E. V. Olive Oil - Tijuana/Ensenada Purveyors
I like to venture into Tijuana and Ensenada in search of supplies for personal cooking, mostly its just for the adventure, since it makes more economical sense to source from the internet or locally here in So. Cal.
Since, Baja is a duty free zone I am hoping that there are some places to purchase high quality extra virgin olive oil from Italy or Spain. Perhaps there is a locally produced product in Baja Norte that I can try.
Also, my aunt says that the prices in Costco Mexico are less than Costco USA, but I have yet to verify this. Can anyone verify this?
You can get Spanish and Italian olive oils from the major supermarkets of Tijuana and Ensenada (Soriana, Ley, Comercial Mexicana, maybe even Calimax) but they are very expensive. Nothing to do with import duties, just a weak peso against the euro. And the gesture is so much like carrying coals to Newcastle -- our own olive oils are every bit as good as that European stuff.
L. A. Cetto sells olive oil from their own lands. It is excellent and (the last time I bought it) inexpensive. Cetto's cava is on Cañón Johnson, which is Constitución as it heads south past Calle 10. They also sell it at their winery, valle de Calafia, where you can also pick up some of their own canned peaches (?!) and other things. Cetto also has a tasting room or two in Ensenada but I have no current knowledge of those. If you go as far as Calafia Valley, you may as well visit Cetto's next-door neighbor, Doña Lupe, who's been practicing organic farming for a generation now (olive oil, wine, other goodies).
A lot of places along the Ruta del Vino will sell you extra-fancy local produce but expect to pay extra-fancy prices. If you're doing the winery crawl, you might stop at San Antonio de las Minas. There's a cheese shop specializing in Real del Castillo ranchos that also offers olive oil at a price only one or two notches above reasonable.
In Ensenada you could also try Super Pando in the Santo Tomás complex (avenida Miramar between Sixth and Seventh). They cater to the gourmet crowd.
My favorite source of local olive oil is the ejiditarios themselves. Ejidos are (or, soon to be, were) communal agricultural lands: the farmers often sell their products from roadside stands in or near their ejidos. Needless to say, you won't find them along the toll road. The ejidos between Tijuana and Ensenada typically sell such things as tamales, olive oil, cured olives, honey, pollen, and royal jelly.
As you head south out of Tijuana on Carretera 1, the first ejido you'll encounter is Santa Lucía, now called "north Rosarito". There along the southern side of the road, amid now-dense traffic, you'll find a dozen or more stands selling tamales: some of them still sell olive products as well. Just south of the town of Rosarito you might find a few more stands. Then not much until you get to El Tigre, where you might find local cheeses and olive products being sold from a white building on the west side of the road. After that, again nothing until you're south of the main part of Ensenada. I used to get olive oil for a dollar a liter from the ejido at Maneadero -- but the last time, after more than half an hour of WalMart traffic, the ejiditaria charged me seven bucks U.S. for a 375ml bottle. (I dunno, maybe she had just been to WalMart and saw how much they wanted for Spanish olive oil.) Still down to earth is the ejido at La Bufadora (at least the last time I checked) so if you're that far south you may as well head into the peninsula.
Along the Ruta del Vino (Carretera 3) there are also a few ejidos ... El Porvenir and Nécua, I think ... and then a few more once you get north of Calafia Valley, starting with Testarazo.
Baja California's duty-free status really isn't B.S., it just isn't a tourist attraction -- it no longer saves tourists money. Back in the days of protectionist tariffs, yes, it was a tourist attraction. But nowadays it just means that we bajacalifornianos can't bring anything into mainland Mexico (our car, our clothes, our parcel post) without first satisfying the Customs inspector that we're not attempting to import merchandise from the Pacific Rim.
Most of the prices aren't that different but one exception is high tax "sin" items like alcohol or tobacco. With all the sin taxes on these items in the US and the low tax rate in Mexico there are significant savings to be had buying in Mexico. For example if you buy a cartoon of name brand cigs in California you will likely pay around $60 but buying the same cartoon from the same US factory in Mexico will only cost around $18. That's most a difference in tax rates.
Of course if you don't smoke or drink then the rest of the prices aren't really worth the trip.
My favorite olive oil is produced in the Guadalupe Valley, it's Misiones de Baja California produced by Rancho Cortes. I get it through friends, but it's packaged for retail sale so I think it would be available in multiple places. The email on the bottle is email@example.com , they should be able to tell you where to buy it.
I do not think it is terribly expensive and IMO it is comparable to the best specialty imported oils that I have tasted from Italy. (Not that I have done exhaustive tasting of Italian oils.)
I have purchased olive oil from wineries in Guadalupe Valley, east of Ensenada. They were quite good but expensive. Certainly not comparable in price to Costco or even Trader Joe's olive oils, but worthwhile.
I have purchased olive oil from Adobe Guadalupe, Vinesterra, La Casa de Doña Lupe and L.A. Cetto, all of which are in the valley. I think L.A. Cetto also sells their olive oil at their wine tasting rooms in Tijuana and Ensenada.
You may also be able to get olive oil from the Guadalupe Valley at Witch Creek Winery in Carlsbad, Calif (San DIego County). If you like it, then you can hunt some down the next time you are in Baja Calif.
My experience is with the Costco in Cabo last fall and previous times I've been there.
Some items that were less than what you'd pay in the states were Mexican products like coffee which were much cheaper. Other common Costco staples carried in the US were a little more expensive there, but based on the peso it was a matter of cents and not significant dollar amounts. Same with Wal Mart, some staples were higher, but you're talking cents and not dollars.
You said you're shopping on a personal level and the amounts won't add up to any significant savings.
Example might be the Costco $1.50 hot dog/drink....with the current peso its $1.42 in Cabo.
My observation with "duty free" is it's BS.
When it comes to duty free items like jewelry and perfume, you're paying no duty, but you're still paying retail and you can find the same stuff cheaper in the states if you know your prices.
From a Seinfeld episode:
Kramer: If anything, we'll probably get there early. I'll have a chance to
go to the Duty Free shop.
George: The Duty Free Shop? Duty Free is the biggest sucker deal in retail.
Do you know how much duty is?
George: Yeah, "duty". Do you know how much duty is?
Kramer: No, I dunno how much duty is.
George: Duty is *nothing*. It's like sales tax...