Birthday Celebration in El Valle de Guadalupe

My birthday actually fell on a Saturday this year, and it could not have been more perfect. We headed down to the vineyards for a late lunch at Finca Altozano, and as far as plans after that, well there weren’t any. That is the best way to go, just let the wine or your appetite lead the way. In this case, we were full from the amazing lunch at Finca Altozano, but of course that did not stop us from eating a little bit of birthday cake at Corazón de Tierra. Bougainvillea ice cream anyone?

The whole setting at Finca Altozano was just gorgeous! The weather has actually cooled down a bit, well okay so it’s 85 degrees instead of 95, but honestly it makes a difference.

Once the menu was placed in front of me, I had to do my best at holding back and not ordering every single item. That is even more of a reason to go back, not that we need an excuse in any way. Take the feeling of a nice breeze blowing, chilled white wine, and assorted food options, all the while looking over vineyards… Hi, is this heaven on earth?

We thoroughly enjoyed Jamon Serrano, Pulpo a las brasas, Pato de cerdo, some of the most amazing chorizo that I have ever come across, and tacos de borrego. Oh my, and now stomach has started to growl…

Finca Altozano we will meet again. I can guarantee it.
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Deckman’s En El Mogor

Deckman's at Mogor Badan in Valle de Guadalupe
Deckman's at Mogor Badan in Valle de Guadalupe

During our two night stay at Hotel Endémico, once the sun began to set, we decided to leave our serene eco-lofts and venture out into the night. Bill pointed us all towards the direction of Deckman’s en El Mogor. Deckman’s en El Mogor is the pop up that Chef Drew Deckman is running for the summer season, while his restaurant in San Jose del Cabo is closed for that time being. Underneath a canopy of pine trees are wooden tables, chairs, and wine barrels, that make up the seating area. The kitchen is an outdoor grilling station, that billows the sweet smell of mesquite as soon as you approach the area. The table setting tied in with the scenery perfectly. Mason jars, mis matched plates, and a little bouquets of flowers from the surrounding area were on each table. Rustic wooden tables and eclectic table settings are one of my favorite sources of inspiration for design. You could not ask for a more beautiful backdrop for the evening. The sun setting left the sky with an irresistible hue of pink, and the temperature outside was nice and mild. They offer either a 3 or 5 course meal, which in all actuality is made up of 5 or 7 courses. We decided on the 5 course meal, with the wine pairings, and a mezcal shot just to get the evening started off on the right note. Go big or go home..right?

If you are reading this on an empty stomach, I highly suggest that you grab a snack, because this is going to take you on quite the tempting ride. Alright, here we go.

Deckman's at Mogor Badan in Valle de Guadalupe

The first course was abalone offal (Yes, you read that right.), beet and duck confit. The drizzle of local olive oil, added this smooth finishing touch to the overall richness of the dish. There were so many textures, and flavors, that my mind didn’t even know what to process first. At first bite, I knew that this was going to be a memorable night.

Deckman's at Mogor Badan in Valle de Guadalupe

The second course, fresh oysters from nearby Salsipuedes, drizzled with a red wine vinaigrette and pink peppercorns. The acidity was refreshing, and still let the natural juices of the oyster shine through.
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Valle de Guadalupe: Encuentro Guadalupe

Hotel Endémico in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California
Hotel Endémico in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California
Hotel Endémico in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California

The Hotel Endémico located in the Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, is just about a 90 minute drive south of the San Ysidro border. The hotel is designed by Jorge Gracia of GraciaStudio, and is a part of the Mexican Hotel Grupo Habita. Hotel Endemico is made up of 20 individual Eco-Lofts, that sit on steel stilts up into the hillside. They are each built above the ground, so that they will not disturb the soil, or nature in any way. As soon as we approached the property, our eyes were automatically drawn up into the hillside at these beautifully constructed lofts. My mind was blown, and this was before I even set my eyes on the scenery from our space. The minimalist design of each eco-loft is just stunning. The tone for the interiors of the mini cabin are set by the stark white walls, and crisp bed linens. Each room houses a king sized bed, bathroom, and a table and chairs. Each eco-loft also comes with its own individual patio terrace with a table, chairs, and a clay kiva.

Hotel Endémico in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California
Hotel Endémico in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California
Hotel Endémico in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California

There is a short drive up from the lobby up to the loft that you will be staying in, which is provided by the hotel’s staff. As you make the whole 2 minute drive, you will notice their pool, jacuzzi, and restaurant that is tucked away into its own area of the hillside as well. In all honesty, you never have to leave the property during your stay, everything that you may need is provided, even WIFI.
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Deli Sweet Room

Deli Sweet Room in Tijuana
Deli Sweet Room in Tijuana

Deli Sweet Room is run by Ana Juncal and Doriella Galindo, who are two recent graduates of the Culinary Art School in Tijuana. It all began as just a coffee and dessert spot, up until very recently they added a savory side to their menu. The two women behind this cafe, have an incredible passion for the time spent in creating each dish and baked goods that their customers order. That and their love for the restaurant business is what had them aspire to opening the doors of Deli Sweet Room.

The second that I stepped foot into this chic little eatery, I immediately felt enveloped in a whirlwind of what inspires me. Let’s start off with a little bit about the interior design. The mismatched and eclectic chairs are one of the first things that my eyes were drawn too, or it could have been the light bulb fixtures hanging from the ceiling, either way I had a huge smile on my face. The colors were so bright and cheery, and honestly this is what I dream of our house interiors becoming one day. Everything from little ornate frames, and mirrors to the different coffee tins holding the utensils, I just couldn’t handle all of its greatness. I adored every song that came on in the background, and even opening the menu, and seeing such detail, I could feel the love that went into this space. Many of you may or may not know about my obsession with all things French. I have stacks of books at home from cook books, to books on Paris interiors. My husband and I are huge fans of foreign films, and 85 percent of the time, they are in the French Language. My first recipes that I ever started playing around with in the kitchen were from French cookbooks. Okay now are you starting to get the picture?

Deli Sweet Room in Tijuana

Deli Sweet Room is the epitome of where most of my inspiration stems from. Well now that I have gotten that point across, lets talk a little bit about what we ordered. We started off with an espresso and a cortado. We live off of espresso in this household, and this was nothing short of delightful.
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The Baja Culinary Fest 2012 is coming!

Baja Culinary Fest 2012
Baja Culinary Fest 2012
Baja Culinary Fest 2012

After attending the press conference for the 2012 Baja California Culinary Fest, we could not be more excited! We drove up to Los Angeles, and had the pleasure of meeting Chef John Sedlar at his beautiful restaurant Rivera, where the event was held. He hosted the event along with Bill Esparza, and Baja Tourism representatives. You could feel the overwhelming enthusiasm and passion for Baja California filling up the room. Bill gives off this extremely contagious vibe of love for Baja, and lights up just speaking about it. Juan Tintos Funcke, Baja Secretary of Tourism, and Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero also spoke to all of the attendees, just fueling up everyone even more.

Baja Culinary Fest 2012
Baja Culinary Fest 2012

After the presentation we all got to mingle eating and drinking. Each and every bite was just prepping your taste buds for the gastronomic adventure that the Baja Culinary fest will be. What better way then to wash down the delicious food with some Baja wines and craft beers. Below you will see the bite size wonders that we got to taste. It started off with an Ahi Tuna tostadita topped with avocado, and a 9 chile sauce. Following that was a fresh oyster shot. To me the most unique of the afternoon was the corn flan with black quinoa and squash blossoms. It was the texture of custard, but the full blown flavors of a tamal. It really was something else. The chipotle chicken cone was a nice addition to the fresh seafood bites, with its heat and smokiness. The final tasting was a yellow tail tostadita. All of these just increased my appetite, and immediately had me thinking of crossing the border to Tijuana for a meal, as soon as we drove back home.
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Tijuana Mariscos Progressive Meal

Tijuana Mariscos Progressive Meal Tour with Turista Libre and Life & Food
Tijuana Mariscos Progressive Meal Tour with Turista Libre and Life & Food
Tijuana Mariscos Progressive Meal Tour with Turista Libre and Life & Food
Tijuana Mariscos Progressive Meal Tour with Turista Libre and Life & Food
We had a wonderful turnout for our second Tijuana progressive meal with Turista Libre. The mariscos theme was spot on in the heat of the July weather. I was more than content to hear all of the good comments, that everyone had to say. That is why we love doing what we do. It is such an amazing feeling to hear someone tell you, “This is the best food that I have had in my life.”

First stop was at Tacos Kokopelli. We had some people that have had the chance to enjoy their amazing tacos, but most were new to them. Everyone was so enthusiastic about the “unique” taco choices, and had nothing but positive comments to say about them.

Tijuana Mariscos Progressive Meal Tour with Turista Libre and Life & Food
Tijuana Mariscos Progressive Meal Tour with Turista Libre and Life & Food
Tijuana Mariscos Progressive Meal Tour with Turista Libre and Life & Food
The camaron enchilado tacos at El Mazateño are simply the best! Everyone handled their beast of a cheesy and spicy shrimp filled tacos like champs. If there wasn’t Erizo on the way, I know that there would have been more orders going around the table.
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Candelas “The House of Baja Wines”

Candelas by Chef Martin San Roman in San Diego
Candelas by Chef Martin San Roman in San Diego

Located in the heart of the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego, you will find Candelas. Upon entering the restaurant, this incredible feeling of warmth and comfort surrounds you. Dimmed lighting and candlelight, provide a beautiful romantic glow to the space. Chef Martin San Roman has been running the kitchen of Candelas for a little bit less than a year now, but many of you have probably known of him for years. Whether you watched him on “Del Chef a Usted”, or visited his restaurants in Tijuana, his Franco-Mexicano food is truly unforgettable. Otherwise known as the “House of Baja Wines”, it only makes sense that the wine list at Candelas is full of wines from south of the border. In fact, this is the only restaurant in San Diego, that boasts such a list.

Candelas by Chef Martin San Roman in San Diego

There couldn’t have been a better backdrop to set the tone for our evening dining at Candelas. Our table was surrounded by wine bottles, and a candle lit gate. Before I knew it we were being presented with our first course, a machaca taco. Now this isn’t your ordinary taco, instead of a corn or flour tortilla, the tortilla was made of thinly shaved jicama. The last time that I had a jicama “tortilla” was at the LA Street Food Fest last year, and since then I keep telling myself to try and recreate it. It is amazing how much texture just that bite of crunch brings to the taco. The tiny taco was covered in a Champagne and dried tomato sauce, that I couldn’t help but eat up every last bit.

Candelas by Chef Martin San Roman in San Diego

Following that was one of the most beautiful presentations of Ahi Tuna Tartare that I have ever seen. The raw Ahi tuna is marinated in lime, sesame seed, roasted apples, garlic, and soy sauce, then placed on top of a piece of avocado. This placement of the avocado, ensured you that you would get just the right amount of creaminess with the tuna. Drizzled over the dish was a balsamic reduction, that tied in quite well with the side of sweet chopped mango. A crunchy tortilla chip topped with the beautiful colors and flavors of the tartare, was just magnificent. I can guarantee that when I do return to Candelas, this will be on our table.
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Mariscos Mania: Turista Libre and Life & Food’s 2nd Progressive Tijuana Meal Tour

Progressive Meal with Turista Libre and Life & Food

Who is ready for round 2? Turista Libre and Life & Food are eating their way around the streets of Tijuana once again on Saturday July 21st. What better way to cool down from the summer heat, than with some mariscos, “ice cream of the gods”, and a craft beer tasting. Stay hungry and get ready for some delicious eats!

Progressive Meal with Turista Libre and Life & Food
Progressive Meal with Turista Libre and Life & Food

Tacos Kokopelli

Tacos Kokopelli was developed by three young talents, and one being a graduate of the Culinary Art school in Tijuana. Their menu features unique grilled seafood tacos, that you won’t find anywhere else. Think grilled octopus covered in a poblano pesto, and then stuffed inside of an Anaheim Chile. Oh yeah, and then there is a tortilla that holds all of that together.

Read more here

Progressive Meal with Turista Libre and Life & Food
Progressive Meal with Turista Libre and Life & Food

Erizo Baja Fish House & Market

Javier Plascencia’s Erizo Baja Fish House & Market is just another gem to add to the list. Their ceviche tostadas are out of this world! I seriously can’t think about them, without my mouth starting to water.

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L’Escargot Bistrot

L’Escargot Bistrot

Chef Ryan Steyn's L'Escargot Bistro in Tijuana
Chef Ryan Steyn's L'Escargot Bistro in Tijuana
Chef Ryan Steyn's L'Escargot Bistro in Tijuana
Very few of you may know about my passion for French cuisine and culture. That passion is actually what first sparked my interest into the world of gastronomy, and my French cookbooks were my first friends in the kitchen. Well..that’s enough about me. Let’s talk a little bit about Chef Ryan Steyn and his wife who opened L’Escargot Bistrot just about a year ago. They will actually celebrate their doors being open for a year on July 18th. South Africa is where Chef Ryan Steyn was born and raised, as well as where he met his wife. She is a Sommelier with an incredible passion for French food. He moved to Tijuana just three years ago, and they embarked on their journey together of what is now known has this quaint restaurant.

As soon as I stepped foot into the garden of L’Escargot Bistrot I felt as if I was transported into my own world and French dining experience. The warm summer evening could not have been a better excuse to enjoy dining al fresco. As the sun began to set, there were lit lanterns that filled the garden with a romantic light.

A basket full of fresh bread that was baked in their wood fired oven, was accompanied by an absolutely gorgeous cheese plate. Food really is art, and there are so many ways to embrace its natural beauty. The three cheeses that made up this cheese board were Brie, Goat Cheese covered in ashes, and a wedge of Roquefort. The bread has a wonderful crunch on the outside, with a pillow like soft interior. Brie is usually one way to my heart, but in this case the Goat Cheese came out as my favorite of the three.


Following that were Escargots in a red wine sauce that surrounded bone marrow. Escargots and bone marrow on the same plate? Hello lovely! If you have never tried snails, please put L’Escargot Bistrot on your restaurant list and come and taste these. It’s all part of the fun grabbing the shell with the tongs, and getting every bit of sauce possible with the meat of the snail.

Chef Ryan Steyn's L'Escargot Bistro in Tijuana
For those of you in California that need a Foie fix, head on down to Tijuana. I have always enjoyed Foie Gras, and growing up I always remembered my dad ordering it any time that it was offered on the menu. Take a piece of the crunchy toast, then slather on the apple marmalade, and top that with a bit of the buttery Foie Gras. That my friends is what it is all about. The flavors, and textures will knock your socks off.
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