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The 10 best things we ate at San Diego restaurants in 2019

A decadent ricotta gnudi dish disguised as an edible flower pot at Avant restaurant in Rancho Bernardo.
(Courtesy photo)

Dining writers Michele Parente and Pam Kragen each picked their five best bites of the year, both savory and sweet

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Every year, dining writers Michele Parente and Pam Kragen keep meticulous notes on the dishes that most tantalized their taste buds during their culinary travels through San Diego County restaurants. This year, they each offer their five top picks, with Kragen starting things off with a savory list and Parente finishing the meal with an all-dessert selection.

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Pam Kragen’s Top 5 Bites

The caulilini dish at Fort Oak is one of many hearty, wood-fired items on the Mission Hills restaurant's untraditional brunch menu.
(Courtesy photo)

1. Charred caulilini at Fort Oak, Mission Hills: This broccoli/cauliflower hybrid vegetable is fire-roasted and served with a tangy fermented chile aioli, shallot vinaigrette, crunchy smoked almonds, currants and herbs. It’s the perfect blend of tastes, textures and umami. $15. fortoaksd.com (Kragen)

Coquille
(Lily Glass)

2. Coquille at Jeune et Jolie, Carlsbad: A scallops dish to die for. Halved scallops are perfectly cooked and served with sunchokes, abalone mushrooms and a delicate vin jaune sauce. $32. jeune-jolie.com

Gluten-free brown butter waffles with walnut butter and raspberry sauce at Homestead restaurant in Solana Beach.
(Courtesy of Jessica Davis Photography)

3. Gluten-free brown butter waffles, Homestead Solana Beach: Chef Jamie Brawn created this decadent, savory, buttery dish for his sons, who are both gluten-intolerant. Crispy on the outside and feather-light inside, these satisfying waffles are served with whipped walnut butter, raspberry coulis and fresh berries. $12. homesteadsolanabeach.com

Ricotta gnudi dish at Avant at the Rancho Bernardo Inn
(Courtesy photo)

4. Ricotta gnudi at AVANT, Rancho Bernardo Inn: An homage to the inn’s expansive produce garden, Chef Chris Gentile serves this dish in a deep bowl filled with what looks like dirt and edible flowers. Dig below the black truffle-infused “soil” and find the surprise of hand-pressed mushroom gnudi, oxtail, chestnuts and cranberry. $19. ranchobernardoinn.com/dine/avant/

A vegan ramen bowl with fried kombucha squash, grilled tofu cutlets, vegan shoyu broth and choice of kale, beet, classic or gluten-free noodles at The Yasai, a vegan Japanese restaurant opening Nov. 15 on Convoy Street in San Diego.
(Courtesy of The Coast Creative)

5. The Classic vegan ramen at The Yasai, Kearny Mesa: Opened in November by Rakiraki Ramen founder Junya Watanabe, The Yasai is the county’s first vegan Japanese restaurant, and its savory, delicious Classic vegan ramen is a guilt-free pleasure. Fried kombucha squash, grilled tofu cutlets, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, wakame seaweed, green onions and garlic chips are served with classic, kale or beet noodles in a surprisingly rich vegan shoyu broth. $14. theyasai.com

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Michele Parente’s Top 5 Bites: Sweet Tooth Edition

The tiramisu at Cesarina restaurant.
((Courtesy of James Tran) )

1. Tiramisù at Cesarina, Point Loma: Pastry chef Cesarina Mezzoni has masterfully reinvented the ubiquitous Italian dessert, layering perfect amounts of ladyfingers, espresso, mascarpone and cocoa powder to-order tableside, making for the dreamiest tiramisù you’ll ever taste. That’s right, ever. $11.50. cesarinarestaurant.com

Butter and Salt doughnut at Sidecar Doughnuts
(Courtesy photo)

2. Brown butter fleur de sel doughnut at Sidecar Doughnuts, Carmel Valley. Rich yet simple, these moist vanilla bean cakes, glazed with brown butter and French sea salt, are served warm out the oven and made fresh every half hour. They’re the golden standard for what a doughnut should be. $3.50. sidecardoughnuts.com/del-mar

Tahitian Vanilla waffle at For Oak in Mission Mills.
(Courtesy photo)

3. Tahitian vanilla waffle at Fort Oak, Mission Hills. Now served with pancakes (yay!), this brunch delight is adorned with delicately flavored sweetened ricotta, silky lemon curd and hot smoked almonds. If you’re like us, you’ll want to savor the goodness without syrup. $14. fortoaksd.com

Vegan Coconut Cake, June 13, 2019 in Oceanside, California at the recently opened Orfila Vineyards and Winery tasting room.
(Howard Lipin/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

4. Vegan coconut cake at Orfila Tasting Room, Oceanside. Go for Orfila winemaker Justin Mund’s exceptional line-up of wines, stay for executive chef Luke Morganstern’s on-point cooking — and baking. Morgansten uses his mom’s recipe to make a surprisingly tender and moist vegan coconut cake with vegan butter coconut frosting that opened our minds to plant-based desserts. $9. orfila.com/oceanside-tasting-room

The must-dessert of the moment is The Henry's peanut butter molten cake.
(Courtesy photo)

5. Peanut butter molten cake at The Henry, Coronado. If the crowds jamming the bar and patio at this new Orange Avenue hotspot are drinking their carbs, they’re missing out on the luscious dark chocolate molten peanut butter cake with peanut butter ice cream, salted peanuts caramel and ethereal peanut dust. $8. thehenryrestaurant.com/locations/the-henry-coronado

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More coverage: 2019 Dining Year in Review


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