Showing posts with label ensenada. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ensenada. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tacos El Fenix: The Real Baja Fish Taco

What would a Baja trip be without Baja fish tacos? Since even the thought is unacceptable, our Cotuco-sponsored weekend FAM Media Trip naturally included a stop at Taqueria El Fenix in Ensenada.

Taqueria El Fenix uses angelito shark (angel shark) meat, coated in a secret-recipe batter (rumors suggest mustard and oregano, among others), and double-fried in, yes, lard.
Here at El Fenix, you dress your own tacos the way you like it. The expected toppings like cabbage, onions, cilantro, salsa, guacamole, etc etc are all there.
The crunchy fried batter makes way for the juicy and meaty piece of shark. It really is about the batter and the double frying here. The mustard laden batter gives it that much more flavour and the double frying makes it so crispy yet very much not greasy, despite the frying in lard.

Taqueria El Fenix
At Calles Espinoza and Juarez (Calle 5)
Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico

7am-9pm daily

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Silvestre: The Ultimate Al Fresco Vineyard-side Dining, Baja Style

Our van turned into an unmarked vineyard and parked on a dirt road. The 25 or so of us food bloggers/writers/chefs/restaurateurs found ourselves at a place markedly different than the rest of our Baja adventure. Quiet and unassuming - I thought we were in the middle of nowhere, but follow Street Gourmet LA, our group leader.

Then we saw the small green sign on the tree, almost hidden behind the leaves. Silvestre.
We've tried two other of Benito Molina's restaurants down in Ensenada earlier that day, Muelle 3 and Manzanilla, but this one was it. If Thomas Keller has French Laundry, Benito Molina has Silvestre. Both in the wine country setting, but markedly different. While FL is classic French that makes you feel like a royalty, Silvestre is super casual. Hey, you're in Baja!

We walked pretty far down the road and I still didn't see any building that looked like a restaurant. That's because there wasn't one to be found. Silvestre is outdoor dining all the way through. The kitchen is an open air kitchen that's only covered with fabric to avoid the rain. Benito mans the kitchen every summer with the help of three people both in the kitchen and the dining area.
Right nearby you'll also see the outdoor grill - a rabbit was cooking on top when we got there.

And where do we fit in? It's like a picnic in the vineyard - foldable plastic chairs, long tables with very simple settings. And a wondrous view of the vineyard and the mountains in the distance. Gorgeous.
Jamaica and wine started to flow on the tables. The jamaica here is light and unsweetened. We started with a 2008 Filidith from Estacion, Benito's own Zinfandel. This was a clear and crisp white wine.
To get our appetites going were some jicama and cucumber with a dose of chili powder.
As I've mentioned, Benito had three total helpers at Silvestre, so not only was he cooking, he was also serving us our food and wine with that friendly smile of his.

Unlike our shotgun eat and run method we've employed throughout our marathon so far, Silvestre was assigned as our last real meal, to be enjoyed slowly and thoroughly, and we set out for a relaxed meal.

The meal began with a locally farmed bluefin tuna in soy sauce, olive oil, vinegar, serrano chile and garlic.
We actually saw this farm on the bus ride down to Ensenada - quite local, indeed, and tasted so fresh. The simple marinade was so flavorful yet remains not overpowering - a favorite of many of us during the night.

Next was a farm-raised abalone (4 year old) ceviche with tomato, green olive, white wine, and cream.
Another fresh and flavorful seafood preparation, this abalone was more tender than most I've had before. Rich and creamy, this became my own favorite.

Grilled rocot (ocean perch) with nopales salad.
This white fish was extremely moist and tender. It had a wonderful texture reminiscent of a butter fish. The mesquite grill gave a nice flavor and paired well with the pickled nopales (prickly pear cactus).

Yucatan-style pork shank with orange juice, achiote, anatto paste.
The tender meat was truly infused with the flavors of the broth.

Then came a plate of local cheeses from the an Italian family-run ranch Rancho a la Campana in the town of Ojos Negros just southeast of Ensenada. We had four cheeses: fresh cheese, pepper, rosemary, and aged.
I loved the texture of mexican queso - firm but tender and airy. Out of the four, my favorites were the fresh cheese and the rosemary. The aged cheese had a more intense flavor but was also firmer and did not have the same chewy texture.

The meal ended with a simple fruit bowl, lightly doused in syrup.
Benito's seemingly simple and casual cuisine at Silvestre mirrors the lovely al fresco ambiance. We took our time dining here, taking in the view of the valley and at one time even played in the rain. Come here on your summer vacation and just relax over some great food.

open Saturday and Sunday from June to October.
Located on Carretera Ensenada-Tecate HWY 3 at KM 83
Valle de Guadalupe, Baja, Mexico
(no I couldn't find an address, that's how awesome it was. How to make a reservation? I have no idea but I'm sure Street Gourmet LA knows!)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

La Guerrerense (Ensenada): Sea Urchin and More Tostada Cart

During the Baja FAM Media Trip, I was most excited about La Guerrerense in Ensenada. It was all due to Glutster's teaser messages about uni tostada!

Sabina Bandera has operated this street cart in the same location for the past 33 years. Talk about an established business. We parked our big bus around the corner and rushed to the little cart.
On a board next to the cart, they have posted various articles about them including one stating that La Guerrerense is chef Benito Molina(of Silvestre, Muelle 3, and La Manzanilla)'s favorite lunch spot.

The crispy corn tostadas can be topped with various seafood offerings. Since the 25 or so of us are here on a strict food marathon schedule (with spatial limitation in the stomach), Sabina tops each tostada with two toppings of our choosings.

For my first one I went with uni/sea urchin(erizo) and sea cucumber ceviche.
The uni was heaven in my mouth. The flavors, the texture contrast with the crispy tostada, the spice. O-M-G. This was worth every word of the hype.
The sea cucumber was also delicious, with a very chewy texture. Compared to the creamy sea urchin, this had a milder flavor with the limes and onions - not really to say that the flavor was mild at all.

Next I had the fish pate and cod (bacalao)
Another amazing creation here. The creamy pate is one of my favorites here while the spicier bacalao was many people's favorite.

Street Gourmet LA scored himself some pismo clams in the shell which looked mighty delicious so I scored a photo of it. Here's the pismo clams, almeja preparada(prepared clam), with a light cocktail sauce on one side and a lime and salsa huichol on the other side (thank you Street Gourmet LA for the info!)

After putting one of the various salsa offered, of course things got a bit spicy, so when Glutster told me that they had a good barley drink, I spared no time in getting me a cup.
Cold and creamy barley milk. This was sweet and refreshing and totally saved me from crying from spiciness.

Since some of the others claimed that the sea snail (caracol) was one of their favorites, I was feeling rather bummed for not having tried it. But lucky me, Sabina was passing out a plate of sea snails for us to sample!
I'm so glad I tried this - I would've regretted not having tried something this good. The sea snail was fresh, with a chewy but "meatier" texture compared to the rest, and a very nice flavor coming from both the snail itself. and the spicy sauce drenching it.

If you're ever in Ensenada, La Guerrerense is not to be missed!

La Guerrerense
Corner of Calle Primera/Alvarado
Ensenada, Baja, Mexico

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Baja Dining Experience: Tijuana/Ensenada Guide

Bill from Street Gourmet LA, we owe you one.
After what (I'm sure) could not be any less than a political battle and head splitting migraine in organizing this media trip, Bill smoothly guided 25 or so food writers, bloggers, restaurant chefs and owners for an epic (no, there's no other word for it) food triathlon in Baja, Mexico: Tijuana, Ensenada, and Valle de Guadalupe.

This was my first trip to Baja and frankly I didn't have any desire to go there before. Boring, dangerous, people tell me. But when an opportunity to join a media trip sponsored by Tijuana Convention and Visitors Bureau, I certainly wasn't about to turn it down.

What is my verdict after 2 days, 3 nights, 17 restaurants, 2 wineries, and a beer festival? Amazing, I tell you. If you haven't been, go already.

I will be reviewing each restaurant fully very soon, but in the meantime, here's the list and a recap.


  • Barbacoa de La Ermita - Hidalgo style lamb barbacoa cooked overnight in a pit. Open on weekends only and there ain't no hangover cure like it.
  • Cien Anos - Like the name suggests, this restaurant features 'old' recipes that they have acquired from friends and families. Various seafood cebiches can be found here.
  • Cheripan -a great Argentinian restaurant with an amazing flank steak and a big martini list, including tamarind martini.
  • L'Abricot -a cute little French bistro (the only one in Tijuana?) with solid food and desserts.
  • La Diferencia - alta cocina
  • La Querencia - one of the most exciting places in Baja with the Baja Med food movement in the forefront.
  • La Vuelta -Fun place with some good beer offerings and a great mariachi band. Open late so get your party on here.
  • Lorca - a great little Spanish place with delicious paella and whole suckling pig.
  • Tacos El Poblano - Their carne asada tacos, made with 3 different meats, blow any carne asada taco in Los Angeles out of the water.
  • Tacos Los Salceados - Arguably the best taqueria in Mexico. Not your ordinary tacos as you can find exciting creation like the new york steak taco with strawberry sauce.
  • Mariscos el Mazateno - Perhaps the best seafood tacos in Tijuana. The smoked marlin taco and the mazatena (camarones enchilado) taco are both a must-try.
  • Villa Saverios Restaurant - Both Italian and Baja Med influence the cuisine of Chef Javier Plascencia at this gorgeous restaurant.

  • La Guerrerense - an amazing seafood tostada cart that has been there for 30+ years. Their amazing tostada offerings include uni, sea cucumber, bacalao (cod), fish pate, and more. A must stop.
  • La Manzanilla - Benito Molina is one of the most exciting chefs in Baja at the moment, and this is his flagship restaurant.
  • Muelle 3 - A small but amazing seafood restaurant by the pier. Raw oysters, ceviches, and more seafood by the great Benito Molina.
  • Silvestre - This was the ultimate experience. A getaway within a getaway. Outdoor dining with an expansive vineyard view with an outdoor kitchen and grill manned by Benito Molina.
  • Tacos El Fenix - This is THE Baja fish taco, with meat from a small shark.

Valle de Guadalupe Wineries
  • Vina Liceaga - This winery that specializes in Merlot is recently outfitted with a great and spacious tasting room and a picnic area where a seasonal restaurant will be open throughout the summer.
  • Villa del Valle (Bed & Breakfast) - I fell in love with this bed and breakfast. Beautiful view, stylish yet rustic decor, a vegetable garden you can walk through. They also make a lovely unfiltered Sauvignon Blanc and some great food including ostrich meat wrapped in kale.

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