Las Gaviotas, Baja California, Mexico

las_gaviotas_mainThe Tans Will Fade, But The Memories Will Last Forever!

So I’m back to my regular routine in Seattle with a thud, but the memories – and sunburn – from sissy’s 50th birthday trip in Las Gaviotas are still at the forefront of my mind. Holy hell, what a fantastic trip!

New friends made?

Necessary sunbathing hours fulfilled to achieve lizard-like skin? 

Obligatory surplus of margaritas drunk?

Enough chips and guacamole eaten to feed a nation? √ – Hell yeah!

So I achieved the inevitable and undid all of the good work from my one week pre-vacay panic exercise and diet plan in the first 24hrs at Gavi. Well, I guess that was always going to be a given, but I didn’t quite bank on the presence of natural born caterer, Samantha, and the great granola guru, Leslie, adding their two pounds of flesh – or more appropriately, bottom and belly bulge  – to my unavoidable holiday excesses!

Imagine my shame, as the “family foodie” – I’ve still no idea how I managed to earn such a title – when Samantha seemingly twirled and fluttered around the kitchen in true Tinkerbelle fairy-like fashion and returned with the most epic cheese and charcuterie platter I’ve ever seen, a spinach and berry salad that would make even the most carnivorous of us weep, and then her spectacular white sangria to polish it off – totally amazing!

las_gaviotas_charcuterieIn the case of Leslie’s homemade granola it was love at first crunch and I couldn’t wait to steal her recipe and make a batch once I arrived home. I have been indulging in a bowl every morning since my return – look out for the recipe next week!

las_gaviotas_granolaBut I digress, back to the wonderful sunny climes of Los Gaviatos in Baja California, Mexico and my low down on the great eats to be enjoyed in the Gavi area…

Ollie’s Pizza, Rosarito

You may be a little surprised by this first listing because there is nothing vaguely Mexican about it. But let’s face it, who can ever turn down a slice of really good home-made pizza?

With its’ own wood-fired pizza oven, Ollie’s has perfected the art of pizza making. Not wanting to appear too greedy, I reluctantly agreed to ordering my own salad starter and sharing two pizza’s between the four of us.

I was not disappointed by my Caprese Salad, and indeed, everyone else’s salads – we all ordered differently – looked equally fresh and delicious.

las_gaviotas_ollies_capreseAs the main course was served – and we all started to slowly turn a vibrant shade of lobster red from our first day out in the sun – our minds were soon diverted from our reddened skin by the prosciutto and arugula pizza. The prosciutto was amazing and the pizza was pure heaven!

las_gaviotas_ollies_pizzaBut if you are to try just one thing from Ollie’s then let it be Ollie’s Treat – a nutella-filled wood-oven pastry dusted with powdered sugar. Yes, yes, yes! We all left feeling full, satisfied and with dreamy Meg Ryan-esque looks on our faces – apologies for the lack of photos, but the Nutella Pizza didn’t last long enough to shoot!

Tapanco, Rosarito

This restaurant epitomizes everything that is great about Mexico. Fresh salsa made right at the table – be warned, it’s spicy! – delicious margarita’s, and all served with authentic Mexican charm. Be warned: those of you who are indecisive – like me! – may find the extensive menu overwhelming. But be pleased be reassured by the fact that there will be no food envy happening at Tapanco, EVERYTHING is delicious.

las_gaviotas_tapanco_salsaAfter the freshly made chips and salsa, but before our mains, we were presented with a lazy susan carrying a multitude of salad foods and dressings – absolutely delicious, but a real deflection from my main, which I didn’t leave half enough room for!

My indecisiveness led me to choose the #3 combination, consisting of carne asada, guacamole, chile relleno and an enchilada. Each item was delicious and the meat was really tender and not tough and stringy like some carne asada can be.

las_gaviotas_tapanco_combiProudly finishing almost all of my plate, my smile was swiftly wiped off my face as the “very pleased with himself” waiter greeted our table with the most extravagant and devilishly delicious dessert plate I’ve ever seen. But I was so full from my delicious meal, I actually had to refuse dessert – but the dessert is now a great excuse for me to return to Tapanco.

Finca Altozano, Ensenada

las_gaviotas_finca_outsideI don’t even know how to start to describe our experience at Finca Altozano. As we drove us up the long, dusty, disheveled dirt track I wasn’t sure what to expect from our chosen lunch venue. Finca Altozano is an absolute gem of a find. This open restaurant, set within the beautiful Guadalupe Valley, sits alongside their luscious herb and vegetable gardens, coffee shop, heladería (ice cream shop), wine bar and their very own pig and goat enclosures.

I was still feeling a little “woozy” from our morning of wine tasting, so the freshly baked bread and spicy dips really hit the spot. I then opted for the beef cheek taco’s, which I was sorely disappointed with. They were far too greasy and I was only able to pick the meat from inside them. However, the guacamole was perfect and from the look and taste of everyone else’s plates, I think I just made a bad choice.

las_gaviotas_finca_tacosEspecially noteworthy was Wendy’s Panzanela Salad and I made up for my bad choice of main with the home-made churro’s, which were served with a crazy good dulce de leche dipping sauce and heavenly hazelnut ice cream.

However, the star of the show at Finca Altozano for me, was not the food, but the appearance of this little piggy, who wandered quite innocently between the tables offering a subdued oink to any fellow diners who cared to listen.

las_gaviotas_finca_pig_sissy

La Fonda, Ensenada

La Fonda, not to be mistaken by the neighbouring La Fonda – yes, very confusing! – is a hidden gem. If you can look beyond the aging chairs and shabby – but not chic -tablecloths, beyond the barely legible hand-written chalkboard menus, and can hear above the live music emitting from the stage inside the restaurant, then you’ll not be disappointed by the food at La Fonda.

First came the most irresistible tortilla chips. You know the type that you’re determined not to eat so as not to spoil your meal, then decide it’d be rude not to have one, then sneak a second to make sure the first one really did taste that good, then a third because they really are that flipping good, then… well, you know the rest!

las_gaviatos_fonda_chips.jpgThe home-made guacamole here was SO good – you all know how I feel about guacamole! – and as much as I was in guac’ heaven, the serving was so large it didn’t even look as though we had touched it when the waiter removed it from our table.

Then came the dinner of mirrors! I call it this, because what happened next can only be compared to a hall of circus mirrors where everything looks completely out of proportion.  I ordered the swordfish steak – which more closely resembled an Orca steak – which came with the smoothest, creamiest mashed potatoes, and quite bizarrely, one of the most delicious servings of tartare sauce I have ever tasted.

las_gaviatos_fonda_swordfishSissy and Leslie went for the signature Lobster dish, which again looked delicious and was very generously portioned, and poor Christian – the teeniest frame of a woman who ever did live – was presented with a side of cow for a steak!

So the moral of this story, is if you’re dining at La Fonda, you have either gotta be extremely hungry, or very fond-a overeating!

I wouldn’t forgive myself it I didn’t mention the stunningly beautiful El Cielo winery – the Orion wine could quite possibly be the best red I have ever tasted! Set within spectacularly beautiful vineyards and impressive stone caves, El Cielo is well worth a visit.

We followed El Cielo with the perfect al fresco wine tasting experience at family owned Lechuza vineyards. The heavily pregnant and extremely knowledgeable sommelier, Michelle, was obviously passionate about wine and the vineyard, that it was hard not to share her enthusiasm – especially after the wine started to flow! 😉

So it was with a heavy heart, and a much heavier stomach, that I left Las Gaviotas.

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