The culinary team at the upscale bistro Café Merlot shows curious cooks how to whip up special recipes and pick palate-pleasing wines in a welcoming, hands-on environment. Owners Toni and Rick Kraft, chef Daniel Reynolds, and sous chef Stella Midori-Mokofski will make a meal materialize before your eyes, demonstrating their innovative techniques in culinary crafting and their penchant for magic. Chef Daniel, with a degree from the San Diego Culinary Institute, has helped transform the vineyard-based bistro into an impressive, inventive dining experience. Learn some of his gastronomical tricks and apply them to your next dinner party or supervillain bake sale during your chosen three-hour session.
From thin, two-handed East Coast staples to the Midwest's famed deep-dish variety, Sweet Home Chicago brings the best to the west. Feast on a super skinny slice of NY-style pie smothered in cheese ($11 medium, $14 large), pepperoni and sausage ($15 for a medium), or pepperoni, sausage, meatball, mushroom, onion, and green peppers ($19 for a large). Toppings run the gamut from black olives to banana peppers. Chunky tomato sauce crested atop a buttery crest with mounds and mounds of cheese epitomize the Windy City's stuffed pie. Stretch stomach muscles to the moon and back with a monkey pie, studded with sausage and banana peppers ($17 medium, $21.50 large), or a meat-heavy and jalapeño-blessed El Goffo ($19 medium, $23.75 large). Sweet Home Chicago also serves Chicago-style thin crust (browned cheese, square cut), calzones, and salads. A wide selection of rotating craft beers makes perfect pizza companions.
The aroma of freshly baked pizzas crowned with pepperoni, meatballs, and garlic fills the air every day at Coney Island Pizzeria. In the kitchen, the cooks assemble Coney Island–themed pies, such as the Luna Park with pepperoni, bacon, and pineapple and the Wonder Wheel, topped with alfredo sauce, bacon, meatballs, and green peppers. During two-hour pizza-making classes held every Saturday, students learn to re-create the restaurant's signature pies, preparing the dough, making the sauce, and topping the pizzas with fresh ingredients and cheese. After sessions, students tote home a complimentary 18-inch pie of their choice or the choice of the myna bird living on their back.
Hidden Deli and Catering's staff layers Boar's Head meats and cheeses on a menu of sandwiches named after popular movies and TV shows. Each carnivore-titillating sandwich is filled with 5–6 ounces of meat, such as the genoa and dry salami, pepperoni, and mortadella on the 8-inch New York/New York italian sub, an amalgamation as protein-rich as a millionaire who made his money in hot-dog mining. In the Jaws sandwich, albacore tuna floats atop swiss cheese and horseradish sauce, and the Veggie Tales bathes spinach, cucumber, and cheddar in pesto sauce. The Police Academy brandishes smoked applewood bacon, lettuce, and tomato as it patrols ovens for optional toasted flavor and jaywalking potholders.
The staff at David's Window Washing has the enviable task of serving San Diego County, where year-round sunshine ensures there's no shortage of sliding glass doors and floor-to-ceiling windows in need of squeegeeing. Nonetheless, the team makes itself amenable to sudsy needs of all sorts, clearing dirt from interior and exterior windows, screens, and mirrors smudged by one too many attempts to visit Wonderland.
After graduating from high school, Reza Karkouti dreamed of opening his own teriyaki restaurant. He garnered support from family and friends, and he and his father, Ahad, opened a tiny eatery called Tokyo's Teriyaki in Encinitas in 1992. Through hard work and an attention to detail, the restaurant's reputation grew, and the demand for juicy, teriyaki-glazed chicken and beef quickly spread to other cities. This led Reza’s younger brother, Amir, to help open a second location. Now a seven-location, family-owned chain, Surf Brothers Teriyaki still sees its two siblings focusing on customer service and quality products.
The duo chooses natural meats that are minimally processed, hand trimmed, and grilled, avoiding shortcuts such as microwaves, frozen foods, and laser-based slicing. Their Hawaiian-themed restaurants and catering business have been featured in numerous television spots, radio shows, and newspaper articles. Michelle Murphy Zive of SanDiegoFamily.com says the restaurant offers "a taste of Hawaii" and "healthy food served fast." The brothers give back to the community that helped them grow by donating to charitable organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Homes project.