The perfect food day needs to start like any other perfect day — without an alarm clock. I’ll rise and shine on my own time, right around when the urge to drink coffee outweighs the comfort of my bed. Probably around 8:50.
I’ll leash my dog and we’ll make our way over to the Roast Coach (3382 30th Street) set up on its borrowed patio in North Park. The custom-built cart sets the table for a pour-over, the preferred brewing method of artisanal coffee drinkers.
Owner/barista Salpi Sleiman practices pure science on Roast Coach pour-overs, wetting the filter, using a scale, timer, and slender spout to pour precise amounts of water over the grounds at optimal times. The coffee oils ease into my cup without burning, and the results coax my taste buds to life.
Roast Coach rotates through daily selections of single-origin beans. I’m not sure what’ll be around to ask for on a perfect day, but if there’s a balanced local roast out of Guatemala, it’ll probably get the pick.
I’ll take my paper cup to drink at Grape Street dog park, soaking up the flavor — and caffeine — while kicking a soccer ball around for my pup and chatting with other dog folk.
3795 Mission Boulevard, Mission Beach
Once my animal is exercised and my coffee done, I’ll drop her off and head to breakfast, stopping again at Roast Coach for a second cup to bring with me to Mission Café (3795 Mission Boulevard, Mission Beach). The University Avenue Mission’s just a few blocks away, but I might as well go to the beach, because obviously it’s beautiful out, with chest-high swells, and light offshores in the forecast.
So, I’ll head to the Mission Beach location and order without looking at the menu. French toast, maybe toss on some blueberries. With a side of eggs over easy and bacon. Okay, send out the bacon first.
The Mission’s french toast is the first I’ve truly liked, made with house-made cinnamon bread and all but caramelized — buttery and sweet. It’ll count as my dessert for the day and fuel a session at Tourmaline. Just an easy day, long rides on a longboard. I want to work up an appetite, but I’ll need my stamina for what comes later.
1044 Wall Street, La Jolla
For now, after a couple hours in the water I’ll continue up the coast to hit the Whisknladle (1044 Wall Street, La Jolla) patio in La Jolla village. It’s my favorite dinner spot at the moment, but the dishes I’m craving are on the lunch menu and I’m not an anticipation-is-the-best-part kind of eater, so why wait?
I’m ordering the house-made pork-sausage ragu served on fresh tagliatelle. Everything about this dish says comfort to me — just a simple meal that zeroes in on a perfect savory flavor and holds it there, to chew and mull.
I’ll take my time with it, but I’m going to ask for the Cutting Board to go. The Whisknladle charcuterie plate might not transport easily, but it’s too good not to take on a picnic. House-cured chorizo, house-made pâté, several types of house-pickled olives. I can only marvel that preserved foods of this quality sprung forth locally, from local ingredients. Europe would be impressed.
Somehow, I’m going to get all this up the hill to Kate Sessions park. If all is truly perfect, a lovely and hilarious lady friend will show up to join me, my dog, and a four-pack of Modern Times in tow. The beer cans will have to go in brown bags because for some reason the powers that be deem beer in public parks to be a precursor to the collapse of civilization.
We’ll lie on a grassy slope, covertly sipping Fortunate Islands while discussing the cheese selections and how the pâté turned out, enjoying the view of the bays, buildings, bridges, and beaches.
2736 Adams Avenue, University Heights
I’ll make my way home, finally rinse off the sand and saltwater, then drag some friends to get an early start on happy hour at Café 21 (2736 Adams Avenue). I’m stoked the organic farm-to-table movement seems to have graduated from being a thing to being the only thing that really makes sense for serious chefs. And I dig 21’s sangria flights. I get to try up to six kinds of chilled fruity wine at one time. Maybe not the most masculine choice, but I’ll compensate by pounding my fist on the bar till they agree to permanently add their cooked-in-its-own-juices lamb-rib special to the menu. If no lamb ribs are forthcoming, I’ll settle for splitting the grass-fed ribeye.
It’ll probably be 9 before I rise from the ensuing nap. But that’s okay, my dinner pick is open late.
928 Ft. Stockton Drive, Mission Hills
No perfect food day of mine could be absent raw fish. Any number of sushi spots might suffice, but why limit myself? Izakaya Masa (928 Fort Stockton Drive) offers sushi, a full menu of other beloved Japanese dishes, plus the cherished tonkotsu ramen.
Masa also serves Orion, a rice lager brewed on the island of Okinawa, where I learned to drink out of one-liter cans as a gai-jin military brat. I’ll convene my old Kubisaki High School chums (go Dragons) and we’ll drink Orion and sake while ordering something every five minutes, laughing and reminiscing and dragging the meal as long and late as we can.
Not all the menu items will be nostalgic, but half the reason I love authentic Japanese restaurants like Masa is they never seem to run out of new experiences for my palate. I might aim to finish the night with one last sip of beer and the lingering taste of hamachi on my tongue, but in the middle there I want to eat something surprising, and maybe even a little scary.
And if I fall asleep wondering why I didn’t eat any Mexican food on this glorious food day, I’ll console myself with this thought: that’s the stuff I eat on imperfect days, most likely yesterday or tomorrow, the readily available food that makes me glad I live here. I can always grab a breakfast burrito in the morning.