Local Wally's Guide to San Diego

Local Wally's Guide to San Diego

best things to eat at the san diego fair

Good Eats San Diego: Seasons 52 at Seaport Village Headquarters

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Nice dining room at Seasons 52 in San Diego's Seaport Village

Nice dining room at Seasons 52 in San Diego's Seaport Village

I normally avoid chain restaurants. It's not that I'm a food snob it's that when I want consistency I go to McDonalds. I like restaurants where the chef makes a difference, where food isn't cooked on a conveyor belt. That perfectly describes Seasons 52. With 43 locations, 2 in San Diego alone, there's no getting around it - this is a chain. But with a seasonally changing menu prepared by talented chefs, Seasons 52 rises above and places itself squarely into Good Eats territory, certainly a contender for your next night out. I was lucky enough to check out their new Spring menu - let's have a look.

Start with the Flatbreads

Lobster and Mozzarella Flatbread

Light and crispy flatbread at Seasons 52

Flatbreads are the rage at so many restaurants but so many fail. I'm no flatbread expert but many of them are just bad pizzas. No so at Seasons 52 where the flatbreads are thin and crispy and topped with super high quality ingredients. My favorite has to be the Lobster and Fresh Mozzerella with roasted sweet peppers, slivered scallions, lobster sour cream, and paired with a glass of Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne Champagne. That's right, don't forget that Seasons 52 has an extensive wine list with 52 wines by the glass always available - try them all!

Oh My Cod! 

Asian-glazed Sea Bass at Seasons 52 in San Diego

Ordering something new off a menu is a bit like internet dating. It looks good, it sounds good, but will it meet your expectations when it arrives? Well let me tell you, the Asian Glazed Chilean Sea Bass is one of the most beautiful, best executed fish dishes I have ever experienced, a true 10 on the 1-10 scale, a knockout in both looks and flavor. The black rice was insanely delicious and the glaze was just sweet enough without being cloying. Order this an watch the heads turn at the tables as it passes by, it's that stunningly perfect.

Mmmmm, Meyer Lemon Ricotta Ravioli

Ravioli at Seasons 52 in San Diego

Say it - Wow! Yes, this is another example of why I love Seasons 52. The lemon ricotta ravioli was topped with a brown butter sauce, some roasted peppers and English peas and so tangy delicious that its memory is forever embedded into my taste buds. 

Even More Good Eats at Seasons 52

Grilled Scallops at Seasons 52 in San Diego

Rack of Lamb at Seasons 52

Grilling scallops could be a disaster but Seasons 52 knocked it out of the park with their Caramelized Grilled Sea Scallops with Lemon Risotto. Scallops were delicate, the risotto complimented, the fresh peas and roasted asparagus cooked perfectly, this is a top dish. Get this one if you love seafood.  But wait... there's more?

Yes, a serious Wood Grilled Rack of Lamb with spring vegetables, Yukon Gold mash and shallot jus. It was gorgeous, perhaps a touch of finishing salt would make it pop. You do bring your own Maldon Salt with you to restaurants, don't you? 

Meet the Chef

Chef Mo at Seasons 52

Chef Mo is the guy who makes it all happen at Seasons 52 at San Diego's Seaport Village Headquarters. With a resume from some of the best restaurants in San Diego he knows his way around the kitchen. So thanks Seasons 52 and thanks Mo for an awesome meal. Chain restaurant? Perhaps. Predictable chain restaurant food? No way! Seasons 52 is good enough to rival the best in San Diego and deserves to be on your foodie bucket list.

Local Wally

Fair Food To Remember (Or Not!)

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I'll admit it.  I have been called a foodie, even a food snob.  I just love food. It doesn't have to be expensive, it doesn't have to be weird, it just has to be good.  And with that in mind I enter the San Diego Fair 2015, A Fair To Remember, to taste all the new things the fair has to offer this year. 

The usual suspects are there.  Tasti Chips, the ultimate just fried potato chip, still fresh and crispy.  Australian Battered Potatoes, a tempura dipped potato slice dipped in nacho cheese sauce or ranch dressing, a decadent favorite.  The excellent cinnamon rolls, the grilled corn on the cob booth, all there and all still serving up fair food that's comforting and doesn't disappoint.  Stick with these old favorites and you don't leave with Midway Food Disappointment.

But you can't resist, can you?  You have to try to newest, the weirdest, the fair food that everyone is talking about just so you can talk about it when you get back to the office.  So let me guide you to the New Things to Eat at the San Diego Fair, 2015.

Chicken Charlie Fries Again

Triple Decker Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger

Deep fried Slimfast Bar

Deep fried pickle with peanut butter inside

Deep fried pickle with peanut butter inside

Chicken Charlies is an enigma to me.  On one hand the produce one of the best things at the fair, the Maui Pineapple which is a full half pineapple stuffed with rice and teriyaki chicken, nearly restaurant quality.  They make a decent chicken kebob with breast meat that is a solid healthy option. 

And then they fry a Slimfast bar.

That's right, the shock food this year is a deep fried Slimfast bar that's surprisingly tasty, a bit like a deep fried brownie.  That should be no real surprise as Slimfast tries to taste like real food so deep frying it makes it taste just like real fair food.

The Krispy Kreme burger returns in a triple decker and it's better than I remembered it from a couple of years ago when I gave it a huge thumbs down.  I'm not sure why it was so bad before but so not bad now, but I sort of liked it.  I'd eat it again.  Maybe one more time.

But not the deep fried pickle stuffed with peanut butter, which was a disgusting mess and simply terrible.  Some people seemed to really like it but I think it's more shock than anything.  Think about it - do you normally put peanut butter on top of a dill pickle?  Does that even sound good? 

Bacon A Fair, Oh No, Seriously???

Bacon A Fair Wasabi Bomb

Chocolate Covered Pork Rinds

Deep Fried Starbucks Coffee???

First let me start by saying I had high hopes for these 3 new items.  Sigh.  Bacon A Fair seriously strikes out three times in a row, first with the Wasabi Bomb which was a soggy, messy dough ball filled with wasabi sauce (cheese?) and wrapped in bacon.  It sounds like it would work but the execution failed.

The chocolate covered pork rinds were just not pleasant, not tasty.  Not bad, but nothing that makes you want more.  Same with the Deep Fried Starbucks which was another soggy ball of dough with ground up coffee beans inside.  Texturally it was just weird.  I've read some Instagram posts from others who loved all three of these items but no one in my party liked these.  Taste for yourself at your own risk!

From the Original Grilled Corn Booth

The guy on the left is the owner of the Original Corn Booth.  He's much bigger in person.

Sweet Corn Ice Cream.  Yes, it's ice cream that tastes like corn wrapped in a corn husk.  Gimmick?  Silly?  Perhaps, but it's also one of the tastiest things at the fair this year.  Foodies will agree, this is the sort of thing you would order at a cool hipster restaurant in North Park and gush all over.  It's sophisticated, it's creamy, it's the sort of thing that you think wouldn't work but does.  Big thumbs up!

Some people around me were less enthusiastic but you can't deep fry everything!  Trust me, if you are a foodie you will love this ice cream.  Find it at the original grilled corn booth, the one with the giant inflatable corn cob display.

Pinks Hotdogs from Hollywood

Pinks Hotdogs from Hollywood does everything right

Pinks is the famous hotdog joint in Hollywood, the place where people stand in line for an hour to get a chili dog.  I've done that, at midnight, so I was very happy to see them at the San Diego Fair.  But can a hotdog compete with the crazy deep fried creations from the other food vendors? 

Yes.  In fact it kicks their butts.  That's because Pinks uses ultra high quality dogs that pop when you bite them and tops them with creative, but quality, ingredients.  The chili on the dog is so good you want a bowl of it and the sauerkraut and pastrami dog goes beyond the weird factor and into the wow.  I know, getting a hot dog at the fair seems somewhat anticlimactic but not when it's a dog from Pinks.

Best Thing to Eat at the San Diego Fair, 2015 - The Gingerbread House

Yes, I want that S'more sundae!

Insanely delicious!

Just look for this guy.  You know this guy!

What?  A dessert wins for the Best Thing To Eat at the Fair, 2015?  I don't even like desserts but this is twice in the past 5 years I've given Best of The Fair to the Gingerbread House.  I had a delicious 7 layer S'More sundae, melted marshmallows with crispy graham crackers dusted on top, it was absolutely decadently delicious!  It was simple, it was well executed, and the melted gooey marshmallow was a nice textural surprise. The Gingerbread House proves that you don't need a deep fryer to make great food at the fair. 

I know it's not sexy like a deep fried sciracha pickle wrapped in bacon but in the end it's all about eating something that makes you smile, a treat that makes you want another bite, and that's exactly what the Gingerbread House does.  You go ahead and order that deep fried whatever, you'll find me in my bliss spot at The Gingerbread House happily eating desserts.