By Michael Koehn
Los Cabos attracts people from all over the world because of all the wonderful things is has going for it – great weather, scenic beauty, the best fishing and golf and the warm hospitality of the people who live here.
What it also has is plenty of great food. It turns out the climate and conditions throughout southern Baja are perfect for organic farming a large part of the year, and there’s also a rich marine environment from the Sea of Cortez up to Magdalena Bay that provides a wide variety of fresh seafood – lobster, shrimp, scallops, clams and fish – to the many creative restaurants in the area.
When it comes to fresh organic products, it’s hard to beat the many farms around the Miraflores/Santiago area and places like Flora Farm and Huerta Los Tamarindos. Run by Patrick and Gloria Greene, Flora Farm near San Jose del Cabo is part of a culinary complex that includes manicured fields of organic produce, a restaurant and bar, a grocery and even culinary cottages for onsite stays. In its variety of efforts, Flora Farm has been one of the key players in promoting the field-to-fork concept locally. Huerta Los Tamarindos, just outside San Jose del Cabo, is a certified organic farm and restaurant started by Chef Enrique Silva of Tequila restaurant. While providing the freshest tomatoes, eggplant, chiles, zucchini, baby lettuces and herbs to local markets, Silva also runs a cooking school on the grounds so that guests can learn about the farming experience and then take those ingredients from the ground to the outdoor kitchen and create pre-Hispanic, traditional Mexican or Mediterranean dishes, like pumpkin soup, stuffed squid or vegetarian lasagna.
For many of us, dining in Los Cabos means a table with a view of the Sea of Cortez. As you sit there taking in the scenery it just seems natural to want to enjoy a seafood dish with ingredients that were probably taken from the waters directly in front of you. It may be something simple, like the classic Baja fish or shrimp tacos, a more sophisticated dish like a smoked marlin tostada, or an exotic specialty like chocolate clams or pulpo (octopus). The delicious cuisine derived from the Sea of Cortez and Pacific Ocean is one of the great luxuries of the area, and the best chefs continue to create dishes using seafood in ways that surprise and delight.
Drew Deckman of Deckman’s restaurant near San Jose has earned a reputation as a wildly creative chef, using exotic and locally-available ingredients like geoduck, gooseneck barnacles and sea urchin. “It’s all about honoring the wonderful array of ingredients available here in Baja,” he says. Deckman also offers cooking classes at his restaurant, which use fresh seafood and sometimes wild boar and venison, and makes wine pairing an essential part of the experience.
Many of the most famous resorts have also been quick to take advantage of the thriving local markets, including Jean-George Vongerichten at One & Only Palmilla and Fabrice Guisset at Los Ventanas al Paraiso, who also have their own organic gardens on the hotel grounds, and Angel Carbajal of Nik San who adds savory Mexican accents to his wonderfully fresh sushi. Up in Todos Santos, Chef Dany Lamote of Hotel California, has produced several tantalizing cookbooks (including The Hotel California Tequila Cookbook) and, in partnership with Todo Santos Eco Adventures, also offers cooking classes designed to expose visitors to the delicious regional cuisine. Attendees get information on local products, flora and seafood (including things like wild honey gathered from nearby caves) and then spend an evening preparing authentic regional dishes. And, yes, an essential part of that education includes a sampling of the best Mexican wine, beer and tequila.
With its variety of culinary experiences from quick and casual to more sophisticated dining, southern Baja’s award-winning chefs continue to offer uniquely creative dishes based on the fresh products that local organic farmers and fisherman provide. Whether it’s fish tacos at a street stand, dining under umbrellas on the beach or a visit to one of the 5-star restaurants in the area, it’s good to know that eating well is always going to be one of the key attractions in southern Baja.
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