The lockdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on everyone! Suddenly everything we ever knew changed. Everything we did to wind-down after a long day at work, ended...just...like...that!
Suddenly the world became a huge ghost town, businesses were shuttered, planes were grounded and home was where everyone lived, worked, learned, ate, slept, everything.
Getting out and about has always been mine and my husband's thing! We are spoiled living in San Diego where we never run out of things to do and see. The weather, the beaches, the mountains, the history, the theater, and not to be outdone...The incredible food!.
We were super psyched to hear the announcement that California had (mostly) reopened to it's vaccinated residents and that we were free to return to a semblance of normalcy.
To celebrate, Roger and I decided to enjoy one of our favorite activities; DINING OUT!
So honey, where would you like to go?
Simple question, not so simple answer. There is a set of challenges here. First you'll need to decide between the hundreds of incredible restaurants throughout the county. From the freshest seafood, to authentic Mexican, buttery steaks, to mouthwatering Italian, vegan, sushi, just name it and it's yours!
San Diego is host to a who's who of famous and award winning chefs such as (only to name a few by far):
Four time James Beard award nominee and one of only 160 chefs on five continents to hold the title of Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef William Bradley
Former Top Chef finalist and co-host of of The Taste with Anthony Bourdain, Brian Malarkey
Molecular gastronomy master and James Beard award nominated cookbook author, Richard Blais (We own and highly recommend his cookbook!)
Best Chef of the Pacific nominee Carl Schroeder
And Canadian born, San Diego adopted, YouTuber, cookbook author, restaurateur and taco innovator, Sam Zein, better known as Sam The Cooking Guy
So now you've decided on the restaurant...(believe me, this is like choosing your favorite star in the sky) you're now tasked with making a selection (or two) from the phenomenal menus.
We chose Herb and Wood, a Brian Malarkey joint in the Little Italy section of San Diego. Although the staff all wore masks, Herb and Wood allowed its vaccinated customers to go sans mask in alignment with the current California safety guidance.
The restaurant is very industrial with no design element spared. A large iron unicorn greets you as you enter, perhaps to suggest the magic that awaits!
(Photo courtesy of Herb & Wood)
A very well-stocked showpiece bar with an impressive whiskey selection occupies the center of the room like a monolithic adult merry-go-round, offering unique and delightful artisanal cocktails for those who choose to hop on. I chose the Heat and Jalisco from the "Refreshing Cocktails" list which was a delicious, and yes refreshing, mix of tequila, grapefruit, firewater bitters and red pepper.
(Photo courtesy of Herb & Wood)
Alexa, please add firewater bitters to my shopping list!
Roger chose the Iberico and Bourbon from the "Direct Cocktails" list. His drink was an exceptionally unique mix of iberico fat washed bourbon (Thank God that's a thing), Amaro, and aromatic bitters. This is a stronger yet equally delicious cocktail, reminiscent of a Manhattan. My eyes were drawn to a gorgeous sunshine yellow cocktail delivered to the gal next to me, so I couldn't help but to ask about it. It was the Bourbon and Honey made with bourbon, turmeric-black pepper honey (giving it the sunshiny color) lemon and artistically decorated with dots of chili oil. She gave this drink high praise.
We were seated in a super cool atrium area in view of the glass fronted, fully-visible kitchen. Our cocktail was nearly gone before we were able to able narrow our appetizer selection from one of everything to the Roasted Oysters &
horseradish butter served with country wheat toast.
(photo courtesy of Herb & Wood)
OH DEAR!... I've searched my thesaurus for just the right word to describe this and found nothing, so I'm just gonna go with uummgguuma! If you've never eaten bone marrow, I insist you order this! If you have eaten bone marrow, I insist you order this! It doesn't get any better, trust me! The roasted oysters in the garlic butter were equally as uummgguumatastic! The country wheat toast was the perfect delivery system for the horseradish garlic butter. Unlike many appetizer plates which contain 3-4 miniature toast points, this dish ensures you have plenty of real estate to clean up all that deliciousness.
The sides are served a la carte, which I really prefer. We selected the King Trumpet Mushrooms served in a black garlic vinaigrette, chimichurri and garlic crunch, and I could have made an entire meal out of this item. If I thought Malarkey would give me the recipe, I'd be making it for dinner tonight!
By now, we were super psyched for the entrée, yet wondering how anything could possibly beat the experience thus far.
Wonder no more! Although once again the decision was excruciating, we managed to decide on two entrees to share; the Oxtail Gnocchi with a sauce deeply layered in flavor from roasted garlic, parsley, chive, sherry and Parmesan and the Seared Local Tuna (One of the many benefits of dining in San Diego) with sliced fennel root which was so bright, fresh and crisp, it was the perfect accoutrement. The whole things was drizzled with a fresh white balsamic vinaigrette, which was the perfect touch!. These entrees packed a lot in a very reasonable portion size; not too small, not massively huge. Goldilocks would have approved!
We paired our entrée with a delicious 2015 Levendi Stagecoach Cabernet which we brought from our own collection and paid $35.00 corkage.
Although there was an impressive dessert menu which we watched with googly eyes as one after another passed by on it's way to other lucky diners, they ultimately had us at Blackberry Souffle. (Which needs 20 minutes notice by the way). Let me start with... Souffle is our thing! Whenever it's available, it's a must, so we know our way around a good souffle, yet this was without a doubt, The-Best-Souffle-We-Have-Ever-Had! The souffle comes with Blackberry compote, blackberry ice cream and mascarpone whip that the server prepares table-side by incorporating these ingredients into the souffle, after seeking our approval of course.
It's impressive that the souffle holds up to this preparation without collapsing, yet when you dig in, it's just as light a fluffy as you would expect from a souffle. I'm not calling witchcraft quite yet, but something magical is going on here! Although I believe the souffle would stand on its own without the goodies added, these flavors compliment it so incredibly, I would not suggest skipping this step!