The whole concept of a staycation continues to resonate with me, especially as downtown San Diego continues to add dining and entertainment options.
When I was approached by the folks at the Marina Kitchen at the San Diego Marriot Marquis and Marina to feature Chef Aron Schwartz on my show, I thought it would be a great idea to combine a stay-over at the very nice hotel where the restaurant is located.
The beauty of a downtown San Diego staycation is you can hop on the Coaster or Amtrak and not have to deal with traffic or parking. It’s an easy walk or a very quick cab ride from the Santa Fe Station to the Marriot that is right next to the convention center and beautifully situated on the San Diego Bay and very close by Seaport Village. There are a couple Marriot properties downtown; this is the one with the gleaming glass towers. If you can arrange for a room on the bay side with a balcony that’s the ticket, we were on the 23rd floor and the view spanned from the Catalina Bridge to the harbor and north to Point Loma, it was quite spectacular.
My advice is to take a mid-morning train down, arrange for an early check-in, and spend the afternoon at the resort like pool area. On a nice day it’s usually full of tourists and folks in town for trade shows at the nearby convention center. Either way, the people watching is great and if you are feeling social, those people are usually up for conversation. There is a Tequila Bar & Grill in the pool area and what’s a day at a resort pool without a couple of cocktails? I like to plan it with enough time for a late-afternoon nap back up in the beautiful room with a view as the sun is sinking in the West.
I made our dinner reservation at the Marina Kitchen for 9 p.m. to allow some time to walk around downtown San Diego and soak up the city vibe that eludes us in North County. The Gaslamp Quarter really comes to life on a Saturday night and it’s fun to take it in, but I will admit, it’s not my cup of tea as a nightlife destination.
I’d been looking forward to this dinner for a while as Schwartz has quite an impressive resume and the menu looked fabulous. He was born and raised in San Diego and attended the Culinary Institute of America. After graduation, Schwartz landed a position as the Sous Chef for Charlotte Restaurant, a small food and wine focus restaurant in Lakeville, Connecticut. Shortly thereafter, seeking new opportunities and a wish to expand his experience in the industry, he set his sights on Las Vegas where he worked as sous chef for the French restaurant Lutèce at The Venetian. If you are not familiar with Lutèce, it is one of the most famous French restaurants in New York and a great training ground for any chef. Following his time in Las Vegas, Schwartz returned to San Diego to work for Bernard’O Restaurant, then his current gig at Marina Kitchen where he has been for five years.
I should note that the whole staff at Marina Kitchen is top notch but another person of note is Director of Beverage Joshua Orr. Orr is a rising star in the wine world and has a knack for pairing the perfect wine with each course. So, combine a very talented chef with an expert wine guy and a staff that is well versed on the menu and the result is worth checking out, even if you are not staying at the hotel. I’ve seen plenty of hotel restaurants that have a captive audience and can sometimes get a little lax in their efforts, which are not the case at Marina Kitchen. They are sourcing locally and when they can’t do that, they buy the best possible ingredients. I’d take you through the menu but that’s a column in itself. Trust me on this one.
Post dinner was followed by a nice walk along the harbor and a nightcap back at the Tequila Bar. Marina Kitchen has a Sunday breakfast that is a great way to close out the staycation then back to the train for a mellow Sunday ride back up to the North County station you originated from. Check out everything that’s going on at the San Diego Marriot Marquis and Marina at http://www.marriott.com