Parlez-Vous Brunch?

La Bonne Table Now Serving Sunday Brunch

by Wendy Lemlin

exterior

Mesdames et Messieurs, welcome to brunch, French-style.  Well, not precisely, because brunch isn’t really a thing in France, but if it were, it would taste exactly like the offerings on La Bonne Table’s new Sunday Brunch menu, available at the Hillcrest bistro on Sundays from 10-3, with a special Post Pride Parade Brunch on Saturday July 15.

The welcome antithesis to the overrated brunch behemoth down the block (at which I’m always amazed to see long lines out the door waiting for mass quantities of totally mediocre food), La Bonne Table is intimate, sophisticated, and très French. The seating is comfortable, the atmosphere convivial, and you don’t have to shout to converse with your dining partner. Continue reading

Shop & Dine With A Chef at Liberty Station

By Wendy Lemlin

LibertyMktShopChef

When I first heard about Liberty Public Market, it was in its mid-construction stage in Point Loma’s Liberty Station. At that time the concept was to be San Diego’s answer to Seattle’s Pike Place Market— heavy on the retail farmers’ and provender’s market experience, with greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers, and artisanal food producers occupying most of the stalls, interspersed with a few casual take-out eateries. The original plan for Mess Hall, the proposed signature sit-down restaurant was to have an ever-changing menu based on what was available that day at the market stalls.

Sounded great, but, after numerous construction delays, and several re-conceptings, it didn’t quite work out that way. These days, Liberty Public Market  is more food court and less market, although there are still several purveyors of the raw materials for making your own.

Happily, some of the original vision has been resuscitated with the adjacent weekly Liberty Public Farmers Market which launched in May and is open year-round on Thursdays from 2-7pm. And, beginning on June 29th, in conjunction with the LPM Farmers Market and several Liberty Station restaurants, the monthly Shop With the Chef Dinner Series takes farm-to-table one step further by offering a uniquely interactive experience for guests to learn about where their food comes from and how to prepare it, from a chef’s viewpoint.

One Thursday a month through September, a chef from a different restaurant in Liberty Station will host the dinner and market experience. The evening begins at 5:45 pm, when guests will assemble at the host chef’s restaurant. There, they will be privy to a behind-the-scenes introduction to the restaurant’s culinary program and discuss what is currently featured at the Farmers Market. Next, the chef will guide the dinner guests through the market on a personal tour, visiting the local farmers who’ve harvested the ingredients for the evening’s dinner and who will provide tastings of the fresh produce and ingredients. Along the way, the chef will reveal his/her thought process and inspiration behind that night’s menu.  Finally, the guests will walk back to the restaurant where they will enjoy a farm-fresh multi-course dinner, using the ingredients found and purchased directly from the market earlier that day. The cost for the event is $50 per person (alcohol not included, but available).

Chefs and restaurants scheduled so far include:

June 29, 2017  Chef  Phil Esteban, Soda & Swine Liberty Station

2750 Dewey Road #104  sodaandswine.com

Please call 619.501.9989 or contact suzie@sodaandswine.com for tickets.

 

July 27, 2017   Chef Accursio Lota, Solare Ristorante

2820 Roosevelt Rd. solarelounge.com

Please call 619.270.9670 or contact randy@solarelounge.com for tickets

 

August 31, 2017  Chef Michael Ground, Fireside by The Patio

2855 Perry Road, Building 8  firesidesd.com

Please call 619.432.2100 or contact reservations@firesidesd.com for tickets

 

September 28, 2017  TBD-stay tuned for details of the final event of the series.

Civico 1845: Collaboration Italian Style

By Wendy Lemlin

pic-ourstory-new

   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

“Raw” Pleasure: Crudo by Pascal Lorange

by Wendy Lemlin

p1020333

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

TRUST Me, You Need to Dine at TRUST

By Wendy Lemlin

p1020290

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

The Flavors of Florent

Words & Photos by Wendy Lemlin

florent ext 2

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

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 1: Bottega Americano

By Wendy Lemlin

   It seems I’ve been craving Italian cuisine lately. There’s something about spring that has me jonesing for the rich green taste of pesto, fresh tomato sauces with their acid/sweet balance, silky homemade pastas, and local seafood and produce kissed by olive oil and wine. The redolence of garlic, the interplay of herbs like oregano, rosemary, and basil, and oh, the cheeses!

So, with my palate salivating at just the thought of all that deliciousness, I have sacrificed my waistline to embark on a tour of some of my favorite Italian restaurants, and share my experiences.  This is the first in a series of articles; each one will showcase a different restaurant, or chef, or particular dish.

Buon appetito!

BA IMG_9157

Thomas Schoos designed interior

Bottega Americano

This is not your quaint, classic checkered-tablecloth Italian bistro.  Step through the doors of this buzzing East Village restaurant/market/ and café, and the Thomas Schoos designed interior is modern and chic, but at the same time organically comforting. There are seating options for every type of diner. Want an intimate, tucked-away table?

Chef Andrea creating a pizza masterpiece.

Chef Andrea creating a pizza masterpiece.

Got it!  Prefer to dine with a group in the middle of all the action?  Got that, too.  Love watching the activity in the open kitchen or talking to pizza chef Andrea Mancinelli as he prepares his creations for the unique, double sided brick oven? Well then, you have a choice of sitting at five different interactive food bars, and being thoroughly entertained as you dine. The crowd is comfortably chic, too, but there is nothing pretentious or off-putting about the atmosphere.  Diners are seen sporting anything from jeans to dressed-up-for-an-evening-out attire. In fact, the convivial ambience and energy of Bottega Americano is one of its best features. Continue reading

Barrel Smoker Dinner Series V: The Paella Edition

By Wendy Lemlin

paella-25

Paella.  Can I just say how much I love it?  To me, delving into the delectable rice dish is like a treasure hunt, or a Christmas tree full of presents to unwrap one by one. Dig into the pan and find gifts of seafood nestled among the savory rice—a bite of fish here, a tender shrimp or scallop there, clams and mussels peeking out from their shells, succulent tentacles of octopus or squid to be savored. Add the juicy morsels of chicken, maybe the spiciness of chunks of sausage, the aromatics of onions, garlic, bell peppers and a few threads of saffron, and you have what I consider the ideal one pan meal.

On Thursday, February 18, lucky diners can experience the perfection of paella at the Barrel Smoker Dinner Series V: The Paella Edition, to be held at Planet Rooth Design Haus, 3334 5th Avenue, in San Diego’s Bankers Hill neighborhood. Two-time World Food Champion Ricardo Heredia will join with Paella Master Carlos S. Cervantes of Paellas Villa de Cervantes in making all your paella feasting fantasies come true. Both chefs will be using the iQ Oak Barrel Smoker designed by Swedish master craftsman Gustaf Anders Rooth, to update the classic dish with a pleasant depth of smokiness. Whistles will be wet with Baja wines by Hacienda La Lomita Winery and Villa Montefiori/ Paoloni Wines and Baja craft beer by Cerveceria Agua Mala.

The evening includes the pre-opening of the art exhibition “Glossed Over” by artist Daphne Hill, who will be in attendance.

Program:
6-7:30pm “Glossed Over” Pre-Opening/Oyster & Raw Bar by Ricardo Heredia
7:30-9pm Smoked Paella Extravaganza by Carlos S. Cervantes

Feb 18th, 6-9pm
Price: $75 USD (includes food, wine, beer and entertainment)
Tickets: https://barrelsmokerdinner5.eventbrite.com/

Get them ASAP—almost sold out!