The Offal Truth
IF THE MENTION OF BEER AND SAUSAGES makes you think of a crisp autumn afternoon, you just may be from Wisconsin. If it foreshadows tonight’s dinner, you may be headed to North Park, where Jay Porter’s The Linkery thrives in classy new digs on 30th Street at North Park Way. A decade ago, San Diegans might have cold-shouldered the remarkably hearty, frankly meaty menu, but given the roaring revival of 1960s favorites like steakhouses, martinis and (among people young enough to know better) smoking, its popularity is unsurprising. As do several other young restaurateurs, Porter inspires faith in the future by insisting on meats from ethically raised animals and shunning heavily processed commercial products. While prosperity enables many Americans to consume meat primarily as steaks, chops and roasts (true, burgers reign supreme), Porter says he values the entire animal and thus intends to offer offal frequently. This means, wonder of wonders, that we might soon enjoy nightly specials composed of lamb’s kidneys with lamb sausage, or liver, sweetbreads and other abats prized by earlier generations. One dish that’s already been a hit at The Linkery: confit of calve’s tongue served as the “stuffing” for open-face ravioli, cleverly dressed with cherries and a sprinkling of nut-brown butter.
THAT’S A CROQUE, MADAME: Actually, it’s a croque madame, a crusty sandwich of bread, ham, Gruyère, fried egg and sauce Mornay (if you’re lucky) reliably found on café menus in France, where it frequently resembles a hockey puck. Properly prepared——and it’s not the culinary equivalent of rocket sci - ence——a croque madame makes a pleasant lunch. Two new hot spots feature it at brunch. At Dish, the restaurant component of the ambitious Universal complex in Hillcrest, chef Antonio Friscia assembles this specialty with choice Van de Rose ham and offers it on Saturdays and Sundays alongside items like Frangelico French toast (made with ciabatta bread soaked in hazelnut liqueur, shouldn’t it be called Italian toast?) and Belgian waffles buried beneath fruit and whipped cream . . . An exceptional sauce Mornay “reinforced” with extra Gru - yère lushly finishes the croque madame served Sundays only at downtown’s Cowboy Star (reviewed in this issue) . . . Patrick Ponsaty, who counts croque madames among his cultural patrimony, piles crisp frites and salad around his beauty of a sandwich at Bernardo’O, restaurateur Bernard Mougel’s delightful place in Rancho Bernardo.
DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE, double your savings on Wednesday evenings at the endlessly pleasing Vincent’s in downtown Escondido. Two specials intersect on Wednesdays: All bottles from Vincent’s regular wine list are half-price, and the night shares in the Tuesday-Thursday “Trois et Trois” promotion, which features three courses (three options per course) for $30. La vie est bonne . . . Seeing double? Not at Twenty/20, the spacious dining room and terrace at the new Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa. The emphasis on international vineyard cuisine draws primarily on California and lands bordering the Mediterranean. A lazy afternoon on the patio celebrates life under our sensual sun, but Twenty/20’s insistence on calling desserts “tapas”——which they most certainly are not——is either shortsighted or silly . . . The entrance to Mukashi, a new sushi bar and seafood market, is at 2706 Fifth Avenue, across from St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral. If you visit, wander around to the side entrance on Nutmeg Street, where tiny, perfect Japanese gardens flank the door. There are boulders, spotlights and wee, teensy trees trimmed like bonsais——along with a 4-foot-tall obelisk marked both with Japanese characters and the word “Mukashi.”
Side Dish:Bright Candelas
LIKE MOTHS TO THE FLAME, visitors and locals in quest of superlative bayside vistas are drawn to Candelas on the Bay in Coronado’s Ferry Landing. Here, in one of the great tourist meccas of Southern California, Alberto Mestre recently opened a near-copy of his long-running Candelas in the Gaslamp Quarter. The differences include a gorgeous, sweeping view of the bay and downtown San Diego, a patio that’s yards from the water, and hours that extend to daily lunch and Friday- Sunday breakfasts. The morning menu becomes a pumpkin at noon, too early if you crave brunching on walnut waffles crowned with strawberries and bananas or the chilaquiles enriched with shredded chicken and sharp cheese (the tangy tomatillo sauce tossed with the fried tortilla squares surprised a Mexican friend, whose mother used red sauce). A garnish of black beans cooked refritos style is unexpectedly delicious. At night, candles glow by the dozens, creating a soft, romantic mood to complement an imaginative, fairly costly cocina nueva menu that opens nicely with such appetizers as estructura de aguacate, a “construction” of carved avocado and marinated shellfish doused with basil and mango vinaigrettes. Ambition, ambition: A second new restaurant, Mestre’s Steakhouse, will rise on the waterfront a bit to the south, just past Il Fornaio.