Summertime is upon us in Baja Sur. With hot long days, occasional afternoon thunder storms and beautiful red sunsets, our Villa Santa Cruz guests are falling into the slow pace of the Todos Santos summer. Sipping cold drinks in the ocean front hammocks, taking evening beach strolls with the dogs and dipping in the pool to refresh and revive, they have become part of the calm and peacefulness that the summer brings us.
Even as we enjoy the unhurried groove of the summer season, we look forward to the events that are already being planned for the coming year. As you start to plan your getaways for 2012-2013, consider the following festivals and celebrations that will make your stay in Todos even more memorable.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS - 2012 TO 2013
October 12 to 16, 2012 - Festival of the Patron Saint of Todos Santos, Nuestra Señora del Pilar
This lively festival commemorates the founding of Todos Santos. With music, arts, dancing, a parade and horse show, these will be five days filled with celebration and cheer.
January 10 to 26, 2013 - 2nd Annual Todos Santos Music Festival, Organized by Peter Buck of REM
The debut of this 3 week music festival last season was incredible! With three weeks of live music, big names (Robin Hitchcock, Chuck Prophet, Kevn Kinney & more) and great venues, it is absolutely a "must do" in Todos Santos. Performances every Thurs, Fri & Sat nights for three consecutive weekends (Jan 10 - 12; Jan 17-19; Jan 24-26). This is definitely the hottest ticket in town and rooms are going quickly - limited availability remains at Villa Santa Cruz during the first weekend only. Contact us now to make your reservation.
Photo Credit: Pescadero Surf Properties
February 2 to 9, 2013 - Todos Santos Art Festival
This week long celebration of the arts offers many cultural events - includes art exhibitions, dance and music performances. Official program to come.
February 10, 2013 - 4th Annual Todos Santos Artist Open Studio Tour
On the heels of the Art Festival, over 30 of our local Todos Santos artists will open their studios and invite in the general public to view their work spaces and chat about their creative practices. You will pick up a map of the studios and take a self-guided tour throughout the town, stopping in to see the artists who most intrigue you.
Shown: Todos Santos Artist Tori Sepulveda
February 21 to February 28 - 10th Annual Todos Santos Film Festival
Selected films from across Mexico and Latin America are shown at the beautifully restored Manuel Márquez de León Theater, located in the heart of the historic district of Todos Santos. Before the films begin, have dinner in town and stroll the main plaza where you'll find local vendors selling wine by the glass and sweet treats to take into the theater with you. So charming!
This is such a promising line up of festivals and events - the 2012 to 2013 season will be here before we know it!
One of the very best things about visiting Baja and Todos Santos is the amazing food. From the abundance of fresh produce and seafood to the chefs who magically whip these ingredients into gastronomical delights, visitors to our area are in for a treat. And, if you are looking for a way to take your culinary experience to the next level, we have just the thing - gourmet cooking lessons at Villa Santa Cruz with Chef Dany Lamote, head chef at the legendary Hotel California.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, Chef Dany arrived at Villa Santa Cruz ready to guide me, Matt and our friends through the preparation (and consumption) of an exquisite four course dinner. Chef Dany was ready to get down to business, armed with everything needed for a serious gourmet cooking class - fresh shrimp and yellowtail fish, colorful produce and aromatic herbs, and, of course, a creme brulee blowtorch. We were celebrating a milestone birthday for one of our dear friends, Laura, and loved the intimacy and group togetherness of the cooking class. The Villa, with an open social kitchen, butcher block island, ample counter space, and big chairs (aka "king and queen thrones") in which to relax, is a perfect venue for a group cooking experience.
After toasting to the promise of a great meal with a crisp glass of white wine, Dany gathered the group to introduce us to his cooking philosophy. Originally from Belgium, he explained that his signature style is to combine Mexican ingredients with European techniques. He loves to make exotic Mexican foods more familiar - we'd be incorporating nopales (cactus paddles), cuitlacoche (corn mushroom know as "Mexican caviar") and ancho chile peppers into our meal. He then split the three couples into three groups - each in charge of a different course - and we were on our way down the culinary road.
Max and Laura were in charge of the appetizer course. Their menu included yellowtail sashimi marinated in soy sauce and ginger, shrimp skewered on rosemary sprigs with an orange-saffron-habanero-coconut sauce, pineapple salsa, and crab and goat cheese stuffed peppers (the stuffed peppers were definitely a group favorite).
Amy and Dustin were assigned the salad and dessert courses. The dessert, an ancho chile creme brulee, was the most time intensive dish, so they started on that first - boiling the ancho chiles, cream and cinnamon, melting the chocolate, combining the ingredients, pouring into ramekins, and baking for 35 minutes. Once the desserts went into the oven, they jumped over to the preparation of the salads and crostini. They worked on a nopal cactus salad with goat cheese and tomatoes, a mixed salad with agave glazed pecans topped with duck and arrachera steak, and a crostini of puffed pastry, nopales, goat cheese and cuitlacoche.
Matt and I prepared two sauces for the fish course, one with tomatillos and one with tamarind. We peeled and roasted the tomatillos and then boiled and strained the tamarind, creating two flavorful bases for fresh yellowtail and halibut. We also made a sweet potato gratin spiced with ginger and Chef Dany's amazing flavored curry salt.
At this point, we were all starting to bulge around the middle, but were ready for the evening's grand finale - creme brulee adorned with huge strawberries. We all gathered in the kitchen to watch Dustin wield the blowtorch to create a perfectly caramelized crust. With a hint of ancho chiles, it was a winner - definitely a recipe to keep in your back pocket to recreate for your friends at home. It was tough to get a lot of birthday candles into those little ramekins, but we made it work!
We send our warmest thanks to Chef Dany for such a fun and special evening. Sitting outdoors under the covered patio, listening to the crashing waves, enjoying the warm ambiance of the Villa's gas lamps and soft candlelight, delighting in a gourmet meal with good friends over glasses of wine...life doesn't get much sweeter than this. We highly recommend that all our Villa Santa Cruz guests put it at the top of their Todos Santos "to do" list.
Classes offered daily from 11am to 2pm at Santo Vino (Hotel California’s Bistro Restaurant). Chef Dany is available to host an evening class at Villa Santa Cruz on Sunday nights (4+ persons). $100 USD/person for basic class, $175 USD/person for upgrade with wine/tequila (includes 1 glass wine/tequila per person per course). For more information, visit our Cooking Lessons Activity link.
Thanks to our friends at Baja.com - a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel advice on Baja California, Mexico - we spent the day aboard a spectacular yacht in the Sea of Cortez, explored the beautiful Balandra Beach and swam with whale sharks. While our guests at Villa Santa Cruz, Boutique Hotel on the Beach, are usually quite content enjoying the Villa and Todos Santos, this day trip to La Paz is a "must do" for any guest of Villa Santa Cruz and any traveler to Baja Sur.
The Samurai - what a beauty!
Arriving bright and early to the La Paz marina after an hour drive from Todos Santos, we were welcomed by Kenny Busick, the owner and captain of our vessel for the day, The One Baja's 56' Samurai Luxury Yacht. Over piping hot coffee and breakfast on board, we met up with the Baja.com team and other Baja "ambassadors" with whom we would spend the day. The impressive list of locals included Tim Means, a passionate Baja conservationist and owner of the outdoor adventure company, Baja Expeditions, Roy Stock - Principal of Wide Open Baja, an off road touring company, James Curtis - Owner of the Cortez Club, the best diving and watersports center in La Paz, who regaled us with amazing tales of personal encounters with whales and dolphins in the Sea of Cortez, and Restaurateurs Miguel Ochoa (Hotel Casa Tota and La Santena Restaurant & Bar), Geoffrey Lujan (Las Tres Virgines Restaurant in La Paz) and Rafael Rodriguez (Salsipuedes Bar & Restaurant in La Paz) and more!
Once we settled in on the yacht, we were soon heading north through the La Paz Bay. With the morning sun on our shoulders, it was a beautiful sight watching the coast from the sea. Within minutes, the crew on the top deck spotted a friendly whale shark near our boat. Jim Pickell, the CEO of Baja.com, was the only one brave enough to jump in and get up close and personal with him.
Whale Shark Mouth
Jim with the Whale Shark
We made our way to Balandra Beach, one of the most breath taking stretches in all of Baja Sur. With crystal clear water, powder white sand and gently lapping waves, an afternoon here is one spent in paradise. Captain Kenny anchored the boat in the bay and let us explore.
Beautiful Balandra Beach
Kayaking around Balandra
Balandra's Famous Mushroom Rock
Docking back at the Marina, we were sad to say good-bye to all our new friends and to such a great day out on the water. We'd like to extend a huge thank you to everyone at Baja.com for such a fun day. We look forward to sending our Villa Santa Cruz guests out for the same adventure!
Location. La Paz is located approximately one hour northeast of Todos Santos by car. With a completed four-lane highway, the drive is easy and quick. The Samurai is located here.
About the Samurai. The Samurai is a luxury yacht for cruising, fishing and family fun. It is a luxurious, smooth riding stable platform that offers a 20 knot cruise, great for sport fishing and perfect for multi-island exploration or long range voyages, manufactured by Ronin Shipbuilding in Puerto Rico. She is completely self-sufficient with two generators, four air conditioners, 800 per day fresh water maker, three private staterooms, two private heads, complete chef's galley, two custom BBQ's, main dining room and underwater lights for night time fishing action.
Charter Includes. They typical day includes full breakfast, lunch and snacks as well as beer and wine. Guests can take the dinghy to explore beaches, snorkel, kayak, dive, fish, paddleboard and more.
Cost. The cost varies with the number of people, itinerary and menu, but is usually around $3,000 USD/day (plus 10-20% tip). Overnight trips are quoted upon request.
Reservations. Reservations can be made through Samurai's listing on Baja.com.
Don’t miss Monday and Wednesday evenings at La Bodega. Monday is “Flight Night” and is a great time to sample featured wines and listen to the funky blues band, Ben & the Men. Monday nights, 5-8pm.
Wednesday night is “Big Red Wednesday” where Mac sells boldly structured red wines by the glass, paired with Dona Guillermina’s delicious tamales. Tolin serenades the evening with his beautiful guitar music. Wednesday nights, 5-7pm.
Located on Calle Hidalgo, between Juarez and Militar (stand in front of the Tecolote Bookstore and walk straight down the street). Open Monday, 5-8pm; Tuesday – Saturday, 11am to 7pm. Find La Bodega on Facebook.