Book Review: The Recipes Behind the Restaurants
Some favorite cookbooks from some favorite local eateries
Reviewed by Claudia Alarcón, Fri., May 20, 2011
Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years of Food and Art
by Tom Gilliland and Miguel Ravago, with Virginia B. Wood
Shearer Publishing, 238 pp., $34.95
To say that I love Fonda San Miguel may be an understatement. I am incredibly thankful for the hard work and heartache that it took owners Tom Gilliland and Miguel Ravago to get their dream restaurant to its current status as an icon. They brought awareness of authentic regional Mexican cuisine not only to Austin but to audiences nationwide. On Nov. 25, 2005, Gilliland and Ravago celebrated the restaurant's first 30 years and the release of this long-awaited cookbook, which was co-written by Fonda alumna and former pastry chef Virginia B. Wood, now the Chronicle's Food editor. I have treasured a copy since its release and have cooked from it often, always with good results.
The book combines heirloom recipes from the Ravago family repertoire with Interior Mexican standards codified by Diana Kennedy, the restaurant's longtime mentor, friend, and supporter. Of course there are many of Fonda's most popular dishes and Sunday brunch favorites, like a budín de elote that rivals my mother's, Veracruz-style ceviche, and the restaurant's amazing mole poblano, plus some from chef Roberto Santibañez's tenure in the kitchen like zarape de pato and chicken in blackberry mole. One dish I especially like is the tequila-cured salmon tostadas, which Ravago discovered at the Mexico City home of Diego Rivera's daughter. And who can resist Fonda's signature Silvercoin Margarita, made with watermelon-infused tequila, in the Austin summer? The book includes color photographs to bring the recipes to life, and it emphasizes Fonda's artful side with reproductions of many of the pieces from Gilliland's vast art collection. In fact, details of actual architectural aspects and decor of the building are embedded throughout the book's design, capturing the true essence of the restaurant. This book is a must for every longtime Austin resident and for all fans of true Mexican cuisine.