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Rico Cassoni shows off his San Marzano buds while enjoying 2016 Goldschmidt Yoeman Cabernet Sauvignon ($75). Photo by Frank Mangio
Columns Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: No matter which vine … it’s all about farming

When talking vines, I suspect that most of our readers are thinking they are about to hear about Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sangiovese or other familiar grapes. Surprise! This week, we are throwing readers a curveball in the spirit of baseball, which hopefully will be starting soon despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with tomato vs. grape vines.

This article features the most popular and famous tomatoes found in Italian kitchens — San Marzano. I will explain not only why San Marzano tomatoes are dominant in fine Italian cooking, but also where they come from. Let’s start with where they come from first.

San Marzano tomatoes originate from the said named town near Naples.  Folklore claims that the first seed came to Campania in 1770 as a gift  to Naples from Peruvian royalty. These heirloom specialty tomatoes were first grown in volcanic soil near Mount Vesuvius.  Amy Goldman, one of the foremost heirloom plant conservationists in the United States, calls the San Marzano “the most important industrial tomato of the 20th century.”

Compared to Roma tomatoes that were bred from San Marzanos, San Marzano tomatoes have a thicker flesh, fewer seeds and a flavor/taste that is stronger, sweeter and less acidic, making them superior to their Roma offspring. This is why San Marzano is king and sought out in Italian dishes over Roma and other tomato varietals.

The good news is that for those now intrigued about growing San Marzanos, you can do so from the comfort of your home as seeds are available worldwide. The ones shown in the earlier picture were started from seed around Feb 15.

A great vendor and resource for high quality seeds is Eden Brothers ( Additionally, a new home gardening method I discovered this year was Square Food Gardening, invented by the late Mel Bartholomew.  His farming method focuses on dense, efficient, compact farming methodologies so that anyone with a bit of space can farm with a plot that is divided into square foot sections that are only 6 inches deep.  Details at

Speaking of farming, one of the best virtual series I have discovered over the pandemic is Daniel Daou’s Tuesday AM Vineyard series. Daniel walks the vineyard fields with his team, sharing DAOU Vineyards’ above-and-beyond attention to detail. That includes practices leading to superior phenolics, such as less density per acre and canopy development to ensure that all fruit is ripe at the same time for perfect wines.

As amazing a winemaker as Daniel is, after listening to his vineyard tours, one could claim he is just as good as a farmer. This seems to go hand in hand as neither Frank nor I can think of a wine that we enjoy that is made by a winemaker who is not an ardent farmer. Check out Daniel’s tours on Tuesday’s at 9 a.m. on Instagram Live (@daniel.j.daou).

Be on the lookout for future pictures of the San Marzanos on homemade pizza in the mid-June timeframe.

—Story by Tech Director/Writer Rico Cassoni

The ultimate takeout takes place at Chart House

Did you ever think that a deluxe, fine dining three-course dinner for two would ever be served takeout style. Well this is 2020 and strange happenings call for strong responses if business is to survive.

Chart House in Cardiff went all out for Mother’s Day with its three-course crafted dinner featuring roasted citrus herb salmon. Photo by Frank Mangio

And so it was on Mother’s Day in Cardiff, where Chart House pulled out all the stops with its takeout dinner for two ($60).

When I made my reservation, I had several questions that were promptly answered. Yes, the Chart House parking lot would be cleared out and set up for pickup only, with each guest exclusively assigned some minutes to process in and out, with the full meal carried to the guest’s vehicle by kitchen staff. Yes, all entrees and sides would be in their own sealed container designed to preserve the warmth of the food, which, with the salmon, included: a field-green salad with a separate container for the balsamic vinaigrette, parmesan asparagus, vegetable orzo and creamed spinach (optional). Dessert was a Molten chocolate cake.

I chose a Mer Soleil Monterey Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir to pair with the salmon. The dramatic weather and unique character of this hillside AVA create ideal conditions for this red wine wonder that enhances most all foods. It’s made by Charlie Wagner of Caymus wine fame in Napa Valley.

Chart House is owned by The Landry restaurant group. In San Diego, Morton’s The Steakhouse and Del Frisco’s are also owned by Landry. The charismatic leader of the Landry group from Houston is Tilman Fertitta.  His motto, right on the receipt for each purchase, is: “There are no spare customers. Thank you, come again.”

For more takeout from Chart House, visit


Wine Bytes

— More Chart House takeout news just in: The restaurant now has 12-pack Wednesdays and Thursdays — six burger sliders with cheddar cheese plus a  six-pack of domestic beer. $22, slightly higher with imported beer.  Order from 3 to 8 p.m. at 760-436-4044.

— PAON in Carlsbad has an expanded takeout menu to include steaks and dessert. Add a half-bottle of wine with your order for just $10. Details at 760-729-7377, Wednesday-Sunday, 3 to 7 p.m.

— Craftsman restaurant in Encinitas is now open for take-out Wednesday thru Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m. A full menu is available, including their famous buttermilk-fried chicken breast with potato puree. 760-452-2000.

Reach Frank Mangio at [email protected]