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Local Food: Herbed Gnocchi with Squash Pomodora Sauce

| 5/10/2016 2:54:00 PM

Chef Miguel Valdez in The Red Door's farm

“How many chefs have half an acre to work with?” asks Miguel Valdez, Executive Chef of The Red Door Restaurant and Wine Bar in the Mission Hills district of San Diego, California. Among his many tattoos, he sports one on his forearm that reads “Bon Appetit,” making his commitment to food no secret.

With a menu built around local, organic, sustainable and ethically-sourced seasonal cuisine, The Red Door opens to an ever-changing menu of appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts crafted by Chef Valdez. He transforms what’s seasonally available into unique dishes like a fried cauliflower with savory ginger soy glaze, a garden chard and kale salad with warm bacon vinaigrette or pepitas-crusted Catalina Offshore fresh catch.

Trish Watlington at the entrance of her restaurant's farm fields.

To make this all possible, Trish and Tom Watlington, owners of The Red Door, have turned their property in nearby La Mesa into a small farm in 2011, now producing a cornucopia of fresh vegetables, small fruits and herbs 365 days a year, thanks to the area’s ideal climate. They harvest about 6,000 pounds of produce a year for the restaurant, likely among the top farmer-producers of any restaurant in the U.S.

What they don’t grow enough of to keep up with their needs, or for various meat and seafood items, they source locally from partners like Suzie’s Farm, Catalina Offshore or Stehly Farms. With eighteen partners in all (they’re all listed by name on the menu), there is no shortage of perfectly ripe or in season ingredients. Chef Valdez also hits local farmers’ markets accompanied by his son, too.

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