Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tonight:Tijuana's 1st Gastronomic Forum

I'm honored and overjoyed to be participating in Tijuana's 1st Gastronomic forum with evening at the Cecut in the Zona Rio. The theme is "Tijuana cooks for the world".

The event is free to the public and the panelists include Tijuana chef's Javier Plascencia (Mision 19), Miguel Angel Guerrero (La Querencia); Mariano Escobedo (Cotuco),  Lic, Juan Tintos Funcke (Sec. of Tourism), Javier Gonzalez (Culinary Art School), Marco Amador (sommelier), and myself.

I will be talking about ingredients, using fresh tortillas made in house or from tortillerias using nixtamal, how to better understand US blogger culture, and encouraging young chefs to participate in the street food movement as a pathway to a brick and mortar. 

Tijuana Gastronomic Forum
May 30, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

No Reservations Baja Airs on Monday, May 28th on the Travel Channel

 On Monday, May 28th, the much anticipated No Reservations Baja episode will air on the Travel Channel. To celebrate this monumental event, I'm heading down to Chef Javier Plascencia's Erizo Fish Market for a viewing party that will be a gathering of local food stars, Tijuanenses, San Diegans, and a few of us Angelenos. It's safe to say their will be a general fiesta atmosphere that MAY be somewhat memorable--I mean, the liquor will be flowing Tijuana style. I myself plan to give Javier a head shaker shot, Av. Revolucion style, and only drink from turned upside down bottles of cheap tequila.

Street Gourmet LA was a source for Zero Point Zero productions during their research for the Baja episode, for this I'm very proud.   

The No Reservations Baja episode is very personal to me. It's the fulfillment of a wild proposition I made as an unknown blogger back in 2009 to Jahdiel Vargas, then of Cotuco Tijuana, and Rodrigo Caballero then of the Crossborder Group. Over tamarind martinis I offered to lead a Baja FAM of LA bloggers, photographers, chefs, restaurateurs, and writers if they'd let me control the itinerary. I asked that we include places like Mazateno, Tacos Salceados, and Kentucky Fried Buches alongside Tijuana Gastronomic Zone stars like Villa Saverios, La Querencia, and La Diferencia. I insisted that we stick with Mexican cuisines, and that if they listened to me and trust me that Andrew Zimmern, Rick Bayless, and Anthony Bourdain would come.

I had no position to make this claim, but I believed so strongly in the then, TRULY undiscovered cuisine of Baja that I had been enjoying for close to a decade, that it was a guarantee. The FAM almost never happened; it was nearly cancelled 2 days before. We had many challenges during the trip and the powers that be in Tijuana were in constant doubt of my ability to do anything, but Jahdiel and Rodrigo got it right away and fought right alongside me.

Andrew Zimmern was the first to catch on, and led the way for the others to follow. Through our blogs we overcame negativity and imbalance from the local UT San Diego, that despite being right next door, completely missed the amazing cuisine right under their very noses--a handful of LA bloggers made this happen.

It's been an obsession to see this through. Why? Because I love the region, the people, and the life I've lived in Baja. And, just to see if it was even possible. Could a ripple from a small stone become a tidal wave? This is the power of the blog.

If you haven't been to Tijuana, Monday night is a great night to start. Come by and grab some local sea urchin shooters, or a chocolata clam with a cold Victoria, or a wine from the Valle de Guadalupe. Come see what Baja really is about though the wit and wisdom of Anthony Boudain--a man who gets to see it all, and has not stopped talking about Baja since he shot there earlier this year. Viva los chefs, los cocineros, y la gente Baja Californio. Salud!!

No Reservations Baja
Erizo Fish Market
north of Agua Caliente on Av. Sonora
Airtime is 6pm       

El Rey del Sur, Chef Carlos Valdez in This Week's Tijuana Si! in the OC Weekly

Read about El Rey del Sur, Chef Carlos Valdez, who's tearing up the scene in Baja California Sur, this week in Tijuana Si for the OC Weekly.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tacos Kokopelli in OC Weekly's Tijuana Si!

In case you missed my piece about the hardcore seafood street taco styling of Tijuana's Tacos Kokopelli on the OC Weekly, here's a serious dose of Taco Tuesday. Read about how a next wave Baja chef is leading the charge in the breakout Baja culinary scene.

 Gringos en vacaciones taco at Tacos Kokopelli

Sunday, May 13, 2012

La Saturnina, Aguascalientes, AGS: Flores de mi Abuela

 Whenever my grandparents would return after the posadas (9 days of religious observance before Xmas) from their hometown, Aguascalientes; the rear end of my grandfather's Cadillac El Dorado would be sagging from all the loot they brought. Ah, the good old days, before the 1 liter alcohol limit. There were perhaps 15 assorted bottles including Gusano Rojo mezcal--one of the most foul drinks ever made--Presidente brandy, Kahlua, rompope; also candies, marionettes, wooden toys; and beautiful, over-sized  paper flowers. I had assumed in my incurious youth these were a typical item found all over Mexico.

Each year they made the journey to visit our family--three days by car, first, from Stockton to Blythe, then Blythe to El Paso, and finally El Paso all the way into Aguascalientes before the dawn of the fourth day. The trip was full of road side eats, bribes to clear all inspections, the Chihuahuan desert, and a perilous highway race between my truck-driver grandfather, and a motorist somewhere between Chihuahua and Aguascalientes. I was fortunate to have gone with them twice, but each time I think about the fact that I could have been going every year, I get so upset. The idiocy of adolescence. I now realize that being in Mexico with my grandparents was one of the most impressionable times in my life, and far more memorable than a thousand wasted afternoons with friends long gone.    

While playing the Feria de San Marcos, the mother of all fairs in Mexico, in the birthplace of my father, and grandmother, I came upon La Saturnina and my heart stopped--I lost my breath for a moment. I realized I never saw these paper flowers in all my trips throughout Mexico--they are a specialty of Aguascalientes. The entire time I dined at this welcoming, traditional hidrocálido (people from Aguascalientes) restaurant I was thinking of my grandmother, and how she always brought those flowers back to decorate her home. I never thought about what that meant when I was young; was it something in her childhood, or perhaps some magical afternoon in the Jardin de San Marcos? It may be the only time she was vulnerable, nostalgic, and given to daydreaming. 

It made me recall those two journeys with my grandparents driving from El Paso to Aguascalientes, Mexico; and how much things have changed in my cultural hometown, mi tierra.

The menu is a monument to the classic cooking of my grandmother's youth, in a state overlooked by mainstream Mexofiles. Aguascalientes is like the Rhode Island of Mexico is respect to size, but has a strong gastronomy, one not known well throughout Mexico, and hardly at all in the US. It does have one of the greatest carnita styles in Mexico, red pozole, flautas, tacos de lechon, chile de bola, birria (we use oregano to garnish instead of cilantro) and so many dishes, but La Saturnina is a perfect way to begin your discovery of my family's home state.