I recently read a story in a San Diego city newspaper about a basket of new restaurants making their debuts this month. Some had cute names, most were fast-casual formats, but all were the usual footprints of trendy places that have gotten a little long in the tooth. Being a wine/food journalist for the past 12 years and in marketing, broadcasting and advertising for years before the column, discovery is in my DNA.
Kitchen 1540, the classy coastal restaurant in the elegant French countryside-inspired resort at L’Auberge Del Mar, is my most recent discovery. It has created a stunningly attractive style and setting for its “The Patio at Night Pop-Up” series of direct-from-the-farm menus created by Executive Chef Nathan Lingle and Chef de Cuisine Jeff Ginther.
In this outdoor venue with a park-like setting each Wednesday through Saturday evening, dinners are a sensory delight, carefully crafted for sheer upscale pleasure. The environment is immaculate with its comfortable well-appointed tables and seating. Some dining locations are tucked into private cabanas. All areas enjoy fire pits, a waterfall, hanging lanterns and a hydroponic garden, all the while being serenaded by very cool live jazz style music. Adding to this ambience are the cool ocean breezes just a block or so west, always of added value to a casually romantic dinner evening.
The freshness of the daily produce offered in all its Patio at Night dinner selections is of the utmost importance to Kitchen 1540 chefs, and the special locally sourced, fresh food menu is presented to spotlight these ingredients.
Chef Ginther is a transplant from Pennsylvania, landing at Kitchen 1540 two years ago and upgraded to chef de cuisine a year ago. He plays an important role in creating dishes as well as assessing produce coming in to complement their dishes.
“When we do find our freshest ingredients, we go into action to place them into our Pop-Up menu to create new dishes,” he revealed. “I have a passion for bringing out new flavors in food that may have been neglected and not so popular in trendy restaurants. I don’t put myself into a flavor box. I see if I can simplify it to its essence.”
One of the fascinating menu choices and the most popular is Street Corn. Discovered as a quick hearty dish from Mexico, it is charred corn stripped from the cob. Ingredients include Tajin, Tapatio, cotija and cilantro.
The beverage team has created several wine flight choices both white and red. My favorite of the list was the Turnbull Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 in the Oakville district. Read more by visiting laubergedelmar.com.
Destructive fires sweep Napa-Sonoma wine country
The death toll is now up to 31 known dead and 400 missing, as I write this column Oct. 13, in the massive Wine Country fires that have struck the nation’s wine “Camelot,” Napa/Sonoma and other wine country surrounds. The burn areas are now 191,000 acres. To put it into perspective, the size of New York City! It has taken down more than 3,500 homes and other buildings. Those numbers are expected to rise as these wildfires will burn for many more days. Communication has been difficult since many cell towers have been damaged by the fires which began Oct. 8.
At least seven wineries have been reportedly destroyed. Another 11 in Napa Valley have reported some damage, including the famous Stag’s Leap, according to Wine Spectator. Resources from throughout the state are descending on the fire fronts. The cities of Geyserville in Sonoma and Calistoga in Napa Valley are like smoky ghost towns as all were evacuated. From Mt. Veeder in the south to Mt. St. Helena in the north, ridges are black with charred remains.
Upwards of 90 percent of the crop had been picked, with only Cabernet Sauvignon still on vines, many burning. The thick skin of the cab grapes will keep smoke out. Hopefully, with prayers and owner courage, most of them dodged the bullet.
If you wish to learn more, and how you can help the rebuilding effort with a donation, here is the real-deal location, started after the 2014 quake: Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund. Funds will be put to immediate use to help local nonprofits help fire victims with shelter, meals, medical care, animal care and mental health issues.
• Pala Casino Spa and Resort brings you a Trinitas Cellars five-course wine dinner in its underground Cave at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26. Cost is $85 per person. The winery is from Napa Valley and specializes in an old vine Petite Sirah. Call (877) 946-7252 for an RSVP.
• Il Fornaio in Coronado has a Cakebread Wine Dinner at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 26. Cakebread is a leading winery in Napa Valley. Its Estate Cabernet will be served with a prosciutto stuffed veal. Cost is $65 per guest. Call (619) 437-4911.
• North County Wine Company in San Marcos is pleased to present DAOU Vineyards of Paso Robles from 5 to 9 p.m. Oct. 27. The DAOU wines are winning awards recently so don’t miss this opportunity. Call (760) 653-9032 for details.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading commentators on the web. View his columns at http://thecoastnews.com. Go to menu then columns. Reach him at [email protected].