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The Main Dish - June 2010




The Story:
Native son Carl Schroeder stirred up San Diego's culinary scene when he came back to town in 2001 to carry out Bradley Ogden's new American vision at Arterra in the San Diego Marriott Del Mar. And who doesn't know Terryl Gavre of downtown breakfast fave Cafe 222, even if it has been years since she last donned a waffle as a hat? It was even bigger news when the pair teamed up to create Market Restaurant + Bar, which serves high-end fare to a well-heeled crowd in Del Mar. Bankers Hill is their long-anticipated latest effort, bringing Schroeder's breezy, creative way with seasonal produce to this casual spot offering upscale tavern food, beers and wines at an affordable price.

The Vibe: “Industrial chic” describes the exposed beams, slate walls and metal touches that grace the former Modus space. Details such as tungsten filament bulbs, a deer head over the bar, the wall covered in succulent plants and the chandelier crafted from a tangle of glassware soften the look.

Choice Spot: It's pretty tough to score a seat at the bar, given the choice drinks like an old-fashioned or a bottle of Orval Abbey Belgian Ladera Cab from Napa. The outdoor patio makes a quieter, more intimate place to sit.

Chef’s Favorites: Bacon-studded deviled eggs are clever and good, duck confit is divine, and so are the short ribs. The pork shoulder–stuffed tacos with their crunchy seasoned shells are worth the effort it takes to eat them without making a mess; try the coriander-spiced tomato soup with them. For dessert, it's a tossup between the fresh peach pie (while it lasts) and the butterscotch pudding.

Bankers Hill, 2202 Fourth Avenue, San Diego, 619-231-0222, bankershillsd.com.




Ann-Marie Coulon of Heirloom Gatherings


Lucky enough to grow up in a family filled with five generations of chefs, Ann-Marie Coulon considers her talent for cooking and entertaining to be a treasured family possession. That's the idea behind Heirloom Gatherings, her new culinary service that creates stylish and intimate parties for discerning clients.

When she's entertaining at home, she likes to get much of the preparation done the day before so she can have fun.

"As a hostess, one of the things you always strive for is to be able to sit with your guests," says Coulon, who takes inspiration from her internship at Chez Panisse (1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, 510-548-5525, chezpanisse.com) and working for her aunt at Michele Coulon Dessertier (7556 Fay Avenue, La Jolla, 858-456-5098, dessertier.com).

A pizza party is always a good bet, she says, since everyone loves pizza and it's easy to customize. Coulon goes to Mona Lisa (2061 India Street, Little Italy, 619-234-4893, monalisalittleitaly.com) for cheeses and salumi, which she puts out in little bowls so people can create their own pizzas. She makes the crust with King Arthur flour (“because it always works out well”) and gets organic heirloom vegetables from Chino Farm in Rancho Santa Fe, the farmers’ market or her boyfriend Matt's farm, El Campito in Descanso.

Coulon sets the table with a real cloth, linen napkins, flatware and flowers the night before. The last step is illuminating it with plenty of candles just before guests arrive.

"I think the table should be the brightest part of the room," she says. "Dim the lights and have a lot of candles on the table so people are glued to it."

Guests are often hungry the minute they get there, so Coulon always has a nibble or appetizer ready to go. One of her favorites is olive tapenade, spread on crispy artisan bread. Slice a baguette from Bread & Cie (350 University Avenue, Hillcrest, 619-683-9322, breadandciecatering.com) into quarter-inch-thick rounds and pan-fry them in olive oil over a medium flame so they're golden on both sides. Set rounds on a paper towel to drain. When they're cool, rub one side of each slice with a garlic clove.

For the tapenade, Coulon follows an Alice Waters recipe that mixes 2 cups of green or kalamata olives, 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, 1 sprig savory, 1 anchovy fillet and 1/4 cup olive oil and purées it in a blender (or use mortar and pestle).

For dessert, she serves Callebaut Belgian chocolate mousse, which can be whipped up the night before. "It's the most classic dessert, everyone can make it, and you don't have to worry about burning something," Coulon says. Heirloom Gatherings, 619-519-4079.


New menus, new nights, new restaurants, etc.


  • It seems like we write about a new burger place every month, but we swear there's nothing around like The Counter (1923 Calle Barcelona, Carlsbad, 760-652-5480, thecounterburger.com) in the Carlsbad Forum Shops. They take "Have it your way" to a whole new level with juicy burgers that can be customized by diners in more than  312,000 different combinations. Choose among meats like natural beef or turkey; pick the size, the cheese, toppings, one of 21 sauces, the bun—and of course rare, medium or well-done. Add some sweet-potato fries, a chocolate malt or cocktail and a fun, old-fashioned setting, and you'll get why it's one of the most popular places in North County.
  • San Diego's original tiki temple is the historic Bali Hai (2230 Shelter Island Drive, Point Loma, 619-222-1181, balihairestaurant.com) that dates back to 1953. Now it's got a whole new island-chic look and vibe, thanks to an extensive remodel designed by architect Graham Downes. The room was swathed in marble and natural wood and opened up to showcase the amazing views of the bay and downtown. The updated menu includes classics like the Loco Moco steak and new shishito peppers. One thing that hasn't changed: the out-of-this-world mai tai, laced with two kinds of rum and not a drop of fruit juice.
  • Jeff Thurston, who ran the Prado in Balboa Park for years, has been tapped to be executive chef of the Cosmopolitan Hotel restaurant, set to open later this month in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. The new indoor-outdoor venue is part of the $7 million restoration of the former Casa de Bandini. The hotel will offer 10 rooms steeped in circa-1869 charm, including antique beds and footed bathtubs.

Coriander-Spiced Tomato Soup With Corn Chips, Sour Cream & Pepper Jack Cheese

1 1/2 yellow onions, peeled and sliced
1 pasilla chile, split and seeded
1/2 cup crushed garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 bunch green onions
1/4 bunch cilantro, washed and dried
3 pounds plum tomatoes
3 quarts vegetable stock
1/4 cup ground cumin
1/4 cup ground coriander
1 bay leaf
3/4 tablespoon salt
3/4 tablespoon paprika
3/4 tablespoon ground mustard
3/4 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 tablespoon granulated garlic
3/4 tablespoon granulated onion
tortilla chips, for garnish
sour cream, for garnish
shredded pepper jack cheese, for garnish

Sauté onions, chile and garlic in the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add remaining ingredients (except the garnishes) and simmer one hour; remove from the heat and let cool. Purée the soup and pass it through a fine sieve, making sure consistency is smooth. Garnish with tortilla chips, sour cream and cheese. Makes five to six servings.

From chef Carl Schroeder of Bankers Hill in San Diego


A Look at Our 2010 Best Restaurants Readers' Picks

Best Pizza:

Bronx Pizza
By the slice or by the pie, Bronx Pizza delivers thin-crust New York authenticity — with a side of attitude (check out the FAQ section on the Web site for a cheeky sample). The steady stream of customers attests to these pizzas’ powerful draw. 111 Washington Street, Hillcrest, 619-291-3341, bronxpizza.com

Best French:

Bleu Bohéme
Bringing a delicious French touch to Kensington, Philippe Beltran’s Bleu Bohème offers the charm of a neighborhood bistro and a menu filled with delights such as “Supreme de Poulet Farçi au Chêvre, Sauce aux Champignons Sauvages.” 4090 Adams Avenue, 619-255-4167, ­bleuboheme.com

Best Neighborhood Eatery:

Urban Solace
The promise of “new American comfort food” is faithfully kept at Urban Solace, with clever updates to classics&mdashduckaroni, anyone? — that’ll surely add to your fond food memories. Stop in on Sundays for the bluegrass brunch. 3823 30th Street, North Park, 619-295-6464, ­urbansolace.net

Best Italian:

Bencotto Italian Kitchen
The new kid in Little Italy is in a class by itself. No red-checked tablecloths here; the Milanese owners deliver contemporary, exciting Italian food with house-made ingredients in a swanky setting. 750 West Fir Street, 619-450-4786, ­lovebencotto.com

See all the winners in the June issue of San Diego Magazine.


Beefy Father's Day Cooking Class by Bernard Guillas of The Marine Room
When: Noon on June 19
Where: Macy's Cooking School, 1555 Camino de la Reina, Mission Valley
Why Go: It’s the next-best thing to having a French chef grill your Father's Day steak.
Info: Classes are free; for info call 619-291-1111 or visit macys.com.

Eighth Annual Beer & Sake Festival
When: June 25, 6 to 9 p.m.
Where: San Diego Marriott Del Mar, 11966 El Camino Real, San Diego
Why Go: Sake plus beer plus sushi equals one fun evening.
Info: $60 covers sushi, beer and sake tastings and a live sushi-making contest. Visit japansociety.org or call 858-792-5557.

BBQ Twisted 4th Rubs & Marinade class with chef Stephen Patrick
When: June 30, 5 to 8 p.m.
Where: Twenty/20 Grill & Wine Bar, Sheraton Carlsbad Resort Hotel, 5480 Grand Pacific Drive, Carlsbad.
Why Go: Chef Patrick, a BBQ cookbook author, can make your cookout sizzle.
Info: $15 per person; call 760-827-2500 or visit twenty20grill.com for reservations.




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Maria C. Hunt, newsletter editor, at thebubblygirl@sbcglobal.net.
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