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BADASS KOSHER: New-fangled Comfort Food of Old

Posted on February 10, 2016 by a

Smoked Yellowtail Knish with Poached Egg 1

About the time I finally realized I was not going to live forever I found myself exploring my Ashkenazi culinary roots. I’m not sure which was the chicken and which the egg. Somehow, though, the homey comfort foods of childhood play particularly well with uncomfortable realizations like that of mortality.

And that’s what led me to this Smoked Yellowtail Knish with Poached Egg.  

Read more at http://www.lchaimmagazine.com/main-story/badass-kosher-new-fangled-comfort-food-of-old/

WORLD FARE: The poetry of smoke at Grand Ole BBQ y Asado

Posted on by a

Andy Harris' pork ribs

“Subtlety” is not the first word that comes to mind when it comes to barbecue. Whatever region it is from, barbecue is about big flavors, not tweezers. At Grand Ole BBQ y Asado (3302 32nd Street), though, it is the poetry Andy Harris finds in the smoke they use to coax those big flavors into being.

Condiment and sauce bar

Read more at http://sdcitybeat.com/article-17119-The-poetry-of-smoke-at-Grand-Ole-BBQ-y-Asado.html

Beef short ribs

Pork spare ribs and Texas turkey

Texas turkey sandwich

CityBeat Restaurant Guide: San Diego’s Ramen Moment

Posted on February 9, 2016 by a

Whet Noodle's Duck Shoyu

Ramen. In Japan it’s an obsession. In America it’s been late-night dorm room post-party munchies. In San Diego, though, 2015 saw a handful of shops grow exponentially and ramen become serious eats.

There are four major “types” of ramen in Japan: shoyu, miso, shio, and tonkotsu. Those four are divided into at least twenty regional variations, each of which is subdivided seemingly endlessly. Sometimes you suspect every town has its own distinctive version. At its most basic level, though, a bowl of ramen is four things: tare, broth, noodles and toppings, constructed in that order.

Tare is the powerful, flavored essence at the bottom of the bowl that generally (but not always) defines the ramen’s “type.” Next comes the broth: pork, chicken or combinations of the two are most common but some variations use dashi, sardines, spicy bean paste or lard. The noodles for ramen are golden yellow, alkaline Chinese-style noodles. Perfect ramen noodles are firm yet supple with just a hint of a crunch. Topping options are nearly infinite, though nori seaweed, spinach, chives, chashu (roast pork), pickled bamboo shoots, egg and fish cake are common.

Yamadaya's tonkotsu

The most common ramen type in San Diego is tonkotsu, the one major style defined by the broth instead of the tare. For tonkotsu broth, 24 pounds of pork bones are boiled hard for 20 hours until they collapse from their own weight resulting in a milky white, deeply delicious, meaty broth highlighting savory flavors and umami warmth that is the very essence of pig. Some of the best tonkotsu ramen in San Diego can be found at Ramen Yamadaya’s new downtown location (531 Broadway) or Tajima Hillcrest (3739 6th Avenue, Suite B).

Santouka Ramen (4240 Kearny Mesa Road) inside the Mitsuwa Marketplace offers an opportunity to do a quick ramen tour of several of Japan’s classic ramens. The tare for the shio ramen is based on salt (though, ironically, it ends up tasting less salty than other types). Miso ramen builds its tare on red soybean paste. The tare for shoyu ramen, the saltiest, is based on soy sauce. Santouka was the first Japanese ramen chain to hit San Diego (albeit in a supermarket). 2015 saw Santouka joined by Nishiki Ramen (8055 Armour Street, Suite 201A), across the same shared parking lot and Jinya Ramen Bar (825 Garnet Avenue) in Pacific Beach with a Hillcrest location on the way.

Rakiraki Ramen and Tsukemen (4646 Convoy Street) offers an example of a relatively recent (mid-1950s) Japanese variation that became Tokyo’s “in” ramen in the 2000s. Tsukemen ramen is brought to the table with noodles separate from a piping hot bowl of thick sauce-like soup. The intent is for diners to dip the noodles themselves.

Ramen innovation, at least in Japan, is accepted, respected and greeted with enthusiasm. That may be less the case outside Japan. One of the first of San Diego’s ramen innovators, Underbelly (3000 Upas Street in North Park and 750 West Fir Street, Little Italy), has been successful despite the fact self-appointed Ramen Police tagged it with the “inauthentic” label. Surely their topping combinations are far from traditional, but they work.

Davin Waite in the Whet Noodle kitchen

The most recent addition to San Diego’s ramen scene is The Whet Noodle (1813 South Coast Highway, Oceanside) next door to Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub. At Whet Noodle, Davin Waite does to ramen what he did to sushi at the Rodent, earning serious consideration as San Diego’s most consistently creative chef. Take, for example, his duck shoyu ramen. Japan, of course, knows no such thing. Built on a 50/50 tare of mirin and soy and a 50/50 broth of smoked and roast duck, the result is a soup featuring some of the body of a tonkotsu but with an emphasis on elegance. Mine came with toppings of pulled duck, lightly pickled egg, charred Napa cabbage, shiitake mushroom, fish cake, pickled daikon, scallion and bean sprouts. The Whet Noodle also offers a vegan option (hot and sour miso broth) with more styles to come. Waite is cautious about calling Whet Noodle’s dishes “ramen” but ramen is exactly what they are. Creative ramen, yes, but respectful too.

San Diego has become home to a bona fide ramen scene. We have excellent examples of many classic ramen variations. We have the creative offerings of Underbelly and The Whet Noodle. We have newcomers arriving all the time

San Diego is having its ramen moment.

Yamadaya's spicy tonkotsu

For image of story see http://npaper-wehaa.com/sdcitybeat/2016/02/03/s1/#?s=writers&page=8

 

Yamadaya's spicy tonkotsu

NEWS: Romance Restaurant-Style (begrudging but likely delicious)

Posted on February 4, 2016 by a

Lovebirds in a restaurant

Not long ago, I wrote in this space how chefs and restaurateurs love to hate San Diego Restaurant Week.   The same might be said of Valentine’s Day, albeit for different reasons.  Some of it is the fact customers arrive in twos rather than fours, effectively cutting the seating capacity of the restaurant (and thus its revenue) dramatically.  It is also likely because Valentine’s Day diners expect different things from their dinner than do diners on other nights.  They want romance more than haute cuisine; flowers not foodgasms.

badass-kosher-300x242

And yet it is not as if restaurants close on Valentine’s Day.  Quite to the contrary, the lure of a legion of additional diners — ones who would not likely otherwise be dining out — looking for a place to celebrate is too great.  The result is a slew of special Valentine’s Day menus at some of the best restaurants in our region.

Addison

At Addison, Chef William Bradley’s team will be offering a nine course tasting menu executed with a level of perfection that is almost inarguably unrivaled in San Diego.  I would probably go just for the Roasted Pigeon with shallot confit, beets and foie gras.

 

Carte Blanche Menu - Addison Vday 2016

The Wellington is offering a three course (plus amuse bouche and champagne toast) “Feed Your Love” tasting menu in which diners will chose from four options for the first course and four for the main.  I would go with the appetizer of a Red Velvet Soup featuring roasted Red Door Garden beets and a goat cheese  crostini.  A main of pan seared duck breast with smoked baby carrots, risotto and a balsamic port reduction would likely be irresistible for me.

Bellamy's_Valentine's Day 2016 Menu copyBellamy’s in Escondido is offering a four course tasting menu (with optional wine pairings) full of highlights.  I would be having the Foie Gras Torchon.  If it is on the menu I always do.

CU CEDM Valentines

CUCINA urbana in Banker’s Hill and CUCINA enoteca in Del Mar are taking a different tack.  Instead of the ubiquitous Valentine’s Day tasting menus they are offering their usual menus with the addition of a slate of specials.  Two standouts are a pan seared black code with shrimp tortelillini and tatsoi with saffron brodo, for example in Del Mar, and espress/aleppo roasted venison loin with a parsnip puree, braised winter greens and a chefrry sugo with onion nest in Banker’s Hill.

Romance in a Restaurant

Romance in a restaurant is a main course of dating.  There’s no reason it should not be a dessert too.  Even if the chefs and restaurateurs may not be quite so enthusiastic.

WORLD FARE: The smoke and fire of Hunan cuisine

Posted on February 3, 2016 by a

Seceret recipe smoked beef

I love the aroma of Texas barbecue; it puts a smile on my face. I just never expected it in a Chinese restaurant. Village Kitchen (4720 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.), though, is a different kind of Chinese restaurant, and its secret recipe for smoked beef is a different kind of Chinese dish.

Read more at http://sdcitybeat.com/article-17098-The-smoke-and-fire-of-Hunan-cuisine.html

NEWS: Find out why Soil Matters — to our food, our planet and climate change — on February 2, 2016

Posted on January 29, 2016 by a

Healthy Soil 4

It is hard to have good food without good soil.  Most of us know that.  Most of us, however, don’t know that healthy soil stores carbon.  Indeed, an acre of healthy soil stores 125 to 450 tons of carbon (which translates to 450 to 2,750 tons of carbon dioxide.  Unhealthy soil, on the other hand, is just dirt.  It is dead.

Soil Matters Flier

On February 2nd, the Berry Good Foundation, Kiss the Ground and the UC San Diego Center for Sustainability Science, Planning and Design will be producing a panel on exactly that — climate change’s hottest topic — the relationship between healthy soil and a healthy planet.  Amongst the panelists are:

  • Ryland Engelhart and Calla Rose Ostrander, Kiss the Ground
  • Scott Murray, Organic farmer and resource conservationist
  • Pablo Rojas, rancher, El Mogor Ranch, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California
  • Dr. Keith Pezzoli, Director, Urban Studies and Planning, UC San Diego
  • David Bronner, CEO, Dr. Bronner’s
  • Dr. Justine Owen, Soil Scientist, UC Berkeley
  • Michelle Lerach founder, The Berry Good Foundation

Michelle Lerach and Jack Ford

In 2010, Michelle Lerach was given five kid goats by Jack Ford. When these goats grew to full maturity, they produced kid goats of their own that were gifted to six San Diego families. Children and parents alike learned how to care for these animals while sustainably raising them to produce non-GMO milk. Ford taught these families how to use that milk and craft their own cheese. Last year, those cheeses were featured at the charcuterie of Lerach’s annual Berry Good Night.  Described by San Diego Magazine as “the best party  This year at BGN 2015, these families will produce the cheese at the charcuterie table with non-gmo milk from the same generational goat herd that they’ve raised since 2010.invite of the year,” Berry Good Night is a lot more than a party.  It grew into an engine for bringing San Diego’s small farmers, ranchers, activists and Chefs together and from it have emerged a wealth of stories…and projects. Now, Berry Good Night has given birth to the Berry Good Foundation, designed to systematize, build upon the synergies of Berry Good Night and turn it into far more than a one-off event.

Jack Ford and the Baby Goat

Come to the Soil Matters panel on February 2 at the Price Center East at UC San Diego to get a taste of it.  Food and drinks start in the Foyer at 5:30 p.m. and the panel runs from 6:00 pm. to 8:00 p.m. in the Ballroom.

Posted by MAG | in Commentary, Food, News, Slow Food | No Comments »

Celebration and Homage at Misión 19 5th Anniversary Dinner

Posted on January 28, 2016 by a

Javier Plascencia in the Mision 19 kitchen 3

There was something different about Javier Plascencia this night.  This was not the picture of the face of “BajaMed” to which we’d become accustomed from television, in the press and at restaurants and food events across both Baja and Alta California.  The easy smile was not there.  The relaxed mien was missing replaced instead by a tangible, visible and very evident intensity.

Javier Plascencia in the Mision 19 kitchen

Of course, at least in part, some of it may have been the occasion.  There are anniversaries and then there are Anniversaries, and the 5th seems to fall in that latter camp.  But beyond that, this particular anniversary may have held particular significance.    Personal significance in that it marked a life-changing event.  And significance, beyond that, for a city and a region that were, are and will always be of particular import to Plascencia.

Celebrants

As revelers pre-partied upstairs at Misión 19’s more cousin, Bar Misión 20, Plascencia was in a particularly crowded kitchen below prepping for the evening.

Javier Plascencia in the Mision 19 kitchen 2

Restaurant kitchens are, as a rule, smaller and more crowded than one might suppose from a night watching Top Chef, Iron Chef or Chopped. Line cooks are trained to say “behind you” for a good reason:   the failure to do so in the presence of sharp objects and high heat in cramped spaces poses a real potential danger.  But on this night the Misión 19 kitchen was still more crowded:  a video crew was filming every move for live short circuit broadcast onto two big screens in the dining room.

anecillo Oriental De Arroz Relleno Con Barbacoa De Hongas Locales 3

The menu Plascencia created for the evening seemed designed to highlight the essence of what Misión 19 was and what it had come, over the past half decade, to stand for:  innovation and respect.  Each dish paid homage to particular part of Baja:  Ensenada, Popotla, Tijuana, Mexicali and Tecate.  The only exception was the dessert which honored the Asian flavors of Thailand and Vietnam which have so influenced the cuisine of Baja, new and old.  Dishes ranged from a trio of locally farmed yellowtail tostadas, to a Chinese-style “bao” stuffed mushrooms and escamoles (ant larva) honoring the Chinese influence on Mexicali.

Tijuana-Camote Heirloom Tatemado En Carbon de Mezquite

But Plascencia wanted the evening to be more than an awards ceremony for his forbears.  It needed to pay that homage in the context in which Misión 19 has always done so:  through innovation and elevation.  On the Baja episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, Plascencia famously showed Bourdain Misión 19’s unique take on a classic Northern Mexican dish:  a deconstructed  carne asada.  On this night, Plascencia went back to the drawing board and reinterpreted the dish as camote heirloom tatemado en carbon de mezquite.  Grilled sweet potato became the focus of the dish, duck provided the meaty depth of flavor and texture, and another window opens on the classic.

Popotla - Sopa de Frijol Antiguo

One of the best dishes of the evening was Plascencia’s homage to Popotla, a small fishing village of uncertain legality clinging to the Pacific just below the former Fox movie studio south of Rosarito Beach.  A Baja take on a classic fisherman’s stew, it featured bean soup with crab, clams, dried shrimp dumplings all elevated by a sea urchin aioli in the bean broth served in classic fashion tableside.

Mision 19 EntryNot every dish of the dinner was perfect, all won’t crack Misión 19’s regular menu.  That is the danger of a dinner such as this one:  it’s a tight-rope walk.  Innovate, honor and do it as if you did this every night when the dishes–by the nature of the thing– have not been fully vetted, extensively tested and honed by long-term repetition.  But the dinner paid a fitting honor to Baja, to Misión 19 and, indeed, to the restaurant and its Plascencia.  He need not have worried, perhaps precisely because he did.

 

WORLD FARE: Variations on a theme at Baguette Brothers

Posted on January 27, 2016 by a

Gangnam Style 2

There’s nothing new under the sun, only variations. El Bulli, NOMA, Javier Plascencia or Davin Waite, they are all, at most, new forms or old flavors offered in new ways. In other words, they are variations. And that is what Baguette Brothers (4896 Convoy St.) in the Convoy District is all about: variations on a theme, in this case, banh mi.

My first nomination for the coveted title of “CityBeat World Fare Best Sandwich on the Planet” was the banh mi at Cali Baguette Express, specifically the No. 1 Cali Special. It was a great sandwich and a classic example of the banh mi arts. Go further into its menu—or, for that matter, that of just about any banh mi joint—and what you find are the usual suspects: BBQ pork, pate, etc. Their menus are mostly the same.

Enter Baguette Brothers.  Read more at http://sdcitybeat.com/article-17076-Variations-on-a-theme-at-Baguette-Brothers.html

Belly Flop Banh Mi

Fish Sauce Chicken Wings

WORLD FARE: Trace the Southwestern Silk Road at Himalayan Cuisine

Posted on January 20, 2016 by a

Lamb momo

The Silk Road was the world’s first darknet; a cyber black market featuring drugs, weapons and other illicit “products.” The Silk Road was also the historic network of trade routes from which that cryptomarket took its name. That system of routes was best known for connecting Europe to China based on trade in spices, silk and other exotics, but it also resulted in profound cultural exchange and connected China to India. Himalayan Cuisine (7918 El Cajon Blvd., Suite B) in La Mesa offers a rare taste of the latter.

Read more at http://sdcitybeat.com/article-17054-Trace-the-Southwestern-Silk-Road-at-Himalayan-Cuisine.html

SAN DIEGO CITYBEAT: Chef, feed thine own.

Posted on by a

Sinsays in Dining Room

It is a borderline bitter irony of the life of a chef that they feed anyone and everyone every night except their loved ones. It’s a part of the profession’s dark side that isn’t depicted on the Food Network or Top Chef. Long work weeks and brutal daily schedules represent a domestic challenge to which different chefs respond in different ways.

Several themes emerge, though.  Read more at http://sdcitybeat.com/article-17057-Feed-thine-own.html