Located between the barrel room and the vineyards at the historic Bernardo Winery, Café Merlot combines Europe cuisines with Southern California flare. Café Merlot co-owner Toni Kraft grew up in a home with the smells of baking bread, and counts planting, harvesting, and consuming fava beans with her grandmother among her fondest childhood memories. After a career in catering in the Midwest, where she worked alongside the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Wolfgang Puck, Toni brings an experienced but experimental philosophy to her current restaurant’s seasonally-changing menus. And with the help of executive chef Ferdinand, Toni also helps with the cooking classes, which range from cooking with wine to Super Bowl snacks, spreads, and marinades.
The bistro uses the 123-year-old winery’s rustic surroundings to great effect. On the patio, olive trees and grapevines gossip above diners. Indoors, a warm-toned Tuscan ambiance welcomes guests. Sundays see Chef Daniel roll out some of his specialties on the brunch menu, such as lobster eggs benedict and Kahlua French toast, making the cafe an enticing destination for a romantic breakfast date or a confusing business meeting.
Do It With Icing's expert confectioners sculpt frosting frescos and lush delicacies in their classroom kitchen, benefiting bakers-in-training with years of experience and a plethora of sweet supplies. Sugary shelves offer provisions for opulent dessert sequencing, including candy-making paraphernalia and a bevy of different chocolate molds for creating an army of cocoa droids.
Jeff Roberto, a sushi expert, brings a plethora of experience to his San Diego sushi oasis. He has catered large events of up to 16,000 guests as well as the sets of such Hollywood films as Titanic, Pearl Harbor, and Elizabethtown. Inside SOAR (Sushi On A Roll) he constructs specialty rolls filled with shrimp tempura, seared tuna, spicy scallops, and sashimi and nigiri rolls featuring fresh water eel and squid.
Roberto also leads group explorations in the art of sushi preparation during interactive sushi-making classes held inside a private sushi bar. Two-hour classes commence with an assessment of how many edamame you can stuff in your cheeks before you begin tucking vegetable fillings in sheets of seaweed with the help of a bamboo mat. Students jot down notes on the proper consistency of sushi rice, when to sprinkle rolls with sesame seeds, and how to repurpose chopsticks as the mast of a ship-in-a-bottle.
A koi mural provides the backdrop for the expansive 30-seat sushi bar, which is outlined in neon to highlight the dramatic curve of the space. The expansive venue, which accommodates up to 100 people, is popular among large groups of friends looking for a fun outing and U.S. senators playing hooky. Free parking is also available.
Ron Eisenberg opened a shop that sold functional housewares in one section and greeting cards in another. He named the new business "Great News!" as a way to remind customers that the shop was constantly full of new items.
During the 1990s, Eisenberg began transitioning their business into strictly cookware. In fact, Ron turned the old greeting-cards section into a fully functioning cooking school. Today, that school boasts a fully outfitted kitchen where instructors and celebrity chefs share their wisdom during a wide range of classes. Nearby, the 5,200-square-foot retail space equips students of the craft with all the tools, gadgets, and cutlery they need, as well as advice from a knowledgeable staff.
Besides a working kitchen, there are two things a person needs in order to cook: the right gear and the right recipes. The chefs and food aficionados at Kitchen Fantasy supply both with an extensive stock of cookware and a full schedule of cooking classes. Kitchen Fantasy's products run the gamut from tools, like cheese slicers and meatball makers, to accessories, such as chef's coats. Its courses, taught by a team of experienced chefs, touch on general and specific cooking techniques, from knife skills to vegetable-cooking methods less destructive than flooding a garden with boiling water.