Rediscover Tijuana at San Diego’s Mingei Museum
On Friday, July 19th, the Mingei International Museum in San Diego’s beautiful Balboa Park presented ReDiscover Tijuana, an evening of art, music and food heralding the 124th anniversary of our metropolitan neighbor to the south. The ultimate goal of the evening, as stated by the Mexican Consulate to the U.S. (one of several dignitaries in attendance), was to bring the experience of Tijuana’s past and present to the Mingei, in hope that we would “Rediscover Tijuana for yourselves…on the OTHER side of the border.” Your Gringo was on the scene mingling with the event’s organizers, exhibitors, chefs, sommeliers and guests.
There were several exhibitors on-hand with information on Tijuana tourism. By the way, gone (or mostly gone) are the days of hard-partying “TJ” by hordes of young people from across the border. With the decline of U.S. tourism to Baja Norte since 2008, the city has largely rebuilt it’s entertainment centers to cater to its own. Sixth street (Calle Sexta) is lined with clubs, bars and dives that attract Tijuana’s hip, young and trendy. A burgeoning “Baja Med” food revolution is being led by Chef Javier Plascencia, a plethora of fresh ingredients, and bottles of excellent wines from Valle de Guadalupe, another area of Baja Norte that’s garnering international attention. Tijuana and Ensenada are both also becoming players in the Baja craft beer movement…a topic which your Gringo can’t WAIT to experience and report on!
While presenting the new and evolving side of Tijuana, the entertainment and food also paid homage to the city’s past. Did you know that the Caesar’s salad was invented in Tijuana in 1927? Chef Julian Plascencia (another noted Tijuana chef and owner of Caesar’s, Casa Plascencia and several other restaurants) and his staff were on hand preparing Caesar’s salad the traditional way…with a mix, a toss, a plating and a smile.
Representing the region’s wine and spirits were Valle de Guadalupe-based L.A. Cetto (the Valley’s and Mexico’s largest producer) and Los Guerrero Mezcal, who produce a smoky, yet smooth Oaxcan Mezcal exclusively for Tijuana’s Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero, another Baja Med pioneer. Your Gringo has visited L.A. Cetto several times in the past and we always enjoy their wines, particularly the nebbiolo, a grape that’s fairly unique to Baja’s vineyards and makes for a hearty, fruity and delicious wine. I spoke with the representative of Las Guerrero Mezcal and finally discovered why mezcal has that smoky taste that tequila does not: mezcal is aged in clay barrels which gives it its “earthiness”.
The evening’s entertainment was provided by Tijuana-based musician Roberto Salomon and his fantastic jazz trio. Roberto opened their performance by sharing his impression with the audience of what makes Tijuana great, including it’s rich history. Salomon introduced the film that would be playing on the wall behind them as the jazz trio provided the soundtrack. The film, In Caliente, starred Mexico’s Delores Del Rio and was made in 1935 at Tijuana’s then-famous Agua Caliente Casino.
The evening was sold out and overall appeared to be a success – whether or not a majority of the attendees were moved to truly rediscover Tijuana on the other side of the border or not. It’s been a while since your Gringo has visited, and most of my past trips were based on Avenida Revolucion and its artisan shops and taco stands. After spending an evening at the Mingei Museum rediscovering Tijuana, however, I committed to get back down soon to learn more about this historic city’s past, and enjoy the tastes, culture and movements that are propelling its future. Look for more Tijuana reporting from El Gringo muy pronto!
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