Natural Neighborhood Nibbles – Sea Rocket Bistro

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Native American Wild Rice Salad (courtesy photo)

Native American Wild Rice Salad (courtesy photo)

Open for dinner every night, Sea Rocket Bistro is a small neighborhood restaurant in North Park that features seasonal, local and sustainable foods.

I stopped in for dinner one night and caught up with Dennis Stein, co-owner of Sea Rocket Bistro.  As we chatted about his restaurant, it became clear to me that Stein has a passion for all things natural, food that is!

Stein with co-owner and general manager Elena Rivellino take pride in operating their restaurant in an environmentally responsible way. “I visit farmers markets and local farms often, and we buy all our food from nearby sources,” said Stein.

When I noticed the Native American Wild Rice Salad on the menu, I knew it was time to eat. The California-grown wild rice is cooked perfectly al dente and mixed with dried cherries, pine nuts, sesame seeds, shredded carrots and tomatoes in a honey apple cider viniagrette … too good for words.

Oysters from Carlsbad Acqua Farm (courtesy photo)

Oysters from Carlsbad Acqua Farm (courtesy photo)

I like that I can eat at a place that offers so many unique options. Lately, the market fish has included white sea bass, rock cod, snapper, yellowtail, California halibut, swordfish and opah. Don’t miss a half dozen Summer Oysters on the half-shell  from Carlsbad Aqua Farm, served with horseradish sauce, lemon, and the house-made hot pepper sauce.  Pair with a local craft beer or California wine.

About 40 percent of Sea Rocket’s menu items come directly from small farms and artisans, delivered on a regular basis.  According to Stein, large-scale organic farms do not qualify as farm-to-table. “Our first choice is to by from small farms, our second choice is to buy from large organic farms, and our last choice is to buy conventional agriculture,” he said.

Strawberries & Honey in Coconut Cream Sauce (photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Strawberries & Honey in Coconut Cream Sauce (photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Tasty meaty fare includes the grass-fed lamb burger or the Berkshire pastured Pork Chop with Mustard Sauce from the Phillips Family in Santa Rosa, served with sauteed greens and roasted butternut squash, and topped with a tangy whole-grain mustard sauce

I really loved the desserts, especially the Macadamia Nut Pie made with organic macadamia nuts from Jim Russell in Fallbrook. (See recipe below). Equally luscious are the strawberries and honey, which are organic and local, immersed in a silky coconut cream sauce.

Even the Mexican coffee from Caffe Calabria is organic and served French-press style. “The Italian roast and decaf aren’t organic,” said Stein. “We’d like to eventually find some free trade, shade-grown organic coffee, but that’s a project that is still down the road a bit.”

Macadamia Nut Pie (courtesy photo)

Macadamia Nut Pie (courtesy photo)

Macadamia Nut Pie

Makes three small pies

For the pie crust:

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • pinch salt
  • 9 ounces butter, room temperature
  • 2 egg

For the pie filling:

  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1.5 cups honey
  • 3/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons molasses
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • .25 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups coarse chopped macadamias

To Prepare:

Sift confectioner’s sugar, flour and salt together.  Pulse butter in food processor until smooth, about 10 seconds.  Add flour mix and egg and process until it forms a ball.  Divide into 3 and roll out, then fill 3 pie pans.  Poke holes in dough, bake at 375 for about 5 minutes – until just starting to harden.

Mix together filling except macadamia nuts.  Put 1 cup nuts in each pie shell, then pour in filling.  Bake until set and dark golden, about 15-25 minutes.  Let cool. Cut each pie into 6 pieces and garnish with whipped cream.

Recipe courtesy of Sea Rocket Bistro

Stein operates a San Diego blog with an extensive collection of videos of food purveyors from around the region. Check it out at www.searocketbistro.com.

Maria Desiderata Montana is an award-winning food and wine journalist, editor, and published author based in San Diego. She gained an appreciation of European cuisine from her parents who were born and raised in Calabria, Italy. Visit her website at www.sandiegofoodfinds.com.

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