Tag Archives: San Diego

6th Annual Beer vs. Wine Dinner @ El Bizcocho (G’night, El Biz)

Wine is wet food. It’s the private school Starsky to food’s Hutch. The refined Funkel to food’s Gar. As such, the wine industry owns mealtime. Their challenge is happy hour, boat drink status, bipolar boss de-stressor. There’s non-chewing market share to be gained.

Beer, meanwhile, is still trying to disengage the tailgate from its image. No matter how far the craft beer scene has brought suds, it’s hard to undo the centuries-long association with half-cocked monks, half-shirted river people, and bong-toting collegians.

To that end, the marketing masterminds at Stone Brewing Co. started the “Beer vs. Wine Dinner” at El Bizcocho in 2007. It’s an elaborate grudge match meant to catapult craft beer upmarket.

San Diego is the Octomom of craft beer. Every Thursday the mayor administers Pitocin into the municipal abdomen, and the city squats out a new brewery. Milwaukee is jealous of our yeasty scent. Our beards have beards.

“Beer vs. Wine” is a hell of a tradition. Scruffy beer types find a clean shirt that hasn’t been screen-printed with a softball team logo or an ironic slag on Republicans. They then pile into the formal, old-world Spanish dining room at El Biz—one of SD’s oldest temples of haute cuisine, a country club annex that only recently eased its “formal wear-only” dress code.

The concept of BvW simple. El Biz chefs (Gavin Kaysen and Patrick Ponsaty then, Nicolaus Bour now) create a feast worth more than the collected souls of all attendees. Then a wine guru (Steve Frederick of R&R Wine Marketing this year) and a beer guru (Dr. Bill Sysak of Stone) duel to the death by trying to pair the perfect beverage for each dish. Beers with floral notes pick up the sneeze of lavender in a salad. A Pinot’s thrush of black fruit makes a duck taste like a slow-cooked phoenix. Diners sniff, swirl, analyze the harmonious marriage of food and drink in their mouths. Or the awkward first-date moment between the cheeks.

After each course, they write down the winner on a scorecard.

By dessert, everyone in the room is fattened and wobbly and wondering what each other looks like naked. That’s when the winner is announced and a giant brawl breaks out, with wine lovers slapping the koozie-people with tux gloves.

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Eater Comes to San Diego, Discovers 1984-2008 Dining Scene

In its search for “HOT, NEW!” restaurants in San Diego, Eater turned to food blogger Bownjwing Lee. Lee lives somewhere, I’m sure. But not in San Diego. Eater is a national website with many millions of readers. Going by Bonjwing’s list, those readers are now officially onto what was hot in San Diego two-to-18 years ago. Bownjwing turned them onto:

1. George’s: Awesome chef and restaurant, obviously. They opened in 1984. Would’ve been better for a “Titans Still Pushing the Boundaries” list. It would’ve been great on a “Hot, New” list when parachute pants were big.

2. Tiger! Tiger! and Blind Lady Ale House: Two neighborhood restaurants owned by the same people. Both very cool joints. But BOTH of them make a TOP-8 HOT, NEW SPOTS! list for the entire city? Especially considering Blind Lady opened nearly four years ago? I sure hope Bonjwing got some free pizza out of this one.

3. Cucina Urbana: Another great resto. Bonjwing proves he has an operable palate. Or that he can read—like, say, the hundreds of articles about Cucina that started four years ago, when it opened.

4. Urban Solace: Winner! Matt Gordon rocks. Has since he opened the joint five years ago. He does have a new joint Bonjwing may have pointed to (see below).

5. Spicy City: A mainstay on Convoy since its 2002 opening.

6. Herringbone: Bonjwing got this one right. The only one on his list that opened in 2012.

7. Yakitori Yakyudori: Mmmm, tsukune and beef tongue on a stick. They’ve been a favorite for years, including this location which opened two years ago.

Admission. Eater actually asked me to give them this list. It was an unpaid thing, but I wanted to help out of professional courtesy. Then I got busy working on a huge cover story for San Diego Magazine. So maybe it’s my fault. But with me busy, Eater could have turned to Erin Jackson, Keli Dailey, Amy T. Granite, Mmm-yoso, Kirbie’s Cravings, Darlene Eats, or any of the other hungry people who actually live here and know what’s going on.

Having an out-of-town blogger who visits a few times a year tell them the hottest, newest restaurants—well, you end up with a list like this. Which reads like an outdated guide book withering on a Barnes & Noble shelf. It’s lazy, and a bit insulting.

I’m glad they’re taking an interest in San Diego. I’ve heard they’re eyeing an SD outpost. Hopefully they’ll get it right when they have a home here.

Other suggestions for Eater:

Carnitas Snack Shack: Hannis the pig-loving man-chef is killing it over there.

Craft & Commerce: Where cocktails meet design. At least it opened in 2011, which would have been the second-newest entry on Bonjwing’s list.

Prepkitchen Little Italy: The biggest Prepkitchen yet, with a killer cotechino-stuffed sausage.

Blue Ribbon: Wade’s killed it with his little pizza venture.

Solace & the Moonlight Lounge: Matt Gordon’s newest version of his killer comfort gourmet.

TJ Oyster Bar: Been around for years. But just opened a big, new location. Best pulpo tacos in SD.

Herringbone: Good work, Eater. Batting .125. What a killer room that is.

100 Wines: The gorgeous new spot from the collaboration between The Cohns and Philippe Beltran, which previously yielded the sexy little number in OB, Bo Beau.

Snooze: Sure, it’s a concept from Denver. But there’s a line that starts with the crack of dawn for those cakes.

Manna: Another chain. But a good one. Korean BBQ spot on Convoy has a line out the door every night. They’re slated to open another location in San Marcos in a couple months.

Delicias. Renovated, with new chef-partner Paul McCabe creating a little culinary uprising in Rancho Santa Fe.

I’m sure I forgot a few. I’m spitballing here. But it’s a start.

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Vintana: Cohn Restaurant Group’s Restaurant on Wheels

(Photo: Sam Wells/San Diego Magazine)

I’m the restaurant critic for San Diego Magazine. For August’s issue, I ate in a brochure. Or, at least, that’s what it feels like when you walk through the Lexus “super-dealership” to get to Vintana in Escondido. David and Leslie Cohn, two of the most successful restaurateurs in San Diego (Corvette Diner, Indigo Grill, Bo Beau, The Prado, Melting Pot, 333 Pacific, etc), often take a slagging. Big dogs have big heels, and all the little purse dogs of the city’s dining scene are nippy little bastards.

You can read my review of Vintana here.

The accusation against the Cohns? Middle of the road food, high price, unexciting concepts.

Until a few years ago, I agreed with that estimation. Everyone gets a little soft sometimes. It’s the professional version of sitting on your couch for a week or so, eating ice cream and beer in your boxers while the mail goes unchecked (a recurring personal daydream). That’s not to say The Cohns weren’t trying (nor Rocky Roading excessively in leisurewear). Risk-taking just didn’t seem to be their M.O. But now… Continue reading

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