by Frank Sabatini Jr.
Winemaker Emily Bloom asks, “Why should grapes have all the fun?” when citing seven different alternative-fruit wines available for the current soft opening of California Fruit Wine Company’s new tasting room in Hillcrest. The company’s production facility was established several years ago in Carlsbad by siblings Alan and Brian Haghighi for crafting vinos made with pineapples, mangos, pomegranates and cherries. Cranberries have entered into the equation for a seasonal wine that’s now available through the holidays.
The wines are also distributed to local, commercial establishments that include Boulevard Wine & Spirits in City Heights, Double Standard Kitchenetta in the Gaslamp Quarter, Crushed in Pacific Beach, and others.
The tasting room, which replaces Vinavanti Urban Winery, also serves house-made sangria, flatbreads and small bites. Bloom says weekend brunch is in the works. Hours of operation are 3 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays (until 11 p.m. on Fridays); noon to 11 p.m. Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays. 1477 University Ave., 877-484-6282, californiafruitwine.com.
After two years of catering to hardcore carnivores with items such as beaver tacos, rabbit poutine and gourmet sausages — and to the occasional protests of vegan activists — S&M Sausage and Meat in University Heights closed its doors on Nov. 23. The company, which also shut down its outpost last month in East Village’s Quartyard, recently announced the closing of its flagship establishment on Facebook without explanation. As of press time, S&M’s owner, Scott Slater of Slater’s 50/50, had not returned our calls or emails requesting a statement. 4130 Park Blvd.
Revered for its crafty hot dogs, parsley-garlic fries and donuts made to order, the Dharma Dogs food truck has returned with a fresh set of wheels and in a new, permanent location in the Target Express parking lot in South Park.
Steven Zatarain and his girlfriend, Jhoenn Dejesus, introduced the food truck several years ago in Hillcrest, where they operated nightly in front of Eli Vigderson’s European Car Repairs on University Avenue. After suspending the effort, Zatarain went into the business of rebuilding food trucks and decided to custom-design one for the re-launch of Dharma Dogs.
Their menu remains the same as before, which includes four signature hot dogs such as the bacon-wrapped “Baja” covered in jalapenos, grilled onions, tomatoes and chipotle ketchup. The dogs are available in beef, vegan or organic versions, and patrons can also customize the toppings. Hours of operation are from 11 a.m.–11 p.m., daily. 3030 Grape St., 619-757-3061.
Since opening this year, Encontro North Park will present its first beer dinner from 5:30–9 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 8. The four-course meal will be augmented by beers from nearby Thorn St. Brewery. The cost is $45 per person. 3001 University Ave., 619-291-1220, encontronorthpark.com.
The Hillcrest History Guild will hold its 10th annual holiday potluck dinner at 6 p.m. Dec. 13 at the San Diego Indoor Sports Club in Bankers Hill. The event is free and open to the public. Attendees are asked to bring a salad or savory side dish while donning their festive holiday attire. Turkeys will be provided by UCSD Hillcrest; mashed potatoes, gravy and dressing will be made by Scripps Health; and desserts will be donated by Sharp Health. In addition, breads will be supplied by Bread and Cie. The dinner will also feature raffle drawings and a performance by the Westminster Carolers. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. 3030 Front St., 619-298-0779, hillcresthistory.org.
A cafeteria-style restaurant featuring scratch cooking with locally sourced ingredients opened Nov. 28 in the Hotel Circle space previously occupied by Adam’s Steak & Eggs.
Named Crust Kitchen, owners Steve Abbo and Andy Hirmez designed the restaurant with busy hotel visitors in mind while also catering to locals with elegant displays of salads, pizzas, sandwiches, roasted meats, side dishes and desserts. Customers queue up in line and point to the items they want to purchase, much like the system in place at Lemonade in Hillcrest.
Abbo and Hirmez also own the adjoining Travel Mart (formerly Albi’s Beef Inn) and the nearby Value Liquor and Mini Mart. 1201 Hotel Circle South, 619-501-1112, crustkitchen.com.
Giant short ribs will be introduced at Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill in Mission Valley, beginning Dec. 9.
“We take the whole rib bones from certified Angus beef and then smoke them for many hours over pecan wood” says Wood Ranch’s director of culinary development Alex Benes, adding that each rib measures about 10 inches long, holds 14-plus ounces of meat and feeds two people. Sold singly for $33 with a shareable side dish – mashed potatoes, broccoli, peanut coleslaw or mac n’ cheese – they’re available Fridays through Sundays. 7510 Hazard Center Drive, 619-764-4411, woodranch.com.
—Frank Sabatini Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.