What San Diegans Eat – Artisan Gustaf Rooth

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Gustaf Rooth is an artisan. He’s a Swede and a San Diegan as well. He’s also an organizer, an entrepreneur, and a lover of life in general. He started “Ray at Night” eight years ago, when North Park was still rebuilding. Like many North Parkers, (see last week’s installment featuring Omar Passons) Gustaf loves his neighborhood, its restaurants and bars, and all that the surrounding San Diego neighborhoods have to offer. As a former chef, he values and savors everything he consumes – one of the simple joys in life.

List everything that you consumed in the past 24 hours:

Well, yesterday was Sunday, the only day I take off – if I can. I was free after our Ray at Night art event on Saturday, so a day off means BEER! Which is what I had for breakfast before heading to my favorite Bar (BlueFoot) to hang with my favorite locals (that’s you guys!) and to enjoy bartender Dana, whilst drinking even more beer. Then the hunger got satified with Bliss Cakes from Cardamom Cafe & Bakery on Upas, oh man!

After that, owner Adam Cook showed up with a very special Swedish treat, Turkish Pepper Shots! Absolut vodka that has dissolved strong licorice candies in it from Finland, love it or leave it. Ask for it!!

After a long afternoon there it was back home to get the studio a little picked up and then plan a meal for the evening with my friends, lover Anjela and step daughter River. For us I wanted some euro flavor, so I prepared some brautwurst. Lightly fry in a pan and sear, add beer, slow cook, remove from heat. Light the chimenea on the deck and put condiments out, strong mustard please! For River, I prepared pork chops filled with apple almond stuffing and served with cooked red potaotes. Put the braut on a stick, warm by the fire, add bread and goodies-eat. Open a bottle of White Lambrusco, plenty of Coronas, treat to some fine Belgian chocolate and watch the fire burn out! Of course, some Pellegrino in between and a V-8 for vitamins. Serve some teas or coffee but not for me, can you see me on caffeine?? Tasted some salt and vinegar chips which I found quite displeasing. I have yet to eat today, but had some bread (beer!). It is Monday you know??!!

List your top 5 restaurants, or favorite meals to cook, or your “rotation:”

I am not a creature of habit…….but I do stay faithful to my favorites.

  1. Luigi’s Pizza in Golden Hill – Luigi I love you brother. It’s my sanctuary, so if you are not finding me in the gallery, look there.
  2. Hodad‘s in OB! (DUH!)
  3. Restaurang Sture Hof on The Big Square, Malmoe, Sweden. An experience fit for a King. That’s why our King Carl Gustaf eats there! I am homesick.
  4. Wet Stone Wine Bar and Cafe on Bankers Hill … Go see my great friend Christian and my (single!) brother Jonas (DJ Vitamin J) for a great experience!
  5. Karina’s Authentic Mexican restuarant in Chula Vista. The finest ceviche, salsa and most beautiful Latinas in all of San Diego.
  • Gotta throw in the Glass Door in Little Italy. View, sunsets and my best friend Chef Rob Conaway is the master!

Tell me your favorite grocery store:

Sorry, haven’t found one yet that can compare to the many Main Square Markets in Sweden. There you mingle with so many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds and barter barter barter!!! Way different than our farmers market here. There you can but produce from all over Europe without paying two bucks for an avocado. Come on! $2? We grow avocados everywhere in California, but I think most of those are exported.

Don’t get me wrong, I am though, a starving artist for the moment!

Tell me your favorite meal you’ve eaten in the past month:

My Mother is the main inspiration of all my cooking, and recently we had a great evening at my folks house with one of my favorite dishes, which I usually get for my birthday:

Curry chicken with rice in a creamy curry sauce. The best part of this dish is the pickings you choose to enhance your dish. You choose from ripe bananas and freshly grated coconut, yummy sweet currants or raisins, toasted slivered almonds.

It is a bit Pacific Rim but indeed very Swedish. The Vikings and early settlers in Sweden brought many delights from the North African Coast while traveling and conquering, some of our most traditional recipes actually stem from these exotic palces which involve rare spices and product. Mmmmmm! The chunk white chicken in sauce with white rice and all your favorite helpings is a real treat!

I still think my mom should write a book or have her own show. When she had Chrisitna’s Food Boutique in La Mesa during the 80s, she was quite the popular choice amongst many foodies. You rock Mama!!

What is one food item you could not bare to live without ever eating again?

You are asking a Swede about food you know!!?? So this is an easy one for me:

Danish Polse med svob/brod med ristad lok, stark senap och ketchup (Danish sausage wrapped in bacon/bread with deep fried onions and really strong mustard and ketchup). Available at street stands everywhere in Sweden and Denmark.

*did I mention the cold Carlsberg Hof that goes with it??? HEAVEN!

What do you want the readers to know about yourself?

I have been very engaged in my neighborhood of North Park now for almost ten years running. Ray At Night, which just celebrated its 94th straight monthly art event, has ballooned into the largest and longest monthly art event in the history of San Diego. Planet Rooth founded the event almost eight years ago and I am in awe of the inspiration I draw from each and every event!

On any given event you can enjoy the culinary delights of Chef Robert Conaway, Head Chef for the Glass Door in little Itlay or the fine tastings of the Wet Stone Wine Bar on Bankers Hill. Those are two of my favorite places in San Diego for fine dining and eats. Since I am now a working living artisan by trade, the restaurant experience is something I value a lot because it means I stop working for a moment and nourish myself … all the while getting a little rest; yes, I work over 75 hours a week!

I used to be a working chef (people have said I should have my own show), now I just cook for fun! One cannot help but draw the parallels of cooking with being an artisan. The difference (professionally) now versus before is that you don’t eat my creations any more! You sit on my chairs (see my new wine barrel chairs here) and eat from my tables. You use custom cutlery and oddly designed plates lit by custom candle holders while looking at my fine art paintings and listening to fine music coming from the custom entertainment center I built as the centerpiece of your castle. From the kitchen stove to the entire home … it’s been quite the transition.

It’s either that or just hire me to design and build your whole restaurant! Just check out Sushi on the Rock on Prospect in La Jolla and you’ll get the jist of what I am talking about. It’s all about the experience. It’s all about the process. ENJOY!


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