Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Foodstuff Miscellany: The Wining and Dining Edition

  • Dog Day Afternoon. If you have a dog and you enjoy wine—and you’d like to enjoy them together with others—you’ve got to go to the monthly Dog Day Afternoon at the Wine Cabana in Old Town. I took my Rhodesian Ridgeback Shayna there last Sunday for the first time to hang out in their Moroccan-style patio. We met our dog park pal Tamara with her labradoodle Annie and some friends of theirs. While the humans indulged in Greg Norman Estate Shiraz from Coonawara, Australia, along with a plate of sliced provolone, salami and mixed olives, Shayna and Annie met some new canine friends, sampled some apparently tasty dog kibble (and a little of the provolone) and relished the attention of other wine/dog aficionados. There’s no set date each month for Dog Day Afternoon so go to their web site and sign up for the weekly newsletter to get a heads up for that and their many other events (Singles’ Night, Chocolate Tuesday, Library Cellar Tasting…). And, if you’re having a hard time locating rare or elusive wines, The Wine Cabana’s newest staff member, Gina Roiban, a licensed wine broker, can give you a hand. You can reach her at gina@roibanwine.com. The Wine Cabana is located at 2539 Congress St. at Twigg St.
  • RA Sushi Honors (fingers crossed) Raw Baseball Talent. RA Sushi Bar Restaurant on Broadway at Fifth in downtown San Diego has introduced a new sushi roll for Padres fans. Called, of course, the Padre Roll, it’s a blend of crab mix and cucumber, wrapped in seaweed with rice, and topped with salmon and avocado with splashes of spicy mayo. It’s a great combo. You should also try the outrageous mango ceviche (lobster, scallop, shrimp and mango salsa nestled in crispy endive leaves). To round it out, the dish has got pieces of avocado, cherry tomatoes and sautéed pine and cashew nuts. Still not enough? The scallop dynamite roll is as delicious as it is messy to eat. You’ve got kanikama, or imitation crab, and cream cheese rolled in rice and seaweed, then dipped in a light tempura batter. All this is then topped with scallop dynamite which is itself topped with eel sauce, red beet and spinach tempura flakes. If you dine at RA May 27 through June 2, you can participate in the restaurant’s third annual Nicky’s Week, a fundraiser that honors Nicky Mailliard, a young friend of the owners, who died in 2005 at age 14 from brain cancer. That week, all proceeds from the sale of Tootsy Maki rolls, edamame, pork gyoza and select beverages will be donated to benefit cancer research at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Nicky’s week ends with a silent auction on June 2 from 5 to 10 p.m. RA is located at 474 Broadway.
  • Coastal Cuisine, Baja Style. Last year, San Diego chef Deborah Schneider published Baja! Cooking on the Edge. I met Schneider at a luncheon at the Lodge at Torrey Pines a couple of weeks ago hosted by Rancho La Puerta to introduce some local media folks to their soon-to-open cooking school La Cocina Que Canta. I immediately bought a copy of the cookbook, which just last weekend received the San Diego Book Award for Best Cookbook in 2006 at the 13th annual San Diego Book Awards. If you love the flavors of Baja and want to learn how to replicate them, this is a great place to start. The book is filled with seductive recipes and equally seductive photos that will make you immediately want to either pack a bag and head south across the border or run to the kitchen and cook. A sampling of her recipes includes Shrimp tacos; Ceviche, Ensenada Style; Lobster, Puerto Nuevo Style; Coconut Calamari with Dried Orange and Sesame; and Chocolate-Jalapeño Truffles. Schneider also explains how to make many of the necessary basics—pico de gallo, tomatillo salsa, fresh tomato rice, frijoles negros (basic black beans with epazotes), flour and corn tortillas, and chicken and beef stocks. Schneider’s enthusiasm for her subject is warming; her approach is thorough and chatty—both a great blueprint and a great read. You’ll learn all about salsas and chiles, the amazing wineries of the Guadalupe Valley and the intricacies of Mexican dulces. This weekend I’m planning on making her Chipotle Grilled Chicken with Avocado Salsa for friends who are coming over for lunch. That is, unless I get seduced by Aguachiles (shrimp marinated in lime juice). Or Cucarachas (garlic shrimp in the shell). Stay tuned.