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San Diego Magazine's Happy Half Hour
80 minutes | Nov 23, 2022
Three Thanksgiving Cooking Tips from Top Chef Josh Mouzakes of Arlo
Mashed potatoes are the bedrock of Thanksgiving. If you do not have a creamy pile of spuds, you are exhibiting a flagrant disregard for the rules of the feast. Mashless people seem more like thanks takers. And Josh Mouzakes—the executive chef of Arlo at Town & Country, who trained for four months at French Laundry (lived in a garage nearby, eating peanut butter sandwiches for the honor), then at Joel Robuchon in Vegas, a couple years at Hotel Del, and two recent appearances on Food Network—swears smoking your butter is easy and will help your mash win the annual food-off holiday. “You just put some woodchips in a pan with a ramekin of butter, and cover the thing with foil,” he says. Woodchips, butter, a Bic lighter, and a heat source. That’s all you need to take your Thanksgiving mash to the level of Arlo or Josh’s house. We asked Josh for three of his favorite tips for home cooks at the big feast. That’s one. We also talk about his favorite dishes at Arlo, talk about the fully resuscitated vibe at one of San Diego’s classic properties (Town & Country went through a massive remodel, and their central courtyard is grass and pool and musicians and lounge chairs and cocktails and Arlo—a very casual-awesome sneaker place to spend a Friday eve). In “Hot Plates,” we talk about Joe Magnanelli (the man responsible for helping build Cucina Urbana, and coming up with that still-legendary polenta board) has taken the gig as teh exec chef of iconic local property, Kona Kai; we talk about sale of craft cocktail destination, El Dorado, to the hospitality group Pouring With Heart—a group from L.A. (I know, I know) that has a good rep of changing the hospitality industry for good (health benefits, 401k, mental health services, etc.); and discuss how the opening of a new Carruth Cellars tasting room at Carte Hotel a block away from the San Diego Mag offices near Little Italy might be the end of us. For “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” Troy is still on his hunt for the best food in Little Italy, and recommends a classic (the lobster roll with brown butter) and a new hit (Japanese sweet potatoes with chive crema) at Ironside; Josh gives us his favorite snacks from the underrated P.B. food scene (Poke Chop and what he says might be the best breakfast burrito in all the land at Taco Surf) and David says go get the Hungry Hippo pizza at Gnarly Girl in University Heights. Get the canned cranberry sauce. You can’t beat the schlooping sound. Happy Thanksgiving.
54 minutes | Nov 17, 2022
The Next Generation Has Reinvented San Diego Classic, The Fishery (and it’s fantastic)
As a kid growing up in La Jolla, Annemarie Brown-Lorenz had swordfish bills sticking up out of the ground in her backyard. Her dad was a fifth generation local fisherman who believed in using every part of the fish. If you take a life from the sea, have the respect to use every part of that life. And Annemarie’s grandmother (a first-generation American from Slovenia) grew all her own food; believed if you stuck swordfish bills in the garden it would lend its nutrients to the soil. So forget the garden gnome. That ethos—sustainable fishing, old-world farming (now they call it biodynamic)—was what The Fishery was built on. Annemarie’s parents, Judd and Mary Ann, opened the restaurant in 1996. Judd had already built a successful business delivering seafood caught by local boats to San Diego restaurants. For The Fishery, they just knocked a hole in the wall of that seafood warehouse (called Pacific Shellfish) and passed the day’s best catches into the kitchen. The Fishery turns 25-years-old this month. During the pandemic, Judd and Mary Ann started spending most of their time at their home in Oregon, putting The Fishery’s future in Annemarie’s hands. Her husband Nicholas runs Pac Shell. Together, they’re overhauling the classic. They brought in exec chef Mike Reidy (who spent a few years under Josia Citrin at 2-star Michelin restaurant, Melisse), a GM from Juniper & Ivy, bar manager Eddie Avila (former Whisknladle), and they’re designing a new remodel right now that extends the seating and includes an oysters-and-Champagne bar. This explains why it was so incredibly good when I visited for this month’s review in San Diego Mag. Annemarie joins us to talk about deep local roots and the future of a San Diego institution. She brings sushi rolls (dear god, order the Sunshine Roll). In news, the new chef at classic San Diego resort Kona Kai is Joe Magnanelli, who made a name for himself as the exec of Cucina Urbana for a decade; the sale of classic craft cocktail den, El Dorado, to the kind of hospitality group you can get behind, Pouring With Heart (they own Seven Grand, and give their employees health benefits, 401ks, access to mental health services); and Carruth Cellars has endangered the productivity of the SDM staff by opening a new tasting room a block away from our offices at Carté Hotel. For “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” Troy shares one of the surprise hits of his current search for the best food in Little Italy, the Ligurian flatbread at Davanti Enoteca; David on his quest to eat lunch at every single place in Little Italy goes with Harumama and the High Noon Ramen; Annemarie raves about the new North Park restaurant/gin bar Mabel’s Gone Fishing (you can listen to our interview with Mabel’s owner on this episode). Next week, exec chef Josh Mouzakes from Arlo at Town & Country gives us his secret tips on how to crank up Thanksgiving dinner at home (hint: a simple way to smoke butter for mashed potatoes).
69 minutes | Nov 4, 2022
The Woman Behind La Jolla’s Secret House of Food
There is a house in La Jolla that is almost entirely food. It overlooks Black’s Beach. It is a very, very nice house. Walk its grounds, and you come across blueberries and strawberries and cabbage and habañeros and herbs and goats and bees and chickens and greenhouses. What was once a tennis court on the grounds has been filled in with more food growing. It is a house-farm, an Eden on the sea cliff, and it’s become an epicenter of San Diego’s food scene. It’s owned by Michelle Lerach and her husband, Bill. Michelle took a sabbatical during law school to live and work on a goat farm in Northern California. There, she saw how connected farmers and ranchers and makers were to restaurants, grocers, distributors, lawmakers (who endorse public spending on agriculture), media, etc. She wanted to bring that to San Diego. She wanted to bring them all to the same plot of land (or house, in this case) to start fostering good, local foodways. So she opened her home—affectionately called the Castle of Chaos—to all of them. Any given day, you’ll see local chefs and winemakers and farmers strolling around her home, inspecting things, cooking things, or just kicking up their feet. During the shutdown part of the pandemic, she turned her front driveway into a market to help farmers move product. Food from her home is featured at some of the city’s top restaurants. She started the Berry Good Night, which was an annual dinner where she’d invite thought leaders on food and environmental stewardship. It also invited some of her very high-profile and influential friends who could, upon meeting farmers and food people, either financially support their work or advocate for them in legislation. In 2015, that night evolved into Berry Good Food Foundation, which operates workshops on all sorts of responsible, good-stewardship food initiatives (seafood, soil health, food waste, food justice, etc.) and supports gardens at elementary schools on both sides of the border (they’ve donated $50K to 23 schools so far). She also gathers some of the biggest brains in the country for discussions on UCTV (which have over 14 million views). Finally, she was one of the executive producers (along with Giselle Bündchen, and others) on the film, Kiss the Ground, a documentary about regenerative farming. It was produced by Ryalnd Englehart (whose family owns Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre), narrated by Woody Harrelson, and included cameos from Ian Somerhalder, Tom Brady, and a couple songs from fellow San Diegan and farmer/food activist, Jason Mraz. That’s a lot, I know. Basically, she’s used her law degree and connections to move the city’s food scene forward in fairly massive ways. “At the end of the day, we just want to story connect and foster an inclusive, equitable, regenerative good system in San Diego,” she says. She’s our guest on this week’s podcast. Specifically, she’s trying to raise awareness for regenerative farming and Kiss the Ground (the organization that’s also co-founded by Englehart). An upcoming dinner on Nov. 19—with chef Flor Franco and David Castro of iconic Valle de Guadalupe restaurant, Fauna—will advocate for regenerative farming being a bigger part of the U.S. Farm Bill. We talk about regenerative farming: what it is, how it works, why it’s important. A fascinating talk. For “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” David rediscovers his love for Puesto and raves about their secret weapon—brewer Doug Hasker (try the Clara); Michelle says nothing beats the simple side dish of carrots at Callie; and Troy is genuinely, genuinely impressed by the new food at Cutwater’s tasting room, especially the hoagie.
83 minutes | Oct 28, 2022
A Local Cook Was Gifted a Restaurant - This is Her Story
Mariana Cardenas went home that day, gathered her five kids, told them the news. Then she called all the government assistance programs and informed them the Cardenas family no longer needed their help. “My oldest son is autistic,” she explains. “Two weeks earlier he’d told me he wanted to go to art school and I had to tell him we couldn’t afford it. So I got to tell him he was going.” The this that happened is one of my favorite stories of good I’ve come across in the San Diego food and drink scene. Mariana shares her story on today’s podcast. How she’d taken a job as a janitor for the Navy in Chula Vista, and worked her way into the kitchen. How she spent 16 years in the Navy, eventually becoming executive chef of the region. When the pandemic hit, she left and took a job at beloved local burger joint, The Balboa. She’d been working there for four months when the owner called her to his office. “I thought I was gonna get fired,” she says. He asked her if she wanted The Balboa. “Of course I like working here,” she replied. Did she want to own it, he clarified. “Sure,” she laughed. “But I can’t afford that, I’m on government assistance.” He gave her The Balboa—a very successful restaurant and bar. Flat out gave it to her, because she’d shown up for him, treated the place as she would her own restaurant, was someone to believe in. Changed her life forever. After telling her kids, Mariana called a longtime coworker and friend. They’d both toiled to the bone at the Navy, dreamed together during breaks in their shifts. Eventually they started buying Lotto tickets. Mariana pinky swore that if she ever won, she’d give him a million dollars. He pinky promised the same. Her first order of business as the owner of The Balboa South was to make good on that promise. She gave him half the business, made him a partner. “The Balboa is my lottery ticket, and a promise is a promise,” she says. We all share a meal with the two chefs behind Hudson + Nash, the newly reimagined signature restaurant at Hilton San Diego Bayfront, perched on the water. Chef de cuisine Alexander Huizar just arrived two days ago from Vegas, where he was sous at Delila at the Wynn (before that he was chef de partie at French Laundry, and sous for a handful of Michael Symon restaurants).Executive sous chef Laoro Martinez is from Tijuana where he went to culinary school. Together, they’re creating a new “Baja to Bay” concept at H+N. Best dishes we try: the bigeye tuna poke tossed in Sriracha-miso; Thai wings in sweet chile sauce; and oh dear god try the whole fish taco (fish served whole on a board with three salsas (verde, rojo, and macha), pickled onions, street corn, cilantro slaw, chile toreados, corn tortillas, and pork belly). In “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” I point people to a longtime favorite that has been sold to one of its longtime cooks and is in great hands (and also, show up for the new owner)—Supannee Thai; Mariana loves the birria at Dolche Cafe Mexifood in Chula Vista; David, who forsake beer a while back, admits a heavy love for the 30 Hop IPA at Poorhouse Brewing with the roast beef sandwich from pop-up Big Jim’s Roast Beef; chef Laoro has a thing for the lasagna at Seneca Trattoria; and chef Alex raves about the jalapeño mac n cheese at Neighborhood. Hope you enjoy the podcast. What an incredible story. See ya next week.
67 minutes | Oct 21, 2022
SD’s First NFT Bar, We take Botanica owner Amar Harrag out for food and drinks to Cutwater Spirits
About a week ago, I sat down for splashes of mezcal with Amar Harrag, who’s now successfully launched a few different drinks-and-dinner concepts on both sides of the border. His first, Tahona, created an unparalleled mezcal tasting bar to Old Town. He then opened Wormwood, the French-Baja cuisine and absinthe bar in North Park, which preserves the soul spot that was Jayne’s Gastropub. Finally, Tahona Baja in Ensenada—transforming two dry-docked, ark-looking wooden boats into mezcal tasting rooms on the grounds of a Mexican winery. Over mezcal he explained the inspiration for next week’s unveiling—Botanica, the gin- and genever-based concept going into the small restaurant space attached to beloved North Park art and cultural center, Art Produce. It’s an NFT restaurant. A what? Exactly. Before you write it off as a gimmick, listen to Harrag’s inspiration and ideas for the place on this week’s podcast. It’s fascinating, and shows a lot of thought and heart. He’s creating a modern art bar based on blockchain technology because he wanted the concept to shine a brighter light on what Art Produce does. Done right it should showcase artists, local and international, and help add to AP’s cultural hangout with good food and artful cocktails (they have a gin cart, preparing spirits tableside). Harrag joins us at Cutwater Spirits’ Tasting Room—the incredible, ship-shaped home where SD’s canned cocktail success story first started. At the bar, the warm creative spirit here has always been Laura Price, who creates craft cocktails. She shows off five or six of her Halloween favorites (including a trio based on Hocus Pocus, one topped with a burstable bubble/crystal ball of smoke, and one in a hollowed-out pumpkin). We also try a few dishes from chef, including two you should try if happiness matters in the slightest: the grilled carrots with lemon-lavender whipped goat cheese, pepitas, orange and parsley oil, carrot tops; and his excellent barrel-aged rum salmon (salmon with a glaze of barrel-aged rum and cardamom). In “Hot Plates,” we talk about Solana Beach’s food and drink boom with the arrival of a new tasting room from Local Roots Kombucha. In Downtown, a talented chef longtime San Diego foodies will remember—Jason Neroni (ex-Blanca)—is back to oversee the three different food concepts at the new Kimpton Alma (a new name and a new $25M overhaul for the former Hotel Palomar). And Polo Steakhouse has opened in the former West Steakhouse location, from the owners of Paon and with chef Judd Canepari. In “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” Amar raves about the Japanese yakitori (grill) at Yokohama Yakitori Koubou in Convoy; David is thrilled with the lunch deli next to our new offices called Carnivore Sandwich (rare to find lunch places open near office buildings these days since everyone works from home); and I revisited Cusp La Jolla (still one of my favorite view restaurants in all of San Diego) and a simple-delicious chicken dinner from chef Ingrid Funes. We’re rolling now. Thanks for bearing with us.
84 minutes | Oct 14, 2022
Talking lo-fi wines with the co-founder of Rose Wine Co and the newly opened Mabel’s Gone Fishing
On this new podcast, we get a lesson on natural wines from Chelsea Coleman—co-founder of the Rose Wine Bar in South Park who just opened Mabel’s Gone Fishing, a gintoneria and oyster bar that also has natural wines. Seems like just a few years ago, natural wines were what your kooky friend with the urban chickens and the Wendell Berry tattoo drank. The nat-wine ethos was always noble: wines made from grapes grown on sustainable and ideally organic methods, inoculated only with naturally occurring yeast, with nothing added (there are currently over 100 legal additives often used in commercial wine, everything from lab-grown yeasts to mega purple to oak chips and copper and anti-foaming agents) or taken away (no filtering or fining, a process that is often achieved by using animal products like egg albumen or isinglass, aka fish bladder). Ideally, grapes are grown on a permaculture dry farm (one that doesn’t use irrigation, using only rain) by operators who are passionate about fair trade and treating the earth and humans right. And for decades, their hearts were pure and their wines were terrible. Mousy, funky, chewy, fizzy liquids that often exploded before they got to the store (on account of secondary fermentation). That is not true anymore. Natural wines (aka lo-fi wines) are still funky. They taste exactly like the place where they were grown. You can even taste the time of year. Ultra terroir. A bit of a surprise in every batch. But producers have learned a thing or two about how to navigate the wild, low-intervention approach to winemaking. Lo-fi wines are also the fastest growing sector of the wine market—especially among millennials, who demand a story and an ethos with their consumption more than any other generation. All that is to say, Coleman is in the thick of it. The San Diego natifve co-founded Nat Diego (a natural wine fest). Her love of nats lines up with her ideals on food systems (she was the chair of Slow Food San Diego for three years, and she used to haul compost from local restaurants and drop them off at local farms). She’s got a pet chicken named Tang and—apropos with the Padres about to play their first home playoff game in 16 years—her father was the iconic broadcaster, Jerry Coleman. Join us as we talk about Mabel’s and she gives us a primer on natural wines. Managing editor and food enthusiast Jackie Bryant also takes a mic. In news, we talk about the launch of the Aisu ice cream brand. Launch is a hyperbolic word, since it’s only available at Chino Farms and Mille Fleurs at the moment, but it’s made by the youngest farmer in the Chino Family—Makoto, and his girlfriend, Elina—using the best produce on earth. Longtime San Diego chef and former owner of Pacifica Del Mar, Chris Idso, has joined restaurateur Linda DiNitto (264 Fresco) to open the Latin-inspired Fresco Cocina in Carlsbad. Ambrogio15 has teamed with Michelin-starred Italian restaurant, Acquerello, and will reopen their La Jolla spot as Ambrogio by Acquerello. Bivouac Ciderworks is expanding to a much larger space next door in North Park. Plus, North Park gets a plant-based Mexican joint called Tacotarian, and nonprofit food org Berry Good Food announced they’re offering up to $10,000 in funding to K-12 schools with garden projects (now accepting applications. For “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” I can’t stop frothing about the pastrami burger at Balboa South in Chula Vista, and I share the remarkable story of new owner, Mariana Cardenas. Jackie points us to the BBQ “pork” vermicelli noodles at City Heights’ vegan Thai joint, Thanh Tinh Chay. David had the delicious Taco Salad from Fairplay, and Chelsea raves about Pomegranate.
173 minutes | Sep 23, 2022
Skrewball co-founder Steve Yeng explains his journey from refugee camps to the face of spirits
The story of Skrewball deserves its own biopic, if not a 30-part Netflix series. On the surface, you see a good-time peanut butter whiskey from San Diego—one that defied all naysayers and became one of the top-selling spirits in the country. And then you talk to co-owner Steve Yeng and every twist of his life story makes your eyes bulge and your heart alternately sink and soar. His family fled the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, living in Thai refugee camps. In the San Diego Magazine offices for this podcast, he pulls out a few photos from those days. In one, the family is standing in a foot of muddy water (the town routinely flooded). In another, children eat lunch near a fence made of sharp, deadly spears (it’s the cafeteria of the makeshift school). “My father saw his own father shot in the camps,” says Steve, whose grandparents were both killed. The Yeng family—mom, dad, three boys—stayed in the camps for six years. As Steve explains it, Russia’s Red Army would routinely bomb the camps, forcing everyone into below-ground shelters. In those cramped, poorly ventilated quarters, Steve contracted polio from one of the other children (the disease is not eradicated in parts of the world without access to healthcare). For the next five years, he would have to undergo multiple surgeries to correct his imbalanced bone growth. Until age seven, he managed to move around using two flip-flops on his feet, and another two on his hands. Eventually, his family managed to make it to the U.S.—specifically, to Ocean Beach—living in a garage without running water. His dad found a job at O.B. Donuts (which the family still owns). And peanut butter became a symbol of a better life for the young Yeng brothers. From that point on, against every odd and with just the right amount of audacity, Yeng became the American dream. This podcast is the longest we’ve ever recorded. Mostly because David and I sat there rapt, a little heartbroken and wholly inspired. Settle in, or digest it in parts. It’s worth it. See you next week, y'all.
35 minutes | Sep 16, 2022
Natural Wine and Petco Park’s Facelift
Restaurant openings, restaurant closings, and Manny Machado becomes a nail tech. Just kidding, but only about the restaurant closings. Gotcha again. There will be no Manny-pedis in the near future. On this episode of Happy Half Hour, David and Troy talk to vice president of ticket sales and membership services for the Padres, Curt Waugh. Waugh joined the franchise in June 2014 after being with Spurs Sports and Entertainment where he managed ticket sales for the San Antonio Rampage ice hockey team. Waugh filled us in on the 70 newly renovated suites where you can customize your experience with in-suite dining food and beverage packages. The suites are not only available for Padres games, but also for any concerts or events that take place. This season broke a Petco Park and Padres record, with more than 20,000 people opting for season tickets, including our very own Troi Boi (the SDM’ers have dubbed him as such, and he’ll no longer respond to any other name). Troy (Troi) dishes on his favorite perks, like movie nights on the field where he can take his mini-me Elia, and of course, the chance to imbibe on some good cheap beer. Membership happy hours include $5 drink specials across the ballpark so you can wet your whistle with Cutwater Spirits or a good ‘ole Budweiser. Apart from discounted food and drink specials, members also get perks such as priority access to Opening Day and Postseason tickets, best available seat options, and 10 percent off concessions and retail in the park. In Hot Plates, David and Troy talk Little Thief and Black Radish, both North Park newbies. The former is rewriting the natural wine narrative. David may be their biggest fan. As I write, he’s sitting here wearing their merch and waving a tiny flag around with their logo. It’s weird, but we’re here for it. At Black Radish, the simple and sexy interior paired with their dynamic menu makes for a feast of the senses. Later, Troy talks about his love affair with Chef Phillip Esteban’s ube pandesal, available at his Liberty Station Filipino restaurant White Rice. Not only is Chef Esteban opening another location in Normal Heights, he just signed a lease to a new standalone all-day eatery in Liberty Station.
63 minutes | Sep 12, 2022
Going through the 5 stages of SDs iconic beer with the face and voice of BP, Jeff Lozano
So much history in this place. It’s where brewers came up with one of the beers that put San Diego on the national map. It’s where a person signed a deal for a billion dollars and sold to a multinational corporation. And it’s where an indie brewer bought it back, and took it into the new age. The place is the palace of beer that is Ballast Point in Miramar. The beer is Sculpin IPA. For this podcast, we sat down with five evolutions of Sculpin in front of us—from grapefruit Sculpin to a Aloha Sculpin—with one of our favorite people in the city, Jeff Lozano. Technically the “ambassador” of Ballast Point, Jeff is the voice you hear in the Ballast Point commercials when you’re watching the Padres games. His voice is made for this, like if a cigarette and a late-night radio DJ had a lovechild. Ballast Point just made a serious investment on the food side of the house at all their locations, too, hiring culinary director Tommy Dimella. I’ll say this. Go to Miramar. Work your way through the evolution of Sculpin like we did. Order two things from his menu: the Double-Stack Angus Smash Burger (white American cheese, BP special sauce, pepperoncini, lettuce, tomato—basically a real chef’s take on a Bic Mac), and… arguably the star… the whipped goat cheese (made creamier with labneh, then topped with olive oil and cumin-spiced honey, strawberries, and seeded lavash cracker). It’s the Summer of Sculpin (locals know that the real San Diego summer starts in August and goes through October). It was pretty much nonstop one-liners and laughs, but Jeff also runs us through the about beer and the food scene in San Diego and gives us some hard and useful science about why certain beers taste better with certain foods. In news, we talk about the opening of Madi, the all-day brunch joint from the Madison on Park people; the upcoming Botanica, an NFT art bar (you can buy NFTs of art on display) based around gin from the restaurant group that brought Tahona and Wormwood; Fairplay, a new concept from the Fernside crew coming to the spot vacated by beloved Toronado; and North Park’s first ever (we think, correct us if we’re wrong) rooftop bar, Dollie’s at Hoxton. For “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” David re-fell in love with Craft & Commerce; Jeff raves about old-school San Diego classic, Bully’s East Steakhouse; and Troy was in a soup dumpling mood and pointing to the favorite he found in his citywide search for xiao long baos, Facing East. Go to Ballast. Spend an afternoon in an icon. Also search out Jeff Lozano. Make him talk to you. He’s funny as hell. Thanks for listening, y'all.
34 minutes | Sep 1, 2022
We introduce one of San Diego’s best pizzas to one of its best beers
Lake San Marcos is such a mystery to me. Like if you took the water feature from a miniature golf course and expanded that over a couple miles—that’s what it would be. A human-made oasis. Fake? You bet. Kinda magical? Also that. And that’s the kind of hokey water hocus pocus I live for. I’m the kind of guy who thinks sequins is the height of American culture. This podcast we recorded live from the Mister A’s of Lake San Marcos—Amalfi Cucina Italiana. Chef Marcello Avitabile is a six-time World Pizza Champion (read the review here). The four owners are all Italian, all friends who met while working at another one of the top Italian food spots in the city, Buona Forchetta (Avitabile was the longtime exec chef). It’s the second stop on our Delicious IPA Tour with Stone Brewing. (Note: These have been great events where we gather and sip and taste, available to those of you who join our Insiders program… you should sign up). One of the first “Beer vs. Wine Dinners” I ever went to was hosted by Stone. Wine has always been hailed as the perfect beverage for food. Since its inception, Stone has seemed fixated on proving that craft beer paired as well, if not better, than wine. Early on, I was skeptical if not scoffing. I went to the dinner thinking “this is a gimmick but there is quality food and beer.” And, wow. Beer won the night. The 200-plus people there that night voted it in a landslide. And it wasn’t close on my card, either. I was shocked. Being a nerd, I dug into the science of it, and turns out beer has so many more flavor compounds than wine (due to the increased number of ingredients—hops, malt, etc.) This isn’t a slag against wine, which is a quality portion of my life. Just beverage facts. Anyway, point is. Stone Delicious IPA is what their brewers have been tinkering with all these years. Their perfect food pairing beer. They came to us and said, “Hey, let’s do a tour to celebrate what we think is a pretty awesome achievement, and let’s use it to highlight some local restaurants and cooks and indie businesses.” Easy sell. So this week we pair it with Avitabile’s primavera pizza—marinated zucchini and red bell peppers and eggplant, buffalo mozzarella, EVOO, fresh basil, all baked and blistered in 60 seconds in their hell-hot pizza oven. It’s a doozy, and the strong, lightly citrusy hops stand up the char on the crust, making it a perfect pair. We sit down and talk with the owners Giuseppe Annunziata and Emiliano Muslija about Amalfi, and why they’re importing 90 percent of their ingredients from the Italian coast they’re from. In the news, we’re pretty jazzed about Azuki Sushi’s new omakase spot; Breakfast Republic makes the move on expanding to other cities; discuss the bizarro ambition of space-portal alien tiki lounge Mothership in South Park, and Amalfi announces the opening of their second restaurant in North County. For “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” David raves about the Aleppo chicken at Callie; Emiliano points people to Akai Hana Sushi in Rancho Bernardo; Guiseppe expresses his desire to try the raved-about Sushi Tadokoro; and I am still a little floored by the ube pancakes at The Holding Company—where they’ve got an all-ages brunch on their rooftop overlooking the O.B. pier. It’s an all-ages brunch, which is great because just because some of us chose to procreate doesn’t mean we died. The podcast is fully back. Thanks for being patient as we moved offices over the summer. Full steam. See ya next week. –Troy
37 minutes | Aug 26, 2022
Ranting About Food with Padres Funnyman, Mark “Mudcat” Grant
When I went to Padres games as a kid, a man stood 30 feet away from you and hurled a hot dog at your face. Maybe you got some popcorn whose best attribute was that it looked yellow and had enough salt to turn your insides into prosciutto. Oh, and you got some flat Coke. If you only drank sodas at baseball games in the 80s, you wouldn’t know the product came with bubbles. To be honest, I kinda miss that hot dog throwing man. But I don’t miss the food. Modern baseball food is worlds better. You got sushi and acai bowls and brisket sandwiches and designer tacos. The Padres have made a lot of great acquisitions of late, but one of my favorites was when they brought in Barrio Dogg and Grand Ole BBQ and Puesto—giving people a taste of some of the best local restaurants. And today David and I sit with an old friend and crush some of our favorite eats from Petco Park. He’s a favorite human. Constant sayer of funny things. Mark “Mudcat” Grant has been a Padres broadcaster for 27 years. He and Don Orsillo are in the booth 162 games a year, narrating every Padres game. For fans, they’re like extended family, or constant friends who show up in your living room to talk ball and life. Mud and I talk about his career, the 2022 team, how Tim Flannery taught him a mindblowing lesson on perspective in life (ommmmm), and all the food. For news, we talk about the opening of Little Thief and Papalito in North Park, the new natural wine bar from the Bottlecraft team, and the new restaurant from chef Drew Bent’s new Sonoran BBQ concept; how 2021’s “Chef of the Year” Phil Esteban just signed the lease on a new restaurant in Liberty Station; and the sad closing of Supernatural Sandwiches in Miramar and what that says about the realities of running a restaurant in 2022. For “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” David points you to the best dishes at the new Italian/sushi joint in North Park, CinKuni (the “Godzilla ramen”); Mudcat raves about Barbusa and Janet’s Montana Cafe, a favorite near his place in Alpine; and I am reminded just how amazing Wayfarer Bread & Pastry is in Bird Rock (the Kouign Amann, the tomato-herbed ricotta cream bun). Go Padres. See ya next week.
78 minutes | Jul 8, 2022
The Next-Gen of Vietnamese Food with Shank & Bone’s owner Han Tran
Not sure how many San Diego restaurants have a real, bonafide Shepard Fairey art piece—sanctioned by the artist, famous for his propaganda art like the Obey (Andre the Giant) and Hope (Obama) series—but Shank & Bone in North Park is one of them. So technically the Vietnamese restaurant is a pretty notable art gallery. Their pho sure is some art. So are their fish sauce chicken wings, salty and sweet. In our June “Best Restaurants” issue, Shank was named readers’ choice for Best Vietnamese and my pick for Best Pho. And on today’s podcast Han Tran comes on to share her story—how her parents came over as refugees from Vietnam. She grew up in City Heights, where her mom ran a bakery and cafe. “It was known for the strongest Vietnamese coffee in town,” she says. “Just rocket fuel. In our culture, the cafe scene is mostly men. Women walk in and the needle on the record scratches. But mom ran it. She’s tough. Cafes are really popular in the Vietnamese community, but ours was different because we had good food.” Han was raised in this food culture, saw how much her parents worked. Nonstop. The restaurant was their life, their stable place in a new world. And so the daughter went to UCSD with not less than zero interest in running a restaurant, but running very fast the other way. And then her and her husband, Jay Choy, bought a sushi joint, Ebisu Sushi. “We had no idea how to run it,” she says. And yet they did, for 16 years. They opened Shank & Bone because they wanted to take the Vietnamese food Han grew up with, but crank it up, use better ingredients, bring the modern better-food ethos to dishes of her youth. And, well, she took some flak. Some in the Viet community went after her because of the Fairey artwork, which shows a Viet girl holding a gun with a flower in the end of it. “Vietnamese immigrants are all obviously anti-communism—so there was a rumor going around that some communist had come to North Park and opened this restaurant,” she laughs. “And the funny thing is, the image of the woman looks almost identical to a picture of my mom from the refugee camp.” She and her husband also took flak for the price of their pho—$17 when they opened, $20 now. The reason? They invested in better ingredients, and they crammed their broth with two, three times the amount of bones to ratchet up the flavor (thus why the pho is so good). They invested in artwork and a storefront right on University Ave. All things that cost money. Shank’s done just fine now. People showed up, keep showing up. In “Hot Plates,” we talk about the impending sale of Stone Brewing to Sapporo U.S.A.; how the city is now starting to enforce permits for the parklets restaurants built during the pandemic, and how very few restaurants have even bothered to apply; and the arrival of Northern California’s white-hot Filipino bakery chain, Starbread. For “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” David goes to a classic in North Park (Lucky’s Golden Phoenix), Han professes her love for Mongolian Hot Pot; and I defend the honor of chain restaurants by naming one of my favorites for healthy meals (Tender Greens, run by San Diego chef Pete Balistreri). Go eat some pho. Noodles on the side (so they don’t soak up too much of that broth, which is gold).
45 minutes | Jun 15, 2022
Ranch45 Expands in Del Mar
This meat looks geological. Like lovely, delicious geodes. In the refrigerated case, huge racks of Brandt Beef just lay there at Ranch45—have been laying for a while (40 days, says one tag). When meat is dry-aged like this, it begins to look prehistoric and unlocks a whole new universe of flavors. Excess moisture is drawn out of the meat over time, breaking down the protein, tenderizing it and concentrating its steakness. It works the same way as when you “reduce” a stock or a soup to crank up the flavor. In the cooler next to it, Ranch45 chef Aaron Schwartz is aging bone marrow. That’s right. Ranch45 is dry-aging bone marrow. At the performance kitchen in the middle of the butcher shop/deli/restaurant/gourmet general store in Solana Beach, Schwartz roasts one of them; serves it simply on a plate with salt, pepper, chives, microgreens; and a dash of oil. As a marrow adherent (it is meat butter), it’s the first dry-aged marrow I’ve had. And it’s that much better. “Any meat has to age at least a bit to be any good,” says Schwartz, who was born and raised in the area and lives with his family (including wife and business partner, Pamela) in nearby Carmel Valley. “That’s why in the butcher shop you’ll see it on hooks.” Next to the dry-aging marrow and meat is soap. Bone marrow soap. “We just hand-packaged them last night,” says Schwartz. “It’s about using every part of the animal. Wasting as little as possible. We’re getting back to the way things used to be in butcher shops. Where you knew your butcher and trusted them. That’s why we use Brandt Beef. I’ve known Eric Brandt and his family for 20 years and I’m still using them for a reason.” Del Mar has something special in Ranch45. As a chef at Marriott Marquis, Schwartz made a name for himself by convincing a large multinational hotel group to invest in local food. Under his watch, Marquis was one of the city’s largest purchasers of local farm goods. When the pandemic hit, he was furloughed. He spent time at home with his kids. Then Pamela convinced him to join Ranch45, which she’d managed for three years (she’s an accomplished chef and wine person herself, having spent years overseeing nearby Pamplemousse Grille and the once-mighty Arterra). Now they’re expanding, taking over the space next door and putting in a real butcher shop. The idea is to be the supplier for all of the local top restaurants, and for the locals who want to know where their meat comes from. For this podcast we sit and talk with Schwartz about the ideas of simple food sourced from a place you know. About bringing small purveyors and general stores back to a community. In “Hot Plates,” we break the news that The Joint in O.B. is working on a ramen joint on Newport Avenue down the street from their original location, as well as opening two restaurants in Hawaii; Indian standout Charminar is opening the upscale Dosa Studio next door; and Ballast Point has a new culinary director in Tommy Dimella (who also spent years at Pamplemousse). For “Two People, Fifty Bucks” Aaron points to Juanita’s taco shop in Leucadia, where he takes his family after a surf; Troy raves about Starfish Filipino Eatery in O.B. (get the sisig); and David gives a shout out to the pop-up submarine tiki bar experience, Acey Deucey Club. See ya next week.
64 minutes | Jun 10, 2022
Stone Delicious IPA, a birria flatbread, and a Claudia Sandoval
The birria flatbread at Stone World Bistro & Gardens is one of those dishes that’s gone in minutes. On this podcast, we huddle around it. Poke at it. Demolish it with chef Israel Ortiz. It’s the kickoff of our new video series with Stone, which will highlight a few local restaurants and our favorite dishes that their cooks and chefs and food people have created. It’s a celebration of Stone’s Delicious IPA. After years of tinkering on the recipe of the ultimate beer that pairs well with food, Delicious is the result. Izzy walks us through what makes the flatbread sing, and we talk about how birria has overtaken the fish taco as the official food of San Diego. Our other guest? She was working at a branding agency in San Diego. At company events, she’d bring her salsa. Everyone loved it. On a lark, she tried out to be a contestant on Masterchef—that massive cooking competition on TV with Gordon Ramsey. She told her job she’d be gone for a bit. She wasn’t allowed to tell them anything about how well she was doing on the show. As it became longer and longer that she was away, her company had to let her go. She came home, jobless, and couldn’t tell a single soul what had happened. She’d won. She’d get the $250,000 check in six months. Until then, no money, no job, a young daughter at home, a single mom. Half a year later, she got the check for $250,000. She’d won. She is Claudia Sandoval—friend, talented chef, Richter-scale personality, judge on Masterchef Latino, and with her own series of Food Network travelogues now, Taste of the Border—in which she visits with chefs, farm workers, and food people along the U.S.-Mexico border. “The people were so amazing, and the food was incredible,” she says of Taste of the Border. “We meet these migrant workers who are out picking chiles in the heat of New Mexico. At nine in the morning, it was 109. So we got to know these families who are living on the farms, hand-picking every Hatch chile you buy at the grocery store. That is teh grit and the soul of the show, plus we get to explore some amazing restaurants.” On this episode, she talks about her experience filming and the things she’s learned (hint: the border-regions of Mexico are the North American epicenters of Chinese food). She explains her new line of next-day delivery meals (chile rellenos, adobada pork chop, etc.). And we just kind of loudly laugh a lot. In “Hot Plates,” we talk about the opening of Sandpiper (in the place that was formerly Galaxy Taco), and I give a few of the can’t-miss dishes from chefs Trey Foshee and Christine Rivera; talk about the new restaurants going into a remodeled historical building in Oceanside from the same people who brought you Louisiana Purchase (Grind and Prosper Hospitality); I announce I have finally given up a life-long effort to appreciate the charms of uni (everyone at the table thinks my mouth is broken); we talk about the two new restaurants being opened by the Jeune et Jolie and Campfire team (Wildlands and Lilo). For “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” chef Izzy says he can’t get enough of Cocina de Barrio; Troy raves about the corn cake and double-cut pork chop at Sandpiper; and David is all about the North Park farmers’ market, Knockout Bread, and other vendors. See ya next week.
49 minutes | May 27, 2022
The Magic of Woodsmoke
We’ve been here for two weeks and I’d like to stay another thirty. I’ve brought my overnight bag and a note from my wife. Gonna make my case. We’re at Park Hyatt Aviara, a 200-acre resort, one of the classic San Diego properties built far above a wetland preserve in Carlsbad. The ocean is right over there. We’re sitting at a long dining table in Ponto Lago, their Baja-inspired restaurant and a star of the recent $50 million makeover of the property. You can smell the crackling red oak and the char on various excellent proteins. I see a mezcal collection. I’m talking with chef Christopher Carriker about the magic of woodsmoke. David’s talking to him about the magic of heavy metal music. There is a hamachi and blackberry aguachile, a Sinoloan specialty, with sliced fresno chiles, green onion, and mint. There’s a charred octopus zarandeado with chorizo aioli, chicharrons and kumquats. It’s Baja ideas mixed with French sauce skills and the unbeatable San Diego seafood and produce. Carriker is from Portland, which isn’t short on a food scene. But, for a chef, he says, it’s nothing like San Diego. “The farms we have right up the road? It’s incredible,” he says. “I had to get used to the long growing seasons when I came here. I’d think, ‘well, it’s winter guess I have to switch to root vegetables,’ and then realize summer fruits were still in season. Crazy.” This episode we dive into why every chef and restaurant is turning their gas powered ovens in for piles of expensive wood. Chef Chris walks us through the various woods and their very specific charms (citrus burns hot, is best for searing), and why Baja cuisine is so compelling. In “Hot Plates,” we discuss the new concepts being opened by chef Phil Esteban’s Open Gym group—White Rice Bodega in Normal Heights, and Wavy Burgers (Filipino-style burgers) in National City. One of North County’s hottest restaurant groups, Leucadia Co. (Moto Deli, Valentina, etc.) is opening two new locations of Hamburger Hut (Wagyu burgers) in Encinitas and Oceanside. The mighty Carruth Cellars’ run in Little Italy is coming to an end in the middle of June, but the good news is that just about the same day they open their massive spot in Liberty Station, a 10,000 square foot wine wonderland with a gourmet cheese shop and expanded menu. And finally, Societe Brewing is expanding into a new location in Old Town, continuing the signal that the historic part of San Diego is getting a blood transfusion. For “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” Troy raves about Amalfi Cucina Italiana’s pan-fried artichokes and pizza, and marvels at the surreal man-made wonder that is Lake San Marcos. David raves about the bratwurst at Bagby Beer, and chef Chris gives a nod to a fellow wood-smoked restaurant and one of San Diego’s best, Fort Oak. Thanks for listening, y’all. Tune in next week when we broadcast from Stone Brewing Liberty Station for the kickoff of a new video series with the city’s homegrown beer heroes.
56 minutes | May 20, 2022
Richard Blais: Chef, TV Star, Golf Influencer
This is a fun one. I’ve known Richard Blais for a long while, and we tend to bring the best stories out of each other. Like golf foraging. When most of us lose our golf balls in the bushes, we venture into the brush and come out with scrapes and a handful of profanities. When chef Richard Blais sucks at golf, he goes into the brush and comes out with wild fennel and some carrots for dinner. When he opened his first restaurant at Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad—Ember & Rye, a modern steakhouse with a wood-burning grill that’s always on fire above the 18-hole course—he took up the clubs. “So maybe occasionally my ball would go into the bushes,” he admits. “I go in there to get it and I found all this wild fennel and carrots and radishes and garlic and nasturtiums.” Over the last year, fans who know Richard through Top Chef and Guy’s Grocery Games and his new show on Fox, Next Level Chef, may have looked at his Instagram and wondered if he was training for the PGA. “I became a golf influencer,” he says. “I got a free hat.” Richard is on fire. On Next Level Chef he’s teamed up with Gordon Ramsey and Nyesha Arrington in a cooking competition show that’s probably got the most elaborate set in the history of food competition shows—a three-level “restaurant.” Competitors start in the basement and move their way up with each challenge. “We shot the first season in Vegas,” he says, “and at the time it was the tallest non-permanent structure in the city. What an odd stat.” Richard and I have known each other for years at this point. He and I talk about his restaurants (“no matter how much media I do, I always come back to the kitchen—I love restaurant life”), rank the classic side dishes for American steakhouses and how Ember & Rye tweaks the standards (ie, the traditional creamed corn becomes corn creme brulee). I relay one of my earliest Richard memories when we were both on a TV show together and the producers made me take off my glasses because they couldn’t have “two guys with big hair wearing glasses.” I spent the entire episode unable to see what the cooks were making (“looks like Karen’s got lobster,” I’d say, and someone else would say, “yep, that’s skirt steak”). It’s a great, free-association conversation between a couple friends, one of whom happens to be one of the most accomplished chefs in the country who calls San Diego home.
50 minutes | May 5, 2022
San Diego Chef Grows Michelin-Star Mold
During the day, Michael Vera cooks at standout Pacific Beach restaurant, The Fishery. In his off time, he grows delicious bacteria. The words mold or fungus may not make your mouth water, but they should. They’re the gateways to fermentation, which gives us bread, coffee, miso, chocolate, beer, kimchi, wine, cheese, soy sauce, other forms of dear-god delicious. And right now, no fungus is hotter than Japanese koji—rice grains cultured with aspergillus oryzae. “It’s a sweet, funky marinade that tenderizes and intensifies with umami,” says Michael Vera, owner of West Coast Koji, a company he created during the pandemic by using Home Depot racks to ferment various things in the living room of his North Park apartment. “My wife was not happy with the state of our apartment for a very long time. It was a huge laboratory full of funky stuff.” Now he sells his koji to Michelin-star restaurants like Jeune et Jolie and Rustic Canyon, plus Juniper & Ivy and Consortium Holdings. Koji is famous for its umami-cranking transformation of proteins, and you can taste WCK’s effect on the duck breast at Matsu in Oceanside. Anyone can buy dried koji at Asian grocers, but WCK’s is fresh, and rare. There are only probably 10 commercial koji producers in the U.S., which makes his delicious fuzz business a boon for local cooks. On this episode, Michael gives us the 101 on koji and the fascinating world of culinary ferment. For “Hot Plates,” it seems everyone is moving to North County. We talk about the northward expansion of Lola55, long one of the best taco operations in the city now headed to Carlsbad. We finally are allowed to spill the news on George’s chefs Trey Foshee and Christine Rivera’s newest concept—Sandpiper, an oysters and wood-smoked meats joint that will go into the former home of Galaxy Taco. The group behind Nolita Hall and Half-Door Brewing have taken over the spot vacated by Civico by the Park—a sprawling space on the bottom floor of the Mister A’s building. And the vegan superstars behind Kindred are going to open their spinoff soon—called Mothership, owner Kory Stetina calls it “just your run of the mill crashed starship on a tropical alien planet kind of spot.”
55 minutes | Apr 15, 2022
San Diego’s New Star of Modern Japanese Food
I must stop talking about the cabbage. I won’t shut up about it. So I figured if I brought chef William Eick to talk me through it, it will resolve my lingering emotional fixation on what is one of the best dishes I’ve eaten in a very long time. Eick opened Matsu about six months ago. It’s a minimalist ode to modern Japanese cuisine. He’s been a talent in San Diego for a long time, and this is the big idea, what he’s been working for. In a spare room in Oceanside, where the “biggest” design element seems to be a single white orchid on a bar top, he’s serving 8- and 10-course tasting menus. And the cabbage is the shocker. “I’ve been obsessed with Japanese culture since I was five years old,” says Eick. “Everything about it. A modern Japanese restaurant with a tasting menu, there are probably only a handful in the country that I can think of.” For this episode, Eick walks us through some of the magic tricks that make Matsu stand out. For instance, he creates various dashis (Japanese broth, a cornerstone of the cuisine) like the one in his crab dish that is made with carrots and A5 Wagyu beef trimmings. We talk about how Japanese cooks and chefs have been masters at discovering new levels of flavor (the concept of “umami” is Japanese). And William gives us a primer on koji, the incredible Japanese marinade that makes his duck breast vastly more interesting. Gives it a good funk. In “Hot Plates,” we talk about the San Clemente icon Nick’s going into the former International Smoke location at One Paseo. The owners of Madison are opening an all-day brunch spot in Normal Heights called Madi. Wolfie’s Carousel Bar (if you’re not familiar, you need to check this out) has hired a new chef, formerly of Coronado’s excellent Little Frenchie. And renown Japanese fried chicken chain, Tenkatori, is opening in San Diego. For “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” I rave about the chilaquiles at Cocina 35, and whether or not it’s OK to call them breakfast nachos (a term told to me by a great Mexican chef, but which some food purists get very, very angry about and defend chilaquiles’ honor). David can think of nothing but baseball (it’s his cabbage), and points people to Mexican food classic Lolita’s by Petco Park for game days (trivia: Lolita’s is family of the legendary Roberto’s). And William makes a regrettable decision to tell the world about his favorite ramen spot, which was a secret until right about now. Go, Padres. See ya next week.
54 minutes | Apr 1, 2022
Grand Ole BBQ y Asado is Back!
It is, finally, open. Almost. When Grand Ole BBQ y Asado shut down its North Park location for renovation, it was supposed to be for a couple of months. That was three years ago. In the interim, we had a pandemic. But now it’s been fully redone. It’s ready to open, soon as the last health inspections pass. This is big news because, well, Grand Ole is great. Owner Andy Harris has kept himself busy with their other location in Flinn Springs, which is about as close to a Texas backyard barbecue joint as you can get without leaving San Diego. It’s still got that backyard, wooden bench vibe. But most grandmas will like these benches. “I wanted it to be for everyone to enjoy their time there—like if your grandma wanted to come she wouldn’t think it was gross,” says owner Andy Harris. “Like my aunt came to the old one and she was like uh no.” In the spirit of everyone, Grand Ole will be the first local barbecue restaurant I can think of with a vegan menu. Andy’s also got a “sommelier type guy” for the new spot, wants to prove that beer isn’t the only thing that goes well with brisket and ribs and smoked turkey. And of course he’ll have craft beer galore on taps throughout. With a full kitchen (the original spot just had a cubby hole), they’ll be able to do more menu options and non-barbecue dishes. They’ll also have kimchi and a few Korean dipping sauces. “I met a woman who was a dealer at a local casino,” says Harris. “Maybe I go there occasionally. Anyway, we start talking and she says she makes the best kimchi I’ve ever tasted. So she brings me some. And it is the best I’ve ever tasted. So now she’s going to make all our kimchi. Marcia Marcia Marcia kimchi.” In Hot Plates, we get the sad news out of the way—Metl in North Park, with their boozy milkshakes, had to close (their downtown location is going strong). Stone Brewing won its lawsuit against Molson Coors, whose rebrand of Keystone was deemed to be a pretty bad trademark infringement (the Keystone cans sure looked like the name was “Stone”). The San Diego Beer News Awards rolled out their winners, with some of the bigger awards going to Hopnonymous, McIlhenney Brewing, Pure Project, North Park Beer Co, Burgeon Beer Co., Stone, Societe, and Treevana. And this weekend, one of the best food events in San Diego is finally back after three years—”Celebrate the Craft” at the Lodge at Torrey Pines, an outdoor collaboration cooking event under the sun with Kelli Crosson (AR Valentien), Javier Plascencia (Finca Altozano), Eric Bost (Jeune et Jolie), Jojo Ruiz (Serea, Lionfish), and Travis Swikard (Callie). For “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” Troy is still a little stunned by how good Matsu is, and how chef William Eick can do what he did with that cabbage dish. David has a billion tasters of mezcal at Camino Riviera in Middletown/Little Italy, and Andy is all about the sole with white wine at San Diego classic, Anthony’s Fish Grotto. Thanks for listening, guys.
47 minutes | Mar 24, 2022
Kingfisher Takes San Diego by Storm
In 2004, Jon Bautista made his mom cry. She spontaneously wept when he told the family he’d enrolled in culinary school. To be fair, in the same breath he also broke the news that he’d dropped out of the undergrad program at SDSU to do so. Parents have news thresholds, and hers was breached. “This was before Top Chef,” he says. “She just said, ‘You’re never going to make any money.’” Now, 17 years later, Bautista is chef of one of the city’s most raved-about restaurants, Kingfisher, a partnership with the local family who owns the beloved local restaurant, Crab Hut. It’s modern Vietnamese. It’s also a bit Franco-Californian, because Bautista spent five years as chef de cuisine of George’s at the Cove under Trey Foshee. It’s a bit Filipino, he says, because he is Filipino. Cooking has never been more borderless. The Golden Hill restaurant is booked months out, with a long waiting list (they do have a few walk-in tables). Their duck—dry-aged in house, lightly smoked, brushed with palm sugar—is the treasure for early-birds. They only sell eight of them a night, and zip they’re gone. For this podcast—the first recorded in-person at the San Diego Magazine offices since 2020—Jon brought a beef tartare with toasted quinoa, pickled ramps, crispy shallots, chiles, cured egg yolk, sesame-rice crackers, watercress, lettuces, herbs. The not-secret ingredient—Red Boat No. 5 fish sauce—makes it a killer riff on a classic. And the joy of abundant ingredients is very Vietnamese (think of the pile of greenery you’re presented with your pho). “This is everything,” Bautista says of Kingfisher. “I was struggling during the pandemic. For the first time in my adult life I was unemployed. I was drinking too much, I gained weight, I was depressed. And then this happened.” We talk about the long road to here. In “Hot Plates,” we yap about The Friendly’s expansion to Pacific Beach, and what that says about America’s love affair with little places that could. Herb & Sea is throwing a party for Wildcoast, the San Diego-based group that does great work conserving marine ecosystems, with a five-course “Treasure Fish Feast” featuring lesser known local fish (eating only salmon and halibut and sea bass is not only boring but also creates a pretty unsustainable future). Over in North Park, Bivouac Ciderworks is throwing a four-course dinner to celebrate Women’s History Month that pairs Mexican-inspired dishes with special small-batch ciders (Mexican Hot Chocolate Cider, a beer-cider hybrid, etc.). Also, the owners of Tahini are opening up a Middle Eastern-inspired specialty coffee shop called Finjan, and this June the owners of Don Pietro are partnering with Gustavo Rios and Sal Busalacchi (of the Busalacchi Italian restaurant lore) for a two-story, jungle-themed concept in Old Town. For “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” Jon shows the breadth of his food arts by nodding to both Callie and the almighty Filet-O-Fish, David raves about Cafe Madeleine, and I get wistful about my glory days as a struggling writer in Golden Hill and fondly recommend Krakatoa. Thanks for listening, everyone.
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