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About Tom Gatch

For over a decade, Hooked on Baja author, Tom Gatch, has built a solid reputation as one of the foremost writers and columnists focusing on travel and recreational activities in Baja and southern California. His company, El Puerto Creative Consultants provides professional copy writing services and creative support for business entities on both sides of the border.

2016 Sabor de Baja Hits New Heights

And the Legend Lives On

Sabor de Baja

Over numerous decades, the Rosarito Beach Hotel has played host to a myriad of Hollywood celebrities, international dignitaries and discriminating visitors from around the globe.  As a matter of fact, as the years have passed, some of its regular guests even began referring to it simply as ‘the legend’; paying homage to the fact that the hotel has remained one of the top properties of its kind on the Baja coast since the days of the early 20th Century.

As it turns out, during the past several years, the hotel along with Chef Bo Bendana of the Mi Casa Supper Club have worked together to create yet another legend, which now draws throngs of eager epicureans and wine lovers to the annual Sabor de Baja that features delightful samplings of our region’s finest wines and craft brews pared with gourmet cuisine from top local restaurants.  Without a doubt, the 2016 event set a new standard in that regard.

Sabor de Baja

The popular Fuego restaurant in Valle Guadalupe grilled some exquisitely tender pork loin, while Tijuana’s famed Caesar’s restaurant switched things up from their popular salad and instead offered trays of succulent, freshly shucked oysters on the half shell.

This year’s affair was also upgraded with a new VIP section, which offered reserved table seating that was situated adjacent to the main stage.  Guests who took advantage of this option enjoyed easy access to the wine and food along with a close up view of the featured entertainment and presentation ceremonies.

An increase in onsite staffing ensured that the general admission attendees were also well accommodated with additional chairs for their tables whenever necessary.  As always, however, it was the exceptional performance of the many vintners, brewers, chefs and restaurateurs taking part in this annual event that elevated it to its new apex in 2016.

Sabor de Baja

The team at Madera 5, known for their fine red wines wowed this year’s guests with a stunningly crisp and lightly fruity Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay blend aged in stainless steel tanks, which allows for a light, clean finish.

Although wine was the most predominant beverage being served, there were also a few wonderful craft brews available; most notably, the Veraniega Mexican ale provided by Ensenada’s Wendlandt Cerveceria.

Nonetheless, from velvety reds to crisp whites and an occasional well rounded blush or rosé, it was indeed the many fine wines available that created some of the best pairing opportunities.  Evaluating the many varietals in an attempt to find a clear ‘winner’ can often become quite subjective; yet one of them must ultimately end up prevailing over all the others.

The judges at the 4th Annual Sabor de Baja had the daunting task of tasting food items from 20 different chefs and tasting 16 wines and 4 craft beers; and then had to determine the winners in each of those categories in a mere 2 hours.

Sabor de Baja

The Alximia winery presented a velvety Temperanillo and Cabernet along with a selection of light Grenache, blush and Helios Rosé.

In the end, they came to a unanimous decision.  It was the cuisine of Chef Armas Gomez and his Ensenada restaurant Mantou Gastropub, paired with a fine red wine from Vinicola Corona Del Valle that ended up taking the top honors.  Yet, the high quality of all the entries presented to them made for some very fierce competition.

Attendees also got an opportunity to weigh in on the many restaurants that took part in the event.  Once again the voting was close, but it was the Rosarito Beach Hotel’s gourmet restaurant Chabert’s that ultimately took the People’s Choice Award for presenting the best cuisine at the competition.

Sabor de Baja

Chabert’s, the hotel’s gourmet restaurant, ended up winning the People’s Choice Award.

The annual Sabor de Baja event not only continues to consistently set the regional standard for upscale wine and food pairings of this nature; it also plays an important role in drawing further international attention to the world class wines, chefs and exquisite gastronomic resources that are available in northern Baja California.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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Sabor de Baja Reaches New Heights in 2015

Elegant End-of-Summer Affair at the Rosarito Beach Hotel Draws Rave Reviews from White-Clad Attendees

Sabor de Baja

The 3rd annual Sabor de Baja gala and culinary competition was held Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at the Rosarito Beach Hotel.

The weather was hot and humid – more like Acapulco than northern Baja – but the impassioned competition ended up being even hotter.

For the third year in a row, the annual Sabor de Baja event at the Rosarito Beach Hotel was a smashing success.  As a matter of fact, many of the guests at the sold out event indicated that they thought the 2015 gala set a new standard for elegant attire (dress code: all white), and elegantly prepared cuisine paired with Baja California’s finest wines.

Sabor a Baja

Chef Bo Bendana of Mi Casa Supper Club founded Sabor de Baja in 2013.

The founder of Sabor de Baja is Chef Bo Bendana of Rosarito’s venerated Mi Casa Supper Club. The restaurant is well known for its unique “Moroxican” fusion, which highlights the best notes of cuisines that originate in both northern Africa and the Republic of Mexico.

However, the true purpose of this annual gala is not to focus merely on the tasting of epicurean fare and fine wine, but rather upon the gastronomic magic that takes place when they are artfully paired.  Hence, the emphasis is on booths comprised of carefully selected teams of both a vintner and a restaurateur.

Chef Bendana explains: “Our Judges rate each pair of entries not only on how the food, wine or beer may taste individually, but on how well they work together.”

This year’s lineup of participating chefs included Erick Alcazar, Manuel Brito, Iker Castillo, Antonio de Liver, Nadya Fernandez, Jaime Galindo, Giannina Gavaldon, Diego Hernandez, Javier Plascencia and Martin San Roman.

The judging panel was made up of a variety of reviewers, which included TV Show host, chef and author Porter Brooks, Ms. Anita Lau, who is an international author, food and lifestyle blogger and food TV guest judge, Michelin starred Chef Drew Deckman, owner of Deckman’s of El Mogor restaurant, national food blogger Michael Gardiner and aspiring chef Marco Antonio Amado, who also happens to be the top enologist in the Valle De Guadalupe region.

Without a doubt, being a judge at the Sabor de Baja is not an easy task, since every entrant in the competition, whether vintner, brewer or restaurateur, represent the apex of their particular craft. Needless to say, winning top honors at an upscale event of this nature is the ultimate prize, yet simply being included as a contestant is a special distinction in and of itself.

Sabor de Baja

The Rosarito Beach Hotel’s chef and his kitchen staff show off their skills at the 3rd annual Sabor de Baja.

In the end, Chef Marco Marin of restaurant Latitud 32 and El Cielo wines from Valle Guadalupe took first place. El Cielo’s delightful 2014 Cassiopea Sauvignon Blanc proved to be the perfect pairing with Marin’s mouthwatering Mayan Black Ceviche, which incorporated a robust orange habanero chili oil, fresh tomato, red onion, cilantro sprouts and a dusting of recado negro.

In addition to wonderful food and wine, the lively entertainment on stage kept guests engaged throughout the event. Even though it was a bit warm, the music inspired many attendees to make it out onto the dance floor as the evening wore on.

Once again, the superlative efforts of Chef Bo Bendana and the Rosarito Beach Hotel combined to produce yet another top flight Sabor de Baja.  And, since they seem to get better and better every year, the tickets for this annual gala might very well end up being sold out even quicker in 2016.

 

Sabor de Baja

The weather was hot, but the oysters were on ice at Sabor de Baja.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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Sabor de Baja: Rosarito Gala Showcases Local Color, Regional Flavors

Sabor de Baja: Rosarito Gala Showcases Local Color, Regional Flavors

Sabor de Baja

Thanks to the efforts of some of the region’s best chefs, the second annual Sabor de Baja was a smashing success. Photo: Sabor de Baja

In an expanded version of last year’s sold out inaugural event, hosted by the Rosarito Beach Hotel, the 2014 edition of Sabor de Baja proved to be another smashing success.  The elegant affair was held on the beachside terrace adjacent to the property’s picturesque fishing pier, where scores of attendees assembled to partake in masterfully paired samples of upscale cuisine and fine wines on a balmy, late summer afternoon.

Guests all joined in to celebrate this year’s White Party theme, which produced a bright and festive gathering that  drew at least twice the number of guests from both sides of the border as did the previous year’s event.

Sabor de Baja

Elegant, all-white attire was the dress code du jour at the second annual Sabor de Baja. Photo: Lynn Gatch

Sabor de Baja

The chef from Ensenada’s Campestre Restaurant delighted attendees as he sliced tender, grilled steak right off the bone. Photo: Lynn Gatch

Unlike many similar functions held in the area this time of year, Sabor de Baja featured educated pairing suggestions rather than leaving guests on their own to navigate the various food and beverage stations.

Refreshingly, the many who attended this event were treated to rows of booths and kiosks touting a bevy of tasty treats that incorporated select meats, seafood or cheeses into their individual culinary offerings. Neighboring each of them were samples of the appropriate wines that were selected to specifically match that particular cuisine.  Hence, the best aspects of each component could be fully appreciated by those in attendance.

Sabor de Baja

Top culinary honors were taken by Valle de Guadalupe’s La Terrasse San Roman, with a toothsome sphere of ultra-tender, shredded pork on a bed of arugula topped with micro greens and dressed in a savory hibiscus-grape reduction sauce. The masterpiece was paired with a fine red wine produced by AlXimia. Photo: Lynn Gatch

The tough job of official judging was conducted by a panel of gastronomic experts that included Chef Javier Plascencia, Joaquin Fernandez Rizo and Javier Gonzalez, as well as Sam Zien from the television show Sam the Cooking Guy. Despite the fact that there has to be a defined first place winner at these types of events, virtually everyone who sampled the numerous pairings available would have to admit that the competition this year was very keen indeed.  After attending these types of events, I will often conclude that there were a mix of “hit” and “miss” samplings being offered.  This was definitely not the case at Sabor de Baja. 

Sabor de Baja

These fresh and flavorful ahi wasabi cones festooned with black and white sesame seeds won the People’s Choice Award. Photo: Lynn Gatch

As more and more people begin to discover the world class wines and fine Baja Med cuisine being created in our region, upscale affairs of this nature will become increasingly popular.  Until then, you can rest assured that the next Sabor de Baja will likely outdo even this year’s stellar event.

 
Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

 

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Captain Hook’s Gallery: Fishing in Rosarito

Captain Hook’s Gallery: Fishing in Rosarito

The Rosarito Beach Hotel sportfishing pier offers recreational diversions for people of all ages.

The Baja California peninsula, with its Mediterranean coastal climate and pristine beaches, could very well be one of the best values and most convenient options for north of the border residents looking for a high quality, low priced weekend getaway. Rosarito Beach, which is located less than 20 miles south of the San Ysidro crossing, boasts numerous shops and restaurants, as well as a great hotel and sportfishing pier.

Decades ago, Rosarito Beach was a popular surf fishing destination for many Southern California anglers, and those who diligently worked the shoreline could expect to catch a variety of species such as croaker, corbina, perch, sand bass, halibut and several types of rays and sand sharks.

Barred surfperch offer great sport for the fledgling angler, as well as a tasty meal.

Rosarito Beach was later targeted by the Spring Break crowd, and an increasing number of trendy bars and eateries began to pop up along Boulevard Benito Juarez, with local tavern owners profiting from the steady flow of weekend and holiday visitors. This was about the time that the vision of Rosarito as a worthwhile place to cast out a fishing line began to fade.

Fortunately for intrepid anglers, several years ago Hugo Torres, owner of the Rosarito Beach Hotel and former Mayor of Rosarito Beach, was finally able to realize his long-time dream of building a sportfishing pier near his property. The sprawling platform now stretches over a quarter of a mile out into the ocean, eventually coming to an end at an emergent cluster of large rocks.

This natural habitat helped to turn the area near the pier’s furthest extremity into an “all-you-can-eat” buffet for hungry halibut, bass, perch and other seasonal gamefish species. Fishing from the pier much closer to shore with light tackle for quality barred surfperch that are swimming barely beyond the inshore breakers can be extremely productive as well. Access to the pier is available to the general public for a small fee, and is free for hotel guests.

It is not uncommon to catch surfperch between 2 to 3 pounds from the pier near the churning surf within a few hundred feet of the beach. The most popular bait for barred surfperch is soft-shelled sand crabs, but fresh local mussels, cut bait, and small, plastic grubs in motor oil or red flake also work well.  Perch fishing is usually best on an incoming tide, when they tend to feed inside the breaker zone.

Those who prefer fishing with bait should try attaching a #4 or #6 treble hook to the end of a 4 to 6 pound test, fluorocarbon leader about 20 inches in length. Tie a barrel swivel to the opposite end of the leader, then pass the line from your reel through a half to three quarter ounce egg sinker, and tie the line to the other eye of the swivel so that the sinker sits positioned above the leader. Use the same, basic Carolina-rig when working plastic grubs through the suds.

Between Spring and Autumn, California halibut are one of the most prized species pursued by anglers.

Further out on the structure, some of the most popular fish to target are the California halibut that cruise the sandy bottom near the pilings in an opportunistic effort to ambush a quick meal. Live bait is one of the most efficient methods for catching halibut, but it is not always available. Luckily, halibut will also readily attack 3 to 5 inch plastic swimbaits in colors like blue or green, which resemble small forage fish such as the smelt, sardines or anchovies.  They will also inhale plastic grubs of a similar length, with the best colors generally being chartreuse, orange or green.  Grubs in smoke or clear colors with high metal flake content are also effective.

Just off the end of the Rosarito Beach sportfishing pier, massive rocky outcroppings and adjacent patches of golden kelp are home to a variety of fish which will readily attack small pieces of cut squid, clams or baitfish. 

You never know what you might catch off the Rosarito Beach Hotel sportfishing pier.

Whether or not you happen to catch a few fish, the Rosarito Beach Hotel’s pier offers an invigoration opportunity to get a breath of fresh ocean air, a little exercise and a picturesque view of Rosarito Beach from a rare and unique vantage point. As time progresses, it’s a safe bet that this popular pier will continue to draw throngs of intrepid anglers and other visitors from San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange counties who are looking forward to enjoying a few relaxing days under the warm Baja sun.

Once they’ve arrived, visitors will also be delighted to discover that the legendary hotel’s sportfishing pier is flanked with the sort of quality entertainment, shopping, and upscale dining that have made Rosarito Beach such a popular destination for decades.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

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Dining in ‘The Nest’: El Nido is Baja’s Authentic Grill-House

by Tom Gatch

El Nido's warm and rustic interior features open grills and glowing camals

For many, there is probably no culinary aroma on the planet more alluring than that of prime meat roasting on a grill over glowing coals.  It is a smell capable of touching a primal nerve that harkens all the way back to the cave.  And, if the fire below happens to be made from quality Baja mesquite it will quickly become a naturally seasoned feast that will require virtually no additional condiments to bring out its full flavor.

But however simple that combination may be, El Nido, which is Spanish for ‘the nest’, has artfully used those two basic components to carve out a reputation as one of the finest and most popular steak and game houses in Baja California.  With locations in Rosarito Beach, San Felipe, and Loreto, El Nido, has also become one of the most prominent of such restaurant groups on the entire peninsula.

Owner, Domingo Perez, has been in the restaurant business for over 40 years. He and his family have always taken extreme pride in the high quality of food served at there restaurants.  In fact, they even have their own organic ranching operation that provides their guests with plump, tasty rabbit and juicy venison steaks (not to mention their specialty, quail, which might reflect upon the name ‘The Nest’) to help augment with tender beef that they acquire from top producers on the Mexico mainland.

From the moment you walk into the dining room, the captivating aromas, subdued lighting and homey atmosphere sets the groundwork for a great meal to come.  You may even choose to kick start your private fiesta with a frosty margarita to go along with the crisp, freshly made tortilla chips and authentic salsa de casa brought to your table by a member of their attentive wait staff prior to the arrival of the soup, which is accompanied by a fresh plate of chopped cilantro, white onions and delightfully grilled serrano chilis. Want to see how tortillas are made by hand?  This is the place. 

The generously portioned meals here are reasonably priced, and also include hearty, homemade bean soup, fresh green salad, baked potato and all the fresh tortillas and zesty salsa you can eat.

El Nido restaurants offer full bar service and if you like, the festive strains of strolling mariachis is also on hand to help enhance the dining experience.  All El Nidos are conveniently located; the Rosarito eatery has the added advantage of being within walking distance of the Rosarito Beach Hotel, vacation rentals, and near a fun shopping mercado!

Be sure to arrive with cash on hand, however, because no credit cards are accepted.

And be sure to take pictures inside and post them on Baja.com…and let us know what you think of the huge cage of small birds that is a focal point of the restaurant!

Locations:

Rosarito Beach (BCN) – Benito Juarez Blvd. #67  Phone: MX. (661) 612-1430

San Felipe (BCN) – Mar de Cortez #348   Phone: MX. (686) 577-1028

Loreto (BCS) – Calle Salvatierra #154  Phone: MX. (613) 135-2445

Hooked on Baja author & columnist, Tom Gatch, is one of Baja’s foremost writers with a focus upon outdoor and recreational topics in Baja and southern California.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.

 

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