want to miss it! You can walk the entire core of the city, but the streets are all cobblestone so make sure you bring comfortable shoes.
There is so much to see and do, but if time is limited, do your research beforehand and identify the types of things you want to do and see so you won’t miss anything. When all else fails, find a local expert who can share with you their favorite local places.
Dining: Cenaduria La Alborada is new in the Jardin and has great pozole and other rustic Mexican dishes. For a very upscale experience, book dinner at the chef’s table at Aperi and enjoy an exclusive dinner with wine pairings.
Drinking: Grabbing a drink at sunset at the rooftop deck of the Rosewood Hotel where you get a view of the entire city and jacaranda trees, which fill the city with vibrant purple-colored blooms, is one of my favorite things to do. Visiting at sunset is a must. I also recommend stopping by the tasting room at Casa Dragones – it’s my favorite tequila!
The downtown area of the city is filled with a variety of great shops that include Day of the Dead figurines and other cultural pieces. I highly recommend taking a stroll around the city to take in the beautiful architecture, but while you’re at it, make a pit stop at the centrally located park called Jardin; it’s beautiful! Be sure to visit the huge El Tianguis de los Martes held every Tuesday. There are baskets, pottery and handmade colorful clothing abound.
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