While fast food chains, on the whole, seem to be weathering the recessionary storm, some upscale eateries are having to bite the bullet and cut back their hours.
Sage on the Coast is one recent casualty, shelving its lunchtime service on Mondays and Tuesdays.
It's a shame, but thankfully its tasting menu is still available, albeit for fewer services (details below) than at sister restaurant Sage, where we recently sampled it.
The meal was memorable for its unintentionally hilarious waiter.
We asked him to explain the concept behind the small plates and larger plates concept (okay, it's not brain surgery, but we figured we'd get his take on it anyway).
His response? "We tried starters and mains, but there just wasn't the demand for it."
He also had us flummoxed when we ordered the Brussels sprouts with bacon. He commented: "That's a first".
Huh? No one's ever ordered them before? Then when he brought them out he added "That's the last of those".
What? They'd only bought one serving's worth?
Still, amusing service aside, there were some standout dishes, such as a flavorsome tortilla soup, a slab of salmon atop strikingly fresh fava beans and a delectable honey walnut cake with vanilla anglaise.
Chef Rich Mead, in charge of the kitchens at both locations, is a well-known local advocate of fresh, seasonal ingredients, and his insistence on the use of top-quality ingredients is evident, in particular on the tasting menu.
Mead is picky about where he buys his produce; for this lipsmacking, seasonal dessert he gets his blueberries from Pudwill Farm, Nipomo, and the Meyer lemons from Schaner Family Farm in Valley Center.
It's not always on the menu, which is even more reason to make it yourself.
Lemon Blueberry Bread Pudding
3 1/2 cups Half & Half
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest of 5 lemons (preferably Meyer)
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons lemon liqueur (optional)
Whisk together all of the above.
Then take one loaf of Hawaiian bread, cubed. Add to the liquid mixture, let soak for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
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Then take one pint (basket) of blueberries, add to the bread/liquid mixture, and pour into an eight-inch by eight-inch pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake for 350 degrees until set (30-45 minutes). Chill completely before cutting.
For the blueberry sauce, combine one pint (basket) blueberries, 1/3 cup powdered sugar and two tablespoons of water in a pot. Simmer until the berries break down and a sauce forms. While still warm, taste and add more powdered sugar or lemon juice to taste.
Pour over the cold pudding and serve.
Sage: Lunch tasting menu Monday to Friday; $16 per person. Dinner tasting menu Monday to Saturday; $35 per person, no wine pairing.
Sage at the Coast: Lunch tasting menu Wednesday to Friday; $18 per person. Dinner tasting menu Monday to Thursday; $35 per person, or $45 with wine pairings.