Archive for the 'Baja Med' Category

Mision 19 – Tijuana

Mision 19 - Tijuana

Hours 24 through 28 in Tijuana were spent at Chef Javier Plascencia’s Mision 19. The five-month-old restaurant, which is located in Baja’s first LEED-certified building, is arguably the city’s most exciting place to dine at the moment. Named the “Master of a New Tijuana” by the New York Times, Chef Plascencia serves traditional Mexican cuisine prepared with ingredients sourced from within a 120-mile radius. The chef draws inspiration for his cooking from local farms, the vineyards in the Guadalupe Valley, and even San Diego’s farmers’ markets.

This forward-thinking restaurant is the eleventh member of the Grupo Plascencia consortium, which is headed by the chef’s father and anchored by Villa Saverios.

Mision 19 - Tijuana

Bill and I were guests of the restaurant this afternoon, along with journalists from Baja and San Diego, as part of a press conference about the region’s thriving culinary scene. Prior to the conference, we were treated to a five-course lunch complete with wine pairings. Needless to say, by the time the official announcements were made, everyone was feeling quite toasty. Or maybe it was just me.

Mision 19

All of the wines served at Mision 19 are from the Guadalupe Valley. We started off with flutes of bubbly and an effective glass of “Mexology.”

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Villa Saverios – Tijuana

Photos by Street Gourmet LA and Masa Assassin

8:30 p.m. We concluded our day of epic gorging with a lavish four-course Baja Med supper at Villa Saverios. At this point in the Baja culinary blitz, hunger was beside the point and we were game for just about anything.

Villa Saverios is one of a handful of restaurants owned by Juan Plascencia, the founder of Baja’s first pizza parlor. Since its establishment in 1967, the Plascencia restaurant empire has grown to six eateries with locations throughout Baja and nearby San Diego.

Our group of fearless feasters was seated away from the stylish local set in a private dining room/wine cellar. As we settled into our seats, Chef Javier Plascencia (Juan’s son) came by to welcome us and to say a few words about his passion for the region and its cuisine. [Although I do not have photographic evidence, I assure you that Chef Plascencia was just as foxy as La Querencia’s Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero Yagües.]

I love that in Tijuana every meal kicks off with a potent tamarind cocktail. This one consisted of a chilled blend of mezcal, Damiana, and tamarind. The tamarind pod garnish provided a puckery snack as I sipped the sour-tinged drink.

Salicornia, also known as sea asparagus, were also on hand for us to nibble on. Thank goodness I was sitting next to Chef Ramiro of La Casita Mexicana or else I would have never been able to identify the salty branches on my bread plate.

Our first course of the evening was a gorgeous octopus carpaccio with arugula, tomatoes, grapefruit, and locally produced olive oil. What surprised me about this dish was the manner in which the sections of octopus separated—piece by piece the circular rounds came apart and melted on my tongue. The dish’s flavors were clean, bright, and just what we craved after a day of intense eating.

Course number two consisted of three small bites—black mussel “cappuccino” (left), char-grilled octopus on hummus (right, top), and spaghettini Romesco-style tacos (right, bottom).

Served in the cutest of saucers, the cappuccino captured the deep flavor of mussels without a trace of the mollusk. The foam accent made the experience all the more cappuccino-like. The most intriguing item on the plate was the pasta taco. According to Chef Plascencia, this dish is an updated version of a snack he was served by his grandmother, who wrapped leftover fideo (pasta) in a tortilla. His interpretation included Christorra sausage, avocado, fresh panela cheese, cream, and salsa ranchera.

Course number three had me begging my stomach to please make room for more. The costilla de res con mole de higo, short ribs in black Oaxacan mole flavored with Port wine and figs, put me over the edge with its well-rounded flavors and textures. Slow-cooked for six hours, the tender and caramelized meat rested on an impossibly creamy puree of potatoes mixed with mascarpone. A sprig of thyme and a grilled fresh fig completed the flawless dish.

For the final course of the evening, we were treated to wild berry (blueberry and blackberry) tamales drizzled with sweet cream. I wrote in my notes that the tamales were “true to both elements, nothing gets compromised.” What I meant was that even though this was a dessert tamale, all the elements of a traditional tamale were present, including the strong taste of masa and the classic gelatinous texture. Even so, the flavors from the fresh berries were unmistakable.

Villa Saverios
Boulevard Sanchez Taboada Esq. Escuadron 201, Zona Río
Tijuana, BC, Mexico
Phone Number: 0 11 52 664 6502

BAJA BITES: 2 Days, 3 Cities, 18 Meals
Introduction > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4 > 5 > 6 > 7 > 8 > 9 > 10 > 11 > 12 > 13 > 14 > 15 > 16 > 17 > 18

La Querencia – Tijuana

3:00 p.m. La Querencia is the birthplace of an alta cocina (haute cuisine) movement known as Baja Med—a fusion of local ingredients, Mediterranean techniques, and Asian influences. While this culinary style may seem like an unlikely amalgam of flavors and cultures, it actually makes perfect sense considering the history of Baja and its diverse inhabitants.

Miguel Angel Guerrero Yagües (pictured above) is the chef behind the Baja Med movement. A fourth generation Baja dweller, Chef Yagües runs a number of restaurants in the region and is an avid hunter, fisherman, diver, and farmer.

Ever since La Querencia opened its doors in 2006, the innovative eatery has received an abundance of press including a nod from Coleman Andrews in Gourmet magazine and a mention in the August 2006 New York Times article “It’s Hot. It’s Hip. It’s Tijuana?

Our meal at La Querencia began with a loaf of bread served with a selection of spicy sauces. Each one contained a unique combination of chillies and aromatics designed to test our toughness and whet our appetites. From bottom to top—habanero, chile de arbol, and tomatillo.

We were also served a refreshing tepache, a fermented pineapple-based drink sweetened with brown sugar and beer. The tepache wasn’t very alcoholic because it was only fermented for three days. It was super-cooling though.

Next, a trio of carpaccio arrived; each one was a feast for the eyes and mouth. The beef tongue carpaccio (lengua – top) was sliced paper-thin, drizzled in a luscious olive oil and sea urchin cream, and topped with crispy fried onions. The zucchini carpaccio (calabasa - bottom, left) was dotted with a smoked chili confit, shards of cheese, and capers. The beet carpaccio (betabel - bottom, right) was dressed in a vinaigrette and adorned with chives and a pungent blue cheese.

With many of La Qurencia’s herbs and vegetables grown by Chef Yagües on family land, it was no surprise that the trio of carpaccio tasted amazingly fresh. Seasonality and superior local ingredients are two of the driving forces behind the Baja Med movement.

Flanked by the Sea of Cortez on the right and the Pacific Ocean on the left, Baja has access to some of the finest and most varied seafood around. Chef Yagües surprised the group with an off-the-menu creation of local scallops (callos Catalina) stuffed inside a hollowed-out cucumber, topped with sturgeon caviar, and dressed in a chipotle sauce. The flavors were pleasantly mild and clean; great seafood needs little to shine.

Our final course was a yellow cherry tomato and a slightly overcooked shrimp perched upon a corn cake and garnished with a ground chili sauce. Two point five words to describe the dish? Bobby Flay-esque.

“What I’m doing,” says Yagües, “is really a combination of Mexican, Mediterranean, and Asian. In the future, we won’t call this ‘Baja Med.’ We’ll just call it Baja California cuisine.”

La Querecia
Calle Escuadrón 201
Tijuana, BC, Mexico
Phone: 664-972-9935

BAJA BITES: 2 Days, 3 Cities, 18 Meals
Introduction > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4 > 5 > 6 > 7 > 8 > 9 > 10 > 11 > 12 > 13 > 14 > 15 > 16 > 17 > 18

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