When people from out of town hear "Tijuana" the first things that may come to their mind are alcohol, sex and violence a scene far from the city's current reality where it is known internationally by its culinary boom.
It is true that the region's gastronomic awakening is nothing new for those living here, one eats deliciously well in Baja California and we've always had a weakness for certain flavor, from the classic tacos to Chef's new creations like the ones from Javier Plascencia, Miguel Ángel Guerrero and Martín San Román.
Tijuana's good taste has been alive for years (it's the birthplace of the Caesar Salad!), but the crime wave that spanned from 2008 to 2010 forced a pause and we are now finally living a re-discovery.
"The California Report" chatted with some of the most important names in the Baja-Med movement, their answers only hint at this stage just beginning to be explored and a lot of flavors yet to be discovered.
Javier Plascencia of Misión 19 commented that "it's a new Tijuana full of energy, young people, as well as artists and, of course, the chefs."
Miguel Ángel Guerrero of "La Querencia" spoke about the essence of his flavors, he talked about how he wanted to make the hunters and fishers known, those who live in the desert and up in the mountains, everything that Baja California is.
Guerrero also mentioned that, all in all Baja-Med cuisine is a fusion of Mexican, Asian and Mediterranean flavors. Due to its location and weather characteristics, Baja California possesses a wide variety of resources that have not gone unnoticed. In addition, the high percentage of residents that come from other countries or from other Mexican regions has also contributed with some of their traditions.
We can't ignore another important factor: economy. A lot of restaurants with unique and exquisite dishes are mentioned but we also find street carts or smaller venues that are sure to throw a party in your mouth.
A great example are "Tacos Kokopelli", seafood tacos made with recipes created by Chef Oso Campos who, after graduating from a local culinary school, is now found with his partners on Melchor Ocampo street serving the kind of tacos you can't only eat one of; from the "gringo on vacation" to the "rasta" topped with original salsas prepared by themselves like peanut with pumpkin you won't be able to stop ordering more.
Some people have taken upon themselves the task of showcasing Tijuana's gastronomy to the world, we can name Kristin Díaz de Sandi, Bill Esparza and Derrick Chinn (also known as "Turista Libre" who constantly visit the city and even organize culinary tours through it.
It is important to mention that good food is enjoyed at a state level, a number of delights are found in the other cities, too, like the delicious bread from Tecate, seafood in Popotla, Puerto Nuevo's lobster, the award-winning seafood street cart "La Guerrerense" in Ensenada and the Guadalupe Valley restaurants like "Corazón de Tierra" and "Laja" to name a few.
The Baja-Med taste is already internationally known, Anthony Bourdain's visits as well as the ones from Zimmern and Rick Bayless have only built up the craving to come and taste through their TV shows. Just a few weeks ago "La Guerrerense" was featured in Newsweek's 101 places to eat throughout the world.
The Tijuana of cheap drinks and shady parties for those visiting from up north is far behind, now it's a special place to taste the region's best.
Original Text : Brenda.Colon@sandiegored.com