Don’t miss Baja Norte’s Gastro Party of the Year!

When does a food fest feel more like a big party? When it’s Sabor de Baja, silly! The 5th annual edition of Sabor is coming up Wednesday, August 30, in the oceanfront gardens of the venerable Rosarito Beach Hotel. We felt fortunate to attend last year; read our take-aways here. We were very impressed with the thoughtful event planning and the careful pairings of delicious dishes with Baja wines and craft beers; we can hardly wait to see what’s in store for this year! Expect fun live music, distinguished judges, and the opportunity for YOU to cast your vote for the People’s Choice Award. From what we’ve heard, participating restaurants will include Valle de Guadalupe’s Latitud 32, Mixtura, Tahal and the new La X, plus Rosarito’s Pasta y Basta and from Ensenada, Planta Baja and Mantou, winner of last year’s top prize. Wineries will include AliXima, Relieve and El Cielo, to name but a few. Gold level tix have already sold out, and we hear silver level tix are in short supply! Find out how to get tickets and check out the ticket/overnight packages. And, hey – don’t forget to wear white!

See? You’ve gotta wear white to Sabor de Baja! Just be very careful if you’re drinking (or near someone drinking) red wine.

Last year’s top prize went to Mantou, for this duck carpaccio, smoked with wood vines & mesquite, with goat cheese, pearl apricots and microgreens, paired with Corona del Valle Sauvignon Blanc. As delicious as it was beautiful!

We also loved this tuna with chile, grapefruit, watermelon, jicama & salsa de chapulines paired with 2014 Tintillo from Legado Sais.

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 IV

Does summer always save the best for last? Sabor de Baja was an incredible finale to last summer’s flurry of fun Baja culinary fests. Sabor is a true labor of love by the husband-and-wife team behind San Antonio del Mar’s Mi Casa Supper Club, Chef Bo Bendana and Dennis Sein. The fourth annual must-wear-white Sabor was held the last Wednesday evening of August in the beachfront gardens of the Rosarito Beach Hotel.
Although a mid-week event can be a bit challenging for those of us who have day jobs stateside, Sabor sells out every year. And, rightly it should! Bo and Dennis recruited thoughtful judges (this year including Jorge Meraz, host of KPBS’ Crossing South and MasterChef winner Claudia Sandoval) who participated in a blind tasting of not only great dishes, but also considered how they pair with Baja vinos and cervezas. It’s a well-organized event with great signage and opportunities to chat with chefs and winery reps. We loved the variety of dishes, wines and cervezas offered to guests. First prize went to Ensenada’s Mantou Gastropub, for their superb duck carpaccio (smoked with wood vines and mesquite) with goat cheese, pearl apricots and microgreens, paired with Corona del Valle Sauvignon Blanc. Second place went to Fuego Cocina del Valle, for their smoky pork paired with a sublime red from Vinicola Montano Benson. The judges gave the third place prize to Valle de Guadalupe’s Sanvil for their Mexico-meets-India mash-up: curried chicken liver sopes paired with cerveza from Compass Ales Brewery; and the People’s Choice prize went to Chabert’s at the Rosarito Beach Hotel, for their filet mignon with mushrooms, wine foam and sweet potato, paired with a 2013 Syrah by Claudius Vina y Bodega. We also loved Navio’s tuna with chile, grapefruit, watermelon, jicama and salsa de chapulines, paired with a 2014 Tintillo from Legado Sais; Mixtura’s oysters with mignonette and apple, paired with wine from Relieve; and Oryx Capital’s tomato and persian cucumber dish with mescal foam, paired with Cerveceria Ramuri beer. We were also ecstatic that longtime friend Jo Ann Knox Martino was pouring her delicious Cava Vintango Nebbiolo. Sabor was one of – if not THE – best Baja culinary event of 2016! It’s a fantastic way to get to know some of Baja’s most innovative eateries, wineries and breweries. Mark your calendars for August 30 (just over seven months away) and get your tickets early for Sabor de Baja 2017!

Watch a very cool video recapping Sabor 2016 by Once Upon A Time in Rosarito’s Scot Richardson:

Gracias por photos by Bob Gove. Sorry this post is so tardy; a fun holiday stay in Puerto Rico got in the way! Look for previews of the best 2017 Baja food fests soon.

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!

Sabor from abovechefs

 

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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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 

 

 

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.