I do my best to teach my kids accountability – claiming actions, whether good or bad. It highlights success for self-confidence and exposes failure to promote self-improvement. So I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit my blind ignorance of the progressive food movement currently roaring through the town of Oceanside. In a short period of time it has gone from a food jalopy of sorts to a renovated culinary hot rod, and it’s taking it to the streets. Restaurants, Bistros, Gastro-pubs, call them what you will… Oceanside has quickly morphed into a food powerhouse without the pretentious vibe that often accompanies restaurants catering to a snobbier nouveau-foodie clientele. The term “farm to table” isn’t a marketing catch phrase. It’s a fact. And if you describe your dish as “unctuous” you’re probably in the wrong town. This is a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-make-good-food kind of cooking community and the North County Chefs’ Dinner made that clear as gin.
When I was invited to cover the event, I jumped at the opportunity to break outside of my culinary plastic bubble and see what was north of my Cardiff home town. Like many folks living below the Oceanside border, I’ve always been drawn southbound to experience the newer, more progressive restaurants. Leucadia, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Del Mar, La Jolla, Mission Hills, North Park and San Diego proper (to name a few coastal towns) have exploded in recent years with revolutionary and downright brilliant chefs… true game-changers in the San Diego dining experience. And this is also where my ignorance comes into play; clouded from anything north of Leucadia. Without question, this event was eye surgery for my blindness to the O’side food scene and I’m proud to say that I can finally see the light.
Whether it’s art, music or in this case food, Collaborative events are a phenomenal way to showcase community-driven movements. Masters Kitchen and Cocktail was a gracious host to its visiting restaurant chefs in their welcoming, open-air venue. Christopher Messenger, creator of North County Food, impressed with his organization and layout of the event. Welcomed by chilled champagne and big smiles, guests felt welcomed and relaxed, and the front of the house injected a strong dose of anticipation. The open kitchen, separated by nothing more than glass, provided a window to what was really going down in the kitchen. Watching these chefs prepare these beautiful dishes was a show in itself – true artistry. And watching them work together and encourage one another, despite representing “the other side,” was inspiring.
Once seated, we were privileged to a round-robin of chefs presenting dishes in person. The spotlight and microphone allowed each individual chef to not only explain his or her dish, but also to provide a little history of their chef lives and what inspires them to create and share. Peruvian, Southern, Classic American and Fusion… we guests got it all. Wine pairings from Hiatus Cellars complimented each dish and Mark Davidowski, owner, walked us through from start to finish. The intriguing thing about Hiatus, is their usage of multiple vineyards versus one. This allows them to collect “the best of the best” and gather fruit from specialists that are experts in particular grapes for particular wines. Hiatus also has unique methods that are everything but parallel with common wine-making techniques, and they take pride in their small batches with higher quality. The pairings were spot-on and, like the event, left the guests wanting more. Appetizers, entrées and a stunning dessert trio with kombucha sent us home with a new and improved Oceanside on our minds.
So that’s it. I’ve taken accountability and come clean. I had my back to this great coastal town, but never again. The buzz is contagious and these chefs are spreading it together. Their collaboration is shouting out a powerful and CONFIDENT message of, “There’s enough room for all of us, so let’s do this!” Why can’t all of these top-notch food establishments have lines out their doors? Why not? Get in there. It’s Oceanside.
Chef Iole Revilla ~ Panca Peruvian Cuisine and Rotisserie
Causa De Rocoto: layer of rocoto flavored potato, avocado slices, sauteed shrimp tossed in a garlic aioli sauce. Paired with Hiatus Cellars 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
Chef Stephen Reyna ~ The Privateer
Semolina Fried Asparagus: anchovy brown butter sauce. Paired with Hiatus Cellars 2012 Chardonnay, Napa Valley
Chef Jason Connolly ~ Real Bar and Bistro
Braised Lamb Sugo with penne pasta wine braised lamb, hand-made pasta. Paired with Hiatus Cellars 2008 Red Blend, Napa Valley
Chef Chris Gallo ~ Masters Kitchen and Cocktail
Garam Marsala Spiced Pork Belly: meyer lemon date jam, parmesan cheese beignet, crispy brussel sprout leaves. Paired with Hiatus Cellars 2011 Pinot Noir Griffins Lair Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Chef Mark Millwood ~ That Boy Good BBQ
Smoked Beef Shortribs: root vegetable puree, red onion marmalade, tobacco onions roasted mushroom glace.
Chef Beau Bonham ~ Masters Kitchen and Cocktail
Dessert Citrus Trio: Saint Andre triple cream brie baked in filo with honey powder and brown butter, blood orange marmalade / Meyer lemon curd with amaretto on a pistachio tulle / Key lime and Greek yogurt semi-fredo on cucumber with finger lime accents / Plate garnished with Spanish crafted bee pollen, micro orchids
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