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

Bracero Brings It!

by Wendy Lemlin

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After months of delays, and about a year of anticipation, Bracero Cocina de Raiz finally opened in mid July. The first restaurant in San Diego proper by Baja mega celeb chef Javier Plascencia (Romesco in Bonita, Mision 19 and Erizo in Tijuana, and Finca Altozano in the Valle de Guadalupe) and partner Luis Peña, opened its Little Italy doors to much foodie-world buzz and advance reservations booked several months out.

Was it worth the wait? In a word, yes!

Continue reading

Gourmet Dining With Farmers, Friends & A Fisherman

By Wendy Lemlin

Ok, I admit it.  Life can taste pretty sweet when you’re a food writer.  It’s especially enjoyable when gourmet dining amidst great conviviality with the growers, harvesters, and curators of the delicacies on the plates in front of me.

This was the case last night (January 15) at San Diego’s Red Door Restaurant and Wine Bar for the Baja edition of their Farmers, Friends & Fisherman Dinner series, which proved so popular that seating spilled over into The Wellington Steak and Martini Lounge, Red Door’s adjoining sister restaurant. The seasonal series showcases area farmers, fishermen, ranchers, and wine or spirit makers who personify Red Door’s sustainable, local and organic credo. Continue reading

A Toast to TOAST Enoteca & Cucina

by Wendy Lemlin

street view of Toast Enoteca & Cucina

Toast Enoteca & Cucina in East Village

TOAST Enoteca & Cucina, serving modern Italian Cuisine in San Diego’s East Village has been on my “must try” list for quite some time, and after finally doing so last week, I can only ask myself, “What the hell took me so long?”  It seems I’ve been seriously missing out for the four years the wine bar and restaurant has been open. Continue reading

Food Without Borders: Culinary Battles at Tijuana Innovadora Conference

By Wendy Lemlin

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Come October 18 and 19, there will be some cross-border battles raging in Tijuana— but don’t be alarmed; it’s a very good thing!  In fact you could say a delicious thing, as some of the finest chefs from San Diego and Tijuana compete in three separate Iron Chef-style competitions, or Batallas Culinarias, as part of the biennial Tijuana Innovadora Conference, which showcases innovation in technology, industry and culture. Continue reading

Bravo for Zarco

By Wendy Lemlin

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I’d be willing to wager that for most of you reading this, downtown Chula Vista is not the first place you’d think of—or at all— when deciding where to go for a fantastic dinner and amazing wine selection. Yeah, me neither—that is, until my recent visit to Zarco, Cocina De Baja, in the heart of Chula Vista’s 3rd Avenue shopping district. There, among shops whose windows display the most colorful of flouncy quinceanera dresses, Chef Flor Franco has converted the commercial kitchen of her highly successful Indulge Contemporary Catering company into a first rate showcase for her take on the much acclaimed cuisine and wines of Baja California. Continue reading

Food Indigo: Indigo Grill Reborn

by Wendy Lemlin

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So—you know what it’s like when you run into someone you used to be friends with, but, for one reason or another, haven’t seen in a couple of years, and in the meantime she’s lost 25 pounds, had some major “work” done, colored her hair, completely changed her style of dressing and now, all of a sudden, is bubbling with energy and personality and looking all stylish and hot? On one level, she is still the same friend that you’ve always known and loved, but on another level you’re like, “Damn, who IS this person?”

Well, that’s how I felt when I walked through the new doors of the re-concepted and remodeled Indigo Grill on the corner of India and Cedar Streets in San Diego’s Little Italy for the restaurant’s big reveal party. First opened in 2001, Indigo Grill was one of the earlier collaborations between the Cohn Restaurant Group and Chef Deborah Scott, and for years was the only trendy, non-Italian cuisine eatery in the newly-hip neighborhood. Continue reading

Welcome to Borderlines

   

by Wendy Lemlin

A border can be anywhere. It can be a fence between countries or an intersection that defines a neighborhood. A border can flavor a cuisine and enliven a culture. It can have a recognizable soundtrack or certain design aesthetic. A border can be a physical demarcation or merely a state of mind.

The best borders are porous, engendering understanding and cross pollination of ideas and customs, but even when they are not, when walls separate and visas restrict, the crossing over or through becomes all the more exciting,

I live in San Diego, CA, about a 15 minute drive from the US/Mexico border in Baja California, a border which I cross often. I love that I can be in another country— with customs, cuisine, language, and lifestyle often so different from my own—in less time than it takes for me to drive to the northern or eastern reaches of San Diego county, which also are borders in and of themselves.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been afflicted with an active case of wanderlust.  Whether traveling to the far-flung corners of the globe, or the near-flung corners of my county, I constantly seek out unique experiences—geographical, cultural and culinary.  I’m fortunate to have the great pleasure of writing about these places and times in hopes of inspiring others to cross their borders and enjoy the world as well.

When I was a child, I was the pickiest of eaters.  Not any more! I love food that is creative, healthy, and often decadent. I devour with my senses. I’m enamored with aromas, titillated by tastes, and excited by the sight of a beautifully prepared dish or a perfect piece of produce.  International cuisines and regional specialties  inspire my wanderlust.

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I’m an almost-vegetarian–I don’t eat mammals—so, you won’t be reading any reviews of meat dishes on this blog. But, having grown up in the seaport of New Bedford, MA, I will probably never stop eating seafood, and on my yearly visits “back home” I have a list of the “must eats” that are always a part of every trip there and that I enthusiastically splurge on: North Atlantic lobster roll, mixed with just a hint of mayonnaise served in a toasted, buttered hot dog bun; Maine steamer clams, dunked in their own broth and melted butter; New England clam chowder whose broth is thickened only with the cream and slivers of potato; seared scallops fresh from a New Bedford ship, golden fried whole belly clams; and broiled scrod, minimally seasoned and moistly flaky. I have never tasted fresh corn on the cob anywhere else in the world that can compare to the ears of Silver Queen or Butter and Sugar eaten barely steamed within a few hours of having been picked on a Massachusetts South Coast farm in August.  Yes, my cholesterol is about 1000 when I come back to San Diego, but do I care? No!  And am I salivating now as I write this, happily anticipating the meals I will have there in about a month? You betcha!

As a food writer, of course I’m opinionated about my dining experience, what’s on my plate, and ultimately, in my mouth. I’m not impressed by pretention.  Except for my sugar addiction—don’t even get me started on chocolate or pastries—-and my occasional “vacation lapses”, I’m a strong proponent of healthful, whole food eating, and I see no reason to eat processed food at bad restaurants–or even, “just okay” ones, when there is so much incredible creativity out there. If an eatery considers iceberg lettuce to be the main attraction in a “garden salad”, I pretty much know I’m not going to like anything else they serve me..  That is, except for the little Greek pizza place in my hometown that coincidentally makes the best fried clams around.