The Taco Stand Downtown

The Taco StandA True Tijuana Taqueria coming to downtown!

With solid family recipes and a fridge stocked with Mexican Coca-Cola, The Taco Stand is ringing in the New Year with an announcement that deserves a fiesta! Inspired by the food stands of Tijuana, La Jolla’s favorite taquería is about to open a second location that’s guaranteed to spice up downtown’s culinary scene.

Located on 645 B Street in the heart of downtown, The Taco Stand is expected to open its doors during the first week of January. This 1,500 square foot Mexican eatery is not your regular one-stop-taco-shop. The fresh location aims to create a bright spot that will allow patrons to escape the chaotic downtown atmosphere and be transported to a uniquely-festive, south-of-the-border world.

The zesty menu, motivated by traditional Latin American family recipes, will remain the same. The eatery offers Burritos, such as the Chorizo & Egg, Al Pastor and Camaron with grilled shrimp, any time of day. Deliciously fresh items made from scratch daily also give foodies something to taco ‘bout. For example, the Nopal Taco with grilled cactus, Latin Corn on the Cob and Sonora Taco with 100% certified Angus beef.  Not to mention, The Taco Stand’s counter service makes grabbing lunch convenient for downtown’s fast-paced residents and workers. 

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Lunch at Dukes La Jolla

Duke’s La Jolla Unveils New Lunch and Pau Hana Menus

Lunch at Dukes La JollaDuke’s La Jolla is excited to announce the start of its lunch and Pau Hana menus. Duke’s La Jolla new menus celebrate the melting pot of cultures and cooking techniques of Hawaii and California.

Available daily between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., the lunch menu offers an array of locally-sourced food choices with a thoughtful respect for traditions and a serious focus on all-natural ingredients and seasonal products.  Share-worthy plates include the Korean Sticky Ribs and Poke Tacos with shoyu, Maui onions, avocado and wasabi crème fraiche.  For those looking for something light and refreshing, look no further than Duke’s delicious salads such as the Grilled Gem Lettuce Caesar featuring shaved parmesan, grilled baguette and lemon-anchovy dressing or the Wedge made with baby iceberg, smoked blue cheese, balsamic tomatoes, chicharrones and Duroc bacon.  Signature dishes include the Roasted Firecracker Fish and Kalbi Short Rib Tacos served with a side of Spam fried rice.

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Sirena Latin Gourmet Seafood

Sirena Latin Gourmet Seafood

Sirena Rockfish Tiradito

Nestled in the streets of Little Italy in San Diego, Sirena Latin Gourmet Seafood Restaurant fuses the culinary diversity of Latin American cultures for an unmatched seafood experience. With fresh, simple ingredients that create complex and exotic flavors, Sirena is recognized for its vibrant dishes in San Diego. Standout items from the chic, upscale eatery come from the Nikkei and Raw Bar. The Rockfish Tiradito, with red onion, tangerines, Serrano chile, sorrel, lime, leche de tigre and hazelnut oil, fully infuses local ingredients with an array of Latin American flavors. AltStrat

Sirena Gourmet Latin Seafood Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mad For Meatballs

Check out these San Diego restaurants who incorporate the meaty sidekicks in out-of-the-box recipes that will make you mad for meatballs!

Mad For Meatballs

Breakfast Republic is San Diego’s one-stop-breakfast-shop, known for its twist on American classics. Their Turkey Meatball Hash is no exception. Made with three eggs any style, spinach, smashed turkey meatballs, pesto and house potatoes, this morning pick-me-up incorporates turkey into the meatballs for leaner, energy-packed protein. Want another variation of the a.m. dish? Mission Hill’s favorite farm-to-table eatery, Farmer’s Bottega, serves a Sausage Meatball Hash with spinach, potatoes, pesto and three eggs any style.

Hillcrest’s Uptown Tavern celebrates small plates that can be shared among family and friends. Including their Pork Meatballs, or three pork meatballs, arugula citrus ancho crema and kimo sabe mezcal reposado tomatillo purée. A plate prepared so meticulously, it could stand alone as its own meal. Or, you can add a dose of veggies with their Spaghetti Squash & Pork Meatballs with Ketel one vodka, tomato sauce, pork meatballs, asiago cheese and fresh herbs.

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A Biscotti Recipe for the Holidays

Maria’s Cranberry Walnut Biscotti (Recipe and photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Maria’s Cranberry Walnut Biscotti

Makes 2 dozen cookies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 stick salted butter, softened
  • zest from one medium orange (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped anise seeds
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup whole, dried cranberries
  • red and green decorative sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In a separate mixing bowl combine sugar, butter, orange zest and anise seeds using an electric mixer. Mix until creamy (approximately one minute). Add eggs one at a time, mixing well until the batter is smooth.

Add the flour mixture and stir until well blended. Stir in the walnuts and cranberries.

Split the dough evenly and form two logs on the baking sheet, approximately 12 inches long by 2 inches wide. Sprinkle colored sugar over the top of each log and bake in the oven until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool for approximately 30 minutes.

On a cutting board, use a sharp knife to cut each log into ½-inch-thick diagonal slices. Arrange the slices, cut side down, on the baking sheet and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Place the slices on a rack and cool completely.

Biscotti can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week or frozen in resealable freezer-safe plastic bags for up to two months.

*This story by Maria Desiderata Montana first appeared in the U-T San Diego.

Java Tea Company

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

Handcrafted tea blends emulate a premium coffee taste with the health benefits of tea!

Java Tea Co. offers the first ever coffee-inspired tea. Java Tea blends are made with organic green tea and rooibos, mixed with other perfectly selected organic and natural ingredients to create an incredibly healthy, bold yet balanced brew with twice the amount of antioxidants. “Our teas were created with both coffee and tea lovers in mind. I had the need for a healthy yet flavorful beverage, and found out through this process that I wasn’t alone,” said founder and CEO of Java Tea Co., Preston Caffrey.

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

For seven years, Preston was mentored by one of the most sought after tea guru’s in the world, spending years together dreaming up and perfecting the incredible brew that would later become Java Tea. In 2010, Preston sold everything and moved his family of four to Italy. Breaking away from the daily grind, it was there that the “Slow. Down.” culture of Java Tea was born. It was no longer about the fast-paced coffee-to-go lifestyle, but an art of life appreciation, taking in the moment and experiencing the now. “In Italy, people come together to enjoy an afternoon espresso. It’s a big part of their culture that tea lovers crave too,” said Preston. “Java Tea is the perfect vehicle to help people slow down, just for a moment, and experience life with one another. I truly do believe that when people are present, together and connecting, they can change the world.”

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Pumpkin Cupcake Recipe

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Pumpkin Cupcakes Recipe From The Lodge at Torrey Pines

Yields 12 cupcakes

  • 1-4 ounce stick of butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1¼ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup warm milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon clove
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.

Paddle together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Sift together the dry ingredients. Mix together milk and puree. Add dry and milk mixture to butter alternating, ending with the dry ingredients. Bake at 350° Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 ounces cream cheese
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 ounces white chocolate

In a large mixing bowl, paddle together cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add vanilla extract and cinnamon. (Taste and add more if you have more of a sweet tooth.) Melt white chocolate and slowly add to cream cheese. Once it comes together, stop mixing and frost the pumpkin cupcakes.

Fresh Ingredients at Galaxy Tacos

Enjoy happy hour every Monday through Thursday from 3–6pm. Specials include an $8 Classic Margarita and $1 off house wines, extra cold draft Modelo Especial, Benchmark Galaxy Corn Lager and tacos.

Taco Tuesday Takeover

Galaxy Taco has a great line-up of local Chefs and Chefs that are coming to town including:

January 5th – Jason Knibb Executive Chef Nine Ten restaurant La Jolla

January 12th – Jason McLeod Chef/Partner Consortium holdings

Galaxy Taco

Wednesday Tastings

Join Galaxy Taco beverage director Mark Broadfoot every Wednesday at 6pm for a weekly tequila, mezcal, wine or beer tasting plus two tacos for $20. Reserve your spot and join in the fun.

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Our Downtown Dining Favorites

Downtown San Diego dining wouldn’t be what it is today without some of our favorite culinary creations. The heart of downtown is home to historic buildings and unique spaces that set the stage for unforgettable dining experiences. Acclaimed chefs and visionary restaurateurs have created a thriving dining scene in downtown San Diego for you to experience.  


Carrot Aguachile at Braceo (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)


You don’t want to miss iconic destination Dobson’s Restaurant & Bar. A staple in the San Diego culinary scene since the early 1980s, this French-American bistro has been serving food to some of the most prominent figures in the city. Their legendary Mussel Bisque has been on the menu since the restaurant’s opening 31 years ago. The bisque is made of mirepoix stock, lobster and whole mussels covered with puff pastry. Tableside, servers break into the golden, flaky crust and pour a splash of sherry. Bon appetit!

Bring your family to Juniper & Ivy, a modernist American restaurant set in a converted 1920s saw tooth warehouse located on the outskirts of San Diego’s Little Italy. The Juniper and Ivy kitchen is helmed by Celebrity Chef Richard Blais, winner of Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars and successful restaurateur, cookbook author and television personality. Dining areas feature natural hickory-stained tabletops, elevated leather booth spaces and white lacquered tables, and an outdoor patio offers al fresco dining year-round. A large party of up to fifty can book a private dining room that overlooks the bar and exposed floor-to-ceiling wine wall. Located on the main level, the semi-private dining room looks out to the open concept kitchen and seats up to sixty guests.

Pasta at Monello (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

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West Coast Tavern Recipe

West Coast Tavern, housed in the golden-era lobby of San Diego’s historic Birch North Park Theater, stands strong as the neighborhood’s most recognizable building, but it’s what is on the inside that counts.

Have a taste of West Coast Tavern’s Maple Leaf Duck Confit with Okinawan Sweet Potatoes.

Maple Leaf Duck Confit with Okinawan Sweet Potato

(serves 4)


4 duck legs

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Savor Salty Pretzels

Salty Pretzels

Barleymash Pretzel’s n’ Dip

Dip them, eat them as a snack or enjoy their dough in sandwich buns…pretzels are the ultimate salty snack! These four San Diego spots offer a unique twist on a favorite treat.

Tavern in Pacific Beach is a pretzel lover’s paradise! The beachside hotspot offers a variety of sandwiches on homemade pretzel buns in addition to other savory dishes. From buns and pretzels to sweet treats, Tavern’s in-house bakers start preparing fresh baked goods daily at 4:00 a.m. Fans of the twisted snack will go crazy for the Soft Garlic Butter Pretzel Sticks. They are served with Jack honey mustard, peach mustard, whole grain honey-porter mustard and roasted serrano beer-cheese. For a subtle hint of pretzel, the Tavern Pretzel Burger and Grilled Chicken Sandwich are the way to go! Both are served on housemade pretzel buns.

After hopping out of the salty ocean in Mission Beach, you may want to grab a salty snack on your way home. Stop by Sandbar for Pretzels and Dip. The appetizer is served with fresh baked pretzels, carrot sticks, celery, queso dip and honey mustard. Taste test the two dips and refuel for a return trip to the beach!

salty pretzels

If you’re taking a lunch break in Pacific Beach, swing by PB AleHouse. For those craving a hint of pretzel in their meal, the oceanfront eatery offers the BBQ Short Rib Sandwich. The toasty delight comes stuffed with braised short rib, BBQ sauce, white cheddar and fried onions—all on a pretzel roll!

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Florent Restaurant and Lounge

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

With its name derived from the historical architecture of the “Old City Hall” building, along with paying homage to the year the building was established, 1874, the split level venue will celebrate San Diego’s immense culinary and nightlife scene with a creative collaboration by celebrity Chef Richard Sweeney and San Diego’s premiere designer Michael Soriano.

San Diego’s culinary and social culture has evolved and with Florent, you’ll find an approachable elegance and a playful interior. From the mind of Michael Soriano, one can only imagine to experience the visually unexpected, with an organic and demure touch of glamour. “Design for me is about giving people the opportunity to reconnect to those good feelings, those good memories,” says Michael, and that sensibility will flow through the mindset of the Florent concept.

A culinary super star with a flare for the unexpected & fun, Emmy Award-winning hit reality competition show “Top Chef” contestant Richard Sweeney adds the Gaslamp Quarter to his growing culinary repertoire. Chef Sweeney will bring his light hearted, unique, and playful culinary style to the Florent menus that will feature local, sustainable and Modern American fare, complimented by an ambitious cocktail and local craft beer selection to reflect the San Diego culinary and social culture.

For more information on Florent Restaurant and Lounge or the Spring opening, please visit

Courtesy information

Florent Restaurant & Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maria’s Almond Tiramisu Recipe

almond tiramisu recipe

(recipe and photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Also known as a “Tuscan Trifle,” tiramisu, which translates to “pick me up,” is a luscious melt-in-your-mouth Italian layered cake.

The origins of tiramisu are a bit murky. Legend has it that a tiramisu-like dessert was created in Siena during the 17th century. But the known facts point to the dessert’s history as being fairly recent. The first documented tiramisu recipe appeared in 1983, in a book by Giovanni Capnist called “I Dolci del Veneto” (The Desserts of Veneto).

Since then, this dessert has become popular all over Italy and the United States. Different variations of the recipe exist, with ladyfingers, eggs, espresso and mascarpone cheese as the key components.

I don’t like the use of eggs in this recipe, since there is a slight risk of salmonella or other food-borne illness when consuming raw or lightly cooked eggs. So I have created a version without eggs that has a wonderful almond flavor, is light and airy, tastes authentic and is easy to prepare.

Buon Appetito!

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Park and Rec


Nestled in the heart of University Heights, Park & Rec’s 5,000 square foot property has been home to a variety of popular watering holes over the last 50 years. Many historical aspects of the new space have remained intact, including original stained glass windows, ornate wooden doors, and intricate molding.

Park & Rec’s in-house snack shack offers savory selections by Royale with Cheese, a food cart concept born out of Austin, Texas. Burgers, grilled cheese and tater tots reign supreme and guests can enjoy a playful assortment of classically-driven cocktails. In addition, there is a selection of wine, 12 beers on tap, and canned beers appropriately dressed in Park & Rec branded koozies so brews can cool down.

The weekends welcome a more leisurely, indulgent brunch experience. Royale with Cheese serves up an assortment of mouthwatering breakfast sandwiches complemented by Park & Rec’s ‘Liquid Brunch’ menu, which highlights five refreshing cocktails including the Bloody Mary, French 75, P&R Pimms Cup, Tony’s Margarita and the Paloma. A stellar lineup of ‘Sunday Day Camp’ entertainment is slated to include local DJs and live music.

Park & Rec is located in University Heights at 4612 Park Blvd. For more information, please visit or call 619.795.9700  by mdm/h2pr

Park & Rec on Urbanspoon

Garagiste Wine Festival

Garagiste Wine FestivalGaragiste Events today announced that its 2016 Southern Exposure Garagiste Wine Festival will take place on Valentine’s Day weekend February 13th – 14th at the beautiful, Mission-style Veterans’ Memorial Hall in the heart of Solvang, California. In honor of Valentine’s Day weekend, the festival will feature micro-production local sparkling wines, in addition to handcrafted red and white vintages poured by hard-to-find, cutting-edge commercial artisan ‘garagiste’ wineries from Santa Barbara County, Santa Ynez Valley, Paso Robles, Napa, and more. Proceeds benefit The Garagiste Festival Scholarship Fund at Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Department.  Tickets go on sale today at

Dubbed a ‘wildly exuberant and fun wine event’ by the LA Times, Southern Exposure features a ‘Grand Tasting’ on both Saturday and Sunday. Each Grand Tasting will be preceded by one of the festival’s signature tasting seminars, moderated by Garagiste Festival Co-founder and radio host Stewart McLennan and featuring expert winemakers.

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Celebrate Winter Solstice

Celebrate Winter SolsticeCelebrate Winter Solstice with a Hot Meal

Late dawn. Early sunset. Short day. Long night. For us in San Diego, the December 21st solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year. Celebrate this winter solstice and enjoy a hot meal this long night at these six San Diego restaurants.

“Is it hot in hot in herre?” Barleymash in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter is creating some dishes that are sure to keep you warm all night. The Mussels N’ Clams served in a warm garlic beer both and chile butter with a side of fresh house fries and herb focaccia for dipping will keep the fire burning in your heart. A bowl of the Rum Spiced Pumpkin and Butternut Squash soup topped with toasted pumpkin seeds, lime cream and red chili oil will warm you from your head to your toes!

Turning up the heat in North Park is West Coast Tavern. Start the winter solstice off right with the Bone Marrow Surf ‘N Turf; fresh tuna tartare and quail egg served over a warm baguette with shaved shallots, radish and cilantro. Or order Chef Abe’s special Chicken & Waffles to keep you hot! Fluffy waffles topped with fried chicken tenders drizzled with bourbon syrup and garlic butter, and a side of bacon. This will be a solstice feast you will not forget.

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Our Dining Roundup

The Brew Project_PatioFrom new favorite morning eateries to sweet treats and everything in between, San Diego foodies received great additions to the dining scene this year. As 2015 comes to a close, look back at the places that joined the town and prepare to see what they’ll be stirring up in the new year!

The Brew Project joined the Hillcrest dining and drinking scene in the fall. Featuring a fully-rotating draft list of 24 local micro-brews, this neighborhood spot truly offers “A San Diego Brewery Tour Under One Roof.” In honor of its SoCal surroundings, The Brew Project serves cocktails made with locally-distilled spirits and San Diego-inspired cuisine. With a comfortable patio, event space and laidback atmosphere, The Brew Project is the perfect place to gather with friends for drinks, catch a football game or enjoy a meal. Diners can even take a piece of their visit home with them- The Brew Project’s Bottle Shop sells bottles of local brews and wine to-go.

Breakfast Republic has been raising feathers in North Park since it opened earlier this year. The creative menu of this morning eatery fully praises the most important meal of the day. With reimagined takes on American breakfast classics such as Oreo Pancakes, Chicken Wing Breakfast Bowls and S’mores French Toast, the restaurant is sure to brighten your morning.

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Sugar and Scribe Bakery

Offering everything from cookies and pies, to cakes and homemade marshmallows, Sugar & Scribe Bakery serves authentic Irish specialties all year long. “Every item is made from recipes of family or friends,” says owner Maeve Rochford. “My mother did not like camping, but we often set up a tent in our living room where we had “camp” food, including delicious homemade marshmallows with hot chocolate. It was so much fun!”

Poppy Seed Coffee Cake (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Poppy Seed Coffee Cake (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

With a menu that rotates seasonally, choose from popular selling sweet treats including small personal pies as well as miniature cupcakes and carrot bundt cakes “Our mince meat pies were a holiday tradition at our home and our rhubarb pie is my aunt Margaret’s recipe,” explains Rochford. “My grandmother taught me how to make the blueberry pie when I was five. We began by going out to the bog and picking the blueberries, which are called bilberries in Ireland.”

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Taste It First at Lemonade


Taste Samples Before You Buy (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

LEMONADE is Seasonal California Comfort Food served in a casual, bright cafeteria setting, catering to people looking for a quick lunch or a healthy grab-and-go dinner for the family. “We believe good food is in the taste buds of the beholder and a mouthwatering, quality meal is for everyone,” says Lemonade’s Executive Chef and Founder Alan Jackson. “We aspire to take the elitism out of conscious eating and put emphasis on convenience, flexibility, and affordability.”

Born and bred in Los Angeles, Jackson says he’s been cooking his entire life. After launching two fine-dining restaurants—Jackson’s in Hollywood, and The Farm in Beverly Hills, he recognized there was something oddly missing in the industry, both in eating out and in his family life. “As a chef I would go home, and think about what’s for dinner, and it was always a struggle,” he says, “I wanted to create a relaxed restaurant for people to get the type of food I wanted my family to eat.”

san diego food finds

Photos by Maria Desiderata Montana

In 2008, Jackson opened the first Lemonade in West Hollywood, which expanded into multiple locations that span LA County from Venice Beach to downtown, and all the way down the Golden Coast to San Diego. “We are thrilled that the response has been so positive and LEMONADE has become a California favorite,” he says.

Jackson named the restaurant LEMONADE because the image fits perfectly symbolic of sunny California, stating, “The simple word embodies a sense of light, simplicity, and playfulness. This one word name explains the way I think and cook food, how we serve our guests, and the way we want to make people feel. While the word is nostalgic, it is also modern and timeless.”

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Satisfying Side Dishes

sandiegofoodfinds.comLuckily for us, San Diego is home to chefs that put as much love into their appetizers and sides, as they do the main course. Blur the lines of the traditional meal and check out these side pieces that are so carefully crafted, they outshine the main course.

The Taco Stand is La Jolla’s resident taquería inspired by the taco stands of Tijuana and adventures along the Baja peninsula. From the metal, fast-casual stand to the rotating kebab, The Taco Stand transports customers south-of-the-border with its cultural atmosphere. Their classically Latin American Corn on the Cob is no exception! One taste of this grilled side covered in mayonnaise, parmesan cheese and chili powder, and you will be going up to the counter for seconds.

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New Dukes In La Jolla Village

New Dukes In La Jolla VillageMuch Anticipated Restaurant Brings Views and the Spirit of Aloha to San Diego

Owned and operated by San Diego and Maui based T S Restaurants of Hawaii and California, Duke’s La Jolla officially opened its doors on November 4th. Duke’s honors Duke Kahanamoku, a native Hawaiian, six-time Olympic swimming and water polo medalist and the father of modern day surfing. Guests will get a glimpse into the remarkable life of the restaurant’s namesake as well as tap into the La Jolla beach lifestyle.

The building was designed by Marengo Morton Architects. Bill Parsons, Chairman of T S Restaurants, designed the interior with Hatch Design Group and with the assistance of Sixteenfifty on the branding. The 13,000 square foot restaurant features two distinct dining areas including the main level with seating capacity of 230 and a second level with seating capacity of 150. Both floors will offer outdoor dining. 

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The Gift of Growler

The Gift of Growler

Think out-of-the-box and give your loved ones something that they really want this year, a growler of San Diego’s best libations!

For That Brew Taster: Pacific Beach AleHouse is Pacific Beach’s resident micro-brewery known for its views of the ocean, coastal-American cuisine and, of course, specialty-crafted beers. Their incredible brewmaster, Jonathan Riley, is a local guy with a passion for his local brew. He was recognized for his brewing talent with a gold medal in the San Diego International Beer Festival for his Irish Red Ale and was part of a team that won the Vista Chamber of Commerce People’s Choice Award for “Best Brewery” two years in a row. Jonathan strives to perfect his product by continuing his brewing education at the University of California, Davis, working toward a Professional Brewer’s Certificate. Pick up a Pacific Beach AleHouse growler and give your loved one a specialty brew inspired by the local beach community.

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To Dine For At Nine-Ten


Escape to Nine-Ten located inside The Grande Colonial Hotel for an unforgettable gastronomic experience! Executive Chef Jason Knibb passionately redefines California cuisine with eloquent presentations and spice-laden touches from his Jamaican background. By gathering veggies and herbs from a garden just outside the back door of the kitchen, Knibb honors his commitment to create innovative cuisine using only the freshest, local ingredients. Treasured dishes include Jamaican Jerk pork belly with spicy jellies and seared duck breast with an 18-year aged balsamic and duck jus. Allow the chef   to utterly pamper you, and opt for his “Mercy of the Chef” special prix-fixe and wine-pairing menu. Nine-Ten, 910 Prospect St., La Jolla, CA 92037; (858) 964-5400;; California Modern; $$$$. ©Food Lovers’ Guide to San Diego


Fennel Soup (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)


Jamaican Jerk Pork Belly (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Get Chef Knibb’s Recipe for Jamaican Jerk Pork Belly in my new book ‘San Diego Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes From America’s Finest City’.


Wild Salmon (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)


Braised Prime Beef Short Rib (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)


Triple Layer Chocolate Cake (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)


Farmers’ Market Figs and Raspberries with Fennel Chiffon Cake (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Nine Ten Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

My Calabrian Christmas

In this Italian-American family, food isn’t just a holiday tradition, it’s a celebration of life itself.

Growing up in a large Italian family, I learned how to respect tradition and embrace family ties through cooking.

I think my passion for cooking started when I was 7 years old, waking up early Christmas Eve morning to make homemade ravioli for our big Christmas dinner. When I say early, I mean the crack of dawn. You see, my mother couldn’t rest until the ravioli was finished. It was as if she, a perfectionist by nature, just couldn’t wait to see how beautiful they would turn out.

While the rest of the house was quiet, my mom would play soft Italian music really low and share her childhood stories, as my sister and I helped roll out the pasta dough. Forget about the men in my family ever helping in the kitchen. Our Italian tradition was that the cooking was for the women only.

Today, we all live down the street from each other, and my mother and sister come to my house to help my daughter and me make the ravioli, while I play Italian music and throw in some of my own cooking tips. We prepare the ravioli a few days ahead of time and freeze them for Christmas Day.

On Christmas Eve, we celebrate the feast of the seven fishes, a Roman Catholic tradition observing abstinence from the consumption of meat as well as a tribute to the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. It is not Christmas Eve in my family without baccalà (Italian salted cod) that must be soaked for at least two days in cold water to remove the excess sodium.

Every year, my parents and I take a trip to Little Italy, and I leave it up to my mom to pick out her perfect piece of baccalà. My mother fries the fish and tops it with fresh tomatoes, onions, Moroccan olives and hot red peppers. I prepare an easier version of this recipe, substituting Alaskan white cod for the baccalà. (See recipe). Other fish dishes we enjoy include deep-fried jumbo shrimp, calamari, sea scallops, crab, mussels and linguine with clam sauce.

Our Christmas celebration also includes a variety of nuts and fruit, including fresh figs, pomegranates, persimmons and tangelos. I also make Italian desserts, including cannoli, a fried pastry shell filled with a sweet, creamy filling of ricotta cheese and confectioners’ sugar; chocolate pizzelle, large, round waffle cookies from southern central Italy; amaretti, almond-based cookies; tiramisu, an Italian cake; and biscotti.

To fully appreciate our Christmas traditions, you need to know a little more about my family.

Born and raised in the town of Cirella, near the capital city of Reggio Calabria in Italy, my father and mother immigrated to the United States in 1957 and raised five children. Although they were far removed from their homeland, they were passionate about keeping their traditions intact.

My parents taught me that food is essential to the Italian culture and eating with family and friends is a celebration of life itself. I learned first from my father, the Italian farmer, to grow and enjoy foods in their natural state.

It was my father who started his own slow-food revolution in our family, a revolution I carry on in my family today. From picking olives and tending to his large organic garden of fruits and vegetables, including fava beans, escarole, rappini and broccoli, he cherished the Roma and plum tomatoes as his most prized possessions.

There was no such thing as fast food in our home; ingredients were simple and straightforward, yet rustic and fiery. The staples in our Italian pantry included pasta, bread, olive oil, sausage, prosciutto, goat cheese and hot peppers. Oven-baked bread with a vine-ripe tomato and a chunk of Pecorino Romano cheese drizzled with extra-virgin oil is all a Calabrese needs to stay happy and satisfied.

My mother took the fresh produce my father created and taught me how to prepare cucina Italiana by smell, touch and taste. As a child watching her in the kitchen, I was fascinated with the movement of her hands as she wove intricate details into preparing the made-from-scratch, mouthwatering meals that her mother had served, and her mother before her.

Even though none of the recipes is written down, they all remain in my memory and turn out the same delicious way every time. My mother is amazed at how I remembered everything just by watching her. She was a remarkable teacher and is still my mentor today.

I was always fascinated with how my mother described the food she prepared. For example, she could tell her pasta or pizza dough was perfect by the way it felt in her hands. She was animated with the food and emotionally attached to it, as if it had a life of its own. The day was not complete unless there was a beautiful meal on the table for her family. She infused love into each dish. That was her gift to us.

Anyone who visited was inaugurated with several helpings of handmade spaghetti and meatballs. I remember my husband, John, visiting often when we were dating, and bypassing me for the kitchen. You know the old saying: The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I met John 30 years ago in high school, and we now have two grown children — Lucia and Frank.

The food and fun doesn’t end with Christmas Day. I love to cook for my family, and we celebrate life all year long. I hope you will, too. Mangiare bene, vivere bene! (Eat well, live well!)

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)


Makes 8-10 servings

For the ravioli dough

9 large eggs (reserve two eggs for egg wash)

4 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

All-purpose flour, for dusting

In a mixer, beat the eggs and olive oil until foamy. Change to a dough hook, add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix until it forms a ball. On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough until smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for about 30 minutes.


2 pounds raw, lean ground beef

9 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 cups Italian bread crumbs

5 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 10-ounce package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained of excess water

Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and incorporate thoroughly.

To make the ravioli: Divide dough in half. On a floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 24-by-24-inch sheet about ¼-inch thick. In a small bowl, prepare egg wash by beating the remaining 2 eggs until foamy. Brush egg wash evenly over one entire sheet, then carefully spread the meat filling evenly over the top. Place the other sheet on top of the sheet with the meat mixture and press down on the edges with your fingers to create a seal. Generously dust flour over the top of the sheet (this helps the dough from sticking to the ravioli roller).

With a wooden ravioli roller, carefully roll over the dough from edge to edge, applying gentle pressure to ensure the two dough sheets connect to make the squares. Cut each square with a ravioli cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap and dusted with flour (this keeps the ravioli from sticking). Repeat with plastic wrap and flour as needed. Cover ravioli and place in freezer. Once frozen, remove ravioli squares from baking sheet and place in resealable freezer-safe plastic bags. No need to thaw frozen ravioli before cooking. Gently place ravioli in a large pot of salted boiling water and cook on medium to medium-high heat for approximately 35-40 minutes (see note) or until meat inside is thoroughly cooked. Ravioli will expand and float to the top, so be sure to use a pot with plenty of room. Remove ravioli with a strainer or slotted spoon and serve with your favorite jar of marinara sauce or my marinara (see recipe). Top with grated Pecorino Romano Cheese.

Note: Fresh ravioli take a little less time to cook, approximately 25 to 30 minutes or until meat inside is thoroughly cooked.


Makes 8-10 servings

12 medium-size ripe tomatoes, roasted (directions follow)

2 6-ounce cans tomato paste

Red wine (optional)

3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

Chicken seasoning, to taste

1 teaspoon sugar

6 bay leaves

3 tablespoons dried basil

3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

1 tablespoon fennel seeds (optional)

Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Arrange the tomatoes on the sheet pan and roast for 30 to 35 minutes. When tomatoes have cooled, remove peel, core and purée in small batches in a blender.

Transfer tomato purée to a large saucepan. Bring to a slow boil and add tomato paste. Using a whisk, add water until you reach desired consistency. (I like to substitute a bit of red wine for some of the water). Add remaining ingredients. Simmer over low heat covered for about 25 to 30 minutes.

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)


Serves 6

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

6 Alaskan white cod fillets (6 ounces each) (boneless and skinless)

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced

1 large white onion, sliced

6 ripe Roma tomatoes, chopped

11/2 cups Moroccan olives, pitted

Handful of hot red peppers (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place fish in baking dish. Season fish with salt and pepper and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Scatter garlic and onions over the top. Cover baking dish with foil. Bake approximately 20 minutes or until fish is cooked through. Remove from oven and top with tomatoes, olives and red peppers. Cover and let rest 5 minutes before serving.


Serves 8

8 store-bought cannoli shells

2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Juice of 1 orange

Zest of 1 orange

1 tablespoon amaretto

1/4 cup chocolate chips, finely chopped

1/4 cup pistachios, finely chopped

1/4 cup dried Bing cherries, finely chopped

8 maraschino cherries, halved

Powdered sugar, for dusting

In a large mixing bowl, stir together all ingredients (except shells) until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour to let flavors set. Do not fill the cannoli shells until ready to serve.

Spoon cannoli filling into a pastry bag with an open tip and stuff cannoli shells. Garnish each end with a half of a maraschino cherry. Lightly dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Recipes by Maria Desiderata Montana

*This story by Maria Desiderata Montana first appeared in the U-T San Diego.

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