Book tour begins, and Maggy and I are on the road. This week we’re at Rancho La Puerta, a peaceful, restorative spa in Tecate, Mexico where I’ll be teaching at its cooking school. In an odd coincidence, the night before Maggy and I head to Rancho La Puerta, we’re eating at La Puerta in San Diego. Both named la puerta or “the door,” but that’s where the similarities end.
We had flown to San Diego the night before our journey across the border. After long flights and a three-hour time difference, we decide to keep dinner simple and within walking distance of our hotel… a little Mexican maybe?
Our criteria leads us to La Puerta, a hip-hoppin’ place with flowing margaritas, pulsing music, and a bar full of singles. This is more Maggy’s scene. She steps up to the bar and orders two margaritas. We start with a little guac and chips while we check out the menu.
In contrast to next week’s low-fat mostly vegetarian diet, this is circus food. There may have been soup or salad on the menu, but we give into the moment and order 3 Street Tacos and an order of T.J. Dawgs (bacon-wrapped turkey dogs, grilled onions and jalapenos and fries). By the time our food arrives our margarita glasses are empty. We order a round of beers.
At first we eat with gusto, but then we start to slow down. We moan our way home and feel our excess into the night. We wake up a lot. We dream weird. On the windy bus ride to the ranch, Maggy starts to feel queezy.
But then we pull into the other La Puerta. As we step off the bus we’re greeted by smiling young men with moist towels for our hands and face, then ushered to lunch. We walk into the dining room where a colorful buffet awaits us—roasted beets, turnips, carrots, eggplant, mushrooms and potatoes—sweet and savory. Green beans, paprika- and cilantro-flavored chickpeas, a Greek-style salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta. As we ate quietly savoring every bite, Maggy said, “I wish someone would cook for me like this everyday.”
Two doors, two radically different experiences. One greasy, meaty, boozy, fun! The other restorative, lean, clean, satisfying. On the last day at the Ranch, there’s a session called “Taking the Ranch Home with You.” I’m betting I can’t sustain the Ranch diet, but I’m also betting we don’t darken the door of La Puerta back in San Diego.
We leave you with Rancho La Puerta’s recipe for their incredible chickpeas that we enjoyed for lunch that day.