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Seasonal Dish

Local chefs celebrate the holidays by serving creative gourmet morsels.

Creating a unique and sustainable spin on traditional dishes, local chefs are encouraging diners to create new culinary traditions this holiday season. From succulent lobster tails to melt-in-your mouth squash risotto to the most chocolaty of yule logs, foster new memories with family and friends by rediscovering decadent holiday morsels.

MARKET Restaurant + Bar

For Carl Schroeder, executive chef and owner of Market Restaurant + Bar in Del Mar (marketdelmar.com), ideas for his holiday menu stemmed from childhood memories of hunting, as well as his early years as a professional chef.

“The most pivotal time for me as a chef was working with Chef Bradley Ogden at the Lark Creek Inn in San Francisco. During the holidays we would go to the farmers markets and bring back cases of pumpkins and root vegetables,” Schroeder explained. “The inn was reminiscent of a big old house. At night the lights would go down and you could smell the scent of roasted pumpkins and crispy duck.”

This season, Schroeder will be busy offering such delicacies as gingered carrot soup, local persimmon and butter leaf lettuce salad, mesquite-grilled chicken gnocchi and crispy veal Wiener Schnitzel. He said he likes to combine his cherished memories and culinary knowledge to make his creations that much more memorable today.

The Marine Room

Home to sweeping views, The Marine Room (marineroom.com) has been serving global cuisine rooted in exquisite French classics for more than 70 years. Award-winning Executive Chef Bernard Guillas and Chef de Cuisine Ron Oliver have created holiday menus with incredible flavors featuring local and sustainable ingredients. A seasonal á la carte menu includes Suzie’s Farms candy cane beets, Skuna Bay salmon with macadamia nuts, coconut ginger risotto with bok choy and sake XO sauce, almond fennel pollen-crusted lobster tail, and wattle seed-spiced Cervena elk medallions. Dessert is a must, with options of hibiscus-infused organic lemon gar (a signature dish of The Marine Room), warm buttered pear torte, Godiva raspberry chocolate yule log or dulce de leche cheesecake. Pair these dishes with a selection from Advanced Sommelier Lisa Redwine’s vino list, which was recently awarded the 2013 Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator.  

Cusp Dining & Drinks

Executive Chef Donald Lockhart’s new seasonal menu items at Cusp (cusprestaurant.com) in La Jolla will include maple and grain mustard-glazed chicken breast with butternut squash hash and molasses caramel jus, hummus crema and crispy chickpeas, and skate wing with long beans—an exclusive, as no other restaurant in the city serves skate wing. For dessert, luxurious options include dark chocolate Nutella mousse with gin-infused Concord grape jam, as well as caramel panna cotta with cookie chunks, cinnamon apples and whipped cream.

“At Cusp, it is important to us to give guests an unforgettable dining experience,” Lockhart said. “These dishes have the rich, comforting flavors that not only remind me of home, but are exactly what I would like to cook for my family during the holidays. I want our guests to relax and enjoy a nice meal that makes them feel at home as well. 

Tom Ham’s Lighthouse

Tom Ham’s Lighthouse (tomhamslighthouse.com) ensures a perfect dining experience for guests, as they enjoy newly expanded views of the San Diego Bay and city skyline. The recent renovation of the restaurant would not have been complete without a redesigned menu crafted by new Executive Chef Lance Repp. With a revamped menu based heavily on Mediterranean-style seafood dishes with contemporary twists, Repp says he will be incorporating fresh flavors of the season with his holiday menu. Delicious options will include a fresh fig and burrata salad with watercress, toasted pistachio and balsamic; Jidori Half Brick Chicken with roasted squash risotto; confit duck leg with braised heirloom beans, sun chokes, fennel and cherry glace; and pan-roasted scallops with a chestnut and Chanterelle mushroom ragout.

Morada at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe

As the executive chef at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe (theinnatrsf.com), Chef Todd Allison brings more than 10 years of luxury culinary experience to his team and guests. Keeping it fresh and simple, Allison likes to use California ingredients balanced with a strong Mediterranean influence. Festive holiday fare at the inn’s Morada restaurant will include roasted butternut squash soup, Maple Leaf Farms duck confit, local honey- and citrus-glazed sea bass, braised short rib minestrone and Cinderella Pumpkin crème brulee.

“I write and design my holiday menus around family,” Allison explained. “I create dishes that I would cook for my family for the holidays, and want to share my creations with those families that will be dining with me at Morada this season.”

Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge

For Executive Chef JC Colón of Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge (leroyskitchenandlounge.com), it’s a family tradition to cook a few savory, full-bodied dishes for holiday dinners and pass them around the table family-style for everyone to share. Savory new holiday dishes include prosciutto-wrapped Berkshire pork chop, seafood trio, mushroom and chèvre ravioli, Baja grouper, and, for dessert, seasonal fruit galette with Moo Time ice cream.

“Prosciutto-wrapped Berkshire pork chop is very similar to what I would cook at home,” Colón said. “It’s homey with a nice balance of flavors—the earthy pork chop and rich, buttery potatoes are complemented by the salty prosciutto and sweet fig demi-glace.”

Mustangs & Burros at Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa

Executive chef Kim Kramer of Mustangs & Burros, the signature restaurant at Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa (estancialajolla.com) will feature juniper-infused pan-seared venison with braised red cabbage, beets and butternut squash, finished with a currant jus, as well as a roasted pheasant with pomegranate mole over a soft corn polenta, served alongside acorn squash and pickled vegetables. Both of these dishes will be featured at Mustangs & Burros as holiday specials on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

“I love the European influence I lend to my gastronomic creations, which takes me back to my classical training,” Kramer explained. “We are so excited to feature these specialty entrees for the holiday season.”  

Spike's Africa

Guests feel at home for the holidays with a taste of the unexpected, fish-centric fare that Spike Africa’s is known for, served family style. Chef Paul Rinaudo’s Swordfish Prime Rib dinner is a riff on the steakhouse staple that includes a large, center-cut top loin of local Swordfish roasted whole and served with Gruyere Potato Gratin, Caramelized Onions, Braised Swiss Chard and a Red Wine Reduction. The Low Country Boil is a hearty, one-pot medley of vegetables and shellfish in a seasoned broth served tableside in a boil pot. For those who want the total package, Spike’s also offers a Whole Fish Catch of the Day, a two to three pound fish fried whole and served with sides.