DECKMAN’S, Amazing Open-Air Restaurant & Vineyard in Baja CA

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If you like wine, gourmet sustainable cuisine, the outdoors, and being close to the ocean, then Valle de Guadalupe is the place to lose yourself for a few days.  Two hours south of the border, you will find a stretch of vineyards, and hotels of both rustic houses and modern architecture.  Most hotels are small and subtle with limited space, so as to keep the guest surrounded by nature as much as possible with minimal tourist traffic.

The brightest gem in Valle de Guadalupe by far, is the restaurant Deckman’s, that takes place outside, kitchen and all.  This is the taste of Baja, as you will only taste meat, fish, herbs, salts and wine from the region.  I was working on a film that was shooting at one of the prestigious hotels, and on the crew’s weekend off, it seemed like everyone got the memo that Deckman’s was the place to splurge on food.  It also seemed to be the place to have a date travel over for a romantic dinner.  I ran into many crew members and producers with their spouses or parents that had driven over for the weekend.  The setting is simply beautiful with dangling wine bottles, small critters wandering by, candles, and the view of the sunset over their vineyard.

As I started to mention before, Chef Drew Deckman takes pride in cooking only with local ingredients.  The vegetables, oils, and herbs are picked right from their Mogor Ranch. Their seafood is from the Baja waters, and their meats and cheeses are all from local producers.  Even their salt is from San Felipe.  They recycle everything, including the water for irrigation. They don’t offer commercial bottled water or soft drinks. They continue the respect for their lands by cooking outside among their ranch, vineyards, and guests.  Throughout the evening, you see the kitchen staff work non-stop with keeping the flames alive, as everything is cooked by hand-made fire.

Grill meat

 

My co-workers and I went for the 5 course “Bounty of Baja” menu for 700 pesos, that’s about $40 for a 5 course dinner of the freshest and most organic ingredients prepared by the talented Chef Drew Deckman.

1st up….

KUMIAI OYSTERS from Ensenada/ mignonette/ olive oil

oysters

 

2ND COURSE – MOGOR CEVICHE / tomatillo/ radish/ fermented habanero

Ceviche

3RD COURSE – VALLEY QUAIL/ black beans/ radish/ purslaneQuail

4th COURSE- PORK JOWL/ young vegetables

This was by far the most succulent pork I have ever had.  The meat quickly separated  the second I pressed my fork onto it.  This even had my vegetarian co-worker go carnivorous and had no regrets.

Pork Jowl

5th COURSE- A DESSERT OF ORANGE IN MANY WAYS

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At this point, the sun is starting to set, and then there’s nothing left to do but sit back, feel the warmth of the setting sun, sip more wine and talk with friends…and a kitten that has been circling our table the whole time.

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Everyday is Taco Tuesday in Tijuana!

I finished working on a production in Tijuana for three months, and I’ve been in Taco heaven!  I’m spoiled with having so many delicious tacos and for half the price I pay back home.

You can find all the meat in Mexico, starting in TJ!  Theses Taco stands have all the parts of the animal you can think of.  Not much is wasted.

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The first taco establishment I was recommended was Taqueria Franc, a place that is known for their “Adobada” Tacos, aka “Al Pastor” tacos.  When I first saw “Adobada” on the menu, I had no idea what that was, and then I was confused as to why I couldn’t find “Al Pastor” on

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Taqueria Franc

the menu even though I saw it cooking on a the vertical rotisserie.  I then found out that in Tijuana and other states such as Michoacan and Jalisco, it is referred to as “Adobada,” which means marinated.

 

 

 

In San Diego, there was an “Al Pastor” contest, where Taqueria Franc participated and won 1st place.  Since then, many Americans have crossed the border for a plate of tacos.

The next place that became my favorite was Taconazo, there a couple of these locations throughout Tijuana, but it was the one on Hipodromo Avenue, down the street of the Grand Hotel that was the best.  Not only did I enjoy all their meats, I loved their vegetarian taco too!  The “Vegetarian” comes with grilled cactus and guacamole, and topped with pico de gallo and hot sauce.  I never thought I would be ordering a vegetarian taco but it is that good.

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The employees provide a happy ambience with great memories of your order once you’ve gone two or three times.  This became my Sunday night ritual.  I would uber to the place, pick up my 6 tacos (hey, it was my sunday funday), pick up a “suero” at my hotel bar, and go up to my room to watch Game of Thrones while chowing down.

What were these tacos made of? Tripas, Cabeza, Lengua, Adobada, and if they weren’t out of it…Ojo (eyes)

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Taqueria Franc:

Blvd. Sánchez Taboada 9013
22000 Tijuana, Baja California
Mexico

Taconazo (Hipódromo):

Hipodromo 126, Tijuana, Mexico

La Corriente Cevicheria Nais, Tijuana

By far the best Ceviche Tostada I have ever had, and I had my share of trying many ceviche dishes during my summer in Tijuana.  While there were many great seafood establishments, fancy to hole-in-the-wall, there is one that stands out and will have me back the next time I step across the border. Cevicheria Nais, pronounced “Na-ice” or “nice” in a Borat voice.

Located in central Tijuana, the restaurant is a spacious but cozy place, complete with a back patio and a nautical theme throughout.  You get greeted with a cup of seafood broth at your table, and this settles you right into the seafood vibe as you sip and scan the menu.

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Back Patio (photo courtesy of Mrt. T)

One of things you will notice about the Micheladas here is that there is a separate menu list for what all can come inside your Michelada, called “Clamatos.”  It can be as simple as having clam juice to having bites of octopus, shrimp and clams with saladitos (salted prunes).  I had the “Tiburon Tiburon” (Shark Shark) which is beer, clamato, clam juice, shrimp, celery, and a saladito.  This feels more like a shrimp cocktail with beer.  Depending on how you look at it, it can be like a little appetizer you have all to yourself, or a beer with too much going on for your taste.  If you are looking to pound a cerveza down, you’re better off just ordering it plain.

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Tiburon Tiburon Drink

 

 

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Pacifico Tostada

On to the star of the menu, the Pacifico Tostada! It is a batch of thinly sliced fresh tuna and scallops marinated in lime juice, Petrolera Hot Sauce, Serrano Chilis, and onions.  It is the freshest and and most savory tostada de ceviche I have ever had.  They do not skimp on the fish and scallop at all, you will find bits of delicious tuna falling off to scoop up afterwards.  All for the price of about $5

 

Then we have the Aguachiles, a molcajete (stone bowl) of raw shrimp curing in a bath of lime juice and your choice of smashed chili, and mixed with cucumber and red onion slices.  This is a mouth-watering treat for thoseimg_1682 who love lime juice and getting heat on the tongue.  The classic is usually the green serrano aquachile that packs a good punch.  This is great way to get your thirst going and start backing those bottles of cerveza.

 

 

 

 

There’s more savory treats like the Octopus Cracklings, Marlin Tacos or Grilled Octopus Taco with melted cheese 😛 No matter what you get, it will be taste fresh and delicious.  For your appetizer, make sure you get the Pacifico Tostada, it’s worth trying at least once.

Address:

Flores Magón 8330
Col. Centro
22000 Tijuana, Baja California
Mexico
 

 

Piloncillo- The Unrefined Sugar in Mexico

On my trip to Mexico, I was introduced to piloncillo- an unrefined, whole cane sugar that has minimal processing. It is called by different names throughout many countries. In english, it’s referred to as panela. It was in a truncated shape every time we saw it at the markets or in restaurants. It seems similar to brown sugar, but it still contains most of its minerals due to the less interference. For this reason, it is considered the more beneficial way to sweeten your food or drinks. The process involves the boiling and evaporation of the sugar cane.

The way I first tasted this sweet delight was in a cup of coffee called “Cafe de Olla,” coffee from the pot. This wasn’t a typical coffee pot however. “Cafe de Olla” is a popular way to have your coffee that starts by preparing it in an earthen clay pot. The clay pot is considered to play part in how the coffee tastes. Then, the piloncillo comes in. It is dissolved in the coffee along with some cinnamon and voila!

Piloncillo-Unrefined SugarI first declined the coffee. I don’t frequently drink coffee. I will have random cravings for iced and hot coffee that contain a good amount of sweetness, and most of the time, milk. When Michael ordered the “cafe de olla,” I was sure it was going to be a strong tasting coffee since he doesn’t put anything in his coffee. He asked me to taste it and said there was a sweetness to it. I tried it, and loved the flavor. The sweetness was subtle but definitely bent the punch of the coffee into a pleasant combination where one doesn’t overpower the other. This is why Michael still liked the coffee even though he likes it strong. The piloncillo didn’t dull out the bold flavor of the coffee bean. We were impressed and my uncle asked the waiter to brink out some piloncillo so that we may meet this new ingredient that just came into our lives. They brought it out on a plate, and we wrapped it up in our napkin.

That same week, I told another uncle about my introduction to this sugar, and he later provided me with a bag of about 20 piloncillo pieces. Now, we enjoy our coffee by chopping off bits of this sugar and mixing it in. It was one of my favorite souvenirs from Mexico, and I’m happy to see it on my kitchen counter.

Piloncillo Sugar at Home

Sanborns Restaurant, The House of Tiles- Mexico City

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Sanborns “The House of Tiles” is to the right

In the Historical District of Mexico City, stands an old 18th century palace built by the Count del Valle de Orizaba family.  Sanborns is a chain of stores and restaurants, but this restaurant is special because of it’s history and beauty.  It’s known as the “Casa de los Azulejos,” translated into the “House of Tiles.”  Its facade is covered in expensive blue and white tile.  It’s debated how the tiled walls came to be.  One version is that a widow of the family came back after her husband’s funeral and wanted to show off the family’s wealth by remodeling it.  Another version involves a man being fed up with his son’s lifestyle and told his son that he would never amount to anything or have a house of tiles (meaning a proud home).  The son would then prove him wrong by covering his estate in tiles.  This property was sold many times as a private residence, and then businesses took over.  During the Mexican Revolution, the Zapatista army occupied this building.  Eventually, Frank and Walter Sanborn wanted to expand their drugstore/soda pop business and bought the mansion.  They added a beautiful stained glass roof and murals.  The overall style is a mix of baroque and oriental.

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Image 2nd floor of Sanborns, House of TilesImage

The dining room is gorgeous with views of the surrounding landmarks.  From the second you sit down, you will see another interesting part of Sanborns, and that’s the china.  Notice the design, for it holds a tragic asian love story.

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Here is the story…

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Pretty cool.

Now to the drinks and food!

We all had micheladas 🙂 Very refreshing after a day of walking ruins and the historic district.

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“Nuestros Famosas Enchiladas Suizas”

As far as the food goes, they are known for their famous chicken enchiladas in chile verde, topped with bubbling cheese. The name of this dish translates to “Our Famous Swiss Enchiladas.” They have five other enchilada plates but the name immediately challenges the tourist to find out why they are famous.  The sauce is plentiful and it makes you want scoop up as much as you can with every forkful of enchilada.  The sauce is surprisingly light and won’t make you feel disgustingly full.  If you don’t read español, they have an English menu 🙂  This place is very affordable in contrast with its fancy walls.  These enchiladas were 96 pesos, which the exchange rate was about 12 pesos per US dollar, making the plate about $11.

This was a great way to wind down a day of walking to the roof of a cathedral, exploring ruins, and taking a tour of the opera house, “Palace of Beautiful Arts.”  We could see some of these famous sights from our window seating.

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And then watch the sun set behind it…

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Oh, and their store had this little guy….

 Porcelain Dogs at Sanborns store in Mexico City
Porcelain Dogs at Sanborns store in Mexico City

It’s a cocker spaniel like our dog Guinness!

Mexico City-Gorditas (A Tie for 1st Place)

This was a new treat for me.  I’ve now been introduced to a true “Gordita.”  I love the cheesy gordita crunch at Taco Bell, but this is the real deal in Mexico. This is “Las Vikingas.”

I was taken to this hole in the wall kitchen that only has enough space for the cooks and one small table.  Every patron is seen eating on the sidewalk and standing in line for more.  Tucked away in the back, is a tiny kitchen where men are chopping up meat.  Up front, there’s a griddle where women are making thick tortillas on one end, cooking and stuffing them to perfection in the middle, and then topping them off with cooling condiments at the end.

They are known for their Gorditas de Chicharron.  This chicharron is a tender, almost sticky kind of meat that is from the pig’s skin.  It’s minced up and placed in in the slit of a fat sauteed tortilla, with a smear of light grilled cheese that might be manchego,  a scoop of cilantro and onion, and a spoonful of hot salsa.   This tastes amazing!!  My family took me back on my last day to have this again.  I usually don’t like dishes that contain a fat tortilla because it tends to take away the flavor of other ingredients and just fill you up instantly.  These are pretty thin considering they need to be thick enough to stuff,  and they are cooked perfectly so that there is a nice light greasy crunch.  It is the perfect pocket for the combination of ingredients it holds.  Everything tastes fresh and is served piping hot off the griddle.  These women made about a hundred of these just in the time we were there.  I love that you can watch them do your gordita from start to finish.

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Cooking Tortillas on left, cheese in the middle, and chopped chicharron
Cooking Tortillas on left, cheese in the middle, and chopped chicharron

Best Gorditas from Mexico City

That row is for our group!
That row is for our group!

If I had a bad day, drunk munchies, good day, or just hungry, this would be the food that would do it for me if I lived in this town.

Back from Mexico City!!!!

I had limited Wi-fi so i decided to hold all my food pictures and comments until I was back.  I already miss the food! From street vendors to fancy restaurants, the food was amazing.

One thing I have noticed in the past year is that when i eat food at home, especially fast food, i always have a clearing throat fest afterwards due to phlegm.  In Mexico, I had only two post meal annoyances that were very brief.  Many food experts have pointed out that Mexico actually uses a lot of fresh produce and don’t serve some of the over indulgent processes dishes that you would find at a U.S. chains.

Of course, there are definitely guilty pleasure food in Mexico that you would have to limit yourself to if you didn’t want to die of a heart attack, but it’s vacation, so i tried whatever they throw in front of me.  I just didn’t push it to the limit like i’ve been guilty of in the past visits.

The first place I knew I was going to eat at, was a hole in the wall taco place that my Mexico family always takes visitors after the airport pick-up because it’s so close to the airport and has delicious meats that not every taco place has.

Taco post in Mexico City
Taco post in Mexico City

One of the tacos we eat here are tacos de “nana,” this is uterus of the pig.  I know, it doesn’t sound appetizing but if you don’t mind eating any other part of the pig, you shouldn’t discriminate on this part just because it hasn’t been glamorized like ribs or hot dogs (which i wouldn’t be surprised if it contains all parts of the pig).  It is served as chopped pieces of tubular meat in a warm hand made tortilla.  It’s tender, a bit salty and very tasty.  Not many places have nana meat but i hear it’s spreading more and more.

Tacos de nana
Tacos de nana

Michael had carnitas which i never had at this place, and boy was i glad he ordered it.  I know this joint now as the best place to have a taco de carnitas.  It was the most tender and juicy handful of carnitas i have ever had.

I thought i would be brave with the hot sauce, and it sort of kicked my butt.  Very spicy but i was happy to be in  Mexico where salsas have strong seasonings and aren’t for the wimps.  Check out the giant molcajete of salsa!

Hot Sauce!
Hot Sauce!

Check out the pot of oil!

El Jacal

Started this trip right!

Off to Mexico City!

At the airport, waiting for our flight 🙂 I can’t wait to try the delicious food where my parents grew up. The food, art, history,music, and family really make this trip worth taking.

Here we go!!!!

Remembering Ireland [Food] A Year Ago…

DUBLIN

Click here for the The Shamrock Pour

Guinness St. James Gate
Tossing Barley at Guinness Factory

🙂

Guinness moustaches
Barley Risotto, Dublin
Murphy's in Dublin
Oysters in Doolin, Ireland

Temple Bar District, Dublin

GALWAY & DOOLIN

Mary Tyler Moore Moment on Cliffs of Moher
Galway Oysters
Monroe's Pub in Galway

🙂

Guinness Sherbet at our Reception, Galway

CORK & KILKENNY

Jameson Tour
Whiskey Tasting at the Jameson Factory
Sandwich on the Run in Cork
Kilkenny, Ireland

Aillwee Cave, Ballyvaughan, Ireland
The English Market, Cork, Ireland
The English Market and Cafe

Kilkenny, Ireland
Cappuccino at Waterford Crystal Center
English Market
The English Market
The English Market
Waterford Crystal Worker
Pretending to be a Waterford Crystal Master