What a year it’s been for the food scene in North County. So many quality options abound it’s hard to keep up with them. With that, and in no particular order, here are some of my favorite culinary moments of 2011.
I have to start with Fish 101. I gushed about them in my column and that infatuation has turned into a full-on culinary love affair, especially as I’ve sampled more of Pastry Chef Jessica Park’s spectacular desserts. They are the best around as far as I’m concerned.
The Flying Pig in Oceanside is one of the coolest restaurants I’ve been to anywhere without any pretension at all. It’s the restaurant and bar I wish I most wish I could walk to and their hot young chef Mario Moser is showing talent and innovation way beyond his age. He is headed for great things and if you have not been yet, trust me and get there.
Taverna Blu in the Del Mar Highlands Plaza has taken the Taverna, which is a Greek version of a bistro or pub and giving it a touch of California cool. True to the bistro concept, they feature wholesome, flavorful food at very reasonable prices and can double as a watering hole. It all works beautifully.
For a truly unique taco experience, mosey on down to the funky little patio dining area at Haggo’s in the heart of Leucadia. Besides the feeling of being transferred into a Wes Anderson movie which is reason enough to visit, the cool soundtrack and local, organic ingredients in the really good food make it worth a visit.
I made at least five “research” trips to taste as much as I could for my column on the Dog House Diner located outside the Encinitas Home Depot. Standouts included the Chicago and New York dogs, Milwaukee brat, the B.L.T., Dodger dog, Philly Cheesesteak, breakfast burrito, chili dog, and the Wiener burger which is a moist and tasty burger shaped into a long sausage shape served in a French roll. Add in an authentic soda fountain serving up all kinds of regional drink, float, and shake specialties.
Covering the Weed Dating event that took place at Suzie’s Organic Farm was one of the highlights of my year. It was conceived with the intent of bringing together like minded singles in a farm environment surrounded by some of the best organic produce in San Diego County. Nothing against Internet dating, as I’ve seen it work, but there was something very organic about meeting like-minded singles in a natural environment like Suzie’s Farm. Weed dating provided an informal, casual community atmosphere where interesting folks mingled and sampled some amazingly fresh food from the field they were weeding.
After many years of frequenting the Pannikin, I did something I’d never done before; I took a table inside the front window for a solid two hours. It gave me an up close and personal view of their incredibly diverse clientele. I feel lucky to have a place like the Pannikin where people from all walks of life can come together to enjoy great coffee, tea, food, and a sense of community.
I referenced Frontierland when describing the Yellow Deli in Vista because it’s just such a unique structure and scene. It feels like it could be in an amusement park, complete with characters in long beards, Little House on the Prairie costumes, and frontier/bluegrass music which I coined “smoothgrass”. Forget all that though, this is the real deal. This place was built from the ground up by skilled Twelve Tribes members and it is spectacular. They are also not in costume, it’s their daily attire. Prepare to be impressed by it all and be sure to wander around and check out the seemingly endless alcoves and intimate rooms. The food is solid too and they also have a booth at the Leucadia Farmers Market on Sundays where they sell their super green drink that I’ve become addicted to.
And finally, thanks to a Solana Beach company called MOGL, foodies are being rewarded for dining out. This simple concept awards diner’s 10% cash back every time they eat out at participating restaurants, of which there are over 200 in San Diego County alone. No coupons needed, it’s all automatic.
The restaurant scene continues to explode in North County and Lick the Plate will try to bring you as diverse a sampling of that as possible.
All of 2011’s columns can be found at www.lick-the-plate.com.