Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bizarre Foods Baja Pt.3: We're Going to Tijuana, and You're Coming With Us!!

I don't like to get too excited about anything until I'm there doing that thing. My years of the musician's life taught me this. Never trust the groovy manager or agent, keep your distance from the artist, and the gig isn't on until you're on the plane, and even then the rug can still be pulled out from under you.

All I can really say is that Tijuana came real close to not happening. I worked the phones, and,well I won't reveal what I had to do here, but, Tijuana? owe me one. Shortly after I received the fantastic news that Tijuana was approved, I was informed that I was coming along for the ride, officially.

As I staggered out on the morning of shoot day for Bizarre Foods Baja, and stepped into Van 1, I could actually enjoy this.

It was a Sunday, and the Friday before I had played a concert in Leon, Guanajuato. An unusual cold front came in on Saturday morning and caught the Leon airport by surprise. With no deicing equipment, and not even a heater in the airport, we could see our breath. I couldn't believe I was going to miss the connecting flight in Mexico City. Instead of arriving at LAX around 1PM, I would be arriving at 9PM, at night.

The lunatic that I am, I took advantage of the Mexico City layover to explore Ciudad Neza, a notorious neighborhood in DF, on foot. Any chance of resting before the Sunday shoot was fading. I should have slept in the airport hotel room, but, YOU KNOW.

I arrived in Tijuana around midnight, said hello to friends Joanna and Mynor, who had come down to support me, and got to sleep around 2AM. Lobby call was 8AM, and the first shoot was 8:30AM.

I had missed the chance to dine with Andrew and the crew the night before to establish some rapport, I didn't really get to talk much with Andrew when I had met him on the set of Top Chef Masters, but we hit it off right away. The ball busting between Andrew and Sr. producer of Bizarre Foods, Dave Rodrick, gave me the confidence that probably most anything goes here. I was home!

So here we were at La Cagua del Yeyo, one of my Sonoran seafood haunts.

While Andrew, who is such a seasoned pro, took pictures with the folks that own Yeyo's, I was trying to get into game mode, completely wiped out from the long travel day flying to LA, and then driving to Tijuana the night before. This was only my second gig, and again, no saxophone to hide behind.

Things were feeling real good after the first segment, and we were now walking the streets of Tijuana, talking shit to each other, and feeling nice and loose. I relaxed, but decided today that I was going to Food Rock Star school.

We headed over to Mariscos Ruben, another one of my Baja gems.

Mirta was on fire, as she usually is. We were trying to eat and do our thing and she just kept talking and shoving her favorite dishes at us. "Whoa, wait, we're still on the marlin taquitos!" Ahh, I haven't slept and she's asking me to tell Andrew this, tell him that. I would start to talk to Andrew, and she'd jump in.I don't even know what this scene is going to look like, but, you are completely a fool to miss this truck when in Tijuana. The food is amazing.

Andrew Zimmern, James Beard Award winner, might even be more famous in Latin America. In spanish, the show is called Comidas Exoticas, and is a hit in Mexico. These attendants at the Pemex station were star struck and had to have their pictures taken with him.

Walking around a flea market, one guy saw him and said to his booth coworker, "Mira, es el pelon que come todo la chingadera!" Translation: "Look, it's the baldy that will eat any fuckin' thing." Andrew has these nicknames in every Latin American country were the show is aired.

Our last scene would be at the pickled pork skin and foot specialist, Tostadas El Mezon. This was the last place I suggested to the production company, a place that has been in Tijuana since 1953, from third generation pork skin and feet picklers from San Juan de Los Lagos, Jalisco.

It's located in the seedier side of Tijuana's Red Light District. There were some funny moments walking over to the restaurant, and not to mention some clumsiness trying to eat a slippery pig's foot.

I stayed with Andrew as he headed over to the Mercado Hidalgo to shoot the market scene with Benito Molina's wife, Solange. We had a moment for Joanna, Mynor and their friend to get a picture with Andrew. I could relax, my stuff was in the can.

Andrew and Solange touring the Mercado Hidalgo.

Dave Rodrick leads Andrew and crew across the market looking for some more shots.

Here we are at the end of the day. Andrew said we should look serious, well, he is smiling, and I just look like I need to lay down on the curb and pass out.

This show was destined to happen, and it all started with that blogger trip back in July of 2009, where I set out to separate myself from the chaff. But, this is really the end of almost 10 years exploring Baja.

The shows content is a diary of my journeys, pavement pounding,research, and passion for Baja as told through the incomparable voice of Andrew Zimmern. These are my picks. As it turns out, the Baja episode is one of Andrew's faves this season.

So, I don't need to check in on four square, I'm the Mayor of Tijuana and Baja, except Cabo, ha ha, and I just unlocked the Top Gun badge.

Bizarre Foods Baja with Andrew Zimmern, IT'S A Wrap!
Airs tonight at 7PM PST on the Travel Channel


Food GPS said...

Bill Esparza, the Mayor of Tijuana? As if there was any doubt.

streetgourmetla said...

FoodGPS-Not in my mind, Josh.

BajaGeoff said...

I was so excited to hear about Andrew Zimmern visiting Baja, but I unfortunately missed the episode last week! Thanks for the great blog recap. Viva Baja!

streetgourmetla said...

Hey BajaGeoff. Bizarre Foods Baja airs again this Thursday, June 24th. Thanks.