Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico
A short drive from San Diego sits Mexico’s wine country, Valle de Guadalupe. A two and a half-hour drive south, down the dramatically beautiful Pacific coast and past roadside signs advertising birria, sits the Ruta del Vino. This ever-growing wine region is also the heart of a unique gastronomic destination. The cooking of Baja California Norte is the benefactor of incredible produce, insanely fresh seafood from the cold, salty water of the Pacific Ocean, all infused with the complex and rich flavors that accompany the cooking of Mexico. The landscape is best described as Baja Mediterranean due to its arid climate and year round growing season. One of my favorite commonalties that the restaurants here share is that the kitchens are often outside! Why is this a perk you ask… live fire friends. The vegetables caramelize and pick up a smoky depth while the grass-fed beef sits on the grill being licked by flames as the fat drips into the fire. Tables sit under the stars or a deserving tree draped in twinkling lights. The food is the star but the environment is breathtaking. So drive South, buy a bottle of wine (or two), eat wood fire food overlooking a vineyard, and dream about moving here.
Of Note: If your taking the time to drive down, make a stop in Ensenada at La Guerrerense for the best seafood tostadas in… the…. World. Trust me. When I make this drive I usually stop in Ensenada first and eat about four tostadas before back tracking 30 minuets to the Valle to begin eating again.
Where to Eat:
Valle de Guadalupe/ Ensenada
Deckman’s en el Mogor
Situated on the Mogor Badan Winery, this restaurant boasts live fire cooking, outdoors, under the stars. The seafood is sustainably sourced. The veggies, lamb, and olive oil are estate-grown. The dining room, oh the dining room, is the most lovely atmospheric dining room with walls of hay bales and farm dogs that visit your table.
Bourdain has been here… as has Bayless… as have about everybody who is looking for the best seafood in Ensenada. No trip to the region is ever complete without a stop here. This sidewalk cart sells sea snail, uni, octopus, abalone, and black clams. Tostadas are my preferred vessels but the cups of ceviche are equally tempting. The skilled staff shucks the shellfish to order at lighting speed and begs the question- why don’t we give Michelin Stars to sidewalk carts?
Half of the fun is the journey. In the Valle, dirt roads are par for the course. When you think you’re lost, then you have probably found TrasLomita. Wooden tables over looking scenic vistas and canopied by lush trees. The menu is full of mouthwatering options from duck confit quesadillas to estate grown vegetables in mole. The kitchen is outdoors using live fire and the tables evoke communal dining. Bring a crowd so that you can order as many plates as possible at this gem.
Flor de Calabaza
On the road and need a coffee? How about a ginger shot? Maybe a little jar of salsa macha to take home with you? Swing by Flor de Calabaza on your way into Ensenada for a quick sip or bite to eat. It’s a perfect spot to pour over a map of the Valle and plan the day ahead.
Taqueria El Buen Sazon
When one travels, one must eat every tasty morsel found along the way. This little taco stand caught my eye on the stop over at the local grocery where one of the very few atm machines resides in the Valle. When in Baja, do eat fish tacos.