What’s hot. What’s not. Who’s in. Who’s out
By Patricia Walsh
YOU CAN ALWAYS GO DOWNTOWN: With the new Petco Park in full swing, San Diego could adopt “Downtown”—Petula Clark’s 1964 Grammy-winning ditty—as its theme song. The lights are much brighter. And there are more restaurants opening every day—and staying open longer. Mr. Tiki Mai Tai Lounge, a dining-meets-entertainment concept from the Cohn Restaurant Group, is set to open in the Fio’s location. Galileo 101, the cushy restaurant on the first floor of the Harbor Club, is now open for lunch. McCormick & Schmidt at the new Omni Hotel offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. And San Diego, not known for its selection of nan and chicken tikka masala, boasts at least two worthy Indian restaurants with the opening of Monsoon on Fourth Avenue across from Horton Plaza. The sister restaurant to Bombay in Hillcrest, Monsoon beckons with its alluring décor and flavorful fare. Proprietors Ashley and Rakesh Popat and executive chef Padhu Krishnam have teamed up to bring San Diego some fine cuisine. For neophytes, the lunch buffet offers an easy entry into a world of delicious possibilities.
BUY ME SOME PEANUTS and Cracker Jack: Whew, it’s $3.50 for the box-with-a-surprise at Petco Park. But why have a packaged snack when you can graze through nosh with worldwide influences? Here’s the restaurant lineup: two public restaurants, four concession concepts throughout the park, six private clubs and lounges, 12 private-party suites and numerous beer and ice cream stops. If you don’t have tickets to get you into one of the private clubs, like the Sony Dugout with its own sushi bar and wine locker room, you won’t go hungry. And you can enjoy your food with sweeping views of San Diego and the bay. Delaware North, the concessionaire who was awarded the contract to Bazaar del Mundo in Old Town by the California State Parks, serves up a menu for every palate.
WOULD YOU LIKE WINE WITH THAT? When Ed Moore of Thee Bungalow and Third Corner started his wine club in 2000, he had 50 followers. Today, more than 1,500 afficionados are members of his cyber-connected club. In his daily business of supplying wines for two restaurants, Moore comes across some great grapes at affordable prices. Club members sign up on his Web site, www.theebungalow.com, and get an e-mail from Moore alerting them of deals, then pick up their orders (by the case, which can be six to 12 bottles) at his Ocean Beach restaurant. Moore has been tasting and enjoying wine for more than 30 years and samples about 30 to 50 wines a week. “It’s a tough job,” he says. “But someone has to do it.”
Cheese, please: Mission Hills continues to grow its independently owned culinary offerings with the opening of Venissimo Cheese on Washington. The boutique shop is next to the newly opened City Wok and across the street from Parallel 33, which is expanding with its Blue Lotus Room. Venissimo sells nearly 100 varieties of imported and domestic artisan cheeses, many on an exclusive basis.
“All great cities have great cheese shops, so I felt it was about time America’s Finest City had a place,” says president Gina Freize. The American Cheese Society’s 2003 competition featured 612 cheeses in 70 categories. Venissimo stocks many of the American Cheese Society winners, as well as world-champion varieties.
Most cheeses in stock can be sampled, and every cheese is labeled with the name, phonetic pronunciation, country of origin, description, complimentary foods and symbol for the type of milk used (primarily cow, goat or sheep).
“Cheese can be intimidating,” Freize says. “But our goal is to take away the intimidation factor and add the fun of exploration. Who knows? Maybe someday fromage d’Venissimo will be as recognizable as the caramel macchiato.
Patricia Walsh can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.