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Aug 4, 2008 11:17 PM

3 nights in La Jolla

Hi all, thanks in advance for your help.

My boyfriend and I are travelling to Auberge del Mar for a very exciting and mellow few days to recoup from a hellish work schedule. We both work in the food and wine industry and are excited to see what is going on in San Diego/La Jolla. Any recommendations are welcome, we are focusing more on dinner than lunch or breakfast.

We'd love the ultimate seafood experience (though we live in SF, we just crave it), and are open to anything else. He works in a globally focused, California cuisine (organic, fresh, changing) and I cook Cal-Italian organic, inspired food.

Thanks so much. Looking foward to exploring!

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  1. From their website info, Auberge del Mar appears to be closer to Del Mar than La Jolla, which is a bit further south closer to San Diego. I get this because they recommend exiting the 5 Freeway at Via de la Valle if coming from the north (Carlsbad, etc.)

    I can recommend three excellent restaurant experiences on Via de la Valle: Market is perhaps the best food experience in the area these days, and it offers a four-course prix fixe menu with options for each course. Located very close to Chino Farms, the menu is market-driven and definitely the best of Cal cuisine. It is a mile or two inland (east) of the 5 freeway on the north side of Via de la Valle where it meets El Camino Real. Just coast side of the 5 is Pamplemousse, a darker more formal restaurant with wonderful food and service. Alongside is Red Tracton's, an oldtime steakhouse with an active bar in front and servers who have been there forever, dishing up big portions of steaks, chops, daily specials, and their specialty -- prime rib. Note -- during racing season at Del Mar, these places fill up quickly when the track lets out, so make your reservations ASAP.

    1. Auberge del Mar is IN Del Mar and has recently undergone a multi-million dollar renovation. Although I haven't been since the re-opening (I think only a couple of weeks ago), it is my understanding that the hotel restaurant will not reopen for another several weeks - but you are in luck as there are many fine dining options in the nearby area.

      As the poster above pointed out, we are in the middle of Del Mar race season, so if your trip is in the next couple of weeks you really must call for a reservation - the wealthy horse and spectator crowds tend to take over.

      While we have had nice meals at Market, I really must warn that a bit of patience is needed in dealing with the seating policy (I think purposely delayed to allow the kitchen some breathing room - even when holding an RSVP) and the tude of the young hostesses that decide your fate. I would also suggest a couple of other places.

      In Solana Beach (the next neighborhood North of Del Mar) there is a gem called Blanca. Again, market driven with a very dedicated chef that purchases much of their produce from Chino Farms. The atmosphere is as close to an intimate, hip SF vibe as you will find and the waitstaff and Sommelier very attentive and knowledgable.

      Just South of Del Mar, before reaching La Jolla is the Lodge at Torrey Pines. Beautiful, authentic architecture based on the Pasadena craftsman plans. My personal preference is to eat on the peaceful terrace for lunch, beneath one of the huge, torrey pine trees (only grown in San Diego). It does overlook a golf course, but it is the most beautiful municipal golf courses in the country, rivaling Pebble Beach in Monterey. The food is again all market driven and mostly locally produced. We just recently enjoyed outstanding white gazpacho with crab and chino corn; veal cheeks and locally harpooned swordfish.

      Two places in La Jolla might be interesting. The first - Whisk-N-Ladle - is doing a good job while still trying to find itself. Silly name, but serious, young chef. They make all of their own breads, pastries. House cure their own salumi and everything else charcuterie. Local and market driven, very happening right now, just a few hit and misses. Offer a "simply grilled" catch of the day choice with chino vegetables. Fun, hip, relaxing yet vibrant atmosphere on a large patio setting. Must RSVP.

      Lastly, Viaggio at Jacks La Jolla. Recently changed the "Dining Room" at Jacks to Italian leaning "Viaggio" and we applaud the change. I never could connect with the flavor profiles that the chef was pushing in the "Dining Room". Chef Tony DiSalvo cooked with Colicchio and Jean-George in NY before landing here. I think by simplifying his offerings, and relying on fresh, housemade ingredients with this new take (as well as lowering the prices) he is finally coming into his own, and it is a beautiful space.

      Have fun and please report back!

      1. You might want to visit Chino Farms while you're here. There's no meal to be had but it's one of the Meccas of fresh produce in the US.

        1 Reply
        1. re: deckape

          Brilliant suggestion! Chino is one of Alice Waters' faves-- a definitely unique SD experience! There are no prices on the produce, and WHAT produce. If you're in the food industry this is a great stop. The story of Chino is amazing, too.

        2. AR Valentine's is only a couple miles south of you, at Torrey Pines. They have had mostly positive reviews, though this is San Diego and some people will slap anyone down here because they've had a better dinner elsewhere! ;)

          Pamplemousse has been mentioned. It's very good, fairly formal and very expensive. Only been a couple of times.

          I've heard great things about the Market but have yet to eat there, though I attended a wine tasting with appetizers there once.

          There is also Cavaillon out on the east side of Del Mar in Santaluz. I had a very nice meal there and it has also received some positive press around here.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Wino

            Cavaillon is a very good choice for an excellent meal.

          2. If you're in La Jolla and want a take out lunch, El Pescador Fish Market on Pearl has great fish sandwiches. The owner, Sean, is a fisherman himself, and much of the fish is local. The fishmongers are all local, too; surfers and watermen. Next to Mitch's Surf Shop. You can dine in. Very much an insider place and worth a visit if you love fish. Ask for Sean and have a chat.

            3 Replies
            1. re: pickypicky

              thanks so much for the info, especially on the farm and fish sandwiches...exactly what we are looking for. i think we might hit market, not pamplemousse. we want great food, but don't need to pay an arm and a leg...insider places are what we love!

              1. re: Doodleboomer

                Well, then have a drink at George's Bar. (Not the rooftop) Mid afternoon is good, later gets crowded and noisy but the view is spectacular and the bar is indoors yet open-air. The Lodge at Torrey PInes is another good place to have a drink-- view is of U.S. OPen Golf Course, but as someone above wrote, you sit among torrey pines, which grow only 2 places in the world. Ask the waitstaff to tell you why the pines are special. Both George's and LTP have bar menus you can peruse for fun. Chef Jeff Jackson at LTP was Chef of the Year 2008 but is also known for his "Drugstore Hamburger" (He's from Oklahoma) and George's Chef Trey Foshee is one of the area's best. His mussels are on my life list. One more suggestion: Savory in Encinitas. The chef is old-school French, but his restaurant and food are 100 percent Southern Californian. Check their website. Finally, there was a great thread on Encinitas, which is not that far from Del Mar, just up the road north on Highway 1-- You may find something there. Bon Appetit!

                1. re: pickypicky

                  Ooops. One last insider tip. If you do go to the Lodge, swing left, straight into the parking garage. It's free and you can skip the valet parking.