The Baja California Culinary Fest is a celebration of the upscale gastronomical explosion in Baja Mexico, marked by the featured Friday night Chef's Dinners, hosted by more than thirty chefs at seven different restaurants across Tijuana, making for a once in a lifetime dining experience. We had the honor and pleasure of enjoying our Chef's Dinner at one of TJ's newest hotspots - La Caza Club, a warm and beautiful space, accented with library-like features, from oversized leather booths, to bookshelves, to antlered busts donning the dark wood walls. We cozied into our seats, ready to embark on an eight course eating adventure prepared by our esteemed host chefs - La Caza Club's chef Humberto Aviles, San Diego's own - Jason Knibb of NINE-TEN, Ensenada's Chef Juantxo Sanchez, and Chef Jose Miguel Garcia of La Barraca Valenciana. This magnificent meal was accompanied by wine and beer pairings chosen by the talented Juan Pablo Vazquez of La Guia del Vino.
We began with a gorgeous cod crudo, decorated with smoked apple gel, pickled mustard seeds, and fresh anise. The dish's delicate flavors were elevated by a cool and crisp glass of Claudius Chardonnay (2011).
Next, a fried brioche slider filled with fresh, local crab, came accompanied by the most delicious and flavorful, thick cut potato fries drizzled with creamy garlic aioli, paired with a perfectly light and sweet Vinos Gassol Grenache (2012).
The star of the evening, and definitely one of our best bites of 2013, was a beautiful, lightly roasted, crispy kale salad with fennel and carrot purees, lightly drizzled with an aged Ramonetti cheese dressing and a rich, deep green olive oil. This incredible salad enveloped and boasted so many diverse yet compatible sweet, earthy and umami flavors, and was enjoyed with a light beer, Cerveceria Frontera Guera Coquetona, so as not to overwhelm. Rumor has it this is La Caza Club's house salad. We will be back for more pronto.
Our next course was a cream of uni soup served in a sea urchin shell atop a mountain of rock salt. Though the presentation was romantic and beautiful, my palate has yet to learn appreciation for this unique and powerful flavor, but a look around the restaurant revealed everyone else's pleasure. This dish was paired with Vinoa Ulloa Nebbiolo Rosado (2012).
A flakey black cod cooked with chintextle (a savory chile paste), dressed with a sweet and salty caramel sauce and topped with baby carrots and yellow beets and set atop a delicate doily of seaweed was set before us and devoured, despite our filling bellies. Paired with Vinos Palafox Pionero (2011), this made for an amazing course of sweet, savory and salty.
A beautifully seared rib eye medallion was served rare and tender with leaves of Brussels sprouts, dollops of pumpkin puree, grilled onion, spicy greens with pear sauce, and shaved pickled pumpkin and perfectly paired with a complex red wine, Norte 32 Teziano (2009).
The savory finale was rich, braised beef tail with mashed cauliflower and garlic, green beans, amazing charred heirloom beets, and baby spinach leaves paired with Sinergi VT Ala Rota (2011). Yet another exquisite course that elevated traditional flavors and ingredients.
For dessert (as if we had any more room) we indulged in lime-verbena ice cream atop a light, orange cake, and doused table-side with a chamomile sauce and orange gel, topped with rosemary shortbread crumbles and paired with sweet Casa Baloyan Muscat (2009). This was a beautiful end to an unforgettable meal.
The service at La Caza Club is impeccable - almost to the point of being too good, if there were such a thing. Between each course several waiters gathered to clear the table, placing down fresh silverware, food and drink, all with gracious smiles and class well beyond fine dining, a true testament to the pride of this fantastic eatery.
We most definitely look forward to sampling Caza Club's usual menu. Follow them on Facebook, make a reservation and take the trip to Tijuana for a visit. La Caza Club is located at 2612 Calle Miguel Aleman in Tijuana and is open Monday - Saturday from 1:00 pm - 2:00 am.