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Allegro Bistro

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Grand Opening

Allegro Bistro

Inviting Allegro Bistro

The anticipated opening of Allegro Bistro has San Diego foodies excited. The new restaurant has a small-bites concept typically reserved for European cities. However, it seems well suited for the food-obsessed beach city. Located on Hancock Street, it is slated to open late September. Recently, I sat down with  restaurateur and owner Paul Gaurno to discuss the upcoming opening.

 

A Touch of Europe

Paul lived in Europe for a number of years including in France and Italy. A part of the European lifestyle remained with him when he returned to the United States.  So it was fitting that he incorporated a taste of Europe in his new restaurant, Allegro Bistro.

Cafe in Barcelona

Similar to Patio Dining in Barcelona

Allegro is an Italian word used in classical music. It refers to tempo, especially when played in an upbeat, lively manner.  In Europe, dining is appreciated like fine art. Friends and family gather at bistros for coffee and long, leisurely dinners. Whereas in America, frequently dinner is consumed while driving down the freeway or gobbled down while sitting in front of the television. Paul hopes to encourage diners to enjoy unhurried meals as if they were sitting in a Barcelona café or sharing a bottle of wine with friends while engaging in spirited conversations.

With more than 20 years of restaurant experience, Paul knew how to make his vision a reality. He knew he needed to have an experienced team in place, as well as people who shared his incredible passion for the industry. Having worked with Chef Nathan Rayle previously, Paul realized he’d fit in well with his latest project.

Chef Rayle has a wealth of experience, including stints at The Venetian, The Brigatine, as well as his most recent stretch at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse. And whenever possible, he will use his contact list for sourcing quality ingredients, locally grown by farmers and organically produced by food purveyors. A previous career in commercial fishing will come in handy as he works with fishermen creating interesting fresh seafood dishes.

 

The Menu
Allegro Bistro Patio n Sails

Enjoy a Meal on the Amazing Patio

Given San Diego’s incredibly accommodating weather, it made perfect sense to have outdoor seating. The large, inviting patio is a perfect place for spending time with friends over a relaxing meal.

Breakfast service will include organic eggs and freshly made, artisan-style breads. There will be a host of scrumptious omelets including one decadent option of three-cheeses, sautéd crimini mushrooms and shaved black truffles.  If you love seafood, then you will definitely want to try the blue omelette with crabmeat, fontina and Gruyere cheeses, organic spinach, finished with grilled asparagus on top.

Keeping with the European concept, diners can enjoy savory crêpes. When they begin dinner service, there will be plenty of tapas-style plates on the seasonal menu, including the gourmet jamon (ham), which comes from the unique black pig of Spain, as well as a variety of olives, cheese plates and other Mediterranean-focused cuisine.

Allegro Bistro will be one of  the few places in San Diego where vegans and those who practice a gluten-free lifestyle can select from a medley of menu items. Selections include lemon and ricotto pancakes, gluten-free and vegan pancakes, walnut wheat pancakes and steel-cut oatmeal. There are also frittatas cooked in cast-iron skillets, an assortment of egg Benedict choices, as well as San Diego favorites including huervos rancheros and chilaquiles.

On Sunday, there’s a $10 all-you can-drink mimosa bar with each purchase of a breakfast entree.  Instead of pouring lower, quality sparkling wine made in the Charmant or tank method like many other restaurants, Allegro Bistro will be pouring Spanish Cava, which is produced in the same method as French champagne. Also, the orange juice is from fresh oranges, not frozen concentrate.

 

The Atmosphere
Allegro Bistro Food is Art

Allegro Bistro Food is Art

The welcoming interior has soft white leather barstools, a backdrop of subway tiles and a white marble bar counter. Picaso-esque photos don the walls and a crystal and silver chandelier greets you in the main dining area. There are exposed pipes and industrial-looking lighting fixtures that give it an urban loft feel.  It’s a pleasant balance of sophistication and casual, backyard entertaining.

 

Wine Selections

Paul took classes to brush up on wines and wine service. However, he turned to friend and wine bar veteran Alex Minaev for assistance in designing an appealing wine list. Minaev, with 20-plus years of wine experience, including currently at The Palace Bar, located in the Horton Grand. The wine list reflects many of Alex’s choose; but Paul had a guiding hand in creating the list.  There are plenty of California wines, as well as other New World regions.  Although Napa Valley will be represented, so will wines from Paso Robles, Monterey, and Sonoma.  The list is choked full of off-the-beaten path boutique wines that will rotate seasonally along with the cuisine.

Verdejo-Wine-Wooden-TableGiven Paul’s partiality for Europe, a number of Old World wines from Italy, France, Spain and Portugal are also well represented. There are some wonderfully delicious and reasonable priced French wines on the list including a handful from the Rhone Valley including Châteauneuf-du-Pape and other southern Rhone regions.   Look for wines from Spain’s Rioja region, which will pair wonderfully with the tapas-style menu.

 

 

Good Neighbors

Allegro Bistro shares building space with 57 Degrees Wine Bar. This symbiotic relationship certainly will benefit customers of both establishments. Wine enthusiasts will be able to select wines from in-house list that have been perfectly paired with Chef Nathan’s amazing dishes. However, customers may also choose a selection from 57 Degrees Wine Bar and bring it to dinner for a small corkage fee.  The two wine lists will not overlap, providing diners and wine lovers the best of both worlds.

 

Getting There

The trolley stops at the Washington Street station so you can be sitting at a table within a two-minute walk. However, if you are hell-bent on driving, then you’re in luck. Unlike many of the wine bars located downtown or in nearby Little Italy, you won’t have to waste time circling for parking. There are several parking places on the street, in addition to ample parking behind the building.  And equally important, parking is free.

 

Scheduled to Open: Sept. 27, 2014 (Please check the website, listed below for updates)

Location: 1735 Hancock St, Ste. B

Website:  www.allegrobistrosd.com

 

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Smooth Jazz from Sizzle to Fizzle

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Smooth Jazz Sells Out

Saxophone Players

Evening of Saxophone Music

Friday night Dave Koz and Friends, comprised of Minda Abair, Gerald Albright and Richard Eliot played at Humphrey’s by the Bay Concert Series in San Diego. It was a perfect evening with the warmth of the day getting trapped in by the marine layer.  Although we were right on the water it was a comfortably warm evening, and perfect to listen to some great Smooth Jazz or so I thought.

I’ve seen all of these performers previously and truly enjoy their music individually and collectively. However, when the first 11 songs are all covers, I begin to wonder what in the world is going on. They played a couple of James Brown songs, which I thought was done as a tribute to the new movie about him. But then they played a few Stevie Wonder tunes, followed by Kool and the Gang, and I thought ‘When are they going to play their own music?’

 

Give Me a Break
Old-School R&B Music

Old-School R&B Music

I’ve written two previous posts on the marriage of Smooth Jazz and R&B. Back in 2010, I applauded the recording of classic R&B hits by Smooth Jazz artists.Then, again in 2012, I revisited the trend after streaming a few Smooth Jazz stations and hearing a Boney James remake of Sweet Thing by Rufus. But as we hit the second half of 2014, I’ve had a change of heart. I say, “Enough already!”

Why can’t they dial it back some? Every other freaking song doesn’t have to be from Motown, the Sound of Philly or Atlantic Record’s superstars of soul. Why do Smooth Jazz (SJ) artists insist on playing 70’s and 80’s R&B hits? Yes, those were and still are some of the best songs ever written. However, does that mean that today’s Smooth Jazz artist should simply build an entire concert around these classics? Am I supposed to buy their CDs chocked full of songs I already own, recorded by the original artists?

It seems these Smooth Jazz groups get tired of playing their own songs over and over, concert after concert, which, to me. is crazy.  First, musicians can’t wait to a record deal. But then the excitement of stardom wears on them and pressure from record labels builds.  Instead of practicing their craft, they take the easy way out and head into the recording studio and make a few musical arrangement changes to some great songs and simply re-record them.

 

Change in the Smooth Jazz Landscape

Songwriting on Sheet MusicEven Michael McDonald released two albums of Motown hits. The first was nominated for a Grammy.  As extraordinarily gifted as he is, why doesn’t he write new material and record it? He can’t possibly be out of songs?  He’s in the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame for crying out loud.  Has it become all about making the record executives happy? Does it have to do with the radio stations placating the under 40 crowd only?   I’ve had it!

With numerous radio stations dropping the Smooth Jazz format, including one of the pioneers 98.1 FM in San Diego, the artists may be scrambling for a listener base. What better way than jazzing up great R&B hits? It makes sense. Their demographics are baby boomers. In addition, many children of boomers love this music, having grown up listening to it and sometimes unknowingly hearing samples from today’s Hip Hop artists. But I’m seeing this as a business move and not necessarily something that will benefit me, the listener.

 

Do the Right Thing
Rock-N-Roll

Rock-N-Roll Legends

The concert continues with the four saxophonist blowing a few rousing, original tunes from their various CDs and I’m happy again. But wait!  Then, Dave Koz and his merry band of imitators go back to playing cover songs.  Now I’m really irritated and turn to another couple. I express my disappointment and share my theory on great bands to my nearby seatmates.

I believe The Rolling Stones are the greatest band of all times, hands down. Satisfaction, Paint it Black, Ruby Tuesday, Jumping Jack Flash and Brown Sugar all debuted between 1965-71. Eons ago, right? But when you attend a Stones concert, they reach way back into their collection and play these songs as though they were plugging them on their latest CD. And they play the hell out of these songs. You’d think their careers were on the line.  If the Stones can still play songs from the 1960s, why the hell can’t these Smooth Jazz artists play their own songs from the past 3, 8, 15 or 20 years?

So here’s my request. Smooth Jazz artists, use your God-given talents to write and perform your own songs as though your lives and careers depended on it.  If I wanted to hear two hours of cover music, I’d just head over to Tio Leo’s, a restaurant and bar with a late-night music scene with local acts.  Ironically, these up-and-comers would love it if the audience would indulge them while they played a couple of their own original songs.

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San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival

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San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival Returns

Jonathan Butler at the Smooth Jazz Festival

Jonathan Butler at the Smooth Jazz Festival

After a one-year hiatus, Smooth Jazz is returning to San Diego, well San Diego County.  La Costa Resort and Spa, located in the north county city of Carlsbad, will play host to the 1st and hopefully not the last, San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival.  Memorial Day weekend, May 24-26, the stars of Smooth Jazz will be playing for a crowd suffering from Smooth Jazz withdrawal in the region.

Back in the 1980s, San Diego was a Smooth Jazz trailblazer.   Jazz acts played all over the city from Chula Vista to Del Mar and up the 15-corridor to Escondido.  Up and coming jazz acts, many who just so happen to be the top stars of today, could be heard at numerous clubs and bars.  Even the Fashion Valley Mall, Coronado Landing and Seaport Village hosted performances.  The Smooth Jazz sound was everywhere and fans couldn’t get enough. This continued, but to a lesser extent, into the early 1990s.  But then, as Hip Hop and Rap became the dominant favorite of corporate radio general managers, who had became obsessed with the American youth culture, started to abandon this music genre.  Baby Boomer fans, who had helped build these executives’ careers, became a less-desirable demographic.  Before the new millennium hit, Smooth Jazz was in trouble, and not just in San Diego, Smooth Jazz mecca.

After KIFM 98.1 stopped playing Smooth Jazz in San Diego, the city was left with no Smooth Jazz stations.  Let’s face it; the quality of the DJs had started going downhill a few years earlier and the station manager insisted on playing Sting, Elton John and other clearly defined rock acts, which irritated me to the point where I’d pitch a tantrum while driving in traffic.  But, at least we could hear the music, even if it was a half-ass Smooth Jazz station, some of the time.  But since the station abandoned the genre altogether there has been a void.

Then over the Christmas holidays, we locals learned that Anthology, a great jazz and blues club in Little Italy, had closed its doors.  This was preceded by the iconic club 4th and B, which although not strictly a jazz club, did host Smooth Jazz acts often.

Well music fans, here’s some great news.  Although San Diego no longer has a Smooth Jazz radio station to host the jazz concerts in the area, promoter BTW Concerts has stepped up to host the San Diego Jazz Festival, which is co-sponsored by Paine Pest Management, a longtime supporter of Smooth Jazz.

The multi-day festival will feature Euge Groove, Jonathan Butler, Sheila E., Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum, Eric Darius, Jessy J, Rick Braun, Nick Colionne, Jeffrey Osborne, Brian Culbertson, Will Downing, Michael Lington and many more, as the full performer list is still being announced.  Tickets are available through www.sandiegojazzfest.com

Let’s go out and support this event to let the sponsors know Southern Californians love their Smooth Jazz.

 

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