Our wonderful guests this week were Nathan Coulon, executive chef of Quarter Kitchen, and Christopher Idso, executive chef at Pacifica Del Mar and the Chef's Chair for this year's Taste of the Nation San Diego event.
We had a great conversation with both chefs, getting an in-depth look at their restaurants and their unique cooking styles. And, we talked about Taste of the Nation, which takes place this Sunday in Balboa Park from 3 to 6 p.m. More than 20 fabulous restaurants are participating in this annual event that raises money to end childhood hunger in America. The local charities that will benefit from this year's event include the San Diego Hunger Coalition, Los Ninos, California Association of Food Banks and California Food Policy Advocates.
Tickets for Taste of the Nation San Diego are $75 for general admission but you can get a discount by buying them online at tasteofthenation.org and using the code on the page.
In the meantime, enjoy the show!
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Our wonderful guests this week were Nathan Coulon, executive chef of Quarter Kitchen, and Christopher Idso, executive chef at Pacifica Del Mar and the Chef's Chair for this year's Taste of the Nation San Diego event.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Executive chef Katie Grebow joined Robert Whitley, Maureen Clancy and me this morning on San Diego Gourmet. Cafe Chloe, the popular French-style wine bistro located downtown on 9th Ave. at G St., is one of those rare restaurants that is not only fabulously good, but consistently good. I'm especially fond of the mussels, her crab cake made with Dungeness crab and, oh, those frites with three sauces!
We chatted about how she honed her cooking skills, her participation in the upcoming June Cooks Confab (she's handling the tongue part of a "tongue-and-cheek" dish collaboration with A. R. Valentien's TK Kolanko), the restaurant’s emphasis on sustainability and her passion for cheese. And, we touched on her soux chef’s spring obsession with offal appetizers.Tune in at signonradio.com to listen to the podcast or just listen below:
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
The experts say that you shouldn't go to the market when you're hungry and it's true. All sorts of caloric and financial havoc happens when your stomach is grumbling as you stroll down the aisles.
Fortunately, there are a number of markets in town that also have great little eateries attached to them. So, if you plan it right, you can grab a meal first, get that rumbling tummy sated and then grab a cart and pick up your groceries.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Balboa International Market at 5907 Balboa Ave. in Clairemont. I've raved about the lamb shank and rice with fava beans but they also have great stews and kabobs that come with a full helping of rice and salad. You can also pick up containers of tabouleh or other salads and a chunk of one of their many feta cheeses. And, of course, freshly made flat bread.
- Parsian International Market, another Middle Eastern market, in at 4020 Convoy in Kearny Mesa. They have delicious wraps and kabobs as well as Greek salads, soups and, well, just a tremendous selection of traditional Middle Eastern fare. Eat indoors or on their breezy patio on Convoy.
- Mitsuwa at 4240 Kearny Mesa Road in Kearny Mesa. I never know whether to indulge in their delicious steaming bowls of ramen (no, the real deal, not Top Ramen) or some udon. Or perhaps sushi, freshly made in the store. Mitsuwa's food court always seems packed with ravenous people.
- Northgate Gonzalez at 1410 S. 43rd St. in Southcrest. Hmmm. Butterflied roast chicken? Carnitas? Or perhaps a container of one of their amazing ceviches? The very long aisle of prepared foods invites happy confusion so bring some friends and order a bunch of dishes to try at one of the tables nearby.
- Foodland Mercado at 1099 E. Main St. in El Cajon. I love the sopes in their taqueria--it's a thick, tart-like tortilla filled with beans and carne asada or chicken, then topped with crema, cheese and salsa. They also have a wonderful grilled whole chicken, tacos, tortas and burritos.
- Mercado 2000 International at 1415 3rd Ave., in Chula Vista. This place was a happenstance discovery I made with my friend chef Deborah Schneider while we were hunting for someplace else. But we were rewarded by our curiosity. Around the corner of the store in the parking lot, they have a little taco shop. Truly, it's nothing to look at but the food is delicious: tacos, tortas, tamales. I had what's called a mulita, basically a thick tortilla sandwich with grilled chicken, cilantro, scallions, avocado and cheese. Plus a taco made with lingua (tongue).
- Lucky Seafood on 9326 Mira Mesa Blvd. in Mira Mesa. I had my first banh mi sandwich here and it set me off on a course of true love. It's a warm, crispy French baguette encasing a little pate, pork or other meat, jalapeno pepper slices, sprigs of cilantro and shredded carrots. It's a wonderful mouth experience. And that's just at the express counter. Attached to the shop is a little restaurant where you can get the most amazing pho. Large, steaming bowls of soup filled with different meats and accompanied by herbal condiments make for a hearty meal.
And what about the farmers markets? My choices for dining and then shopping are the Hillcrest, Little Italy and La Jolla markets. At the Hillcrest market, try the trio of tacos for $5. Or the empanadas.
And get a cup of coffee with coconut-flavored whipped cream from my friend David at the orange truck that is Joe's on the Nose (he's also at the Little Italy Mercato on Saturdays). At the La Jolla market are crepes and kabobs, waffles and a full complement of Mexican food. In Little Italy and Hillcrest, the terrific Rey Knight of Knight Salumi is now grilling sausages and making sandwiches.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
It's been a busy week behind the mike:
Yesterday, we (SDNN.com) had a dry run with sdnn.com radio. Radio veteran Joe Bauer and sdnn.com CEO Neil Senturia are hosting this morning drive show on AM 1700 and they invited me to chat about, well, foodstuff, of course. Once it launches for real on April 27 from 6 to 9 a.m., I'll let you know when I'm on.
Later in the morning I was on KPBS radio's These Days with Maria Hunt. We had a wonderful hour with host Maureen Cavanaugh. You can listen here.
And, today, being Wednesday, I did my weekly show, San Diego Gourmet, with Robert Whitley. Our guests were Andrew Spurgin of Waters Fine Catering and Christian Graves of Jsix. Our topic? The Cooks Confab the two chefs are engaged in with about a dozen friends. You can listen right here:
To learn more about Cooks Confab, go to the website. The next event is at Nine-Ten at the Grande Colonial in La Jolla on Sunday, June 7 from 3 to 6 p.m. The theme is beef and here's the line-up so far:
• Hors d'oeuvre – Nathan Coulon – Quarter Kitchen
• Beef Tartare – Paul McCabe – Kitchen 1540
• Oxtail Ravioli – Antonio Friscia – Stingaree
• Beef Cheeks – TK Kolanko – A. R. Valentien
• Hanger Steak – Andrew Spurgin/Donald Coffman – Waters Fine Catering
• Artisanal American Farmhouse Cheeses – Brian Sinnott – 1500 Ocean
• Sweetbreads Dessert – Christian Graves – Jsix
Amy DiBiase — Roseville
Olivier Bioteau — The Farmhouse Café
Katie Grebow — Cafe Chloe
Monday, April 13, 2009
I'll be appearing on KPBS radio's These Days Tuesday morning, April 14, at 10 a.m. with Maria Hunt to talk about ways to get the most bang for the buck on food. Of course, while this entails a healthy dose of frugality, it doesn't mean there isn't room to splurge. It's just a matter of knowing how to make the best decisions based on your eating habits, your budget and your health concerns. Sometimes a little splurging is actually good for you and not reckless, especially if you're balancing it with cost-savings in other places.
Some of these ideas are really obvious but things we tend to forget or let slide, so I've included them here. And, if you have suggestions of your own, let's hear them with a comment below! Share your knowledge so we can all benefit!
Where to Splurge:
- Buy good cuts of meat, only in smaller portions. I like to go to Whole Foods or Bristol Farms and buy a small piece of Wagyu skirt steak to grill. It doesn’t cost much but it’s delicious.When it comes to pork, I enjoy the flavors of Berkshire pork, which you can find at Iowa Meat Farms and Siesels.
- Good quality olive oil for finishing. When heat is involved – sautéing, frying, etc., less expensive vegetable oil is okay but use good quality olive oil for the flavor. Also try avocado for flavor finishes, too. Local producer Bella Vado's avocado oils can be found at local farmers markets and Whole Foods and we have a wonderful local olive oil producer in Temecula Olive Oil Company. Remember to store oil in dark, cool place to keep quality, but don’t hoard it since it will go rancid or just lose the intensity of its flavor.
- Buy roasted chickens and use them to help you make other meals faster – like tacos or soup.
- Buy organic produce, but if you have to prioritize, go with produce without a thick peel you don't eat – lettuce, berries, etc. as opposed to avocados.
- Buy vanilla beans, but only to use when the vanilla flavor is the star in the dessert. Store the beans in vanilla extract to impart more flavor to the extract, or store the beans in a bowl of sugar.
- Buy small pieces of good cheese. Buy a chunk of parmesan or cheddar or mozarella, not pre-grated. If you have a food processor you can easily grate the cheese if you need large quantities.
- Invest in good basic kitchen tools: knives, graters, peelers, salad spinners. It makes cooking much easier and may encourage you to do more if you’re not fighting your ingredients. And take care of them. Make sure your knives are well sharpened. Take your knives to Henry’s, for example, for sharpening
Where to Budget:
- Buy whole chickens instead of parts and cut them up yourself. Double wrap and store pieces in freezer. Be sure to mark the package with what the item is and the date so you can use it before it gets freezer burn. Also, dark meat is less expensive and has more flavor. Save parts like the back, wings, drumsticks and use them to make stock.
- Don’t buy skinless, boneless chicken packages. If you're not going to buy a whole chicken, it is cheaper to buy the whole parts and remove the skin and bones yourself. If you see bulk packages of chicken parts, buy them and divide into meal-sized portions and freeze. I buy bulk packages of chicken legs to use for stock.
- Buy cheaper cuts of meat, like lamb shoulder instead of loin for chops, pork butt – basically cuts in which you’re talking about muscle. The meat will be tougher but you can do a nice slow cook or braise to make the meat more tender and flavorful. These cheap cuts are the best for stews and soups as well. And don't buy pre-cut "stewing meat." But the whole piece and cut it yourself so that you have pieces that are the same size and will cook evenly.
- Eliminate meat from your diet two or three times a week and instead make dishes with beans, rice, lentils and other grains or legumes. Experiment with quinoa, couscous, farro, wheat berries, polenta and other grains. Try using whole wheat pasta (Barilla's is pretty good). Use meat to flavor dishes, not as the centerpiece of the meal.
- Don’t buy pre-packaged produce. Peel your own carrots, wash and chop your own lettuce. The only exception may be spinach, which is a real pain to clean.
- Buy bags of popcorn kernels instead of packaged flavored popcorn and pop it yourself.
- Buy produce that’s in season but have a plan for it (i.e., menus) so it doesn’t spoil. Also think of ways to use the whole fruit or vegetable. Beet tops, parsnip tops and other root vegetable greens are delicious steamed or sautéed. They can also be used to make stock. Stick brown bananas in the freezer to use later for banana bread or to make a smoothie.
- Jars of dried herbs are pricey and often lose their flavor sitting on the shelf exposed to light. Instead, plant herbs, even in pots. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, basil, mint (always plant mint in a pot because it spreads fast) are easy to grow. I don't suggest growing cilantro – it goes to seed too quickly.
- If you have room in your freezer, store flour, sugar, beans, etc. in there so you don’t have to toss food because bugs got into the container.
- Make your own convenience foods. If you’re cooking, make enough for two meals.Make large pots of soup or stew and freeze it in serving-size containers.You can do the same with chicken or proteins other than fish. Welcome to your new frozen food dinners.
- Make your own pizza. Dough is easy to make and can be frozen. Then it’s just a matter of grating cheese and having your own combination of toppings. Instead of tomato sauce, use sliced tomatoes and fresh basil. See below for basic pizza dough recipe.
- Learn a couple of cooking techniques that can give you flexibility in making quick meals. For instance, with your skinless chicken thighs and drumsticks you can quickly brown them in a large Dutch oven on the stove, add layers of sliced onion, garlic, olives, artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans, etc. with herbs, a dash of wine or stock, cover and cook in the oven at 350 for about an hour. Make rice and you’ve got your meal. Alternately, use diced tomatoes and eggplant and zucchini for a different flavor. Make roasted tomato soup and the next night add seafood to the soup with a few slices of lemon. Now you have cioppino. Do you enjoy the flavors from roasting vegetables? You can turn any combination of roasted vegetables into a quick and easy soup. And, that goes for leftovers.The leftovers from the roasted squash you served with chicken one night can be added to stock, simmered and then pureed to make soup the next night.
In the Market:
- Have a plan. Make a list. Check your calendar to see when you'll actually be home to eat. A lot of the produce and dairy you buy gets tossed away because you don’t use it before it goes bad. Knowing how you’ll use what you buy and that you’ll be able to eat it will save you from wasting money.
- Shop the perimeter – that’s where the produce, meat and dairy tend to be. The middle aisles, with the cookies, prepared foods and snacks are the dangerous and expensive places in the store.Stick with your list.
- Shop ethnic markets. You’ll find interesting, even unusual produce, often for less than the big three chain supermarkets. If you don't know what an item is or how to prepare it, ask someone who works in the store or a fellow customer. I've gotten a lot of wonderful recipes that way. And, I've found great deals on duck legs, lamb, fish and other items at ethnic markets. In San Diego, some of my favorites are 99 Ranch Market, Mitsuwa, Nijiya, Balboa International Market, Parsian, Northgate Gonzalez, Foodland, El Tigre and Lucky Seafood. I've written up all of these in previous posts so check out the archives list to the right.
- Again, buy produce that’s in season. If there’s a great deal on a particular vegetable you enjoy, buy in quantity. You can use it to make soup; you can even freeze it. And, it's less expensive than buying packages of frozen vegetables. If Roma tomatoes are on sale and you like tomatoes, buy several pounds, slice them in half lengthwise, drizzle with olive oil and roast. Romas have a hearty texture but they don’t have great flavor; roasting brings out the sugars. Roasted tomatoes are perfect for soup, pasta sauce and cioppino. And you can freeze it.
- If you like to shop farmers markets but find them too pricey, try shopping at the end of the market. Sometimes farmers will give shoppers a deal so they don’t have to schlep inventory back.
- If you’re single, see if you can go in with friends on deals for bulk purchases when buying at Costco, CSAs, etc.
- Become friends with your butcher and your produce guy/gal. They can direct you to good deals, tell you about the product and offer suggestions on how to use it. If you feel like making stock from scratch, ask your butcher if he/she can give you beef or lamb bones. Roast the bones, add onion, garlic, root vegetables, salt and pepper and, of course, water, to a big pot. In a couple of hours you’ve got stock for making a lot of different meals. Package them in one-cup and quart containers so you can add a little or add a lot to make soup or a stew. And don't forget to mark them so you know what the container is and how old.
Teach your kids to cook. Cook with them -- even if it’s just roasting chicken, making rice and making a salad. Give them kitchen skills to help them be self-sufficient and learn to economize as well as enjoy food and learn where it comes from. You don't know how to cook? Ask a friend or relative to give you some basic lessons, then teach your kids. Make use of websites like epicurious.com and foodtv.com (The Food Network's site), as well as food blogs; they're all studded with recipes. It'll pay huge dividends for all of you.
These suggestions came to me from PR folks and readers:
1. Wine Vault & Bistro's Saturday five-course tasting menu for $30.
2. Surati Farsan on
3. Sunday lunch at Sakura on Convoy. Miso salmon and all the fixings.
4. Wet Stone on 4th for wine and small plates. Happy hour specials during the week.
5. The Marble Room downtown. "A relatively new spot in the Gaslamp that has an interesting variety of entrees and appetizers at reasonable prices compared to other upscale Gaslamp hot spots. They don't advertise as "Tapas Style" but it really is so it's fun and affordable good food."
6. Spices Thai
7. Cafe Sevilla is "right-sizing their menu in terms of both portions and prices, including many tapitas at $5 or under. And, their happy hour at the tapas bar includes 16 dishes, most of which are $4 and under along with daily drink specials."
8. Tender Greens. "It's a great value. You can get a great fresh from the farm organic meal for under $15."
9. The Pearl. "On Mondays we do a three-course meal for $25 with happy hour pricing all night."
10. Savory in Encinitas offers Sunset Suppers Tues-Sun, 5 PM - 6 PM. Appetizer, entree and a dessert to share for $29. Same with wine pairing for $39.
To that I add:
1. Sbicca: Half-priced wine Tuesday and Thursday. No corkage Sunday and Monday. Half-price bar food nightly between 4 and 6:30.
2. Opera Cafe & Patisserie: An unlikely location in
3. Starlite: Come for early bird food specials during happy hour or stop by for a late-night meal.
4. Avenue 5: Another happy hour pick. Great prices for terrific food in Bankers Hill. They’ve also just added a brunch menu that’s very affordable ($7 to $14), beginning in May.
5. Tapenade: Authentic French food is very accessible at their happy hour and with their Bar-Tapas menu. Or try their
6. Laurel: 7 before Seven happy hour -- seven drinks, seven eats at $7 each. Plus, Mondays at the bar: Wagyu beef burger, truffle fries and beer for $14.95. Tapas Tuesdays at the bar: Chef comes out and makes tapas from 5 to 8:30. Mad Wednesdays selected bottles of wine are half price.
Brunches are a great deal and allow you to experience a fine dining restaurant for far less than dinner.
Also, try the eateries in ethnic markets like Balboa International Market in Clairemont, Mitsuwa on Mercury, Parsian on Convoy, Lucky Seafood in Mira Mesa, Northgate Gonzalez in South San Diego, Foodland in
And there are a lot of wonderful and inexpensive ethnic restaurants/sandwich shops:
El Cuervo Taco Shop on
El Indio, Saffron and others on
Look for coupons, not just in the local paper but in community magazines. Residents of some neighborhoods like downtown, Hillcrest, North Park, etc. automatically get coupon magazines but if these are areas where you enjoy dining out, a $12 subscription could pay for itself in one meal. Check out www.community-magazine.com.
Basic pizza dough
Makes 4, 8-inch round thin crust pizzas or 2, 13.5-inch round thin crust pizzas
1 package active dry yeast (2 teaspoons)
1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 tbl. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tbl. unsweetened applesauce
Dissolve the yeast in warm water with the applesauce. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the yeast mixture into the center of the well and stir it together until it begins to form a ball. Then turn it out onto a clean, floured surface and knead for four to five minutes. (You can also mix the dough in a food processor or mixer, using a dough hook.)
Lightly rub the surface of the ball with olive oil and place it into a large bowl that also has been coated inside with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot until it doubles, for about an hour. Punch down the dough. Reshape it into a ball and let it rise again.
At this point you can refrigerate or freeze the dough. To make individual portions, divide the dough into four equal portions, about six ounces each.
When you’re ready to make the pizza, pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees. Roll each portion into a ball, then, working on a lightly floured surface, stretch the dough and work it with your fingers or a rolling pin to form an eight-inch circle. The outer edge should be a little thicker than the body to form a slight rim.
Add your toppings.
Transfer the pizza to a pizza pan or a stone in the oven. Bake about 10 to 13 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Jews around the world will begin celebrating the eight days of Passover tonight at sundown. Traditionally, the first two nights are organized around the Seder, but you knew that.
And, you probably know that for these eight days Jews are forbidden from eating hametz, or leavened food. That's why we eat matzo. It's all wrapped up in the symbolism of the holiday, which commemorates the sudden liberation of the ancient Jews from Egyptian slavery. As children, we're told of the story of the Jews fleeing Egypt with such haste that there was no time to bake bread that needed time to rise. So the flour and water cracker that is matzo became the staple then and ever since has been eaten every Passover. And, trust me, even though we're talking two, maybe three ingredients (salt), every family has their favorite brand of matzo. Of course, if you're feeling ambitious, you can make it yourself.
Image via WikipediaEven with this dietary restriction, it's amazing the dishes you can turn out. Matzo offers tremendous versatility.
Soak sheets of it in hot water, drain the water, break it up and add some beaten eggs, then put in a frying pan with oil or butter and you have matzo brei. Now some people use a 1:1 ratio of matzo sheet to egg and enjoy something more akin to a matzo omelet. My family does a 2:1 matzo to egg ratio. I prefer this style which gives you beautiful crispy puffed out pieces of matzo that, depending on your particular style, can be served with applesauce, sugar or salt. I'm a salt girl myself but our family was split with Mom's side also going for salt and Dad's for the sweet stuff. (If you're Jewish, no doubt you have the same sweet versus savory divide in your family at Hanukah over potato latkes.)
Matzo can also be the basis of a sweet, crunchy "brittle," as in covering it with chocolate or butterscotch or caramel and nuts, baking briefly and then, when cool, breaking it into bite-size pieces. Google "matzo brittle" and you'll find scads of recipes with any number of variations. In this case, the matzo essentially is just a delivery system for the sugar, chocolate and nuts. And not a bad one, actually.
And, for those who simply cannot live for a week without their favorite dishes, there are recipes for matzo lasagna, matzo spanikopita and matzo quesadillas. And, yes, even matzo pizza. Thanks, but I can do without for awhile. Of course, if you're desperately seeking ideas for other things you can do with matzo, you have to watch this wonderful video.
Then there's farfel, which is basically matzo that's been broken up. Farfel can be used as a cereal substitute or to make sweets (it takes some imagination, but yes, there are recipes for desserts with farfel like this chocolate nut cluster), kugel (pudding) or stuffing. I know someone on Twitter who is using it to make granola with dried blueberries, apricots, sliced almond and pecans. She's changing it up from this LA Times recipe.
And, finally, if you grind matzo you get matzo meal. And matzo meal itself is endlessly versatile. Use it as a bread crumb substitute or pretty much anything for which you'd use flour. You can buy it in a box or, if you're feeling industrious, grind it yourself using a blender or food processor.
Of course, if matzo meal is known for anything, it's for being the basis of matzo balls, but during the week of Passover, once the Seder is history and I have to come up with ways to live without my daily bread, I often turn to matzo meal for cooking. Look on the panel of most boxes and you'll find a recipe for pancakes, in which beaten egg whites play a prominent role to fluff them up. I also use matzo meal to bread and saute fish fillets or skinless, boneless chicken pieces for oven frying. I mix some with grated Parmesan cheese to top a baked tomato or roasted vegetables. And, even when it's not Passover, I like to use it as the binder for zucchini pancakes (grate the zucchini and onion, wring out to get rid of the liquid, add a beaten egg, minced garlic, salt & pepper and matzo meal to bind it together, then fry in a little olive oil in a skillet).
But, probably my favorite use for matzo meal is a family recipe for popovers. They're easy to make and delicious. When I was a kid, my Nana made dozens of them throughout the week. I remember them being huge and puffy with an irresistible crunch that yielded a soft inner membrane-like dough I loved to chew. They were so large that she even made bologna sandwiches for us with them, which sounds disgusting now (and certainly not kosher) but was a real treat when I was seven or eight and my parents were out of town.
I've been challenged by indignant Israelis at Seders I've attended who refused believe that these popovers were kosher for Passover, but they are. They get their rise from eggs, not yeast. And, when they do a good rise, they are lovely, crispy on the outside and soft and hollow inside. But they collect moisture so, when they come out of the oven, use the tip of a skewer to poke a little hole on the bottom to let the moist air inside escape and let them cool on wire racks. Store them in paper bags, not plastic. And one more important note. Don't double the recipe. If you need more than the recipe yields, make separate batches.
Nana Tillie’s Matzo Meal Popovers
2 cups water
2 tbl. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 stick butter cut into 8 pieces
2 cups matzo meal
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
Add the first four ingredients to a heavy pot and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and stir in the matzo meal. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let it cool.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time. (If the eggs are small, add two extra egg whites.)
Let the mixture rest in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
Use an ice cream scoop to drop popovers onto greased cookie sheets or into muffin tins. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes or until the popovers are brown and sound hollow inside.
Yield: 15 - 20
Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy Passover!
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
All sorts of events and changes are taking place this month. And, no. This isn't an April Fool's Day posting. It's all for real.
Mystery Bar Tasting: If you love chocolate and want to be on the cutting edge, help out Chuao Chocolatier by sampling two new mystery bars they're developing. They want your feedback! The tasting is happening Sat., April 4 and Sun., April 5 from noon to 4 at all three San Diego locations. See www.chuaochocolatier.com for details.
Strawberry Fields Forever!: It's time for the Annual Strawberry Festival "Everything Strawberry" at the Carlsbad farmers market on Wed., April 15 and Sat., April 18, from 1 to 5 p.m. The festival will feature live strawberry cooking demonstrations by Captain Cooks Culinary Academy and the traditional scavenger hunt, as well as live music. Plus everything strawberry, from homemade strawberry shortcake with whipped cream and strawberry smoothies, to strawberry flan, strawberry jam and chocolate-covered strawberries. The market is held at 2930 Roosevelt St. in Carlsbad in the public parking lot between Carlsbad Village Drive and Grand Ave.
Want Some Dough on Tax Day?: Request "some dough" at Richard Walkers Pancake House on April 15 and you'll receive one free short stack of buttermilk pancakes. It's located at 520 Front St. in downtown San Diego.
Taste of Hillcrest: Take a self-guided stroll around the neighborhood on April 18 from noon to 4 p.m. and visit some of Hillcrest's favorite eating spots. We're talking Bite, The Tractor Room, Mama Testa Taqueria--basically over 40 choices. And all for $30 per person in advance ($35 on the day of). Purchase tickets online at www.fabuloushillcrest.com. You'll get a free recipe booklet. There's also free shuttle service throughout Uptown/Hillcrest.
Say Goodbye and Say Hello...to Corvette Diner: I've eaten many a burger with my nieces and nephews at the Hillcrest Corvette Diner over the years. And snared a lot of bubble gum. But after 22 years, on April 26, the Cohn Restaurant Group is closing that location in anticipation of opening up at 2965 Historic Decatur Road in Liberty Station this summer. And there will be a slight name change as well to Corvette Diner & Gamers' Garage. The new restaurant will have a 5,000-square-foot arcade (as in the "Gamers' Garage"), private dining rooms for parties and events, three distinctively themed dining areas and a full bar for adults. You can learn more at www.dinecrg.com.
Happy Anniversary!: Greystone steakhouse at 658 Fifth Ave. in the Gaslamp is celebrating its 10th anniversary with, what else, a menu change. You'll now find dishes like "Shrooms" stuffed with crab and maple-glazed pork belly tacos, truffle organic half chicken boneless jidori and buffalo tenderloin. Looking for a deal? How about a three-course menu for $35 a person?
Live from Tuscany: Tuscan native Massimo Denaro is the new executive chef at Trattoria La Strada, also in the Gaslamp (702 Fifth Ave.). And, he's changed up the menu to reflect the dishes of his roots. Look for a series of carpacci, from raw filet mignon and smoked salmon to roasted red and yellow baby beets. There's homemade tortelli filled with veal ragout; risotto with scallops, shrimp, Manila clams and calamari; saltimbocca alla Romana and a Florentine-style pork loin, roasted in rosemary and garlic. And, hey, there's free Wi-Fi in the bar.
And, here's a heads up for early May: Share Our Strength's annual Taste of the Nation San Diego will be held on Sun., May 3 at Balboa Park's May S. Marcy Sculpture Court and Garden at the San Diego Museum of Art from 3 to 6 p.m. More than 25 local chefs will be participating, including Quarter Kitchen, Anthology, Grant Grill and Red Marlin. There will be an auction and live entertainment. All this is to raise money for area charities such as San Diego Hunger Coalition, Los Ninos, California Association of Food Banks and California Food Policy Advocates with the goal of ending childhood hunger in the United States and abroad.
Tickets are $75 for general admission and can be purchased by calling 1-877-26-TASTE or visiting tasteofthenation.org.