When we boarded the tour bus in Tijuana, Bill Esparza, our voracious leader, began with a quick rundown of the day’s eating itinerary. Lost in the mix was Lorca, a seven-year-old Spanish restaurant that was supposed to serve us paella Valenciana. What he didn’t tell us was that native Spaniard Margarita Prieto had also prepared an entire suckling pig!
The restaurant is named for Federico Garcia Lorca, the Spanish poet and playwright who was murdered in 1936. He’s remembered in a flag-draped shrine near the front of the lovely restaurant, which featured canary-yellow walls and fully loaded wine racks.
Paella Valenciana featured saffron-tinged rice, shell-on shrimp, clams, mussels, chicken, piquillo peppers and peas. In Spain, the rice is wet, but at Lorca, Chef Prieto chose to prepare her version dry. With the paella, we received a dish of thick, pepper-whipped potato dip that punched up the flavor of the chicken.
Chef Prieto and her crew returned to our table with an expertly carved beast. The pig featured crisp tiles of caramelized skin that locked in the meat’s moisture. The leg yielded especially succulent meat that ringed the bone. After the tableful of bloggers and chefs devoured the body, the chefs took the head to the kitchen and carved it in half. No surprise, Eddie Lin from Deep End Dining was ready with a fork to eat the pig’s pasty white brain.
The suckling pig didn’t need any embellishment, but Chef Prieto served a complementary dish of murky pork jus, which H.C. of L.A. & O.C. Foodventures initially mistook for coffee. Thankfully he realized before taking an artery-hardening gulp.
A simple paella foray turned into an epic Spanish feast. There were a lot of great moments like that on our 48-hour Baja bender.
Thank you to the Tijuana Convention and Visitors Bureau, Crossborder Agency, Cotuco (Tijuana Tourism Board), and Tijuana Canirac (Tijuana Restaurant Association) for sponsoring our eye-opening culinary tour of northern Baja. Thank you to Bill Esparza from Street Gourmet LA for leading the tour and for supplying so much invaluable information.