Best effort by a sommelier to bring wine to the people
In order to get the full experience of wine—the smell, the taste, even the feel—Ted Glennon wants you to do this: Take a drink, but don't swallow. Tilt your head slightly forward (yes, forward) so that the wine settles in the front of your mouth. Then suck in some air, gently, and swish the wine around your mouth. If you do it right—and it's quite a skill to master—you get the full the sensory Pow! of the wine.
“Every step of a chemical reaction that's happening in your mouth,” Glennon points out.
Glennon's the wine director of Eno, a wine bar located among the shops that line the outside of the Hotel del Coronado. To some extent, it's what you'd expect from a wine bar at the Hotel del—there are $25 glasses of wine on the menu and $300 bottles, selected by a guy who's poised to become a master sommelier, one of roughly 140 in the world.
But Glennon's got a bit of a rebellious streak. At 28, he hasn't forgotten his roots—he may have managed some of the area's finer restaurants (Nine-Ten and Arterra), but he got his start washing dishes in a Mojave Desert restaurant at age 13. On off nights, he likes to hang out at the Tower Bar in City Heights (where he met his fiancée), and he recently remarked to a horrified food writer that one of his new finds was a great $5 bottle of Rose. To Glennon, it's not about a bottle's price tag or accolades—he'd much rather chat with a customer about what sorts of memories a sniff or a sip of wine elicits than what's hot, hip and happening in the world of wines. He eschews wine snobbery; rather, it's all about reclaiming and appreciating wine's populist beginnings.“It connects you to the history of the planet,” he says. “It's been part of the daily human diet as long as civilization's been around.”
On Tuesdays, Eno offers a sampling of 10 wines for $10, and once a month, Glennon organizes “Eno-versity,” where attendees ($35 per person) get a solid lesson in varietals, pairings and wine history. To find out about upcoming classes, go to www.enowine rooms.com/enoversity.—Kelly Davis
Best places to think
These places have two things in common: You gotta do some walking to get there, and a nice place to sit is your reward.
Chula Vista Nature Center: Set out on the walking trails toward the bay and explore the ruins of the gunpowder plant that was in operation during WWII.
Julian Pioneer Cemetery: Take the “Casket Walk” up the hill and reflect on what it must have been like in the 1870s when the hills were alive with Gold Fever.
Sweetwater Reserve: When the Spaniards arrived, they booted the Indians off their land to pasture their horses. Now the land is covered with real estate and golf courses. Except here.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve: Arrive early for the free beach parking, climb the hill and explore eight miles of trails, many with breathtaking views. Decide if you're at the end of California or the beginning of the Pacific (or vice versa) and release your thoughts into the wild.—Jim Ruland
Best designated driver / taxi service
One maddening thing about San Diego is the lack of convenient public transport when trying to attempt to bar crawl or just get home safely after a wine-soaked meal. So, it's JohnnyCab to the rescue. John Hamersma runs an Orange Cab and two town cars out of his office on India Street, making his car service ideal for post-Starlite pick-ups, though he'll come get you anywhere in the metro area. He's super-friendly, his cabs are clean and his drivers are non-creepy. Best of all, he offers discounts to hard-working office and service-industry folk. Program his number (619-920-0469) into your phone right now, so you'll have it for the weekend.—Candice Woo
Best local authors on the verge
You might be familiar with Geoff Bouvier's cover stories for the San Diego Reader, but his poetry collection, Living Room, is a marvel.
As you read this, Chula Vista native and outspoken poetess Lizz Huerta is probably celebrating the release of her latest chapbook, half life of memory, with drink and dance and song.
Harold Jaffe, author of 14 novels and “docu-fictions,” teaches at SDSU, edits Fiction International and has won countless awards. Enough said. Although still in high school, Alahnna Marie Cruz Balmeo's whimsical 'zines and heartfelt poems bespeak a maturity that makes her a writer to watch. —Jim Ruland
Best place to find a hard-to-find book
My book club wanted to read Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics. Barnes & Noble didn't have it, nor did Borders. The only copy in the San Diego Public Library collection had been loaned—same with the UCSD library. SDSU didn't have one. Amazon.com didn't sell it new. Only one place left: D.G. Wills Books (7461 Girard Ave. in La Jolla, www.dgwillsbooks.com).
Sure, it's got a hundredth of the floor space of a chain store, and some of that space is wasted on folding chairs for the numerous author appearances (from Norman Mailer to Billy Collins) and some of it on a manual printing press and old-timey gas pump. But all the rest of that tiny space is devoted to books: tall books, small books, new books, used books. Great towers of books lean on other books for support—shelves so close to the wall you have to squeeze in sideways to peruse them. Where else is there a section for “misc. music” and “books on books”? Where else would you find a field guide to deep-sea snails? Where else would you find, right in the exact spot it belongs, in fiction, under “C,” a brand new copy of Cosmicomics? Nowhere, that's where. — Eric Wolff
Best (and greenest) way to cook a Thanksgiving feast
Started in February, the San Diego Solar Cooking Club (www.sdsolarcooking.org) has been spreading the word on the practicality of solar-powered ovens at workshops and sustainable-energy fairs.
“It's like cooking in a Crock-Pot,” club member Jim La Joie said as he checked the temperature of one of the ovens cooking a 6-pound turkey breast during a recent solar energy event held at
Spanish Landing Park. “Baked potatoes are easy; rice is even easier. Pumpkin pie, vegetables—pretty much all the fixin's bake nicely.”
La Joie's own designs have made it all the way to Darfur and Sudan via an outreach group called Solar Cookers International in an effort to alleviate the needs of women living in remote settlements.
Sharon Clausson makes her ovens out of discarded cardboard boxes she finds at Costco, reflective metalized film she purchased on eBay and thermometers she gets at the 99-cent store. Since joining the group in June, she's completed 17 ovens—some of which reach temperatures of 475 degrees—as well as a solar barbecue.
“Before John McCain came along, I used to be known as ‘The Maverick,'” she said.—Enrique Limon
Best wine bar east of the 805When like-minded nerds invite me on a night out, I don my metaphorical specs, take a peek at my fancy degree and meet them where the notes in my glass are as complex as the thoughts in my head. That place is GIO (8384 La Mesa Blvd., www.giorestaurant.net).
Owner Gabe Giordano has transformed what was once the Village Garden Restaurant into an urban eatery, wine and espresso bar in La Mesa. It boasts stylish touches and a menu fit for the Clintons and LL Cool J (whom chef John Medall's prepared meals for in the past). The wine menu includes “World Tours”— wine-and-cheese pairings from different regions like “Aussie,” “Latin” and “French,” which you can enjoy to the tune of jazz performances by the likes of the only Gilbert Castellanos.
Despite its classy vibe, GIO's still got a casual bent that befits its east-of-downtown location. Mid-way through my table's analysis of the presidential debate, we caught a bit of a neighboring table's conversation: “Let's talk about yogurt,” one of them said. “Those Yoplait Whips are awesome.” —Megan Burks Best intelligent dance music
On the first Saturday of every month, inside the darkened den that is the castle-and-chess-themed Kadan Club (4696 30th St., Normal Heights), Walker Holland, Miguel Vega and Angelo Gastelum can be found reveling at the site of massive amounts of electronic gear.
“The more hardware and wires the better,” says Holland, the driving force behind BrokenBeat (www.brokenbeat.com), the name for both a club night featuring live experimental electronic music and visuals and the network of artists who create it.
For almost a decade, Holland and his collaborators have been putting on events in San Diego that spotlight the kind of electronic music you won't find in Downtown clubs. A far cry from the repetitive beat-heavy house or trance music most people think of when they hear the words “electronic music,” BrokenBeat is all about “intelligent dance music” (IDM), specifically “glitch,” (a subgenre of experimental electronic music) and the live mixing and retooling of electronic-music tracks. If done correctly, it's the kind of music that can get even the most mainstream-minded bar-goer on the dance floor.
“Angelo here is a great example of that,” says Vega, who's recently joined BrokenBeat as the visual jockey (VJ) and who schedules other VJs to provide the live visuals for the night at Kadan. “When Angelo plays, everyone is on the dance floor.”
The typical lineup for a BrokenBeat night is three electronic DJs, one live electronic-music artist and one or two VJs who improvise with the music and fill three screens hanging on the walls of Kadan with graphics, live video feeds, animation and more.
“I've had nights where I've just stepped back and looked at it and thought, Wow, that's cool,” Holland says. “Seeing people dancing inside those three screens, it's like they're dancing inside a giant television.”
“And the best part,” Gastelum adds, “is that we don't charge. This is something we do out of love.”—Kinsee Morlan
Best place to pick up a book on Icelandic street art
Ducky Waddles Emporium abides by its hometown's unofficial motto: “Keep Leucadia funky.” The store features an eclectic collection of books and art that spans genres, from low-brow and pop surrealism to folk-art from Latin America. The shop (414 N. Coast Hwy. 101, www.duckywaddles.com) often hosts—though with no specific schedule to speak of—“salon events” with local artists and writers and has done gallery shows with graffiti-artist icon Shepard Fairey. A gallery show is planned with Fairey soon, but details are funky.—Jared Mason
When any of the 24 moving bones of the spinal column gets out of whack, it can seriously mess up your health, causing anything from back pain to headaches. By using specific force in a precise direction (an adjustment), chiropractors can improve spinal function. While some in the traditional-medicine camp still talk smack about this alternative therapy, anyone who's ever experienced a good adjustment—and the relief it can bring—knows the truth: It works.
North Park's Chiropractique Urban Retreat (2301 El Cajon Blvd., www.chiropractique.com) feels more like a spa than a medical office. In the chicly appointed waiting room (herbal tea, great magazines, the sound of crashing ocean waves), patients relax in powerful leather massage chairs or on a hydrotherapy bed (you'll want one at home). But the real draw of Chiropractique is owner Dr. Beau Casey, a handsome young chiropractor with an endearingly flamboyant sense of humor. Dr. Beau always takes the time to explain in detail what he's doing and how it will affect your body and health. Since he's holding your head in his hands—literally—that combination of funny and smart is pretty freekin' fabulous.—AnnaMaria Stephens
Best way to avoid getting a DUI
Recent SDSU grad Jonathan Ohana was fed up with his 9-to-5, job so he took matters into his own hands and started a venture inspired by the loss of a family friend in an alcohol-related crash. The result was Alco-Checkpoint (www.alcocheckpoint.com, a wall-mounted breathalyzer machine at 11 local bars (and counting).
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, an estimated 12,998 people died in alcohol-related crashes in 2007, and three in every 10 Americans will be involved in a drunk-driving-related crash sometime in their lives.
One dollar gets you a disposable straw to blow into; blood-alcohol results are shown on a bright, color-coded digital display. Ohana says the result is accurate and “gives [people] a preemptive moment to think about getting in a car and driving or not.” —Enrique Limon
Best new film series
It's been a very good year for San Diego film fans. Plenty of bars, cafés and restaurants have started their own weekly film series, screening movies inside and outside the mainstream. Not a week goes by that there isn't something great to see in town that isn't in the multiplexes. But of all the up-and-comers, we're most impressed by what ArtPower! Film (www.artpwr.com), the new wing of the UCSD arts organization, has put together.
Sure, they have the advantages of budget and square-footage, including The Loft, UCSD's sweet new space, but one of the things that makes ArtPower! Film cool is that part of curator Rebecca Webb's mandate is to foster the work of UCSD students and to elevate the UCSD film program.
Not only will director Brett Morgan present his latest film, Chicago 10, next April 16, and not only did editor Oren Sarch recently explain how Darren Aronofsky's Pi came together, but last year's call for entries for ArtPower! Film's inaugural student film festival garnered a solid 40 films, and Webb is hoping for even more for the 2009 festival, the highlights of which will screen on May 21.
Other upcoming highlights include a screening of Peter Greenaway's gorgeous The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, complete with a meal made up of chow inspired by the film, and another edition of “Press Rewind,” a collection of student films from now-famous directors such as Paul Thomas Anderson, Joel Cohen, Todd Haynes and Wes Anderson.—Anders Wright
Best political retort
“Fuck you, Steve”—San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.—Eric Wolff
Best nerd haven
Robert Scott is everything a good owner of a comic store should be: knowledgeable, nerdy and nice. And his store, Comickaze (5517 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.) is everything a good comic store should be: cluttered, cool and located in a strip mall where only serious comic fans can find it.—Kinsee Morlan
Best meat-free food in town
Being a vegetarian sometimes sucks, especially when you start being a good vegetarian instead of a cheating, lazy vegetarian. Example? If you're a veg-head who likes bloody marys and/or Gardetto's (those deliciously salty snack mixes), and you didn't already get the PETA memo, we're sorry to be the ones to inform you, but both those deliciously salty things have Worcestershire sauce in their ingredient lists and Worcestershire has anchovies, which fall into the living-things realm. Now, you could go on drinking bloody marys and eating Gardetto's and pull the ignorance card if another, stricter vegetarian calls you out, or you could follow our advice and seek out the following meat- and anchovy-free foods from a few of the best spots around town:
OK, so, the veggie burgers at The Corner Restaurant & Bar (369 10th Ave., Downtown, www.thecornersd.com) are the same Boca-brand you can buy at the grocery store, but what sets these meatless patties apart is your ability to stack anything you want on top. There's the delicious prefab “Hippie Burger,” with tomatoes, avocado and other veggie fare, but you can go with the made-to-order version and stack on blue cheese, mushrooms, caramelized onions and pretty much anything else. The fact that the burger's complemented by the tastiest sweet potato fries in town doesn't hurt.
We probably aren't the first, nor will we be the last, to tout the extraordinary flavor and yum-factor of the “Neatloaf” at Jyoti Bihanga (3351 Adams Ave. in Normal Heights, www.jyotibihanga.com). Whether in sandwich or full-dinner form, the convincing fake meatloaf will bring you back to pre-Babe days (damn that cute, compassion-inducing talking pig!) when your carnivorous desires were still being satisfied.
The award for best veggie-melt sandwich in town is a tossup. The first-prize ribbon should be split right in half and given to Cheers Deli & Liquor (6983 Navajo Road in San Carlos) and Marketplace Deli (2601 Fifth Ave., Bankers Hill). Both have the homemade, comfort-food-type feel that a good melt should have.
The India Princess (3925 Fourth Ave. in Hillcrest, www.indiaprincess.com) serves an all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. The palak paneer and korma deserve at least one half of one of the many plates you'll end up filling. (There are additional locations in San Marcos and Miramar.)
The Jalapeño Macaroni & Cheese at Neighborhood (777 G St., Downtown, www.neighborhoodsd.com) is so damn good, creamy and spicy you'll forget you're at a burger joint surrounded by a huge painting of a dude gnawing down on a flesh sandwich and a small painting of Jesus doing the same nasty thing.
The Garlic Cheddar & Stone Ruination IPA Soup at Stone World Bistro & Gardens (1999 Citracado Parkway in Escondido, www.stoneworldbistro.com) is worth the drive. The beer-cheese combo is so thick, filling and flavorful, just a cup of the stuff will quench your strongest of cheese needs.
Where else aside from Sipz Fusion Café (5501 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. and 9450 Scranton Road, www.sipz.com), the 100-percent vegetarian and mostly vegan Asian-fusion restaurant, can you find vegetarian Vietnamese pho? Nowhere.—Kinsee Morlan
Best use of french fry oil
It's been a whirlwind year for restaurateur Wolfgang Schlicht, co-owner owner of Tioli's Crazee Burger (4201 30th Street in North Park, www.tioliscrazeeburger.com). Last month, his joint took center stage on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives show, and now, after converting his 1982 Mercedes 300D Turbo to run on the restaurant's leftover oil, he can add “environmental innovator” to the menu.
Schlicht found local company Greasel My Diesel online (www.greaselmydiesel.com), and around $800 later had a lean, mean, grease-fueled machine. “The components are basically the same, except that I now have three filters—two regular and one that is heated to take away viscosity along with any traces of salt and flour,” he says.
Besides the 30 mpg, Schlicht's favorite thing about his conversion is the restaurant's signature french fry fragrance emitted by his car. “We get a whiff of him coming from a mile away,” said one Tioli's regular. “It's the only car on the road that smells like Parmesan cheese.”—Enrique Limon
Best pizza with a conscience
Recently opened in Hillcrest, Pizza Fusion (3827 Fifth Ave., www.pizzafusion.com) is a chain joint that not only uses organic ingredients and delivers (to Hillcrest, Bankers Hill, Little Italy, Downtown, Mission Hills, University Heights, Normal Heights, North Park and Kensington) its pizza in low-emission hybrid cars, but it also does what most businesses do not: It provides health insurance for part-time employees who work at least 20 hours a week. As for the grub, the BBQ chicken, the goat cheese and sun-dried tomato and the Seattle (bruschetta, basically) are most excellent pizza pies, and the pear and gorgonzola salad is dee-lish.—David Rolland