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Main Dish for May

The notes, news, must-taste events and chef conversations of San Diego Magazine's food stalker, Troy Johnson.


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Davanti Enoteca’s Rock Shrimp Salad honors the pea from sprout to pod.
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Food Events

Chef Celebration @ Stone World Bistro & Garden on May 6.

The Chef Celebration dinner events have become a force in helping young chefs learn the trade. An especially good one coming up will be at Stone’s stunning brewery (like a national park swallowed a beer garden). Chefs from Stone, Sea Rocket Bistro, The Lodge at Torrey Pines, La Valencia and Evolve Cuisine will pair their dishes with brews from Stone, Lost Abbey, Port, Ballast Point, Alesmith, Monkey Paw and Beachwood.

Eat.Drink.Read. @ NTC Promenade on May 16.

High-end cuisine, as inspired by the books we bought the Cliff’s Notes for in high school, only to wish we’d read them in the first place. It’s the annual Eat.Drink.Read. event to raise money for children’s literacy. George’s chef Trey Foshee will riff on Paul Bowles’ A Sheltering Sky, Amaya’s Camron Woods takes on The Grapes of Wrath and BICE’s Mario Cassineri gets his whimsy on with Snow White. That’s just the Cliff’s Notes of the chefs at the event—one of San Diego’s best.

Luau @ Iowa Meat Farms on May 19.

Iowa Meat Farms is the place in San Diego to get chef-quality proteins to cook at home. And on May 19 they’re throwing a luau at their Mission Gorge location, with kalua pig (a melt-in-mouth Hawaiian tradition that should be on anyone’s bucket list), Maui ribs, Hawaiian tri-tipo and a bunch of island sauces.

Hot Plates

“Pranzo” @ Vivace.

America’s brunch scene is plagued by “The More” Theory. Offering 655 dishes, none are done exceptionally well and diners are palate-fatigued within minutes. Not “Pranzo.” The new brunch at Park Hyatt Aviara's signature dining room is a study in well-executed minimalism. In the sunlit hall, chefs man three long, wooden stations. One has sashimi-grade salmon, shrimp and Luna oysters from Carlsbad Aquafarms (shucked to order). Another is stocked with salumi (lomo, salami picante, etc.) and artisan cheeses (including a robiola triple crème, plus fresh honeycomb for the blue). At a third, Vivace’s chef de cuisine Jesse Paul makes fresh mozzarella and burrata, drizzled with Sicilian olive oil and salt. The burrata will change your life. After station-surfing, entrees are served family-style (try the Jidori chicken with fruit mostardo). Pranzo brunch runs every Sunday, 11AM-3PM at Park Hyatt Aviara.

Ginger pork @ Wa Dining Okan.

Wa Dining Okan is like eating in a temple. The warm little box on Convoy is filled with Japanese businessmen everyday for lunch for staples like beef tongue, salt mackerel and ginger pork. The pork isn’t tough cuts—it’s belly, super-tender, tossed in a light sauce and served with cabbage. With rice, miso soup, two tapas and pickles for $8.50, it’s one of the lunch set’s best deals.

Foie gras pastrami @ Kitchen 1540.

New chef Scott Dolbee has rolled out his debut menu, and the standout is that foie (which becomes illegal in California come July 1). Hudson Valley foie is rested in a jam of kumquat, Tiroler pork belly and onions. Scooped onto a long cracker, it’s one of the greatest uses of caraway seed in San Diego.

Now Open

With the addition of Brooklyn Girl, Mission Hills now feels like a real-deal food destination with current standouts Lefty’s, Red Door and Wellington. BG is the new project from longtime San Diego restaurant icons, Michael and Victoria McGeath, whose iconic Trattoria Acqua in La Jolla shuttered two years ago. Chef Tyler Thrasher (ex-Oceanaire, Jsix) has created a California-based menu, with Suzie’s Farms produce. It’s a little bit of everything, from oyster sliders to hangar steak with chimichurri and bone marrow to roasted chicken…

In Little Italy, Isola Pizza Bar (1526 India St.) has opened—the sister restaurant of Tucson’s Italian restaurant, Tavolino. Chef Massimo Tenino is serving a large selection of salumi (prosciutto di parma, speck, etc.), pizzas (including one with housemade fennel sausage) with wines and beer…

In La Jolla, Northern California-based pizza chain Amici’s just opened in the spot best known for housing an IHOP (811 Prospect). It’s East Coast-style, brick oven pies…

There's a new food truck in town (hard to believe, I know). Fishmonger John Patnode (ex of City Fish at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, as well as Fishworks in London) is launching Ocean Beach Seafood with his wife, Angie. They’ll serve up fish sliders, cioppino and shellfish….

Coming Soon

Down the street, Vigilluci’s will be replaced by Peri Peri, a South African resto anchored on the spicy Portuguese pepper sauce….

Darden Group (Eddie V’s, Olive Garden), just announced Seasons 52 will go into UTC. The resto is built on chef Clifford Pleau’s menu, where no dish is over 475 calories….

New Faces

Local girl Martita Jara, a self-taught whiz with Mexican food, will compete this year on Food Network Star. The show premieres May 13….

Loews Coronado has hired a new executive chef, Mark Ching, formerly with Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort and personal chef for Dennis Hopper. Master French Chef Patrick Ponsaty will still oversee Mistral…

And Even More Beer

Hillcrest will get its own brewpub soon with Hillcrest Brewing Company (1458 University Ave.) from David White, who cut his teeth at Vista’s Aztec Brewing Co. 

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