Herb & Wood
Ruka loved SIDECAR. She’s was off flirting with the guys playing pool, while I was at the bar talking to Jessie. We left there and she wanted to go home and take a nap and I wanted to go out and find some more places with unique drinks, so I took her back to our room at World Mark San Diego, left the car with the valet, and off I went to Kettner Boulevard.
It was just a short Lyft ride away. Kettner Boulevard is just west of I-5 and east of the Pacific Coast Highway. This block is so close to the beginning of the Airport runway that you can nearly touch the wheels of the planes as they fly overhead. There are three venues along on this block of Kettner. On one corner is The Crack Shack, in the middle of the block is Juniper & Ivy, named after the cross streets, and Herb & Wood is at the other end of the block. I chose Herb & Wood. It is an old furniture warehouse showroom in the little Italy district that has been gentrified.
"Yet it is truly the restaurant menu that will catch your appreciable attention. I wished that I could have tried all 34 items that were on the menu."
What I liked about Herb & Wood is that it was a large space with a high ceiling and simple décor. And when I say that it is a large space, I mean that you could nearly have four basketball courts in these rooms. Nicely placed in the center of the main room is a square bar. You could tell by the design of the bar that this establishment would have a focus on cocktails. I sat down and ordered a Gin and Lavender. This is a great twist on a very common cocktail, the gin and tonic, without the tonic.
Here are just some of the unique drinks you’ll find at Herb & Wood. I’m sorry that I could not try them all, but note how each of these cocktails is unique and cannot be made at your corner bar. Now you see mixologists bringing the kitchen to the bar. Craft cocktails include Lavender, Thyme, Rosemary, Dill, Mint, Basil, Sage, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cucumber, peppers, sea salt, even fat, and the list goes on. These are just some of the ingredients in the new American cocktail scene.
Here are some of the cocktails at Herb & Wood:
Gin & Lavender - Lavender Infused Beefeater, Thyme-Honey Syrup, Lemon, Soda
Bourbon & Rosemary - Orange-Rosemary Infused Old Forester, Sugar, Lemon
Rum & Pineapple - Ron Matusalem, House Pineapple Cordial, Giffard Banana Liqueur, Lime
Gin & Cucumber - Beefeater, Sugar, Lime, Dill, Cucumber, Soda
Rhum & Lime - Rhum JM Agricole, Lustau Fino Sherry, Lime, Demerara
Smoke & Spice - Del Maguey Mezcal, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, Pineapple, Agave, Lime
Vodka & Ginger - Green Mark Vodka, St. Germain, Mixwell Ginger Ale, Lime
Bourbon & Berries - Old Forester, Blackberry-Cinnamon Syrup, Angostura Bitters, Orange Peel
Tequila & Grapefruit - El Charro, Giffard Grapefruit Liqueur, Lillet Blanc, Grapefruit Peel
Smoke & Amaro - Del Maguey Mezcal, Sweet Vermouth, Aperol, Luxardo Cherry
Rye & Cherries - Woodford Reserve Rye, Amaro Nonino, Cherry Heering, Chocolate Bitters
Iberico & Bourbon - Iberico Fat-Washed Old Forester Bourbon, Amaro Montenegro, R&D Aromatic Bitters
And here is the partial list of the small breweries they had on their list on the day I visited
Herb & Wood.
But most of the people that come to Herb & Wood, come to focus on the acclaimed Chef’s food. As my good fortune would have it, I got to meet Chef Brian Malarkey because he happened to know the two women that I had been chatting with at the bar. Well, Brian is quite the impressive character. He has opened 11 restaurants in the San Diego, L.A., and Las Vegas and he is one of those chefs that you’ll see on TV. His concept here at Herb & Wood features a “less-is-more approach with wood-fired cooking”(1). Yet the venue also includes Herb & Eatery, a café/market/butcher shop on an upper level with a street entrance on the Kettner Blvd side of the Building. Herb & Eatery features, bread, breakfast & lunch stuff, charcuterie, pickled items, rubs, meats, soups and salads and a whole lot more. Just the perfect kind of place for the grab, go and eat on-the-run life style of the urban millennial generation.
Yet it is truly the restaurant menu that will catch your appreciable attention. I wished that I could have tried all 34 items that were on the menu. No doubt the menu changes frequently. I’ll list a few of the things that caught my eye.
Roasted Beet, Burrata, Sherry. Walnut Pesto, Jamon Iberico
Seared Scallops, Sea Bean Gremolata, Blood Orange, Tangerine, Olive Oil
Smoked Salmon, Pullman (Texas Toast), Crème Fraiche, Parsley, Caper-Shallot Salad, Trout Roe
Roasted Baby Carrots, Cashew Sesame Dukkah, Aleppo Yogurt, Carrot Top Pesto
Grilled Swordfish, Herb Spaetzle, Morels, Green Garlic, Preserved Lemon Relish
Grilled Venison Loin, Roasted Dates, Sherry, Thyme, California Buttermilk Polenta
Gnocchi, Oxtail Roasted Garlic, Parsley, Chive, Sherry, Parmesan, Horseradish
Mushroom & Truffle-studded Goat Cheese, Garlic Confit, Arugula Pizza
So, this is just a sampling of the items you’ll find on the Herb & Wood menu. Chef Brian Malarkey has done an excellent job giving his dining audience the chance to experience culinary delights that you won’t find at your average neighborhood venue. I could only try three items on the menu the evening that I was there because I wasn’t that hungry. It’s bad enough when you order drinks just to taste them, but even worst when you order food and only eat half. I think this is a great venue to visit.
If I were a food critic, the only recommendation I’d share with Brian is that he should switch out the Pullman Texas Toast.
Ruka, you missed out on a great venue. Brian, I’ll check on you again when I’m in Las Vegas.
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Enjoy life, drink responsibly.
1) Toque of the Town, Gillian Flynn
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