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Sunday, November 8, 2009
Carnaval La Paz,Feb. 19-24, 2009: Chocolatas,Parrot fish, and the Malecon
Between the obnoxious Cabo San Lucas and the classic Mexican beach town of Loreto lies La Paz in Southern Baja California.
La Paz boasts a healthy local economy fueled by eco-tourism, fishing, silver mining, agriculture, and pearls.Although much larger than Cabo, it retains a local character but is just as tourist friendly. As a UNESCO World Heritage Bio-Reserves site it is a paradise for scuba diving, snorkeling, and kayaking.
The malecon(sea walk)is a beautiful attraction, and the city center has many colonial buildings typical of Southern Baja.
Each year La Paz hosts one of the 6 Carnaval celebrations held in Mexico. This year it was held from the 19th through the 24th of February.
The Carnaval celebration in La Paz is sort of a mix of the two largest in the world, Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans' Mardi Gras respectively. A little parade watching, and imbibing next to the Sea of Cortez. It all takes place on the malecon.
There are many stages across the span of the malecon featuring traditional Mexican styles of music like banda and norteña.
During the day families walk the malecon playing games, eating delicious foods to fatten up before the fasting on Ash Wednesday.
I was in town for a show, and for me that means taking in some regional food and culture.
El Dorado is a seafood restaurant along the malecon exhibiting the freshest local catch.
The restaurant has a palapa(thatch roof)inside and a comfortable setting overlooking the sea. Not a bad place to enjoy the flavors of La Paz.
La Paz and nearby Loreto are where you will find the finest chocolata clams, named for the color of their shells.The flavor and texture of these clams will turn the staunchest oyster snob into a believer. You can get these throughout Baja, but in La Paz they are considered the best.
Bright orange,tan, and white flesh begin to writhe as you squirt a bit of lime. The dozen chocolatas I had were still alive when they were shucked. It doesn't get fresher than that. These should be enjoyed au natural, with a drop of lime and dab of hot sauce.
Pescado relleno is done a thousand different ways, but El Dorado's stuffed fish is a whole other level. Local shrimp and vegetables are stuffed between two filets of locally caught parrot fish, wrapped in bacon, and smothered in a bechamel mushroom sauce.The combination of flavors will bring tears of joy.
Every bite is layered in opulence, but never too heavy.El Dorado may look like every other restaurant on the malecon, but it is far from routine.
After my show I headed down to catch the end of the parade and have a late night snack. This is when all the cocktail stands and food stalls fire up. Have one of the racy cocktails customary at all fairs and festivals:mamada(blow job),semen de burro(bull's semen), or the orgasmo(orgasm).For some reason "Sex on the Beach" is not translated, must be the Cabo/Cancun syndrome.
With drink in hand it's time to pick a stall for noshing. Wherever you choose, the people watching from your table on the malecon is worthwhile, the cowboys, groups of beautiful women, and post-Carnaval leftovers all for the price of a couple of tacos.
You will mostly find typical antojitos(little whims)at these events: sopes, tacos, tortas, carnes, enchiladas, and even some regional items.
On this evening I chose a gringa. A gringa is a large flour tortilla wrapped around al pastor and cheese,the al pastor freshly cut from a spit. These are probably the inspiration for the American style quesadilla with meat.The difference here is the homemade tortilla from local wheat, a nice melting cheese, and savory al pastor from pure pork loin.A nice heavy bite of juicy pork with refried beans and salad before your day of fasting is a rewarding decision.
Carnaval in La Paz is a nice alternative to some of the bigger events held around the world. Great local seafood, music, a parade, and a party all day and night for the whole family.
The beautiful weather, pristine waters, scub diving, fishing, and relaxing on the Sea of Cortez add to the value of this destination in southern Baja where the dessert meets the sea.