Recently, it occurred to me that this year marks 15 years of writing Lick the Plate between The Coast News and Surf City Times (“Encinitas Eats”). I’m estimating around 750 columns give or take with just a few weeks missed and our new bi-monthly format.
And while it’s not a huge milestone, it provided a reason enough to celebrate for a column idea I’ve had for a while that would highlight stories that basically wrote themselves.
People from the culinary, cultural and musical worlds who were either so personally interesting to me, at the top of their game, or provided a product or service that I couldn’t get enough of. Columns like that just flow out of my head effortlessly with never any shortage of words, a problem I would welcome weekly.
With that, of the hundreds of columns, I’ve come up with a list of some that were a joy to experience and write that I’d like to share. I’ll try to go in chronological order, but it may not be exact.
Going way back, one of my first columns was the now-shuttered Fulano’s Mexican Cafe, the restaurant on Leucadia Boulevard that was a mystery to folks for many years. I felt more connected to my community after that story and privy to some inside information on the place that many just speculated on.
Ogata was one of the original Sushi joints that were just a joy to frequent. We called it “budget sushi” as $10 could fill you up. I remember the owner being very thankful and feeling kind of clever with my headline of “Domo Arigato Mr. Ogata,” which was a nod to the Styx song but actually translated to “Thank you, Mr. Ogata.”
Blue Ribbon Pizza was such a unique concept when it first opened and blew me away on so many levels, that was an easy one, same with The Flying Pig in Oceanside.
The weekly tasting menu paired with wine at Firefly was a culinary delight and introduced me to many unique food and wine pairings that I still reference today.
One of my road trip columns to San Diego was to one of my favorite restaurants ever, the charming French Bistro Café Chloe. It was like a slice of France in East Village, easy to love and a joy to write about.
And, of course, my beloved Juanita’s in Leucadia. The first column was a love letter to my favorite taco shop-type restaurant and the second was an actual interview with one of their California Burritos, or “Cal Burrito” as we called him. It is still the only interview I’ve come across with a food item on a menu … a Lick the Plate original one might say!
Being a recipe contest judge and then writing a story on the San Dieguito Heritage Museum Lima Bean Festival taught me some fascinating history in this area, including the important role that the versatile legume played in the settling of Olivenhain and Encinitas. As a big history buff, it was a delight to put that one together.
All of my “where they eat around town” columns that featured area businesses, bands, teams and the like have all been great fun. Bing Surfboards, Corner Frame Shop, Coast Law Group, SDA track team, Surfy Surfy, Dorothy & Bill, and many more all shared some of their favorite places to eat, often resulting in fun new column ideas.
The cocktail column that took me from the American Legion to Moonlight Lounge and O’Hurley’s, sampling drinks along the way of the basic and crafty variety, and was a hoot.
When Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista and Escondido began to up their culinary games it was very cool to break out of my Encinitas bubble and experience all they were bringing to the North County dining scene. A few that stand out include the smoky goodness of Campfire, the innovative Wrench & Rodent, Miller’s Table, The Wooden Spoon, Frazier Farms, Yellow Deli and many more.
Old school classics like Encinitas Café, Pannikin, Rosanna’s, Tip Top Meats, Privateer and One More That’s It were right up my alley.
My annual fish stories column, courtesy of Captain Mark Mihelich and Boundless Boat Charters, has provided big-time story fodder and unbelievable experiences.
And lucky for me, some more recent discoveries have rocked my writing world. Some of those included Vaga at the Alila Marea resort in Leucadia, Big Jim’s Roast Beef, Ponto Lago at the Park Hyatt Aviara, Matsu, Moto Deli, Valentina, MRKT Space, Kai Ola, and Pedro’s Fish Taco’s.
As I wind this one down, it occurred to me that I’m just scratching the surface — there are dozens more stories that wrote themselves. A trend you may have noticed through all this is the variety, the lowbrow to highbrow and everything in-between content that makes me love writing this column and sharing my discoveries, both new and old.
And as always, a big thanks to The Coast News for providing the platform.