Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Winter Picnic in the Valle de Guadalupe - Baja Wine and Lebanese Food

Lebanese Food and Baja California Wine

A Winter Picnic in the Valle de Guadalupe

by Burleigh Sullivan

Looking for a totally different experience, we were driving around Ensenada and ran into a Lebanese Arabic Food Restaurant called Al Manara just off 9th and Gastellum. We really love the Mediterranean Arabic style food so we went in and immediately were taken by the good fresh food.

Al Manara is owned and operated by Souhaila Maynies. She is originally from Lebanon and has been living in Ensenada for over 35 years. The food is truly authentic from the old country and tastes like it came direct from Beirut, yet we where here in Baja California Mexico! Amazing!

Being inspired by the food, we got an idea - let's take out, get a bottle of some local Mexican wine and do a Baja Wine Country drive and picnic.

So we purchased some Kibbee, Hoummus, Lebne and Taboule and headed out to the Baja Wine Country.

The 20 minute drive from Ensenada to the Valle de Guadalupe was truly pleasant. It was sunny with nary a cloud in the sky - about 70 degrees in winter. Yeah it was Dec. 26th . Winter!

We stopped at Las Cavas, a local all-purpose market located just past San Antonio de Las Minas, the first small town that appears as you arrive into the valley, to buy a bottle of the unique Mexican vino . The local owner Ignacio was quite courteous. He has a nice selection of all the local wines in his wine cellar part of the store so it was tough to pick.

From the biggest producers e.g. L.A. Cetto to smaller boutique wines from Mount Xanic and others, we picked we picked up a bottle of Liceaga Gran Reserva Merlot, cost $ 30 usd. Ignacio even opened up the bottle for us and we were about to go off when we noticed he had Ostriches on his huge lot.

Igancio began to tell us that he operates an Ostrich farm and that he sells the lean meat at this store. Hum? Ostrich BBQ and some Mexican Wine? Sounds like another trip back may be placed on the things to do list.

So we drove a bit into the valley and found a lovely California Oak Tree area with a few picnic benches, sat down, poured a few glasses of the delicious red baja wine and put out our "Arabic Mazza", commonly known in Spanish circles as Tappas.

And oh wow, the Kibbee was so delicious. I ate more than my share. Could not get enough! Thank goodness for the wine to wash it all down. Oh my this was turning out to be a tasty affair.

My friend Frank and his wife Dolores broke out the scrabble board and we drank, ate, played, laughed and enjoyed the serene quiet for a few hours. It's was a special day in the wine country. Unexpected pleasure the day after Christmas! Who knew that winter in the Baja wine country could be so merry and delicious.

  • Al Manara Restaurant is located in downtown Ensenada at 9th and Gastellum. The food is fresh Mediterranean and Lebanese. Prices range from $ 5 to $ 10 usd per dish.

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