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Mesa Agricola’s chef Juan Gonzalez while preparing dinner at Vino Carta. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Mesa Agricola’s chef Juan Gonzalez while preparing dinner at Vino Carta. Photo by Rico Cassoni
ColumnsFood & WineTaste of Wine

Mesa Agricola’s ultimate freshness at Vino Carta

I was introduced to Mesa Agricola by an industry colleague who discovered them and raved about their food flavors. Farmer Megan Strom and chef Juan González first connected over their shared passion of unique, farm fresh ingredients.

Their passion has evolved into Mesa Agricola, meaning “agricultural table.” Megan and Juan see Mesa Agricola as an exciting opportunity to connect with others who appreciate the hard work and love that goes into growing and preparing farm to table dishes.

Chef Juan’s culinary style is influenced by the flavors of his home region, Baja California. Using seasonal produce grown by Megan at their Valley Center Mesa Agricola farm and other SoCal farms, Megan and Juan provide guests with an unforgettable dining experience. Frank and I were able to enjoy their ultimate fresh cuisine at Vino Carta Wine Store and Bar in Solana Beach.

Each Monday and Tuesday from 5 to 8:30 p.m., Mesa Agricola is onsite at Vino Carta preparing farm-to-table dishes with premium proteins, typically 8 to 11 dishes.

Vino Carta has many seating choices for guests that, include the bar, two- and four-seat tables, outside al fresco with heating, and large format tables for groups. The large tables are perfect for Chef Juan’s dishes that are meant to be shared and are served as soon as they are prepared.

Before and possibly in between entrees, guests can explore the wine store to pick up a bottle of wine for labels, not on the by-the-glass/bottle menu, and open it for a reasonable corkage fee. Note wine club members’ corkage fee is waived.

Chef Juan Gonzalez's NY Strip Steak and greens served at Vino Carta. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Chef Juan Gonzalez’s NY Strip Steak and greens served at Vino Carta. Photo by Rico Cassoni

By the glass options are available in both 3- and 6-ounce pours.

“Vino Carta has off-the-beaten-path wines that support small production, organic, and biodynamic vineyards and wineries and has a robust selection of worldwide wines,” said Isabel Pacheco, Vino Carta’s assistant manager.

For example, Frank and I had glasses of Turkish 2021 Pasaeli Red Blend (Karasakiz, cabernet sauvignon, and Calkarasi) wine from Aegean, Turkey. We had the Pasaeli with our food bounty that started with hand-pulled stracciatella cheese created by Chef Juan with Mesa-grown Spanish tomatoes, picual olive oil, and sourdough toast.

We also had the chicory salad with kefir milk dressing, hibiscus, pickled red onions, and mint, all from Mesa farms, alongside shaved green apple from Smit Farms. Of course, any food sourced outside of what is grown at Mesa Agricola meets Megan and Juan’s stringent standards.

A great example of the ultimate freshness is the chicory salad shifting to a lettuce salad in a week or so, with Megan now growing lettuce with the onset of spring. We had one more appetizer, patatas bravas, which was Yukon gold potato, salsa brava, and Pimenton de la Vera garnished with Schaner Farm parsley.

Next, we shifted to some proteins and had a glass of Delmore Syrah from Paso Robles. Winemaker Darren Delmore makes about 600 cases yearly in Paso’s Tin City. Our first protein was Tuna Tlayuda, a gently seared piece of tuna on a white corn tlayuda (tostado), with an amino vinaigrette, Schaner Farm avocado salsa, shishito pepper, and yuzu kosho aioli that was topped with sesame seeds and crispy leeks. Just by reading the ingredients here, you know this was a flavor explosion.

Following the tuna, we had Juan’s NY Strip steak, perfectly cast iron seared medium rare with an adobo marinade and black garlic aioli mixed with Mesa greens. The steak was clean and paired well with the Delmore Syrah, especially with the black garlic aioli.

When Frank and I debated whether we wanted the Basque cheesecake, Juan made it easy when the beauty showed up at our table, plated with blueberry rhubarb jam and hojiblanca olive oil. The baked, light, crustless cheesecake was a perfect way for us to end and savor our food experience at Vino Carta.

Anyone looking for the purest expression of farm-to-table cuisine should check out Mesa Agricola’s garden of fresh food prepared by Juan. It will also provide an opportunity to shop Vino Carta’s unique wine selection featuring wine labels spanning the world. Vino Carta also has a location in Little Italy at 2161 India Street. More information at mesaagricola.com and vinocartasd.com.

— Story by Rico Cassoni

Wine Bytes

Randy Smerik, owner of Solare Ristorante Italiano, is hosting an Italian Rubinelli Vajol Winemaker Dinner at 6 p.m. on March 5. Nicola Scienza (winemaker) will lead the four-course dinner with five wines from Rubinelli Vajol Estate and a menu by executive chef Denice Grande.  The cost is $88 + tax/gratuity per person.  Reserve your indoor or heated patio seats at 619-270-9670.