About Wendy Lemlin

Wendy Lemlin is an award-winning travel and food writer who has been afflicted with an acute case of wanderlust for as long as she can remember. Whether traveling to the far-flung corners of the globe, or the near-flung corners of the county, she constantly seeks out the path least taken in search of unique experiences---geographical, cultural and culinary. She also indulges her addiction to dancing to the joyous music of the Louisiana bayous---Cajun and zydeco---whenever and wherever she can, whether on frequent visits to Louisiana, or at music festivals throughout the US.

Civico 1845: Collaboration Italian Style

By Wendy Lemlin

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   With its authentic food and outstanding vegan menu, Civico 1845 is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in San Diego, and it looks like it is going to become even better. Beginning this month, the Civico team is collaborating with chefs Antonio and Luca Abbruzzino, a Michelin rated father/son pair from Calabria, Italy, to highlight genuine southern Italian ingredients in the restaurant’s dishes. Continue reading

Farm to Fork Week

by Wendy Lemlin

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   Diners, start your appetite engines! The race to experience local and sustainable restaurant dining is approaching the starting gate.

On January 14, the inaugural San Diego Farm to Fork Week kicks off, aimed at introducing the public to a community of small independent farm to table restaurants, as well as the local—key word, here— family farmers, producers, and purveyors who provide the high quality ingredients used by these restaurants.   San Diego Farm to Fork Week takes a page from San Diego Restaurant Week, with which it runs concurrently, but gives participating kitchens more autonomy in what they present and how it is priced. Each restaurant is free to determine its own dining discounts or prix fixe menu. But more importantly, Farm to Fork Week focuses on the chefs’ sourcing of ingredients from local farmers they know and trust, as well as verifying that participating chefs and restaurants are in fact buying from the local producers they claim to be. So when someone chooses to dine at a Farm to Fork Week partner restaurant, they know that they’re keeping their food dollars in San Diego, supporting farm families and their workers and reducing their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions by lowering the number of miles food travels to the plate.

The week long event was founded by Trish Wattlington, owner of The Red Door in Mission Hills, as not only a celebration of the region’s outstanding farms, chefs and dining destinations, but as a chance for diners to try new restaurants at affordable prices. When asked about any conflict with San Diego Restaurant Week, organizer Watlington emphasizes that Farm to fork Week was conceived with a different purpose. “Some of us have participated in San Diego Restaurant Week in the past, and some of us are still participating this year.  But, for most of us, the cost of Restaurant Week is just too high, while at the same time, the pressure to lower our prices to compete that week is strong, and we operate at such tight margins, that for may of us, it is untenable. We joined together to find a way to promote what WE do – support and showcase local farms, at a time when we most need to do it.  And, as planning has progressed we’ve all come to the realization that Farm to Fork week actually has amazing possibilities.”

The long term plan for Farm to Fork Week is to work with local sponsors to eventually enlarge the event to include such components as dinners, tours, events, lectures and panel discussions, and to verify that participating restaurants are buying from local farmers. A directory of locally sustainable restaurants, farmers and producers is in the works, too.

A list of participating restaurants and producers, as well as all detailed info and menus can be found here

Farm to Fork Week Events:

January 14th – Kickoff Hog Roast at BIGA San Diego

January 15-22 – Dining Discounts in Participating Restaurants

January 21st – Wine Tasting and Book Signing at BAR by Red Door

January 22nd – Farmers, Friends and Fishermen Collaboration with Chef Miguel Valdez at Red Door and Chef Coral Fodor Strong from Garden Kitchen.

All week – Partner Farm and Restaurant Tours with Epicurean San Diego

Farm to Fork Week Supporters:

Slow Food Urban San Diego

San Diego Food System Alliance

The Berry Good Food Foundation

La Valencia Celebrates 90 Years

by Wendy Lemlin

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20161215_183815The way the Pink Lady was partying at her birthday bash, you’d never know she was 90 years old! Always the gracious and fun hostess, she pulled out all the stops, eating, drinking, and dancing the night away with almost 300 guests, all the while looking lovelier than ever.

The Pink Lady, of course, is the La Valencia Hotel, an icon in the heart of La Jolla Village.  La V’s 90th Birthday Gatsby Gala, held on December 15, was a lavish Roaring-20s themed celebration worthy of comparison to any party The Great Gatsby himself would have thrown. Champagne 20161215_190405and Prohibition Era inspired cocktails flowed freely, food tables groaned with a vast assortment of delicacies, and the “speakeasy” dance floor was packed. Most of the guests donned period attire, the women resplendent in a sparkling abundance of beads and sequins, the men either going for straw boater-style hats or more formally dressed in tails or dinner jackets.20161215_184536

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“Raw” Pleasure: Crudo by Pascal Lorange

by Wendy Lemlin

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Splashes of bright color enliven the white interior of Crudo by Pascal Lorange.

In Italy and Spain, “crudo” means raw, and, while several of the dishes served at Crudo by Pascal Lorange are centered around raw fish or beef, the name also accurately implies the light touch and fresh ingredients Chef Lorange uses in preparing his culinary creations.  You could call his style “Mediterrasian”, rooted in Mediterranean cuisine, but expressing itself with an Asian/Japanese accent. Or, in Lorange’s own words, “I cook what I love to eat. I am trying to bring something fresh to San Diego—Crudo is about my passion for the traditional cuisine from the Mediterranean coast, executed with Japanese-inspired fusions. I love authentic, yet delightful ingredients, with simple presentations.”

Chef/owner Pascal Lorange

Chef/owner Pascal Lorange

Lorange opened Crudo last summer in Carmel Valley’s The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch complex. Born and raised in Belgium, the third-generation chef launched his culinary career in the kitchens of some of Europe’s most distinguished Michelin-star restaurants. He traveled the world as personal chef for singer Julio Iglesias, cooking for celebrities and luminaries, and became further known during his 10 year tenure with Fig & Olive Restaurants, which he helped create. He and his French-born wife, Sylvie Jourdan, designed Crudo’s sophisticated, contemporary interior. Sleekly white with vibrant splashes of color—think of a wall p1020335arranged with numerous small shelves, each one holding a perfect, deep red pomegranate or bright orange mini pumpkin— the decor successfully echoes the style of the menu offerings: serious, flavorful food that keeps it light and engaging. And, by light I mean, as in Asian food, there is no cream or butter in anything except the desserts! A meal at Crudo leaves you feeling comfortably satisfied, but not food coma bound. Most of the offerings are gluten-free, and there are sufficient choices for vegans and vegetarians. There’s nothing pretentious here, in either ambience or culinary experience, just high quality food, artfully presented. Continue reading

What’s New at San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival?

By Wendy Lemlin

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   With 43 events over seven days, the 14th annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, November 14-20, is a really big deal. As one of the nation’s largest gastronomic festivals, it brings together celebrity and local chefs, sommeliers, winemakers, brewmasters, and gourmet food artisans to present gala dinners, tastings, classes, competitions, and even a golf tournament. Continue reading

TRUST Me, You Need to Dine at TRUST

By Wendy Lemlin

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p1020289When Trust Restaurant opened earlier this year in Hillcrest, I was invited to a media preview. With its enviable location on the corner of Robinson and Park, I could see at once that the 1300 sq ft patio, with its eye-catching red accents, ample table seating, and comfy couches, was going to be an immediate neighborhood success. Inside, the décor was inviting as well, contemporary casual,p1020256 all light woods and black accents, with a decent sized bar taking up the entire north wall of the dining room and an open kitchen on the east side, giving diners something to look at, besides their phones, as they wait for their orders to arrive. At that media preview, I recall, I was impressed with the space, but not so much with the food.  To be fair, we were served tray-p1020257passed “bites” of various menu items—never a good way to fully appreciate all the nuances of a dish, IMHO—and the large crowd was aggressively pouncing on whatever tidbits came their way, so I only managed to taste a few things. All of which I felt were “okay”, but didn’t wow me, as I remember, not enough for me to make a special trip to the restaurant now that I no longer live in the neighborhood. Continue reading

KAABOO Year Two

By Wendy Lemlin

 

logo.kaaboo_2x.ext-33c58bcd750728837ef4a610f4c28a16Music, Art, Food, Comedy –- KAABOO Del Mar brings all the elements of a good time together in one multi-focus three day event billed as a “mixperience”.  Ambitiously begun in 2015 as the largest multi-faceted cultural event to hit the San Diego area, the 2nd annual installment of KAABOO Del Mar takes place September 16-18 and sprawls throughout the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The festival organizers define KAABOO as “an adult escape, created by music lovers for music lovers, uniquely curated to appeal to all five of your senses, with world-class music, dancing, incredible cuisine, craft libations, inspiring contemporary art, and personal indulgences”.

At the heart of KAABOO Del Mar is the music, with over 78 eclectic artists appearing on 5 stages, performing everything from Americana/Roots music to classics, to Hip Hop. Those who spring for the VIP “Amplify” ticket, get to start the party early on Thursday evening, with entertainment by Chris Isaak and Macy Gray. Continue reading

AmiLoan.com San Diego Blues Fest Happening September 10

By Wendy Lemlin

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The fight against hunger in our community has been waged on many fronts, but perhaps the most pleasant battlefield happens each year at Embacadero Park with a soundtrack that includes the hottest national and local blues artists around.

Since 2011, the AmiLoan.com San Diego Blues Fest has partnered with the Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank with a two-fold mission: present top name blues artists at an affordable price while raising much needed funds—-and awareness—-to benefit the Food Bank. It’s been a rousing success; to date,sponsors and festival goers have helped contribute 20 tons of food and more than $435,000 to help the Food Bank fight hunger in San Diego County. And no one’s crying the blues about that!

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The Flavors of Florent

Words & Photos by Wendy Lemlin

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Like most San Diego locals over 30 years old, I rarely venture into downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter, and, despite the blocks of cheek-to-jowl restaurants, even more rarely do I ever dine there. I’ve always had the impression that, with a few notable exceptions, most of the restaurants serve overpriced, mediocre “tourist” food, or unsophisticated bar bites. On a recent visit, however, I’ve found that Florent Restaurant & Lounge, on the prime corner of 5th and G,  is one of those notable exceptions,

Executive Chef Brad Hightow

Executive Chef Brad Hightow

Executive Chef Brad Hightow has been running the culinary show there for the past 15 months, and his high quality take on New American cuisine is creative and delectable.  Flavors are balanced and complementary, presentations are attractive, and ingredients are sourced from such local standout purveyors as Specialty Produce and Catalina Offshore Products. Continue reading

Birthday Staycation

Words & photos by Wendy Lemlin

Under the therapeutic cascade at Rancho Bernardo Inn

Under the therapeutic cascade at Rancho Bernardo Inn

Sometimes you just need a break.  Not a long vacation, but certainly more of a change of scenery than just hanging out in your own home.  Get away from the kitchen, get away from the computer, and get away from all the little chores around the house that nag to be done when you just want to relax.  I’m talking abdication of all responsibility, here, with a side order of pampering thrown in for good measure.  You don’t even need to go away to get away, distance-wise, to be amazed at how a change of environment makes for a change in temperament. You just need a great staycation. Continue reading