By W. Scott Koenig
From Baja California’s Highway 3, El Mogor Badan Vineyard in the Valle de Guadalupe sits amid gently rolling vineyards and ranch houses, promising an afternoon of wine-tinted, sun-dappled respite. What’s not readily apparent is that the winery is also home to one of Baja’s biggest proponents of sustainable cuisine.
Enter Chef Drew Deckman. He earned his Michelin star during a 10-year residency in Europe, notably in Germany. Eventually, the Baja peninsula lured him in—largely for its reputation as one of Mexico’s richest regions for fresh ingredients. While running his first concept in San Jose del Cabo, fittingly dubbed Deckman’s, he took summers off to slowly build the foundation for his new project, Deckman’s en El Mogor. It was his seasonal campestre (rural) kitchen in the Valle de Guadalupe.
“I think we were a little ahead of the curve in Cabo,” the chef says, looking back on the early days. “The more I became integrated into the Valle, the more frustrated I was in Cabo. Thus, the shift.”
Ultimately, Deckman took up permanent residence in the Valle. He traded his comfortable Cabo kitchen for a rugged, outdoor brick hearth—one that often needs rebuilding after a heavy rain. The “Havana Room” at his original Deckman’s restaurant has morphed into what can only be described as a dining “enclosure” at Deckman’s en El Mogor, sustainably built with hay bales and wood planks.
Though the setting is one of rural simplicity, the menu is not. Deckman’s ceviche of gooseneck barnacles and marinated lingua contains half a dozen ingredients, including produce from his organic garden, edible flowers, and several sauces. The dish delivers a complexly constructed yet wholly delicious taste experience. Another ceviche of red pata de mula (blood clams) combines ingredients and tastes in a similar fashion. It makes sense, after all, given Deckman’s business card title: Ingredient Facilitator.
When it comes time to grill, Deckman keeps it simple, letting smoke from the fragrant carob tree flavor his locally sourced meats. His savory, artfully plated quail with white beans tastes as good as it looks, grilled just south of pink. And his super fresh Kumiai oysters aren’t fussed with, either. Deskman prepares them with just enough mignonette and tobiko to complement, not overpower, the shellfish’s clean taste.
Stop by El Mogor Badan before lunch or dinner to enjoy a wine cave tour and tasting with the ranch’s charming and knowledgeable owner, Natalia Badan. El Mogor also hosts a farmers’ market Wednesdays and Saturdays, where produce and meats grown and raised on the land are sold.
Deckman’s en el Mogor is located at Km 85.5 Highway 3, Tecate-Ensenada, San Antonio De Las Minas, Baja, California. From Ensenada, Mogor Badán Winery is approximately one mile north of the Carretera a El Porvenir intersection at Hwy 3. The restaurant is past the first parking lot. 646.188.3960; deckmans.com
About the author: W. Scott Koenig is the creator and Chief Gringo of the travel blog a Gringo In Mexico, highlighting food, culture, destinations, and adventure south of the border.