Love wine? If you missed Fifty Seven Degrees downtown–with its wine bar, wine storage and wine sales–fear not. Roughly November 1, they will reopen on Hancock Street, right off the freeway at Washington Street in what was the Pier 1 Import store.
Look for the new location to have a wine bar, retail sales, increased wine storage (from 120,000 to 600,000 bottles) and cheese shop. Should you know anyone who’d like to open a restaurant in some adjoining space, it’s available. The renderings of the interior look exciting and it will certainly be a go-to spot for wine aficionados. For those who follow wine sales personnel, Bryan Ferris,, who ran The Wine Bank before it was sold, is a part of the team.
At the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival , November 18 to 22, you can taste wine at one of the events called Wine in Style. You’ll also be able to eat yourself silly with more than 170 wineries, 70 San Diego restaurants and celebrity chefs cooking up a storm. Money raised during the event goes to American Institute of Food & Wine scholarship fund.
If you’re in the market for a restaurant space, Modus in Bankers Hill quietly closed its doors. The space is for lease along with La Vache in HIllcrest. For information: 858-792-5521.
Also with a “not in service” phone: Lucky Buck’s in Hillcrest. CORRECTION: Drove by there today, and the new owners as of June 1 have had a devil of a time getting that phone number changed. They are open and the number is 619-487-9379.
French 101 opens in the old Hard Rock space in La Jolla.
Winesellar & Brasserie’s new chef Matt Smith is slowly updating the menu and we’re hearing regulars are happy for the change.
Want to be the next star on the Food Network? If so, there is an Open Casting Call in San Diego on Monday, August 17th, 2009 at the W Hotel. They are looking for people who are full of life, passionate about cooking, and knowledgeable about food to meet in person at the open casting call. You can be a chef, home cook, caterer or culinary enthusiast to answer the call from 12pm-5pm at the W San Diego, 421 W. B Street, San Diego, CA 92101. Questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
You’re missing out on some great food events if you’ve not heard of Cooks Confab a group of fourteen local chefs. All are passionate about cooking and believe in the farm to table concept as well (they give a portion of event proceeds to Slow Food Urban San Diego. Recently Stingaree’s executive chef Antonio Friscia hosted local craft beers paired with morsels by the chefs. It was a fabulous tasting walkabout. Their next event is Pig, on October 4 with executive chef Paul McCabe at Kitchen 1540. Reservations at 858-793-6460 and the cost is $90.
San Diego Restaurant Week starts September 13 and runs until the 18th. It’s a good time to try new places (you’ll have 180 to choose from) and, depending on the restaurant, tasting menus priced at $20, $30 or $40 (plus tax and tip).
We’re hearing there’s a soon-to-open modern French restaurant somewhere downtown. Could it be an outpost for the well-regarded one in Santa Luz ? Chefs are auditioning and one name that we’ve heard about is Aaron Martinez (who was at Addison, then flew to and quickly took flight from Flight).
UPDATE: The new name for this place will be PAON which means peacock in French...and due to open sometime in August. Word travels fast these days and Per Se Restaurant & Wine Bar Carlsbad could have a name problem on their hands. As noted in a previous post, Thomas Keller got the name first with his well-known eatery Per Se in New York. Apparently Mr. Keller has voiced displeasure with the Carlsbad wannabe. We’ll see if there is a name change in the works.
The corner of Laurel and Fifth is undergoing yet another makeover with Tracy Borkum’s newest venture, Cucina Urbana
. Good to see that she’s finally changed the name of the restaurant she bought a few years ago. The original Laurel Restaurant & Bar had a gorgeous copper bar, understated decor (sure it needed updating) , great food, a very loyal following that came with top critical acclaim. Borkum did away with that bar for something very white and added many other over-the-top decorative touches that made the room, for many, uninhabitable for eating. She also went through many chefs trying to find a good food fit. And, she forgot to change the name which might have helped her given the huge changes she made. Now, with Cucina Urbana, she’s soliciting twitterers to help with the menu planning. We hope she finds success in the Italian venture.
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.
Had a chance to visit Whisknladle on Wall Street in La Jolla where their motto on menu is a Julia Child quote: ” You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces, just good food from fresh ingredients.” Buzz and a pal agree, with at least the four dishes we tried (all perfect for sharing): cracker thin flatbread with greens, a light dusting of Parmesan and a bit of lemon zest ($14); seared scallops (2) on a skinny plate with baby snow peas and blood orange foam ($16); fusilli with morels and fava bean puree ($14) and a rhubarb galette with an unusually (and very good) feather-light crust ($10). With drinks our tab was $90 plus tip and for a Wednesday night, the place was nearly full-they clearly know their customers with only 20 menu items priced mostly in the high teens. High quality ingredients, a bit pricey for quanity, as in the two scallops for $16. Mid- May they open Prepkitchen down the street on Fay Avenue for take away or eat in sandwiches, salads, dinner items and more….
Encinitas has a gem tucked away in the old Marie Callender’s spot at Manchester and Encinitas Boulevards. Three of us found the service, food and the clubby atmosphere at Bentley’s Steak & Chop House top notch. How so? Specials were recited with the price; server didn’t reveal her name; generous portion of Colorado rack of lamb perfectly cooked medium rare ($29). With drinks our three mains and two starters totaled $160 plus tip. There’s a large patio for lunch or dinner and if I lived closer, I’d be a regular.
We’re hearing that chef Tony DiSalvo has returned to the east coast. He had been executive chef at Jack’s La Jolla from opening day. Note this is, at the moment, unconfirmed. UPDATE 4/11/09: DiSalvo has moved east and is a personal chef.
Down on the bay near the convention center, Vela, at the new Hilton San Diego Bayfront, conveys serenity in a warm and contemporary room with views of the bay and the docks of the Port’s Tenth Avenue Terminal. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you just might see a Dole freighter unloading its cargo or the lights of Coronado while you dine. The bar doesn’t have the view, but on a quiet Monday, Buzz was able to enjoy a taste pour ($5) of Barth sparkling wine from Germany along with an appetizer of butternut squash tortellini in sage butter (the pasta needed a minute or two more in the water) and a rich wild mushroom risotto ($18). Vela is a place where you can have a quiet meal and watch the world go by. Best yet is their Vela Society for locals that includes complimentary valet parking while dining, seasonal discounts for large parties and much more–and membership is free.
Had a chance to try the new Hane Sushi on Fifth Avenue at Olive Street. The room exudes simplicity…some may say they wish for something more on the blank wall behind the sushi chefs with only a floral arrangement at which to gaze. Buzz loves the lack of visual candy and the contemporary design. There is a separate small bar area, and the sleek sushi bar doesn’t allow the diner to see the fish as most places do. Sushi Ota devotees may find a favorite chef or two working here as Hane’s owners are part of the Ota clan. If you’re in the mood, special sushi and sashimi dishes and a good selection of cold sakes go beyond standard fare found at other places…but don’t expect bargain prices for creativity, quality, freshness and gracious service. 2760 Fifth Ave., Bankers Hill, (619) 260-1411.
Blind Lady Ale House in Normal Heights seems to be a hit with the neighborhood, especially on a recent Sunday night. The menu reflects simple pizzas, roughly 12 inches cut into six pieces. It’s very casual; you order from a choice of 20 beers on tap in one line and pizzas in another line where you get a number so the pizza can be brought to you. Plates, napkins and utensils are in the middle of the room and it’s up to you to set your table. Pizzas are European in style with thin crusts and a lighter hand with toppings–though one with butternut squash and shitake mushrooms needed more zip. House-made sausage, chorizo and Fra Mani salami are main ingredients for three different pizzas, and vegan alternatives are available including one for pesto. Pizza prices range from $7 for marinara to $14 for the chorizo with chiles and fontina. 3416 Adams Ave., (619) 255-2491. Dinner only from 5pm, closed Monday.