Landini’s Sicilian Style Pizza

sicilian style pizza

courtesy photo

Although authentic pizza is available throughout the Little Italy neighborhood, it is rare to find a location that sells by the slice. Opened in 2009, Landini’s has built a strong following for its genuine Sicilian-style pies and other traditional baked meals. Its success can be measured by the lines of patrons patiently waiting along India Street to grab a taste of the hand-tossed thin crust. At least a dozen styles are available in the window for a quick bite, and a little patience will award you with any special-order pie. Choose from the more traditional pepperoni, sausage and meatball or the more adventurous combinations like BBQ chicken, spinach, artichokes and jalapenos. Daily specials include various topping combinations that appeal to any palate. Calzones, stromboli and paninis are prepared with freshly prepared dough or bread. Or opt for a dish of pasta and salad. Local craft beers and wine are also offered.

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Buona Forchetta

Located on a sleepy corner of the South Park neighborhood, Buona Forchetta serves one of the finest Napoleon-style pizzas in town. Day or night, the small patio is packed with hungry patrons, drawn by the many accolades streaming online and through word-of-mouth. This authentic pizzeria is co-owned by Matteo Cattaneo, born and raised in the northern Italian city of Bergamo, and New York native Alexa Kollmeier. A centerpiece of their kitchen is the large, handmade pizza oven, built on-site by Stefano Ferrara, one of the most famous pizza-oven manufacturers worldwide. Shiny gold tiles surround the wood-fired workhorse, with the name of their firstborn daughter, Sofia, highlighted in the center of the dome. Sofia also takes top billing on the menu, as the name of their more popular pizza option, with mozzarella, artichokes, mushroom and prosciutto cotto. All of the pizzas are spectacular, but don’t lose sight of the other menu items, including antipasti, insalati, main dishes and house-made dolci. The beer and wine menu highlights many craft and small-production labels from California and Italy, as well as classic white or red sangria. ©San Diego Italian Food: A Culinary History of Little Italy and Beyond by Maria Desiderata Montana

Buona Forchetta Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lotus Cafe and Juice Bar

Lotus Cafe and Juice Bar

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The Lumberyard in Encinitas is home to many trendy restaurants, and this is one of them. With indoor and outdoor seating for about 100 people, this healthy cafe is dedicated to serving fresh, locally sourced natural food at affordable prices. A comprehensive menu comprises many vegans, vegetarian, strict vegetarian and gluten-free options. Choose from savory and homemade organic soups, salads sandwiches, pasta, vegetarian entrees, fish and chicken entrees, kiddies’ meals, fresh juices, smoothies, shakes, and desserts, even homemade vegan cupcakes. Such items as the Pipe’s Whole Wheat Pita with falafel balls, hummus, and tahini-ginger sauce, and the Swami’s Carrot shake with organic carrot juice, vanilla ice cream, cinnamon, and nutmeg make this place unusual. Lotus Cafe & Juice Bar, 765 S. Coast Hwy. 101, Encinitas, CA 92024; (760) 479-1977; lotuscafeandjuicebar.com; Organic/Health Food; $$.

©San Diego Food Finds, By Maria Desiderata Montana

Lotus Cafe and Juice Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monello Captures Italian Spirit

San Diego Food Finds

Pasta Carbonara (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Monello’s design and decor mirrors a typical Milanese eatery complete with the downtown vibe of the San Diego bay and the familiar Italian neighborhood.

San-Diego-Food-Finds-Lupini-Beans

Lupini Beans (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Sophisticated, modern and rustic-chic, Chef Fabrizio Cavallini says it is one of the few Italian restaurants that dares to serve traditional home-cooking in a modern urban setting, similar to a restaurant you would find in Milano, Italy. “We undressed Italian dining of its obsolete and stereotypical look and taste,” he says. “We had a new menu in mind, our tradition is so rich. But we had no room for it at our Bencotto restaurant. So when the space next door became available, our heads were exploding with ideas after Valentina and Guido’s trip to Italy. When they go there, they eat twenty-four-seven and come back with a ton of new ideas.”

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Bleu Bohème Neighborhood Eatery

sandiegofoodfinds.com

Tartare de Saumon Fumé (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Open for five years now in the Kensington area of San Diego, Owner and Chef Ken Irvine says he opened Bleu Bohème because he loves neighborhood restaurants. “When my guests walk through our doors, we want to take them away to a “different place”, he says. “What sets us apart is our stellar service, quality cuisine and a unique ambiance.”

sandiegofoodfinds.com

Entrecôte de Porc (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

With a passion for French food and cooking with local ingredients, Irvine describes his restaurant as ‘AWESOME’, sourcing products from Catalina Offshore and Specialty Produce. “These places are both the best at what they do in San Diego,” he says.” Partnering with them helps us to be the best that we can be.”

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We Love Zumbar Coffee

Zumbar Coffee

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

Located in the busy tech center of Sorrento Valley, Zumbar Coffee is a diminutive shop with a huge reputation for serving some of the best coffee in the area. Taking a craftsman’s approach to roasting, they have perfected the process using a vintage, cast-iron coffee roaster situated right behind the ordering counter, giving every patron a chance to see/hear the action. A small selection of pastries and breads are also available, delivered from VG’s Donuts and Opera Patisserie every morning. Some regulars believe that the coffee actually advances science, and I have to agree, given the buzzing conversation during my last visit. They also sell fresh-roasted beans at the shop or online, so you’re never too far away from a great cup of joe. Zumbar Coffee and Tea, 10920 Roselle St., San Diego, CA 92121; (858) 622-0000; zumbarcoffee.com; Coffee/Tea. ©San Diego Food Finds by Maria Desiderata Montana.

Zumbar Coffee & Tea Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Market Driven Fare at A.R. Valentien

A.R. Valentien: Executive Chef Jeff Jackson and Chef de Cuisine Kelli Crosson offer a temple of flavor in their market-driven cuisine

The Lodge at Torrey Pines is home to A.R. Valentien, one of San Diego’s most notable and refined restaurants. You will certainly feel transported whiling away the hours in a charming dining room with a beautiful view of the Torrey Pines Golf Course and the Pacific Ocean just off the bluffs in the distance.

A.R. Valentien

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Classically French-trained, with more than 30 years of experience, Executive Chef Jeff Jackson and Chef de Cuisine Kelli Crosson offer a temple of flavor in their market-driven fare from some of California’s finest organic farms, orchards, and fishermen. The menu revolves around the seasons, assuring superb freshness and taste with every bite.

Chef Jackson feels comfortable and at home at A.R. Valentien, located inside the Lodge at Torrey Pines and wants all his dining guests to feel the same way. “This is not like a hotel to me, it’s more like a large residence. If it’s small, it’s manageable. A monster hotel wouldn’t allow me the freedom I need.”

©Maria Desiderata Montana

A.R. Valentien

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Dedicated to working directly with local farmers, Chef Jackson changes the menu daily, based on what is fresh and seasonal. “The farmer grows it and the chefs cook it. Whatever produce comes in, we will use. My staff and I play with the food. We taste it and talk about it. We are always thinking about what would be best to eat.”

Read more about A.R. Valentien in the Food Lovers’ Guide to San Diego and get Chef Jackson’s recipes for  Grilled Romaine with Prosciutto & Burrata and Alaskan Halibut with Barigoule Vegetables in my award-winning book San Diego Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes From America’s Finest City’.

A.R. Valentien Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Top Ten Dining Destinations

San Diego Food Finds

Organic Veggies

I gained an appreciation of European cuisine from my parents who were born and raised in southern Italy. My mother taught me how to cook at a very young age with farm fresh ingredients from my father’s garden. As a nationally published and award-winning author, food and wine journalist and photographer, I’ve written several food guides and cookbooks, and reviewed chefs and restaurants all over San Diego (and beyond) for well over a decade. You can trust my latest picks for the top ten dining destinations in America’s Finest City!

Ponsaty’s

Chef Patrick Ponsaty is working his magic and hypnotizing diners with show-stopping culinary art at his new restaurant aptly named Ponsaty’s in Rancho Santa Fe, California. We recently visited, took our seats in a lavish dining room that’s screams with style, and experienced a delightful 9-course menu that left us feeling as if we had just dined in the French Quarter in New Orleans.

San Diego Food Finds

Fall Pear Salad And Aged Goat Cheese Souffle

Market Restaurant + Bar

In 2006 Carl Schroeder established San Diego’s famed Market Restaurant + Bar where he takes great local products and turns them into great food. His passion for locally sourced ingredients and hyper-seasonal cuisine are on display for dinner every evening. He seeks out the best produce, seafood, and meat from local markets and his passion for perfection and the spontaneous nature of what is available are showcased in the daily changing menu.

san-diego-food-finds-crudo

Fresh Sashimi Presentations Rock Our World

Crudo

The new Crudo restaurant in Carmel Valley boasts Mediterranean-inspired cuisine with an Asian touch that features locally-sourced, gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian menu items. Renowned chef and owner Pascal Lorange takes pride in offering diners unique, yet simple presentations that you won’t find anywhere else in San Diego.

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Seasonal Japanese Cuisine

Japanese Cuisine

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

Seasonal Japanese Cuisine in Del Mar

“Shim” means “New”, and “bashi” means “Bridge” in Japanese. With the desire to provide San Diego with the best Japanese dining experience outside of Japan, Shimbashi Izakaya is based on the Izakaya, or Japanese “pub” – a unique and vital cornerstone of Japanese food culture. It’s often found in cosmopolitan areas for after work relaxation and an opportunity to unwind after a busy day.

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Sabuku Sushi

San Diego Food Finds

Courtesy photo

Nestled in North Park, this contemporary neighborhood sushi bar continues to surprise diners with time-honored sushi rolls and a unique blend of Japanese cuisine with an American flare. In addition to classic nigiri, sashimi, and rolls, Proprietor and Chef Bob Pasela has developed a knack for pairing fresh and unique ingredients that exhibit a wide range of flavors. Two standout examples are the Bacon and Scallop Roll, and the signature Chillaxin Roll, made with shrimp tempura, spicy crab, a spicy ginger aioli glaze, and baked Chilean sea bass. In addition, Sabuku Sushi makes it a point to carry traditional filtered and unfiltered sakes, along with flavor-infused versions with hints of plum, Asian pear, and coconut lemongrass. Even the cocktails are infused with sake, like the Mimosa Ke, a combination of sparkling sake and orange juice. Visually, Sabuku Sushi takes a minimalist approach with a modern atmosphere designed to calm and soothe. Sleek metal accents, dark wood tables, and large windows provide a panoramic view of the street and allow natural light to flood the space. Sabuku Sushi, 3027 Adams Ave., San Diego, CA 92116; (619) 733- 0430; sabukusushi.com; Japanese; $$$.

©San Diego Food Finds, By Maria Desiderata Montana

Sabuku Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat Local at Ironside Fish and Oyster

Ironside Fish and Oyster

Photo By Maria Desiderata Montana

Named after the previous tenant of the 1920’s–era warehouse, Ironside Metal Supply, Ironside Fish and Oyster is the most recent restaurant innovation of executive chef and partner Jason McLeod. Little Italy, which is historically a fishing village, didn’t have a single oyster bar or seafood joint amongst its dozens of restaurants. McLeod noted the missing link and decided to make a change. He created a menu chock–full of local seafood, including lobster rolls, clam chowder and a raw bar with up to eight oyster varieties. “San Diego is a known seaport city born from a local fishing industry that was once famous as the tuna capital of America,” says McLeod. “My goal at Ironside has been to reintroduce an oyster culture and approachable raw bar concept to the city’s dining scene.” The building and interior boast meticulously crafted design details and the bar menu showcases over fifty unique craft and fortified cocktails, making Ironside the preeminent dining destination in San Diego.

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Chef Richard Blais Delivers

Chef Richard Blais

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

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.

Chef Richard Blais

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

The daily, yet evolving menu is based on the chef’s ever-changing inspiration and culinary vision, specifically highlighting the region’s bountiful and fresh local produce and presenting guests with unexpected iterations on the classics. Divided into several categories, the menu includes snacks, raw, toast and pasta in addition to plates, both small and large, as well as dessert. Additionally, a 4×4 four-course tasting menu, comprised of four small bites and four small plates is available with an optional wine pairing. When I asked Blais where he plans to go from here, he explained, “I’m busy working on another new cookbook and have plans for a second San Diego restaurant as well as more food TV shows.” (www.juniperandivy.com)

Chef Richard Blais

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

Chef Richard Blais

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

Chef Richard Blais

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

Chef Richard Blais

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

©Written by Maria Desiderata Montana

Juniper & Ivy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

San Diego Chef’s Table Book

SAN DIEGO CHEF'S TABLE

Scones to sliders, book explores San Diego chefs’ recipes
Author shares recipes reflecting area’s diverse cultures, styles

By Roxana Popescu, U-T San Diego

For people who love San Diego and its restaurants, Maria Desiderata Montana’s new book, “San Diego Chef’s Table,” will be one tasty morsel. With recipes from established restaurants and new names, this uniquely San Diego collection offers highlights from all the region’s culinary offerings. She answered questions about her book, her love of food and her passion for this city.

Q: How did you get the idea for this book?

A: I am very fortunate in that my publisher first discovered me by reading my published food stories in various outlets online and through my blog sandiegofoodfinds.com, which started out as a fun hobby.

I came home from yoga class one morning, and there was an email waiting for me from my publisher at Globe Pequot Press. She (said) that she liked my writing style and asked me if I was interested in writing the “Food Lovers” Guide to San Diego’ (First Edition). After I finished that book, the publisher contacted me to write (this book).

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Experience the Flavors of Italy at CUCINA Enoteca

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

As a leader in San Diego’s culinary landscape for the last seventeen years, celebrated proprietor, restaurateur and interior designer Tracy Borkum’s CUCINA enoteca is a beautiful two-story, 7,000 sq ft restaurant and wine shop located in Del Mar’s Flower Hill Promenade.

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Squash Blossoms (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

The exceptional culinary team is led by Executive Chef Joe Magnanelli, who combines the flavors of Italy with the organic freshness of California. Keeping in line with the signature CUCINA experience, the modern Italian kitchen-meets-rustic-farmhouse concept presents guests with the same highly curated “restaurant to retail” environment found in their existing locations. Offering diners nearly everything for sale, including the customized furniture, lighting and décor, CUCINA enoteca Del Mar also features a dedicated wine shop where guests can purchase hand-selected wines at retail price, either to enjoy with their meal or take to go.

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PrepKitchen Little Italy

San Diego Food Finds

Grilled Bone Marrow

Prepkitchen, the sister restaurant of critically heralded San Diego staple Whisknladle, is going strong in downtown’s Little Italy neighborhood, melding artisanal ingredients with handcrafted touches to create unpretentious, convenient dining with a nod to all things comforting and gourmet.

San Diego Food Finds

Butter Lettuce Salad

Located on the 2nd floor with a spectacular view of India and Date streets, Prepkitchen Little Italy boasts an airy and comfortable dining room and bar area that is welcoming and inviting. Nearly all design elements are salvaged or antiqued, lending to the restaurant’s hip-meets-home vibe. From communal dining tables to an inviting lounge area, Prepkitchen sets itself up to create an unparalleled social dining experience for patrons.

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Have Breakfast at Snooze

San Diego Food Finds

San Diego Food Finds

Breakfast lovers have a new way to indulge on breakfast favorites at Snooze on 5th Street Avenue in Hillcrest.

Snooze strives for each guest to enjoy their own dining experience—enjoy breakfast for lunch, lunch for breakfast or even customize the plate; Snooze wants their guests to have the ultimate morning meal. For those egging for breakfast, try delectable items such as the Breakfast Pot Pie with Snooze’s Homemade Rosemary Sausage Gravy poured on top of a Flaky Puff Pastry, topped with an Egg Your Style and Hash Browns or their Upstream Benny with Honey Smoked Salmon on Snooze’s House-Crafted Bacon-Jalapeno Spoonbread topped with Two Farm Fresh Niman Ranch Poached Eggs, Cream Cheese, Hollandaise, and Chives.

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Wild Rice Stuffed Peppers

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Stuffing peppers with nutrients: Protein-rich wild rice in peppers makes a powerful, tasty and colorful everyday meal

Shake up your routine this school year with a healthy and delicious weeknight meal the whole family will enjoy.

All too often, a family’s busy routine doesn’t allow for much time to create a meal the kids will enjoy, especially if the meal involves a vegetable. I’ve created an affordable recipe of fresh green peppers stuffed with a wild rice mixture that’s topped with marinara sauce. It is a colorful dish that’s also a real time saver in the kitchen.

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Chicken recipe is light but full of flavor

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

My mother’s southern Italian cooking is rustic and fiery, with recipes often calling for sweet tomatoes and hot peppers, the perfect ingredients for an authentic sauce.

Since one of my mom’s favorite dishes is baked Chicken Parmesan in a marinara sauce, I decided to wow her for Mother’s Day with a modern take on this nostalgic dish that is light and healthful.

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Prepkitchen Fudge Brownie Recipe

If you love brownies that taste like they came out of the oven, don’t miss the Pecan Fudge Brownies sold only at Prepkitchen locations. Now that I have the recipe, I enjoy making these in my kitchen. I know you will too!

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

For the Brownies

  • 1-½ sticks (6 ounces) butter
  • 3 cups semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Yield: 1 9×13 inch pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine butter and chocolate in small heat proof bowl. Heat over a water bath until melted. Set aside until room temperature

In a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment- combine eggs, brown sugar, salt and vanilla. Whip until mixture is thick and holds a ribbon with the whip.

Take bowl off mixer and pour in chocolate and sift flour over. Gently fold mixture with a spatula.

Spread into pan that has been sprayed or buttered and floured. Bake about 25- 30 minutes.

Brownies will still be fudgy but the top should be shiny and cracked. Cool completely in pan.

For Salted Caramel Layer

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1-½ teaspoon vanilla Extract
  • 1-½ cups pecans toasted
  • 1 tablespoon Fleur de Sel

In a medium sized pot combine sugar, corn syrup, and just enough water to make the mixture the consistency of wet sand. Wipe down the sides of the pan with a wet brush so that no granules of sugar remain. Cook this mixture over high heat until it is a deep amber color.

Immediately take off heat and slowly add the cream (mixture will bubble and expand vigorously (use caution).

Add vanilla extract and salt. Add pecans and stir to coat with caramel. Immediately pour over brownies.

To cut: refrigerate brownies for 30 minutes so that the caramel gets firm.

www.whisknladle.com

Fine Dining at Bertrand at Mister A’s

san diego food findsLocated on the 12th floor of the 5th Avenue Financial Center building, experience modern American food with French and Mediterranean influences at Bertrand at Mister A’s. Just minutes from downtown, this stunning fine dining penthouse restaurant is light and bright with floor-to-ceiling windows boasting panoramic views of San Diego Bay, Balboa Park, Coronado, Point Loma, and even the world-famous San Diego Zoo. I love to dine al fresco on the heated outdoor patio. Offering a seasonal and revolving menu, Chef de Cuisine Stéphane Voitzwinkler sources all of his produce from Chino Farms in Rancho Santa Fe and varies his seafood use based on what is available from local purveyors. While French ingredients and techniques dominate, Voitzwinkler’s German influence makes itself evident in his dish of Maine Lobster “Strudel” with Cognac Lobster Sauce and Forest Mushrooms. Light and simple preparations that offer a refined elegance include the Traditional Style Escargot, Soft-Shell Crab or Sautéed Maine Scallops.

©Written by Maria Desiderata Montana

Bertrand at Mister A's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sirena Gourmet Latin Cuisine

The newly opened Sirena Cocina Latina restaurant offers a true gourmet Latin Cuisine inspired menu, with many dishes having roots in the food culture of South America.

Latin Cusine

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

Located on the corner of Columbia and Fir Streets in San Diego’s Little Italy, the new Sirena restaurant boasts a neutral color palette accented with wooden walls and dark tables, making it the perfect spot for a romantic date or upscale business dinner.

The philosophy behind the menu at Sirena is to showcase fresh ingredients with simple flavors. “We wanted to bring San Diego a unique and unmatched culinary experience with a one-of-a-kind menu,” says Executive Chef Jaime Chavez.

Latin Cuisine

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

Sirena stands out from other restaurants in the area by a few trademarks. First, Sirena is the only true Latin American-inspired restaurant, with many dishes having roots in the food culture of South America, while taking on a new life with modern and inventive preparations. Secondly, the caliber of their fresh, seasonal and sustainable ingredients is unmatched. “We do everything we can to feature only locally or regionally-caught seafood and in-season produce,” Chavez says. “We even grow some of the produce ourselves. The menu is creative and complex, while still allowing simple ingredients to shine through.”

Sirena utilizes a unique combination of ingredients for a distinct flavor and appearance. For example, their purple cauliflower is delicately pickled and prepared with oysters and a a fresh coconut-ginger sauce is paired with braised scallops. Additionally, even though Sirena is a seafood restaurant, they also cater to vegetarian and vegan diners. Chavez explains that several members of his kitchen team are not-meat eaters, so much time has been devoted to developing techniques to replicate some of their favorite dishes into vegan-approved options, including cauliflower that tastes like ceviche or mushrooms that imitate raw oysters. “Food can be very creative, which is our inspiration in the Sirena kitchen.”

Latin Cuisine

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

A majority of the ingredients on the menu at Sirena are not only fresh, but sustainable. Born in Puerto Montt, one of the main cities in the south of Chile, Chavez liked to go to his grandfather’s house in a little fishermen’s city called Maullín, where they had a farm. At a very young age, he learned about fish and seafood. “I was able to open clams before reading,” he says. Chavez also says his first approach with cooking was during the holiday season. “It is common in my family to slow roast a half lamb with a chimichurri lacquer. So, while it was very annoying for adults to rotate the lamb for four hours, it was a very attractive job for a little kid.”

Latin Cuisine

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

In the south of Chile, Chavez explains that there was a significant German influence, thus his family developed German pastry traditions. “I think cooking and baking is in my blood,” he says. “To be honest, while growing up, I never thought I wanted to cook for a living, but at some point what was in my blood was stronger than my own wishes.”

Chavez attended Inacap, in Santiago de Chile, the oldest culinary school in Chile. He started in 2004, studying in the daytime, and working in different places at night. From fast food to taco shops, Asian eateries to sushi restaurants, he’s worked all of them, gaining invaluable skills, techniques and experience.

Latin Cuisine

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

In October 2006, Chavez moved for an internship to Peralada a little village in Alt Empurdá Barcelona in a little boutique hotel. He learned there the importance of respecting the ingredients. During his internship, he spent a couple of weeks at El Cingle, a Michelin star restaurant. It was there he received his training in contemporary Catalan cuisine with Montse Estruch; a revolutionary in the field.

Eventually, Chavez headed back to Chile to finish school. Looking for new experiences he moved to a restaurant called Emilio, the best Peruvian fine dining restaurant in Santiago. He started there as line cook and in less than three months, he was promoted to sous chef. He stayed there for a couple of months, until he received an offer to open a Peruvian restaurant in his home city. “It was a beautiful and hard experience, but it was there that I realized that I really loved this life,” he says.

Latin Cuisine

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

One day, Chavez was in his office and received a call offering him a pastry position at El Cingle, the Michelin star restaurant he had trained at. It was an opportunity he could not turn down, pastry or not. When he arrived at the restaurant, he was informed that there was actually no chef de cuisine at the restaurant, so he jumped from pastry to chef de cuisine in a couple of minutes!

Chavez explains that managing a Michelin star-awarded restaurant was very different than managing other any of the other restaurants he had worked for at that time. At El Cingle, there was no space for mistakes and the place was very demanding. We worked eighteen hours a day, almost every day. “There are so many details to take care of, that you can’t even imagine,” he says. “I had so much to read about, invested several hours in research, practiced my plating skills, and developed a creative process for making new dishes. That place made me who I am now.”

Eventually, Chavez left Spain to follow his my wife to Tijuana, Mexico. There he was an instructor at a cooking school, teaching students how to experience food and cooking. From Tijuana, Chavez and his wife came to San Diego, where they have worked in several hotels and restaurants in the city, finally bringing him me to Sirena as the new Executive Chef. “Now, I wish to provide a way for anyone to enjoy and experience those possibilities through my culinary creations,” he says.

Latin Cuisine

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

The menu at Sirena is inspired by Chavez’s background and by the food culture of South America. Many of the dishes are inspired by things his mother would make, but with a special spin. “I love simple, clean flavors with a complex preparation,” he says. “But, there are also other menu items that play up the quality of seafood we are able to get here in San Diego. Nekkei, our take on a “sushi-style” dish, spotlights how fresh and flavorful our seafood is, even when served raw.”

One of Chavez’s favorite dishes on the menu is the Peruvian Ceviche where the flavors are very fresh and clean with a hint of spice. The fresh oysters are also a favorite, offering a unique presentation, served with pickled vegetables and toasted squid-inked black bread. As a main dish, the braised scallops set atop a fresh coconut-ginger sauce, mirasol chili oil and a cauliflower puree is absolute perfection. “I love every dish we have on the menu,” says Chavez. “When I started, I was convinced about the flavors but I had to test the textures. I especially love the scallops because it’s a simple dish and the flavors are amazing. There are so many textures, that every bite is a difference experience.”

©Written by Maria Desiderata Montana

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

Roasted Tomato Bruschetta Recipe

Roasted Tomato Bruschetta Recipe

Photo and recipe by Maria Desiderata Montana

Roasted Tomato and Mascarpone Bruschetta

INGREDIENTS

6 Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise, cores and seeds removed
Extra–virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 baguette
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons chopped pistachios
Handful of pea tendrils

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We Love Native Foods Cafe

The first Native Foods Cafe was opened in 1994 by a vegan pioneer in Palm Springs, California. To date, they have fourteen locations nationwide, with more locations opening this year, including San Diego.

Native Food Cafe

Roasted Corn & Basil Polenta Bites
Pesto baked polenta topped with fresh roasted corn, basil, red pepper, onion and a touch of Native Cheese. $5.95 Gluten-Free (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Nationwide Executive chef Kendall Huff believes Native Foods Cafe is the fastest growing 100% plant-based fast casual concept out there. “Not only do we make chef crafted food from scratch daily, we also give back to each community,” she says. “We are passionate about the environment and the health of our guests. We also offer free monthly cooking demos to spread the plant-based love.”

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Exotic Sushi Style at Cafe Japengo

Exotic Sushi Style at Cafe Japengo

Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

Consistently ranked among the best Japanese restaurants in San Diego for its Asian style seafood, Cafe Japengo allows guests to venture into exotic culinary territory while surrounded by warm woods, Asian–style furnishings and subdued lighting. “While some of our sushi and hot food have changed and progressed throughout the years, we have stayed true to serving the highest quality of product presented with simplistic artistry,” says Executive Chef Jerry Warner.

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Stew Has A Lighter Side

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

(Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Lamb is a tasty substitute for beef in this slow-cooked recipe (U-T San Diego)

I have always enjoyed a good beef stew, but lately I’ve been experimenting with other kinds of meat in my slow cooker. A version with lamb is my new favorite.

I don’t like a heavy stew, and this one is light enough that you won’t feel weighed down after you eat it. With myriad colorful vegetables, it makes for a nice meal any time of the year.

I have a garden in my backyard where I like to grow garlic and a variety of seasonal herbs and vegetables. As I was trimming the rosemary the other day, I thought lamb would be the perfect pairing for it.

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