New Discoveries in Baja
This Thanksgiving, we thought we’d trade in the tired turkey for some lobster, so we spent the weekend with Laurel’s Aunt Lydia and cousins Amanda and Mindy in Ensenada.
We drove down on Thanksgiving Day and arrived at La Fonda about two o’clock. Last year, its owner, Dmytri, bragged to us that they served the best lobster in Baja, so we decided to take him up on it. One of the combos appealed to me, so I ordered shrimp stuffed with lobster for $12.95, and it was delicious. But Laurel ordered the whole shebang—the best lobster plate for only 26 bucks.
When her plate arrived, her eyes widened. It was heaped high with three lobsters! Not the too big lobsters that are often tough, but three perfectly cooked medio lobsters. She shared one with me, and it was as good as any I’ve ever eaten.
We drove into Ensenada and checked into the Hotel Posada Don Fernando, right near downtown. At only $69 a night, it was a bargain. A small hotel, nicely maintained and quiet, and just a few blocks from all the action of the city.
On Friday morning, we discovered a tented sidewalk café with great eggs benedict and French pastries. It was the outdoor room of El Rey Sol, a classy French/Mexican restaurant that’s been there since 1947. The next day, we went back for a second breakfast, this time in their splendid dining room that felt like a holiday was underway, complete with black-tied waiters, a large Christmas tree and a pianist playing listenable classics. This is a place we’ll return to whenever we’re in the city.
We’d heard that the craft beer phenomenon in San Diego is starting to move south, and Laurel found two breweries in Ensenada on Yelp. The first was Wendlandt Cerveceria, right on the main boulevard next door to Starbucks. A really classy, up-to-date kind of place with several of its own brews on tap and forty or so other brands in bottles. With some very tasty food, as well.
While looking for the brewery, we discovered the entrance to Ensenada’s new marina park, with plenty of malecon to stroll and lots of shops and eating establishments. It’s brightly lighted in the evening and safe for strollers.
On the next night, we drove a small distance north from town and tried Aguamala Cerveza Artisanal. Some more tasty brews on tap, plus the most stunning view you’ll ever see from a barstool. We couldn’t stop eating their cacahuates (peanuts), made with whole garlic cloves and chiles, and their hamburger was extra good. Talking with Arturo, one of the owners, we asked what their IPA’s name, Astillero, meant. He told us it means “shipyard,” and they named the beer that, because they were renting space for the brewery from a shipyard at the time.
We’ve always enjoyed going down to Baja, and now that we’re only a half hour from the border, we’ll be going down more often. But we’ll get ourselves a Sentri Pass, which makes coming back into the U.S. much quicker. This time we waited more than three hours at the border! The Sentri Pass will make the whole trip a plus.