Riko Bartolome, the award winning chef-owner of Asia-Vous in Escondido presents a four-course tasting dinner to complement artisanal infused vodkas from Modern Spirits in Los Angeles.  Among the innovative dishes from Bartolome, you’ll indulge in sea urchin panna cotta paired with black truffle vodka.  The evening begins at 6pm on Wednesday, May 23 and is $75 plus tax and tip.  For information and reservations:  760-747-5000, www.asiavousrestaurant.com, 417 W. Grand, Escondido. 

Jonathan Gold of the LA Weekly received the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, in print or in print and online, for his “zestful, wide ranging restaurant reviews, expressing the delight of an erudite eater.”  This is the first time the prize has gone to a restaurant critic and Gold also receives $10,000.  Here’s a sample of Gold’s work.

Savoir-fare in the Union Tribune’s Food Section seems to love certain chefs (Bradley Ogden and Patrick Ponsanty) complete with their picture in the copy.  Interesting that Bradley Ogden gets top billing to Gavin Kaysen, who was just named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs for 2007–the first chef cooking in San Diego to have the prestigious honor.  Somehow the paper couldn’t even find a picture of Kaysen.

Foodbuzzsd is in a beta state, evolving in content and design. Part of the blog is about constructive dialogue on the issues that face San Diego’s culinary scene, particularly as we compare San Diego to other cities. And compare we must because as the city grows with fancy restaurants and New York chefs, it will come under greater scrutiny from patrons beyond San Diego.  

Some questions we will explore:  San Diego may want to be a culinary destination, but can it garner consistent national media attention? How does our restaurant criticism stack up to other cities and what constitutes good a restaurant critic? What ever happened to good service, be it with a bartender or a server? 

The point is to question, debate and talk about San Diego’s food scene including the questions above, among many others.  Buzz wants an occasional outside opinion or commentary that might best be titled (for the moment):  Guest Rant or Rave, depending on the subject. Feel free to submit no more than 250 words about our food scene to info@foodbuzzsd.com   


Commentary by Lynne Christopher :

Me thinks the editor does protest too much. The issue with SD Magazine has nothing to do with fact checking. It doesn’t matter. The issue is all about the perception by the people who read the magazine. No major publication, in any major food city around the country, would get away with what SD Magazine did.  The connection between the writer of the story, Ron Donoho, and his Hotel Del publicist wife, is widely known around town. And don’t the magazine editors ever meet to go over covers, reviews, etc. before publication?

This is just another example of why San Diego will never be a food city; the good old boys simply won’t let go. We need honest food critics who are able to write the truth without worrying about advertising dollars to the magazine. We need restaurant writers who don’t own or have investments in major restaurants in town. Terryl Gavre rings a bell. We need restaurant critics who pay for their own meals when they review and don’t accept or count on free meals. If we ever get there, maybe the city will improve.

And as for the fancy food show coming in 2008: Restaurants in town whose reputation is based on local reviewers, better take a long, hard look at what you are doing.  Why? Because the people who come to this show are very knowledgeable and sophisticated diners who are not afraid to tell restaurants exactly how they feel whether it’s good, bad or ugly.

Half a million people came to San Francisco in mid-January ’07 for the Fancy Food Show, now anchored in two mammoth Moscone Center halls across the street from each other and connected by an underground walkway. The throng zoomed through the show to get in as many after-show dinners their stomachs and wallets could afford.

That’s because next year the FFS is in San Diego, where dinner-hour starvation is feared. “Where,” so many vendors, shop-owners, chefs and producers wailed, “do they expect us to eat in that town?”

Ever wonder about the restaurant business in this town?  How PR works?  Well, here’s a great example.  The February issue of San Diego Magazine sports a cover story headlined “Kiss the Cook, 6 Top Chefs Dish Up Date Food Secrets” with a photo of Chef Jason Shaeffer (of 1500 Ocean at The Hotel Del Coronado) and his girlfriend Chelsea Clark.  Disclaimer time:  Jason is a friend of mine and a damned good chef.

What bothers me terribly is this:  The writer of the piece, Executive Editor Ron Donoho, is married to the public relations director of The Hotel Del, where, Jason is Chef de Cuisine. Hard to believe also that in this issue, 1500 Ocean is reviewed by Robin Kleven Dishon.  Am I the only person who thinks this is all too cozy?  Is it just a coincidence that 1500 Ocean is getting so much ink in one issue by the Executive Editor?  How does it affect the credibility of all concerned?

Chef Josh McGinnis, who opened Island Prime with the Cohn Restuarant Group, gave up his toque to be on the supply side of the restaurant business. He now sells produce for Los Angeles Specialty Produce. Another of the opening chefs, Daniel Bannister, is now sous chef at Pamplemousse Grille.

Solana Beach’s newest upscale dinner only restaurant, Blanca, has Zubin Desai (formerly of the University Club) as its General Manager watching over the house as Chef Wade Hageman does his magic in the kitchen. Bring your credit card, prices are steep.

And downtown at Dobson’s the long time watering hole and favorite landmark for San Diego’s movers and shakers, Michael Davis moves in to overhall the menu and add seasonal items. Davis comes from Pamplemousse Grille where he headed off-site catering.

The Grand Del Mar, located just off Highway 56 is hotel magnate Doug Manchester’s latest venture. Due to open September 2006 it features a restaurant called Addison, named after Addison Mizner, a 20th century architect known for his fanciful Mediterranean styled designs in Palm Beach and Boca Raton. According to the public relations info, the restaurant will feature photos and other memorabilia from Mizner’s life, in Florida, though he was born in northern California in 1872.

That Mizner’s designs inspired The Grand Del Mar is one thing, but name a restaurant after him? Interesting concept considering we’re in southern California. Don’t expect Florida cuisine however, as Executive chef William Bradley’s menu will feature, what else, California fresh ingredients in Mediterranean style dishes…to complement the hotel’s Florida resort architecture.