Sunday, March 29, 2009

Restaurante Manzanilla Ensenada – The forefront of Baja Californias Gastronomic Movement

Manzanilla represents the best of Baja’s Gastronomic Movement. Fresh local seafood combined with the best local and regional ingredients and food products prepared in innovative fashion. Combine the artistically crafted dishes created by Chef/Owner Benito Molina with some of the best wine offerings coming out of Ensenada’s Valle de Guadalupe and you can see why Manzanilla has fast become the place to be for food and wine lovers.

One thing I have noticed in my travels is things happen later in Mexico, for example, it is not uncommon to find people going out to dinner after 8 or 9pm. On a typical late Saturday evening you will find Manzanilla filled with a lively, upbeat and friendly crowd in a vibrant yet relaxed, cozy setting. Every time I’m inside Manzanilla I feel totally immersed in the environment. The focal point of the decor is a magnificent wood bar. The Art is selected by Benito and features local Mexican artists. The dining area is still evolving, however Manzanilla has already developed great character.

Bar @ Manzanilla Ensenada BC Mex

Manzanilla Inside

On my most recent visit I was greeted by the always welcoming and gracious Javier Martinez. Javier runs Manzanilla with Chef Benito Molina and Benitos wife Solange Muris who is also a chef. The menu focuses on local, seasonal produce, fresh seafood, regional meats, and artisan cheeses. The value at Manzanilla is exceptional with entrees averaging 175MN or $12.00USD at the current exchange rate. I normally put myself in the chef's hands and leave the ordering up to them, this allows them to showcase the full range of their talents and creativity and choose from the best available products on the day. Some highlights of my past visits are....

Calamares Manches a perfect blend of squid, beets, herbs and spices.

Calamares manches - Manzanilla Ensenada BC Mex

The Risottos here are amongst my favorite dishes at Manzanilla. Pictured is the Risotto de Mar perfectly prepared creamy risotto blended with various local seafood and cheeses topped with yellowtail and babysquid.

Risotto De Mar -Manzanilla Ensenada BC Mex

I'm at loss for words for the aged Sonoran Rib Eye steak, I will let the picture do the talking.

Sonoran Rib Eye Beef

Every time I have had a Tiradito de Pescado I have been suprised with a new flavor combo. I would have to say this combination was the best. Light, sweet, and somewhat briny flavor of the Sea Urchin complemented by the rich, tender, and buttery Toro (Tuna Belly), whats not to love?

Toro and Erizo

I love hearing a story behind my meal and one thing that's great about Manzanilla is chances are someone in the dining room was involved with your meal in one way or another. A few weeks ago I met the purveyor of the oysters. The wonderful oysters I had that night were Japanese Kumamoto Oysters pulled from San Quentin Baja. The little plump guys were firm but yielding, creamy, buttery, and sweet. Kiss the Sea.


Save room for dessert they have a choice of Chocolate Souffle, Creme brulee, and Mousse of the day. The wonderful Cascada de Chocolate (Chocolate Souffle) is my guilty pleasure.

Cascada de chocolate (chocolate souffle) - Manzanilla Ensenada BC Mex

This weekend I was delighted to try a new creation by Señor Molina, Thinly sliced Deer laced with fennel from the garden outside, and Yucatan chilimole sauce, all I can say is WOW. Come experience the Culinary Movement in Baja, the possibilities are endless.

Manzanilla is Located at Teniete Azueta 139, Ensenada Baja California Mexico.The Restaurant is across from the shipyard, currently the Black Pearl (the ship from Pirates of the Caribbean) is anchored. The hours are from Wednesday to Saturday 1pm to 1 am. The Phone number is (646 175 70 73) From U.S Dial 011 52 646 175 70 73




Other sources for Manzanilla

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Short History On Mexicos Bacon Wrapped Hot Dog

The Hot Dog was first introduced to Mexico in the 1943 by a couple of American entrepreneurs who purchased a concession stand at the Plaza Mexico City bull ring. The entrepreneurs figured Hot Dogs were such a hit with baseball fans in America, they should be just as popular with bullfight fans in Mexico.

It is believed the bacon wrapped Hot Dog with all the trimmings began to appear in 1956. An unidentified Hot Dog cart in Mexico City's Parque de la Alameda began serving bacon wrapped dogs to employees of the newly constructed Torre Latinoamericana. At the time Torre Latinoamericana was then the tallest building in Latin America, and the fourth in height in the world outside New York.

Today you will find the Hot Dog all over Mexico, depending on the region you will see variances on the types of trimmings used and what the dog is called. In California I often hear the bacon wrapped Hot Dog being referred to as a TJ Dog, Tijuana Hot Dog, Street Dog, Dangerous Dog, and Dirty Dog.

I remember in Mexico back in the eighties sinking my teeth into my first bacon wrapped Hot Dog. Crisp thin bacon wrapped around a sizzling Hot Dog, nestled inside a pillow soft steamed bun, topped with ketchup, mayo, mustard, fresh chopped tomatoes, chopped onions, chopped grilled onions, chile on the side, and paired with ice cold Mexican Coke in a glass bottle, sheer heaven!

Bacon Wrapped Hot Dog

If you have never had a bacon wrapped Hot Dog the execution is fairly simple. The Hot Dog itself is pretty basic, what really makes it special is the combination of toppings. The carts I frequent use Rosarita brand Hot Dogs and thin sliced bacon. Buns are usually Bimbo brand and should always be steamed. I have seen some vendors in U.S. grill the buns to a crisp but in my opinion the crisp texture should be provided by the bacon not the bun. It’s a matter of personal preference but cheese, or anything other then the essentials I described do not belong in the mix.

Bacon Wrapped Hot Dog

Bacon Wrapped Hot Dog

One of my favorite spots that has perfected the classic as I described is located in Ensenada just stumbling distant from Hussongs Cantina at the corner of 2nd and Ruiz. The cart is run by Yolanda, who has been serving up savory bacon wrapped Hot Dogs for 14 years.

Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs Yolandas Ensenada

Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs Yolandas Ensenada

Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs Yolandas Ensenada

This is a quick clip if you want to see the sequence

In the United States my favorite rendition of the bacon wrapped Hot Dog is without a doubt the Sonoran Hot Dog available at hundreds of stands in Tucson. The big difference in the Sonoran dog is the bread. The Sonoran Hot Dog is encased in a roll-like bread. The toppings are basically the same as I described above with an addition of jalapeño purée and beans. Some better known stands I usually hit in Tucson are Guero Canelo and BK Hotdogs.

Sonoran Hotdogs

Some spots in Tucson even pair each Hot Dog with a bacon wrapped Chile Guero.

Sonaran Hotdog w chile

So what about my hometown of San Diego? Well San Diego street vendors are virtually non existent, and the sit down places I have tried fall a little short(Sorry Lucha). Los Angeles has some great street vendors however its interesting now because the city has declared an all out war on bacon (See Video). Bacon is a potentially hazardous food,” says Terrence Powell of the LA County Health Department. I Guess it’s so good its illegal! Unless Baja bans bacon you will find me in Ensenada at the corner of 2nd and Ruiz. Where is your favorite spot?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Midweek Ramblings- Viagra Cocktail, Chorizo de abulón, Fruit Salad and more

I have been shooting food pics with point-and-shoot cameras for years now and decided to take my hobby to the next level with a Digital SLR. Yes I took the plunge and bought myself a Nikon D40.

My Camera ! Yeah

I'm experiencing a learning curve but I hope to improve the quality of the images on my blog. One thing I'm adjusting to is the size difference. Trust me its not easy breaking out a D40 at a taco stand in Tijuana and clicking away.

I will still be using some archived images from my old camera, but you should gradually see a difference in picture quality. I have been using the camera for a few days now and here are some of the highlights.

"Viagra Cocktail" taken at a local San Diego taco truck.
Nikon d40 first pic

Sope de Chorizo de abulón - La Querencia Tijuana

Chorizo De Abulon - La Querencia Tijuana

Fruit Salad - Frutilandia San Diego

Fruit Salad - Frutilandia San Diego

Speaking of San Diego......
Lately I have tossed the idea around on including San Diegos Mex food scene on this site. I'm leaning towards including San Diego, I just don't know when and how. What are my issues on the decision? I have been active on San Diego food based Message Boards and Review Sites for a few years now, and I just don't feel comfortable using a copy and paste method of my past contributions. I would like to highlight the places I frequented in the past and also bring in a fresh new perspective.

In Ensenada news this week....

Degustation, food and wine tasting Spring Festival at Restaurante Del Parque and adjoining wine shop La Contra. Saturday March 21 2009 - 5:00pm - 8:30pm. See the banner below for more info.
Tel. (646)178.8213 / (646)156.5260

La contra Spring Festival Banner

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tacos El Fenix - Fish Tacos Ensenada Style

The Fish Taco Estilo Ensenada

Crunchy, sizzling hot strips of batter-fried angelito shark, folded into warm corn tortillas, topped with shredded cabbage and a squeeze of lime, sprinkled with fresh Pico de gallo and finished with a splash of salsa and thick creama.

Tacos El Fenix Ensenada Fish Taco

Back in October I scoured the town of Ensenada looking for the perfect fish taco. I hit dozens of different fish taco stands over a few weeks, taking a few for the team along the way. Many locals directed me to Tacos El Fenix, a place I had already frequented for years. Did I find the perfect Fish taco? I’m not sure, but Tacos El Fenix still stands as my favorite fish taco spot in Ensenada.

Tacos El Fenix

The key to a great fish taco starts with the ingredients in the batter. I’ve tried many times to get the batter recipe at Fenix, but alas I have failed to obtain this deeply guarded family secret recipe. I noticed the color to be deep golden brown and laced with what appears to be oregano.

Tacos El Fenix Ensenada Fish Taco Batter

The fresh fish found beneath the amazing fried batter is angelito shark (Angel Shark).

Angelito Shark Tacos El Fenix Ensenada

Angelito shark ready for tacos at the fish market.

Angelito Shark for Fish Tacos at the Fish Market Ensenada

The angelito shark is dipped in the seasoned batter and double fried. I wish I had one of these cooking units at home. I get conflicting information on the exact name of the pan, but I hope to get clarification on it soon. I'm looking to purchase the disc shaped unit on my next trip to Ensenada, now if I could just nail the batter recipe. Tasty plump shrimp tacos are also availible at El Fenix.

Tacos El Fenix Fish Tacos

Unlike most fish taco establishments in the U.S. the fish taco comes naked, its up to you to dress it according to your taste. I typically order one at a time ensuring the taco is consumed within seconds after frying.

Tacos El Fenix Naked Fish Taco

I will always have love for the classic Ensenada fish taco experience, and Fenix does it right. Tacos El Fenix is located on the corner of Espinosa and Juarez (Calle 5). Hours of operation are 7am - 9pm 7 days a week.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Restaurante Del Parque - Ensenada

***** Note 5/4/09 Chef owner Jair Tellez is no longer operating Restaurante Del Parque. Jair is concentrating on Laja. No information yet on if someone else is taking over taking over.*****

Restaurante Del Parque was opened up several months ago by Jair Tellez chef/owner of Laja. The entrance to the restaurant showcases an unrivaled assortment of Bajas best wines. Browsing the boutique, named La Contra, you can find everything from the house wine to a 2235 peso Balache.

La Contra Wine Shop

The charming outdoor setting, complete with wood fired oven takes full advantage of Ensenadas Mediterranean like weather. Much like Laja, the menu at RDP revolves around seasonal and local ingredients. One menu item that has been available on all four of my visits is the Chamorro de puerco al horno (Slow Cooked Pork Shank) . The pork is so "fall of the bone" tender no knife is needed.


Another stand out for me is the Cachete de res en su jugo con purée de papas( Braised cow cheek au jus with potato purée).

Cachete de res braseado (Cow Cheek)

What I love about both Laja and RDP is the use of impeccably fresh ingredients. Something as simple as sausage or stir fried vegetables takes on new heights.

Chorizo caseros al horno
Homemade Chorizo

Vegetales Salteados con ajo tierno
Vegetalas salteados con ajo tierno

They're choices for everyone, pastas, salads, meats, fish, and pizzas. Many of the dishes along with the pizzas are cooked in the wood fired oven. My daughter is a big fan of the cheese pizza. She also loves to roam around the "park like" outdoor setting.

Woodfired Oven - RDP

Wood Fired Pizza - RDP

Restaurante Del Parque is perfect for a nice family dinner, intimate date, or if you just want to enjoy some local chesse and wine with friends. Restaurante Del Parque is located on corner of 6th Street and Moctezuma, Moctezuma #623.

Restaurante Del Parque Outside

Hours are 1-11pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Sundays they are opened from 1pm to 6pm and Tuesdays they are closed.
(646) 178-8587


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Baja California Dreaming

Last night I found myself tossing and turning thinking of some great dishes I had on Sunday. So what was the main subject of my dreams? A Tiradito De Pescado from Restaurante Manzanilla consisting of two things I love,Toro and Erizo (Fatty tuna belly and Sea Urchin). The light, sweet, and somewhat briny flavor of the Sea Urchin was a perfect complement to the rich, tender, and buttery Toro.Restaurante Manzanilla is one of my favorite spots in Baja and a full report is coming soon.

Toro & Uni at Manzanilla

Also from Restaurante Manzanilla some spectacular Japanese Kumomoto Oysters pulled from San Quentin. Delicate, plump, buttery perfection.

From my favorite street cart "La Guerrerense" I had some Guerrero Negro Callo(Scallops) dressed with chili, lime, sea salt, red onions, and cucumbers. This was amazing!

Guerro Negro Scallops from La Guerrense

Sweet Dreams

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tacos Fitos Tijuana - Blazing the Birria de Res

On my way to Ensenada this weekend I stopped at Fitos Tacos in Tijuana for my ritual morning snack of Birria de Res (Beef slow-Braised in rich chile rub). There are many two-wheeled tented vendor kitchens in the city but this one works wonders.

Fitos Cart

Fitos Birria

The menu is fairly simple at Fitos. You can choose Tacos Birria de Res,Tacos Tripa de Res, or Birria consommé. The tacos here are top notch. Corn tortillas are crisped over the grill and dipped in the juices from the birria. The juicy beef is chopped up, and the broth and salsa is then ladled over the beef and garnished with chopped onion and cilantro. Squeeze some lime, lean over and enjoy.

Fitos Birria Taco

My favorite thing to order is "campechana", which is a mix of tripa and birria . If you never tried this mix its wonderful. The crispness of the tripa married with the tender juicy Birria is a sheer delight. Something else that’s a delight is watching the assembly of your taco. The taquero masters here will blow your mind with their efficiency. Words cant describe this so I put together a video of the taco mastery. Note:This video was not sped up.

I cant thank streetgourmetla enough for guiding me to this place. Tacos Fitos is opened from 5:30am to 1:30pm 7 days a week. It’s located just 5 min from the border at Fransisco Javier Mina #14 Zona Rio. Fitos is next to Tacos El Gordo and directly across from Mercado Hildago. Mercado Hildago is an amazing central market which I will cover soon.

Here is another source of info I found this guy is great!
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