Baja California Culinary Fest Highlights Mexican Cuisine
By: Tamera Martens
Baja California’s top chefs, its cooking schools and the state’s tourism promoters are joining forces for a five-day culinary event next month that will feature treats from across the state’s five municipalities. Officials in northern Baja California are throwing a festival for foodies and wine lovers Oct. 5-9, taking over venues from Tijuana’s Caliente racetrack to a cheese cellar near Ensenada.
Baja California Culinary Fest, scheduled for October 5 through October 9, capitalizes on the growing reputation of the region’s cuisine. Planned events include a trip to the Ramonetti cheese cellar in the Ojos Negros Valley, a gastronomic contest in Tijuana featuring master chefs from both sides of the border, and an outdoor dinner in the Guadalupe Valley.
Included will be more than a dozen chefs from Mexico and the San Diego area, including Javier Plascencia (chef at Tijuana’s acclaimed restaurant Mision 19, which opened in January); a golf tournament; cooking contests and classes; tastings from regional microbreweries and wine tours of the Guadalupe Valley near Ensenada. The offerings range in price from $7 for a taste of dried fruits, home-brewed fresh beverages and chocolate to $300 for a day-long hunting expedition followed by an open-air meal.
Baja California’s cuisine has been celebrated in recent months, both across Mexico and internationally, through television cooking shows, food blogs and articles in major publications. Saturday, Chicago chef, Rick Bayless, launches an eight-part series on the culinary offerings of the Baja California peninsula that is airing in the United States on PBS stations.
U.S. tourists, whose numbers once filled restaurants, have dropped off in recent years through a combination of factors—the Recession, reports of violence, long waits at the border—and one of the aims of the festival is to entice these visitors to return. It’s a challenging job, winning over travelers frightened by ongoing border-area violence associated with Mexico’s drug wars. But Baja California state tourism officials are promising that Baja California Culinary Fest 2011 will bring “five days of intense flavors, delicious aromas, ecotourism, adventure, romance and discovery.”
The event’s Facebook page has details. (If you’re calling one of the participating restaurants whose numbers are listed on the fest website, remember that before the 10-digit Mexican number that’s listed, you’ll need to dial 011-52.) Promoters of the event are offering special hotel rates and bus transportation from the border. If you wish to drive your car into Mexico, don’t forget to get a Mexican auto insurance policy from an A-rated insurer.