San Diego was alive and bumpin’ last Thursday night with the first night of Comic-Con officially in full swing. My partner in crime, Pablano and I didn’t make our way to the Gaslamp but to the Marina 5 Penthouse in Little Italy. There we took the elevator to the top floor of the building where we were greeted by masked hostesses in a swanky penthouse with a beautiful view of the San Diego skyline. Why were we there? We were representing this very blog, Nerds with Food, at a culinary event sponsored by Dos Equis (yes the beer). Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Academy” teamed up with chef Craig Thornton, who operates the covert operation known as the Wolvesden up in Los Angeles, to bring some lucky San Diegans and visitors from all walks of life a true culinary experience. Wolvesden is an underground supper club where Thornton and his team cook for a small invite-only group at a private residence, which is exactly what happened Thursday night here in San Diego. But, why here in SD? Why now? I had the amazing opportunity to ask Thornton himself, in which he responded: “What I want to do here in San Diego was bring this retreat from the craziness and chaos of Comic-Con. We had two meals today, the first attended by Comic-Con visitors and the second by artists working at the event. I want to give them something so completely different from con food [such as pretzels, corndogs, nachos, etc.] and give them something completely unexpected.” Thornton clearly accomplished what he set out to do when I heard one of my fellow eaters proclaim, “This is the most un-Comic-Con thing I’ve ever done in San Diego.”
Now for the good stuff—the food! For our first course we had a pimento cheese sauce, with a cheese fritter, and spring onion all under a piece of grilled savory steak. We were off with a bang. The second course, which was a personal favorite, was a light and flavorful corn chowder. The warm corn chowder was sprinkled with chunks of fresh cold crab; the two contrasting temperatures were so great. Seared halibut with polenta made up the third course. Now, the next half of the meal was truly amazing. For the fourth course we had a mélange of beans, haricots verdes and yellow beans, and fruit such as golden beet and peach with a crispy potato skin. Now here’s the kicker: this mélange was brought together with cool and tangy horseradish sprinkled with cocoa-coffee “soil.” A-MA-ZING!!! This was Paul’s favorite dish of the night, and was one of the most memorable dishes I have ever eaten. When I asked Thornton how he chose his dishes for the evening, it was this dish that he really focused on. “This dish is farmer’s market on a plate, I went to the farmer’s market and bought so much—they were really happy with me! I wanted to put the best of the farmer’s market and contrast it with the soil. We make the soil by mixing the cocoa and coffee and making almost a cookie, then we ground it up. I wanted this dish to serve as a bridge from the halibut, which is somewhat Italian, to the Mexican al pastor dish.” Mission accomplished; this was one great dish that refreshed the palate and lead to another fantastic dish: the al pastor dish. This was incredible! It consisted of a delicate pork belly that did not over power the accompanying ingredients of caramelized pineapple, radish slices, a slice of creamy avocado and a scrumptious fried tortilla ball all tied together with a sinfully tasty al pastor sauce. As if that was not enough of a treat, dessert threw me back to my childhood days. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the concentrated strawberries over crumbled short cake topped with whipped crème fraiche with a hint of lime juice, but it was definitely the incorporation of pop rocks in the dessert that took me back. What a fantastic way to elevate a dish that much higher, giving it a tangible layer that brought a smile to every person at our table. Truly memorable! This is a meal I will never forget.
I want to thank everyone at the event for an interesting and memorable meal, because atmosphere is also included in the meal experience. First, I’d like to thank Dos Equis for sponsoring the event. I’d like to thank Bjorn for being so nice and hospitable, all of the artists working the Comic-Con event for the lively conversation, the masked hostesses and bartender for never letting me or anyone else end up with an empty beer bottle in our hands, and of course to Craig Thornton and his hard working team for filling our bellies with some of the best food I’ve ever had.