Valle de Guadalupe; a Work Day
I have had some wonderful meals in my lifetime and very lucky for me, my day job includes eating some beautifully composed meals. Last night, I was on the job, hosting a table of media writers for a dinner that highlighted the opening of Animalón for their third season. As you can guess, it’s always a pleasure for me to perform this “service” for a client, this one being Chef Javier Plascencia.
I arrived prior to our guests yesterday afternoon to walk the site and see the changes that had been made to Animalón which sits on the east side of Chef Javier’s Finca Altozano property in the center of Valle de Guadalupe. Each time I’m there, I feel like time has stopped. All my senses are heightened and I find myself lost in the abundant sounds, smells, and views.
Our guests arrived to enjoy a welcome cocktail at the new LOUNGE set just outside the Animalón oak tree. The new cocktail menu has the addition of a new Tijuana distilled gin, Enmienda 18. The welcome cocktail was a dangerously smooth concoction of the hibiscus-infused gin, orange blossom water, spirulina and honey tea. The blush drink will definitely be a summer favorite.
Once we all ventured under the tree, we were seated under the freshly laundered white linen hanging lanterns with an enchanting mix of tunes from Fleetwood Mac to Julieta Venegas. Before the dinner service began, our surprise guest, Mr. Valle himself, Jim Seman, shared with us a most special bottle of 2017 Nebbiolo from Henri Lurton. It was the start of a memorable evening indeed.
Our five courses designed by Chef Javier & Chef Oscar Torres arrived in the most perfect intervals to not be rushed yet not so distant as to feel wanting between. The pairings were perfectly matched, though I confess, I only requested small tastes and half pours. I’m not a fast drinker so I found my glasses running over into the next courses. (gasp)
My biggest challenge for the evening was finding a dish I could champion as my favorite. My personal issue was ALL THREE of my favorite proteins were on the single tasting menu — lobster, duck and octopus. The sweet meat of the lobster was served with a sweet corn bavarois (a velvety, gelatin, Bavarian cream) while the dry-aged duck had the most perfectly thin and crisped skin I’d ever eaten. Octopus… now this is always a challenge for me. I love the texture when done right but, as I have professed a multitude of times, there is only ONE octopus dish I truly enjoy in any restaurant and to me nothing has ever compared. The octopus dish Javier Plascencia is known for at Finca Altozano is perfectly salty and crunchy with a smoky char and peanuts served in a small cast iron pot. SO, when a course of octopus arrived on the table, I was unmoved because I had been down this road of hope before only to find that most octopus dishes don’t WOW me. But this octopus was impeccably tender with those crunchy bits I adore over a pillow of airy, light pumpkin seed pesto. I was in heaven.
The evening was made only the more perfect in Valle de Guadalupe by the incredible company that experienced the magic with me. I do whole-heartedly suggest you make your way to the seasonal pop up at least once this season; more if you are so privileged. The menu will continue to change and continue to please.
Interested in the menu? LINK
Animalón will be open 5PM, Wednesday thru Sunday every week through fall (weather permitting) with lunch available Friday thru Sunday starting at 2PM with the same option of a 3, 5, or 8 course vegetarian or non-vegetarian option. They accept reservations on their website thru Open Table. Enjoy and tell them I sent you 😉
Click on photos for larger view.