My whirlwind weekend in the Baja only left me with half a day to head to the water to check out Ensenada and the coast. Fortunately, there were only a few “must do’s” in the area that I really hoped I’d get to check out. An invitation by Chef Rodolfo Castellanos’ wife Lizette included a few of those musts so it seemed perfect to tag along on their exploratory tour of Ensenada for the afternoon before heading back north to Tijuana.
Despite being a little hazy on the day’s plans, other than lunch at La Guerrerense and a stop at the beautiful Cuatro Cuatros winery, I was in for an unplanned adventure. The control-freak in me is learning that I don’t always need to be in the know and that I should enjoy the ride wherever it may take me, and with that mindset, Omar and I got in the car and headed west from the Guadalupe Valley towards the coast to Ensenada.
We arrived in Ensenada with a few moments to spare, so we wandered around and stumbled upon a Mexican Independence Day ceremony taking place under a gigantic flag with an impressive display of military personnel.
La Guerrerense is often touted as not only having “the best food in Ensenada” but also as “one of the best street carts in the world”. It’s nothing fancy and what started as a food cart has now expanded across the street to include Restaurant Sabina, which serves a larger menu. This first stop was a bit of a whirlwind as I sampled, here and there, the delicious food in front of me. As I look back at the photos I remember the tastes but am not able to match them with their online menu. What I do remember was that everything was good and I cannot wait to return with a more focused palate.
We made our way over a few blocks to Hussong’s Cantina which opened in 1892 as a stagecoach canteen. It’s one of Mexico’s oldest cantina and “verified originator” of the margarita.
There’s a feeling that I’ve had in certain (more touristy) parts of Mexico I’ve visited in the past that has made me feel like I’m in an extension of the USA, and not the parts of America that I have any interest in visiting. As we walked through downtown Ensenada to our next destination, I started having those feelings again. NFL Sunday Game Day was blaring on the streets as we were being called into bar after bar for a “tequila head shake” (when tequila is poured straight from the bottle into your cock-backed head). I tried my best not to be put off by it and reminded myself that I was having a more “authentic” experience given the fact that everyone in my group were Mexicans. I did my best to stay within the bubble of the company I was keeping and with that mentality I was able to relax and enjoy the authenticity of my experience.
After spending the day checking out Tijuana’s awesome beer scene, I was happy that our next stop was Wendlandt Cerveceria, not Wetlands like I kept google-mapping and not their downtown brewery location but to their cerveceria located outside of Ensenada with a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean.
We hopped in the car again to Cerveceria Transpeninsular, located directly on Highway 1 and walking in, I felt like I could have been in any mid-sized brewery in America, down to its bar menu of hamburgers, wings and onion rings. But what it lacked in charm, it made up for with their extensive and delicious beer selection.
Our last stop was the one I’d most anticipated. When I planned this weekend trip, I’d envisioned touring the vineyards, tasting in the beautiful wineries in the Valley I’d researched in advance. Early in the weekend, I realized this would not be that trip and as the weekend progressed I had the feeling like I’d come for a wine country weekend and drank more beer than wine. But I’m not complaining, because everything I was doing/seeing/experiencing was amazing and fuels my desire to return to explore in the near future.
Cuatro Cuatros sat on my list of as one of the “beautiful places” to taste wine and seeing as it was my last experience for the weekend I had high expectations for its awesomeness.
As we got there, I realized our actual goal at this destination was to have a drink at the beautiful Bura Bar in the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful, but they don’t offer tastings there. Not wanting to miss out on my only opportunity to do one last sampling, I stepped up to the tasting bar while we were waiting to be taken to the Bura Bar.
When we were ready to be received high up on the hill, we all hopped into a minibus, were handed tiny bottles of beer and driven up a windy road to our destination.
The timing of our visit could not have been more perfect. The view at sunset rivalled any other I could draw from memory. I was overwhelmed with happiness of my good fortune to experience so many extraordinary things in one day.
While I revere both sunrise and sunset I feel that while sunrise is a solitary experience, a beautiful sunset should be shared. I was happy to be sharing my last moments visiting this beautiful area with such amazing people.