Walter Mencken 9:15 a.m., March 28
The Red Door Gives Way to the Mission Hills Farmers Market
Once considered little more than a passing fancy among restaurateurs, farm-to-tableism has caught on big time in San Diego. One chef who walks the walk in this regard, literally, is Brian Johnston of The Red Door. Every few months, he holds one of his special Chef's Farmers Market Dinners where guests show up at 5pm, then get escorted across the street to the Mission Hills Farmers Market where Chef Johnston gives them a one-hour tour that includes meeting the on-site producers and artisans plus getting some lessons on local ingredients and answers to questions about how to prepare them straight from the chefs and purveyors. The walkabout is followed by the main event, a four-course communal dinner featuring whatever looks best at the market that day.
In the restaurant world, there are events that are nothing more than a marketing gimmick, then there are events that are altruistic and tailor-made for today's foodies. Having attended the second of Johnston's CFMDs, I can attest that this falls into the latter category. Chef Johnston is a warm guy with the perfect kind of outgoing personality for this sort of experience. There's no such thing as a stupid question, and the night I enjoyed his seasonally impromptu dinners, there was no such thing as a bad dish. I can remember the vibrance of a shortcake made with uber fresh berries picked straight from the market.
Because the menu is decided on day-of, there is no way to know what will make its way to the table, but considering the sourcing and Johnston's track record with these meals, the odds are in diners' favor. The Red Door's CFMD 3 will take place this Friday, June 17. The cost per person is $45 or $70 with wine pairings and reservations can be made at (619) 295-6000.