Friday, February 18, 2011

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Matthew Rowley, Superdiner

The San Diego Union-Tribune has launched a new weekly feature in which local food and drinks types — some professional, some avocational — opine about the area's food scene. When I moved here years ago from Philadelphia, I would have found the concept laughable. Philly, after all, was such a food town that heated arguments regularly arose in which locals championed the best cheese steak, pork sandwich, cheese shop, butcher, kielbasa, brewery, etc, while disparaging their opponents' clearly delusional choices. Threats of violence were used and people's absent mothers brought into it.

Mr. Rowley and the Foster Bros would like a word with you. 
Compared to that vibrant, pervasive food scene, I thought San Diego has almost none. It turns out that there is a deep appreciation for food and drink here: San Diegans, on the whole, are just not as argumentative as Philadelphians.

We have fantastic Mexican cookery. Filipino, Vietnamese, Thai are all here in a respectable showing. I found my first local moonshine still within two days of moving in. Some of the local produce stands up to the very best I've had on any continent. You want feta? I know a place that sells a dozen varieties. Same place also sells dry tea leaves out of a metal trash can for under $5 a pound. I grew up in Kansas City and am a bit of a beef snob, but a place in La Jolla taught me that San Diegans can source, age, and cook very good steaks indeed.

Yes, San Diego has a completely respectable food scene; it just takes a little more work to suss out very good eats in this town than it does in, say, New York, Montreal, New Orleans, or Philadelphia. So when Keli Dailey of the U-T asked me to be one of their Superdiners, I said sure.

I don't for a moment think of myself as a "super" diner — that's the U-T name, not mine — but I'm happy to jump in, provide some historical context, and talk about where I've been chowing down. Keep an eye out Thursdays.

Goes well with:
  • An introduction to the others in our group, including Noble Experiment bartender Anthony Schmidt (who makes one of the very best classic mai tais in town); Ricardo Heredia, executive chef at Alchemy Restaurant; and Charles Kaufman, whose bakery Bread & Cie is my first choice for great breads — well, when I'm not baking myself, that is.
  • Meet the Superdiners, Dailey's introductory piece in which we're asked about our choices for great local, but very small, restaurants. I chose Mama Testa, a taco joint near my old house. See what the others say here
  • Thanks to Nelvin Cepeda of the Union Tribune for the photo above. I'm as squinty-eyed as ever, but he did a good job of capturing that 1970's b-list samurai look I was going for. 

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