Culture

Mexican Food Doesn’t Get The Respect It Deserves, Says Chef Javier Plascencia

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Tijuana-born Javier Plascencia knows how to run a Mexican restaurant: His family runs 13 successful businesses in Mexico alone.

Were having a partyyyy!! #jazamango #todossantos #playalobos

A photo posted by Javier Plascencia (@javierplascencia) on


However, in 2015, when Plascencia opened Bracero in San Diego, Calif., he was surprised to find U.S. customers giving him the cold shoulder.

In a recent interview with Vice’s Javier Cabral, Plascencia says he wasn’t entirely prepared to clash with U.S. expectations of Mexican food.


A respected chef in Mexico, Plascencia specializes in modern Mexican cuisine. He uses modern techniques to create unique dishes that highlight traditional Mexican flavors.

In the U.S., Mexican food has a reputation for being quick and cheap, an expectation that carries over to modern Mexican cuisine, which is often more expensive. “We get a lot of requests for chips, salsa, and burritos,” Plascencia told Vice. “I do not serve these items. [Americans] also expect big, big, big portions and are not willing to pay $5 for a taco.” These are among the several reasons many potential patrons bristle at the style of Mexican cuisine Plascencia is trying to introduce to a U.S. audience.

Plascencia believes that many people undervalue the amount of time and work that goes into creating many Mexican dishes.

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CREDIT: javierplascencia / Instagram

“You probably won’t be able to tell by the looks of the tiny cup full of salsa on your table at Bracero, but you would not believe how much time and labor goes into making just that one alone,” Plascencia said.

Plascencia also says Mexican-Americans have a much different idea of what “traditional” Mexican flavors are:


“A lot of American-born cooks who work for me haven’t tasted the real flavors of simple, traditional, Mexican-style braised dishes or even a homemade mole, so it is really difficult to train them to accurately recreate proper Mexican flavors.” In spite of these culinary hurdles, Plascencia’s two U.S.-based restaurants have achieved critical acclaim and a loyal fan base.

Plascencia says he’s noticed that younger patrons are more willing to try modern Mexican cuisine.

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CREDIT: javierplascencia / Instagram

For someone who came to the U.S. to escape Tijuana’s kidnapping and crime epidemic, Plascencia is laser focused to broadening our perception of how we can experience Mexican food. Make sure to check out the full interview at Vice, which is packed with more insight from Plascencia.

[H/T] VICE: Why It’s So Hard to Open a Modern Mexican Restaurant in the US


READ: A List Of Latin American Cuisine That Isn’t For The Weak Stomach

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Here’s How This Man Created A Brewery Aimed At Highlighting The Best Of Mexican-American Culture

Culture

Here’s How This Man Created A Brewery Aimed At Highlighting The Best Of Mexican-American Culture

Javier Rojas / mitú

David Favela isn’t your typical brewer. He’s not fond of IPA’s or your usual German pilsner. His brewery, Border X Brewing, might also look like your typical neighborhood pub from the outside. But you won’t find a jukebox or cheesy neon signs on the walls.

Favela, 52, intends on straying away from your typical brewery business model. Instead, he is trying to create a brewery experience with Latin culture and community at the center of it.

“From the start, we didn’t bother with red ales and IPA’S because in all honesty none of us are ‘that.’ We didn’t grow up with that or any of those flavors,” Favela says. “If we’re not putting our personal experiences or palettes into our brewing then why bother? Quite frankly, we needed to bring some of our Latin background to this.”

This is the heart and mission of Border X Brewing. The brewery opened it’s first doors in 2014 just miles from the U.S.-Mexico border crossing in Otay Mesa before relocating to Barrio Logan, a largely Chicano neighborhood in San Diego. But now, Favela has his eyes set on tapping into the Latino community in Los Angeles.

With an array of Latin flavored beers, Border X Brewing is making a name for its self in the growing Southern California brewery scene.

Credit: Javier Rojas

Favela is the CEO of the growing brewery company that has become popular for its fusion of ingredients familiar in Latino kitchens. Beers like the Blood Saison, inspired by agua de jamaica, is made with hibiscus flowers and agave. Or the Golden Horchata Stout, a gold medal winner at the L.A. International Beer Festival, is brewed with vanilla and canela.

“We’re not the first brewers to use jamaica or horchata but many don’t come from that background to fully understand how important these flavors are and mean to our identity,” Favela says.

Born in San Diego, Favela grew up in a largely Latino neighborhood and quickly realized he wanted community and family to be the base of his work. That’s why after working at Hewlett Packard for 22 years, he decided to invest in brewing. Along with his brother and two nephews, they set on creating a business that revolved around community involvement and beer.

“I really just wanted to hang out with my family and do something special together,” Favela says. “The question in my head was always could we create a space that builds community and at the same time showcases our roots? Yes.”

Border X quickly garnered popularity in it’s San Diego location. After five years of operating out of the Barrio Logan neighborhood, the brewery has expanded to Los Angeles.

Credit: Javier Rojas

Border X Brewing opened the doors to it’s newest location in the City of Bell back in March. The thriving Latino suburb in Southeast Los Angeles has seen immense growth in the last few years. Favela also sees the expansion in Bell as a way to connect with another working-class Latino community.

“We are a community-based brewery, we’re about events and we’re about the people living in those communities. Bell fit the bill for us,” Favela says. “A lot of people come here and they don’t even drink; they just like being part of this experience we’re trying to create.

Upon walking into the new location you’ll see framed photos of local low-rider groups and Chicanos dressed in zoot-suit style attire. The work comes from local artists which is something Favela is proud of. In the four months that the location has been open, it’s hosted multiple local musicians, a low-rider event and a community art show that are all part of the brewery’s core mission.

“We host fundraisers, we have art shows and, in many ways, this place becomes a crossroads for so many different walks of life,” Favela says. “In Barrio-Logan we connected with ex and current gang members, artists and locals. It’s a collective of different people all connecting.”

The City of Bell wasn’t the first option for the newest location. Favela originally looked at Boyle Heights, another largely Latino working-class neighborhood.

Credit: Javier Rojas

When planning the move to Los Angeles, Favela originally considered opening in Boyle Heights, the community home to the Chicano movement of the ’60s. Yet he eventually reconsidered after thoughts of gentrification. He knew about the rapid changes in the neighborhood and didn’t want to intrude and have the community turn on them as other new businesses have.

“Things like coffee shops and art galleries should be community assets but they’ve become easy targets. I grew in these barrios and I’m all for them but it begs the question of how to improve these communities without hurting or displacing people.” Favela said.

There are many factors he considers when expanding the brewery, the biggest being the community. This is important to him and he knows the effect a new business can have on a neighborhood like Boyle Heights.

“There are certain criteria I’ve established and one of them is ‘Are you creating a service for a demographic waiting to come into the community or are you serving the community that’s already there,” Favela says. “When you come in here you’ll find the demographic is 90-95 percent Latino. We try to recognize and celebrate that local history where our taste rooms are.”

For Favela, he sees the brewery as a way to connect his Latino background to a demographic that’s been waiting to be heard.

Credit: Javier Rojas

Border X Brewing has seen it’s a first and second wave of success in San Diego and now in LA. But for Favela, he knows this is just the start. He plans to expand to more locations such as Long Beach and Santa Ana, both largely Latino areas. That also means brewing new beer flavors that represent those communities.

“In Latin America, there are over 2,000 fermentation practices. Most of the beers here you won’t find anywhere else and we’re just getting started,” he says. “Mazapan beer, abuelita chocolate and peppino sour, this is just who we are.”

Favela smiles as he recalls those first days back at the original brewery location near the U.S-Mexico border. He reminds himself of how important it is to stay true to himself and how the customers have been a huge reason behind this passion.

“I’m constantly told by people when they walk into the brewery about how much they feel at home,” Favela says. They say ‘I feel so comfortable here’ and “I feel like you made this place for me’ and I say to them ‘I absolutely did’ and that’s special.”

READ: The Makers Of Corona Beer Are Spending Billions To Get Into The Weed Industry

These Mexican Border Towns Are Quickly Becoming The Most Booked Weekend Getaways For Good Reasons

Culture

These Mexican Border Towns Are Quickly Becoming The Most Booked Weekend Getaways For Good Reasons

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One of the biggest harms that a certain politician by the initials of DT has done to Mexico-US cultural relations is to paint an apocalyptic vision of Mexico. However, things are creative, colorful and plain amazing as you cross the border, and the state of Baja California, just below San Diego, offers sights, sounds, smells and flavors that are to be experienced to be believed. In particular, the city of Tijuana is no longer seen as the party town for gringos borrachos, and is home to a cultural scene. Just head further down and you will find beach settings and a valley que no tiene nada que pedirle a Napa. 

The sites of Tijuana, Rosarito Beach and the wine region of Valle de Guadalupe are within driving distance of each other and showcase the wonderful diversity of a region. The area has been a bridge for millions of migrants and a home for proud and creative communities for centuries. No offense, but life in los esteits can sometimes be a little, mmm, predictable (shall we say aburrida?). In particular, la ruta del vino or wine route that leads to the pristine vineyards of Baja is a trip that offers sight that border paradise. Whether you want to take a trip with your friends or are planning a good old-fashioned viaje familiar, Northern Baja California is a great option to visit. 

Let your eyes wander because Tijuana is a visual and artistic feast.

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When it comes to street art and graffiti, Tijuana is one of the epicenters of the world. The mix of Mexican and urban American influences produces vibrant and often politically charged imagery that is perfect to capture on the Gram. If you are an artist in search for inspo, Tijuana is your spot.

Urban public art is plentiful and mesmerizing.

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Tijuana has long been a site of political and artistic activism, and the municipality often allows artists to decorate public spaces, as witnessed here. There is always a surprise around the corner.

Photograph every corner and you can capture the true colors of Mexico.

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Perhaps because it is right on the border, Tijuana folks are hyper-Mexican. Yes, they are proud of their cultural heritage and popular culture is expressed on the streets, in how houses are decorated, in kitschy but amazing public displays of creativity.

Head down to Rosarito Beach to get some more folklore.

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Rosarito is the perfect combination of a tourist site and traditional town. It has not let tourism gentrify it completely, and it is still possible to capture amazing shots like this one.

The sunsets at Rosarito Beach are pictures of paradise.

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There is nothing more humbling that witnessing a breathtaking sunset on the beach. The immensity of the ocean and the sky really gets you to reflect upon your life. If you have a media naranja, nothing beats kissing with this honey-infused backdrop.

Further down in Baja California, there are vineyards as far as the eye can see.

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Even if you are not into the vino, witnessing the care that growers take in producing the perfect grape is amazing. Just seeing how the vineyards in Valle de Guadalupe form perfect rows is humbling in itself.

Let your tastebuds tingle with the taste of real tacos south of the border.

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Damn, look at this tacos. Fresh cilantro, thick fried corn tortillas and spicy birria. Nothing beats Tijuana tacos, and taqueros in the city take an extra effort in showing that what you can get in the United States is just not that good.

Rosarito means lobster in culinary terms, langosta con frijoles.

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Rosarito is famous for the quality of its seafood, particularly of lobster with black beans, pico de gallo and freshly made corn tortillas, infladitas y calientitas. Life just doesn’t get any better than that.

Get your gourmet on in Valle de Guadalupe.

Credit: elcielovalledeguadalupe / Instagram

Like in other wine regions in the world, Valle de Guadalupe has developed an artisanal food industry that benefits from local products and develops products that can be paired with the many wines from the region. El Cielo, for example, produces Mexican-influenced chutneys with ingredients such as chipotle. Stack up for those canastas de regalo come Christmas time.

Let your skin feel the warmth en Tijuana donde el sol es más sabroso.

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We can’t deny that the city has faced many challenges throughout the years, and that being one of the busiest border cities in the world has also brought crime and corruption. Tijuanenses, however, are a strong and proud people and the city’s famous sunsets, with the border barrier as the background, are engrained in everyone’s memories. Watch it, feel the sun on your skin and capture it for your Instagram.

Explore by Rosarito by horse and turn your trip into an experience.

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You can hire a horseback ride on the beach. Just look at these amazonas having fun. Girl power!

There is also the option of an ATV.

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It might not be as peaceful, but adrenaline will run when you get on an All Terrain Vehicle and feel the sea breeze caress your body. 

Or a camel?

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Yes, that’s right. You can also hire a camel ride. To be honest, this is the first camel we see wearing a sarape.

Valle de Guadalupe is one place everyone should experience.

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Places like Vinos Lechuza offer banquets al fresco that will fill your senses with wine, food, laughter, and sun.

Let your nose take it all of the smells Tijuana and its cocktails have to offer.

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Take in the amber notes of a whiskey sour, or the bitterness of a mezcal pizco. Tijuana has been taken over by hipster culture and that means cocktails! The city has some of the best barmen in the world. Your nose and your tastebuds will have a fiesta. Places like Moustache Bar and Adelita Bar are a must. Tijuana is no longer just defined by cantina culture but also by top-notch fine drinking holes.

A BBQ in Mexican wine country? Yes, please!

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Deckmans is a fantastic BBQ restaurant where you can have carnita asada and taste the delicious wines from the region. Let the smell of steak and caramelized vegetables fill your soul. Se nos hace agua la boca. A perfect spot for a tame and gentlemanish bachelor dinner party.

Let the border sounds fill your ears and your soul with global culture, music included.

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Places like the Centro Cultural Tijuana offer concerts, and the city’s music scene has generated legends like Kinky, the electronic band that has won worldwide fame. DJs of word stature often play in venues like Rouge Live Music Venue.

Can you hear that? No? Well, you are listening to the silence.

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Valle de Guadalupe features some of the most creative and dreamy accommodations in the world, such as this bubble hotel, Campera. Imagine waking in the middle of the night to meet the stars. Just enjoy the silence, or if this is a romantic getaway… well, you can make some noise. Prices are not that steep, with rooms available for $180 USD a night. Caro pero costeable.

READ: Mexico City Paints Its LGBTQ Pride Across A Pedestrian Crossing And The People Are Here For It

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