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About Scott Koenig

W. Scott Koenig has traveled throughout Baja and Mexico since he moved to San Diego during the 90's. He has been called "guerolito" by Purépechan women in Michoacan, and "muchacho" and "amigo" by many friendly, warm and welcoming locals throughout the country. Scott is the owner of Koenig Creative LLC in San Diego and author of the blog, A Gringo In Mexico www.agringoinmexico.com, Cultural Exploits, Tall Tequila Tales and Trip Reports.

Mexico’s First Mall-Based “Food Hall” to Open in Tijuana

Food Garden Plaza Rio to Open in April, 2015

 

TIJUANA, BAJA CALIFORNIA – Food Garden, an operator of culinary spaces, has announced that Mexico’s first mall-based food hall will have its grand opening in Tijuana in April 2015. The new concept will include over 11,000 square feet of space within the city’s prestigious Plaza Rio.

The new space will include 12 kitchens run by some of the region’s most notable chefs, a specialty coffee shop, two bars that will serve beer, wine and spirits and a demo kitchen for culinary workshops and classes. Additionally, a Marché-style gourmet market will offer an array of regional products such as cheese, wine, chocolates and homemade desserts.

The set of projects is based on a “gastronomic ecosystem” designed to benefit Tijuana and Baja California’s producers, suppliers and restaurateurs. Food Garden will follow the city’s lead in its effort to encourage new talents to participate in Tijuana’s burgeoning culinary scene.

While the space’s culinary tenants have yet to be announced, El Gringo has heard on good faith that the lineup may include a celebrity chef recently featured on a network television food show, a rotisserie from Tijuana’s most renowned French-trained chef, a longtime family-run restaurant that makes the best carnitas in Tijuana and a popular new burger joint.

“The food hall in Zona Rio will provide the space and opportunity for culinary experimentation,” explained Ricardo Nevárez, Food Garden president and Tijuana resident for over a decade. “Startup is a lot easier for young chefs since there’s a low initial investment and a pre-designed scheme that removes most of the guesswork that comes with restaurant or retail planning.”

Tijuana

Ricardo Nevárez started Food Garden as a collective of Tijuana’s best cuisine and continues with Plaza Rio.

Food halls have become a haven for foodies as well as neighborhood populations around Mexico and the globe. At food halls costumers can enjoy imaginative cuisine and shop for quality handmade products in an environment that offers value and expedience in service. Food halls represent an evolution of the proposal of “food courts” – which are based on the model of franchises and fast food.

I’m hungry for April already! Check back with El Gringo for more information on the Food Garden Plaza Rio, and check out our very first video blog at the top of this page, if you haven’t already. Buen provecho!

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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Savoring Tijuana with KPBS’ Su-Mei Yu

On location in TJ with the host of public television’s Savor San Diego

TIJUANA, BAJA CALIFORNIA – When El Gringo amigo Juan Jose Plascencia of Grupo Plascencia invited me to join KPBS television personality Su-Mei Yu on a location scout of Tijuana’s culinary hotspots for a season 3 episode of Savor San Diego, I jumped at the chance. We enjoyed her Valle de Guadalupe show last season with chefs Martin San Roman and Juan Jose’s brother Javier Plascencia and had met Su-Mei in 2013 at a press event at Whole Foods Market.

I met our “fixer” Erika Santana in San Ysidro on a bright Saturday morning. Erika is the founder of the Slow Food Foundation in Baja California and has grown its membership from just a handful to over 70 in the past year. So many Baja California chefs and restaurants are already adhering to the foundation’s best practices and the region is becoming a world-class culinary destination, so Slow Food having a presence here just makes sense. You’ll be hearing more about Erika and Slow Food in Baja California muy pronto!

Savoring Tijuana

Juan Jose Plascencia, Erika Santana, Su-Mei Yu and photographer Josue Castro at Punto Siete, Tijuana.

Once Su-Mei arrived with her crew – creator/producer Lorena Whiteside and cameraman/DP Eric Naso – we loaded into Erika’s van and headed south into “TJ”. Celebrating it’s 60th year in 2014, Tijuana’s historic Mercado Hidalgo was the perfect place to begin our scouting and story. As we were there on November 1st, the Mexican Day of the Dead, there was an ornate four-sided ofrenda (shrine) in the parking lot as well as sugar skulls, Catrinas (decorative skeleton figures) and pan de muerto (bread of the dead) for sale at its many shops. The mercado is unique in Baja California as it offers products from all over Mexico – from Oaxacan moles to medicinal herbs from Michoacan.

Savoring Tijuana

Catrinas (skeleton dolls) at the Mercado Hidalgo in Tijuana.

At the mercado, we visited Carnitas Jerezanowhere owner Doña Josefina and her son Jesus concoct carnitas in the Zacatecan style – using local suckling pig which is very tender and makes for a much less greasy plate of carnitas. In addition to carnitas, Josefina laid out a spread of her traditional specialties for us to taste, including gorditas (corn cake stuffed with pork), a chile relleno (stuffed poblano chile) and her excellent chicharron (fried pork skin) – perfectly crispy on the outside and all soft, slightly salty goodness within. Su-Mei was so happy with our first feast that she threw her arms around Josefina in a big abrazo as we were leaving.

Savoring Tijuana

Erika Santana, Owner Josefina and Su-Mei Yu of KPBS’ Savor San Diego at Carnitas el Jerezano in Mercado Hidalgo, Tijuana.

Savoring Tijuana

The absolutely perfect carnitas at Carnitas el Jerezano, Mercado Hidalgo, Tijuana.

After a stroll though some of the mercado’s shops, we visited the birreria El Rincon del Oso.Jovial owner Fernando Palomares greeted Su-Mei with a cup of his award-winning birria de chivo – a marinated and spiced goat soup with its origins in the state of Jalisco. She happily slurped her birria as Fernando described the dish and its many ingredients which include cinnamon, cumin, allspice and a dozen other herbs and spices which comprise this savory stew.

Savoring Tijuana

The Birria de Chivo at El Rincon del Oso, Mercado Hidalgo, Tijuana.

La Cava del Queso sells cheese from all over Mexico and Baja California. We sampled their queso añejo, an aged white cheese with a very sharp bite. Owner Homar Rubio explained the cheese making process for Su-Mei and gave her a tour of their processing equipment and extremely large wheels of cheese in the back.

Savoring Tijuana

Su-Mei Yu with owner Homar Rubio of La Cava del Queso, Mercado Hidalgo, Tijuana.

Saying adios to Mercado Hidalgo, we drove to nearby Caffee Sospeso, a “third wave” coffee shop in Tijuana that’s takes its Joe very seriously. The first thing that struck me was the sign saying, essentially, don’t even ASK for cream and sugar. The barista emphasized the importance of not diluting the drink in order to best enjoy the essence of the bean’s flavor. The second thing I noticed were the cold brewing apparatuses. It can take a day for the water to drip through the myriad glass coils and chambers of these tall glass machinations, resulting in a very good, very caffeinated cold brew.

Savoring Tijuana

Caffe Sospreso is a “third wave” coffee house that takes it’s brews seriously.

A 10 minute drive from Caffe Sospeso brought us to the Tijuana Culinary Art School, run by El Gringo amigo Javier Gonzalez, nearly deserted on this late Saturday morning. We toured the facility designed by Jorge Gracia – also known as the architect behind the pods at Encuentro Guadalupe – and interrupted a craft beer making class where Su-Mei sampled the student’s frothy, dark coursework and enjoyed a piece of sweet pan de muerto.

Savoring Tijuana

Su-Mei Yu checks out the “pan de muerto” at the Tijuana Culinary Arts School.

Next up was Verde y Crema, chef Jair Tellez’s farm-to-table restaurant in the tony Chapultapec neighborhood (El Gringo’s full review of Verde y Crema can be found here). Jair’s brother Vladimir Tellez showed us around the dining room and kitchen and we enjoyed a mezcal tasting at the restaurant’s eclectically cool bar. Su-Mei squealed with delight upon her first taste of sal con gusano, the extract of dried maguey worm mixed with salt and chiles typically served on oranges as an accompaniment to joven (young) mezcal. “I LOVE this little worm dust!” she exclaimed between sips. This is a public television host after El Gringo’s own heart!

Savoring Tijuana

Enjoying Mezcals and “worm dust” at Verde y Crema, Tijuana.

After a quick stop at BCB (Baja Craft Beers) to check out their selection of regionally-produced cervezas, we parked next to Tacos Kokopelli, Tijuana’s venerable taco truck in Zona Rio. Su-Mei jumped onboard, enthusiastically questioning the cook on technique, ingredients and the challenges of preparing and serving their street side menu. As we enjoyed our “Gringo on Vacation” and “Kraken” tacos, another gaggle of gringos rolled in led by my amigos Club Tengo Hambre, Baja California’s “roving supper club”.

Savoring Tijuana

Smoked Marlin and “The Kraken” (grilled octopus) tacos from Tacos Kokopelli.

Just across the street from Kokopelli is the new Telefonica Gastro Park, a collection of seven- and growing – food trucks serving everything from handmade smoked bacon sausage at Humo to a surprisingly fantastic seared tuna sandwich with mole negro from Pobre Ruedas. We were pressed for time here, but El Gringo had visited earlier in the week and found everything to be fresh, imaginative and very, very good. Oh, and all but one of the trucks – Otto’s Grill – are owned and operated by Culinary Art School grads.

Savoring Tijuana

Otto Sohn of Otto’s Grill, Telefonica Gastro Park, Tijuana.

Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero’s Baja Med restaurant, La Querencia was next on our list. The interior is lined with stuffed deer heads, trophy fish and even a small black bear, just a few of Miguel Angel’s hunting conquests and possibly entrees at one of his restaurants. We enjoyed the beet carpaccio; cucumber salad with pine nuts, veggies and queso fresca; house salad with grilled shrimp and octopus; beef cheek tacos, and tacos of smoked marlin and abalone. Everything was fresh, delicious and wholly satisfying.

Tana Plascencia greeted us at the entrance of Villa Saverios, Grupo Plascencia’s restaurant that offers tapas and entrees with a Spanish flair. After a brief tour of Saverios, we drove to Casa Plasencia, which features “Mediterranean” cuisine and is an El Gringo favorite. Leading us upstairs, Tana pointed out the bullfighting photos and posters, giving Su-Mei an overview of the family’s long restaurant history in Tijuana.

Savoring Tijuana

Juan Jose Plascencia and Su-Mei Yu at Villa Saverios, Tijuana.

Upon hearing that I’d never tried the trout baked in a crust of rock salt, Tana insisted we order this house specialty. Our server wheeled out a cart with our trout, cracking open the rock salt encasement and filleting the tender pescado table-side. The fish was delicate and delicious and Su-Mei happily munched on the remaining bones and head, a favorite delicacy enjoyed during her childhood in Thailand. To accompany our trout, we sampled the black rice – which gets its color from squid ink – and calamari, also exceptionally good.

Savoring Tijuana

Serving the salt-encrusted trout at Casa Plasencia, Tijuana.

Savoring Tijuana

Su-Mei Yu at Casa Plasencia, Tijuana.

Punto Siete is a new Japanese fusion restaurant in Tijuana’s Zona Centro on Constitucion and 7MA, part of the Bustamante Group‘s 7MA Lofts project which represents the area’s only new construction in 60 years. Tijuana photographer Josue Castro – whose studio The Kitchen is housed at the 7MA Lofts – joined us for an early dinner there. TJ Culinary Arts School grad chef Moisés Arredondo is one of the young guns expanding the boundaries of Baja cuisine. Punto Siete fuses regional ingredients with Asian concepts of balance, technique and presentation. The pork belly with tequila miso and guava is presented as a succulent “sushi roll” served atop a piece of encino oak which is lightly burned with a blowtorch to give the pork a smoky flavor, and was cameraman Eric’s favorite dish of the day. We also enjoyed a yellowtail triadito and the house salad with goat cheese.

Savoring Tijuana

Moises Arrendondo of Punto Siete discusses his cooking philosophy with Su-Mei Yu.

Appropriately, given that restaurant Mision 19 sparked the current wave of interest in Tijuana with it’s Baja Med cuisine, our night ended in the kitchen with Javier Plascencia, Ryan Steyn, Drew DeckmanZahie Tellez and other notable Baja California chefs – busily preparing the night’s sold out dinner for the 2014 Baja California Culinary FestFinishing up at Bar 20 just upstairs from the restaurant, we sipped our mezcals, a fitting and necessary digestif after a day of eating our way through the culinary corridors of Tijuana.

The Season 3 Tijuana episode of Savor San Diego with Su-Mei Yu will film sometime in early 2015 and air as part of Season 3 during the year. Follow El Gringo on Facebook for more behind the scenes and airing information.

 

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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Who’s Shooting the Great Chefs of Baja California?

Chefs of Baja California

Inside Tijuana Photographer Josue Castro’s New Photo Series: “Puro Hedonismo. Hedonismo Puro.”

TIJUANA, BAJA CALIFORNIA – Photographer Josue Castro’s Tijuana studio – The Kitchen –  is similar to Warhol’s 60’s era Factory in a number of ways. Josue and business partner Andrew Sheiner opened the space in 2012 after they outgrew their studio La Tentación in Tijuana’s Pasaje Gomez. The Zona Centro-based location on Constitution & Seventh has since become a thousand square foot romper room in which the artist can “play” – fostering and executing upon a number of creative multimedia projects.

Chefs of Baja California

Josue Castro at The Kitchen with one of his “Equals” photo series portraits.

Unlike Warhol’s parade of drugged-out debutantes, wannabe artists and sycophants seeking their 15 minutes, however, The Kitchen has played host to and engaged the “who’s-who” of Tijuana’s business, music, media and artistic community during events such as local craft beer tastings and a series of invitation-only clandestine dinners.

Chefs of Baja California

The Kitchen plays host to a series of clandestine dinners, known as WTF (Where’s The Food?)

And lately, Josue has welcomed some of Baja California’s best chefs, enologists, winemakers and choclatiers to The Kitchen to pose for a series of photographs he’s titled Puro Hedonismo. Hedonismo Puro. (Pure Hedonism. Hedonism Pure.). El Gringo has been following the series on Facebook and wanted to get the story behind the lens from the man himself, so we met Josue recently on a Saturday afternoon in TJ and sat down at The Kitchen table to chat.

Rock Stars, Identity and Bondage

Originally from Mexico City and having lived in Tijuana in the past, Josue has spent most of the last decade in San Diego. “Three years ago, I chose to come back to Baja California because everyone is paying attention to the region – The New York Times, Playboy, airline travel magazines and many other international publications,” Josue began. “The chefs here right now – everywhere due to the media and television – are becoming like rock stars. The chefs here in Baja California really ARE rock stars.”

Josue continued, “Most of my projects start by accident. I’d been talking to some friends at a party about doing a series on Baja California chefs. I started with Karla Navarro, the cook for our WTF (Where’s The Food) clandestine dinners. She was at CECUT (the Tijuana Cultural Center) and saw some of my work – the ‘Equals. Secret Identities.’ series. The images were a bit dark and she liked that.” Indeed, Josue’s starkly contrasted black and white portraits depict a series of models in various stages of facial bondage, seeking to portray the secret identity or mask that we all wear.

Chefs of Baja California

Karla Navarro and friend. Cook for The Kitchen’s WTF clandestine dinners. PHOTO: JOSUE CASTRO.

Josue’s transition from the Equals to the Hedonismo portraits occurred quite naturally. “One of my last Equals models was Hanis Cavin, the chef at Kensington Grill in San Diego. Hanis is Jewish, so I asked him to pretend that he was getting ready to cut his tattoo (of a sectioned pig) off his arm, because his mother hates it. Then I covered him with a (bondage) mask to hide his identity.” The portrait of Hanis is featured on a large 6’x10′ canvas in The Kitchen and serves as a dramatic focal point.

Chefs of Baja California

Hannis Cavin, Kensington Grill. PHOTO: JOSUE CASTRO.

Josue had already worked with chef Chad White of Común in San Diego and La Justina in Tijuana. “That was on assignment for a publication. They wanted me to shoot more chefs from San Diego, but all of the restaurants they referred me to had Mexican chefs working in the back. Chad was one of the only American chefs there I could find at the time!”

Chefs of Baja California

Chad White, Comun and La Justina.

“Our next chef was Miguel Angel Guerrero,” of El Taller and La Querencia in Tijuana and La Esperanza in the Valle de Guadalupe, “and he brought all his toys with him- the bow and arrow, the antlers.” Props are a central part of the photos in the Hedonismo series. Josue explained his process, “The chefs bring what they want to play with during the shoot, their props. We put them all on the table and they tell me a story about each item. We sit down and talk first to break the ice. Who they are, where they’ve worked, where they came from. Sometimes they come 2 or 3 times, so it’s a progression.”

Chefs of Baja California

Miguel Angel Guerrero, El Taller, La Querencia.

When I asked Josue about some of the other memorable subjects in his series, he enthusiastically listed Baja California’s most revered culinary artists without skipping a beat…

“Ryan Steyn from El Jardin de Adobe at Adobe Guadalupe is one of my favorite chefs now after my experience with him. It’s funny because I haven’t been in the Valle de Guadalupe lately and I’ve never eaten his food, but I really liked working with him.”

Chefs of Baja California

Ryan Steyn, El Jardin de Adobe, Valle de Guadalaupe.

“Sabina Bandera from La Guerrerense in Ensenada is always happy, always laughing. So when she was here, I asked her to try to stop smiling. She brought clams, a fish and even an octopus and we started to play with them. At the end, I just asked the question, ‘Do you want to put the octopus on your head?’ She didn’t mind so we put it on her like a wig.”

Chefs of Baja California

Sabina Bandera, La Guerrerenese, Ensenada.

“Drew Deckman of Deckman’s en El Mogor in the Valle de Guadalupe seemed a little uncertain at first, but by the end he really got into it and we were having a lot of fun.”

Chefs of Baja California

Drew Deckman, Deckman’s en El Mogor, Valle de Guadalupe.

“The young ones are kind of crazy, the Tijuana Culinary Institute graduates who are typically 26 to 28 years old. One that I photographed the other day (Ian Ciapara formerly of Los Danzantesin Oaxaca) is a young chef whose mother was one of my first models in TJ. Her mom is very fit because she’s a dancer, so she asked her to get on the table so she could act like she was going to cut her like a piece of meat. This was one of the most creative ideas somebody has come up with.”

Chefs of Baja California

Young chef Ian Ciapara, formerly of Los Danzantes in Oaxaca.

Other chefs who have appeared in the series include Edgar Chong, Moises Valencia, Daniella de la Puente, Jaime Galindo and Flor Franco.

Chefs of Baja California

Flor Franco, Convivia, Valle de Guadalupe and Zarco, San Diego.

The Problem with Winemakers as Models

Josue’s amigo and colleague Fernando Gaxiola of Baja Wine + Food suggested he aim his lens next toward the Valle de Guadalupe’s top enologists and winemakers. Josue smiled, then sighed and confided, “The problem with having winemakers as models is that they bring a lot of wine with them to the studio. We open a bottle to pour in a glass as a prop and it starts there. With two photo shoots a day, there are some mornings when I wake up a little hungover.”

“The winemakers are also a little more challenging to shoot, because they tend to be older and it’s difficult for them to get into the mood. Victor Torres Alegre of Torres Alegre y Familia vineyards was the opposite. He’s 72 years old, he has great hair and he brought a football helmet, so we put his wines in it.”

Chefs of Baja California

Leonardo Torres, Torres y Allegre Familia Vineyards

“I was supposed to photograph Alvaro Alvarez of Alximia a week after he’d injured his back in a hang glider accident. His brother Manuel Alvarez called to cancel, but then eventually Alvaro was better and able to do it. We photographed him with his walker and a hang glider in the back like he was crashing. But he was laughing about what happened and trying to save the bottles at the same time.”

Chefs of Baja California

Alvaro Alvarez, Alximia Winery

“Abel Bibayoff of the Bibayoff Vineyards in the Valle de Guadalupe brought his little baby in. You know, they are Russian, and there’s a long Russian heritage there in the Valle, so the baby and the bottle in the photo with him represent another generation.”

Chefs of Baja California

Abel Bibayoff, Bibayoff Vineyards, Valle de Guadalupe.

Josue has also photographed notable winemakers including Phil and Eileen Gregory, Julio Benito Martin and Hugo D’Acosta – widely considered the father of Baja California’s modern winemaking techniques and processes.

Chefs of Baja California

Hugo D’Acosta, Father of modern winemaking in the Valle de Guadalupe.

The Power of Equality

Eager to get to our Japanese Baja fusion lunch at the new restaurant Punto Siete located just downstairs from The Kitchen, we concluded our talk with Josue, who emphasized the artistic and creative goals of Puro Hedonismo. Hedonismo Puro. “I take a lot of photos from low to high, so it’s like a saint in church. Catholic churches move away the images so you have to look up to them. They are not your equal. They are saints. In Chiapas, there is a church with Catholic saints at a high level. But the indigenous people are not into looking up to other people. For them there is just god. So there is a mirror that you look into that reflects the image of the saint (in front of you), so they are saying, ‘you are no better than I am. We are equals.’ Every time I put a photo in an exhibit, I don’t give it a name. I just title it ‘Chef’, ‘Winemaker’ or ‘Accountant’ or whatever. So there is no notion that this person is bigger than you.”

“My images are not for a culinary magazine. Some may not understand that this is an artistic project. It’s not something that you have to do really fast to hit a magazine deadline. I’ve done 47 portraits so far. The goal is to have 99.”

Once Josue creates that 99th portrait, the series will be curated by MOPA (San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Art), projected for students at the Culinary Institute of Tijuana, exhibited at one of Mexico’s largest food shows and the portraits will also be on exhibit at CECUT.

 

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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Verde y Crema: Farm-to-Table Tijuana Dining

Verde y Crema: Farm-to-Table Tijuana Dining

Although his new Tijuana restaurant, Verde y Crema (Green & Cream) is still less than a year old, Hermosillo-born Chef Jair Téllez is no stranger to farm-to-table and use of the freshest, local ingredients in creating a memorable dining experience. His Valle de Guadalupe restaurant Laja (one of the Diners Club’s Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants this year) is primarily supplied by its own orchard, farm and vineyard. The Diners Club noted, “Laja’s cuisine pays homage to the natural richness of the Baja California peninsula on which it sits. While continually creative, the underlying theme of Téllez’s dishes is strictly seasonal, with classic techniques respecting regional culinary traditions.”

Tijuana dining

Verde y Crema, Tijuana.

These themes are applied at Verde y Crema with thoughtfulness and attention to detail – bearing delicious results in a welcoming, rustic and relaxed environment. The first thing El Gringo noticed when we rolled up were the number of colorful murals that ringed the private parking lot buildings. Local artists were commissioned by the restaurant to create the murals and the overall impression is one of an outdoor urban gallery.

Tijuana dining

Tijuana Artist “El Norteño’s” Mural is a highlight in the restaurant’s parking lot.

Walking past an eclecticly-painted gas pump and reclaimed wood panel walls in the front, we found ourselves in an open, arbor-style dining area, whose dark wood floors, tables and bar are also made of primarily reclaimed materials – some of the wood literally pulled from the trash. The front of the bar, set off from the main dining area, is built of green shutters in various states of paint decay, salvaged from a sunken Turkish ship.

Tijuana dining

The bar at Verde y Crema, built partly with reclaimed green shutters.

The dining patio is open-air and spacious. We rolled in at about 7:30 p.m. on a beautiful Friday evening (early for dining by Mexican standards), and only a few parties were there. Our 6 p.m. reservation thankfully became a moot point. Later the restaurant was full of hungry and happy TJ locals. A large window gives a great view of the entire kitchen and all of the wood fired activity therein (more on that wood in a moment). The eclectic design of the restaurant’s exterior continues on the inside as well with fun touches and art motifs throughout the rustic, reclaimed interior.

Tijuana dining

Verde y Crema’s dining area. Open, reclaimed, relaxing. On a perfect day.

Tijuana dining

The busy and efficient kitchen at Verde y Crema.

Our party was seated, and we were presented with menus in both English y Español containing 28 choices under the categories, “First Course, Second Course, Veggie Course, Third Course and Desert”. Vegetarians rejoice…Verde y Crema takes full advantage of their fresh local produce and creates some imaginative dishes, such as Roasted Beet Tacos, Veggie Blue Corn Guaripa with Summer Squash, and an Heirloom Tomato Salad, sprinkled with fresh queso from Valle de Guadalupe.

Most of the meats, seafood and produce used by the restaurant are organic. Tijuana-based Sous Chef Martin Vargas (who joined us later in the evening to discuss Verde y Crema) told us, “About 70-80% of what we use is organic. We buy produce from the market here, and source our seafood, meat and vegetables from all local sources.” Indeed, the restaurant’s sources include companies based in Tijuana, Tecate, Valle de Guadalupe, Ensenada and San Diego.

TIjuana dining

Grilled organic chicken with adobo, roasted vegetables salad. Organic and sourced from Centennial Farm in Tijuana.

Martin continued, “The most fun part of our job is planning the menu. We always have 25-28 items, but everyday, we change 15-20% of the menu based on what’s available and fresh. With seafood, it may be yellowtail one day, but it may be swordfish the next. So we plan accordingly.”

Okay, so with all of this buildup, you must be getting hungry. But wait, there’s one more very important thing about Verde y Crema that REALLY make them special. Chef Vargas let us in on their not so secret secret, “There is no stove in our kitchen. We have the winch grill, and we have the wood oven. We do have a fryer, because we found it doesn’t work so well to deep fry over wood. But that’s it. And we only use olive wood imported from Valle de Guadalupe. It’s dangerous sometimes, but it’s the best way.” At this, Chef Vargas showed us the latest of several burn wounds on his arms. Now THAT is dedication to food, my amigos!

Tijuana dining

Verde y Crema cook only with olive wood. No gas or stove in this kitchen.

Onto the food. We started out with two of the ceviches under “First Course”. The first was the Yellowtail Tiradito with Jicima, Spring Onion and Sea Beans. The sea beans were a great addition and added a nice snap to the tenderness of the fresh yellowtail. The spring onion was just mild enough not to interfere with anything and was a nice complement. This plate didn’t last long.

Tijuana dining

Yellowtail Tiradito, jicima, spring onion, sea beans. Fresh. Delicious.

The next item was one of El Gringo’s favorites of the night, having a weakness for jumbo Callos de Hacha, or Diver Scallops. Verde y Crema’s Callos de Hacho Ceviche with Pickled Red Onion, Lemon Verbena and Cucumber was perfection on a plate. The scallops were thinly sliced and super fresh. The lemon worked, the pickled onions made me think of a pibil in the Yucatan. Look for this particular dish to be toward the top of my Chowzter picks for Tijuana soon!

Tijuana dining

Callos de Hacha (Diver Scallop) Ceviche, pickled red onion, lemon verbena and cucumber.

Both the yellowtail and scallop ceviches were served with thick, delicious blue corn tortillas, fresh off the olive wood fire from the kitchen. Alongside these tasty tortillas were three salsas of peanut, habañero and roasted tomato and chiles. Fantastic.

Tijuana dining

Verde y Cremas blue corn tortillas are baked over olive wood.

It was time for some tacos. The Blue Corn Gorditas with Grilled Octopus, Cheese and Pickled Vegetable were delicious. The standout of this round though were the Korean Tacos with Carne Asada, Kimchi, Japanese Peanuts and Blue Corn Tortilla. The flavor of the kimchi and familiar Korean BBQ tanginess of the sauce spread on the perfectly grilled carne asada was right on.

Tijuana dining

Korean BBQ Tacos with carne asada, kimchi, Japanese peanuts, blue corn tortilla.

At this point, we were still hungry and hesitated for a moment…should we just order another round of exactly what we just had? It was that good. But instead, decided to move down the menu and onto some heartier fare. The Grilled Organic Chicken with Adobo and Roasted Vegetables Salad (shown earlier in this post) was moist and the adobo on the skin had great texture and taste. We also ordered the Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Birria de Res, Heirloom Tomato Salad and Fried Potatoes. Hearty and mouthwateringly good. Not feeling that adventurous? Verde y Crema also grill a mean hamburger which we duly ordered and devoured.

Tijuana dining

Grilled cheese sandwich with birria de res, heirloom tomato salad & papas.

Tijuana dining

Local beef hamburger, gouda cheese, home made brioche and papas fritas

Toward the end of the meal during our conversation with Chef Vargas, he brought out a bottle of Joven (young) mezcal called “La Panca”. Made from wild agave, this smooth mezcal is made exclusively for Verde y Crema and goes great with some oranges and sal con guano (salt with Maguey worm extract). As we raised our glasses and said “Salud”, Chef Vargas concluded, “We are so happy to be in Tijuana right now with all of the great food happening here. We set our own standards and are more mature every day. We know that if we enjoy it (the food), you’ll enjoy it.” We undoubtedly did and El Gringo will return to try some of their other dishes muy pronto!

Crema y Verde is located in the Chapultepec area of Tijuana at Orizaba 3034, Colonia Neidhart. Visit their website at www.verdeycrema.com for more information.

 

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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12 Hedonists, 12 Courses, 1 Vision: WTF at The Kitchen in Tijuana

12 Hedonists, 12 Courses, 1 Vision: WTF at The Kitchen in Tijuana

In the 1930’s, artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo were at the vortex of the “Mexican Renaissance”, surrounding themselves with an inner circle of intellectuals and creatives, such as Trotsky and Andre Breton. The group asserted some influence on society with regard to their views on socialism and liberal politics, giving Rivera the leverage he needed to paint as he desired and include images of communist leaders in his mural work.

While based in Tijuana, not Mexico City, and lacking the tempestuous relationship that Diego and Frida shared (they’re just good friends), Josue Castro and Karla Navarro combined their powers of art and cuisine to bring together their own circle of influencers from the worlds of business, art, music, education and media. Called WTF (Where’s The Food), 12 “hedonists” gathered around a table Saturday March 17th at Josue’s “The Kitchen” in the Zona Centro neighborhood of Tijuana for a clandestine 12 course meal, drinks, art, photography and some stimulating conversation about the evolving reinvention of Tijuana.

WTF at Tijuana's "The Kitchen"

Business people, teachers, artists, chefs, and media share ideas, great food and drink at WTF in Tijuana.

Josue and his business partner Andrew Sheiner have been hosting events at The Kitchen for 12 months, including multi-course meals, films and concerts (In April, The Kitchen hosted an intimate performance by Tijiuana’s Madame Ur y sus Hombres). Although they still house Josue’s gallery there, the pair felt that they needed a larger space for these types of events than they currently have at gallery La Tenacion in Pasaje Gomez. Prompted by Castro’s need for 1000 square feet of space, a former Avon cosmetics warehouse in Zona Centro at 7th & Constitucion was rehabilitated to house The Kitchen and other businesses desiring new space for restaurants, galleries and shops.

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What’s cooking in The Kitchen? Josue Castro and Andrew Sheiner’s loft space in Tijuana’s Zona Centro. Photo: Josue Castro

El Gringo was privileged to be invited to WTF at The Kitchen as one of the twelve hedonists (I have a bit of experience, so was not intimidated). Other guests included local business people, artists, musicians, educators, and members of the media. All 12 of us enjoyed 12 courses of amazing food prepared by Karla Navarro, a kitchen staff of three, and an attentive wait staff. All of the courses were based on Baja California classics such as locally-sourced fish, ceviche, quail, shellfish, Puerto Nuevo style lobster and oxtail. The meal was accompanied by Valle de Guadalupe wines, local Tijuana craft beers and a mezcal from Oaxaca that had been custom crafted for one of Tijuana’s top chefs.

WTF at Tijuana's "The Kitchen"

The table is set for WTF at Josue Castro’s The Kitchen, Tijuana 22000.

Although WTF really stands for “Where’s The Food”, there were a few WTF? touches around The Kitchen. Most prominent were Josue’s large portraits of Baja California chefs grittily photographed in black and white with an S&M motif (he’s currently working on this series). Another WTF? touch was the hostess, a silent, masked model in a black bra and tutu who served hors d’oeuvres and drinks as we mingled before the event. Josue had also set up a corner of the room with lights and black paper to photograph the hedonists with the model, as well as with Karla. He explained the concept to me, “I’m a hedonist. I like beautiful women, good food, good wine, good music. And The Kitchen is a place where they all come together.”

WTF at Tijuana's "The Kitchen"

Karla Navarro at staff at The Kitchen, Tijuana.

During the meal, Josue took time between courses to further explain his vision for The Kitchen, Zona Centro and Tijuana’s image in the US media, “When people think of Tijuana in the US, they think of migrants, drug dealers, prostitutes. Those are a part of Tijuana, like most major cities, but not all of Tijuana. There are a lot of people in the community here that are working very hard to improve the image of our city and get people from the US to come back to Tijuana. Galleries, businesses, restaurants, all of us working together. TJ is a cool city, and we want people to know that.”

WTF at TIjuana's "The Kitchen"

Hedonists at the table, The Kitchen, Tijuana.

Genaro Valladolid, of Bustamante Realty Group and real estate agent for the property at 7th and Constitution, waved his hand across the spacious outdoor balcony at The Kitchen, indicating the neighborhood before us. “If you look around Zona Centro here in Tijuana, all of the buildings are old. There’s been nothing new built here for a long time. Years ago, this neighborhood was where all the wealthy people lived. Then, like so many other cities, they started to move out of the center and into the suburbs, and then even further. The lofts here represent the FIRST new development that’s happened in Zona Centro in sixty years.”

WTF at Tijuana's "The Kitchen"

Josue Castro and Karla Navarro at The Kitchen in Tijuana.

El Gringo also had the pleasure of meeting Ramon Bostich and Pepe Mogt from Tijuana band Nortec Collective. On the balcony talking to Pepe, a car drove by and somebody screamed, “HEY PEPE!”, just another rockstar moment for these musical innovators. Pepe had worked with Anthony Bourdain on the Baja California episode of No Reservations, and really enjoyed the experience. “Anthony was cool to work with. That was good exposure for Tijuana, but not enough. Many people are working to get the middle and upper middle class people from the US and Mexico to come visit the city. There’s so much good that’s happening here.”

WTF at Tijuana's "The Kitchen"

The Lofts at 7th and Constitucion in Tijuana. Photo: Josue Castro

Most of the evening’s conversation focused on the topic of Tijuana’s evolution, the great things about the city and the overall perception of Tijuana in the US. “Tijuana is constantly changing,” Josue told me. “In fact, the next time you come back, there will be something new, different, exciting. The Kitchen is a part of that. We are available for different functions, for groups or individuals, and will host art, performances, whatever anyone can think of that would work well in this space.”

WTF at Tijuana's "The Kitchen"

Ramon Bostich and Pepe Mogt from Norte Collective. The muse silencing the artists.

The night ended with strong coffee, brewed in the Japanese style by Tijuana’s Gerardo Grijalva, owner of Jacu. The coffee and his Cold Brew were fantastic, and Gerardo warned us that we might have trouble sleeping after consuming (it was nearly 2AM, and El Gringo had NO problem passing out whatsoever back in his hotel room). At the end of the night, we hedonists parted ways, exchanging embrazos, handshakes and business cards. We headed out into the Tijuana night. Unafraid, inspired and hopeful for Zona Centro, Tijuana and the people who are living and creating here, trying to bring about a “Tijuana Revolution” just as Diego and Frida did for Mexico so many years ago.

 
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 atinfo@baja.com.

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Baja Skinny: How to Spend a Perfect Day in Tijuana

Baja Skinny: How to Spend a Perfect Day in Tijuana

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Spending a perfect day in Tijuana is problematic only due to the challenge in narrowing down a list from a seemingly endless amount of events, restaurants, markets, shops, galleries, museums and other possibilities from which to choose.

Baja California’s largest city, Tijuana has reinvented (and reinvigorated) itself since a tourism decline that began in 2001. Since then, “TJ” (as it’s often referred to by locals and visitors) has been steadily getting back on its feet…and then some. Its culinary resurgence and “Baja Med” cuisine have received international press and top rankings in Latin American restaurant circles.

Former tourist shop alleyways such as Pasajes Gomez and Rodriguez have been converted to house art galleries, restaurants, craft breweries and bookstores. Tijuana’s famous Cultural Center (CECUT) presents art, dance, music and theater and is host to events such as the annual Baja California Culinary Fest. And professional teams such as the Toros de Tijuana (baseball) and Xolos (soccer) are a big draw for sports fans from both sides of the border.

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Tijuana’s beautiful Cultural Center (CECUT).

El Gringo reached out to some of his colleagues, friends and fellow bloggers to see how they would spend a perfect day in Tijuana. Not surprisingly, food was at the top of their minds, as were cultural experiences, sporting events and shopping. Coming from some of the folks who know best, any one of these itineraries (or a combination of stops from each) would make for a perfect day in Tijuana.

bill-esparzaBill Esparza, blogger at Street Gourmet LA and founder of Club Tengo Hambre. Bill starts the day off on the right foot…with a good meal. “Breakfast is the time for birria at places like Tacos Fito’s and whatever random stand I come across that looks good. Tacos Aaron is a sure bet for delicious tacos “varios” like eggs with machaca.” And for lunch, “It’s a great time of day to indulge in the local seafood…Erizo fish market, Tacos Kokopelli, Mariscos Ruben, and El Conchal are favorites — El Mazateno, too.”

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Tacos Fitos by Mercado Hidalgo. Image Bill Esparza, Street Gourmet LA.

After exploring Tijuana’s neighborhoods and shopping for cheese and other food at Mercado Hidalgo, Bill concludes his culinary day: “Dinner options can be formal like Mision 19, a little more casual at La Querencia or Verde y Crema, or a loud taqueria like El Franc for local adobada.” After dinner, perhaps a drink. “I enjoy the bottle service clubs like Classico when with friends, or going to BCB (Baja Craft Beer) for Mexican craft beers.”

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Chef Javier Plascencia’s Mision 19, currently at the center of Baja Med cuisine.

Tijuana is ground zero for a number of fiestas and events, and Bill adds, “I always check the various calendars. It seems there’s a festival every weekend like the Expo Tequila, Caesar Salad Festival, the many events that are held out in Playas or even a Sushi Festival if you want to see what Mexican style sushi is like. Lots of cream cheese and pass the Sriracha, wey!”.

Additionally, Bill enjoys taking in shows at the Jai Alai Palace due to it’s intimate atmosphere, and on the other end of the spectrum, likes to join the fray of a Xolos soccer game, concluding, “That might have been one of the best Tijuana experiences I’ve encountered.”

angela-gonzalesAngela Gonzales, artist and owner of Gallery Atelier 109 in Plaza Revolucion. Angela spends her time enjoying food and culture in Tijuana’s Centro. “Since founding the gallery in October 2012, I’ve had the opportunity to visit different places to eat, like El Tucumano, an Argentinian restaurant, very affordable.” Angela also has high praise for eateries and breweries in the community in and around Plaza Revolucion and Pasaje Gomez. In addition to 6 more galleries, circus lessons and photography studios, there’s a place for vegetarian food, the Azteca Craft brewery, and Sabor y Arte specializing in Mexican pre-Hispanic food.

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Pasaje Gomez is a former tourist shop alleyway that now houses galleries and more.

fernando-gaxiolaFernando Gaxiola, owner of Baja Wine + Food. Fernando goes straight for TJ’s culinary heart, the taco, “I’d start with a street food tour in a quest for the best taco of each one of its kinds – “varios”, fish, birria, and asada. I’d try a taco de chicharrón or a taco de machaca con huevo with chicharrón salsa at Tacos Aaron (Alta Cocina Urbana) in Zona Rio. To make it more interesting, I might order a combinado of birria with tripa (tripe). For fish tacos I like Mazateño to try either a classic fish or shrimp taco, or a “Mazateño” taco, which is a enchilada shrimp taco with cheese. Or I’d go to Mariscos Ruben with Doña Mirta Rodríguez. Tacos Kokopelli is a must stop for me because they make alternative and contemporary tacos.”

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A pinch of chili, a squeeze of lime, a lot of love. Mirta Rodriguez of Mariscos Ruben.

As far as drinks, alcoholic or otherwise, “For local craft beer, making a stop for a taster at Tijuana Beer is a good option, or BCB. At this point, if feeling like a shot of caffeine, I’d go to Sospesso café. Then, a winery stop, why not? Casa Bayolán would be my first choice, then L.A. Cetto.”

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L.A. Cetto is Baja and Mexico’s largest wine producer.

Fernando’s perfect day then transforms into a perfect night, “I always check what’s going on at El Lugar del Nopal, a favorite venue of mine with tons of talented local performers. You can expect anything from tango, jazz, and bossa nova to rock and alternative music. Dandy del Sur is always open for a shot of tequila or La Mezcalera for one or two mezcal drinks. The party stops when you decide to.”

rebekah-sagerRebekah Sager, journalist for UT-TV and owner of ShopLocalSD.com. Rebekah (aka the “Border Chic”) would visit Pasajes Gomez and Rodriguez and “…eat dinner at Tabule or El Taller. I’d also shop at designer/owner Jorge Sanchez’s Retro Boutique on Avenida Revolucion.” Jorge is just one of the city’s myriad “fashionistas” whose styles range from urban to classic. El Gringo likes MexicanFashion in Pasaje Rodriguez, who’s “Tijuas” line of tee shirts feature reinterpreted TJ and Mexican icons.

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El Taller Baja Med Cuisine. Miguel Angel Guerrero’s low key gastro bistro.

kristin-antonioAntonio and Kristin Diaz de Sandi, bloggers at Life & Food and founders at Club Tengo Hambre. Antonio and Kristin enjoy visiting Tijuana with their toddler in tow. To kick the day off, “We’d have breakfast at Tortas del Wash, who have one of the most iconic carne asada tortas in the city. Then we’d have a coffee stop for the parents at Das Cortez in La Cacho.”

Tijuana has plenty for the kids to do as well. “The Museo el Trompo is a great interactive museum for the little ones. Each level is geared towards different age groups, and they have a 4D theater. Another great day time adventure is a visit to the aquarium at CECUT.” After these cultural stops, they head toward one of Tijuana’s myriad public plazas and parks, “Visiting Parque Teniente Guerrero in Tijuana’s downtown is always fun. You can’t pass up a refreshing paleta or delicious esquites. There are often live performances or music going on as well.”

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Museo el Trompo has interactive exhibits for kids of all ages. Image panoramio.com.

Antonio and Kristin would finish their day with dinner and dessert. Kristin concluded, “One of Antonio’s family traditions is to have dinner with everyone in Tijuana at Giuseppis. We share a round of pizzas, and enjoy the ambiance surrounded by Tijuanense families. We would then finish up the evening with postres at Dolce Salato.”

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Giuseppis was the first Plascencia restaurant, and the first pizzeria in Mexico. (Photo www.grupoplascencia.com)

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to spend a perfect day in Tijuana. Feel free to let El Gringo know what YOUR perfect day in TJ looks like in the comments section below, and DIVERTERSE (have fun)!

 

 

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, completeevent 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 atinfo@baja.com.

 

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Grupo Plascencia: Roots Run Deep for Tijuana’s Famous Family of Restaurateurs

Grupo Plascencia: Roots Run Deep for Tijuana’s Famous Family of Restaurateurs

El Gringo paid his driver and stepped out of the cab and into the crisp November afternoon in the Zona Rio neighborhood of Tijuana. Shielding my eyes from the autumn sun, I looked up at the modern glass and concrete business tower that houses Chef Javier Plascencia’s Mision 19 restaurant. Mision 19 has become famous in the past few years – as has the chef himself – thanks to high profile articles in both the Los Angeles and New York Times newspapers, as well as burgeoning foodie interest in the city’s Baja Med cuisine.

But every tower begins with a cornerstone, and El Gringo was here to chat with Javier and his brothers Tana and Julian to uncover the foundation of the Plascencia family’s history, including their culinary influences and the story behind the Grupo Plascencia family of restaurants.

Grupo Plascencia

Grupo Plascencia’s culinary traditions run deep, and have many branches.

Stepping into the bright, open interior of Mision 19, I was seated at a small table behind the impressive wine wall where I met Javier and his brother Tana (the oldest of the four Plascencia siblings) to discuss Grupo Plascencia’s roots, and the evolution of the Tijuana culinary scene.

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Mision 19, Javier Plascenia’s flagship restaurant in Zona Rio, Tijuana.

The Plascencia Roots: Nana Chela and Mexico’s First Pizzeria

The food tradition of the current family began in Tijuana with Javier and Tana’s paternal grandmother. Known as Nana Chela, she worked at the Agua Caliente casino in the 1930s and 40s and loved to cook for her family.

“I remember going to her house as a little boy for big feasts.” Javier recalled. “She would cook great empanadas – I still have never had them the way she made them. She cooked plantain tortitas, caldo de rez. She made all the tortillas by hand. Very good sauces, beans, rice. And she cooked it with a lot of love. That made a huge difference.”

Nana Chela was a “localvore” long before Javier was born. “She would buy all her food from the local market and the produce carts that would roam the colonias,” he said.

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The Plascencia grandmother, Nana Chela, at Agua Caliente in the 1930s.

As Javier reminisced, a pianist played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in the background, a fitting soundtrack for the story of his father, Juan José Plascencia, a Tijuana barman who started a restaurant empire in 1969 on a dream…a dream of having a good pizza in his hometown.

Grupo PlascenciaInfluenced by frequent trips to drink and dine with friends at San Diego’s Filipe’s Pizzeria, Tijuana native Juan José Plascencia (also known as Don Tana) hosted a party for his coworkers one night, found some recipes, and baked a couple of pizzas. His coworkers loved the pies and urged him to open a restaurant of his own. Juan José and some friends got the money together and opened their first restaurant, with Nana Chela making the sauces and wife Martha (from San Diego) working the cash register. In just two hours after opening, they had sold out and the new Pizzeria – Giuseppi’s – was a huge success. It’s widely believed that Giuseppi’s is the FIRST true pizzeria in Baja, if not all of Mexico.

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Giuseppis was the first Plascencia restaurant, and the first pizzeria in Mexico. Image: Grupo Plascencia

Giuseppi’s gave the Plascencia siblings (Tana, Javier, younger brother Julian and sister Margu) their first taste of the restaurant business. When they were small kids, Giuseppi’s was in full swing and was the only place they could see their hard-working father, who didn’t come in until midnight most weeknights and worked in the restaurant all weekend. “Those were good times,” Julian recalled later in the day. “We would sit at a table in the corner on a Sunday and play with our toys and coloring books.”

Tana smiled nostalgically, adding, “If we were bad at school as teenagers, our father would make us work the weekend. He would make us clean the walls, the windows — all in front of the staff and customers. And then we would get homework in the restaurant. We would work in the warehouse, with the distributors. But Javier, he liked to be up in front in the kitchen with the cooks.” When asked if Javier is indeed the best cook of all the siblings, Tana acquiesced, “Yes. We all cook, but Javier took to it very early on.”

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Javier and Tana Plascencia at Mision 19 in Tijuana.

Wanting them to be fluent English speakers, all of the Plascencia kids were educated in their mother’s hometown of San Diego with “resident alien” status. Javier attended the Army/Navy Academy in Carlsbad for a year, and all of the kids attended high school at Saint Augustine in San Diego. In the meantime, the Plascencia family empire just across the border in Tijuana continued to expand.

Branching Out: The Building of a Culinary Empire

Juan José hired a cook and a helper and began adding a bit more variety to the Italian menu, including lasagna, poultry, veal and meat dishes. Building on the success of the first Giuseppi’s, the family added more locations across Tijuana. There are currently five locations, with a sixth scheduled to open on Avenida Revolucion in 2014.

Grupo PlascenciaJuan José rented the room adjacent to the first Giussepi’s and set it up as a specialty dining room with a more “exclusive” Italian menu and called it Villa Saverio’s. Working with a business partner from Mexico City, the family created one of the first restaurants in Tijuana that combined both Baja and Mediterranean flavors…helping set the stage for the city’s current success with Baja Med cuisine. The restaurant just recognized its 25th anniversary, during which all the chefs from Grupo Plascencia contributed their culinary talents for a week of celebratory meals.

Grupo PlascenciaFollowing Saverios, the Plascencias then opened Casa Plasencia, the current flagship restaurant of the family business, displacing and moving Saverio’s for the third and final time to its current location. Serving “Mexiterranean” cuisine, the menu is eclectic and delicious. El Gringo had dinner there earlier this year, trying the broiled pulpo and trucha zarendeado, a fresh piece of trout butterflied, spiced and grilled in their exhibition kitchen. El Gringo’s señorita enjoyed a hearty seafood pasta and my hijo devoured their famous, savory beef cheek tacos.

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Casa Plasencia exudes rustic elegance. Image: Grupo Plascencia

Scattered Leaves: Exile, Return and Resurgence

Grupo PlascenciaIn 2005, the Plascencia family went into self-exile from Tijuana to San Diego due to kidnapping threats made against one of the Plascencia brothers. Other middle and upper class Tijuanese moved north during this same time for similar reasons. Grupo Plascencia opened Romesco in Bonita, California (near San Diego) in 2006 so that they and their friends could enjoy a Mediterranean style meal with Baja flavors while they were away from home. Romesco is still in business today and has received many accolades for their imaginative menu.

Grupo PlascenciaOnce the threat to the family was gone and the city began a return to normalcy, the Plascencias came back to Tijuana to continue growing the Grupo Plascencia family of restaurants. Tana was driving down Avenida Revolucion one afternoon in 2010 when he noticed that the current tenants at the famous Caesar’s Restaurant were being evicted. Tana explained, “I was in my car and noticed all their tables, chairs and furniture on the street. I stopped and went inside and talked to the landlord about the possibility of taking over the lease and the business, letting him know we would be in touch. After talking to my father, the next day I went back to the restaurant with a check in hand and signed the lease.”

The Plascencias have tastefully rehabilitated, renovated and resurrected the landmark, which dates back to 1927, when Caesar Cardini (an Italian immigrant) started the restaurant during the boom years of prohibition. At that time, Americans crossed the border in droves for the drinks they were no longer allowed to enjoy stateside. Cardini is popularly credited with the invention of the classic Caesar Salad, which is still served tableside today.

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The original Caesar’s opened in Tijuana in 1927.

After our discussion at Mision 19, Tana drove me over to Caesar’s for a quick tour and to meet with his brother Julian. Caesar’s walls are adorned with hundreds of historic photos of the restaurant and hotel, and Tijuana from the 1920s to present day. The original bar is the only thing that remains from the 1927 Caesar’s, but the entire restaurant has been decorated in a way that recalls Tijuana’s classic era of wining, dining, and gambling — including black and white checkered tile floors and mahogany wainscoting and booths.

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Step back in time at Grupo Plascencia’s Caesar’s in Tijuana.

While chatting with Tana and Julian, El Gringo enjoyed a glass of the house Pale Ale (Caesar’s, brewed by a local cervezeria), the house red wine (Nostro, or “We” in Italian), Caesar salad, bone marrow sopes (“Sometimes I come here and just have these and some red wine,” Tana confided) and Caesar’s version of surf and turf, chateaubriand and bacon-wrapped Baja shrimp — inspired by the famous, long defunct Tijuana restaurant Costa Azul. Other dishes on the menu also pay homage to Tijuana’s culinary past.

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Caesar’s bacon-wrapped shrimp and chateaubriand pay homage to Tijuana’s culinary past.

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Nostro, or “We” in Italian, is the Plascencia’s house wine and bears the family logo.

 

They Don’t Fall Far from the Tree: Today and Tomorrow

In addition to the Grupo Plascencia interests, Javier independently manages several other industry-recognized restaurants, including Erizo Baja Fish House & Market, Caffé Saverios, Finca Altozano in the Valle de Guadalupe, and of course, Mision 19. Younger Sister Margu creates fantastic dulces and pastries at L’Artisan Reposteria Fina, which supplies tantalizing deserts to most of the Grupo Plascencia restaurants. And Tana and Julian are always on the lookout for the next opportunity, such as Mama Tequila, Julian’s new tequila bar just across the street from Caesar’s.

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Chef Javier Plascencia’s staff at Erizo busy preparing amazing dishes.

There are plans to develop new concepts and restaurants, both in Tijuana and possibly other locations in Baja California such as Rosarito, but all three brothers made it clear that for now, they are focusing on Tijuana and its continuing revitalization. “Because we are mostly in Tijuana, the family goes around to all the restaurants every day. We get to see our diners and they get a good feeling of personal service.” Julian emphasized.

When the family gets together for a holiday or celebration, they typically meet at one of their restaurants and leave the cooking to the capable staff, some of which have been with the Plascencias for 20-30 years. The Plascencia family beach house provides a great place for Juan José to gather his grandkids around him and for the family to take a break from their busy profession.

When I asked Tana what will happen when the three brothers retire, he laughed and replied, “My daughter is the chef at Romesco in Bonita. My son is in Las Vegas studying hospitality at UNLV. Sooner or later, we will retire, and how nice to have your kids around to help you.”

As we finished our interview, I asked Javier how he’d like to retire. Reflecting, he concluded, “I’d like to retire in Valle de Guadalupe on my ranch, maybe take on a couple of projects like building a new family house in the Valley. I want to spend more time there and retire drinking red wine under a huge tree.”

The roots of that tree will no doubt run deep.

 
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, completeevent 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 atinfo@baja.com.

 

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A Taste of Baja: Tijuana Cultural Center Hosts Culinary Expo

A Taste of Baja: Tijuana Cultural Center Hosts Culinary Expo

On Friday October 25th and Saturday October 26th, the Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT) highlighted the best cuisine from Baja’s many and varied restaurants, vintners, craft brewers and other culinary artisans and producers. The Culinary Expo held at CECUT (and free to the public) was part of a larger array of organized dinners, tastings, tours, demonstrations, street opera and other events that took place this year around the 2013 Baja Culinary Fest. El Gringo rolled onto the scene at CECUT with his amigo Roberto (former resident and current business owner in Tijuana) to see what’s tasting good and going down easy in Baja right now.

Baja Culinary Fest

The Baja Culinary Fest held this year’s expo at the beautiful Tijuana Cultural Center.

As we walked past CECUT’s famous spherical structure (complemented by the more recent construction of a cube on the other side of the building), we came upon the esplanade where a number of vendors were displaying, offering samples of and selling their wares. We were thirsty after our trip down from San Diego, so the cervecerias were our first stop. Influenced by the craft beer movement happening just north of the border in San Diego, Tijuana now boasts over 20 craft breweries that produce excellent beers…many made from mostly locally-sourced ingredients.

Our first stop was at Valle de Guadalupe’s Cerveceria Guadalupe, who offer a number of fine beers including a Vanilla Ale, BPA and an IPA. They also make a blonde ale named “Tonantzin”, the Earth Mother of Aztec lore, mythically related to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the region’s namesake. Master Brewer Raul Deju gave us a tasting of all they had on offer. The BPA was the standout for El Gringo and contained honey, thyme and other locally sourced herbs. Raul indicated that this savory beer would be great with a sandwich. We agreed and wished we had one!

Baja Culinary Fest

Master Brewer Raul Deju and the staff of Cerveceria Guadalupe.

After our tasting Raul urged us to visit “the other Raul,” Raul Aispuro Funes of Funes Hand-Crafted Baja Beer from Tijuana’s Zona Centro, and to guess the “secret local ingredient” of his Saison Belgian beer. So we headed over to the Funes booth and introduced ourselves to Señor Funes. Saison was traditionally brewed in Belgium for the fall season to refresh farm workers during the harvest, and then stored for the following fall’s harvest. Funes’ interpretation of the Saison was citrusy, slightly herby and completely refreshing. And the secret local ingredient? Rosemary.

Baja Culinary Fest

El Gringo sampled a Saison and an IPA from Funes brewery. Both were muy bueno!

Baja Culinary Fest

Raul Aispuro Funes (left) of Funes Cerveceria in Tijuana.

We continued our trek through the vendor tents and arrived at one from Oaxaca…La Niña del Mezcal. As they’ve just started selling their mezcal in the states, it made sense for them to exhibit in Baja California as the liquor (made from the maguey plant and stored in burned barrels for that “smoky” taste) is becoming popular in many parts of Mexico. Your Gringo is trying to get a taste for mezcal before our family trip to Oaxaca over Christmas, and this particular tasting went a long way in expanding that effort!

Baja Culinary Fest

La Niña del Mezcal from Oaxaca offered a number of straight and flavored mezcals.

Beers and mezcals tasted and heads somewhat lightened, it was time to try out some of the food from the vendor booths at the Culinary Expo. And there was no shortage of amazingly fresh and delicious options to be had. We started with Tijuana’s Hunabku. Roberto had a tostada with tuna ceviche and pomegranates. El Gringo tried the smoked marlin con queso tostada. We spread liberal amounts of Hunabku’s homemade salsas on our tostadas, which were flavorful, spicy, authentic and delicious!

Baja Culinary Fest

Hunabku from Playas de Tijuana serve up a mean smoked Marlin y Queso Tostada.

Next, we stopped by Tacos Kokopelli to say hello to Pablo Campos and his brothers, whom El Gringo had met at an earlier outing with Club Tengo Hambre back in September. Campos greeted us with a hearty, “Hey, A Gringo in Tijuana!” Having heard of my legendary tales of their specialty, “The Kraken,” Roberto had to try one for himself. This combination of pulpo (octopus) and pesto knocked it out of the park. The octopus was grilled to perfection, and the crunchily-toasted tortilla in which it was nested added to the Kraken’s crispy goodness. As Snoop Dogg would say, the Kraken was Kraka-laken!

Baja Culinary Fest

Pulpo con pesto from Tijuana’s Tacos Kokopelli.

Baja Culinary Fest

Pablo Campos of Tacos Kokopelli throws down some pulpo on the barbie.

For our final course, Roberto and I tried the three cheese quesadillas from Lacteos Santa Brigida. El Gringo loves a good Mexican queso, and this cheese did not disappoint. Salty and delicious, we ordered a couple of quesadillas. Mine was stuffed with smoked marlin and Roberto had his with corn and squash. Both were fantastic and I vowed to seek out this quintessential queso and bring some back to San Diego with me the next time I come down to Baja. I washed the quesadilla down with an excellent and hearty Vino Tinto from Ensenada’s Castillo Ferrer Winery, poured by Sr. Edgar Perez de Castillo himself. Gracias y Saludos Edgar!

Other food vendors included Furrashu Sushi (hey, Asian influence is key in Baja Med and a lot of other Mexican cuisine, after all); Horenero Restaurant in Tijuana, who pulled fresh, crispy pizzas out of their wood fired “oven on wheels;”and Reposteria Casa Guadalupe, who donate proceeds from their baked goods to Tijuana-based drug rehabilitation centers.

Baja Culinary Fest

Cutting the cheese at Productos Lácteos Santa Brigida’s booth.

Baja Culinary Fest

Trying a pour of the Vino Tinto from Edgar Perez de Castillo, Castillo Ferrer Winery.

Baja Culinary Fest

Showing the Asian influence and slicing up sushi at Furasshu in Tijuana.

Baja Culinary Fest

Pizza from Hornero Restaurant in Tijuana. Wood-fired goodness!

Baja Culinary Fest

Reposteria Casa Guadalupe donate proceeds to drug rehabilitation programs in Tijuana.

We went inside CECUT’s sphere to see what else the Baja Culinary Fest had on offer. What we found was a variety of artwork created, judged and displayed within the dome as part of the festival’s activities. We dug the selection of two dozen or so pieces that directly correlated to food, wine and other themes of the culinary fest. The gallery showing was sponsored by L.A. Cetto, CONACULTA and others.

Baja Culinary Fest

“Vine Lines” by Tijuana artist Fernanda Uski depicts Baja’s wine growing regions.

Baja Culinary Fest

Very cool mixed media paper sculpture by Tijuana’s Maik Jimenez.

As we strolled toward the gates of CECUT, we meandered just a bit more to get the total vibe of the event. A quintet of guitarists were lining up to play on the main event stage. Tijuana music producer DJ COASTRAL “spun” chill mixes on his Macbook Pro with the CECUT sphere as his backdrop, giving the impression of an intergalactic Ibiza. Later in the evening, Tijuana theater troupe Santini & Cardini would give an operatic performance called “Una Historia Con Sabor,” about the creation and presentation of the Caesar Salad at Caesar’s Restaurant in Tijuana (also owned by the Plascencia family).

Baja Culinary Fest

Tijuana producer DJ COASTRAL mixes sounds outside of the CECUT sphere. Spacey!

Well fed and wholly satisfied, we left the Culinary Expo and headed toward Avenida Revolucion for craft beers and reflection (inadvertently running into and fighting off a Zombie Horde, documented here). The Third Annual Baja Culinary Fest was a big tasty success again this year and El Gringo is already looking forward to next year…salud!

 

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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Tijuana Invaded by Zombies!

Tijuana Invaded by Zombies!

NEWS BULLETIN: Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico – Saturday, October 26th, 2013.

Tijuana was invaded by Zombie hordes today, who roamed the streets in and around Avenida Revolucion and other areas of the metropolis, terrorizing citizens, shunning souvenir vendors, spooking zebra-painted donkeys and wreaking general havoc. “I’ve seen a LOT of things in Tijuana,” said Roberto Ruiz, Chula Vista resident, “but never hordes of zombies!” Our interview was cut short by several zombies who attacked Ruiz, desiring to devour his brain. Finding scant sustenance, they moved on.

El Gringo did his best to fight through the hordes with Ruiz who helped to identify only those zombies that were photo-worthy. El Gringo is often asked if it’s safe to go to Tijuana. Typically, my answer is a resounding YES. But today I would have told anyone listening to avoid the city if at all possible. Miraculously, we were able to battle our way through the hordes to the border, making it across safely (and quickly) to bring you this reportage.

Tijuana Invaded by Zombies!

Chula Vista’s Roberto Ruiz is attacked openly in the streets.

Tijuana Invaded by Zombies!

The Steampunk variety of Zombies. Scary AND hip!

Tijuana Invaded by Zombies!

This Zombie couple can’t wait to tie the knot…around your neck!

Zombies Invade Tijuana!

Entire families of Tijuaneros were infected by the Zombie disease.

Tijuana Invaded by Zombies!

This half pig, half man Zombie won OUR vote for best Zombie makeup!

Tijuana Invaded by Zombies

Even fictional characters weren’t safe from the Zombie infection.

Tijuana Invaded by Zombies

The Zombie infection also spread throughout local hospitals, affecting both doctors and patients.

Tijuana Invaded by Zombies

Least threatening Zombie, most impressive makeup!

Tijuana Invaded by Zombies

We were safe from these two Mime Zombies, who couldn’t make it past the invisible wall.

Tijuana Invaded by Zombies

Construction projects in Tijuana were halted as the workforce turned.

Tijuana Invaded by Zombies

A red-eyed Zombie and his wench. Too much to drink?

Tijuana Invaded by Zombies

Drinking on la Sexta one minute, mindless Zombies the next!

Would El Gringo recommend a visit to Tijuana? ABSOLUTELY! The food, art, culture and amount of things to do is astounding and on par with any major U.S. city. But if you do visit in late October next year, or any, be warned…the Zombie hordes may be out and lusting for brains!

 

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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Tijuana Hosts 3rd Annual Baja Culinary Fest

Tijuana Hosts 3rd Annual Baja Culinary Fest

On Thursday, November 14, a press event to kick off the 3rd Annual Baja California Culinary Fest was held at Chef Martin Gonzales’ TOAST Enoteca and Cucina restaurant in San Diego’s East Village. The festival is a celebration of the region’s artisanal food, premium wines, and craft beers, and is scheduled for October 24-27. The region’s distinctive gourmet fare will take center stage with 25 of Baja California’s culinary stars and top sommeliers, and events that include special dinners, tastings, cooking classes, competitions, and entertainment. A significant driver of tourism, Baja’s cuisine was recently declared an intangible cultural heritage to the state by the World Tourism Organization (WTO).

Baja California Culinary Fest 2013.

Baja California Culinary Fest 2013.

As with other recent press events focused on Baja cuisine, there were a variety of wines from Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe region. El Gringo sampled several vino tintos and mingled with other press members, discussing the culinary fest, the growing popularity of Baja cuisine, Tijuana as a gastronomic capital, and the rebirth of the ciudad as a premier culinary and cultural destination. As I tipped the last bit of the rich, red grapey goodness from my glass, we were led to the area of the restaurant where the press conference was about to begin.

The 2013 Baja California Culinary Fest kicks off at Toast Enoteca & Cucina in San Diego.

The 2013 Baja California Culinary Fest kicked off at Toast Enoteca & Cucina in San Diego.

Speakers included Chef Martin Gonzales of TOAST; Fernando Gaxiola, event organizer; Secretary of Baja Tourism Juan Tintos Fuenke; and Tijuana Top Chef Javier Plascencia. Secretary Tintos opened with a few statements regarding the phenomenal popularity of Baja California as a new food capital. “People used to come to Baja for the beaches. Now, they come to Baja for dinner. Whether it’s seafood in Ensenada or tacos from Tijuana, Baja’s cuisine comes from the street and has become elevated to new levels of gastronomy in Tijuana.” Tintos continued, “Baja now has two of the top fifty restaurants in all of Latin America. We have 18 wine growing valleys, the only Baja producer of artisan cheese and 65 producers of craft beer. This event, which is nof ow three years old, will showcase the culinary movement of Baja California.”

Press Conference for the 2013 Baja California Culinary Fest.

Press Conference for the 2013 Baja California Culinary Fest.

Fernando Gaxiola from Baja Wine + Food, one of the event organizers, focused on the beautiful and bountiful wine producing region of Valle de Guadalupe, and the culinary tour there on Sunday, October 27th. “This culinary tour will take place all over Valle de Guadalupe.” Gaxiola enthused. The tour includes Valle wines and top restaurants Malva, Almazara, Latitud 32, and Finca Altozano, and will present cuisine from host chefs Roberto Alcocer, Alenjandro Alvarez, Ryan Steyn, and Javier Plascencia, respectively. The tour is from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and is only $750 Pesos (about $60 U.S.). What a bargain to experience the best that Baja has to offer!

Baja Culinary Fest 2013

Wines from Valle de Guadalupe will be featured during the Baja Culinary Fest.

Next up was Chef Javier Plascencia of Mision 19, Erizo, and other restaurants owned and operated by his family in Tijuana. Chef Plascencia announced that the Baja Culinary Fest will kickoff on Thursday, October 24th, with a competition for new culinary talent in Baja California. The event will take place at the Culinary Art School in Tijuana from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. and will feature a panel of judges (including Plascencia himself, as well as noted chefs Miguel Angel Guerrero, Eduardo Plascencia, and others). Plascencia also discussed the Culinary Expo, which will be occurring at the Tijuana Cultural Center each day of the festival, and is open to the public with no admission charge. The expo will feature food, beer, and wine tastings, as well as demos, movies, and presentations (which will also be translated into English for non-Spanish speakers). Oh, and there will be an opera performed by Tijuana troupe Santini & Cardini called “Una Historia Con Sabor”, about the creation and presentation of the Caesar Salad at Caesar’s restaurant in Tijuana (also owned by the Plascencia family). Spoiler Alert: The salad is drowned in dressing and anchovies then devoured in the end.

Chef Javier Plascencia shares samples and chats with members of the press.

Chef Javier Plascencia shares samples and chats with members of the press.

Additionally, Club Tengo Hambre and El Gringo’s friends and hosts Antonio and Kristin Diaz Sandi (of Life & Food blog), will be operating two culinary “experiences” during the event. The first, Tijuana Dining and Craft Beer Outing, is October 25th. The second is “A Tale of Two Seas” Tijuana Seafood and Craft Beer outing. With stops at some of Baja California Norte’s most tantalizingly tastiest spots and onboard Mezcal service, these outings are sure to be fun, appetizing, and something you’ll talk about to your amigos and amigas for years to come!

Baja Culinary Fest 2013

Club Tengo Hambre has two fun events planned during the Baja Culinary Fest.

When the press conference concluded, we were served some amazing hor d’oeuvres prepared by Chef Plascencia and his staff. The oysters with meat and fritter were smooth and delicious. I salivated when I was presented with a plateful of giant callo de hacha scallops served on a tortilla chip. The final dish was a preparation of ahi tuna belly on a tostada, caught off the coast of Baja. “We will be breaking down an entire tuna the first day of the Culinary Fest and serving it as sashimi and sushi,” Plascencia told me. Say no more chef…you had me at tuna! El Gringo couldn’t help but share his recent first yellowfin catch off the coast of Ensenada with the chef, but stopped short of breaking out the hero shot on his iPhone!

Chef Javier Plascencia’s oysters with beef and fritter were a tasty sample of what’s to come.

Chef Javier Plascencia’s oysters with beef and fritter were a tasty sample of what’s to come.

Baja Culinary Fest 2013

Delicious tuna belly ceviche served atop a tostada.

As the journalists spilled out of TOAST and into the full moon night, El Gringo met Chef Plascencia’s personal assistant. In addition to her myriad duties for the chef – which may include picking up live goats for his restaurants – Deanna was also very well versed in the cultural scene of Tijuana. Earlier, I had asked Secretary Tintos about his views on presenting Baja California Norte to a wider US audience, and now asked a similar question of Deanna. Would Tijuana like to see the return of the “droves” of tourists that came first during U.S. prohibition, and later to party hard on Revolucion? “Well, cultural tourism does not necessarily come in droves.” Deanna opined. “We do welcome all of our visitors, but this is a different and better time for the city. The art and culture scene have always been here. The food is what’s new and exciting.”‘

 

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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