Weekend Preview: Chilipalooza, '20 Hour' Ramen, And What's The BFD?
November 29, 2012 3:47 p.m.
Great neighborhoods, great food, and great fun are all ahead this weekend.
CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Last week after Thanksgiving dinner, lots of people were so stuffed they thought they'd never be hungry again! Surprise! Even if your appetite has been dulled by holiday treat, we've got a weekend preview that's going to leave your tongue out and your stomach growling! Joining me to talk about some incredible eating events are my guest, Aaron Chambers Smith, editor in chief at San Diego magazine. Good to see you.
CHAMBERS SMITH: Good afternoon.
CAVANAUGH: And Amy T. Granite is arts and culture editor and food writer at CityBeat.
GRANITE: Hi, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: Let's start with a great new restaurant in little Italy, it's called Monello, and I continued has a great happy hour.
CHAMBERS SMITH: Monello means naughty little boy, and this is the second restaurant from the same owners and chef of Bencotto, which is a great newer restaurant in little Italy. So they've opened the 6 restaurant right next door, so it's sort of like the naughty little brother. One of the best features I think of Monello, they're calling it an aper Tivo, happy hour. And the whole thing is Milan street food. The owners are from northern Italy, from Milan. So they tried to bring some of the street foods back. And they have a happy hour where as long as you buy a drink, the chef sends out small plates for you compliment 18 from 4:00 to 7:00.
CAVANAUGH: What is street food for Milan?
CHAMBERS SMITH: Lots of tapas and small plates. One of the best things I had was a little mini-cal zone. But it's much better and fresher and lighter. It's a puffed up sort of dough with cheese, and a great homemade sauce inside, and it's just the perfect thing to eat with a glass of wine. They also bring out complimentary lupini beans. I like to think of it as an Italian edamame, and it's just the perfect little place to go.
CAVANAUGH: And they also have brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, right?
CHAMBERS SMITH: Yeah, so I think they're filling a void in little Italy and offering a breakfast every day. There's not a lot of breakfast places to eat there. Every day of the week, they have a traditional Italian style breakfast spread, which is most pastries and really good coffee. On Saturdays and Sundays that is correct I have a farmer's market brunch where they go to the little Italy Mercado, and the chef picks out whatever he loves and goes back and creates a brunch.
CAVANAUGH: Do you have a favorite item on the menu?
CHAMBERS SMITH: The panzerotti. I also had a great really seafood pasta. And this one was bigger, so it would be one to share. But fresh seafood, and the thing I like about them and their other restaurant is the pasta. The pasta they make, doesn't taste like regular pasta. They make it fresh in-house every day.
CAVANAUGH: Now, what kind of ambience?
CHAMBERS SMITH: It's kind of modern Italian. It's very sleek. And I admire the owners a lot for their esthetic and commitment to doing what they like and what they want to do, really doing it that Italian, sleek modern style. There's a lot of other trends in restaurants right now. Reclaimed wood and all these different lights, and things that you see recurring. And they really resisted falling into being trendy and being what's now and next. And they're just really committed to being very authentic. And it really does shine through. Valentina is sort of the detailed eye of the team.
CAVANAUGH: Now, a kind of different eating experience, Amy. Ramen Yamadaya. Is that how you say it?
GRANITE: Yes, that's right.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: It's a little restaurant on Clairemont Mesa boulevard what. Sets this apart?
GRANITE: Two thing, really. One, it's the broth. It's a very special broth that they have. And it is Tonkatsu, and that is a 20-hour broth made from pork bones. So the marrow and the pork butter comes out of those bones and just makes this extremely rich, creamy broth that's the base for chunks of pork belly in their signature ramen. And then the other thing that makes different are the noodles. Typically ramen noodles are bouncy and crimped. And when you slurp them, broth can fly all over the place. But this broth is so special, and it pairs perfectly with the thin, straight noodles. They're almost like Angel hair pasta: It's white versus the yellow alkaline noodles that are really bouncy and texturally different. So when you're sipping and slurping this decadent broth, you're able to get all of the broth in your mouth versus all over your face which can happen with the bouncy noodles.
CAVANAUGH: It just sounds like a completely different experience. Do you have a favorite menu item that you order?
GRANITE: I think it's just called the Tonkatsu ramen.
CAVANAUGH: And does it have table service? What's it like inside?
GRANITE: It's table service. When I went, there was just one person waiting tables. So with a foodie destination like this, sometimes foodies don't care too much about expedient service, and the customer is always right. So you tend to put up with a little bit more in restaurant like this to get that authentic experience that you wouldn't get other places. So if you go, be prepared to be patient, wait a little bit of time. But it's worth the wait.
CAVANAUGH: Is this the only ramen restaurant?
GRANITE: It's actually a chain based out of Orange County. So not all chains are bad.
[ LAUGHTER ]
GRANITE: In my book. So yeah, this is definitely an example of had that. And they just have a really solid reputation for making this excellent ramen.
CAVANAUGH: And how much would it cost?
GRANITE: I think that the -- I think it caps out at around $12 with everything that you'd want to add into it. But I believe that the more basic version I got was around $9.
CAVANAUGH: We move to a holiday festival, and Chilipalooza.
CHAMBERS SMITH: It stands for south park and Northpark, pushed together, SONO.
CAVANAUGH: It's the gathering of the two neighborhoods!
CHAMBERS SMITH: Yeah, I guess there's a rivalry between them. I lived in south park and I didn't really sense it. But I think now that each one is just growing and getting new things and new restaurants and new organizations and associations and groups, are I think they're just developing their own identities. And maybe there is a little bit of a rivalry there. So this event, the organizers are billing it as sort of no more rivalry, and no bickering! We're coming together for the holiday season.
CAVANAUGH: So both of these neighborhoods are trendy and both known for really interesting restaurants. What will be on hand? What will we find?
CHAMBERS SMITH: It's in the middle of the day, so it's very family-oriented as well, and there is food and music and shopping and beer, of course. And a kids' zone. Very family-friendly, and the beer is going to be held inside the beer garden which from the photos they have online on their blog looks like it was very well attended last year. So sort of prepare for crowds, but all the great local beers will be there. They're going to have lots of shopping from local vendors, and of course food and a whole Chilipalooza.
CAVANAUGH: I want to ask you with that, but also there's music?
CHAMBERS SMITH: There is music. I have to cheat because there's a list of 20 different bands that are playing. And they do have two different stages. Some of the bands so far, the Fremonts, unestate, Adams and eves, and this one I thought was cute, McKinley elementary school is right there on the border, and I guess they have a children's flamenco group, and they're going to be playing in the afternoon on one of the stages. And I think some of the proceeds from some of the different vendors are going to be donated toward McKinley elementary school.
CAVANAUGH: Okay, let's get to the chillipalooza, this is an annual event, right?
CHAMBERS SMITH: It is, and I think it's very well organized. It's San Diego ceramic connection that organizes it every year. And this is the 16th. You pay $20, and you get to pick a bowl from one of their shops, that someone has locally created. And immediately $10 goes to the elementary school. Then the other $10 gets you five different taste, and tons of these great restaurants from all over San Diego are going to be there with their best pots of chilli. So you take your bowl around and you get five different tastes. Restaurants like Alchemy, the Linkery, Starlight, very hip restaurant in south Mission Hills. I think there's, like, 15 different restaurants that are going to be there.
CAVANAUGH: And is there a judges?
CHAMBERS SMITH: There is a judging, and you get to vote, and there's definitely a competition.
CAVANAUGH: We move to the big front door on park boulevard. What is big front door, also known as BFD?
GRANITE: BFD is an acronym that I'm not going to say on public radio.
CAVANAUGH: Very good!
[ LAUGHTER ]
GRANITE: But it is a big deal. Big front door is a special deli. They have excellent prepared foods that you can take away, like a chipotle potato salad. They have an orzo salad that's really good. They have a great selection of local craft beer, boutique wines from the region, craft sodas, and then they sell local goods like Sadie Rose Bread which is used for the sandwiches they make there. And all of the sandwiches are made from meats that are prepared in-house, you know, rubbed down with spice blends in-house and roasted there, and it's just really wholesome food that you would expect from your relatives' house in the countryside. And the decor is like that too.
CAVANAUGH: And if your relatives really knew how to cook.
[ LAUGHTER ]
GRANITE: There you go.
CAVANAUGH: Now, I understand this is where fine dining meets a sandwich shop. And you tell us about the people who put the big front door together?
GRANITE: Sure. It's Steve and Laura riley. And Steve who also goes by Sheep, I learned that today, not quite sure the meaning of that, but it's fun. So Steve or Sheep, he has a long running career in San Diego working with Deborah Scott. And the last place that he was at was Kensington grill. So he's taken his culinary knowledge and also a sandwich shop background that he had when he lived in Arizona and worked at a sandwich shop there. So he's really melded his past and current passions at this kind of high-end sandwich shop, I would call it.
CAVANAUGH: You have a favorite there.
GRANITE: I do. It's an open-faced Turkey sandwich. It starts off with a slice of sour dough bread, and then it gets a big scoop of mashed potatoes and gravy, and it has hunks of house-smoked Turkey. And this Turkey is not dried out like your grandma makes it. It is juicy and succulent, and that smoky flavor really adds something to this Thanksgiving in a box. It's -- their hot sandwiches are served in this box. It makes it a little bit difficult to eat. But everyone around you is enthusiastically eating. No one really cares if it gets you messy.
CHAMBERS SMITH: Do they give you a knife and a fork?
GRANITE: Yes, yes they do.
CAVANAUGH: There is a counter service delicatessen. Do they have tables?
GRANITE: Yeah, be so the interior is actually done by Paul Basil, and he is the designer behind local hot spots like craft and commerce, underbelly. It's kind of a minimalist chic interior with lots of natural light. There are a couple patio tables right outside of the big front door.
CAVANAUGH: Right. Now I would imagine -- I was looking through the menu of their big front door. And they even make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich sound fabulous. What other creative sandwiches can you tell us about?
GRANITE: Well, one of them that's been written up on San Diego magazine's website is the loins of fire sandwich.
[ LAUGHTER ]
GRANITE: Aaron Jackson wrote about the loins of fire, made it sound absolutely delicious: The pictures are beautiful. You should check it out, and go eat that. But it's roasted pork loin with chilli, Poblano, garlic aioli, cilantro, so everything at this place is full-flavored, fresh, and dynamic.
CAVANAUGH: 4135 Park Boulevard, open daily from 11:00 to 8:00.