The invitation comes mid-day, do we want to drive into Loreto, charter a boat and dine at the legendary La Picazon? Accessible only by sea or five miles down a broken dirt road, La Picazon is a Mexican seafood restaurant located about five miles North of town across from Coronado Island, perched above a rocky, uneasy coast and framed by the mountainous desert of Baja Mexico with its dusty saguaro and colorful, cloudless sunsets.
Two cars into Loreto, Ali Sun and I drive with Joe, Ryan hitches with Jenine.
Joe was born in California, has spent every summer in Mexico since a wee lad, lives in Huntington Beach, CA. A trip with him feels like Gonzo Baja, only a couple steps removed from Hunter S. Thompson in Las Vegas. He speaks rapid-fire Spanish, cracks jokes in both languages, will eat or drink just about anything and is known to spontaneously break out in a jerkily rhythmic dance. If shit went down in Mexico, I’d want Joe on my side.
Ryan and Joe pal around, the Canadian barrista keeping up with jokes, wisecracks and a wealth of knowledge about coffee, wine and tequila. Ryan’s mind is half on his upcoming trip to Panama. We talk about hostels, buses, fincas and sidewalks.
Joe negotiates a panga for 80 bucks plus propina y cervezas. We head out from the Loreto Marina, north against the coast. Millionaire’s Row – wealthy ex-pat houses on the coast – stands against the backdrop of desert. Smaller pangas and more modest homes dot the landscape. Does all of Latin America get built one floor at a time with rebar marking the supports for the floor-to-be-built?
Half an hour the panga chugs, we arrive at the desolate restaurant, no neighbors within a mile. The rocky shore challenges our captain – he and Joe steady the boat while the rest of us slide off the bow into a few inches of water.
Alejandro greets us, delivers drinks, hands out menus. I order a mantareya, a remarkable iced beverage marrying a Negro Modelo with a lime and sugar slurry.
We split an Ensalada Campechana, a vinegary salad with smoked marlin, sea scallops, shrimp, avocado and cucumber.
My Pulpo Loco arrives – the Crazy Octopus features sauteed serranos, onions, garlic and cilantro in a worchestshire tequila sauce. Of course its delicious, how could Pulpo Loco not be? Joe concurs.
Jenine has a Tacone, Ali Sun enjoys the Coco Parrotfish, Ryan has the Coquilla Coronado.
We take turns steering the panga on the way back as the sun sets behind the mountains. Ryan smokes a cigar, Jenine and I take photos, Joe dozes on the bow. Loreto is shrouded in a dusty sunset, the Mission visible from the water between shoreline restaurants.