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Fresh picks at the Red Door

At farm-to-table restaurants, new season means new menu

Fried Green Tomato Salad
Fried Green Tomato Salad

My friend Rosa convinced me — with an arsenal of photos she’d taken of dishes, including her favorite mac ’n’ cheese — to go to the Red Door for happy hour. “The vegetables are always so fresh, this place makes me think I could eat vegetarian,” she declared.

Place

Red Door Restaurant & Wine Bar

741 W. Washington Street, San Diego

This wasn’t my first time at the Red Door, so I was familiar with the straight-from-the-garden freshness of the produce, much of which is sourced from the owners’ own farm in La Mesa (as well as several local partners, including Suzie’s Farm and Stehly Farms). The beautiful, fresh, locally sourced fruits and vegetables are entrusted to the very capable hands of chef Miguel Valdez.

We were trying to make the happy hour, which I didn’t know ended at 5pm — unfairly early for the daily office grinders, but it begins at 3pm, my personal happy-houring sweet spot. Unfortunately for Rosa and me, we were coming from La Jolla after 4pm, and traffic was at a standstill. We didn’t make it to the door (newly painted more of an orange-red) until after 5.

A toothsome mac'n'cheese, great for sharing

The dish Rosa was craving was not available after happy hour, but the kitchen was kind enough to make an exception when we expressed how hard we’d tried to make it in time, and Rosa got her wish. It was indeed a delectable version of mac 'n' cheese, served in a skillet and prepared with a mixture of cheeses, some sharp, some mild, and bits of bacon that gave it a meaty satisfaction, without too much smokiness.

We didn't taste these mussels (Rosa's allergic), but they smelled delicious

In addition to the mac ’n’ cheese, we decided to share a few other dishes. I was happy to go in with a fork and the same share plates that we’d been given with the skillet; however, the kitchen took the initiative to split the dishes for us, and they were both presented beautifully. First, there was the Fried Green Tomato Salad ($13), with mixed greens, bacon, pickled red onion, candied garlic, and buttermilk dressing. The sweet sourness of the pickled red onion was a fine way to cut the richness of the fried green tomato. The garlic was soft, like hard-boiled egg white, and lightly sweet, with a hint of the underlying garlic taste. The greens were as fresh as we expected them to be, and the mild buttermilk dressing, lightly drizzled, perfectly complemented the rest.

Zucchini Pasta dish with roasted tomato, feta and chili cashew, rich and delicious

Next, we ordered the Seasonal Zucchini Pasta ($20), in which there is no actual pasta. Rather, the zucchini is cut into long, thin spaghetti-like strips. There was so much richness and depth in this dish, I had to remind myself it was borderline vegan (the only nonvegan item was the feta). The zucchini squash — in a broth made of the combination of its liquid with roasted cherry tomato, squash blossom, and chili cashews — created a unique and satisfying vegetable umami.

Rosa had more than one photo of the Banana Cream Pie ($10) in her aresenal, but she was urged by a server who recognized her as a regular to try something new, the Sticky Toffee Pudding ($10), which we ended up sharing. Though she enjoyed it, she reluctantly admitted she still preferred the Banana Cream Pie.

Sticky Toffee Pudding with vanilla gelato

As for me, it’s hard to imagine a more gratifying meal-ender than a hot and cold salt ’n’ sugar bomb, as with this housemade toffee and date cake with toasted pecans and vanilla gelato from Gelato Vero.

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Fried Green Tomato Salad
Fried Green Tomato Salad

My friend Rosa convinced me — with an arsenal of photos she’d taken of dishes, including her favorite mac ’n’ cheese — to go to the Red Door for happy hour. “The vegetables are always so fresh, this place makes me think I could eat vegetarian,” she declared.

Place

Red Door Restaurant & Wine Bar

741 W. Washington Street, San Diego

This wasn’t my first time at the Red Door, so I was familiar with the straight-from-the-garden freshness of the produce, much of which is sourced from the owners’ own farm in La Mesa (as well as several local partners, including Suzie’s Farm and Stehly Farms). The beautiful, fresh, locally sourced fruits and vegetables are entrusted to the very capable hands of chef Miguel Valdez.

We were trying to make the happy hour, which I didn’t know ended at 5pm — unfairly early for the daily office grinders, but it begins at 3pm, my personal happy-houring sweet spot. Unfortunately for Rosa and me, we were coming from La Jolla after 4pm, and traffic was at a standstill. We didn’t make it to the door (newly painted more of an orange-red) until after 5.

A toothsome mac'n'cheese, great for sharing

The dish Rosa was craving was not available after happy hour, but the kitchen was kind enough to make an exception when we expressed how hard we’d tried to make it in time, and Rosa got her wish. It was indeed a delectable version of mac 'n' cheese, served in a skillet and prepared with a mixture of cheeses, some sharp, some mild, and bits of bacon that gave it a meaty satisfaction, without too much smokiness.

We didn't taste these mussels (Rosa's allergic), but they smelled delicious

In addition to the mac ’n’ cheese, we decided to share a few other dishes. I was happy to go in with a fork and the same share plates that we’d been given with the skillet; however, the kitchen took the initiative to split the dishes for us, and they were both presented beautifully. First, there was the Fried Green Tomato Salad ($13), with mixed greens, bacon, pickled red onion, candied garlic, and buttermilk dressing. The sweet sourness of the pickled red onion was a fine way to cut the richness of the fried green tomato. The garlic was soft, like hard-boiled egg white, and lightly sweet, with a hint of the underlying garlic taste. The greens were as fresh as we expected them to be, and the mild buttermilk dressing, lightly drizzled, perfectly complemented the rest.

Zucchini Pasta dish with roasted tomato, feta and chili cashew, rich and delicious

Next, we ordered the Seasonal Zucchini Pasta ($20), in which there is no actual pasta. Rather, the zucchini is cut into long, thin spaghetti-like strips. There was so much richness and depth in this dish, I had to remind myself it was borderline vegan (the only nonvegan item was the feta). The zucchini squash — in a broth made of the combination of its liquid with roasted cherry tomato, squash blossom, and chili cashews — created a unique and satisfying vegetable umami.

Rosa had more than one photo of the Banana Cream Pie ($10) in her aresenal, but she was urged by a server who recognized her as a regular to try something new, the Sticky Toffee Pudding ($10), which we ended up sharing. Though she enjoyed it, she reluctantly admitted she still preferred the Banana Cream Pie.

Sticky Toffee Pudding with vanilla gelato

As for me, it’s hard to imagine a more gratifying meal-ender than a hot and cold salt ’n’ sugar bomb, as with this housemade toffee and date cake with toasted pecans and vanilla gelato from Gelato Vero.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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