Saturday, November 28, 2009
Ensenada. Paleteria y Neveria La Michoacan
On a recent trip to Ensenada Mexico we stopped by the natural marine geyser called La Bufadora. which is located at the end of the Punta Banda Peninsula. There is only three of such things on the planet. One in Australia and the other in Hawaii. La Bufadora is the second largest blowhole in the world, and can shoot upwards as high as 80 feet above sea level. It's about 20 miles from downtown Ensenada. the roads are not marked, so you will have to ask a local the directions. It's worth the drive. As you park in the dirt parking lot above this natural wonder you will see that you have to traverse through a gauntlet of vendors hawking everything from San Diego Charger ponchos to bongs. And of course the many roadside "pharmacies" where toursists can buy Viagra and Soma. Ones an "upper", the other a "downer". Ok, this place is the height of tourist traps. But the only way to get down to the blow hole is to run through all of these blowhards.
At the top of street vendor Hell as I call it is one of my favorite little eateries in Ensenada. A place called Paleteria y Neveria. And if my Spanish is correct, it means Ice cream and Popsicles? I might be wrong on that interpretation. Anyway, there are no ice cream treats here only some very fine eats. The best carne asada on the peninsula. The place is run by 3 lovely ladies and all the food is made by hand in front of you.
This is the way food should be made. It's fresh and simple, with clean flavors and you can taste all of the ingredients. Even the corn tortillas are made from scratch and per order. It doesn't get any better than that.
There is the funniest woman who stands by the parking lot yelling at the people to come and eat the best tacos they've ever had. And she backs it up by saying if you don't like them they are free! Believe me.You will love them. And only a buck a piece.
The carne asada is extremely tender and not to over spiced. I don't really like the overly marinated in citrus juice kind that we are used to. I like to actually taste the meat as well. This stuff had a nice hint of oranges and limes to it. Not mushy as carne asada can get after sitting in citrus juice for awhile. No heat or spice other than black pepper on it. The rest came from great tomatillo salsa and fresh chopped onions and cilantro.
It is the simple food, the food of the people that is the best anywhere you travel. You will always find the soul of a country by trying it's street food. Even here at this "tourist stop", you can still feel the passion and beauty of a simple street taco, Made with love and laughter and served up with a smile.
I think we take for granted the food of our neighbor to the south. And you can see why especially in Southern California we have an over abundance of "Mexican" eateries. Some excellent, but most mediocre at best. I have been to a couple of taco shops in San Diego where if you don't ask for the "real" guacamole. they serve you the "gringo" food coloring and sour cream stuff. To me this is an outrageously racist and disgusting practice. I don't go back to these places. Can you imagine if you walked into an Italian restaurant and ordered a pizza and if you didn't ask for the "Italian" kind. you were served a Tony's 2 dollar frozen one? Absurd.
The food of Mexico gets a bad rap sometimes. But I think it on a par with fine French or Italian. And needs to be elevated to that stature.
Luckily there are a few places opening up around California that have the same idea about the food of Mexico. Even Eva Longoria has teamed up with Todd English to open a very good Latin steakhouse in LA called Beso. There are of course many others as well. I think its way past due. If you ave ever traveled through Mexico you will find exquisite regional fare as you travel across the 31 states that make up the country.
Ok back to the food. we ordered up a few fish tacos as well. they were fried and crispy. Better than Rubios?, you betcha! nice mayoey topping that had a hint of a cilantro base to it. fresh limes and fresh tortillas. Very good. Not the best, but very good.
But the carne asada here is king. really very good stuff.
These tacos for a buck each are packed with meat and extremely good guacamole. And they were very light and non filling.The melding of the sweet fresh corn tortilla with the avocado, cilantro,onions and meat worked so well that after eating just one you knew you had entered taco nirvana.
I love the Ensenada area. It's friendly, clean and relatively safe even during these times of violence around Mexico. The Guadalupe valley is another 20 miles or so out from the city and it is picturesque wine making country. we will save that one for another time.
So if you find yourself in the area. You have got to drive out to La Bufadora and try this little Popsicle stand.