By Frank Sabatini Jr.
Accomplished chef Claudette Wilkins has been hired to oversee research and development for the Rise & Shine Restaurant Group, which operates multiple locations of Fig Tree Café and Breakfast Republic. She will eventually helm the kitchen of the group’s upcoming El Jardin, a concept spotlighting modern and traditional Mexican cuisine that’s due to open early next year in Liberty Station.
Wilkins helped launch Little Italy’s Bracero Cocina de Raiz in 2015 and worked also at Jsix in the East Village and Sea 180 Coastal Tavern in Imperial Beach. More recently, she tapped into her Guadalajara roots with a repertoire of Baja-Mediterranean cuisine she presented at pop-up events throughout the U.S. and Canada. The 8,800-square-foot El Jardin will be located at 2865 Sims Road. riseandshinerg.com.
The spacious Voltaire Beach House opened in Ocean Beach on Jan. 13 to the tune of breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus 40 beer taps spotlighting local and regional craft brews. Among them are beers entering the San Diego market for the first time from Golden State Brewery, which are available in a special taproom on the property.
Abe Botello of West Coast Tavern in North Park serves as consulting chef for the Nantucket-style establishment. He helped shape a menu that features short rib flatbread, fried oysters and shrimp, po’boy sandwiches, a variety of burgers and more. Design elements include antique objects, stocked bookshelves, an outdoor patio, and a spiral staircase that leads to nowhere. 4934 Voltaire St., 619-955-8840, voltairebeachhouse.com.
Artisan food makers and brewers specializing in the art of fermentation will converge at the third annual San Diego Fermentation Food Festival, to be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Feb. 4, at San Diego Waterfront Park. The event brings together dozens of vendors specializing in fermented foods.
This year’s participants include Edible Alchemy, Kombucha Kamp, Living Tea Brewing Co., Kashi, Jimbo’s Naturally, American Gut Project and more.
In addition, prepared food samples will be doled out by URBN Pizza, Bite San Diego, Harvest Kitchen, and a few others, and several local breweries such as Modern Times and Green Flash will serve beer in the designated “Ambrosia Garden.”
Admission is $25, or $39 with the beer tastings included. 1600 Pacific Highway, sandiegofermentationfestival.com.
Fans of Taco Bell are gearing up for the company’s new “naked chicken chalupa,” a taco that uses a shell made entirely of crispy white-meat chicken. Inside are tomatoes, lettuce, shredded cheddar and creamy avocado-ranch dressing. The item was test marketed in Bakersfield, California, and Kansas City, Missouri, before gaining approval for nationwide release. It will hit the menus in San Diego on Jan. 26 or 27, depending on location. tacobell.com.
Hillcrest will see a March arrival of two adjacent restaurants by Cohn Restaurant Group, one of which will connect to a “speakeasy-style” cocktail bar in the back.
The restaurant group’s president, David Cohn, revealed in an interview with Gay San Diego that Tacos Libertad will move into what was an upholstery shop next door to Flicks, at 1023 University Ave.
He describes the concept as “a passion project” of longtime restaurateur and designer Philippe Beltran, who is also overseeing the formation of Cache, a hidden bar fronted by the taco shop and accessible through a rear door. Cache will specialize in craft cocktails and accommodate a maximum of 40 to 50 customers, Cohn said.
According to Beltran, the taco shop will feature counter seating surrounding an open kitchen, allowing diners to see tortillas in the making while their taco fillings cook on a wood-burning Santa Maria-style grill.
“We’ll start off with about nine different types of tacos on the menu with choices such as chicken, beef, seafood and veggies,” he said. “They’ll represent an adventure of flavors from Latin America and Mexico.”
Opening likely at the same time in the adjacent space that previously housed Cohn Group’s 100 Wines at 1027 University Ave. will be BO-beau Kitchen + Cache, modeled largely after the BO-beau kitchens in Ocean Beach and La Mesa. Despite “Cache” in its name, Beltran says BO-beau customers will have to enter through the taco shop to access the secret bar. cohnrestaurants.com.
—Frank Sabatini Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.