How much do we love the food in Baja California? Let’s just say it’s more than once that we’ve crossed the border just for the absurdly fresh seafood and a bottle of local beer. And for the tostadas. And the salsas. Point is, Baja California’s culinary scene is on point and we visit regularly to get our fix.
Take a look at these, our favorite food finds in the region and drool. Or, get them for yourself IRL but joining our next trip south to Mexico since we’re heading back there a few times this Fall!
Tons of Tostadas
As we’ve mentioned before, tostadas are major in Baja California. From streetside stands to higher end restaurants, if you head south with us, you won’t leave Mexico without your ample fill of tostadas. One that we can’t wait to have again? This Seafood Tostada Relleno — as in two super crisp tortillas layered with freshly-caught shrimp and crab — that we love so much we travel to a seaside fishing village just for it!
Perfectly Cooked Pescado Zarandeado
Baja’s seafood scene is one to geek out over, no doubt. Up and down the coast there are fishermen pulling their catch of the day that you can buy it straight off the boat. Our ideal meal starts with a few pismo clams seaside followed by a visit to a local restaurant for this, Pescado Zarandeado. Made by butterflying a just-caught fish and slathering it in a marinade found up and down the Baja coast, it is comprised of garlic, chili, tomatoes, mayonnaise, and soy sauce (because, as you know, Baja cuisine has a ton of Asian influence), Pescado Zarandeado is one dish of which we never ever tire.
The thing we love about Baja is that one second you’re feasting on street food in an alleyway and the next you’re dining in 5-star style at one of Mexico's best restaurants. And that high-low mentality is in the seafood too. Even an ingredient as ubiquitous as octopus that you’ve tried a million times before will be an OMG food heaven moment here, because chefs there treat ingredients with a perfect mix of classic-meets-creative.
For The Love Of Salsa
We wouldn’t dream of a meal in Mexico without ample salsas to go around the table and that’s no different in Baja California. The minute the tostadas and salsas hit the table, we go nuts dipping into everything from the habanero to chili arbol and peanut salsas (which we adore so much, we made our own version).
Fresh Fruit All Day Everyday
Not to be overshadowed by the out-of-bounds seafood scene, the fruterías in Baja do not hold back. Honestly, the produce there is so fresh we’re happy to enjoy it as is, but it’s hard to resist the classic combo of fresh fruit topped with chamoy (aka a sweet, salty, spicy, sour seasoning that’s traditional south-of-the-border).
Locally-Crafted Real Del Castillo Cheese
Travel with us and one thing’s for sure: sooner or later, we’ll do a cheese tasting. In Baja, that cheese tasting is centered around the traditional semi-firm, cow’s milk cheese known as Real del Castillo. It’s a family affair there, as local artisans have collected in the dry, arid valley just East of Ensenada to produce versions of this unpasteurized cheese for generations. From fragrant basil to spicy black pepper, there’s a slew of options to taste when we head to one of the best cheese shops in the region on our Tijuana market tour.
You may have noticed that we are coffee fiends here at Salt & Wind, so we wouldn’t dream of taking you anywhere you couldn’t get a quality cup. Luckily, the coffee culture that we heart here in Los Angeles has also hit Baja. On our travels to Tijuana we’ve found super special craft coffee shops that are roasting their beans right and offering everything from cortados to cold brew.
Classic Paloma Cocktails
We love a good classic Margarita just as much as the next gal, but what truly bowled us over in Baja? The plentiful Paloma cocktails. You’ll find every shake of Paloma in Mexico, from the traditional style of Squirt and tequila to one’s like these made with local citrus juice and a dehydrated grapefruit garnish.
Breakfast and Brunch
Yes, we agree, breakfast is the most important meal of the day and we’d never skip it — especially not in Baja where there are tons of good options. Ranging from the traditional sort that we enjoyed in wine country — ie homemade tortillas and the best refried beans — to quick conchas and coffee streetside in Tijuana, it’s hard to go wrong. Our favorite as of late though was an hours-long brunch we did with everything from Acai parfaits to this beyond-delicious Nutella-stuffed French toast.
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All photos by Joanne Pio