Paella Contest Caps Annual Harvest Festival in Baja’s Wine Country
One of the most celebrated culinary creations of La Cocina Español is the famous preparation known as paella. There are many regional recipes for this popular dish, some which incorporate rabbit or even escargot. Most of the entrants in La Vendimia’s annual paella competition, however, favor the classic Andalusian version that combines clams, shrimp, chorizo, chicken and pork with colorful saffron rice.
Over the years, the annual Concurso de Paella has become is a wildly popular event that traditionally marks the conclusion of Ensenada’s Fiestas de la Vendimia, or Harvest Festival. This is truly a family oriented celebration, and is held in Valle de Guadalupe at Vina de Liceaga, adjacent to a massive canopy of old growth oak trees, under which a virtual armada of long tables are assembled.
Early in the afternoon, you can stroll around the picturesque grounds and take in the smells of wood fires mixing with the captivating aromas of the simmering peppers, garlic, onions and fresh seafood. Later on, a team of official judges work their way around the large contingent of competitors to evaluate the many entries and determine which one will ultimately reign supreme. Shortly thereafter, the remaining paella is doled out to throngs of hungry visitors waiting in line to sample the gastronomic delights at hand.
Two separate stages feature a variety of live musical entertainment, and dozens of local wineries provide samples of their esteemed wares to help keep spirits high.
As with most of the events affiliated with Ensenada’s yearly harvest festival, tickets to the Concurso de Paella tend to sell out rather quickly once they go on sale, and it is not unusual to have a few hundred people end up on the waiting list, even though over 1500 gate passes may have been initially available. But luckily, because off the spacious grounds and ample parking at this beautiful pastoral venue, this regularly sold out event never really seems excessively crowded. (For additional information on the winners of the famous paella competition, read this Baja.com story).
Some might even say that this is a perfect note upon which to end Ensenada’s yearly celebration of La Vendimia. It does, after all, bring together two of the region’s international claims to fame; a variety of wonderfully fresh fruits from the nearby seas, and the ripe, rich fruits of the vine, which account for almost the entirety of Mexico’s annual wine production.
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