y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: October 2011

Halloween - Mad Men's Joan Holloway for a Day

This year Halloween falls on a Monday and since I have a very full plate at work for the day, it probably won't involve costumes, parties and treats for me this time.

Yesterday while cleaning some old photo folders, I found these images, which serve as my instant and virtual "costume".

Basically I am a huge fan of AMC's Mad Men and all things mid-century. Knowing this, a couple of months ago my friend Chrissy took my photo and put me into JibJab's Mad Men Starring You, where one can cast themselves as Mad Men characters Don, Betty, Roger or Joan.

I loved it so much, I took a few screen shots of the minute-long video.

It's super fun to be Joan Holloway, played by the gorgeous and talented Christina Hendricks.

She plays Office Manager and Marilyn Monroe-esque femme fatale at the Sterling Cooper advertising agency.

When I was a child I always dreamed of being a red head, and still enjoy sporting the retro red lips that are very "Mad Men". I would not mind looking like her for a day.

It's fun to re-imagine ourselves once in awhile, or take a break from being us. 

Happy Halloween!!

Baja California Trip: Mision 19

A couple of weekends ago I was part of a very fortunate group of food writers, editors and friends that Mexican street food ambassador Bill Esparza gathered together over the weekend to celebrate Baja-Med gastronomy and the bounty of local culinary products.

One of the highlights of the trip, and my favorite part, was on our arrival night at Chef Javier Plascencia's modern, hip Mision 19 restaurant.

We dined on a multi-course all-star Chef prepared meal sandwiched between stops at Bar20, the new Mixologia Contemporaneo bar at the same location.

This fifth and final post from this trip covers that unique experience that goes down in each of the attendees' culinary history as a meal to not forget.


Picture 2



Upon walking into our elegant dining table in avirtually separate room, which our friend Robert held for us, I almost gasped.



The place settings included modern succulent plants, multiple glasses and flatware. We requested menus, which were written in Spanish. Luckily I happened to have expert on the city and local food, Chuy Nomas, seated right next to me.

He provided even more local color throughout the extended meal and was another person I was so delighted to meet on this trip.


When I mentioned all-star chefs earlier, in addition to Chef Javier Plascencia, we were treated to dishes by Los Angeles based Chef John Sedlar (Rivera, Playa restaurants), the father of modern Southwestern/neo-Latin cuisine.

Three other innovative Mexican Chefs rounded out the team. The menu was so cohesive, that one can barely imagine there were four or more chefs collaborating.

Reflection of dining table on ceiling of dining room
With exceptional service along the way, we were offered bread pairings for each and every course. Many of them are shown below.



Each dish was also expertly prepared with flowing local wines from Baja California wine country by sommeliers Stacie Hunt and Pauilina Velez.


Chef: Angel Vasquez
Primer Tiempo: Tiradito de Hamachi. Rabanos/charales/chicharron/limon en conserva/habanero/sal negra
Vino: JC Bravo-Palomino 2010

Chef Vasquez prepared this exceptional yellowtail dish with watermelon radishes, crunchy anchovies, lemon jam, sea beans, with a touch of black salt and heat.

Picture 1
Photo courtesy of Andi Bui Kanady

Chef: Javier Plascencia
Segundo Tiempo: Tuetano De Res Rostizado. Atun aleta amarrilla/tobiko/aire de serrano/sal negra

With that first dish alone I thought that dish would be hard to top, or even match. Then came my favorite guilty pleasure - roasted marrow. I probably would have squealed, but Robert warned me that he saw this dish coming up.

I never had marrow bones on a bed of salt with cubes of Yellowfin tuna, flying fish roe and sea bean garnishes. Unexpected but it totally worked.

The tiny bits of toasted bread and serrano chili foam added a light touch to a decadent course.


Cocktail: Negrito Sandia

Renowned L.A. Mixologist Julian Cox's drink of gin, watermelon juice, lime and salt served as perfect accompaniment to the rich dish.


Chef: Pablo Salas
Tercer Tiempo: Ensalada De Berros Con Vinagreta De Piloncillo. Wueso de rancho alegria.
Vino: Paralelo Emblema 2010

And while many tasting menus go from light to heavy, this one went back and forth which really helped with one's pacing and appetite.

This watercress and green bean salad with a springy farm cheese and brown sugar vinaigrette held up as a tasty dish on its own but also cleansed the palate of the richness of the previous dish.


Chef: John Rivera Sedlar
Cuarto Tiempo: Sardinera. Flan de elote/quinoa negra/flor de calabaza.
Vino: Pijoan Dominica

This savory corn flan topped with chewy, black quinoa and squash blossoms almost stole the show from the also perfectly prepared fish (I think it was grouper, but it was not specified on the menu) on a bed of Indian curry sauce.


Those at the event who tasted the flan for the first time were amazed at its texture and flavor. The contrasting texture of the quinoa along really highlights the flan. Squash blossoms are one of my favorite ingredients and also very Mexican.


Chef: John Rivera Sedlar
Quinto Tiempo: Codorniz De Valle De Guadalupe. Chile verde/duxelle de champinones.
Vino: Pijoan Dominica

This local quail dish accompanied by a chile stuffed with mushroom duxelle and symphonic sauces once again amazed me. As beautiful to look at as to eat.

Since we were in a semi-enclosed room, my friend Andi and I picked up the quail with our hands at the same time and exchanged knowing glances, silently agreeing on how satisfying the dish was.


It surprised me that the white, creamy looking sauce packed a punch of heat. I'm guessing the brown sauce was cooking jus. Chef Sedlar knocked it out of the park twice in a row.


Chef: Pablo Salas
Sexto Tiempo: Cerdo Almendrado. Papa cambray/aceitunas.
Vino: Shimul-Yumano 2009

Continuing with the meats, Chef Salas' pork loin course with almond sauce, potatoes and garnished with olives and beet greens also showed perfect flavor balancing. 


Chef: Angel Vazquez
Septimo Tiempo: Pork Belly. Platano/vainilla/naranja/relish de tomate verde con frijol de olla/reduccion de cocoa
Vino: Estacion porvenir-textura 3 2009

This intensely crispy cube of pork belly stood up to the fairly sweet notes of vanilla, orange, cocoa and green tomato relish. The garlicky black beans also stood out with great flavor. It was one of the table favorites.


Chef: Angel Vazquez
Octavo Tiempo: Pato Anejado En Seco. Persimo fuyu/granada/col de Bruselas/mazapan.
Vino: Vinas Pijoan-Leonora 2009

Even eight courses in the meal continued to dazzle and delight me. This duck course was one of the best cooked, tender ducks I've tasted (outside of my favorite Peking Duck Chinese preparation).

The carrot, brussels sprout and fresh persimmon added a fresh touch to the meatiness of the dish.


This photo of my friend Andi, who sat across from me, captures the many gasps and squeals throughout the meal. She appreciates food in a very expressive way and it's always fun to dine with her.

This might have been the dish where we made contact and she softly muttered, "I know. I know." Nicely said.


Noveno Tiempo: Quesos Regionales. Miel de Abeja/mermelada artesenal.

We were a bit worried about having a heavy cheese course come out, but the appeal of this plate made me want to keep going.

The local, artisanal cheeses were arranged from stronger to lighter. Flower petals, honey, guava jam and other accompaniments heightened the flavors.


Decimo Tiempo: Postre. Calabaza de Otono. Cacahuate salada/chocolate amargo.


The light yet impactful dessert provided a graceful ending to the flawless meal. The main component was cylinders of a pudding of either sweet potato, pumpkin or butternut squash.

Accompaniments were a loose peanut bar and both milk and bittersweet chocolate with a flower garnish (which we also ate).


After the meal Chef Plascencia spoke to the group.


Chef Sedlar and the rest of the all stars came to the dining room to chat with the diners. It felt good to let them know how enjoyable their creations were.

I never imagined a farm to table concept could be so elegant and innovative.


We then proceed out of the restaurant to the reception.

The Via Corparativo, Tijuana's first LEED certified building in the Zona Rio part of town, appealed to the architecture buff in me. The ecologically designed wood and concrete building also contains an art gallery, wine shop, deli, lounge and more.

During the meal some of us explored and found this modern, kaleidoscope like vertical with changing colored lights leading to a very high up skylight.

Mision 19 from outside, at the elevator bank


As if we didn't already feel like rock stars with the 10-course meal and great service, the evening continued with a VIP receptions at Bar20, where the mixologists served up tamarind coffee margaritas as well as tequila and local beer.

Much like the progression of the meal where with each course I never thought it could be topped or matched, it was. And that's how the rest of the weekend went, as you might have seen in the previous 4 posts.

I hope you enjoyed the Baja Culinary series. There may be a few additional posts up my sleeve from last year's trip.

Baja Culinary Trip - Unplanned Adventures (Part 4)

Have you ever received a bouquet of warm, just-made churros?

Photo courtesy of Ellen Hai
Who wouldn't want to dig into this? Abby, my friend and fellow traveler, showed me a photo like this of churros which she'd tried a couple of times.

It became crystal clear that I could not leave the Tijuana trip without enjoying them too.


A group stopped by the stand both on Saturday night and during breakfast on Sunday and were given the directions of going toward the big arch on Avenida Revolucion, the main road in Tijuana, and turning left on the street after the "Viagra nurse".

Well we found her. And the churro cart.



My Spanish isn't great, but that sign indicates they've been doing business for 20 years. And may the do 20 more. Their product is fantastic!


We stood mesmerized even before they opened, till the oil bubbled up and they extracted cylinders of dough into the hot oil.


And then out into a tiny rack.


The churros get rolled (or not) in a small amount of sugar, then filled with vanilla crema, chocolate crema or cajeta crema - my favorite, goat's milk caramel.

This wonderful man could not stop laughing at our enthusiasm and constant photo taking. He laughed the entire time we were there.


Perfection! The dough itself caramelizes quite a bit and retains a level of grittiness and structure which complements the cream so well.


And they are good to the last bite. Yes, that's me double-fisting two churros in one hand.

                                                *  *  *

One of those churro runs took place in the evening, when after the Baja Culinary Festival we had some time to ourselves.

The group broke out and headed to various places while some rested up back at the Grand Hotel Tijuana, where we stayed.


I met a few friends in the lobby with the plan of having drinks and perhaps a light snack. Serendipitously, we ended up joining forces with Dave Lieberman, of OC Weekly's blog Stick a Fork In It, along with his lovely wife Linnea.

They were two of the many fascinating food writers and foodies I met on this trip, many of whom I'm still in touch with. Hang out with a group of people with the same passions and you will make new friends.

We walked from the hotel to the Argentinian restaurant Cheripan and enjoyed this tamarind margarita aperitif with some empanadas and chimichurri for the table.


Lucky for us, Dave speaks fluent Spanish and knew his way around town. After Cheripan and the churro run in downtown we had a relaxing time chilling out at this little cantina, El Dandy Del Sur.



We had some chips, Palomas, local beer, and a make-your-own Michelada.


Which turned into a very cool amber with orange foam after being mixed.


Dave introduced us to his favorite local bar snack. In Spanish it's called
carne seca calientita but Dave's "murky jerky" description covers it adequately.
Well spoken.

Even our free time turned out exciting and fun without the craziness one might assume with a night out in Tijuana.