By David Nelson
YOU SAY POTATO, as do I, but American chefs have an exquisite gift for mangling foreign food terms. A favorite example on menus (if never aboard jetliners) is known as “airline breast of chicken,” a sure moneymaker for anyone who bets a chef to unravel this corruption of “aileron,” the French term for a chicken breast with the first wing-joint attached. Many local chefs insist on writing mascarpone cheese as “marscapone,” which suggests a war-loving relative of a famous Chicago gangster rather than a delicate dairy product that can enrich both savory dishes and desserts. The newest linguistic offense allows chefs to claim they serve “torchons” of foie gras. Let’s hope they don’t, since a torchon is the kitchen towel in which a fattened goose or duck liver is wrapped and slowly roasted. The result is called foie gras au torchon, and I’d rather eat the liver than the towel. This having been said, Point Loma–bred Carl Hoehn, chef at the new Paradise Grille in Del Mar’s Flower Hill mall, occasionally treats guests to a round of sublimely buttery foie gras au torchon posed atop an apple slice baked in puff pastry. The combination of savory and sweet is classic and satisfying.
ONE SUNNY SATURDAY at Jordan the indoor-outdoor restaurant at the ever-so-trendy Tower 23 hotel on the Pacific Beach boardwalk, a waiter carried a fully laden tray onto the patio and promptly flew into the air, feetfirst, raining attractive plates on the concrete and bringing the place to a standstill. The so–San Diego situation: A couple of young guests had parked skateboards under their table, and one rolled out at precisely the moment the waiter passed . . . Interesting moments are not hard to come by at Tower 23, which has become quite the weekend brunch destination. On a different Saturday, hip general manager Eric Rimmele (who spent nine years as food and beverage director at the Westgate) stood outside the lobby, cell phone in hand, dealing with an electrical crisis that repeatedly shut off the kitchen’s ventilation system. Can you take Eric out of the Westgate more easily than you can take the Westgate out of him? The fourth-generation German-French hotelier topped his Saturday jeans and shirt with perhaps the only ascot that can be proven to exist in Pacific Beach (for the record, you can buy one at The Ascot Shop in La Jolla).
ON THE COUNTER of a mid-city neighborhood market, a hand-lettered card that read “Boneless Chicken Dinner, 35 Cents” stood next to a basket of hard-boiled eggs . . . So what is Bruce Logue’s merry holiday tune? “I’m Dreaming of a White Truffle,” of course. The chef at Vivace, the gorgeous Italian dining room at Four Seasons Resort Aviara in Carlsbad, claims to have a contact in Italy who airexpresses the choice, aromatic “white diamonds” of the Piedmont region directly from the Alba market. Until the supply vanishes in late December, Logue will use shavings of the $2,000- per-pound tubers to perfume a special $150-per-person ($200 with paired wines) menu that includes hand-cut pappardalle pasta showered with truffles and a creamy, intensely flavored truffle “fonduta” served alongside veal tenderloin with braised escarole . . . Coming soon to a restored Art Deco– style building at Seventh and C downtown, Jade Theatre will offer dining and lounging on three floors, with the Jason Seibert–led Jade Restaurant as its centerpiece. The talented Seibert, who perhaps has a better nose for culinary innovation than choosing locations, will sell or close his pleasant but underpopulated Café Cerise on Sixth Avenue.