Firing up the grill in the Valle de Guadalupe at Finca Altozano
As all things in the Valle de Guadalupe, progress has been slow--the kind of slow that makes food taste great, that refines Port and Highland Scotch, the kind of slow that makes a ballad sung by Ron Isley flow like honey dripping from each carefully placed syllable just behind the beat--laid back. There are a small group of people, the Miller's over at Adobe Guadalupe, Natalia at Mogor Badan, and oenologist Hugo D' Acosta of Casa de Piedra, La Contra, and Estacion de Oficios, among many other projects, who've taken measures to preserve the region, keep it sustainable, and keep it free of commercial developments.
So the campestre, or campsite cooking, started slow with just Chef Benito Molina's seasonal restaurant, Silvestre, which was included in last year's Ambulatory Dining Guide
along with Chef Drew Deckman's Deckman's en el Mogor, Chef Javier Plascencia's year old Finca Altozano, and Jair Tellez's Encino. Well this summer the campestre scene has doubled or tripled, counting around 15 seasonal restaurants--maybe more. Here is your ultimate guide on where to dine this summer in the Valle de Guadalupe.
Troika, by Chef Diego Hernandez
Dine under a canopy on the exclusive property of La Villa de Valle where Hernandez will serve Vena Cava wines made by Phil Gregory, and craft beers from Ensenada's Wendlandt brewery with bar bites prepared by one of the most talked about chefs in Baja California.
Deckman's en el Mogor, by Chef Drew Deckman
Every year, Deckman closes his restaurant in Cabo and heads down up to the Valle to cook outdoors at one of the best wineries in Mexico's wine country to pair the property's crisp, fruity chasselas with local products like geoduck and abalone prepared with a master's touch. This is one of the best meals I had in the region last year. (see previous review
Encino, by Chef Jair Tellez
This is place to relax under an old oak tree in front of the legendary Laja restaurant for excellent meats cooked over fire with ice cold Agua Mala's(see previous review
Finca Altozano, by Chef Javier Plascencia
There will be whole animals cooked on a Santa Maria style grill, and in a caja china, or Chinese box. Plascencia has found the perfect balance between country cooking and the sophistication of the big City--Tijuana--birria tastes like it should, and dessert comes with edible flowers. What's new is the new playful seating areas for intimate escapes with friends or significant others. (see previous review
L.A. Cetto, by Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero
Guerrero is on his 2nd annual Expedicion Baja, which is a peninsular adventure of hunting, fishing, diving, and cooking from Tijuana to Cabo on motorcycles, but his unique brand of Baja Med cooking will be offered on the property of L.A. Cetto, a sponsor of Expedicion Baja, and the biggest winery in Mexico. He is no longer at El Almazara, which will have another chef.
La Lomita, by Caza Club
The young chefs behind this Tijuana based restaurant will be right at home this summer, since grilling local meats and vegetables is their thing. You'll enjoy the splendor of the winery, which was featured in a popular Mexican soap opera set in the Valle de Guadalupe titled, Cuando me Enamoro.
Malva Cocina de Baja California, by Chef Roberto Alcocer
Last season, Alcocer pops up at various events around Baja California, and recently left Asao restaurant in Tecate, known for it's Baja cuisine, and this is his first solo venture. Alcocer is an up and coming chef in the Baja scene, and one to watch--what better way than to visit his campestre.
It's rumored that Chef Juan Antonio Hussong--yes of the famous Hussong's family and their world famous Cantina--will be cooking on the lake in front of the Valle de Guadalupe's original boutique winery. Hussong has worked in Mexico City, Paris, and San Francisco; he was cooking at Punta Morro before opened Comer Cocina-Escuela, a cooking school. Expect an international flare using local ingredients.
SiIvestre, by Chef Benito Molina
Wherever you land, there will will clay ovens, country grills, and wood fires slowing roasting meats and fish for drinking with Mexican wines and craft beers. Bring friends, bring a date and plan for a long lunch filled with the sights, sounds, flavors, and aromas of the Valle de Guadalupe--it's campestre season like never before!
Most campestres are open on weekends only, but call before you go for reservations and hours.
Deckman's en el Mogor, Valle de Guadalupe, km 85.5, Highway 3 Ensenada-Tecate, 011-52-624-157-6567, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.deckmans.com
Encino, Valle de Guadalupe, km 83, Highway 3 Ensenada -Tecate, 011-52-646-155-2556, email@example.com, lajamexico.com/en/index.php
Finca Altozano, Valle de Guadalupe, just down the dirt road from Laja/Encino, 011-52-646-156-8045, Tuesday to Sunday 1p.m. to 9p.m.
L.A. Cetto, Valle de Guadalupe, km 73.5, Highway 3 Ensenada-Tecate, 011-52-646-155-2179
La Lomita, Comunidad de San Marcos, Fraccionamineto 13, 011-52-646-156-8459 www.haciendalalomita.com.mx
Malva Cocina de Baja California, located across from the Santo Tomas winery in San Antonio de Las Minas
Monte Xanic, Valle de Guadalupe www.montexanic.com.mx
Silvestre, Valle de Guadalupe, km 73, Highway 3 Ensenada-Tecate, 011-52-646-175-7073, Sat.-Sun 1p.m. to 6p.m. rmanzanilla.com
Troika, located on Rancho San Marcos Toros Pinos, follow signs to Villa del Valle, 011-52-646-156-8030, www.corazondetierra.com