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Saturday, 11 October 2014 18:20

Beer and Tacos: Baja California's Booze and Cuisine Scene

Written by  Ian Wright
Tijuana's gastronomic rebirth has received a great number of plaudits in recent years, from the likes of TV food travel hosts Rick Bayless and Anthony Bourdain. The food fusion known as "Baja Med", developed in TJ and in nearby Ensenada has lead to a new kind of tourism in the region, with adventurous visitors from both sides of the border taking curated Tijuana taco tours and also sampling the fine food and wines of Ensenada's Valle de Guadalupe.

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Since 2011, the Baja California Culinary Fest has offered an annual showcase of the best the area offers in food, wine, and also the emerging craft beer scene in the area. The 2013 edition included an expo outside Tijuana's impressive cultural centre CECUT (known locally as "la bola" on account of its spherical shape). Norma and I were (more than!) happy to attend, along with Norma's TJ-based sister, Aurora. It made a pleasant change to invite her to a food event; usually we follow her recommendations when we visit.

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After an unusually light breakfast, we got there early to beat the rush and have a look around before the crowds started to arrive. We set ourselves up at a table in between the stalls and a temporary stage which had been set up for live music. Seeing the array of wine and beer available I forced myself into an early decision: I would stick to "cerveza artesanal". Meanwhile the ladies chose to sample the wine, mezcal, etc. But first, some food! 

Mushroom quesadillas from Productos Lácteos Santa Brigida went down very well, washed down with Mezcal for the ladies and beer from my first of many visits to the stall run by the local Silenus Brewery. Coming from England I had to start with the English Brown Ale - "Minotauro" (Minotaur) came up to the mark, despite a name more reminiscent of a trip to the Mediterranean than England's frozen north!

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Shrimp paella followed quickly, this time accompanied by beer from the Border Psycho Brewery. "La Belga Sicotica" (The Belgian Psycho) was a dark and malty number.

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More quesadillas from the Santa Brigida stall were accompanied by chocolate cake and the 8.6% Tonantzin, a Belgian style golden ale from Cerveceria Guadalupe, the only brewery in the otherwise wine-dominated valley near Ensenada.

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An acoustic guitar quartet began to provide live accompaniment to the procedings as I checked out "L'Inmortal" (The Immortal), Silenus Brewery's excellent Black Rye IPA.

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Fish tacos from Wicho's then soaked up the booze for me, and the girls went for corn on the cob and cocteles de elote for the same purpose.

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Then at 9pm the night's main musical attraction, Oscar Chavez (or should that be "cheves"?) took the stage, as I completed my run of available brews from the aforementioned stalls. Somebody who probably drank as much cheve artesanal as me recorded the performance and put it on YouTube. A couple of people who presumably abstained from drinking reviewed the performance: There were 4 to 5000 people there, depending on which review you readWhichever reviewer was correct about the attendance figures one thing is certain: a fairly good night was had by all! 

The festival takes place annually at the end of October, in Tijuana, Ensenada and Valle de Guadalupe. The official site can be found here. If you enjoyed this post, please sign up below for future updates. Just put your email address in the box and we'll keep you informed. We won't give your email address away or use it for any other purpose. EVER!
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