Hearth-Roasted Carrots @ Fort Oak
Desperation is the mother of invention. Just before the first dinner service at his new Mission Hills restaurant, chef Brad Wise needed another vegetable dish. He and his cooks walked through their fridges and just started grabbing things. These carrots, that quinoa, Humboldt Fog cheese, pickled fennel, smoky yogurt, some tarragon. The result is one of the best dishes at one of the best restaurants in San Diego. The carrots are charred and crisped on the outside, revealing that warm, soft, sweet interior when bit. The quinoa is toasted for pops of texture, the pickled fennel has the acid, but it’s that smoky yogurt—both dairy and dairy-on-fire, with a campfire note strung though that creamy tang—that makes it all. Oh, and then it’s covered with an obscenely lovely tarp of melted Humboldt Fog (goat cheese in the French manner, both creamy and crumbly).
1011 Fort Stockton Drive, Mission Hills
Frog Legs @ Jeune et Jolie
For next month’s review I go up the coast to charming-as-hell French bistro/café/tiny lovemaking universe Jeune et Jolie, a sister restaurant of the outstanding Campfire. Chef Andrew Bachelier based the menu on his and owner John Resnick’s travels through France, and that’s why we see frog’s legs—that distinctly French (and Chinese) delicacy of the Dombes region. Bachelier’s are an absolute win for everyone involved. He Frenches the legs (exposing the bones and essentially making tiny lollipops of them), flash fries them, tosses them in a sweet chili vinaigrette. The Asian influence continues with a drizzle of fresh lime and a dip that’s an emulsion of fish sauce and tamari (a darker, richer, wheat-free soy sauce). Don’t be afraid. They taste nothing like the pond.
2659 State Street, Carlsbad
Short-Rib Pappardelle @ Cesarina
Final notice: This may be the last time I write about this new fresh-pasta restaurant in the OB/Point Loma portal for a while. If you don’t try it after this, I feel confident I’ve at least tried to tell you. It was only supposed to be a first-look piece about a new arrival, but then after a pretty remarkable first meal, it turned into a rapid review. Anyway, the best thing I’ve had there is the short-rib pappardelle. Short ribs are a cheap cut of meat that requires time and patience to truly get right. Some chefs lose focus during those long braising hours and over-reduce the sauce or dry out the meat. Chef Patrick Money’s short ribs are delicious, reeking of the right aromatic vegetables and tender-moist from the slow cook. The spinach pappardelle is thicker than I’m used to, but it’s al dente and also pretty divine. Top it with Parmesan and fresh parsley and discover why the raves are coming in about this place.
4161 Voltaire Street, OB/Point Loma Portal