Baja Bash to Benefit WILDCOAST

by Wendy Lemlin

baja bash

Having fun and conserving our coastlines on both sides of the border..

These days, everyone loves Baja, especially her beaches and coastal areas.  In fact, people love Baja so much, that much of her once mostly-deserted 1900 miles of coastlines have fallen under targeted assault from increased development and industrial growth. Coral reefs and mangrove forests teeming with fish and sealife, pristine beaches where endangered sea turtles nest, and bays that are the birthing areas for gentle California grey whales—all are in danger of disappearing, and the marine species and other fauna that depend on these fragile ecosystems are also in peril.

Luckily, 16 years ago WILDCOAST (aka COSTASALVAJE in Spanish) began working to watchdog and protect the marine ecosystems and wildlife on Baja’s coasts, as well as coastal areas in San Diego and in other Mexican and Latin American regions. Continue reading

Baja Exchange: A Crossborder Celebration of Baja Med Cuisine and Wines in San Diego

By Wendy Lemlin

Chef/owner Miguel Angel Guerrero

Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero

Fifteen years ago, Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero opened La Querencia in Tijuana, and BAJA MED cuisine was born. These days, the term “Baja Med” is bandied about constantly in foodie circles, but, what many people don’t know is that the term originated with Guerrero and is now copyrighted in the names of his restaurants. “Baja Med is what this region is all about”, he defines. “It melds together the street food from Tijuana, the seafood that fills the market stalls in Ensenada, Asian influences from Mexicali, and the Mediterranean-type ingredients, such as olive oils, wines, cheeses, meats and produce grown and produced locally, from the coast to the Valle de Guadalupe.” Continue reading

Eating Up the Valle De Guadalupe

Where to Dine in Border Baja’s Hottest  Wine  & Foodie Destination, The Valle De Guadalupe

By Wendy Lemlin

View of the Valle from Malva

View of the Valle from Malva

It’s no longer any secret that there is some fantastic food in Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe.  When I first started visiting this tranquil valley in 2005, there were maybe 2 or 3 “gourmet” restaurants being buzzed about in the SoCal/Baja gastronomic circles. These days, visiting wine tasting aficionados can indulge their tastebuds with memorable fine dining experiences at close to 20 eateries ––although, it’s hard to keep track as there seems always to be a new restaurant opening. And by fine dining, I mean the best of the Valle’s ingredients—organic produce usually grown in onsite gardens, locally made cheeses, fresh caught seafood from Ensenada, meats and poultry raised on small Valle ranches and farms—expertly and creatively prepared, and served, for the most part, in a casual, al fresco ambiance.  While many of the dishes themselves are worthy of the world’s top restaurants, in this slice of Baja Norte we’re not talking white table cloths and fine china, but more earthy surroundings that reflect the culture of the vineyards and the ruggedness of the surrounding topography, and where you feel totally comfortable lingering over your meal for several hours. In fact, be prepared to do so—there’s no such thing as “grabbing a quick bite” here, unless you’re patronizing the new crop of food trucks at such wineries as Adobe Guadalupe and Vena Cava.  I won’t lie—dining in the Valle might seem pricey if you were expecting $1 tacos and beer, but for the most part, I’ve found every culinary experience I’ve had there to provide excellent value for the quality presented.

So, fill your glass with one of the Valle’s excellent wines and pull up a chair at my virtual table. Join me for a mini gastronomic tour to some of the restaurants I recently visited on a three day Valle de Guadalupe getaway! Continue reading

Celebrating Misión 19’s Fifth Anniversary

By Wendy Lemlin

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When Misión 19 opened in 2011, the sophisticated, stylish restaurant was a game changer for the Tijuana dining scene.  The city was just beginning a rebound from some tough years—years when the crossborder tourist stream had slowed to barely a trickle and when even residents were less enthusiastic about going out and socializing at night. Now, five years later, Tijuana is widely acknowledged as a hot culinary destination, and chef/owner Javier Plascencia’s star is shining brighter than ever. Misión 19 has had a lot to do with that. Continue reading

San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival November 15-22

By Wendy Lemlin

SBWFF

   Wonder how much San Diego loves food and drink? Just look at the success of the San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival, now in it’s 12th year, bigger and more comprehensive than ever. Running November 15-22, with a full roster of events, dinners, tastings, classes, and exhibits, it is one of the largest food and wine festivals in the country, shining a spotlight on both San Diego’s burgeoning gourmet dining scene and our cross-border connection with Baja’s exciting culinary landscape. From tacos and beer to wine paired-haute cuisine, there is something for anyone who loves indulging in crave-worthy food and spirits.  And really, who doesn’t?

More than a dozen celebrated national chefs, including Rick Bayless, Gayle Gand, and Suzette Gresham will join over 40 local luminaries in presenting delicacies and/or cuisine-related educational programs. Look for such regional favorites as The Marine Room’s Bernard Guillas, Javier Plascencia of  Bracero, Finca Altozano, and Mision 19, Jason SBWFF grand tasting smokerKnibb of NINE-TEN, Chad White of Comun and La Justina, Ironside Fish & Oyster’s Jason McLeod, Flor Franco of Finca La Carrodilla and Indulge Contemporary Catering, Mario Medina of Bernini’s Bistro, The Patio Group’s John Medall, Anthony Sinsay of Dukes’s La Jolla, James Montejano of La Valencia Hotel, and a host of others.

Continue reading

October Food Events

Eat Your Way Through October

by Wendy Lemlin

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What is it about October that always makes it such a busy month for food events? Is it because it’s usually one of the best weather months in San Diego, when temperatures start to cool down and skies are clear?  Is it because it fits so nicely between summer vacations and holiday frenzies? Or maybe it’s more about fiscal calendars and venue availabilities.  Whatever the reason, this will be every foodie’s dream month—just be prepared to splurge, both calorie-wise and money-wise, if you plan to go to everything! Here are a few events coming up. Continue reading

Bracero Brings It!

by Wendy Lemlin

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After months of delays, and about a year of anticipation, Bracero Cocina de Raiz finally opened in mid July. The first restaurant in San Diego proper by Baja mega celeb chef Javier Plascencia (Romesco in Bonita, Mision 19 and Erizo in Tijuana, and Finca Altozano in the Valle de Guadalupe) and partner Luis Peña, opened its Little Italy doors to much foodie-world buzz and advance reservations booked several months out.

Was it worth the wait? In a word, yes!

Continue reading

Baja Food & Wine Week at Dobson’s

By Wendy Lemlin

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If you love the sophisticated side of Baja food and wines—or haven’t experienced it yet and want to see what all the accolades are about—-you’re in luck! All this week, from March 9-14, the iconic Dobson’s Bar & Restaurant takes diners’ palates south of the border with a four course prix fixe dinner paired with the renowned wines of the Guadalupe Valley.

Created by Chef Martin San Roman, the menu and wine pairings look like this: Continue reading

Fairwell to Zarco

by Wendy Lemlin

zarco

   I still dream about the Tiradito de la Casa that I relished on my first trip to Zarco, Cocina de Baja in Chula Vista. The tender slices of hamachi crudo, the smokey chunks of grilled octopus, the delicate citrus of the yuzu sauce combined with just a hint of bite from two separate peppers— all had the unmistakable signature of Chef Flor Franco’s creative palette and totally appealed to my own particular palate. I’m not much of a wine connoisseur, (I know that may seem odd for a food writer), but it seemed to me that the wine list, carefully curated by Fernando Gaxiola of Baja Wine +Food, perfectly represented why wines from the Valle de Guadalupe are such a hot commodity these days.

Today Chef Franco and Gaxiola announced that they were no longer involved with Zarco.

In a statement, the pair said “We’re so grateful for the support and love we’ve received since opening Zarco this past September. Unfortunately, due to fundamental differences with our partners about how the restaurant should be managed, we’ve decided to discontinue our involvement with the project. It is important to mention that we do believe in the concept, and in the idea of bringing Baja and its culinary treasures to the US. Chef Flor Franco will continue focusing on her projects in Mexico and San Diego.”

Franco went on to elaborate, “Zarco was a passion project for me: the intersection of soulful Baja-style food, wine and bountiful ingredients and products from the region. I am grateful for the purveyors and other people we met while building the concept and I will continue to focus my energy on projects on both sides of the border, including Indulge Contemporary Catering, Baja Wine + Food, and Convivia at Encuentro in the Valle de Guadalupe. As always, my deeper creative compass is spinning within me, so I’ll keep you updated on what I’m working on.”

Personally, I can’t wait to see what comes next!

 

Chef Flor Franco

Chef Flor Franco

Gourmet Dining With Farmers, Friends & A Fisherman

By Wendy Lemlin

Ok, I admit it.  Life can taste pretty sweet when you’re a food writer.  It’s especially enjoyable when gourmet dining amidst great conviviality with the growers, harvesters, and curators of the delicacies on the plates in front of me.

This was the case last night (January 15) at San Diego’s Red Door Restaurant and Wine Bar for the Baja edition of their Farmers, Friends & Fisherman Dinner series, which proved so popular that seating spilled over into The Wellington Steak and Martini Lounge, Red Door’s adjoining sister restaurant. The seasonal series showcases area farmers, fishermen, ranchers, and wine or spirit makers who personify Red Door’s sustainable, local and organic credo. Continue reading