Food & Wine

RAMONA WINERIES OPEN FOR OUTDOOR TASTINGS AND CURBSIDE PICKUP, STRUGGLE AMID PANDEMIC DISPARITIES

By Angela Kurysh

 

February 24, 2021 (Ramona) -- Virtual happy hours are among the innovations that wineries like Vineyard Grant James have rolled out during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has severely impacted the Ramona wine region in San Diego’s East County. 

With San Diego being in the state’s tier 1, or purple tier, businesses are currently being allowed to slowly re-open while following strict guidelines. Currently, wineries that serve food are allowed to offer outdoor tastings with social distancing, as well as takeout or curbside pickup, but not indoor service.

 

Susanne Sapier, owner of Vineyard Grant James in Ramona, California, and President of the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association, said, “I mean, you're open you're closed, you're open you're closed, so that's a really hard way to run a business.” 

 

Early in the pandemic, restaurants were allowed to operate while wineries were shut down which makes owners like Sapier question fairness of the rules. Now both can be open outdoors, but many restaurants are serving customers illegally indoors.  Sapier has been forced to choose to fully open to make a profit and risk the reputation of the business or follow the mandate and suffer financially. 


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DINE IN A BUBBLE BENEATH THE OAKS WITH YOUR VALENTINE FEB. 12-14 AT DESCANSO JUNCTION

By Miriam Raftery

 

February 7, 2021 (Descanso) – Looking for something special for your valentine?  Descanso Junction invites you to savor a private five-course meal by Master Chef Michael Wray – served up to you and your sweetheart in an intimate lighted bubble beneath oak trees.


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TERRA AMERICAN BISTRO OFFERS SUPERBOWL FOUR-PACKS TO GO

By Miriam Raftery

January 30, 2021 (San Diego)—The NFL Super Bowl is slated for Sunday, Feb.7. If you plan to watch the Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers matchup, Terra American Bistro is offering a “Super Bowl Pack for 4” to satisfy your food cravings.

The pack costs $49 and serves four. It comes complete with two pounds of wings with tangy BBQ sauce, 8 brisket sliders, queso fundido with black beans, chicken chorizo and cheddar plus freshly fried chips. You can also opt to order a mixed six-pack of beer.


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PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: WINTER BLACKBERRIES

January 15, 2021 (Mt. Helix) -- Global warming and climate change are affecting growing seasons.  ECM editor Miriam Raftery was surprised to find ripe blackberries in mid-January in her backyard on Mt. Helix in unincorporated La Mesa. Blackberries normally ripe in midsummer and go dormant in winter, but this vine never lost its leaves.

Several readers have shared that they were startled by mid-winter harvests of peppers and tomatoes this month.


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WEEKLY FREE MEAL PICKUPS FOR ALL CHILDREN AGES 2-18

By Miriam Raftery

January 9, 2021 (La Mesa) – Starting January 11, The La Mesa-Spring Valley School District will have curbside meal pickups on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 17 of its school campuses. (See list below).  The packs are available to all children ages 2-18, whether or not they are students in the district.

For more information, call (619) 668-5764 or visit www.LMSVSchools.org.  Below are the schools offering curbside meal pickups each Monday, excluding holidays:


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PASSAGES: WYATT OAKS WINERY CO-OWNER, PARTNER IN LA MESA WINE WORKS, DIES OF CANCER

East County News Service
 
January 8, 2021 (La Mesa) – Gavin McClain, the winemaker and co-owner of Wyatt Oaks Winery along with his wife, Stacy, has passed away of cancer.  He was a partner in La Mesa Wine Works, along with the owners of San Pasqual Winery.

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APPEALS COURT BLOCKS JUDGE’S RULING, ORDERS RESTAURANTS CLOSED AGAIN

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left:  Terra American Bistro, a farm to table eatery in San Diego just west of La Mesa, had moved outdoors but is now back to offering take-out taco Tuesdays and to-go Christmas dinners, among other offerings, as a result of the latest shutdown order.

December 19, 2020 (San Diego) – Beleaguered restaurant owners are once again ordered to shut down, after three justices on the Fourth District Court of Appeals on Friday issued a stay blocking an order issued Wednesday by Superior Court Judge Wohlfiel.  The Appeals Court, responding to an appeal filed by California’s Attorney General, found that Wohlfiel acted too broadly in expanding an order in a case filed by strip clubs to also include restaurants, which were not parties in the case.

The state argued that Wohlfiel’s order jeopardized the health of county residents by undermining public health orders aimed at curtailing spread of the disease at a time when the Southern California intensitve care units are full, with zero percent capacity.

Wohfiel has issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the state and county from enforcing COVID-19 shutdown orders at restaurants and strip clubs.  Many local restaurants swiftly responded by reopening for outdoor and in some cases, indoor dining.  But the reprieve proved short-lived; the Appeals Court action means that restaurants are once again ordered to shut down except for take-out and delivery services.


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SENATOR JONES JOINS BI-PARTISAN GROUP DEFENDING RESTAURANT EMPLOYEES

11 Senators urge that Governor “immediately reclassify the restaurant industry as critical infrastructure before even more damage is done to our communities.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Giardino Neighborhood Cucina in Lemon Grove, like many other restaurants, invested heavily in setting up outdoor dining, only to be closed down for all but takeout or delivery by the latest public health orders.

December 16, 2020 (Santee) – Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee) and ten other Senators sent a strongly worded letter to Governor Gavin Newsom on behalf of out of work restaurant employees and owners suffering during the state-ordered shutdown of indoor and outdoor dining throughout much of California.

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HUNDREDS OF SAN DIEGO FAMILIES TO RECEIVE MUCH NEEDED GROCERIES AT ROCK CHURCH EL CAJON AND CITY HEIGHTS FOOD DISTRIBUTION

Partnering with local businesses to connect resources with those in need

East County News Service

December 10, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- On Thursday, December 10 the Rock Church City Heights campus will also host a food distribution and on Tuesday, December 15th, the Rock Church East County campus will also host their food distribution. All events are free and open to the community.


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HOLIDAY COOKING DISASTERS TO AVOID

By Miriam Raftery
 
December 1, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – With many families avoiding holiday gatherings due to the pandemic and restaurants closed for indoor dining, some people not accustomed to preparing a Thanksgiving feast opted to attempt cooking at home. The rush to fix multiple dishes can lead to mistakes even by experienced chefs – and inexperience can lead to outright disasters. 
 
 
La Mesa resident Lori Kern posted on Facebook, “Ok, so let’s talk about our Thanksgiving dinner fails. This year mine wasn’t so bad. I blew up a cube of butter in the microwave. What did you do?"

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SAN DIEGO HUMANE SOCIETY OFFERS TIPS FOR A PET-FRIENDLY THANKSGIVING

East County News Service

November 23, 2020 (San Diego) - By keeping them safe, your pets will be as thankful for you as you are for them!

Thanksgiving can be a very food-centric holiday, but is it safe to share what you’re eating with your dog or cat? San Diego Humane Society has tips to help make this a safer celebration for everyone:

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DRIVE-THROUGH FOOD DISTRIBUTION FOR LEMON GROVE RESIDENTS

East County News Service
 
November 19, 2020 (Lemon Grove)—Lemon Grove residents can brighten their holiday season with free drive-through food distributions every other Saturday  from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, or while supplies last.  The next distribution will be this Saturday, Nov. 21.  The pickup site is at the recreation center, 3131 School Lane in Lemon Grove.
 
You must provide proof of residency in the city of Lemon Grove.  Food will be available to the first 240 vehicles; one family per vehicle.
 
Drivers and passengers should stay in your vehicle and be sure your trunk is clear so food can be loaded.

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‘TIS THE SEASON FOR HOLIDAY FAVORITES AT CASA DE PICO: TURKEY MOLE TAMALES, PUMPKIN FLAN AND MORE

East County News Service

Photo: Turkey Mole Tamales, courtesy of Bazaar del Mundo Restaurants.

November 19, 2020 (La Mesa) – This holiday season, Diane Powers’ award-winning Bazaar del Mundo Restaurants – Casa de Pico in La Mesa, Casa Guadalajara in Old Town, and Casa de Bandini in Carlsbad, are welcoming guests to enjoy special holiday dishes infused with authentic Mexican flavors. Each restaurant will offer an annual favorite for both dine-in and take-out orders: Turkey Mole Tamales, two handmade tamales filled with turkey, raisins, chopped pecans and apples, all topped with a mole sauce and sesame seeds.

With vibrant and spacious courtyards, the restaurant patios overflow with festive and colorful decor providing a visual feast for all, as well as ample outdoor heating and increased seating. In compliance with State guidelines, San Diego County has moved into the purple tier, limiting services to outdoor dining only and Powers is following a strict plan that will provide a safe environment for her customers.

The holiday menus are available through the New Year and vary by restaurant; with dishes including:


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RESTAURANT OWNERS SEEK REFUNDS OF STATE AND LOCAL FEES

By Miriam Raftery

October 29, 2020 (San Diego) – Restaurant owners in San Diego and several other counties filed claims Tuesday October 27, asking for refunds of state and local fees assessed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Plaintiffs seek refunds of costs incurred for liquor licenses, health permits and tourism fees at a time when public health orders shut down many businesses or forced them to operate at reduced capacity, while incurring added expenses.

The state has 45 days to respond to the claims, after which a lawsuit could be filed.


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GIARDINO IS OPEN FOR THANKSGIVING, ALSO OFFERS FEAST TO GO

East County News Service
 
You can pre-order Thanksgiving to-go, and enjoy in the comfort of your home. 
 
October 27, 2020 (Lemon Grove) – If you don’t want to cook at home this Thanksgiving Day, Giardino’s Neighborhood Cucina will be open for dine-in from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. for turkey with all the fixings or some less-traditional entrée options. Or opt for take-home Thanksgiving Day specials including prime rib, short rib, butternut squash ravioli and oxtail cannelloni entrees, plus dozens of family-style dishes.
 
Giardino's Neighborhood Cucina in Lemon Grove is very popular in several online review websites, with 4.5 (out of 5) star review averages, or better, in YelpGoogleFacebookTrip AdvisorGrubHubMenuPix, and Z Menu.
 
Options include many seafood such as shrimp Alfredo, stuffed sole, or crab and shrimp ravioli, chicken and pork dishes, vegetarian options, pasta dishes, salads, appetizers, vegetable side dishes, a dessert sampler or individual desserts including a whole Limoncello cake, Nutella cheesecake, Tiramisu ray or Cannoli.

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FRAZIER FARMS MARKET BRINGS NEW NATURAL FOODS STORE TO LA MESA

East County News Service

 

Photos, top, by Miriam Raftery 

 

October 26, 2020 (La Mesa) – La Mesa Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting October 20 at the new Frazier Farms Market at the corner of Jackson Drive and Fletcher Parkway.

 

“We are pleased that they had the vision to open their third market in La Mesa. We were thrilled to welcome this family-owned business to our community,” says chamber president Mary England.  La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis joined the celebration along with Frazier Farms owners Norman and Kathe Frazier and their sons Matt, Nick and Alex Frazier.


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RESTAURANTS ADVISED TO COMPLY WITH COMPLEX ‘PARKLET’ DINING RULES

Many restaurant owners don’t understand regulatory layers and risk running afoul of laws

By Marco Polo Cortes, Owner of Marco Polo Permits 

October 15, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- Restaurant owners say that outdoor dining has allowed them to survive the recent COVID-19 closures. Since August 31, restaurants in San Diego County can serve customers indoors – but only at 25% capacity. Sidewalk cafes and “parklets” can allow these struggling businesses to provide outdoor dining, but there are many misconceptions about the rules.


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HEALTHY VEGETARIAN RECIPES TO SAVOR

East County News Service

September 30, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- The Daring Kitchen has shared these tasty and nutritious vegetarian recipes for our readers to savor for rainbow veggie skewers, lettuce wraps, and stuffed banana peppers.


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PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: DINNG AL FRESCO AT GIARDINO’S IN LEMON GROVE



 

By Miriam Raftery

September 27, 2020 – Giardino’s Neighborhood Cucina in Lemon Grove has set up a large outdoor dining pavilion where you can dine al fresco in the COVID era. (There are also indoor tables available, if you prefer).  Doing our part to help support local restauranteurs in these challenging times, our family recently savored the flavors there.

We started with a cheese and meat charcuterie board I enjoyed a house specialty Anchovie Parpardelle, a wide pasta noodle dish served with anchovies, capers, olives, roasted tomatoes and bread crumbs, which was delicious.


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RAMONA WINERIES WIN BIG IN SUNSET INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

By Miriam Raftery

 

September 24, 2020 (Ramona) – Judges in the prestigious Sunset International Wine Competition in Santa Rosa received over 2,7000 entries from around world. Ramona Ranch and Hatfield Creek Winery in San Diego’s Ramona wine region took home five silver medals: 


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DINING AL FRESCO AT ANTICA TRATTORIA

By Miriam Raftery

September 19, 2020 (La Mesa) – Antica Trattoria is one of the latest restaurants to set up space outdoors for aficionados of fine Italian foods to enjoy al fresco dining amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  My husband feasted on Cioppino, a seafood stew that originated in San Francisco, while I enjoyed Parmigiana Di Melenzane, a Sicilian-style eggplant dish. Both were excellent.

The restaurant has created a raised wooden deck with latticework side and outdoor lighting in the parking lot at its location on Lake Murray Blvd., a relatively quiet street at nighttime.  There are also tables along the walkway in front of the restaurant.


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JAMUL’S CHANDELIER LOUNGE CUISINE SUPPORTS FIRST RESPONDERS AND THOSE DISPLACED BY VALLEY FIRE

By Henri Migala

 

September 15, 2020 (Jamul) - One of Jamul’s newest restaurants, Chandelier Lounge Cuisine, has not only become a local favorite, but is on the front lines in supporting our first responders and those displaced by the Valley Fire.


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THIEVES STEAL OUTDOOR DINING SETUPS AT HACIENDA RESTAURANT

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

(Photo by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson)

Sept.2, 2020 (El Cajon) These were the worst of times and the worst of times, to repurpose author Charles Dicken’s classic phrase. After first suffering closure due to COVID-19,  Hacienda Casa Blanca Restaurant & Cantina in El Cajon moved outdoors into a parking lot as well as on the patio. But soon, they faced yet another setback—theft of their outdoor tents, tables and chairs.

Cindy Gomez and her husband, Tony, run the business. Cindy Gomez says the thefts occurred on two separate occasions, the first around three weeks ago, and the second about a week later.

In the first theft, security cameras revealed “two men, who appeared to be homeless men, removing the tents, one umbrella that was left outside by mistake, and a chair,” Gomez told ECM in an e-mailed response to questions.


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2020 RAMONA ART & WINE FESTIVAL EXPANDS TO 3-DAY PROGRESSIVE EVENT NOV. 6-8

East County News Service

 

September 1, 2020 (Ramona) -- The 8th annual Ramona Art & Wine Festival is expanding to a progressive Festival from one day at one location, to three days at six Ramona wineries, with wine tasting, gourmet bites, silent auction, and art and vendor exhibitors at each participating winery on Friday to Sunday, November 6th to 8th, 2020.


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EAST COUNTY EATER: LE BON BO-BEAU REOPENS IN LA MESA

 

By Henri Migala

 

August 23, 2020 (La Mesa) - After being closed for several months, BO-beau in La Mesa has re-opened with reconfigured sitting areas that not only conform to mandated social distancing guidelines, but in an elegant way actually enhances the sense of intimacy for diners and patrons.

 

A member of the Cohen restaurant group, BO-beau is located in the historic downtown village in La Mesa.  The website describes the restaurant as where “Bohemian-chic meets industrial elegance.”  That is probably an accurate description when all sections of the restaurant are open, but with only the outdoor seating areas being available, the full experience of ‘Bohemian-chic and industrial elegance’ is replaced more by a comfortable, delightful and stylish experience of open-air garden dining.


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'GREAT PLATES’ TO CONTINUE, EXPAND MEAL DELIVERY TO HELP MORE ADULTS WITH HEALTH CONDITIONS

Source: County of San Diego

August 25, 2020 (San Diego) - More than 2,000 older adults in the “Great Plates Delivered” program will continue to receive three free and healthy meals a day. Launched in mid-May, the program is a collaboration between the County and 31 local restaurants. Now the County is expanding the service, originally for seniors with health conditions, to include all adults with a disability or health condition that puts them at higher risk from COVID-19.


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ONIONS AND ONION PRODUCTS RECALLED AFTER HUNDREDS SICKENED WITH SALMONELLA

East County News Service

August 11, 2020 (San Diego) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that hundreds of people have been sickened nationwide including 76 in California due to tainted red, yellow and white onions.  Around 86 cases resulted in hospitalization. In addition to fresh onions sold at major retailers, the onions have also been sold in pre-packaged foods such as pizzas, macaroni salad and fajita kits as well as in freshly prepared food items such as salads, sandwiches, tacos, salsas and dips.


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DEBUNKING HOT PEPPER MYTHS

By Melinda Myers

 

July 28, 2020 (San Diego) -- Enjoy the spicy heat hot peppers add to your meals without concern for the many myths surrounding these garden vegetables. Here are a few you may have heard, but that are not true.


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FEEDING THE HUNGRY AMID A PANDEMIC

By Helen Horvath

 

July 27, 2020 (San Diego) -- In an interview with Jim Floros, president and CEO of the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank, ECM discusses the push to end hunger in San Diego during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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CASI CIELO FARM AND WINERY ADDS WALKING TOURS

By Miriam Raftery

 

July 25, 2020 (Jamul) - Casi Cielo Farm and Winery in Jamul now offers free, self-guided vineyard and garden walking tours to wine-tasting guests.  

 

Owners Greg and PJ Maness have nick-named the elevated vegetable, flower and herb garden “Little Eden.”  From heirloom tomatoes to towering giant sunflowers to farm animals, the farm is a haven situated in Jamul just south of Rancho San Diego.


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