Testing the MARKET

Chef Carl Schroeder communicates "farm-to-table" concept in exceptional fashion

Since its arrival in Del Mar almost two years ago, MARKET Restaurant + Bar has drawn praise from a wide variety of sources and, earlier this year, owner/executive chef Carl Schroeder was named Chef of the Year by the San Diego chapter of the California Restaurant Association. Considering this chef's noble mission and method for accomplishing it, it's no wonder he and his establishment have garnered such kudos.

MARKET is all about farm-to-table, creating dishes that use only the finest of our region's seasonal harvest. If the produce required for a certain dish is not in season or simply isn't up to par, rather than make due with substandard products, Schroeder procures the fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood that are at the peak of freshness and puts dishes on the menu that revolve around them. MARKET's bill of fare changes often - nightly, in fact. Therefore, it's important to stay on top of Schroeder's ever-changing lineup of seasonal offerings so the dining pubic can be up-to-date, informed consumers.

A recent visit to MARKET turned up a menu stocked with a variety of intriguing and delectable appetizers. There is something for everyone - even vegetarians. Check that. Especially vegetarians. One of the most enjoyable dishes of the night was a sweet Anaheim chile fried and stuffed with a warm and gooey goat cheese filling. The heirloom tomato and burrata (fresh mozzarella filled with a slightly tangy mixture of mozzarella and cream) take on a classic Caprese salad was the epitome of freshness and was lifted to new heights by a potent drizzle of quality balsamic vinegar.

On the other end of the starter spectrum, perfectly seared foie gras was dressed up nicely with a peach compote that was just sweet enough to compliment and cut the heaviness of the liver without eclipsing it. A crisped confited duck leg brushed with a delectable honey sweet glaze provided the foundation for another standout that included a bright corn salad in bibb lettuce cups.

Schroeder's food is consistently outstanding. Ironically, the only beef to be had was with the entree section of the menu, which was dominated by red meat and in no way demonstrated the level of diversity of the appetizer selections. Only two fish dishes were available. This was particularly disappointing considering the fact that many of the best dishes sampled during several previous visits involved the treasures of the sea.

However, upon trying entrees such as the flatiron steak with cheddar twice-baked potatoes and tender filet mignon served with crispy bacon and a rich hollandaise (that was a tad overly-thick), it became clear why steaks were available in such abundance. The kitchen seasons and prepares them exceptionally well. The same could not be said for a Moroccan spiced rack of lamb that was terribly small in size and, because of its scarcity, overcooked. Fortunately, it was accompanied on the plate by a fall-apart tender spare rib nested in a luscious potato puree as well as a tangy, cool and delicious tzatziki sauce that helped compensate.

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