The end of summer is celebrated in style down in Baja, California, and I was there — with many friends — for the festivities. Sabor de Baja is held annually on the last Wednesday of August and features a myriad of top chefs and wineries in the area. The brainchild of Chef Bo Bendana and her husband Dennis Sein, this culinary event is in its fifth year, and growing bigger every year. It was originally meant as an end-of-summer for friends, but has since become one of the biggest parties in Baja. This year saw approximately 800 guests attending, coming from all across Mexico as well the US.
I was invited to judge again this year (I judged the competition in 2015) this time, on an all-female panel. The blind tasting took well over three hours, and attendees are also encouraged to vote for their favorite, resulting in an overall People’s Choice winner. The all-white event is held on the lawn of the iconic Rosarito Beach Hotel, overlooking the beach.
There were 27 participants this year (there were 16 in 2015 if I recall correctly) comprising the best and brightest of Baja. The competition is all about pairings, so if you had a stunning dish, or exceptional wine/beer, you’re not going to win unless the pairing works as well.
The winners this year (photos courtesy of W. Scott Koenig):
2nd runner up
Plantain sope with requeson
1st runner up
Spicy tamarindo shrimp with lime juice, topped with salted coconut cream, shredded carrots, red cabbage, cilantro, fried garlic, fried shallots served on a crispy tostada.
Latitud 32/El Cielo
Interestingly, Latitud 32 also won in 2015 when I last judged.
Koi Sushi/Valle Girl Wine
Congratulations to all the winners. Sabor de Baja is indeed one of the best parties to be at, with food, wine and vibrant music. Dancing continues well into the night.