Flora Farm - The Trip of a Lifetime for Foodies in Baja

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Here's the latest from this months issue of Baja Bound!  

Flora Farms - The Trip You Must Make in 2014

If there is one trip that should be on your radar in the upcoming months, it’s absolutely got to be to the magical estate that is Flora Farms. This dreamlike culinary institute is tucked way beyond the edge of a dirt road on the cusp of San Jose del Cabo and is truly a taste of the good life. Celebs and locals both rave about it...now I can finally say, I know why.

It was my 40th birthday and you better believe I was hell bent on spending it somewhere unreal. I’ve been reading about Flora Farms for a spell now – in my farm-to-table quest that takes me all over the back roads of Baja - but to be able to spend my big 4-0 birthday there was a treat that was to become legend in my soul. How often have you ever said that about a restaurant experience? It makes me realize how far I’ve come in all the years I’ve spent traipsing the Baja. If I want it, I go find it. And, the Baja allows it and serves it straight up. Period.

We arrived for lunch – which was cool by me. Fresh off the road from Loreto via an overnight in Todos Santos, this was to be a meal fit for kings before hauling back up to Loreto that same day. My dog was welcomed with friendly coos and a big bowl of water, along with some mega hard playtime with the scads of rescue dogs that race around the front grounds greeting everyone with huge toothy smiles and can-you-believe-I-hit-this-jackpot energy.

I did the Cinderella swirl the minute I walked into the open air seating area, mimicking the dogs knowing ‘tudes. Holy moly! Talk about a way of life; let me put it this way, in these words to all foodies (and non-foodies alike) out there. There will be no other experience in your culinary searches the world over that overwhelms like Flora does. None. 

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From the lush gardens (they grow everything on site), to the farm bar (finally, true mixology drinks in the lower sphere of Baja), to the catch-all farmers market (all produce picked that morning), to the straight-out-of-a-magazine design of the culinary cottages, to the open grounds (my dog went nuts when she saw her first turtle), to the set up of the cooking workshop in the middle of the gardens (I would like to spend the rest of my life right there, or at least have my ashes spread) - Flora Farms enchants from every angle. The owners, Patrick and Gloria Greene, have concocted a fantasy world for anyone that has ever had a dream about opening their own restaurant or enjoying a good meal. The inspiration alone is shocking and dramatically different than anything one might think they know about food (or the serving and preparation of) before walking in.

We started with piles of just baked bread that made the taste buds quiver. As much as we tried to stop eating the nut and herb filled chunks of bread, it was impossible. We were stuffed before we even finished the basket, but that didn’t deter us. Out came a bowl of cucumber and almond gazpacho that holds strong in the top handful of dishes I’ve ever had...anywhere in the world. Poured tableside in a bowl smeared with smoked paprika, this chilled soup is nothing like the Spanish version you might be used to on a hot summer day. Instead, it’s as if a rural king broke bread with a world-renowned chef and they turned out this doozy after a leisurely day of poking about the garden with a bit of chilled Rosé in hand.

Next flew out a mountain of crispy French fries alongside a luscious croque madame, done right with the best ingredients found in all of Baja (shaved ham, gooey gruyere, olive and nut bread). This butter soaked sandwich with a fried egg up top could fill up two people, easy. In the same breath, a fat hill of housemade pasta appeared. The simplest of ingredients (flecks of parmesan and herbs, shaved carrots, a speck of cream) managed to equal a mess of moans from both of our mouths. Full as we were, oh well. Bring more drinks!

The final hit was a birthday carrot cake that we couldn’t possibly down in that seating. Our bellies were stuffed, we had a long ride back to Loreto and Minka (our dog) couldn’t stop drooling. But, don’t you know – ‘round about La Paz, we pulled over and wolfed that cream cheese frosted sweet treat in the span of about 30 seconds. A two-bite each whammy…after all, you only turn 40 once…and I’m a farm girl (read Baja gypsy) at heart.

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Where to Begin After 2 Months Out?

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Might as well start with

the best fish tacos EVER on the new road to La Bufadora. 

How do I backtrack?  I used to be able to begin...again...and then I just got caught up. Life.

Well, I'm in one of my fave places in the world in Baja - on hard lockdown - but having a drink now and thinking about how it's time to share a bit.  So, here goes.

Shot 2 sizzles (sort of like a sales tape for TV) this past month - 2 totally different shows I hope/think will sell.  Editing now - this sort of thing takes MAD commitment and thought and creativity. Not many can relate - but those who can...I hope to see you soon.

Realized yesterday that I have been to Mexico 8 times since December 2012 and YET my Spanish is no better.  SHAME.  Also, realized my dog has been to Mexico more than most of my friends.  Wow.  Her Spanish is rock solid.

Well, damn.  What else? 

Lot's, but nothing - as all me and my fats say.  I really promise that I will get back to toothin'.  It's so hard to lay into a moment to get a post done - but now that I'm in MEX and gonna establish a real life routine, maybe it can come to be. 

My mom sends me pix of the PERFECT cornbread and amazingly fluffy cakes made in an AGA.  It makes me so, so happy.  I daydream about Mel and his funny way's that I long to replicate (he's my g/dad).  I try to every day be a little bit more like him - simple and sweet and real and happy and cozy and realiable and just plain wonderful.  Next to impossible to live up to.  But, I try. 

I have a billion pix that are great and tell a tale, but I'm smelling like Minka right about now and need to rinse and truly, begin...again...

Tacos\

BTW - at this moment, I am nowhere near the pix in this post and they really have nothing to do with anything except the fact that I LOVE MEXICO.

Also - here's the Sept post for my Baja Bound article. 

Click here:)


 

 


Hartwood in Tulum, Mexico - Worth the Trip?

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I have so many things to say about this joint. 

I had been dying to go there for years - since it opened, really - and finally made it down a few months ago for a cooking workshop hosted by the little restaurant and Casa de Las Olas, an eco - friendly hotel on the beach in Tulum.  It all sounded so wonderful on paper, but I dunno.  Tulum felt like a tropical East Village.  Like barely a Mexican in sight. Don't get me wrong, what a pretty place.  Stunning, even.  But, just didn't feel like Mexico.

Hartwood was indeed AMAZING.  One of the best meals of my life (which I will get into in the next Toothie update)...but it was a literal shitstorm.  Like full on maniacs with their cameras taking pix of everyting and everyone.  For dinner, the lines were astounding (thank god we were part of the cooking class and got first dibs on a primo seat)...but jeez, what a pony show! Guess you could include me in that mix with the cam.

The poor Chef Eric - man, I'm sure he and his gal just wanted to head to Mexico and open a cute little seaside restaurant.  Live simple.  Cook well.  No way did he know it would turn into all this packed-to-the-gills madness every day.  I know because I asked him.  They were stunned.  But, the food is so so so worth it.  He cooks by fire and only fire.  It's like the blistered taste of a lakeside campfire every single bite that goes in the mouth. 

The vibe is great - just way too many people.  The secret is out.  Long out.  Good luck getting in...but man, if you can - it's worth it.   More on Tulum next time - which includes a sudden bolt, a trip to Isla Mujeres, a delish meal at a way more local spot, an explore and dismiss of an RV park that was once on the list and finally - why I will probably never be back that way!

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T is for Twelve Minutes from LAX

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Twelve minutes from LAX lies my little floating home that
someday soon I shall move back onto.  

Dear God, it's taken forever, I've lost my mind, but it's on the horizon...the hunkder down for spring in LA is on the make.  Cause lord knows I haven't dont jack what I wanted to down here in the desert.  I've been on the road for eons, how could I?   Takes all I've got to pay the bills, research the needs for FLO, plot a few new shows and try to make some good food.  Toss in Minka's daily pup needs and keeping up with the news, and the day is done. 

Now, once I get back on the FLO, pls do remember, I'm a scant 12 minutes from LAX, which if you have been a toothie long, you will recall one of my first posts ever was about what makes a perfect place to live?  Has to be close to an international airport.  And, for that reason alone - I can't imagine being anywhere else but the marina if I'm to reside in LA.  Means, in 12 minutes I can be at the 'port, ticket to elsewhere in hand and on my way to another land. Usually Mexico. Or Indo.
  
This past trip to Casa de Mita, I discovered the chill village of San Pancho and a sweet little organic restaurant down a side road tucked into a funky hotel.  Turns out the owner of the hotel and restaurant lives 1/2 mile from me in Venice.  In a place I walk past all the time.  Small, small world.
 
The food at Bistro Organico was simple fusion food.  A twist of Mexico, a sting of Tahiti, and a whole lotta freshness.  They're throwing Thai red basil into cocktails, whipping up their own tequila, and taking the vibe of the S. Pacific islands and making them come alive in charred mushroom pots and coconut shrimp curries. Super light and fresh.   

And, with LAX only 12 minutes away from me, just that much closer.  I do so love SoCAL.

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S is for San Pancho, Mexico

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S is for San Pancho, Mexico

Rarely does a super cool village come my way that is as special as the person waxing poetic about it claims it is. So, when I heard a whisper about the village of San Pancho, Mexico while I was staying at Casa de Mita in December, I knew I'd regret it if I didn't go - or would I?  I almost didn't head there - who can deal?  Like I said, most peeps talk of secret haunts and then you go and its like WTF?  They clearly have no clue what makes a great village.

I'm even on the fence sometimes.  I think it's a mix of several things that elevate typical towns and villages into a league worth raving about. Usually there's either a beach or mountains involved.  The word "organic" is starting to pop up (be in in regards to a bakery, a farm, a spa).  The people are super chillaxed and just living in the moment, not rushing to and fro, all frantic. There might be more than normal amounts of motor bikes, golf carts, scooters, or bicycles as a huge portion of the transport.  Reclaimed materials are seen inside restaurants - as bars, tables, wall art, or benches.  Everyone waves and says hello - abnormally friendly folks reside there.  Artists usually flock there either for the light, or the cheap living.   You've never really read about it in magazines - at least when you first discovered it.  There's at least one yoga class, if not that, then pilates.  Wi-fi is def to be found most places.  People return year after year cause they want the guarantee - you want to know it's gonna put you in your right mind at the end of a stay.  The food served is fresh, local and sustainable - and they don't have to preach it...it's just the way that is always has been.

How many places can you name that have the above elements?  It's hard...next to impossible really.

Anyhow - San Pancho.  I was expecting another Sayulita - which I'm def not a fan of.  So many tourists, so much influx. I run from places like this.  San Pancho though (about 20 min from Sayulita) - was special upon entry.  It's tiny.  It's walkable.  It dead ends at the beach.  It's prob what Sayulita was 15 years ago.   There were games of dominos on the happs.  Some hippie looking surfer folks were prepping some kind of food on the beach, surrounded by adorable dogs all perched to get a treat if they were good boys and girls. Cold cans of beers were in the hands of the locals round about 3p, as chicken was being grilled up in a tiny alcove off the main street (I was offered a sample and it was the best street chix I've ever tasted - sweet and charred at once). The beach was relaxed and quiet.   Live music was floating in from one of the few beachside restaurants.  You know the margs were good (meaning I don't have to tell them no pre-mix, I want fresh lime proper-style).  Cute hotels. Organic restaurants.  The happiest street dogs in the world (seems San Pancho is known for their dogs - in a good way).  Local artists on the square, selling really cool stuff (not mass produced junk).  Candles being lit in bars and restaurants.  Daily special boards being set out.  I mean, I could go on and on.  Reminds me a little of when I first came upon Isla Mujeres years ago.  Or certain villages in Bali.  Old school SMA.  

It's just a certain vibe you get off places that makes you stay up late night, researching real estate and land and potential business prospects.  Thinking of ditching all and moving on down to do what is is people do in places such as these.  Live.  I need a little more of that.  Just livin.

 

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Q is for Quick Life Update...

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Q is for Quick Life Update

For the love, how time flies.  I was on the A to Z roll and then out of nowhere, Malibu RV Park drove me mad and I had to bolt to Baja for Xmas.  To the wonderful delight of Minka.  She popped a 4 day weekend down in wine valley (oh ps - not a soul checked her doggie papers either way across the TECATE border) with a 6 pack of farm dogs.  You have never, ever seen such joy.  Meanwhile, I once again had some next level food in the Valle.  GD - it's just surreal what folks can do with a sprout, a leaf and a swish of some pork paste. 

But, before even that - another Mexico adventure.  It was TIME 2 at Casa de Mita.  I was once again convinced that Mexico is in my blood and that Casa de Mita is literally one of the best places on the planet.  Lalo and Memo (and all the staff at the Casa) make my heart swim.  See the pic above?  Let's just call it my own private mansion for the week.  It was nothing but daily body boarding in the mighty Pacific (almost lost my life a few times - damn those waves :); billions of perfect margaritas; awesome yoga classes with Tomas (ever tried the 5 Tibetan Rites anyone - amazing....); fresh ceviche; awesomely fulfilled requests for pozole and paella; brilliant games of late night scrabble and let me just call it a thriller a day (as in spy, CIA, espionage books).  Dude - this place is truly one of a kind.

Then, back to Malibu.  Which don't get me wrong.  I love it there - the fresh seafood market at the bottom of the hiking trail.  Letting Minka run leashless round the hills.  The amazing sunsets nightly.  But, all it did was remind me up close that the FLO was not done.  If I'm gonna be on vaca - welp, I need to be on VACAYYYY....

So - now - Borrego Springs.   Right now, the 'stream is popped up in a perfect spot in what is prob the best RV resort in the world. Mouse is chewin' on a chunk of sugar cane from the simple-but-delightful farmers market here in town and I've got a pot of spicy beans on the oven.  Sun is shining.  Wine is flowing.  I actually worked out this AM (hello Tibetan Rites) and I got a new thriller from the library today.

More and more soon.  I must finish this damn alphabet I started and get onto a whole new tooth journey. 

Meantime - a few pix from Casa de Mita to satiate your desires to ditch all and high tail it to Mexico.  I know it's in the back of my mind right now - but for the moment - Marley and wine and fresh margs will suffice :)

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P is for Perfect Meal (@Sandzibar in La Cruz, Mexico)

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At least for me, this is the perfect meal.
Thing is, I'm a straight up nut when it comes to finding the perfect meal.  I walk in.  I walk out.  I sit down.  I get up and leave.  I sniff about.  I make up a reason to bolt.  All if the vibe don't suit me.  If the food on other peeps plates looks suspicious, later.  If the wait staff blows, holla.  If there is lit no good vibe, I'm out.  I can't deal and I'd rather spend the dinero elsewhere.  
It's been known to drive my pals MAD. I just want good, good food all the time. I do the research.  I put in my time.  I read the mags.  Peruse the blogs. Talk to the locals.  Scan the horizon for a sign that my belly will be satisfied - and it's usually not coming from the super hot spot.  Or the most expensive. Or the raved about.
 
It's just coming cause it's damn good food.  
Fresh. Natural. Organic. Special.  
Which is why I was really stunned that the meal I had at beachside Sandzibar (just a stones throw from Punta de Mita) a few weeks ago down in Mexico was so freaky delish.  This place is the kind of spot that I usually avoid.  But, I was on the hunt for fresh seafood, hadn't eaten since breakfast, had just tore down from the mountains and was shakin' for a cold, cold margarita.  Don't get me wrong, the vibe is pretty chill there.  The view is lovely.  The staff is friendly.  It's more about the customers.  All seem rich.  All seem like they'd literally curl up and DIE before eating at a nana's place down the dirt road. They would turn over their first born before tasting the juicy chicken off the roadside grill in San Pancho (another entry is needed for that one).  So, therefore, I'm usually keen to head on.  But, we stopped.  
Immediately, I slurped down a PERFECT margarita.  Then another.  We ordered up a greek salad and seared octopus over hummus.  Simple enough.  Well, freakin' kudos to these chefs (and chefs they are - no backhand cooking up in here).  
From the greens, to the cheese, to the dressing, to that AMAZING hummus, to the bread and sauces, to the charred octopus, to the limey/tangy/perfect 'rita - I was just taken aback.  Like skidding to a stop every few seconds to let my mouth regroup.  Reset.  
Which brings me to why this was a perfect meal.  It's cause it was CLEAN. Super clean and super fresh.  It's literally the way I need to eat every single meal of every single day.  Small portions.  Immediate ingredients.  Well paced and thoughtfully presented. Just right.  Right with the bellys and the minds and the eaters of the world.   
That said, I aim to have the perfect meal every day from here on out.   At least...my version of it.  You never, ever have to diet if this is the daily way.  God, it all seems so simple.
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A Violent 21 Day Taco Bender...Is Coming to an End.

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Oh the dirty little secrets I have...

Thing is, I don't eat meat.  Just doesn't sit well in my mind or my belly.  However - there are times when my mouth has no control.  And it just simply wants grease.  The grease of any meat I can get my hands on.  Doesn't happen often, but when it does - it totally dominates my whole world. 

Welcome to my 21 day crispy taco bender.

Here's how it's done.  I enter some sort of Mexican establishment.  Well, backtrack.  First, I or my pal Lisa have called them up (and confused the holy *f out of them) and demanded to know if they serve hard shell tacos with ground beef.  Muy importante. Must be ground beef.  The grease is like no other.  Keep in mind, most places don't serve ground beef tacos - or as they call them out this way - gringo tacos.  They are way more into carne asada, pork, chicken - whatevs.  But, if ground beef is a yes - well, we make our way there.

Enter taco being delivered to the table - always with a side of sour cream and extra cheese.  Cause here's what happens.  I scrape out all the meat (what I'm going for is a crispy taco made soft by the grease of the meat) and stuff it back with the 1st layer of sour cream, then the iceberg (must be 'berg), and all the cheese (needs to be shaved cheddar for maximum moan factor) and a final layer of cream.  I then toss on heart attack amounts of salt as well as a bit of salsa.  Usually this is all crunched down with a marg or two.  And, then another taco is ordered.  Or not, if the joint sucks. 

Over the past 21 days, I've hit so many places with horrific takes on tacos.  I mean, places with lines out the door - like Tito's Tacos.  YUK.  What the heck is the deal with that joint?  Are folks really that wildly uneducated about the way a hard shell should taste? 

I cannot believe that I've stayed on this wagon for so long.  But, for real - come June 1, I'm giving them up.  What I'm going to do instead is go on a 21 day health bender.  Or like, a smoothie bender.  Why not a yoga bender?  Who rolls thru 21 days of hard shells without blinking an eye?

The hands down LA winner for greasiset, most delish, ground beef taco (sans the ground beef, of course) is Hacienda Del Rey in Westchester.   They must be so sick of me by now - who is this crazy lady with this taco fix.  That's all I order, ever.  And their chips...so warm...with the perfect salsa and thick sour cream smothering it all. And, lots and lots of salt!

Yep - June 1.  Def a mad health kick.  I mean, I'm part of a CSA for God's sake! 

 

 


Casa de Mita in Punta de Mita - Who would EVER do The Four Seasons?

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I guess I just don't feel like I've said enough about Casa de Mita. 

And, I say that because I think about it every day.  I just linger over memories of the lighting at night, the peachy sunsets, the chile oil that I devoured with everything (but which was especially good with buttered bread and smothering the just made ceviche). 

I keep thinking about my AM yoga classes with Tomas (who was #2 in massages only to Ayu in Candidasa, Bali)...and my daily lightily-buzzed strolls along the beach. 

The house pup was so happy sprinting along beside me and the staff there (one of whom was a budding photographer and took the above photo of the main casa) was just literally, the best staff ever.  So kind, funny, always on hand with a fresh drink...but knew when to disappear cause all you wanted to do was read deeply and watch the waves crash. 

This joint is for real my go to relaxation spot now and forever.  It's just got 6 or 8 rooms and when you're the only one there (was I was for a few days), it's like your own private mansion with a staff of 24 all focused on one thing - YOU.  I think I've mentioned the 500 thread counts (which is what really sold me on the place via the web), but man...I just can't get it out of my mind.  And, so easy to get to.   The trip of all relaxation trips. 

And, somehow through my daily walks in the marina, I'm still semi-sportin' the mega tan I got down that way.  Nice.

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Street Food vs The Real Deal

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I dream of food....

Look, I think we can all agree on one thing.  I'm a freaky-deaky foodie through and through.  It's so funny, just today, I was thinking - what in the world am I dedicating my life to?  Is there anything really out there that my soul is latched onto and wont let go of?  Of course, it all comes back to food.

I'm into the street, the rural, the ancient recipes, the grease, and the bubbling stew pots just as much as I'm into the homegrown, the fresh caught, the bio-dynamic, the organic, the heirloom, the farmers markets, the sprout fed eggs, and the herbs from the source. I love it all - but what I can say...is that the REAL GOOD SHIT makes my tummy feel better.  Those first bites of street tacos are dead on delish, but the line caught tuna that just popped off the boat that morning - well, that's a horse of a different color.  Street = slam down.  Slow food = luxurious enjoyment.

I was at Casa de Mita and lounging around sucking down what was probably my 3rd margarita of the day (oh, morning) when the scent of fish frying up on the beach wafted up and nearly attacked me.  Immediate salivation.  I started snapping pix and finally the barefoot chef popped over with a plate of fish and crispy tortillas he'd just pulled out of the fryer and sweetly handed it up to my poolside perch.  What a man!  I took a few bites, but since I knew dinner was on the way, I handed off to my pals who work the bar and stood by for the sun to set a bit and my luxe meal to begin.

Cause, you see - at Casa de Mita, they don't play around with food.  It's some pretty next level cooking going on down in that tiny kitchen.  All these amazing pureed soups, delish chopped salads, the thinnest of sashimi, knobs of goat cheese, chunky salsas, fiery chile oils with fresh baked bread, whole fish that was just drug in that morning.  Bottles of chilled champagne, glass after glass of vino.  I mean, it's like a 3 hour gorging ordeal on a daily basis for dinner.  My fave in the world. 

After I sampled a few bites of the beach fish....thank god I waited...check out my main course - this slab of pepper crusted tuna.  I mean - WTF?  Just a sight to behold. 

GOD I LOVE THAT PLACE...

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