Feeding a Surf Diva
I went to surf camp in La Jolla, Calif., over Memorial Day Weekend. If you didn't know it before, I am now a certified diva. That is, a surf diva. I'm going to frame my certificate of achievement and hang it next to the official notices I received from the Fulbright Board for my fellowship to Japan three years ago and from the Pulitzer Committee for being part of the WSJ staff that covered 9/11.
Surfing is fantastic exercise that whips the upper body into shape. It also makes me hungry. Eileen tagged along with me on my surfing safari. She already knows how to surf, so she rented a board from Surf Diva and ventured on her own while I learned the proper way to paddle, jump and wipe out without hurting my head. We got so hungry after our first session at the beach that I suggested we walk a block from our hotel to a cool restaurant on Sixth Avenue in downtown San Diego. When we arrived at Cafe Cerise's doorstep, Eileen noticed that the restaurant's windows were papered over. I noticed a bunch of tattooed dudes drinking champagne at a sidewalk table in front of the place.
The leader of the pack was Jason, the former owner and chef of Cafe Cerise, who sold his liquor cache -- minus half a dozen bottles of champagne -- to another restaurant for some $500. His childhood pal offered Eileen and me a drink. We gladly accepted and picked the cars that Jason should try to hit with the cork from the bottles of bubbly.
The last time I ate at Cafe Cerise was in January 2006, when I was in San Diego to cover an action sports trade show. My friend Arturo took me there. If we had gone often to feast on the lamb chops and bourbon bread pudding, then perhaps Jason wouldn't have had to shutter his cute restaurant. This was what was remaining of the pop art decor inside.
Even though there has been much talk about the real estate boom in downtown San Diego, Jason said that there wasn't quite enough of a local population and interest to support his culinary dream. That's not to say that he didn't have fans. Besides Eileen and me, six other strangers walked up to Cafe Cerise that evening in hopes of supping on some of his cooking.
Jason offered to cook Eileen and me dinner at his friend's house. But we were too hungry to wait. So we walked the four blocks to Cafe Chloe, which is an old standby of mine in San Diego. I always try to eat there when I'm in town. This is the macaroni and cheese with pancetta, which I had previously raved about.
I ordered the steak frites with horseradish butter. Yes, I know that it's cliched to order this dish at a French bistro. But I've already had the moules frites, and the salad with smoked trout was offered only on the lunch menu. Besides, surfing made me hungry as a lumberjack.
Eileen had the black cod with purple cauliflower. I didn't quite get the bread crumbs but they were useful in sopping up the sauce.
Oh, you have to give credit to to the French for having je ne sais quoi when it comes to style.