Showing posts with label Evolve Cuisine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Evolve Cuisine. Show all posts

Friday, May 11, 2012

Food Lately & Upcoming Events

The past few weeks have seen some fantastic meals that are off my usual truck, shack, hole-in-the-wall beat. It's been a nice break, nibbling and sipping the finer things that San Diego has to offer. Ch-ch-ch-check it: 

The US Grant's regal lobby. 
When I told a friend of mine that I'd eaten at the Grant Grill, he laughed and asked why I'd go to such a stuffy place for lunchtime cocktails. While the scene isn't "poppin" per se (at least not at noon, anyway), the ambiance is classy and timeless, and reasonably priced, delicious food plus Jeff Josenhan's stellar cocktails lured me in.

If you've read any of my other cocktail posts, there's a noticeable trend in my drink choices: anything that has an egg! Even though I ordered the Grant's fried egg sandwich for lunch, I couldn't resist the lure of Josenhan's Dandelion Ramos Flip. 

This cocktail screams spring fling. It's floral, citrusy and perfectly frothy thanks to a proper shaking, and egg whites. Ballast Point rum is simply a pleasure to drink. I wanted to order another, and another... tart, light and refreshing, this is a drink for the ladies. Sexy ladies!

The fried egg sandwich didn't photograph well, but Erin Jackson snagged a hot pic for her SD Mag piece. Once you have this sandwich, you'll want another-- despite it's $12 price tag. I'm not cheap by any means, but when you're on a budget, a $12 sandwich better taste fucking incredible, and this was definitely up there.

It's like an Italian BLT with a fried egg. Soft, toasty rosemary bread is spread with mayo, then butter lettuce, heirloom tomatoes (remarkably sweet, like candy!), Guanciale (unsmoked Italian bacon made from the jowls or cheeks), an egg fried to your liking (over medium for me), and nutty-sweet Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese finishes it off.

This sandwich is served till 11:30 p.m. every night, and Friday nights after 10 p.m. all signature cocktails are 1/2 off. Yes, a Dandelion Flip can be yours for the low price of $6!


I finally made it to Saltbox, and mixologist Erin Williams' cocktails were fantastic. My favorite was Off the Beet'en Path:

Saffron infused gin, yuzu, ginger, beet brine, oj,
elderflower syrup, angostura bitters,                            
dainzu hibiscus salt. Not too sweet, but tangy and delicious!

Omg... this sandwich is killer, and the pickles, I'd take to bed with me. Get the short rib grilled cheese when you go to

Our table loved this dish. Burrata, pesto, spinach and lovely asparagus. An explosion of flavors! 
Tomorrow, Saltbox, or rather SummerSalt (the poolside version of the eatery and bar) is hosting a show-down between local chefs from Craft & Commerce, El Take it Easy, JSix, Quality Social and the Grant Grill. Chefs and mixologists will go head-to-head to create the best bite/cocktail duo. 

Ticket proceeds go to local charity Olivewood Gardens whose work is to teach youngsters the value of organic gardening. 

The competition is based on a single ingredient (that's in season, of course). Can't wait to see just what that is tomorrow! 


Evolve Cuisine's San Diego Dinner event at Caffe Calabria was a blast. The communal style dining really makes these events-- this is the kind of food you want to discuss, think about and enjoy together. Plus, drinking other people's wine is nice, too. They always offer!

Several bloggers took way better pictures than me, so check out Rodzilla Reviews and Gastro Bits write ups.

The fish taco course was my favorite. The broth tasted like a tortilla, and all the elements of your classic fish taco were there in flavor, just disguised. Fun. 

The bacon cheeseburger was also a hit. It was more like a bacon cheeseburger sausage, which was fine by our table.  
Jeff Bonilla's adorable bite-sized chocolate cupcake. The fluffer for the main event. 
The Evolve team plating. 

Which was the deconstructed version. Best raspberry sorbet I've ever had. 

Buy your tickets for Evolve Cuisine's next dinner, which takes place at Fixtures Living June 1-2. 


If you haven't been to Harney Sushi in the last year, get in there for omakase. The ambiance is the same-- loud-- but the menu is something else. Everything is sustainable, and quite simply some of the best seafood I've ever eaten.

Bring a skilled photographer with you like I did. These aren't my pictures!

Spanish Mackerel. 

When you're working with the best ingredients available, don't fuck with 'em. This dish didn't, and it was perfect.

Rice-less and missing nothing. It was cool, crisp and wonderful roll with added crunch from tempura asparagus. 

The tuna was clean and pure. 

Food coma! I believe this was albacore belly. Simply prepared with a vinaigrette drizzle and fresh grated ginger,  

We refused dessert and got this instead. 

Chef preparing our sashimi

Holy food porn. 

Seafood party! The New Zealand Salmon was the best I've EVER had.

Sexy little shrimp.

Delightful shrimp tempura roll, wrapped in soy paper. 

All the plates at Harney are beautifully presented. 

The best shrimp head I've ever had the joy of sucking. Never sucked the goodness out of a fried head? You haven't lived!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Evolve Cuisine: Recap & News

Chef Daniel Barron and his team of culinary mad-men-- that is, mixologist Mike Yen and pastry chef Jeff Bonilla-- led diners through a nine-course, oceanic feast for the senses with the pop-up concept's latest, The Cambrian Event at Fixtures Living (3/30). 

For those of us that slept through geology class, let's review: the Cambrian was the first period in the Paleozoic era during which time all animal life was aquatic. 

Barron's main ingredients came from local seafood purveyor, Catalina Offshore Products, with additional sourcing from Santa Monica Seafood, Direct Ship Sitka Alaska, and Better Halfshell. The culinary experience was remarkable and challenged my perception of seafood, how it's prepared and the accompanying flavors and textures that I wouldn't expect to work based off menu descriptions alone. 

With each course there was a gasp and then silence, followed by foodgasmic noises-- moaning, giggles and even rounds of applause. The Evolve Cuisine Forward team certainly thrilled us by way of delicious intricacies; Yen's mid-meal cocktail course elicited screams from the ladies; and Bonilla's sweet, shrimp cake confection  was a mind-boggling, delightful finale. 

Modernist cuisine is something I've experienced only a handful of times, so I'm afraid that my words and photographs do little justice in recapping The Cambrian Event. Days prior, Barron advised that I just sit back and enjoy, not bothering with writing down descriptions and taking the perfect pictures. I controlled myself to an extent, and enjoyed myself wholeheartedly. 

Evolve's next event will be announced this week sometime, with another scheduled for Fixtures Living at the end of May. Rumor has it that Barron and his crew will be opening and temporarily occupying a new restaurant with their pop-up concept for 2-3 weeks, also sometime in May.  

The Cambrian Event recap: 

One of Yen's cocktails: a take on the Bay Breeze. What I found particularly remarkable was that its capsule had the texture of a ripe piece of fruit's skin when bitten into. Ten more, please.

Barron's first course included two seared, hand-picked sea scallops with a pistachio-toffee-like crumble. The caramelized, sweet nuts accented the scallop's natural sugars, all of which sat on top of a pistachio "fluid gel." Served with watermelon serrano chili "crisps" (that were more like flattened pieces of cotton candy) made for an incredible start. 
Second: venus clam wrapped in kelp with Sunomono gelee, fermented black bean sauce, Bac-Ha, raddishes, Wasabi agar agar and lotus root chips. The dish was salty, vinegary and plentiful texture-wise. 

Next, a real show-stopper: Sweet, refreshing and elegant, a divine, whole San Diego spot prawn swam in a chilled, oceanic broth with mango, daikon, shaved green papaya and sesame powder, garnished with a fried shrimp shell. Purified sea water was poured over liquid co2, with Barron advising that we inhale the sea breeze deeply before diving into what proved another fantastic dish.  

Spot prawn close-up. 

This dish was incredible. Crunchy, flavorful sea beans served with a smoked soy-sauce and truffle espuma and a sweet sesame dressing. Freeze dried, coffee toasted sesame seeds were the perfect topper. I could eat these all night, in bed. It was such a savory, decadent dish-- our whole table was flippin' out. It was also served with a uni-bisque in a syringe, to be sucked down first, but I'm allergic so I couldn't experience that portion of the dish. I can't imagine it getting much better, though.

This was crazy: Mike Yen's margarita, made to look like sushi.  Nectarine posed as ginger, and fish eggs were not-- they were balls of tequila! All of the drinks traditional flavors were here, just in costume. Lime and salt included. *Applause*! 

 Fresh yellowtail was sous vide then pan-seared and served with clarified peanut butter -- oh, YES!-- raisin coulis, braised celery and toasted rice. The flavors reminded our table of sate. We loved this dish especially and would like to see clarified peanut butter packaged and in grocery stores ASAP.

Barron and his team of mad-culinary-scientists plating his second to last course. 

Tender, pink grouper cheek over charred ramps and the best damn slice of cucumber I've ever had. Go figure, it was compressed. In its shell, strips of New Zeland blue abalone had a Tzatziki-like sauce, fresh mint and strips of wood-grilled, cilantro naan bread. I am not a huge fan of abalone, but this dish made me reconsider. (I was about to pocket the gorgeous shell but a server put the kibosh on that idea.) 

Curry's crazy cousin: Halibut cheek confit (in coconut oil) over red cargo (rice) topped with a ginger-kaffir-dashi sheet and coconut powder. The statement piece was of course the  unseasoned, tender white asparagus that accompanied such a dramatic (and delicious) finale. 

Dessert plating! 

Jeff Bonilla pulled off what seems to be a consistent failure on Food Network's Iron Chef series, and that's the use of seafood in a dessert. The Baja shrimp "whipped prawn brulee"  was spongy and sticky sweet with tangy buttermilk gelato serving as the prefect foil. Streusel, micro thyme and bourbon creme crumble were incredible touches.