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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-- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/523051. 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.

            2. As a former sous chef in SF, the last thing I wanted on my off nights or vacation was food that resembled anything I could cook. Not sure if this is what you guys are into, but I would explore options outside of what you are cooking. Check out kare_raisu's posts on Mexican eats in the county, some of this stuff is not available in SF. Mariscos German should be on your list for sure...

              And my favorite sushi bar, Kaito, will most certainly give you an awesome seafood experience:

              Yumeya if you like sake, they have at least thirty bottles by the glass.

              Enjoy your vacation!

              10 Replies
              1. re: Pablo

                Thanks Pablo! I've been reading all about Kaito Sushi and it looks like a lot of fun. I think we'll probably hit it up this Monday or Tuesday. I also think we'll get drinks at George's and definetly go see Chino Farms. I made a ressie at Market as our one big dinner...other than that...local Mexican that is great would be wonderful, great breakfast, too.

                Keep up the great Chowhounding!

                1. re: Doodleboomer

                  If you need another big, formal dinner, Addison at the Grande Del Mar is excellent, although pricey. Market is very, very good, as is Cavaillon. If you need a good cheese shop, Venissismo Cheese in Del Mar off Via de la Valle (on the way to Market) is very good.

                  If you go to Chino's and plan to buy, bring cash b/c they don't accept plastic or checks.

                  For local Mexican, La Especial Norte in Encinitas has excellent caldos for cheap. I would definitely hit up Kaito and Yumeya--both are also excellent and not too pricey b/c of their locations.

                  1. re: daantaat

                    who doesn't need good cheese?!?!? i go the tip on the cash at Chino. I am particularly excited about that because I work for one of the most well-known organic farms in the Bay Area, so to be able to see the differences will be great.

                    I got us a ressie at Market, and most likely we'll figure the rest out as we go. Big, formal dinners tend to be overwhelming...so we may just see. We are happy to sit at a bar and eat, too, so that if the racing days folks are overcrowding a place, we can just sit and relax up there. I am excited for the fish guy for lunch, too.

                    Will definetly report back!

                    1. re: Doodleboomer

                      Fish place - El Pescador is GREAT, but can get crowed waiting for a table (+no beer or wine - mostly a take out fish place) and fyi Chino's closes at 2pm (i think on sunday, not open on monday). Avoid all Del Mar bars before or right after race times...packed!

                  2. re: Doodleboomer

                    Hi Doodleboomer: Though I had not noticed this post before my visit to Kaito tonight, it was great to have met you. It's always nice to be able to connect CH posts to the actual people making them!

                    I hope all of us "regulars" at Kaito left enough in the case for you to enjoy. Since I was on the side I could not see what was left in the case, but as you left it in the hands of Morita-san (omakase), I'm sure you guys did fine.

                    I'm not sure if you were able to visit their website, but they have a wonderful blog where they post what's coming in for that day. Here's the list of items that they started with for the night that you were there: http://kaitorestaurant.spaces.live.co...

                    Too bad you missed Pablo, who was there earlier that evening.

                    I'll be posting pics from that night later, after which I'll add a Flickr link on this thread. I'm sure Pablo will be doing the same.

                    Enjoy the rest of your stay, and if you can, please post a review of your visit!

                    Since I missed this thread earlier, here are a couple of additional recommendations in case you're looking for a break from dining-in:

                    If you're in the mood to take some desserts back to your room, a wonderful dessert-only bakery is Elizabethan Desserts in Encinitas. Her style is not European, but American Nostalgic, with a keen eye on ingredient quality and purity of taste. I do find her to push the sweetness to match the style, but takes special orders a day in advance.

                    On many an occasion I've special ordered items with a special request to remove as much sweetness as she dares! I've always thoroughly enjoyed the results. If you can work this into your stay, I'm sure you'll find it worthwhile! My favorites are her mini-lattice pies (especially the cherry) and her brownies.

                    If you'll be heading out to Chino Farms, a good stop along the way is Venissimo Cheese in the Flower Hill Mall. (Right off of the I-5 freeway at Via de la Valle - you'll be passing it on the way to Chino Farms.) It's a small boutique of a cheese shop, but carries a wonderful selection of cheeses along with my favorite Fra Mani salumi. (Of course you have better access to Fra Mani where you're from, but just in case you might be craving some, you can drop into Venissimo for a quick fix!)

                    A couple of minutes drive south from your hotel is a great quick "get away" spot in North County and a place where you can take in the beautiful local scenery. You can pack-in a small lunch and hike the trails of Torrey Pines State Park towards the bluffs and Flat Rock, the latter which is just several yards off shore and reachable at low tide without getting wet.

                    A nice little local gem is Yumeya, which has already been mentioned above. I'll leave a link at the bottom of this post. A CH search will turn up quite a few threads on this tiny "roadhouse" izakaya...

                    Kaito Sushi
                    130-A N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024

                    1246 N Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

                    Elizabethan Desserts
                    155 Quail Gardens Dr, Encinitas, CA

                    1. re: cgfan

                      Hope we left you guys something! The Sanma was awesome!

                      1. re: Pablo

                        Hi CGfan and Pablo!
                        Many thanks to you all for your replies and for the quick chat at Kaito! it was a great overall experience that i am so no over yet. SF is quite overcast and cold right now and I am still hankering for an easyy-breezy night stroll post food.

                        Here's our trip:

                        We arrived on Monday afternoon and made our way to L'Auberge del Mar. It is a beautiful property that is so worthwhile. The rooms and service are impeccable, the food wonderful, the pool is the best...and the poolside service made us feel incredibly comfortable. We had sun when we arrived so we headed straight to the pool, ordered some drinks, a shrimp cesar, and a fresh heirloom gazpacho soup with Dungeness crab. The salad came chopped, which we didn't know and B didn't prefer..but it was delicious, and the shrimp were perfectly seasoned and cooked. The heirloom gazpacho was light, accented by a brunoise of cucumber, red onion, and bell pepper, and generous dollop of picked crab. The perfect start. We got stuck for dinner that night, not really wanting to venture outside of Del Mar, so we walked for a while and ened up coming up LBS (low blood sugar!) and headed over to Jake's. It's got a great view, and some fun drinks. The best part about the place, besides the view was the service. It was so friendly and laid-back, but attentive. We ate, it was mediocre, but there was a TV showing the Olympics, so we were happy...and to be clear...we knew what we were in for before we even got there!

                        Tuesday we headed over to Americana (Del Mar) for breakfast. The portions are large, the prices are high, but the service was diner quality and good. I ordered the egg white omelete w/avocado, onion, spinach. I also asked for the house potatoes crispy. B had the Tuscan. Two eggs poached w/tuscan bread, arugula, and goat cheese. This also came with potatoes. The breakfasts were good. I enjoyed the potatoes too much, the eggs were good, too. B's breakfast was great, though for me they were heavy handed with the goat cheese (hooves anyone?). We ended up going down to La Jolla for a late lunch at the Pescador Fish Market as advised by pickypicky. We split some calamari...which was pan-fried and only okay. I ate the dungeness crab sandwich w/tomato, lettuce, onion, and scallions. Delicious, sweet crab, didn't like the white bread it came on...but overall a great sandy. B had the cajun yellowtail that came on a nice bun w/tomato, lettuce, onion. Also great. The guys there are great, fun, knowledgeable and kind. That night we finally found Kaito. It took us half an hour and I was just a bit over salty about trying to find it. (we're on vacation, no cell phones out of the room, we know the streets! not!) We walk in to find almost no one there except for the incredibly friendly few at the bar. Morita and partner were great. We only ordered some soba and delicious sake...they sent us the japanese mackerel, then fried the skeleton which was delicious, the toro, and much much more. It was phenomenal sushi, the company was great, and the service, too. We have great sushi in SF...this was up there with my favorites. As much for the sushi as for the Chefs! I'd reccomend anyone go there!

                        Wednesday we again hit Americana...really the only place in Del Mar that we knew of to get bfast....though I will say that the coffee was like water! I had the pancakes w/poached eggs and chicken apple sausage. Pancakes were great, so was everything else. B got a simliar dish as the last...fried eggs, arugula, proscuitto, and parm...green salad. Solid for sure! We spent the rest of the day walking the beach and reading at the pool, it's a rough life for sure! We headed over to Market in Del Mar for dinner. I can safely say that this is a truely wonderful place. We sat in the dining room. It's got a funky, old-school Las Vegas feel to it. Michael was our server and he was great. Always available, not overly there. We split a lot of food and miraculously came out not incredibly full. We split the special salad which was a combination of Chino Farms fresh veggies, Banyuls vinagrette, and garden lettuces. Every veg on the plate was perfectly cooked and dressed. Just a great taste sensation. B got the Dungeness crab app. it consisted of a "spring roll" that was wrapped in cucumber, contained avocado, radish, and crab. There was also a crab cigar that was rolled thin and displayed over a reduced sauce of oyster and soy? I had the Chino Farms stuffed pepper with corn, queso fresco, lime, and cherry tomatoes. A great combination of flavors, textures, and yum. I had the Market Veg Tasting for dinner which contained eggplant parmesan, perfectly cooked. It was crisp on the outside, meltingly tender veg, and a light tomato sauce that was a bit sweet. A second component was a wild mushroom lasagna. Ricotta, shitake, and other wild mushrooms. Nice texture and flavor. The third component was an heirloom stuffed tomato. It had fresh corn on the inside and a pest puree on top. The veg tasting plate satisfied me easily even though I normally eat meat. B had the bison plate. It included bison filet wrapped in bacon with an intense jus underneath. Also on the plate was a buffalo sausage tamale. Great flavor in the sausage, no dryness, and the corn/masa was also great. We took home the "market bars" which had carmelized bananas, hazelnut (?) mousse, and peanut butter crunch w/choc. mousse on top.

                        Our last day we just laid low and got sandwiches at Harvest Market in the Del Mar Plaza. They make great sandwiches which must weigh a pound a piece, so big we split one for lunch with a bag of chips. We did stop by the Chino Farm stand, it was nice. I have to admit being a bit disappointed. This is only because I work for an organic farm here in the SF area and our stand is overflowing with amazing fruit and veg all year long.

                        Once again, thanks so much for the good advice, warm cheer, and all around great Hounding!

                        1. re: Doodleboomer

                          Thanks for reporting back..sounds like you had a great time.
                          Chino's is wonderful and changes daily..things do sell out quickly..

                          1. re: Doodleboomer

                            Thanks for reporting back. If you return, Pacifica Breeze Cafe, kitty corner to Americana, also serves breakfast and brunch. It's on the 2nd floor of the Del Mar Plaza.

                            1. re: daantaat

                              Great report. Hope the trip was the sunny R&R you hoped for. Now you see why I think of Chino as SD's Boutique Produce Stand. The common folk are really hurting here for access to local organic produce -- especially since we have such excellent farms in the area.

                  3. you will be right across the street from the Del Mar Plaza.. Great spot for a drink at Pacifica,Epazote or the patio at Il Fornaio..great view. Appetizers also good at Paciifcia..and I think Epazote..(but dont eat there..at Epazote)..Pacifica breeze Cafe very good for breakfast..as is Americana..with the ocean view!