5 paths to explore San Diego on two wheels
Farm Tours: Visit a camel dairy, Carlsbad's strawberry fields, and more
H I K I N G B I K I N G A N D T H E I s s u e
6 more for when you want to escape the crowds TOP 6 ESSENTIAL HIKING TRAILS THE
Con t en t s
Black Mountain Summit
H I T THE TRA I L ! Our gu i de to the can’ t -mi ss h i k i ng and b i k i ng paths i n San Di ego ; p l us , l oca l exper ts ta l k safety t i ps for the t ra i l , snakeb i te myths , and the t rue mean i ng of “ l eave no t race” 62
ALONG FOR THE R I DE How the g l oba l t rend to get back on two whee l s gave our l oca l b i ke shops , both new and o l d , a much-needed rena i ssance 74
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32 What We’ re Loving A dr ive-up butcher shop, new international eats,
CULTURE 14 On the Job Juan Troncoso keeps up conser vation in two Nor th County land preser ves 15 Neighborhood Guide Where to eat , dr ink, and explore in Mi ra Mesa 1 6 70 & Sunny Two San Diegans, decades apar t , talk must-haves and how Interest A closeup of ar ti facts from one of San Diego’s most legendary f igures 18 Tribute Ron Donoho pays homage they unwind 1 7 Object of Amy Dixon won’ t let anything get between her and the f inish l ine FOOD + DR I NK 24 Wine Al l you need to know about the natural wine trend taking over the industry 25 Farm Tours Where to pick your own strawberr ies, f ind the freshest eggs, and even visit a camel dai ry 26 Restaurant Diaries How San Diego restaurants have helped new Amer icans settle in and feel at home to former SDM editor- in-chief Tom Blai r 20 Sports Paratr iathlete
and a big new “ghost kitchen”
STYLE 40 Tastemaker Local meteorologist Kar lene Chavis’s top picks to get her “Mother Ear th– chic” style 41 DIY Guide How to make your own natural cleaners, just in time for spring cleaning! 42 Shop SD Raum handmade shoes ground your body to the earth— l iteral ly 43 Plant Life Tips and tricks to keep your Chinese money plant thriving 44 Home The McNerneys bui lt a sustainable new home just steps
I N EVERY I SSUE 10 From the Editor 80 Crossword SPEC I AL SECT I ONS 34 The Canna-Biz 51 Top Dentists
away from the smal l bungalow they l ived in for 20 years
on the cover
on the cover
Kar l ene Chavi s , chi ef meteorolog i st at CBS 8, over looks Mi ss ion Tra i l s Reg iona l Park f rom the South For tuna Mounta in Tra i l . Photographed by Rob Hammer.
Livi Gos l ing i l lust rated thi s cool cover for our subscr ibers , highl ight ing our featured hiking and biking t ra i l s , a long wi th a few of our other favor i te pl aces around town.
SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE (ISSN 0734-6727), April 2021, Vol. 73, No. 4. SAN DIEGO magazine is published 12 times a year (monthly) by San Diego Magazine LLC, 707 Broadway, Suite 1100, San Diego, CA 92101. SUBSCRIPTION RATES: One year, $18; two years, $28; three years, $40. Subscriptions outside CA are $3 additional per year; outside the U.S., $80 additional per year. Back issues are $10 per issue and can be purchased at sandiegomagazine.com, if available. For change of address or customer service, write SAN DIEGO magazine SUBSCRIPTION DEPT., PO Box 460266 Escondido, CA 92046-9800 or email email@example.com. Periodical postage paid at San Diego, CA, and additional mailing oices. San Diego magazine is a registered trademark of San Diego Magazine LLC. Copyright © 2021 by San Diego Magazine LLC. All rights reserved. Repro- duction without permission is strictly prohibited. POSTMASTER: PLEASE SEND ADDRESS CHANGES TO SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE, PO Box 460266 Escondido, CA 92046-9800
APR I L 2021
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Outdoor Outreach Senior Director of Programs Lesford Duncan shares how Outdoor Outreach encourages San Diego’s youth to reconnect with themselves via the great outdoors. Read to find out how this organization is shaping futures with every step.
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The Great Outdoors
e haven’t done a special issue devoted to hiking and biking in a while, and we felt this is the perfect time to do it. Working from home and quarantine isolation have led many San Diegans to feel cooped up, and our expansive trail system, canyons, forests, and bike paths offer some much-needed fresh air and relief from the Zoom fatigue.
Even those of us who wouldn’t call ourselves outdoorsy (raises hand) have been hitting the trails. Claire Trageser, the local hiking expert who writes our trail guide every quarter, put together a list of trails starting on page 62 that includes the tried-and-true landmarks, along with less popular (and less-crowded) alternatives. You’ll want to check out the complete hiking list whether you’re new to hiking or regularly run up to the summit of Cowles Mountain—and don’t miss Claire’s list of three overrated hikes that, dare we say it, are worth skipping (your mileage may vary, of course!). If you’d rather explore on two wheels, writer Andrew Bowen mapped out some scenic bike courses, ranging from six to 24 miles (page 72).We also sent out photographer Ariana Drehsler to visit landmark bike shops around town for this month’s photo essay (page 74). These shops recently saw an unprecedented demand for their business—a study by NPD Group says bike sales increased by 81 percent last summer, and the need for bike repairs also soared.We got an inside look at a new-school mobile bike repair, an OB favorite, a cycling shop that rents e-bikes on the boardwalk, and one in South Park that’s over 100 years old. The great outdoors touches nearly every part of this issue. Karlene Chavis, chief meteorologist at CBS 8, also happens to be an avid hiker, so she enthusiastically hiked the South Fortuna Trail at Mission Hills for our cover shoot, on top of sharing her favorite hiking boots and other personal style touches as this month’s tastemaker (page 40).Writer Jenna Miller interviewed Amy Dixon, a paratriathlete for Team USA, and it’s an inspiring read (page 20). Dixon lost her eyesight in her early 20s, but that didn’t stop her from moving. She has won seven International Triathlon Union gold medals since she began training for triathlons, and she still runs and bikes six days a week. It’s a privilege for us to share her story. Lastly, we honor Tom Blair, our former editor-in-chief, who passed away earlier this year (page 18). Blair was at the helm of San Diego Magazine from 1995 to 2010, known for the famous three-dot column he started while at the Union-Tribune . Ron Donoho, who worked with Blair for 12 years as his executive editor, penned this heartfelt tribute to his life and legacy. No one loved San Diego like Tom Blair. So in honor of “Mr. San Diego,”we encourage you to get out, explore, and admire every part of this sun-kissed city.
Marie Tutko, Editor in Chief
10 APR I L 2021
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Cu l t u re ON THE JOB 14 MI RA MESA GUI DE 15 70 & SUNNY 1 6 OBJ ECT OF INTEREST 1 7 TOM BLA I R 18 AMY D I XON 20
Juan Troncoso stands under oak trees in the Escondido Creek watershed
Something I learned in this field is that when you’re going through a certain challenge, there is probably someone else out there who went through it and is very happy to help you get through it too. —Juan Troncoso, Escondido Creek Conservancy More on page 14
13 SAN DI EGO MAGAZ INE
PHOTO BY MADISON DAUBE
The Conservation Specialist Juan Troncoso oversees the daily care and upkeep of two Escondido land preserves
Mountain Meadow Preserve has about 125 acres of land that was once an avocado grove, and Sardina was situated adjacent to a paintball range, which means a lot of dead avocado trees, invasive plants, and old, unnecessary structures.While they want to remove and replace them with native species, Troncoso says it’s a delicate balance: “Whatever we’re doing, we want to ensure that we’re improving the habitat and the biological value of the land. Even though they’re not native, animals have adapted to these trees. So when we’re taking them out, we leave something more beneficial in return.” Now that nesting season has begun, he and a small group have been surveying the land to mark which trees have nests and which are safe to chop down—there needs to be a 100-foot clearance in every direction. Other days, he’s helping to prep areas for planting, or monitoring the video cameras set up to study the wildlife. It’s a role that requires wearing many hats and a lot of patience. These projects often take months or years to complete and can be held up even longer due to a lack of funding. Clearing those degraded areas alone cost an estimated $1 million. Every small victory is worth celebrating, especially when the conservancy is able to collaborate with local partners, like Jim Crouch with the oaks, or Cal Fire, which has helped them cut down 200–300 trees in the last year. “At the end of the day we may be working in different fields, but we are all working toward the same goal, which is preserving our species.”
by Erica Nichols
uan Troncoso has a beetle problem. It’s nothing new—the goldspotted oak borer has been killing thousands of oak trees all over California since it crossed over from Arizona in 2004, but Troncoso and his team at the Escondido Creek Conservancy have been thinking up newways to restore the county’s oak woodland habitats. That led them to volunteer Jim Crouch.“Jim has collected over 600 acorns from various sites and is privately growing oak seedlings for us and other conservancies,”Troncoso says.“When they’re ready, we’ll be able to transport some of those seedlings back to our land to help rebuild the oak habitat.” It’s just one of the many projects that he oversees as a conservation manager for the Escondido Creek Conservancy. He’s in charge of two North County preserves—
Mountain Meadow and Sardina—that are both part of the conservancy’s Save 1000 Acres campaign. The goal is to build what Troncoso calls a “green ring” in the northern part of Escondido, creating a safe habitat corridor for Southern California’s wildlife. But it’s no walk in the park. “These two areas are heavily degraded,” he says. The
Escondido Creek Conservancy escondidocreek.org escondido_creek_ conservancy
14 APR I L 2021
PHOTO BY MADISON DAUBE
with gourmet cookies from Caked — try the popular ube mochi or one of their other 30 signature flavors. Dr i nk Tucked between Sorrento Valley and Miramar, Mira Mesa has an abundance of breweries close at hand. Take your pick of craft creations from White Labs or Align Brewing Co. within the neighborhood borders, or venture out a little ways to fill your growler at long-standing favorites like AleSmith, Little Miss , or Green Flash Brewing . If you’re feeling a little hopped out, try Newtopia Cyder and Serpentine Cider, or Juneshine for some hard kombucha to go; or for a pick-me-up, Jaunt Coffee Roasters can satisfy your cravings in-house or at your door, thanks to their coffee subscription services.
This diverse suburban community has a host of great restaurant and brewery options (especially if you don’t mind aircraft flyovers) Mira Mesa by Jeanette Giovanniello
Eat Mira Mesa is home to an array of cuisines from around the world, and Mira Mesa Boulevard is a good place to start. Look to Loving Hut for vegan versions of barbecue drumsticks and the Egg McMuffin (just scoop that side
of hash browns right into the sandwich), along with burgers, burritos, and noodle dishes. Farther down the road, get your seafood fix with a plate of whole steamed or fried fish at The Fancy Fish , or order a filling bowl of ramen at Menya Ultra —yes, it is worth the hype. Authentic Indian food is hard to come by in San Diego, but you can get a taste off Black Mountain
Exp l ore Locals flock to Los Peñasquitos Canyon
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Tantan men ramen at Menya Ultra, Green Flash Brewing, Transcounty Trail 28, The Fancy Fish, Menya Ultra, Jaunt Coffee Roasters
Preserve for good reason
(find out why in our hiking and biking feature on page 62), but just east of it is another worthy
Road, the city’s de facto Little India. The small cultural quarter is lined with Indian shops and restaurants packing bold flavors, like
trail for when you’re ready to get outside and explore. Transcounty Trail 28 takes you east of Mira Mesa through Scripps Ranch and Poway, and ends just short of Sycamore Canyon, with the option to connect to other trails along the way. This is a great adventure for bikers, dog walkers, and rookie hikers.
Ashoka the Great . There’s also a small
Hindu temple for those who practice. Need to satisfy a sweet tooth? Round out your visit
15 SAN DI EGO MAGAZ INE
PHOTOS BY JUSTIN HALBERT
Ron and King Two San Diegans, decades apart, talk must-have items and how they unwind by Erica Nichols
King Phillips- Gwyn 10, Fourth Grader, Valencia Park
Ronald Evans 71, Biologist
and Lab Director at Salk Institute, La Jolla
What’s the one thing people should know about you? Probably that I can run really fast.When I was little I used to call myself The Cheetah, and all my friends would call me that, too. What do you like to do after school? I like to go outside. Most of the time I’ll play cops and robbers or sharks and minnows with my friends—you don’t get to run really far with that game, but I’m still good at it. Who inspires you? My dad and my mom; they both do amazing things. My mom runs an art gallery. At first I was more of a drawing person, but after seeing some of the paintings in the gallery, I like painting now, too. Do you want to be an artist? It’s a possibility. But mostly I draw just for fun or to help pass the time. I like to doodle or create whatever pops into my mind. What’s the best piece of advice you can give me? It’s what my mom always tells me: Don’t let what other people say stop you.
Tell me a lile about what you do at Salk. I’m interested in how hormones act as ways to communicate between different tissues to organize body functions—what we call physiology. When you exercise, essentially a switch turns on and off to activate that motion. But in some cases, that switch gets stuck on either position, which increases the risk for health issues. My lab studies what risk is, why good things are good, why bad things are bad.Why is a high-fat diet “bad”?Why is exercise “good”?We’re interested in what’s behind those words. How do you get over any mind blocks? I pace and look out the window—it helps to get me thinking. My office overlooks a beautiful canyon and the ocean beyond. It never gets old. What do you have to have close by in your oice? A guitar is mandatory. A lot of science is in your head; I think about it all the time. The best way to turn it off is to pick up an instrument.When I play guitar, I can’t think of anything else. What have you been playing recently? Willie Nelson, some James Taylor, Dylan… I like fingerpicking styles because they require both hands working in a rhythm together.
16 APR I L 2021
PHOTOS BY NATE HOFFMAN
SOMETIMES THE SMALLEST things can leave the biggest impact. So it goes atop Palomar Mountain, where archaeologist and San Diego State University professor Seth Mallios uncovered this small collection of equestrian accessories, often called horse tack, from the site of Nathan Harrison’s cabin. Born into slavery, Harrison was brought to central California during the gold rush, gained his freedom when his owner died, and eventually moved south to our local backcountry and became the first Black homesteader in San Diego County. He built a life for himself working with his horses, ranching, and ingratiating himself with the tight-knit community in the mountains. Mallios says the six horseshoes pictured here are everyday-style
sandiego history.org sandiego historycenter
shoes that were handmade by a blacksmith, evident by the
asymmetric nail holes that line the outer edge. Below those are ten tiny spur rowels that would poke the horse to guide it in a certain direction; Harrison filed down these rowels to avoid scarring his horses. They also found various leather fasteners, brass rivets, buckles, and metal straps that would make up the horse saddles and bridles. Though they were all common items at the time, these pieces reflect the life Harrison led—one where horses were not just a mode of transportation, Mallios says, but the homesteader’s most essential and non-negotiable assets. These are just a sample of the thousands of artifacts Mallios and his team have uncovered over the 17 years they’ve been working at the site. Now they’ve partnered with the San Diego History Center to develop an interactive exhibit detailing who Nathan Harrison was, and sort the facts of his life from the many tall tales he inspired among visitors to his home. Through virtual tours and artifact displays, the exhibit shows how each fragment they’ve uncovered, no matter how small, pieces together an image of a man who was larger than life. —EN
Pieces of Pioneer Life 19TH-CENTURY ARTIFACTS REVEAL A GLIMPSE INTO THE DAILY LIFE OF A SAN DIEGO LEGEND
SAN DI EGO MAGAZ INE 17
Mr. San Diego A longtime colleague recalls the sweeping legacy of San Diego Magazine ’s former editor
by Ron Donoho
Former San Diego Magazine editor-in-chief Tom Blair passed away earlier this year due to complications from Alzheimer’s at the age of 74. A consummate storyteller, he was beloved by readers and was a magnetic personality within local media circles.
Being relatively new to San Diego, I quickly discovered that my editor was—way before Ron Burgundy uttered the line in Anchorman —“kind of a big deal.”He had Johnny Carson charisma and Dick Clark energy. As a boss, Tom could be as manic as Michael Scott, more gregarious than Captain Stubing, but always enigmatically cool like Mr. Roarke. My new editor had a singing gig at an event in Balboa Park. I figured it’d be smart office politics to pop in, make points, and scurry off. Hearing him croon Sinatra covers took me aback. He was a solid and engaging performer. I stayed for the whole show. Soon afterward, Tom took me to lunch at Dobson’s Bar & Grill. At his ever-brisk pace, we walked there from the magazine’s downtown office inside the First National Bank Center (now 1 Columbia Place). Dobson’s was the preeminent
A year after freshly minted publisher Jim Fitzpatrick hired him to edit San Diego Magazine , Tom hired me as a staff writer. He promoted me to executive editor and we worked together for 12 years—from 1996 to 2008. Here are just some of my memories of what it was like to exist within his universe.
18 APR I L 2021
Dominelli’s infamous 1980s pyramid scheme. His digging also brought down Mayor Roger Hedgecock. (The first time I unwittingly introduced myself to Hedgecock as “the new guy at San Diego Magazine ,” the former mayor simply snarled at me.) Tom’s forte, of course, was the “three-dot column.” His must-read collection of items, each separated by three asterisks, ran on the magazine’s coveted last page. Many readers opened the magazine from the back to read Tom’s tasty tidbits first. He found big stories and told them in as few words as possible. Tom’s good friend, writer/contributor Thomas K. Arnold, says, “Tom’s column was like poetry. And that poetry was the story of San Diego.” Tom is survived
journo hangout. Paul Dobson greeted every guest amiably at the door, but Tom got the royal treatment.We were escorted to Tom’s special table on the balcony. Between bites of house-specialty mussel bisque, other diners paid homage. Fans mentioned his former newspaper column, lauded his singing, praised his morning appearances on KOGO radio, and congratulated him on his new post. Along with the well-wishers
were tipsters. In hushed voices, people told Tom funny stories about their bosses or related nefarious deeds politicians were plotting. Tom scribbled it all down in the pocket-sized spiral notebook he always carried. Tom wanted to take San Diego Magazine in a new direction. Founded in 1948, the magazine originally offered lifestyle coverage along with some news analysis. By the early 1990s, the insightful news features, from sharp writers like the legendary Harold Keen, had all but vanished. He aspired for the magazine to read less like Better Homes and Gardens and more like Texas Monthly . That publication was highly respected in city magazine circles for being hard-hitting and newsy. In his first Letter from the Editor, Tom wrote: “Instead of taking the pulse of the city, we at San Diego Magazine will give it a monthly physical.” That’s how Tom operated. Monthly feature stories added depth and perspective to current events. The gifted writer Shane Liddick came on board as a regular contributor.What a wonderful era it was to have space for Liddick’s 6,000-word border stories, and his first- person accounts about living homeless or working at a towing company with questionable work practices. Liddick was a finalist for the 2010 reporting award from the City and Regional Magazine Association. The winner that year: a writer from Texas Monthly . Tom encouraged writers to dig a little deeper, ask more questions. If you were working on an investigative piece and ran into a dead-end, there was always Tom’s well-worn Rolodex. Nested on his always- cluttered desk, the Rolodex overflowed with names and phone numbers, mostly handwritten. His own investigative prowess dated back to his days at the Union-Tribune . Tom helped unravel J. David
by his partner, Ed Schuppert; ex-wife,Wendy; their son, Thomas;
He was truly one of a kind. Mr. San Diego. A journalist who always put in the work.
and daughter, Amy.When his kids would visit our new offices at 1450 Front Street (now headquarters for Hughes Marino), Tom would gush over them. He was a proud papa. In 2008, during the downsizing depths of the Great Recession, Tom was pushed to let me go from the magazine. It stung, and we didn’t cross paths for years—until a 2010 San Diego Press Club event. Tom was onstage announcing an award category and then… the guy who’d fired me called my name. I was dumbstruck. Unsurprisingly, Tom pulled it off with elegance and class. After the event, we chatted amicably in the crowd. Soon enough, people closed in to ask Tom about the latest gossip and pass on a few tips. He got out his notepad and started scribbling. That was the last time we spoke. Seems I get the last word. It’s an honor to memorialize Tom within these pages. He was truly one of a kind. Mr. San Diego. A journalist who always put in the work. Inarguably, Tom was the embodiment of a bygone era of great print newsgatherers.
FROM FAR LEFT: Tom
introduces himself to readers; Tom with Rosemary Starns, Bill Evans, and T. K. Arnold; Tom writes his farewell
letter in 2010 ; Tom and T. K. Arnold at the La Jolla Grand Prix Bike Race; Tom publishes a travel feature on Tuscany.
19 SAN DI EGO MAGAZ INE
PARATRIATHLETE AMY DIXON SAYS YOU DON’ T NEED SIGHT TO HAVE VISION by Jenna Miller Best Foot Forward
If you have to put your whole career on hiatus because of a pandemic, Amy Dixon suggests being in San Diego when you do. The Team USA paratriathlete ditched icy
NewYork winters for a sunny condo in Encinitas four years ago. She’d fallen in love with Southern California while training with the U.S. Paratriathlon National Team at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. (As it happens, the first modern triathlon was also held here—on Fiesta Island in 1974.) But when competing came to a halt last year and gyms closed, Dixon learned that San Diego’s natural terrain was just as good a substitute. “I still train six days a week—some days at the YMCA and others at home on my treadmill,” she says. “I also like to go out to Lake Hodges and bike with friends. You get the water, the desert, and the mountains all in one place.” For a visually impaired athlete, training with a buddy is vital. Dixon says it can be unsafe to run on her own, and given the mental hardships the past year has brought, the training has been a much-needed source of connection and normalcy. Growing up, Dixon always had one foot in some athletic endeavor. Her family had horses, which led her to pursue equestrian sports, and when she wasn’t in the stables, she was in the pool. She joined the swim team when she was only six years old and stuck with it all the way through high school. But when she was 22, things changed.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Dixon with guide Susanne Davis; cycling with guide Kirsten Sass; with her guide dog, Woodstock; crossing the finish line; training at home
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She was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease that quickly attacked her eyesight. Ten years later, she’d be 98 percent blind. It was a lot to process. Sports were put on hold. Tears were shed. Dixon had to relearn the basic motions of everyday life. But it wasn’t too long before she got the itch to get moving once more. “Someone brought up triathlons and suggested that I compete,” she says. If she were to do it, she’d need to complete the race with a guide who would essentially be her eyes and help direct her through each step. They’d ride a tandem bike, run side by side, and swim while tethered together. Dixon was in. She found her guide, got a tandem bike, started training, and finished her first triathlon in June 2013. “When I crossed the finish line, my guide told me, ‘You’re a triathlete now,’” she says. “It was something I didn’t identify with. I identified as a blind person. I identified as somebody with an autoimmune disease. It was the first time I had an athletic identity in a very long time. And that felt really, really good.” Since then, Dixon has gone on to become a seven-time International Triathlon Union gold medalist, a national champion in both US para cycling and para triathlon, and an aquathlon world champion. The past year has brought Dixon additional hardships beyond the pandemic: She also dealt with shoulder surgery, a pulmonary embolism, and uterine surgery all within a short time frame. But in spite of these setbacks, she kept moving forward. “I realized that the only limits were in my head, not in my body,” she says. “That really opened my eyes to what the possibilities are.” Her goals extend beyond competing. In 2017, she started an annual camp called No Sight No Limits, which provides hands-on training to athletes like herself with visual impairment or hearing loss. She recently received the Visionary Award from the Glaucoma Research Foundation for her work assisting the visually impaired community. Oh, and did we mention that she’s now training for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics (rescheduled for August of this year)? Currently, she’s sixth in the Paralympics international rankings, which are based on the athletes’ top three races over a 12-month period—only the top nine contenders in each category are invited to the Paralympics. Until then, Dixon will continue her training here in San Diego, compete in races to defend her ranking, and start planning what finish line she’ll cross next.
“ it was the first time i had an in a very long time. and that felt really, really good. ” athletic identity
21 SAN DI EGO MAGAZ INE
THE JACOBS & CUSHMAN SAN DIEGO FOOD BANK Invites You to Attend Our 9th Annual Gala
a virtual event
A light, not-too-filling, fun half-hour chat on San Diego’s food scene featuring TROY JOHNSON & ERIN CHAMBERS SMITH Listen up! sdmag.com/podcast
SATURDAY APRIL 17, 2021
TICKETS & INFO SanDiegoFoodBank.Org/Gala OR CALL Vivian Quesada 858-863-5198 CO-CHAIRS Ellen Gruer & Cindy Hickman
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Food Dr i nk NATURAL WI NES 24 FARM TOURS 25 RESTAURANT D I AR I ES 26 WHAT WE ’ RE LOV I NG 32
The vegan baklava from Gihon Ethiopian Kitchen
The Alliance for African Assistance would call us and ask if we could find people work. We would hire people fresh off the plane. Ethiopians have a really strong sense of community.
—Lela Makonnen, Gihon Ethiopian Kitchen
Read the full story on page 26
23 SAN DI EGO MAGAZ INE
PHOTO BY JAMES TRAN AND VALERIE DURHAM
Van Drunen at CHARLIE & ECHO makes fantastic natural sparkling, white, rosé, and red wines from grapes grown in San Diego that you can try at their Miramar tasting room. Don’t miss their flagship wine, the Dark Star sparkling red made from zinfandel, syrah, petite sirah, and nebbiolo. 8680 Miralani Drive, Miramar; charlieandecho.com J. BRIX WINERY also produces fantastic natural wines in North County. Try their Cobolorum Riesling pét-nat, described by founders Emily and Jody as being “full of joy,” or their Uncontainable Rosé of Cinsault, produced from grapes grown in local vineyards. 298 Enterprise Street, Escondido; jbrix.com For natural wine and food pairings, check out DIJA MARA in Oceanside. Dija Mara exclusively serves natural wine alongside fantastic Southeast Asian fusion cuisine. 232 South Coast Highway, Oceanside; dijamara.com You can also purchase natural wines from around the world at THE ROSE WINE BAR + BOTTLE SHOP in shop local! If you’re curious to try a natural wine, check out some local producers:
Going au Naturel All you need to know about the rebel of the wine world
by Nia Gordon
atural wines go against the status quo and challenge centuries-old beliefs of what the flavors, aromas, and colors of wine should Winemakers Emily and Jody Towe from J. Brix Winery in Escondido say the philosophy behind natural wine is simple: “nothing added, nothing taken away.”The idea is that natural wine is a true expression of the grape and the land; the wine’s authenticity is maintained by intervening in the winemaking process as little as possible. The grapes are farmed using organic or biodynamic practices, the wines are fermented using only native yeasts and are not filtered, and little to no sulfur is added to the final product. N be. This bold break from tradition is part of what makes natural wine one of the most popular styles in the world right now.
Eric Van Drunen, natural wine producer and co-owner of Miramar’s Charlie & Echo, likens the difference between the production of natural wine and conventional wine to the work of an artist versus that of a craftsman.Where conventional wine producers alter their product in various ways throughout the winemaking process so it fits a predefined set of expectations, natural wine producers allow their product’s variations to contribute to potentially unexpected results, much like an artist does. But whether or not this minimalist approach makes natural wine superior to conventional wine really comes down to preference. Though people often cite health benefits like the probiotics, lack of sulfites, and lower alcohol content, natural wine producers are more focused on the benefit of the artistry behind its production, rather than any specific health perks. When it comes to taste, try to approach it with an open mind, because the differences in grapes, soil, and climate make each wine different. Some natural wine has a cloudy appearance and sour, yeasty flavors comparable to beer, while other natural wines look and taste just like conventional wines. The most common type of natural wine is orange wine, a white wine made using red winemaking techniques. Orange wines you may have seen are pét-nat, a sparkling wine that finishes fermenting in the bottle, and col fondo, a unique unfiltered Prosecco.
South Park and VINO CARTA in Lile Italy.
APR I L 2021
Oasis Camel Dairy Yes, there is a camel dairy farm in San Diego County, and those looking for a more private experience will find the Oasis Camel Dairy in Ramona right up their alley. Restrictions brought on by the pandemic limited operations
down to private tours, so groups of up to 25 people are able to book a visit to meet the “farm friends.” Handwashing stations—with camel-milk soap made on-site—are available throughout the farm. Visitors can also find cockatoos, parrots, sheep, turkeys, and, of course, camels. Tours include treats to feed the camels and sheep, while those feeling extra adventurous can add on a camel ride.While fresh camel milk and cheeses are not currently for sale due to state restrictions, guests can purchase camel milk products such as chocolate, lotion, skin serum, lip balm, soap, and bath bombs. 26757 Highway 78, Ramona; cameldairy.com Carlsbad Strawberry Company The Ukegawa family has been growing strawberries at this 48-acre farm for four generations.When strawberry season kicks off in late March or early April, the public is invited to visit, pick them right off the vine, and enjoy the fruits of their labor ($10 for admission, one small bucket per person). Owner Jimmy Ukegawa says the size of their farm allows for plenty of social distancing, and hand-sanitizing stations are set up around the property. Along with strawberry picking, the farm offers tractor rides, apple cannons, and a sunflower maze. This year, Ukegawa expects strawberry season to last through
Beyond the Farmers’ Market HANDS-ON (AND SOCIALLY DISTANCED) EXPERIENCES ON OUR LOCAL FARMS
July. 1050 Cannon Road, Carlsbad; carlsbadstrawberrycompany.com
Hilliker’s Ranch Fresh Eggs Early on in the pandemic as many grocery stores were running out of eggs, Hilliker’s Ranch in East County sold their farm-fresh eggs in a unique way: via drive-thru, which allowed people to get their eggs in a safe and novel way. The family-run ranch was established in 1942 by Frank and Josephine Hilliker in Encanto. As agricultural land in the county moved east, so did the Hillikers, and they landed in Lakeside. After implementing social distancing measures, siblings and third-generation owners Frank and Lara were able to reopen the store and offer their customers fresh milk, eggs, jams, and cheeses. Hilliker’s Ranch even offers honey made from bees on the property.While there’s no longer a drive-thru, Frank invites folks to come inside to check out the products—you might even see the egg-packing machine in action. 11329 El Nopal, Lakeside; 619-448-3683
by Noah Harrel
pring is finally here, and the time is ripe for supporting the county’s farmers and food purveyors. If you’re already a regular at a local farmers’ market, go a step further and get your produce straight from the source by booking a farm tour. These companies offer hands-on, socially distanced fun, from picking your own fresh strawberries to private tours of a camel dairy. S
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A Place at the Table THE CRUCIAL ROLES RESTAURANTS AND MARKETS PLAY FOR LIFE AS A NEW AMERICAN by Troy Johnson
are—Gihon, Applebee’s, all of them—for newAmericans as they try to build a new life amid the vertigo of Western culture shock.“Especially for those who don’t speak the language, restaurants are the main source of employment,” says Rahmo Abdi, a community organizer with Partnership for the Advancement of NewAmericans.“As long as you can cook food fromyour own culture, you can findworkwhile you go to school, learn English, and get assimilated into American culture.” The most universal language may be math, but cooking is a close second. By the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ last count (May 2020), nearly one in three restaurant workers is foreign-born.Makonnen explains that, over the years, Gihon has acted both as safe harbor and social incubator for Ethiopian immigrants. “Around 2000, most of my aunts and uncles got to come to America, so my mom had a full staff,” she says. “They learned the language. The Alliance [for African Assistance] would call us and ask if we could find people work.We would hire people fresh off the plane. Ethiopians have a really strong sense of community.We need to be around each other. Plus, my godmother helped my mom find jobs when she first came here, so my mom always tries to give back.”
bout 9,000 miles east of San Diego, an Ethiopian family picks through their local market for bird’s-eye peppers, green cardamom, and black cumin. They will sun-dry them, grind them, blend themwith other spices (careful not to touch the mix with their bare hands, which shortens its shelf life),
then ship the Cheeto-colored powder across the world to El Cajon Boulevard. The blend is called berbere, a cornerstone of Ethiopian cuisine and, in this family’s case, a recurring love letter to their sister, Meskerem “Messi”Bekele. At Gihon Ethiopian Kitchen,Messi and her daughter Lela Makonnenwill liberally sprinkle berbere into sautéed onions with cubes of rib eye or lamb or whatever you like, and simmer it for their signature dish, tibs. They’ll serve it on injera (thin, tangy, crepe-like flatbread),which they ferment in-house for two days. For 23 years Gihon has been an emissary of Ethiopian food in North Park, even before the neighborhoodwas ready for it. “This place used to be a cafe called Granger’s, and when my grandmother and mom bought it in 1998, the owners said,‘You can serve Ethiopian food, but also please keep serving burgers; our customers don’t have anywhere else to go,’”Makonnen says with a laugh.“My grandmother didn’t speak a lick of English and had no idea how to make a shake.” So for about two years in the late ’90s, you could get a prototypical American combo meal as well as the national dish of Ethiopia—dorowot, a spicy chicken stew—at Granger’s Ethiopian. The first iteration of Messi’s dream restaurant in the US may have been a bit of a compromise, but it was an important evolutionary step in San Diego’s food culture at the time. Anthony Bourdain hadn’t yet become the TV James Dean of planetary foodstuff and sent us all on hunger quests, and Jonathan Goldwas writing his global food poetry one city too far north. The more important point is how crucial restaurants
OPPOSITE: Lela Makonnen and “Messi” Bekele of Gihon Ethiopian Kitchen. BELOW: Messi’s family in Ethiopia blends Gihon’s spices and ships them to San Diego.
27 SAN DI EGO MAGAZ INE
PHOTOS BY JAMES TRAN AND VALERIE DURHAM
Ethiopians have a really strong sense of community. We need to be around each other.
One of the traditional gestures of Ethiopian cuisine is the gursha,where you prepare a bite by hand and feed it to a person you’re diningwith. It’s a sign of love and respect. In non-pandemic times, Gihon is filledwith locals and their gurshas. Like all restaurants, they’ve felt the pandemic toll. It’s been touch and go. But Makonnen says they will carry on,whether here or elsewhere. Many newAmericans are already at risk for obvious reasons (lack of a social and familial safety net; wholly new sets of laws, customs, and social mores; increased nativism in the US) so the pandemic hit them especially hard. According to a congressional study from the Joint Economic Committee (JEC),“foreign-bornworkers also are concentrated in industries that experienced steeper increases in unemployment as a result of the coronavirus recession, such as accommodation and food services. Approximately one-in-five foreign-bornworkers lost their jobs between February and April 2020.” It’s not just entry-level jobs. In 2017, Nation’s Restaurant News reported that 29 percent of all restaurant and hotel owners are foreign born,more than double the 14-percent figure for all businesses. According to the JEC, in the beginning of the pandemic, foreign-born business
ownership fell by 36 percent. Overall, business ownership fell 22 percent. Gustavo Tonella nearly became part of those statistics. “My first jobwas at the drive-thru window at Jack in the Box,” says Tonella,who now owns Doggos Gus. “My Englishwas worse, but the restaurant culture made everything easy.You make tips every day; many
ABOVE: A spread of Ethiopian specialities from Gihon, including injera, tibs, and doro wot. OPPOSITE: Gustavo Tonella, owner of Doggos Gus in Imperial Beach,
times you get free food. After your shift you have a beer with the cooks.My coworkers ended up being my friends, roommates, and groomsmen.” Tonella immigrated fromMexicali in his 20s,working his way through restaurants as a busser, cook, expeditor, server, every rank in the chain—all while getting a degree in marketing fromCal State San Marcos.“In Mexicali,we have hot dogs on every corner just like we have tacos here,”he says.“Mymomwould take me to the hot dog guy around the corner from our house every week. He was there for 16 years.When he diedwe were all devastated.” In 2010, Tonella launched his own catering company with Sonoran-style hot dogs—bacon-wrapped dogs in brioche buns, toppedwith micro-feasts (the“Carnitas,” for
which serves Sonoran-style hot dogs and micheladas.
APR I L 2021
example, loadedwith pulled pork, pico, grilled onions, chipotle and avocado crema). His breakthrough, business-wise,was introducing a Mexican tradition to the San Diego market. “At Mexicanweddings, it’s tradition to have a snack at two or three in the morning,”he says.“People here loved it. The bride would be in a wedding dress munching on a hot dog, the groom had mustard on his tux. I’d be the cheapest thing at their wedding, but the best thing.” In September 2019 he pulled the trigger on his first brick-and-mortar, a tiny storefront on a prime corner of Imperial Beach. He didwell through the winter, but for businesses in IB, sunlight is money. Come March, he was primed for the large beach crowds to return and pad the rainy-day coffers. Pier South Resort across the street was sold out the comingweekend; he was booked to serve hot dogs at the Padres’ opening day. Then, pandemic. Over the next month, 92weddings canceled.“The beach was a ghost town,”he says. He started Help the Helpers, a campaignwhere people could buy a catered meal to go to a front-line worker, and Doggos Gus would match it with a second. “We got to feed them and it helped me keep my employees,”he says, noting that most of his employees are first-generation Mexican American. Over in City Heights, a beloved butcher felt the
pinch last year as restaurant traffic slowed to a trickle or dried up completely. The son of a butcher, Hani Ilaian was raised in Bethlehem before immigrating to the US. He found a job at a corner grocery store catering to the city’s Middle Eastern community. Forty years later, he and his son Al own and operate not just Mid-East Market, but also a ranch in Poway where they raise goats, lambs, and bee colonies. By doing so, they know the meat they sell is from animals that were completely grass-fed and raised humanely.Much of their meat is halal,which is widely regarded as the most humane way to produce and harvest meat. Looking a bit like a young Jeff Goldblum, Al shows me the walk-in refrigerator where fresh carcasses hang. Some of the whole animals will be sold
“My English was worse, but the restaurant culture made everything
easy. You make tips every day;
many times you get free food. After your shift you have a beer with the cooks. My coworkers ended up being my friends, roommates, and groomsmen.”
—GUSTAVO TONELLA, DOGGOS GUS
29 SAN DI EGO MAGAZ INE
to local families celebrating sacred life events—births, baptisms,weddings, religious rites—and some will be bought by top chefs.“People buy this sheep just for the fat in the tail—they use it to flavor soup,”Al says.“This one is going to Juniper & Ivy.” For chefs, local meat is the ideal—not only for quality, but also for the ethics of supporting local food people and systems (farmers, ranchers, fishers). But in San Diego it feels easier to find a yeti than local meat. Ranching in the county is hard for a number of reasons, like the scarcity and cost of land andwater, and the lack of a USDA- approved slaughterhouse (the closest is in Corona, about 80miles north of Poway). Mid-East Market’s shelves are a riot of spices that are hard to find at the average American grocery store (bags of za’atar, ground shiro), favorite drinks adored by various cultures (the berry sodaVimto for Saudis, the salty-minty yogurt drink doogh for Afghans), even popular soaps and hair products (neem oil, blackseed oil) from other countries. They’re one of the only places that presses its own blackseed oil (revered bymany cultures for its healing properties).“I like the challenge of finding the ingredients any of our customers want, from dried fish to snails,”Al says. The clientele shifts depending on what’s happening in the world: He sawmany Afghans during the war; now there are more Haitians,who’ve fled political instability at home. So the inventory of Mid-East Market tells a story about global politics, and local refuge. As I load my groceries at the checkout (lamb chops and stewmeat, a bottle of Vimto, housemade zhug , a container of their famous emulsified garlic), an older man is buying a bag of goat kidneys. Al asks himwhat he’s
“A lot of these places are where elders gather, drink tea, catch up on news from back home,
exchange politics. It helps them navigate their lives.”
going to dowith it.“I’m fromAlgeria,”he explains.“We take a tiny layer of meat, then fat, then meat again, and thenwe smoke it.” He’s eager to talk, and share a recipe fromwhere he’s from. This happens here, a lot. It’s a crossroads of cultural perspectives shared through food. It brings to mindwhat Rahmo Abdi told me about restaurants, and I can see how it applies here at the market as well. “A lot of these places are where elders gather, drink tea, catch up on news from back home, exchange politics,” she said.“It helps them navigate their lives.”
—RAHMO ABDI, COMMUNITY
ORGANIZER WITH PARTNERSHIP FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF NEW AMERICANS
ABOVE: Mid-East Market is a destination for rare spices, international soft drinks, and halal meats.
30 APR I L 2021
COME JOIN US!
BUILDING A BETTER WORLD THROUGH CYCLING FOR 75 YEARS RACING WEEKLY GROUP RIDES KIDS’ BIKE SAFETY RODEOS
CHARITY RIDES FUN, FUN, FUN!
www.sdbc.org Check our website for COVID-19 restrictions. The San Diego Bicycle Club is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
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