Five Products You Didn't Know Came From Baja

A beautiful photo of Baja's Valle de Guadalupe
A beautiful photo of Baja's Valle de Guadalupe

I've just come back from another weekend south--just barely south--of the border, this time for the first Baja Culinary Fest (Festival Culinario de Baja Cailfornia). Think of a Taste Of event, except held statewide, and with dinners featuring local and guest chefs, sommeliers and mixologists, tours of the farms, and product samplings; kind of like Taste of Newport, except held over an area nearly the size of South Carolina.

I knew Baja had some amazing things to eat, and I've certainly had my share of excellent prepared meals there, but what surprised me this time was the ingredients available there. Sure, everyone knows Baja is where you go for lobster and other seafood unavailable in the United States, but there were some eye-opening discoveries this time. It was hard to pick five--there was third-wave coffee, there was great bread, there were outstanding preserves.

Unfortunately, export of these items is either slow to start or simply not allowed--bloody customs rules--so you'll have to go explore for yourself.

5. Geoducks

Geoducks (remember, "gooey ducks") are those comical-looking bivalves that look like... well, look at the picture; it's obvious what they look like. They're natives of the Pacific Northwest, which meant they were hard to get in southern climes. Now there is commercial geoduck aquaculture happening off the coast of Ensenada, and while they're not quite as tender as their northern cousins, they are still an excellent--and sustainable--choice for seafood.

4. Craft beer

​The craft beer movement that defined San Diego's drinking habits has certainly spread north--Orange County is chock full of breweries--but it's also spread south. Breweries in Baja are making beers that will dispel forever the image of all Mexican beers as yellow beer-flavored soda that needs a lime to taste like anything. Besides TJ's eponymous brewery, Cervecería Tijuana, there's also Rámuri, Cerveza Frontera, Insurgente, and Baja Malibu, and Cucapá from Mexicali. If you head down, the usual place to find these brews is at the Beer Box on Avenida Sánchez Taboada in the upscale Zona Río.

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