We visited Rancho La Puerta during culinary week and took part in several cooking classesat the award-winning La Cocina que Canta. RLP always offers cooking classes but this week featured four guest chefs, an off-site wine tasting and dinner one evening at El Lugar de Nos in Tecate. We had the chance to cook with renowned cookbook authors Deborah Madison, John Ash and Marie Simmons. Madison taught us recipes from her Vegetable Literacy cookbook and encouraged us to play with her recipes, making substitutions inspired by our preferences and the season. I made Venetian cookies in her class, subbing blue cornmeal for yellow and replacing half the almonds with pine nuts for a little something out of the ordinary. Our lunch feast was like Thanksgiving for vegetarians, complete with the requisite food coma. There was no way I would make it to abs and cycle class that afternoon!
The next day, we fried avocado fritters to serve with paprika aioli with John Ash, JamesBeard award-winning cookbook author and the Father of Wine Country Cuisine. It was our first time deep-frying anything, but by how quickly the fritters were snapped up, I think they were a success. Marie Simmons has published many beautiful cookbooks, including several on specific ingredients, from figs and honey to eggs. As a fig-lover, I was pleased that several recipes we made with her, from fresh fig quesadillas to a fig and tomato salad, included my favorite fruit.
As part of culinary week at the ranch, we also had the chance to go off-site twice. We had a spectacular dinner at El Lugar de Nos, where the chef is a former chef at the ranch. Their tacos were some of the best I’d ever had...thin, crispy and more reminiscent of quesadillas than the messy overstuffed tacos I’m used to in the States. Two varieties were served: one filled with pork, beef and lamb shoulder that had been braised for 84 hours and a vegetarian option with hibiscus flowers, caramelized onions and goat cheese.
Thursday we learned about Baja’s burgeoning wine scene at the Vine & Wine Museum andthen toured two local wineries, Baron Balch’e and the picturesque vineyard and inn at Adobe Guadalupe.The climate in Baja is best suited for red wines and I tasted a couple Bordeaux blends and Merlots that were impressive.
La Cocina que Canta’s Executive Chef Denise Roa did an incredible job planning the programming for culinary week. Every event was lively, fun and we also had the chance to explore local wine and cuisine. It’s been such a success that Rancho La Puerta already has plans to make this a semi-annual event. Start booking your tickets for spring and autumn 2014!
Author Amber Gibson is a Food/Travel Writer, Model & Actress from Chicago. To find out more about Amber, visit www.AmberGibson.com.