It’s all about beer and dinners featuring small artisanal brewers.  Check out the action at The Linkery that goes on for days including a Green Flash bash November 12.  For info:  619-255-8778.

At Roseville, there’s a fun menu featuring Shipyard’s limited edition brews from chef Amy DiBiase’s home state, Maine.  Reservations a must for this all-inclusive $65 dinner also on November 12 . Call 619-450-6800.

If  bubbles are more your style, don’t miss Winesellar & Brasserie’s annual Le Grande Champagne Tasting on November 14 that includes Ruinart, Taittinger and Krug among many top producers.  For $85 it’s a deal that includes appetizers to match the various Champagnes.  Reservations a must:  858-450-9557.

Thanksgiving is around the corner and you can order a turkey from any of your favorite meat markets.  La Jolla’s Homegrown Meats will have local free-range California turkeys as well as spiral hams and meats.  For information and to order call  858-454-6328.

Celebrate Thanksgiving by not cooking and supporting Slow Food Urban San Diego at a November 19 dinner at UCSD.  Jeff Jackson, executive chef at A.R. Valentien will cook local pastured turkeys from Womach RanchFor information and tickets or call 619-972-3500.

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.

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

The Linkery in North Park just made the International Herald Tribune and the The New York Times Magazine in a piece all about tipping.  Owner Jay Porter speaks about his restaurant as one of a handful in the country that dispensed with the well-worn practice, and instead opted to include a service charge.  Read the piece, it’s a good place to start a conversation about how you, the diner, feel about tipping.  Do comment here!

Two new additions to San Diego’s restaurant scene: Mukashi in Bankers HIll at the corner of Nutmeg and Fifth finally got their door open last week. Hope to try it soon. Call for dinner reservations: 619-298-1329.

Cardamom Cafe & Bakery in North Park is the newest addition for breakfast, lunch and bakery goods. They’re located at the interesection of 30th and Upas. They serve breakfast all day–a short menu of eggs, pancakes, cardamom sour cream coffee cake along with sandwiches and salads in the afternoon. Buzz looks forward to trying both places.

Once again, chef Gavin Kaysen garnered a top culinary award.  This time it was the James Beard award for Rising Star Chef of the Year. Quite an honor as it is given to a chef, under 30 years old, who “displays an impressive talent and is likely to have a significant impact on the industry in the years to come.” In case you missed Kaysen in San Diego when he cooked at the Rancho Bernardo Inn’s El Bizcocho, now you’ll find him doing his magic at Cafe Boulud in New York.

Bread & Cie’s owners Charles and Dori Kaufman plan to expand the hours of their well-known Hillcrest bakery to offer specialty pizzas, salads, signature desserts and a small selection of wines.  Look for things to be in place by the end of the month.  Bread ovens make perfect pizzas and Kaufman spent months experimenting with doughs and toppings for the new menu additions.  Pizza available from 5:30pm to 9pm.  350 University Avenue, at Fourth Avenue.

Venissimo’s cheese loving customers can now get their chocolate fix with Jack Fisher’s  fabulous bon bons.   Don’t forget Valentine’s Day!

You’ll find more wine and chocolate down at the Hotel Del Coronado’s newest addition, Eno.  Buzz is partial to the property (a hotel on the ocean is pretty special) and to what Eno and its director, Ted Glennon want to achieve.  Whether it’s just a glass or one of many flights of interesting wines that go far beyond chardonnay and cabernet, this is the place to go.  Glennon’s expertise shows with the training he gives his staff as well as his desire to share his knowledge with patrons.  To pair with the wine, there are flights of cheeses, charcouterie and chocolates.  There are more than 30 wines by the glass and some of Jack Fisher’s chocolates are featured here as well.

If you’re looking for honest, solid food Ritual Tavern, only a few months old,  might be your place.  It’s on 30th Street, a few blocks north of Lincoln.  Buzz and pals made two visits to taste some of its small menu.  Not fancy, but homey with dishes made with mostly local, organic ingredients. You might call the place a neighborhood Slow Food eatery.  Owners Michael Flores and Staci Wilkens  (alums, along with chef Glenn Farrington, from The Linkery) strive for dishes made from sustainable and organic ingredients.  Niman Ranch provides their meats and Farrington makes his own catsup, mustard, pickles and slaw to avoid high-fructose corn syrup and other additives usually found in commercial brands.

A northern version of gumbo that adds carrots to the usual southern trio of onion, green pepper and celery is thickened with roux and the bites of spicy sausage, chicken and shrimp mix well in the bowl with organic wild rice.  It’s a zippy, hearty dish that is just terrific, as a dish, regardless of whether it can be called gumbo in the strictest sense.  A dish should be good on its own merits and this one is.  Farm-raised catfish and house-made chips are light and crunchy though the fish could have used a moment more in the fryer to give it a firmer texture.  A perfectly cooked medium-rare lamb sirloin flanked with fresh chard and potatoes du jour is the highest priced item on the menu ($19).  There’s a delectable bread pudding with homemade bourbon sauce and a seasonal fresh fruit (apple and pear one night) that hit the spot–albeit with an unexpected heavy crust.

An extensive list of beers and a small eclectic group of wines by the glass make good beverage choices.  You’ll find gluten-free dishes and the kitchen is willing to adjust a dish to meet your needs.  That said, it can impact the kitchen and service.  One night all went well, another time salad and entrees arrived together.  One could argue it’s food you’d make at home, simple and tasty, but why bother if you’ve got a neat little tavern nearby.     

Zensei in North Park is a favorite among the locals. Here you can sit at the sushi bar and listen to the chefs speak Spanish as they create nouveau fusion rolls (many with cream cheese–too over-the-top fusion for me). This restaurant, in 2005, was a finalist (along with winner Café Japengo) in the First Annual California State Sushi Competition where fusion reigns in the presentation and ingredients.

At this comfortable corner restaurant two of us found a menu with everything from oysters on the half shell and tempura jalapenos filled with crab and cream cheese to standard nigiri and quirky rolls such as pizza (baked smoked salmon, avocado and dynamite sauce) and yellow submarine (eel, crab, cream cheese, avocado, golden tempura and eel sauce, with a slice of jalapeno if you desire). Imitation crab is used, though the real thing can be substituted. Not your purist place.

We enjoyed crunchy roll with shrimp tempura, crab, cucumber, cream cheese (avocado substitutes for the cream cheese). Also pleasant was the crunchy salmon roll with cucumber, gobo and bonito flakes. These rolls run $ 9 to $11. If fish isn’t your thing, the kitchen produces a multitude of noodle, chicken and meat dishes with unusual twists. Service is attentive and the room is hopping most of the night. Monday through Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. is happy hour. 3396 30th St. at Upas, North Park, 619-546-6171. www.zenseisushi.com