Corazón de Tierra: The Heart and Soil behind Baja California Cuisine

A place full of tasteful wonders at Valle de Guadalupe

April 30, 2012  By Kristin Díaz de Sandi of Life & Food. Reprinted with permission from SanDiegoRed.com

The entrance to Corazon de Tierra. Kristin Díaz de Sandi

The weather could have not been more beautiful in El Valle de Guadalupe. As soon as you make the first left turn following the sign to La Villa del Valle a whole new world opens up. We rolled down the windows and let in the sweet smells of nature outside flow in. You may feel as if you are driving to the middle of nowhere, but just continue to follow the signs, and you will see the gorgeous property on the horizon. We pulled up to Corazon de Tierra, but before entering the restaurant we decided to walk around the gardens and take a closer look at La Villa del Valle. I honestly felt like I was on the beginning of a vacation, and just blown away by the scenery.

As you walk into Corazon de Tierra you are welcomed by floor to ceiling windows, that let you longingly gaze out into the fields. The tables are all pre fab wood, that set a tone of warmth with clean lines alongside the steel accents.

Agnes greeted us, and told us to choose a seat. We sat in the far corner of the restaurant nearest to the giant glass window/door. The door is left open when weather permits, and the restaurant is full of the fresh aromatic breezes from outside. Just watching your food being picked out of the garden, right before its plated is an incredible feeling.

We were then presented with a brown paper bag full of slices of homemade Rosemary bread, a dish of Beet leaf pesto, and a plate of local Baja cheeses. The weather was in the eighties that day, and Agnes came by and suggested that we try out their Vena Cava Sauvignon Blanc. The wine was full of fruit forward flavors with a delightful crisp acidity to it.

Before I even had time to blink Chef Diego Hernandez was joining us at our table for a little conversation. We talked about his studies at the Culinary Art School in Tijuana, and his experiences in the kitchens of various restaurants around Mexico. He is so incredibly full of passion for the food and dishes that he creates. It made me so happy to see the love come out when he spoke about the restaurant and its garden surroundings. He explained to us the difference between the way that the soil is in Baja California, and that being the reason for instance that a carrot straight out of the ground would have such an amazing taste. I can’t help but get goosebumps when I see someone so in love with what they are doing.

His menu changes daily, and varies depending upon the availability of the produce from the garden, as well as the meats from local farms, and fresh seafood from Ensenada. Each dish was so beautifully presented, they each looked like a piece of art.

Our amuse bouche was a fresh oyster with a drizzle of olive oil and soy sauce. In one slurp your mouth is full of flavors of the ocean. The soy sauce added a nice touch of saltiness, that even enhanced its natural flavors.

The first course was a salad composed of pan seared radishes, pigs feet, Daikon flowers, and a turnip and fennel puree. Pan searing a radish really does something magical. The pigs feet had a silk like texture, that were a nice surprise against the crunch of the radishes and smooth puree.

The second course was a bowl filled with spider crab, radish sprouts, and mint. Poured over the top was a sweet carrot broth creating a velvety soup. There are so many flavors in the one bowl. The heartiness of the crab and its sweetness is heightened by the almost golden carrot broth. The simplicity of adding some fresh mint brings on a whole other level of flavor that is so refreshing. Hot weather or not, I finished every last bite of this dish.

The third course was a contender for my favorite of the meal. It was so hard to pick any favorites, but this was one dish that I could not stop talking about. A filet of perfectly cooked rock cod sat on a smear of tomato aioli, and was surrounded by sprouted lentils and broccoli. On top of the fish was Chef Diego’s version of a “gremolata”. Sprouted lentils are a new addition to my life, and from now on they will continue to be present. They added this texture and flavor to the fish that words can’t even describe. The perfect bite full of flaky fish, and earthy vegetables with a hint of the slight acidity of the creamy aioli and citrusy gremolata, will instantly have your taste buds throwing a party.

The fourth and final savory course was quail on a bed of black beans and spinach. Over the quail was an added element of heat from a Chile Guero and black radish relish. The fresh carrots from the garden that Chef Diego Hernandez spoke of earlier made it to the plate, as well as some potato flakes. Quail is not as commonly on menus as I feel it should be. The meat is so tender, and oozes with its natural juices.

The fifth course before the dessert came a granita palate cleanser. It was chocked full of the floral flavors of lavender and chamomile with cubes of mint, and a drizzle of local honey from their own bees. Each invigorating spoonful tasted as if you spent your day at the spa in a room full of aromatherapy candles. It made me feel even more relaxed and tranquil than I already had, and who know that was even possible.

The sixth and final course was a yogurt and honey ice cream on a banana puree drizzled with a bourbon sabayon, and a piece of crisp chocolate bread wedged in. The portion was so ideal, and you are able to get each ingredient of the dish in one bite. The bourbon added a touch of the alcohol taste in the finish, but it did not at all overwhelm the other flavors.

The dining experience at Corazon de Tierra left me feeling inspired. It is a truly different and enlightening experience that will make you appreciate your food and where it comes from more than ever before.

Corazon de Tierra is the restaurant in connection with La Villa del Valle, the charming 6 bedroom luxury inn. The property also houses their Vena Cava Winery, which you will often find the owners Phil and Eileen Gregory around the site.

By Kristin Díaz de Sandi

lifeandfoodblog@gmail.com

Kristin and Antonio blog at Life & Food and you can follow them on Twitter at @lifefoodblog and Facebook.

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Comments

  1. CJ says:

    Looking for the variety of flower Tony Bourdain had on No Reservations that the owner said tasted of oyster. Any help anyone?

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