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Events: Restaurant Week, Third Avenue Festival, And Toulouse-Lautrec


We'll find out where all the chefs are eating during Restaurant Week and what neighborhood festivals are happening this weekend preview.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. San Diego trolley riders put on some fancy moves, you can sip wine surrounded by impressionist classics, and get a fantastic bargain on a great meal. That’s what we’re talking about on this edition of the Weekend Preview. I’d like to welcome Erin Chambers Smith. She is senior editor at San Diego Magazine. Erin, welcome back.

ERIN CHAMBERS SMITH (Senior Editor, San Diego Magazine): Good morning. Nice to be here.

CAVANAUGH: Now, talking about the trolley, Jean Issacs’ Dance Company brings its 12th Annual Trolley Dances this weekend. For people unfamiliar with this, because it is a rather unusual event…

SMITH: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: …tell us what this is.

SMITH: It’s a really great event. This is their 12th annual one and it’s a performance series that happens at different trolley stops throughout the downtown, urban part of San Diego. And different dance companies and choreographers come together and choreograph different dances at trolley stops so it’s a little bit interactive for the people that are watching it. You get on the trolley, you get off at a trolley stop, you see a performance, you get back on, you go to the next one and you see another one.

CAVANAUGH: Now which trolley stops have performances this year?

SMITH: So there’s six different performances this year and what I like that they’re doing this year is they’re guided. So they leave every hour starting at the county administration building, every hour on the hour, and you will have a guide. They have volunteers that are guiding people. And there’ll be six different stops between – or six different dances between the county administration building and the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. That’s the big new hotel…

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, uh-huh.

SMITH: …near the convention center there. So it’s a pretty short distance in between but you are guided and you stay with your guide, and the groups can be, you know, 50 people or so will go together and you all get off at the stop together and a few surprises in place, I hear.

CAVANAUGH: Well, if you can, I know it’s difficult to try to give listeners a visual idea of what this is like but is the trolley involved in these dances? Or are they just site specific? What are they like?

SMITH: Well, they’re very varied and different, and a good way to describe them is they’re very environmental so they do have to do with the sort of space that the trolley stop encompasses. And they have choreographers from New York City that come in to do this, from Mexico City that fly in, and they all came in a couple of months ago and sort of explored the different stops that they were going to be choreographing, hired their own dancers, and kind of choreographed a routine specific for the stops. So in past years, they’ve done dances in and around car washes that are near the trolley stop, inside grocery stores doing performance art and choreographed routines, so definitely very varied, depending on where you’re stopping and always a little bit surprising, a little bit tongue in cheek. I heard that this year the Children’s Museum is along one of the stops and so the dance team that’s doing that one, in preparation for the choreography, they observed children at the Children’s Museum, how the children interact, how they move, and really have tailored their dance performance to kids. I’ve heard there’s even a couple of fart jokes in theirs, you know, so a little bit juvenile and sort of in keeping with the kid theme. So they’re very environmental and have – and are very specific to the stop.

CAVANAUGH: That’s great. So how long of an outing is this, and is it expensive?

SMITH: It takes an hour or so, and it’s not expensive. You can buy your tickets online at the Jean Issacs’ San Diego Dance Theatre, I think it’s or They’re $30.00 for a ticket but if you’re a senior, I think that they’re discounted to $25 or $20. If you’re a student, they’re only $15. So it’s not that much for a whole afternoon of performance. And it’s really a family oriented – it happens all day during the day so it’s perfect for kids. Like I said, the Children’s Museum, I heard that the performance at the Santa Fe Depot, the train station, it all has to do with sort of the coming and going of people. That’s kind of what inspired the performance there. And then a couple of the stops along the way are giving out freebies or discounts to the people that are involved, so your $30 ticket price goes a little bit farther. At the very end, the Hilton Bayfront is doing half-off drinks if you want to stay there and have a cocktail. The Children’s Museum is giving out free passes and things like that at that stop. So it’s really kind of a whole day art/dance/theatre kind of a event.

CAVANAUGH: Very nice. Very nice. The Trolley Dances start Saturday morning, leave from the San Diego County Administration Building. They take place all day Saturday and Sunday. Now we talked about San Diego Restaurant Week with – a little bit yesterday. It started on Sunday so we’re kind of getting towards the tail end of it but tell our listeners more about this event and – which does not end until Friday and, in some cases, longer than that.

SMITH: Right, so they do it twice a year now in San Diego and it’s – Most people know sort of about San Diego Restaurant Week. It’s a chance to go out and try restaurants, and I think there’s over 150 this year, 180 total, I think, that are participating. And what the restaurants do is they offer sort of a specific menu at either a $20, a $30, or a $40 price point, and that’s three courses that you get. So it’s supposed to be sort of a discounted way to go in and try a restaurant that maybe you otherwise, you know, wouldn’t try.

CAVANAUGH: And do chefs make special menus for this Restaurant Week experience?

SMITH: Yeah. So if you go to or we have it at too, they’re – each restaurant submits their, you know, Restaurant Week menu specifically for this event, although some restaurants do offer their entire menu. Like J6 this year at the Hotel Solemar, they’re offering almost their entire menu at Restaurant Week prices but the formula is three courses for either $20, $30 or $40. And the website actually, now that this is such a popular thing—they do it twice a year—the website’s really kind of slick and easy to navigate. You can sort. If you only want to look at the $20 menus, you can sort that way. If you only want to look at sort of the $30 menus in Hillcrest, you can sort it that way. So it’s really kind of easy to navigate and find the right place for you.

CAVANAUGH: Now Chef Bernard told us yesterday that this is really doing very, very well this year. And I know that San Diego magazine polled some local chefs and asked them what they’d be doing. What did you find out?

SMITH: Yeah, I mean, I edit the dining section in the magazine and I’m sort of a foodie and enjoy eating out, and I get questions all the time leading up to Restaurant Week. I mean, I can tell that the people in San Diego love this event and everyone – you make plans for it. You definitely have to make a reservation for it. So I just thought this year why not? I literally went through my e-mail list of just chefs and their PR people and just sort of movers and shakers that we have on an e-mail list and sent out a blast and said, where are you guys going this year? And I got a lot of the same restaurants coming back from a lot of the chefs. Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant, that’s a newer space. Carl Schroeder and Terryl Gavre’s newer restaurant in Bankers Hill. A lot of people said that they wanted to go try that, which is interesting me too because that one, nothing on that menu’s really over $20 in and of itself so I guess it’s kind of a good deal for Restaurant Week but…


SMITH: …that one came back as popular. Market, Carl Schroeder and Terryl Gavre’s other restaurant up in sort of Carmel Valley, Rancho Santa Fe area, that came back as another popular one. Nine-Ten in La Jolla, a lot of chefs and sort of movers and shakers want to try 910. And that’s the kind of place where, really, I mean, to get three courses, theirs is a $40 menu. To get three courses at Nine-Ten for $40 is a deal. I mean, that would be – they have some entrees alone that are, you know, in that $30 range. So…


SMITH: …to get the whole course there is good. And then Jordan, the restaurant inside Tower 23 in Pacific Beach, really neat, modern, sort of boutique hotel space with a really sleek, modern restaurant, great views of the sort of the PB boardwalk scene there. A lot people said they wanted to try Jordan.

CAVANAUGH: Now I know that the Restaurant Week is supposed to end at a certain date but there are some restaurants who are extending it a little bit. I know that’s been done in the past. What have you heard about that?

SMITH: They are extending it this year. I just talked to the folks at McFarlane Productions (sic), I think, are helping…


SMITH: …sort of manage the Restaurant Week’s sort of administrative stuff this year, and they are extending it. Most restaurants, they said, are going to extend it through October first.


SMITH: And – Yeah, most are. And the way that you can check which ones are extending it because technically it ends tomorrow…


SMITH: …is check the website Saturday morning first thing and they said by that time it’ll be updated with the restaurants that are extending it through October first. And Nine-Ten, Jason Knibb at – the chef there, must’ve already known that he’s extending it because they’ve already posted on their website that they’re already sold out October 2nd, September 27nd and 26th. So it definitely is something you have to get your reservations for but, I mean, you should see the menu at Nine-Ten. They have all the menus online and…


SMITH: …I mean, the first course appetizer choices are a forest mushroom soup with truffle custard and fried salsify, house made spaghetti with a lamb ragu, a fig salad with arugula. On their dessert menu, they have an olive oil cake, which is one of my favorite desserts. I mean, I can see why that one sells out and why that’s definitely a popular one. But, yeah, so, I mean, it’s a popular thing every year. Each year, they do it.

CAVANAUGH: So extended it by – most of these restaurants for an entire week, that’s really quite – There must be a pent-up restaurant desire in San Diego.

SMITH: Well, you know, I think it just creates a sense of urgency, it kind of gets people excited about it and, you know, it’s a fun experience. It’s a nice excuse to get out and enjoy some restaurants and not spend too much. One thing to know, though, is things like tax and tip and beverages are not included at any of these places, so you’re definitely going to be a little bit over the $20, $30 or $40 dollar price, that’s the…

CAVANAUGH: Gotcha. Well, the best thing to do is just check out or San Diego Magazine to find what – when these restaurants are concluding their version of San Diego Restaurant Week. We move on to a special viewing of Toulouse-Lautrec’s “Paris” at the San Diego Museum of Art, and there’s food involved in this, too, at least wine. Erin, why is this special?

SMITH: Oh, I love this event. The Museum of Art’s doing a lot of neat programming these days. They don’t just sort of throw open an exhibit anymore and then you just get your ticket and walk through. They’re doing – They do that Culture and Cocktails, which is really popular, and with this Lautrec exhibit, they’re doing like a wine night where you get to come in and have a private, guided tour of this exhibit, which is mostly drawings and posters and things, and you get to do a special French wine tasting afterwards, downstairs in the museum’s boardroom.

CAVANAUGH: Well, tell us a little bit more about the exhibit that people will be seeing.

SMITH: Yeah, so it’s the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit. It’s been up for a couple of weeks now. And he was sort of an artist and an aristocrat in the late 1800s in Paris, and he was very into the cabaret and the theatre scene and the sort of the brothels and that whole scene and so they have a whole series of 100 works of his, mostly drawings and sort of those old Parisian posters and things that are up in the museum right now.

CAVANAUGH: And tell us a little bit about who’ll be providing the wine.

SMITH: So this is a really neat company, actually, in researching a little bit. It’s a company called – Barbara Baxter’s company, Planet Wine, and they do wine tasting kind of experiences, immersive experiences, and they work with a lot of museums and arts organizations. They’re doing an event next month at the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art in LA, they’re doing this one here, and they’re – sort of they’re pairing the French wines with the French art exhibit. And I guess this artist was also known as having a really great wine cellar in his art studios, so there’s going to be a little bit of history involved and just kind of a really neat interactive thing. Barbara Baxter’s been doing stuff with another museum in La Jolla for years, sort of a history and wine lecture series about the arts. So it’s kind of an interesting company that does wine events but mostly with arts and culture.

CAVANAUGH: So where can listeners buy tickets for this event?

SMITH: You can buy them at the museum. It’s $45.00 if you’re a member at the museum and that includes sort of a private guided tour of the exhibit and then the five French wine tastings, and I think they’re doing cheese and bread and little nibbles, too. And then it’s $55.00 if you’re not a member. You can get them at the museum but also Ticketmaster. Almost all the San Diego Museum of Art events are available on Ticketmaster, regular general admission and their special events, but then you do get that surcharge.

CAVANAUGH: And I do want to mention, too, that this is also, in addition to tasting wine, it’s also a private tour of this exhibit as well.

SMITH: Exactly, yes. So it’s not just like you’re wandering around saying, oh, I like that one. I like that one.


SMITH: You’ll get a little bit of insider knowledge and things like that. And, actually, if you go look at the San Diego Museum of Art website, they have a really neat video up of – that chronicles how the exhibit was put up, you know, where they sort of – they do it in super speed so that you can see…

CAVANAUGH: Oh, yeah, yeah.

SMITH: …everyone hanging the hanging art pieces and stuff. So it gives you a good little sampling of what you might see.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, so that is Art In Context with Baxter and Lautrec. And it takes place Saturday at the San Diego Museum of Art. Now, festivals are popular this time of year. We have – we’re going to talk about one in Chula Vista. It’s called the “Taste of Third Avenue.” Is this a new festival?

SMITH: No, it’s actually not new. They’ve – This is the 9th annual that they’ve done down there in…


SMITH: …Chula Vista. The Third Avenue Village Association puts it on and, yeah, they’ve been doing it for a few years. It’s definitely a little bit bigger this year. They’ve got some new elements going on. But…

CAVANAUGH: Why is it bigger? I mean, is this area sort of taking off in Chula Vista?

SMITH: Yeah, it’s definitely taking off. There’s some new restaurants happening and, like I said, this Third Avenue Village Association is really working to make it more of a village for the local people that live down there, similar to the way, you know, Little Italy has their sort of their festivals and their farmers markets. There’s a farmers market now along the Third Avenue promenade there. They’ve got 17 restaurants participating in this event tonight. They’re doing a little passport that they’ve put out with all the 17 restaurants on it and if you visit more than 10 of the restaurants to get your taste, then you’re entered in to win a prize afterwards. They’re partnered with Southwestern College as well, so they have some of the artists from Southwestern College that are going to be displaying. And there’s sort of an open area parking lot little courtyard at the 24-Hour Fitness Center that’s right there and they’re going to have chalk artists in there doing chalk drawings. They’re going to start that at ten in the morning so, hopefully, they’ll be completed by the evening for the evening stroll. So they’re, yeah, they’re working really hard to make it really like a little village outing.

CAVANAUGH: And talk to us a little bit about the restaurants that are taking part in the “Taste of Third Avenue.”

SMITH: There’s definitely sort of the chain restaurants that are down there. They have a Kentucky Fried Chicken and they have a Red Lobster but there’s a lot of local places down there. One of the favorites is La Bella’s Pizza’s going to be – they have their little courtyard, they have games for kids and things like that. They’re doing it. And then I talked to the – Greg Mattson, he’s the head of the Third Avenue Village Association, and he’s most excited about the Teriyaki Grill. I guess there’s a new teriyaki restaurant that went in on the corner that’s been really popular and all the local folks down there are excited about so…

CAVANAUGH: Now do you buy a ticket and get a – Is there one ticket for this or do you just go and pay at the various places?

SMITH: So this is very similar to how they’re – a lot of neighborhoods are doing, “Taste of Downtown,” “Taste of Hillcrest”…


SMITH: …”Taste of Little Italy. It’s just like that where if you go before the event, you know, during the day today to that Third Avenue Village Association, it’s $15.00. If you buy your ticket right before the event tonight when you go down there, it’s $20.00. And what they do is, they give you that little passport and it kind of – it labels out…


SMITH: …all the participating restaurants. They’re going to have a couple bands out. It’s going to tell you where to hear the live music and show you where the chalk artists are and everything. And it’s completely family friendly. Bring the kids. And you just wander around and you get a little taste of something. But it’s 17 little tastes.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, a big taste.

SMITH: Yeah, that’s plenty for – for dinner. And if you go to more than 10, like I said, you get to drop your passport in at the end and they give away, I think, like a bigger gift certificate to one of the restaurants.

CAVANAUGH: Is this a good way to maybe explore Chula Vista a little bit?

SMITH: I think so. I was talking to my husband about it. I was like I kind of want to go down there and check it out and see because it’s not – I don’t live in that neighborhood and it’s – I don’t think it’s a neighborhood that, you know, a lot of people think to go sort of stroll through, like you would think, oh, let’s go stroll Balboa Park or stroll Little Italy. But I think this is – it sounds like a really good opportunity to kind of go see what’s happening.

CAVANAUGH: At the “Taste of Third Avenue” and art walk takes place tonight in Chula Vista. And I want to thank you so much for telling us about…

SMITH: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: …it’s going to be a hot weekend.

SMITH: I know. I hear nineties, and go Padres! I gotta say that. Support those Padres this weekend.

CAVANAUGH: Erin Chambers Smith is the senior editor at San Diego Magazine. If you’d like to comment, you can go online at These Days is produced by Hank Crook, Angela Carone, Megan Burke, Pat Finn, and senior producer Natalie Walsh. Production Manager is Kurt Kohnen. Our production assistant is Hilary Andrews, and our intern is Jocelyn Maggard. I’m Maureen Cavanaugh. I hope you’ll enjoy the rest of the week. And you have been listening to These Days on KPBS.

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