We spent our first hour in Tijuana lost almost beyond redemption this past Saturday, thanks to typically inadequate internet directions. With taquerias, tamale carts, street markets, and food vendors catching our eyes from every direction, it was almost tempting to abandon our plans to hit The Baja Culinary Fest and instead suss out the city’s exciting gastronomic and street food scene. With thanks to our Spanish teachers past, we finally arrived at El Trompo Museo Interactivo two hours into this seven hour food fair showcasing several culinary strengths of Tijuana and Baja California. From chef Javier Plascencia’s paella and rib meat tacos to the original Caesar salad to mountains of superior ceviche, as well as thrilling finds among Baja’s beer, coffee, and wine scene, the day continually proved to us why the quick trip down to Tijuana is a must for lovers of Mexican food, both traditional and innovative. Check out our slideshow of this packed day of feasting at the first ever Baja Culinary Fest.
At the border, which took an easy two and a half hours from L.A. to reach.
Being prepared by a server at Caesar’s. The salad’s invention has long been credited to Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who owned restaurants in San Diego and Tijuana and who is said to have invented the salad inTijuana in 1924.
Being carved for tacos at Cheripan, a notable Argentine fine-dining restaurant in Tijuana.
From Mariscos Don Pepe.
From Tijuana’s 100a Cocina Urbana, the appearance of this dish screamed “autumn.”
From Tijuana’s Local 10.
From La Casa del Mole.
Is forwarding fine coffee in Tijuana, owners say in response to the domination of Starbucks.
From Catavina restaurant. The creamy white tostada was one of the best preps of chicharrones we’re yet to taste.
From Restaurante Los Arcos, specializing in seafood from the Pacific.
Arranged and distributed by Zeca.
Two of Baja’s greatest culinary strengths are incredible seafood and chef Javier Plascencia. Here the two came together in a paella unrivaled by anything we’ve tasted in L.A., prepared by Casa Plascencia.
The best tacos we tried were made of rib (left) and cheek meat, by Casa Plascencia.
By Juan Pablo Ussel’s La Differencia, located in Tijuana’s Zona Gastronomico.
This hand-hewn sope was vastly more flavorful, light, and interesting than those dense discs you find for $15 on our upscale Mexican menus.
With squash and cheese.
Finally, the sope was topped with a scattering of crispy spiced chapulines. Delicious!
Handmade in Baja, distributed by Qorot.
From Queso Sur La Brigada.
From Pan San Ignacio.
The sausage and rolls are made for Chilean choripan by Tijuana’s Chilean restaurant Comdia Chilena. The small puffed breads that resemble mushrooms are a Chilean favorite called pan de marraqueta. The small breads that resemble mushroom caps are a Chilean favorite called hallullas, which are airy and quite flavorful.
Served with Chilean salsa pebre.
Baja’s wine producers represented their region in adbundance.
We’ve long hoped Mexico’s beer scene would improve and the fest showcased a few brewers doing exciting things with beer, like Cupcapa, the first Baja beer we’d enjoyed. But Ramuri’s ales were the most popular, especially their wonderful oatmeal stout called Lagrimas Negras (“black tears”), that we’d love to have up North.
Tripe (top), asada, and chicken breast, for tacos made by Los Troncos, a taqueria operated by Tijuana’s nearly 40-year-old El Rodeo restaurant.
From Tijuana’s Mosto.
Mosto’s menu had creative fare like spring rolls with marlin machaca, Peruvian anticucho, and salsa made with dark beer.
Made by Smart & Final, the megastore.
Soon, it was time to leave our new friends in Tijuana and return across the border to the pinche U.S.
But that didn’t mean the feast was over. Waiting about three hours to drive roughly a mile in this bumper-to-bumper clusterfudge, relief was found in plentiful street eats being sold in the middle of the freeway.