It dawned on me recently when someone asked how long I’ve been writing Lick the Plate that 2019 marks 10 years. That’s roughly 500 columns give or take as we officially started in April of 2009 and I’ve missed a handful of weeks over the years. Prior to connecting with Publisher Jim Kydd and his son Chris, I was writing the Encinitas Eats column in The Surf City Times. That was a funky little paper devoted primarily to the Encinitas area and run by Mike Andreen and the late great Gary Taylor. At the time, working with Gary, who was like a god to me and some of my fellow Great Lakes surfers, was a big thrill. We had followed his work in The Coast News as the Surfwriter and he was known to us as the king of Swami’s. He was becoming my muse and I felt lucky that one of our last shared experiences before he died way to0 young was my wedding at La Paloma Theater. The Surf City Times was a fun ride, but it did not last, and I found myself in a meeting with the Kydds at The Coast News shortly after and soon my column had found a new home and a new name, Lick the Plate.
My first story was on Third Corner in Encinitas and I think it’s so cool that they are still around and doing well. I was enamored with the fact that they had cassoulet and steak frites, two of my favorite French bistro dishes. Several of those early restaurants are still going strong including Kim’s Vietnamese, Q’ero, Lotus Café and Blue Ribbon.
I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth restating as people always ask me what’s it’s like being a restaurant critic. I always answer with something along the lines of “well I would tell you if I was one.” There are only a handful of newspapers in the country with actual restaurant critics who have a star rating system or similar. The NY Times and LA Times come to mind and but few others can afford to, given the current state of the newspaper industry, to alienate a potential advertiser. I realized that early on with Lick the Plate and have steered it toward being a feature since the early days. Sure, if a restaurant is doing great thing, the column can read like a review and I have no problem taking it in that direction should it warrant that attention. That said, I’m better at telling stories and Lick the Plate has strived to do that over the years.
When we took the show to radio at KPRI eight years ago, we evolved into a culinary and music focused show, and recently, with the addition of Quinn Boylan as a producer, have made it official with our “Culinary + Culture + Music” tagline that allows us to bring a wider variety of guests into the mix and that enables more interesting stories to be told. Food and music are still the foundation though and always will be. It’s fun telling stories through those topics as most folks tend to be quite passionate about both.
I’ve met some amazing, passionate people over the past 10 years who have come into my life as a result of Lick the Plate. I’ve always likened some of the culinary folks I’ve met to pirates in a sense that they have taken a different path than most of the population. It’s a path that has them working long hours when others are playing in a restaurant culture that that does not pay much attention to political correctness or other norms associated with the white collar world. Despite the chef as celebrity culture that has become a thing, the vast majority of them do not receive that attention and Lick the Plate has always strived to include them in our mix.
The amazing meals and interesting characters I’ve met over the past 10 years can be difficult to capture in 800 words per week but it’s a weekly exercise in storytelling that I thrive on. It’s been a pleasure being a part of The Coast News team that has managed to not only survive as a local newspaper but maintain a strong presence and a devoted audience in the North County. Besides the weekly paper, that is nice to see people reading at cafes and restaurants all over the area and they have a strong digital presence and engaging content which is critical to their success.
I still have a day job but Lick the Plate in The Coast News has led to some fun new opportunities in radio and podcasts in several markets. Writing this column still feels like a fresh gig, keeps me writing and that gives me great pleasure.