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TOP OF THE COVE has been around so long you tend to forget it’s there, but chef Timothy Ralphs keeps this institution up to date with a menu that includes “Lamb Lollipops,” or five-spice–rubbed chops served on Asian-style “chow-chow” relish (a term to relish) . . . Double dipping will be allowed at The Melting Pot, a nationwide franchise that advises “Interactive fondue dining is coming to La Jolla.” Well, actually, Forever Fondue has purveyed tasty pots of molten cheese on Prospect Street for years now. The Melting Pot will take over a University City location in the Golden Triangle’s Aventine that has been a revolving door for eateries.

WAY UP NORTH: The half-a-million-bucks remodel of Pacifica Del Mar (David Robinson did it, and he’s good) stars an 80-foot-long luminaire, or horizontal chandelier, hung above the serpentine bar. Rest an elbow beneath this behemoth on May 24, when chef Chris Idso prepares a five-course dinner to accompany choice wines from d’Arenburg. Buy in for $75 per person, plus tax and tip . . . No remodel up the road at Pacific Coast Grill in Solana Beach, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary. Proprietor Steve Goldberg’s co-ownership of the Muttropolis dog-and-cat boutiques explains the doggy-licious “Canine Cuisine” menu served on PCG’s garden patio . . . All kinds of new stuff in North County, where David Robinson also designed Paradise Grille in Del Mar’s Flower Hill Promenade. Details include a glass-encircled fire-pit dining table on the patio, Point Loma native Justin Hoehn as head honcho in the kitchen and one-time Mille Fleurs manager Conan Adair as coproprietor—with his wife, former Four Seasons Resort Aviara concierge Shana Adair . . . And in ritzy Santaluz (didn’t we call this North City West once upon a time?), Philippe Verpiand, who wielded a mean sauté pan as executive chef at Tapenade, has opened his very own Cavaillon. Named for Verpiand’s hometown, this pretty place offers an equally pretty dinner menu Tuesday through Sunday.

IT’S ACADEMIC: Had Brokeback Mountain taken the Best Picture Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards, would it be even more difficult to snag a primetime table at Jake’s Del Mar? (Missed the flick? Ask someone who saw it.) . . . Evans Hotels promo wizard Steve Pelzer gleefully added gift certificates for stays at The Lodge at Torrey Pines to the “goodie bags” (valued at $65,000+ each) presented to the five Best Actress nominees. So when do we get to see Reese Witherspoon and Charlize Theron forking up cobb salad in The Grille?

GOLD HUNTERS: “I’m crazy,” says Gavin Kaysen—but he’s not. Driven, maybe, ambitious for sure, the 26-year-old chef at El Bizcocho is preparing for the American finals of the top-of-the-heap Bocuse d’Or culinary competition by putting in eight-hour practice sessions on days off. He also comes in early and stays late (waaay late) Wednesdays and Thursdays, making and remaking the halibut and chicken entrées he and the two other finalists will present to judges at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, May 20. The winner will cook for even tougher judges in Lyon, France, next January 27, vying against top chefs from 26 countries. Kaysen’s equally ambitious assistant, 20-year-old Brandon Rogers of Jack’s La Jolla, hopes to be there, too. I’m crossing all my fingers and toes for these bright young guys.

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