Ezequiel and Laura’s seafood dinner

Author: Julia Sherman –
There are some people in this world who just make you feel right at home the minute you meet. No matter their other commitments or obligations, these people make you feel like they have been waiting to meet you their entire lives, and they just can’t believe it took you so long to arrive. I would venture to say, 80% of these socially gifted people live in Mexico.

Ezequiel and Laura live just 15 minutes outside of Ensenada, down a winding dirt road that will tempt you to turn around and check your directions. But once you spot a radical school campus built from shipping container and perched on the cliffside, you will know you have arrived. Ezequiel opens the narrows passageway that secludes their secret garden property from the rest of the somewhat rag-tag part of Baja, and there you are – olive trees, turquoise pathways, an outdoor kitchen, a series of adobe buildings and a posse of 8 plucky rescue dogs.



What began as a brief visit with my friend/chef Niki Nakazawa, soon mushroomed into a maelstrom of hospitality. We went to Ezequiel’s factory, where pretty much all of the top quality fish in Mexico is received straight-off the boat, packaged and sent to the best restaurants. Ezequiel has been in the fish business for over 30 years, and there’s not a chef in this country who doesn’t know him by name and covet his product.

René Redzepi’s entire team came to his house as research for Noma Mexico this winter, and Ezequiel has the signed copy of their cookbook to prove it. But did René get to hand-pick his dinner from the tank of gurgling sea water at Ezequiel’s warehouse? I think not. Niki and I on the other hand, got to hold a 5lb lobster (not so cuddly, but thrilling), we picked out pismo clams, yellowtail and chione clams, but we saved the uni for another trip. The next day, Ezequiel assured us, he would take us to an uni processing plant, where we could bring home a kilo to scoop onto tostadas and even scramble into our eggs. Oh yes, he had already invited us to come back for breakfast in the morning.

While I was more than googley-eyed at the sheer indulgence of all this seafood, Ezequiel and Laura have a larger story to tell.

Laura is the principal at the small school across the road, a pedagogical project that they initiated when they first moved to the region and started their family over three decades ago. Simply seeking a better education for their kids, they organized their friends to teach everything from cooking and rare cactus cultivation, to more traditional core subjects like history, chemistry (Ezequiel still teaches that), and literature. One of their students gave us a tour of the grounds (we later realized that while this pupil’s own family lives a couple of hours away, he lives with Laura and Ezequiel during the semester so he might attend this beautifully progressive school). Drunk on their homemade red wine, olive oil and fish stew, I chatted with Laura and Ezequiel about how they found themselves in this enchanting place.





Julia Sherman: Tell me, why is the uni we are eating here so much more delicious than any I have ever tasted?

Ezequiel: In order to package uni, it has to be soaked in an anhydrous potassium alum solution to firm it up. Otherwise, it would never keep its shape. The alum is harmless, but it alters the taste.
In my opinion, you have to try sea urchin straight from the shell to really understand the subtle, sweet flavor.

JS: And how is the uni graded? What makes one higher quality than another?

E: The best uni is about 1”-2” long and bright orange. It’s all about what the sea urchin ate while it was alive. Mediocre uni eats a combo of seaweed and coral or calcium and that makes it brown.
If the sea urchin fed mostly on seaweed, it will have a sweeter taste. The uni we are eating today has red and purple shells. The purple is especially small and creamy. Most of that will be sent to Japan.

JS: When is sea urchin season?

E: July to February, but the product changes in that window. You are eating just the raw eggs, so It all depends on when they are spawning.

JS: With a glut of uni, what’s the best method of preparation?

E: We make a salad of peeled tomato, onion, lime juice and olive oil. Take the uni, add olive oil and put it in the pan and gently cook until it becomes fragrant but is still soft.
Add it to the cooked uni to the salad and spoon it onto tostadas.

JS: I can’t really imagine anything better. Not even the fanciest of meals.

E: We cooked for Rene Redzepi when he was researching local food for Noma Mexico. He sent us an autographed book.

JS: What did you make for him?

E: We just served raw uni, wild mussels on the grill, some oysters, just a bunch of ceviche…

JS: Did you grow up in Ensenada?

E: No, I am from Oaxaca. I came here to study Oceanography, then I got married and never left.

JS: When you were in school, did you think you would sell fish?

E: No! I thought I would be a scientist. But it was all very complicated. I had received a scholarship to do my Master’s in Brussels, and Laura and I we were dating at the time.

Laura: We were dating at the time, and I was studying to be an engineer in Mexicali.

E: When I found out I got the scholarship from the Mexican government, I told Laura I had to go and I asked her to come with me.

L: I wouldn’t have been able to work or study in Europe unless we got married, so we did.

E: That was March of 1982. Then, on December 1st our economy crashed. My scholarship disappeared. I had a lot of friends in the middle of their studies or about to go and the government cut all the funding.
It was 40 pesos to the dollar. My scientist dreams went down the drain. I had $300 to start with, but after the peso depreciated, it was only worth $60.
I quit studying and started working with a Japanese marine biology research center. My boss’s sister was in the fishing business so I started to work with her to make money.

Laura: Two or three years later the peso stabilized, but by then Ezequiel was so involved in the fish business he didn’t go back to his studies. But I continued. I studied engineering and then I got my teaching degree, then I did a 4 year program in mathematics. I came to Ensenada to teach math. I also have a degree in Critical Pedagogy.

E: She’s a student all her life, and a teacher for 20 years. And she then we started a school, and Laura is the Principal.

JS: Wow! Tell me about the school.

E: The school is 14 years old. We wanted a better school for our first son. We were home-schooling him, but there was so many kids in the area who needed a place to learn.
Once we organized, three months later 150 kids gathered to join the school.

JS: Where did you the teachers come from?

L: They were just my friends. Ezequiel teaches chemistry, another friend teaches chemistry…That was when the first project started in 1996.

JS: The design of the campus is so unique.

E: The architecture really engages with education. It inspires the kids. It gives them energy and peace. Ensenada is a conservative town, but we are intellectuals.
We don’t have uniforms, we don’t care if the kids have piercings or how they wear their hair. We want them to have freedom. That’s everything. Our catch phrase is “Freedom with Responsibility.” There are no fences.
The students could go wherever they want. The doors are never closed.

JS: Do you have support from the government?

E: It’s tough, economically. We just break even or we lose a little. The kids pay tuition, and there’s no funding from the government.

If you really want to educate properly, it’s not a business. We don’t have any help. But the way the school is designed, it’s designed to create good people. And we have had students go to Harvard or MIT to get their Doctorate degrees. Their families have a lot to do with it, but it’s our efforts combined. It’s very gratifying. It’s a living project.

Find original text, full gallery (and a delicious recipe) in: https://saladforpresident.com 

#MorenitaGenius: Food & Drink

Author:  Staff of MorenitaGenius –

I love my key words, slogans and tag lines, as you’ve probably noticed. “The-Out-of-Towner-Turned-Insider”. “Elevate Your Travel Game.” “We showcase cultural excellence”. “The genius of Mexican culture.”

It’s this last one in particular that I vibe with on a deep level. Mexicans are known for being many great things, yet “genius” doesn’t seem to be an adjective thrown around often when it comes to describing our national talent. That is until now.

At its core, Morenita is a colorful socio-anthropological experiment where I recognize ourselves and our cultural value.
I know it’s a company, but it was born out of my heart and soul, so in my mind it’s a movement, an awakening, a cultural homecoming.
Over the last two years I’ve built this perfect little universe of food, art & culture for myself where I am always inspired and stimulated by our Mexico,
and in this personal process of focusing on the positives I help our client also zero-in on la verdadera genialidad de nuestra cultura.

#MorenitaGenius is a new piece of content where we show off aquellos genios who are at the top of their game, even though they’re all still so young and many, just like me, with 15-20 years of experience, are just getting started.
This first story will focus on the restaurant world: we all know Enrique Olvera, Elena Reygadas and Jorge Vallejo, but wait til you meet the new school of chefs, sommeliers, maitre d’s and purveyors who are bringing the game to a completely new level. These talented youths and their spectacular work alone are worth you booking your next Morenita Experience in Mexico City.


Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Cristina Lugo, Founder & CEO of Morenita Experience, has developed a reputation as a Mexico City culinary and cultural ambassador thanks to her extensive experience in the world of hotels and restaurants.
In this story, co-written with Viridiana Ramirez, Morenita’s Communications Director, she shares who she considers to be the most distinguished food & drink personalities currently changing the CDMX industry.



Sofia was born and raised in Ensenada, a 90-minute drive south of San Diego. Her dad is from Oaxaca and her mom from Sinaloa, two major food areas in Mexico, making her childhood a food-centered cult of fish and shellfish.
Sofia is the Sales Manager at her family-owned De Garo Jamat, a company that commercializes the highest-quality seafood products from Baja & the Mexican Gulf and sells to distinguished national restaurants like Pujol, Quintonil, Rokai, Rosetta and Maximo Bistrot. Basically, any oyster, crab, fish, shrimp, lobster or uni you’ve ever had at any of these award-winning restaurants was most likely hand-picked by Sofia.
Not only that, but the family is also partners at Campobaja, our favorite seafood restaurant in Colonia Roma.

One of Sofia’s many responsibilities is communicating with the chefs and kitchen staff the properties of every fish and piece of seafood sold, so they understand how to best clean, cook and store it, and accurately pass this information on to the waiters, who are then able to correctly answer your questions when you’re ordering from the menu.

Asian food culture has always had a large influence on this family. When Sofia was a child, in addition to egg and black bean burritos (along with fish tacos, burritos are Baja staples), her school lunch didn’t consist of PB&J sandwiches, but of bento boxes and makis. Few people have I had more passionate & eloquent discourses about food with: Sofia is an old food expert soul living in the body of a young beautiful woman.


Click here to see the full interviews of our friends morenitaexperience.com 


Activistas del mar y la cocina

Por  Ollin Velasco – 
Desde la cocina, Ezequiel Hugo y Ezequiel Ignacio hacen activismo contra la explotación marina y la extinción de especies

Sencillez y creatividad en el maldito mar de Cortés

Texto y fotos: Laura Manzano – 
Las 10 de la mañana le sientan muy bien al Mar de Cortés. Navegamos frente al icónico arco de Los Cabos.

Se ve especialmente bonito, flanqueado desde abajo por el turquesa del agua y desde arriba por el clarito azul del cielo. Bajo el arco se alcanza a ver un trozo de arena.

Había escuchado que cada año bisiesto aparece una playa, la típica de las fotos que uno se encuentra en Instagram.

Hoy, a la mitad de octubre, la marea está lo suficientemente baja como para alcanzar a ver un una playa hecha y derecha.

“Apareció hace unos días y todos nos sorprendimos”, dice Raquel, publicista del hotel The Cape, “llevábamos cinco años sin verla”. Ése, pienso, es el cambio climático saludándonos de nuevo.

Estoy en la barra de la lancha platicando con Abisaí. Intento distraerme de un mareo que paranoicamente trato de prevenir. Una hora antes (sin pensarlo, claro) había desayunado dos huevos pochados
con langosta y un pedazo grande del justificadamente famoso pan francés de The Ledge, uno de los restaurantes que está en The Cape (es tan famoso que ya lo incluyeron en el menú de desayuno, comida y cena).

Llevamos ya 40 minutos en altamar y no sé si es el medio dramamine que me tomé, los shots de jengibre con limón que nos dieron al embarcar o mi plática con Abi, pero las náuseas siguen sin aparecer.

Abisaí Sánchez es chef ejecutivo de Manta, el restaurante que Enrique Olvera abrió hace unos tres años en The Cape. Sus manos están calzadas en guantes blancos de látex; en la derecha blande un cuchillo japonés.
Tiene pinta de cirujano, pero sostiene con la mano izquierda un molusco gigante que no reconozco. “Es una almeja generosa, ¿quieres probar?”, dice, mientras me pasa una rodaja con la mano.
Es más dura de lo que pensé y sabe a concentrado de marisco y mar. “La vamos a preparar con hoja de mostaza, arroz blanco y umeboshi.”

Comienza el desfile de estos taquitos-nigiri de almeja generosa. La hoja de mostaza le da un sabor picosito, como wasabi, el umeboshi es un toque ácido, parecido al chamoy, el arroz neutraliza los picos salados de la almeja y todo, de un bocado, es un delicado balance de sabores. “Eso es Manta”, explica Abi, “es una cocina muy limpia, sencilla y con sabores crudos, como son los mariscos en Sinaloa.” Buen producto y pocos ingredientes parece ser el secreto de una comida tan precisa como la de Manta.

“Manta es un lugar muy de playa. Es algo muy sencillo en términos de creatividad, basado en los productos que te ofrece la zona”, dice Enrique Olvera unas horas después, untando un totopo horneado con el guacamole que acabamos de pedir en el bar de The Cape.El estilo de su cocina parte de los ingredientes. Tienen que ser frescos, puros y de la mejor calidad posible.


En ese mismo bar, unos instantes antes, platiqué con Ezequiel Hernández, distribuidor de pescados y mariscos basado en Ensenada. Ezequiel es oaxaqueño, tendrá unos 50 años y desde 1982 se dedica a la pesca y distribución de productos del mar. Trae una camisa amarilla, boina gris, paliacate rojo al cuello y gafas de sol que cubren sus anteojos. Su aspecto es tan interesante como todo lo que tiene que decir sobre lo que viene del mar.

“Un buen pescado depende de tres cosas: su calidad física antes de atraparlo, la forma en que lo pescas y la forma en que lo tratas desde ese momento hasta que te lo comes.”

Ezequiel es el proveedor de los restaurantes de Enrique Olvera. Asegura que un pescado bien cuidado puede durar sin congelar hasta 15 días en calidad de sashimi después de haberlo pescado (yo también me sorprendí).
Esto, claro, aplica si todo se maneja bien desde el principio. “Hay una calidad que tiene que ver con la parte organoléptica, con su estado de desarrollo, esa calidad no la tocas”, dice, explicando que el punto ideal es antes de desovar. “Hay otra calidad que tiene que ver con cómo lo pescaste.” No es lo mismo pescar con anzuelo, con trampa o con red de arrastre. Para Ezequiel lo ideal es pescar con trampa o anzuelo para que el pescado salga vivo del agua y luche lo menos posible. “Una vez que los atrapas, los tienes que inmovilizar, desangrar ahí mismo en la panga y enseguida meterlos a una hielera con aguanieve” Ya en esa hielera no se vuelven a tocar. “El mar no es inagotable. Hay que respetar las temporadas, vedas y tratar a cada especie con la delicadeza que merecen” Tanto Ezequiel como Olvera son fieles a la calidad de su producto. “Ezequiel tiene este lado muy generoso, igual que los cocineros. Hubo un entendimiento muy rápido de por qué debería de comprarle a él”, dice Enrique.

“En Manta [y en Pujol] estamos más enfocados en la ejecución que en la creatividad. Más al estilo japonés: un wey de sushi no cambia su menú, ha hecho nigiri toda su vida”, reflexiona Olvera. “La creatividad la encuentras en pequeños detalles que hacen mejor un plato, no en cambiarlo por completo”, dice, y suena como un actor de teatro acostumbrado a encontrar cambios minúsculos de una noche a otra. “Eso me llama mucho la atención en este momento de mi carrera. Se me hace mucho más padre la repetición y lo que puedes encontrar haciendo las cosas cien mil veces.”

Lo cierto es que todo lo hablado puede resumirse en lo comido. El taquito nigiri que preparó Abi, el cirujano, con sólo tres ingredientes. Las lapas con yuzukosho (una pasta fermentada hecha de chiles, cáscara del cítrico yuzu y sal) y soya o esos maravillosos ostiones con erizo, tobiko (hueva de pez volador) y wasabi fresco. Fue un gran paseo en barco. El mareo nunca llegó.~


Esta experiencia sólo se hizo completa con tres noches en The Cape, un hotel donde se come, se bebe y se duerme bien. Al igual que Manta, The Cape encuentra lo extraordinario en los detalles: arquitectura, decoración, almohadas, jabones, sillones… Todo está pensado para funcionar en conjunto.~


Texto y fotos: Laura Manzano

Encuentra la nota original con nuestros amigos de:  https://revistahojasanta.com/ 

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