Tag Archives: San Diego Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes From America’s Finest City

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

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.

Continue reading A Biscotti Recipe for the Holidays

Candied Lemon and Ginger Slices

Candied Lemon And Ginger Slices
photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

I have an organic lemon tree in my backyard that yields more lemons than I know what to do with. This recipe adds a hint of ginger for a subtle, yet spicy kick. There is enough sugar in this recipe to keep the lemons tasting tart, but not too sweet. If you like it sweeter, feel free to add more sugar. I also like to dry the lemons out a bit in the oven for a slightly chewy texture.

Candied Lemon and Ginger Slices


  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup granulated sugar (more if desired)
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger root
  • 3-4 lemons, cut into thin slices
  • Powdered sugar, for garnish


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Place water, sugar and ginger in a medium skillet; bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until all sugar is dissolved. Lower heat to medium-low and add lemon slices in 1 layer.

Steep the lemon slices for about 15 minutes, or until the rind is translucent. Carefully remove lemons with tongs and arrange slices in one layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake lemon slices until dried, approximately 30 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe by Maria Desiderata Montana

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.

Yorkshire Pudding Recipe

Yorkshire Pudding
Chef Andrew Spurgin (Courtesy photo)

Established in 2012, Andrew’s latest venture, ANDREW SPURGIN™, brings his diverse skill sets to consulting work with caterers, chefs, restaurants and hotels. He also creates bespoke events—from concept, styling, menu design and vendor brokering—as well as other related focus areas. Andrew believes in sound community care and often accepts requests to act as host or culinary chair for charitable and gala events. After all, if you live in a community, why not give back to it?

Andrew has designed parties and menus, and overseen the production of events honoring dignitaries and glitterati for the past three decades. He has cooked for three US presidents, Martha Stewart, and at the James Beard House in New York City, among others.

He grew up in London, working in his relative’s restaurant and butcher shop. His aunts introduced him early to the bounty of local purveyors at London’s historic Borough Market, where he also “worked” at a young age. His family moved to San Diego in 1974.

He was chef and baker of one of California’s first handcrafted, on-premise bakery/restaurants. He was director of catering at Southern California’s celebrated Pirets, and at several other respected catering firms. Andrew has consulted and cooked with London’s Mustard Catering Ltd. and has been tutored by the cheesemongers at Neal’s Yard Dairy, also in London.

He has produced and designed menus and events throughout the United States, Canada, England and Mexico.

Andrew regularly lectures to the industry, public and youth audiences too on sustainability, cooking, event design, culinary responsibility and entertaining. His events, interviews and photos have been featured in numerous local and national magazines, radio and TV.

Fondly reflecting back on his English grandparents, Chef Andrew Spurgin remembers wonderful traditional feasts and offers his recipe for Yorkshire Pudding.

Yorkshire Pudding

  • 1 cup hen eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk, organic
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, sifted twice
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup turkey or beef  drippings, strained (may substitute duck fat, bacon fat, lard, or butter)
  • 2 tablespoons cold water

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs into the milk with the salt. Add flour to custard mixture and combine, stirring gently until smooth (no lumps). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 hour. Pour through strainer and add rosemary.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat a 12-count muffin or pop-over pan in the oven until very hot.

Heat fat, if not liquid. Mix cold water into the custard. Add about a teaspoon of fat into each muffin pan, it should be smoking. Give the custard one quick stir and immediately fill each pan about 1/3 full. Place custard in oven and bake at 425 degrees F. for 15 minutes, then turn down oven to 350 degrees F. for another 10 minutes or until custard is golden brown (do not open oven until fully cooked).  Remove from oven and serve immediately with gravy or your favorite jam.

*Information courtesy of Chef Andrew Spurgin

Breakfast Call at Snooze Del Mar

snooze del mar
(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Snooze serves breakfast in the Del Mar Highlands Town Plaza. The Denver-based, family-owned company boasts a unique comfort food breakfast experience with made-from-scratch recipes. Produce is hand selected and meats are natural, farm raised, free ranging, and local (whenever possible). In addition, Snooze’s exclusive organic coffee is picked, roasted, and flown in directly from Guatemala every week.

snooze del mar
Pot Pie (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)
Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Pancake of the Day (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)
Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Pancake of the Day (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)
Trio of Pancakes (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)
Trio of Pancakes (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

The seventh Snooze location, Del Mar Snooze’s 4,000-square-foot space has seating for 110, and a large outdoor patio.

Open from 6:30am-2:30pm Monday through Friday and 7:00am-2:30pm Saturday and Sunday.

 See the menu here.

Snooze Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Recipe for California Fish Tacos

California Fish Tacos
California Fish Taco with Cabbage and Red Pepper Slaw (Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

California Olive Ranch

Grilling on the West Coast: Q&A with Food Blogger Maria Desiderata Montana

Blogger and food writer Maria Desiderata Montana of San Diego Food Finds, chatted with California Olive Ranch about her love for cooking and grilling.

COR: What’s your mission behind your blog and your cookbook series?

MDM: As an experienced journalist, I created my San Diego Food Finds website to serve as a comprehensive, dining-related resource to both residents and visitors.  It includes an insider’s look at all of the best culinary offerings, highlighted by my professional food photography to help readers visualize the food served at the dining destinations of my choice.  I also include a regularly updated calendar of events, recipes, chef interviews and much more. My first book, the ‘Food Lovers’ Guide to San Diego’, is a perfect extension to my website, and serves as an excellent reference to everything in San Diego. My second book, the ‘San Diego Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes From America’s Finest City’ is really the icing on the cake!

COR: Tell me a little about your recipe? How’d you come up with the concept?

MDM: As an experienced cook, I wanted to provide readers with an example of a tasty dish that is not only simple and easy to prepare, but also remains healthy and light.  Most of my recipe concepts are born from a deeply traditional Italian upbringing, where my mother was truly passionate about utilizing all of the fresh ingredients available in our backyard garden.

COR: What’s the best aspect of grilling in Southern California? Any special rubs? Olive-oil based marinades?

MDM: Although I was born and raised in the Northwest, I’ve spent the past 20 years in sunny San Diego.  Surprisingly, the grilling techniques are much the same.  Most of my rubs are limited to what is seasonal in my garden, taking full advantage of fresh herbs and spices.  My favorite marinades frequently contain a few sprigs of rosemary that grows wild everywhere in southern California, including my backyard. The aroma is unmistakable, and works for veggies, fish and meats.

COR: What was the first recipe you ever cooked on the grill?

MDM: Where I grew up, salmon and trout were the most common catch of the day.  As a child, I would eagerly wait by the smoking grill, knowing a tender fish was only minutes away.  It was especially common during the warm summer months by the lake.

COR: Do you have any notable grilling disasters?

MDM: My first attempt to grill a halibut steak without the proper mesh screen.  Once the fish was nearly ready, I had flaky chunks dropping everywhere in the grill, as I frantically tried to scrape-up the filet with a spatula.

COR: What do you love the most about grilling—the flavor, the tradition?

MDM: Grilling provides such a wonderful, smoky flavor to everything.  It seems to beckon the fond memories of childhood.  Indeed, there is something special about a tradition that spans thousands of years, defying modern technology.

COR: How do you think olive oil enhances grilled recipes?

MDM: If you use the RIGHT olive oil, it adds that unmistakable flavor and texture to the food, penetrating your senses unlike any other ingredient.  Common oils will only make the food taste oily.

COR: What’s the craziest thing you ever cooked on a grill?

MDM: Octopus.  My first attempt resulted in a very chewy dish, but then I learned the art of marinating (from my chef friends), which makes a world of difference.

COR: What’s the most iconic grilling recipe in Southern California?

MDM: Definitely a grilled fish taco topped with a creamy coleslaw of some sort. However, I have been known to opt for a grass-fed beef burger on many occasions.

COR: Any special grilling tips?

MDM: Know when your recipe calls for slower, indirect heat versus the more traditional direct searing.  Each technique is important, but a disaster when used incorrectly.

Recipe and photo by Maria Desiderata Montana, publisher of the award-winning food blog San Diego Food Finds and author of Food Lovers’ Guide to San Diego, the San Diego Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes From America’s Finest City and The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe Cookbook.

California Fish Tacos with Cabbage and Red Pepper Slaw


  • 4 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and julienned
  • 4 tablespoons California Olive Ranch Miller’s Blend Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, plus extra for coating the grill
  • 4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4-6 ounce Alaskan White Cod fillets
  • 8 corn tortillas


Step 1: In a large bowl combine cabbage and peppers. Add olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, oregano and salt and pepper. Lightly toss and set aside.

Step 2: Preheat grill or stovetop grill pan to medium-high heat and brush grill rack with olive oil. Grill fish until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes on each side, more or less, depending on thickness. Remove fillets from grill and cut into small sections. (Each 6-ounce fillet will make 2 tacos)

Step 3: Place corn tortilla on a plate and fill with a spoon of the green cabbage and red pepper slaw. Top with fish. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

 Serves 4
Level: Easy

Italian Grilled Amaretto Peaches

Italian Grilled Amaretto Peaches
Recipe and photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

I have a peach tree in my backyard and I can’t wait until the fruit ripens. From plain old, fresh peaches to peach pie to peach cobbler to peach preserves, I can’t seem to get enough. This simple recipe of peaches grilled with butter is one of my favorites. It doesn’t get any easier or more delicious than this!

Grilled Amaretto Peaches

Serves 4

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon amaretto flavoring
  • 4 ripe peaches, pitted and halved
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar

In a mixing bowl, combine cream, sugar and amaretto flavoring; whip until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate mixture. Heat grill to high. Brush peaches with butter and grill until slightly soft and just cooked through. Sprinkle peaches with some of the nutmeg, cinnamon and brown sugar. Top peaches with a dollop of whipped cream.

Coconut Raspberry Muffin Recipe

Coconut Raspberry Muffins by Maria Desiderata Montana


  •  2 cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup shredded coconut


Continue reading Coconut Raspberry Muffin Recipe

The Perfect Pasta Salad

Pancetta, olives, tomatoes, and artichoke hearts add zing to a bow-tie pasta salad that is just right for a barbecue

(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)
(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Two-Tomato Farfalle Salad With Pancetta may look too good to eat, but by all means dig in!

I believe we eat with our eyes first, and this farfalle pasta salad looks too good to eat, but do it anyway! In this recipe, the festive pasta shape, reminiscent of little bow ties, is paired with fresh and colorful ingredients. It will definitely please your friends and family.

Instead of a traditional cream- or mayonnaise-based pasta salad, I’ve created a healthy Italian version using extra-virgin olive oil as the dressing. Pancetta, Pecorino-Romano cheese and green olives lend the subtle taste of salt naturally. The addition of in-season orange tomatoes along with sun-dried tomatoes adds a ripe sweetness, while marinated artichoke hearts give a tangy flavor.

All of these ingredients can be enjoyed alone, but when tossed together in one big bowl, every bite packs a zesty punch.

This is the perfect summertime salad to bring to a backyard barbecue. Enjoy alone or as a side dish with grilled fish, chicken, steak or pork.

Two-Tomato Farfalle Pasta Salad With Pancetta

16 ounces farfalle pasta, cooked according to package instructions

2 slices of pancetta

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 medium-size orange tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 cup artichoke hearts marinated in oil and vinegar, drained, and roughly chopped

1 cup whole, pitted green olives

1 handful fresh basil leaves, torn

1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, cubed

1) Cook pasta according to package instructions (remove from heat a little earlier than the stated cooking time if you like your pasta al dente).

2) Drain in a colander, then place pasta back in its original pan and add cold water. Once the pasta is cool, drain, put in a large bowl and set aside.

3) Slice the pancetta into small pieces. In a small frying pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and crushed garlic. When temperature reaches medium-low heat (take care that garlic doesn’t burn), add pancetta. Stir constantly until the pancetta is cooked through. Add to the pasta bowl.

4) Chop orange tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts. Cut Pecorino-Romano cheese into 1/2-inch cubes. Drain green olives.

5) Add tomatoes, artichokes, cheese and olives to the pasta bowl. Add torn basil. Lightly drizzle salad with 4 tablespoons olive oil and gently toss. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the flavors to set. Plate and serve.

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

Kale and Strawberry Salad Recipe

Recipe and Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana

This light and healthy Kale and Strawberry salad is the perfect side dish for those sultry summer days!

Continue reading Kale and Strawberry Salad Recipe

Caroline’s Seaside Cafe

Caroline's Seaside Cafe
(Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Given the wide array of stunning locations to dine in San Diego, it’s nearly impossible to find a new venue tucked away from the typical tourist hotspots. There are many choices in this beautiful city, with whitewater vistas and orange sunsets every day of the week. With a kaleidoscope of cuisines representing most corners of the world, it can be somewhat of a challenge at times to find a simple menu that still provides healthy and fresh choices.
Continue reading Caroline’s Seaside Cafe

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.

Continue reading Landini’s Sicilian Style Pizza

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
Courtesy Image

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