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MAG on NEWS: Two Chefs Down -- A Tough Week for the San Diego Food Scene: I hear you, Mark. And there i
Mark on NEWS: Two Chefs Down -- A Tough Week for the San Diego Food Scene: Not heard anything of either o
BajaWineFood on NEWS: Ensenada to host Travel + Leisure México's Gourmet Awards November 6 and 7: Excited to see you tonight!
MAG on SAN DIEGO: On Time Travel and a Pop-Up 50th: Paula, thank you so much for t
Paula Hansen on SAN DIEGO: On Time Travel and a Pop-Up 50th: Hello, I just found this toda

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WORLD FARE: Albie’s Beef Inn — Losing a living legend

Posted on November 24, 2015 by a

Dining with PSA stewardesses in their prime

It’s tough to lose a legend. Lubach’s and its mock turtle soup is gone. So is Piret’s, its pâtés and tourte au chou. Star of the Sea Room closed years ago and Anthony’s is following suit. Hillcrest’s Pernicano’s: gone. Soon, we’ll say goodbye to Albie’s Beef Inn (1201 Hotel Circle South).

Read more at:  http://sdcitybeat.com/article-16890-Losing-a-living-legend.html

TASTE OF FALL, TRIP BACK IN TIME: Roasted Tomato Soup | Ham | Fall Vegetables

Posted on by a


Tomatoes in a colander

As summer gives way to fall – and it does eventually happen in San Diego even though the calendar says it should be fall dropping into winter – I want tomato soup. It happens every year. It’s not the bright sweetness of the tomatoes in last month’s gazpacho I’m craving, it’s the rich and full flavor of roasted tomatoes.

But I want more than that. I want to make a meal of it. I want savory ham and vegetables that reflect the direction the weather has taken. Fall vegetables like parsnip, rutabaga and carrots.

Fall vegetables, awaiting

So, for this meal-in-a-soup I diced those vegetables and ham and seared them in the sauté pan, served them in the bowl before ladling the soup around them. Paired with the simple, comforting flavors of a tomato soup I remember from childhood, this was exactly what the (slight) turn in the weather called for.

 Roasted Tomato Soup | Ham | Fall Vegetables 1

Roasted Tomato Soup | Ham | Fall Vegetables

Serves 4


For the Soup:

  • 5 pounds fresh tomatoes (good quality canned will do fine)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1 leek chopped
  • 1 bulb fennel chopped
  • 1 quart vegetable (or chicken) stock
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

For the bowl:

  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed (or other neutral) oil
  • 1 parsnip, diced
  • 1 rutabaga, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • ¼ pound ham, diced
  1. Roast the Tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Coarsely chop the tomatoes, place them on a hotel pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast the tomatoes for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are caramelized.
  2. Begin Building the Soup. Meanwhile, season the onions, carrots, leeks and fennel in a large soup pot with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Sweat the aromatic vegetables over low heat until translucent.
  3. Finish the Soup. Add the roasted tomatoes and stock to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the flame to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the liquid has reduced by about a third. Add the heavy cream.
  4. For the Bowl. Meanwhile, place a teaspoon or two of oil in a sauté pan and sear the diced rutabaga until just caramelized. Remove them to a covered bowl. Add another teaspoon of oil to the pan and repeat with the carrots and parsnip. Remove those vegetables to another covered bowl and repeat with the ham.
  5. Purée the Soup. In a Vitamix or other high speed blender, puree the soup (working in batches). Strain the soup as you finish each batch. Taste the finished soup and adjust the seasonings. Check not only for salt and pepper, but if the soup needs a little brightness add a bit of sherry vinegar.


  1. Plate the Soup. Arrange the ham and root vegetables in each soup bowl. Ladle the soup around the ham and vegetables. Take a little trip back in time to your childhood.
Posted by MAG | in Comfort Food, Food | No Comments »

NEWS: Brigantine wins soon-to-be former Anthony’s iconic waterside location

Posted on November 18, 2015 by a

Brigantine Portside Pier

On Tuesday, the San Diego Unified Port District Board chose the Brigantine Restaurants to take over the iconic waterfront location currently occupied by Anthony’s Fish Grotto. The Board voted 4-2 (with one abstention) to begin negotiations with Brigantine for a long term lease to commence following the January 2017 expiration of the current Anthony’s lease. Anthony’s had been in the location since 1946.

Brigantine Portside Pier from Bay

The Brigantine’s “Portside Pier” proposal, a $13.3 million plan, offers three separate uses: a steak-and-seafood Brigantine on the north side of the space, a Miguel’s Mexican restaurant on the south side and a “Ketch Grill & Taps” fast-casual concept incorporating a craft brew pub. The project, designed by Tucker Sadler Architects also includes a coffee and gelato bar and an expanded dock with space for ten vessels. Perhaps most important to its success, the Brigantine’s proposal offered $10.5 million of revenue to the Port over the first 10 years of a 40 year lease.

Port staff had originally excluded Anthony’s from the final round, recommending simultaneous negotiations (a point the dissenting Board voters picked up upon) with the Brigantine and Sunroad-led bidding groups, but in April, the Board extended the long-time operators a lifeline adding the Fish Market-Anthony’s team a life-line. Upon earning this, Anthony Ghio, grandson of the family-owned eatery’s originator, said they were “back in the game.” And they were. Until Tuesday.


The Anthony’s bid –  actually led by  Fish Market Restaurant (Anthony’s was to be a sub-tenant) – proposed included new versions of the current Anthony’s Fish Grotto and Fishette, a Fish Market restaurant and a fine-dining but seafood-dominant “Harbor and Ash” restaurant. They proposed a new building including wider decks and a rooftop lounge. The Fish Market-Anthony’s proposal projected $12,000,000 and promised the port nearly $9 million in the first 10 years, $1,500,000 less than Brigantine’s proposal. That deficit – along with a history of deferred maintenance – likely doomed it.


The third proposal, led by Sunroad Enterprises, might have been the most interesting. Unfortunately it was the least remunerative to the Port: also tagged at a cost of cost $12 million it would have earned the Port nearly $8.4 million, half a million less than Fish Market/Anthony’s and over $2 million less than Brigantine. It would, however, have offered a variety of operators beyond – and arguably above – that proposed by the other two bids: a Blue Point restaurant by the Cohn Restaurant Group, a Craft & Commerce cocktail and beer lounge and a Stone Brewing tasting room.

Ultimately, though, the Port cited the superior revenue offered by Brigantine as well as improved public access that would “activate the waterfront” (whatever that means) as the reasons for selecting the Brigantine bid over its two finalist competitors (and three teams that did not make the final round). The bottom line is that San Diego can look forward to a locally controlled operation featuring an average to above-average seafood restaurant, a below average “Mexican” food operator put together in an attractive package that will increase access to the water and promises to pay the Port a lot of money.

It could be worse, couldn’t it? Right?

Posted by MAG | in Uncategorized | No Comments »

WORLD FARE: More than a missed steak at Dao Fu

Posted on by a

Tofu salad with beet and raspberry vinaigrette 4

Tofu gets no respect. Its reputation as a “meat substitute” precedes it. Bad tofu— and that’s most of the stuff you can buy— isn’t just boring, it’s bad. Really bad. Good tofu, on the other hand, is glorious.

That is why Dao Fu (3332 Adams Ave.) in Normal Heights can change the way you see tofu.

Read more at:  http://sdcitybeat.com/article-16870-More-than-a-missed-steak-at-Dao-Fu.html

NEWS: Two Chefs Down — A Tough Week for the San Diego Food Scene

Posted on November 16, 2015 by a

Top Chef Chad White

One week: two down. First Daniel Barron announces he is leaving Blush effective immediately. Next, Chad White — on the eve of the debut of his season of Top Chef — announces he is moving back to his hometown of Spokane, Washington. And he is doing so next week. It was a sad sack of days for those of us who care about good plates of food in San Diego.

Daniel Barron

It is sad because it will be a lot more difficult for San Diegans to taste what these two very talented Chefs have to offer.  From White’s days at Roseville and Sea Rocket Bistro and Barron’s at Blue Point, through their respective pop-ups (Plancha BajaMed and Evolve) to their more recent gigs (White at Común Kitchen and La Justina and Barron at La Valencia and Blush), San Diegans have been able to taste their food for the better part of the last decade.  That is about to change.

Chef Chad White at the pass

There has been room enough for some to suggest these Chefs brought it on themselves.  The head of one local food-centric group, for example, accused me of being a bit too romantic (in far more scatological terms) for bemoaning the loss of these Chefs’ culinary talents. And there is, no doubt, reason to question the tendency to reward those who excel behind the stove with the leadership of kitchens requiring markedly different skill-sets. The resumes of White and Barron — as well as the departures from their recent restaurants — make it easy to view their departures from these most recent restaurants as some sort of “failure.” It is also, beside the point.

Chef Daniel Plating

Regardless of anything involving the business of food the bottom line is that I am going to miss the food of Chad White and Daniel Barron.  Barron’s omnivorous approach to technique — from modern gastronomy with an emphasis on flavor rather than dazzle to his ambitious dry-aged meat programs at La Valencia and Blush — brought to the table something we just have not had much of in San Diego.

White's blood orange, shrimp and scallope terrine aguachile

White’s precise, forward looking take on the new cuisine of Baja played a vital role in the local development of a cuisine that could well come to be a defining focus of San Diego’s food scene. For many in San Diego, White’s food will have been their first exposure to this sort of refined approach to Mexican flavors.

Pop Up Chad

While it is not exactly clear where Barron will end up, the smart money is probably not on San Diego.  The picture is clearer for White.  He will still continue his involvement in Tijuana’s La Justina and in Craft Pizza Company, but he is moving back to his hometown — Spokane, Washington — to open a new 40-50 seat chef-driven restaurant called Native Post & Provisions.

Daniel Barron at Blush 2

As I’ve previously written, the life of a professional cook is not about creativity and fame but rather is defined by hard work and low pay, day after day.  The reality stands in stark contrast to the picture painted in the media. It may be tempting to label a chef’s departure as a “failure” — and it may even be so — but the desire to return home and to a better life certainly seems understandable.

But it still saddens me to have those flavors leave with them.

NEWS: Amaranta wins Best of Best, Baja wins much of Rest, a Tuna Steals the Show

Posted on November 12, 2015 by a


W.C. Fields is credited with the old Hollywood saw: “Never work with children or animals.” The attribution may be questionable. The wisdom is not. That was on full view at the Press Conference for Travel + Leisure México’s Gourmet Awards on November 6 at the spectacularly beautiful Centro Cultural Riviera in Ensenada.

Press conference

As Baja California Tourism Minister Oscar Jesus Escobedo Carignan spoke about the importance and impact of gastronomic tourism in Baja a tuna crossed the stage. It did not swim and it did not make that crossing solo but it certainly did steal the show. Where a moment before the entire press corps had been focused on Escobedo’s words suddenly they only had eyes for tuna. Never mind that the fish was carried, in a plastic bag by Javier Plascencia and a line cook, that tuna eclipsed even Plascencia’s star power.

The star of the show

It was a fitting metaphor for the evening. As much as the event resembled a Mexican foodie Oscars, as much as it was about the words of men, what it was really about was that tuna: the bounty of Baja. There would be a non-Baja winner of the Best of the Best award (the “Best Picture” big one), the big winner on the evening was the host State: Baja California. And Baja took home some statues too.

Javier Plascencia

Plascencia was one of those. His Finca Altozano won the award for Best Concept over six other competitors (including the eventual Best of the Best winner).

Diego Hernandez

Another Baja champion was Diego Hernandez’s Corazón de Tierra, which won for Baja’s best restaurant.

Sabina Bandera

Perhaps the most important – certainly judging from the applause – was Sabina Bandera’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Pablo Salas Best of the Best

That “Best Picture” statue – Best of the Best – went to Pablos Salas’ Toluca restaurant, Amaranta, about an hour from Mexico City.

Centro Cultural Riviera in Ensenada 2

But the big win was for that tuna and for Baja. And my modest bit of advice to Minister Escobedo is to echo Fields apocryphal saying: don’t let an animal on his stage.


Complete list of winners:

Best of the Best:  Pujol

Best New Restaurant:  Aperi

Best Tasting Menu:  Le Chique

Best Concept:  Finca Altozano

Best Hotel Restaurant:  Aperi / Dos Casas San Miguel de Allende

Best Art of the Plate:  Alcalde

Best Sweet Experience:  La Postrería

Best Local Restaurant (Host State):  Corazón de Tierra

Lifetime Achievement:  Sabina Bandera

People’s choice:  Quintonil

Mixology:  Expendio Tradición

Best Regional and Traditional Cuisine:  Nicos

Best Casual Dining:  Cortéz

WORLD FARE: Nishiki Ramen offers innovative ramen grounded in tradition

Posted on November 11, 2015 by a

Miso Ramen

The tonkotsu style dominates San Diego’s ramen scene. That milky-white, meaty broth made from slowly boiled pork bones is certainly a powerhouse. But there’s more to ramen than this one classic, Japanese style. The opening of the first American outpost of Tokyo-based Nishiki Ramen (8055 Armour St., Suite 201A) in the Convoy District gives us a rare chance to explore the edges of ramen world.

Read more at:  http://sdcitybeat.com/article-16848-Nishiki-Ramen-offers-innovative-ramen-grounded-in-tradition.html

BADASS KOSHER: “They tried to destroy us, we survived, let’s eat!”

Posted on November 10, 2015 by a

Beet Latkes | Creme Fraiche | Chives | Ash 3

It is a myth grounded in reality: if you ask 10 Jews their opinion, you get 11 answers. And it is not all wrong. Oddly though, if you ask 10 Jews what they eat for Chanukah, 10 will tell you “latkes;” maybe 11. They tried to destroy us, we survived, let’s eat latkes.

Chanukah, though, is perceived as one of the least “religious” holidays on the Jewish calendar. It seems to be less theologically oriented and less clearly biblically based than many if not most others of our holidays. That perception, perhaps, laid the groundwork for what was to come and what Chanukah has become in America.

But Chanukah is not, and should never be, just the “Jewish Christmas.”

Read more at:  http://www.lchaimmagazine.com/feature/badass-kosher-they-tried-to-destroy-us-we-survived-lets-eat/

NEWS: Madame Ur, Barrel Smoker Tacos, Wine, Beer and Artistic Nudes

Posted on November 6, 2015 by a

Madame Ur

It is a rare convergence:  the smokey, soulful, superhero cabaret jazz of Madame Ur and Her Men, Barrel Smoker tacos from Chef Flor Franco using the innovative IQ smokers of craftsman-chef-impressario Gustaf Anders Rooth, wine from Villa Montefiori/Paolini Wines, beer from Agua Mala and a first look at the Nude Survey Three art exhibition curated by Eric Minh Swenson.  It is happening Saturday, November 7 at 7:00 p.m. at Planet Rooth Design Haus, 3334 5th Avenue in San Diego.

Madame Ur 4

Madame Ur — Azzul Monraz is her real name and bookish Tijuana mother her daytime gig — transforms into a nearly surrealistic contemporary incarnation of a cabaret singer.  With her band, this new incarnation (aka Madame Ur) brews a theatrical, bilingual blend of jazz, folk, tango and more.  It is cabaret with some serious attitude.

Flor Franco

The food itself is a convergence. Chef Flor Franco will be cooking up the perfect culinary accompaniments to Madame Ur’s music:  tacos prepared on Rooth’s Barrel Smokers.  The Barrel Smokers themselves are a work of both art and engineering: gorgeous wine barrels transformed into soulful smokers that impossibly do low and slow and near microwave pace.

Barrel Smoker

Wine will be by Villa Montefiori (aka Paolini Wines) from the Valle de Guadalupe and beer will be by Ensenada’s Agua Mala.  The event also features a first look at NUDE SURVEY THREE featuring the work of Josue Castro, Alec Dawson, Raul Guerrero, Daphne Hill, Prudence Horne, Benjamin Lavender, Virginia Lukei, Sarah Stieber, Anna Stump, Nicole Waszak, and James Watts. The exhibition is curated by Eric Minh Swenson, a noted photographer in his own right.

Nude Survey Three

This unique event is a production of Fernando Gaxiola’s Baja Wine + Food.  Get tickets at https://madameurcabaret.eventbrite.com.

NEWS: Ensenada to host Travel + Leisure México’s Gourmet Awards November 6 and 7

Posted on November 5, 2015 by a


Ensenada and Baja will play host to the 2015 Travel + Leisure México Gourmet Awards this Friday and Saturday.  With a full slate of activities starting Friday morning and running through Saturday, the centerpiece will be the awards themselves at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night at Centro Cultural Riviera, located at Lazaro Cardenas, Bahía Ensenada, 22880 Ensenada. B.C..

Gourmet Awards jpeg

The nominees for the 2015 Gourmet Awards are:

Corn tamale with suckling pig, parsnip and yellow mole

Best of the Best

  • Pujol
  • Pangea
  • Le Chique
  • Biko
  • Amaranta
  • Quintonil
  • Corazón de Tierra

La Esperanza dining room and view

Best New Restaurant

  • Aperi
  • Lalo!
  • Axiote
  • Cipriani
  • La Esperanza

Lula Bistro 

Best Tasting Menu

  • Lula Bistro
  • Le Chique
  • K’u’uk
  • Biko
  • Alcalde
  • Raíz
  • Amaranta
  • Quintonil
  • Misión 19
  • Pujol


Best Concept

  • Hueso
  • Finca Altozano
  • Flora’s Field Kitchen
  • Dulce Patria
  • Sud 777
  • Amaranta
  • Rosetta


Best Hotel Restaurant

  • Aperi / Dos Casas San Miguel de Allende
  • Seared / One & Only Palmilla
  • Carolina / St. Regis Punta Mita
  • Moxi/ Hotel Matilda
  • Nibs / Hotel Cacao
  • Cocina de Autor / Grand Velas Riviera Maya
  • Chapulín / Hotel Presidente Intercontinental CDMX


Best Art of the Plate

  • Alcalde
  • Quintonil
  • K’u’uk
  • La Postrería
  • Le Chique
  • Amaranta
  • Raíz

La Posteria

Best Sweet Experience

  • Dolcenero
  • La Postrería
  • Alcalde
  • Raíz / Espai Sucre
  • Cortéz
  • Amaranta
  • Rosetta
  • Jaso

Grilled Octopus with Pureed Garlic, Pistachios and Habanero Salsa

Best Local Restaurant (Host State)

  • Misión 19
  • Corazón de Tierra
  • Manzanilla
  • Laja
  • Malva
  • Finca Altozano
  • Almazara

Sabina Bandera 2

Cooking – the Traditional Path

  • Sabina Bandera


People’s choice

(people’s vote)


Best Mixology

  • Limosneros
  • Misión 19
  • Cortéz
  • Expendio Tradición
  • Paprika

Azul Historico

Best Regional and Traditional Cuisine

  • Nicos
  • Azul Histórico
  • Casa Oaxaca
  • Axiote
  • El Mural de los Poblanos

Máximo Bistro Local

Best Casual Dining

  • Máximo Bistro Local
  • Romero y Azahar
  • Sésame
  • Cortéz
  • Finca Altozano
  • Merotoro
  • Eloise
  • Moyuelo