When San Diego Eater named its 2013 Chef of the Year, we were extremely pleased to learn the winner is a chef best known for his work in Tijuana and Valle de Guadalupe. These days, Javier Plascencia is gaining international praise for his wine-country ranch outpost Finca Altozano. In the true spirit of El Valle, this rustic open-air kitchen celebrates the region using local produce, seafood, and meats with a view of the adjacent vineyard to boot. Just a few minutes’ drive from Encuentro Guadalupe, the restaurant features an outdoor patio, group bonfire area + tables above repurposed fermentation barrels, and the faint smell of mesquite and olive charcoal emanating from the grills. Sample the homemade bread & olive oil, cured meats, vegetables, and their specialty smoked lamb from Rancho Cortés, all paired with local wine and craft brews. Finca Altozano is an amazing way to begin or end a day of wine tasting, with a friendly staff welcoming you Tuesday – Sunday (closed during winter months, re-opens 4 March 2014) Read More
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Ideally, we recommend you visit Doña Esthela for an early lunch on an empty stomach (we’d call it brunch, but you won’t find mimos here). See, after trying the handmade queso fresco and tortilla chips no older than your appetite, the servings of the day’s offerings can be a tad daunting. Doña Esthela is known for her generosity, meaning your chorizo and cheese burritos, Caldo de Res (beef stew), or serving of their specialty Borrego Tatemado is being brought to you in true Mexican abuelita quantities – and rest assured you’re expected to eat it. This won’t be an issue once you’ve tasted the (massive) homemade tortillas. As usual, take in the scene. These types of restaurants in Mexico serve a specific purpose, catering partly to the region’s local workforce, but mostly to families from the surrounding cities on a countryside outing. This spot is humble as it is welcoming, so don’t be surprised if you catch a crowd waiting for a table on weekends. If you’re there on a Friday, don’t skip the adobe oven churned breads. Read More
Vena Cava is the hard work of British expats Phil and Eileen Gregory, who after years of living in metropolises decided it was time to head south to wine country. Vena Cava produces some of Mexico’s top labels as well as a rare and delicious sparkling wine, none of which are strangers at the country’s top rated restaurants. Think Pujol and Corazón de Tierra. Head into the winery housed under a former fishing boat hull for a tasting of their Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Blanc before walking over to Chef Diego Hernández’s TROIKA food truck, parked just a few yards away from the tasting room’s reclaimed wood doors. Read More
Two things make Corazón de Tierra’s Chef Diego Hernández stand out in today’s culinary landscape: A passion for the ingredients his organic garden yields and the vision with which he employs them. After harvesting the day’s ingredients, Hernández conjures up a unique nine-course menu inspired by traditional Baja fare; One that has made his open kitchen and ever-evolving cuisine the 30th best in Latin America. Hernández’ craft and perspective on dining experience has created some significant buzz and attracted attention from folks like Anthony Bourdain and Travel + Leisure. Perched on stilts above the garden within the grounds of La Villa del Valle, this indoor/outdoor restaurant is admittedly off the beaten path to say the least, but don’t let a dirt road cutting through the valley’s vineyards keep you from experiencing this place. The drive is just 90 minutes from San Diego, CA which means this is a quick SoCal getaway. Open daily 13:30 – 20:30, reservations recommended. Make sure to inform Chef Diego Hernández that we sent you… Read More
Arguing about the best ceviche in Baja is a futile task. There’s just too much to offer. Nonetheless, an enduring favorite is Ensenada’s La Guerrerense. For more than 50 years, families and “morning after” crowds have been making the pilgrimage to Sabina Banderas’ street cart for the world-renowned fresh seafood cocktails and tostadas. In case you’re wondering what makes hers so special, think of a handmade tostada topped with sea urchin, pismo clam, and half an avocado spooned on top. With a dozen kinds of “Cebiches Guerrerenses,” a variety of handmade salsas, made-to-order seafood cocktails, and aguas frescas, you’ll forget all about the previous day of Valle wine tasting and sun. Despite Banderas’ success and celebrity chef clientele, she’s never too busy to make herself a tostada and join the conversations around her stand, much less move it to a brick and mortar location. Read More
Housed inside La Estación de Oficios El Porvenir lives one of Valle de Guadalupe’s many hidden gems, Azul Café. Besides the onsite winemaking school, community center and olive pressing, the cooperative features onsite roasting of single-origin beans from throughout Mexico. Mornings in Valle aren’t complete without an espresso or stiff iced coffee from Azul’s unassuming counter. Take a moment to engage roaster Felipe González, who’s always happy to chat about Mexico’s coffee culture and brewing methods. If hunger strikes, next door’s Cooperativa counter serves light fare. Don’t leave without peaking around La Escuelita’s onsite wine production and architect Alejandro D’Acosta’s creativity, which is evident throughout the property.