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FOODfare: New Chef At Quarter Kitchen


Quarter Kitchen at Andaz.
Courtesy photo

Over the past several years, Quarter Kitchen, the fine dining restaurant at the Gaslamp Quarter’s Andaz San Diego hotel (formerly The Ivy hotel), has played host to a diverse procession of head chefs. First, there was Damon Gordon, a flamboyantly quirky (and at times cranky) British import who, despite a creative cuisine mindset and quality dishes, never really fit into San Diego’s dining landscape.

In 2008, when he left to accept a prestigious post at The Jefferson Hotel in Washington, DC, his clogs were filled by Nathan Coulon, a local boy with a rich lineage. The grandson of the former chef-owner of San Diego’s most famous Belgian restaurant, The Belgian Lion, and the son of the chef-owner of La Jolla’s esteemed Michele Coulon Dessertier, Coulon put a friendlier face on the restaurant while gently and artfully pushing his farm-to-table agenda.

So, when he picked up stakes earlier this year to move to L.A. (gasp…the horror), many were saddened and quite curious who would inherit the Kitchen.

This month, that curiosity was quelled when the Andaz named Michael Liotta as Quarter Kitchen’s new chef de cuisine. A 16-year pro, Liotta’s logged time at Napa’s infamous French Laundry plus other big name spots, such as the Bay Area’s Chez Panisse and Providence in L.A. But San Diegans will more easily recognize the local spots filling out his résumé, including Cucina Urbana, Cafe Chloe, Chez Loma and the highly-lauded Addison at the Grand Del Mar resort.

Liotta’s grasp of the current state of gastronomy is evident in his seasonally-based regionally-rich dinner menu. Innovative standouts include starters like buttermilk fried veal sweetbreads with lemon caper butter and preserved tomato and line-caught albacore and king crab with avocado and yuzu aioli; plus entrées like red wine-marinated flat iron steak with smoked piperade and bagna cauda and confited duck leg with roasted sweet potatoes, sour cherries, gaunciale, apricot and pistachio.

600 F Street, Downtown, 619-814-1000

The Early Shift

Since opening earlier this year, Barrio Logan’s Blueprint Cafe has earned a reputation as a quaint quality spot for delicious mid-day dishes featuring an array of from-scratch delicacies made with thoughtfully selected ingredients. From the get-go, chef-owner Gayle Covner has adhered to the do-one-thing-and-do-it-well maxim, but starting this week, the former lunches-only eatery added breakfast to its repertoire. Among the offerings on the a.m. menu are stuffed French toast, a breakfast sandwich and fresh baked cinnamon buns, scones and muffins, all of which are every bit as fresh as the coffee from nearby Cafe Moto.

1805 Newton Avenue, Barrio Logan, 619-233-7010

Fist Pumping

Add Iron Fist Brewing Co. to the lengthening list of craft breweries in San Diego’s North County. Run by a family that brews the types of beers they enjoy the most, this new operation is focused primarily on Belgian ales and other Old World European beers. Despite little fanfare and advertising, well over 600 thirsty patrons made their way to the brewery’s grand opening last Friday, where six beers were on-tap including a rounded, floral and fruity saison and a crisp, refreshing kölsch that, like others in this style, such as Ballast Point Yellowtail and Mission Blonde, stands a good chance of converting macro-beer fans to the craftier side of the industry.

Iron Fist is located in an industrial complex in Vista, a community that’s also home to Backstreet Brewery, Mother Earth Brew Co. and Green Flash Brewing Co., the latter of which is the most prominent of the bunch and considering a move to a prospective inland location further south. Such a clear-out would certainly provide opportunities for increased patronage among the rest of the pack and could translate into a larger number of double (iron) fisted drinking Vistans.

1305 Hot Spring Way, #101, Vista, 760-216-6500

Want Some Cheese With Your Wine?

Visitors to Karen Krasne’s famed Extraordinary Desserts outposts come ready to splurge on skillfully-crafted sweets, many of which are built using ingredients plucked from the dairy counter. This month, Krasne and the crew at the confectioner’s Little Italy spot reached beyond the milk, eggs and butter and into the cheese section and, now, guests can enjoy unlimited tastes of eight-to-ten imported and domestic fromage every Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. Spanning the length of the milky way from cow to sheep to goat, the selection of cheeses will change weekly, as will the variety of wines—red, white, sparkling and dessert—that can be enjoyed along with them. The cost per person for the Cheese Bar is $12 and wines are available at an additional charge.

1430 Union Street, Little Italy, 619-294-7001

Blunch

In response to their wildly popular Sunday brunch, the southern comfort obsessed minds behind Urban Solace recently started offering a Saturday “blunch” (breakfast and lunch) option, which includes dishes fit for the most important meal of the day as well as the most skipped meal of the day. And, oh yeah, the main reason for brunch or blunch—cocktails every bit as tasty as they are potent. The blunch menu is available from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every Saturday and reservations are recommended.

3823 30th Street, North Park, 619-295-6464