Rancho Valencia recently became an Auberge Resort, one of a handful of prime and unique properties.  With new management also a new chef, C. Barclay Dodge who comes with twenty years of culinary experience from training at the California Culinary Academy to apprenticeships at E Bulli in Spain and Jean Georges and Daniel in New York.  He recently moved from Santa Fe where he was chef de cuisine at Terra, the restaurant at another Auberge property, Encantado Resort.  Beginning June 1, to celebrate the property’s  twentieth anniversary, Dodge will have a $19.89 three-course lunch Chef’s Inspiration menu.  Each day there will be a choice of a soup or an appetizer and only one entrée that will be the chef’s choice.  Some examples of Dodge’s “coastal ranch” cuisine: sardines grilled with argan oil and escabeche of summer carrots; chilled English pea soup with fromage blanc and chive blossoms; and Valencia orange-scented lamb shank with house cut noodles and Moroccan pickled carrots.  Buzz hasn’t tried it yet.   For reservations and information: 858-759-6216.

It’s finally official from the buzz that’s been brewing (and from the looks of the cleared tables, no cloths and no setups), Laurel Restaurant & Bar is reinventing its concept and we hope this time it will include a new name.  Possibly small plates, possibly Italian, and likely we will just have to wait and see what happens in the next few weeks when the redo should be done.

The Marine Room features a number of interesting events including a Monday night lobster dinner for $40 and the thrilling high tide dinners June 19 to 24.  The restaurant offers a Fathers Day dinner as well, and with executive chef Bernard Guillas at the helm, the food is always a treat.

New on Fifth Avenue at Laurel Street, Pizzicato a franchise operation that began in Portland, Oregon. There’s also an Encinitas location. They use fresh local ingredients when possible, and Italian Parmesan too.   Haven’t tried either….While we’re on the subject of pizza, Pizzeria Luigi in Golden Hill currently tops my list with its thinner, New York style crust and quality ingredients.  North Park’s Lefty’s Chicago Pizzeria features thicker crust and equally good toppings along with sandwiches, sausages and pasta and opens its second location mid-June in Mission Hills–on Goldfinch– in the former home of Phil’s BBQ.

Just in time for race season and Wimbleton and the US Open, The Grand Del Mar offers five new cocktails in their Lobby Lounge and The Clubhouse Grill from June 1 to September 7.  Cleverly named for tennis and racing terms (Moonball Pimms Caipirinhi and Bearing Out Breeze, among others) you’ve just got to go try them yourself–especially if you love rum, vodka, Pimm’s Cup and tropical juices–creatively mixed, though not all together.

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?

The well-known Parallel 33, in Mission Hills, closed its doors last Saturday night after nine and a half years.  Look for a change of ownership in the near future.

Matt Rimel, the guy behind the very popular Zenbu Sushi Bar and Rimel’s Rotisserie in La Jolla, brings both to Cardiff-by- the-Sea.  They occupy two large spaces in the newly redone Cardiff Town Center next to the Seaside Market at Birmingham and San Elijo.  Zenbu opens late this week and will be, as its La Jolla sister, only open for dinner.  Next door, Rimel’s Rotisserie just started lunch and dinner this week. Zenbu: 760-633-2223, Rimel’s 760-633-2202.

Winesellar & Brasserie will soon open a yet-to-be-named cafe below their Brasserie. You’ll find healthy organic food to take away or eat there including many half bottles of wines to go with soups, salads and pastas made in the Brasserie kitchen.

Somehow, the space at the Aventine, that was most recently Blue Coral, never seems to get the right restaurant.  Numerous operations have come and gone and now another will give it a shot.  Opening in the next few weeks is a high-end Florida seafood restaurant:  Truluck’s Seafood, Steak, Crab House

Opening on Friday, Alchemy in South Park.  Not much on the website yet.  It’s on the corner of Beech and 30th.


Up in Little Italy at the new Porto Vista Hotel is The Glass Door restaurant. The hotel sits up on Columbia Street and the restaurant is on the fourth floor with an engaging view of the bay. There is a skinny outdoor patio that is perfect for a glass of wine and an appetizer as you watch the sunset.  A pal and I shared simple presentations of flat iron steak with arugula and cherry tomatoes ($14) and a composed blue fin tuna niçoise salad with house cured olives, capers, pan roasted haricot verts that could have used a little lettuce or green to tie the elements together on the plate ($12).  Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night snacking. For information and reservations:  619-564-3755.

Up on West Washington Avenue, Olivetto Cafe & Wine Bar (website not up yet) serves homey Italian food in a newly refurbished space in Mission Hills (across the street from the Lamplighter bar).  The room is comfortable, wood accents and walls without adornment (they look great).  A nightly special of risotto with chicken ($14) filled the bill for properly cooked rice, good chicken to make a nicely flavored, uncomplicated dish.  The restaurant makes a good addition to neighborhood eating. Open for lunch and dinner.  For information and reservations:  619-220-8222.

Tender Greens, in Liberty Station (on Old Decatur Rd, behind Trader Joe’s and Vons) is a unique concept that uses local ingredients whenever possible including fruits and vegetables from Crows Pass Farms in Temecula, Pacific Beach’s Pacific Shellfish, and Con Pane breads from Roseville.  This is the place you go when you don’t want to cook…but want good food at very reasonable prices.

At a recent media dinner we sampled some of the angus flank steak with Yukon gold mashed potatoes, the tuna noise salad with greens, potato, egg, olives and a zippy dressing, and a Chinese chicken salad with spicy greens and crispy wontons.  What is terrific about this place is all of these dishes are $10.  Yep, and they are satisfying and well made.  Desserts are $3 and are homemade with seasonal fruits by executive soups chef, Rain Brandenburg’s mother, Susanna.  While this is a casual and eco-friendly restaurant, the food is notches above many other local eateries.  The original Tender Greens is in Culver City.  Open daily from 11 am.  619-226-6254.

You’ve likely already heard about Wolfgang Pucks’ latest venture, jai at the La Jolla Playhouse complex.  Recently, Puck was in town for the media lunch and we sampled some of the menu.  The restaurant is contemporary, fits well with the UCSD campus…and is perfect for the theater-going public that longs for the ubiquitous Kobe burger ($16) or a tasty Chinese chicken salad ($8 or $14) or even a steak from Snake River Farm ($45).   One of the tastiest dishes is the miss sake broiled butterfish with noodles ($23).  This is Asian-fusion done with classic Puck oversight.  It’s not Sago in food or in price:  Most all of the mains are in the $20 range.  Great for a drink and bite before or after the show.  Catering available. For information 858-638-7778.

Ibis Food Mart in Mission Hills is a neighborhood market with homemade hummus laced with sesame seeds. The lunch crowd gets sandwiches or my favorite, a garlic-laden tabbouleh. I found their baba ganoosh a thicker version with lots of tahini. The store also stocks ingredients for Middle Eastern cuisine. 1112 Fort Stockton Drive, 298-5081. Open daily from 9 a.m.

Everything British can be found at Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe . Should you want a bottle of Branston pickles (a finely chopped crunchy chutney of carrots and other vegetables flavored with vinegar, onion powder and lemon juice), English bone china, pint glasses, boxer shorts of the British flag, Nestle candy made in England (it tastes different than our Nestle) or other English born products, pop into the store across the patio from one of the best pubs in town: Shakespeare Pub & Grille. It’s got it all. 3719 India Street, Lower Mission Hills, 619-683-2748, www.ukcornershoppe.com.

One of my favorites for authentic pub experience, is Shakespeare Pub & Grille, located upstairs among the mini collection of restaurants on India and Washington Streets that include Mexican, Japanese, Thai, Middle Eastern and a wine bar and bistro. This very English pub sports dark wood tavern décor, wrapped with windows and simple wood tables. Out on the umbrellaed wood deck, my pub crawling pal and I sat on green plastic patio chairs and noted the dull roar of the I-5. The noise isn’t bothersome–consider it a version of white sound and inside seating can be noisy.

The menu includes shepherd’s pie (a melange of ground beef, vegetables topped with mashed potatoes and cheese), fish and chips (homemade), a few sandwiches, roast beef and bangers and mash (that would be potatoes and peas), among other things, none of which will bust your budget. Tap and bottled beers along with a full bar, make this venue a good hangout on a hot afternoon.

English chips typically are thick, not the skinny, limp wisps we call fries here in the states. At Shakespeare, those chips are long, crisp, thick and fleshy, and a meal at $4.95. Curry sauce can be ordered separately for $1.50 and must be something the English picked up when they owned India. This mildly spicy dipping sauce comes in a bowl and is a nice change from the usual catsup or malt vinegar. Scotch eggs are served hot or cold, and our server said typically they are cold. Now I happen to like cold sausage, but if you don’t, order it warm, as the sausage is wrapped around the hardboiled egg. Branston pickles with the quartered egg and sausage make a good mouthful. My half pint of black and tan (Bass and Guiness) washed it all down quite nicely. 3701 India Street, Lower Mission Hills, 619-299-0230, www.shakespearepub.com.