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Travel Bite: Seeking Surf, Serenity and Serious Mexican Food at Rancho Pescadaro

Rancho PescadaroI recently jetted off to Rancho Pescadaro for a Baja-beachy wedding. This is a part of Mexico I would strongly suggest everyone visit — it’s safe, it’s serene, it’s lacking in the Spring Break-scene we’ve grown accustomed to associating with Mexican getaways. At Rancho, the food doesn’t get much fresher {straight from the ocean or garden}, the cocktails don’t get much more quenching {cilantro margaritas and mezcal sours topped the list} and it’s all enjoyed al playa or poolside, with stunning mountain and ocean views in every direction and with a staff at-the-ready to make every second worth the trek. Here’s the recap…

Wed 2:05pm: find out tomorrow morning’s Dallas to Cabo leg of my flight is cancelled due to tornados is Dallas. Damn. Call AA. Told there is zero chance of getting me to Cabo for the wedding and suggest I take the refund. Wisely decline and hang-up with unhelpful agent. Crisis mode: kayak, travel agent, Spanish customer service line. Spanish customer service line wins. All three traveling friends rebooked on three different new flights. How does that equate to zero chance? Lesson in persistence.
Thurs 4:30am:  Wake-up. LGA to Houston smooth sailing. Check departure board upon arrival, see earlier connection to Cabo than booked on. Inquire at gate if I can get on and told again there is “zero chance.” Respond I have no checked bags and this changes gate agent’s heart. “Ok with a middle seat?” For this? YES! Reminder why I never check a bag. Ever. Middle seat ends up in the exit row and with no seat to my left. Me thinks my travel karma has switched courses.
Thurs 12:15pm: Arrive in Cabo 3 hours earlier than originally planned (thank you tornado?)
Thurs 12:25pm:  Almost get through customs in a blink. Written warning for the apple I had in my purse. Oops. Wonder how that will come back to haunt. Don’t mess with Mexican customs.
Thurs 12:35pm: find friend arriving from earlier flight. Jump in rental car, roll down windows, off to Rancho Pescadaro via lunch stop in Cabo. Hairy ride on mid-construction Mexican road. Half dirt, half pavement, with a lot of swerving. Roll windows up, buckle seat belt.
Thurs 3:30pm: arrive at stunningly beautiful Rancho Pescadaro. Greeted by friendliest staff who grabs our bags, takes the car keys and promptly leads us to the most important spot on the property: poolside bar. First name introductions all around. Three refreshing cocktails whipped up — first taste of the Rancho Colada. Ready for a swim.

Pescadaro Pool

Pescadaro Pool

Thurs 6:00pm: Beach-front welcome dinner. Sangria, massive bowls of homemade pico di gallo, holy moly bowl of guacamole, steak fajitas with handmade flour or corn tortillas, BEST mole I have ever had {Rancho can I get the recipe?}, caramel flan. Sundown, temperature drops, mexican blankets at the ready, fire pits ablaze, full moon rising and the sound of unruly waves crashing behind us. Welcome indeed!

Mexican Dining al Playa

Mexican Dining al Playa

Chef Buena Makes a Mean Mole

Chef Bueno Makes a Mean Mole

Fri 5am (7am NY): woke up right on body clock cue. Drank triple filtered water. Looked up at my sea blue bed netting that was more romantic decor than purposeful bug-catcher at this time of year. Rolled over and willed myself back to sleep.
Fri 7am: Wake up round two. Opened the curtains and stepped out onto my private balcony. The evening desert chill is still in the air as the sun is in its low rise. Grabbed a blanket, my book and curled up on my private outdoor lounging bed, listening to the fountain below. This is a way everyone should start everyday.
Fri 8am: Roosters are crowing in a distance field, the air is warming. Check outside my hotel room door. Complimentary breakfast has arrived. Array of sweet fruit-tasting fruit. A pot of steaming freshly-pressed Mexican coffee and a charming woven basket housing two cinnamon-sugar dusted donuts. Joy. I read, sip, nibble and, of course, snap a few shots.

Mexican Breakfast

Mexican Breakfast

Fri 8:50am: Air is inching toward hot. Birds join me on the balcony for a few pecks of leftover breakfast. Another hour of soaking myself in this morning bliss and then complimentary yoga?

Yoga Rancho Pescadaro Style

Yoga Rancho Pescadaro Style

Fri 9:30am: Sun is hot to the point that lounging on my outdoor bed involves sweat on the brow. Sunscreen crosses my mind.
Fri 10am: Time for sweat with intention. Yoga.
Fri 11:30am: Pool, poolside cocktails and fresh fish tacos. Yes, life is good.

Poolside Cilantro Margarita and Fresh Fish Tacos

Poolside Cilantro Margarita and Fresh Fish Tacos

Fri 8pm: Restaurant recommendation in Todos Santos from Chef Bueno at Rancho: Tre Galline. Translation — three hens. I was meant to eat here. An authentic touch of northern Italy found in Southern Baja. Chef Angelo greeted us with smiles and showed off every simmering pot from his kitchen — table-side! I loved this preview and asked for his recommendation. He insisted on bringing me a little bit of everything and I did not disagree with that genius plan. Grilled eggplant-wrapped cheese, sweet potato-stuffed tortellini topped with almond slivers, spinach tortellini stuffed with cream with parmesan, homemade lasagna, and to finish braised goat over grilled polenta.  Not what you would expect on beach vacation and for that I loved it.

Tre Galline

Tre Galline

Fri 9:30pm: Drinks at the Todos Santos Inn. A charming 19th-century brick B&B that should be top of your list if you’re more of a town-dweller than a beach-bum.
Saturday: Rinse. Repeat. Sunrise, breakfast, pool, then a destination wedding to remember. Sangria and popsicles chilled off the crowd before the beach-ceremony. Chilled gazpacho, ceviche and margaritas kicked off the post-nuptual celebration. And a whole roast pig with freshly caught ocean fish were delightful departures from your typical wedding filet and salmon choices.  Poolside dancing, late-night piñata-smashing and a taco and s’mores cart made this party under the Mexican moon one for the ages — and for a long 14-hour travel day back to New York.

Wedding Mexican StyleSo when you’re looking to plan that beach getaway that steers clear of jello shots or jamaican braids and guarantees your boss can’t reach you on your cell phone, consider Rancho Pescadaro in lovely Baja Sur. Only regret? Not making it to Baja Beans for “the best coffee in town.” It’s only a 5 minute drive up the road, so be sure to stop in for some java, pastries and cafe dining al fresco. Thanks to the entire staff for making this such a memorable destination getaway.

Adios Rancho

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Winter Fancy Food Show: San Fran Specialties Digested

There were no shortage of snacks to sample at the specialty food show in San Fran this weekend. Much like the Summer show I attended in New York, the spread ranged from candies, cheeses, chocolates and coffee to fine meats and preserves from over 1,300 exhibiting food producers from around the world.

Straight off the flight from the Big Apple, I made my way to the food show, with an empty stomach and press badge in hand to see what new discoveries could be found and to pay a visit to a few favorites I savored last time.

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My Favorite Specialty Foodies and What to Love:

Bella Cucina {Salts, Spreads, Oils and Preserves from Atlanta}

The packaging will catch your eye immediately – beautifully jarred and labeled, these products will delight any gift recipient and your kitchen counter alike {hence the name}. More importantly I sampled several of what’s inside Bella Cucina’s jars – aromatic savory salts, artichoke lemon spread {their best seller accounting for 17% of all sales}, mint pistachio pesto, roasted sweet peppers grown especially for Bella Cucina – and wished I could buy several of them on the spot. As someone who can appreciate unique flavor combinations and beautiful packaging, Bella Cucina won me over immediately.

Justin’s {All Natural Nut Butters from Boulder}

I love peanut butter period. But give me a spoon of chocolate hazelnut butter, honey peanut butter or maple almond butter and you have just upped the ante on a simple snack time favorite. I always loved the day my mom made me a peanut butter and honey sandwich for lunch, so it just makes sense to bring these flavor combos together in one jar, except it’s not always in a jar. Justin’s sources high quality organic California nuts and has brilliantly packaged their product both in a jar and in a squeeze packet to take these delights on the road. I think it’s time to move your old friend Skippy aside for a spread or squeeze of Justin’s premier PB product.

Poco Dolce {Chocolate from San Fran}

So much chocolate in this world – is it possible to create a new and BETTER chocolate? Apparently yes. I was guided through aisles of food booths to Poco Dolce with assurance that these chocolates were the best around. I concur. With flavors like burnt caramel, sesame toffee tiles {winner of a sofi Gold award}, and super chile, owner, Kathy Wiley, elevates chocolate squares to new levels exciting your taste buds with both sweet and savory flavor combinations. Also try her toffee squares — bite sized toffee covered in bittersweet chocolate. If you’re not an SF local, fear not, see here for places to get your hands on those bites.

Fra’Mani Handcrafted Foods {Artisanal Cured Meats from Berkley}

Just take a look at the picture of this beautiful mosaic of head cheese.  And beside this well-photographed delicacy, Fra’Mani was generously tasting a range of their other flavorful cured meat products – little ham, rosemary ham, roasted turkey galantine. Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching – why not replace those roses with a fragrant bouquet of artisanal cured meats? It’s the way to say I love you in 2011.

Beehive Cheese Co. {Handcrafted Cheese from Utah}

I first had Beehive’s Barely Buzzed by chance when it was paired with a wine at a tasting up in Livermore, CA. The cheddar cheese is hand rubbed with a Turkish grind of Colorado Legacy Coffee Company’s, lavender buds and olive oil, which makes your head spin in delight — perfectly named I would say. At the time we were with a group of eight people, who were all commenting more on the cheese than the wine and we made note of what we were sampling in an effort to find this delightful slice again. Previously it was not easy to come by, but distribution has expanded to many Whole Foods Markets, so next time you are rolling down the aisle looking for an exciting addition to your cheese plate, pick up Barely Buzzed for a deep caramel flavor or Big John’s Cajun Rubbed for something with a little kick.

Creminelli Fine Meats {Artisanal Cured Meats from Salt Lake City}

I first discovered Creminelli at the New York Wine & Food Festival in October. With a glass of cabernet in one hand, I sampled some of their finest salumi – lacy thin cut mortadella, hot sopresata, dark & rich wild boar sausage and their award-winning Barolo-infused salumi {winner of this year’s Good Food awards). So imagine my delight to stumble upon them next to the Beehive Cheese Co. Good cheese & meats hanging out together {both from Utah} – all I needed was a glass of vino and a comfy chair to make my day.

Kicking Horse Coffee {Coffee from Canada}

One of my all-time favorite coffee producers of the year – if you haven’t tried it, you must. Not a new discovery for me, but I had to stop by to say hello and for a quick cup of joe to rejuvenate my jetlagged, sampled-out self.

  • Great Brew: most importantly, this cup of joe was delicious {and just what I needed after a lot of walking, talking and sampling}. It’s just making its way down from our friendly northern neighbor, so check their website for a retail store near you.
  • Great People: Buying only Fair Trade coffee, the company supports its farmers, regardless of the world market. As the largest cash crop in the world, this really does make a Kicking impact.
  • Cool Names: Kick Ass {dark}, Three Sisters {medium}, 454 Horsepower {dark}, Z-Wrangler {medium}, Decaf {dark}, Cliff Hanger Espresso {medium}. Clever coffee, what’s not to love.
  • Cool Packaging: 100% recycled cans {surprisingly most coffee cans are not fully recyclable — yeah, that little plastic top is no bueno}. Black cans with primary color tops catch the eye and look cool hangin’ out next to your coffee maker.

The Skim: If you haven’t caught on to the specialty food trends, then wake up and smell the artisanal hand-pressed coffee. 63% of American consumers purchased specialty food in 2010, up from 46% in 2009 and farmers markets have grown to become the fourth most significant source of specialty foods. Knowing where your food comes from and passionate support for the creativity and handcrafted quality that goes into small scale specialty foods, is driving the emergence of new food entrepreneurs to historic levels.  Mark your calendars, the Summer Fancy Food Show will be held in Washington D.C. July 10-12, 2011.

Dolled Up Delicacies:
Summer Fancy Food Show: Full Belly and Learnings Digestion
Del Posto Presents Murray’s Cheese & Salumi Wine Party @NYCWFF
Give Your Monday Morning Mug a Kick in the Pants with Kicking Horse Coffee
Le Grand Fooding ‘Twas A Grand Yummy Evening
New York City Wine & Food Festival Kicked Off With Good Eats


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