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Best Things I Ate This Month: July 2016

Chicken and Dumplings at Mess Hall, Beef Tallow at your house, and Abalone Tostada at Manzanilla


Chicken and Dumplings @ Mess Hall

Mess Hall is the signature restaurant of the months-old Liberty Public Market, loosely modeled after artisanal vendor markets like Pike Place (Seattle) and The Ferry Building (San Francisco). Spearheaded by talented exec chef Tim Kolanko (vet of A.R. Valentien) and ex-Brooklyn Girl chef de cuisine Colin Murray, they pull what’s fresh from the market (seafood, mostly) and create menus around it. The menu is ambitiously refreshed every week or so. To have success here, try the “Grains & Greens” salad for lunch. But for dinner, it’s definitely the chicken and dumplings that stands out, made with mushroom tea broth, perfectly crisp skin, and pesto.

2820 Historic Decatur Rd., Liberty Station, Point Loma, 619.255.8360


Beef Tallow @ Home

No, this one is not a restaurant, but a tool to make the most delicious potatoes at home using a good, relatively new product you can find in good grocers (Sprouts, etc.). Austin-based EPIC foods has a pretty powerful idea to get behind, one that ethical food people have championed for years: Use the whole animal, not just the sexy parts! To that end, they’ve taken the beef tallow, pork lard, and duck fat from ethically raised animals (hormone and antibiotic free, fed natural meals, etc.) and jarred them for home use. I tried all three using a very simple roasted potato recipe (toss a tablespoon or two in a bowl, toss with quartered fingerling potatoes, salt, pepper, and thyme). I expected duck fat to win the taste test by a mile. But nope… it was beef tallow that was pretty mindblowing on spuds. Guess there was a reason why McDonald's used to deep-fry their legendary potato sticks in beef lard (until vegetarians revolted at the idea). Give it a try.


Abalone Tostada @ Manzanilla

A few weeks ago, I took a trip through Baja in search of the best tostadas. We landed at the famed fishing village, Popotla, for ultra-fresh seafood tostadas. We stopped at Mercado Hidalgo in Tijuana, for a tostada at La Oaxaqueña. But the best tostada we had was at one of the best restaurants in Baja—Manzanilla, perched right next to the port. Their abalone tostada, with chipotle crema, cilantro, and avocado, was excellent, thanks to a baked tortilla that kept its firmness without breaking apart. This restaurant is a must-visit on any Baja trip.

Blvd. Teniente Azueta 139, Recinto Portuario, 22800 Ensenada, manzanilla.com

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