Animal ~ Los Angeles (from the archives)

I recently had to use my Photobucket account for the first time in a long time and came across these photos from our dinner at Animal in LA years ago. Great restaurant and I highly recommend it. This was way before I started North County Food, see always been a foodie. The dishes are still pretty relevant to whats going on today and may even remind you of some dishes around town.


Animal is located at 435 NORTH FAIRFAX, LOS ANGELES, CA

It was the first restaurant by former caterers Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo who now have about a half-dozen restaurants to their names.


Quail fry ~ grits, slab bacon, kale, maple jus


Foie gras loco moco ~ quail egg, spam, hamburger.

I remember this dish being insanely good.


Marrow bone, chimichurri, caramelized onions


Bacon chocolate crunch bar, s&p ice cream


Los Angeles, Ca

And if I can show you, you would never leave her ~ Photo exhibit by Johnny Nguyen

So, Sunday I caught the closing day of “And if I can show you, you would never leave her” a photo exhibit by local photographer Johnny Nguyen capturing his time spent at the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock. Shown at Link Soul by Hillstreet Country Club.

The three words I would use to describe the exhibit are Important and poignant and impactful. A lot of people on my social media post and support the protests, I think a good thing is to see this exibit its much more impactful when you see first hand photos in person and talk with the artist about his experience.  If you missed it you are in luck it is moving next to the Vista library.

I’m going to post photos, they are not perfect, for which I am glad as I do not want them to take the place of seeing it in person.





Johnny (right) talking about his photos. One of the eye opening things I learned from talking with Johnny was how the protests had a solid leadership run by tribal elders who made sure the protest was peacefull and meaningful and that most of the “trouble” caused by protesters was in fact done by paid infiltrators sent to disrupt the camp.




This is my favorite piece. A native youth stands on the road near the barricade right before the blizzard hit on his third day there.


A banner calling for the release of Red Fawn a protester who was arrested and charged with attempted murder, the charges were later dropped.


Protesters gather around the Sacred Fire as the Army Corps of Engineers announces they are halting construction of the pipeline. unfortunately we know now this will no longer be the case.





I will post when I get info on the Vista Library leg of the exhibit.

#standingrock #oceanside #art #nodapl

Water Bill Dinner @ Cyclops farms ~ Oceanside

SO, before I start, I just wanted to thank the kind people who came up and mentioned they follow the website, it means a lot. A lot of time it feels I am writing into a vacuum. I can look at numbers and trends all day but to hear it in person really is nice, so Thank You.

If you are not familiar with Cyclops Farms, you should be. We are lucky here in Oceanside to have a 2 acre, certified organic farm, in our little town. It is located on Fire Mountain at 1448 avocado Rd. Oceanside. They host a farm stand every Saturday where you can buy the same organic vegetables and fresh flowers being used by local Chefs at restaurants like 608, Wrench and Rodent, LTH, The Millers’s Table, Petite Madeline, and more.

Every month local Chefs get together and host a dinner at the farm called “The Water Bill Dinner” using fresh produce from the farm. This is as farm to table as it gets. Literaly from the ground to your plate. The dinner also features local beer and wine by Chris Lobo of Native Wines.


Farmer Luke Girling working and greeting guests on the way into the dinner.


The Chefs for this evening. Willy of 608, Tae of Biga (who you will be hearing more about in March) and Davin from Wrench and Rodent.


Chefs Davin Waite of Wrench and Rodent, Willy Eick of 608, and Tae Diggy of Biga


Just to give you an idea of the al fresco dining setting.


Again true farm to table.




The Chefs prepping the protein for two of the night’s dishes, Opah. The fish, which came from Catalina Offshore Products, is a truly remarkable creature. It is the only warm-blooded fish. They are caught as “by catch” by long line tuna boats and have started to gain popularity here in San Diego thanks mainly to Tommy Gomez of Catalina Offshore and local chefs like Davin and Willy. The fish produces 7 different cuts. Tonight’s were the belly and the loin.


Dish 1 was called “scraps”, Davin wanted to use normally discarded parts of food to make the point about waste and starting to think about utilizing the whole product. Blue Norwegian salmon scraps, cauliflower, romesco, and brocoli stems and leaves, and greens ribs pesto.

A great tasty way to start the evening.


Opah Belly ~ Sorrel, Alyssum (mustard family), radish, and horned melon.

Another great fresh dish that highlighted the beautiful protein.


The first hot dish of the night. Opah loin, carrots, and celery. This was paired wonderfully paired by Chris Lobo with a 2015 Union Sacre Resling.

If you have not had Opah but like Mahi Mahi, Opah is better.

Now we get serious….


Chicken fried filet mignon ~ Charred mixed greens, local honey. Paired with “The Offering” 2013 red blend.

You and me both might ask “why would you deep fry a filet mignon”? After eating it the answer is “because it’s fucking delicious”. This dish was tied for my favorite dish of the night. The beef was tender and perfect medium rare. The sweetness of the honey worked perfectly against the richness of the deep-fried beef. A true winner. The wine again worked well with fruit and balanced tannins.

pasta-1-of-1 Bolognese ~ beef cheek, pork cheek, rib eye, and bone marrow Bolognese over fresh nettle pasta.

My other favorite dish. Pure indulgent meatiness. The pasta was perfect. I was smart enough to hit up chef and take some home which I will be eating for breakfast:) This needed a big wine to stand up to it and Chris poured a Movedra which did the job.

And in true Chef Willy fashion brocoli for dessert…….


Tangerine panna cotta ~ Charred broccoli, and broccoli mascarpone.

Sounds strange, and it was, but all together the flavors worked.

So, there you have it. the next dinner will be in two weeks and feature Chef Daniel from LTH. Tickets are available at the farm stand on Saturdays 8am till 2pm. Stop by pick up some fresh local vegetables and sign up. It’s a win win.

Cyclops Farms



Wrench and Rodent

Burgeon Beer Company ~ Carlsbad

One week after its grand opening event, I paid a visit to the new Burgeon Brewing in Carlsbad. A bit easier to spot than your normal warehouse brewery, as it has a  large sign and accent painting on the front of the building and it faces the street.


Walking in, before even getting a chance to appreciate the beer, Burgeon’s decorations are awesome.  Its character provides a tranquil and relaxing feeling that will nicely accompany any beer. With 16 beers on tap, including west coast IPA’s, imperial stouts, and the rare style find grusette, Burgeon boasts a solid varietal range to appeal to the adept San Dieagan drinking public.  With so many appealing options, we relied on our trustful taste buds, and put faith in the friendly beer tender’s recommendations, to make our selections and endeavored on a tour of seven different beer tastings.  From the list below, we tried Sapling, Moo Moo Farm, Thuja, Locally Rooted, Everybody’s Juicin, Noble Miner, and Treevana.


Here is the lineup below, in all its mouthwatering glory.


The Noble Miner (grusette) was described as a low alcohol by volume saison.  The low alcohol content lent this beer a really refreshing, drinkable mouthfeel with just a hint of that farmhouse flavor that’s familiar in your usual saison.  I loved the balance in Sapling (rye amber), you could taste the hops and the malts but one never overpowered the other.  There was a bounty of flavor in the IPA’s, as tropical fruit aromas and flavors jumped out of the glass of Thuja (IPA) and Everybody’s Juicin’ (hazy IPA).  The Moo Moo Farm (milk stout) had a smoky aftertaste, which was surprising for a milk stout.  Those that expect the subtle decadent sweetness of a milk stout could find its dominantly roasty flavor unexpected, but I really enjoyed it.  If Moo Moo Farm sounds familiar, you could probably make the same connection I did once I noticed the N64 sitting so unabashedly under a large TV in the corner of the brewery.  It’s a race course from Mario Kart!  And apparently, the N64, accompanied by Mario Kart, is available to play whenever you want.  So it’s easy to believe that I’ll find myself here in the future, enjoying the awesome ambiance and video games, all while sipping from my Rainbow Road IPA.  I suggest you get here soon and try the experience for yourself.

Burgeon Beer Company

6350 Yarrow Drive, Carlsbad

Words and Photos by  Justin Kunert

Sitting Down With A Master ~ Chef Davin Waite ~ Wrench & Rodent

So, I am lucky enough to call Davin a good friend. It has been a while since we have had time to just sit down and talk.While of course we went over personal stuff, because of our shared passion for everything food that subject is going to pop up.


That look says it all:)

While we talked he kindly offered food..


Round 1 of sushi. One of the thing they have been playing around with is salt cured tangerines and oranges. The nigiri closest to the camera is Monchong (deep-sea Pomfret) a by catch fish that Tommy Gomez from Catalina Offshore has been handing off to talented chefs to play around with. It is delicious and topped with a tangerine salt.The tangarines also make an appearance under the salmon. While the sashimi of, I believe, Seabass gets fresh grape tomatoes.

Japan ~ Davin recently spent 12 days in Japan in January. I asked him what the biggest take away was. He said the street food, that is mainly what they ate. While the perception is that it is expensive to eat in Japan, that is really not so unless you go seeking out Starred restaurants, but that is true everywhere. Examples would be eating at a stand up sushi bar at an airport and paying $12 for what in reality would be like $60 worth of sushi. Also we talked about the convenience store food like the 7/11 cheese stuffed pork cutlets and the vending machine corn soup, which are delicious.

Chef wise his one take away was (and I’m paraphrasing) is the concentration on simplicity with great ingredients. No gels, no foams, just detail and refinement.


Sushi round 2 ~ Again the oranges make an appearance via a salt on top of the salmon. it was so good I was dabbing up the excess with my fingers.

Oceanside ~ We talked about the slow season (now) and no matter what the appearance restaurants are feeling it. Luckily now it is a slow down rather than a complete halt. The chance of over saturation in the market (not there yet) and some rumored openings. One will be something we do not have up here yet and two expansions of two great local places, one in North Oceanside, one in south.


Seafood Tonkotsu ~ Traditionaly made with pork Davin’s Tonkotsu is made with fish. He had to work hard to get as much fat and marrow out of the fish to make it work. People have been asking for Tonkotsu at the Whet Noodle, which currently has Shoyu and Miso. So, in true Davin fashion he is bring one on but in his unique way, no pork here:)

So, again this was not an interview just friends catching up and talking about food and restaurants. I am truly blessed to have the people in my life that I do and Davin is one of them.

If you have not eaten at The Whet Noodle or Wrench & Rodent GO NOW.

..or on your night out support any local restaurant, tourist season is over and the locals are what keep everyone going.

The Whet Noodle

Wrench and Rodent

A King’s Touch Video Production ~ Oceanside

So, in my rounds I get asked about professional photography and video production by a lot of restaurant owners. My answer is always the same ” I would contact Shawn at The King’s Touch”. There are a number of reasons I say this….They are great at what they do, they are local and support local businesses, and we run in the same industry and crowd. So, I have relationships with the people and businesses they have done work with and I have never had heard anything but praise.

Shawn has over 20 years experience and has spent the last 15 of those working with small businesses. I met them at the first Mainstreet meeting they attended and have seen them really help and promote local businesses through their services.

I think the best thing I can do is link up some examples…….of course they are gonna be all food related ones:) but they can do other businesses too.



A King’s Touch


Carla & Linda’s Walking Food Tours ~ ShoesandChews ~ Oceanside

Carla and Linda run a food walking tour company based here in Oceanside . They started it up in 2015 and they have now expanded to 3 routes North Oceanside, The Heart of Oceanside, and South Oceanside.

The tours run around 3 hours and in addition to eating at the best local spots, they do a great job of giving historical and sightseeing info between stops.

I recently attended a special tour where local restaurant owners, chefs, and wanna be writers got together for a little rainy day adventure.


The group in between stops in artist’s alley.

First stop was Petite Madeline Bakery & Bistro


Chef Marc going over his desserts…yes we started with dessert.


A great dense chocolate cake and tart. A generious serving leading to quite a few to go boxes.

Next up we hit 608

Chef Willy provided a number of dishes including this Bone Marrow Ceviche.


Next up was Harney Sushi where we split some seaweed salad and a number of their signature rolls.


The fun thing was how much of a social event the walks are. I knew the majority of the people on mine but even if you didn’t you would still have blast socializing.


Our final stop was Barrel Republic where we had one of the signature flatbreads.


I would highly recommend taking one. You get a lot of food for the money and it is a great way to try multiple places you may have been wanting to check out.


Pre – Opening Dave & Busters ~ Carlsbad.

So, I was invited recently to check out the new Dave & Busters opening January 30th at the Carlsbad Mall. Though different from my normal restaurant modus operandi I was excited to grab my friend Mario from Banana Dang! and Check it out.

I am glad I did I had a lot of fun and was I impressed with the build out.

The new Dave and Busters inhabits what was the lower part of the old Robinson’s May Company. It shares this newly remodeled wing with Regal Cinemas, 24 Hour Fitness, Pizza Press, Luna Grill, Pannera Bread, and soon The Cheesecake Factory. The rest of the mall is 80% boarded up and under construction.

Before bemoaning corporate entities too much, the reality is, it is a mall and the Dave and Busters alone employs 216 locals, that whole wing alone once completed probably 600+.


Putting the final touches on the exterior at 2501 El Camino Real Suite 140, Carlsbad.


Entry way on the lower level of the east wing.


40,000 square feet of sports bar, restaurant, and games.


The restaurant section of Dave & Busters. I’m guessing it holds 80 to 100ish.


The facility hosts 2 private meeting rooms. This is the larger which has an independent audio and video system. They offer catering services which offer customizable menus for any occasion.


I was impressed with the sports bar area. A Huge amount of TVs including 3 4k digital 100″ screens. They carry all sport packages including UFC events.


It was nice to see Belching Beaver’s mango IPA on tap as well as Stone.


You gotta have an updated version of old school skeet ball.


Marc, another member of the press, playing Mario Olympics.

They have, obviously, a ton of games that work off of a ticketless card system for credits and points. Dave and Busters is 18 and up unless that person is accompanied by a guardian 25 or older.


I really wanted to play the Star Wars Battle Pod game but I ran out of credits shooting robots and racing cars badly with Mario. I would treat this place like Vegas come in with a set amount or it could quickly become a money sink.


You can redeem your points from playing games at the prize center.


The prizes have upgraded since I was younger, I usually left from an arcade with this…..


I’d still get stuck.

We were treated to a buffet of their menu items to try out. The quality was better than expected putting it above places like Buffalo Wild Wings.


Sample offerings.


One of my plates:) The baby back ribs were especially good for a non BBQ specialty joint. I also went for seconds of the fish and chips.

My favorite offering was (and I’ll use their pic because its pretty)…


Cheese Burger with smoked bacon. This was really tasty.

So, there is your sneak peek at Dave & Busters in Carlsbad. I will be back to grab a drink and a bite at the sports bar…and play that Star Wars game.

Dave and Busters

2501 El Camino Real, Carlsbad

Wicked Poke ~ oceanside

So, my older brother was down from Olympia Washington to handle some house selling matters for the estate. While here I kind of gave him a tour of the food scene in Oceanside and mentioned Poke and its recent proliferation in North County and San Diego.

Apparently the Poke wave has not crashed in Olympia yet, I’m sure Seattle has seen its share with their abundance of seafood.

So, I used the opportunity to check out a new place called Wicked Poke in Oceanside. Based on word of mouth and some research I was pretty sure of the quality and giving him a good experience. Plus I get a post out of it:)


Wicked Poke ~ 2401 Vista Way E, Oceanside


Located in the center next to the huge LA Fitness (used to be Mervyn’s), Wicked Poke is a fast casual, build your own, Poke concept. Similar to Poki Poki if you are familiar with them. There will be a rant at the end about Poke vs Poki and trolls.

You can get a regular or large bowl. The regular is $8.99 and comes with three scoops of protein, the large is $10.99 and includes 5 scoops. You pick a base of salad, white rice, brown rice, or a mix. Your protein choices include salmon, tuna, spicy tuna, scallop, octopus and tofu. Then you pick through a myriad of topping and sauce choices. I liked that there was no additional charge for crab (probably Krab) or avocado.


Medium Poke Bowl ~ 2 scoops salmon, 1 scoop tuna, white rice, avocado, crab, ginger, seaweed, green onions, sesame seeds, masago, sesame oil, and house spicy sauce. You also get a free cup of Miso soup which is nice.

Everything was really good. The proteins were fresh and flavorful and I liked that the sesame and house sauce were not over powering. My brother liked his as well. He is a foodie (the one who got me into food actually) and understood the concept before going in. I’m sure a Poke place will make it into Olympia’s food offerings soon.

I would rank this slightly better than Poki Poki but it’s really “6 in 1 or half a dozen in the other” it’s so close. I would just put it down to what was ordered and personal preference.

If you love poke I would suggest Yoshino in Carlsbad (get there early they sellout and cash only) and The Lanai in Encinitas (more expensive but great ingredients and Chef driven, in the old Haggo’s taco spot).

Wicked Poke

2401 Vista Way E., Oceanside

Rant time: Poke, Poki, and Trolls……advert your eyes if so desired.

So, the spelling about poke vs poki is unclear. Poke is the original Hawaiian spelling meaning “to slice or cut” or “section”.  Poki is a little more hard to get a uniform answer on, some say it is poke with japanese ingredients, some say it is just an acceptable mis-spelling that upsets Hawaiians. It is also used as marketing, lets say you want to open up Poke Garden and it is already taken by another restaurant in another city or state, Poki Garden is born.

As for trolls, do not email me with trivial BS ” Poki? you obviously have not done any research.” Look asshat sometimes I do not mention things in detail because I do not think its pertinent to the post. Save us both time and instead of emailing me lay down on the train tracks and wait for the Sprinter…I can give you the schedule.

Funny thing is $100 says this kind of email, like the one “Your name Northcountyfood” is misleading or is this some kind of coastal elitism”, are most likely both from restaurant owners whose restaurant I have not covered, or I mentioned their competition not them.  lots of space out there in the blogoshere, start your own and try and keep up.

Constructive criticism is always welcome, lame comments not so much:) I was a semi pro video gamer for a number of years your not gonna rattle me by trolling,

Now go eat some Poke?, Poki? ….decunstructed sushi.