Pictured: Chef Rosie O’Conner, bottom right, stands with her family and friends for a photo during a recent trip to Lechuza Vineyard in Valle De Guadalupe, Mexico.
Is Mexico Safe?
Despite the U.S. State Department travel warnings taking over the media I feel strongly that some parts of Mexico such as Valle Guadalupe and Tijuana have proven to be safe in my recent travels. I believe that if you are going to go to Mexico, get drunk and act like a dumb ass you will probably manage to find trouble.
I hadn’t visited Baja for about 7 years since I heard that a friend of a friend’s distant cousin’s girlfriend got hijacked at gun point. I naturally felt that it could have been me because I have no filter. I would be the first one to say the wrong thing and get kidnapped. No ransom just for the fun of it.
Where to go in Mexico
Valle de Guadalupe is only a couple of hours south of San Diego and has been named by the New York Times as an “unexpected wine sanctuary “and Thrillist calls it “the world’s hottest up-and-coming wine region” and LA times calls it “the next Napa.”
I invited our food photographer Carl Kravats, mixologist Kristofer Kuhns, and my best friend Margarita Lynn to take a “daycation.” Claudia Sandoval, the MasterChef season 6 winner, recently collaborated with Fernando Gaxiola from www.bajawinefood.com to provide round-trip transportation and a tour to the Valle. Our host Fernando la is a gifted sommelier and a well-connected, true dedicated professional. He has an impeccable reputation in both Baja and San Diego area.
The octopus dish at Finca Altozano in Valle De Guadalupe, Mexico, is made with farm-to-table ingredients. Chef Rosie O’Conner and friends stop for a Taco Fernando at Tacos Fitos in Tijuana.
The moment we crossed the border and Chef Claudia popped open a bottle of champagne I knew we were in for an adventure! Welcome to Mexico! You can sip and ride, rock out to good tunes and listen to Fernando and Claudia as they point other places for us to visit in the future.
Join us for Mexico Food Tours
Our first stop was in Zona Urbana Rio in Tijuana at a taqueria called Tacos Fitos but people know it as Tacos “El Paisa.” I don’t know, it’s Mexico-two names for every taco stand. We ordered the “Fernando” special which is a tortilla dipped in a chile-broth and filled with Birria (goat meat) and Tripa (tripe). Maybe it was the buzz from our mimosa but it was finger licking good. It was crispy, slightly salty, and greasy. We all loved it and I have been back a few times since my trip.
Our next stop was Lechuza Vineyard www.vinoslechuza.com We had the pleasure of meeting with owner Kris Shute, wine maker who elegantly explained the process of wine making, her parents journey and beautiful stories about harvesting the grapes while carrying her child in her arms. She answered all our questions, was poetic at its best and invited us in for artisan cheese and grapes of the valley. We were pleased to find out that their wine is now served at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Yountville.
Our next stop was Torres Alegres www.vinicolatorresalegreyfamilia.com where we had the pleasure of meeting charismatic, accomplished wine maker Leo Torres who shared the story of his father Dr. Victor Torres-Alegre’s passion, and journey in introducing the gravity filtration system that changed the course of wine making today.
Soon after we dined at Javier Plascencia’s Finca Altozano known for farm to table cuisine, local wines, and artisan beers. We had his “Pulpo de Pacifico ala brasas” which was a magically delicious plate of grilled octopus, soy, citrus, ginger, cilantro and peanuts, home-made chorizo (80% pork and 20% beef) served with tomato toast, local oysters, and signature cocktails.
Book a Mexico Food Tour with Chef Rosie
We were enchanted, delighted and impressed by our new- found Baja destination. We’ve been back many times since our first trip and brought friends for “daycations.” I share all my travels here on the blog, and if you’re interested in traveling with us, you can book a “daycation” and have me as your person tour guide. Click here to learn more about Mexico Food Tours.
If you decide to visit Valle de Guadalupe on your own here are a few tips: tourist and locals dress casual, vacation attire but don’t be surprised to see some women sport high heels. Try to book a place to stay the night after wine tastings. They have beautiful hotels overlooking the vineyards. Also, you are only allowed two bottles of wine per person upon your return to the USA, so choose wisely. And don’t forget your passport.
Chef Rosie is the Chef Owner of Provecho Grill in Menifee, California and Xicana (coming soon). She is a two-time winner of the SoCal Chef Open and Farmer’s Market Flip, Season One, Episode One. She can also be found writing about food for Menifee Buzz and Valley News.
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