Distinct Flavors of Baja

I have had quite the wish list of restaurants and food spots that I have wanted to visit in Baja California. This is only the beginning of me documenting my experiences with the expanding gastronomy south of the border. Every day it seems like I hear about a new place opening with an amazing menu  that I just can't wait to try. Not only is it the food that catches my attention, but also the ambiance and hospitality.

The first stop of the day was at Tacos Salceados. I have heard only great things about these tacos, and I couldn't wait to see for myself. The first item to come to the table was a complimentary plate of cucumber with a mayonnaise based sauce. The creamy sauce on the cool slices of cucumber was a refreshing start to the meal. We decided to order 3 different tacos, Camaron (Shrimp), New York Steak, and their Taco Salceado. These tacos are built in layers, and as you bite into them you can taste each and every one of them. I started with the New York Steak Taco. It almost reminded me of the "taco version" of a Philly cheeseteak. The meat is topped with mushrooms, cheese, and avocado. The juicy and tender meat shined through even the fan of avocado. Next up was the taco de camaron (shrimp taco). This taco, I have to admit was my favorite of the three. The shrimp was cooked perfectly, and was a wonderful compliment to the avocado and spicy mayonnaise based sauce. The third and final taco, was the taco de salceado. This was their version of the carne asada taco. It was delicious, but I found myself favoring the other two. I was glad to make a stop here, and would recommend it to anyone that is looking to try a different take on the taco.

Our next stop was right down the street at Clamatos Bebe. With the summer heat in full effect, there was not a reason to not enjoy a clamato. I shared a Clamato con carne seca ( Dried beef..think beef jerky) with my husband. It was love at first sip. I have tried clamatos from a lot of different places, and I have to say that this is the best yet. All of the ingredients meshed perfectly together, and even after tacos there was plenty of room for this tomato juice based drink.

We ventured over to El Taller for dinner with a couple of friends. I was studying their menu long and hard before we even arrived, assuming that I had some idea of what I wanted to order, but boy was I wrong. You walk into the space, and are greeted by  bright colors and an industrial setting.  The kitchen is open, which means  you have the option to see the cooks prepare and cook your meal. You would think that with even the tables being made of metal, that this restaurant would have a cold atmosphere to it. It was everything but that. You feel a warm and inviting sense of ambiance, this is the type of restaurant that you could eat, talk, and drink at for hours on end. The second we sat down I was drawn to the menu on chalkboards above us. It was a hard decision, considering that I honestly could have ordered one of everything on the menu, but after much discussion we decided to order.

We asked what their specialty was, and we were told the pizzas. We could have not been directed to a better option. We ordered one of the chef's specialties, which was the arrachera al pesto. I took the first bite of this paper thin crust based pizza, and I could not have been more pleased. This is by far one of the best pizzas that I have ever had in my life. The arugula added a peppery bite, to the perfectly cooked beef and pesto sauce. This pizza has a bit of a kick to it, and it will only have you coming back wanting more. I for see heading back to El Taller, to try many more of the different flavors of pizza that they offer, even their "dessert" pizza.

My friend ordered the Romana al Sarten( Their version of a grilled romaine). The salad was topped with pecans, crumbled Roquefort, as well as a Roquefort dressing. I have recently just started experimenting with grilling romaine, and I just love the flavor that explodes from this slightly wilted lettuce based salad. You can never go wrong with pecans and a pungent cheese such as Roquefort. The cool and creamy dressing paired very nicely with the smokiness from the grilled romaine.

My husband being the hamburger fan that he is, opted for the Hamburguesa Taller. As you bite into this juicy hamburger, you will taste a fresh bouquet of herbs. The bun was light and airy, and was a lovely compliment to the well seasoned meat.

We also ordered the Jamon Serrano wrapped shrimp. I loved how it was served in a cast iron skillet, this really added to the beautiful presentation. The saltiness of the ham was a perfect addition to meaty shrimp, as well as bed of vegetables and potatoes that it was served on. I have never seen Jamon Serrano wrapped shrimp on a menu, and I was sure glad that we decided to give them a try. I can not wait to make a return trip to El Taller, and I will happily recommend it to anyone headed to Tijuana.

We ended the night with a night cap (or two) at Cheripan. We have been to this restaurant a few times, and I have always left, with a pleasant experience. This is the first time that we did not order any food, being that we were still all happily satisfied from El Taller. I ordered a glass of LA Cetto Petite Sirah, because this is what I was drinking at dinner, and decided to keep with the theme. I do have to say though, that there is nothing quite like the martinis at Cheripan. Our friends ordered Mango, Godiva Chocolate, and  Cosmopolitan flavored martinis. Of course I had to at least try each one. I have had their cosmo before, but not the Mango or Godiva. The chile rim on the mango martini cuts the sweetness, and adds the right little bit of kick. The Godiva Chocolate martini packed a surprising punch, and would be a satisfying way to drink your dessert.

Overall, I had an amazing day of good bites, drinks, and good times with friends. I am looking forward to fulfilling the rest of my foodie wish list, and continuing