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Best Things I Ate This Month: June 2018

Abalone at Cloak & Petal, Mermaid Bowl at Little Lion, and Polenta with Ragu at Cucina Urbana

By Troy Johnson

Abalone at Cloak & Petal

Best Things I Ate This Month: June 2018

Best Things I Ate This Month: June 2018

Photo by Paula Watts

Before you cook it, abalone is already romantic. You start thinking about lifelong watermen who can hold their breath longer than most of us can hold a job, diving down to the ocean floor to nab the iridescent shell. They’d eat the meat, then sell tourists on the shell. The meat is absolutely delicious, naturally a little buttery and salty. It’s tricky, though. You just need to cook it for a couple seconds per side. Anymore, and it’s erasers. Cloak & Petal does it perfectly, sauteed in butter and served in shell with garlic, asparagus, sake, and scallions. For show, they rest it on a “salt cloud” that’s doused with booze and set aflame. Speaking of show, you gotta see Cloak & Petal. It’s loud and vibrant and beautiful.

1953 India Street, Little Italy

Mermaid Bowl at Little Lion

Best Things I Ate This Month: June 2018

Best Things I Ate This Month: June 2018

I just got home after two months on the road. Time to dive deep back into San Diego’s food scene. But I never feel home until a few things happen. First, I stock the fridge with damn delicious food. Second, I make chicken stock. And third, I go to a standby neighborhood joint. Little Lion is that joint for me, the very definition of a charming bistro. They buy the best, most delicious raw ingredients, and don’t mess ‘em up. Try this breakfast bowl of housemade spirulina-coconut yogurt with seasonal berries, toasted nuts, toasted coconut, and hemp seed. About the only time I’d not tell you to beware of any food that’s blue.

1424 Sunset Cliffs Blvd., Ocean Beach

Polenta with Ragu at Cucina Urbana

Best Things I Ate This Month: June 2018

Best Things I Ate This Month: June 2018

Photo by Sam Wells

I revisited this dish this month, and no matter how many times I go back to the well, the well’s never dry. It’s one of chef Joe Magnanelli’s greatest hits, included in our list of 103 Dishes to Eat in San Diego Before You Die. They use the whey from their housemade ricotta as a braising liquid for pork shoulder, braise that until the meat is stupidly tender, mix it with garlic, shallots, carrots, onion, and greens. The organic polenta is made with whey, Parmesan stock, milk, vinegar, mascarpone, and garlic. A moaner.

505 Laurel St., Bankers Hill

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