Watch Bizarre Foods' Baja Episode With Local Street Food Guru & Show Guest Bill Esparza
Some of the food featured on the episode includes these marlin tacos, clam au gratin and crab legs in fire water from Mariscos Ruben (Photo via Bizarre Foods/Travel Channel)
Sometimes, it starts with something as simple as a taco. In the case of local street food guru Bill Esparza, his gig as a guide to the subculturesque food realm of Baja, Mexico for Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods started with a taqueria where they've been making only chicken neck tacos for almost four decades.
After reading Esparza's blog posts about trips to to Tijuana, Ensenada, and the Valle de Guadalupe for the Tijuana Visitors and Conventions Bureau (COTUCO), the producers of Zimmern's show reached out to him for a Baja food story. Hooked on the idea of those chicken neck tacos, they were hungry for more. "Everything fell into place after that," Esparza explains, and he became Zimmern's Tijuana street food tour guide in an episode that airs this Monday on the Travel Channel.
With the border town of Tijuana a day trip away, many Southern Californians might make it down there without tasting some of its delicious bounty. "Everyone I've ever taken to Tijuana is blown away by the skill, tradition, quality, and creativity of the stands, taquerias, carts, and shacks," Esparza notes. With an open mind and an appetite, there's plenty not to miss out on in terms of ingredients and styles, like tacos made with "octopus, tuna fin, manta ray, every part of the cow, traditional stews, regional specialties from Sinaloa, Sonora, Michoacan, Nayarit, Jalisco, and more." What, you were just going down there for the clubs and beer? In Baja you'll find "menudo served curbside, exquisite shellfish, sea urchin, specialties like carnitas and barbacoa, and the only place in Mexico that would dare to serve only chicken neck tacos."
Ah, yes, those gig-booking chicken neck tacos. This is the second time Esparza has shared his savvy with the food pros on television; you may have seen him on the most recent season of Top Chef Masters as a judge, alongside fellow local food curiosity curator Eddie Lin, and Zimmern himself.
And just as locals were invited to head out to celebrate that episode with the guest stars, Esparza is co-hosting a viewing party with Bricia Lopez at the Olympic location of La Guelaguetza Monday night, where everyone is invited to come on down and celebrate.
For Esparza getting people from Los Angeles excited about Baja's food is something in and of itself worth celebrating. He's thrilled that the show's content was drawn from his recommendations; with Monday's episode he hopes viewers realize "that Baja, despite all the sensation in the media, is a safe place to go and a must for food lovers."
Food lovers will enjoy not only the episode, but the viewing party at La Guelaguetza, since Lopez has created a special Happy Hour menu with delicious Oaxacan food and signature Mexican cocktails. Real de Mexico tequila will be on hand making a drink for the party, plus there will be a special message from Andrew Zimmern shared via satellite.
The party gets underway at 6 p.m., and the episode airs at 7. Head over and help Esparza celebrate Baja, Mexico: "This is a region whose people, culture and cuisine are very dear to me."