“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

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

Baja Exchange: A Crossborder Celebration of Baja Med Cuisine and Wines in San Diego

By Wendy Lemlin

Chef/owner Miguel Angel Guerrero

Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero

Fifteen years ago, Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero opened La Querencia in Tijuana, and BAJA MED cuisine was born. These days, the term “Baja Med” is bandied about constantly in foodie circles, but, what many people don’t know is that the term originated with Guerrero and is now copyrighted in the names of his restaurants. “Baja Med is what this region is all about”, he defines. “It melds together the street food from Tijuana, the seafood that fills the market stalls in Ensenada, Asian influences from Mexicali, and the Mediterranean-type ingredients, such as olive oils, wines, cheeses, meats and produce grown and produced locally, from the coast to the Valle de Guadalupe.” Continue reading

Mmmm—That’s Italian! Part 3: Chef Profile— Mario Cassineri

By Wendy Lemlin

Chef Mario Cassineri in the wine cellar at BiCE San Diego

Chef Mario Cassineri in the wine cellar at BiCE San Diego

“Here, try this.  I’m thinking of adding it to the menu; let me know what you think,” BiCE Ristorante San Diego’s executive chef Mario Cassineri invites, as he places a beautiful dish in front of me. Before I even taste it, I know what I will think.  I will love it, because I’ve IMG_9271never tasted anything from Chef Mario that I haven’t loved. And this creation—beet greens ravioli, the pasta tinted pink by the beet purée added to the dough, is no exception. Bathed in a sauce of  horseradish and shrimp reduction with a touch of brandy, and topped with succulent pieces of prized Baja shrimp, asparagus with just the right amount of crunch, and baby spinach leaves, the dish is satisfyingly rich, yet delicate, all at the same time.  It is this perfect balance of textures and flavors that, to me, has always been a hallmark of Cassineri’s cooking. Continue reading

Duke-ing It Out

The long-awaited Duke’s La Jolla is a winner

By Wendy Lemlin

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     I’ve always been a fan of Chef Anthony Sinsay.  Since I first tasted his creations at Harney Sushi, where he was one of San Diego’s first chefs to experiment with the then-P1150666revolutionary magic of “molecular gastronomy”, and later at the now-defunct Burlap, I’ve been more than a little in awe of his ability to coax multi-layers of flavor from relatively simple ingredients.  I was expecting great things from him at the newly opened Duke’s La Jolla, but even so, on my recent visit I was wowed by how the Exec Chef is able to let his sparkling culinary personality shine within the confines of a corporately owned restaurant group with numerous eateries in California and Hawaii. I think his creativity will be very instrumental in modernizing the traditional menus of a long standing brand. Continue reading

San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival November 15-22

By Wendy Lemlin

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   Wonder how much San Diego loves food and drink? Just look at the success of the San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival, now in it’s 12th year, bigger and more comprehensive than ever. Running November 15-22, with a full roster of events, dinners, tastings, classes, and exhibits, it is one of the largest food and wine festivals in the country, shining a spotlight on both San Diego’s burgeoning gourmet dining scene and our cross-border connection with Baja’s exciting culinary landscape. From tacos and beer to wine paired-haute cuisine, there is something for anyone who loves indulging in crave-worthy food and spirits.  And really, who doesn’t?

More than a dozen celebrated national chefs, including Rick Bayless, Gayle Gand, and Suzette Gresham will join over 40 local luminaries in presenting delicacies and/or cuisine-related educational programs. Look for such regional favorites as The Marine Room’s Bernard Guillas, Javier Plascencia of  Bracero, Finca Altozano, and Mision 19, Jason SBWFF grand tasting smokerKnibb of NINE-TEN, Chad White of Comun and La Justina, Ironside Fish & Oyster’s Jason McLeod, Flor Franco of Finca La Carrodilla and Indulge Contemporary Catering, Mario Medina of Bernini’s Bistro, The Patio Group’s John Medall, Anthony Sinsay of Dukes’s La Jolla, James Montejano of La Valencia Hotel, and a host of others.

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Baja Food & Wine Week at Dobson’s

By Wendy Lemlin

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If you love the sophisticated side of Baja food and wines—or haven’t experienced it yet and want to see what all the accolades are about—-you’re in luck! All this week, from March 9-14, the iconic Dobson’s Bar & Restaurant takes diners’ palates south of the border with a four course prix fixe dinner paired with the renowned wines of the Guadalupe Valley.

Created by Chef Martin San Roman, the menu and wine pairings look like this: Continue reading

Chef Profile: Martin San Roman

by Wendy Lemlin

Chef Martin San Roman in his kitchen at Dobson's .

Chef Martin San Roman in his kitchen at Dobson’s .

There are cooks— and then there are chefs.  Creative cooks abound these days, but truly talented chefs, with a culinary education, a firm foundation in the basics, and years of executive experience in running all types of kitchens, from hotels to intimate dining rooms, are few and far between. Martin San Roman is a highly accomplished chef, in every sense of the word. Continue reading