The Return of Drew Deckman Brings Summer Pleasure at El Mogor
In summer, 2012, I visited Chef Drew Deckman’s wine country restaurant, Deckman’s en El Mogor, for my birthday. I just did again…this time, to celebrate (a few days in advance) a REALLY BIG birthday. The pain of that was diminished by the idyllic afternoon I, my husband and a friend spent under the rustling pine trees at winery and organic ranch Mogor Badan, home to El Mogor. Here, under the attentive eyes of the chef, himself, and waiter Emiliano, we all agreed: The return of Drew Deckman to the Valle de Guadalupe is truly one of the pleasures of summer in Baja.
The al fresco experience at El Mogor begins the moment you enter the stone gates at kilometer 85.5 on the Ensenada-Tecate Highway 3. With blond cattle on the left – calves suckling at their tranquil moms’ underbellies – and emerald green vines on the right, the stage is set for a one-on-one experience with nature. After parking and ambling past lush bougainvillea and oleander up to the pine-shaded restaurant area, you are seated at a table fresh with white linen, sparkling wine glasses and bright flowers. Soon, you sip jamaica (hibiscus) water with a little strawberry slice, and watching as a cool, white Chasselas wine – in my case, the first of several — is poured into your glass.
Drew Deckman, an accomplished Michelin Star-awarded chef originally from Peachtree, Georgia, and chef/owner of Deckman’s San Jose in Baja Sur, is definitely no slouch as a host. He welcomes every guest personally…and then, as the main guru of the wood-fire grills that are constantly performing in his open-air kitchen, he returns to begin his culinary wizardry. He quite literally uses farm-fresh ingredients, many from the now-famous Mogor Badan organic farm run by Natalia Badan, as well as from local purveyors.
Our dining program began with a platter featuring cheeses from Rancho Cortes and Ramonetti – two producers part of Baja’s ‘Cheese Route’ and whose production facilities I highly recommend you visit. After an Ensalada de Pescado (fish salad) presented on a banana leaf, my taste buds were absolutely tantalized by Chef Drew’s Oysters Mignonette. Served on the half-shell, these bivalves from the Guerrero Negro region of Baja achieved flavors that I, for one, have never tasted before through the use of pink peppercorns, shallot and apple vinegar.
Marinated Callos (scallops) with cherry tomatoes and herbs were followed by a refreshing Gazpacho shooter with tomato, mint and basil…a good entre to another seafood plate, Grilled Octopus, that was as visually delightful as it was delicious.
A table favorite was the grilled Cordoniz (quail), with black beans. And then, believe it or not, the main courses. Each of us tried a different grilled dish – lamb, beef, and tuna — testing Chef Drew’s multi-tasking grilling abilities on the red oak wood fire. It was somewhere during this period, as we purred over our food, that my husband enthused, “He is pretty amazing with the grill…everything has a perfect grilled flavor and the process itself seems to actually enhance the flavor profiles of each item.”
I was pretty full by then…so, not to appear to be piggish, I elected to forego the dessert. FOOL. My husband and friend each partook of what I can honestly say is possibly my most favorite dessert that I never ordered (luckily, I poached my husband’s). Apple and bread pudding simply redolent with rosemary and cinnamon, with a lemon crème fraiche, and a Meyer lemon ice-cream and stout (ale) reduction.
Even as I describe it, I am checking my Google calendar to see when I can go back to El Mogor…
…maybe I can pre-celebrate my birthday again before I transition from summer into fall. I guess what I am saying is that I – and dining at El Mogor – never seem to get old!
How to get to Deckman’s: From Ensenada, take Highway 3, Ensenada-Tecate, to kilometer 86.5. You will see a discreet stone entry gate on the right hand side of the road. About a quarter-mile up the road, on your left, is a parking area. Deckman’s is on the right hand side of the road, amongst the vineyards.
Opening Hours: Monday- Sunday. 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
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