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.

A Tale of Four Food Fests: Part III

Imagine a sunny summer Sunday afternoon in Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe. Sure, it’s hot, but you’ve secured a great table for your entourage to soak up the atmosphere under expansive oak trees. There’s plenty of great wine for tasting, and a bevy of bottles for sale once you’ve found your fave. And with so much delicious food to go around, you’ll certainly not go hungry!2016-paella-wine-pour

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dscn1703Welcome to the Ramón García Ocejo Concurso de Paella, the traditional closing event of the Valle’s annual Fiestas de la Vendimia, or grape harvest festival. Each year, Vendimia organizers add more and more events, but the Paella Fest remains one of the Valle’s best bets.

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With about 90 paella-producing teams (all cooking over wood fires; no propane allowed!), 50 or so Baja wineries, and two stages with live music, it’s a most enjoyable way to spend a hot August afternoon. Tickets to this über-popular event go fast and are usually first offered online in late May. Click here for information about this and other Vendimia events. Don’t miss this perennial favorite next August!

Gracias for photos by Bob Gove, and for the friends who accompanied us! 

 

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!

Verbena Campestre 2016San Cosme

 

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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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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 

 

 

End-of-Summer Baja Blitz!

We in the U.S. may be back to work and school, but the fun in Baja is never-ending. Here’s a quick look at happenings on the eatdrinkbaja radar screen. And I hope you’ll subscribe to receive future posts via email! Click on the “subscribe” button on the “rail” on the right side of my home page. Gracias!!

TJ Beer Fest11th Annual TJ Beer Fest this Friday 9/18 & Saturday 9/19. Caliente Stadium in Tijuana. About $12 in advance, $14 at the door. Organizers claim there will be 200+ beers. An event worth checking out!

Festival de Queso, Vino y Cerveza Artesanal this Saturday 9/19, noon – 9 pm at the Baja California Queso-Vino-FestCenter just north of Rosarito. FREE, but not sure – do you pay for your tastes? Live music! Local productos artesenales! And a good reason to check out the beautiful new Convention Center.

Ensenada International Seafood Festival this Sunday, 9/20, spotlights local restaurants and celebrates the treasures of the sea. We hear this will be across from Riveria del Pacifico on Blvd. Costero. We believe this is free; you pay for individual tastes/drinks, but usually prices are low and portions are grande. Warning: it is listed in San Diego Magazine, but we can’t find anything else about it online. Hope it wasn’t on hold this year due to . . .

Festival Baja Seafood, culminating in the Baja Seafood Trucks Festival Sunday, 9/27 from noon at the Museo el Caracol, which (I believe) is also acrossFestival Baja Seafood Trucks from Riviera del Pacifico on Blvd. Costero in Ensenada. FREE event; betcha gotta to pay for your tastes, but they are usually reasonably priced, delish and substantial.

 

Bajamar Wine Tasting, Saturday 10/3, 3 pm. Sounds like a nice event! Six wines from Nativo in Valle de Guadalupe, with food pairings and live jazz at Bajamar, north of Ensenada. Bajamar Nativo eventLooks like Nativo’s Benjamin Pena (one of our new BFFs) will be pouring and serving as your wine concierge. $50 for the experience.

 

7th Annual Fiesta de la Paella, Folklore y Vino, Sunday 10/4 from 1 pm. This event, in the Jardines del Riviera in Ensenada, looks fun! Paella Fest Oct 4 2015About $10, not sure what’s included. If you check it out, let us know how it goes!

 

Baja Culinary Fest, Thursday 10/ 8 through Sunday 10/11. This annual event toggles between Tijuana and Valle de Guadalupe. This year, looks like most events will be in/around Tijuana’s CECUT. Traditionally there is a public tasting event to close the Fest; Baja-Culinary-Fest-2we’ve been to them @ Encuentro & Vinas la Erre in the Valle, as well as @ CECUT in TJ. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more about this year’s events!

14th Annual Tequila  Expo Tijuana, Wednesday 10/14 – Sunday 10/18 – Right on Revolucion @ 7th, bigger every year and now five days!! A nominal cover charge ($6,tequila-expo-TJ mas o menos) gets you plenty of tastes from dozens of tequilarias. Food, full-sized beverages available for purchase; fun music and entertainment provided, and some of the best people-watching on the west coast.

 

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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Vendimia Paella Fest tix!

It’s a miracle: tix for the perpetually sold out Fiestas de la Vendimia Paella Fest are available online tonight! Move quickly, as they may be cut off any minute. Believe me, they’re as hot as Rolling Stones tix, and a lot cheaper! http://bit.ly/1CNhru5

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