A recent trip to San Diego of course involved dipping my toes in the culinary waters of this fair city and I can report the experience was very pleasant!
San Diego is only a short distance from the Mexican Border (and the Mexican border city of Tijuana) so the local cuisine is very Mexican dominant ( I’ve never been served a Greek Salad in a Greek Restaurant that included a jalapêno before). The Mexican food I sampled was largely very good and even in the so-called ‘International’ or ‘American’ restaurants the Mexican influence was often present. Along with the Mexican influence was also the influence of a location on the Pacific Coast with an abundance of seafood – shrimp (prawns) and scampi featuring on most menus and often in many dishes on the menu.
A visit to Davanti Enoteca in Little Italy was a very enjoyable one. I has a lovely lunch of beetroot salad and their famous Foccacia starter enjoyed with a glass of Montepulciano and it was perfect. They have a great selection of wines by the glass and the waiter was knowledgable about them. He also proudly shared that their Foccacia di Recco was named Starter of the Year in California. It is certainly good – Foccacia that is more like a light crispy pizza than a bread that has a filling of fresh soft cheese and is served with a touch of comb honey for you to spread on top. Rich and delicious. The roasted beet salad was topped with candied walnuts and served with creme fraiche and walnut butter. It was yummy enough to inspire me to create my own version. I am a real fan of beetroot – it is so good for you – the deep, rich red denoting a wealth of antioxidants – but it also keeps really well so is the perfect salad ingredient for holidays where your destination is far flung and fresh salad ingredients are hard to come by. In my version I did away with the walnut butter but this is still a very yummy salad. I am not offering this to you as a low calorie option, but I do prefer to use light sour cream as it makes a more spoonable sauce.
A Tribute to Divanti Roast Beet Salad
Serves 4 as an entree or a side dish
- 3 large (or 5 small) beetroot
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1/3 C walnut pieces
- 1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- juice of half a lemon
- bunch of chives
Cut the tops and bottoms off the beetroot and place on a roasting dish covered in baking paper. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 150 °C (300°F) for approximately 2 hours or until tender right through when pierced. Leave to cool.
Add the walnuts, soft brown sugar and approximately 1 tablespoon of olive oil to another oven pan. Stir to combine and add to the oven that has the beetroot for approximately 20 minutes until lightly toasted. Stir after 10 minutes. Leave to cool.
To assemble, peel the beetroot and cut slices across the round arranging nicely on a platter. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts and garnish with some chopped chives.
To make sauce:
Combine sour cream, lemon juice and a generous quantity of chopped chives. Season to taste.
Present the sauce on the side for diners to add a large dollop on top of their salad.
My Recommendations for Restaurants in San Diego
Divanti Enoteca – Great wine selection, interesting menu, convivial atmosphere. Little Italy, San Diego
Operacaffe – Authentic Italian, very attentive service and a chef who cares. Recommend the Carpaccio di Manzo and La Perra Pazza (Pear and Gorgonzola salad – amazing!) Gaslamp District, San Diego
New Orleans Creole Cafe – Hearty Creole food. A very busy waiter but a relaxed and unhurried experience in this cute cottage in historic Old Town. Great prices. Recommend the Chicken Creole. Old Town, San Diego
The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant – A large menu means something for everyone in this family restaurant housed in a beautifully restored old hotel. Avoid the Kung Pao Calamari – someone spilled the golden syrup in it – but this is a good restaurant to take those diners who don’t want to eat Mexican because there are many options for those who do. The Sizzling Seafood Parillada got rave reviews from those in our group who had it. Old Town, San Diego.
Top of the Market Restaurant – No visit to San Diego would be complete without a visit to one of the many seafood restaurants. Top of the Market is in a beautiful location – upstairs with an extensive view of San Diego Harbour. This restaurant stood out amongst those we visited – having the best espresso I experienced in San Diego and having small portion sizes like you’d expect of a fine dining restaurant – that this was. That said, the prices were not exorbitant, while it’s pricier than some restaurants, you get what you pay for and we had a lovely dining experience without breaking the bank. I had the seared prawns and the Mache and Spoon Spinach salad with poached pear and candied pecans.(Mache being lambs lettuce – I’m sure the wait staff didn’t expect all the questions they got when they asked if I had any – they were, without exception everywhere we went, unfailingly polite.) Both dishes were good – I did find the huge chunk of bread soaked in sauce an odd addition to the seared prawns, but they were still very good. Harbor Front, City, San Diego.