Tuesday, September 28, 2010

eating North Park

North Park: Serving San Diego alternative dining options since 1989.

The hearty appetizer before this weekend’s main event (Taste of North Park) is Thursday’s ‘30th on 30th’ monthly bargain gastro-crawl along San Diego’s ‘restaurant row.’ 30th on 30th has grown exponentially since its inception, from 6 original participating restaurants to over 20 bars, pubs and even the North Park Farmer’s Market. Founded by a group of 30th Street restaurateurs back in January, there’s been an overwhelming response by locals and visitors alike to not only gobble 30th Street, but imbibe its flowing craft beer selection. If you (like me) had a frustrating first couple of attempts with 30th on 30th, rest assured that event organization and food surplus have both improved. Still head out early though, as the event begins between 5-6pm and lasts until supplies run out.
NOTE: This event is taco-heavy. MIHO, El Take it Easy, Ritual Tavern, and U-31 all feature SD’s signature street food. Too many choices? Don’t worry, follow my recommended itinerary. By the way, $23 total buys you the following…
1. Bluefoot Bar hasn’t announced their 30th on 30th drink special yet, but it’s safe to say it’ll be cheap and good. Stop there first, slam one down, then cross the street and hit up MIHO Gastrotruck for $2 ‘mini street tacos.’ On the corner of 30th and Upas from 5-7pm.
2. Mozy over to Urban Solace and toast goodbye the season we never had with the ‘So Long Summer’ cocktail. Coco rum, coco vodka, black raspberry liqueur, and sweet n sour comprise this $4 libation.
3. Cross 30th and North Park Way, and hang in The Linkery’s adjoining North Park Meat Co. room for $3 roast beef sliders and $2 half pours of Green Flash 30th Street Pale Ale. (Cash only)
4. Head north on 30th Street to El Take it Easy’s front patio where mouthwatering pork belly tacos are only $3. Wash it down with a small Lagunitas Pilsner Michelada for $2.
(Breathe. Chew Tums. Proceed.)
5. Ritual Tavern is serving Carlsbad Aqua Farm oysters on the 1/2 shell, 3 for 2 bucks. Deal! There’s also a cask of Alesmith IPA, price not listed on 30th Street blog.
6. End the nite at Splash Wine Lounge where 5 bucks gets you a glass of Malbec and a mini-cheese plate. (Cash only).
For a complete list of participating businesses, check out the 30th Street Blog.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cheese 101

More fattening that a triple cream brie, Parmigiano Reggiano is a hard cheese saturated with milk solids that form and concentrate during the aging process. Behind it is burrata, a fresh buffalo’s milk cheese, and finally the bright and equally sharp Wisconsin Cheddar.
When specialty cheese store Venissimo opened its 4th location exactly one year ago, life got a lot tastier for downtown gourmands. Among the reasons why, Venissimo’s counter features rotating styles of 60-75 imported, domestic and farmstead cheeses, supplies downtown eateries with their board selections/cooking cheeses (think mac and cheese), AND is considered The Academy of Cheese.

English style cheddar with spicy apple and garlic jam.
Yes, that’s right. Cheese school. Eager students travel from all over San Diego county and beyond to learn everything from Cheese 101 to ricotta and mozzarella making techniques. At the podium are ‘Professor McCheese’ (downtown cheesemonger extraordinarie, Robby) and owner Gina Freize, AKA the ‘Cheese Wiz.’

Cheese 101 students around the communal table at Venissimo Cheese (downtown). The cheese professors convey their expertise in a lighthearted, goofy-at-times manner; there’s no ‘foodie’ pretention here.
In last nite’s Cheese 101 class, Gina and Robby walked us through a slideshow covering basic to complex cheese making techniques, served with corresponding sheep, goat, cow and buffalo milk styles. We also learned the basics of storing cheese, what to look for when buying cheese, pairings, and pricing. Sign up for the Cheese 101 class ($50), and you’ll get:
  • Glass of red and white wines, and a half-pour of sparkling wine.
  • Sampling of at least 12 cheeses
  • Fresh bread from local bakery, Bread and Cie
  • 10% off store purchases after the event
  • Venissimo cheese spreader
  • Great knowledge, including after event one-on-one time with cheese mongers Gina and Rob.

Individual cheese plate with 7 cheeses from around the world, and complimentary spreader for all guests to take home.
If wine and cheese isn’t your thing, be sure to check out Venissimo’s upcoming events for San Diego Beer Week, including a beer and cheese pairing class.
And, the next time you want to wow your guests with a worldly cheese platter, or just want something to keep bedside for snacking, stop in to see the experts at Venissimo who will guide you through tastes and information in an approachable atmosphere.
Downtown hours:
Mon-Fri 11-6:30
Sat 10-6 | Sun 11-4
871 G Street
San DiegoCA 92101
Phone: 619.358.9081

Thursday, September 23, 2010

downtown dumplings?

About a month ago I got a text from a Says Granite street team member: ‘Did you hear Dumpling Inn is opening a downtown location?’ Um… ‘No!’ Well, turns out my little star was in fact right, because I confirmed tonite with the source, over my salt and pepper fish, of course, that downtown WILL get its very own Dumpling Inn next month sometime. WOW!
If you haven’t had the delight of eating the above pan-fried (potsticker) variety, or the boiled dumplings below, you are missing out on some of the most savory comfort food available in our city. These delectable noodle purses carry simple ingredients like ground pork and green onion, fish and chive, and chicken varieties. Soup dumplings are dangerously hot, individual noodle soup capsules; there is a scientific way to pinch these dumplings with your chopsticks just right in order to first slurp the brothy contents before biting in. If the roof of your mouth is intact after a Dumpling Inn visit, you either didn’t eat, or you’re Chinese, and have the slurp method down pat.
The Dumpling Inn 2 is actually called Dragon’s Den, and will be located across the street from Tilted Kilt in the East Village. A second location is just what this restaurant (and the rest of us) need, because there is always a long wait to be seated at the Convoy Street hole-in-the-wall.

2 cool 4 resto week cont'd

Nothing says I’m 2 cool 4 resto week quite like celebrating your establishment’s anniversary instead, over the course of 3 days, complete with delicious sustainable feasts, and rare keg tappings. Thank you, Ritual Tavern, for not forking over the resto week fee of $1,500 bucks in attempts to attract new customers, but instead purchasing the good stuff to share with the regulars who’ve supported your venture from the get-go.

Last nite Chuck Silva from Green Flash was in the house with his St.Feuillien mash-up ‘Blond Belgian Strong’ Biere de L’Amitie, and also cask conditioned Double Stout (Green Flash).
More this week:
RESERVATION ONLY: Thursday, September 23rd
The Lost Abbey and Da-le Ranch Autumn Game Dinner, plus a limited release of Deliverance (blend of bourbon barrel aged Serpent’s Stout and brandy barrel aged Angel’s share). Not a lot of info on this… ‘game’ refers to many animals, including squirrel; a menu on the website would be nice.
Ritual opens at noon and will kick off the weekend with a cask of Alesmith Evil Dead Red, and according to their website, all day ‘jerk cookouts.’ You had me at Alesmith!
Congrats on 3 years of serving North Park.

Mariscos German

You’re standing in a parking lot about to order dinner. Not the typical backdrop for your meals, how do you know that your food’s gonna be good? Here’s a breakdown:
1. There’s one or more people drinking tall boys out of paper bags. Broad daylight or early eve, who gives a shit? There are no rules in street food.
2. The majority of language spoken around you is not your own. I don’t know about you, but I want to eat the ethnic food that draws the perspective ethnic crowd. Check!
3. And, the coup de grace. A sign like this:

‘Thank you for wait all sea food we prepared at instant for good taste.’
If you’re a South Park/North Park local, it’s likely you’ve seen the taco truck parked at the Gala Foods on the corner of Fern, across from the Big Kitchen. Well, I’m here to tell you— STOP next time— because the Mexican seafood specialties by Mariscos German are authentic, cheap, and likely better than anything you’ll eat at a non-mobile restaurant.

My dinner plans flew out the window when I came upon Mariscos German Friday nite. On the side of the truck a sign read: FISH TACOS ON SALE .99. I ordered one of those, and asked the chica at the window to throw in her favorite taco as well. Here’s what I got for $4.25:

99 cent fish taco, and grilled marlin taco from Mariscos German.
I was really stumped for a good minute about the mystery meat on the right. Is this… pork? Fish? Doesn’t taste fishy… what’s the deal? When a friendly patron asked me what I thought of the Marlin, I acted cool. ‘Oh, yeah, it’s great. Not fishy at all.’ Might not order this on my own in the future, but I’m glad I tried it.
The real taco of interest was my ‘San Filipe style’ fish taco. I’ve deemed the 99 cent fish tacos at TJ Oyster Bar in Chula Vista tops, so I was curious to compare another that comes highly recommended. All in all, the main differences are German’s larger tortilla, and thinner batter. While TJOB’s batter is fried puffy and crunchy, German’s is way more toothsome. I ordered one more for dessert, it was that good.
To say Mariscos German trumps TJOB or vice versa, well, it’s a tough call. I do enjoy crunchy batter that gives way to flaky, white fish; however, the larger tortilla cradling more tender contents was quite nice (and easier) to get my mouth around. I’m calling this a tie with the slight advantage to German for better mechanics.
Mariscos German is open for business 9am-7pm Monday thru Friday in the Gala Foods parking lot. Not sure on weekend hours, but I’ll update this post when I find out.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2 cool 4 resto week

As a card carrying member of the Citizen’s Auxiliary Tourism Board, I support events that drive traffic to our town’s finest haunts; however, like many-a-mass organized event, San Diego Restaurant Week has its perks, and pisses.
Get a taste (literally) of Nobu for 40 bucks.

Example photo of Nobu’s 3 course menu
  • Limited menu options
  • Clogged dining rooms
  • Not conducive for spontaneous dinner plans
  • After drinks, is the portion to price ratio REALLY a deal, especially given the lack of choices?
(NOTE: Props to Jsix for offering ALL menu items for restaurant prices)
San Diego Restaurant Week is a twice annual celebration of our local dining scene, not its patrons. In response to this backwards festival of local food, a few non-participating restauranteurs are offering diners something special to chew on anyways— the most delicious being choices.
North Park’s southern belle is featuring a week of sustainable seafood dishes for lunch AND dinner. Order one, or many, the choice is yours. These sound good:
Manilla Clams
In a “chowder” sauce, sautéed potatoes, bacon lardon, garlic, herbs and sherry, finished with a touch of cream $9.50
Lobster Pot Pie (dinner only)
A return of the classic Urban Solace Favorite! Fresh Shucked Lobster, Shaved Fennel and a creamy Lobster Sauce Baked in a Cornmeal Pie Crust $19.50
Farm to table militia leader Jay Porter pays tribute to local farms (as per usual) at both The Linkery and El Take it Easy this week by offering 3 course fixed veg-centric dinners (several options to pick and choose from). $25 bucks at The Link, and $15 at EZ. Jay, a seasoned food pornographer, updates his blog daily with provocative pics and text, so check it out.
Jayne prides herself on offering San Diego the most diverse selection of small production, boutique wines. Tonite and tonite only, the gastropub and Blue Danube Wines are hosting ‘San Diego’s first ever’ Central European Wine Dinner, a 5 course 6 wine pairing dinner for 55 bucks a person. This is a deal. Click the link above for reservation and lineup info.
2 Cool for Restaurant Week is an ongoing list, so if you know of any locales running specials this week outside of the conventional celebration, drop @saysgranite a line.