A magical day in Baja: tacos, tostadas and a tasting menu

by foodhoe on September 10, 2017

Mr. K and I spent a fun weekend in San Diego recently and decided to drive down to have dinner at Corazón de Tierra in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja’s rural and secluded wine country.  We planned a couple of stops along the ride down the coast which offers breathtaking views of Salsipuedes bay.  The first stop was at the town of Rosarito because Mr. K had a hankering for a perron from Tacos el Yaqui, a definitive taco made from smoky charred skirt steak that is cooked on a wood fire grill, then chopped up and served in a griddled flour tortilla with just the right amount of melted cheese, freshly made guacamole, some pinto beans, chopped onions and cilantro.  It’s served with a bowl of radishes, grilled jalapeño and fresh lime slices.  It’s actually pretty massive as far as tacos go, but perfect to share when you are on a foraging adventure.

We drove south for about an hour to Ensenada where I wanted to check out Sabina’s Restaurant, which opened this last year just around the corner from her world-famous food truck La Guerrerense, which has been visited and featured on shows with Anthony Bourdain, Rick Bayliss, Andrew Zimmerman, among others.  The restaurant is casual and offers the same fantastic seafood as the truck but with comfy tables and chairs along with wine and beer to enhance your meal dining experience.

We shared two tostadas and a seafood cocktail.  Everything is so fresh and the menu now includes shrimp or fish tacos, and a new house specialty of Pozole.   One tostada had a layer of urchin mixed with finely chopped vegetables topped with meaty slices of raw clam, the other had a mixture of chopped seafood topped with raw sliced scallops, all were topped with slices of perfectly ripe avocado, dosed with hot sauce a squeeze of lime and spoonfuls of Sabina’s housemade salsas.  And the seafood coctele?  It was the best!  We ordered the mixto, which had a little of everything, octopus, shrimp, fish mixed with tomato, onion and cilantro, fresh lime juice and topped with avocado.

From Ensenada it is a quick trip on a two lane highway called the Ruta de Vino that goes through wine country and we stopped to taste wines in a dark cool cave at Vinicola 3 Mujeres and shopped for local olive oils and cheese at Cremeria los Globos, located at the only streetlight along the entire route.   The Cremeria is packed with local food products like mole sauces, fruit jams, guava paste, baked goods, lots of cheese, wines and trinkets.

Our reservations were for the last seating of lunch at 4pm, as we thought it might be easier to drive back to San Diego while it was still light.  We turned off the road when we saw the sign for Corazon de Tierra onto an unpaved dirt road.

It was several miles at least, and we were glad that we had rented an SUV which was able to handle the rough terrain.

We arrived at the restaurant, feeling like we had been on a long journey

The restaurant is both modern and rustic, whimsical, elegant and is an oasis in the stark desert environment

We were surprised to find the restaurant empty, but the staff was very welcoming and let us choose our table.  Corazon de Tierra is on the list of Latin America’s 50 best restaurants, our first time dining from the list and we loved it.  The tasting menu is $75/person, the wine pairing is an additional $45.

The kitchen staff mugged for the camera, they were pretty relaxed that the lunch rush was over.  I loved the brilliant colors of the chairs!

We were served infused water with our meal…  it was so good and earthy

The first plates arrived, comprised of 3 dishes from the sea: grilled Kumamoto oysters that were juicy and plump, swimming in a delicious sage infused browned butter; Pasilla tamal, topped with fresh sea urchin and fermented carrot; and a smoked tuna tostada on a tiny wafer thin chip smeared with ginger guacamole, and dusted with powdered sea urchin and dried sea weed, which was smoky and intensely flavorful.  We had no utensils and ate with our hands for this course, which was served with beer from Ensenada. Our tastebuds were excited with these first bites!

The big plates began to arrive and our server poured us a lovely white blend of chardonnay and chenin blanc from Vena Cava.  The first was a gorgeous tostada, topped with a decadent minced Blue fin tuna, dots of pureed avocado and wasabi, sprinkled with hibiscus powder, guacachile and nasturtium leaf.  The spices added complexity and depth of flavor and the drizzle of rich fruity oil bathed my tastebuds with each crunchy bite.

Next was a white mole, made from milk, raw almonds and daikon radish, topped with lightly roasted squash, beetroot leaf and sunflower petal, which was served with a Grenache.

The 3rd plate was like summer in a bowl.  Fresh cucumber soup, tomatoes, lemon basil, cucumber flower and translucent slices of raw scallops.  The lemon basil was amazingly fragrant and we loved how each bite was so fresh and light!  This came with an Ambar (orange colored) wine made from 100% Chardonnay grapes.

The next dish was the catch of the day, a gorgeous rich and meaty piece of blue fin tuna belly (toro), roasted cactus sauce which was charred and reduced, squash purée, preserved lemon and sorrel leaf.  It had the perfectly seared, crisp skin and when you bit in, the tender flesh was meltingly rich and oozing with juices and fat.  The crust had a wonderful combination of crunchy, crispy, salty accented with bright bursts of flavor from the preserved lemon… we were intoxicated, our tastebuds were alight and the natural cabernet sauvignon made from grapes that were cloned from Caymus was so good that we ordered a bottle to take with us.

Then came roasted lamb, lacquered with a rich demi glace aged for 5 years, fermented acorn purée and pickled chard.  Served with a lovely Grenache blend from Fluxus winery.

A close up of the succulent meat which was miraculously tender coated with the rich caramelized jus, we barely needed knives for this.  The minimal presentation forced you to focus on the purity of the flavors, the fermented acorn was like a rich cheese and the pickled chard stem a piquant accent.

The palate cleanser of spirulina seaweed sorbet was light and refreshing with melon seed horchata water, and fresh melon cubes.

Dessert was a wonderful soft cloud of rich sesame seed ice cream topped with an aromatic coriander foam and delectably crunchy ginger crumble, the flavors were unusual and compelling and yet comforting.  We enjoyed this with a glass of sparkling wine.

We so enjoyed this magical lunch where we were greeted like family and dined like royalty.  Each dish introduced us to different elements of the land and sea and we loved each bite and know that we have to come back again soon! It was a long drive back to the border at Tecate, but were mesmerized by the starkly dramatic landscape lit up with the fiery colors of the sunset.  Can’t wait to go back, but next time we’re staying longer and hopefully in Valle de Guadalupe…

Info:

Tacos el Yaqui | Av. Mar Del Norte 115, Col. Centro, 22710 Rosarito, Baja California

Sabina’s Restaurant | López Mateos #917, Plaza Blanca (junto a la carreta), Locales 8, 9 y 10, Ensenada, México.

Corazon de Tierra | Rancho Toros Pintos S/N, 22755 Ensenada

 

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Brenda Ton September 12, 2017 at 10:51 pm

Beautiful. I wish I was there with you. Everything looks so wonderful and inspiring! I am adding all of these places to my list for our next trip – love your finds!

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