Wednesday, April 05, 2006

My Epicurean Journey to Tijuana

The cava or cellar at the LA Cetto winery
Oftentimes when people hear the name Tijuana, Mexico, the first thing they think about is either the border or illegal immigrants or partying and underage drinking for crazy Americans. And, yes, those are all true, but did you know that Tijuana has a growing restaurant scene, specially gourmet establishments, and Mexican wines and wine tasting is on the rise?

Nathalie, me & mom at tasting wine The city itself is not pretty. It's congested, dirty and most of the buildings look like they are ready to collapse. However, it takes a trained eye to see the beauty beyond the buildings. One such place is the L.A. Cetto Winery. The bottling plant is located in Tijuana and it's open to the public. Wine tastings cost $2 per person and they have free winery tours before 2PM.

Nathalie tasting wine for the first time L.A. Cetto has some very good wines, with the Nebbiolo as their flagship wine. Their reserved wines are excellent, but even their lower end wines such as Blanc de Blanc and the Riesling are fantastic. You can order L.A. Cetto wines here, but they are considerably cheaper if you buy them at the winery.

After our 90 minute long wine tasting and tour, my mom treated us to a late lunch at Palma Azul restaurant located in the Aguas Caliente area of Tijuana. Although the service was slow and the prices a bit high, their food was fresh and really good.

We first started with an appetizer of Marlin fish tacos with cheese. The tortillas were pan fried and it came with a spicy tomatillo sauce. That was a hit with all of us.

My mom ordered the asparagus stuffed sole with a burre blanc sauce. It came with whipped sweet potatoes and thinly sliced Portobello mushrooms with reduced balsamic vinegar. Superb!Stuffed sole with asparagus

My sister ordered the tortilla soup. It wasn't phenomenal, but it was pretty good home-cookin'. She still prefers Chili’s or The Prado's tortilla soup. Tortilla soup

Finally, my husband ordered the fettuccini with grilled Salmon. The salmon was perfectly grilled and it was fresh. We could tell because it didn't even have that fishy, salmon smell. The fettuccini was cooked perfectly and the tomato sauce was not overpowering. fettuccini with grilled Salmon

I had their mixed seafood cocktail. Although it was pretty good, I still prefer the seafood cocktails we get at another restaurant in Tijuana.

For drinks, I had wine, my mom a pina colada, Matthew a Coca-Cola Light and my sister had a lemonade. The bill came out to $85, which is a lot for T.J. So, if you're going for a special dinner, then I would recommend this place, otherwise save your money. However I do recommend the LA Cetto winery because I find it fascinating and for $2 bucks you can taste some really great wines.

L.A. Cetto Winery/Bottling plant is located at Av. Cañón Johnson No. 2108 Tijuana, 22130 Mexico; Phone: 00 52 6 685-30-31.

Restaurant Palma Azul is located at Blvd. Salinas #11154 Col. Aviación, Tijuana, Mexico.

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