Eating and Drinking Our Way Through Ensenada

Greetings from Barcelona!

 The crew at Mantou, with friends Gustavo of La Ruta VCC and Sara Polcyznski of Sabor Imports

The crew at Mantou, with friends Gustavo of La Ruta VCC and Sara Polcyznski of Sabor Imports

More on that later, but for now I wanted to share some photos from Ensenada-based photographer Melissa Lunar, who took photos on a recent food and drink-stravaganza down in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. Our friends, Ensenada natives chef Omar Armas of Mantou and partner Lulu Martinez Ojeda who is the winemaker at Bodegas Henri Lurton, organized a day/night-long tour of the city that was overstuffed with incredible food and drink. They've been together for a few years now and just welcomed a new baby girl, but happened to grow up just blocks from each other. We visited Mantou, Criollo Taqueria, Pacifica, Irene Food Truck, El Taco de Huitzilopochtli and a new mezcal bar, called Mezcaleria La Penca, which is absolutely my new favorite spot in Baja right now.]

For the uninitiated, Ensenada is a port city in Baja about 90 miles south of the border at Tijuana/San Diego. It's a huge fishing town and the birthplace of both the fish taco and the margarita. I've written about its water issues before as well as where to eat for day trippers. 

Honestly, every time I spend time in Ensenada I'm blown away by how enjoyable it is. It's so much more laid back than Tijuana and the food quality, from common street food to more gussied up presentations, is always incredibly high. The tradition of sobremesa--the lingering after a meal so common in both Mexico and Spain--is strong here. Nothing moves quickly and Ensenadenses are not only serious about food, they're dogmatic about fresh and well-executed seafood. That Ensenada is at the edge of the Pacific Ocean and flanked by desert mountains makes it all the better. Now that there's a mezcal bar (in the old Santo Tomas winery, no less), I think I'm comfortable saying Ensenada is my favorite destination in Baja--maybe even over Tijuana and definitely over the Valle de Guadalupe. Melissa's photos are stunning, so I'll let them do the talking. 

 Chef Omar Armas of Mantou assembling his tuna dish

Chef Omar Armas of Mantou assembling his tuna dish

 Zoodles at Mantou--surprisingly incredible

Zoodles at Mantou--surprisingly incredible

 NY Strip taco with squid ink tortilla at Mantou

NY Strip taco with squid ink tortilla at Mantou

 Chocolate clam gratinado at Irene Food Truck

Chocolate clam gratinado at Irene Food Truck

 Octopus taco at Irene Food Truck

Octopus taco at Irene Food Truck

 Mezcaleria Le Penca

Mezcaleria Le Penca

 Fish at Pacifica

Fish at Pacifica

 Tacos de cabeza de borrego (and me, obviously instagramming) at Tacos de Huitzilopochtli

Tacos de cabeza de borrego (and me, obviously instagramming) at Tacos de Huitzilopochtli

 The Aztec-themed Tacos de Huitzilopochtli, which specializes in lamb barbacoa from Tabasco

The Aztec-themed Tacos de Huitzilopochtli, which specializes in lamb barbacoa from Tabasco

 The piece de resistance: scooping from the lamb's head to get the taco meat

The piece de resistance: scooping from the lamb's head to get the taco meat

 Irene Food Truck

Irene Food Truck

 Ceviche at Irene Food Truck

Ceviche at Irene Food Truck

 Omar, Me, Toni and Sara at Mantou

Omar, Me, Toni and Sara at Mantou