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.

With an economy that knows better days, we’d like to think that restaurants–from their PR representatives and front of the house management, to their servers and kitchen–would be all over good service.  Note to restaurateurs and management:  Service and food for a new place or one that’s been open for ages needs to be top notch when you’re competing for dining dollars as everyone is today.  Frank Bruni of the New York Times writes today about what restaurants are doing to show their appreciation to customers in these hard times.  The following three stories exemplify what Buzz hates to experience and hear about since we want every San Diego restaurant to succeed–it’s all in the details.

Why would Decanter Wine Lounge & Restaurant invite press (Buzz wasn’t on the list) to an opening that included the public at $45 a pop, for appetizers and main courses, according to the invite that went to Rancho Santa Fe residents?  One member of the invited press and a guest arrived to find the public relations person had neglected to add their names to the guest list so the hostess wanted $90.  Once in, they encountered a surprising series of food and wine missteps, which they found odd especially if the chef/owner, Jayson Knack (whose resume includes a stint at Nine-Ten Prospect) wants to make a good impression on potential customers including those who write about the place. Decanter officially opened January 30 and promises nearly 200 wines by the glass with 4500 bottles to choose from.

What’s up with downtown’s Currant American Brasserie? A couple of things:  Three of us on a recent Sunday night couldn’t figure out why the host only lit the candle at our table, leaving the rest of the tables looking forlorn and the impression the restaurant did not look open for business. The room lighting was dim at best and the bar TV blasted a sporting event while the room’s club music didn’t match the setting.  Plating and presentation on the dark and decorated dinnerware made deciphering the food difficult.  Carlsbad mussels with frites were a good choice, but a beet salad got lost on the dark plate.  The food works just fine, but the distractions make the enjoyment difficult.

The continuing problems at the Symphony Hall’s Sheraton Lobby Bar before Monday perfomances continues to confound pre-theater patrons who want a nosh before the performance.  The service as was reported here a year ago, still needs work as a reader reports “ When we attended the Monday December 15 performace of jazz trumpetist Chris Botti, the Sheraton Bar was entirely unprepared, understaffed. I was hoping it wouldn’t be that way, but based on the experience I had previously I braced for problems. We sat at the bar and got in our order early. I could tell there were problems with other customers though. Usually there are not performances on Mondays. But how hard can it be to go downstairs and get a symphony program from the box office?”