Bluewater Grill ~ Carlsbad

So, though this was only their first week officially open, I went down to Carlsbad Village and checked out Bluewater Grill. I was not too worried about them being so new ( I usually give restaurants a few weeks to settle in) due to the fact they have 6 other locations and were running test lunch services all last week.

Bluewater Grill is in its 20th year of business. Having started in Newport Beach, they now have locations from Catalina to Temecula. The Carlsbad location moves into the space previously occupied by the Fish House Vera Cruz.

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Dinning room. Psst. those people look a lot like the owners of the Flying Pig:) They loved their lunch as well and were quite surprised at the price for quality. Restaurant and food cost stuff which I love talking about. That is not irony, I’m a nerd.

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Bar area.

The renovation changes out the dark motif of the Vera Cruz for an open bright dinning and bar area.

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Like their predecessor, they also have a fish market element.

It is nice now we actually have some good fish market options back in North County again with Pelly’s, Top Choice Fish, and now Bluewater.

The menu is straight forward with appetizers, salads, a few specialty dishes and of course fresh fish.

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Seared Scallops ~ Jalapeno aioli, chopped bacon and cilantro.

Perfectly seared U-10 diver scallops using a classic flavor combo. These were so delicate and sweet.

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Swordfish Espana ~ Fingerling potatoes, pine nuts, and smoked paprika.

Since they own their own Swordfish boats and the season is drawing to a close I had to go with this. Swordfish is one of those fish that can be boring, not in this case. Seared so it had just the thinnest of crusts, light, and flaky. Really nice. If they have Swordfish on the menu I highly recommend ordering it.

If you are looking for great non-sushi, sustainable seafood in downtown Carlsbad, I highly recommend Bluewater Grill.

Bluewater Grill

417 Carlsbad Village Dr., Carlsbad

#food #foodporn #seafood #swordfish #carlsbad #northcounty #fish

 

 

 

Top Choice Fish Market & Eatery ~ Carlsbad

Top Choice Fish Market & Eatery has opened recently at 6118 Paseo Del Norte in Carlsbad. Located next to Tip Top Meats the Top Choice Fish shares the same owners as the famous butcher shop and German market.

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The interior is simple and clean as one would expect from a fish market. It is divided into two sides. The retail market and the eatery.

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The eatery.

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The fish case.

The quality of ingredients is apparent. Perfect flesh and also perfect butchery. All fish are provided by San Diego’s very own Catalina Offshore Products.

They also have a selection of whole fish. Every fish I saw head the clearest eyes.

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The one at the bottom of the middle row looks pissed.

In addition they carry shellfish as well as a freezer case of other items like fish heads.

Taking a note from the butchery next store Top Choice Fish offers consumers the opportunity to buy 8oz cuts of fish and have it cooked and paired with two sides for cost of purchase plus $5. This what I came here for.

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I selected a beautiful piece of Opah for my lunch.

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Opah, grilled medium rare with coleslaw, Spanish rice, and a small salad

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Perfect medium rare, as asked for.

They offer a number of cooking styles and bastes. You could have Salmon fried fish and chips if so desired. In addition a selection of seafood gumbos, and chowders are also able to be purchased.

The prices vary by choice of fish but my Opah plate came to about $15. I was happy with that. The quality of product and cooking would stand up to any restaurant kitchen worth their weight. The sides were a let down, not bad just OK. Because it is a market there is no sales tax on most items.

The fishmongers were on point but the staff, though nice, was still a little bit green. I noticed a few order mistakes, which were quickly and appropriately handled. All in all a great lunch.

There is now North County access to the same great seafood products used by San Diego’s best Chefs. Now just because you have a paint brush does not mean you are gonna be Picasso, but at least now you have a really good paint brush.

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I drew a Opah.

Top Choice Fish Market & Eatery

6118 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad

#food #seafood #foodporn # fishmarket #restaurant

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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.

 

 

Campfire Dinner / Full Report ~ Carlsbad

While it was not my intention to write back to back articles on a single restaurant, the combination of a busy schedule, back pain, and the fact I loved my first trip, lead me to do just that.

Campfire is the first solo project of John Resnick (Ironside Fish and Oysters and Craft and Commerce). It brings an open kitchen and open flame cooking to the north side of State Street in downtown Carlsbad. The building, formerly an auto body shop, is transformed into what a camping lodge would look like if all the campers were hipsters. That is not a bad thing, the build out itself is beautiful utilizing natural woods and coppers to give it a homey yet modern feel. The design firm “Bells + Whistles” did an outstanding job. Blue Ocean Sushi would be another example of their fine work in Carlsbad.

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Nothing like smelling burning wood half a block away. Campfire 2725 State Street, Carlsbad.

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Campfire interior.

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Someone sucks at archery.

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Campfire bar and open kitchen. That kitchen had to be hot as hell with how muggy and hot yesterday was.

Chef Andrew Bachelier has created a menu that capitalizes on the restaurant’s main theme, which is open fire cooking. You will see a lot of words like chargrilled and smoked throughout. This also carries over to the cocktail menu created by Leigh Lacap.

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I started my meal off same as last time with the house made lemonade.

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Char Grilled Oysters ~   cucumber. Meyer lemon. chili butter.

Mentioned in my previous post this was going to be a go-to dish for me and being true, it is. Beautiful dish.

OK, new stuff…………..

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Broccoli ~   chermoula. lime. candied peanut.

This dish was recommended by the staff and was a hit. Perfectly cooked vegetables with a nice char flavor that set off well against the chermoula. Chermoula is a Mediterranean style marinade made of herbs oil, cumin, lemon, and salt or a variation of these ingredients, depending on region and chef.

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Leek ~   fungi. creamy taleggio

As with the broccoli, the leek was cooked to a perfect al dente. The addition of the taleggio added a fruity tang to the dish. Again the act of char-grilling the vegetable added yet another flavor and texture component. This is a very rich dish with the cheese, perfect for splitting…I had to buckle down and eat the whole thing myself:)

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Pork Middle Char Siu ~   farro. brussels sprout. apple

Chinese style pork set off against micro thin apple slices and farro. The brussels sprouts were fine but not essential to the dish. Solid dish flavor wise and well-executed pork.

Service was on point again. I plan on returning, still a lot of the menu to try.Plus I want to delve into the cocktail menu.

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This is the end to a “bad weather day” in North County:)

Campfire

2725 State Street, Carlsbad

 

 

Campfire (Lunch Report) ~ Carlsbad

I have been reporting on Campfire’s progress for a while now. They finally made their debut this week, opening for lunch and dinner Wednesday. While I have reservations for dinner on the 20th, I could not wait. I found myself with extra time on my hands and in the vicinity, so I popped by for lunch.

The dinner report will be more in-depth but from what I found it already looks like a winner.

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Campfire 2725 State St. Carlsbad.

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The bar has a pretty extensive craft cocktail,wine,and beer list. I went with my go to,lemonade, mint lemonade at that cause that’s how I roll. Made from scratch in a cocktail shaker.

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Char Grilled Oysters ~ Myer lemon, chili butter, cucumber.

These are going to go on the must have list for each visit. They brought back memories of oyster festivals in Olympia Washington. Perfectly cooked, plump,juicy, with a slight hint of smoke. I almost ordered another plate before I remembered I was coming back so soon.

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Tuna Belly ~ Long beans, soft-boiled egg, olive, shallot.

This was another great dish. It’s a cold dish which you may not get from the description but it holds tons of flavor. The stars of the dish are the long beans, which still have a char taste to them. The smoked tuna belly, egg and tapenade work to contrast and set the flavors off.

Again, I will have more on Campfire soon but I was just excited to share. Service was great, plenty of staff and a lot of the key positions are people from Ironside Fish and Oyster. At least that’s what my eavesdropping, I mean research, tells me.

Campfire

2725 State St. Carlsbad

I Love A Great Happy Hour ~ Solace & The Moonlight Lounge

So, I was down in Encinitas on business and killing time before my friend was picking me up for dinner at his house. I was hungry but did not a full meal because that would be rude. Light bulb moment “Oysters” not too filling and great.

I thought Solace and The Moonlight Lounge…lets see if there is a happy hour..oh yeah there is.

First off the staff was on point. It was kinda slow (which is when people start slacking) not these guys engaged on top of things and friendly.

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Oysters $1 each and quality Oysters, served at the right temp. and delicious.

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Aftermath

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May “The Dude” look over you

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Round two

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Menu

Also Tuesday is Taco Tuesday gourmet tacos for $4

Matt Gordon has had to close 1 restaurant and sell a 2nd. His food is legit,, his ethic 100% on track, so go support him and his staff. Nuff Said.

Solace & Moonlight Lounge

25 East E Street, Encinitas

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Oysters, Clams, and Chef Talk ~ Kings Fish House Carlsbad

So I got to spend the night with Christine Loyola Chef Owner of Petite Madeline Bakery and Bistro in Oceanside talking shop life and all things fun.

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So, lets talk oysters because I’m very serious about them. It is one thing when a restaurant thinks they are serving oyster (mainly blue points and Kumamotos) just so you know Kumamoto oysters are what the California burrito is to Mexican food…what people who do not know eat.Same with Blue Points.

Oh, it gets more harsh…Warm water oysters are trash . That is why they are served in shot glasses during happy hour with crap beer and lime and hot sauce.

Now on to Kings, I am a true champion of the non-chain restaurant but kings is the right kind of chain 11 locations across southern California, plus 2 high-end expense account restaurants called Water Grill in LA and SD. What they do really well is source their oysters. The menu changes daily based on supply. The other thing they do is employ people who know how to shuck said oysters.

We did a dozen sample platter

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Oysters explained 12 O’clock counter clock wise in sets of 3.

Eld Inlet, Wasington

Thorndike Bay, Washington

These are actually the same species of Oyster but the Thorndike due the enviroment were “meatier” While the Eld Inlet were more subtle.

Rappahannock, Rappahannock River Virginia

Island Creek Duxbery, Virginia

Again same species of east coast oyster and different taste.

I think the winner was the Eld Inlet in the long run…but all were great.

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Wild Littleneck Clams, NY

Great clams and broth…the kind you soak up with a mop and bucket.

Service was Eh but non a non issue.

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Chef eating Sourdough with butter and shaved horse-radish. She is a baker so if she likes the bread it is probably good.

Great night had fun and ate great seafood…life is good.

 

Kings Fish House

5625 Paseo Del Norte

Carlsbad, Ca

kingsfishhouse.com