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FOODfare: No Time Like Holidays To Get Into The Kitchen

I may be the last writer in town telling you about the new cookbook From Terra’s Table by chef Jeff Rossman of Hillcrest’s Terra. By now you’ve probably heard what a thoughtful, creative and downright pretty culinary compendium it is. I couldn’t agree more. From the lovely photos to the informed wine-and-beer-pairings to the charming profiles of local farmers, ranchers and artisans, this is a masterwork for a guy who really cares about his hometown and the fare borne from its rich soils.

At this point, you’re likely wondering: If he likes the book so much, what took so long for him to write about it? It’s a good question and I’ve got a good answer. While chefs and food are all the rage and cookbooks sell aplenty, all too often, they come out, get bought, illicit a bunch of oohs and aahs and then head off to some forgotten bookshelf, never to be seen again. It’s nobody’s fault really. This is just the way it goes with cookbooks. We, the human race, are big on ambition, but with so many other distractions and detractions in our daily lives, our rate of follow-through seldom matches our best intentions.

 

From-Terra's-Table-book

 

From Terra's Table.

Courtesy photo

 

 

So, I wanted readers to be in the best frame of mind to discover and immediately begin utilizing this book. And what better time than the holidays? When else do you have so many opportunities (yay, obligation) to get in the kitchen and crank out multiple meals for those you care about (and all those other folks they bring with them)? Thanks to a bevy of recipes that are simultaneously impressive and approachable, you’ll have no problem picking out dishes to try out whether you’re serving up dinner for two or a household of yuletide revelers.

Top candidates for winter fulfillment are Rossman’s pumpkin bisque with cinnamon crema and spice-roasted pumpkin seeds, caramelized fennel and roasted butternut squash salad, butternut squash gnocchi and sweet potato apple latkes with lemon verbena crème fraîche. It was easy to come up with this quartet of seasonal dishes thanks to the organization of this book, which is geared toward cooks who enjoy ingredients at the peak of freshness. Instead of dividing chapters by types of recipes (salads, entrées, desserts, etc.), Rossman has broken them up into produce categories like root vegetables, tree fruits, berries and alliums (bulbous veggies like onions and leeks). The most regional of all of them is the opening chapter, which is dedicated to avocados and includes dishes both rustic—guacamole de pimiento that gets its flavor from roasted chilies—and refined—shrimp mojito cocktail with avocado-wasabi sorbet.

Recipes like these and roast duck with cranberry-goat cheese bread pudding, pork belly with fava bean ragout and vanilla butter lobster with tomato confit make this a good cookbook, but the spotlight it casts on local farms (Sage Mountain, Suzie’s, Tierra Miguel), agriculture-based schools (Hillcrest Academy, Albert Einstein Academies) and beverage producers (Karl Strauss Brewing Co, Hart Winery, Orfilia Winery) make it a great book in general. Rossman approached his project in a manner most busy chefs would not, by frankly, busting his rear-end to write full, informational tributes about the producers he works with on an everyday basis and harbors deep respect for. That admiration comes through loud and clear from this genuine proponent of the farm-to-table movement.

From Terra’s Table is available at Terra (3900 Vermont Street) or online at www.fromterrastable.com and www.chefspress.com.

 

Triple Crème

There are few people on the face of the earth who harbor such an intense ardor for cheese as Gina Friese, co-owner of San Diego’s Venissimo cheese shop chain. The same can be said for her knowledge on the subject, which is as well rounded and rich as an aged wheel of Parmegiano-Reggiano. That includes know-how of cheese-making processes gained during many a trip to Europe’s milkiest locales. On Monday, fellow fromage fanatics can be a dairy heir to her expertise when she holds a ricotta and mozzarella making course at her East Village location. And for those who prefer to leave the cheese to the wiz, there’s Venissimo’s upcoming Chef Showcase featuring chef Katie Grebow from nearby Cafe Chloe. Quite possibly San Diego’s most cheese-obsessed chef, Grebow will have her own soft and stinky goings-ons from Dec. 5-9 when she celebrates serving the 500th cheese since the restaurant opened its doors six years ago. Look for some of her all-time favorite cheeses to be on sale during a week of commemorative happy hours. What a scrumptious way to say cheese!

871 G Street, Downtown, 619.358.9081

“Add”-ing to the Trophy Case

If you need proof of just how difficult it is to earn top scores from the world’s top rating issuers, all you need to do is look at San Diego’s lodging landscape and see how few of our hotels and resorts have garnered such recognition. One spot, The Grand Del Mar, rates high with critics such as AAA, who gave it five diamonds, and the Forbes Travel Guide (formerly known as the Mobil Travel Guide), which just awarded the resort a five-star ranking. To put it in perspective, only 167 total resorts worldwide achieved this status for 2011. A key contributor to the stellar overall reputation The Grand Del Mar has earned is its fine dining enclave, Addison, which is helmed by chef William Bradley, a homegrown product who puts together some of the most meticulous upscale plates in the city. His dedication and abilities have earned him many an individual honor, the most recent being his appointment as a Grand Chef via the Relais and Châteaux hotel and restaurant group. Bradley accepted this honor, which is doled out to chefs who perform at the highest level of their vocation while producing fare that is perfectly in keeping with the style of their property. Fashioning food as luxurious as the environs at The Grand Del Mar is no easy job, but one that Bradley continuously excels at. He is one of just 160 chefs across the globe to receive this designation. Of that small number, only 17 are U.S. chefs and Bradley is the only one located in San Diego.

5200 Grand Del Mar Way, Carmel Valley, 858.314.1900

Seeing Red

From now until World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, Jsix, the inspired eatery at downtown’s Hotel Solamar, will be offering “Cocktails for a Cure,” a scarlet-hued trio of adult beverages designed by master mixologist Jacques Bezuidenhout. Each of these special sippers, including the Rouge (vodka, Grand Marnier, Campari, fresh orange juice and raspberries) and Ruby Red (pink grapefruit vodka, Lillet Blanc and grapefruit juice, simple syrup and club soda with muddled ginger), goes for $10, a dollar of which will be donated to a local HIV service organization. Additionally, 10 percent of sales of Jsix holiday gift cards will also benefit the fight against HIV/AIDS. Efforts like these at Hotel Solamar and its family of Kimpton Hotels have raised over $170,000 over the past two years. Who wouldn’t drink to that?

616 J Street, Downtown, 619.531.8744

Top Chef

This weekend’s San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival was mighty chilly thanks to strong winds and torrential downpours (by SoCal standards). Thankfully, there was plenty of heat courtesy of the competitive fire from local chefs who brought their A-game in the form of creative dishes that were judged head-to-head for the event’s Chef of the Fest competition. This year’s first place Fester was chef Robert Ruiz from Harney Sushi who served his “Cunning Lengua,” Sapporro beer-braised beef tongue with local persimmons, roasted matsutake mushrooms and garnishes of chili daikon-shoga, “3D” demi-glauce and micro shiso. This tongue-in-cheek dish narrowly beat out KITCHEN 1540 chef Paul McCabe’s turducken (turkey, duck and chicken) nuggets with airy potato purée, cranberry gelée and foie gras gravy. It was the second year in a row that a chef from Harney Sushi left the festival with bragging rights. Other winners included chefs Sam and Jag Kambo (Royal India) in the Raw category, chef Daniel Barron (Blue Point Coastal Cuisine) in the Meat category, chef John Garcia (W San Diego Hotel) for Fish and chef Donna Cellere (Sweet Cheeks Baking Company) for Dessert.