Food and Drink Blotter: Dec. 2015

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

An inside source at Blush Ice Bar East + West Kitchen in the Gaslamp Quarter told San Diego Downtown News that six kitchen staffers quit their jobs the evening of Nov. 23 because of grievances they harbored toward the ownership. The reported exodus follows the abrupt departure earlier this month of former executive chef Daniel Barron, who said, “The kitchen was going in a different direction than the restaurant, which was heading more toward a nightclub/sports bar.”

Barron was replaced by Jimmy Tessier, who previously helmed the kitchen at Local Habit in Hillcrest until it suddenly closed in October.

Blush’s chef de cuisine, Ami Cisneros, was among the recent employees to leave the four-month-old restaurant. She posted news of her departure on Facebook the following day, stating, “I gave up so much to be part of this team,” while crediting Barron for “helping me grow immensely.”

When asked by phone about the employee walkouts, which allegedly included line and wok cooks, Blush co-owner Russ Fukushima immediately handed over our call to his marketing manager, Marie Daniels, who said she knew nothing about the matter. Daniels later sent an email stating, “Yes, they had a runner depart yesterday and one other kitchen staff. He [Fukushima] sees this as normal business operations and sees no need to comment on it any further.” 555 Market St., 619-501-9158.

Michael Skubic of Old Harborweb

A new state law has distiller Michael Skubic excited about the New Year. (Courtesy of Old Harbor Distilling Co.)

Michael Skubic of Old Harbor Distilling Co. in the East Village is ecstatic over the recent passage of the California Craft Distillers Act of 2015, which goes into effect Jan. 1. The new law lifts restrictions on state distillers, allowing them to conduct private tastings and events, and sell up to three bottles of spirits per consumer, per day. As a result, Skubic is putting the finishing touches on a bar inside his facility, and said it will be ready by the first of the year.

“We’ll now be much more like a brew pub rather than just a production facility,” he said. “The new bar will make it more comfortable to hang out here, and we’ll be able to do cocktails.”

Old Harbor’s product line currently features gin and Navy-strength rum, which are carried by nearly 150 bars, restaurants and liquor stores in San Diego County. Among the Downtown-area establishments where you can find them are Gaslamp Tavern, Rare Form, Juniper & Ivy, and Ironside Fish & Oyster.

Tours of Old Harbor Distilling Co. are conducted by reservation only at 5 and 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. 270 17th St., 619-630-7048.

The Nolenweb

The Nolen is Downtown’s newest rooftop patio. (Courtesy of Bay Bird Inc.)

The newly constructed Courtyard by Marriott Gaslamp/Convention Center hotel has opened a rooftop bar called The Nolen, named after landscape architect John Nolen, who assisted San Diego in its city planning throughout the early 1900s.

Perched on the 14th floor, and designed by San Diego-based Bluemotif Architecture, the 2,500-square-foot space features plush seating, fireplaces and graffiti-style artwork highlighting San Diego landmarks. The cocktail list pays homage to vintage favorites such as Boulevardiers, Old Fashioneds, Scofflaws and more. Noshes include salads and flatbreads. 453 Sixth Ave., 619-237-0678.

Chef Aron Schwartz of Marina Kitchen Restaurant & Bar snagged the “Chef of the Fest” title at this year’s San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival grand tasting, held late last month at Embarcadero Marina Park North. His winning dish was bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with aji chili vinaigrette, which beat out entrees made by four other finalists. Schwartz and his fellow competitors shared a purse of more than $50,000 in cash and prizes. 333 W. Harbor Drive, 619-699-8222.

Born and trained in France, and a past instructor at the San Diego Culinary Institute, Samuel Geffroy brings his culinary prowess to the table as the new executive chef at Blue Point Coastal Cuisine in the Gaslamp Quarter. Having worked in several prestigious kitchens throughout Europe, the talented toque also ran the kitchen for eight years at the former Tapenade Restaurant in La Jolla. His new menu items at Blue Point include yellow fin-octopus “duo” with Swiss chard fondant; wild Chilean sea bass with cilantro jasmine rice; and seared day boat scallops accompanied by ricotta gnocchi and red bell pepper sauce. 565 Fifth Ave., 619-233-6623.

Patrons of Jsix can opt to put themselves at the mercy of chef Christian Graves on any night of the week as he prepares on request five-course meals containing dishes you won’t find on the regular menu. The random dinners, which cost $65 per person, rely on whatever ingredients Graves has in the kitchen that day. 616 J St., 619-531-8744.

Cafe 222 The hangover breakfastweb

Café 222’s “hangover breakfast” is half price for well-dressed customers on New Year’s Day. (Courtesy of Wicked Creative)

Saunter into Café 222 in the Marina District on New Year’s Day (between 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.) still wearing your party dress or tuxedo from the previous night’s outing, and the eatery’s oversized “hangover breakfast” is half price. The meal, which will otherwise cost $15.95, includes a malted waffle topped with a pair of pancakes, eggs, sausage links and turkey bacon strips. 222 Island Ave., 619-236-9902.

—Frank Sabatini Jr can be reached at

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