February 2023

The Design Issue







easiest route to the rockies FLY NONSTOP FROM SAN DIEGO TO TAOS, NM




64 WALK THIS WAY Hitting the streets of Carlsbad Village,

70 DESIGNED TO BE REMEMBERED Meet Equity Builders, the silent name behind some of the city’s best restaurant build-outs.

where thoughtful, car-free development is on the rise.




Departments In Every Issue 8 CONTENT CHIEF'S NOTE Troy Johnson muses on what it means to find home. 12 LOCAL STOKES Goth-inspired enamel wedding bands, a rope-tying workshop, kid's pajamas, and more in our monthly hot list. 14 COVERING 75 Each month’s issue features a vintage cover and a present- day re-creation showing a slice of life in San Diego to celebrate SDM ’s 75 th anniversary. This month, we asked San Diego photographer Jazzmine Taylor to reimagine a cover from May 1958. 84 CALENDAR Museum Month descends on San Diego, the 40 th annual Chinese New Year Fair kicks off, “The Outsiders” debuts at La Jolla Playhouse, and Dita Von Teese performs in El Cajon. 88 SACRED SPACES Inside Maxx Moses’ Encanto art studio (he’s this month’s cover artist, too!). Food & Drink 19 MAIN DISH The party vibes are still alive and well in the Gaslamp—these days, there are much better places to dine, too. 20 HOT PLATES SDM staff shouts out our favorite food finds this month: a fried chicken sandwich that will make you cry, a pasta dish derived from the deep blue sea, a Tuscan feast to end them all, and more. 22 REVIEW Troy Johnson checks out San Diego’s newest Michelin star recipient, Golden Hill’s Kingfisher. Arts & Culture 31 ARTS Jeremy McQueen’s Black Iris Project brings Black stories to the ballet and his hometown of San Diego. 32 MUSIC How Kensington recording studio Singing Serpent made it to the biggest games on the planet. 34 BOOKS Talking life’s biggest questions and a new book with USD professor and author Nick Riggle.

22 31





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Living & Style 49 STYLE One of the country’s best bridal designers—Alexia María—is based in La Jolla. 50 HOME Architect Mark A Silva shows off Can Deus, an oceanside abode fit for the gods. 56 TASTEMAKER Institute of Contemporary Art San Diego’s executive director Andrew Ütt walks us through his ultimate design wishlist. Escapes 77 ARRIVING NOW Mammoth, Scottsdale, and San Francisco make up this month’s digest of travel news. 78 PIT STOP Exploring the design of The Inn at Moonlight Beach—the world’s first WELL-certified hotel property. 80 WEEKENDER This Valentine’s Day, celebrate the single life by reclaiming solo travel to near-to-San Diego destinations.



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ON THE COVER We asked artist Maxx Moses ( maxxmoses777) to illustrate this month’s cover in his signature style. He calls this work "The King’s Chamber." See more from his studio on page 88.




Working to make a difference in San Diego is one sure measure of success.

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Rick Martinez Commercial Banking Group Manager rick.martinez@pnc.com

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Find Your Hairy Chair Content Chief’s Note


t was checkered, made of some rough cloth. Almost hairy. I remember someone rocking it back and forth, always. You pulled the wooden lever on the side and it expanded to become a

the rooms they lived in seems to be the ancient Egyptians, who hung animal skins and decorative urns in their mud huts. But I’ll bet it started way before that. Soon as we grabbed the hand of evolution and yanked ourselves out of the rivers and oceans, once our brains grew beyond a jumble of basic instincts, I bet we decorated the crannies we crawled into, tried to shape them into something not just livable but memorable. While we’re generally more agnostic about our homes in the West, many Eastern cultures claim to have an emotional if not spiritual interdependence with their homes. That is why designers talk of “energies” and feng shui. Home is a living entity with a rather large say in our own emotional well-being. A 2008 study by Pew Research asked people where “in their heart” they considered to be home. Only 22 percent said it was where they currently lived. So I guess, until the rest of us get there, we’re just temporarily occupying spaces and making them feel like our own. And that doesn’t mean being the possessor of all the things— just the things that give us a sense of us . Some of my prized home/ design/living objects I’ve found in garage sales and in the generosity of friends; some of my prized objects I saw the value in, saved for, bought with a clenching and a gasp. I’ve been in multimillion dollar homes that took my breath away, and multimillion dollar homes that looked like the very concept of ersatz has vomited. When Claire first moved to San Diego, she and I lived in a rented one-bedroom that was the perfect amount of magic. Whether browsing the Cedros Design District or the Swap Meet design district, or whether it’s one of a kind of a billion of a kind—if it speaks to you, listen. For this Living & Design issue, we explored the way modern San Diego designers and creatives are building spaces that speak: one about creating a walkable future of neighborhoods in Carlsbad; another an absolute gawking of what one of the top architects can create with a rarefied budget; a creative company who designs the functional beauty of some of the city’s top restaurants; and a list of favorite home objects from the director of a modern art compound. For the cover, we asked San Diego graffiti artist Maxx Moses to show us his personal version of home in his trademark dreamy collage style. Raised in Yonkers, NY, he’s been local for 15 years and teaches local kids graffiti art in his studio in Encanto (read his story in “Sacred Spaces,” page 88). Hope the ideas in here help you find your own almost hairy chair.

great, kinda hairy cradle to nap or end days. And that old, plush rocking chair was the “home” within our home. At age seven, when I decided to cut my own hair the day before school photos—removing an oh- dear-god-sized chunk from the front, so that I looked like the lead singer of an off-brand new wave band— mom rocked me until I stopped crying. I can still think of that chair and feel an old centering. And I can still see the decorative carvings of the coffee table from my childhood. And the latte-colored hutch where mom kept her German beer steins— ornate chalices that looked like tiny castles built for monk booze. Still see the sheen from the glazed clay bowls we bought from a potter whose shop was up in the hills of Fallbrook, down some dirt road I can still hear crackling and popping under our tires. Our home was a modest one-story in suburban San Diego. It wasn’t an architectural wonder filled with expensive things. Just important things. Things that came into our house without any emotional power or meaning or baggage, and we slowly but surely imbued them with all of those things. Now, at our place in OB, high above the stairs there’s a stained glass depicting a seagull, aloft on a strong wind and beach-house cliches. Never fancied myself a stained glass guy. As a kid raised in church, makes me want to count my sins and juggle my guilts. But it casts the whole downstairs in a groovy baby blue light, and that’s the hue I now associate with our family, with my strongest love. We have a couch we loathe, but its scratchy discomfort has become part of our story. We have photos of New York, where my wife, Claire, is from. Her first concept of home. Point is, inhabiting a well-designed place isn’t a frilly concept. Environmental psychologists say our homes give us a vital sense of control, dependability. Every day we go out into the world and encounter all kinds of unpredictabilities and chaos. Home is the antidote for that guessing game. We know where the snacks are. We can navigate it without thinking; we’ve created our own supremely comfortable nooks within it. Anyone who’s been camping for days in the dirt without a mattress or warm water on command knows how ecstatic—near spiritual—it feels to make it home, shower, and climb into your side of the bed. Creating spaces is a pretty basic, ancient human instinct. The earliest evidence of humans decorating

TROY JOHNSON Chief Content Officer





Eradication. It can be a noble goal, or a petulant pipe dream. But can it really ever be achieved? We ask that of love — whether perceived as the disease or the cure — in Gabriel Garca M rquez’s 1985 novel, “Love in the Time of Cholera”, an ode to passion, persistence, and the passage of time through the lens of magical realism from this Nobel Prize-winning, Colombian author. We’re no strangers to disease in this pandemic age, but what if the virus is true love? Meet Patients Zero, Florentino and Fermina. Struck by a deep, youthful romance, their relationship is thwarted by the ultimate enemy: reason. Throughout the novel, M rquez traces the lovers’ individual paths to finding themselves and, perhaps, back to each other.

To join our book club, visit sdmag.com/bookclub. Then visit one of the participating local, indie bookstores to buy a copy of Orlando. Email a photo of your receipt to books @ sdmag.com. We’ll randomly select one winner each month who will get $300 to any one of CH Projects Establishments (Neighborhood, Born and Raised, Craft & Commerce, Ironside).

No one ever died thinking, “I should’ve read less.”



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POSTMASTER Please send address changes to: San Diego Magazine, PO Box 460266 Escondido, CA 92046-9800 SUBSCRIPTIONS 888-350-0963 This magazine is printed on paper from sustainable source mills that support all credible forest-certification programs. Please recycle this magazine. SDMAG.COM hello@sdmag.com OWNERS Claire and Troy Johnson FOUNDERS AND PUBLISHERS Gloria and Ed Self SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE LLC PARTNER Jim Fitzpatrick


SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE (ISSN 0734-6727), February 2023, Vol. 75, No. 2. SAN DIEGO magazine is published 12 times a year (monthly) by San Diego Magazine LLC, 1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800, 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 sandiegomagazine@pcspublink.com. Periodical postage paid at San Diego, CA, and additional mailing offices. San Diego magazine is a registered trademark of San Diego Magazine LLC. Copyright © 2011 by San Diego Magazine LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited. POSTMASTER: PLEASE SEND ADDRESS CHANGES TO SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE, PO Box 460266 Escondido, CA 92046-9800

FEBRUARY 2023 10

How to Overcome Excuses and Transform Your Finances We’re all guilty of it: the New Years’ Resolution Slump. We set lofty goals with wide-eyed determination but the distractions of daily life soon take hold. By February, we find ourselves falling back into the same routines with minimal forward progress. My question for you is: what will you do differently to prioritize your financial future and set yourself up for success? Your money goals for this year may include creating passive income, purchasing real estate, or starting a business. Perhaps you’re thinking about retirement or just want more freedom with your time. Do you feel confident your financial approach can get you there? Or, could you use some help to reset your trajectory? Forget the Resolutions, Create Some

Elisabeth Dawson, Author & CEO of Copia Wealth Managment


STOP MINDLESS SPENDING: Be present with your pocketbook. Shelling out a few bucks here and there may seem harmless but it adds up quickly. Train yourself to ask these questions: Is this in line with my financial goals, values, and priorities? Do I actually need this? How long will I use it? Can I find it cheaper? PRIORITIZE YOUR FINANCIAL EDUCATION. Navigating the secrets of finance can be challenging, so surround yourself with people who can teach you how lost opportunity costs are compromising your efforts to create wealth. Learn about hidden fees and expenses that are

Here are four financial lifehacks to start using in 2023 that make it easy to follow through with your wealth goals and help build a positive (and fun!) relationship with your money, so you can make this your most abundant year yet! RITUALIZE IT: Strategize your money with style. Create a pleasurable routine for evaluating your finances. Light a candle, play some music, make a cup of tea or coffee, and set aside a specific place and time — make it enjoyable. This form of self-care will spur good financial habits, and become something you look forward to regularly. 1

eating away at your money and how to avoid them.


BE ACCOUNTABLE: Your fiscal responsibility lies with you, but that doesn’t mean you’re alone. Find the right fit in a financial professional — one who prioritizes your best interests and is more than a glorified stockbroker collecting a commission. You want a comprehensive fiduciary, who can help you make financial decisions and project the impact on your future financial picture. Meet regularly to review your progress, celebrate milestones, and avoid potential pitfalls.


Transform your relationship with money — this year and beyond — with the teachings in my new book, Retirement By Design ! Learn how to structure your financial life with purpose, achieve your wish-list goals, avoid common pitfalls, and create financial abundance for your future. It’s available on Amazon or, visit retirementbydesignbook.com for more information.

LIC #0C72164, #0G81294 Copia Wealth Management & Insurance Services (619) 640-2622 | 2333 Camino Del Rio South, Suite 240, San Diego, CA 92108 ------ Investment advice offered through Copia Wealth Management Advisors, Inc. Copia Wealth Management Advisors, Inc. is a registered investment adviser.


…Do Us Part Del Mar-based stackable ring sensation Marrow Fine Jewelry released a white limited edition version of its popular “Til Death” enamel ring, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Meant to be worn alone or stacked alongside other enamel or gemstone rings, this particular piece is intended for the goth-at- heart. marrowfine.com

1 3

Local Stokes


February’s hot list brings us an “Anti- Valentine’s Day” celebration, a greener street sweeper, goth wedding bands, and more


The Kid’s Pajamas Viral and hilarious Instagram sensation (also our January cover star, sbsolly) Sholom Ber Solomon and his wife, Carli, sell children’s pajamas via their label, Tegan and Ollie . Named for the couple’s two daughters, the brand combines Sholom’s hand-drawn designs with hypoallergenic bamboo fabric, with offerings ranging in size from itty bitty babies to big kids, the latter of which is the most recent update to the brand. teganandollie.com

All Tied Up The Rope Collective — dedicated to practicing the art of bodily rope tying solo or with a partner—is hosting an all-abilities, “Anti-Valentine’s Day” rope class at its new Barrio Logan studio. This class will teach the foundations of rope, basic ties and rope handling skills, and a flow tie for a chance to get creative and sink into the moment. Couples, friends, and solo

Little Snacks, Big Brand

Tasty-but-healthy buckwheat snack and superfood-topping brand Lil Bucks began in Chicago, but its founder moved to San Diego in 2020, so it’s now HQed in South Park. Since the SD-relocation, the company has duplicated its revenue 20-fold and become a national brand: Look for it locally in Kroger, Whole Foods, Jimbo’s, and, most recently, Ralphs. lovelilbucks.com



flyers are all welcome. theropecollective.com

What’s in a Name? The city of San Diego launched an online naming contest for its new, all-electric street sweeper, which was decided this past fall. The public has duly dubbed the roving cleaner Sweep-E , and it debuted in December at Balboa Park to clean up for December Nights. Watch out for it around the city! sandiego.gov

12 FEBRUARY 2023

Covering 75


eauty, then and now. The May, 1958 cover of San Diego Mag . Model Anita Moritz, ravishing in purity gloves, showing off the newest fashions from France and

as the city's cultural institutions dug in their first footholds. For our 75 th Anniversary project—re- creating old covers using artists and voices that are vital to San Diego’s now—we asked “artist organizer baddie scholar” Kelsey O. Daniels, ravishing in purity gloves, to grace the steps of the Guild Hotel. The newly revamped historic

Italy that had just arrived in San Diego. She graced the steps of the Fine Arts Gallery (first opened in 1926, now San Diego Museum of Art)—

14 FEBRUARY 2023

February 2023 $6.95


property is a crucial part of a Downtown that is finding its own footing again, after being gutted during the pandemic. Shot by local photographer Jazzmine Taylor, Daniels is an electric poet, speaker, comedian, organizer, storyteller (she was recently the opening act for internationally known poet Rupi Kaur). On stage, the spotlight

trapped by her sculptural cheekbones, Daniels is a reaffirming and unrelenting acceptance of self. A rare voice, and a relatable one. “My work is love letters to all the different versions of me in the mirror,” she says. “We’re all navigating something and choosing yourself isn’t always easy, it’s not linear.” –TJ


Variety is the Spice of Life.

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 Romance abounds at the Andalusian Court , one of Palm Springs’ many charming boutique hotels.


secluded bungalows to hip and modern poolside hangouts, they cater to the spectrum of travelers’ tastes. For midcentury modern design aficionados, there’s no better place to stay than in one of Palm Springs’ authentically vintage or reimagined small hotels.

hen the coast is socked in with fog and damp and the work grind calls for a creative recharge,

smart Southern Californians head to Palm Springs to soak up its warm sun and creative, laid-back energy. With exceptional restaurants and shops, miles of hiking and bike trails, and an extensive display of public art, Palm Springs encourages you to create an escape that is all your own. To set the tone for your perfect midweek escape or long weekend adventure, find a boutique hotel that perfectly delivers the vibe you crave. While some hotels are perfect for partying (bachelorette bash, anyone?) others are better suited for quiet escapes and romantic getaways. There are even boutique hotels that cater to the LGBTQ and clothing-optional communities. If you want to take Fido with you, many small hotels welcome dogs. Palm Springs’ boutique hotels are known for their exceptional architectural and cultural diversity. From historic inns and quietly

Discover your stay at authenticpalmsprings.com

 Try The Weekend Palm Springs . There’s no place better than Palm Springs for midcentury desert modern design.

 The exclusive Santiago Resort in Palm Springs caters to men and is clothing optional.

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FEBRUARY 2023 18

Food & Drink MAIN DISH Fueling Up in the Gaslamp Party vibes are still alive and well in the downtown neighborhood, and increasingly good dining options can get you started

Hokkaido scallop ceviche at Lumi



bites like arancini along with $10 brick-oven pizzas on fermented sourdough crust. The central bar is the perfect spot to post up and watch the crowds walk by, or you can sink into a plush banquette for more privacy. With portions big enough to share, Lavo suits a date night or a dinner with friends before promenading on Fifth Avenue. 6 JAPANESE AFFINITY @ THE WHISKEY HOUSE —With 4,500 bottles—and counting— The Whiskey House was born out of a quest to become the Guinness Book of World Records holder for the most varieties of whiskey commercially available. It achieved this feat in 2019 and has continued to grow the collection ever since. From a flight of five Pappy Van Winkle tasters to an extensive cocktail collection of old fashioneds, Sazeracs, and whiskey sours, The Whiskey House takes its namesake spirit seriously. Especially notable is its Japanese Affinity, a take on a Manhattan with Suntory Toki, Kiuchi No Shizuku, red vermouth, and housemade barrel- aged bitters.

locals return again and again for its consistently impressive cuisine. Feast on the “Angry” Whole Grilled Snapper bursting with flavor from fermented chili and garlic butter, topped with Thai basil salad and served with paratha bread. 3 ROLLS ROYCE MAKI @ ZAMA — Whether you’re looking for an upbeat dinner spot before a night out or, in my case, wanting a dinner that can stand in as nightlife in lieu of going out to a club, Zama brings the heat. Soak in the rainforest atmosphere with twinkle lights raining down from the ceiling and listen to upbeat Argentinian music from the DJ booth while noshing on outlandish sushi rolls like the Rolls Royce Maki with softshell crab, Wagyu strips, avocado, cotija, truffle aioli, and mashed yuca. 4 CALIFORNIA BAGEL @ SPILL THE BEANS —Don’t come looking for knock-off New York bagels at Spill the Beans—chef Kevin Templeton decided to create a California bagel instead. The fluffy, chewy bagels were inspired by the hamburger buns at Barleymash, a fixture on Fifth and Market. The bagels are the perfect utensil for devouring house- whipped cream cheese in standout flavors like wasabi, ginger, and soy or white truffle and Parmesan. 5 APERITIVO @ LAVO SAN DIEGO —Apertivo (happy hour) at Lavo, Tao Group’s Italian concept, offers $8 cocktails and

aslamp Quarter isn’t particularly easy to navigate unless you live or work downtown knowing which one-way streets will get you where you need to go,

exactly when you can park alongside what color curbs, and, of course, identifying the best places to eat. I acquired this know-how after several years of living in the neighborhood, bartending in a notorious Gaslamp hot spot, working overtime at a few Comic-Cons to help pay the sky-high rent in my high-rise apartment, and falling asleep to pedicab tunes every night. I saw so many Gaslamp restaurants come and go while other, more mediocre ones remained, financed by a steady stream of corporate credit cards shuffling through the convention center. From the new and notable to long-standing favorites, here are some of the best dishes in Gaslamp: 1 SCALLOP CEVICHE @ LUMI —Lumi thrives on showstopping dishes swirling with smoke, the type of dinner that TikTok dreams are made of. But, even better, Lumi’s omakase menu at the sushi counter is quieter. It’s still beautiful, of course, but it’s also a journey that leans more into subtlety than spectacles. The proximity to the artists behind the food allows you to smell the torch charring the Wagyu and watch the grace with which warm rice transforms into nigiri. Look for the Peruvian influence weaved within the eight-course omakase, like Hokkaido scallop ceviche with ají amarillo leche de tigre and salsa criolla. 2 WHOLE GRILLED SNAPPER @ LIONFISH — For sustainable seafood in Gaslamp, look no further than Lionfish’s chef JoJo Ruiz, who excels at finding the best way to showcase his catch, whether pan-seared in delicious sauces or served raw and nearly naked. As the signature restaurant of the Pendry Hotel, Lionfish attracts its fair share of tourists, but

Listen Up! For more Main Dish, tune in to Happy Half Hour, our food and drink podcast, every week: sdmag.com/hhh .


Food & Drink HOT PLATES


MABEL’S GONE FISHING SWORDFISH SCHNITZEL The swordfish schnitzel at this buzzy, new-ish North Park seafood joint is layered with charred lemon and tonnato, needing not a drop more of anything, and sticking to the unofficial southern European cooking rule that only a few ingredients, well-sourced and prepared, are truly necessary for food to shine. –JB

Get Some SDM staff shouts out our favorite food finds this month



COMMON STOCK CHARRED CAULIFLOWER Hillcrest’s Common Stock is one spot in town that does flavorful veggies right. Fresh on its menu is charred

e eat. And drink. A lot. As a magazine staff we're constantly poking our heads into kitchens across the city. We tell the stories of the people in them. And along the way, we taste some pretty remarkable things. Enjoy this monthly hit list of dishes and drinks and places and things in the food and drink scene we think will bring you decent if not great amounts of joy. Turn it into a bingo card. Go nuts. W

cauliflower with mango vinaigrette,

pickled Fresno chiles, harissa cream, masala almonds, & coconut. –JB




Newer on the menu at the semi-outdoor- indoor La Jolla Italian restaurant is gemelli, a spiral pasta with clams, smoked butter, kale, bottarga (cured fish roe), and breadcrumbs. Tack on a chopped salad to start, paired with white vermouth, and you’ve got a perfect order. –JB


KIMCHEESE BURGER During the shutdowns, BP Little Italy’s GM and chef tinkered and tinkered with burgers and that R&D yielded this odd-delicious one: Angus beef patty, American cheese, kimchi, smoked pear (the secret weapon), charred scallion aioli, thick cut bacon on a brioche. Tangy, just sweet enough, smokey-delicious. –TJ


American barbeque fusion, sounds good, right? Turn that into a soup? Knock our fusion socks off. El Barbecue serves up this delicious winter warmer. Tender shredded brisket with just the right amount of smoke, swimming in a rich birria broth, with Udon noodles, cilantro, onions and radish slices. Order up a side of the Elote Pasta Salad and Hillbilly Beans to top off your meal at this Sherman Heights barbeque gem. –DM




Wormwood’s outdoor patio is the kind of dreamy date night vibe that makes me almost consider downloading Bumble again. It may also be why securing a reservation can be so difficult. But single or not, the French restaurant’s oysters, made with salted kiwi, lemon gel, and absinthe foam are better than… well ... –NM

20 FEBRUARY 2023





SOLOMON BAGEL COMPANY JALEPEÑO SHMEAR Salt bagel toasted with jalapeño

BROILED CHICKEN May come as a shock, but

cream cheese: That's my go-to for trying any bagel spot. Nail this simple order, and a bageleria can be trusted. Solomon's on 30 th St. in North Park does this classic right, with a very chewy, not-too-salty bagel and nice

most of the city’s best eats don’t have a million-dollar bar or an Instagram wall. Sometimes it’s a four-decade family business in a strip mall. Started in Lemon Grove in 1987 by Rafael and Costanza Lopez (now run by their son, Victor), EPG is the place for flame-broiled chicken. Perfectly browned, seasoned, and moist. –TJ

spice on the back end. Plus, the crew is friendly even amidst the busiest rush. Check out their bran and asiago cheese bagels too. –MH


Don’t let the food snobs tell you fried chicken sandwiches have had their moment. Pickles, slaw, brioche. Classics never go out of style. Located in Manolo Farmer’s Market near Ridgeview/Webster, Side Chick serves up $5 sandos in a world that often easily charges three times that. Their hot chick sando is a mouth melter. Not Nashville hot, lava hot. Grab a Jarritos. –MH

TASTY NOODLE HOUSE (CONVOY) SHANGHAI GRILLED PORK BUN Pork buns can sometimes come off as phoned-in… and expanding to eight locations in Southern California, (with one in Carlsbad on the way!), you’re never far from dough-enveloped pork. –SL 14 these do not. Cushy steamed dough, generous and fragrant pork filling, nutty seared sesame seeds crusting the bottom. I ate three in a span of five minutes and do not regret it one bit. Originally opened in Hacienda Heights


Calling out to the exquisite Florentine steak dinners found all over Tuscany, Mission Hills’ Cardellino does the tradition well with its bistecca fiorentina (from its in-house butcher), a few pastas, a crudo, dessert, and its delicious fire-roasted sides. Easily the best package dinner in town right now. –JB


BARBUSA PESTO GNOCCHI Now that Costco is 11


selling silos of pesto, I feel it’s been unfairly viewed as un-special food


(no offense to Costco, which deserves reverence til the end of days). A good pesto is an intoxicant, and chef Neeno Zizzo’s is just that—the vibrant, almost Comic-Con vibrant green—pillow gnocchi, pistachio pesto, panna (heavy Italian cream), roasted tomato. –TJ

What could be easily just another potato dish is instead a near-perfect recreation of the steakhouse classic: potato purée, in this case, akin to the famed version made popular by Joel Robuchon. Think: butter, cream, velvet, carbs. That’s all you need to know. –JB


One of the best dishes on cozy North Park spot Verbena Kitchen’s brunch menu is its shrimp and grits, which come loaded with spicy crustaceans laid atop creamy hominy with pickled pepper relish and a poached egg. –JB



I always feel just a little bit cooler stepping into Cloak & Petal in Little Italy, thanks to its graffitied walls and abandoned Tokyo subway feel. But it’s the melt-in-your- mouth Pork Belly Kakuni with a soft-boiled egg that is the real showstopper eliciting audible moans with each bite. The slow-cooked pork is finished off with hot mustard and chives. –NM



Food & Drink RESTAURANT REVIEW Net Positive

With Kingfisher in Golden Hill, a top chef tests the limits of the almighty fish sauce


The Perfect Order CONGEE


ish sauce is a hell of a magic trick. Unscrew the cap, and its bottle releases one of the most violent aromas in the modern food world. A real, “Oh-dear-god-what.” But that funky bottle of soda-colored, salty fermented fish liquid has been the secret sauce of cooks for more than 2,000 years. The earliest forms were found in ancient Greece and Rome, where they removed the bones and marinated the meat in salt and herbs, then squeezed it to release its concentrated serum. Called garum, that elixir sold for obscene F

amounts to the wealthiest foodies of Caesar’s realm. It was the truffle of the sea. Why? Because fish sauce is essentially pure liquid glutamates (the “G” in the unfairly maligned MSG)— the savory compound central to umami, one of the five basic tastes of the human mouth (and arguably the best one). Glutamates are the reason black truffles taste like a forest intoxicant. They’re why Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, and ribeyes inspire food lust. Use fish sauce as the base of a more complex sauce, or in a marinade or vinegary dip, and its seafood-case-

22 FEBRUARY 2023

LEFT The feast at Kingfisher starts in Vietnam and France, winds through the Philippines, China, even Baja. ABOVE The full bar serves craft cocktails highlighting some iconic Asian flavors (lemongrass, lychee, lime leaf, papaya, bitter melon).



ABOVE Ocio Design Group created a gilded bird cage, replete with gothy Golden Girls wallpaper. RIGHT Chef Jonathan Bautista puts the finishing touches on the congee—the greatest porridge in San Diego. OPPOSITE PAGE The scallops (center image) rest in a sauce that sounds ghastly on paper—pineapple and fish sauce—but in execution is a study in the ideal combo for a dish: salty, sweet, acidic. gone-wrong scent mellows. What’s left amplifies every flavor; adds a resonant meatiness to each bite. It’s a staple in many Asian kitchens and my own, and most Americans have tasted its charms whether they realize it or not, since Worcestershire is at its core, a bottle of anchovies. Kingfisher in Golden Hill is a showroom for fish sauce from chef Jonathan Bautista. It’s in the shrimp, poached in Thai flavors (makrut lime leaf, lemongrass) and tossed in fish sauce, lemon juice, palm sugar, and an un-shy amount of Thai chiles. It’s in the crispy chicken wings, that famed Viet specialty. They’re marinated for a full day in fish sauce, palm sugar, and black pepper, then dipped in a slurry of Sauternes, potato starch, and wonder flour—the result turns chicken wings into a creation that brings to mind the phrase “saucy kettle corn.” They are not yet serving fish sauce Negronis, though I have to guess it’s imminent. The indoor-outdoor space is in Golden Hill, looking west over East Village and downtown. It’s the gray box around the corner from the Cricket Wireless store, an elegant improv of a space lined in brass. Inside, the wallpaper is floor-to-ceiling flowers and tropical green and lime green with some pink petals—a motif I’m calling Golden Girls goth.





you see the connection in the beef tartare, a French- Polynesian classic. It’s said to have originated with Genghis Khan, whose army was too busy conquering things to pause and cook their meat. Kingfisher gives it a fresh spin by swapping out English fish sauce (ahem, Worcestershire) for the various Asian versions, which are more elegant, less doctored, and more fish-forward. The egg yolk is cured in the fish sauce, the raw beef tossed with Thai chiles and herbs, and bitter greens, then given a Pop Rocks texture with puffed quinoa and crispy shallots. Somewhere in Bautista’s kitchen, there is a lever. When pulled, the trap door in the ceiling releases the herbs. It rains mint here. Tiny rainforests of basil. This pile of flavor leaves is one of my favorite signature markers of Vietnamese food (think about the fresh garden that arrives with a bowl of ph ố ). Kingfisher’s owners—the Phan family, who also own beloved-local restaurant, Crab Hut—have posited the concept as modern Vietnamese. But it’s also a bit Filipino and any (mostly East Asian) influence the kitchen sees fit to incorporate.

This place is also a prime example of a welcome trend in San Diego: Asian and Mexican chefs and those from other non-European/Western cultures who learned to cook in well-regarded French-Californian kitchens taking their training and applying it to the food they grew up eating. For decades, French was just about the only cuisine that seemed available for serious chefs in the U.S., so it became an established training ground. In Kingfisher’s case, Bautista is Filipino, and he was the chef de cuisine of George’s at the Cove. Tara Monsod is doing the same at Animae, and Wormwood’s success hinges on the chefs spiking Baja into the food of central France (the cream-saucy part, like Nouvelle Aquitaine). Hell, zoom out a little more and find the trend has wider legs in our region. The entire Valle de Guadalupe and its restaurants came up via this very concept—chefs like Jair Téllez of Laja, Roberto Alcocer of Malva (and Valle Oceanside), and David Castro Hussong of Fauna are all French-trained, as are others in Baja. French-Asian food gave the world one of its best sandwiches (bánh mì, which combines French liver paté with Vietnamese pickled veggies). At Kingfisher,

ABOVE This sells out every night—a Peking/ Mallard hybrid duck, dry-aged in house for two weeks, then glazed with palm sugar and pepper.



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ABOVE Fall salad with Asian pears, roasted golden beets, radish, butternut squash vinaigrette, whipped Laughing Cow Cheese, rice powder, lemon verbena and Thai basil. Whew. BELOW Kingfisher’s Vietnamese coffee flan, lighter than the Mexican version most locals know, with Maldon salt-miso cream and coffee syrup.

At the long, oval bar anchoring the center, there are craft cocktails with various Asian riffs, like a Vietnamese Spritz with jujube and lychee; a gin sour with banana and lemongrass; a “Saigon Moped” with gin, debittered bitter melon, sesame leaf, and lime. The smoked duck is the marquee entree that sells out every night—dry-aged for two weeks, glazed with palm sugar and pepper, sliced out on a massive dish, with enough salty- sweet meat to feed four. I’ve had it perfect and I’ve had it a tad dry. The diver scallops are tragically good, lightly poached in salt water, then served in a broth made of pineapple juice and fish sauce. That combo sounds like a prank, I realize. But break down the elements—sweet, salty, acidic—and that’s the formula for most perfect dishes on the planet. A dish of roasted eggplant shines on a duo of sauces—a vegan seaweed- mushroom XO sauce and vegan demi. The biggest hit of the menu, though, is the porridge. Bautista’s congee. Asian grits. A humble dish that many remember eating their whole lives, but never like this. At the risk of offending moms the world over, Bautista’s does what some of the best restaurants do: take a dish you have an emotional connection with and make it better than you ever remembered. His rice porridge is topped with chanterelles, crispy garlic, garlic chives, egg yolk for richness, and housemade sambal. Mix it up. It’s soul-resuscitating stuff. My chief complaint about Kingfisher has to be the thing that makes it so compelling—yeah, the fish sauce. With great power comes great responsibility. Like anything with such a potent taste (truffles, kimchi, blue cheese), it can be a tad exhausting.

For dessert, Bautista does a riff on a silky jiggler almost every culture has a version of: flan. Mexican versions tend to be heavy, with condensed milk; the Vietnamese version is light, with Filipino flan right in the middle. Kingfisher’s Vietnamese coffee flan splits the difference between the latter two, resting the custard in a pool of coffee syrup with a quenelle of Maldon salt-miso cream. Light and dark in the same bite. One thing’s for sure. The arrival of this restaurant has kicked off a very important question: What is the best restaurant located in a strip mall next to a 7-Eleven? With both Kingfisher and Sushi Ota, the city’s Slurpee-adjacent food scene has never been so alive.

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palmdesertfoodandwine.com Join us for a spectacular culinary experience featuring a roster of celebrity and local chefs, the James Beard Gourmet Four-Course Luncheon, Saturday and Sunday Grand Tastings, Sunday Brunch, Celebrity Chef Reception, cooking demonstrations on two stages, book signings, and so much more! Calling All Food & Wine Lovers

Arts & Culture ARTS

With The Black Iris Project, Jeremy McQueen brings Black stories to the stage Tick, Tick, Bloom



e have Andrew Lloyd Webber to thank— partially. Not for Cats . Nor for Anne Hathaway’s Oscar-winning performance as Fantine. Not even for allowing a helicopter

to be a line item in a set designer’s budget. ( Miss Saigon if you’re keeping score.) We thank Webber for Jeremy McQueen and the hope, awe, and sheer determination that a performance of Phantom of the Opera inspired in the young Black boy from Southeast San Diego some odd decades ago. This determination produced a lush career in support of Black artists and Black stories, ushered by McQueen’s ballet collaborative, The Black Iris Project, which makes its San Diego debut February 8 at the Balboa Theatre. McQueen, a 2004 graduate of the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts; seasoned Broadway performer; Emmy-winning producer, director, and choreographer; and founding artist director of The Black Iris Project, reflects on that first brush with theater. “We sat [in] the last row of the balcony, so high up that we could rent binoculars,” the 36-year-old says. “I practically had them glued to my face the entire time. I just knew that space provided so much comfort for me.” That comfort led to discipline, a virtue not unknown to the young thespian. His first love was music; he played violin from the age of five. He eventually traded in his violin bow for toe shoes as dance became his preferred medium. Spurred on by the New York success stories of some of the BIPOC alumni of his high school, he landed there himself, with those classic Broadway dreams, but also because McQueen “craved for opportunities that had more diversity,” he says. In a self-professed “elite bubble,” he started off at the venerable Ailey School, finding the diversity he sought with “so many other Black men that looked like me,” he notes. Broadway was a different story. “I really saw the tokenization and the lack of diversity that exists,” McQueen says. After roles in Wicked as one of two Black performers and a stint in In The Heights where a white director hired a white dialect coach in order to make him sound “more

TOP "WILD,” one show performed by ballet collaborative The Black Iris Project, depicts juvenile Incarceration. BOTTOM The second performance, “A Mother’s Rite,” deals with police violence.

like LL Cool J,” he remembers, it was time to seek out authenticity and diversity—or, in McQueen’s case, to create it himself. “My favorite quote is a quote by Nina Simone that says, ‘Art is meant to reflect the times,’” McQueen muses. The Black Iris Project, focused on “harnessing the Black community’s inherent creative spirit,” is the vehicle to do just that. The two pieces to be performed at the Balboa are “WILD” and “A Mother’s Rite,” which take on juvenile incarceration and police violence, respectively. Audiences should expect to see “a forward way of expanding the ballet vernacular,” according to McQueen, through all elements of theater, including music, movement, and social mission. “I am the type of person that doesn’t like to wait for someone else to be the change. I try to do what I can to light a match and get a fire going to help build the city,” he says. “I hope that my presence in San Diego will help inspire folks to create an even more diverse, equitable, and inclusive theater, dance, and music scene in San Diego.”


Arts & Culture MUSIC

How a Kensington studio made it to the biggest games on the planet Score! BY JEFF TERICH


trio of frogs croaking for pilsners. Mean Joe Greene tossing a young fan his jersey. “Where’s the beef?” All people have their favorite Super Bowl commercial, the likes of which draw nearly

“It’s a really strange thing to present a piece of music that you feel really strongly about and then have people shoot it down or say they like it and then their boss doesn’t like it,” he says. They made progress quickly—the proof is in the portfolio. Though they’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. In 2006, they moved from their downtown location to Kensington where they’ve remained since, and while they had a handful of in-house composers during the 2000s, after some lean years in 2008 and 2009 during the economic downturn, Singing Serpent, along with many other studios at the time, moved toward a model of enlisting freelance musicians for its projects. The company’s slate of work has remained busy since, including some fairly unconventional projects that appeal to the punk rocker in Galloway. For the 2022 World Cup, soccer magazine Howler approached Galloway and Singing Serpent’s in-house engineer Ben Moore to record Group of Death, aka San Diego heavy metal band Beekeeper performing irreverent and topical rippers about the Qatar World Cup. “You have one of the most controversial World Cups ever, and everyone knows it,” Galloway says. “And, like, the world’s coming together to celebrate, and yet everyone is aware of all the dissonance around it. The idea was, ‘Why don’t we get a metal band and call them the Group of Death and record these songs that are going to be specifically around all the gnarliness of this World Cup .’ Our studio just turned into a metal cave for three days.” Singing Serpent has weathered a great deal of change over the years, including opening satellite studios in New York and Richmond, and learning how to turn around a project on a tight, 48-hour deadline. But amid the evolution, one thing remains the same for Galloway: This is still his dream job. “It’s taken a completely different shade than it did in the early 2000s,” he says. “The collaboration is different, but it’s still fun—I still wake up thinking, I get to do this for a living! ”

as many viewers as the game itself. Those ads can be career- making for institutions like San Diego’s Singing Serpent Studios, which has been providing music and sound design for television commercials for more than 20 years. Just two years after opening, the studio earned its first opportunity to score a Super Bowl commercial of its own. “The one that really put us on the map was for Subway back in 2002,” says Singing Serpent owner and founder Glen Galloway. “The campaign was that Subway is your good deed for the day—because it’s healthy—so now you can do whatever. There’s a scene where a dad is flying a kite with his kid by a lake, and this guy just cuts the kite string with scissors. “It was cool,” he continues. “Just to be not even two years old as a company and see your music in a Super Bowl commercial. That was a real shot in the arm.” Singing Serpent has composed and recorded music for a long list of major clients over the years, soundtracking recognizable ads like Progressive Insurance spots starring Ed Helms and Uber Eats commercials featuring Mark Hammill and Sir Patrick Stewart. Not to mention Super Bowl–aired commercials for the likes of Taco Bell and Butterfinger. Singing Serpent also records music outside of advertising, having hosted a number of bands over the years, including No Knife, Hot Snakes, and Angels & Airwaves. When Galloway began his career writing jingles in the ’90s with then-partner Rafter Roberts (who now runs his own studio, Rad Lazer), he was touring heavily with his band, Trumans Water. But as a new parent with a young son, he sought something more grounded, first getting involved on another creative team before opening his own studio. In the early days, however, Galloway and Roberts found the process of presenting their compositions to executives took some getting used to.

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