When my friends asked me if I was going to Los Angeles to see my mom for Mother's Day, I said no. My mother, somewhat a cynic, isn't interested in this made-up, highly commercial day. She believes, as do I, that it's important to be nice every day, not just once a year. This week I explore some options beyond candy and flowers as a way to celebrate mom or any special woman in your life this Sunday-or any day, for that matter.
Surprise mom and go wine tasting. You need not spend time driving to one of our local wineries when San Diego is home to a number of good wine merchants all with knowledgeable salespeople. For starters, pop into Vintage Wines on Saturday, May 13, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., to taste six chardonnays from around the world, all for $5. 6904 Miramar Road, Suite 101, 858-549-2112. www.vintagewinessd.com.
If chardonnay isn't your thing, also on Saturday, from 2 to 5 p.m., Jonathan's Market in La Jolla hosts Frog's Leap founder and winemaker John Williams. He buys only organic grapes and uses traditional winemaking techniques to make wines you can sample for $20, including sauvignon blanc, two cabernets, merlot, syrah and zinfandel. 7611 Fay Ave., La Jolla. For reservations, call 858-459-2677.
Downtown at the Wine Bank, David Derby suggests a true Moscato d'Asti as a nice drink to finish any meal. This natural sparkling wine with a tiny bit of fizz, a slightly floral nose and, most important for mom, a low alcohol content (5 to 6 percent), is clean on the palate and not sweet or syrupy. At $10 to $15 a bottle, it makes an unusual gift for mom to share with friends. 353 Fifth Ave., Downtown, 619-234-7487.
Wine dinners are a terrific way to spend time with mom, and Bacchus Wine Market has one of the more unique versions. On Wednesday, May 17, owner Francesco Pinzauti will cook for just 17 lucky souls who'll cozily eat at one big square table in order to talk and enjoy his five-course menu of regional Italian foods paired with Italian wines, for $60 (tax included). 647 G St., Downtown, 619-236-0005. www.bacchuswinemarket.com. Almost around the corner, on May 18, The Palm features a dinner with Leal Vineyards' owner Frank Leal for $75, plus tax and gratuity. 615 J St., Downtown, 619-702-6500. www.thepalm.com.
Drive up the coast a bit and do brunch on Sunday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Sbicca or Meritage and choose from the regular à la carte menu or such special dishes as Louisiana crabcake benedict with poached eggs and chipotle hollandaise; smoked salmon scramble with capers, diced red onion, bagel, whipped herb cream cheese and fruit; or Grand Marnier french toast stuffed with apricot preserves and cream cheese with maple syrup. Entrées from $9 to $16. Sbicca, 215 15th St., Del Mar, 858-481-1001. www.sbiccabistro.com. Meritage, 897 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, 760-634-3350. www.meritage1.com.
In Hillcrest, Terra Restaurant & Bar owner/chef Jeff Rossman offers a $32 brunch with seating at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m, and a menu with a wide variety of entrées, including brisket and scrambled eggs or sliced Colorado lamb sirloin and a luscious chocolate pyramid for your sweet tooth. 1270 Cleveland Ave., in the Uptown Shopping Center, next to Trader Joe's, 619-293-7088. www.terrasd.com.
And up in Carlsbad, the historic Victorian mansion fomerly called Niemans has been redone and renamed Ocean House. It features the domed, round Palm Room with hardwood floors and a wraparound veranda. Mom and the entire family can choose from prime rib, lamb and pork tenderloin, an omelet bar, a waffle bar, eggs benedict, sausage and bacon, freshly made tortillas and fajitas, and pies and cakes. Mother's Day Brunch from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. is $39.95 for ages 16 and up, $24.95 for ages 12 to 16, $9.95 for ages 6 to 12 and $3.95 for the little ones. Reservations are a must. 300 Carlsbad Village Drive, 760-729-4131. www.oceanhousecarlsbad.com.
Two new restaurants that serve dinner only:
1500 Ocean at the Del with Chef Jason Shaeffer at the helm. The food-such as honey-lime cured yellowtail with avocado mousse, jicama, radish and sweet jalapeno jelly or roasted California lamb porterhouse with stewed fennel, marble potatoes, tomato and black olives-fits well with the drop-dead view of the sand, palm trees and ocean. 1500 Orange Ave., Coronado, 619-522-8490. www.hoteldel.com.
Up in Solana Beach at Blanca, Wade Hageman oversees the kitchen and among his menu items you'll find house-smoked sturgeon with freshly grated horseradish and American caviar, and Brandt Farms natural beef filet with wild mushroom cannelloni, sautéed spinach and a pinot noir reduction. No view, but a gorgeous, comfortable wood-accented contemporary room. 437 S. Highway 101, Solana Beach, 858-792-0072. Write to marcie[at]5dollarchef[dot]com or editor[at]sdcitybeat[dot]com.