Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Update:A New Baja Toast to Manzanilla and G. Salinas from Tijuana to Ensenada

Manzanilla is back

Welcome to the food pleasure zone

Exciting things are happening down in Ensenada and Tijuana these days. The top chef in Ensenada has reopened the flagship of his three revolutionary restaurants .Benito Molina, of Ensenada's best restaurants Manzanilla and Muelle Tres, and his seasonal Valle de Guadalupe destination Silvestre, has realized the long awaited debut of the new Manzanilla. G. Salinas, Baja’s best wine shop located in Tijuana’s gastronomic zone, is spreading the news about the latest and greatest from the Valle de Guadalupe .Chowhound's Kaire Raisu joined me as we took the ABC bus from TJ to Ensenada and made it back the same day, another mission is accomplished by Los Quesotraficos! Oh, and we had to suffer the marathon Bad Boys I and II on the round trip, que horror!

Rushing to Manzanilla's new location in front of the Black Pearl(Pirates of the Caribbean)on the wharf, we arrived to find Benito Molina dining with friends and associates welcoming our arrival. The restaurant just got up and running a few weeks ago, the menu isn't complete yet and there is some unfinished things to do, but the food is as good as ever. The restaurant looks like a nice saloon with touches of bordello thrown in. Original Mexican artists are featured with paintings selected by Benito. This location has much more attitude than the old Manzanilla and is a great place for the chef to express his ingredients. We happened upon some things put on the menu for the recent holidays and a daily special or two for our dining pleasure.

A Mexican classic in a bite, turkey in mole

Master of the clam el "Marcos", Benito always kills when it comes to almejas

boullabaisse estilo Ensenada

We started with the last of Benito's own Valle de Guadalupe zinfandel, a house red at Manzanilla, lots of forward fruit and light mineral notes.Our amuse bouchee was a bread crust with turkey and mole, a holiday nod to the Mexican classic Christmas dish in a bite,Feliz Navidad!Next was the tiraditas de lengua(sliced tongue), we ordered this but the rest was "omakase".The sliced cold tongue with nopal(cactus) and cherry tomatoes in a light and spicy vinagrette was spiritual.Next we had clams, Marcos'(the source) magic clams, smoked with homemade bread crumbs and local cheese.All I can say is that Benito works miracles with the freshest shellfish, a must when at any of Benito's restaurants.Our entree was a fish soup, Sr. Molina's boullabaisse, with fennel and local rock cod. All the flavor components stood on their own but when combined, outrageously pleasurable. This is signature Benito Molina, simple cooking, the best ingredients, and the symphony of flavors conducts itself. The 5th course consisted of a croquette of a locally made combination of a fresh and an aged cheese, a nice savory to end the meal.

Artful dining

Another Mexican dish reinvented, lengua en tiradita

Manzanilla is the place to be

The movers and shakers of the wine and food scene in Ensenada

Benito's select Sonoran beef from another night at Manzanilla

toro with sea urchin, simply seasoned,on another visit

Sardines a la Sr. Molina

G.Salinas in Tijuana

On a recent trip I had a nice long chat with Gilberto Salinas, owner of the top wine shop in the northern Baja region. His store is beautiful, a classic boutique style wine shop, with the best Baja wines. Stuff that you can’t taste in the Valle de Guadalupe, and perhaps only in restaurants in Mexico City, and high end restaurants throughout Baja . Gilberto states that there are about 50 producers and around 150-200 labels currently in the Valle de Guadalupe and surrounding wine “barrios”, like San Antonio de las Minas. I asked for the best and was turned on to Vinisterra’s “Pedregal”(Syrah/Mourvedre), not available for tasting at Vinisterra, and Sangre de Cortez’s cabernet/ merlot blend. The good news? On Wednesdays from about 2-7PM he opens these bottles for tastings, no charge. Maybe he might have Mogor Badan’s chasselas and the Pedregal, or one of Hugo D,Acosta’s wines and a J.C. Bravo carignan. The wines are not cheap, but are reasonable for those who wish to know these wines. The problem remains the Mexican government which imposes two taxes totaling anywhere from 30% to almost 40% of the cost. The other factor is that production costs in the Valle de Guadalupe are high. I’ve yet to try these two bottles, the Pedregal and the Sangre de Cortez, but I’m excited and looking for the right restaurant to open these. Maybe La Casita or Huasteca in LA? A nice steak house? Go taste in the Valle de Guadalupe, drink away at Manzanilla or any other Benito restaurant, but stop by and purchase Baja wines at G. Salinas, a short walk from the finest dining in Tijuana. Matter of fact, think I’ll stop here on my next visit to Villa Saverios, or La Diferencia.

Gilberto Salinas sees the future of Mexican wine

Inside the best wine shop in Baja

Boutique Baja wines

Pedregal and Sangre de Cortez, some wine for the road.

***Since the orginal post came out back in January of 2009, Jair Tellez's Rincondel Parque has closed***

Benito's restaurants
located on the wharf,across the street from the Black Pearl
Teniete Azueta 139

Muelle Tres-Ensenada
make aright around the corner at the end of the Black Market on the malecon.

SilvestreValle de Guadalupe, open in the summer only

Blvd. Salinas #10650-7 Col. Aviación,
Tijuana, B. C.
Tel. 664.971 0953 / 55


Robb Russell, D.C. said...

I am glad you made it to Salinas' shop. I stopped by in March and got a bottle of Cruz X (met the young winemaker) and JC Bravo. Then I went to La Differencia. Sounds like just what you need.

I wish I could make it there on a Wednesday. There were many empty bottles from the most recent Wednesday tasting.

I am still trying to figure out how to cross the border from Tijuana in what the US considers a common carrier. Then it is possible to bring back a larger quantity of alcohol although taxes have to be paid to the Treasury Dept. There must be a regularly scheduled bus that crosses the border.

streetgourmetla said...

The California ACB is ridiculous.We should be able to bring bottles for personal use.This one bottle every 30 days is nuts.How'd you like the JC Bravo Carignan?