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FOODfare: San Diego Is Cooking With Class

The Red Marlin "classroom."
Courtesy photo

(This is the premiere installment of FOODfare, an insightful weekly roundup of what’s happening in San Diego’s culinary scene.)

Cooking With Class

Having made it onto Food Network several times and having had my food served in a professional restaurant, I feel confident in saying I know a thing or two about cooking. Being self-taught, I harbor deep respect for instructors who can create an environment to help aspiring cooks “get their learn on.”

This week, I met just such a teacher in Danny Bannister, executive chef at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay’s Red Marlin, during the inaugural Taste of Red Marlin cooking class.

Held in the restaurant’s luxurious private dining area, guests take a seat at the chef’s table which, with its built-in central fireplace and captivating views of Mission Bay.

Bannister admits it’s a far cry from his alma mater, New York City’s French Culinary Institute, but that’s by design. Guests settle in with zero pressure—not to mention several adult beverages (Tuesday’s event featured a quartet of wines from Edna Valley Vineyard and Domaine Chandon)—and watch as Bannister walks them step-through-step through a quartet of dishes.

This week’s class focused on some of Bannister’s signature dishes (ahi tuna poke, brined pork chops with grilled peaches and his trademark crab cake).

Tips included prime spots for procuring fresh seafood (Point Loma Seafood, The Fishery in PB, Vons at Liberty Station and Costco) and when to use shallots instead of onions and vice versa (onions are for eating as parts of dishes while shallots are primarily for infusing into sauces and the like).

Like traditional classes, the hardest part can be maintaining attention at all times. Fortunately, guests are sent home with culinary Cliffs Notes in the form of a neatly bound recipe pamphlet complete with photos of the day’s subject matter (plus a spiffy Red Marlin apron).

Next class: October 26--will feature dishes paired with beers from Poway’s Lightning Brewery; a November class will center on champagne. ($60/person; 619-221-4868)

Virtual Vino

Love a good earthy California cabernet but don’t have time to hightail it up to Napa Valley? The famed Mondavi family has a forward-thinking solution. On October 7, four generations of Mondavis will gather at the Carriage House of Charles Krug, Napa’s oldest winery and participate in a “virtual” wine dinner. They’ll use state-of-the-art broadcast technology to connect with diners in private dining rooms at 53 Morton’s the Steakhouse locations including our very own in the Gaslamp Quarter. Aside from four courses paired with varietals from Charles Krug, Continuum Estate and Folio Fine Wine Partners, high rollers nationwide will be able to bid on a special 27-liter bottle of a one-of-a-kind wine. Proceeds benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Tickets are $175 per person. (285 J St., Downtown, 619-696-3369)

To Pair is Human

St. Germain master mixologist Jamie Boudreau dropped in at North Park’s Urban Solace to display the versatility and pairability of the elderflower-infused liqueur, via a number of specialty cocktails developed specifically for a five-course French-inspired dinner prepared by executive chef Matt Gordon. The collaborative menu matched a duo of oysters (cold with banyuls granita and warm with black truffle sabayon) with Boudreau’s limey tarragon-infused “Dragonwort,” a decadent sweet corn and fava bean custard with a gin-and-vermouth cocktail topped with St. Germain foam and a dessert of house-made farmer’s cheese-stuffed crepes, with equal parts St-Germain and Crème Yvette. While consistently solid flavors are why so many local foodies find solace at Urban Solace, Gordon regularly excels in new and unexpected ways when he steps outside the box to create unique one-night-only fare for special events, which are well worth tracking online. (3823 30th St., 619-295-6464)

Porto Vista in Little Italy.
Courtesy photo

Revolving Door

Earlier this year, the stylish Porto Vista Hotel was abuzz after luring chef Amy DiBiase from her former digs at Roseville in Point Loma. Unfortunately for the hotel and its sleek fine dining restaurant, The Glass Door, just as DiBiase was set to make her official debut, she was wooed once more, this time to her current post as executive chef at The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant in Old Town. Last week, it was announced that after months spent in limbo, they’ve passed the toque to new executive chef Brent Calley, a local product who’s logged time at the Hard Rock Hotel, Jake’s Del Mar and Pacifica Del Mar. Calley’s culinary style—classic Mediterranean with California flair—is perfectly in keeping with the hotel’s Little Italy location. The same can be said for dishes like roasted beet carpaccio with butternut squash vinaigrette and sea bass with artichoke relish and bacon butter. On the whole, Calley’s menu is rife with fresh local produce, a portion of which he plans to procure directly from the Little Italy Mercato farmer’s market just down the street. (1835 Columbia St., 619 -557-9303)

A Stout Following

Since taking the reins at Green Flash Brewing Co. in 2003, brewmaster Chuck Silva has elevated the company to new heights behind hop-hearty beers that not only fit right in, but help further define SoCal suds style. So, when news broke that there’d be a new beer bearing his moniker, hop-heads everywhere prepped their palates for a potent double IPA. But, in aptly crafty fashion, the brewery unveiled that this special, limited release creation is just the opposite—a rich double stout made all the more decadent thanks to 17 months spent aging in oak bourbon barrels. Bound to be gone in a flash, Silva Stout will be available in four-packs ($16) sold exclusively at Green Flash’s tasting room in Vista starting today. (1430 Vantage Ct., 760-597-9012)

That’s a Mouthful

Ever stared into the fridge feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of putting edible odds-and-ends together to create a cohesive dish? Consider the following forewarning against self doubt and over-thinking from Kyle Bergman, the chef at the helm of The Grill at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, who recently provided the following words of support to a diner sharing her uncertainty about coming up with good flavor combinations: “You’ve been lied to. Most flavors actually go together.”