This is the story of three Baja Bakeries (Tijuana, Tecate and Ensenada)…and oh, how sweet it is!
By Jack E. George
I assure you, when you visit any of these three Baja bakeries, you will find creations you have never seen or tasted before. L’Abricot, located at Antonio Caso 1910, in Zona Rio, in Tijuana is the starting point. Following this visit, once inside your car, loosen your belt a little and prepare for your next stop in Tecate. Once you are close to El Mejor Pan de Tecate, Avenue Juarez 331, the overwhelming, delicious smells will draw you to the bakery. You might want to walk around the beautiful town square, get a little exercise, before you head over to Ensenada. You will want to go to Avenue Diamante No 2104 where you will find Hogaza Hogaza, which means ‘big loaves, big loaves.’ This European-style bakery offers 30 premium gourmet types of bread all made from fresh ingredients with no preservatives.
When I walked inside L’Abricot the first thing I noticed was that it was spotlessly clean and offered an air of elegance. The tables were each covered with a white-linen tablecloth, with a blue cloth on top which added a nice touch to the French style restaurant-bakery. Owner Maribel Villarreal, a pleasant young woman, said this is the first eatery she has owned and operated. It was established in 2000 following her training in Paris at the Hotel Ritz. The huge assortment of pastries offers everything from the Opera Cake to Almond bread. L’ Abricot serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The meals are mostly French style while breakfasts offer “A touch of Mexican, French Mexican,” according to Villarreal.
The next stop in the Baja Bakeries tour is El Mejor Pan de Tecate, which also offers a great variety of pastries. The first thing you notice about El Mejor is the traditional Mexican style of the exterior. The umbrellas, sitting atop several tables, make it a special place to join friends while having some delicious pastries. Choosing one pastry is difficult as one looks more delicious than the other. After your eyes have checked each one, relax, and enjoy a few pastries. This will assure you that you make all of the right choices. Then you can select a few more to take home to ‘share’ with the family. Aside from the chefs, another reason these pastries are so delicious is that most of the items are baked in a wood fired oven.
One of the outstanding treats is the Rosca de Queso. It is a big square with a Danish flavor. The cream cheese adds a very special taste. Alonso Mungarro opened the bakery in 1969. Those people visiting, or living in Rosarito, can find a branch of El Mejor at the north end of town. Located on Benito Juarez Boulevard, it is in a small strip mall where the large Roma Pharmacy is located. Gloria, the owner, said that their pastries are all baked in house. When asked if they also use a wood burning oven, she enthusiastically replied, “Yes!”
Hopefully you have saved some stomach space for the trip to Ensenada. If you have difficulty locating Hogaza Hogaza Pan de Autor you can ask any local resident who will joyfully point you in the right direction as well as offer words of praise for choosing this shop where you can find an array of breads. The owner and chef, Teresa Santiago Corona prides her shop on the fact they offer the freshest of ingredients ranging from rosemary to fine herbs. Aside from their well-known Mediterranean loafs you can also choose from brioche of fruits, focaccia, ciabatta, and many others. Pan de Autor has an interesting translation, ‘designer bread.’ Teresa explained that each piece of bread is special whereby it offers its own complete work. The owner started her career as finance major at the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara. However, her family had a strong tradition of bread-making. This attracted her to the process where she taught herself how to bake. This led her to earning a degree from the Culinary Institute in San Diego. Her first shop was opened in an abandoned family market. She transformed this into her first bakery. Now, although you have already been to two other pastry shops, you must try Teresa’s lavender truffles, her fruit pie, as well as her red berry mousse.
After your day of delights, you might have one more stop to make – yes, your local gym. Just for fun you might try to calculate the number of calories you consumed today. On the other hand, this was such a pleasant treat, you might decide to go home, turn on your TV, and watch your favorite gourmet show.
Nothing is better than baked goods in the morning…so why not spend the night in these towns in anticipation of that coffee-cream and pastry delight?
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