An inspirational San Diego restaurant, plus a recipe for Black Ink Linguini
By Linda Kissam
In my opinion, if you’re willing to drive over an hour to eat at a restaurant, you’ve found a winner. I call it “inspired eating.” I am talking about the type of restaurant where the chef, the staff, the ambiance and the wine list all work in harmony to create one of those memorable experiences that sears itself into your head. It’s your “go-to” eatery for all occasions. You’re even willing to share it with friends and family because you just know it will not disappoint. And perhaps, most importantly, you don’t get “the look” from your significant other when the final bill shows up. Yup, no eye rolling or “eater regret” going on here.
Do I have your attention now? I thought so. Want to know where I’ve been? My pleasure.
Top of the Market has been in San Diego for a while. It has its fair share of followers based on its trendy location, what it’s done in its culinary past and its killer view. It certainly screams romance. It’s perfect for date night, girl’s night out, or a special occasion. That being said, it is also a good place for some “me time” (hang out at the bar) or somewhere to just grab some great food. It’s so good; I can’t really find anything wrong to point out. And all that is fine. But it’s the fairly new, current chef Ivan Flowers, who is making this place a reason to care about.
Chef Flowers’ passion for cooking came from his father who was a professional chef in New York. He credits his father for understanding that great chefs let the food do the work. Start with fresh local ingredients, infuse it with the respect and passion it deserves, pay attention to the presentation and make the guests weep with gratitude at the first bite. It’s apparent Chef Ivan was listening, because that’s the experience I had at my seven-course tasting. When Chef’s cooking is combined with his amazing sommelier, Anne Estrada, choosing the wine pairing for the tasting, all I can say is…they had me at “Welcome, you’re table is this way.”
Tasting menus are still a pretty new, trendy way to have dinner. A tasting menu is a special menu that affords the dining guest to sample small portions of dishes offered at the restaurant. The dishes might already be on the menu, they may be by customer request or they might be Chef’s choice. It’s an excellent way for a chef to demonstrate their culinary prowess. Usually the tasting menu is prix fixe. This means the tasting menu is already set and diners can explore this gourmet experience for one specific price.
At Top of the Market, you’ll see Chef Flowers and his culinary team showcasing the best of their game with their tasting menus. At $125 per person (which includes wine) this is the way to go to see what magic can be brought out from the kitchen in five courses and four wines. There’s a minimum of two to a maximum of 14 guests that can participate in this opportunity. If you have a larger group of 10 or more, or you have some dietary restrictions, call ahead to give Chef a heads up you’re coming in. You’re gastronomic expectations are going to be rocked to the max.
For “show and tell” purposes, here is what I experienced at my seven-course press dinner tasting menu experience. Keep in mind this may seem like a lot of food, but these were small portions and Chef does not over sauce or over salt things. This is just pure goodness waiting for your instant approval. When Chef’s offerings are paired with the sommelier’s wine pairing, life just does not get better than this.
Lobster Bisque Espresso with Porcini Infusion
Spiced Champagne Sorbet Beausoleil Oyster
2009 Gramona “Gran Cuvee” Cava, Barcelona
Hamachi with Jalapeno Jam and Limoncello Vinegar
Faux Calamari, Lemon, Garlic and Parmigiano
Yellowfin, Mango Salpicon and Agrodolce Wasabi Droplets
2011 Curran Grenache Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley
Fresh Black Ink Linguine (Recipe included at the end of this article)
Mazatlán Prawns, Scallops, Calamari, Sopresso and Baby Potatoes
Ximenez Vinegar Scampi Sauce
2010 Margerum “M5,” Santa Barbara
Crispy Skin Whitefish with Black Truffle Caviar
Smokey Pequillo Peppers, Cider Glazed Cipollini Onions, Pancetta with Baby Spinach,
Herbed Lobster Sauce
2009 Hart Driveway Red, Temecula Valley
Roasted Rack of Lamb with Garlic Basil Persillade
Confit Tomatoes, Garlic Trumpet Mushrooms and Baby Artichokes
Peppercorn Demi Glaze
2007 Ehret “Bella’s Blend,” Knights Valley
Valrhona Chocolate Strudel
Fleur de Sel Caramel Drizzle
1985 Graham’s Porto
Thanks again to Chef Flowers for the special recipe below. It was truly a hit of the evening and sparked a lot of positive comments and conversation amongst those at the table. But then again, great food and wine and a Chef who has it all is bound to do that and more.
Black Ink Linguine Recipe
1 pound black ink linguine*
4 U8 scallops
8 U15 prawns
8 ounces cleaned calamari rings
8 ounces baby fingerling potatoes cut in half
1 tablespoon garlic puree
3 ounces unsalted butter
5 tablespoons aged Spanish (sherry) vinegar
1/2 cup chardonnay
1/2 cup olive oil*
2 tablespoons chopped herbs * (thyme, chervil, parsley, tarragon)
Juice of two lemons*
Purchase fresh linguine
Use extra virgin olive oil
Use fresh herbs. Hold back a pinch to finish.
Use regular sized lemons (not small, not large).
When roasting potatoes use part of the 1/2 cup of oil. Small amount equals just enough to coat
Split the amount of garlic puree – half on potatoes, half sautéed in sauce.
Place potatoes in a bowl, add some oil* to coat with garlic puree*, 1 tablespoon herbs*, salt and pepper to taste.
Roast on a sheet pan in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes…reserve.
Heat sauté pan with a small amount of olive oil to medium high heat. Sear prawns for 2 minutes on each side…reserve.
Sear scallops on each side for three minutes…reserve.
Heat a sauté pan with some olive oil to very high heat – you will see some smoke. Sauté calamari for 30 seconds then remove…reserve.
Bring a sauté pan to medium heat, and then add garlic puree. Cook 45 seconds till garlic is slightly browned. Deglaze with wine and vinegar then reduce by half. Now add butter along with herbs. Add lemon juice and then salt and pepper to taste.
Place fresh ink linguine into salted boiling water for 45 seconds. Drain and place pasta in sauce mixture. Toss to coat
Now add calamari, prawns potatoes and scallops and cook for 2 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste if needed, sprinkle on some fresh herbs.
Place in a bowl and enjoy.