Wall Street Journal Critic Spits on the Mexican Wine Industry with Unusual Saltiness

Categories: Tijuana Sí!
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From two years ago...

This year's Vendimias, Provino's annual wine harvest festival in the Valle de Guadalupe saw another season of sold out events and special tasting dinners featuring some of the best chefs in the world. It was a challenge due to the fact that the government of Ensenada never fixed the collapsed highway and then made things worse by beginning construction during the busy weekends, snarling traffic on the free highway that runs through La Mision. 

On Saturday the 16th I attended the sold out Finca Altozano dinner in the Valle de Guadalupe that featured chefs Javier Plascencia (Finca Altozano, Misión 19), Jair Téllez (MeroToro, Laja), Timothy Hollingsworth (the Broad), Ori Menashe (Bestia) and more that prepared an amazing from an all star line up of chefs. Down the road at Corazon de Tierra, Latin 50 Best chef, Diego Hernandez cooked alongside chef Dante Neuquen from Monterrey, and in Ensenada, chef Benito Molina prepared a meal at Manzanilla using Ensenada products paired with legendary winemaker Hugo D'Acosta's wines. All in all the impressive events should speak for what's happening in the region but in a 24-hour trip, WSJ's Lettie Teague, who apparently wasn't treated as the important writer that she is, left with an attitude and just as uninformed as when she arrived.      


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Baja Chefs on the Move: Anniversaries, Expansions, and More!

Categories: Tijuana Sí!
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Courtesy of Manzailla restaurant

Tonight in Ensenada, one of the founders of Modern Mexican cuisine, chef Benito Molina will celebrate 14 years at Manzanilla with chefs Antonio Livier and Daniel Ovadia (Paxia, D.F.) at 8 P.M. When Molina first opened he was part of a small band of chefs that were the first generations of Mexican chefs that opened their own restaurants along with chef Enrique Olvera's Pujol in 2000, chef Jair Tellez's Laja in 2001, and chef Guillermo Berestain's Pangea in 1998. 

In those days, being a chef wan't a respectable profession in Mexico, and if you were a chef you wore a big hat and made Frenchy cuisine in a hotel--the Mexican cooking world in those years was still marked by the age of the Grandes Damas de la Cocina Mexicana, or grand ladies of the Mexican kitchen with chefs like Patricia Quintana, Suzana Palazuelos and Martha Chapa. They did beautiful presentations of traditional Mexican cuisine in their cookbooks and restaurants while the rest of the younger chefs made everything but Mexican cuisine.
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2014 Summer Dining Guide to the Valle de Guadalupe's Campestres, Stands and Restaurants

Categories: Tijuana Sí!
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Bill Esparza
Quail, a Baja tradition cooked over a wood fire



Last summer, Tijuana Si! declared 2013 as the year of the campestre, or country style restaurant with the opening of so many new places in Mexico's premier wine country. This year will certainly shatter the previous wine and dine season leading up to Vendimias (wine harvest festival) with even more places to enjoy wine country cuisine. There were a few twists and turns before getting to this point with the attempted land grab by Enrique Pelayo Torres and his cronies, which was put down by the feisty grass roots efforts by Por Un Valle de Verdad and there was the collapse of the toll road to Ensenada that has cut off one of the principal routes to the Valle. 


Despite these two inconveniences the summer dining season is already underway with restaurants like Finca Altozano, Malva, Troika and the newly opened Latitud 32 buzzing with diners. The majority of the clientele are still Mexicans from Baja, Mexico City and other parts of Mexico, but there are more U.S. citizens making it down to the fast growing Valle de Guadalupe. Here are some exciting old and new places to visit this summer to get you warmed up for Vendimias and to explore the best wine country in the Californias for those seeking approachable world class dining. 

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Festival de las Conchas y el Vino Nuevo 2014 Showcases Some of the Best Seafood Products in the Americas

Categories: Tijuana Sí!
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Bill Esparza
Baja shellfish at Popotla Beach


If you haven't heard the news lately, Baja shellfish is making waves all over the United States, from cultivated Baja kumamoto oysters now being sold on both coasts of the U.S., Baja kumiai oysters showing up at the Hollywood Farmer's Market, and Santa Monica Seafood, and the recent and welcome approval of chocolata and pata de mula ("mule's foot") clams for sale in the U.S., which are already popping up on sushi bar and raw bar menus in Los Angeles. But to enjoy them all in one place and affordable prices, one must still head to Baja California.


This Sunday, the annual Festival de las Conchas y Vinos Nuevos, or Shellfish and New Wines Festival, at the sea terrace alongside the Hotel Coral y Marina in Ensenada will feature the finest seafood purveyors of a variety of wild and cultivated oysters, geoducks, sea urchin, chocolatas, blood clams, abalone, pismo clams, pen shell clams, San Felipe white clams and more. 35 of the regions best restaurants plus guest chefs like Toluca's Pablo Salas (Amaranta) and State of Mexico's Arturo Fernandez (Raiz) will prepare dishes featuring the bounty of shellfish paired with Baja wineries serving crisp whites, roses, and other seafood friendly wines. All this for $400.00 MXP (around $30) for the ultimate Baja seafood extravaganza, but get there early, because Mexican food events run out of food quickly--I'll be lined up at 11 AM like them fools waiting for a ramen burger. 


Festival de la Conchas y Vinos Nuevo 2014, Sunday April 27, 12 PM at Hotel Coral y Marina's Sea Terrace, $400 pesos a person, for tickets go to Provino's online ticket service, provinoac.org


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Plan Tijuana: The Interrupted Renaissance of Avenida Revolución

Categories: Tijuana Sí!
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Bill Esparza
Caesar's Hotel during Prohibition


Oh to have been in Tijuana during prohibition, to have seen the shows, the glamour, and style at the Agua Caliente casino; to have bellied up to the Long Bar for a beer after having dined at Caesar's or Victor's on their famous table side salads. Back then Tijuana was a much different destination than it is today, I mean, you had a young Margarita Carmen Casino--later known as Rita Hayworth--dancing at the Caliente Club, and there were the horse races and gambling.


Tijuana was an adult playground and an escape from the irrationality of prohibition for Angelenos, just as was Havana for Miamians, until the U.S. repealed the Volstead Act and much of the action moved to Las Vegas. Today Tijuana is a Mexican food and wine lovers paradise, but there aren't enough attractions to warrant more than a weekend stay unless you hit Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe, and the vital culinary forces of region are sectarian. For us regulars, we've everything we need, and can go on exploring food and drink for years, but in order for Tijuana to return to its glory days it must become more than just a great place for food--Av. Revolución must rise from the ashes, and the rest of Baja will come along for the ride.  
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Mariscos El Güero, Ensenada, B.C.-The Ensenada Classic

Categories: Tijuana Sí!
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Bill Esparza
Mariscos El Güero


Before I ever discovered the world famous Mariscos La Guerrerense, I was a regular at a traditional seafood stand just a block away, where I first tried the Ensenada-style ground fish ceviche, and freshly shucked shellfish. Mariscos El Güero was and is a serious traditional seafood cart serving the finest products prepared by a mariscos master that along with La Guerrerense and Mariscos El Pizon, forms Ensenada's seafood cart triumvirate.


All of the traditional stands in Ensenada serve more or less the same regional menu of cocktails, ceviches, prepared shellfish, and tostadas (with the exception of the the aforementioned stands)--most are pretty good, but the quality and craftsmanship at El Güero are apparent, and at first bite--transcendent. There are so many tempting items on their menu but there are some dishes you don't want to miss, especially if your ambition is to win the triple crown and visit all three seafood powerhouses.   
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Ta'Costeño at the Food Truck Court, Estación 55: Chef Driven Street Food Enters the Third Wave

Categories: Tijuana Sí!
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Photo courtesy of Ta'Costeño


Chef driven street food in Mexico can trace its genesis to the landmark Tijuana taqueriaTacos Salceados, created almost a decade ago by a formally trained saucier, Javier Campos Gutierrez that introduced creative salsas emulsified with egg whites, fried cheese envelopes filled with surf and turf, and a line kitchen-style taqueria.Then came Tacos Kokopelli, from Tijuana Culinary Art School grad, chef Guillermo "Oso" Campos, and his innovative brand of grilled tacos featuring regional ingredients and sensibilities from the Yucatan, Puebla, Baja Californa and Oaxaca.


The trend has continued with food trucks from two young chefs that both made the Latin America 50 Best Restaurants list this past year--Edgar Nuñes Magaña opened Barra Vieja in Mexico City, and chef Diego Hernandez has parked Troika on the Villa del Valle property in the Valle de Guadalupe. With the latest entry into this fast growing sector of Mexican cuisine, Chef Rodolfo Luviano's (formerly of Tijuana's La Diferencia) Ta'Costeño formerly of Tijuana's La Diferencia--the third wave of chef driven street food is about to explode.  
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Pan Molocano and the Russian Pacifists of the Guadalupe Valley

Categories: Tijuana Sí!

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Dave Lieberman
Though wine grapes have been grown in the Valle de Guadalupe since the days of mission planting, by the late 19th century the wine industry had all but died off as the Republic of Mexico seized land held by the Roman Catholic Church. Faced with a new bureaucracy and administrators located weeks away in the Valley of Mexico, the wineries and the grapes withered and died.

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Ensenada's Newly Elected Legislative Council Says No to Pelayo

Categories: Tijuana Sí!
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Photo courtesy of Por un Valle de Verdad
The wine and food industry in Baja has good reason to be smiling


Two days ago, Ensenada's new government ended months of uncertainty in the Valle de Guadalupe and initiated the process to cancel the unpopular Sectorial Program for the Urban Touristic Development of the Wine Producing Valleys, which threatened to drastically transform Mexico top wine region into a highly unsustainable model for touristic purposes. 

Por un Valle de Verdad, a home-grown movement consisting of winemakers, chefs, hoteliers and farmers in the Valle de Guadalupe, has been fighting this land reuse proposal that was passed into policy in a closed door session, since the beginning. They even threatened to cancel Vendimias, the Valle's annual wine harvest festival. Between their press conferences, attendance at council meetings and social media activism, they've managed to garner local support and attract international attention to their cause to recall the proposal by the loathsome, ex-governor,  Enrique Pelayo Torres. For now it's hands off the Valle de Guadalupe, and a big win for Baja wine and food--and yes--Vendimias is on! 

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Flautas de Marlin at Tacos y Mariscos Ensenada in Playas de Tijuana

Categories: Tijuana Sí!
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Bill Esparza
Flautas de marlin at Tacos y Mariscos Ensenada


You will never stop hearing about the fantastic smoked marlin dishes here from Tijuana Si! staffers, like the famous taquitos de marlin at Mariscos Ruben, or the stewed tacos de marlin at Mariscos El Mazateño. Smoked marlin is a special product found on the Baja Peninsula, Sinaloa, Nayarit, the beaches of Sonora, and other Pacific coast states in Mexico. It is found in LA, the OC, and San Diego, but isn't as fresh or very inspired north of the border.


Tacos y Mariscos Ensenada in Playas de Tijuana is modeled after Mariscos Walter, with a menu that's virtually identical to the classic Tijuana seafood taco stand famous for it's taco de jamon del mar, or tuna of the sea--it's whole chunks of braised, smoked marlin on a tortilla. Tacos y Mariscos Ensenada also has their jamon del mar, but where they show a bit of originality is with their flautas de marlin, a dish that's worth the drive across the border all by itself. 
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