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The Main Dish - February 2011


Photo by Eric Wolfinger - The Fishery

February's Meals

The Snack
Masala Dosa at Surati Farsan Mart
It’s fun to make a meal from the dizzying array of Indian snacks, both savory and sweet, and other small dishes at this casual eatery in Miramar Road’s Little India Center. Most of these all-vegetarian items are worth a taste, especially the masala dosa, a crisp cylindrical crepe made from a light batter of rice and lentils that’s wrapped around a mildly spicy filling of onions and potatoes flavored with mustard seeds, tumeric and chili pepper. It’s served with bowl of sambar, a vegetable stew, and a thin cilantro-coconut chutney. If you like things even hotter, try the Mysore Masala Dosa, a triangular-shaped version with the extra addition of garlic-red chili chutney. - More Details »

The Appetizer
Steamed Mussels at The Fishery
Fish doesn’t come much fresher than at The Fishery, which boasts an in-house seafood market supplied by Pacific Shellfish, a local seafood wholesale company that’s also run by the restaurant’s owners. The Fishery’s chef, Paul Arias, does wonders with the starter of steamed farm-raised mussels in a bold sauce flavored with sweet fennel and a garlic and paprika-spiced Portuguese sausage called linguica and enriched with the creamy heat of roasted jalapeno butter. The bivalves come with a side of grilled bread for dipping, of which you’ll undoubtedly order more. - More Details »

The Main Course
Burger at Starlite
There’s a lot to like at Starlite, from their well-crafted cocktails to Chef Marguerite Grifka’s locally-sourced, seasonal menu. Their happy hour is better than most and the $20, three-course dinner, available every Tuesday, is a tasty deal. My most frequent order, besides their ice cream sandwich made with homemade cookies, is the signature Starlite Burger, a juicy Brandt Beef patty topped with melted Gruyere and caramelized onions and perched on a buttery brioche bun. Adding to the satisfaction are handmade pickles and house-cut French fries - More Details »

The Dessert
Butterscotch Pudding at Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria
There’s only one dessert offered at Chef Wade Hageman’s cozy wood oven pizzeria in Encinitas, but it’s a doozy. Served in a mini jelly jar, the rich pudding is a riff on the butterscotch budino made famous by Los Angeles’ Pizzeria Mozza. Here, the dreamy, smooth pudding gets infused with dark rum and topped with a vanilla-sea salt caramel sauce, softly whipped cream and an extra sprinkling of crunchy salt crystals. Taste it and then see if you can duplicated the sweet fix at home, since Blue Ribbon has kindly posted the recipe on their website at - blueribbonpizzeria.com

Main Dish Q+A


Candice Woo: What changes, both positive and negative, have you seen in San Diego’s food culture since you opened your first restaurant, Kensington Grill, in 1995?

Tracy Borkum: Since Ken Grill opened in 1995, San Diego has taken massive steps forward in our mission to stand out as a city not only known for sunshine and sunsets, but also creative and talented chef driven restaurants. What is most impressive is the extent to which pockets of known, and not so well known, neighborhoods are becoming breeding grounds for some of the best food in town. North Park, Golden Hill, Banker’s Hill and even Ocean Beach are great examples of this.

CW: Your decision to re-concept Laurel Restaurant has turned the space into a hit. What sparked the restaurant’s transformation to Cucina Urbana and what aspects of the new concept do you think were the keys to its success?

TB: Prior to our transformation we noticed a change in the way our guests were dining. They weren’t eating out less often, just watching their wallets more. In our discussions of menu development for CUCINA we knew two things – 1. We had to offer value. 2. We were not going to jeopardize quality for price.

The idea of providing a quality product at a reasonable price is being embraced everywhere today, as more and more establishments are following suit. We recently made similar changes at Kensington Grill and have noticed a very positive upward trend in sales and number of diners.

CW: You overhauled the entire design of the restaurant and its menu in about a month.  How did you transition it so quickly?

TB: With an amazing contractor (Hawkins Construction) and a brilliant team of coworkers and friends willing to light the midnight oil! 

Once we made the decision to transform Laurel into CUCINA in early 2009, Chef Joe Magnanelli was super excited about the new menu direction and worked diligently on dishes throughout the spring.  As far as the concept and design went – it had been in my head for a few years at that point so I was definitely ready to put paint to canvas!

CW: You also run a catering business, Urban Kitchen Group. Is it difficult to manage that and both of your brick and mortar restaurants?

TB: I'm super lucky to work with an amazing team of managers who have my back – always! I try to touch every aspect of my businesses, but have also learnt when to step aside and allow others to take the lead.

CW: Have you noticed the number of local female restaurateurs increase since you started? Are there specific challenges?

TB: I’m not sure there are more of us, but I do believe our collective voice is the strongest it has been. I’m honored to be surrounded by so many beautiful, bright women in our local industry. Collectively, we are a true force of achievement – filling local board seats, supporting important charities, lobbying for critical political causes and running some of the best establishments in town!

I never consider my gender a handicap. Rather, I actually believe being a woman in business can often work to your advantage!

CW: Do you think there are any untapped neighborhoods or not yet overdone concepts that would be a good fit for new restaurants opening in San Diego?

TB: We live in San Diego and should have a plethora of choices to dine al fresco. There are far too few options for outdoor dining, especially along our glorious beaches! Not sure one could consider the pacific coast a "neighborhood", but my lord, wouldn't it be great to enjoy a beautiful plate of fresh fish while wiggling your toes in the golden sand?

CW: Can you share anything about possible new projects in development?

TB: We’re super excited to be venturing into the Orange County market with 'CUCINA enoteca', opening this fall at the Irvine Spectrum. Additionally, we’re still in search of the perfect north county CUCINA location, and working on a new concept that we hope to introduce in mid-2012.


Taste of Arterra
Arterra Restaurant at the Marriott Del Mar is unveiling their newly made-over dining room and debuting their new Executive Chef, Tony Miller, at Taste of Arterra, a grand re-opening event on Thursday, February 17 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. Stations will be set up throughout the restaurant and outside on the pool patio, serving everything from sushi to curried corn soup, crispy duck tacos and lobster mac and cheese. More Details »

Sunday Night Chef Fights
Local chefs go head to head in a live culinary showdown and you get to judge the winner! On Sunday, February 27 at 6 p.m., taste the results of a bout between Chef Hanis Cavin of Kensington Grill and Chef Georgie Moulios of Cin Cin Simply. Each chef has 30 minutes each to prepare dishes based on a random draw of ingredients, including a surprise mystery ingredient. The audience gets to taste and score the results and the winner has the opportunity to return and face a new challenger for the title.
More Details »

Family Winemakers of California
On Sunday, March 13 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., over 200 family-owned California wineries return to the Del Mar Fairgrounds for Tasting 2011. Meet and talk with the winemakers and winery-owners themselves and sample over 1,000 different varietals and blends from the state’s best wine regions. Many wineries will be pouring new releases and offering special prices on the shipping and purchase of wine.
More Details »

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