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News from Baja, Ixtapa,DF and a little Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires

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It's been way too long .
I think it has to do with the fact that no one writes about Baja any more... there used to be at least a couple of posts a month about the subject I don't like being depresed ......but after a very nice dinner in a new Ensenada restaurant and a post about the unavoidable question of " IS IT SAFE DOWN THERE ?" I have been inspired to write these post.
In the Ensenada scene these are the latest things hapening , the fantastic Oaxacan restaurant that was on the entrance of Ensenada at Viento moved to downtown on Ruiz st. past Hussong's just across from el Trocadero a great old style bar, the name of the restaurant is el Agave the food is as good as what you would eat at the market in Oaxaca Tlayudas,Tasajo, Chiles de Agua one of my personal favorites just roasted with lime juice salt and dried oregano fantastic you sweat so much from the spice that it is like a psychodelic experience . They of course have a great selection of Mezcal , Pierde Almas is a very up and coming brand they have a few diferent ones we had a minero that was fantastic and tobala wich was delicious, very smokey and vegetable. A very down to earth menu of the day wich had Albondigas that were grandma level !
Also on Ruiz st. across from Pueblo Cafe more towards Papa's & Beer there is a new little Oyster type bar called Ultramarino very good seafood an a great place to sample many of the non comercial Baja beers like Cucapa , Tijuana and my favorite from a small producer in town called Stingray a dark heavy beer not for every one my compadre would say ! Ultramarino belongs to the same guys of Barra Azul further into the town, if you are into artisanal beer these is the place ,good music and ambiance.
El Sarmiento comes from chef Guillermo Barretto from Mexicali , he owns La Piaza restaurant in Mexicali . It is located in Viento where the Oxacan place used to be beatifull ocean view , these is where we had dinner tonite .
The menu is divided into small plates and large plates .We ordered tacos de lengua they came with a red radish salsa avocado and cucumbers very nice very simple very well executed. Pulpo asado con salsa de chile Guajillo The octopus was cooked just right well seasoned with a very elegant guajillo sauce . We also tried the Bruschetta with smoked tomatoes baby arrugula and jamon serrano nice too. For the main course we had a beautifull Pizza I would have to say probably the best one in town !! Nice and thin crisp crust toppings just so fresh an full of flavors , It makes me very happy to see how the Ensenada scene keeps evolving with quality offers. The phone # is 646 1759467 there hours are wed. to sat 3 to 11 pm sun, 3 to 6pm .They have a nice house wine done in San Antonio de las Minas and a great plus is that La Contra wich is the wine store in Restaurante El Parque has another branch there in Viento
La Contra has probably the most extensive selection of Baja wines, the # is 646 1758325 closed monday. You can order from the store for the restaurant. Other good Baja news is the visit of Bizare foods to the area thanks to the support of streetgourmetla who is not afraid to cross the border, Andrew had a great time I'm sure It will be a great show .
The Mexican edition of Travel & Leisure anounced for the second year a list of the best 23 restaurants in Mexico in an unpresedented act in the industry 13 restaurants did not make the cut for 2009 the top ten list includes both Laja and Manzanilla !!
The other eight are Casa Oaxaca , Pujol DF, Pangea Monterey, Nectar Merida, Biko Df, Cafe des Artistes Vallarta, Jaso Df, Tezka Df.
Last year I was hired to cook at the Ixtapa Club Med for the independence day of Mexico Sept. 15 . First I was so curious about Club Med all my childhood I had heard of it but never went, so when the offer came I jumped at it .I did a first trip to visit the resort and meet the chef there his name is John Black , the truth is that I was a little sceptical about the whole all
inclusive idea . But to my surprise I have to say the quality of the food is remarkable ,in all aspects the Mexican food is so so good fresh tortillas and salsas with different things like tongue tacos ,enchiladas,enmoladas etc. executed impecable by what chef Black calls mis "Señoras¨ ladies from Zihuatanejo. The crew in the kitchen is from many parts of the world Chef Black himself has worked in Europe,Japan all over . Each night a great buffet is prepared
with different flavors from the world with top ingredients. The souschef was from Tunisia and one day he made a carpaccio of mahi mahi with lemon juice,salt and grounded clove that was superb. The festival was a great sucess we brought very nice Baja ingredients .
On my first day at the resort Chef Black took me around to introduce me to the guest and among them was a couple from Orange County that when the chef told them that they should go and visit Ensenada their faces changed instantly an the gentleman just started to go on and on about how he will never ever go to Ensenada ......... He said that driving across the border never ever again !!! Wel imagine the chefs face we ran away and headed to the Bar to have some Mezcal ..... So I go back to the question is it safe ? To the ones of us who live here in Baja the answer is yes . Our industry is dying ... but the love for wine and food of the people in the industry is too strong we just have to share it with the mexican tourist and the few brave tourists to come across. (just don't wear your Rolex at Adelitas ,Paris etc. or outside the golf course for that matter.
Going back to Ixtapa I take my hat off for the food at the Club Med.
DF News Chef Pedro Martin has now left Tezka he was the last of the Arzak chosen chefs in Mexico he now runs Jaleo on Emilio Castelar in Polanco little nice tapas place on a great location . The big news is that Jair Tellez of Laja has opened a place in Condesa the name is Merotoro he has a wb page merotoro.com I haven't been there yet , can't wait . I've heard very good coments the address is Amsterdam 204. And before it becomes a controversy Laja is up and running too Andres is in charge with the whole crew that Jair trained, the fact is the movement of the valley is almost non existing since all the great news! So Jair is giving it a shoot in Df . he will be here during the summer and back and foreward.
We now have a TV show called Benito y Solange you can watch it on Dish in the states next to the border I don't know the chanel It is a chanel called Utilisima you can see the details www.utilisima.com it comes from Argentina . The episodes were recorded in Buenos Aires, where I have to make some recomendations too best Pizza was a place called Los Inmortales just great. La Brigada is a must for meat lovers we had some lamb tongues in vinagraitte fantastic , great biffe the place is covered with pictures of Maradona I was mad I diden't eat there more times. Pura Tierra by Martin Molteni was a very nice experience everything is cooked in a clay oven there are no burners in the kitchen impecable. Tomo 1 was the best experience so fancy yet so stick to your ribs flavors service wine food was perfect.
We cooked in Sao Paulo for a weekin a restaurant called Oba in Jardims if you need a Carnitas fix in Brazil these is the place Hugo the owner has very good quality Mexican food, along with Thai , Brazilian and Italian specialties. We ate at a fantastic place called Mocoto I'm talking cantina type place with hundreds of different Cachacas I ate Sarapateu wich is made of lung,heart and blood Solange was not so thrill but me I loved every bite . Along with many good things. DOM with my friend Alex Atala was just simplicity at it's best we ate there two days and both nites were incredible.

Hope it's not too much info
Salud

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  1. Great report Bigotes. And again, after having just been down in Ensenada 2 weeks ago, I can say it looks the same as it does all the time. Calm, serene, beautiful, delicious, and exciting. The Oaxacan place is great and the Oaxacan tradition are well represented in Baja, both by Oaxacans doing traditional food, and progressive chefs like Benito that incorporate Oaxacan ingredients, dishes, and techniques into their cooking. Have you tasted the moles at Manzanilla? Delicious Oaxacan and Pueblan moles. I remember the turkey in mole on a toast I had last year at Manzanilla, incredible.

    I also love chile de agua. We also have a strong Oaxacan presence here in LA, you will be surprised, Benito. Another connection we share here in the Californias.

    La Contra has an amazing selection of Baja wines there in Ensenada, the stuff you can't even find in the Valle. Small producers that don't have tasting rooms. I hope this place starts doing tastings when tourism picks up again.

    Another thing I might add. I just visited Contramar in DF back in December and it was fantastic. A post will be coming soon. But, as incredible as it was, I can honestly say that it is Manzanilla and Muelle Tres, more Muelle Tres, with older fish. I think visiting Contramar, who gets all their seafood from Ensenada, will remind you of Benito's receipes and dishes. Imitation is the greatest compliment, of course. The point is, that the best seafood restaurants in the entirety of Mexico including DF is right in our own backyard, Ensenada.

    In northern Baja you get the solid seafood traditions of Baja, Sonora, and Sinaloa, plus the best contemporary seafood cuisine that DF now imitates.

    I'm putting Ultramarino on my list, gracias. And you can get this small production beer in Manzanilla, perhaps the best beer in Mexico, made in Ensenada. Otra Vez!

    Yes, get ready for Bizarre Foods Baja!!

    1. Is it safe? Not if you are involved with the drug trade, you are a journalist exposing corruption or are in law enforcement (that may be an oxymoron) but otherwise, yes.

      I returned from Valle de Guadalupe yesterday. Along with a few other people, I helped a friend plant 560 grape vines, part of his small ranch and vineyard that will eventually have about 3000 vines. The first wine won’t be ready for four or five years. Until then, there are a lot of other wines in the valley to try.

      In the meantime, I feasted on great food, olive oil, pay de queso and pay de manzana. I drank more good wine than I can recount.

      Thanks for giving all Chowhounds more reasons to visit Baja California. I am planning my next trip as soon as possible.

      By the way, I have stayed at the Ixtapa Club Med twice and I was shocked at the high quality of the food, including local cheese.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Ringo Gato

        The 13 new restaurants in the Travel & Leisure list are :
        Nobu Df where I have to say the space is quite something as for the food the best thing I had was teh baby bluefin from Ensenada !
        Oca Df
        I ate here a few months back and I have to say it was very very good the space is very beutifull too the chef Vicente comes from michelin star restaurant in Valencia.
        La Leche Puerto Vallarta
        Astrid y Gaston Df
        Becco Al Mare Acapulco
        Kitchoan Monterrey
        Ambar Playa del Carmen
        Morton's Df
        El Farallon Culiacan
        Negrosal Playa del Carmen
        Azul y Oro Df
        Xaak Df
        Bakea DF

        Salud

        1. re: Ringo Gato

          I too was impressed as well with the quality of the Mexican food at the Club Med in Ixtapa. I managed to gain a few pounds during my trip last year because I tried everything. The tortillera was the highlight for me. They changed the choices of filling for tacos and quesadillas frequently so that I was never bored with the selection for my 7 day stay.