Lucky me. Just before the first-ever Culinary Awards Los Cabos in Mexico this past April, I had the lip-smacking pleasure of feasting at a couple of the soon-to-be-revealed winners.
At the time of my five-day jaunt south though, I’d no idea the local restaurant awards were on. In fact, like most of the near three million tourists who flock to Los Cabos every year, I’d come just for some surfside fun and R&R. Sure, simple fish tacos and cheap beer on the tip of Mexico’s Baja peninsula were a given. But a couple of days and bites into my trip, I knew I’d waded into something much more than beach-blanket comfort fare. Rather, a flourishing farm-to-fork dining scene had me wondering what dish would be next.
Let’s go back to day one, when I’m gaping up at loaded banana, mango and papaya trees, and down at neatly tended rows of cilantro, peppers and sweet potatoes — some of the more than 100 varieties of produce at Flora Farms.
Curious about this 10-hectare organic oasis nestled in the dry-and-dusty Sierra de la Laguna foothills, I’d signed up for a tour of the blooming grounds and on-site restaurant, bar, bakery and market.
Guide Azalia Nelson first shares sustainable gardening tips — planting legumes near corn restores the soil’s nitrogen levels, while marigolds near tomatoes keep bugs away — before asking our small group, “Who doesn’t want tequila this morning?” Silence. Moments later, we’re sipping Farmaritas out of Mason jars served up at the field-side bar.
Just as the cocktail’s tequila-spiked heirloom carrot juice starts to kick in, an al fresco cooking class has us crushing freshly picked vegetables and herbs in traditional molcajetes (imagine a volcanic-rock mortar and pestle).
Joining our roasted tomato salsa and rosemary guacamole is a parade of lunch plates flowing out of Flora’s Field Kitchen, voted top Culinary Experience: San Jose del Cabo at the aforementioned culinary awards. After putting back seafood-stuffed tacos, zesty slaw and sublime key lime pie, I’m ready to go home.
Home being the brand new adults-only Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos, sitting halfway between the coastal towns of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. The 373-room all-inclusive dazzles with white marble floors, artful light fixtures and ever-changing Sea of Cortez views. “Soft” adventure here extends to pool hopping — there’s four, including a sprawling waterfront infinity — and pampering in the labyrinth-like, 25-treatment-room Blanc Spa.
The two-hour water journey (included in all stays) blissfully winds from the sauna, steam and ice rooms to hot and cold plunge pools. I stay on for a one-hour Serenity Massage, then freshen up for a seven-course dinner at the elegant Lumiere.
One of seven Le Blanc restaurants sourcing local ingredients whenever possible, this French fusion room delivers with black trumpet foie gras, beef tartar, beet salad with goat cheese and braised sea bass, ending on a bang with an espresso parfait. Back at my suite, a steaming vanilla-sandalwood-scented bath awaits. (Did I mention personal butler service and a comfort menu are included too?) Bonus: the sound of waves pummelling the shoreline beyond later lulls me to sleep.
Stepping it up the next day, I’m riding a dromedary camel across a desert à la Lawrence of Arabia. White headscarf fluttering behind me, hands gripping the saddle handle in front of me, I gently shift side to side with each step that Domingo, my alpha male steed, takes.
Rescued from an abusive circus life by eco tour agency Wild Canyon, he and his friendly pack of one-hump comrades now peacefully hoof it around this sandy, vegetation-lined oasis. “In the wild they live 25 to 35 years,” says tour guide Marcel. “But over here with human care, they can live to 45 or 50 . . . of course with a healthy diet, daily watering, exercise and a life without stress.”
Though I don’t ride off into the sunset on Domingo, I later get to watch it from my cliff-side perch at Sunset Monalisa. Nestled into the Baja coastline within sight of Cabo’s famously fetching Land’s End rock formations, the restaurant was voted top Culinary Experience: Cabo San Lucas at the April awards.
Fresh, mostly local ingredients and a Michelin-starred chef are behind my meal’s tuna tartar with chipotle, mushroom fettuccine scented with white truffle oil, braised salmon with broccoli puree and mandarin-sorbet-stuffed chocolate sphere — each plate paired with a glass of wine.
An off-road jeep ride followed by a moderate hike into Fox Canyon fill my last day. About an hour’s drive north of San Jose del Cabo, the canyon’s nature preserve setting is the star of this High Tide Sea Expeditions tour. After ogling an assortment of cacti along a narrow winding path, I happily jump into the cool pool and 12-metre waterfall waiting at the base of granite bluffs.
That night on the Cabo San Lucas waterfront, the Cachet Beach Hotel’s Beach Restaurant wows with Baja-sourced fare — thanks to chef Edgar Román’s rapport with local fishers, farmers and ranchers.
My fave from the tasting menu: Baja Mussels Cacerolé. Lightly braised in white wine with regional chorizo, garlic, onion and emulsion of black peppers, the dish — and all those before it — sends me pleasantly surprised on my way back to Canada.
Catch the second annual Culinary Awards Los Cabos on April 24, 2019.