Gone are the days when your only choices were lackluster resort fare and quick-and-dirty street tacos. Leigh Crandall gets a first-hand look at Cabo’s organic farm-to-table movement and rounds up her favorite foodie spots across the region
The winding dirt road seems to stretch on forever. As our van bumps along the unpaved path, the desert landscape expands far into the distance towards the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range, broken up only by the occasional cactus and ramshackle wire fence. While we are just a mile from the Sea of Cortez, it seems impossible that this dusty piece of earth has ever seen water, the desolate environment more befitting of a Breaking Bad location than a tourist destination a mere half-hour drive from one of Mexico’s most popular beaches.
And then without warning, an oasis. Palms of the desert mirage variety explode upward accompanied by the exotic silhouettes of tamarind, banana and mango trees. Rows of grape vines and neatly-planted beds of lettuces and herbs line a makeshift driveway, and a garden of sunflowers seems to greet us as the bright yellow blooms turn toward the sun.
This is Huerta Los Tamarindos, one of the Los Cabos region’s largest organic farms. The property dates back to the 19th Century, when it was used to cultivate sugar cane, its history witnessed by the ancient tamarind trees for which the farm is named. We walk up a little path to the brick exterior of a circa 1888 ranch house, and from its doorway owner Enrique Silva welcomes us, his pleasure at his work evident in his quick smile and ruggedly handsome face, weathered from years spent tending his farm.
Silva leads us to the farm’s gardens where herbs and vegetables like peppers, zucchini, greens and basil are protected from the unforgiving Mexico sun by netting that controls the heat and ultraviolet light. An agricultural engineer turned chef, Silva saw a need for fresh, organic produce and began farming 16 years ago. The fruits of the garden are used by local restaurants including Tequila and Casa Natalia’s Mi Cocina, as well as exported to the United States.
We continue on to a little garden, shaded by a 150-year-old mango tree and Silva warns us to be mindful of our heads as the ripe fruit hangs heavy on the branches. As if on cue, a snapping sound rings out across the courtyard and a perfect mango hits the dirt floor, a cloud of dust rising around it. Silva retrieves it, pocketing it for the mango margaritas we’ll be mixing later in the day as we make our way up the hill towards the ranch house and the farm’s kitchens.
We are greeted with chilled lemon-grass tea then promptly put to work prepping the makings of lunch: a classic gazpacho followed by yellowtail Vera Cruz. Many hands make the slicing and dicing go quickly and the shaded veranda, decorated with bushels of freshly picked vegetables and herbs is cool and comfortable. Fabian, the farm’s chef, patiently leads us through the cooking process and we try to be attentive students, though the freshly mixed mango, basil and tamarind cocktails lead to more and more chatter.
At last it’s time to eat. We congregate around a long, wooden table, Silva seated at the head, nodding in approval as the meal is served family-style. Looking out across the field then back to the table’s bounty he smiles. “It is difficult work,” he says. “But now I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Cooking classes at Huerta Los Tamarindos are four hours long and cost $85.
Somma Wine Spa
No, you’re not here to eat, but Somma Wine Spa at Fiesta Americana Grand Los Cabos does specialize in the use of the Baja California region’s grapes for vinotherapy. Book a body treatment like the like the Champagne Mud Wrap, best experienced in one of the spa’s open-air rooms with views of the Sea of Cortez. For a romantic splurge with food involved, call ahead to arrange for one of the hotel’s “Barefoot Dinners”. You’ll be greeted on the beach with glasses of wine and “check-in” your shoes to start. A grape stomp is followed by a lengthy foot massage, and then a three-course dinner prepared by a private chef along the beach.
Mi Cocina and Mi Casa
Originally founded in the 18th century, downtown San José del Cabo is now known for its art galleries, well-curated shops and topnotch restaurants. Hit happy hour at Hotel Casa Natalia’s Mi Cocina for an expertly mixed tamarind or mango mojito, then head to Mi Casa, a long-time favorite decorated with brightly hued Mexican textiles and artwork. Ask for a seat in the beautiful garden illuminated at night by star-shaped lanterns scattered throughout the tree branches, and order the cochinita pibil—shredded pork with an achiote paste of ground annatto seeds, spices and tomatoes, served with pickled red onions.
Established in 1996, this 10-acre farm in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains has become a leader in the region for organic, sustainable farming. In 2010, the pretty, open-air Flora Field Kitchen and Farm Bar followed, where the fruits of the farm are served for lunch and dinner and crafted into creative cocktails like the “Farmrita,” their version of a margarita made with heirloom carrot juice and Cazadores Reposado tequila. On Sundays Flora’s also hosts an à la carte brunch with dishes like herb scrambled farm eggs and lemon ricotta pancakes. There’s also a small grocery where visitor’s can purchase freshly baked bread and produce.
Todos Santos at Rancho Pescadero
This bohemian hotel along two miles of beachfront has countless activities: take a yoga class, borrow a surf board to hit the nearby breaks or go kayaking in the Sea of Cortez. After you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Rancho Pescadero’s restaurant Todos Santos, a local favorite thanks to a stellar seasonal menu starring the hotel’s organic garden and freshly caught seafood. We’d opt for the fried green tomatillos, followed by the catch of the day on tamarind coconut broth and the flourless chocolate spice cake.
Las Guacamayas and Taqueria Rossy
This pair of San José del Cabo taco joints should be on every food-lover’s list. Las Guacamayas offers over 50 combinations starring ingredients like chorizo, flank steak and pork shoulder, paired with killer margaritas, a fun, casual atmosphere and pretty garden, spruced up by Christmas lights at night. Taqueria Rossy is a no frills local favorite, famed for fish tacos that diners can dress up themselves with hot sauce, avocado, onions and more at the condiments bar.
A favorite for fine dining, El Farallón makes quite the first impression with its dramatic location set into the cliffs of the Capella Pedregal resort. Reserve a table just before sunset to watch the light fade into the crashing Pacific below, glass of wine in hand. The daily catch is displayed market-style on ice and, once you make your selection your fish is weighed and sent to the chef for grilling. If you like dinner, investigate Capella’s cooking classes in their hacienda-style kitchen where students learn to make ceviche, mole, tamales and more.