Showing posts with label mexico. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mexico. Show all posts

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tijuana: Villa Saverios, Baja Med with a Touch of Italy

Finishing up the first day of our Baja FAM food decathlon, we ended up at Villa Saverios, an elegant restaurant headed by Chef Javier Plascencia with cuisine featuring Mediterranean influences and Baja California ingredients.

Despite having had many delicious tamarind cocktails throughout the day, the one at Villa Saverios was instantly my favorite.
The slightly tart cocktails was made with mezcal and Damiana (an herbal liqueur made with the damiana herb) and garnished with a tamarind pod. This cocktail proved the most well balanced of the day. The texture was quite icy and similar to a slushee, but more watery.
(The next visit we tried ordering their tamarind margarita, but I don't think it was the same ..)

Pulpo (octopus) carpaccio with arugula, tomatoes, nopales, olive oil, and grapefruit.
A nice light start, to the delight of our extremely stuffed stomachs. The pulpo had a wonderful texture and the use of grapefruit here was quite refreshing.

Next we were served a sampler of their signature dishes. From the right: Mijillon (mussel) cappuccino, pulpo encebollado, and "Tacos de Fideo"

Grandma's "Taco de Fideo." Think spaghetti taco. Corn tortilla is filled with sausage, spaghetti, salsa verde, greens, cheese, habanero, and Mexican cream
An impressive dish, not only on the creativity front but also the taste.

Braised short rib with Oaxaca mole, black Mission figs, port wine, and mascarpone mashed potato.
A lovely dish with very tender short ribs, the rich and sweet mole and a nice texture contrast from the fig half.

Chef Plascencia surprised us with his dessert also: blackberry tamale
Using corn masa, the dessert had a nice light sweetness and a prominent blackberry flavor. Despite tamale being a rather heavy dessert, I can definitely have a lot of this.

Even though we were already so full, I was glad we had this 'dinner'. Chef Plascencia's cuisine is innovative and well executed with restrained and balanced flavors across the board. Villa Saverios is lauded as one of the best fine dining establishments in Tijuana, and I can definitely see why.

Villa Saverios
Blvd Sanches Taboada
Esq. Escuadron 201
Zona Rio, Tijuana, Mexico

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Spanish Suckling Pig Feast at Lorca (Tijuana, MX)

Spanish suckling pig seems like the perfect post to follow-up Balinese suckling pig. The suckling pig at Lorca was our first meal on the 2nd day of the Baja FAM Media Trip. The Tijuana Convention and Visitors Bureau wanted to showcase not just the Mexican food scene of TJ but other higher-end options around.

Lorca is a showcase of Andalusian cuisine in a cozy and rustic setting. Rumor has it we originally went there for the Paella Valenciana, featuring clams, shrimp, chicken, mussels, and saffron rice.
The paella at Lorca is a dry paella version, but flavorful and full of great fresh seafood.

We did realize that this was only our first (out of seven) stops of the day. We knew we should eat light and pace ourselves.
But what were we supposed to do when they brought out a whole suckling pig??
I had suckling pig at Ford's Filling Station before, but this one here was much more impressive.

Fragrant, succulent, moist. Crisped skin.
Balinese suckling pig is more flavorful, but Spanish suckling pig is more tender. Try them both. We all aimed for the cheeks and of course Deep End Dining went for the brain.

The meal was accompanied with garlicky potatoes.
Needless to say, we ate too much for this meal. Especially considering we had 6 more restaurants to go to.

8611 Brasil street
Col. Cacho
Tijuana, Mexico
Ph.(664) 634-03660

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 18, 2009

What's for Breakfast? Hidalgo-style Mutton Barbacoa

Our first full day in Tijuana on a trip sponsored by Cotuco and the Tijuana Convention and Visitors Bureau involved a food marathon across 7 restaurants, but one night was all we needed to recover, being the pro foodies that we were. The next morning we were all ready to chow down on some Hidalgo-style barbacoa!
Barbacoa Ermita opens only on the weekends and owner Victor Torres roasts one mutton overnight in the stone pit in the garage of his house.
By the way, we're eating in the garage too, which has been outfitted with tables, bathrooms, and a kitchen. Ermita closes when they run out of meat, which is never too late in the day.

Nothing like a glass of jamaica and some mutton barbacoa to start the day.
We start out with a bowl of consomme made with the drippings from the mutton being cooked overnight.
The consomme has been watered down but chick peas were added for extra flavor. Don't drink all the consomme though - this is meant to dip your barbacoa in later.

Then a container full of the lamb and another of corn tortillas were set on our tables and the party began.

This is a DIY affair. Cilantro, onions, and a variety of salsa are set on the tables for you to build your lamb tacos the way you like it.

Tender lamb with that smokey roasted aroma on grilled tortilla, plus all the traditional Hidalguense salsas you can grab off the table.

But that's not all. For the offal lovers, there's also the pancita which is offal stuffed lamb stomach tossed in chile rub.
Even the spices did not hide that strong offal flavors. Yum.

Read more about Barbacoa Ermita from Street Gourmet LA, Food GPS and Table Conversation.

Barbacoa Ermita

Avenida Ermita 807
Mesa Otay
Tijuana, BC
phone: (664) 622-1969
Open Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Baja Med: A New Culinary Movement in Mexico

Food in Baja is not just about Mexican food. It isn't just about the various Spanish or Argentinean restaurants either. A unique and exciting culinary movement is slowly pervading Tijuana and Ensenada. Baja Med, a mix of Asian, Mediterranean, and Mexican cuisine with Baja ingredients.

And this is where it all started, La Querencia.

And here is the man who started it all: Miguel Angel Guerrero.
(Everyone also agreed that he was pretty good lookin!). He and Bill from Street Gourmet LA explained each dish and the Baja Med cuisine to us.

Though you couldn't see much from outside because of all the cars parked there, the inside is filled with interesting decor including these "flying" birds on the wall.
Our group of 20-something people were all seated outside, though.

It was a hot day in Tijuana and chef Guerrera perked us up with pitchers of Techape, a fermented pineapple drink.
This lightly sweet drink reminded me of the Indonesian fermented drink called legen and it's so perfect on this hot day that I think I drank 3 glasses of this (or more).

Having stuffed ourselves with suckling pig and Argentinean steak at Lorca and Cheripan, the light samplings at La Querencia were a nice change of pace.
We started with a plate of Beet carpaccio with goat cheese - a dish that would seem to be common these days were it not for the raw beets.
I never realized how different beet tastes when raw as opposed to roasted. While roasted beets are sweet, these were crunchy and tart and even tasted pickled to me.

Lengua (tongue) Carpaccio
Tender and flavorful, both thinly sliced tongue meat and the sauces/garnish were nicely done. This was drizzled with sea urchin cream, so how could I not love it?

Squash carpaccio with capers, fried nori, tomatoes, onions, seasoned with 9 chilis.
This fresh vegetable dish had some great flavors. Everyone loved the 9 chili confit and lucky for us this wasn't the last dish to feature it.

Cucumber cup filled with scallops, sturgeon, caviar, 9 chili confit oil, chipotle sauce, crispy chives and spring onions.
The scallops were local scallops and were very fresh and flavorful. The dish was mildly spicy and the cucumber cup served as the perfect palate cleanser. Everything in this dish came together perfectly - loved it. Too bad I was told this was an off-the-menu item!

Cornbread cake, sage sauce, tomato salsa, shrimp
We ended with a heavier dish, luckily it was small. I loved the sage sauce and the tomato and the cornbread was quite flavorful although a bit dry if it wasn't for the sage sauce.

At the end of this meal (the fourth one that day) we were all very pleased with how light the dishes were and excited by the innovation going on here that is pervading the rest of Baja. Who knew?

La Querencia
Escuadrón 201 #3110
Col. Aviación
Ph. (01152) (664) 972-9935 & 972-9940

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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