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FOODfare: Relate Pops Up In Encinitas

Chef Dan Moody.
Chef Dan Moody.
Courtesy Photo

Call me a culinary curmudgeon or, if you’re particularly kind, refer to me as a purist. Either way, when it comes to food, I’m not into trends or gimmicks and few things do less to whet my appetite than a pre-meal barrage of PR-generated hype, media buzz and pop culture terms like “molecular gastronomy” and “the gourmet food truck revolution.” Having spouted all that, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that from now through February 26, diners in our fair county have the chance to check out one of America’s hottest dining trends which comes to us in the form of San Diego’s very first “pop-up restaurant.”

It’s called Relate Restaurant and is helmed by Chef Dan Moody, a veteran of pop-up operations who amassed his experience under Chef Ludo Lefebvre, the country’s leading practitioner of this outlandish concept where a chef temporarily sets up shop in an existing restaurant, bringing in all their own meats, produce, personnel and even artwork, to make the space their own for a finite period of time.

Moody has done just this, turning Encinitas’ St. Germain’s Café into a showroom of sorts for his innovative, modern technique-driven fare. Standouts at last week’s pre-open party included a rabbit cassoulet (crafted to pay playful homage to the Year of the Rabbit) and an avant-garde version of S’mores incorporating heart-shaped house-made graham crackers, a tequila-laced crème anglaise and marshmallows made using locally-sourced agave then campfire-ized using a specialty smoke gun. It's a bit whacky, but it's good eats that would be at home in any regular resto. Lovers of creative edible fare, you’re officially on the clock. Once it’s gone, it’s gone (at least for awhile).

1010 South Coast Highway 101, #103, Encinitas, 858.367.3709

Battlestar Pacifica

Most times, when a new chef comes onboard at a restaurant, it means the last toque who manned the stoves got burnt while doing so or has little to subzero interest in returning to their old stomping grounds. So the chances of a new chef versus old chef match-up are about as slim as a see-through piece of expertly sliced prosciutto. Yet, on February 23, that’s exactly what’s going down at Pacifica Del Mar. As a way of adding some spice to their already alluring B Cellars wine dinner, this coastal neighborhood fave’s current chef, Evan Cruz, will take on his predecessor, Chris Idso (who had always aspired to be a restaurateur and made a self-induced move to the front of house after nine years on the line) in a course-by-course competition to see whose dishes pair best with the five wines being served that evening. Diners will serve as judges and there are a few seats left for those who think great food and wine go especially well with a savory side of intense scrutiny.

1555 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, 858.792.0476

Open Your Cake Hole

Last autumn, I told you all about a local entrepreneur named Misty Birchall, who was making sugary waves among the barfly sect with her PubCakes. At the time, her beer-infused cupcakes were only available online and at a trio of particularly sudsy saloons, but this beer-bakery hybrid biz is growing up fast. Last weekend, Birchall opened an official storefront where she shares space with Treehouse Coffee Company. As if that’s not enough, Birchall has even been approached by several TV production companies sharing ideas for shows incorporating her desserts. Whether or not mass media mugging is in PubCakes’ future is uncertain, but it’s certainly nice to know that there’s finally a spot where you can get a cupcake spiked with Karl Strauss Tower 10 IPA any time you want one!

7229 El Cajon Boulevard, College Area, 619.741.0530

The Last Dance

It’s always sad to report news of a venue closing. This week, I’m particularly bummed to share news of not one, but two spots closing their doors. Tango Wine Company, a quaint retail operation with a friendly vibe and fun tasting events, has decided not to renew the lease on their space on the north end of Little Italy. Their PMS Wednesdays will surely be missed (even by those without monthly visitors). The owners of La Jolla’s Trattoria Acqua made the same decision last month, opting out of life with their former landlord after 17 years as one of San Diego’s better Italian eateries. While their absence is sure to be felt on Prospect Street, that subtraction figures to equate into a positive addition into a yet-to-be-named inland community when restaurateur couple Michael and Victoria McGeath forge an entirely new concept into reality later this year. At least for them, instead of good-bye, it’s see you soon (we hope).

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

While it’s a privilege and a pleasure to share tidbits from San Diego’s food and dining-scape with you on a weekly basis, effective immediately, my FOODfare column will be a bi-weekly staple. That said, I’ll still be chiming in on a weekly basis as the restaurant critic for SanDiego.com. Expect heaping helpings of information that’s geared toward you, the consumer, from an astute devotee of the culinary arts who understands the restaurant industry and truly cares about steering you toward the best our county and each of its eateries has to offer. I look forward to serving you in this capacity and, in an effort to be as helpful as possible, if there are places you’ve been dying to know about, post a comment to this story or any of my review posts suggesting that I check it out (and why) and I’ll happily put it on my list of mmmaybes.