Sabor de Baja Update

A quick update on Sabor de Baja, coming next Wednesday, August 31 from 6 to 10 pm in the oceanfront gardens of the Rosarito Beach Hotel. Tickets for this showcase of Baja’s top chefs are selling fast; we suggest you email sabordebaja@gmail.com right away to check availability!

Participating restaurants include: Finca Altozano, Malva, Olivia El Asador del Porvenir, Sanvil, Hacienda Guadalupe, Mixtura, Almazara, Tre Galline, Fuego, La Terrasse San Roman, Planta Baja, Navio, ORYX, Rosarito Beach Hotel, Villa Saverios, Caesar’s, Latitude 32 and Mi Casa Supper Club. Wine & beer pairings will be provided by Vintango, Claudius, Madera 5, Vinícola Regional de Ensenada, Alximia, Legado Sais, Relieve, Monte Xanic, Vinícola El Cielo, Adobe Guadalupe, Montefiori, Montano Benson and Wendlandt.

We hope to see you there!

 

Enjoy Baja’s flavors at Sabor de Baja

The 4th annual Sabor de Baja takes place Wednesday, August 31 from 6 to 10pm in the oceanfront gardens of the venerable Rosarito Beach Hotel. It’s brought to us by the fine folks at Mi Casa Supper Club in San Antonio del Mar, Chef Bo and husband Dennis. Billed as a friendly culinary competition among Baja’s top chefs, Sabor is unique: each dish is paired with wine from Valle de Guadalupe or one of Baja’s unique craft beers. Two awards will be presented that evening: one by a panel of distinguished celebrity judges, and the other, a people’s choice award. Warning: if you’re attending this event, you must wear white! We’re really excited to attend (it’s our first time, and it looks so casually elegant) and we plan to interview the judges and chefs before the event, so stay tuned! Check out Sabor’s Facebook page for updates on participating chefs; tix are available at locations in Rosarito and via PayPal at Sabordebaja@gmail.com, but Sabor sold out last year, so we recommend you get your tix now!

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¡Latin Food Fest! this weekend

We’re looking forward to the 4th Annual Latin Food Fest this weekend! Although the Friday Chef’s Night Out Kickoff Party and Monday’s Latin Caribbean Supper Club events are sold out, tix are still available for the Grande Tasting this Saturday (21+) & Sunday (All Ages).

Embarcadero Marina Park North is the new venue for both days. We love the fact that it’s all-inclusive; once you’re in, all your tastes/samples are free, and promoters tout 100 food, wine and spirits tasting stations. The cooking demos are fun, and have you ever been to a Michelada contest? Can’t wait to see who wins! Music will be provided by Cuba’s Amistad Cubana.

Participating chefs include Martin San Roman of Valle de Guadalupe’s La Terrasse San Roman & San Diego’s Dobson’s; Jaime Chavez of Little Italy’s Sirena; Claudia Sandoval, winner of Master Chef Season 6; and Sandra Vazquez of Tijuana’s La Mestiza. We also want to check out Martin Omar, a strong advocate of Dominican cuisine, and Felipe Raul, who incorporates Puerto Rican influences into his dishes.

You can get tickets by clicking here. Hope to see you at the ¡Latin Food Fest! this weekend!

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Best of Summer Events!

It’s high season for Baja-related food and fun festivals! Here are our recommendations.

Saturday, July 30 – Verbena Campestre, San Cosme Vineyards, Baja California, 2pm. We had a ton of fun at this event last year. South of Ensenada, a bit south of Maneadero, but not too far. Since it’s not in Valle de Guadalupe, this doesn’t seem to be on many gringos’ radar screens. Great atmosphere, wine tasting, good live music, wonderful people, food options for purchase. A fantastic afternoon, and this is the 5th Annual! New this year: buy tix online!

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Part of the eatdrinkbaja entourage caught in action on the dance floor at last year’s event (. . . and where was I?)

Friday – Monday, August 12-15, Latin Food Fest, Embarcadero Marina Park North, San Diego. It’s the 4th Annual in San Diego! You don’t want to miss the Grande Tasting on Saturday, with tons of food, beverages, chefs & cooking demos. It’s become an annual tradition. Get your tickets now!

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Saturday, August 20 – Baja Blues Fest, Rosarito Beach Hotel – Another great lineup this year! The food & drink offerings were a bit mundane on Saturday last year, but we’re hoping for an upgrade this year. Should be a wonderful afternoon. Buy tickets online!

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Sunday, August 21 – 2016 Vendimia Paella Fest, Vinas de Liceaga, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California – There are a TON of events this year for the Valle de Guadalupe’s Vendimia, or wine harvest festival. We love the Paella Fest, which closes the 3-week-long festivities. With more than 50 wineries and 80 paella-cooking teams on hand, it’s a true happening. Add live music on two stages and the opportunity to chat with chefs, it’s an afternoon you should not miss. Although attendance is over 1,000, it’s easy to grab a table under trees as your base camp, then wander amidst the wine and paella offerings. And at this moment, tix are available online!

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A Bevy of Baja Fests

We felt fortunate to check out three fun festivals in Baja during May: a past favorite and two that were new (for us).

First up: on May 14 we made it to Viñedos en Flor at Vinícola Bibayoff in Valle de Guadalupe. It’s put on by Comite Pro Vino, the fine folks who organize the Vendimia events each year, as well as the Conchas festival each April, which we adore. The price was right (under $22 per ticket, including currency conversion) and dozens of top wineries were pouring. It’s really great when so many owners/winemakers are present; it’s fantastic to meet and chat with them! We were especially pleased to see Lechuza, Legado Sais and Palafox on hand. Food was not included in the ticket price, and frankly, the culinary offerings could have been more varied. And, as our amigo Rafael noted, live music would also have improved the event. But it’s a family-oriented festival with lots of kid-friendly activities, and our multi-generational entourage, ranging from a 2-year-old toddler to a 90-something grandma, definitely had fun, even though the May Gray stuck around all day.

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Last Saturday we spent another May Gray day at the Rosarito Art Fest. For the first time since we’ve been attending – and, that’s been about five years – it was NOT held on Rosarito’s main street, Boulevard Benito Juarez. It had been promoted as being at Castillos del Mar, but a last minute switch pushed it to the new CEART, just a bit further southeast. This fest is a neat mix of crafts, art and photography, with plenty of food, wine and other beverages, music and dance thrown in. We purchased some art and jewelry, heard some great jazz, met new friends and enjoyed hanging with existing ones. We capped off the experience with a delicious dinner at Tapanco a bit later.IMG_1315IMG_1299IMG_1301IMG_1294IMG_1308IMG_1297IMG_1321IMG_1322cropHeading north mid-day Sunday after Bob’s surf session with buddies and breakfast at La Estancia, we decided to stop at the Tijuana Jazz & Blues Festival. This is an impressive, FREE event! Held on Avenida Revolucion between 4th & 6th Streets, there’s a large stage at one end and a smaller stage for in-between sets at the other. Grupo Plascencia is a big sponsor, so their food options were plentiful, but there were other offerings, as well as wine tasting, beer and the ubiquitous fruit punch drinks in clay pots found at almost every festival in Mexico. We enjoyed La Covacha Big Band and Hola Soy Lola, but unfortunately had to leave before Cuba’s Calixto Oviedo and San Diego’s wonderful Gilbert Castellanos took the stage. We’ll keep an eye out for this event next year, and will hopefully be able to stay longer!IMG_1324IMG_1325IMG_1327IMG_1334IMG_1332Porkys cropStay tuned to eatdrinkbaja.com for news about the best upcoming Baja-related festivals!

What’s Happening/¿Que Onda?

We’re heading into high season for Baja food & drink-related festivals on both sides of the border! Follow along, amigos/as . . .

Saturday, April 30: Fiesta del Mar, Imperial Beach Pier Plaza
Noon to 7pm, free admission! Kudos to Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina and Rosarito Beach Mayor Silvano Abarca for collaborating on this cross-border celebration of friendship. It will feature Baja-inspired cuisine from chefs, including Javier Plasciencia (Misión 19, Finca Altozano, Bracero + more), beer and wine from Baja, and music including Todo Mundo. How cool is that? More info>>

Saturday, May 7: San Diego Paella & Wine Fest, Waterfront Park, Embarcadero, San Diego
Noon to 7pm, tix $64+. Paella-cooking teams will vie in a number of categories, and beer, wine and tequila tastes will be offered. HINT: go early; at last year’s event, many wineries ran out of product in less than two hours. The paella servings will likely be staggered, so pay attention to the schedule! More info>>

Saturday, May 14: Viñedos en Flor, Vinícola Bibayoff, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California
Noon; tix online approx. $20. Put on by Baja’s Comite ProVino, this benefit, a campestre or “country” festival, promises to be family-oriented, but will also feature plenty of wine tasting and local food products for purchase. We’ll be checking it out for the first time ourselves! More info>>

Saturday, May 21: San Diego Taco Fest, Waterfront Park, Embarcadero, San Diego
11am to 10pm, GA tix $22, does NOT include food and/or beverage. But a portion of the door benefits San Diego Music Foundation! 20+ restaurants; fun bands, including B*Side Players, Todo Mundo + the ever-popular El Vez. More info>>

Saturday, May 28 & Sunday, May 29: Rosarito Art Festival, Rosarito Beach, Baja California
11am to 8pm, FREE event that is moving this year from Blvd. Benito Juarez near the RB Hotel to Castillos del Mar, KM 30 on the free (Popotla Blvd.) road south! It’s been getting better each year; we’ll see how it shapes up in the new location. There have been great local cheeses, salsas and wines – as well as art, music and dance – in past years. More info>>

And stay tuned for posts about more events and happenings in the San Diego/Northern Baja region, as well as our recommendations and reviews!

Rosarito & Conchas: What a Weekend!

We picked the perfect weekend for our stay at the Rosarito Beach Hotel, won at last year’s Baja Blues Fest raffle. Heading south on April Fool’s Day, we stopped at Mariscos Tito’s for a late lunch. It’s the big blue canopy-covered establishment east of McDonald’s in Rosarito, on the right just after you cross the bridge. Bob warned me about large servings, so I thought I was being conservative when I ordered just one shrimp tostada and one mariscos al ajillo taco.

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One shrimp tostada easily turns into three @ Mariscos Tito’s

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Mariscos al Ajillo taco @ Mariscos Tito’s

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Part of the offerings at Mariscos Tito’s

HA! One would have been PLENTY. Tito’s tostadas come with two ADDITIONAL crispy tortillas, since the main one is heaped SO high, you need to spread the topping around. They were both delicious and fresh; the mariscos ajillo was definitely the most interesting. I’ll be back to try their almejas gratinadas, the pescado sarandeado and the molcajete de camaron. It’s a family atmosphere, kind funky (tacos are served on plates covered with plastic bags for easy clean-up), but the flavors – and the values – are incredible.

Highlights of our Rosarito Beach stay included a beautiful sunset from our balcony, great breakfast at Los Pelicanos (who knew they had such a wonderful fruit plate?), relaxing massages in RBH’s Casa Playa Spa (I pray the Familia Torres never tears down that lovely building), and dinner at Ollie’s Pizza with friends Ron & Terri Raposa.

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Sunset from our room at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

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Fruit plate at Los Pelicanos in Rosarito Beach

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A relaxed Bob in the lobby of the lovely Casa Playa Spa @ RB Hotel

The REAL reason we chose this weekend? Festival de las Conchas y el Vino Nuevo at Hotel Coral, just north of Ensenada. We spread word about the fantastic time we had last year, and were were THRILLED when two groups of friends joined us this year, increasing our entourage to nearly a dozen. The well-organized event was WAY more crowded than last year, but food (oysters, mussels, clams and an occasional paella), wine, chefs and winemakers were still VERY accessible. I love the educational component (chef demos, displays of Baja seafood products) and the opportunity to meet interesting attendees. We loved seeing and/or chatting with everyone, including Drew Deckman of Deckman’s, Diego Hernandez of Corazon de Tierra, Adria Marina of Don Ramen, Javier Plasciencia of Finca Altozano and Memo Ramirez of La Concheria (among others, to be sure). Tru Miller of Adobe Guadalupe was proudly pouring the latest release of her Uriel rosé (DELICIOUS!); great to see Natalia Badan of Mogor Badan and folks from faves Rondo del Valle, Finca la Carrodilla, Cava Maciel, Relieve Vinicola and Vinicola Retorno on hand.

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It got a bit crowded, but there was plenty of food, wine and fun to go around

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Gotta love these local products!

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Chef Drew serving up oysters

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17-year-old winemaker (Ana Sofia?) proudly showing off her tasty Flor de Roca Cabernet

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Part of Team EatDrinkBaja!

The 2016 Baja festival season is JUST beginning. Stay tuned for a look ahead at the fun and delicious opportunities, and I hope you will attend the Festival de las Conchas y el Vino Nuevo in 2017!

Gracias for photos by Bob Gove & Rafael Rush 

 

 

Why you need to visit Baja this weekend

We’re really looking forward to the weekend! At last year’s Baja Blues Fest we bought a single raffle ticket and (hooray, luck!) won the grand prize, so we’ll stay at the Rosarito Beach Hotel (a tiny upgrade from Bob’s palatial seaside estate) and enjoy a couples’ massage at the RBH spa, in the beautiful edifice that was formerly the home of the RBH’s owners. The main reason we’re heading south this weekend is the Festival de las Conchas y El Vino Nuevo. It’s the culmination of four days in Baja, including abalone cultivation site visits, workshops + more. Ensenada/Valle restaurants (Boules, Malva, Manzanilla, Deckman’s, Corazon de Tierra + Traslomita) are also planning special dinners Thursday + Saturday. We’ll enjoy the Grand Festival at a lovely setting just outside Hotel Coral, north of Ensenada on Sunday, April 3 starting @ noon; it was one of our fave Baja fests last year, well organized, not too crowded, everyone in a great mood and opportunity to chat w/chefs. More than 40 restaurants (offering varied treatments of clams, mussels, oysters and abalone) + 54 wineries will participate! And tix are reasonable: about $30 online including service charge + currency conversion. HINT: pack a wine glass to avoid buying one onsite. WILL WE SEE YOU THERE?

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Gracias por fotos from 2015 Festival de las Conchas y el Vino Nuevo by Bob Gove.

Upcoming Events in SD + BC

Spring has almost sprung. What does that mean? Festival season is upon us! Here are a few events on the eatdrinkbaja radar screen. Check back again, as more events will be posted soon!

Saturday, March 19 Sabor Latino, Fashion Valley

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This event, benefiting Media Arts Center San Diego’s youth media scholarships and part of the San Diego Latino Film Festival, boasts some great Baja chefs, including Miguel Angel Guerrero of La Querencia + La Esperanza, Diego Hernandez of Corazon de Tierra, Oso Campos of Tacos Kokopelli + Martin San Roman of La Terrasse San Roman PLUS Border X Brewery, Adobe Guadalupe, Villa Montefiori, Lomita + Vena Cava. $35/advance seems quite reasonable!

Saturday, March 19 + Sunday, March 20, Latin American Art Festival, Liberty Station

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We were unable to attend last year, but this FREE festival claims to feature Baja chefs + wines in addition to more than 100 artists. We think it’s worth a check-out!

Sunday, April 3, Festival de Las Conchas y El Vino Nuevo, Ensenada

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This grand tasting was our runner-up for fave event of 2015, second only to the Vendimia Paella Fest, the granddaddy of all Baja food fests. At Conchas you’ll find more than 40 chefs serving up clams, mussels, oysters + abalone, raw & cooked to perfection, with about as many wineries pouring. Food station, winery lines were not long; chefs were happy to meet/chat; a great mix of locals + gringos in attendance; entertaining + educational cooking  demos. A fantastic way to spend the first Sunday in April for about $30 US! Highly recommended. Read about our visit last year. 

Girls’ Weekend in the Valle: A Trilogy (Part III)

After our tasting at Mogor Badan, we stopped by Deckman’s to put in our dinner reservation. Returning after our visits to 3 Mujeres, Viñas de Garza, Finca Altozano & La Esperanza, the sun was slipping behind the hills. Deckman’s is certainly the lowest key of the “high” cuisine restaurants I’ve visited in the Valle. Its intimacy makes Finca Altozano and La Esperanza seem rather large and, in comparison, somewhat commercial.

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Deckman’s is nestled under pine trees; the dining area’s walls are hay bales; its wooden tables rest upon a carpet of fallen leaves and pine needles. We felt fortunate that Chef Drew himself was in the house, diligently slaving over the firewood-fueled grill that is the restaurant’s centerpiece. Since he is a Michelin-starred chef, we HAD to go with the five-course tasting menu, which worked out to a very reasonable $45. We began with a fish sope (compliments of the casa), continued with delicious oysters mignonette, clam salpicon, quail with delicate mole and black beans, very moist and tender lobina (fish) and a decadent dessert. All the dishes were so beautifully presented!  A very memorable meal; after paying our tab, we paid our respects to Chef Drew.

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Sunday morning was our last at Casa Mayoral. We walked down to get a closer look at the ostriches (como se dice “ostrich” en español? Avestruz – thank you Eduardo Mayoral!) in a large pen on their neighbor’s property. From time to time the big birds would preen and bellow – quite interesting!

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After another great breakfast – this time, huevos a la mexicana – we packed up to journey out of the Valle. When we stopped in to say goodbye to Eduardo, we met Ismene Venegas, the chef at El Pintar de 3 Mujeres, which was closed for the winter. We look forward to sampling her cuisine on a future Valle visit!

Adios, Casa Mayoral! But we weren’t done eating and drinking our way through the Valle. We checked out the nearby Clos de Tres Cantos, which is artsy (love the cement easy chairs) yet casually elegant. But their wines? For us at least, not terribly memorable. Maybe we need to make a second visit . . .

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Speaking of low-key, we sought – and eventually found – Lechuza. I loved their wines I’d sampled at events, but had never visited their winery. Alas – they were closed! Hopefully you can catch them at KM 82.5. But don’t expect a lot of signage to help you find ’em!

Heading west, we stopped to peek at Finca La Divina on the outskirts of San Antonio de las Minas. This three-bedroom B&B opened about a year ago by fave Baja chef, Javier Plasciencia. Rita and her husband, from Mission Valley, were the only guests, and she encouraged us to snoop around. One look at La Finca’s great room – a lovely chef’s kitchen at one end, fireplace with sheepskin-strewn chairs clustered about in the middle, a bar well-stocked with Baja wines at the other end and cool art sprinkled in between – made me want to move in!

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The pool, jacuzzi and groovy chairs outside aren’t bad, either. According to Rita, stays at La Finca include breakfast whipped up by the onsite caretaker/manager, and guests can order food from Plasciencia’s Finca Altozano to be delivered! What a wonderful refuge right outside San Antonio, which felt like a bustling city after two bucolic days deeper in the Valle.

We found our way to Vinícola Retorno, which has to get the award for the funkiest winery we visited. But their wines: great! We enjoyed chatting with our young hosts and would have purchased a bottle, but were already at our limit for taking back to the U.S. We also stopped at Los Globos, the venerable cheese and gourmet goodies shop in San Antonio; we sampled a few and bought a big slice of their cheese with a crust of rosemary and other herbs. It’s called “greñudo,” which loosely translates to “shaggy” or “hippie” – imagine, a hippie cheese!

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I’d heard great things about Malva, named Baja’s best restaurant in 2014. Malva is just west of San Antonio, perched above the Mina Penelope winery. It’s on the first curve heading west; don’t blink or you’ll miss the turnoff! What a hidden gem with a fantastic vibe. Wish we’d been hungrier: Malva’s seven-course tasting menu was going for 600 pesos, or just $35 U.S! In my opinion, Malva’s grilled oysters won the prize for best dish on this trip. We also shared the duck carnitas sopes, which were very tasty and generous. Our server told us about the chowder with chicharrón de crab; I hope it will be on the menu when I return!

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We’d planned to stop at Madera 5 on our way back to El Sauzal; we know Chef Ryan Steyn had El Clavo, outside their tasting room. Alas, Madero 5 was locked up and from what we’ve learned, El Clavo has moved off the premises. Bummer – I love Madera’s Nebbiolo and Chef Ryan’s cuisine! We headed north, stopping at Popotla to visit with Bob and friends and catch a bit of the Super Bowl on our way back to San Diego. Although we gathered an awesome assortment of Baja wines, gourmet, bath & body products during our adventure, we kept talking about the things we should have bought.

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IMG_1196Hey, there’s always a reason to return to Baja and Valle de Guadalupe!

Photos by Patti Anderson, Carole Ravago & Bob Gove.