A weekend marathon eating adventure in Tijuana and Ensenada


foodbloggers

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.

plascencia

(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

Matt Kang provides his perspectives at his  blog, Mattatouille, http://www.mattatouille.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***

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5 responses to “A weekend marathon eating adventure in Tijuana and Ensenada

  1. Thanks for the interesting post. This is a gap in coverage of Baja California that badly needs filling, and that major news organizations have ignored. The drug violence is a fact, and cannot be ignored. The problem has been that many editors see violence as the only legitimate news worth spending increasingly scarce resources on, and don’t see the importance of focusing on other areas as well.

  2. Anna – glad you were able to go (sorry I couldn’t be there, but my team – Rodrigo, Maribel and Melanie were). While Crossborder was part of the organizing, I’ve got to give kudos to Bill Esparza for his energy and effort; as well as to COTUCO-Tijuana (Tijuana Convention & Visitors Bureau) who really stepped up before any other tourism organization to support this (in fact…they were on their own until a few days before the event), as well as the great restaurants and hotels that also stepped up.

    It’s a hard time for tourism in TJ right now, but we hope people read the posts — and see that it is safe, enjoyable, and affordable to still go south of the border… Oh well, just my two pesos…

    Take care and thanks again!

  3. Thanks, Kenn! I modified the post to refer to your message for the full credit list. Rodrigo was fantastic and I was glad to have a chance to chat with him on the bus. I would love to see this sort of thing happen more frequently to introduce others to the region. Hopefully, there will be other opportunities.

  4. Hi Anna,

    It was great meeting you that weekend! You’re right, we really didn’t get to see any of the darker sides – which may be a good thing for our group? I hope our posts will help Baja garner more positive impressions.

  5. Likewise! I think/hope that it will bring some balance to the impressions. There are definitely realities to be reckoned with but there are so many other interesting – and tasty – stories out there and I’m so glad to see you guys sharing them on your food blogs.

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