The Main Dish for September
09/14: Local Habit Brewer Dinner
Chef Nick Brune of Hillcrest’s new farm-to-table eatery, Local Habit, is planning a five-course beer dinner featuring Vista’s Iron Fist Brewing Co. Brandon Sieminski, the 22-year-old Head Brewer will be on hand to guide diners through the pairings, which include Iron Fist’s Hired Hand Saison with beets and goat cheddar from Spring Hill Cheese Company and their Spice of Life Ale with duck breast confit. Two of the brewery’s newest beers, The Gauntlet, an Imperial IPA and the vanilla bean-infused Velvet Glove Stout will be on cask, the latter poured for dessert alongside a cheesecake with glazed carrots and chocolate. Tickets are $50 each. More Info
09/18-09/23: San Diego Restaurant Week
Over 180 restaurants are participating Restaurant Week, and this time around, some are also offering two-course prix-fixe lunches that start at just $10 in addition to three-course dinner menus for $20, $30 or $40. Take advantage of Restaurant Week prices to check out a new-to-you restaurant or revisit a familiar favorite, from 1500 OCEAN at the Hotel del Coronado to downtown’s Jsix and Cafe Chloe or NINE-TEN and Tapenade in La Jolla. Cavaillon Restaurant in Santaluz’s new chef-owner, Michael von Euw, is cooking up a French-inspired menu for $30 that includes a goat cheese salad, braised lamb shank and pineapple tarte tatin. More Info
10/6: Seventh Annual Chef Showdown
Sam Zien, a.k.a “Sam the Cooking Guy” and Chef Brian Malarkey will host the 2011 Chef Showdown at the NTC Promenade in Point Loma’s Liberty Station. The yearly event, a fundraiser for the Center for Community Solutions, will feature two teams of local chefs competing in an Iron Chef-style cook-off before a panel of judges, including Bernard Guillas, executive chef of the Marine Room and Ingrid Croce of Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar. Chef competitors include Paul McCabe of KITCHEN 1540, Chad White from Sea Rocket Bistro and Amy Dibiase, who just joined The Shores in La Jolla as their chef de cuisine, and guests will be able to sample their cooking, as well as tastes from Burlap, Grant Grill, Starlite, Kensington Grill, Ave 5 and more. More Info
Appetizer: Calamari Fritto at The Fishery
It’s much easier to find a bad rendition of fried calamari than a good version, but The Fishery in Pacific Beach is one place that almost always gets it right. Large sections of squid are coated in a light-as-can-be batter and fried until barely golden. The kitchen seems to avoid the usual pitfalls by cooking the pieces just enough to crisp them on the outside while keeping the seafood tender and supple and serving them simply, with a dipping sauce of freshly made, basil-kissed marinara.
Main Dish: Rogan Josh at Punjabi Tandoor
This take-out joint in the Miramar area isn’t much to look at but the food is darn divine. Curry-wise, the chicken tikka masala might be the popular, but I like the Rogan Josh, a lamb curry cooked down with ginger, garlic, herbs, classic Indian spices and yogurt until creamy and thick. The dish isn’t overwhelmingly spicy, but it has a heat level that’ll make you sit up and take notice. Tame the fire with cucumber and yogurt raita, Basmati rice or soft, chewy naan bread, fresh from the tandoor oven.
Drink: San Salvador Saison at Ballast Point Brewing Company Linda Vista
Inspired by local indigenous ingredients, Ballast Point Specialty Brewer Colby Chandler brews this seasonal Belgian-style ale every year using hand selected and harvested foodstuff from around the county, from wild flower honey to Manzanita berries, white sage and a touch of Ramona-grown hops from Star B Hop Farm. The malty, slightly sweet beer tastes of spice, fruit and summer; drink it while it lasts, either at the brewery’s tasting room in Home Brew Mart or at The Linkery starting Wednesday, September 7.
Dessert: Bananas Foster Cake at Eddie V’s
The food at the new ocean-view La Jolla location of this upscale chain is pretty standard steak-and-seafood fare but their signature dessert, a gooey-centered butter cake topped with caramelized bananas, is a welcome addition to the eating scene. The moist cake, a cross between banana bread and cheesecake, is flambe’d tableside with a brown butter, brown sugar and rum sauce and if that didn’t sound rich enough, it’s served with butter pecan ice cream. All in all, a delicious way to segue into fall.
Q&A with Karen Krasne, owner of Extraordinary Desserts
Candice Woo: Congratulations on the release of your first cookbook. Does it include all the recipes for Extraordinary Desserts’ most popular cakes as well as some of your pastries?
Karen Krasne: Thank you. It has been a labor of love that took over two years to write, test, re-write, plan photo shoots, photograph, edit, re-write. And they say that writing the book is the easiest part. In all, the book contains 32 recipes for cakes only. Several were especially created for the book and are now available in our restaurants. For example, Dame Chocolate, a flourless chocolate cake with velvety chocolate mousse, and it has become a favorite already. On a lighter note, I created Beau Soleil, which is a vanilla cake layered with mascarpone cheese and caramelized peaches. However, most of the cakes in the book are all-time favorites.
CW: I’m a big fan of your ice cream, is there a recipe in the book? If not, would you share one?
KK: We love making unique ice creams, sorbets, and frozen yogurts. It is another area in the dessert category that I continually take seminars in Paris to learn the latest trends. Plus, it’s a great excuse to go shopping. I have three recipes that I can pass along to you.
CW: How do develop the ideas and flavors for your recipes? And is there a cake that’s particular favorite of yours to make or one that has a great inception story?
KK: Most of my ideas for new desserts in general come from traveling and eating great food around the world. I get inspired by seeing other chef’s ideas and reading menus with simple and unique flavor combinations. One of the recipes in the book is a vanilla cupcake with fresh strawberries in the batter and the frosting is a swirl of cream cheese and raspberry jam. This petit cake is special to me because I created it for my daughter, Sahara, who loves everything pink. It is now popular for wedding receptions and showers.
CW: Do you have any changes in store for your Hillcrest or Little Italy cafes? Might you consider opening another location?
KK: I am changing the look and feel a little with the Hillcrest store, which should be ready the first week of November. I think it is really going to sparkle. We are perfecting the flow of traffic in our Little Italy store to accommodate the overwhelming number of guests we have during the evening. This will include a reception desk and an easier way for guests to take items to go. We are also adding in three taps of beer featuring San Diego based brewers. Beginning in the fall, we will be adding ten new menu items that pair perfectly with our beer selections. These include: Gorgonzola Panini with roasted walnut pesto; the Charcuterie platter with salamis, Serrano ham, caramelized onions, and organic bread and butter pickles; and roasted caramelized eggplant dip served with artisanal crackers. As far as opening another location, the launch of the book has become my third business.