Saturday, January 20, 2007

no tough duck...or dinner in our Villas del Mar casita is creative and a coup!

Saturday night we originally had plans to dine at the top location here in Baja California, and perhaps much of all of Mexico. "C" is the home of famed chef Charlie Trotter and is located in the One & Only Palmilla Resort located below our cliffside villa. HOWEVER, upon arrival here at VILLAS DEL MAR and dining Thursday on a monstrous buffet from the most wonderful sauteed Sweet Mexican Peppers to Shrimp Dishes, Guacamole, Chicken, Salsas, Salads and so much more we were totally wowed by our English chef NIGEL FIELD who actually grew up here and boasts training at the SAVOY in London at its height in the 70's and subsequently as the Michelin-starred chef at Paris' "La Petite Fromage." Incidentally he was also highly involved in the cooking for the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana.

So, needless to say, we opted to cancel "C," and dine in the luxury of our villa on a multi-course meal prepared with great love and care by Nigel and his wonderful wife Mercedes. They were more than ably assisted by our truly warm, considerate and attentive butler, Gerardo, who incidentally is an architect, but also the architect of the best Margaritas in town (so much so, that every time he leaves the villa, we must ask for another pitcher to be left in the fridge!).

Samuel had his pasta meal and was quickly off to bed at 730pm in his room, and we sat down at 8 to dine for hours on what easily is the best Mexican meal on earth, and truly one of the most enjoyable dining experiences we all ever had.

After a round of margaritas we sat down at the elegantly set table with one of the most amazing glass blown 7 foot tall chandeliers hanging from the 14 foot high ceiling. Our first wine was a CHEHALEM 2003 Ian's Reserve CHARDONNAY that we had brought with us and its very unoaked essence and forward fruit was perfect with the SAUTEED GIANT (and they were gigantic) CAJUN SCALLOPS with Mango Sauce, Mango Salsa on the side and Wilted Leeks. It not only woke our palates up, but got us very excited about what was to come. Nigel did say the heat would start big and go down from there, but we didn't was superb.

MANCHEGO Cheese Stuffed JUEROS Chilis came in a CREAM CHIPOTLE SAUCE and surrounded by a cooked EGG WHITE (think, Egg Foo Young) and served with SAUTEED SHRIMP and Fresh Mayonnaise. This was a novel local chili and a wonderful combination of flavors again that just elevated our enjoyment and really had us on edge for what was to come.

Our second wine was a CUVAISON 2004 Carneros CHARDONNAY which is always a winner in my book and goes with everything. For this, it was a ROASTED CHICKEN & MANCHEGO CHEESE ENCHILADA with Sauteed Zucchini, Scallions and a to die fore MOLE SAUCE made from 31 herbs, spices and chilis. While this mole employed chocolate, it was understated and truly the best ever we had all experienced.

Warm Water SOLE VERACRUZANA came next with JASMINE RICE and the traditional "Veracruz" style sauce of olives, tomato and anchovy, here with leeks and poblano chilis. What I truly liked was the extreme "thickness" of the sauce as the Veracruz tomato-based sauce is truly awful when it is thin.

At this point we opened a second bottle from home of POGGIO al TUFO 2004 ROMPICOLLO which is a mid teen $ range Chianti that worked excellently with the ARRACHERA or FLANK STEACK stuffed with PLANTAIN and served with Asparagus in a Two-chili sauce made from those local wonders: Guajillo and Arbol. Originally another course had been planned, but we had to hold off as we had enjoyed way too much. As a special request, the staff had picked up a magnificent TRES LECHES from a local bakery that again easily beat anything we had ever had before. The creamy milk-laden cake was sweet, but tasty and not overdone and had coconut and a not too rich frosting that had us all raving. A glass of BARBOURSVILLE 2002 MALVAXIA (also from home) had us ready for bed and thanking Mercedes, Nigel and Gerardo until they walked out the door. Boy, were we glad we skipped Trotter's place for dinner with Chef Field, and there was no tough duck, like when Chef Charlie Palmer cooked for us!

A side note must also be added that the staff prepares breakfast and lunch for us as well and we have had some of the most exquisite LOBSTER & CRAB SALADS, dishes and salsas around. Also, when Will came up with the brilliant idea of a huge ENGLISH BREAKFAST for yesterday, Chef Nigel dashed into the fray to prepare the most perfect of fried eggs on Fried Bread with sauteed mushrooms, sauteed tomatoes, bacon, ham steak, baked beans and Lord knows what else. Will was in heaven and we were all full moments after we woke! However, the simple piece de resistance of Chef Nigel's preparations has been the delicious homemade strawberry & mango yogurt we have enjoyed daily, especially Samuel, who adores yogurt and will now demand homemade at home, no doubt.

Again, we must stress that the staff here at Villas del Mar has got to be the friendliest on earth. We have loved them and their preparations and will be so sorry to leave tomorrow, but will be happy to know we are staying several more days in this magnificent corner of heaven on earth.