Sunday, July 19, 2009

48 Hours in Tijuana, Ensenada, and the Valle de Guadalupe

Bloggers, writers,chefs,and friends await the famous shrimp tacos at El Mazateno, Tijuana.

The sun sets on our Baja adventure at Silvestre, overlooking the Valle de Guadalupe.

Well, I'm officially fried. This weekend I led a talented group of the LA areas best bloggers, acclaimed writers, top chefs and restauranteurs from LA, assisted by dear friends Joanna Robles and Mynor Godoy, in concert with the Crossborder Agency, Cotuco(Tijuana Tourism Board),the Tijuana Canirac(restaurant association),and a few other Mexican tourism agencies.

What started out as a meeting between myself, Jahdiel Vargas(director of Cotuco), and Rodrigo Caballero of the Crossborder Business group was realized in little over a month.I've spent a decade on foot, in taxis, on buses, and by car exploring the places to eat, drink, and live life to the fullest in northern Baja which culminated in this media event.

The objective was simple.Expose these people to the reality not found in the false stories in the news,not found in any guide books, and not reflected in popular myth. Tijuana, Ensenada, and the Valle de Guadalupe are magical places of cuisine, wine, and experience, places that leave me to daydreaming quite often. After 20 dining experiences at restaurants, stands,fondas,taquerias,and wineries, a beer festival, a city tour, a walking tour,multiple Baja wine experiences at restaurants and wineries in the Valle de Guadalupe, I would say this group received a crash course in northern Baja.By the end of the trip, I think I found some new believers.

To Jahdiel Vargas, Maribel Moreno, Melani, and Rodrigo Caballero.Thanks for your faith courage and dedication.Melani! Thanks for the shot.

Mynor Godoy and Joanna Robles.You don't even know how much I appreciate you being a part of this, and how you both made everything run so smooth.You've been so supportive the whole way.Thanks.

Andrea Rademan, your guidance and advice before this trip was a tremendous source calm for me, and your personal assurances helped get me through.Allan was amazing, how did he make it through that first day? Allan, thanks for being with us.

Barbara Hansen, and Nancy Zaslazsky, the both of you were amazing forces of nature and were inspirational to us all.You are both true road dogs and food and wine Olympians!!Amazing.

Ramiro Arvizu,your love of cooking and Mexican food are of the truest heart.Your youthfulness, respect for cooking and vitality is why you and Jaime have one of the finest Mexican restaurants in LA.

Jim Farber, Andrea Adleman, and Anna Cearley,It was a pleasure getting to know you and share this experience with you.

From Sue Feniger's and Mary Sue Millikin's kitchens at Ciudad and Border Grill, Doug Rausen berger(general manager), Jeremy Tummel(Ciudad), and Raymond Alvarez(BorderGrill-Santa Monica), you guys are down.Smoking the puro Cubanos on the platform overlooking Benito Molina's zinfandel vines at Silvestre is one of my favorite moments of the trip.Yes Doug, now we can smoke.Thanks brothers.

Javier Cabral,and Abby Abanes, thanks for your friendship and help getting these wonderful bloggers together.I wouldn't have been able to put this together without your influences.Javier,you are brown,gifted,and just killin' it.Un abrazo.Abby, you have done so much for me in the past, and present.I look forward to our future collaborations.Hope you had a fun weekend.

Bricia Lopez,you are a champion foodie.You were still ready to go after that marathon on Friday.You and Barbara.You showed me that even a devout Oaxaquena, born in Oaxaca,from one of the greatest food regions on the planet, could be moved and and enamoured by the cuisine of Baja.Watching you play in the rain and stare off into the vineyards last night spoke volumes.

My bloggers and new friends!
Noah Galuten,I guess you could have done your 100 restaurants in 10 days at this pace?You were all over it, and handled the sheer volume of eats with ease.Man Bites Baja!!

Eddie Lin,I now know why Javier calls you the homie.Hanging with you was as easy as falling off of a log.I look forward to our new friendship.Hope you enjoyed a few extreme foods along the way.Pig brains! Not bad, eh?

Cathy Danh,thanks for all the water and laughs.Your a very special and unique person.I'm so glad you were with us and thanks for all your help.

Pat Saperstein,Beerfest!! It was blast sharing beers with you at the TJ Beer fest.An honor to have you aboard this weekend.

Josh Lurie,you also powered through this journey like it was easy.You are true professional and was with this from beginning to end.Hope to see you soon.

Gourmetpigs, I think we all lived up to the name of your blog this weekend.Ever since talking with you at STK I new that you were one of the people I wanted on this trip.You're ready for anything.

Matt Kang,I know I caught you at a moment, but you showed what you're made of this weekend.I'm very happy that you got on that bus.Thanks for the help on the Emevee situation.You,Barbara,Johanna,Andrea Rademan,and Andrea Adleman pulled me out of a jam.

H.C., representing the OC, it was a pleasure getting to know you more sharing this weekend with you.You are also another prolific eater and a hard core foodie.How did you do this trip and then help organize Blogger Prom?Amazing.

Johanna Jacobsen,thanks for your help in covering that winery for us and for all your hard work this weekend.I look forward to seeing those photos.

It was a tough week leading up to this trip which left me ill, hacking all over everyone.Sorry for those I've passed my cold to in advance.Hope you're able to beat it before it kicks in. And, I must apologize to all for such an ambitious agenda.I wanted so much for this as it has been a labor of love, and I guess a personal duty I felt in helping a part of Mexico I love dearly at a time when it could use a little help.It was a learning experience for me and a first time doing such an event, so I thank all of you throughout the weekend for the encouragement and kind words.Nancy Zaslazsky, you were just too gracious,and your understanding of my every step and misstep gave me peace, both you and Barbara.You all kept me going when I probably should have just drawn the drapes and hid under the covers.

This weekend, a blogger, took on the politicians, bad press stories, and bias in trying to create a new narrative about Tijuana, Ensenada, and the Valle de Guadalupe.But, without you guys and gals, it wouldn't have been possible.And, when I can get down to this post in the coming days, you are the story I will tell.Better than a new food find, a hit review, or racking up the hit counter, it was about people.The citizens of Baja, chefs,waiters, cooks, taqueros, cocteleros, independent business owners, the young minds at Cotuco and Crossborder,and us lovers of food, booze, and travel.I hope that when you've all had a chance to DIGEST this adventure and rest, you will all smile on your experiences this weekend.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart,


P.S.Oh, and I still owe all of you some KFB.Maybe on the way to the wine harvest in August?


mattatouille said...

Bill, working on my ridiculously long post right now, though it'll take me perhaps the rest of the week to edit all of these photos! Thank you again for your hard work and dedication to this trip. It really was lifechanging even though it came at a difficult point in my life. Looking forward to many more gastronomic trips, and especially those Kentucky Fried Buches!

Joshua Lurie said...


Thanks for all your tenacious efforts to provide us with the best possible Baja experience. That was a phenomenal two days, with some of the best eating of my life. Can't wait to join you again in Baja (and in L.A.) for more adventures.

streetgourmetla said...

Josh and Matt.Consider it done.We are going back, and soon.

gourmetpigs said...

Thank you for all your hard work, Bill. You went through so much organizing and keeping it going!
It was a wonderful experience - both eating and company-wise. Definitely very pleased with how great the food was in Baja (this was my 1st trip ever) and cannot wait to try more another time.

Eddie Lin said...


You are an inspiration and bon vivant who has already lived more life than most people have or will in one lifetime, and if this recent culinary marathon is any measure, several lifetimes for sure. How do you find the energy while keeping so upbeat and motivational? What's that extra something in your coffee? What's your secret? I guess that's why they call it a secret. I salute you, capitan!

This adventure surpassed every expectation I had prior to stepping on the bus at Union Station. It was an endurance test, a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's mole factory, a food lover's love-fest, an immersion course in the best of Baja and introduction to the warmth and generosity of the people of Mexico.

Now it's time to sort through all this and inspire others of your vision.

mattatouille said...

Damn Eddie, you eloquent bastard.

streetgourmetla said...

Bururum.Glad you enjoyed the cuisine, and yes the company was stellar.I couldn't have wished for a better group of people.

streetgourmetla said...

Eddie Lin,you old softy.You're my brother from another mother.Wow, couldn't have said it better, an immersion course indeed!

chilaquile said...

Bill, it was a pleasure eating my way through Tijuana and Ensenada food temples with the Grand Master of Northern Baja chow. I loved your flat-out enthusiasm and was thrilled to be along for the ride!

From a first-ever sip of ice cold Casta to final crunch of crisp cheese tortilla, it was a whirlwind—an eating frenzy—with so many admirers of your knowledge, ability and energy in tow. Thanks so much for sharing all that unlimited passion of regional Mexican food. You rock.

A special thanks to Mynor and Joanna for their generous spirit and flat-out hard work helping to pull off a mind-blowing food tour!

I’ll spread the word of what an exciting culinary destination town Tijuana is in thanks to the dedication of seriously great cooks and chefs. Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe are perfect getaways for lovers of wine and world-class seafood. All 3 are safe travel destinations begging for return visits with our travel buddies.

Thank you to all the restaurants, the cooks and chefs, winery owners, Cotuco and Crossborder people who helped make your vision come into focus. I look forward to thanking them in person soon.

And to elusive KFB, here I come!!

To Bill and my new travel friends, I look forward to reading your blogs, staying in touch and eating great Mexican food together again! -Nancy Z

glutster said...


I only hope that through out my life, I'm able to achieve and experience as much as you know about our beloved countries food, culture and and people.

You have become one of my greatest mentor's and friend's in my life and know you will maintain that immense respect and stature for the rest of my life.

Looking forward to sharing many amazing bites, dark 'chelas' and complex (or simple) wines with you in the future...

amor guey,

--ni sabes

Gastronomer said...

Bill... Bill... Bill... What can I say that hasn't been said? I'm gonna sell the world on Baja. Promise.

Andrea Adleman said...

This was so amazing. Thanks to Bill for superhuman heroics and to everyone for being such charming little piggies. Can't wait 'til the next trip. Please let's just do something simple -- even a day trip -- real soon for KFB and gelato. Cheers, friends!

Andrea Adleman

streetgourmetla said...

Thanks Nancy.Can't wait to see you again and I know you will be such a fantastic advocate for Baja.

streetgourmetla said...

Cathy, whatever you're sellin' I'm buying.Wow, I'm missing everybody right now.

streetgourmetla said...

Andrea, KFB and Gelato?I like the way you think.Everybody is still feeling the KFB quest.My devious mind is at work for a possible street food crawl very soon in TJ.

streetgourmetla said...

Javier, que onda paisa? The adventure continues.........

Thanks for all you've done for me too, my brother. Vamos empezar las reconquista de la comida!!

Crossborder-Kenn said...

To Bill & All the Tour Participants:

Crossborder Group was honored to have the chance to work with you all -- and please feel free to contact COTUCO or ourselves ANYTIME you want to bring another group, have questions, or need some information about Tijuana (or the rest of Baja).

I'd ask you all to PLEASE also consider going to the website we created for COTUCO -- -- to post some of your comments and photos. Crossborder Group is committed to helping people understand the border region -- and that site is set up to give a place for visitors to Tijuana to express themselves about their trips.

Lastly, for the past few weeks, we've had the GREAT PLEASURE to work with Bill Esparza, and really just worked to channel his dynamic energy on this trip. I wasn't able to join you, but I know my team enjoyed meeting you all, and working with Bill was wonderful.

Thank you for making the effort to overcome the misperceptions, and taking your time to come to Tijuana.

-Kenn Morris
President, Crossborder Group
kenn [at] crossborderbusiness [dot] com

streetgourmetla said...

Hey Ken, I'm sorry we didn't get to meet up this past weekend.We still have work to do, and I'm at your service,always.

H. C. said...

The trip was nothing short of epic (not to mention a competitive-eater-worthy test of stomachspace!) I'm truly delighted by the bounty of cuisine that TJ/Ensenada/Valle de Guadalupe has to offer! Much thanks again for including me on this journey and I'll be sure to post on it soon :)

Hope to see you around on another L.A. eating event soon!

And buches. Buches always.

pleasurepalate said...

Bill: Thanks for such an epic trip. Through this trip and the two other ones I've gone with you, you've truly opened my eyes to the culinary treasures of Tijuana and Ensenada and I look forward to getting the word out to as many people as possible. :)

streetgourmetla said...

Thanks Abby, and let's start bringing thenm down, and soon.

streetgourmetla said...

HC, it was a pleasure to have you.You are a champion eater.

re said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anna said...

It was an amazing and unforgettable culinary journey!! Bill, I am so thoroughly impressed with how you pulled this off. Thanks to all the foodies who I got to know this weekend. I enjoyed listening in on your impressions. I am fortunate to be in TJ most weekends and am looking forward to taking more time to savor some of these treats - at a slower pace!

streetgourmetla said...

Ar,the bad news.There is no place to get TJ style carne asada in LA, nor are there any places with any passable carne asada.The good news, TJ is just a couple hours away.You need to just break down and make the trip.Los tacos El Poblano awaits.Bienvenidos Tijuanera!

streetgourmetla said...

Thanks Anna.Yes, we all could use a leisure day of eating in Tijuana, and soon.