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Food critic and TV host Troy Johnson shares five delicious Cali-Baja dishes and what drink mixes best with each.
Behind every great meal is a great drink that can kick up subtle elements of flavor that you didn't even know existed. Cali-Baja is no exception. In fact, drink pairing is a huge part of this uniquely San Diegan culinary movement and here are Troy Johnson's recommendations to get you started. Cheers to working together!
Troy: “This is a juicy, vegetarian version of Puesto’s gourmet tacos, fresh and bright. Pair these with the micheladas, which are made from scratch every day. Specifically, Puesto’s El Rey Del Patio with cucumber, tomatillo, charred chiles and lime. That’s mixed with a Corona for a perfect patio pairing at their Downtown location. While craft beer is amazing on its own, it’s better to have a neutral vessel like a Corona or Pacifico to showcase the michelada mix.”
Troy: “Insurgente is one of the top craft beers from Tijuana—essentially, the Stone Brewing of our southern neighbor. And La Lupulosa best embodies both sides of the border because it uses five kinds of hops—San Diego craft beer loves its hops—and adds that floral note to the fritters. As for the fritters…not diet food, but so good.”
Troy: “Mezcal pairs well with smoky foods, due to its own smoky flavor. Del Maguey is a fantastic single-village producer of mezcals, and its tobala is made from magueys (the agave plant) in the highest mountain altitudes. Its fruity, sweet flavor is almost tropical and works perfectly with this wood-grilled seafood.”
Troy: “Lechuza is one of the stars of Baja’s emerging wine region, Valle de Guadalupe (only a 90-minute drive from the San Diego border). It’s got almost an almond flavor, which pairs well with the pine nut butter in the Spanish octopus. Although ‘Spanish’ is in the title, this is a very Baja dish with the salsa verde and smoked pork (a Baja staple) and is the best thing on the menu at the Patio. All of that flavor with the pine nut butter makes for one of the best octopus dishes in the city.”
Troy: “Chef Deborah Scott has been doing Baja-inspired food forever. Her creamed corn soup is simple, but absolutely perfect with that roasted poblano cream. But to cut that cream, you want an acid in the cocktail, and you get it with the lime and grapefruit juice of the spicy paloma (Dos Armadillos Blanco Tequila, lime juice, grapefruit juice, agave syrup, habañero bitters and club soda). The habañero’s subtle heat matches the spice in the soup.”
Trey Foshee, Cali-Baja chef extraordinaire, says the chefs and bartenders know the flavors better than anyone and usually work to create flavors that mix well together. Let the bartender suggest a drink that will perfectly complement the Cali-Baja dish in front of you.
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