Looking for a roadtrip this weekend? Want to get out of crowded OC?
Head south and east for the Gulf–not the Gulf of Mexico, but the Gulf of California, otherwise known as the Sea of Cortez, home of the best, most tender seafood ever to be taken out of the water.
The 19th annual San Felipe Shrimp Festival is this coming weekend, with plenty of blue shrimp as cocktails, cooked, or–the apotheosis of the genre–as aguachile de camarón. There'll be a recipe contest–and honestly, in the hands of a home cook the shrimp are great; it'd be hard to imagine what the chefs of Baja would be doing.
Dismiss from your mind the spectre of “Mexican shrimp”, those tiny little bay shrimp that are sold in frozen bags in places like Fargo; Sea of Cortez blue shrimp are enormous, soft, and sweet. If you've ever eaten at Mariscos Chente in west Los Angeles or Inglewood, you've had these shrimp; the owners go down to Mazatlán, on the very southern edge of the Sea of Cortez, every week to get them.
Also try the other wonders of the sea: smoked marlin, chocolata and pata de mula clams, abalone, and the sweetest robalo (snook) you'll ever taste–and, of course, fish tacos. Wouldn't be Baja seafood without fish tacos.
If you're thirsty, there'll be tequila tastings; see if you can rustle up some bacanora, the wild, smoky, Sonoran cousin of tequila–and there's nothing that says “escaped to Baja” like sitting outside watching the ocean with a cubeta of beer.
San Felipe is a laid-back port town of about 20,000 people on Federal Highway 5, two-and-change hours south of Mexicali. It's about as far away as San Francisco, about five and a half hours' drive from most places in OC; you can head to Calexico and cross through Mexicali, or head south at Tecate or Tijuana and head east on the new, fancy toll road.
The event's website is here, though there's not a ton of information we haven't already given you. If you need general information, go to the Secretary of Tourism's website, Discover Baja. Go down, have a great time, and bring us back some shrimp, please.