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Jan 13, 2009 09:10 PM

Ensenada Baja Mexico "Gastronomic Adventures 2009"

After two decades of visiting Ensenada my most recent visit will definitely be one of the most memorable. I had some great food and wine from the best street food vendors and restaurants this fine city has to offer. If you don’t feel like reading my novel you can catch everything in the 5 Min video I will post shortly.

The Culinary Highlights …………

Manzanilla Restaurant -Teniente Azueta 139, Across from shipyard

What can I say? 2008 was a challenging year for my family. As soon as I stepped into Manzanilla all of my issues seemed to melt away. We were greeted by a gentleman I can only identify as “Javier”. Javier was a very warm and gracious host, and we soon left everything in his capable hands.

What followed was an inspiring display of refined combinations created from exquisite local products. Tortilla Espanola, Ostiones Naturales, Tiradito de lengua, and Albondigas de camaron. Each offering was consistently pleasurable and the house Red was a perfect compliment. If I had to choose a favorite it would have to be theTiradito de lengua.

As a finale to the wonderful evening our gracious host was kind enough to present a sampling of the chocolate soufflé, crème brulee, and strawberry mousse. Incredible!

The great food and value at Manzanilla along with Javier’s hospitality were defiantly a main highlight of the weekend.

Restaurante Del Parque - Corner of 6th and Moctezuma

Restaurante Del Parque was our destination on two consecutive nights.The first night we wanted to stop in just for a glass of wine. Our initial intentions soon faded after sipping on some great Baja wine offerings. One glass turned into three, and we found the perfect pairing with the three local cheeses they offer.

On the second night our meal consisted of Cachete de res braseado en su jugo (Braised cow cheek au jus), Betabeles al horno con queso de cabra, and Chamorro de puerco al horno con calabaza almizcerla y acelgas.Sitting on the patio on a beautiful night, gazing at the stars, sipping on a wonderful Baja wine, experiencing the culinary delights rolling out of the kitchen, the outside world seemed to be lost. I still have dreams of the Chamorro de Puerco al horno.

The adjoining La Conda wine shop is a wonderful addition. I had a great discussion Adrian Garcia who was running the tienda. Adrian was very knowledgeable and we shared an equal passion for the gastronomic movement in Baja. Another great surprise of the evening was running into Sabina Gonzalez and family dining at Resturante Del Parque. Sabina along with her family just happen to run the best mariscos cart (La Guerrerense) in Ensenada if not all of Baja.

La Guerrerense -Corner of 1st and Alvarado

I can’t believe all these years I’ve missed the exotic delicacies created here. Based on commentary form chowhounders (Kare Raisu, Streetgourmetla, and Bigotes) who’s opinions I’ve come to respect, I knew I would not be disappointed.

Upon approaching the cart we were quickly greeted by the lovely and warm owner Sabina. Sabina’s the type of person who I felt I’ve known for years such a great outgoing personality. Sabina along with her family have been in business for 49 years!

El Guerrerense specializes in ceviche in a variety of choices. Fish, Shrimp, Octopus, Clam, Cod, Sea Urchin, Mussel, Abalone, Crab Salad, Sea Snail and Sea Cucumber. I ordered the Erizo (Sea Urchin) topped with Almeja (Clams), and campechana which is a mix. The second Day I ordered a sample of Pepino (Sea Cucumber) and the Pismo Clams. El Guerrerense works wonders with Mariscos and the quality and freshness of each creation is unmatched. The Pismo clams are the standout for me, if I had more room I would have cleaned them out. My wife (a native of Baja) stated the shrimp ceviche was “the best she has ever had”.
This is the Sea Urchin with topped with clams

If the ceviche alone is not enough to excite you they also have a incredible choice of homemade salsas. The fantastic avocado habanero was my choice of topping, I wanted to take it home. Most of the salsas are available for purchase.

Guerrenses homemade Agua fresca also blew me away and was the perfect drink on an unusually warm January morning. Sabina shared several articles from various magazines that the cart was featured in, including Travel and Leisure. I was also amused by some pictures she shared with us of the huge Oyster Huaraches.

Muelle Tres - North end of the Malecon

This casual waterfront restaurant on the Malecon turned out one of my favorite dishes of the weekend. Almohaditas de camarón which simple translates to “Pillows of shrimp”
This delicate pastry like delicacy will also be the subject of my dreams.

I had to hold myself from consuming all the Croquetas de Atun, without sharing with my wife. By the way hats off to my wife for not throwing in the towel on this incredible crawl. I wish I would have snapped pictures of the tuna filling but I was pre-occupied by the flavor burst.

The succulent Mejillones al vapor 6 chiles, steamed mussels with 6 chilies and tomatillo. I almost went through the whole pot of this meaty and juicy goodness.

You seriously cant go wrong here, I just wish I had more time to sample other goodness.

The rest of the trip was filled in by ……..

Guava Martinis while sunset watching - Punta Morro

Buche tacos - Hermanos Ramirez Carnitas

Fish Tacos - El Fenix a long time favorite

Borrego a La Plancha - Birria Guadalajara

Tacos Campechana (Tripe/Asada mix) - Asadero 17

Tostada de Pata, Taco de chicharron en Salsa verde - La Comadre

Bacon wrapped Hot Dogs from another long time favorite - 2nd and Ruiz

In closing I would like to add the incredible value at all of these establishments. Manazanilla, Muelle Tres and Restaurante Del Parque all came in under $45.00USD for two adults and a child are you kidding me!
Ensenada Great food, Great wine, Great Value, Great people, whats not to love?

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    1. re: Masa Assassin

      That YouTube video kicked ass..
      Sea Urchin tostada with the fresh slices of avo..damn
      Outstanding job!

    2. Felicitaciones! You made out like a bandit. From the the sea urchin tostada to the street dog.

      What wines did you have at RDP?

      1 Reply
      1. re: streetgourmetla

        To be honest I left the ordering in their hands, Ive been a tequila guy all these years and was overwhelmed by the wine choices. The gentleman running the tienda was kind enough to share two copies of vinisfera that I have yet to put down. I now sport a feverish interest in Baja grapes. I will be quick to study.

        Perhaps you can help identify one of the wines I had in the picture. The two bottles on the right.

        In regards to the street dog Yolanda on 2nd and Ruiz has been working her magic for fourteen years. No matter how much I eat I never leave without sinking my teeth into the goodness found between those soft steamed buns. Her brother also operates a cart in front of Dax

      2. What a blast you guys had!!! You are making me want to go back already.... :^)

        Those Gurrerenses were still in Guerrero on Vacation when we were there - que suerte you had to find them back!!

        & what a trooper Mrs. Assassin was, I would have been KOed after those carnitas, fish tacos and tostadas!

        Those Guava martinis and gorgeous Punta Morro looks spectacular. I dont think a Cocina Mex-ophile as yourself could have made a better Gastro-tour to ring in the new year!

        4 Replies
        1. re: kare_raisu


          Thanks K.R definitely a great way to ring in the year. Punta Morro is beautiful, we ended up going for martinis and ended up checking in. The off season rates were unbelievably low. The price we paid was nothing like the price on the Internet. I recommend anyone staying at a resort in off season to call for rates.

          On my way out I noticed US Customs had a stern warning for Chowhounds very own Los Quesotraficos Kare Raisu and Streetgourmetla. I just had to take picture, It was to funny.

            1. re: Masa Assassin

              I have the same picture !! I took it for my friend the cheese maker and thought of the chowhounds too !!
              Great tour
              Pretty much covered everything , there is a new Oaxacan place where the viento develpment is goint to be past el sauzal on the ocean . I will post about my experience (wich was pretty good) there soon . They also opened a very nice wine shop.

              1. re: bigotes

                Gracias Bigotes! I had two places I still had on my list El Paisa for tacos, and the old Oaxacan place. Somebody at Del Parque was talking about a different Oaxacan place, but we forgot to get the info. I look forward to your report.

          1. My wife and I were already planning a food and wine trip to Ensenada / Valle de Guadalupe in a few weeks to introduce a curious friend to the region's delights. After reading your report I would like to get in the car and leave right now. Thanks for the details.

            1. Oaxaca in Ensenada______________________________________

              Having been intrigued by the the talk of a new Oaxacan restaurant in Ensenada I decided to make the journey from San Diego to Ensenada on another beautiful January morning.
              Oaxaca at Viento, is located in El Sauzal Ensenada, three miles south of the last toll station (San Miguel) on Scenic Hwy 1. Once you pass El TraileroTaqueria look for the El Viento Billboard. El Viento is a coastal development that is basically in the conceptual phase.

              At the end of the long wooden corridor you are suddenly embraced by breathtaking views and Oaxacan hospitality. The husband and wife owners, Laura and Salavador, were more than willing to discuss their passion. Utilizing products shipped directly from Oaxaca, the menu is ever-changing. Laura and Salvador's goal is to introduce Oaxacan regional cuisine combined with local seafood to form a fusion between Baja California and Oaxaca.

              The menu, which is not in print, is based on what they receive from their fresh Oaxacan shipment. I did not get to sample the Baja-Oaxaca fusion but I did get a taste of Oaxaca. The menu items of the day included

              Mole Negro Tamale
              Chiliquiles con Tasajo
              Blanda con Mole Negro y Queso Fresco
              Estofado de pollo
              Chessecake with Oaxacan Chocolate
              Mezcal con salsita Gusanos de maguey
              Oaxcan Cafe de Olla

              The Mole Negro Tamale with its perfect masa, balanced with the sweet and spicy Mole Negro, was worth the trip alone. The Oaxacan coffee and hot chocolate are also not to be missed.

              While enjoying some Mezcal I was delighted to try the accompanying Maguey worms. Gusanos de maguey (chinicuiles) are edible worms that live in the maguey and agave plants. They are considered a delicacy and are often crushed in a spicy red salsita which is the wonderful concoction I was served.
              Mezcal not your thing? They have access to a large variety of Baja wines from the wine cellar at Viento. For those interested El Viento has a wine club on Friday nights.

              Come taste Oaxaca in a beautiful coastal setting. Opened Wednesday -Sunday I'm not sure of their hours but Saturday they are open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

              The video of the wonderful coastal setting*********************************************

              2 Replies
              1. re: Masa Assassin

                You beat me to the report !!!

                I agree with everything , I've been there twice already and both times it was excelent.
                They also have great Chapulines (crikets or grasshopers) many americans are put off by them but I seriously recomend them , traditionally they are boiled in lime juice with garlic I guess they dry them, and thats how they are sold . After that they are sauted, acompanied with tortillas, guacamole and a pasilla salsa. Chapulines were a big part af the native diet great source of protein.And taste Great.
                I also had Chiles de Agua rellenos con quesillo very nice and hot.They do lunch and dinner wednesday to sunday ,breakfats saturday sunday.
                The black beans are great with lots of hierba de conejo ,like sitting in the market in Oaxaca.

                1. re: bigotes

                  Perdon Jefe :P I could not resist.

                  I wanted some Chapulines but unfortunately they were not available, she was expecting a shipment any minute. I did sample some incredible blackbean paste with avocado leaves. Next adventure Valle de Guadalupe.....