In my nomadic mind, Baja is made up of quadrants, and all of them serve my hungry soul. The southern triangle is for seafood lovers (La Ventana); sport fishing fanatics (Los Barriles); and farm-to-table seekers (Todos Santos). Just north of there are the sun dappled townships of Loreto, Bahia Conception and Mulege – which are usually designated for extreme expats chucking it all to live in toy laden RV’s setups and simple, beachfront palapas. I associate this area with piles of fish tacos, baby bay scallops, chocolate clams and crispy coconut shrimp. Mid-Baja is a bleak desert that continues to search for an identity, and in my mind, this is where the American version of Mexican food reigns supreme. Generally, you take what you can get with a side of sour cream. And, then we have the forward thinking chefs to the north, in the rolling hills of wine valley. This is the spot that is the most accessible from the US (3.5 hours from LA) and the area that paints an unexpected picture of Baja. This region is the most surprising to foodies at large, and for good reason - you just never know what you will find.
If there were a guacamole that could move mountains, it would be the creamy rendition at one of the wine valleys most astonishing B & B’s, Adobe Guadalupe. This gorgeous tucked away vineyard, inn and Azteca breeding horse farm was made for lazy weekends and romantic getaways. The hot tub action is next to none and is perfect for late night stargazing. If you’ve never had a rich bottle of Tempranillo in one hand and a glass in the other while slipping into a bubbling Jacuzzi under a canopy of stars on a chilly country night, look no further. You have reached heaven.
Now, back to the guacamole. This Mexican staple isn’t something that I usually gravitate toward at breakfast, but when the gals in the kitchen lay it out beside perfectly cooked huevos rancheros and a bounty of fresh blended salsas, there’s no way to avoid a spoonful. That one innocent bite easily turned into eating the entire bowl, though you are supposed to share with the bevy of happy overnighters sharing the communal breakfast with you dead center of the bustling kitchen. Nothing delights me more than Mexican ballads on the radio, giggling cooks fluttering about in a true chef’s kitchen, and platters of hot food being placed before me. Common ground chitchat with the other guests lolls on over silver urns full of steaming coffee – Which next level restaurant did you hit the night before (or perhaps you just dined in and had local seared fish by the fireplace)? What are your wine related plans for the afternoon (I’d say horseback riding through lush vineyards with tastings along the way)? And, why has nobody really & truly discovered the secret hotspot that is Northern Baja (shhhhh – let’s make a pact and don’t tell anyone)?
And, of course no trip is complete without a stop down at the sun drenched food truck, Adobe Food Truck, that is just near the gated entrance to Adobe Guadalupe. Entire afternoons can be wiled away in the shade here – think tucking into a good book, steadily watching the clouds pass, sampling Spanish style tapas and sipping on a crisp white all at one time. Home never felt so far away.
Just down the road the dusty road from AG is the wine barrel flanked establishment, La Escuelita/Cooperativa. It’s actually a melding pot of things that perfectly encapsulate Baja right now. There’s the outdoor dining area that whips out local cheeses and crab burritos alongside glasses of puckering reds. And a stones throw across the yard is a rickety old RV where you can purchase that said red, as well as a selection of extremely local valley goods – coffee, mezcal, beer, and olive oils. As I sipped my sangria, I watched on as an older American couple disappeared into the bowels of the unassuming motor home – half lit and smiling – only to witness them emerge guffawing, 20 minutes later, wielding armfuls of wine bottles. Those two knew where to get the goods and whatever happened inside that beast, well, it was hilarious. Inspired by the incredible use of reclaimed items, I wandered around the land with the house mutt on my heels, sipping my vino and gawking at how the valley light filtered through the patched up walls just so. Oh, and you can also learn to make wine here and join the ranks of 100+ wineries in the region once you finally decide to sell it all and move across the border for good. What a find.