Baja California

The Tastes of Baja: A Fresh Look at the Latest Culinary Trends

What defines the Baja-Med cuisine?

Los Cabos

Flora Farms

There might not be a celebrity chef attached to Gloria and Patrick Greene's Flora's Field Kitchen, but the kitchen itself is truly a 'rock star' in the world of sustainable, farm fresh eating. Flora's Field Kitchen is set in the middle of a 10-acre organic garden, and the kitchen uses its own farm-raised poultry and pork (wood-fired pork chops, anyone?) as well as produce and herbs. Cured meats and eggs come from a nearby ranch. Meals are wholly organic; even the cocktails take on a farm-fresh twist, using things like home-grown carrots to create a 'Farmarita'. Located just outside of San Jose del Cabo, Floras Field Kitchen is offering a fresh look at what Baja's land – and environmentally conscientious cooks — can put on the table.

Award-winning chef Tadd Chapman has not one but two restaurants in Baja Sur – Don Sanchez and Habanero's Gastro Grill.

He is referred to as a 'celebrity' chef, but that is clearly not what keeps him motivated. Chapman's restaurants, while populated to some degree by tourists, also attract a goodly volume of full-time residents who are lured by the consistency and freshness of the Baja Fusion/Baja Contemporary Cuisine menus. Both establishments work with local purveyors, including fishermen who bring in the catch of the day (try the gingered tuna ceviche) along with fresh clams and oysters. Chapman's menu is extremely diverse (as is his vast assortment of wines) but it resonates with the tastes of Baja: stuffed poblano chiles with filet tips and mushroom duxelle; grilled corn, chorizo, panela and cilantro that create a roasted poblano cream, and even a Baja Cioppino seafood chowder are just a few of the Baja Med dishes featured.

Mi Cocina and its co-owner and chef Loic Tenoux are giving San Jose del Cabo a true lesson in Baja Med fusion – things like lobster risotto, marinated octopus and nopal cactus salad. There is something remarkably sunwashed and light about Casa Natalia (home to Mi Cocina), but somehow the food and its presentation underscore this feeling of being on a sunny European coast.

The ubiquitous fresh Baja seafood in combination with unusual home-made products (Chinese noodles, for instance) are helping make people's experiences at the chic boutique hotel Casa Natalia even more delectable.

He's here..and he's there (up in Baja California, at the outdoor Deckman's En El Mogor). But Deckman's San Jose restaurant by Chef Drew Deckman showcases all-Mexico products more, perhaps, than any other in Baja Sur. Drew Deckman is truly one of the Baja kitchen rock stars, probably even has groupies, and he is often seen in the company of some of his fellow chef friends. He spent 10 years in France, Switzerland, and Germany cooking with masters such as Paul Bocuse and Jacques Maximin, earning a coveted Michelin star for his work as executive chef at the Four Seasons in Berlin.

His forte, perhaps, is his ability to absorb and represent the region in which he is working…and he does that with impeccable skill at his restaurant, bringing Baja's wines to the forefront as an integral accompaniment to the meals he is serving. Diners get to try many of Chef Drew's specialties through 3-, 5- and 7-course samplings…why wouldn't everyone go for the 7?

The hip Bar Esquina in Cabo San Lucas has the advantage of being right on Medano Beach. But it also has executive chef Rogelio García whose deft menu choices focus on Mexican-influenced Mediterranean plates like spicy Yellowtail, cucumber and avocado rolls or chorizo pizzas, and organic coffees from Chiapas and Oaxaca. Although the restaurant is part of Bahia Hotel and Beach Club, it stands on its own, attracting a foodie clientele looking for high-end dining at a good value.

Todos Santos

Tre Galline is a northern Italian restaurant in Todos Santos…and it is also a northern Italian restaurant in the wine country near Ensenada (seasonal). Owned by Chef Angelo Dal Bon and his wife Magda Valpiani, this restaurant uses age-old Italian recipes but tweaks them with local Baja ingredients and flavors, truly representing the farm-to-table experience.

Sometimes, great restaurants don't even try to be great. 'Sustainable' and 'Slow Food' are ways of life, rather than theories put into practice. Secretos del Jardin (the Secret Garden) is just such a place. Run by Laura Martinez and her family, this is an 'off the beaten path' kind of dining experience that involves vegetables picked daily from the garden, sauces made on the spot, fresh squeezed juices from local mangos or guavas or strawberries, or chiles rellenos stuffed with shrimp fresh from the net.

If fresh is a trend, then good for us. If 'campestre style' means eating healthy, sustainable foods that are produced by real people (not giant corporations) and prepared by cooks who value the ingredients, then what can be wrong with that? And if this part of Mexico is becoming world-renowned for its gastronomy, its rock star chefs and its unique dining experiences, then who's to argue (and why would they)? These are some of the tastes of Baja in 2013.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for Baja, California, supported by a full-service travel agency staffed with local "Travel Savants".Baja.com offers Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. To contact Baja.com, call 855-BAJA-411 or email info@baja.com.

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