Oh, the 2019 Baja high season is warmly upon us and we have a new toy to meander down Highway 1 with. You see, we finally got our hands on a new Tommy Bahama Airstream “the relax edition” and even though I have driven a tin-can trailer all across mainland Mexico, I have never had my own silver bullet grace the shores of the Sea of Cortez or cross the border in TJ. Of course, all of this bears loads of research and after countless inquiries online, I convince my guy that we need a “real scout trip” before we hit the road with 28’ of trailer tugging along behind us after the holidays. Now, this scout trip means many things – one is just figuring out the simple logistics of the entire expedition (permits, border crossings, proper supplies, general fees, best routes, on-grid vs off-off grid determinations, timeframes, etc.…) but number two, and actually much more important and relevant to me, is simply figuring out the proximity from our front door to the most tempting food imaginable. It’s as elementary as that.
My tastes (in food, locales, vibes) have not really changed over the years – I still seek out peasant food infused with high quality undertones blended with a touch of homespun love weaved with a big taste of faraway outpost jazzed up with a general overall feeling of I’d tapped into something organic and not yet on the tourist radar. That should be easy to find, no? Well, let me take you on a journey.
Any good scout trip begins in the imagination, like a colonizer attempting to locate a fresh water oasis. I romanticize about an off-grid location, one that shores up to the Sea of Cortez, 100% beachfront but with very little wind, with perfect unobstructed views and a scarce number of neighbors. A meandering stretch of cove for the dogs to race and swim in the gentle waves, chasing fish and seagulls…and just in front of the trailer is our lovely gal, Enola – an old but refurbished 37’ ketch – which we can basically wade to and sail on day trips to little islands to snorkel with dolphins. What’s crazy is, all of this does exist at the right time of year in an area called Bahía Concepción (especially if you have solar on your trailer), but once posted up there, the food I crave delivered to my door is a bit of an issue unless you come provisioned and plan on doing it all yourself. But, what about my chilled glass with ice cold prosecco, you ask? Yes, I wondered that as well. So, I determined that day trips are the solution to the Bahía.
Day Trip 1 – Loreto
We have to beat it down the road an hour or so south to partake in what is the most exciting new development to hit LTO in a long spell, and that is the new cocktail lounge that the good folks behind Gastroteca AZUL have created. Situated in a very pretty section of the Loreto Bay community, the team behind this beauty made waves a few years ago by opening their low-key neighborhood restaurant offering local Baja wines, craft cocktails and truly the best Mediterranean style food in the entire town. Chef Mario takes it all very seriously and makes sure to source local ingredients, fresh seafood, and farm-grown veggies no matter the odyssey it takes him on. Which means, your plate is full of just-caught pan seared fish, dense homemade breads, perfectly poached octopus, house-made pastas dusted in truffle oil, braised short ribs in rich stocks – delicacies of this nature. This season, Mario and his always-on-the-move partner Juliann took another bold risk and skipped their usual month off exploring the globe and decided to renovate the building attached to AZUL so they could create a sipping lounge that shakes up drinks with the same quality and care that they do next door; a meeting place for the margarita weary if you will. One that includes a rotating menu of perfect snacking fare like ginger prawn tapas, panko crusted crab cakes with an addictive tartar sauce, and perhaps the best French fries in the whole of Baja. Who knew one could make a French fry so sophisticated?
Not only is Bar Azul in full effect, they have brought back their very much needed provisioning outfit – Bodega Azul – a wonderful concept for folks like me who might not want to scratch cook daily, but still need vital elements readily avail so I can eat deliciousness from my own home with very little hassle. You simply place an order by Wednesday and on Friday morning, a tidy package awaits – a variety of homemade pastas with sauces, pastries, breads, muffins, scones, charcuterie, homemade dressings, pickles and preserves, and quarts of soup including a vegan option, chilled zucchini basil. I could basically live off of these pantry staples alone but when you throw in the bit about them being the pickup spot for the local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with weekly just-picked vegetable boxes available from local farmers, I just don’t know that there is another place I need to go in the ‘hood. It’s all been gifted up for me to take right back to the airstream and get back to my stack of dog-eared Clive Cussler novels.
Stay tuned for Day Trip 2 – it’s a whole new dirt road world in Baja when you're hauling your sleeping quarters (and your own high thread count sheets) on the tail end of your truck!