Jeff Smith noon, March 8
Missionary Revives Caesar, His Salad...And Now His City?
First signs of a TJ revival?
Check out the New Yorker’s profile of Javier Plascencia, missionary chef of Tijuana. It’s in the January 30th edition.
The New York Times has also featured Plascencia and his break-out “Misión 19” eatery (3/9/11) as have a dozen other papers, not just because he’s big on locovore eatin’, (and local drinking – he favors wines from the Guadalupe Valley east of Ensenada), but because hey, he wants to make Tijuana itself famous again, this time as a worldwide gastronomical magnet. The city of Good Eating.
Where the trinket buying-tourists have evaporated, Plascencia says a more sophisticated crowd of locals plus foreigners such as execs of maquiladoras, is moving in.
For sure, when I first saw that his family had renovated Caesar’s Hotel restaurant last year as part of the same campaign, I was, well, kinda moved.
Somebody had shown faith in the place, and the town, when everyone else was boarding up the doors and fleeing. Caesar’s was beautiful again inside.
And the ceremony of making Caesar’s salad, right there where Sr. Cardini invented it a century ago, was back tableside, being taken very seriously.
You shoulda watched – in my case – Jose Antonio carry out the tableside mixing of the Caesar’s Salad, crushing garlic, squishing anchovies, shaking Worcestershire sauce, dunking the two raw eggs in their shells to float for exactly two minutes in a bowl of hot water, then cracking the heads, siphoning off the whites, adding the olive oil, and finally selecting four giant romaine lettuce leaves (“always from the heart, never the outer ones”)…you kind of hesitated to actually eat it.
So how’s about San Diego chefs somehow getting involved in all this ferment? Help the rebuild somehow. And also learn from the cuisine that seems to be evolving 20 minutes to the south, with or without us? Hey, maybe we create a regional cuisine together.
Because, right behind them would be a ton of people. Ordinary folks who haven’t had their Tijuana fix for years. You can just feel a dammed up flood of love waiting for the signal that it’s “OK” to go down again.
Check out Javier Plascencia’s "Misión 19" restaurant. It's at 10643 Misión de San Javier, Segundo piso (2nd level), Via Corporativo, Zona Urbana Rio, Tijuana, tel 01152-664-634-2493.
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