I've grown very fond of The Red Door. Once the home of my friend Amiko Gubbins' Parallel 33, the space on W. Washington St. in Mission Hills has been thoroughly transformed into a cool yet cozy bistro-like eatery. Executive chef Brian Johnston, whose experience includes Anthony's Star of the Sea, El Bizcocho, and the San Diego Convention Center, has been creating sublime comfort food since the restaurant's opening in the summer of 2009.
Like most restaurants today, The Red Door has been cleverly offering a variety of special dining events. The one that intrigued me was the Chef Market Dinner offered last night. It takes advantage of the fact that the restaurant is across the street from the Friday Mission Hills Farmers Market on Falcon St.
Last night, participants (including owner Trish Watlington) met at the restaurant at 5 p.m., then headed over with Johnston to the market for a tour. Johnston already had purchased his market ingredients and prepped the four-course meal, but it was still fun to walk around with a knowledgeable chef and learn how to choose and prepare various products. We stopped at a mushroom stand, chatted with Mark Lane of Poppa's fish about the halibut he sold Johnston for our dinner, tasted breads baked by Sadie Rose, bought bacon and fuerte avocados from Atkins Nursery, and learned how the Suzie's Farm delicata squash accompanying the halibut would be roasted.
As it started getting dark we headed back to the restaurant. There were 16 of us, all seated together at a long table. The four-course menu was a perfect reflection of the market products we'd just seen:
- Suzie's Farms Organic Rainbow Chard Soup with Chive and Goat Cheese Crostini
- Roasted Local Halibut with Roasted Delicata Squash, Suzie's Spicy Organic Salad Mix, Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
- All Natural "1855" Iowa Pork Loin Stuffed with Porcini Mushroom, Butternut Squash, Sweet Onion, Parmesan and White Truffle Oil; Served with Celery Root Puree, Roasted Baby Chiogga Beets and Port Wine Sauce
- Bartlett Pear Poached in Port Wine, Pistachio Ice Cream, Callebaut Chocolate Sauce and Almond Lace Cookie
Additionally, there was an option for a wine pairing.
The service was considerate, the servers knowledgeable, and the company terrific. I had come with a friend I was treating to a birthday dinner and it turned out many of the guests also were enjoying either a birthday or holiday gift.
Most important, of course, each dish was tremendous. Johnston clearly made the most of each of the ingredients and having just seen these at the farmers market made enjoying their transformation on the plate that much more enjoyable. (And a nice touch was a printed recipe for Lump Crab and Wild Mushroom Studel along with a gift card for dessert.)
The Red Door is located at 741 W. Washington St. at Falcon St.