After a grand transformation, Rancho Valencia reopened last fall with two new restaurants, The Pony Room, a casual, modern eatery and Veladora, the resort's upscale, fine dining restaurant. Both menus are overseen by Executive Chef Eric Bauer, whose most recent local post was as the head chef of the now-shuttered Anthology. At Veladora, Chef Bauer showcases seasonal ingredients in his "Mediterranean Coastal Ranch" cuisine.
What's your favorite thing on your menu right now and why?
Right now I'm into the new items for spring dishes that we have been playing with. We just added a Marinated Hirame "Fluke" Crudo paired with Chino Strawberries, schezuan peppercorns, fennel and serrano relish, house made meyer and yuzu lemon oil and finished with some simple sea salt and fresh foraged fennel fronds from our property. It's clean, crisp and refreshing on the palate.
Where do you eat when you're not working?
A staple in my restaurant tour is Blue Ribbon Pizza for some seriously good Neapolitan-style pizzas. It's close to where I live and has a great feel when it's busy and bustling. "My Fathers" is my choice for the pizza and I love the seasonal fish crudo! It's usually packed but if you're a chef and off on Mondays it's a bit easier to find a seat.
I try to eat out a lot to see how the city is evolving, so my other favorite at the moment is True Food Kitchen. Chef Nathan Coulon is doing some really interesting food, and to top it off, the food is good for you, and clean! After tasting everything under the sun during a normal week it's a nice break to go there for lunch with your better half. My favorite dishes there are the shrimp dumplings and the bison burger.
Anything that you're "over", in terms of played-out restaurant and food trends or ingredients?
Not really, everything has its place for certain people in certain places. What's good for us may not be good for someone else, but one thing that I don't order anymore because it does seem to be everywhere is a simple French fry. If you're going to do it as a dish, you'd better do it well!
Do you have a wish or request for the San Diego food scene or local diners?
A seriously good and simple brassiere! Classic dishes done well in a relaxed environment, selling great affordable small production wines from all over the world. Café Chloe is a favorite downtown, but we need something in north county.
What makes cooking in here different than other cities you've worked in? How is San Diego unique as far as the restaurant/chef community?
We actually grow a lot of the vegetables that we cook with right here in our own city's backyard!
The community is small; I know a lot of the chefs around town but we all tend to keep to ourselves and do our own thing. I think this is cool because you see a lot of variety, unlike other big cities where everyone is trying to copy or do similar things to take the business away from others. I think we have a great selection and diversity of foods here.