It’s official, Encinitas has arrived as a culinary hotspot. Thanks to Wade and Kristi Hageman and their cozy Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria in the Encinitas Lumberyard, we don’t have to travel to Los Angeles or New York to enjoy some of the best pies around.
You may remember Wade from a story I wrote on Blanca in Solana Beach where he brought world class dining to the beach as executive chef. His culinary resume is impressive and includes a stint running the wood burning ovens at Spago and early stints in pizzerias as a teenager. He has brought that magic to Blue Ribbon in the form of neighborhood pizzeria utilizing organic, sustainable, and local ingredients. Blue Ribbon is housed in a rustic, intimate space with 35 tables inside and a few scattered on the outside deck. Classic rock was the soundtrack for the packed house that was made up of a wide demographic with one thing is common, an appreciation for quality which can be found in just about every aspect of Blue Ribbon.
We started with the “BLT” or butter lettuce salad with Hobbs bacon and cherry tomatoes and a bowl of the sweet corn soup with chili oil that was light and frothy and I could really taste the sweet corn. They were both a nice way to whet our appetite for the highly anticipated pizza. I spread some of the salad bacon in the soup and loved that combination. I will be back to try the artisan cheese plate and salumi plate as both looked tempting. There were 12 appetizers to choose from, ranging in price from $8-$13.
The pizzas are the stars here and the wood burning oven was brought in specifically for them. Nothing beats the aromas of pizza baking in a hot wood burner and Wade has one of the best in the Renato wood burner that he had sitting in his garage for the past two years and from which the Blue Ribon concept was developed around. Blue Ribbon has ten pies on the menu and seriously, I want to come back and try every one, they all look that appealing. We went with the Californian, made up of extra virgin olive oil, or EVOO as Rachel Ray says so annoyingly, I guess it’s bearable in print…ok, back to my description, EVOO, fresh mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano, ricotta and arugula. It’s very evident that all the ingredients are either house made or sourced locally. I can’t tell you how I know that (besides them making it very clear) but I could just tell, maybe from my years of licking the plate. The second pie was the Rustic that came with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, fennel sausage, and roasted peppers. I enjoyed this one even more as it seemed to fit right in with the rustic space and who can resist house made sausage? The crust was perfectly cooked with spots of crispy charred dough and the nice mix of crunch and chewy texture. The pies are in the $13-$15 range which is a great value for many reasons, first and foremost being that a high percentage of the ingredients are made in-house. Blue Ribbon is passionate about pizza and it’s quite obvious.
Wades wife Kristi, the former General Manager at Piatti in La Jolla, manages the wine list which includes a nice mix of imports and domestics by the glass and bottle, and are moderately priced from $26-$65. There are 8 local beers on tap and an oh-so-trendy 24 ounce Pabst Blue Ribbon for the hipsters to sport.
There was only one offering for desert but it was a spectacular butterscotch pudding with sea salted hazelnut and caramel. It was served in a canning jar and it was promptly devoured.
Blue Ribbon has added that final touch of culinary cool to Encinitas and there are more big name restaurants on the way. Let’s hope they take the quality path that Wade and Kristi Hageman have. Pizza is a timeless part of our cuisine in this country and when combined with quality ingredients and passion like Blue Ribbon has, it takes it to another level.
Check out Blue Ribbon at www.blueribbonpizzeria.com or call them at 760.634.7671. They are located at 897 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas. They do not take reservations so expect a wait during prime hours.