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May 23, 2014 02:15 PM

The Lack of Craft; A Reason Why San Diego is Ignored by Foodies?

Thank the evil fairies that give me ideas to write; it's a holiday weekend and I hope the flaming will be minimal - my kevlar undies are in the laundry.

Given, I have a very narrow point of view and experience of the current San Diego dining scene, but, based on all the reports that the passinate SD CH's are posting, I find a common theme - open up with flashy bright lights and lots of pufing and sputtering about "New, fabulous, unique, fusion, grass-fed, sustainable, farm-to-table, craptastic decor, giant ironic red plastic giant lips, knives stuck in the walls, edgy, trendy, blah, blah, blah ("Oh, yeah, we can write dirty words on the walls graffiti style, hee hee!").

No thank you.

From my lifelong, but admittedly narrow San Diego experience, I miss the people who viewed making and serving food to people as an honorable profession - a craft.

Most notably to me, the late, very lamented Sausage King shop. The old man, his wife, his family faithfully and diligently prepared superb sausages and cold cuts and maintained a little bit of a German import deli on the shelves in the store.

I was a regular/irregular customer for twenty plus years, always stopping in for a "something, something" on my way south or north.

They didn't know my name, but they always recognized me and urged me to try whatever was new because, "You liked the xxx, the last time, you will like this also."

They were always right.

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  1. I think I know where you are coming from, but if anything many of the new places are embracing catch phrases as well as the craft. It seems like many of the reputable as well as not so buzzworthy places now take pride in handcrafting every facet of the meal (condiments, charcuterie, breads, cocktail mixers, etc)

    I liked Sausage Kind a lot as well, but just because something isn't old and dusty with octogenarians working doesn't mean it isn't craft or whatever.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MrKrispy

      Ha! Point taken.

      But, SK, right up until the end, was Heidelberg spit-and-polish clean always.

      As to the keepers of the flame getting older, have you yourself figured out how to hold off the advancing years?

      Oh my, I miss the delicious liverwurst!

      Now, I will allow, they may have been short on charm, but they were old-school German by heritage and, as a result, very formal with their speech and in their interactions with customers; a form of courtesy that has been abandoned by modern times.

    2. "New, fabulous, unique, fusion, grass-fed, sustainable, farm-to-table"

      Yeah. That's awful.

      The San Diego dining scene is better than it's ever been. Stop yelling at the kids to get off your lawn and go enjoy some good food.

      1. If you believe that the lack of craft is one of the main reasons for SD not being a foodie city you are quite frankly not eating in the right restaurants and talking with the right chefs - there are many chefs in SD who take their craft very serious and are very dedicated to it. If I am very cynical I would say that actually comments like this which indicate that too many people are not willing to take the time (and effort) to differentiate between the lows and highs of the restaurant scene in SD are one of the main reasons why we are stuck on this low culinary level despite the great potential.

        4 Replies
        1. re: honkman

          I think that you miss my point - well, OK, points are most ofen hard and sharp and difficult to embrace.

          San Diego offers up thoughtful, carefully crafted food at a price point that only the 1% can avail themselves of on a regular basis. $150 for a small, unsatisfying meal for two, anyone?

          Cite me an example of a long-lived, multi-genartional family serving good food day in and day out.

          The Plascencia family comes immediately to my mind.

          Villa Saverios, Italian, in Tijuana.

          Javier Plascencia, the son, reinvigorating the iconic Caesar's in TJ, along with the ultra modern 21. Moving a rehabilitating Romesco's to Bonita and offering a small plate menu combining tapas and TJ street snacks at such a fair price that the foodie blogs are buzzing about it.

          The are no nitrous oxide foams anywhere to be found in these places.

          Not that I am opposed to frozen foams, but they belong in the realm of a culinary master with the price tag to match.

          1. re: Gypsy Jan

            The menu at Romesco is not cheaper than good restaurants like Blue Ribbon Kitchen, Kitchen1540, Urban Solace, JSix, Cafe Chloe (and some of the restaurants using excellent sources for the ingredients which plays an important part in the quality, do you know where Romesco sources their ingredients ?) but their tapas/ appetizer part is significant larger and so it is easier to put together a meal just out of appetizer (which might mainly be accounted to their location in Bonita where they might be forced to do it to attract enough customers but is hardly a reflection of the craft.) N2O or frozen foam - really ? When was the last time you went to one of the better restaurants in SD ? You sound a lot like somebody who picked up some opinions from people who don't like "fou fou" food without ever have eaten any of it and knowing what they are talking about. (And you don't want to compare restaurants in the US and Mexico, have you recently compared something like for example the Big Mac Index in both countries ?)

            1. re: Gypsy Jan

              Why care how many generations and family members are back in the kitchen if the place is putting out quality, legit food?

              1. re: MrKrispy

                IMHO, if a restaurant is putting out quality food after generations of family in the business it tends to be legit...especially if they come from Mexico. Or Italy. Or probably untold other ethnic cuisines that I am less familiar with. Generations = passed on recipes and flavors from Grandmothers's, Nono's, Nanna's and Yaya's that younger generations play with using new techniques, tastes and more available fresh ingredients to update and spin on old classics. History and legacy has value.

          2. 'craptastic', I like it!

            1. Personally, when I'm in town, I try to spend my time finding and eating food and not worrying about why "foodies" are ignoring us.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ipsedixit

                Yes, there is food, but there is a serious lack of fan dancers ;)