Mid-Summer Festival Update – Part I

We’ve been spending SO much time eating and drinking in Baja . . . we haven’t had time to blog about it! Here’s a recap of what we’ve been doing . . . and, because we’re in high season, very soon we’ll post a peek at what we’re looking forward to.

2017 Festival de las Conchas y el Vino Nuevo

What a way to kick off the Baja food festival season! This great event, held every April at Hotel Coral just north of Ensenada, brings out the best chefs and wineries and feels like a homecoming of sorts. Yes, it DID get a bit crowded this year, so go early, grab a table and settle in for an amazing afternoon. This year’s “friendly” oyster competition had chefs striving to outdo each other . . . and we attendees were the beneficiaries!

Great to see Leonardo Torres Lerdo de Tejada of Torres Alegre (although I did not recognize him without his beard) and his colleague at Conchas!

Chef Javier . . . is everywhere.

Loved seeing Chef Roberto Alcocer from Valle de Guadalupe’s Malva!

Team EatDrinkBaja is growing every year and gives Conchas multiple THUMBS UP!

Rosarito Art Fest 2017

OK, it’s not technically a food fest, but this annual FREE event offers plenty of opportunity to eat and drink . . . and serves up HUGE portions of art, music and dance. Takes place every Memorial Day weekend and for the second year was held at Rosarito’s CEART, a lovely venue south of town, just off the road to Popotla.

Check out these really cool masks. You can display one one your wall as a piece of art when you’re not wearing it!

Jorge, our Rosarito wine amigo.

Eating & drinking . . . ah, that’s what we do best.

Vinedos en Flor 2017

Held in June, this Valle de Guadalupe family-friendly fest was hosted for the first time by Finca La Carrodilla. Now, most Baja food fests we’ve attended have seating in the middle, with wine and food opportunities scattered around the edge. Probably due to lack of shade at Carrodilla, the vast majority of wineries, chefs and local product purveyors were clustered under a huge tent in the middle, with tables and hay bales for attendees strung along the outskirts. But there were great wineries represented, and of course, we managed to have a wonderful time! Gracias to Natalia of Mogor Badan, who seemed to be a ringleader of this fun event.

It was a bit hectic under the giant tent.


Team EatDrinkBaja @ Vinedos 2017!

Coming soon: previews of the upcoming Verbena Campestre, Fiestas de la Vendimia, Latin Food Fest, Baja Blues Fest, Vendimia Paella Fest and Sabor de Baja. Stay tuned!

Gracias por fotos by Bob Gove.

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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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.

Blues + Paella = A Very Filling Weekend

We survived – even thrived – during our Baja mega-weekend. Our first visit to the annual Baja Blues Fest @ Rosarito Beach Hotel was thoroughly enjoyable. We grooved to Missy Andersen, the Bayou Brothers w/our friend Sista Judy Seid (rubboard player extraordinaire) + Michelle Lundeen, Backwater Blues Band, Tijuana-based Hola Soy Lola and headliner Tommy Castro + The Painkillers. Great set up/sound, not crowded, colorful folks, great friends and reasonably-priced beverages.

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Then to Tapanco south of Rosarito for a lovely dinner with a great bottle of Emeve wine (which we won as part of a fantastic raffle prize at the Blues Fest) followed by a sampling of Tapanco’s secret delicious housemade ice cream: pumpkin, coconut, beet, tres quesos & tequila.

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But hey, the fun didn’t stop there! Sunday: Valle de Guadalupe for the Granddaddy of all Baja food fests: the Vendimia Paella Contest. What a wonderful scene! With 80 paella-making teams, 50 wineries, 2 live music stages + (my estimate) 2,000 attendees, it was well-organized with plenty of food, drink + fun to go around. Paella is, however, very filling and after two to three bowls, it can be a bit difficult to differentiate.

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My favorite team names? Las Ovejitas Disobedientes (the Disobedient Lambs) and La Flaca + El Gordo (the Skinny Gal & Fat Guy). And altho we didn’t sample his paella, always great to see favorite Baja Chef Javier Plasciencia participating. Don’t miss this fantastic festival next year! Thanks to technology, tix were available online in May, but sell out as fast as a Rolling Stones concert. If you’re interested in going next year, let me know soon; wouldn’t it be fun to put an eatdrinkbaja group together?

Muchas gracias for photos by Bob Gove.

Big Baja weekend: Blues Fest & Vendimia Paella Contest

What a weekend we have in store! Saturday is the Baja Blues Fest at Rosarito Beach Hotel, with music from noon to 8pm. Hope we’ll get there for Bayou Brothers w/Michelle Lundeen, and gotta stay for headliner Tommy Castro. Then Sunday we’re down to Viñas de Liceaga in Valle de Guadalupe for the venerable, ever-popular and sold out Fiestas de la Vendimia Paella Contest. It’s been more than 15 years since I last attended; will it be as cool? Maybe even better? 50 wineries, 80 paella-making teams! Check back for the scoop.

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