Belching Beaver Brewery Refresh Party / Belching Beaver Tavern & Grill ~ Vista

Belching Beaver Brewery Brand Refresh Party.

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Patio setting

Belching Beaver Brewery out of Vista is spicing up their logo and giving it a new look.  To mark the occasion, they hosted a beer and food event on their back patio on what turned out to be a gorgeous, warm sunny day in downtown Vista.  The event provided some new beers, an array of old favorites, and tasty food in a relaxed atmosphere.  The clincher was getting there early enough for a shady corner of the patio, only facing the sun to grab thirst quenching pours of Belching Beaver.  It was worth the sun exposure.  Having just experienced Chef Ramiro’s food pairing concoctions for The Bruery, I was excited to see what he could do with beers brewed just feet away from him.  All of his creativity is discussed below.

1

Carnitas Tostada with Mango IPA

San Diegans know you can never go wrong with tacos and beer.  An IPA paired with spicy pulled pork on a fried tortilla was a fancy twist on the classic, as the mango salsa on the tostada married well with the Mango in the IPA.

2

Green Papaya with Me So Honey Blonde

I was pretty skeptical when I grabbed this dish, curious how slaw would survive a hot afternoon.  I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor of the green papaya, mixed in a Me So Honey mustard.  It was a light, sweet, refreshing combination that reminded me of mid summer BBQ’s.

4

Grapefruit Blintz with Hop Highway IPA

This fancy pancake was likely meant for last as a dessert, but my beer instincts told me to save the dark beer for last as I barbarically folded the fancy cake in half and ate it like a taco.  Washing down the sweet cream and sour grapefruit with a solid IPA made for a lovely “dessert.”

5

Vegetable Mole with Viva La Beaver

The final dish and drink was a vegetable mole paired with their peanut butter and chocolate milk stout.  This beer is so delicious and creamy, and the bitter chocolate was a nice addition.  It helped to wash down the little bit of spiciness in the mole.

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To end the day, we tried one of the new beers released at the party.  It was the Coffee-Maple-Vanilla Scotch Ale.  If the name sounds like a mouthful, you should try the beer.  All the flavors mesh beautifully in this unique pour.  I noticed the maple mostly in the aroma, and the vanilla and coffee collapse onto the palate and end with a smooth, creamy finish.  It was on the sweeter side, so if you are not into sweet beers I suggest starting with a taster.  But this beer, among others, is definitely worth making the trip over to the Vista Tavern to drink and enjoy the outdoor patio as we get closer and closer to summer.

All Words & Photos by:  Justin Kunert

Belching Beaver Tavern & Grill

302 E. Broadway, Vista

#Vista #food #foodporn #beer #brewery #craftbeer #belchingbeaver

Crust Pizzeria ~ Carlsbad

Crust Pizzeria is a Chef driven, gourmet pizza restaurant located on the border of Carlsbad and Encinitas at 3263 Camino De Los Coches, Carlsbad. (sprouts shopping center.)

The restaurant is pretty large with a medium-sized bar area, an open kitchen area, and seating for about 75 inside and an additional 40 on the patio. Still it gets busy on nights and weekends.

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Crust Pizzeria

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Crust Pizzeria interior.

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Master Pizza Chef Charlie Meola working at his craft.

Chef Meola has been working at his craft for 18 years. This experience and his passion for only using the best ingredients shows in his food. I was luck enough to grab some of his time and you can read that interview Here.

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Cheese Pizza by the slice available at lunch.

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Pepperoni Pizza ~ Grande mozzarella, Boars Head pepperoni, and fresh-cut basil.

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Tasia ~ Belle chevre goat cheese, kalamata olives, grilled eggplant, zucchini, Grande Mozzarella, feta cheese, oregano, lemon zest, and chili flake.

The pizza I had on a previous visit was the Sophia ~ Spicy sausage, crispy chard, olive oil, fontina cheese, ricotta, and rosemary.

I do not have a pic because my phone ate it:(  but it was delicious. Perfect crust, loved the quality of the cheese and the balance of flavor.

I would put crust in the top 4 pizza places in San Diego at the moment. First off don’t give me the Filippi’s they are mediocre. Pizza Port is OK if your close and want to grab lunch. Urbn does not know how to cook or time their crust, both times it was charred and inedable around the outside ( and I was there when it was slow so it’s not like they got distracted.)

No, I would say Biga, Crust, and The Privateer followed fourth by Pizza Maniac (for an old school grab a slice after work or school place.)

I know I talked mainly about pizza but Crust also does pastas, salads, and sandwiches.

I plan on going back for non work eating soon to explore the menu a little more along with going back to Biga for lunch because it was too dark for pics at dinner.

Crust Pizzeria

3263 Camino De Los Coches, Carlsbad

#food #foodporn #Pizza

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

Irina’s Bar and Grill ~ Oceanside

großes deutsches Lebensmittel!

Irina’s bar and Grill is a medium-sized bar located at 3375 Mission Ave. in the valley in Oceanside. It boasts a fairly modest exterior and a nice, clean interior with a long “L” shaped bar, plenty of seating and two pool tables. Nothing that really distinguishes it from plenty of other local bars…except for the food.

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You see, Irina’s has a secret weapon, great German food. They have a regular bar menu as well but that’s not why I come here. I come here because good German food is hard to find.I used to travel the U.S. with work and my boss Marc was from Germany. It was our goal to track down any German restaurants we could find coast to coast. They were few and far between. The best we found was in LA, it is no longer around and I can not remember the name. We have Tip Top but I think Irina’s edges them out slightly.

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I started with a Bitberger on tap and a half order of Currywurst.

 

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Currywurst ~ Sliced bratwurst topped with a curry tomato sauce.

Good quality brats topped with a slightly sweet tomato curry served with very nice french fries.

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GESCHNETZELTES VOM SCHWEIN ~ pork ragout in mustard cream sauce w/ honey, pickle + green bell pepper, served w/ sautéed spätzle.

I love Spatzle, this was a good dish. It could have used a touch more seasoning but I ate every bite. Everything is very reasonable the most expensive dish on the German menu is the Jagershnitzel at $12.50 and its huge.

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The huge Jagerschnitzel from a previous visit.

If you’re looking for some different bar fare I would highly suggest checking them out.

They open at 4pm weekdays, noon Saturdays, and 9:30 am Sundays. On yelp you will hear “Sketchy Neighborhood” it not, its fine, I swear you would think no one has ever been to a major city in their life time. They see one homeless person and lose their shit.

Irina’s Bar and Grill

3375 Mission Ave. Oceanside

#food #foodporn #germanfood

Bruery Beer Dinner @ Belching Beaver Tavern ~ Vista

So, I am hitting you with back to back event dinners, which is kind of a mixed bag for me. Part of me thinks, I am reporting on something you can not go to since it has passed. On the other hand it is good to show what is going on here in North County. There will be more events so hopefully you will take advantage and hit some of them up yourself. Even if you do not like events it does give exposure to local Chefs and what they are doing so you can get a feel for their style and talent.

Tonight’s dinner was a collaboration between Chef Ramiro of Belching Beaver Tavern and Grill in Vista and The Bruery out of Orange County. It was a very special collaboration that I feel brought out the best of both parties.

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Chris from The Bruery and Chef Ramiro

I will be covering the food portion, Justin, North County Food’s contributing beer writer will be doing a follow-up post going into the beers more in-depth. It is our first time doing it this way but I think it will be an interesting take on the coverage.

If you have not been to the Belching Beaver Tavern it is a wonderful spot.

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The bar area before the crowd descended.

The dinner was a 5 course menu paired with 7 pours ..think it ended up being 8.

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The menu

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Al Pastor Tostada ~ Annatto seed marinated pork, potato tortilla, hominy puree, burnt pineapple cilantro chimichurri, and spiced cotija cheese.

Hands down dish of the night. This was just everything you want in a dish, layered, complex, heat, richness, and all that. The chimichurri had just this back hit of pineapple and the spiced cotija just played with heat. Truly great.

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Melon Salad ~ Compressed melon, roasted nopales, and nasturtium pesto.

Deceptively simple. The melon was compressed with the paired beer giving it a less sweet flavor. That and the play against the bitterness of the greens and nopales worked perfectly.

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Swedish Meatballs ~ Venison meatballs, creamy gravy, and lingonberry sauce.

Great take on a classic dish. The venison was mixed with some ground beef to add some fat content and inject moisture to the dish.

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Mole Skewers ~ Grilled mole seasoned Beaver veggie skewers

Perfectly cooked vegetables in an insane mole. I tried to see if there was left over mole in the kitchen to take home but alas.

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Grilled Pound Cake ~ Coffee chantilly, jalapeno macerated Oregon berries.

I am not a dessert guy but this was delicious. The grilling of the pound cake gave it a texture just shy of a biscotti. The Coffee chantilly was light and flavorful and not mentioned in the menu description was topped with a chocolate and brittle candy from So Rich Chocolates , one of my favorite chocolatiers, out of Vista as well. Way to keep it local.

The one thing, other than they can make great beer, about the Bruery is they do not shine away from pouring their product.

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This was our corner of the table by the end of the night.

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Justin, Chef Ramiro, and the two lovely ladies we had the pleasure of enjoying the dinner with, never met them before just great people. I had a ton of fun. A big part of these events is meeting new people and sharing the love of food and wine.

Belching Beaver’s next event will feature Firestone Walker. Keep up on dates by following them on Facebook which I will link below.

So, now for some insider news. Belching Beaver is looking to add food both to their Vista tasting room and their Ocean Beach location. The menus will be akin to the bar menu at the Vista tavern location. In addition they are looking to expand the Tavern concept with full menu up to possibly the Santa Barbara area. Good on them.

Belching Beaver Tavern & Grill Vista, Ca

Belching Beaver Facebook

The Bruery

Rooster Ramen : The Return ~coming Spring / Summer

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“Here they come to snuff the rooster
Yeah, here come the rooster
You know he ain’t gonna die
No, no, no, you know he ain’t gonna die”    

Alice in Chains ~ Rooster

So, a little while ago I mentioned on northcountyfood’s Facebook page, which you should be following as well, that a great Ramen place is returning to North County.

That place is Rooster Ramen. The original, high quality pop up Ramen in North County. Do not be fooled by Johnny come latelys.

Now, I am happy to say Rooster Ramen is returning with a full-fledged brick and mortar restaurant.

Having eaten Chef David’s Ramen at the old incarnation of the restaurant, I am eagerly awaiting and trumpeting the return!

Here is what David has told me about his new restaurant

Opening late spring / early summer

Highway 101 in an undisclosed location.

Full 30 plus Sake list, plus Sochu cocktails and a complimenting beer list.

Over 9 traditional ramen dishes taken from different regions of Japan, as well as a number of specialty takes on the noodle dish.

The menu will also feature small plates and Yakatori grilled items prepared on a traditional Binchotan charcoal grill.

A revolving specials board will be available daily and feature items based off of what is fresh and in season. Luxury items such as Osetra Caviar, Monk Fish liver, and pork cheeks will also make an appearance.

Prices for Ramen will run $9 to $14 with build your own as well as vegan and vegetarian options available. Expect to see a good bowl of Pho make an appearance.

The restaurant’s digital ordering system will emulate the Ramen vending ticket machines in Japan. This will not only give customers full control of the ordering process but will also increase its speed.

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Example of a Ramen ticket machine.

The restaurant will have the feel of a Japanese farm-house with plenty of outdoor seating, a lengthy Ramen bar, and a semi open kitchen.

Hours will be 11 am till midnight weekdays and till 2 am Friday and Saturday with an early morning Sunday hangover brunch. This will make it North County’s only late night spot, sans a few Mexican places..

All the restaurants plates, bowls, and cups will be hand-made ceramic from Pawena Studios out of LA.

More news and info to come as things progress.

Perfect timing as this is The Year of The Rooster! My sign as well)

Whole Pig Roast Jan. 14th 12-4 @ Biga

First Annual Hog Roast at Biga

Come join Biga, The Red Door and Edwin Real from Eating and Drinking in San Diego as we celebrate the best local flavors and products at our First Annual Hog Roast!

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Tickets Here

We have four amazing participating chefs, all well-versed in sourcing locally and creating unique and ever-changing menu items. They are Tae Dickey from Biga, Willy Eick from 608 Restaurant, Evan Cruz from Arterra and Drew Bent from the upcoming Lola 55.

We will be roasting a whole hog, provided by Heart & Trotter, in our wood-burning ovens. Heart & Trotter will also be hosting a hog butchering demo for those who are interested!

We will have freshly prepared charcuterie, accompanied by Biga’s unique, woodfired Heritage Bread.

Poor House and Abnormal Brewing will be taking over our beer taps.

A wine tasting will be hosted by Regal Wine.

Cost per ticket is $30 if purchased before January 13 and $35 at the door. Each ticket includes food and one drink. Additional beer will be $3 each and additional wine will be $4 each.

Biga

650 6th Ave. Suite C, San Diego

New Chef / Menu Items At Flying Pig Pub & Kitchen ~ Oceanside

So, I was invited with about 120 others to try some of the new menu items that will be coming to The Flying Pig’s Oceanside location starting Tuesday.

The new menu will feature Craft, Italian inspired dishes created by new Chef  Justin Lappies. Justin has been working with Executive Chef Mario Moser for the last three years and was tapped to replace exiting Chef Samantha Parker, who is now at Campfire.

Do not worry, it is not a complete menu change and you will still see Flying Pig staples on the menu, it is just an infusion of freshness accompanying the new Chef.

All the dishes were served “family style’ and varied with each table.

What we had…..

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Panzanella Salad ~ Heirloom tomato, red romaine, onion,basil, cucumbers, capers, fried house focaccia, house vin.

Great salad with super fresh ingredients. I would say an interpretation of a panzanella.

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Arancini ~ Arborio rice, herbs, mushrooms, house red sauce and truffle aioli.

A great light version of what can sometimes be a heavy appetizer. I loved the filling and the mushroom flavor. I did not care for the truffle aioli but the red sauce made up for it in spades.

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Meat Flatbread ~ Pepperoni, ham, sausage, house red sauce, caramelized onion, opal basil

Classic, tasty flatbread.

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Tagliatelle ~ Daily Bolognese, with aged parm.

This was my dish of the night. Perfectly cooked, hand-made pasta with a rich sauce that contrasted perfectly with the freshness of the greens.

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Campanile ~ Daily pesto, house sausage, mushrooms, aged parm.

Another tasty pasta dish, loved the pesto and the sausage. Pasta may have been slightly to al dente for my taste.

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Olive Oil Pound Cake with Champagne Gastrique

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Spumoni ~ Pistacio Gelato, Brandied Cherries.

Excellent gelato, could have used more kick out of the brandied cherries.

Overall, great food that will be a nice addition to the Pig’s menu. Just as long as the pork chop does not go anywhere:)

Flying Pig Pub & Kitchen

626 South Tremont Street, Oceanside

North County 2016 ~ A look back

So, while 2016 did not see the growth explosion of new places opening  that 2015 did, it did see some important restaurants open and trends take hold or fade.

While this post is too short to be all-inclusive, it hits on what I think was important to the North County food scene over the last year. You know things are good when you really have to edit your self. Other wise it would be “Things I love in North County, see entire website.”

I am going to start with some of the most important restaurant openings in North County (IMO).

Campfire ~ Carlsbad

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Campfire is important for a number of reasons. One it is a great restaurant and would be right at home in the East Village, North Park or Little Italy’s  Food scene. Two, along with Land and Water Company it adds a second ingredient driven, properly sourced, foodie destination restaurant to the mainly touristy, mediocre Carlsbad Village food scene. Lastly, along with Carruth Cellar’s tasting room and Babba Coffee, it is helping to revitalize the north end of state street.

608 ~ Oceanside

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Opening in June of this year 608 brought upscale food in a comfortable setting to Oceanside, and at a price point that made it accessible. Chef Will Eick, in my opinion, is one of San Diego’s most talented young Chefs. He is bringing fine dinning techniques and ingredients and making them approachable. He also just introduced a seven course tasting menu option on the weekends offering the first non Omakase tasting menu option in Oceanside.

Belching Beaver Tavern and Grill ~ Vista

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Like Campfire did in Carlsbad, Belching Beaver joined the Flying Pig and added another farm to table, high calibre restaurant to the growing Vista food scene. Combine that with a talented Chef who focuses on farming and teaching children about food, where it comes from and how to grow it, you can not help love the place. Their beer is alright too:)

It is constantly on my visit, when I can list.

There were quite a few trends in the national food scene that were also seen in North County.

Some have hit their peak…

Fast Casual Poki restaurants. The trend actually hit last year and made its way to San Diego and in turn North County in 2016. You have Wicked Poki, Sunshine Japanese Food, and Poke Poke in Oceanside, Poke Waii in San Marcos, and soon to be opening PokeWan in Carlsbad. I think from the ones I have been to, Poki Poki is the best. If you want higher caliber, chef made Hawaiian food and Poke, I suggest checking out Lanai in Leucadia or Yoshino Japanese Deli in Carlsbad for Poke and Japanese.

Some trends are just continuing to grow…

The Artisanal Coffee / Tea scene has continued to show no sign of stopping for years now. It has finally hit Carlsbad and Oceanside. I should not say finally hit, but grown. The major players that have shown up recently are Banana Dang!, Loose Leaf Tea, Sleeping Tiger, Revolution Roasters, Copa Vida and Steady State Roasting. Who join a number of great coffee houses already in the area. For the first time, in its four-year history, Caffeine Crawl has added two North County routes in Oceanside and Carlsbad that are set to kick off this years San Diego event in January.

Caffeine Crawl San Diego

Declining and rising…

I think the fast casual Gourmet Burger explosion of the last few years is dying down. Not that I think these places will go away, I just feel you will not see as much of a proliferation of places like Habit Burger, Burger Lounge, and Pure Burger as you have.

I think the pendulum is on the up swing for fast casual healthy options like Lemonade, Flower Child, True Food Kitchen, Tender Greens and the like.

Best Dishes of the Year…

This is hard, but because these spring to mind instantly, I have to go with them. Two are from San Diego but deserve mentioning.

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Spicy Scallop Nigiri ~ Wrench and Rodent (Oceanside)

Made for me by Alex, this dish was perfect. Just a slight heat from the red Cyclops Farms jalapenos, and melt in your mouth scallops from Catalina Offshore.

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Pan Seared Opah ~ Flying Pig . (Oceanside)

This was a nightly special, beautiful Opah ( one of my favorite, if not favorite, fish) on red farro and micro greens.

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1 year Anniversary BBQ plate ~ Flying Pig (Vista)

Everything you could want (especially me) on a plate. Perfect Tr-Tip, Pork Loin, and Brisket, cooked over open flame and served with veggies and mash.

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Coop De Ville Chicken Sandwich ~ Crack Shack (SD but soon coming to Encinitas)

Apply named Crack Shack, so good. One of the best fried chicken sandwiches ever.

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Chicken Skin Sandwich ~ Biga (SD)

You think it would be heavy because the main ingredient is chicken skin, nope light and flavorful. I plan to return to Biga for dinner in the new year.

 

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Char Grilled Oysters ~ Campfire (Carlsbad)

Great dish that reminds me of oyster festivals on the sound in Washington State. I get this every time.

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Pork Belly ~ 608 (Oceanside)

I love me some pork and this is a perfect pork belly dish. It is smoked before curing (usually it is the other way around.) making it full of porky goodness.

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Assorted Cookies ~ The Cravory (Carlsbad)

Their cookies will change your life, they changed mine. You can get them at their shop in Bressi Ranch, or in Oceanside at Banana Dang! Favorites are the Red Velvet or Birthday Cake.

Special places that I was so happy to discover this year...

El Chapin

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Authentic and delicious Guatemalan food that can not be beat.

Sitaram

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Family run, fixed daily menu, vegetarian, Indian restaurant that needs to be tried by all.

 

What I’m looking forward to next year….

Trying 608’s tasting menu, Flying Pig’s Brewery, That Boy Good / Alpine Brewing restaurant and  brewery, LTH’s second concept , and much, much, more.

What you can look for from North County Food. A 3 to 4 chef “Dessert Dinner” at Petite Madeline for Oceanside Valentines Week. Another Chef Wine Dinner in March / April, and of course more restaurant highlights.

There you go a short recap of a great year food wise. Happy holidays to all and thanks for your support.

 

 

Best Pizza and Brew Coming into South O.

Looks like the old motorcycle place at 1636 South Coast Highway has finally found a tenant. Best Pizza and Brew Oceanside will be going in

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Picture by Robert Gladden, Seaside District.

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1636 South Coast Highway, Oceanside (corner of Coast Highway and Whaley)

I don’t think Privateer and Privateer Marketplace have any worries (they are catty corner to the location.) The pressure will be on Best Pizza and Brew to provide good beer and food, in order to fill the place.

I believe it is the same owners as these two locations…Here

It’s a big enough sandbox, everyone can play.