Baja Day 2

Sam the Cooking Guy continues his good will trip to Baja celebrating the food, culture and people along the way. He travels 2 hours south of downtown San Diego to Guadalupe Valley before visiting the seaport town of Ensenada. 

Sam describes Guadalupe Valley as rolling valleys, with a Mediterranean climate and home to 100 wineries. The first thing on his itinerary is breakfast. Not just any breakfast but what Sam considers the best breakfast in Baja, maybe the best breakfast in Mexico. Sam visits the humble farm house of Dona Esthela and La Cocina de Dona Esthela. A meal there is like a meal in a loved family member’s home. Dona Esthela teaches Sam how to flip a Gordida on the grill. The small cake is made with masa later to be filled with meat and cheese. Sam’s breakfast is made up of two Gordidas; one stuffed with chorizo, the other with nopal (prickly pear cactus). Refried beans are a side. 

Before Sam leaves Dona Esthela offers him some of her Lamb Birria – lamb stew. Sam tastes the broth and finds it delicious but eats his stew in a tortilla garnished with a variety of toppings. Sam loves the food and Dona Esthela. 

Exploring the Guadalupe Valley is a beautiful drive. There are boutique wineries, rustic and gourmet restaurants and unique hotels. Sam’s first stop is at Cooperativa for a glass of wine and a crab burrito. He muses that it doesn’t get any better. 

His next stop in the Valley is a winery, Monte Xanic. Sipping a glass of wine on the outside terrace of the tasting room Sam dispels some of the myths about Mexican wine.  

  1. It is NOT made in a shack. The fermenting room of the winery has some of the most sophisticated technology in wine making.
  2. Only a few cases are made or sold. Not true, 60,000 cases are made per year.
  3. Stored in uncle Guerremo’s garage. False, Monte Xanic stores extra wine in the barrel room housing 4,000 barrels of wine. 

The Guadalupe Valley has become a world travel destination attracting food and wine lovers from all over the world as well as top chefs. Sam visits with Michelin-starred chef, DrewDeckman at Deckman’s en el Mogor. The restaurant is completely outdoors, even the kitchen. Sam loves Baja! 

The restaurant began with 30 seats (now 85) and no roof. Deckman’s dilemma was how to create a new space on the Mogor Ranch where there was so much tradition. The ranch had been there since the late 40’s early 50’s. How would he integrate the restaurant to make it look like it had always been there? He purchased old furniture and equipment, recycled it and converted it. 

The restaurant uses only firewood to cook and there is no wall between the kitchen and dining. As a matter of fact the kitchen is literally center stage so it can be seen from all over the restaurant. Deckman likes it to be interactive. 

A beautiful dish of raw fish using Corbina caught the day before by Deckman, and dressed with a variety of goodness was prepared for Sam. The presentation was sophisticated but the ingredients were rustic. Sam described it as delicious and delicate. 

Sam appreciates Deckman’s love of being outdoors. Before he was a chef Deckman was a professional fisherman. When he decided to come to Baja he knew he could fish and cook. He felt at home in Baja. He says it is fun being a non-Mexican and a permanent resident. 

The Mexican government has made it easier to travel south in Baja; better roads and more safety make it more inviting. It is a lifestyle to be enjoyed. 

Sam makes his way to Ensenada; a beautiful seaport town on the Baja Peninsula furnishing fish to both the fresh fish markets and renowned street food vendors. He introduces a street food called Tostilocos. It is literally a bag of Tostitos ripped open with a variety of sauces, vegetables, nuts, etc., mixed in. He doesn’t recommend eating it every day but if you are down Baja way, give it a try. 

From street tacos to fine dining it can be found in Ensenada. Sam drops by a100 year old landmark, Hussong’s Cantina on his way to Boules Resturante. The Baja Med food at Boules is amazing but you can also play the game of Boules (lawn bowling) there. Sam talks to his friend and owner of Boules, Javier Martinez, about Baja hospitality. Both men agree the hospitality is something that will make a visitor want to stay, to hang out and relax. It is an atmosphere of feeling welcomed and at home, comfortable and content. 

Sam leaves Baja hoping he has changed the perception of those fearing to travel in Mexico. He truly wants viewers to have the Baja experience of the culture and the food, but what he really loves about Baja are the people. He is sure his viewers will too.

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