It may be the recession or just fate, but two barely year-old places closed: Mille Feuille Chocolates in Hillcrest and Mukashi in Bankers Hill. Covered in brown paper, the windows at Mille Feuille show only signs that say, “closed, owners relocating”.  The stylish euro-designed room featured fine French pastries but suffered dearly, I think, in a lousy location at Fifth and University where parking is never easy.  Mukashi had the best intentions with a good opening executive chef, only to fall, likely, for many reasons, including so-so service and the competition from Hane Sushi & Bar in the same block.

Up at El Bizcocho changes at the top with chef de cuisine Steven Rojas who left a few weeks ago for Los Angeles.  His molecular-based gastronomic approach to food might not have been the best fit for San Diego, even with a glowing review from Naomi Wise and a terrific explanation by Peter Rowe. Wise was prophetic in her review when she said that she feared the chef wouldn’t stay, all the good ones leave San Diego.  How true her words…we had expected to dine there this week.


Here’s a great summer camp for kids who love food:  Tender Greens has two five-day cooking classes geared for kids.  June 22 to 26 for ages 7 to 11 and July 27 to 31 for ages 12 to 16.  The classes will be held at the restaurant from 9 to 10:30 am and cost $75.  Kids will learn to make salads and dressings, pizza,  sandwiches and ice cream.  Classes will be taught by executive chef Pete Balistreri and pastry chef Susanna Brandenburg and after all that learning…lunch is included.  Space is limited, for information:  619-226-6254 and ask for Pete or Susanna.

The Better Half , rumors to the contrary, is very much in business.  Chef/owner John Kennedy has revamped the interior to a “Baroque, over the top” look  and tweaked the menu to a French New Orleans style bistro food.  Their wine list list now also includes full bottles and some older vintage wines that Kennedy has on his “Over Achievers” list.  The restaurant is closed Monday.  For more information:  619-543-9340.

We’re hearing Urban Solace will have an Encinitas location in a new shopping center that will house a Whole Foods.  More info soon.

Good news for the  Barrio Logan building that  formerly housed  The Guild.  The planning and architectural firm of M.W. Steele Group bought the building and will occupy much of it,  including the upstairs mezzanine.  Blueprint Cafe and a catering company (owned by a former New York chef)  will use the remaining space.  The 40 seat cafe will serve lunch with homemade/handmade American seasonal dishes and afternoon light fare.  Expect to see it open mid July.  As details are not final, we can’t divulge more names just yet.  Stay tuned.

Diane Powers will open Casa Bandini in the Forum, likely sometime in July.

And we hope it isn’t true that a small Hillcrest eatery, open barely a year and a half, could be closing soon.

In Del Mar, the place that morphed from Scalini’s to Pasquales has done it again…now it’s  Flight.  Flight’s new chef is Aaron Martinez who just left Addison where he was sous chef under William Bradley.

A well-known Gaslamp hotel restaurant is hunting for a new executive chef…it’s all about personalities…

Syrah Wine Lounge opens downtown–a wine bar with more than just Syrah–and cheese and meat platters (no kitchen).  Located below the Cohn owned Dakota Grill & Spirits, we’d bet they have a interest in the place.

The building that housed The Guild, has been sold and Buzz is watching to see what will happen with the restaurant space.

And those wondering what happened to the Parallel 33 space in Hillcrest will soon have another restaurant by the same owners as Cafe Bleu at University and Fifth.  Renovations are underway.

For sale:  Twelve year-old La Vache in Hillcrest and the  La Jolla institution,  Sante on Hershel Avenue.

Up in Bankers Hill, another well-known eatery could be undergoing yet another makeover…possibly to Italian?

We’re hearing that the Gaslamp’s Dussini’s Mediterranean Bistro will convert the downstairs restaurant back to The Old Spaghetti Factory. Downstairs will close for remodeling February 1 and will reopen for dinner only.  Upstairs will continue to be the Dussini lounge and bar with a smaller tapas menu.

The Better Half, one the successful new restaurants of 2008 will see staff changes with the departure of its creator, Zubin Desai who sold the business to his executive chef, John Robert Kennedy.  Desai plans to relocate to the Bay area in the next few months.

Tommy Pastrami is coming to San Diego.  First location will be downtown with some of the best deli corned beef, pastrami, tuna and chopped liver sandwiches you will ever find in this town.  Last May Buzz mentioned them here.

If you’re still wondering what to do New Year’s Eve, here are some suggestions:  Support your favorite neighborhood restaurants where you may be able to sit at the bar if they’re already booked for dinner, or think about early drinks and then home with friends–you cook or get food to-go.   It’s a good way to stay close to home, enjoy the evening and support the restaurants. Party–even in these woeful economic times–and everyone wins.

The possibilities are numerous for celebrating with many venues offering early and late seating and prix-fixe dinners of three plus courses at reasonable prices. So rather than list every place that sent Buzz a release (and many who didn’t post anything on their websites or send an email), here are some of my top picks.

Downtown/Gaslamp/Little Italy: Crescent Heights Kitchen & Lounge, Quarter Kitchen, TabuleBacchus Wine Market (3 to 6pm tasting), Anthology and Enoteca Style for cheese, chocolate and Champagne.

Coronado: The Hotel Del celebrates the 50th anniversary of the movie Some Like It Hot,  Eno and 1500 Ocean also at the hotel, Candelas (Ferry Landing and Gaslamp).

East CountyBarona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino, Frida Mexican Restaurant and many other local area restaurants.

North Park: Urban Solace, Sea Rocket Bistro, Alexander’s on 30th and The Linkery, not to mention the newest wine bar Splash.  At the opposite end of 30th is Jaynes Gastropub and around the corner on Adams, the wildly popular Farm House Cafe.

Point Loma/Liberty Station:   The Pearl HotelRoseville, Solare RistoranteTender Greens (perfect also for a party at home as you can order online for take-away), The 3rd Corner (also in Encinitas) Pomodoro in the old Luna Notte spot, no website: Phone: (619) 523-1301) and Mellow A Wine Bar.

Hillcrest/Bankers Hill: The Better Half, Modus, Wine Vault & Bistro, Avenue 5 Restaurant & Bar, Hexagone,(no website, 619-236-0467), Laurel Restaurant & Ba and Bertrand at Mr. A’s,

La Jolla/Del MarThe Marine Room, Nine-Ten Prospect, Market Restaurant & Bar, and The Grand Del Mar

Richard Sweeney, who recently was executive sous chef at Confidential before his short stint as a contestant on seaon 5 of  Top Chef, became the executive chef upon his return.

The Gaslamp’s Quarter Kitchen in the Ivy Hotel elevated one of their own, Nathan Coulon, to the executive chef position vacated by Damon Gordon. Gordon takes his toque (and his attitude) to the fairly conservative Mayflower Hotel in Washington.

San Diego foodies may wonder what happened to Michael Stebner after he closed Region, his popular Slow Food inspired eatery in Hillcrest.  Well, he returned to Phoenix.  Working with Dr. Andrew Weil and his recipes for the anti-inflammatory diet, Stebner is the executive chef at Weil’s new restaurant,  True Food Kitchen.  While in Phoenix for the day last week, Buzz tried the cold buckwheat soba noodles with wasabi dipping sauce ($9) and wild ahi sliders with wasabi, slivered radishes and cucumber on pumpernickel bread ($13).  Both were good as was the service, though as generous as the ahi was, the bread turned out to be a mushy Hawaiian flax white bread (they forgot to change it on the menu).  If I lived in the area, it could easily be a favorite place.

Should you find yourself in Windsor near Ft. Collins, Colorado, drop into Chimney Park Restaurant & Bar and savor the food of chef/owner Jason Shaeffer.  For those with short memories, Shaeffer had a stellar career in San Diego as executive chef at the orginal Laurel and opening chef at the Del’s 1500 Ocean.

Closer to home in Point Loma, Pomodoro, opened a week ago in the spot that was Luna Notte. The tiny restaurant’s menu is similar to its sister Arrivederci in Hillcrest with most notably all of the mains priced in the mid-teens.

In Bankers HIll, Hexagone French Cuisine now occupies the corner of Fifth and Laurel in the old Gemelli spot.  Hexagone is the newest addition to French Market Grille up in Rancho Bernardo.  The new place  features everything from salad niçoise ($13.75) and onion soup grantinée ($6.50) to traditional coq au vin ($17.50) and sea bass with corn risotto and fennel-vanilla sauce ($22.50).  I haven’t eaten at either spot yet.  And if you’re wondering (as I did) what a hexagon has to do with French cuisine, it’s the term the French use  when talking about the shape of their country.  Hexagone French Cuisine, 495 Laurel Street, Bankers Hill, 619-236-0467.  Open daily from 11am.

For fabulous and very French desserts and chocolates,  Mille Feuille is your place at the corner of University and Fifth.   Executive pastry chef Thomas Gèrard,  comes from  La Valencia in La Jolla, and being French knows his pastries.  I’ve tasted a few:  Opera (light coffee sponge cake, chocolate ganache and coffee butter cream, $6.50), apricot summer (coconut-pineapple and carrot sponge cake layered with orange-apricot cream cheese filling, $5.50) and lots more including a caramelized onion and cheese quiche ($5.50) and  macaroons almost as ethereal as those found in Pierre Hermé’s Paris shop.  For lunch there are sandwiches and from 2 pm to 4pm there’s high tea for $20.  Mille Feuille, 3896 Fifth Ave., Hillcrest, 619-295-5232.

Barely two years old, Rannoosh the Middle Eastern restaurant next door to Mille Feuille, is closed.

Downtown has a new chic dining room:  Crescent Heights Kitchen & Lounge at the corner of India Street and Broadway.  The contemporary room (designed by the same firm that did Blanca in Solana Beach) matches the modern American menu that features mussels with flavored chorizo in an addictive broth, lovely charcuterie and cheese plates (and you can choose your meats and cheeses), along with Parmesan fries, skinny onion rings, sliders and lots more.  Three of us sampled most of the above on a quiet Saturday night…We’d all go back.  Open for lunch and dinner, closed Sunday.  655 West Broadway, 619-450-6450.

Arterra’s general manager, Tom Mastricola moves on for an, as yet, undetermined location.  Sara Hanson moves from The Pearl to take Tom’s place.

Up in Hillcrest, The Better Half can help get over the shock of the stock market drop and still eat well with a three-course dinner for just $15.  Called the “Stressed Economy Blue Plate Special” the dinners are available from 5 to 7 pm daily.  You can choose flat-iron steak, snapper, wild game meatloaf or pasta, along with soup or salad and, of course, dessert.  Pretty damn good deal at a place with a wonderful selection of half-bottle wines. 127 University Ave., Hllcrest, 619-543-9340.

Blue Boheme in Kensington will preview their Papa Nanou menu (even though the restaurant is not yet ready) on October 19.  It’s a prix-fixe menu for $48 and reservations can be made online or at 619-255-4167.

There’s a shakeup in the kitchen at the Ivy Hotel. Executive chef Damon Gordon moves on at the end of the month for a likely gig back on the east coast at another upscale hotel.  No word who will step into Gordon’s position.

In these tough economic times, we hope it isn’t true:  Could it be that a supper club in Bankers HIll  might be on the selling block?  Readers to this blog wonder if another restaurant/club near Symphony Hall may not be faring so well.  Up in Hillcrest, a reader wonders about a wine bar that may also be on the ropes.  Stay tuned.