Two years ago, Javier Plascencia started the BC Culinary Fest in Tijuana to celebrate the renaissance of Baja's culinary scene, and as a one-stop shop to introduce curious people to the wonders being created just south of the border. Curious Mexicans and norteamericanos wandered through the windswept patio of El Trompo, the Tijuana children's museum, eating everything from paella to border dogs, from just-made requesón to aged wine.
This year's festival, the third, is from October 24-27, based at CECUT, the golf ball-shaped cultural center in Tijuana. Previous years had events from Mexicali to Bahía de los Ángeles; this year, chefs from all over the state as well as from Guadalajara and Mexico City will come to Tijuana.
The exposition pavilion, which runs Friday and Saturday, is where most people start; you can purchase food, beer and wine from the stallholders for a small charge (usually 20-50 pesos). If you're taking your first steps into la comida bajacaliforniana, this is a great place to start. Admission is free, you can take a taxi from the border (the yellow ones are cheaper) for $5-$7, and each dish is usually 20-50 pesos (about $1.50-$3.75).
If you're looking for more things to do, though, there's plenty out there.
On Friday, Club Tengo Hambre will lead a Tijuana street food tour (with beer, natch); there are demonstration classes; there's a mezcal film with mezcal tasting; and there are themed dinners at Misión 19, BCB, La Caza Club, El Colegio, La Condesa, Villa Saverios, and Baja Terra.
On Saturday, Club Tengo Hambre will be leading a seafood and craft beer tour through the Baja Riviera; Hugo D'Acosta, the father of the modern Baja wine scene, and Aldo Santini from Napa, will be talking about winemaking on either side of the border.
On Sunday, there's a four-stop gastronomic tour of the Valle de Guadalupe for 750 pesos (about $58).
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If you decide to park on the U.S. side of the border and walk across, save money by walking across the aluminum-adorned pedestrian bridge you'll see crossing the highway; on the other side is a taxi económico stand, where you can get a yellow cab to CECUT for just US$5 with no haggling required--prices are posted at the entrance to the lot.
You can take back one liter of alcohol (of any kind, which is unfair to beer) per adult 21 and older; you can take back a up to 5 kilograms of cheese of any kind; you can bring in olive oil, jarred products, seafood, and dried chiles. The rules about fresh produce are so complex that it's safer to say not to bring back fresh produce (though fresh huitlacoche, available in Mercado Hidalgo near CECUT, is okay to bring back). And, of course, you have to declare everything you're bringing back.
The BC Culinary Fest runs Thursday, October 24 through Sunday, October 27; information, including the complete program, in both English and Spanish can be found at bcculinaryfest.com.