Paradise by the sea
While most people post-Thanksgiving were ramping up their exercise routines and going on a cleanse, I was lucky enough to attend the first culinary weekend at Rancho Pescadero resort.
And what a delicious weekend it was: If you’re not familiar with Rancho, the 27-suite boutique hotel is about an hour-and-half drive from the Cabo airport in the quaint surfing town of Todos Santos, Mexico.
Over the beautiful, three day weekend, fabulous dinners and cooking classes were performed by these culinary leaders: Top Chef season seven contestant Kelly Liken of Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail, Colorado; husband-and-wife duo Jeff and Susan Mall of Zin restaurant in Sonoma, California; and chef Rodrigo Bueno from Rancho Pescadero.
Here are some of the highlights, and watch Rancho’s web site for upcoming culinary weekends, or to just to book a really fabulous adults-only getaway:
November is a wonderful time to visit Rancho. The weather is perfect, high 70s, and not a cloud in the sky. In this photo, suite 20 is at the top of the winding staircase. Very Romeo and Juliet.
The first morning, we hit the ocean for some deep-sea fishing in a tiny (and I mean tiny) boat. Discovering whales playing just yards from the boat was the best. Experience. Ever.
Kelly’s husband, Rick, got our first catch of the day. Mahi mahi! Rancho will buy fresh fish like this from such fishermen, or chef Bueno will go out and catch them himself.
After about an hour of struggling with this guy, I even managed to reel in a fish.
For the first dinner, Susan and Jeff Mall prepared a thoughtfully fresh meal: to start, wild shrimp avocado salad, with Pescadero green, cumin lime vinaigrette, radish dust, and toasted pepitas (pictured). Next, a savory corn masa crepe with Baja lobster, and then a grilled pork entree with quince relish and roasted mountain pumpkin.
Talk about room service: A light breakfast of coffee (or tea), fresh fruit, and impossible-to-pass-up pastries are left at your door at Rancho. They don’t knock, they just leave it for you to enjoy when you’re ready to open the door. For something more hearty, the al fresco dining room opens around 9 a.m.
For lunch, chef Bueno and chef Kelly Liken put together a hands-on cooking class for Rancho guests/attendees. Two salsas, rice, and ceviche later, we had a taco Rancho feast.
Chef Kelly Liken is ready to put us to work chopping cilantro, onions, and tomatoes for salsa. The cooking class was held in the beautiful Garden restaurant at Rancho.
Chef Bueno’s dinner on the beach was served by candlelight, in the sand, with a live band. The festive mezcal shot had a crispy chaser (pictured), but the dessert of guava ice cream with starfish-shaped bunuelos–or fried dough–was a dreamy, sweet and savory end to the meal.
The next day, for a more intense snack than I bargained for, I ordered the nachos and a house margarita. The fresh guacamole, spicy salsa, and melted cheese combine for one of the most satisfying meals in all of Mexico.
The weekend ended on a strong note: Chef Kelly Liken transformed the Garden Restaurant with outdoor seating illuminated by candles and hanging lights. The meal started with a delicate roasted beet salad with citrus vinaigrette (pictured). The next course, a seared red snapper gazpacho, was spicy; the chili oil and fresh mint from the Rancho garden giving it a real bust of flavor. Perfectly-cooked crispy pork belly and jicama slaw for the entree, and vanilla cremeux, papaya salad with pickled chilis, cilantro syrup, and candied pepitas for dessert.
Stay tuned for more culinary events similar to this delicious weekend. From left: Susan Mall, Jeff Mall, Rodrigo Bueno, Kelly Liken, Rick Liken