By Kelley Carlson
Blanca means “white” in Spanish, but the Solana Beach restaurant is green in the selection of its ingredients. “Pretty much every single ingredient (we use) we have sought out local,” said Executive Chef Gavin Schmidt. He described foraging for some of the items — harvesting seaweed from the ocean, gathering nettles in the canyons — often before arriving at work, with the help of the sous chef. Schmidt also visits nearby farms and farmers markets daily, ensuring freshness of the ingredients.
The most local items are obtained from Blanca’s own property — the restaurant has a garden consisting of herbs and other edibles such as radishes, turnips, finishing greens (watercress, etc.) and cherry tomatoes.
The ingredients are then incorporated into a menu featuring California cuisine. For the table, offerings range from Heirloom Wisconsin Black Popcorn, to the House-Made Charcuterie Plate, containing delicacies such as duck liver mousse, lamb prosciutto and soppresatta, a type of Italian sausage. There is also bread that is made in-house.
Individual portions on the menu will satisfy vegetarian, meat and seafood lovers alike. A Spring Vegetable Composition includes chamomile-infused yogurt. The restaurant’s signature dish, Grilled Neville Ranch Berkshire Pork, A Day on the Farm, is composed of seven parts from a pig, along with baby vegetables from seed to flower. Schmidt’s personal favorite is the Still Life of Local Waters, which has an “underwater” appearance and features spot prawn, uni, oyster, smoked avocado and Dashi vinaigrette.
Guests who can’t decide on one dish can order Choice of Four Courses, Chef’s Tasting Menu and the Vegetarian Tasting Menu, which showcase the best of Blanca’s dishes on a scaled-down version. While there isn’t a special menu for children, Schmidt said there are kid-friendly entrees such as burgers, pizzas and pastas that are available to order.
But desserts are for everyone. There’s Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Truffle Cake and Trio of House Made Ice Cream or Sorbet, among others. For drinks, Blanca offers a full bar, including specialty cocktails such as Green Apple Fuzz and Blanca Brace-Up (Bulleit Rye Whiskey, Absinthe by Pernod, Peche de Vigne, aromatic and orange bitters and gum syrup).
The restaurant also has about 500 international wines, sparkling wines and Champagnes. Schmidt and owner Seth Baas have planned wine pairings for each dish offered at Blanca, but can cater to people’s needs and preferences.
Patrons may enjoy their food and beverages in several areas. The main dining room, decorated in soft, neutral colors with lanterns hanging overhead, can accommodate 65 people. A private dining room, which has an outdoor patio, a 52-inch plasma monitor and an iPod docking port, allows for up to 22 guests. The snacks, light entrees and cocktails of happy hour can be enjoyed at the bar, which has 14 chairs, or in the 30-seat lounge, with cushioned seats, pillows, a coffee table and a TV. Occasionally, there is live jazzy, mellow music that can be heard throughout the establishment.
While reservations are not required, they are recommended for weekends, especially during the summer. Special wine and farmers dinners that are open to the public are held sporadically throughout the year. The menus are usually prix fixe, from four to eight courses.
437 S. Highway 101, Solana Beach
California Casual, Fine Dining
Grilled Neville Ranch Berkshire Pork, A Day on the Farm
5:30-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5:30-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday
5:30-9:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
On The Menu Recipe
Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com. Just click Get The Recipe at the bottom of the story.
This week: Blanca’s Olive Oil poached Halibut with Artichoke, Meyer Lemon and Nettle Emulsion