The Kettle Room @ Ballast Point 2nd Take

Words & Pictures bt Justin Kunert.

Buried behind beer bars and brewing equipment lies Ballast Point’s fine dining experience, the Kettle Room.  It seems weird to call this a hidden gem, given its location at one of the most popular breweries in San Diego.  But after swimming through the crowd of thirsty folk and busy servers, Chris and I found ourselves behind huge sliding glass doors in a dimly lit room, only accompanied by the three skeletons below.

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The Kettle Room greeting crew

And just like that, we were the only ones in the whole place.  Given the speakeasy vibe and lack of clientele, it felt like I was in on some secret that the rest of San Diego hadn’t caught on to.  It was a cozy spot set in the heart of the brewing area.  Here was the view from our table.

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Piles and piles of malted barley

I accepted the honor of ordering beer, and Chris handled the food.  The Kettle Room offers a concise menu focused on quality over quantity, with options for a prix fixe menu with or without beer pairings

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Slider (tart wheat ale), and the Sea Rose (cherry wheat ale).  The Habanero Sculpin is a favorite of mine and was a good way to start the meal.  The Biere de Garde had hints of both a Belgium style and a Saison.  I really enjoyed the Red-Eared Slider, it was tart, refreshing, with lots of carbonation – perfect for the start of summer.  We paired the sea rose with our dessert, it went well with the food, but otherwise this beer would probably be too sweet and fruity for me.

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The Biere de Garde and the Red-Eared Slider

As Chris mentioned in his article, this was truly an exceptional dining experience.  The service was incredible, the food was unlike anything I had ever had, and the beer was the perfect complement to round out the meal.  So next time you find yourself at Ballast Point in Little Italy.

tossing back a few beers and munching on pretzel bites, remember the culinary marvel hiding away in the back and go give it a try.

*editors note..this is why you have a second person, they pick up on things you miss:) Thanks, Justin.

The Kettle Room

2215 India St
San Diego, CA

 

#food #foodporn #beer

 

The T House: Open House, Bring Something / Take Something ~ Oceanside

Sunday was an open house / welcoming event at The T House in Oceanside. The T House is a social and community based venture helmed by Chef Beau Bonham and his partner Stacey Westbrook. To best understand it I would read the interview I did with Beau Here or check out their Facebook page  and Website.

The T House is located at their house / homestead in the Loma Alta district in Oceanside.

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Many things going on…..

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I arrived early and started helping out by slicing fresh Cyclops Farms strawberries for the jam we were going to make.

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Ready to start the jam making process.

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Organic strawberries, calcium, water, Pectin (natural plant-based thickener), and organic sugar. That is about as non processed a jam as you are going to get.

It would not set till the next day, but I ate some with a bagel and it was delicious. The next time I would add a little lemon for more acidity, but it tasted like fresh strawberries.

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Beau gave everyone who attended a tour of the garden. This is Stacey’s friend Michelle who was then tasked with cultivating all the greens and flowers for the salad that was going to be served.

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Some of the fresh Vegetables and herbs.

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Beau went over natural teas and extracts as well as a Korean version of Kombucha called Jun he had made.

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There was also a seed exchange. Want Heirloom Tomato seeds? Bring some seeds by to swap, or some fruit from your tree. You could also take them and when the ripen bring some buy or a tomato tort you made with them. Get the Idea?

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An Amazing Jackfruit that Tom Chongruk and Lora Chow from Travel 4 Food Fun brought by. Jackfruit is amazing. The entire inside including the seeds can be utilized. A lot of Vegans use the inside flesh like pulled pork. You shred it and then roast it with a BBQ sauce.

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Tom is from Thailand and brought an amazing curry he had made.

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A salad from the garden vegetables and flowers harvested earlier, plus some fresh jackfruit.

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A little lobster soup from Chef Daniel of LTH and fresh ciabatta bread from Chef Beau.

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Stacey made strawberry cupcakes. Little bundles of strawberry flavored love.

I t was a fun day. I met a lot of cool local people and had some good food. It started at noon and ended up running later than planed till about 8pm. I would say about 35 people came by through out the day. Hope to be involved more.

Be aware that because of my background I am going to gravitate towards the food aspects of the T House but that would be selling it short. It really is a lot more and something that needs to be experienced. It’s about participation and education. You can attend a class on extracts or you can teach one on a subject you know or want to know better. Again check out the links and get involved.

The T House

Join the mailing list at chefbeaub@gmail.com

#food #foodporn #urbanfarming #seedtrade #extracts #community #strawberries

Chef Interview With Chef Charlie Meola Of Crust Pizzeria ~ Carlsbad

I had a chance to sit down and talk with Chef Charlie Meola of Crust Pizzeria in Carlsbad recently. You can also see my article on Crust HERE.

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Chef Meola working at his craft.

 I know you started in NY correct?

Yes.

Can you tell me what your seminal moment was or what made you decide you wanted to pursue being a Chef?

Basically I was 13, started off as a dishwasher, went to counter, went to prep, went to sandwiches and basically learned the whole thing. But at that point and time I did not realize this is what I want to do forever. I enjoyed it but I was going to college.

At The University of Arizona right?

Ended going to University of Arizona. Went for three years, did not graduate. I started bartending, making really good money. I worked from 81 to 87 bartending. At that time I kind of realized there are not many old bartenders around, so maybe I need to look for something else.

I was just driving down the road and saw a pizza place for sale. I called the guy made a deal. Then I put two weeks of renovation in it and opened up. I owned it for 26 years, I just sold it about two years ago.

After That?

Went to Alabama, opened up two restaurants in Alabama. I did not like Alabama at all. Then I came here and opened this.

So the moment I realized I wanted to do this was in 88, when I opened up that pizzeria. The goal became just to make pizza better. With the basis of knowledge I already knew I knew I could do it.

Basically for 5 years from 88 to 93 I strived for that. I went on to resource different products from different parts of the country. Research and development trying this and trying that. Still to this day I do the same thing.

What I tell people who come in, like if a purveyor walks in I say “if you’re here to try to save me money and lessen my product, we are wasting each other’s time”. “If you are here to make my product better we can talk.” If you’re here to make my product better and save me money, that’s the cu de gras.”

I’m open to making it better and paying more as opposed to going the other way. I have fights with my accountant on how much I pay for cheese.

When I had my pizzeria in Tucson the Montage in Laguna Beach would fly me out to make pizza for the Chefs who were cooking for the James Beard Award Dinners. So, I cooked for Alex Stratta, Nancy Silverton, these top chefs in Southern California. That’s really it. The integrity of the food the craft are the most important things.

Editor’s Note: making pizza for Nancy Silverton (Mozza, Pizzeria Mozza..) is damn impressive. Just had to say that.

That’s about it, I have noticed now that it’s not all about food it’s about service too. When I started service was an afterthought. I was just in Mexico and noticed how people would be waiting an hour and a half for their food and not even care. Here people 15 min. and want it for free. You are a product of your environment and have to adapt.

Tell me about the products you use.

It’s real simple I keep rules to certain things. I just changed my tomato sauce for the first time in 28 years. These guys from Italy came in, brought some Italian tomatoes. I put what I was using, which was Escalon, next to this Sanyo(sp), it’s a Campagnia tomato, and I was like “this is better I’m gonna buy them.” That’s a big change to make.

You have your three bases your dough, your sauce, and your cheese. That’s your foundation. To change one of those is a big move. You can change your mushroom.

Or your pepperoni

Actually not, we buy Boars Head, which is $5.99 a pound where I could be getting it for $2.00. We get our sausage from a guy named Phil Scimeca who owns a little sausage shop. I met him in Alabama. I get goat cheese from a lady who makes goat cheese. I know everyone goes local and I would if I could find a product that equals. I’m all go local for vegetables, but if I’m going to buy a cheese…. I actually brought my Italian sausage to a guy in little Italy and said “can you duplicate this” and he said no.

Every day we make our own dough, all our salad dressings from scratch everything.

On a side note Chef also dabbles in photography. I was admiring the Surf photography on the wall, thinking it was Aaron Chang’s work, nope it turned out to be his. When you go there check it out, it’s really good.

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 So, there you have it Chef Charlie Meola of Crust Pizzeria. It always interest me to talk with Chefs. You go to someplace that is really good and then learn in talking with the Chef, oh that’s why. Plus as a food writer you have to listen and learn.

Crust Pizzeria

3263 Camino De Los Coches

Things To Do This Weekend In Oceanside.

Saturday ~ After waking up from you Saint Patrick’s Day exploits, head to Masters Kitchen and Cocktail for brunch featuring dishes like…

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Chef Richardi’s upscale take on Chicken and Waffles. Perfect post party night meal. Bonus, they have endless Mimosas if you need a little hair of the dog.

Brunch runs 10am till 2pm at Masters Kitchen and Cocktail 208 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside

Afterwords head to the beach and enjoy this weather.

Sunday ~ Head over to Wisconsin Street and join in Living Tea’s Community Pancake Breakfast.

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“We’ll be making GREEN pancakes, infused with Spirulina…. that’s right, Organic Gluten-Free GREEN Pancakes! We’ll also have our organic raw kombucha and organic coffee available.”

“Everything is donation based, so whatever you can afford to donate is great. And those who can’t donate, come eat for free and enjoy some good community time. All donations go towards future community breakfasts, and additional funds are donated to local charities. It’s a Give Back Oceanside event with Living Tea and Nii Foods!”

The event runs 10am to 12pm at Living Tea  302 Wisconsin Ave, Oceanside.

Also Sunday ~ Another communal event will be hosted By the The T House equinox event starts at noon and goes until 6pm.

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There will be light food (I believe he said lobster bisque and bread) and lots of information about food, urban homesteading, gardening, spiritualism and more. contact chefbeaub@gmail.com to learn more you can also check out the T Houses website or you can also contact me through this website.

To learn a little about what they are about you can read my interview with Chef Beau T house co-founder HERE.

Have a great weekend.

Sleeping Tiger Coffees ~ Carlsbad

Just as with the restaurant growth of the last few years, Carlsbad and Oceanside have also seen a rise in premium speciality coffee shops recently.

A new player in the game comes to us in the form of Sleeping Tiger Coffees.

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Sleeping Tiger Coffees is located at 2906 Carlsbad Blvd. where they share the space with Witch Creek Winery.

If you are trying to place the address or wonder about the name….

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Right next to this famous mural on Coast Highway in Carlsbad.

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The interior takes on the same pallet as the winery tasting room (Located just to the right of me just out of shot.) The building is big with high ceilings and also has a pretty good-sized outdoor patio.

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A coffee head friend of mine tells me always get a Cappuccino or Mocha to gauge a place and their baristas.

Sleeping Tiger delivered on taste, coffee, and roast.

The roaster Fallon said she would describe the roast she strives for as a City Roast to Full City Roast.

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Roaster Fallon and the tool of her trade, a Primo Roaster..

Sleeping Tiger Coffees

2906 Carlsbad Blvd

#coffee #northcounty

 

 

Elena’s French Crepes Cafe ~ Oceanside

Elena’s French Crepes Cafe recently opened in downtown Oceanside at 511 Pier View Way. They are located right next to Breakfast Club Diner in the space that used to house a small gift shop.

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I am so glad that they chose Oceanside. They fill a void that existed for alternative breakfast and lunch choices. Though Petite Madeline does offer a mighty fine crepe on their menu, the choice is limited to one or two varieties depending on the weekly specials.

The Cafe is run by Elena and her husband, who are just the nicest people you could meet. They had always wanted to open a cafe upon retiring and when the time came they chose to do it.

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Elena and her husband

The cafe is simple and bright inside, they did a great job on a fast turn around on the old space.

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All the art in the cafe was created by Elena.

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The menu is straight forward, their philosophy is, do one thing, do it well and do it with passion.

They feature 5 savory crepes and 11 sweet varieties. They feature Peet’s coffee and teas.

This post is just to get the word out, I will return Thursday Morning to have a couple crepes. I have been doing this long enough that I have no doubt they will be great. Give them some love. Let me know what you think if you beat me there.

Elena’s French Crepes Cafe

511 Pier View Way Oceanside

Hours: 6am to 3pm Sunday to Wednesday

              6am to 8pm Thursday to Saturday

Succulent Cafe ~ Carlsbad (Now Open)

The second iteration of Succulent Cafe has opened at the end of State Street in downtown Carlsbad. Like the original cafe in Oceanside the cafe serves coffees, smoothies, teas, and pastries. Though the menu at the Carlsbad will be expanding in the future.

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Succulent Cafe ~ 3000 block of State Street (Where State and Oak intersect.)

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The current cafe menu.

The real charm and beauty of Succulent cafe is its atmosphere. The owner peter has a talent for creating relaxing friendly environments, where you are surrounded by living art. The best way to show this is through pictures, not words.

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The space screams “event dinners & live music”. If you love the original Succulent cafe in Oceanside you’ll love this one. If you have not been to the Oceanside location, you’ll love both.

They have been open two days now, I will be back there next week and add any additional info.

Succulent Cafe 

300 block of State Street Carlsbad

@ State and Oak

No website yet, link is for the Oceanside location, I’m sure they can answer any questions.

There is an Instagram for the Carlsbad location succulentcafe_carlsbad

Decoy @ The Lakeside Hotel / Resort ~ San Marcos.

Decoy has a chance to bring great higher end dining to the San Marcos area. It has everything going for it, waterfront location, it is situated next to a 14 million dollar resort that was just voted one of the best in the United States, an experienced Chef with a good track record, and the build out of the restaurant itself, which is nothing but breathtaking in its design and originality.

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Decoy exterior

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Decoy’s bar and lounge area serves as a mood setting pass through into the main dining room. The bar like the restaurant boasts interesting art pieces and accent lighting, I would lose the flat screen TVs though, they are a misplaced element in an otherwise beautiful room. If you’re out for dinner or drinks and just have to know the score of the game be an asshole and just look at your phone.

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Some of the mixed media art pieces that adorn the restaurant. They call for a close inspection to reveal some of their intelligent detail. Like the deer cut out, that uses fishing lures and pieces of fishing rod embedded in the piece.

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The interior as I stated earlier is world-class in detail and execution. It reminded me a lot of Encuentro Guadalupe Restaurant in Baja as far as feel at night-time.

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Encuentro Guadalupe Restaurant, Valle De Guadalupe, Baja

Tangent…I really want to stay in one of their eco-lodges…so cute and the view….

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Ok, back on track…

The menu at Dockside, in my opinion, is perfect in its size, large enough to host a range of dishes without being overwhelming and still providing space for specials or alterations. The wine and specialty cocktail list follow suit in this.

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To start we split a burnt orange negroni as there was going to be wine involved later. My partner in crime thought it needed more Campari as it was shy on the bitter element. The bruleed orange was awesome, though.

Moving into appetizers…

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Strawberry Caprese ~ tomato, baby kale, burrata ice cream, balsamic.

Great combo of flavors, it needed more balsamic though as it sets off the dish and calling the burrata an “Ice cream” is a bit of a stretch.

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Kung Pao Sweetbreads ~ peanut, scallions, sesame, kung pao glaze, cucumber.

I love sweetbreads and order them every time I see them on a menu. These were OK. The dish reminded me a lot of a good version of orange chicken with a little bit of spice. With the exception of a little softer mouth feel the sweetbreads could have been mistaken for poultry.

The mains though shined brightly….

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Bass ~ roasted artichokes, Chinese sausage, braised beans & natural clam broth.

This was a rock star dish. Great product, cooked to perfection all playing off each other.

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Quail ~ fingerling potato salad, duck scotch egg, apple gastrique.

Though on the hot appetizer menu, we ordered this as a second main and it served perfectly in that role.

The addition of the scotch egg was a delight, the quail, and the potatoes were cooked perfectly and had a wonderful flavor. The apple gastrique added a perfect overall sweetness to the dish. A true winner.

The staff was friendly and attentive, and for being a new restaurant overall well-informed. My friend did challenge them a bit by asking a few questions regarding the food and wine. At one point I told our server he was walking into a trap when she asked for advice about a particular wine choice, he handled himself well, though.

Decoy is set up to become a great restaurant, right now it is a very good one. Being in its infancy that is fine and the path to get there is very doable. In my experience, the dishes we had for our mains outshined the appetizers quite a bit. I will definitely be back in the future to see where they land.

Decoy

Lakeside hotel & Resort

1025 La Bonita Dr., San Marcos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things To Check Out Labor Day Weekend.

Here are a few goings on this coming Labor Day weekend around North County.

 

The Alley Art Festival in Vista. September 3rd 10am till 10pm in downtown Vista.

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More info here ….Alley Art Festival

 

Two restaurant openings……………

The Miller’s Table in Oceanside will open Thursday – Sunday for wine, beer, and food 5:30 to 9pm.

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The Miller’s Table  514 South Coast Highway, Oceanside.

Decoy the new restaurant at lake San Marcos is open and looks fabulous….

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Decoy @ The Lake House Hotel & Resort, San Marcos.

and of course…

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The Beach~ located West of you.

Have a great holiday weekend all:)