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Blanca, a fine-dining restaurant, settled down in Solana Beach several years ago but never really settled in. The place was sleek, the kind of white-leather wonder where nobody ever really got to feel comfortable, despite the owners' intentions that diners do just that.

But customers weren't the only thing Blanca's ownership had trouble keeping around. Chefs came and went with the greatest frequency of just about any dining establishment in San Diego over the past three years. First there was Wade Hageman, who produced gorgeous and delicious food before booking it up Highway 101 to Encinitas where he continues to earn raves for his farm-to-table pie hideaway, Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria.

Next up was a guy I won't even bother mentioning by name. I'm still steaming from his parting words -- "all San Diegans want are fish tacos" -- and the insinuation that our county isn't capable of understanding gourmet cuisine at its most modern and heightened state (which he wasn't producing anyway, so it's sort of a moot point).

Then came Gavin Schmidt, a forager who won over the local media as well as Blanca regulars. Still, Blanca failed to be a draw.

So, the owners closed their doors and began working with Schmidt on plans to relocate to a more centralized part of town where they could attract a more loyal and foodcentric clientele. At least that was the plan. I just received official word that Blanca part two is history. The owners are up and moving to Texas to lick their wounds and start a new concept. Schmidt will be staying here, which is probably a good thing. It's always sad to lose a good chef, and even in his brief time at Blanca's helm he proved he's got the chops.

Fortunately, North Park's El Take It Easy is providing him the opportunity to show what he can do via occasional pop-up dinners. The next will take place next Wednesday, October 26 and feature a six-course menu built around seafood in celebration of Seafood Month. The menu isn't set in stone but will likely include most of the following: yellowtail tartare, uni, lobster, abalone, shrimp and scallop boudin sausage, sculpin, and octopus. For reservations and details, call 858-291-1859.

Pictured: Chef Schmidt

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ConceptBranding Oct. 20, 2011 @ 5:34 p.m.

Really is a shame to see restaurant owners just pack it in and hit the highway. Who ever said the restaurant business was easy?

Great chefs deserve great owner partners, shame that didn't happen here.

Sometimes it takes putting ego aside and looking for truly creative fixes to not drawing in enough customers...I wonder what their 3 year marketing plan looked like at Blanca...IF they even had one.

If you are a restaurateur, do your staff, guests and communities a favor and HAVE a marketing plan and REVIEW it at a minimum annually...and by marketing I don't mean a reliance on advertising and daily deals.

Wishing the chef all the best,

Tom Kelley Concept Branding Group Mission Hills


Gekko4321 Oct. 21, 2011 @ 11:51 a.m.

I do not mind what it takes to be considered a fine restaurant and I know what a fine restaurant is, but this one really fell short in one area--portion size. I get that portions are typically small in fine dining places but this one took it to a whole new level. You cannot charge someone $40 and give them the equivalent of 4 bites of food. It cannot be done. Also they seemed to have a schtick with selling big size Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and serving it in can on coasters. That sort of LA-ish cheese doesn't really wash around here "IMO".


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