chocolate hippos

valle de guadalupe day 3

Day three in Valle de Guadalupe began with another of those fabulous breakfasts….I won’t bore you with the details, except to tell you that there was fresh watermelon agua fresca instead of apple.  I mentioned in previous posts about the welcoming committee of dogs that reside at La Villa del Valle, but I haven’t yet told you about Jose’s (my yellow labrador) Mexican doppelgänger….who I have also named Jose.

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If you know my Jose, you may say that they don’t look EXACTLY alike.  But never have I met such a sweet, sassy, unabashed twin of my Jose.  He strutted around like he owned the valley and I had to refrain from hiding him in my suitcase and bringing him back home.

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First on the agenda for the day was a stop at the farmer’s market.  The Saturday market (as well as a Wednesday market) takes place on the grounds of the Mogor Badan Winery.  The market is small, but offered of some of the freshest herbs and vegetables I have seen.

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The grounds were beautiful and they had nice a olive grove and lots of fruit trees in addition to the grape vines.  The farmers market also sells local cheeses, homemade jams, artisanal breads and organic tomato sauce.

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Although we didn’t stop for a wine tasting during our visit, we’ll be back later….stay tuned.

Our first wine tasting of the day was at Las Nubes, another winery that is growing some Italian varietals.  Las Nubes is a relative newcomer, as they just started making wine in 2008.

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There wines were good, and their wine tasting space was gorgeous, with sweeping views of the valley.  But be prepared, this is a bigger operation, and the people that work here tend to be just people pouring wine, not people with a passion for wine that you will find at some of the smaller wineries.

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Speaking of smaller wineries, we returned to our hotel for our next tasting.  La Villa del Valle’s winery, Vena Cava, has some delicious, very drinkable red wines.  We were visiting during crush time, and there were giant vats of freshly crushed grapes everywhere.  The smell was intoxicating.

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In the cellar, we tasted some lovely wines, our favorites being winemaker Phil Gregory’s blends.  We bought more than a few bottles to bring home with us.  By the way, “mezcla” is the term used in Mexico for blended (not single grape) wines.  A special thanks to Gabby and her sweet dog Piloncillo, for an informative and tasty afternoon.

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Luckily for us, right outside of Vena Cava’s tasting room was a dining area with a “food truck” serving some of the best tostado’s in Mexico.  I use there term food truck lightly, as Troika is more like a small outdoor restaurant that uses the inside of a food truck as their kitchen.

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In addition to serving wines from Vena Cava, they offer a local craft beer from Wendlant Brewery in nearby Ensenada.

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This cold, crisp ale was the perfect way to wash down Troika’s offerings.

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We bellied up to the outdoor bar and placed our order….no standing in line at this truck, as they have waiters who serve you at the bar.

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I began with a trio of tostadas, clockwise from the bottom:  octopus, pig cheek, and short rib.

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Next up was, hands down, one of the best salads I’ve ever had.  Ensalada del dia turned out to be the freshest vegetables, grilled and tossed with a bit a queso fresco and a few croutons.  Everyone at the bar wanted this salad once they saw mine.

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I thought I was done until I saw the french fries (or papas fritas).  I couldn’t leave without trying the herb coated fries with home made ketchup and garlic-herb aioli.

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I regretted not ordering the Lechon (roast suckling pig), sold by the kilo and served with fresh made tortillas and all the fixings for pork tacos.  But really, I was trying to save room for dinner!

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Ah, dinner.  Back to the grounds of Mogor Badan winery for a taste of Drew Deckman’s offerings at his al fresco restaurant, Deckman’s en el Mogor.  I was blown away by this meal of fresh, organic vegetables, steak and wine.  As if the view weren’t enough, I think we had the best table on the poperty.

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Everything from the appetizers to the coffee served with dessert is cooked outside over the wood burning grill or in the wood burning oven.

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You could choose from a 3 or 5 course tasting menu, or order al a carte.

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I ordered al a carte, as I really wanted to try the Ribeye from Mexicali.  And I was so happy I did.  Before you start thinking I won the lottery, the menu prices above are in Mexican Pesos.

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The first aperitivo brought the table was a Rock Cod Ceviche.  Fresh, light and delicious.

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But wait, there is a second aperitivo offered….a Roasted Tomato Gazpacho.  I could have eaten a giant bowl of this and gone home happy.

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Large Salad from Natalia’s Garden was an enormous bowl of fresh picked vegetables and greens, toped with pine nuts, toasted amaranth and raisins.  I devoured this salad before realizing the steak would come with just as many vegetables.

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Ribeye for two turned out to be ribeye for 3 or 4, and served with a bounty of grilled vegetables from the vineyard’s garden.

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We were able to eat every last bit as we polished off a bottle of Mogor Badan’s delicious red wine and enjoyed the sunset on our last night in Valle de Guadalupe…for now, because with food and wine this good, you know I’ll be back.

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