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North County San Diego Restaurant: Blanca

Aug 9, 2008
Blanca, one of North County San Diego's newest fine dining restaurants is definitely suitably named. With snow white dining plates, table linens, pendant lanterns, and a prominent concrete bar, Blanca is elegant, classy, and cool--just like Solana Beach and the surrounding North County area.

Proprietors Seth Bass and Debbie Hugonin named the restaurant Blanca for this exact reason. They envisioned an establishment with the same hip sophistication that Solana Beach restaurants carry. Their vision "was to bring together all that [they] cared about into one place; family, friends, great food, and fine wine. [Their] vision became Blanca."

The cuisine at Blanca innovatively fuses contemporary California cuisine with the sensibility of traditional French technique. Blanca uses local organic produce and local, sustainable seafood whenever possible. Executive Chef Wade Hageman is constantly adding new dishes to the ever changing menu and the General Manager and Sommelier Zubin Desai serves up charisma and top notch wine pairings in the front of the house.

The tranquil, minimalist dining room has perfectly dimmed lighting, comfortable seating offering both booths and tables, and accommodates up to twenty-two guests. Blanca boasts a private, outdoor patio complete with a fifty-two inch plasma monitor and iPod docking port. With polished servers, a stunning bar and lounge, and a classy clientele, Blanca is easily holding its place as one of North County San Diego restaurants most desired dining locales.

Beginning with the starters, Blanca offers moderately priced finger foods such as Heirloom Wisconsin Black Popcorn with finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Truffle Salt, Truffled French Fries with Black Truffle Mayonnaise, Crispy Baby Violet Artichokes with Baby Fennel and Garlic Aïoli, Tempura Salt and Pepper Jumbo Prawns with Tellicherry Pepper-Lime Dipping Sauce and Scallions, Deep Fried Baby Zucchini with Fresh Tomato Sauce, and Dungeness Crab Deviled Eggs.

Raw appetizers include Market Oysters on the Half Shell with Champagne Mignonette and Lime Cocktail Sauce, Hawaiian Kona Kampachi Yellowtail with pickled Radish Salad and crystallized Ginger Vinaigrette or a Sushi Rice Cake and fermented Black Bean Vinaigrette, and Niman Ranch Filet Mignon Tartare with Quail Egg Yolk and toasted Peanut Oil served "Thai Style."

Traditional starters vary from a Young Greens Salad with toasted Pine Nuts, Laura Chenel Goat Cheese, and Oven-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette, Linguini with Clam Sauce with Manila Clams, Monterey Bay Calamari, and Sweet Butter-Chili Flake Emulsion, Summer Watermelon Timbale with Micro Cilantro, Greek Feta Cheese, and Champagne Vinaigrette, Crispy Petaluma Quail with Haricot Verts, Buttermilk Potato Purée, and Red Eye Gravy, to Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Griddled Strawberry Broiche and Strawberry Gatrique, Squash Blossom Soup with Baby Zucchini and Chive Essence, and Chino Farms Corn Soufflé with Black Truffle Cream.

At this point you will likely be ready for one of Blanca's signature martinis or cocktails. Try the "Peach-Pom," made with Absolut Apeach Vodka, Pama Liqueur, and Peach Purée, or the "Lemon-Ginger Cooler," made with Lemongrass-Infused Vodka, muddled Cilantro, and Schweppes Ginger Ale.

Other irresistible libations include the "42/43," made with Don Julio 1942, Licor Cuarenta Y Tres Cazadores, and Vanilla Sweet-Salt, the "Feng Shui," made with Sake-Infused Vodka and Crystallized Ginger, the "Blackberry Mojito," the "Fleur de Lys," made with Skyy Vodka, St. Germain Liqueur, Chambord, and a Champagne floater, the "Perfect Gentleman," made with Hendricks Gin, Essence of Noilly Prat, and Preserved Lemon Stuffed Olives, or the "Desert Rose," made with Prickly Pear-Infused Vodka, and Strawberry and Vanilla Essence. Blanca also offers a full bar and an extensive, dynamic wine and champagne list.

Blanca's entrée menu includes Executive Chef Wade Hageman's signature dishes, seasonal dishes, and grilled dishes. Signature dishes range from the Merlot Braised Short Rib and Bacon Wrapped Day Boat Diver Scallops to the Niman Ranch Filet Mignon "Rossini."

Seasonal dishes currently vary from Oregon Porcini Risotto and Air Dried Corn Crusted Wild Alaskan Halibut to Indiana White Pekin Duck Breast "En Sous Vide" and Mediterranean Loup de Mer "En Papillote."

Grilled dishes come with one side of choice and one sauce/butter of choice. Choose from the Organic Niman Ranch Pork Chop, the Snake River Farms Kobe "Flat Iron Steak," the Colorado "Boneless" Rack of Lamb, the Niman Ranch "28 Day Dry-Aged" New York Steak, or the Prime Nebraska Corn Fed "Eye" of the Ribeye.

Sides vary from Crème Fraîche and Chive Potato Purée, Macaroni and Cheese Gratin, Bellwether Farms Ricotta Gnocchi, and Buttered Summer Squash, to Parmesan Creamed Spinach, Organic Baby Broccoli, and Roasted Marble Potatoes.

The sauces/butter that accompany these delectable grilled entrees include Pinot Noir Demi-Glace, Classic Béarnaise, Port Wine Reduction, House-made Worcestershire, Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese Butter, 3 Mustard Compound Butter, or Meyer Lemon-Chive Beurre Blanc.

In the event that there is still room for dessert, sample one of Blanca's sinful finales. Indulge in the Butterscotch Pot de Crème, Tahitian Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, Sticky Toffee Pudding, "Rocky Road" Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake, "Peanut Butter and Bananas," Farmers Market Strawberry Soufflé, or the Trio of House-Made Sorbets. Don't forget an accompanying glass of dessert wine, port, or sherry.

Blanca is ideal for locals and San Diego tourists alike, perfect for a private dinner for two or a large celebration, and has raised the bar in North County San Diego for contemporary-cool restaurants with a distinctive and delicious menu.
About the Author
Sarah Martin is a freelance marketing writer based out of San Diego, CA. She specializes in travel, leisure, home improvement, and fine wines and dining. For more San Diego restaurant reviews, please visit http://www.sandiegomagazine.com
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