La Guerrerense – Sea Snail
Sabina Bandera has been producing mind-blowing tostadas from an Ensenada street cart for 33 years, topped her corn crisps with jewels of the sea like sea urchin and sea cucumber. After we had three rounds of tostadas, she passed around a plate of sea snail, featuring warm two-inch steaks that were reminiscent of clam, but not as chewy. The chile marinade helped to make the cooked “meat” supple and flavorful.
Silvestre – Bluefin Tuna Ceviche
Drive from Tijuana to Ensenada and you’ll see circular pens just off the coast. These gigantic pens are used to farm bluefin. We encountered the prized tuna in Valle de Guadalupe at Silvestre. Benito Molina’s seasonal restaurant overlooks his Zinfandel vineyard and features twin mesquite grills. Our first course: luscious ruby-hued bluefin ceviche topped with minced ginger, Serrano chiles and a judicious dressing of olive oil, soy, and balsamic vinegar. This seemingly simple preparation generated explosive flavor.
Los Salceados – Dessert Taco
A decade a ago, Jalisco native Javier Campos Gutierrez invented a taco that utilizes griddled cheese as the tortilla. Word of his state-of-the-art tacos spread and he soon outgrew his street cart. Los Salceados produces several masterful tacos, but it was his dessert taco that blew me away, featuring the crispy cheese tortilla, thin-sliced beef, onions, and mango puree, topped with colorful purees of cherry and strawberry and a sprinkling of chopped pecans. This was a daring combination of savory and sweet elements that complemented each other to the fullest and didn’t lean too far to one side of the flavor spectrum.