FOODfare: San Diego's James Beard Nominee
Each year, the James Beard Foundation, an organization devoted to all things culinary in America, issues awards to chefs and restaurants across the country they deem as the best in their respective regions. Few, if any honors are as prized in the dining industry. It can put a restaurant on the map from a national perspective, drawing the attention of foodies not only to a singular venue, but to the areas they operate in. The organization recently announced its nominees for 2011 and our community’s lone contender is Carl Schroeder of Del Mar’s MARKET Restaurant + Bar and the less-than-a-year-old Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant. Schroeder is up for Best Chef in the Pacific region and it’s not surprising considering, when polled, many of the chefs in America’s Finest cite Schroeder as the toque they most respect for his respectful use of seasonal regional ingredients. He definitely approaches his profession in an altruistic manner in that it’s all about high quality food and solid cooking techniques. Diners have embraced this simplistically savory mode and philosophy and, with any luck, so will the folks at the JBF. Finalists in each category will be announced on March 21. Keep your forks and knives crossed.
He Be Jammin’
Last year, chef Chad White was pressed into service as the new executive chef at Point Loma’s Roseville when former brigade general Amy DiBiase pulled up stakes. He was happy to take control and immediately started flexing his muscles, putting on dishes which were based on the classic technique Rosevillites had come to expect, but were notably more decadent than his predecessor’s recipes. The classically contemporary White is a fan of pork and duck and butter and pork. So, with Roseville now closed, he is building off of that sinful lust for saturated fat by producing and selling his very own brand of bacon jam. Sold under the EGO Culinary Trends moniker, White’s jam is a dense blend of rendered porky sugary goodness that’s sweet, smoky and best enjoyed slathered on a nice piece of plain white toast. It may seem a bland base for such a flavorful condiment, but the jam is best experienced without complex accompaniments that compete for your taste buds’ attention. In the end, all you really need is some mode of conveyance to get it from the plate to your palate. That said, it’s right at home on a burger provided you don’t mind sweetness of the BBQ sauce variety. EGO Bacon Jam is currently available at all Venissimo cheese shop locations, Siesel’s Old Fashioned Meats in Bay Park, Small Bar in North Park, KITCHEN 1540 in Del Mar and Little Italy’s Craft and Commerce.
A Noble Mission
There are a plethora of beer festivals in San Diego, which can make it tough even for the stoutest of partygoers to pick out which they’ll patronize. When it comes to the second annual Mission Valley Craft Beer Festival, which will take place on March 27 from noon to 6 p.m. at the Handlery Hotel and Resort, the event has one big differentiator—proceeds benefit Fresh Start Surgical Gifts, a non-profit organization that provides free plastic surgery services to children and young adults in San Diego who have physical deformities. And if that’s enough, for just $20, attendees can get their fill of unlimited beer (from 30 breweries including Ballast Point, Mission Brewery, New English, Karl Strauss, Stone and The Bruery) and food while it lasts. The latter will be provided by 15 local chefs from spots including Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Kensington Grill and Tom Ham’s Lighthouse. Live music rounds out an event where the charitability extends to event-goers.
Of General Interest
Over a decade-and-a-half ago, long before craft beer bars were en vogue, there was but one beery bastion tucked away in a strip mall in the otherwise Asian expanses of Convoy Street. Not only is that magical place—O’Brien’s Pub—is still there…it’s doing better than ever. Known among beer enthusiasts as “The Hoppiest Place on Earth,” the bar plays host to the world’s best brewers when they stagger through town, holds beer and food tastings that rival many white linen establishments’ similarly-themed events and always features some of the best and hardest-to-come-by ales and lagers around. Come early summer, North County residents in the bar/resto-starved region east of Interstate 15 will get a hoppy shot in the arm when O’Brien’s owner Tom Nickel and his business partners swing open the entrance of a sister saloon called General’s on Scripps Poway Parkway. Named after a co-owner’s father, the pub will have a comparable number of taps to O’Brien’s, but a bottle list that’s about a third of the size. As Nickel puts it, it’ll be like the “O’Brien’s triple A farm team,” which still figures to be better than a major percentage of the beer bars here or anywhere and certainly better than those established by bandwagoners looking to cash in on the current craft beer trend, putting forth minimal effort and producing beer selections that convey that lack of dedication.
Changing Out A Fuse
Let me start this off with a disclaimer. Though this entry follows the last, I am in no way including this venue in the category of venues phoning it in on the craft beer front. With that communicated, Pizza Fusion is in the process of altering the game plan at its former Hillcrest location (3827 Fifth Avenue) so that, in the late spring, it can reemerge as Local Habit, an eatery that’s all about organic pizza, artisan foods and…drum roll, please….craft beer. Though details are scarce at this point, the menu will sport a variety of vegan and gluten-free options, so there is promise on several fronts.