2017 Baja (& Baja inspired) Fests!

It’s warming up; daylight savings time has begun; and (I hope) the heaviest rains are behind us. We’re heading into Baja festival season! Here are a few of our faves; check back for updates and additions.

Sabor Latino – Saturday, March 18, Fashion Valley, San Diego – We were impressed by this event last year, and it looks like even more Baja chefs and wineries are participating in 2017. Lineup includes Sabina Bandera of La Guerrerense; Bo Bendana of Mi Casa Supper Club; Giannina Gavaldon of Olivia El Asador Del Porvenir; Ruffo Ibarra of Oryx Capital; and Omar Armas of Mantou Gastropub, with Border X Brewing, Lomita, Adobe Guadalupe, Torres Alegre, Villa Montefiori and Casa Magoni pouring. All part of the San Diego Latino Film Fest, and proceeds benefit the very worthy nonprofit Media Arts Center. I’ve been told that the promo code DRINKGREATBEER will get you a $5 discount, and we highly recommend going for the VIP package. Details & tickets>>

Chef Giannina Gavaldon with her comadre from Olivia at Sabor Latino 2016. Not only is her food delicious, it’s great to see her in SD and we covet Chef’s cool ikat apron!

Festival de Las Conchas y El Vino Nuevo – Sunday, April 23, Hotel Coral, Ensenada. This event, which kicks off the Baja Food Fest season every year, is a REAL winner. It got a bit crowded last year, but still plenty of opptys to taste great wine & cuisine while meeting some of Baja’s top winemakers & chefs, all in a fabulous setting along the Coral’s marina. Get ready to sample fantastic clams, mussels, oysters, abalone + latest wine releases, all included! Tix are just a tad over $30. Read my post about Conchas last year and get your 2017 tickets here!>>

Why do we love Conchas? It educates you about the variety of Baja seafood while you enjoy a lovely afternoon sampling delicious shellfish and wines. And you meet cool folks, too!

Rosarito Art Fest – Saturday & Sunday, May 27-28, Rosarito Beach – Dates have not been posted for 2017, altho it’s regularly on Memorial Day wknd. This FREE event features great art, crafts, music and dance, and there’s usually plenty of food and drink to go around, too. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for more info>>

Art is the main attraction, but you can definitely enjoy eating & drinking at the Rosarito Art Fest.

Vinedos en Flor – Saturday, June 3, Finca La Carrodilla, Valle de Guadalupe – Last year this event was at Bibayoff on a drizzly, gray afternoon. Since food was not included and there was no live music, it didn’t seem as great a value as some of the other Baja festivals. But we managed to commandeer a table, taste some great wines and make new friends. We have high hopes for the 2017 edition, to be hosted by one of our faves, Finca La Carrodilla! More info>>

Friends enjoying wine from the wonderful Lechuza at last year’s Vinedos en Flor.

Verbena Campestre – Saturday, July 29, Vinedos San Cosme south of Ensenada – This may be the best-kept secret of all Baja food fests; it doesn’t seem to be on the gringo radar screen! Get ready for a fun, relaxing afternoon with folks who will become your new BFFs. With great live music and a big outdoor dance floor, this family-owned winery knows how to party! Tip: book a room in the vicinity; driving back after THAT much fun can be challenging. Or, is it just us? Keep an eye on their Facebook page for more info>>

And . . . even more friends at Verbena Campestre 2016!

SAVE THE DATES:

Fiesta de la Vendimia Paella Fest – Sunday, August 20, Valle de Guadalupe – you can’t miss this tradition, the grand finale to the annual grape harvest festival. Although it’s huge, there’s plenty of paella and wine to go around, along with two stages with live music and tons of tables under the trees. All paella is cooked over wood fire, and there’s a competition among the paella-producing teams. Tix usually go on sale in May and you should get them ASAP; it always sells out! More info>>

The annual Vendimia Paella Fest is not only delicious and fun, it’s also very photogenic!

Sabor De Baja – Wednesday, August 30 – Rosarito Beach Hotel – we were very impressed with Sabor last year. The caliber of restaurants and wineries was excellent at this well-organized event, which pairs dishes by Baja chefs with delicious local wines and cervezas. Look for more details in the coming months!

We look forward to Sabor de Baja 2017!

Gracias for photos by Bob Gove and Rafael Rush.

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!

 

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 I)

My good friend Patti and I have been talking about a girls’ trip to Valle de Guadalupe for ages. She hadn’t been in more than a decade, and after hearing my tales of fabulous new places in which to eat, drink and stay, she wanted to experience it for herself. Once Patti got her GOES card and could cross in my SENTRI-fied vehicle . . . game ON! Speaking of game, we chose Super Bowl weekend for our Friday-to-Sunday adventure, figuring the football-frenzied fans would be glued to their big-screen TVs and out of our way. And, although weather can be a crap shoot in February – especially during a much-ballyhooed El Niño year – we lucked out, with beautiful, summery, sun-splashed days and clear, star-studded nights.

We moseyed down the coast, turning inland at La Misión in order to approach the Valle via the El Tigre/El Porvenir/Francisco Zarco road – my favorite way to arrive. The hillsides were beautiful and green – not something you see during the summer! Our inaugural tasting was at Lomita, a favorite Valle first stop. The only customers, we enjoyed having our run of the tasting room. Our host suggested Finca La Carrodilla as our next stop – turns out they are sister wineries.

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Carrodilla patio

Again, the only customers at La Carodilla, we enjoyed chatting with our hostess, Jasmine (with the sparkly sneakers and Jude the cat) and checking out the lovely garden patio. The ambiance was great and the wines, very tasty!

Jasmine & CR

Stop number three was Adobe Guadalupe; since I last visited, AG has added a new chapel-like tasting room in front of the B&B. AG’s red blends, named for archangels, were as delicious as ever; I was tempted, but had to stop myself, from tasting Lucifer, their mezcal. We enjoyed their shopping opportunities and bought a bottle of Miguel – a wonderful blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache & Merlot – for our casita. TIP: if you can get reservations for the VIP tasting at AG, DO IT: the special experience is well worth it.

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AG horses

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Time to travel to Viníphera for our spa appointment! This tiny refuge, located in modified shipping containers perched against a Valle hillside behind Quinta Monasterio, is a true gem. At first I thought their package prices were a bit high by Mexico standards, but now I understand – each is intended to be a true experience – Viníphera is not a massage-by-the-minute machine.

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In the past, I had purchased their wine-infused bath & body products (including my favorite exfoliating scrub with grape seeds & peels) at the Rosarito Art Fair, and when I learned they opened a spa, I HAD to visit! Patti and I were the only customers in the facility, which has a changing area, bath with indoor/outdoor showers, sauna, two massage tables and a lovely terraza. We enjoyed our hands-and-feet ritual (soak, scrub, massage, moisturize) while watching the sun slip behind the hills. This was followed by a special request “fango” (mud) treatment, and a neck/shoulder massage to conclude. Feeling ultra-relaxed, we pulled on our clothes and headed to the cozy tasting room for the delicious glass of wine and salad included in our spa package.

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One disadvantage of staying in the Valle in wintertime: the days are short. And, it REALLY gets dark in the Valle once that sun goes down! Plus, even if it doesn’t rain while you’re visiting, mud abounds, since nothing is paved once you get off the three main roads.

Mud-caked tire

We left the spa in pitch darkness. I had planned to cut across the Valle to stop at Finca Altozano  – but we were faced with a HUGE mud bog, stretching from edge to edge of the dirt road to La Finca. Begrudgingly, we turned around and stayed on pavement through Francisco Zarco to Highway 3, hell-bent on finding Casa Mayoral, our lodging.

This was not easy. It was super dark, no moonlight and traffic on the highway does not tolerate those who don’t know where the heck they’re going! I pulled off on the shoulder, realizing we were close . . . and lo and behold, the access road to Casa was right across the highway. Now, Casa Mayoral is not big; it consists of four modern & comfortable cabins/casitas approximately one mile off the highway toward the hills, hidden behind a cluster of trees. We followed the low-key signage and, gracias a dios, safely arrived at Casa! We were warmly welcomed by Eduardo Mayoral, the wonderful host who speaks excellent English. Gratefully, we checked in, made ourselves at home in our cabin/casita, and uncorked a bottle of wine. We’d already had a grand adventure, and this was just Day One!

NEXT UP: More on Casa Mayoral; Mercado Orgánico; El Mogor & Natalia Badan; Tres Mujeres; Viñas de Garza; Finca Altozano; Deckman’s; Clos de Tres Cantos; Vinícola Retorno; Malva. Stay tuned!

Photos by Patti Anderson & Carole Ravago

Food, Wine . . . and Film!

Last week brought a double shot of Baja to La Jolla! eatdrinkbaja felt fortunate to attend an event by The Baja Kitchen at PIRCH, the super high-end kitchen-bath-and-more-store at UTC. The well-organized events, hosted by the Mexico Tourism Board-San DiegoConservatorio de la Cultura Gastronómica Mexicana Región Baja California and Rancho La Puerta, are free but fill up VERY quickly.

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Chef Ryan Steyn – originally from South Africa but now at the helm of El Jardin de Adobe at Adobe Guadalupe in Valle de Guadalupe, owner of The CookBook culinary school in Ensenada and more – got the party started, regaling us with tales of a chef’s life in Baja while he prepared a cold salmon dish with oyster sauce, persian cucumber, grape tomatoes, red onion and chile güero from Mexicali, topped with a crisp chicharrón.

IMG_20151001_183246The delicious dish was paired with Herencia, a blend of Cabernet, Merlot & Malbec from Bodegas F. Rubio in the Valle, poured by Francisco Rubio Rangel. Chef Ryan also prepared a risotto with king trumpet mushrooms that I can’t stop thinking about!

IMG_20151001_185417He showed us how to very lightly score the cut side of the mushroom and place it face down on the plancha to bring out the full flavor. The finished dish was paired with F. Rubio’s tasty Malbec, a varietal I haven’t seen often from Baja wineries. Our group was then greeted by Tru Miller of Adobe Guadalupe – the Valle’s pioneer bed & breakfast inn and winery – and Chef Denise Roa of Rancho La Puerta – a place that’s been on my personal bucket list for years.

IMG_20151001_191213Chef Denise fed us her chayote “lasagna;” roasted red & yellow tomatoes; fresh heirloom and black truffle tomatoes from The Ranch; and a gluten-free brownie, all served with Kerubiel and Rafael wines from AG. Quite the feast! Sunday found us at the San Diego Film Festival’s new culinary track, with screenings at Arclight UTC of two chef-related films, King Georges and Cooking Up a Tribute. After each film was a fun panel discussion and Q&A;IMG_0958[1]then we were treated to (YES!) nibbles by French Chef Yannick Alleno, Chef Bernard Guillas of The Marine Room, Chef Aron Schwartz of Marina Kitchen, and Chef Chad White of East Village’s Común & Tijuana’s La Justina, who served up a zesty cobia aguachile.

IMG_0961[1]We were fortunate to have the friendly Fernando Gaxiola of Baja Wine + Food pouring our vino, and an encore appearance by Tru Miller, who brought AG’s Gabriel, Kerubiel and even the mescal, Lucifer. Isn’t it appropriate that all Adobe’s wines are named after archangels . . . and their mescal is named for the devil?

Muchas gracias for photos by Patti Anderson.