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The Fine Art of Tequila: A Photo Essay by Peter Murphy

It may just be a small shop on the corner of General Augustin Sangines and Avenida Reforma…but you should go inside to see its true colors. My travel friend Nancy, who lives in Ensenada, introduced me to the finer tequilas of La Catrina, which we liberally enjoy.  But the treatment of the bottles caught my attention as a photographer.  Seems to me if distillers value their tequila enough to create these wonderful containers, the stuff inside must be good, too.  So we put my camera and our theory to the test.  La Catrina passes both tests with flying colors, so to speak.

The Fine Art of Tequila

The Fine Art of Tequila

The Fine Art of Tequila

The Fine Art of Tequila

The Fine Art of Tequila

The Fine Art of Tequila

The Fine Art of Tequila

The Fine Art of Tequila

The Fine Art of Tequila

About the Author

Peter Murphy is a photographer/photojournalist/visual storyteller based in Bend, Oregon. To see more of his striking images – in Baja and beyond – visit petermurphy.zenfolio.com.  Prints are available for purchase.


Baja.ca
 is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 
855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.ca.

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Princess 2018 West Coast Culinary Cruise Boasts Ensenada Flavor, Port Stop

Princess Cruises announced its fourth Culinary Cruise featuring noted food journalist Bill Esparza. The culinary cruise sails the west coast departing out of Los Angeles on Ruby Princess March 22 – 26, 2018. Esparza brings along notable chefs Sabina Bandera and Carlos Salgado to collaborate with the award-winning Princess Cruises culinary team for a week of unique gastronomy experiences including chef-led cooking demonstrations, tequila tastings and cocktail making tutorials, custom shore excursions and Q+A sessions. 

“I am honored to work with Princess Cruises to bring Mexican flavors and culture to life through authentic culinary programming,” said Bill Esparza. “Princess has a thoughtful approach to immersing guests in its destinations and connecting them to the culture and local food.”

Bill Esparza is recent winner of a James Beard award for his coverage of the L.A. taco scene in Los Angeles Magazineand is considered one of the country’s leading experts on Mexican food. A noted saxophone player, Esparza has traveled and eaten extensively throughout Mexico, Latin America, and, of course, Southern California.

Culinary Cruise Boasts Ensenada Flavor

Mexican food expert and journalist Bill Esparza (left) joins West Coast chefs for an immersive cruise and culinary journey. Photos courtesy of Princess Cruises.

Guests onboard will have the opportunity to experience special menus throughout the ship’s restaurant and bars and learn valuable cuisine skills to bring home with them from our guest chefs who have a varied but traditional background:

Sabina Bandera is the Queen of the Cart, La Guerrerense, whose tostadas de mariscos have been proclaimed among the best in the world by the “Sultan of Street Food” himself, Anthony Bourdain. Plain, simple, humble and delicious have been La Guerrerense’s trademarks since she arrived at her food cart in Ensenada when she was 21 years old.

Named Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2015, Chef Carlos Salgado opened Taco María in 2013. He decided to honor his family’s culture and legacy by making Mexican-inspired food with a reverence for its origin and roots. Using the best ingredients available and applying the techniques and values he learned in Michelin-starred restaurants, Salgado works to create a syncretic Alta California cuisine that represents Mexican food by putting real corn at the foundation.

“Bill Esparza has been lauded as the ‘go to’ expert of Latin American food and culture in the United States,” said Gordon Ho, Princess Cruises senior vice president, global marketing. “As we sail down the coast to Mexico, our guests will enjoy hearing about his food experiences and stories of learning about Mexican food in his grandmother’s kitchen. It’s these types of authentic connections that unite and enrich us when we travel.”

Guests will experience the best of the west coast with Princess Cruises on this four-day, four-port California-Mexico cruise. More information on the cruise can be found here.

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS or by visiting the company’s website at princess.com.

About Princess Cruises:
One of the best-known names in cruising, Princess Cruises is a global cruise line and tour company operating a fleet of 17 modern cruise ships renowned for their innovative design and wide array of choices in dining, entertainment and amenities, all provided with the experience of exceptional customer service. As an award-winning destination leader offering international cruise vacations, Princess carries two million guests each year to more than 360 destinations around the globe on more than 150 itineraries ranging in length from three to 111 days. The company is part of Carnival Corporation.


Baja.ca
 is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 
855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.ca.

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Carnival Makes Major Commitment to Ensenada

Ensenada Port Development Project to Provide One-of-a-Kind Experiences Ashore on Short Cruises to Mexico from Long Beach

Carnival Cruise Line today announced several significant initiatives designed to further bolster its leadership position on the West Coast: the deployment of Carnival Panorama to Long Beach in 2019 – the first new Carnival ship based in Southern California in 20 years; the grand re-opening of its 146,000-square-foot state-of-the-art Long Beach Cruise Terminal, and a multi-million-dollar port development project in Ensenada, Mexico, that will provide guests with one-of-a-kind experiences ashore.

The announcement was made by Carnival President Christine Duffy in Long Beach, California at a VIP ceremony officially unveiling the enhancements to the newly upgraded cruise terminal with travel agents, port officials, local dignitaries and media in attendance.

“This is a momentous occasion for both Carnival and the City of Long Beach – not only are we celebrating the grand re-opening of this magnificent cruise terminal, but also demonstrating our commitment to the West Coast with the deployment of the spectacular new Carnival Panorama in 2019 and the announcement of an exciting new port development project in Ensenada,” said Duffy. “The West Coast is an important market with vast growth potential and these initiatives further demonstrate the confidence in our future success in Long Beach. We are very much looking forward to having Carnival Panorama homeported here beginning next year.”

Ensenada Makes Major Commitment to Ensenada

Carnival Cruise Line’s expanded West Coast presence will include a multi-million dollar commitment to Ensenada.

“The expansion of the terminal and arrival of this exciting new ship is great news for the city of Long Beach, underscoring Carnival’s longstanding commitment to our community while adding additional opportunities for growing our economy and promoting all that our wonderful city has to offer,” said Robert Garcia, mayor of Long Beach. “Carnival has been an excellent partner for 15 years and we look forward to working with them for many years to come.”

Carnival Panorama to the West Coast

In 2019, Carnival will make history when it deploys its third Vista-class ship, the 3,960-passenger Carnival Panorama, on seven-day Mexican Riviera cruises from Long Beach, providing an exciting new seagoing vacation option to this vital and fast-growing market.  

Like its name implies, Carnival Panorama will include venues offering both indoor and al fresco experiences, including the Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, Library Bar, and Bonsai Sushi, along with open-air attractions like the groundbreaking bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction SkyRide, a massive WaterWorks aqua park, and the SportSquare recreation area.

Also featured will be a vibrant Havana section with tropics-inspired staterooms and its own Cuban-themed bar and pool, Family Harbor featuring extra-roomy accommodations, the Family Harbor Lounge, and Ocean Plaza, a spacious dining and entertainment venue with indoor and outdoor seating. Other innovations unique to Carnival Panorama will be announced in the near future.

Reservations for Carnival Panorama are expected to open in late March 2018. Additional information on Carnival Panorama is available at www.carnival.com/cruise-ships/carnival-panorama.  

Ensenada Makes Major Commitment to Ensenada

Expanded and Redesigned New Long Beach Cruise Terminal

Carnival’s Long Beach Cruise Terminal – the busiest in North America with ships docking five days a week representing a 70% utilization rate – has been operated by Carnival since 2003 and encompasses the world’s largest, free-span geodesic dome originally built to house also Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose plane and served as the location for many famous Hollywood movies. 

With the expansion, Carnival is now utilizing 100% of the dome, up from a portion, for its operations. The renovation of the Long Beach Cruise Terminal more than doubles the size of the facility’s space while dramatically enhancing the overall passenger experience and operational flow. It also includes the expansion of portside shore power to enable larger ships to plug into the local electric grid, reducing exhaust emissions while docked. 

The terminal’s striking design features California’s recognizable landmarks, bringing indoors the state’s iconic natural elements, including a backdrop of the majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range. In a nod to the dome’s former tenant, a replica of the Spruce Goose hangs from above, as well as the original model of the plane used in the 2004 movie, “The Aviator.”  The dome also includes the cruise industry’s first 1980s-style arcade which is available for families to enjoy.

“This project is many years in the making and Carnival’s Long Beach Cruise Terminal is one of the most visually striking and efficient facilities of its kind, providing a seamless embarkation for our guests while making a tremendous economic impact on the Southern California region,” said Carlos Torres de Navarra, Carnival’s vice president, strategic and commercial port development.

Arrival of Carnival Splendor to Long Beach

The grand re-opening of the terminal coincides with the arrival of Carnival Splendor to Long Beach, which operates seven-day cruises to Mexico and longer-length voyages to Alaska and Hawaii, representing a 40 percent capacity increase on this route. 

The 113,300-ton Carnival Splendor is currently the largest ship based year-round in Southern California and offers a variety of onboard amenities, including a 22,750-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa, a reservations-only steakhouse serving prime dry-aged beef and other gourmet fare, a sliding magrodome covering the main pool area, and nearly 600 balcony staterooms.

Carnival Splendor joins Carnival Imagination and Carnival Inspiration which sail three- and four-day cruises to Ensenada and Catalina Island. Together, these three ships carry approximately 600,000 guests annually from Southern California on more than 250 three- to 14-day cruises, offering an unbeatable mix of destinations that appeal to a broad range of consumers, including families seeking an attractive and affordable vacation option.

Exciting Port Development Project in Ensenada

Carnival officials also announced a major port development project in Ensenada, Mexico, currently featured on the line’s three- and four-day cruises from Long Beach.  The project will provide guests visiting the destination with an unparalleled, one-of-a-kind dining and retail experiences ashore, along with unique attractions for guests of all ages to enjoy. Details about the development will be announced at a later date.

“This project will provide our guests with a truly unique shoreside experience while making our short cruises from Long Beach even more attractive to consumers,” said Torres de Navarra.  “This port development project will make Ensenada one of the West Coast’s premier destinations.” 

Additional Information and Reservations

For additional information and reservations, contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL or visit carnival.com.

 


Baja.ca
 is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 
855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.ca.

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Mayra’s Tamale Wayside: A Photo Essay by Peter Murphy

Mayra's Tamale Wayside

Just on the outskirts of Ensenada, along road 23 towards the famous La Bufadora water spout, stands Mayra’s Tamale Wayside. It’s one of a few small stands that offer local, flavorful, comestible delights.  Among the offerings here are, of course, homemade tamales, local honey complete with the wax combs, pure olive oil, and a bit more including peppers (my favorite).  On this day though, I was intent on acquiring photos.

Mayra's Tamale Wayside

What attracted me to this particular wayside was the bright coloring that simply stood out among the other little tiendas. Just as Mayra was getting ready for the day, hoping for the arrival of a tide of visitors looking for La Bufadora, I wandered by to sample her wares and ask if I could take a few photos. She was happy to oblige.

Mayra's Tamale Wayside

Mayra's Tamale Wayside

As far as I was concerned, the tamales were some of the best I’ve ever had.  Ate some right then and there right out of the steamer. And I took a few home for later. Grabbed a bottle of pure olive oil at the same time and looked longingly at the honey wondering if Immigration would let me take it back home when I crossed the line again.  I decided not to risk it, and just spent the rest of the day enjoying local tamales, local beer and the local sights near Punta Banda.

Mayra's Tamale Wayside

About the Author

Peter Murphy is a photographer/photojournalist/visual storyteller based in Bend, Oregon. To see more of his striking images – in Baja and beyond – visit petermurphy.zenfolio.com.  Prints are available for purchase.


Baja.ca
 is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 
855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.ca.

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Valvoline to Construct Two Stock-Full Class Trucks for 2016 Baja 1000

Employees at 150-year-old motor oil giant demonstrate company’s “Hands On Expertise” with current build

Valvoline – the petroleum industry’s first U.S. trademarked motor oil brand now celebrating its 150th anniversary – today announced a large internal team, along with strong lead and supporting partners, will construct two, custom Stock-Full class trucks to compete in the 49th SCORE Baja 1000, scheduled for Nov. 16-20of this year.

This marks Valvoline’s inaugural endeavor as an owner in this racing league.

Lead partner in this venture is worldwide engine manufacturer Cummins. Since 1996, Valvoline and Cummins have had an exclusive arrangement, with the Cummins’ logo appearing on product packaging for a number of Valvoline’s Premium Blue™ portfolio of products. The two companies’ extensive research and development relationship helps to produce the highest-performing product-engine combinations on the street today.

Additional Baja build partners include BILSTEIN, the world leader in monotube gas pressure shock absorbers, and ATS Diesel Performance, a worldwide manufacturer of diesel truck performance products. All partner companies have been integral in providing assets and expertise to the build.

Baja 1000

“This endeavor is truly a collaboration of an extended, and valued, partner network,” said Jamal Muashsher, Valvoline’s director of marketing for global brands.  “Several Valvoline employees wanted to demonstrate our hands-on expertise by showing that we not only work at Valvoline, but also embody the spirit of the brand and understand how to get under the hood and create a competition vehicle.”

This year’s Baja race will be a loop covering 800 – 1,000 miles, starting and ending in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. Two main trucks and two chase trucks – rotating drivers and navigators – are needed to complete the average 28-52 hour race.

Drivers invited to navigate the custom-made vehicles will be Network A and Formula Drift Drivers Chris Forsberg and Ryan Tuerck.

“In celebrating our 150th anniversary, we looked at Valvoline racers from our past and present to help us form a list of athletes to align with for this race.  Certainly, Ryan and Chris were at the top,” added Muashsher. “It meant a lot to us that the drivers invited to helm our one-of-a-kind trucks speak to the evolution of Valvoline over the past 15 decades.”

Valvoline has been part of racing since the sports’ inception. When the first-ever organized car race in North America was held inChicago, Illinois, in 1895, the Valvoline lubricated, two-cylinder, one-and-three-quarter horsepower car won first place. And from this point forward, Valvoline would cement itself in racing culture. In 1965, the brand continued to position itself in racing legend when it introduced the world’s first racing oil. The product’s innovative competition benefits propelled it to become, and remain to this day, the best-selling racing oil of all time. Today, Valvoline™ teams race in numerous high-performance series worldwide.

The entire build will be highlighted in a digital series that will be exclusive on TeamValvoline.com this fall.

Visit Valvoline’s recently launched TeamValvoline.com website for updates, auto-related content, videos and more – or follow the brand’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages for up-to-date information.

ABOUT VALVOLINE:
Valvoline is a leading worldwide producer and distributor of premium-branded automotive, commercial and industrial lubricants, and automotive chemicals. It ranks as the #2 quick-lube chain and #3 passenger car motor oil brand in the United States. The brand operates and franchises nearly 1,050 Valvoline Instant Oil ChangeSM centers in the United States. It also markets ValvolineTM lubricants and automotive chemicals; MaxLifeTM lubricants created for higher-mileage engines, SynPowerTM synthetic motor oil; and ZerexTM antifreeze. Key customers include: retail auto parts stores and mass merchandisers who sell to consumers; installers, such as car dealers, repair shops and quick lubes; commercial fleets; and distributors. For more information, please visit Valvoline.com.


Baja.ca
 is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 
855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.ca.

 

 

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Ensenada Craft Brewery Named Best in Mexico

Cerveceria Wendlandt Named 2015 Best Brewery in Mexico, Plans to Expand Distribution in California

2015 was a busy year for Ensenada craft brewer Cerveceria Wendlandt: new beer releases (barrel aged Saison with Brettanomyces), new collaborations (top U.S. breweries Pizza Port and Alpine) and participation in a growing number of craft beer festivals throughout Mexico.

And to cap it off, Wendlandt took home the coveted “2015 Best Brewery in Mexico” honors at the recent COPA CERVEZA MX competition, Mexico’s equivalent to the Great American Beer Festival, held each year in Mexico City. The brewery also won top honors with five of its beers at the competition.

Cerveceria Wendlandt

Ensenada craft brewer Cerveceria Wendlandt was named the best brewery in Mexico for 2015.

“The COPA CERVEZA results were a surprise,” Wendlandt founder and brewer Eugenio Romero said recently. “Winning 5 medals and then being named Best Brewery in Mexico is an unbelievable recognition.”

Wendlandt’s 2015 COPA CERVEZA MX awards:
Gold Medal – Veraniega, American Style Wheat (Category: Best Golden Beer)
Gold Medal – Harry Polanco, Red Ale (Category: Best Amber, Red or Brown Ale)
Gold Medal – Barrel Aged Saison with Brett (Category: Best Specialty Beer)
Silver Medal – Perro Del Mar, IPA (Category: Best India Pale Ale)
Bronze Medal – Vaquita Marina, Pale Ale (Category: Best Pale Ale)

Wendlandt’s production in 2015 was roughly double its production from 2014. The brewery projects another doubling of its production in 2016, as the demand for premium Mexican craft beer continues to skyrocket. Wendlandt also plans to expand its distribution in California, both on draft and in bottles.

Wendlandt is working with Newport Beach, CA based GRDLOC Partners LLC to import its products and coordinate distribution.

“We hope to offer more great beers and attend more events in 2016. We have added equipment to expand our production and we also plan to grow our distribution in the U.S.,” said Romero. “We invite everyone to come try our beers.”

Romero is planning several events in the new year to celebrate a successful 2015. Wendlandt’s Facebook (/CerveceriaWendlandt), Instagram (/cerveceriaW) and Twitter (@cerveceriaW) accounts will provide event information.

Wendlandt core beers to be distributed in California include: Perro Del Mar IPA, Foca Parlante Oatmeal Stout, Harry Polanco Red Ale, Vaquita Marina Pale Ale, HannZomer Saison, Humpy Humpy American Amber and VeraNiega American Style Wheat. Collaboration beers and special release brews will also be available.

About Wendlandt
We opened in 2012. Distribution in major cities across Mexico. Brews 6 core beers plus special releases. Tours offered at the brewery located in El Sauzal (5 miles north of Ensenada). Operates a tasting room + Gastropub in downtown Ensenada.

To learn more visit: www.wendlandt.com.mx

About GRDLOC
GRDLOC imports and wholesales craft beer and fine wine, with an emphasis on products from Mexico. To learn more visit www.grdloc.com or contact by email: jay@grdloc.com or phone: 949) 229.3994

 


Baja.ca
 is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 
855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.ca.

 

 

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Ensenada Road Trip: From the Cheese Cave to Top Dining Destinations

Ensenada Road Trip: From the Cheese Cave to Top Dining Destinations

by W. Scott Koenig

Ensenada Road Trip

Marcelo Castro and his capable, friendly staff at La Cava de Marcelo.

ENSENADA, BAJA CALIFORNIA – When El Gringo and family roll into the municipality of Ensenada, we’re usually headed for a weekend, tour or a great day in the Valle de Guadalupe, just northeast of Baja California’s third largest city. It’s been a while since we’ve “done Ensenada”, and we certainly haven’t done the “new” Ensenada that’s risen to culinary fame in the past decade based on it’s street food scene and boasting rights to several of Pellegrino’s Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants.

So when we were invited to enjoy a weekend and tour at the Hotel Coral and Marina, we set our itinerary to new adventure, loaded up the trusty Jeep and proceeded south across the border.

Arriving in style at the Hotel Coral and Marina

Ensenada’s Hotel Coral and Marina is easy to find, right off the main road heading into town. El Gringo has experienced the range of Baja hotels from a cost, comfort and maintenance perspective, and the Hotel Coral and Marina definitely ranks in the top percentile.

Ensenada Road Trip

The grounds and marina at the Hotel Coral & Marina, Ensenada, Baja California.

The property and grounds are colorful, thoughtfully decorated and well maintained. The staff are friendly and helpful. They’ve recently renovated most of their rooms, and are on track to have them all updated this year. A new full service spa – The C Spa – offers massage and other services and also carries local, artisanal beauty and skin care products. Since we were visiting in the winter, it was too cold to jump into the pool, but it sure looked inviting, nonetheless!

Ensenada Road Trip

A colorful hallway at the Hotel Coral & Marina, Baja California, Mexico

Our suite was modern and tastefully decorated. The beds are extremely cozy and topped with a number of soft, fluffy pillows. The shower head and water pressure are right on – a measurement of comfort I always consider when staying at any hotel. And the view from the ocean-facing rooms is fantastic – overlooking the hotel’s grounds, pool, marina and the vast, blue Pacific.

Ensenada Road Trip

A comfortable suite at the Hotel Coral & Marina, Baja California.

We enjoyed dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Bistro and Cava, where we were treated to several excellent courses paired with Valle de Guadalupe Wines from chef Alejandro Vallejo. A standout was the ceviche of shrimp and pulpo (octopus), which features firm, succulent morsels of seafood fresh from the Pacific just outside the restaurant’s window.

Ensenada Road Trip

Chef Alejandro Vallejo in the Cava at Bistro and Cava Restaurant, Hotel Coral & Marina, Baja California.

Ensenada Road Trip

Mixed ceviche of shrimp, pulpo at Bistro and Cava Restaurant, Hotel Coral & Marina, Baja California.

Bistro and Cava also boasts a not-to-be-missed Sunday brunch – where one can enjoy a prepared chocolate clam on the plate right next to a made-to-order omelette. Only in Baja California!

Prices: Rooms start at $113. Location: Km. 103 Carretera Tijuana – Ensenada, No.3421 Zona Playitas, CP 22860 Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. Reservations: (800) 862-9020 or reservations@hotelcoral.com, www.hotelcoral.com.

La Cava de Marcelo: Baja California’s only Cheese Cellar

The Hotel Coral and Marina offer tours of regional attractions via their small fleet of new vans and knowledgeable, personable drivers. We’d been dying to visit our destination for the day, Ojo Negros – Ensenada’s “other” valley that’s home to Baja California’s only cheese cellar, La Cava de Marcelo. Ojos Negros is about 40 minutes from town on a winding, mountainous road that eventually gives way to a lush, verdant valley dotted with farms, fields and vineyards.

Ensenada Road Trip

Welcome to La Cava de Marcelo. Baja California’s only cheese cellar.

Marcelo Castro’s century-old cheese cave is built beneath a working dairy farm. While we waited for our tour of the property and its operations to begin, we mingled with other guests – many from the cruise ship in Ensenada’s harbor – and enjoyed a bottle of a nice red blend made exclusively for La Cava de Marcelo by nearby winemaking school La Esculita in the Valle de Guadalupe.

Ensenada Road Trip

La Cava de Marcelo’s own label. A 2013 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Petit Syrah.

After touring the dairy farm, we were led down the steps to the star of the show, Marcelo’s cheese cave. Here, we sampled bites of fresh and aged queso paired with white wine. We were particularly fond of the one-year aged cheese, which has a firm texture, a nice buttery taste and was a bit more appealing to us personally than the two-year aged cheese with its riper notes.

Ensenada Road Trip

The cheese cave at La Cava de Marcelo, Ojos Negros.

La Cava de Marcelo also boasts a surprisingly fantastic restaurant, with local meats and seafood cooked to order over a rustic outdoor grill. We enjoyed grilled borrego (lamb), grilled oysters, grilled sardines over chipotle ricotta and a quesadilla made from the farm’s queso fresco (fresh cheese).

Ensenada Road Trip

Grilled lamb wit spinach and baked potato with fresh sour cream from the Cava’s dairy farm.

Ensenada Road Trip

Grilled oysters with cheese and grilled sardines atop ricotta with chipotle, La Cava de Marcelo.

Everything was perfectly prepared, hearty and delicious and the restaurant’s ambience – it’s located inside of an old farm house – can’t be beat.

Hours: Saturdays and Sundays 1PM – 6PM. Prices: Tour & Tasting: $10. Restaurant Appetizers from 90-140 pesos ($7-$10 US). Entrees from 120-380 pesos ($10-$30 US). Location: Rancho La Campana, 48 km (30 miles) east of Ensenada, off Hwy. 3, follow signs to La Cava de Queso, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. +52 (646) 175-7073.

Manzanilla Restaurant: The Top (50) of the Food Chain

We’d had the pleasure of meeting chef Benito Molina at a chef’s dinner the previous month in the Valle de Guadalupe at Deckman’s en El Mogor, so we were excited to dine with him at his acclaimed Ensenada restaurant Manzanilla – one of Pellegrino’s Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2014.

Ensenada Road Trip

Chef Benito Molina has more than just a passing resemblance to his roaster.

Chef Molina and his wife Solange Muris opened their restaurant in 2000 and moved it to its current location in 2008 – a warehouse by the harbor in a former mechanic’s yard that mainatained Ensenada’s large tuna fleet in the early 20th century. The location is wholly appropriate as one of the chef’s main areas of interest is the use of local, sustainable seafood. “When I was 20 years old, I worked on a tuna boat that went from Ensenada to Guatemala, where I learned a lot about seafood”, chef Molina recalled. “So it’s not a coincidence that I ended up here.”

Ensenada Road Trip

Manzanilla Restaurant’s open interiors and colorful artwork.`

Chef Molina once worked for Valle de Guadalupe oenology godfather Hugo D’Acosta at Santo Tomas, eventually opening one of the Valle’s first campestre kitchens, Silvestre, well before the current culinary boom. Many of Hugo’s wines – some “experiments”, all outstanding – were paired with our multi-course tasting menu.

About the tasting menu – AMAZING. Chef Molina and Solange serve an array of local seafood, meat and produce prepared with thought, creativity and love for the product and its potential. From oysters both raw and grilled to quail and kimchee plated on a tic-tac-toe motif, everything paired perfectly with the restaurant’s Valle de Guadalupe wine suggestions.

Ensenada Road Trip

Oysters served grilled two ways – with char and cheese and in tarragon with butter.

Ensenada Road Trip

Local quail with kimchee and poached quail egg.

Ensenada Road Trip

Abalone three ways – in tomato basil sauce, seared, and fried with cilantro – at Manzanilla Restaurant, Ensenada.

Hours: Wednesday-Saturday 1PM-1AM, Sunday 1PM-6PM. Location: Recinto Portuario, Teniente Azueta #139, Ensenada 22800, Mexico. +52 (646) 175-7073, www.rmanzanilla.com.

Ensenada provides many options as a Baja California destination from Southern California. From the depths of Marcelo’s famous cheese cave to the dining rooms of Mexico’s top chefs, there’s so much to explore and experience, it’ll take more than just one road trip!

Your Gringo in Mexico,

Scott

 

W. Scott Koenig (El Gringo) has traveled extensively throughout Mexico since the mid 90’s — from the streets of Tijuana to the beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula to the country’s Spanish Colonial heartland. His blog,www.AGringoInMexico.com, reports on Mexican destinations, cuisine, culture and adventure south of the border. He also blogs extensively for Baja.ca and has been published in the Baja Times (Baja’s largest English language newspaper) and Destino magazine in Los Cabos. Scott also reports on food in Tijuana and Oaxaca at Chowzter.com. Additionally, he is the founder and creative director of Koenig Creative LLC in San Diego, a full service design and marketing agency.

Baja.ca is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.ca.

 

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Transcending Expectations at Deckman’s en El Mogor

Restaurant is Chef’s Walden in the Valle de Guadalupe

By W. Scott Koenig

VALLE DE GUADALUPE, BAJA CALIFORNIA – Henry David Thoreau famously sought the tranquility of Walden Pond as a place where he could transcend the concerns of modern man and create his art outside the distractions of an increasingly industrialized society. Similarly, Drew Deckman – Michelin starred chef, Georgia native and former philosophy major – has chosen Baja California’s rugged wine country as an idyllic setting for culinary expression. It is here that he achieves the ultimate unity with nature vis-a-vis access to the region’s most sustainable seafood and fresh ingredients.

Deckman's en El Mogor

Chef Drew Deckman at the helm of his rustic kitchen in the Valle de Guadalupe.

Before the current boom in the Valle de Guadalupe, Deckman left his restaurant in San Jose del Cabo every summer to operate his then-seasonal campestre kitchen here, Deckman’s en El Mogor at the Mogor Badán winery. He eventually left Deckman’s San Jose altogether and moved to the Valle permanently – chef and restaurant becoming a highlight and must-try on the region’s burgeoning culinary ruta.

“I think we were a little in front of the curve in Cabo,” the chef recently shared. “The more I became integrated in the Valle, the more frustrated I was in Cabo. Thus the paradigm shift.” Indeed, Deckman – known as “the fishing chef” due to his enthusiasm for the sport and its resultant bounty – combines the catch of the day, crustaceans and bivalves from the Pacific with other ingredients in a seemingly complex manner. Dishes that layer taste and texture in an way that complements the main ingredient.

During a recent chef’s dinner, Deckman served an artfully-plated dish of ceviche of red pata de mula (a type of clam) with apple, soy, cucumber, local greens and edible flowers. Nautical miles beyond the typical shrimp cocktail that a typical tourist in Cabo might expect, nay demand. But in the Valle de Guadalupe, Deckman’s level of culinary experimentation is expected, enjoyed and celebrated by a more adventurous brand of eater. The Valle is after all, a destination known for its bold cuisine as well as its bold blends.

Deckman's en El Mogor

Colorful red pata de mula ceviche from chef Drew Deckman.

Conversely, Deckman also knows when to dial back the ingredients and let the essence of an oyster, chocolate clam or piece of fresh fish stand and be tasted on its own merit, adding only the sparest of additions to enhance the seafood’s true flavor. The Kumiai oysters served at the chef’s dinner were lightly marinated in a mignonette and simply garnished with tobiko (flying fish roe), allowing the briny freshness of the shellfish to take center stage.

Deckman's en El Mogor

Kumai oysters in mignonette with tobiko (flyish fish roe).

Late in 2014, Deckman built a temporary, sustainable enclosure with hay bale walls and a tin roof so the restaurant could stay open through winter when tourism slows and other Valle spots shut down until spring. His kitchen contains no electric or gas appliances. Chef and staff do all the prep, cooking and plating on a large brick hearth that operates as countertop, stove, grill and oven. Watching a Michelin starred chef create elegant cuisine in such a rustic environment is a wonder to behold.

Deckman has hosted two chef’s dinners this winter as another way to draw interest to the restaurant during the Valle’s slow season, and expose guests to some of the great food his cross-border colleagues are making.

On February 28th, chefs Benito Molina from Manzanilla in Ensenada, Rob Ruiz and Brandon Nichols from Land and Water Company in Carlsbad, and Angel Carbajal from Grupo Nicksan in Nayarit joined Deckman to serve five courses with Valle de Guadalupe wine pairings – some whites but mostly blushes to complement the evening’s mariscos-focused menu.

Here’s a tantalizing taste of some of the dishes from Deckman’s en El Mogor’s second seasonal chef’s night…

Deckman's en El Mogor

Corvina with black beans in fish sauce and saffron from Manzanilla chef Benito Molina.

Deckman's en El Mogor

The Land and Water Company’s aji (Spanish mackerel) served two ways, as sashimi and deep fried.

Deckman will remove his restaurant’s enclosure as summer approaches. The hay bales will become food for the ranch’s animals and the tin roofs will be stored until next winter. And the chef will continue to transcend expectations from the sun-dappled laboratory of his very own Walden in the Valle de Guadalupe.

Your Gringo in Mexico,
Scott

 

Deckman’s en El Mogor is located at:
Km. 85.5 Highway 3 Tecate-Ensenada, San Antonio De Las Minas, Baja California, Mexico

Driving on Highway 3 from Ensenada, Mogor Badán Winery is approximately 1 mile north of the Carretera a El Porvenir dirt road intersection to the left. Look for blue signs and turn right into the vineyard’s driveway. The restaurant is close to the entrance beyond the first parking lot.

Telephone: (646) 188-3960
E-mail: mogor@deckmans.com
Website: www.deckmans.com

 

W. Scott Koenig (El Gringo) has traveled extensively throughout Mexico since the mid 90’s — from the streets of Tijuana to the beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula to the country’s Spanish Colonial heartland. His blog,www.AGringoInMexico.com, reports on Mexican destinations, cuisine, culture and adventure south of the border. He also blogs extensively for Baja.ca and has been published in the Baja Times (Baja’s largest English language newspaper) and Destino magazine in Los Cabos. Scott also reports on food in Tijuana and Oaxaca at Chowzter.com. Additionally, he is the founder and creative director of Koenig Creative LLC in San Diego, a full service design and marketing agency.

Baja.ca is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.ca.

 

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Bodegas F. Rubio: A Family Affair in the Valle de Guadalupe

Bodegas F. Rubio: A Family Affair in the Valle de Guadalupe

by W. Scott Koenig

VALLE DE GUADALUPE, BAJA CALIFORNIA – “Twelve years ago, my father was planning for retirement, so he bought some land here in the Valle and decided to build a ranch.” Francisco Rubio swept his hand across the front windows of the vineyard’s tasting room and deli, indicating the family’s ranch house, vines and the valley and mountains beyond. Francisco’s father –Francisco Rubio Senior – was a successful industrial developer in Tijuana who had worked hard all of his life, so he took some time off immediately after retirement to travel. One of his favorite destinations was Spain.

Valle de Guadalupe

Vineyard and Valle view from the deli at Bodegas F. Rubio.

Francisco continued, “There was a street called Avenida Elefante (Elephant Avenue) in one of the towns in Spain. My father loved it there. There were lots of bars, people drank, enjoyed their lives and were happy.” Francisco Senior returned from Spain invigorated and decided to start a vineyard on the family ranch. He hired an oenologist to consult, and the rest of the Rubio family took on winemaking, sales, food, hospitality and administrative roles. Bodegas F. Rubio officially began selling their wines in February 2014.

Valle de Guadalupe

The excellent wines of Bodegas F. Rubio. Photo Ursula Koenig, Baja Luxury.

When I asked about the elephants adorning their bottles and business cards, Francisco explained, “There is an elephant on our bottles for every member of our family. In addition to Avenida Elefantein Spain, the elephant represents good luck and prosperity in many cultures. Our designer illustrated the elephants on our labels with their trunks pointed up, which shows confidence and the lack of obstacles. The elephant also represents memory. And you always remember when you have a good wine.”

With that, El Gringo and his amigos stepped up to the tasting bar to sample the fruits of the Rubio family’s labor of love. Brother Alberto Rubio is the adept winemaker for Bodegas F. Rubio, and has done an outstanding job blending some of the region’s most popular grapes to create several unique wines, including; a blanco Palomino and Chenin Blanc blend, a tinto Tempranillo and Cab blend and a smooth riserva blending Cab, Merlot and Malbec. Alberto has a pedigree as an oenologist with stints at Bodega Mogor Badan and Viñedos Malagón, both notable vineyards in the Valle de Guadalupe. His experience shines through in Bodegas F. Rubio’s lineup.

Valle de Guadalupe

Francisco Rubio with one of the family’s excellent wines.

When Francisco invited us to visit a couple of months ago, he’d mentioned that they also had a deli run by his brother – chef Alexandro Rubio – that they’d like for us to try. I looked forward to what I consider deli food, maybe with a Baja twist…an array of sandwiches, perhaps a good wood fired pizza with some regional camerones or pulpo. But we were all pleasantly blown away by the amazing food that was served. The use of the word “deli” here is an understatement.

First up was a beautiful plate of sashimi of salmon and yellowfin tuna atop a bed of zucchini “pasta” and soy vinaigrette, topped with thinly sliced red onion and a bit of pickled seaweed. We dug into this hearty helping of flavorful fish, enjoying every mouthwatering bite. The seafood was perfectly fresh and complemented nicely with the veggies and seaweed.

Valle de Guadalupe

Salmon and yellowfin tuna sashimi on a bed of zucchini “pasta”.

We didn’t think it would be possible to serve something even better than the plate of fresh sashimi we’d just devoured, but then came the sea snails. Chef Alex thoughtfully prepares his aguachile (chili water) of sea snails with jalapeño, tomatoes, red onions, micro greens and green onions from their garden. The snails are the perfect balance of chewy and tender and the aguachile of jalapeño provides just the right amount of heat, not overwhelming the main ingredients. This dish paired nicely with Bodegas F. Rubio’s blanco Palomino/Chenin Blanc blend.

Valle de Guadalupe

Sea snail aguachile with jalapeño, tomatoes, red onions, micro greens and green onions.

After the next course of portobello mushroom stuffed with an herby house-made pesto, chef Alex beckoned us to follow him outside. We went around the back where something started to smell really good. Fragrant woodsmoke wafted out of the smoker as Alex opened the doors to reveal the short ribs, baby back ribs, and ears of corn cooking inside – the ribs for about 4 hours at this point. I went back inside, droolingly anticipating the next course.

Valle de Guadalupe

Alex Rubio, the bodega’s chef, with smoked baby back and short ribs.

The ribs were perfectly smoked and super tender – nearly falling off the bone. Two in our party called them “bacon ribs”, and they certainly packed the flavor to support that statement. Before smoking, the ribs are marinated in mustard and adobo for 24 hours, providing a deep, mildly spicy and rich flavor. The accompanying vegetables – sourced from Bodega Mogor Badan just down the road – were the perfect addition to this country style feast. The ribs were paired with glasses of theriserva Tempranillo, a bold, fruit-forward blend with notes of strawberry and aged in second-hand French oak barrels.

Valle de Guadalupe

Bodegas F. Rubio’s amazing smoked short ribs.

Valle de Guadalupe

Perfectly roasted corn on the cob. All buttery goodness.

Dessert came in two courses: The first, a bowl of ice cream covered in chocolate “dirt”, planted in a pot with a plastic flower giving the impression of consuming ones houseplant. Good, but quickly topped by the accompanying second course, a pizza of gooey mozzarella and sweet membrillo (quince).

Valle de Guadalupe

Ice cream “planter” with chocolate “dirt”. Quince pizza with mozzarella.

After throwing in our towels (napkins) and pushing ourselves back from the table, we took a trip down to the wine cave with refreshed glasses of Rubio’s tinto. Francisco gave us a tour of the winemaking facilities, explaining the process and the family’s vision for future varietals and blends. We were treated to a barrel tasting of a new Merlot. And it was fantastic, even in its early stages.

Valle de Guadalupe

Treated to a barrel tasting at Bodegas F. Rubio.

“We started Bodegas F. Rubio from nothing,” Francisco told me as we stepped out into the Valle dusk to say adios. “We are currently producing 1,400 cases a year.” And what does the future hold for this family of artisanal entrepreneurs? In addition to building an outdoor stage for concerts, they have plans to possibly offer several ecotourism cabins on their property for overnight guests. Given their style of thoughtful growth, excellent hospitality and an eye toward producing quality wines and cuisine, this family business is sure to be around for many more generations of Rubios to enjoy.

Your Gringo in Mexico,
Scott

Bodegas F. Rubio is located at:
Callejón de la Liebre Parcela #70 Ejido El Porvenir, Baja California, CP 22755

Once you arrive in the small town of El Porvenir on old Highway 1 from the south, follow the blue signs left onto a dirt road. Continue to follow the blue signs for one more turn and arrival at Bodegas F. Rubio.

Telephone: (646) 156-8046 | Cel. (664) 386-5272
E-mail: info@bodegasfrubio.com
Website: http://www.bodegasfrubio.com

 

W. Scott Koenig (El Gringo) has traveled extensively throughout Mexico since the mid 90’s — from the streets of Tijuana to the beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula to the country’s Spanish Colonial heartland. His blog,www.AGringoInMexico.com, reports on Mexican destinations, cuisine, culture and adventure south of the border. He also blogs extensively for Baja.ca and has been published in the Baja Times (Baja’s largest English language newspaper) and Destino magazine in Los Cabos. Scott also reports on food in Tijuana and Oaxaca at Chowzter.com. Additionally, he is the founder and creative director of Koenig Creative LLC in San Diego, a full service design and marketing agency.

Baja.ca is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.ca.

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El Jardin de Adobe: A Foodie Oasis in the Valle de Guadalupe

El Jardin de Adobe: A Foodie Oasis in the Valle de Guadalupe

by W. Scott Koenig

VALLE DE GUADALUPE, BAJA CALIFORNIA – On a steamy 95 degree August day in the Valle de Guadalupe, chef Ryan Steyn’s new restaurant – El Jardin de Adobe at the Adobe Guadalupe vineyard – appeared at the end of a dusty path like a welcoming mirage. Cozily nestled in an olive and pink peppercorn tree-shaded patio just outside the winemaking facilities, the tranquil space with a vineyard view provided perfect respite from the heat. The campestre style restaurant accommodates diners from a rustic tiled counter and small kitchen located at the front of the space. This is where chef Ryan and his small, very capable staff prep, cook, plate and serve impeccable dishes of grilled meat and European-inspired fare with a Mexican flourish using locally-sourced ingredients.

Valle de Guadalupe

El Jardin de Adobe, a shady oasis on a hot summer day.

Valle de Guadalupe

Chef Ryan Steyn in his kitchen amidst the pink peppercorn trees.

Originally from South Africa, Chef Ryan began his career as executive chef of the restaurant at an African game reserve – his first gig upon graduating from the Swiss Institute of Hospitality Training in 2003. After spending time with the Relais en Chateux hotel group and Cellars Greenhouse restaurant in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Winelands, Ryan met his wife – TIjuanese Susan Monsalve – and followed her back to Baja to open Bistrot L’Escargot in Tijuana. He was inevitably drawn toward the growing culinary movement in the Valle de Guadalupe and signed on as executive chef at Latitud 32 at El Cielo vineyards.

This is where El Gringo met chef Ryan a little over a year ago and enjoyed a perfectly grilled piece of yellowtail with fresh greens, tomatoes and snap peas from the chef’s onsite garden. Besides the delicious fare on offer, the thing that stood out to me was how beautifully the food was presented. Chef Ryan “paints a plate” like no other, accentuating the main course with streaks and swirls of sauce and sides in a way that gives pause to the urge to simply dig in. Not dissimilar to the pause one makes in front of a visually arresting piece in a museum, but with the benefit of being edible art.

Valle de Guadalupe

Chef Ryan Steyn’s grilled yellowtail with tomatoes, snap peas and greens at Latitud 32, El Cielo vineyard.

Ryan collaborated with Adobe Guadalupe owner Tru Miller to open El Jardin this summer to round out the award-winning vineyard and boutique hotel’s onsite amenities. We were in Baja during El Jardin’s opening weekend, so El Gringo and familia made reservations to stop by for lunch. Chef Ryan greeted us with his customary friendly smile and we were seated at one of the patio’s half dozen sun-dappled tables.

Valle de Guadalupe

El Jardin overlooks the beautiful vineyards at Adobe Guadalupe.

To cool off, we ordered a limonada for El Gringo’s 6-year old, and a bottle of Adobe Guadalupe’s limited run Jardin Secreto (Secret Garden) Chardonnay for ourselves. Fermented in steel tanks, this unwooded new world Chardonnay forgoes “butteriness” and delivers a lighter, fruit-forward taste which was just what we needed on this warm day. By using quality grapes, the vineyard is able to produce Chardonnay that is both refreshing and flavorful. Our bottle was one of the first of twenty from a limited run and a standout varietal for us this year. The vineyard’s other award-winning wines are also available by glass or bottle. Salud!

Valle de Guadalupe

A glass of Adobe Guadalupe’s Jardin Secreto Chardonnay. A view of the vineyards.

Chef Ryan started us off with a plate of local artisanal cheese accompanied by local organic fruit. The cheese, as always in Baja California, was fantastic. And the selection of  plump, flavorful grapes, sweet prunes, peaches and pear whetted our appetite for the goodness to come. We were also served freshly-baked bread in a brown bag, liberally spreading heaps of Susan’s own Baja Country Veggies tapanade made from Valle-grown olives on top of the warm, crusty loaf.

Valle de Guadalupe

Local cheeses and fruit, tapanade from Susan Monsalve, El Jardin de Adobe.

The next course was a complementary plate of crostini topped with a rustic bruschetta of locally grown organic tomatoes accompanied by a very nice local olive oil and chili sauce. Satiated with entradas, we were ready to try a couple of the a la carte courses. Oh, and the menu at El Jardin will be changing weekly to feature seasonal specialties year-round, so there’s no guarantee that any of these dishes will be on the menu when you visit (though favorites I’m guessing will probably become somewhat perennial).

Crostini with Rustic Bruschetta, El Jardin de Guadalupe.

Several items were recommended. We tried some but missed a few that sounded very good – such as the black risotto with crispy octopus and the aged ribeye with potatoes and garden vegetables. We did order the grilled quail with garlic and beetroot, three ways, Mexican foie gras and the escargot of chipotle and lime. Upon delivery of our order from our waiter (an amigo formerly with Valle restaurant Santa Brasa), Ryan called to us from the kitchen, “Quail, foie gras and escargot. You are a man who likes to eat well!”. And we did eat very well indeed.

The escargot was delivered to the table in a cazuela, still bubbling hot. We loved how Ryan had taken a dish that is typically served elegantly in-shell or on a fussy escargot plate and presented it instead in rustic, indigenous stone cookware. After a brief period of cooling, we swirled the meaty morsels of snail around the buttery, garlicy and smoky chipotle lime sauce and plopped the plump pulmonata in our mouths. We sopped up every bit of the juice with more bread in a bag. If I lived in the Valle, I would stop by to say “hola” and order this dish from Ryan every day. It’s that good.

Escargot with chipotle and lime.

You can’t enjoy foie gras in California due to state law forbidding the production and sale of the delicacy here. But in Baja California, not only is it permissible, it’s highly encouraged. Chef Ryan has had a reputation in the region as one of the chefs who best handles the delicacy and we were eager to try this illicit dish. A buttery and generous slice of foie gras is served with a caramelized layer of rendered fat on top (which El Gringo’s hijo thought – mistakenly – was a layer of chocolate, much to our amusement when he took a big bite). The foie was all creamy goodness and the layer of fat added nice substance, flavor and texture. The pomegranate provided a bittersweet snap to the whole affair, which was – once again – artfully presented in the middle of a stark, white plate.

Mexican foie gras with pomegranate.

El Gringo has had mixed experiences with quail. When they’re too small, they can be stringy and tend to overcook easily. But chef Ryan’s quail were plump, juicy, well seasoned and grilled for just the right amount of time with a slight crispy sear on the skin.  We savored every savory bite and I really liked the beetroot served three ways – the root, the greens and a puree of the root. I’ve always been a fan of beets, and the taproots grown in the Valle de Guadalupe can’t be…beat!

Grilled quail with garlic and beetroot three ways.

We ended our lunch with lemon finger popsicles with sage, direct from Ryan’s freezer. Presented in a plastic tupperware popsicle mold, I had a flashback to the 70’s for a moment as we grew up with this economical and highly customizable form of frozen concoction delivery. Finishing our wine and popsicles, Susan arrived just as we were about to leave with gifts of Ryan’s “Foodie Flavors” and her “Baja Country Veggies” marmalades and sauces – a fig tequila marmalade, artichoke pesto, tapanade verde and cilantro chimichurri. We loved them all and only the chimichurri remains (and only because we don’t eat a lot of red meat at home). Gracias Susan!

For dessert, a frozen lemon finger with sage.

Marmalades and spreads from Foodie Flavors by Ryan Steyn and Baja Country Veggies by Susan Monsalve.

Leaving El Jardin de Adobe was similar to stepping out of a dream and back into real-time as we made our way up the highway and to our very short wait at the Tecate border (5 minutes on a Sunday night, if you can believe that!). If you’re looking for a shady oasis in the Valle de Guadalupe with great food, wine and atmosphere, stop by and let Chef Ryan Steyn spoil you in the comfort of his new backyard. And let him know El Gringo sent you!

Your Gringo in Mexico,
Scott

To get to El Jardin de Adobe in the Valle de Guadalupe, arriving to the small village of El Porvenir from the south, follow signs at the end of town to the left on a dirt road to Adobe Guadalupe. The guard can direct you to the restaurant. Prices are inexpensive – moderate.

Ryan’s Foodie Flavors and Baja Country Veggies marmalades and sauces are available for sale at the restaurant, at Adobe Guadalupe and at shops throughout the Valle de Guadalupe.

Phone :+52-646-1552879; www.adobeguadalupe.com.

 

W. Scott Koenig (El Gringo) has traveled extensively throughout Mexico since the mid 90’s — from the streets of Tijuana to the beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula to the country’s Spanish Colonial heartland. His blog,www.AGringoInMexico.com, reports on Mexican destinations, cuisine, culture and adventure south of the border. He also blogs extensively for Baja.ca and has been published in the Baja Times (Baja’s largest English language newspaper) and Destino magazine in Los Cabos. Scott also reports on food in Tijuana and Oaxaca at Chowzter.com. Additionally, he is the founder and creative director of Koenig Creative LLC in San Diego, a full service design and marketing agency.

Baja.ca is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.ca.

 

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