By Wendy Lemlin
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.”
Soft spoken, with an unassuming, almost shy, demeanor, Guerrero is nevertheless an avid hunter, fisherman and diver, who often supplies his restaurants with proteins he himself has harvested, as well as produce grown on his own huerta (something between a large garden and small farm) outside of Rosarito. Guerrero’s very successful restaurants now also include the trendy pizzeria El Taller Baja Med Cocina in both Tijuana and Mexicali, and La Esperanza Baja Med, overlooking a vista of vineyards in the Valle de Guadalupe. For 15 years, running his restaurants has been a family affair, shared with his wife Judith Medrano, whom he met while both were in law school. It was she who encouraged Guerrero to attend culinary school in Mexico City and become a chef instead of a lawyer. Judith’s sister, Adriana Medrano, handles such things as press and PR, and other family members can often be found performing various duties around the restaurants.
To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Baja Med, Chef Miguel Angel and family have been hosting dinners in both Baja and San Diego, mostly by invitation only. On Monday, May 16, however, Guerrero will team up with Baja Wine +Food’s Fernando Gaxiola and Kettner Exchange’s Chef Brian Redzikowski to present a cross border collaborative dinner, based on the celebrated wines of the Valle de Guadalupe, on the upstairs al fresco patio of Kettner Exchange, in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood. The intimate meal, limited to 50 guests, will feature grilled and smoked dishes in the Baja tradition, bringing the heart and soul of Baja and the Valle de Guadalupe to downtown San Diego.
What makes this dinner particularly special is that the menu has been designed around the wines served, as opposed to the usual vice verse. Explains wine director Gaxiola, “The chefs and I tasted over 40 different Baja wines! They chose their favorites, and became inspired to create dishes to pair with them. We made selections from Lomita, Torres Alegre, Finca La Carrodilla, Paoloni Wines, Adobe Guadalupe and Monte Xanic for the six course dinner. I’m very excited for this cross-border culinary exchange!”
Chefs Guerrero and Redzikowski will each prepare three courses, and dishes planned include such ingredients as spot prawns, stuffed chiles with scallops, octopus, shrimp, lamb and duck.
A limited number of tickets, priced at $125 +tax & gratuity, are still available for the dinner which starts at 6 pm. Go here to purchase yours! Kettner Exchange is at 2001 Kettner Blvd.