Once again the North County dining scene continued to provide a lot of new fodder for Lick the Plate columns in 2015. That said, I managed to hit up some old standbys to throw into the mix and there were some non-restaurant related culinary adventures that were worth sharing as well.
With that, here are some highlights from 12 columns that practically wrote themselves and it’s those that make this gig such a pleasure.
I’ll start with the three generations of Polish women that run A Taste of Poland at the Leucadia Farmer’s Market. It was just such a joy seeing them all loving what they do and providing delicious, traditional family recipes that lack any pretension or trendiness, yet deliver satisfying comfort food week after week. If you have not been, add them to your mix of Farmer’s Market must try vendors.
The Wooden Spoon in Escondido was another discovery that made me very happy. It's refreshing to come across a restaurant that is a true original and a reflection of the owner’s passion and style. That's happening at the Wooden Spoon where chef/owner Jesse Paul has created his dream restaurant. Jesse honed his craft at some of San Diego’s best kitchens and several industry friends of mine had mentioned this was a natural progression for him. The meal I had there was fabulous and I’ve been back since for more. Go to this place now if you have not been.
It was very nice to have an authentic taste of Philly land in Encinitas at Gaglione Bros. Steaks & Subs with their authentic cheesesteaks. Besides becoming one of my go-to joints for a real deal cheesesteak (don’t ever put Philly in front of it). They also have a whole line of killer subs including The Turk where they basically recreated my favorite part of Thanksgiving, which is the turkey sandwich the next day with stuffing, cranberry sauce and mayonnaise. Now imagine that on an Amoroso roll with house baked turkey. It’s offered hot or cold but they suggest it cold and I’d have to agree.
Then there was the Indian Burrito at KC’s Tandoor brought to my attention by several of the best chef’s in San Diego. It’s a delicious example of traditional cuisine adapting to its surroundings and creating a wonderful hybrid combining the best of both worlds. Sounds a bit wacky but it work on many levels.
Chef Evan Cruz has definitely put Arterra in Del Mar back on the culinary map. His steam buns along with the Coca Cola glazed Duroc pork ribs with radish salad are worth the trip on their own. But really, everything I tried on his new menu was fabulous.
It was very cool experiencing first hand the perfect fit of a chef’s style and a location happening at The Lanai in Leucadia. Chef-owner Doug Moric and his wife Cortlyn Jade Moric took over the former Hago’s location and his island fusion cuisine is right at home in this funky cool spot. This is another place I’ve been back to several times since the column.
One place that really surprised was Barrel Republic. I did not expect to find a mainly scratch kitchen happening, thinking it would be more about the fun self-serve wristband technology for the beer and wine. The self-pour thing is cool, but the food I sampled from chef Michael Brown was the real deal and a step above what they probably could have gotten away with.
A new taste sensation was Jupiter Cold Brew Coffee, a Leucadia venture headed up by friend Scott MacBride. I’ve been drinking it ever since the column ran.
A Little More Café was another refreshing look at a simple diner that has stood the test of time and continues to put out solid breakfast and lunch daily. I’m still hoping they offer up dinner service one of these days as that would be a nice option in Leucadia.
I got juiced at Fully Loaded Juicery in Leucadia and discovered the healthy world of juicing. Owners Kaz and Jacqueline Murphy are also neighbors of mine and I’ve made a stop into their shop a regular part of my routine.
I continued my “where local businesses eat” series and included Apotheque Spa in Oceanside, Coast Law Group in Encinitas, Weidner’s Gardens in Leucadia, and Detour Salon in Encinitas. It’s always fun finding out where locals like to eat around town and every time I write one of those columns I get turned to a new place.
My fish stories column was one of the highlights of my year. I not only got to talk to some of the finest anglers in San Diego, I was able to participate in a couple of epic fishing trips that produced tuna and Dorado that I am still feasting on out of my freezer.
It was another fun year of plate licking adventures and I’m stoked for more in 2016.