Wade Hageman, executive chef at Solana Beach's Blanca, brings familiar ingredients to life in new ways that, while inventive and even a bit foreign, keep from infringing on the base flavor profile of the local, seasonal ingredients that are the backbone of his cooking style.
"My focus is on reinventing the classics," says Hageman, whose winter menus have been in place for more than a month and will be offered into the New Year.
In addition to a dinner menu that includes three different appetizer sections and three entree categories, Blanca also boasts a cocktail menu comprised of more than a dozen liquid libations.
Hageman recently offered up his suggestion for the most optimal way to enjoy both menus in the form of a four-course meal pairing some of his favorite cocktails with the dishes they best complement:
Kicking off the pairing parade are Blanca's Pomegranate Lemon Drop ($10) and a salad of young greens ($9). Though classic lemon drops tend to come across as sweet or overly sour, this version, which incorporates Absolut Citron vodka and triple sec, is balanced. Hageman uses all-natural pomegranate juice to allow the cocktail to match up with the salad's pomegranate seeds, honeyed almonds and yogurt-based pomegranate dressing.
Cleanliness of flavor is pronounced in the next course, which pairs two Asian-inspired numbers - a Lemon-Ginger Cooler ($10) and a multi-faceted seafood starter. The former is a chilled cocktail combining vodka infused with fresh lemongrass, ginger ale and muddled cilantro leaves. The latter is a brand new dish featuring Monterey Bay calamari served two ways ($18) – lightly-fried tentacles and rings tossed in a sweet and subtly spicy black bean vinaigrette - over a thin layer of hamachi served carpaccio style (raw and sprinkled with sea salt).
Next up is the Moro Blood Orange Martini ($10), a mixture of Stoli Ohranj vodka, peach schnapps and fresh-squeezed blood orange juice that packs plenty of punch. Its strength is tempered by the sweet Moro blood orange-scented duck jus accompanying its edible companion, an Indiana white Pekin duck breast ($28) prepared "en sous vide" (vacuum-packed and cooked underwater at a constantly maintained low temperature for an extended period of time in a thermal immersion circulator) and served over confited duck meat with Okinawan sweet potato puree, California pistachio compote and blood orange segments.
Hageman's final pairing ties together his Chocolate Éclair cocktail ($12) - Stoli Vanil vodka, Godiva caramel liqueur, Bailey's Irish Cream and Kahlua coffee liqueur - and a warm Valrhona chocolate cake ($9) with marshmallow at its center, house-made rocky road ice cream and a streak of almond and cocoa nib-studded chocolate down one side of the plate.
- 437 S. Highway 101, Solana Beach
- (858) 792-0072