Some of the criteria that keep me coming back to a restaurant is their commitment to a changing menu that reflects what’s in season, fun events, innovative food and wine pairings, savvy use of modern technology to keep me informed, and an educated staff. Let’s add to that a vibrant bar area that caters to it’s patrons with a small plates menu that cuts its prices in half with a generous daily happy hour.
Firefly Grill & Wine Bar owner Jim Barrasso, Chef Aaron Daley and sous chef Kyle Dresser have perfected this mix and then some. The weekly tasting menu reflects their commitment to keeping things interesting for their devoted patrons who receive an e-mail every Thursday detailing the weekly four-course extravaganza, each course paired with wine as an option.
Here is a tasting menu from a recent June weekend. The first course was a pecan crusted soft shell crab with mixed summer greens and a raspberry vinaigrette paired with a E’cluse Winery “Prelude” from Paso Robles. Second course was roasted northern halibut with pickled artichoke hearts, grilled leeks and a pea puree served with Domaine Jomain Puligny Montrachet from Burgandy, France. The main course was a seven spice rubbed New Zealand lamb chop with a roasted garlic and sweet corn flan, lamb demi glace, paired with a Spann Vineyards “Mo Zin” Zinfandel from Sonoma County. Meyer lemon meringue tart with a blueberry lemon sorbet finished things off, expertly matched with a Foxen Winery late harvest Chenin Blanc from Santa Barbara County. I must add that all the wines were paired perfectly. This occurs every week folks, on top of their extensive seasonal menu and small plates bar menu. Sign up for their weekly eNewsletter and you will get an e-mail every Thursday with the complete tasting menu. That is the efficient use of technology I’m talking about. I know I look forward to getting that e-mail every week and with the tasting menu the content is fresh and relevant.
On the topic of special events, I don’t think I’ve come across a restaurant that hosts as many diverse events as Firefly. Their current e-mail included notices for an upcoming South African wine tasting along with Cakebread, Bourassa, and Spring Mountain wine tasting dinners. I’ve not seen a month where they are not hosting at least two to three special dinners or tastings. They host regular cigar dinners and have paired courses with Stone Brewing Company. Jim is open to just about any type of dinner as I can attest to when I approached him a few years back with the concept for a Celebration of Artichokes dinner. He jumped all over it and we held sold out dinners two consecutive years. It’s that kind of open mind and creativity that should keep Firefly around for the long haul.
So I’ve yet to touch on the main menu which, over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of sampling frequently. It’s divided up into sample and savor with favorites in the sample section including heirloom tomato salad, braised mussels and clams, a tapas trio that includes bacon wrapped dates, marinated olives, and andouille sausage. The world selection of cheeses is a favorite as well. Sample plates range from $7 to $14.
From the savor portion of the menu I have never been disappointed. Favorites on the current menu include the Maine lobster risotto which is a huge portion, big enough for two or a delicious leftover. If you do take it home, form them into cakes the next morning, fry them up and serve a fried egg over it. The pork schinztel is perfect, and the there is always an innovative preparation of halibut. Recently it was served in a fashionable bowl, swimming in a New England clam chowder filled with bacon and potatoes. That is not on the current menu but I’m sure it will make a comeback soon. The grilled flat iron steak and Kobe sirloin steak always come through big and the basil crusted grilled swordfish with grilled corn, lobster and ricotta ravioli with wilted arugula and lobster tarragon cream sauce sounds rich and it is, but in a decadently tasteful, and quite edible way. I really could write a couple more pages on the rest of the menu at Firefly, but alas, I’m limited to my editor’s restraints.
One final thing to point out is the Sunday night gourmet burger night featuring Brandt Beef featuring four different burgers to choose from on fresh baked buns and hand cut fries. It’s a fun Sunday night thing to do. Firefly is also available for special events and has hosted wedding receptions, networking events, and many a company party. And how can we forget the wine selection. That in itself could be the subject of an entire article. Trust me when I say Jim Barrasso knows his wine and makes it as much as part of the experience as the food.
Firefly is open for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 4:30 to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 4:30 to 10 p.m. They are located at 251 North El Camino Real, Suite B, Encinitas. Visit fireflygrillandwinebar.com for more information.
Coast News Lick the Plate columnist David Boylan is celebrating 10 years and 500 columns with the Coast News in 2019! His feature covers the ever expanding North County culinary scene that includes restaurants, culinary personalities, trends, observations, tributes and his popular takeover column where area businesses, bands or teams contribute to the column. Lick the Plate has also been a popular radio show for the past eight years in San Diego on 100.7 KFMB, and on stations in Detroit, Michigan, Windsor Ontario and Traverse City, Michigan. Besides the column and radio show, David runs Tatonka Digital & Analog, a boutique marketing agency headquartered in Oceanside, California. Reach him with show suggestions at email@example.com or www.lick-the-plate.com