As anyone in the SoCal/Baja border foodie community knows, in recent years there have been a significant number of outstanding events in Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s smoking-hot wine region about 90 miles south of San Diego. But, the first annual Valle Wine & Food Festival, happening October 22, stands out as a must do, not only for the amazing quality of cross-border chef talent who will be participating —hosts Javier Plascencia and Nancy Silverton, and Michelin-starred Dominique Crenn, to name a few—but also because the event will be flavored with a welcome taste of altruism, i.e. the festival will benefit the area’s farm workers, as well as victims of the recent earthquakes in Mexico.
Nancy Silverton, Carolynn Carreno, Javier Plascencia
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 →
These arches, the symbol of San Felipe, greet visitors at the north entrance of town.
San Felipe, on Baja’s Sea of Cortez, has always been a playground and vacation home destination for those in the San Diego and SoCal areas, but until recently, getting there was definitely NOT half the fun, necessitating a 4+ hour drive into Mexico, over mountainous roads and sometimes long border waits on the return trip home. All this changed this past December, when Portland, OR-based SeaPort Airlines began offering non-stop air service from San Diego International Airport to San Felipe in their nine passenger prop planes, currently on Monday, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
SeaPort Airlines’ 9 passenger planes fly between San Diego and San Felipe.
The easy, hour and 20 minute flight takes passengers over breathtaking views of mountains and canyons that few travelers ever see, far from any roads or vestiges of “civilization”, and deposits them at the small San Felipe airport, on the placid shores of the Sea of Cortez, just a 5 minute drive from the lovely beachfront San Felipe Marina Resort and Spa. Continue reading →
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.”
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 →