Connect with us

Arts & Entertainment

Baja is Mexico like you never imagined

The quality and detail compares to South of France but with sombreros

Published

on

Hotel Coral & Marina (Photo by Roger Fountain)

Shhh….I recently returned to Los Angeles after a five-day trip to Baja, California. I stayed in Ensenada and in the Valle de Guadalupe, or wine valley, and explored as much of the region as I could squeeze in. I already want to go back.

I’d like to tell the readers of the Los Angeles Blade that my trip was dangerous and that crossing the border was impossible, but it wasn’t.

I’d like to tell you that the food was mediocre and that I got sick from the ice or something undercooked, but in fact everything I ate and drank was better than what you’d find in most of the best restaurants in LA – and it was beyond reasonably priced.
I’d like to tell you it was difficult to get around, and I needed a guide to hold my hand and chauffeur me to all the hotspots, but in fact it was so easy, I drove my own car, easily got car insurance online, and felt like a local immediately.

I’d like to tell you all these things, because I don’t really want people from the U.S. to know how incredible Baja is. I’d like to keep it all to myself. My own version of the South of France meets Napa, with Michelin-star-food and service, all in my own backyard.

But, it’s my job as a reporter to tell you where in Baja I recommend that you stay and eat. But please, I beg you, keep it to yourself.

First off, the drive from San Diego to Ensenada takes about 90 minutes – add the drive time from LA to San Diego, and it’s another two hours. 

We stayed at the Hotel Coral & Marina, located just outside of downtown Ensenada. The Wi-Fi was great, the rooms spacious, the pool expansive, and the view of the marina and Pacific outstanding.  The staff was warm and helpful, and parking is included. Rooms are approximately $200 dollars per night, depending on the season.

I did not bring my incredible rescue dog, Mocha on this trip. Although Mexico is dog friendly, many of the hotels are not. So, while you won’t need to quarantine your dog going into or out of Mexico, you should bring paperwork from the vet proving your animal is healthy and up to date on all of their shots. I would use BajaBound.com to answer all of your questions about bringing Fido, including best hotels. Most, if not all of the restaurants we went to are outdoors, so bringing your put isn’t an issue.

Now, there are a lot of crappy, touristy restaurants in Ensenada. Places that cater to tourists who don’t know Mexican food from a hole in the wall or as my father used to say, “their ass’ from their elbows.”

Boules, is NOT one of those restaurants. It’s one of Ensenada’s best-kept secrets.

Named after the French game, Boules offers a menu that is at once Italian, and also Mexican.  The risotto with duck, and the grilled octopus salad were delightful.  And the fish tacos were anything but traditional. The owner, Javier, is the life of the party, and the restaurant is most lively on nights like a Tuesday, when many of the more high-end spots are closed and the chefs from the Valle are off. This is where they come to hang out, play boules, drink wine and eat great food.

Ensenada’s Boules Restaurant. (Photo by Roger Fountain)

After we left Boules, we stopped at Cervecería Doble C, an incredible micro-brew, owned by twins Alan and Omar Celis, 25. These brothers know how to make beer. Like many of the places we visited in Baja, it’s the hip kids who have made the trendy food, wine, and beer center that it is. Alan and Omar were trained in the beer craft in San Diego, and have won multiple awards for their brews.

Micro-brew Cervecería Doble C is owned by twin brothers Alan and Omar Celis. (Photo by Roger Fountain)

To explore the Valle de Guadalupe, it’s best to spend the night there, so we spent one night in Ensenada, then drove the 20 minutes up into the Valle, spent a night and returned back to the Hotel Coral & Marina for another two nights.

One of the newest properties in the Valle is the Maglén Resort, located in the heart of the wine valley.

Off the beaten path, but not too far, Maglén, offers the kind of tranquility not easily found in L.A., but abundant in Baja.

From villas, with full working kitchens, and several bedrooms, with views overlooking the vineyards, to more romantic one bedroom and studio casitas, to traditional resort rooms, Maglén is a quiet and sublime getaway.

We stayed in one of the more modest rooms near the center of the property, and enjoyed our huge walk-in shower, comfy bed, and proximity to the restaurant and pool. Best of all there are no TVs.

We ate at both restaurants, Ha’Che and Cantera, and both were outstanding. Chef Joel Quintana creates a menu fusing Mexican, European and Asian cooking techniques, that both delights and surprises the palate.

Ensenada’s food and wine scene may not be on most Americans’ radar, but many of the chefs working in the region are trained in Europe and Mexico City. They are geniuses at using the resources in the area, and take the whole “farm-to-table” concept to another level. Dishes are virtually 100 percent locally sourced. They grow it, they pick it and they plate it. It’s their thing, and they do it very well.

Prices vary at Maglén, but rooms run from $200 to $400 dollars per night depending on room type, and meals are anywhere from $20 to $50 per person, depending on the entree.

After a restful night at Maglén, we headed to La Cava de Marcelo.

La Cava de Marcelo (Photo by Roger Fountain)

Again, I’d like to point out that as long as you have a major cell phone provider, you should have working navigational help on your phone to guide you. Just follow the directions, and you should have no trouble finding these places. I didn’t have any issues, and I drove the whole time.

Located near the town of Ojos Negros, about 20 miles south of Ensenada, La Cava de Marcelo sits on a 100-year-old dairy farm. The family-owned farm makes gourmet, artisanal and all-natural cheeses.

Owned and operated by Marcelo Castro, a fourth-generation cheese maker, La Cava de Marcelo, is the only cheese cellar open to the public in Latin America. 

Built in 2008, the cellar sits on 60 acres of grassy lands in the valley of Real de Castillo, and uses grass, alfalfa, corn, grain and fresh water to feed the 200 or so Holstein cows.

The Swiss/Italian family launched their business in 1911, and has been producing small batches of their creamy, fresh basil, rosemary, and pepper and olive oil cheese varietals prosperously ever since.

A tasting cheese plate, with wine, and bread was $10 dollars per person. Amazing!

Next up we travelled to Vinícola y Olivarera Bodegas del Paraíso, one of the lesser-known vineyards producing olive oil, wine and featuring one of the hottest young chefs in the Valle.

A worker in the vineyards of Bodega del Paraiso. (Photo courtesy Bodega del Paraiso)

At only 27-years-old, the head chef at Xató, the restaurant on the Vinícola y Olivarera Bodegas del Paraíso property, Victor Jara, is fast on his way to becoming a voice to contend with and should soon join the ranks of some of Baja’s best.

Xató Restaurant at Vinícola y Olivarera Bodegas del Paraíso (Photo by Roger Fountain)

For those readers who’re not aware, several of the chefs working in the Valle are world renowned in the food scene.

Chefs such as Javier Plascencia, who single-handedly transformed Tijuana’s food world, with this restaurant Misión 19, to chef Diego Hernandez of Corazón de Tierra, named one of the 50 best restaurants in Latin America, to Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero, the genius behind what’s known as the “Baja Med Movement.” These guys, favorites of the late Anthony Bourdain, after his Baja episode of “Parts Unknown,” have earned multiple awards and are rock stars to foodies in the know.

I could go on and on, there are great little spots all over Baja and throughout the Valle – too many to name.

I suggest you take a look at AGringoInMexico.com for great tips on places to stay and eat. San Diego-based lifestyle writer W. Scott Koenig has traveled throughout Mexico and Baja California for over twenty years, and he founded the site after years of escorting guests to the region.

Have fun. Don’t be afraid. They’re not rapists or animals, and their food isn’t covered in cheese. Don’t do tequila shots, sip a nice tequila or mezcal after dinner, and enjoy your vacation paradise. Everyone is welcome.

Just don’t tell a lot of your friends. Let’s keep it for ourselves.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Notables

A conversation with Rick Chavez Zbur: it’s about service to others

“In order to improve the lives of LGBTQ people, we need to focus on all the vulnerable communities that we’re a part of”

Published

on

Rick Chavez Zbur (center) (Photo Credit: Lindsay Melanie Photography)

LOS ANGELES – Rick Chavez Zbur has left Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, much different than he found it. The group has quadrupled in size, been at the forefront of passing some of the most progressive LGBTQ+ rights bills in the country and taking on the Trump administration.

Earlier this month he passed the reins over to a new leadership team led by Tony Hoang who succeeded him as Executive Director on October 16, 2021.  

Zbur is proud of his work at Equality California. From passing legislation that made PrEP and Pap available to challenging the Trump administration’s trans military ban, he was upfront and center for it all — championing social justice for the whole LGBTQ+ community, even when there were questions about if that model would work. 

“Will your membership and your base continue supporting an organization that has much more of a social justice mission?” Zbur recalls hearing when he took over Equality California in 2014. 

He tells the Blade he thinks the stereotypes and misperceptions about the LGBTQ+ community being primarily white and affluent led to the skepticism. But “that’s not the case,” he said. “Our community supports equality, and everyone understands that in order to improve the lives of LGBTQ people, we need to focus on all the vulnerable communities that we’re a part of.”

Now, Zbur is ready for a new challenge: running for Assembly District 50. The death of his sister Jackie, who lost her three year battle with ALS in September 2020, was at the forefront of his decision. He recalls his sister sitting him down to make him promise he would try to find some way of doing something in public service. 

“Since Jackie passed, I’ve thought long and hard about the next phase of my life — how I can make the greatest impact on the toughest issues our communities face: healthcare, the environment, civil rights and economic inequality,” he writes on his campaign website

One of the most significant factors contributing to his decision was watching his sister’s struggle financially after her diagnosis. 

“By the time she got ill, she had saved up enough to put down a down payment on a very modest two bedroom condo and was starting to save for her retirement,” said Zbur. “And then she got sick. When that happened, she couldn’t work anymore, so she quickly got on Social Security disability, which was $2,100 a month. — it was barely enough to pay her mortgage. She quickly spent down her savings, and that’s when I started helping her.”

“I was, luckily, someone with great privilege and had those years of savings from when I was at Latham & Watkins as an attorney, but what do what do average people do when they’re in similar circumstances, if they don’t have the resources themselves or someone in their family, they can sort of step up?” he said. “That’s part of the reason why we have so many people in wheelchairs that are sitting out on the streets.”

Since he was a child, Zbur has been interested in politics, handing out literature at polling places with his father when he was as young as 10 years old. “I remember watching the 1968 Democratic convention as a kid and just being glued to the tube,” he said. “I always thought that I would do something in government somehow.” 

How he would come to work in politics was less clear, however. Zbur grew up in a rural farming community in New Mexico. His father, Richard Thomas Zbur, dropped out of high school to support his family. He would later join the Air Force and serve in the Korean War before moving to New Mexico. Zbur’s mother, Erlinda Chavez, came from poor farmers who lived in the Rio Grande Valley for generations. 

His father attended college in New Mexico and graduate school in Utah, largely thanks to the GI bill. Zbur and his family ended up moving back to New Mexico to care for his aging grandparents. The farm and parents taught him the values of hard work — values he learned well as he became the first person in his small hometown to attend an Ivy League university.

“I mean, they didn’t even administer the ACT or the SAT because there were not enough kids in my graduating class,” he said. 

Growing up in rural New Mexico also brought its fair share of problems. “I think I knew back in my bones that I was probably gay,” said Zbur. “The farm community was really oppressive — you couldn’t admit that you were gay.”

“I wanted to get out,” he said. 

He wouldn’t start to reckon with the fact he was gay until law school. “I just wouldn’t even let myself think about it because of my background, coming from this little farm community,” he said. “It was just something that was viewed with such a stigma that I wouldn’t even let myself go there. But as I started getting older, I started grappling with it. I had my first relationship, and I told my sister and a few friends.”

In realizing he was gay, he also realized there was not a clear path forward in government. “Other than Harvey Milk, who seemed really far away, no one in the country could run and win as an openly gay person.”

After graduating from Yale and Harvard Law School, Rick moved to Los Angeles and joined Latham & Watkins, one of the nation’s most respected law firms. He stayed for over 25 years, becoming one of California’s leading environmental and government law attorneys. He didn’t think much about politics much during his first few years at the firm — that was until the AIDS epidemic. 

“I was just angry about it,” said Zbur. ” And I was a relatively idealistic, unsophisticated, young person, and I decided that I was going to try to take my Congressman out.”

He lost the race, not realizing how difficult it would be to defeat a sitting incumbent, but he did win the Democratic primary. “I decided that I tried the government service thing, and now I was going to go back and just really try to contribute through the organizations that I cared about,” he said. 

Since then, Zbur says he has learned plenty of lessons and feels more than ready to serve the people of Assembly District 50.

“It’ll be an honor and a privilege to be able to serve the community in this capacity,” he said. “Should I have the privilege of being elected.”

Continue Reading

Online Culture

First Trans Amazon introduced by DC Comics In ‘Wonder Woman’

DC Comics-Warner Brothers became more LGBTQ+ inclusive with the introduction of the character of Bia, a Black trans woman

Published

on

Courtesy of DC Comics-Warner Brothers

BURBANK – The world of DC Comics-Warner Brothers became more LGBTQ+ inclusive this weekend as the venerable comic book franchise of Wonder Woman expanded with the introduction of the character of Bia, a Black trans woman, in the first issue of the series Nubia & The Amazons.

Earlier this month on National Coming Out Day, the canon of the Superman series changed for the life of Jon Kent, the Superman of Earth and son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, taking a bold new direction. After initially striking up a friendship with reporter Jay Nakamura, he and Jon become romantically involved, making Kent an Out bisexual character.

In this latest offering, Stephanie Williams and Vita Ayala, writers and creators confirmed that Bia is a Black Trans woman. They stressed that she “isn’t a box to tick … [she] is important to her community. Just as Black trans women are important to us in real life.” 

Of special significance to the introduction of the character in the DC Comic worlds was the endorsement of actress Lynda Carter who played the title role of Wonder Woman on television based on the comic book superheroine, which aired on ABC and later on CBS from 1975 to 1979. Earlier in the week Carter tweeted her support of Trans women;

Writing for the DC Comics-Warner Brothers website blog, co-creator Stephanie Williams said;

It’s been a dream to work with the likes of Vita Ayala, a non-binary Afro-Latinx comic writer who has been making quite a name for themselves. And then there is the illustrious and widely talented and dedicated Afro-Latina artist Alitha Martinez who is already in the comic hall of fame for all-time greats. Her passion for Nubia is unmatched. It shows in every cover and panel from Nubia’s Future State story written by L.L. McKinney, her Infinite Frontier #0 story written by Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad, and now the Nubia and the Amazons miniseries written by myself and Vita Ayala.”

Courtesy of DC Comics-Warner Brothers

I’m so excited about the history we’re creating, adding to, and remixing. The foundation has always been there, but needed some TLC. As Nubia embarks on this new journey as Queen of Themyscira, I hope her rebirth will be met with open arms and the desire to keep her always at the forefront. Nubia, now being queen, is poetic in so many ways, but one that stays on my mind is the very personal connection I feel. As I help to add to her legacy, she’s opened the door wider to my own,” Williams said adding:

Long may Queen Nubia reign, forever and always.”

Nubia and the Amazons #1 by Stephanie Williams, Vita Ayala and Alitha Martinez is now available in print and as a digital comic book.

Along with co-writing Nubia and the Amazons, Stephanie Williams writes about comics, TV and movies for DCComics.com. Check out more of her work on Den of Geek, What To Watch, Nerdist and SYFY Wire and be sure to follow her on both Twitter and Instagram at @steph_I_will.

Continue Reading

Notables

Ebony Power 100: Deputy White House Press Sec. Karine Jean-Pierre

Her position is historic as the first Black Lesbian who is speaking for the nation’s chief executive as Deputy Press Secretary

Published

on

Deputy White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre courtesy of EBONY Magazine Power 100 awards

BEVERLY HILLS – Ebony Magazines’ iconic annual Power 100 awards ceremony, honoring those individuals who have had a positive impact on the African-American community is making its 2021 post coronavirus pandemic return airing Saturday, October 23 from Los Angeles and hosted by Wayne Brady.

Brady, a television personality, comedian, actor, and singer, will also give a special performance during the broadcast, and he is slated to receive Ebony’s Vanguard Award for his decades-plus career “as a consummate, all-around entertainer and performer.” 

Included in the distinguished list of honorees is principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who is listed in the magazine’s category of ‘Ceiling Breakers.’ As the principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Jean-Pierre conducts the daily press briefing in the Brady Press Room in the West Wing standing in as needed for White House Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki and also she conducts what are referred to as ‘gaggles.’

“Gaggles” refers to informal briefings a White House press secretary conducts with the daily press pool rather than the entire White House press corps.

President Joe Biden’s selection of Jean-Pierre was a first in the history of presidential administrations. Her position is seen as historic from the perspective of being the first Black Lesbian to hold forth behind the podium of the James S. Brady Press room in the West Wing speaking for the nation’s chief executive.

Jean-Pierre has been with the Biden administration since she joined the Biden-Harris campaign in May of 2020 and then accepted the position of Chief of Staff to Senator Harris in August. In late November of 2020, then President-elect Joe Biden named seven women to his incoming White House Communications Team to include naming Jean-Pierre as the Deputy White House Press Secretary.

The daughter of immigrant parents from Haiti, Jean-Pierre was born in Martinique and later raised in Queens, a borough of New York City. A longtime activist and communications specialist, she has a Master’s in Public Affairs conferred on her by New York’s Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, where she has taught as an adjunct professor and lecturer in international and public affairs since 2014.

During the first Obama admkistartion term, Jean-Pierre, 43, served as the regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs.

Speaking with the Advocate magazine in June of 2011 Jean-Pierre reflected on her tenure working for the Obama Administration as an openly LGBT staffer. “What’s been wonderful is that I was not the only; I was one of many. President Obama didn’t hire LGBT staffers, he hired experienced individuals who happen to be LGBT,” she told the Advocate. “Serving and working for President Obama where you can be openly gay has been an amazing honor. It felt incredible to be a part of an administration that prioritizes LGBT issues.”

Speaking with NBC News journalist Tim Fitzsimons; “The sun was setting and the lights got much more prominent,” she said, referring to late June 2015, when she watched the White House lit in rainbow colors to mark the historic Supreme Court Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. “People had signs and people were crying, and there was just so much joy.”

“I remember thinking how proud I was of this administration, that I had worked for that,” Jean-Pierre, said. “It really brought together, in that one moment, how important LGBTQ rights were and how much that administration fought for our rights.”

In 2016 after her White House stint, Jean-Pierre served as a Senior Advisor and National Spokesperson for Washington D.C. based MoveOn, a progressive non-profit public policy advocacy group and political action committee. Her primary portfolio at the non-profit was addressing President Trump’s rhetoric and platform of hate, violence, racism, immigrant-bashing, and women-bashing.

She also served as the deputy campaign manager for former Democratic Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s 2016 campaign run for the Oval Office.

Jean-Pierre received national recognition after a June 1, 2019 incident during the MoveOn Big Ideas Forum she was moderating in San Francisco, when 24 year-old Aidan Cook, a member of the animal right activist organization Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), rushed the stage grabbing the microphone out of then California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris’s hand. The Senator was a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination at the time of the incident.

Jean-Pierre, who had jumped in between Cook and the Senator after he took the microphone kept the activist away from Harris until security arrived and removed him. At the time of the incident, Harris, like most other candidates in early stages of the primary process, didn’t have a U.S. Secret Service detail for protection.

Jean-Pierre, her partner, CNN correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, and their daughter reside in Washington D.C.

The EBONY Power 100 ceremony also is marking the culmination of Ebonys 75th anniversary year. 

For the complete list of honorees please head over to here. (Link)

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular