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

Sleeping Around: What’s New in Valle de Guadalupe Lodging

By Wendy Lemlin

One of 4 casitas at Casa Mayoral

One of 4 casitas at Casa Mayoral

The first time I visited Baja’s lovely Valle de Guadalupe was in the fall of 2004, about 6 months after I moved to San Diego from Florida. I discovered it somewhat by accident, having driven down the coast with a visiting friend. In the spirit of adventure, heading back from Ensenada we decided to take the turnoff for Route 3, recommended as a scenic drive that would eventually lead back to the border crossing at Tecate. At that time, I knew nothing about the handful of wineries already established in the valley, but I remember that the two of us, both Baja newbies, were blown away by the beauty and tranquility of our surroundings as we drove, and the happy feeling that we were actually in another country with a pastoral ambience very different from the frenetic Gringo/Mexican border hybridism of Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada.

About two years later, while working on an article about the Baja coastal areas, I deliberately made a detour to the Valle and began in earnest my love affair with her mountain-lined vistas, and the growing food and wine culture that was soon to permeate the landscape.  I think that there were around 10 registered wineries at that time.  Now that number is approximately 150, most of which have popped up in the last 3 years or so.

All of which begs the question: what’s new in the Valle de Guadalupe? Of course, the answer is: plenty.  There are more wineries, more restaurants—some of which are now staying open year-round—and thankfully, more lodging options.  In the last couple of months, after not having been there in a year, I’ve made several trips to the Valle, checking out places I hadn’t been before—some new, and some just new to me, and revisiting several favorites to see how they’ve progressed. Continue reading

Chef Profile: Martin San Roman

by Wendy Lemlin

Chef Martin San Roman in his kitchen at Dobson's .

Chef Martin San Roman in his kitchen at Dobson’s .

There are cooks— and then there are chefs.  Creative cooks abound these days, but truly talented chefs, with a culinary education, a firm foundation in the basics, and years of executive experience in running all types of kitchens, from hotels to intimate dining rooms, are few and far between. Martin San Roman is a highly accomplished chef, in every sense of the word. Continue reading

Food Without Borders: Culinary Battles at Tijuana Innovadora Conference

By Wendy Lemlin

TI cover

Come October 18 and 19, there will be some cross-border battles raging in Tijuana— but don’t be alarmed; it’s a very good thing!  In fact you could say a delicious thing, as some of the finest chefs from San Diego and Tijuana compete in three separate Iron Chef-style competitions, or Batallas Culinarias, as part of the biennial Tijuana Innovadora Conference, which showcases innovation in technology, industry and culture. Continue reading

Treasures of Tecate

professor hike

A Hike on Kuchimaa, aka Mt. Tecate

by Wendy Lemlin

As I passed back into the U.S. from Tecate , Baja California, the Customs and Immigration officer asked why I had been in Mexico. When I answered that I was checking out the interesting places around the town, he looked at me incredulously and asked, “Really? What is there to do in Tecate?”

As Mexican border towns go, Tecate may be Baja’s best kept secret. Continue reading