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Mi Casa Supper Club: A Touch of Class in Rosarito Beach

Mi Casa Supper Club: A Touch of Class in Rosarito Beach

ROSARITO BEACH, BAJA CALIFORNIA – “Food isn’t a new passion. I started cooking when I was just six years old.” Chef Bo Bendana Sein eased back into the stylishly upholstered seat at our table. The last rays of sunlight streamed in from the edge of the Pacific just outside the large patio windows that line the western side of her new restaurant, Mi Casa Supper Club in the San Antonio del Mar community of Rosarito Beach. Dressed in chef whites, her brown and blonde streaked hair flowed from under a colorful bandana. Though not wearing makeup, Chef Bo is stunningly attractive, radiant – appearing at least a decade younger than her forty four years. Her dusty blue eyes sparkled in the setting sun as she continued…

Mi Casa Supper Club

Mi Casa Supper Club. Elegant “Moroxican” dining in Rosarito Beach.

“I lost track of cooking for a while and went to study interior design at the Fashion Institute, my first profession.” Bo’s time at FIT was well spent. The restaurant’s interior boasts delicate mother of pearl chandeliers, large upholstered wooden chairs, luxurious sofas, a fireplace and even two “bubble” chairs from Bali, the backs high enough to create a private, romantic table for two smack dab in the middle of the space. The finishes are all warm wood and earth tones, complementing the vast blue of the sky and ocean outside. The impression given is one of Morocco meets Orange County, Chef Bo’s home country and her last residence in the US before moving here with her husband Dennis nine years ago.

Mi Casa Supper Club

Mi Casa Supper Club’s cozy, elegant interiors.

Bo continued, “When things got a little tense in Baja California, no one wanted to go out to eat at night. So we’d go to each other’s homes. That’s when I started cooking again.” This was 2008, when cartel violence had reached a peak in the region. “Collectively, we formed a supper club, and would host weekly dinners in members’ private homes. But as our club became more popular, we outgrew even the largest houses. Our last private dinner had 52 attendees.”

With culinary tourism becoming popular in Tijuana, Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe, Bo and Dennis decided it was time to invest in a more permanent restaurant, building Mi Casa Supper Club from the ground up. Since it opened in the summer of 2014, the restaurant has quickly become a favorite of the local expat population and is also gaining popularity with visitors to Baja California. Recently, the restaurant rose to #1 on TripAdvisor for Rosarito Beach.

Mi Casa Supper Club

Tea time at Mi Casa Supper Club.

Just last night, Bo was host to the sold-out second annual Sabor de Baja, a culinary competition and white attire event that she and Dennis organize and manage. A monumental task for sure, the seemingly tireless Bo shows no sign of wear this evening, though is visibly enjoying her break from the kitchen to chat with El Gringo and family. I had helped judge the competition, tasting 17 dishes from Baja’s best chefs, winemakers and craft brewers and Bo had graciously invited us to her restaurant to sample her cooking. Chef Bo refers to her menu – which changes monthly – as “Moroxican”, the application of Moroccan recipes and preparation techniques to locally-culled Baja California ingredients.

Mi Casa Supper Club

Bo Bendana Sein with Martin San Roman, winner of this year’s Sabor de Baja, the event she organizes.

Earlier, when we arrived at Mi Casa Supper Club, Bo’s instruction to her head waiter was to “…keep bringing in small plates for them, so they can taste a little bit of everything,” turning to me, she smiled, “You just let us know when to stop.” Not a problem chef! Napkins on laps, glasses of wine poured – and a lemonade for El Gringo’s hijo – we were up to the challenge and ready to enjoy a feast of Chef Bo’s Moroccan-inspired Baja cuisine.

Mi Casa Supper Club

Fresh organic fig bruschetta with roasted walnuts, basil, goat cheese and aged balsamic vinegar.

Mi Casa Supper Club

Labneh cheese, black cured olives, Za’atar infused olive oil.

Mi Casa Supper Club

Gigamoto oysters with chili, ginger, champagne vinegar sauce & flying fish eggs.

Mi Casa Supper Club

Fried oysters with mango habañero chutney.

Mi Casa Supper Club

Chicken tagine with homemade preserved Meyer lemons and green olives.

Mi Casa Supper Club

Slow cooked sirloin in saffron sauce with sweet plums.

Mi Casa Supper Club

Mini chocolate cake, key lime pie cheesecake with candied rinds and chocolate truffles.

At the end of the evening, Chef Bo asked El Gringo’s 6 year old how he liked the food. He replied, “It was like a present for my mouth”. With Mi Casa Supper Club’s winning combination of Moroccan and Mexican, sweet and savory, delicate and hearty, I would fully agree with his assessment and suggest that you stop by for your own Middle Eastern feast in Baja California. And tell Chef Bo El Gringo sent you!

 

Mi Casa Supper Club is located at 54 Estero, San Antonio Del Mar, Rosarito, Mexico – at the entrance to the community of San Antonio Del Mar exit from the toll road. Phone: +52 664 609 3459. Open Thursday & Friday to everyone after 5:00pm. Sunday noon to 8:00pm.

 

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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Eight Ways to Eat (and Drink) Your Way through Rosarito Beach

Eight Ways to Eat (and Drink) Your Way through Rosarito Beach

ROSARITO BEACH, BAJA CALIFORNIA – Located off Baja California’s Highway 1, tiny Rosarito Beach (pop. 70,000) is often overlooked as a culinary destination in deference to Ensenada’s seafood scene to the south, and Baja Med just north (and closer to the border) in Tijuana. But a little time spent exploring some of Rosarito’s restaurants, taco stands, farms, hotels and its single winery will unearth an abundant, fresh, farm-and-sea-to-table smorgasbord. Of course, every old “Baja Hand’s” favorites are still there…Puerto Nuevo style lobster and El Nido’s mesquite-grilled Sonoran steaks. But on a recent trip, I found some surprises as well…craft beers at the Rosarito Beer Fest and a famous taco stand somehow missed during past excursions just south of the border.

In no particular order, read ‘em and drool…

1. Claudius Viña Y Bodega

Master winemaker Julio Benito Martin from Segovia, Spain, started Rosarito Beach’s only winery in 2010 with a 300 case production. Today, he’s planning on releasing 15,000 cases in 2015 and is bringing his wines to a wider national market. Claudius boasts some outstanding reds. Their 2012 Nebbiolo was my favorite – fruity, bold and with a bit of chocolate. Julio let me know that it was still young…and he’d be lucky if the rest of the vintage makes it until its peak 5th year. Claudius also hosts winemaking classes.

Claudius Viña y Bodega is available for private tastings by appointment, events and winemaking classes. They are located at Bulevar Sharp 3722, 22710 Rosarito, B.C., Mexico. Website.

Rosarito Beach

Ernesto Diaz Perez and Master Winemaker Julio Benito Martin of Claudius Winery.

2. Baja Produce

Owner Fernanda Sanchez stocks a variety of fresh produce including olives and cheeses from the Valle de Guadalupe, homemade bread and the BEST, firmest, freshest tomatoes I’ve ever had. On hand also are a variety of Baja produced lotions, honeys, wines, art, music and other goodies. The location, right on the free road, also has a quaint, rustic restaurant in which to kick back and enjoy some of Baja’s bounty, delivered right to your table.

Baja Produce is located at Popotla 10, Col. Cuenca Diaz, Rosarito, B.C., Mexico. Website.

Rosarito Beach

Baja Produce’s selection of Valle de Guadalupe cheeses at their Rosarito Beach location.

3. Popotla

If you’ve followed El Gringo, you know I have a “thing” for Popotla and this fishing village’s fresh seafood, as I’ve posted here. And here. In Popotla the fishermen bring their catch to shore daily and local vendors and restaurants prepare it at a price that’s typically much less than what you’d pay in the States. After you’ve experienced Popotla’s beachside and restaurant scene, you can head just north of the village proper to Popotla Restaurant and Bar for a more formal meal. Located oddly at a nicer mobile home park, their ceviches, clams and Puerto Nuevo style lobster are superb.

Popotla Restaurant and Bar is located at Carretera libre Tijuana Ensenada Km 34, 22710 Rosarito, B.C., Mexico. Website.

Rosarito Beach

Delicious and fresh chocolate clams, served right by the ocean in Popotla.

4. Tacos El Yaqui

They say, “If you haven’t had Tacos El Yaqui, you haven’t been to Rosarito Beach.” Well, it’s official, El Gringo has now been to Rosarito Beach and loves Tacos El Yaqui’s smoky beefy goodness. Founded in 1967, Tacos El Yaqui serves one type of taco only, and they do it very well. Marinated Sonoran arrachera (skirt steak) is cooked over oak on a metal box grill, then served with onions, guacamole, cilantro and beans in a hearty flour tortilla. Grilled chilis and radishes are served on the side. The line for Tacos El Yaqui has been known to go down the street…these are tacos worth waiting for!

Tacos El Yaqui is located at Mar del Norte, 22710, Rosarito Beach, B.C., Mexico. Website.

Rosarito Beach

Tacos El Yaqui does one taco really, really well. Marinated and grilled arrachera from Sonora.

5. Rosarito Beer Fest

El Gringo was privileged to attend the first annual Rosarito Beer Fest during a recent visit. Baja California’s proximity to the craft beer scene in San Diego has spawned a burgeoning brew culture here as well – particularly in Tijuana, Ensenada and Mexicali, all of whom represented at the Beer Fest held at the famous Festival Plaza in the center of town. Standouts were the Chocolate Stout from Funes in Tijuana, and a lineup of Tequila and Mojito-flavored brews from Salitos.

Rosarito Beach

Raul Aispuro Funes of Funes Beer in Tijuana shows off his new Chocolate Stout.

6. Puerto Nuevo

Puerto Nuevo. You remember it well. Home of the buttery, grilled, don’t-need-to-refinanace-your-home-to-afford-it lobster feast. This Baja village is still serving up mariscos and its world-famous lobsters at a number of restaurants in town. Though Puerto Nuevo has suffered a reputation for sourcing it’s crustaceans frozen and from Australia over the past decade (the local waters apparently “lobstered out”), La Casa Del Pescador served us up a platter of the tasty red critters that were moist, flavorful and wholly satisfying.

La Casa del Pescador is located at Paseo del Mar No. 5, Puerto Nuevo, Rosarito, B.C., Mexico.Website.

Rosarito Beach

Lobster feast at La Cas del Pescador, Puerto Nuevo, Rosarito Beach, Mexico.

7. Rancho Las Ilusiones

If you can tear yourself away from the beach and travel east of the highway up into the hills a bit, with the proper directions, you’ll arrive at the sprawling Rancho Las Ilusiones. Rancho Las Ilusiones is a family-owned working ranch and organic farm with crops, sheep, goats, cows, chickens, turkeys and even a few peacocks. In 2012, the Cordero family opened their palapa restaurant and offer a very fresh list of options for brunch, made from the ranch’s produce and meats. El Gringo dug into the Conejo (rabbit) Machaca and Eggs and had a couple of cups of really good, strong coffee. The desserts were homemade, and although I didn’t partake, I was assured by a fellow diner that they were delicious.

Rancho Las Ilusiones is located at Calle Baja California, Colonia Morelos, 22710, Rosarito, B.C., Mexico. Facebook Page.

Rosarito Beach

Rancho Las Ilusiones is a working ranch and organic farm just east of Rosarito Beach.

8. Restaurant El Nido

Another old Baja saying goes, “Where there are gringos, there’ll be an El Nido.” Opened in 1971, the Rosarito Beach location is the original and still the best. Much of the restaurant’s produce, fowl and game meats come from its farms just east of town in the foothills. One is Rancho Guacatay, which raises much of their free-range venison. El Nido’s location in town is a beautiful rustic mess of stone, waterfalls, plants, palapas, rusted farm implements and folk art. On a recent visit, I sampled their ribeye, venison and quail, which were perfectly grilled and presented.

El Nido Restaurant is located at Mar del Cortez #348 Sur, Rosarito Beach, B.C., Mexico.Website.

Rosarito Beach

El Nido’s paradilla of ribeye, venison and quail. All farmed and sourced locally.

Hungry yet? I am! Get down (or back down) to Rosarito Beach soon for the weekend or just a casual Sunday and enjoy some of the great cuisine the region has to offer.

Your Gringo In Mexico,
Scott

 

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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A Home Unlike Any Other: Puerto Nuevo’s Mermaid House

A Home Unlike Any Other: Puerto Nuevo’s Mermaid House

Do not try to label Puerto Nuevo artist Armando Munoz Garcia as different or eccentric, as he does not fit in any kind of mold. He dropped out of school at the age of 11, and started teaching himself art at 14. Armando first became known in Baja in 1991. That was the year he completed Tijuana lll Millennium, also known as La Mona, or The Doll.  The artist first proposed the naked lady be “built” to Tijuana city authorities. He wanted to present the woman to commemorate Tijuana’s 1989 centennial. The city declined the offer, which was probably wise since La Mona was not completed until two years after the celebration.

Puerto Nuevo's Mermaid House

Tijuana’s rejection did not deter the determined artist. Armando crafted the five-story tall house in the shape of a woman in Colonia Aeropuerto, where it became the home for he and his wife. Their bedroom was in the woman’s breasts. There was a study in her head. The kitchen was located in her stomach. And, to be anatomically correct, the bathroom was located in her bottom. Today, the 18-ton woman still stands proud. However, it is easy to see that she needs some cosmetic surgery, something which should come as no shock given her constant exposure to the elements.

Puerto Nuevo's Mermaid House

During this time period Armando said he would like to line the border by building giant nude Amazons. Instead, he created a mold of La Mona and began selling statues. He sold them for $20, mostly to tourists, in order to fund La Mona and his new project. He created other statues, including one of singer and actress Lillian Russell with a corn cob in her hand and others stuck to her belly. Carmen Miranda and Betty Boop are were also honored among the hundred plus statues that are now referred to as the Infamous Babes. The money raised still funds the gentle facelifts for La Mona, as well as his current project.

Puerto Nuevo's Mermaid House

Instead of lining the border with nude Amazons, he eventually moved to Puerto Nuevo. It is no surprise to people who know Armando that he has built his new home in the shape of a mermaid. According to Armando, “She’s in a very nice place right in front of the ocean.” The house is known by several names, including Eve of the Sea, La Sirena, and The Mermaid.

Ladies of the sea are one of the most popular characters in world folklore. She is usually seen as a young girl with long hair and a fish tail. Eve of the Sea appears as a young woman, and, if she is ever finished, will certainly have long hair. She will not have a fish tail, however, as her body ends at her waist, next to the swimming pool.

Puerto Nuevo's Mermaid House

The second floor houses a French restaurant which recently opened. Armando, a self-trained chef, cooks the four-course meals. The food is served on white-linen tables set with china and wine glasses. The average cost of a meal is 200 pesos. Going to the third level one will discover Armando’s gallery. He places a number of his art pieces there. He plans to have a show with the Infamous Babes one day in the future.

The artist’s bedroom is on the fourth floor. The fifth, and highest floor, is his open air studio. The concrete and steel structure is nearly complete according to Armando. He said it will be finished in “a few months.” One of the most glaring unfinished parts is the mermaid’s hair. Steel poles poke out which will eventually become her hair. The painting of the statue is nearly complete, although she needs retouching in a number of areas.

Puerto Nuevo's Mermaid House

You might want to make an offer to buy the mermaid, to Armando, as he is interested in moving on and developing new projects such as a 150-foot tall man. The man would house part of a resort complex. Eventually, Armando says he wants to develop a housing development. No, this would not be your typical development.  It would be a street lined with a variety of houses in the shapes of individual men and women.

If you want to see the house, take a left at the only stop sign in Puerto Nuevo (there is an OXXO store on your right), take the first right where the street splits, and you’ll see the Mermaid looking out at the ocean. She’s hard to miss.

 

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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A Lobster Mecca’s Landmark Lodging: Puerto Nuevo Baja Hotel and Villas

A Lobster Mecca’s Landmark Lodging: Puerto Nuevo Baja Hotel and Villas

Puerto Nuevo is located a short distance from Rosarito Beach, and in addition to its well-earned reputation as a lobster mecca, is also home to one of Baja Norte’s most impressive hotels, Puerto Nuevo Baja Hotel & Villas. Formerly known as the Grand Baja Resort, this benchmark lodging boasts a gorgeous setting overlooking the Pacific, and features 135 elegantly appointed ocean view rooms, as well as first-class service and amenities, and delicious seafood dishes at the onsite Vista al Mar Restaurant.

Puerto Nuevo Baja Hotel and Villas

Puerto Nuevo Baja Hotel and Villas boasts one of the peninsula’s most beautiful settings.

The rooms at Puerto Nuevo Baja Resort and Villas showcase contemporary Mexican style, and are outfitted with all the latest amenities, including free phone calls, television, and a full kitchenette. Of course, if you don’t feel like cooking, room service is always available. In addition to the flawlessly appointed accommodations, the resort also offers enormous indoor and outdoor swimming pools, two jacuzzis, a playground for children, a firepit, and an onsite spa for adults, La Vid, that specializes in manicures, pedicures, massages, and other relaxing treatments.

Puerto Nuevo Baja Hotel and Villas

Ocean views are a standard room feature at Puerto Nuevo Baja Hotel and Villas.

There are a variety of other activities available to resort visitors, including picturesque walks through charming downtown Puerto Nuevo. This lovely little village is world famous for its lobster fishing, and for the way in which the crustaceans are prepared: pan fried with rice, beans, and tortillas. In addition to its buttery delights, which not only highlight the Vista al Mar menu but are found at more than  30 area restaurants, Puerto Nuevo also offers traditional Mexican ambiance, with mariachis strolling the streets, and merchants selling colorful blankets and pottery.

Puerto Nuevo Baja Hotel and Villas

Puerto Nuevo Baja Hotel and Villas is the premier special events venue in Rosarito.

Given its spectacular setting, it should come as no surprise that Puerto Nuevo Baja Hotel and Villas is a popular spot for weddings and renewal of vows ceremonies. The hotel has long been considered the signature special events venue in Rosarito, and boasts its own onsite wedding and events coordinator. In addition to the ample accommodations options – which include courtesy rooms for newlyweds and special rates for their guests – the hotel features dining rooms that can host up to 350 people for receptions and rehearsal dinners. Meeting and convention facilities are also available.

Puerto Nuevo Baja Hotel and Villas

Given its spectacular location, Puerto Nuevo Baja Hotel and Villas has proved a popular location for weddings and renewal of vows ceremonies.

Puerto Nuevo Baja Hotel and Villas is also on Baja’s wine route, and visitors to the hotel should definitely take advantage of opportunities to sample the liquid treasures of Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s premier wine making region. In fact, tours and packages can be booked right at the hotel. Puerto Nuevo’s finest luxury lodging is also located near the beautiful port of Ensenada, home to some of the peninsula’s finest restaurants.

 

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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Rosarito Beach Hotel to Host 4th Annual Mariachi and Folklorico Festival

Rosarito Beach Hotel to Host 4th Annual Mariachi and Folklorico Festival

The 4th Annual Rosarito Beach International Mariachi & Folklorico Festival returns to the Rosarito Beach Hotel next weekend, with festive and traditionally oriented music and dance programs scheduled from October 2-6, 2013. Ticket prices for the yearly celebration of Mexican culture range from $5 U.S. for movie premiere of Mariachi, to $10 for the daily competitions, and $20 and up for the evening extravaganza on October 5th, with all net profits to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Rosarito.

According to Rosy Torres and Gil Sperry, the team behind the program, ticket sales have been brisk, and they believe they will be adding more money to the Boys and Girls Club coffer than in any of the previous three years. Their enthusiasm is contagious when they explain the reason they believe this is so. Torres states that the best mariachis in the world will be playing at Rosarito this year, including the acclaimed Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan, a fifth generation ensemble that has been performing since the founding of the original group in 1897. The festival will also showcase the Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea, a Grammy award winning all-female group that has been the official mariachi band of Disneyland since 1995.

Mariachi and Folklorico Festival

Gil Sperry and Rosy Torres with the Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea.

Not only does the festival benefit children monetarily, it also helps to pass on traditional culture, with workshops that teach kids singing, dancing, and how to play mariachi instruments. During the first year of the festival, more than 140 students joined the workshops. This year, Sperry expects more than 500 students to participate. While most of the students come from Baja California, including Sonora, others will be visiting from as far away as San Jose, California; Tucson, Arizona; and Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. Students will enjoy several days of intensive instruction taught by some of the country’s premier divas and musicians. Then, on Friday night, the students will showcase their talents and what they have learned. There will also a friendly competition on Saturday and Sunday, with the best of the Mexican and United States groups competing against one another.

In recent years, the festival has become the major fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club in Rosarito. Sperry said that he had never met any member of the Torres family prior to 2009, although he has lived in Rosarito since 1998. Then, in 2009, he was moderating a panel at Cal State University of Los Angeles regarding the positive effects of mariachi music on the education of Hispanic youth. “The best mariachi performers were there,” he said.  “More than 375 people were in attendance. One of those people happened to be Rosy.” She later called him and asked if he could come up with a way to raise money for the club. Sperry immediately suggested the mariachi festival.

According to Sperry, mariachi music was first performed in Mexico in 1519, although the form continued to evolve for another 500 years. Today, a mariachi group might have as many as eight violins, two trumpets, and a guitar. In addition, there is typically a round-backed guitar called a vihuela. Some groups also include a guitarro, which serves as the bass of the ensemble, along with a Mexican folk harp. Although these instruments all have Europeans origins, in their present form they are considered strictly Mexican.

Those interested in enjoying nearly a week of Mexican culture at the Rosarito Beach Hotel may purchase tickets online.

 

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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Singing the Blues: Rosarito Celebrates 2nd Annual Baja Blues Fest

Singing the Blues: Rosarito Celebrates 2nd Annual Baja Blues Fest

Three days of entertainment at the Rosarito Beach Hotel, August 23-25, has left many attendees feeling the blues. Why? Because it will be another year before they will have the opportunity to see such acts as John Nemeth with the Blackwater Blues Band, or Annette “da Bomb” McGee & D’Bomb Squad, perform at the Baja Blues Fest in 2014.

The one thing that I will never forget were the smiles I saw on hundreds of faces. Everyone had a great time. My own smile turned to laughter at one point when I saw my dear friend, Mavourneen O’Brien, better known as Baja, dancing near the stage while holding onto her walker. She was joined by a variety of other dancers – each one moving to the rollicking blues music.

Baja Blues Fest

Anette “da Bomb” McGee owns the stage during the 2nd Annual Baja Blues Fest, held August 23-25 at the Rosarito Beach Hotel.

There were many special moments at the event. Rosarito was blessed with beautiful blue skies during the weekend festival, which opened Friday night with a jam session, and closed Sunday night with another one. Mavourneen and a host of other volunteers ensured that anyone with any questions or concerns received satisfactory answers. Servers from the Rosarito Beach Hotel made certain everyone had food, beers, sodas, and other drinks delivered to their seating area. And those manning the booths, including a representative from Baja.com, showed off their goods or services.

Baja Blues Fest

D’Bomb Squad gives a spirited performance during Baja Blues Fest.

Hundreds of people roamed around the more than 40 booths, which offered everything from clothes for sale, to hand-made jewelry, beautiful arts and crafts, and a variety of other unique items. There were also a number of booths offering different types of food. One hut, which always had a crowd, sold beers and other drinks. Attire was also interesting. People were dressed in bikinis and swimsuits. Some women wore floor-length dresses while a couple of men wore stylish suits. However, most everyone dressed for comfort, wearing a pair of shorts and a top. Many of those in attendance also donned a hat to prevent the sun from burning their face. These varied from baseball caps to extravagantly decorated hats.

BluesFestival 021

Thanks to Rosarito’s sunny skies, wide-brimmed hats were a popular accessory at the 2nd Annual Baja Blues Fest.

One of the special guests at the festival was Darrell Sheets. Darrell is a star on the A&E network program, Storage Wars. He sat to the right of the stage when he was not acting as a co-host. When asked why he wasn’t attending a storage auction on this Saturday, he simply said, “This Baja event is much more important.” He had many visitors asking him for autographs and pictures, and he spent a lot of time chatting with his admirers. He really is a nice person – seemingly different than his persona on the show, where he often bids thousands of dollars for one storage unit, and has a gruff, almost obnoxious personality.

Blues Blues Fest

Darrell Sheets, star of A&E’s Storage Wars, was one of many attendees at the Baja Blues Fest.

No one seemed to forget, however, that aside from the festival and entertainment, the major reason for the event was to raise money for the needy children living in the area. Last year more than $6,000 was donated to charitable groups. This year donations will be given to La Mision Children’s Fund, BECA, Friends of the Library, the Los Angelitos Orphanage, and the Baja Scholarship Fund. Even though we all get the blues from time to time, charitable donations from the 2013 Baja Blues Fest are going to make life a little brighter for area children.  So will the proceeds from next year’s festival.

 BluesFestival_005

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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Rosarito Restaurant Makes Big Splash!

Rosarito Restaurant Makes Big Splash!

Splash! is one of the few restaurants in the Rosarito area which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This quaint, inexpensive restaurant offers many charms, and is located at KM 52, a short drive from Rosarito Beach. In addition to the fine food, there is a large, yet intimate bar, and indoor and outdoor seating featuring magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean.

Rosarito Restaurant Makes Big Splash!

Outdoor seating provides spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.

Brothers Nicholas and Agapo Santos left their home in La Cruz, Chihuahua a little more than a decade and a half ago. After moving to Baja, Nicolas began his career as a dishwasher and eventually became a very popular bartender in the area. Brother Agapo eventually worked as a chef at the Rosarito Beach Hotel, as well as a number of other well-known restaurants. The brothers scrimped and saved their money, and, during the last few years they were able to open Splash! Recently, they opened a second location, Splash 2, just south of Rosarito Beach.

Rosarito Restaurant Makes Big Splash!

When heading south towards Ensenda, Splash! is located on the right side of the free road at KM 52.

When I visited Splash! late one afternoon, I was surprised by the number of people. Some were having drinks and appetizers while sitting at the bar; others were enjoying an early dinner. I was even more surprised with the friendliness of every person with whom I came in contact. This started with the young man who assisted me with parking, to the waiters and waitresses and chefs. The staff is extremely welcoming, and contributes in large part to the place’s popularity.

Rosarito Restaurant Makes Big Splash!

Splash! offers a variety of entertainment throughout the week.

Of course, the food is also a major draw. The biggest problem at Splash! is deciding what to eat? When I saw the breakfast menu I immediately realized I would be returning to enjoy the chicken fried steak. However, what really caught my attention was the biscuits and gravy. The generous selection of omelets and other tasty favorites makes Splash! a great stop for lovers of the morning feel.

Rosarito Restaurant Makes Big Splash!

Chef Agapo can often be found in the outer kitchen

Many people visit the restaurant at lunch to enjoy the delicious fish tacos. Again, there is a wide assortment of food on the menu including a variety of tacos, burritos, and tostadas. Many diners believe the shrimp cocktail is the tastiest in the area, while others find the soups, salads, sandwiches and burgers to be of surpassing quality. Dinners are equally delicious, with quality steak and seafood at modest prices. A group of four can enjoy a great meal and beverage for under $25. And of course one should never leave Splash! without capping their meal with a piece of homemade cheesecake or flan.

Rosarito Restaurant Makes Big Splash!

A special indoor seating area offers gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean.

Although I had previously eaten at Splash!, I roamed around during this visit in order to make certain I had an awareness of the entire restaurant. As you enter the restaurant you can sit outside and enjoy the beauty of the ocean as well as the mild breezes. There are numerous tables allowing many family and friends to sit in this area. Inside you can walk right up to the outer kitchen, watch the artistically presented meals being brought out, and have a few words with Chef Agapo. I had the opportunity to visit the kitchen where I was greeted by friendly chefs working quickly to prepare each meal. I was impressed with the cleanliness I observed throughout the restaurant.

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The entrance to the bar is framed by a colorful arch.

There is also an inside seating area where you can enjoy your meal or a semi-enclosed area which overlooks the ocean. I found this to be a great choice as it offered the best of both worlds. If you prefer to have an appetizer or drink, view a sporting event, or listen to some pleasant music then the large bar is a great option. This is truly a Cheers-type bar, where everybody is friendly and ‘everyone knows your name.’

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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Finding Freshness with Master Chef Erick Saenz at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

Finding Freshness with Master Chef Erick Saenz at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The Rosarito Beach Hotel is a landmark in Baja California, conjuring up nostalgic images of yesteryear’s suntanned Hollywood celebrities, colorful posadas and fiestas, and authentic margaritas by the sparkling rectangular swimming pool perched above the Pacific Ocean.  For years, Chabert’s was the hotel’s famed dining spot that emphasized French cuisine.  But along with an exciting make-over for this iconic hostelry has come something else fresh and attractive:  the inviting Casa Blanca restaurant, under the seasoned guidance of Master Chef Erick Saenz.

Casa Blanca restaurant overlooks Rosarito Beach.

Casa Blanca restaurant overlooks Rosarito Beach.

The Rosarito Beach Hotel’s Casa Blanca is strategically positioned right between that famous swimming pool and the even more famous Rosarito Beach, giving it wonderful views on either side.  It opened in 2012, with much attention paid to the simple and elegant interior design created by Bo Bendana Sein.  Her work set the stage for a complete transition in menu style for the hotel, reflecting the culinary changes that are reshaping people’s perceptions of the region.

As Master Chef Erick puts it, “Baja Fusion-BajaMed cuisine offers a way to showcase traditional products of the region with new techniques.”

Chef Erick Saenz creates dishes like Hibiscus Flower Flautas at the Rosarito Beach Hotel.

Chef Erick Saenz creates dishes like Hibiscus Flower Flautas at the Rosarito Beach Hotel.

And showcase, he does.  The menu highlights regional ingredients that Master Chef Erick and his right-hand man, Chef Heriberto Astango, select at local markets like Mercado Hidalgo in Tijuana and Mercado de Abastos in Rosarito.  There are lots of popular staples on the menu, including the Hibiscus Flower (Jamaica) Flautas: a seasoned hibiscus flower with goat cheese that is wrapped in flour tortilla and deep fried, to be served in an orange Habanero sauce.  The Ceviche Margarita isn’t a margarita at all, but rather marinated tilapia fish, with tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, lemon juice and a touch of Tequila.  Main courses offer everything from classic Surf and Turf (featuring the region’s best lobster or marinated shrimp accompanied by a Peruvian potato cake), to mouth-watering tenderloin filet, to scallops in a Tequila cream sauce, to Sesame Tuna and Beef Burritos with mole sauce.

Chocolate mousse cake at Casa Blanca restaurant .

Chocolate mousse cake at Casa Blanca restaurant .

The menu is broad, but Master Chef Erick points out that he believes in flexibility.  “Here, you can have exactly what you want,” he notes.  “If our customers want a special dish, we will do everything we can to create it!”

Flexibility — the goal of constantly evolving his craft — has been key to Chef Erick’s successful (and still early) career. Originally from San Diego and with a degree from the California Culinary Academy, he has plied his culinary skills in a number of US cities prior to arriving in Baja.  He is a Master Chef – the highest designation possible in American culinary arts.  He won the Taste of Excellence Chef Award in the 2007-2008 Battle of the Masters 5-Star Award at the American Culinary Association.  Additionally, he has been involved with a number of five-star Italian restaurants in California and with outstanding establishments in other states, including La Olla Restaurant and Bar in Chattanooga and chef/partner in Patrón Grill in Cleveland.

With his own show and multiple television appearances under his belt,  Master Chef Erick Saenz is a celebrity chef.

With his own show and multiple television appearances under his belt, Master Chef Erick Saenz is a celebrity chef.

A celebrity chef for Bravo TV, Chef Erick has made numerous television appearances including the Wines du Jour program hosted by Les Kincaid, that was produced live at the Rosarito Beach Hotel and on Good Morning America. In upcoming episodes of Top Chef, he will serve as one of the judges. And, if having a full-time job as Executive Chef and showing up on the little screen periodically are not enough, Chef Erick also currently has his own show on ProChef TV, Channel 154, on Tuesdays and Thursday at 1 p.m.

Master Chef Erick Saenz and Chef Heriberto Astengo at Casa Blanca restaurant.

Master Chef Erick Saenz and Chef Heriberto Astengo at Casa Blanca restaurant.

That said, with his staff of six cooks, four sous chefs, and approximately 14 apprentices, Master Chef Erick and Chef Heriberto have no difficulty creating menus that deliciously represent the rich bounty of Baja foods in palate-pleasing ways.

“I have always been around chefs and great cooks and cooking instructors,” comments Master Chef Erick.  ”Now, at the Rosarito Beach Hotel, this is my first time cooking in Mexico.  It is great to incorporate my Italian and French culinary techniques with Baja’s traditions and products – it is truly Baja Fusion at its best!”

The Casa Blanca restaurant at the Rosarito Beach Hotel is open Thursday and Friday from 5 p.m. – midnight, Saturday from 9 a.m.-noon,  and Sunday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. for brunch. Phone for reservations, (661) 612-1126.

Planning a trip to Rosarito? Contact a travel agent at Baja.com.

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 restaurants, hotels, vacation 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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Mojo Working: Lineup Set for 2nd Annual Baja Blues Fest in Rosarito

Mojo Working: Lineup Set for 2nd Annual Baja Blues Fest in Rosarito

Baja Blues Fest

John Nemeth will headline the 2nd Annual Baja Blues Fest in Rosarito.

Born under a bad sign? All out of John the Conqueror root? Fear not, blues aficionados. The Baja Blues Fest is returning August 23-25 at the Rosarito Beach Hotel in Rosarito, and the lineup is strong enough to get your mojo working better than ever. John Nemeth will headline the 2nd annual version of the musical showcase, and the Idaho-born bluesman with the magic touch figures to get plenty of 12 bar help from The Blackwater Blues Band, Annette ‘Da Bomb’ McGee and D Bomb Squad, The Fremonts, Deja Blues, Wyatt Lowe and the Youngbloods, Pachuco Blues, Scotty Blinn and Black Market lll.

According to Jackie Alameda, president and director of the board of directors for the Baja Blues Fest, the 2013 festival is expected to surpass the success of last year’s inaugural event. “We sure know a lot more and we have a great guy, Tom Stewart, helping us with music and marketing,” Alameda said. “We are also  reaching a broader audience, so much so that Caltrans contracted us about traffic impact at the border on Sunday with cars returning to the U.S.”

Alameda went on to say that the layout of the grounds has been improved to allow better access to vendors and artists. “We have mapped out a handicapped entrance, with the help of the hotel, which accesses an elevator. We want to promote a party atmosphere with great blues performers.”

Baja Blues Fest

Anette “da Bomb” McGee will be back at Baja Blues Fest, and she’s bringing D Bomb Squad.

One of the best features of Baja Blues Fest is that it raises money for five children’s charities, including La Mision Children’s Fund, BECA, Friends of the Library, the Los Angelitos Orphanage, and the Baja Scholarship Fund. Each of these organizations does wonderful work on behalf of children, so in addition to enjoying the great music, delicious food, and beautiful summer weather, festival goers will also be giving back to the local community. How does it work? Easy. As soon as the expenses for the event are paid, the remainder of the money is donated to the charities. The board of directors decides the amount of money each charity receives, based on participation and need. Last year the board was able to donate $6,000 to the charities.

Baja Blues Fest

Surfboards painted by graffiti artists at last year’s Baja Blues Fest.

In addition to the great music, festival guests will also enjoy a wide variety of art, as a  number of highly regarded regional artists are expected to attend. Artist Vickie Rama, from San Felipe, will show several of her latest carvings. She began her art career at age five, and has been creating ever since. Cathy Elliot’s award winning work is found in corporate offices as well as in private collections. Today she divides her time between teaching, reviewing art, and commercial art. Originally from Mexico City, physician Carlos Bueno will present some of his unique art designs created from x-rays.

Photographer Keith Williamson attended college intending to become an eye surgeon. But after he found a camera in a New York City park, he decided to devote himself to photography and printmaking. Retired clinical aroma therapist Nancy Lustig, meanwhile, will offer a presentation of mixed media art, and R.P. Kidd will display a selection of gallery pieces. These works will include everything from leather portraiture to collectable art and t-shirts.

Several unique exhibitions are also scheduled.  Tommy’s Gallery will show off their steel tongue drums. When the tongue of the drum is quickly and lightly struck, it creates sound waves and an incredible listening experience. Plus, a popular street artist will teach youngsters the difference between good and bad graffiti, and a surfboard will be painted and raffled off during the festival.

Baja Blues Fest

Stoney B Blues Band with keyboardist Pat Kelly perform at the inaugural Baja Blues Fest.

Alameda notes that the Baja Blues Fest is beginning to flourish in Rosarito. “It is developing a life and a momentum of its own. There are many more people coming this year due to worth of mouth. Visitors are coming from Seattle, Portland, Boise, Orlando, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.”

“A festival of this sort can bring many needed jobs and money to the families of this area,” she added. ” By drawing tourists for the fest, it shows them what our city is like. Then they can return at other times during the year for family vacations.”

Baja Blues Fest

Large crowds are expected for the 2nd Annual Baja Blues Fest.

The 2nd Annual Baja Blues Fest kicks off Friday with a meet and greet party. Performances begin on Saturday, with a jam session and post party on Sunday. Tickets can be purchased online at the festival’s website, or arrangements can be made to purchase tickets through one of the participating charities. Three day passes for the Baja Blues Fest are $35 U.S. If you want to attend Saturday’s show, tickets are available for $20 in advance. For the Friday and Sunday night festivities, tickets are $10.

Planning a trip to Rosarito? Contact a travel agent at Baja.com.

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 restaurants, hotels, vacation 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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