When I used to think of Mexico, I thought of old taco stands, mariachis, and riding in the back of pick up trucks with surfboards and tequila infused classmates. However, that was back in high school; Los Cabos is now filled with posh resorts, boutique hotels, upscale eateries and events from art walks to runway shows. This weekend was the first annual TNT Festival held and orchestrated by Hotel El Ganzo at the Ganzo de Playa Beach Club. What does the “TNT” stand for? A hangover, if you don’t pace yourself.
The recipe for this explosive event was six of the best restaurants in Los Cabos going “mano a mano” by putting their best spin on all your favorite tacos, and testing them out on the taste buds of the local community while Jose Cuervo’s Tequila Verdano was showcased in an all-you-can-drink cocktail bar overlooking the water. Luckily for some, The Shamans and La Calor Electrocumbia played live throughout the afternoon and into the evening to help make their stumble look more like the salsa.
Each taco stand featured something unique and pleasing to the eye; the aroma from the sizzling grills, fresh salsas and tortillas made any choice you started with the right one. A lot different from the days of pulling off dusty highways to a roadside stand, and holding up a couple fingers for fish tacos with daring friends to try the lengua!
I picked my course and set sail. First stop was La Galería featuring Tacos de Pescado, then came the Tacos de Cochinita Pibil, a spicy pulled pork, served with peppers and red onions and complimented with a fiery habanero salsa. The pork tacos will be my go to item the next time I dine at their restaurant at the Plaza de Pescador, and one people from home will definitely hear about.
Next up, Los Tamarindos. They had the healthiest taco I’ve ever bit into so it wasn’t a surprise to learn about their organic farm a few miles away that provides some of the local restaurants with fresh organic produce on a daily basis. Even though the shrimp was deep fried (C’mon it’s still Mexico!) it was served on a thinly sliced slab of jicama used for the taco shell on top of a banana leaf, and dressed with a pineapple chutney. Delicioso! Even vegetarians had nowhere to hide since they also served a simmering organic veggie mix on a sliced beet, but kept it spicy with a habanero salsa to keep one from playing it too passive.
Villa Valentina displayed their battering skills while serving up old school fish tacos with three different salsas, guacamole and light cole slaw made from carrots and purple cabbage. Add a cerveza with a little lime and salt, and I was back in my younger years driving across the border from California in search of waves and good times.
Los Milagros gave me the biggest surprise. A sweet and sour tangy sauce drizzled over a delicious pulpo made me raise an eyebrow. Pulpo? I’ve never ordered nor willingly ate octopus in my life, but when I found out that’s what I was eating, I can now confidently call myself a fan of the subaqueous ink blaster. It made me wonder what other edibles I’ve steered clear of that I could more easily digest by throwing it in a tortilla with some fresh salsas and onions.
La Panga served smoked clams with melted cheese, and Mi Casa was grilling up Sea Ray tacos complimented with a smoked carrot and habanero sauce, they also had an authentic Cecina (dried shredded beef) taco which went great with their guacamole.
As good hosts, El Ganzo also had their own BBQ throwing up flames charring rubbed chicken, fish, and shrimp, and was still smoking as it was served in a fresh tortilla. Mexican salsas that I could never pronounce, but thoroughly enjoyed included x’nipec and molcajeteaca, and were featured in front of the usual array of red onions, spicy habanero sauces and guacamole.
By the time I tasted all the tacos, I could only imagine what desserts like the Tres Leches, Flan de Caveat, and Churros tasted like, and by the looks on the faces around me I think I should of saved some room, but let’s not forget it’s also a tequila festival!
Jose Cuervo’s Verdano Tequila Stand was strategically placed at the far end of El Ganzo’s Beach Club overlooking the channel filled with the coming and goings of boats and stand up paddlers, and across the marina –almost purposely used as a backdrop– was the Hotel El Ganzo.
Sipping on a Verdano Tequila Pepino Cocktail, I had a chance to hear about all the popular events the hotel hosts year round. With an on site recording studio and one of the best locations on the southern tip of Baja, they have no trouble attracting international artists and filmmakers to come down and be inspired by what I’m sure moves us all, and keeps us coming back for more of this wild yet soon to be tamed coast.
It’s places like Hotel El Ganzo, who hosts a wide variety of events for the entertainment industry as well as the local community, that keeps the Los Cabos culture rich and full of flavor, and the TNT Festival will surely be added to the calendar of annual events not to miss in Los Cabos.