This Week on Good Food: The Baja Show

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Good Food goes to Baja: Javier Plascencia gives us a tour of a Tijuana market. Plus, we travel to Ensenada for tostadas and the Valle de Guadalupe for wine.

Highlights from this week’s show:

1. Market Report in Tijuana–Our first stop in Tijuana is the Mercado Hidalgo, one of the largest central markets in the city, where vendors sell everything from produce and dried goods to cheese and local honey. Javier Plascencia, who helms the restaurants Misión 19 in Tijuana and Romesco in San Diego, says he shops there at least once a week. He always looks for special regional chiles (like Pasillas from Oaxaca), seeds, local honey, Mexican cheeses (he has a cheese cart of only Mexican cheese at Misión 19), clay pots and regional Mexican candies like plantains or yams in syrup.

2. Baja’s Craft Beer Scene —Rubén Valenzuela co-owns Baja Craft Beers with his brother. The pub at BCB has over 40 beers on tap and refrigerators stuffed with bottles of craft beer from Mexico and around the world. He says that Baja’s craft beer scene has grown exponentially in the last 12 years. With such close proximity to San Diego the brewers in Baja are heavily influenced by Stone Brewing, but prefer to brew beers with more malty profiles instead of the hoppy flavors favored in San Diego. He recommends the following craft beers from Baja:

Agua Mala
Baja Craft Beers
Border Psycho
Tijuana Brewing Co

3. La Guerrerense–In Ensenada we visited with Sabina Bandera – aka La Guerrerense – and her daughter Mariana Oviedo. Bandera runs a unique street food cart serving some of the fresh seafood delivered each morning from the fisherman in Ensenada. She is famous for her uni tostada topped with fresh Pismo clam and avocado. Also on the cart you will find cocktails of seafood we don’t see in the States, including chocolate clams, sea snails and enormous huarache oysters. Bandera also sells 16 different homemade hot sauces from her cart.

4. The Origins of the Fish Taco–Bill Esparza, author of StreetGourmetLA, contributor to Los Angeles Magazine’s Digest blog and creator of Tacolandia, was our guide in Baja. He explains that the beer battered tacos withcrema agria (Mexican sour cream) started as a snack for the fisherman. There is speculation that the Japanese fisherman working off the coast of Ensenada introduced the locals to tempura, hence the battered and fried fish.

5. Campestres: Eating Outdoors in the Valle de Guadalupe–Benito Molina is a noted chef in Mexico. He owns the restaurant Manzanilla in Ensenada and his seasonal campestre, or outdoor restaurant, Silvestre, is now open for business in the Valle de Guadalupe. Molina was one of the first to open a campestre in Baja’s wine country, but this summer there will be as many as 15 campestres operating. Typically open only in the summer months, campestres are temporary restaurants where chefs cook over live fire and serve customers at picnic style tables. The view at Silvestre is one of the best in the Valley de Guadalupe.

You can also see Molina on TV. He and his wife co-star in the reality show Benito y Solange.

6. La Escuelita: Baja’s Wine Incubator–Estación de Oficios del Porvenir, most often called La Escuelita, is a wine school located in El Porvenir in the Valle de Guadalupe. The tiny school is an incubator for aspiring winemakers. The school is owned by Hugo D’Acosta, who has been instrumental in developing the Valle de Guadalupe as a wine hub in Baja. His brother, architect Alejandro D’Acosta, designed the school. Alejandro’s brand of sustainable design incorporates discarded materials like old barrel stays, rusting mattress springs and used irrigation tubing into the architecture. Check out photos of the buildings on the Good Food blog.

Evan Kleiman interviews Tomas Egly, who is the director of the school.

7. Meet One of Baja’s Wine Makers–Victor Segura is one of the leading winemakers in the Valle de Guadalupe. He sells his wine under the label Las Nubes. You can visit his winery in the valley or look for his wine in restaurants in Tijuana and Ensenada, and campestres in the Valle de Guadalupe.

Due to high Mexican taxes and California protectionism it is difficult for Baja winemakers to distribute their wines in California, but Segura says he hopes to export to Southern California as his production grows.

8. Jonathan Gold Reviews Taco Maria–Jonathan Gold is the Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer for the Los Angeles Times. This week he reviews Taco Maria in Orange County run by Carlos Salgado.

According to Jonathan, “the dish that he’s going to be famous for in five years, is his chorizo.” But don’t expect pork; Salgado substitutes meat with “different kinds of mushrooms – some regular button mushrooms, some shitake and some other things – that he cooks down and mixes with chorizo herbs and spices.”