2145 Fern Street, South Park
‘Listen,” says Wayne. He holds two tuning forks up to my ears.
He brings them closer.
Suddenly, OmmmmmmMMMMMMMmmmmm. They’re the most crazy-beautiful bell tones, in two different keys, like musical humming birds hovering right next to you.
Then Wayne dives into his car and hauls out a giant-size tuning fork. He knocks it against some wood and touches the single end against my back. Man! It vibrates like a mini-jackhammer. “Musical massage!” he says. “We are all electro-magnetic beings, and everything vibrates at a different pitch.”
We’re at Juniper and Fern, outside Rebecca’s. One of my favorite hangouts. I’d eat here, but I want to see what’s different around this part of South Park. I came up to Wayne because he looked like the kind of guy who’d know a good food deal around here.
“Great,” I say, “but, my stomach’s vibrating with a kind of ‘I’m hungry!’ pitch. What’ve you got for that?”
“Oh, food? Sure,” he says. “Nine Seas. Food truck, couple of blocks down. They have fish tacos for $1.50. And the fish you get is huge.”
Then he reaches back into his car. Hauls out a fiddle case. “Gotta go. I’m Number 8 in the line-up tonight. Irish music.”
Problem with his taco idea? By the time I get down to Hawthorn and Fern, where the Mariscos Nine Seas truck is, they’re locking up. It’s 7:30 p.m.
So, I head back up toward Juniper. This is when I notice the low place on the corner. Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro. And it has a sign. “Nightly dinner service.”
This I have to see. Dinner of chocolates and eclairs?
But, inside, I’m starting to panic already. Chichi crowd. Everything sleek, with glossy wood bar, exposed dark rafters and teal and brown walls. Couples eyeball each other over wine glasses and a kinda jazzy disco-beat music.
I sit up to the counter. The gal, Heidi, leaves me a menu and brings a ceramic-topped bottle of water and a glass. “Water is a precious resource,” its label says. “Please help us to conserve it during the drought. We present these closed bottles of twice-filtered chilled tap water so that you can pour only what you need.”
Also: They pledge they will give 10 percent of their earnings to charity. Plus, they have a whole wall dedicated to educating you about how chocolate happens, from seed to bar. Cool factor’s rising.
But what really interests me is this sweet-sour thing. I remember now: Eclipse Chocolate was started by that chocolate-as-art pioneer on El Cajon Boulevard, William Gustwiller. He started alone, making his own chocolates and ended up with, like, 40 employees. So, this is where he moved to...
But mixing chocolate or other sweet stuff with everything?
First off, this is no $1.50 taco joint. Fact is, I have one Jackson warming my thigh. And the basic dinner menu has everything priced at $12. And sides at $8. Ulp. But they also have a combo deal with one main and one side for $16. So I decide to go with that.
Hmm... Have to admit, the dishes look really interesting. Each is “infused with chocolate, vanilla, or caramel.” This is pretty daring. Among the mains, savory pies come in three flavors: sausage, bacon, and meatball; roasted root veggie, pesto, and herbed chevre cheese; and short rib with “stout-glazed shallot, Point Reyes bleu [cheese], and roasted tomato.”
So, I’m looking for the sweet factor. The pie shell is corn meal pesto, with watercress hickory sea salt and, ah, “cocoa balsamic drizzle.”
“And the bacon is cooked with brown sugar,” says Heidi. Oh, yes. Suddenly realize who she looks like: Uma Thurman, the actress.
On top of that, they have things like brown-sugar short rib, mascarpone-filled meatball with vanilla crostini; an artisan cheese and caramel plate with three cheeses plus strawberry, apple, burnt-chili caramel and vanilla crostini; and a mushroom and a crispy quinoa fritter with cocoa mole.
I go for the sausage, bacon, and meatball pie, plus a stuffed red pepper side. Mainly because it’s got that cocoa mole, too. Shades of Oaxaca. Drinks-wise, I stick with the water. Financial drought. Gotta conserve my wallet.
The pie is scrumptious. It has a, well, slightly yeasty flavor to it. I guess it’s that cocoa balsamic drizzle. Or did they put some of the mole in? Because that would do it. But the crumbly cornmeal shell, the melted cheese, the salty, sugary bacon, the chives and fresh cress and gungy meatball bits in there make for one heady, savory, lush combo with a sweet finish. Heck, feels like I’m talking about wine.
The stuffed red pepper, on the other hand, is — what can I say — boring. The quinoa taste is “eat your veggies!” bland. And the promised mole? It’s there and it helps, but there’s just a lick of it on the plate. A whole lot more would have helped.
But, all in all, man, I’m curious. I want to come back for the brown-sugar short rib and especially that mascarpone meatball.
And as if to taunt me, the couple along the bar orders up two desserts: a buttermilk bread pudding soaked in vanilla and strawberry with a dome of chocolate on top for him, and for her, a flourless cocoa nib brownie with strawberry rhubarb and “roasted white chocolate,” however you roast chocolate. Carla would kill for any of this. Sigh. Me, too. But, nine bucks each? Another night.
I hand over the Jackson. Check came to $17.28. Leave the rest for tip. Have a couple of bucks more in change, though. May go get a coffee at Rebecca’s, see if Wayne is still fiddling.
Prices: Savory pies (e.g., sausage, bacon, and meatball; roasted root veggie, pesto, chevre cheese; or short rib, $12; brown-sugar short rib, $12; mascarpone-filled meatball, vanilla crostini, $12; artisan cheese plate with burnt-chili caramel, $12; mushroom and veggie Wellington, $12; crispy quinoa fritter, cocoa mole, $12; stuffed red pepper with quinoa, cocoa mole, $8; artichoke leek dip, $8; buttermilk bread pudding, $9; flourless brownie sundae, $9
Hours: Monday–Thursday, 9:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 p.m.; Sunday, 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Nearest bus stop: 30th and Ivy