It’s a match made in scenester heaven. Brian Malarkey, San Diego’s most visible chef, teamed up with nightlife impresario James Brennan, owner of Stingaree, on possibly the most ambitious project yet for either. This month, these Gaslamp superstars open the doors of Searsucker, their 7,000-square-foot new eatery at Fifth and Market.
Named for the American fabric initially worn by the masses and then embraced by the rich, Searsucker may have something for everyone, judging by an early look. Seafood from the Oceanaire and Top Chef alum, yes, but principally fun, hearty mains such as quail, pork belly and steak, with small bites and more — including exotic Malarkey mischief like tequila caramel popcorn, rabbit-and-rattlesnake sausage and a certain seasoned cut of beef he calls (ahem) "great balls of fire." This menu, dubbed "new American classic," and the project have Malarkey excited after being away from a kitchen for nearly a year.
"It’s good to forget things in order to remember them," he says. "After Top Chef, I got mad about food. Now I’m cooking to have fun and entertain people again." With the open kitchen encircled by a bar, the gregarious chef has the opportunity for showmanship every night.
Add a private dining area upstairs, sofa seating and live music. Later, there’ll be brunch, a walk-up lunch counter and late-night service several days a week. Oh, and local Project Runway contestants Gordana Gelhausen and Jesus Estrada are designing the staff’s attire.
Yeah, Searsucker will be kind of a big deal. But what else would you expect from these two?
— Adam Elder
611 Fifth Avenue, 619-233-SEAR, searsucker.com
Call it the Harvard of higher caffeination: Vista’s new Ivy League Barista Academy teaches aspiring espresso experts how to foam, tamp and brew their way to glory, so far graduating more than 100 students from as far away as Brazil. In three- to six-day classes, students learn everything from coffee slang to the history of tea to how to achieve a perfect soy-milk foam, plus management and marketing techniques for starting their own café or coffee cart.
"First and foremost, what we teach is personality," says founder Stephanie Garden, who started ILBA with her husband, Tim, after they launched Better Buzz Coffee, which now has five locations countywide. "A lot of people don’t just go for the coffee but for the experience of watching the preparation, for the interaction with the barista. If you can put on a bit of a show and do a little latte art, it leaves a better impression in the consumer’s mind."
By teaching refined espresso techniques, ILBA aims to "advance the ma-and-pa coffee industry so it doesn’t seem so ma-and-pa," Garden says. "A lot of people have given up on independent coffee shops because the drink preparation can be really inconsistent, and that can be frustrating. They go to Starbucks even though it may not be the best coffee they’ve ever had, but they know what to expect."
ILBA hopes to give ma-and-pas a competitive edge by combining the intimate vibe of an independent coffee shop with the skilled execution expected from a chain. "People got into a routine with the bigger corporate chains that wasn’t fun anymore," Garden says. "It was a serious thing; you had to have a special way of ordering your drink. Now more people want a fun, comfortable environment where you can order
a medium latte and not be looked at like you don’t know what you’re talking about." — M.K
Coffee Trends Brewing
• French press (even in camping and travel mugs)
• Fair-trade coffee
• Organic coffees and milks
• Tea lattes and other noncoffee alternatives
No Hate-Crime Charges
It’s been more than a year since five black teens were attacked at a birthday party at a house near Jamul. The teens tried to escape by car under a barrage of bottles, stones and metal pipes. While trapped and terrified in the crashed car as an assailant poured alcohol on the vehicle and tried to ignite it, they heard enough angry shouts of the N-word to know why they were being targeted.
Three of them were treated at a hospital for serious injuries, among them the sober designated driver, 18-year-old college student Chris Jones, whose face and eyes were cut when a metal pipe shattered the windshield. He lost consciousness and crashed the car when he was hit in the side of the head with a rock, says his mother, Denise Brown. Friends managed to drag him from the car and get him and the others to a hospital.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis had announced that the April 11, 2009, incident in the rural Deerhorn Valley community, southeast of Jamul, was being investigated as a "possible hate crime." She and the sheriff’s department made a public appeal for witnesses to come forward.
Instead, it took six months to charge two alleged assailants with misdemeanor vandalism under $400, leading the victims and their families to question the district attorney, criticize the investigation by sheriff’s detectives and open the debate once again about when the hate-crimes enhancement should be applied. The district attorney’s office said there was insufficient evidence to prove a hate crime.
A trial date is set for next month. — Kelly Thornton
Del Mar’s Insider
Best seat in the house: The bird’s-eye view from the press-box terrace is awe-inspiring, but any box seat in the clubhouse area (near trainer Bob Baffert’s box at the finish line) is right in front of all the action.
Best time to go: I love Thursdays, because they’re nice and quiet and filled with total degenerates (and I use that word affectionately) who play every day. But Del Mar is all about the social scene, so the free-concert Fridays are a blast.
Best bet: I’m a big fan of the Rolling Daily Double, because you can get a nice return on your $2 investment if you can beat the favorite in one leg, but this year Del Mar is instituting a 50-cent Pick 4 — i.e., pick the winner of four races in a row; multiple combinations are allowed — which gives the average player a chance to make a big score with a small bankroll.
Best racetrack eats: The carved sandwiches on the second floor of the clubhouse.
Best racetrack quaff: The Del Margarita is the signature drink, but nothing beats a bucket of ice-cold Tecates.
Best way to pick a winner: Check out all of the horses in the paddock as they make their way out onto the track. Look for happy horses that are on their toes, have good energy and are focused on doing the business.
Best people-watching: The Turf Club is the place to be seen, but if you don’t want to get all gussied up, hang out near the winner’s circle. You’re bound to see any number of celebrities (including Bo Derek!) presenting trophies to the winners.
Best post-race hangout: To see your favorite jockey or trainer in a social setting after the races, the Brigantine is the place to go. For a great meal in a hip setting, Pacific Coast Grill is the spot. If you want to see what happens when a 115-pound man has too much to drink, check out Jimmy O’s.
Get Frank Scatoni’s video tips and analysis via the Del Mar Insider e-newsletter. Sign up at dmtc.com.
Maybe you’ve noticed: Many of our legendary surf spots have become hopelessly crowded. Standup paddlers — or "sweepers" and "janitors," as they’re often referred to by bitter surfers — are only adding to the congestion.
With its Hawaiian beach-boy roots, standup (or just SUP) has been a boon to the surf industry. According to a report by SurfExpo, companies like Surftech and C4 Waterman (which distributes the long foam boards through Boardworks in Encinitas) have seen a 40 percent increase in sales in the past four years, thanks to standup. Meanwhile, traditional board sales slumped during the last decade. And let’s face it: Standup surfing is fun. Riding a 9- to 12-foot board, 30-35 inches in width, practitioners can see waves farther outside, set up and make the drop in an athletic position on a stable platform, ready to shred with the additional torque of a 7-foot paddle.
Whether you’re on the SUP or surf side of that line drawn in the sand, most can agree that experience level and skill should inform your break of choice. "To surf Black’s or Bird Rock, you’ve got to be an expert; standup paddlers who go out there know what they’re doing," says Bob Long, owner of Bob’s Mission Surf Shop, one of the first shops to sell standup gear in San Diego. "It’s the people who haven’t learned to surf, don’t know etiquette and paddle straight out into the lineup who pose a hazard."
Nothing screams "out of control" like a paddle to the forehead. That’s why regulars at many locales are trying to regulate standup surfing. San Onofre State Park has long relegated paddle-powered craft (including kayaks) to the "Dog Patch" area on the southern end of Old Man’s. Several standup surfers have even been ticketed by state park officials for riding too close to the main break.
In February, a petition began making the rounds in Cardiff to confine standup to certain areas. "Cardiff Reef and Swami’s have been taken over by standup paddlers," says Cardiff resident Ted Rutherford, a custom standup shaper for C4. "There needs to be more self-regulation. It’s on everybody. Standup surfers need to know the etiquette and not hog waves, and surfers need to politely tell standup paddlers they’re in the way."
For beginners, plenty of spots are ideal, says Long — like Mission Bay, Tourmaline Surfing Park, La Jolla Shores or Dog Patch. Or forge your own SUP domain.
"The whole idea behind standup is to light out to new terrain," says Rutherford. "The beauty of having a paddle is that you can get away and surf where nobody else goes." — Joe Carberry
Relighting the Tiki Torch
Hawaiian culture’s back in a big way. Tiki Oasis, the Polynesian kitsch convention, returns in August. Hawaii 5-0 is re-imagined and reappearing on TV in the fall. Heck, even Bali Hai remodeled and retooled its menu. But undoubtedly the most immersive experience is the Catamaran Hotel’s luaus, returning in July for their 10th year.
Hula, torch dancing, mai tais, piña coladas, kalua pork, grilled pineapple, miso-glazed salmon and Hawaiian hospitality all return to the sands of Mission Bay, starting July 20 and every Tuesday through August 17, and every Friday through September 3. Adults pay $58, children $25. For tickets, "book ’em" at sandiegomagazine.com/catamaranluau. — Ryan Smith
Geezer Bandit Fan Club
The Geezer Bandit, who has successfully robbed nine banks countywide so far, even carrying oxygen with him at his latest heist, has struck a nerve. The armed robber, who could be as old as his late 70s, is making national news and has two Facebook fan pages with more than 900 fans registered. It’s not clear who started the pages.
Some fans have posted comments of disapproval, but some are cheering him on with remarks like "Go Geezer Go!" and "How about the FBI leave Geezer alone and spend more time investigating Wall Street!"
And then there’s this one: "Dear Geezer Bandit, Can you rob Chase next and get back some of our taxpayers’ bail-out money? Thank you! PS: As long as people aren’t getting hurt, you have my support."
The FBI isn’t amused.
"Anyone who would praise this person for going out and robbing nine banks, the attention’s misguided," says FBI spokesman Darrell Foxworth. "You have real people and real victims in these bank robberies who have been traumatized as a result of someone pointing a gun at them. It’s a serious crime. That’s not someone who should be idolized in any way." — K.T.
SPOTTED: Actor Benjamin Bratt and his director brother Peter were in town to launch their new film, La Mission, doing Q&A sessions at various local theaters before attending a red-carpet appearance and launch party at the Hard Rock. Afterward, the brothers kept to themselves and ducked into a private cabaña at the Float pool lounge for a meal of roast chicken with mashed potatoes and buttered sweet peas. Rocker Tommy Lee also stopped by the hotel for some R&R, spending an afternoon lounging at the pool and later eating Tijuana-style eggs Benedict and carnitas with three friends at Maryjane’s.
SECOND CITY SHOWDOWN: According to Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, Windy City chef Rick Bayless might be one of the world’s top toques, after beating out names like Michael Chiarello and Oprah’s personal chef, Art Smith, to win last season’s TV cooking contest. During a recent swing through San Diego, Bayless paid a visit to the Gaslamp’s new Quality Social — no doubt intimidating chef Jared Van Camp, an ex-Chicagoan, in the process. Bayless and his wife, Deann, noshed on the house-made charcuterie plate, a Berkshire pork-belly BLT and bacon-wrapped dates with blue cheese and walnuts.
DEFINITELY NOT A PUBLICITY STUNT: Lorenzo Lamas’ daughter Shayne went looking for love — and found it — on a reality-TV show, but the guy on the other side of the aisle at her recent wedding wasn’t Bachelor Matt Grant. It was celebrity blogger Nik Richie, whom she met just a week before they exchanged vows at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, where legendary couples like Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, and Britney Spears and Jason Alexander have said "I do." The newlyweds honeymooned at downtown’s Hard Rock Hotel, where they were spotted heading to the pool for a cocktail after checking in. The lovebirds dined at Nobu and partied at 207, where hotel staff surprised them with a "wedding" cake. The following night, the pair enjoyed a romantic dinner in Coronado.
CITY CAMEOS: Keep an eye out for cameos by America’s Finest City in the following TV shows, which all recently filmed around town: The Food Network’s Chefs vs. City filmed segments at the Midway Museum, Hash House à Go Go, Indigo Grill and the San Diego Zoo, according to the San Diego Film Commission. MTV shot a reality competition at the Wave House in Mission Beach, and America’s Most Wanted with host John Walsh was in town for about two weeks filming at locations throughout the city.
CELEBRITY TWITTER ROUNDUP: On his way into town for the Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour, Conan O’Brien tweeted, "Today my tour takes me to San Diego. San Diego is Spanish for ‘You Can Attend College Classes Without a Shirt.’"...Former America’s Next Top Model winner Adrianne Curry contemplated coming to Comic-Con dressed as "slave Leia," then complained that all the hotels are booked, while comic-book legend Stan Lee tweeted that he might make it to the convention, "if I can hitch a ride."
— Rachel Zenn Sachs
Caitlin Rother, Crime Writer
If you don’t know San Diego true-crime writer Caitlin Rother by name, you may recall the notorious subject of her 2005 book, Poisoned Love: the pretty, young toxicologist, Kristin Rossum, whose meth addiction drove her to sleep with her boss and poison her husband. To give his death the aura of suicide, Rossum sprinkled rose petals around his body.
That book, a bestseller, launched Rother’s career. In five quick years, the former San Diego Union-Tribune reporter and Pulitzer Prize nominee has written "back-to-back-to-back books," which has been exhausting, she says in a break from editing her next grim tale.
The fortyish author, attractively dapper in a black turtleneck and black leather jacket, seems anything but worn. For Rother, the slog of producing a book a year — four nonfiction murder stories and a novel about beauty-school students being killed in Pacific Beach — includes researching, interviewing and writing. And that’s just half of it.
The other half is marketing her talent: writing book trailers, teaching at UCSD, blogging, fielding ideas from potential co-authors, lecturing on crime writing. A shy journalist who used to freeze talking to a handful of colleagues in the newsroom, Rother’s thrilled that TV producers use her as a "crime expert," notably on Fox’s Greta van Susteren and E! Entertainment’s Women Who Kill.
She says with a sigh that her next book, Dead Reckoning, five years in the making, has meant attending three trials and making dozens of courthouse trips, not to mention the many kitchen-table interviews. It’s not easy, she says, being paid by the book and not by the hour. Exhilarated yet vexed by her success (total books sold: 185,000 copies), Rother wonders how she might continue to write books but not write them so fast — and also have a life. Two years ago, she took five months off but, unable to sit still, began selling "painted fiberglass art cows" for extra income.
Rother tackles heinous crimes. Dead Reckoning tells of an Orange County couple who, while alive, were tied to an anchor and thrown off their yacht by a man she describes as "a charming, manipulative conman and wanna-be hermaphrodite."
She’s had to learn to detach from the subject matter. Though she says she’s not haunted by the brutal murders, she had a hard time with Body Parts, the saga of a serial killer with a fetish for cutting off and pocketing women’s breasts. It helps to concentrate on the characters’ psychology, she says, which leavens the blend of sex and violence.
Rother attends to both criminal and victim. "Most readers of crime stories are interested in the criminal," she says. "But I want to pay tribute to the victim as much as I can. I choose stories with the most sympathetic victims." To get their back story, Rother trolls through court records and inveigles reluctant family and friends.
One fascinating aspect of her books is the nature-nurture question. "It’s what the defense does," she says, detailing in her books how horrific a killer’s parents can be. The defense often asks the jury to spare the murderer’s life because his family made him a monster.
"I always ask [prosecutors] whether a murderer is born or made. They always say, ‘These people have a choice.’ " But according to Rother, neither side really cares what the truth is; they want
a winning argument. It’s a disarming yet wise statement, indicative of her toughness and impartiality. Indeed, after immersing herself in the fresh hell of killers, she says she now believes the question of culpability "has no answer." — Thomas Larson
Pick the Bucket
"Save water — shower with a friend." The longstanding conservation joke has a new twist, thanks to San Diegan Kathy Miller’s realization one morning as she waited for her shower water to warm. Instead of letting all that precious wetness go down the drain, the moisture-minded among us can plunk a Buxx (or two) into the shower, collect water that would otherwise be wasted, and put it to myriad uses, such as drenching thirsty plants. Miller and Yvonne Mellon brainstormed to create the eco-friendly sleek containers and the company behind them, Pour It Forward, which donates 5 percent of every Buxx purchase to worldwide well-building charities. Soak up more info at pouritforward.org. — Phyllis DeBlanche