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…

Masters Chicken and Waffles (1 of 1)

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.

Beltane RanchWine Dinner Report, The Miller’s Table ~ Oceanside

So, first off hung over, second off probably one of the best wine dinners I have been to…and I have been to a lot.

The thing that set it off was the quality of the wine, the wine maker, which I will expand on and the company, both staff and attendees.

The one thing that the miller’s Table does right (actually they do a lot of things right) is create a warm communal atmosphere. I had fun, I actually had an experience that will go into my mental book as “Yep, I liked that”

Lets start with the players….

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Right to left (yep going in reverse) ~ Gideon Ezra Moore ( I am friends with his brother and both are talented as hell), Anthony ( who is insanely talented and a hard ass working mother fucker..there will be cursing) in the middle we have Stacy Miller (hence the name) owner / proprietor / Chef / all around awesome person, Next the Beltane team wife and husband, Chef and Wine maker Joy and Kevin. They were new to me but so impressed.

 

Ok, so the wine. the biggest take away was their wines were great and balanced. That is what I look for in a wine ..balance from top note to finish.

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So, I started with whites as a wine nube and then got into really hard reds and blends (I love me some blends). Now I am back to whites and rose. This was the 2104 Estate Sauvignon Blanc “Drummond Block” This is a good wine.

 

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“Barbeque” Fried Cauliflower

So this was Cauliflower in an egg wash and deep-fried, topped with herbs. The thing I liked (and this goes for all Chef Joys dishes) she respected the vegetable. It did not taste fried, tons of natural flavor. I ate like 10 of these:)

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Crab Deviled Eggs ~ Charred redicchio and winter greens, Prager brothers baguette.

So, devil eggs strike fear into my heart for a few reasons…one to many holiday with white trash versions and now hipster overplayed. These were none of those, they were fresh and light. Now the star of this dish was the veg. Again Chef Joy shines at vegetables. The redicchio was charred which lent a lot to offsetting the bitterness (bitterness is a good thing by the way and countered the sweetness of the crab.)

rib-1-of-1 Braised Beef Short Rib ~ Winter Beans and root vegetables.

Another great dish. Perfect fork tender short ribs and again the veg. It was sweet and rich meat against perfect al dente beans.

served with 2013 Zinfandel “Heins Block”

I am not a fan of zins Opal does some great ones as do these guys. Well balanced (see again with that word) This was a big wine and a perfect pair with the rib. Chocolate and fruit..basically everything good.

 

Lets talk Cheese plate..a simple thing yet not.

Two words “Smoked honey” forget what you know because that will change your life …this is what I compare all honey to now going forward.

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Cheese plate

So look everything was great but I wanna direct your attention to the cheese in the upper left and the honey in the middle..that shit will change your life.

Again served with another great wine 2014 Fume Bob. I would say not a dessert wine and not a resling ..kinda inbetween..another great wine.

So, I do not want to gush but I think this was one of the best dinners I have been to. And (yep I started with and, get over it) this was one of my favorites. The reason the Chef and Wine Maker from Beltane and of course the crew from Miller’s Table, but also the guests. Everyone was into it.

If this was a start to 2017 I am down:)

Beltane Ranch

Miller’s Table

Oh, and by the way this was one of my favorite things to write about:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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:)

Feast ~ North County at its best:)

Two Events you have to go to…North Eats and Feast.:) Also Poke fest..same people. I am  there ..Mission San Luis Rey ..please on a sunny day in So. Cal. My article from last year…https://northcountyfood.com/2015/07/16/feast-oceanside-mission-san-luis-rey-parish/

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You can argue with me any day of the week…but I am

good at what I do:)

Growing Local With Luke Girling ~ Cyclops Farms Oceanside

Breaking Bad - Growing Local

So, here is our second up date from Cyclops Farms and Luke Girling ( I just call him farmer Luke)

So, it has been about a month since our last report; the weather has been hot, then overcast and humid, then overcast and mild. Has this impacted planting and how things are growing?

My biggest concern has been the humidity and moisture in the air. Disease is dancing around these parts! Some plants have suffered while others have held strong, its always a learning thing. I think we may be ok since we got our plants in kinda late, we will soon see!  

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I know you have a lot more plants in the ground now, tell me what you have done.

Well we have been planting daily, a great mix of veggies and flowers! A few varieties of tomatoes were planted a couple of weeks ago and that snowballed into the cut flowers, lemon and slicing cucumbers, padron peppers. purple tomatillos. mixed summer squash, habaneros, shishito peppers, and jalapenos. Next up this weekend is a ton of basil, melons, winter squashes, corn and carrots. I am feeling a little behind but we are giving it a go, the field will be full soon!

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Baby Peppers and Herbs.

It seems like most of the red tape paper work side of getting Cyclops Farms up and running is done and now you into the part of farming you love. Also someone got a certain certification just a week or two ago tell me about that.

 Yes!!!!!!! We just received our organic certification through CCOF! Pretty good feeling to put all that work into it and finally receive the cert and paperwork! Aside from the physically demanding  part of farming, the darn paperwork has my head spinning. The only real reason why the progress has happened so smoothly is because my wife is good at keeping up on those kinda things.  

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Can I say Fuck yes?…yes I can I own the site:) but really the city and everyone involved has been really supportive.

So, besides making sure everything grows what is the next goal?

The next goal for Cyclops Farms is to finalize the approval from the city for the on site farm stand, build it and start selling direct! We will be open on a weekday afternoon and a mid day weekend but not sure of times and days as of yet, but very excited to watch it evolve. Until then its….. Plant plant plant!!!!!

I think North County Food is going to involved in the above project (I actually know we are)

Another great day with luke. This is the start of your food and there is a man, who is serious, dedicated, and giving his all to making sure something like this happen in Oceanside.

Eat Food Help Animals

Sorry for being AFK for a little bit 🙂

Thanks to all for hanging in there. Some personal health stuff and some family health stuff.

On a brighter note, I still have 200+ pics to go through and lots of food stuff coming to North County…including this.

 

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Lou’s Records, animals, food what else could you want

 

Coffee is Art is Coffee

 

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This Friday, July 3rd Banana Dang! Coffee will be hosting their 2nd local artist for a two month exhibition. The launch coincides with the July Oceanside Art Walk and the coming of Comic – Con.

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The artist whose work will be on display is Whesley White. He is a perfect choice as his style of art fits right at home with Banana Dang!’s style and the Pop, toon, media / social media themes of his paintings are spot on right now.

Some of his work…..

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lips

hypno frog

power puff

Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup

jake and fin

🙂

bomb

of course I have to buy this one..tat

It’s a matching set.

All of these are originals on canvas and priced extremely well. except for my tattoo which is on my arm, so that obviously raises the price a few hundred.

Anyway, stop by Banana Dang! grab some coffee, see some great art and enjoy a Friday evening. If you can’t make it the exhibit will be there at least through July.

More about the artist…

Wesley White

Most people may find the art of WESLEY WHITE inspiring or too loud. But whatever your opinion, you must admit that it pops.
An Oceanside artist (b. 1986) via Laguna Beach, Calif.—the work of WHITE is recognizable for its wacky candy-like colors and “cute” subculture marked by POP art fetish, hip-hop, and street inspiration. Original pieces feature playful imagery like oversized eyes, cartoon Technicolor and contemporary characters marked by dark humor.
WHITE began honing his skills of sculpture and woodwork as a teen, but didn’t take up painting till his early 20s. Original pieces utilize acrylic and molding putty—drawing inspiration from leading edge artists Banksy and Tyler Warren. His travels to Spain, Ibiza and Costa Rica impacted his graffiti obsession. In his own words “My art is fun and LOUD with lots of bright colors. I love to make people smile and laugh, baby!”
Popular works include his Wu-Kitty, Spew (a spitting rainbow), and Jerry (Homer Simpson lookalike unicorn). Current collection on exhibit at BANANA DANG! is a retrospective of works from the past 10 years. When he is not in the ocean or walking his dog, WHITE can be found in his Oside studio painting to audible backdrops of Joy Division, the Smiths and Nicki Minaj.

Banana Dang!

115 South Coast Highway
Oceanside, California

bananadang.com

Art Walk

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50 Shades of Red Dessert Dinner Recap

A year ago if I had said you would be in Downtown Oceanside, three blocks from the beach on a Thursday night, attending a sold out dinner, not only featuring three of the best Chefs’ in North County, but with the majority of the produce being grown within three miles of said restaurant at an organic farm, Oh and it was going to consist of all desserts…what you would have said was probably something along the lines of “sorry sir I don’t have any change” and moved along.

Well the above scenario is exactly what went down Thursday night at Petite Madeline Bakery and Bistro.

This is North County Foods’ 4th Chefs Dinner. The other three were held at Masters Kitchen and Cocktail and featured between six and five Chefs. The concept behind these dinners is to not only introduce people to whats going on here but get them to experience other Chefs’ food and discover new things.

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Petite Madeline Bakery and Bistro..dinner kicking off.

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The Chefs. Annalise Brolaski, Beau Bonham, and Ian Smith. Goofballs but happy Chefs make happy food.

A little about each Chef..not so much a resume but how I know them and why they were involved.

Annalise Brolaski. Annalise is a Pastry Cook at Cucina Enoteca in Del Mar. I learned about her through Mai Cao at Chefs’ Roll (Linked In for Chefs). I was looking for a strong female Chef for my next event and Mai suggested her. I highly respect Mai and her opinion, so I reached out to Annalise. I did some research and was impressed, I was putting together a tour of Cyclops farms (more about them in a bit) and invited her along. I was in shock here was this incredibly talented Chef with a great attitude and 21 years old. I was blown away. She is one to watch by 24 she will have her own place and I would bet national recognition,…regional for sure.

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Annalise’s Dish ~ Citrus Shortbread, Strawberry Grand Marnier Sauce, Honey Comb, Basil (red local basil which is incredible), Meyer Lemon Curd, Strawberry Honey Sorbet, Local Bee Pollen.

This was my favorite dish of the night..we are talking splitting hairs between choosing between them but her dish was spot on all the way.

Beau Bonham. Beau is not only someone I consider a true friend he is one of the most talented Chefs I know. I first met him when he was at Petite Madeline as the Pastry Chef. this was just a “This is Beau” kind of meeting. A while later working with Wrench and Rodent Chef Davin Waite said “This guy Beau is really talented and does truffles on the weekends here with his cart”. I stopped by and started talking to him. The guy knows his stuff. After that we did an Art opening together and he started working as a chef at Frazier Farms in Oceanside. Shortly after that he got a part-time job at Masters Kitchen in Oceanside and they quickly knew what they had on their hands and brought him on full-time. He has been involved in 3 of my last Chefs dinners and will shortly be in his own place once the timing is right. I do not know what concept he will go with but every one he has told me I would line up for.

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Beau’s Dish ~ Strawberry and Pecan Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow, Milk chocolate and Strawberry Truffle, White Chocolate and Avocado Strawberry Bon Bon, Fresh Strawberry Salad, Yogurt, Cocoa Nibs.

The crafting of the chocolate on the White Chocolate Bon Bon was on par with any Chocolate in the world. Perfect crisp, perfect texture, perfect flavor. There is no room for improvement on that. The chocolate Marshmallow was my favorite though..the strawberry dust was a genius touch.

Ian Smith ~ So I met Ian before I met Ian…I stalked him, sort of, for a while. Beau (from above ) facebooked about Swoon Dessert Bar in North Park. I started looking a his weekly menus and dreamed of making it down there. Sad enough  they closed before I could make it. While trying to find Chefs for one of my dinners beau suggested that Ian might be available. I recruited him for my third Chef dinner and he impressed all the other Chefs so much he was offered three jobs. Because of politics and not wanting anyone to get butt hurt, I will not mention who they were but it was the best of the best in SD. He chose Petite Madeline because that is where he thought he could have the most creative control. We are very lucky to have a chef of his calibre in Oceanside.

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Strawberry and Basil Tres Leches ~ Ghost Pepper Strawberries, Marscipone Whip, Cake Crumb.

A play on Halo Halo this dish got more complex as you ate it. Great way to start the dinner.

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This was Ian’s version of an intermezzo…it was another dessert and my second favorite thing of the night.

Mango, Strawberry, goodness.

Crap! I’m at 817 words and still have more people to talk about.

This is what I’m going to do …the other people you are going to be hearing more about anyway.

I do just want to call out Banana Dang! and Living Tea Brewing Co. (If you have not visited them your only hurting yourself) The only real coffee-house in Oceanside (yep I said it) and the only local  brewer of Kombucha in North County and I believe San Diego.

and of course Cyclops Farms and farmer / owner Luke Girling…but just two words Farm Dinner…stay posted.

This in the end is a very strange post for me because the subject is near and dear to my heart. I work on these dinners for months, This is as close as what I would say  to someone in person about the dinner and those involved. (though there would be more swear words)

Thank You for your support and attending:)

Photos By Sheen Fischer and Participants.