I had never been to Ensenada before. I may have never gone either had it not been for a Doctor I needed to see there who specializes in embryonic stem cell treatment. I needed to finally deal with the Degenerative Disc disease that had been plaguing me for over a decade. I had no expectations going into the trip, other than trying to heal. But when it came to food, I refused to resign myself to living on tacos, rice and beans for 14 days. As any natural foodie would do, I started my great Mexican inquisition for what would become one of the most incredible gastronomical experiences of my life (and I have been around)!
On day two of our trip, I got the itch to venture out beyond the hotel walls. I scoured the Internet for local purveyors of sustenance in walking distance from our resort but very much like it's SoCal counterpart across the border, Ensenada “ain’t a walker’s town”. We got lucky. We discovered that we were only a ten-minute walk, along the waterfront no less, from Flor de la Calabaza, an unassuming culinary oasis made of corrugated steal and raw wood but home to the tastiest "clean" food I have ever had. I ordered the Huevos Charros and can only say it tasted even better than it looks, which I did not think was possible. Needless to say we became regulars for the duration of our stay sampling the entire menu and their fresh juices to boot.
Huevos Charros @ Flor de La Calabaza
After three hundred rowdy sailors descended on our hotel for the Newport to Ensenada (NTE) race, I knew it was time to escape. A masseuse at the hotel told me I had to see Valle de la Guadalupe, Ensenada's little known wine country. We booked a car, (which I highly recommend because the wineries are largely unmarked and down dirt roads) and headed to Monte Xanic, a modern take on a vineyard with clean lines and expansive views of a lake cradled by palm trees and grapevines. We sat under an olive tree staring over miles of open vineyard back dropped by Ensenada’s rolling hills and sipped on a crisp Sauvignon Blanc that went down all too smoothly.
Vista @ Monte Xanic
But good wine alone was not going to cut it for me. I needed to find the best restaurant in wine country, I would never be sated by a cheese plate alone. I was immediately intrigued by two spots Finca Altozano and Deckman’s both serving farm to table delights. We only had time to eat at one so we chose La Finca. Up half a mile of bumpy dirt road, we encountered the bucolic masterpiece. The menu was only matched by its effortless rustic design and the panoramic views of the farm from which every ingredient was cultivated. My melon and pear white Sangria arrived in a mason jar. Beyond the rim of the glass, I could see the tables surrounded by distressed wood chairs, the lanterns swaying from the ceiling in a breeze that wafted smells from the kitchen which led our noses like a sirens call. This was not some hyper-contrived hipster eatery in the East Village or Abbot Kinney, it was the real deal. Each ornament and piece of decor told a story about the farm and blended seamlessly into the landscape.
The bustling restaurant @ La Finca
When the food arrived we poured ourselves over our plates lapping up every morsel, it was simply divine.
Charred brussel sprouts, malt vinegar, aioli, parmesan @ La Finca
We could have lingered there all day, our bellies regaling the grilled Chorizo and charred Brussel Sprouts but we had to catch the sunset at Cuatro Cuatros. We jumped into the car and headed towards our grand finale for the evening. We arrived at an expansive winery, which we discovered had a glamping site as well but we were headed to the al fresco bar. Down a steep a road that was so treacherous I feared for my life, there was the big reveal! It surrendered itself to us slowly as we inched around the corner on yet another dirt path. There we were, on a cliff that jutted into the water, 50 stories high with 180 degrees of ocean that was basking in the warm light of a sun that was slowly inching its way to meet it.
The view from Cuatro Cuatros
This was quite literally the 8th wonder of the world with a bar at the end of it. Paradise. The only thing that was going to make this moment any better was a glass of something…that something turned out to be Madeira 5, one of Cuatro Cuatro’s very own Tempranillo/Cabernet blends, a wine that could rival Napa Valley and Bordeaux’s finest combined.
As I sat there and soaked it all in, I reflected on my journey. I realized why this town is home to hundreds of healers, nutritionists, herbalists and alternative therapists. Why people flock here for seek treatment. I understood that these were healing grounds, just like Sedona and it’s energy fields, the earth and the food that grows from it in Ensenada have healing properties that I would soon realize were a key ingredient to my regeneration from a degenerative disease.
Other places not to be missed in Ensenda:
La Guerrerense Ceviche & Taco Truck
Bistro Lo Natural