It was 1968. Having heard the Mamas and Papas’ ‘California Dreaming’, Rick Stein was filled with a desire to embark on his own road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway to the Mexican border and beyond. Nearly fifty years later he’s back retracing his steps in a new series starting on 7th November at 9pm on BBC2.
Rick begins his gastronomic tour in San Francisco, enjoying legendary dishes like Hangtown Fry, then travels down the Californian coastline immortalised by Steinbeck, past citrus groves and vineyards and into Los Angeles. Next he heads south to San Diego where he meets the oldest sea-urchin diver in town and a local fishmonger cooks him the best Fish Chilli he’s ever had.
With Mexico in his sights, Rick heads across what is reputed to be the busiest border crossing in the world – San Diego to Tijuana – the start of his Mexican adventures. He follows the Pacific coastline down to Ensenada with fabulous flour tortilla burritos; fresh fish landed, marinated and cooked on Popotla Beach and the Valle de Guadalupe - Mexico’s best kept secret for fabulous wines and the jewel in its culinary crown for Baja Med Cuisine.
Exploring the western mainland, he lands in the town that placed Tequila on the world map and Guadalajara, the city that gave us Mariachis and dishes like Carne con Chilli.
Next up is Mexico City where Rick discovers that not much has changed to the food that fed the former seat of the Aztec Empire. Scenes captured by Diego Rivera in his murals still come alive in the city’s bustling markets and taverns offer Pulque, the alco-pop of the ancients. But the most precious Aztec legacy he finds are the criss-crossing intersection of canals south of Mexico City - the Chinampas - floating vegetable gardens that are an inspiration to the city’s top chefs including Eduardo Garcia, known as Chef Lalo.
Rick journeys further south to the city of Puebla and then onto Oaxaca, where locals distil the country’s favourite tipple - Mezcal. It’s also home to Mexico’s national cheese Queso Oaxacana. Across the Chinantla Mountains, Rick delights in exploring eastern Oaxaca where vanilla still grows wild and cacao orchards are harvested to make superb chocolate.
Rick Stein’s journey begins to draw to a close as he heads east to the Yucatan Peninsula, a place once frequented by Sir Francis Drake. Locals feast on the hottest chilli of them all, the Habanero, and give slow food a new meaning as they bury and cook their dishes below ground on hot rocks. This was once the playground of the ancient Mayans and where their dishes are still enjoyed today in small villages across the countryside. Rick ends his journey feasting on seafood in Tulum along the shores of the Caribbean Sea.
RICK STEIN’S ROAD TO MEXICO is a Denham production for BBC2.