One of Elaine’s and my favorite TV shows is Anthony Bourdain’s recently concluded series No Reservations. It is equal parts travel and food show, two of our great passions. If you haven’t seen it, look for the re runs on the Travel Channel
On the show, Tony travels to countries all over the world and explores food as a window into culture. In a typical episode Tony visits a cutting edge restaurant, a traditional restaurant and has a meal with a local family. Below is a summary of our amazing fish and lobster meal with our new friends Victor and Carolina.
The other day, here on Cedros Island, our guide Jose took us on a drive to the southern tip of the island. After tide pooling on an awesomely beautiful stretch of absolutely deserted beach on an amazing bay, we found ourselves at the end of the road at a seasonal fish camp called Wiley. All along the Baja, fish camps are remote, rugged and often quite rough collections of “houses” on the shore near a decent boat landing. Fisherman live in the camps from weeks to months at a time to allow them be closer to the fishing grounds. Sometimes, like here on Cedros where the camp is connected by road to the main town, the families will join the men at the camps.
So here we are walking around this fish camp. We say “Hola” to any people we meet but there is not much more interaction than that. It is interesting to see how these folks live but we are pretty much seeing only what we can see from the outside. As we are coming down from a small bluff, Jose comes up to us and says a local fisherman in a house just down from the bluff wants to know if we would be interested in having some lobster. Our initial reaction was “no thanks”. For me the reaction was part, I’m not hungry, part not wanting to have these hard working people taking their time and resources to serve us and part OK, what’s the scam? Luckily, our better brains kicked in and we thought when a local offers their hospitality, you say sure.
We followed Jose to a pretty nice (relative to the others) 2 room “house” with a small covered patio and a sweeping ocean view that people in La Jolla pay millions of dollars for. There we met Victor, a barrel chested lobster fisherman, Carolina, his adorable wife and their 2 sons Victor Jr. and Jasael. Initially it was a little uncomfortable with all of us (except Carolina) standing on their patio. We felt a bit like we were invading their space, since Victor and the family spoke no English and our Spanish was barely existent, so communication was pretty difficult. With Jose’s help in translating, our mangled Spanish and some sign language, things started to warm up.
About that time, the door to the house opened and out walked Carolina with a plate containing 4 of the nicest looking breaded fish filets you have ever seen. She placed it on the table with limes and mayonnaise and told us to dig in. Being the chow hound I am (and of course not wanting to offend our hosts) I grabbed a piece and took a bite. Holy moly was my reaction. The fish was absolutely fantastic. Fresh and flaky on the inside and crunchy (from the corn flake breading we learned later) on the outside. I can say without hesitation that any restaurant in the US would be proud to serve this fish.
Just as we were coming back to our senses from the fish experience, out walks Carolina again, this time with a plate of 6 lightly fried and seasoned lobster tails. Wow !! Having broken the ice with the fish, we (I J) quickly went at the lobster. Holy Cow. We were all like Rachael Rae or other TV food show hosts trying to express how amazing the lobster tasted, ummm, OMG, yummo, etc. It was crazy good! A few moments later Carolina bring out 2 more fried lobster tails. At this point we were getting full (it was still midafternoon and we had lunch earlier) but it was so good we went at it. Just as we were finishing and feeling really good about everything, Carolina walks out with another plate, this time with 6 boiled lobster tails and a homemade mayo-lime-chili dipping sauce! You are kidding me right!? You people are killing us with kindness. Suffice it to say that we put on our big boy (and girl) pants and went at it. Once again our taste buds were treated to one of the best tasting things any of us ever had.
As special as all the food and “conversation” was at Victors and Carolina’s, surprisingly it is not what I will remember most from our experience. After all the food was gone and the sun started getting low, it was time for us to say our good byes. As were leaving, we are thinking to ourselves how we can ever repay these kind and generous people. All we really had to offer was a visit to TARDIS so we told them that on the following Sun, they should all come by, and we were as earnest as we could be hoping they would come. They said they would and we headed home.
Come Sunday, we get a call from Jose. Indeed Victor and Carolina were coming. Apparently the kids bugged them enough that they said yes. I asked Jose if he was coming but he said he was busy and to just go for it. About 2pm a panga (local Mexican fishing boat) with the family arrives. Unlike when we first met, we were all much more comfortable with each other. After the 15 min obligatory tour of the boat, we all settled into the main salon for fresh baked chocolate chip cookies (from a pack L) and drinks. Even without Jose being there, we were able to express ourselves and tell simple stories to each other and laugh. We all played on the boat a bit, taking lots of pictures and having Victor Sr pull out the jib and re-roll it. He is a big man, but he said it was hard work. After an hour visiting, they pulled away in the panga and went back to the shore. We stood and watched as they walked up in to the town, still waving our goodbyes. It was an unforgettable visit with our new friends from Isla Cedros.