From Latin American Travel

La Mar SF has new menu additions and you’ll want to see these photos

LaMarSF_ceviches
By far my favorite course of the evening. When in doubt, order ALL of the cebiches from La Mar.

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez, shot on an iPhone6S

Growing up in San Diego, my idea of Peruvian food was pretty limited – until I made some Peruvian friends who completely opened up my mind and palate to their cuisine. From watching them and their families make their own Aji Amarillo to spending Friendsgiving with them and having the best turkey of my life, my love for Peru is ever-growing.

San Francisco is home to a handful of amazing Peruvian restaurants and I can safely say my friends and I have it at least once a month. One of my favorite restaurants offering Peruvian favorites and inventive dishes is La Mar Cebicheria Peruana on the Embarcadero. If the prime location and gorgeous interiors wasn’t enough to lure you in, the smells and sights of ceviche and anticuchos will have you salivating.

I had the total pleasure of visiting La Mar to check out some new menu items, which will be unveiled officially in May but you’ll see some items as early as this week. La Mar Chef Victoriano Lopez and Owner Gastón Acurio just returned to the states after traveling Peru and invited a handful of travel writers to the Chef’s Table to taste all of his menu favorites and new additions. And with the help of our San Diego friend, Executive Chef Danny Kou, you guys are in for a serious treat.

Warning: If you’re reading this while hungry, grab a bib.   

This recent trip to Peru took Victoriano and Gastón everywhere from popular street food vendors to the dozens of restaurants they own in town. Finding fresh and authentic Peruvian ingredients in SF can be a bit tough but they’re doing an amazing job at integrating the culture with local tastes to bring some beautiful dishes to the table.

We started our meal with a Pisco cocktail before we all dove in head and iPhone first into eight courses. EIGHT. I’ll let the photos do the talking. Enjoy ! And for more information, visit http://lamarsf.com/.

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We started our meal with Tiradito Scallop in a rocoto chile pepper cream, topped with microgreens and Peruvian corn.
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Niguiri Pobre – a slice of Wagyu skirt steak topped with a quail egg over seasoned rice.
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This unbelievable spread consisted of a Quinoa Tamal, Beef Anticucho, the tastiest Chicharon, and Chicken Empanadas.
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She’s a thing of beauty. La Mar’s Chicharon.
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While it may look simple, La Mar’s Quinoa Chaufa was unbelievable and perfect. Order a side of this bad boy whenever you come in.
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Fish is served whole at La Mar. So get comfortable with the idea of your dinner looking back at you.
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La Mar’s slow-cooked Beef Cheek is so tender and pairs perfectly with the Quinoa Chaufa.
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Save room for dessert. The Granizado de Chilcano was amazing. Who would have thought that basil shaved ice made so much sense when paired with marinated apples and a pisco sour foam? Oh, and the Mousse de Chocolate Fortunato…don’t even get me started. The carmelized quinoa, baby meringues and lucuma ice cream will set you over the edge.

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico: A Gem Not To Miss

Scuba Playa del Carmen
Scuba divers will absolutely love this story. Keep reading…

Written by and photos by Michael A.

We often don’t lump Mexico in as being an exciting international getaway destination. You need to stop this mindset immediately. Born and raised in Los Angeles, but a mere three-hour drive away from the Mexican border, I too was a culprit of this belief. I love my food and I love me some good international travel. I’ve traveled to roughly 40 countries, and other than a brief stint where I got stranded in Tijuana with a donkey painted zebra, I never had any intention of really making a vacation out of Mexico. However, I was absolutely blown away by the food, scuba diving, clear waters, and most importantly, how incredibly affordable Playa Del Carmen is.

Where to stay

The pool at Hacienda Real del Caribe in Playa del Carmen.
The pool at Hacienda Real del Caribe in Playa del Carmen.

For just $33 a night (yes you read that correctly), I’d recommend staying at Hacienda Real del Caribe. It has a beautiful salt-water pool and very spacious rooms. I’m a big fan of flat screen TV’s, which it was lacking, but the location of this hotel is just so perfect that you’ll forget all about that detail. This hotel is literally one block away from all of the night life, a plethora of great restaurants, and only a 5-minute walk to the beach. Ummmm, I think I also mentioned that it was $33 a night…so, yeah…if you’re on a budget, this is an amazing place to go.

A scuba diver’s paradise

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Cozumel constantly gets all of the hype for being one of the most amazing diving spots in the world (and rightfully so), but you have to make sure you don’t miss the Cenotes. I’ve been on some cool dives in the past, but the Cenotes….well….just look at these pictures for yourself. You won’t see much sea life down there, but the colors and the fact that you’re 35 feet under the surface of Earth is a pretty cool and special feeling in its own right. You are literally below the bottom of tree roots.

Ditch Cozumel and stay in Playa Del Carmen

The best chile relleno I've ever had.
The best chile relleno I’ve ever had.

Don’t make the mistake that my buddy and I made and get a hotel on this island. There really isn’t all that much going on there other than the best chile relleno you could possibly imagine! Cozumel is known world-wide as being one of the top dive locations in the world because of its ridiculously clear waters and visibility. However, I strongly suggest just staying in Playa Del Carmen and paying the extra $5-10 to the dive shop to take you to some diving out there. If you really want to spend some time on the island, it’s literally a $20 35-minute boat ride that leaves every hour from two different ports in Playa Del Carmen. Don’t bother renting a car either, since you won’t see very much other than the port and undeveloped areas.

Lionfish
Don’t touch the Lionfish…

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Do make sure that you go on some dives out there though as the swim-throughs are spectacular and plentiful. If you go within the next couple of years, be ready to see a lot of Lionfish and don’t be an idiot like me and get too close. Yes, they’re beautiful, but they are also extremely poisonous. Enjoy them from afar but don’t try to take that coveted selfie with one. Your underwater selfie can wait until you’ve entered one of the very few shipwrecks in the area. Look for the slightly dirty restroom and make sure you keep your eyes open for some of the biggest eels you’ve ever seen hanging underneath the cracks of the floorboards.

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Overall, Playa Del Carmen is definitely a place you don’t want to miss. The food is great, the stay is cheap, and there is beauty all around you — and under you in the case of the Cenotes.

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Latin Food Fest offers tacos, ceviche, tequila and spirits during San Diego heatwave

Puesto offers all of the fixings for their Pollo Chile Verde tacos

Written by Nadia Ibanez

With this blistering heatwave that has come through San Diego the last few days, I’m seeking daily, cooling refuge in the form of jumping into the ocean and seeking out food and drink that’s light and bright. Lucky for me, the Latin Food Fest in San Diego last weekend was just what the doctor ordered. Cocktails, tequila tastings, cool ceviche, delicious tacos and so much more were offered at the Grand Tasting Village at San Diego’s Embarcadero Marina Park.

San Diegans truly are blessed with easy access to some of the country’s best latin food. The team behind the Latin Food Fest work hard every year to bring forth the best restaurants and beverage vendors to accumulate over a single weekend.

Take a look at our favorite bites and drinks from the 2014 Latin Food Fest.

When I’m totally parched, the first thing I look for is fresh coconut water. Since the trend has gained momentum, this thirst-quenching juice can get a bit pricey at your local grocery store. Luckily the guys behind Coco Jack have created a line of tools so that you can break through your own young coconut and serve yourself. The tools may look like they’re straight out of the caveman era but they do the trick within seconds.

Slinging mallets and jacks with Coco Jack at the Latin Food Fest.

By far, my favorite taste of the day was the Smoked Albacore Ceviche from the Tequila Bar & Grille located inside the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina. The ceviche was perfectly seasoned and sat on top of a crunchy tostada.

Hands down, our favorite bite from the Latin Food Fest.

Another favorite of the day was the Choritos a la Chalaca from Cafe Secret in Del Mar. I’m not a huge mussel fan but these were served with perfection. Ceviche was plentiful throughout the Grand Tasting Village, but I especially loved the Ahi Ceviche from Venga Venga. Bright with citrus, avocado and fresh fish, this ceviche was fantastic.

Ceviche from Venga Venga…check them out in Chula Vista!

While I wish there were a few more dessert offerings at the event, one of my favorites was the Chocolate Mole and Tres Leche ice creams from Calexico Creamery. The ice cream was super creamy and their mobile ice cream shop was absolutely adorable.

This mobile ice cream shop makes stops throughout SD County so check out their site for where they’ll be next.

The drinks were flowing at the Latin Food Festival and we had our pick from dozens of different tequilas, cocktails, beers, micheladas and wines. It was like having a taste of Tijuana and Ensenada without ever crossing the border. Attending foodie festivals like this one is great because you find out about restaurants, wineries and spirit purveyors that you would have never stumbled upon otherwise. The Latin Food Fest in San Diego is one of my favorites each year and I’m always so excited to be invited back to cover this delicious event. From the tequila tent and endless food, to the entertainment and beautiful San Diego skyline backdrop, the Latin Food Fest is definitely one to add to your calendar. For more information, visit www.latinfoodfest.com.

Coming soon: Latin Food Fest 2014 at the Embarcadero

One of our favorite tastes from Latin Food Fest 2013

It seems like it was just yesterday that we were sipping tequila and Baja-brewed beer and tasting all of the tacos, ceviche, pozole and tostadas our bellies could hold at the ¡Latin Food Fest! in San Diego. This year’s event, which will be held September 11-13, 2014, promises another star-studded Latin extravaganza.

Deemed as the largest Latin culinary festival in California, the Latin Food Fest brings in restaurants, chefs, artisanal food makers and wine, beer and spirit makers to the three-day event. I can’t wait until the Grand Tasting Village on September 13th at the Embarcadero Marina Park North. I’m also looking forward to the Modern-Mexican Dinner on Friday September 12th where restaurateur Richard Sandoval and Malva Cocina’s Roberto Alcocer will offer a six-course tasting menu paired with craft cocktails and Baja wines.

Chicken and Pork Tacos from Northgate Market

New to this event this year will be the themed tasting tents found throughout the Grand Tasting Village. Have your pick from wine tastings, a TJ street food tent, or a spirits and craft cocktail party. The Latin Food Fest will also offer several culinary competitions, cooking demos, live music, silent auction, book signings and more.

For tickets and more information, visit www.latinfoodfest.com.

Inaugural Latin Food Fest in San Diego Celebrates Latin Restaurants, Chefs, Culture and Spirits

The Ensenada Brewing Co. at San Diego’s Latin Food Festival.

Written by Nadia Ibanez

San Diego continuously gets the best of both worlds when it comes to global cuisine. From acclaimed ethnic offerings in Los Angeles, to fresh and inventive dishes from Baja California, we really have it made. So it’s no wonder that San Diego hosted its first Latin Food Fest this past weekend.

Diálogo, a locally-based national public relations firm targeting the Hispanic market was the mastermind behind the four-day event, which offered cooking demos, exclusive cooking classes, benefit dinners, beer awards, a grand tasting, and so much more.

We were lucky enough to attend the event right here in our backyard, with events at the El Cortez building downtown, local Latin restaurants, and Port Pavilion, among others. Here is a look at some of our favorite tastes from the inaugural Latin Food Festival in San Diego.

Chicken and Pork Tacos from Northgate Market.

Simple, yet delicious. We loved all of the tacos from Northgate Market.

You must visit Puesto in La Jolla Village. Everything was delicious.

Hands down, our favorite tacos were from Puesto. The La Jolla Village restaurant’s gourmet take on the taco was out of bounds. The homemade spinach tortillas and various salsas were delicious.

Get a TJ Hot Dog whenever you can and get it totally loaded with toppings.

Doggos Gus offered the traditional TJ hot dog: bacon wrapped and with all of the fixings.

Jarritos are the perfect drink pairing when you’re filling up on latin food.

Everything tasted so much better with a couple slugs of Jarritos in between each taste. We probably tried every flavor throughout the weekend. Go for the pineapple or guava.

Smoked Marlin from Bistro Cava in Ensenada. We can’t wait to visit this beautiful beach resort.

We loved the Marinated Smoked Marlin from Bistro Cava at Hotel Coral and Marina in Ensenada. The fish was light and perfectly seasoned.

Go for the Filet Mignon at Rei de Gado in San Diego.

You can never go wrong with freshly-grilled meat on a skewer and San Diego’s Rei de Gado never disappoints.

Call ahead to make sure Fat Fish is serving their Shrimp Pozole.

Our favorite taste from the entire weekend was the Shrimp Pozole from Fat Fish Cantina Grill in Pacific Beach. The hearty soup was flawlessly seasoned and was even better when we added raw cabbage, chicharone, red pepper, onion and cilantro. You MUST order this dish when you’re visiting.

Blind Burro’s Jicama Tacos.

Blind Burro’s Jicama Taco was perfect for the hot afternoon. Sliced jicama acts as a taco shell and is filled with cold shrimp, mango salsa, lemon-serrano crema, avocado, and micro cilantro.

The Latin Food Fest was the perfect way to experience restaurants, liquor distilleries and wineries with its roots in the Latin culture. We absolutely cannot wait until next year’s event. For more information, visit www.latinfoodfest.com.