This past weekend I joined a group of food bloggers, writers and chefs from Los Angeles in what turned out to be a non-stop eating and drinking tour of Tijuana and Ensenada that was organized by cross-border food blogger Bill Esparza and other Tijuana associations (full credit in message from Kenn below).
Funded mostly by Tijuana tourism folks, my stomach had never experienced anything like this: Morsels of ostrich meat wrapped in organic green stuff at La Villa del Valle Bed & Breakfast in the Guadalupe Valley; Spicy baby octopus at Tijuana’s high-end Villa Saverios restaurant; and sea urchins served on tostadas with a zippy peanut sauce at an Ensenada taco stand called La Guerrerense.
While I had already been to most of the Tijuana places on the itinerary – La Querencia, La Diferencia, Villa Saverios, L’Apricot, Cien An~os, Lorca, Tacos Los Salceados and Cheripan – I wasn’t familiar with all their offerings. A Saturday morning breakfast stop at the Barbacoa de la Ermita Tijuana, which is run out of a family home, was a surprising treat.
The Ensenada portion of the trip introduced me to the wide range of seafood offerings beyond the traditional fish taco. And Saverios chef/owner Javier Plascencia – who I once interviewed for a story about Tijuana restaurants expanding north of the border – joined us in the wine country of Guadalupe Valley to cook us a picnic of swordfish and beef cheek tacos accompanied by unique sauces.
Ostensibly, the tour was to introduce these L.A.-based food experts to the wide variety of food options just south of the border, but it also was about relationship building and creating word-of-mouth buzz about the region’s more positive offerings. Several of the Los Angeles chefs expressed interest in participating in cross-border culinary reunions that Plascencia said he is involved in organizing.
Watching the food bloggers and freelancers snap photos of their food and scribble notes, I couldn’t help but feel a little envious of them. In my previous work as a reporter in Tijuana, I got to know the city’s darker side intimately, equating certain places and street corners with horrible crimes committed by the region’s drug groups. It’s a parallel universe, but one that is typically separate from the lives of ordinary tourists – and it certainly hasn’t stopped me from visiting the region regularly. Intently focused on the food, the visitors from L.A. couldn’t have cared less about such details.
And after a while, as my stomach became full with even more tasty morsels of foods, I started to understand why.
(Chef Javier Plascencia, who has a number of restaurants in Tijuana and Chula Vista, serves up some special tacos during a picnic outside a winery in the Guadalupe Valley).
Here are several posts from the 20+ food bloggers and writers who went on the trip:
Javier Cabral writes about his Baja experience at teenageglutster.blogspot.com
Patty Berlin elaborates at eatingla.blogspot.com
Organizer Bill Esparza recaps the event at his blog, Street Gourmet LA @ streetgourmetla.blogspot.com
***I will post additional perspectives of the trip in future blog entries***