Zaalouk
mi casa supper club
Chef Bo Bendana

Growing up in Morocco‘s Casablanca, Bo Bendana was warned that every girl had to learn how to cook, or no one would marry her. “But I don’t want to get married!” 12 year-old Bo told her mother. In spite of her resistance, Bo’s mother taught her to cook. That early introduction to savory ingredients and exotic spices contributed to the success Chef Bo is enjoying in Mexico’s Baja California.

Her “Moroxican” (Moroccan-Mexican fusion) restaurant, Mi Casa Supper Club, with its airy Mediterranean-style décor and oceanfront location less than an hour’s drive from San Diego, is drawing patrons from both sides of the border for open-to-the-public dinners, private parties, and holiday festivals.

And her annual white-tie food and wine pairing celebration, Sabor de Baja, held at the famed Rosarito Beach Hotel, has celebrities like Sam the Cooking Guy jumping to be a part of it.

California transplant, Bo Bendana, is putting Rosarito’s cuisine on the foodie map.

Mi Casa Supper Club
Mi Casa Supper Club at sunset

Mi Casa Supper Club Is Born

In 2006, Bo Bendana and husband Dennis Sein moved from their home in Newport Beach, California to Rosarito Beach. Rosarito is just a short drive over the Mexican border on Baja peninsula. The first fledgling concept for Mi Casa Supper Club began when Bo offered a dinner at her home for eight people to raise funds for the Boys and Girls Club. Much to her surprise, that dinner was sold for close to $1,000.

Friends urged her to open a restaurant, but Bo was not ready to take on such a major undertaking at that time. But those friends insured her that whenever she was willing to cook, they would come. So Bo and Dennis – a wine connoisseur and collector in his own right – started hosting gourmet dinners with food and wine paring in their own home, once a month. The dinners were private; a membership card was necessary to gain admittance to the dinners.

The private suppers were wildly successful. The monthly menu would always include dishes that were not the most common, and guests were at first a little apprehensive: rabbit, lamb, duck, escargot. Appetizers ranged from raw oysters to pumpkin mussel soup with toasted peanuts. The dishes were painstakingly prepared and pared with fine wines, and in the end, their guests raved about them and clamored for more.

mi casa supper club
Bo’s fresh oysters

Word of the delectable dinners eventually got out, and Bo suddenly found herself flooded with phone calls – many from outside Mexico and United States – from people eager to snag an invitation to the home dinner parties. “I couldn’t do that,” says Bo. “They were strangers and this was where we lived with our two young children.”

After careful consideration, Bo and Dennis decided to open a semi-private restaurant. Mi Casa (“my house”) Supper Club is open to the public except for one Saturday evening per month, when they continue with the “members only” eight-course food and wine paring dinner party.

The restaurant location couldn’t be better. Just off the highway, with ample parking, the beautifully appointed dining room overlooks the deep blue Pacific, providing a stunning panorama for sunset cocktails or suppers.

mi casa supper club
Chef Bo’s mouth-watering short ribs

Mi Casa is a little different than the typical restaurant style. For one thing, it’s only open on weekends. And then there’s Bo’s cultural approach to cooking. Because the basis is Mediterranean, by default it ends up also gluten-free. Everything is fresh and made from scratch, even the sauces. “I was forced to learn how to cook,” laughs Bo, “which in retrospect, was a very good thing.”

In addition, the restaurant’s menu changes every month, and has included such mouth-watering specialties as juice-oozing short ribs, poblano escargot in epazote compound butter and parmagiano cheese, coffee almond crusted swordfish with potato pave and carrot puré, and dark beer ice cream.

Zaalouk
Zaalouk

“One of the dishes that our guests love is Zaalouk,” explains Bo. “It’s a cooked salad made with grilled eggplant (aubergines), tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, olive oil and spices. It’s a common side dish to many meals in Morocco and is usually served as a dip with crusty bread… but at Mi Casa we serve it in smoked paprika sopes. It’s representative of my “Moroxican” cooking.”

Most of the culinary emphasis in northern Baja focuses on the gastronomy in Tijuana and the growing popularity of the Guadalupe Valley wine country in Ensenada. With Mi Casa located between the two regions, Bo has worked diligently to bring respect to the foodie reputation of Rosarito. “18,000 Americans live in Rosarito,” said Bo. “A lot of them don’t want to drive to Tijuana or Ensenada, they’d rather eat here, at the beach.”

mi casa supper club
Sabor de Baja held in the ocean-front gardens of the Rosarito Beach Hotel

Sabor de Baja Festival

In 2013, Bo and Dennis came up with an idea to do a “white summer party” with food and wine paring in an effort to bring more attention to Rosarito. Bo approached Hugo Torres, owner of the renowned Rosarito Beach Hotel. The hotel was made popular mid-century as the hot spot for Hollywood stars and starlets. It was a match made in heaven – the hotel’s romantic rooftop terrace with food, wine and music, and at the town’s beloved hotel – both expats and locals have great affection for Mr. Torres who was also the former mayor of Rosarito and has done much for the community over the years.

The first Sabor de Baja (“Taste of Baja”) in 2013 was a success, and the subsequent 2014 celebration was even better, necessitating moving the venue from the rooftop to the much larger space in the oceanfront gardens. Almost 500 people paid $60 each, dressed in white, to attend Sabor De Baja this past August 27th in the gardens, sampling some of the best food and drink in Baja.

mi casa supper club
Winner of the 2014 Sabor de Baja People’s Choice Award

“With her great reputation among Baja ‘foodies,’ Ms. Bendana was able to attract most of the guests plus the best chefs in Baja,’ Mr. Torres proclaimed.

Thirty-two restaurants and producers of wine or beer combined for the pairings. The winner chosen this year by the panel of judges was a pairing of Martin San Roman from his new restaurant La Terrasse at Guadalupe Valley with a wine from Vinecola Alximia, also in the wine valley. Chef San Roman paired marinated pork with hibiscus and grape sauce with an Alximia Libis blend.

Celebrity judges were Sam Zien (Sam the Cooking Guy), Scott Koenig (The Gringo in Mexico), Joaquín Fernández Rizo, Javier Gonzalez, and Javier Plascencia.

mi casa supper club
Judges, left to right: Joaquín Fernández Rizo (a known wine sommelier in Baja),The
Gringo in Mexico – Scott Koenig (Baja food and culture Blogger), Sam Zien (Sam the
Cooking Guy), Javier Gonzalez (Director of the Culinary Art school in Tijuana, and Chef
Javier Plascencia (owner of Mision19 and Finca).

As for Bo, her favorite was the pairing of the People’s Choice winning dish – a cone (made of wonton), filled with fresh tuna tataki and ponzu sauce, citric juice, wasabi with mango and Persian cucumber topped with an avocado/wasabi cream. The perfect wine selection was the 2013 Madera 5 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

“Baja’s cuisine, wine and craft beer are having a wonderful resurgence, thanks in part to attention from celebrity chefs including Anthony Bourdain,” said Rosarito Beach Hotel owner Hugo Torres. “And Bo Bendana has done a wonderful job in organizing these exceptional elegant events.”

mi casa supper club
Poblano Escargot in Epazote compound butter and Parmagiano Cheese

What’s Up Next?

Vivacious Bo Bendana continues to attract attention and celebrities to Mi Casa. On March 5th, Chef Chad White, aka The Seafood Maverick of San Diego, will collaborate with the Moroxican Chef for an outside-the-box, seven-course menu. Chef Chad is known for his intensely creative style and “organic fearlessness.”

Some of the menu courses will include bruschetta beef tongue with caper béchamel sauce, lamb kidney asado with smoked escabeche and potato and mole verde, and Moroccan stewed tripe with green olives and turmeric risotto.

Tickets are $60/person.

mi casa supper club
Bo Bendana in the Mi Casa Supper Club kitchen

Giving Back

When asked about her new expat haven, Bo beams, “I just love this town! The people have been very kind and generous to me and make us feel like we belong here. Every single day we are grateful to be living in this town – we embrace the, um, ‘imperfections.’ We don’t like cookie-cutter style living. We’d rather drive over a pothole than be stuck in traffic for 3 hours!”

Bo has her own special way of giving back to the community. Instead of looking for older, more experienced chefs, she hires students from the culinary school of Rosarito. “They’re very passionate and they’re young and have dreams,” she says. “I love that! I don’t want someone who’s going to work for me for 10 years. I want to help train newbie chefs who want to make a future for themselves and to open their own restaurants.” The students bring Bo wonderful new ideas of working with Mexican food which she combines with her Moroccan training, creating the Moroxican fusion.

And the people of Rosarito are responding enthusiastically.

Bonus Mexico Travel Resources:

Exploring Mexico City’s Vibrant Art Scene

How To Enjoy A Silent Meditation Retreat In Mexico

21 Best Vegan Resorts In Mexico

Solo Travel In Mexico City: Your Ultimate Guide

Eco-Tourism In Mexico: The Ultimate Guide

Artisanal Tequila Distilleries In Mexico You Have To Visit

*All photos courtesy of Mi Casa Supper Club

mi casa supper club

About The Author

Patti Morrow was born with insatiable wanderlust, eventually following her passion into a successful career as a freelance travel writer, blogger and photographer. A self-proclaimed “adrenaline junkie,” she specializes in women’s adventure travel with a focus on baby boomers. Patti has traveled throughout most of the United States and around 50 countries and islands abroad. She has 100+/- bylines in over two dozen publications including the Washington Post, International Living Magazine, Travel Girl Magazine, Divine Caroline, CNN iReport. Follow her adventures at Luggage and Lipstick, Facebook and Twitter.

Jessica Festa

Jessica Festa is the editor of Epicure & Culture as well as Jessie on a Journey. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia, agritouring through Tuscany, and volunteering in Ghana.

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20 Comments

  1. I can vouch for every word in this delightful article. Bo and Dennis provide ambience and food unlike anything else I have experienced. Innovative, delicious and so friendly, you are likely to make life long friends with your table mates. Worth driving to from any direction. How Bo keeps surpassing herself I have no idea but she does it every time. Now the secret is really OUT! Better make my next reservation, pronto.

    1. @Winifred: Thank you!

  2. What an interesting juxtaposition of flavors, and just as innovative to keep things private and simple. Sounds like the right recipe for success! Your mouth-watering photos are terrific!

    1. @Betsy: Thank you!

  3. Send oyster now and more of this fabulous food made by the amazing Bo Bendana. Great post

    1. @Paula: Mouth watering, right?

  4. Moroxican? Bo Bendana? What a wonderful story! So much fun to read and learn about Rosarito Beach~

    1. @Irene: Thank you! Makes me hungry for sure 🙂

  5. So Bo threw in the towel and got married anyway! And she looks like she wouldn’t have had any trouble attracting a man even if she couldn’t cook. Does her husband realize how lucky he is?

    1. @Carole: I hope so!

  6. Wow, what a great setting and food to match!

    1. @Gypsynesters: Thank you!

  7. Moroxican—-but, of course. But, of course, I never would have thought of it. I’ve heard the term “food porn” bandied about, but now I’ve seen it for myself. Beautiful food photos.

    1. @Suzanne: Thank you!

  8. wow that food looks pretty amazing and the combinations and colors are quite exciting to see and I’m sure taste~

    1. Noel: For sure! 🙂

  9. I love this story of how the business slowly developed and how successful it has been! I’m trying to get to that area on a snorkeling trip and if I do I will definitely go to this restaurant – thanks for telling us about it!

    1. @Kay: You’re welcome. Sounds like a fabulous trip!

  10. Shirleanne Castellanos

    I attended a luncheon organized by Bo and was the guest of Judie Sager and Marlene Reyes. I would very much like to be on your invite list.I now live here in Rosarito after living many years in San Diego. I am a clothing designer and had retail stores in Coronado and SanDiego…just need to be active and in the company of inspiring people..Thanks

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