Is it just us, or does everything taste better this season?

By Wendy Lemlin    |    Photography By Noushin Nourizadeh

Now that May gray and June gloom are behind us, we welcome summer’s warm embrace. We welcome her bright-as-sunshine flavors and the freshness of just-picked ingredients. We welcome the lighter textures of the season’s dishes and all the components of the taste of summer.

But, really, what does summer taste like? At Beaumont’s Eatery in Bird Rock, Chefs Shahab Porteymoor and Sebastian Ahmadpour will tell you that it’s all about sun-ripened tomatoes, at their peak locally right now. In their Heirloom Tomato Salad, the fruits (yes, a tomato is a fruit!) are showcased in a “shareable” dish, but it’s so good that you’ll probably want to keep it all to yourself. Going beyond the usual, the tomatoes are partnered with tangy goat cheese and bathed in a cold-smoked tomato brodo (broth), for that extra layer of flavor, augmented with fresh herbs, smoked salt and confit garlic. “When they are in season, tomatoes exemplify summer flavor in a wonderful balance of sweetness and acid,” Porteymoor explains. “It is a social season, and our new menu encourages friends dining together and sharing multiple items, and, in this way, the taste of summer is also the taste of companionship and fun.”


Local seafood paired with seasonal fruits and vegetables ranks high on the list of summer’s quintessential palate. Steven Riemer, Executive Chef at The Catamaran Resort’s signature restaurant, Oceana, combines all the tasty elements of the season in a Seabass Ceviche with Cucumber, Avocado & Jalapeno. “I love crispy fresh cucumbers, and summer is their prime season,” he enthuses. “Being right here on the water at Mission Bay, ceviche is the perfect patio appetizer, bringing ocean and earth together. It’s light, yet satisfying, and combines local ingredients that are at their best right now—fresh seabass caught in our waters, California avocados, tomatoes and a touch of mango—all refreshingly tied together by the citrusy lime marinade. Go beyond the usual Margarita for a cocktail pairing; I highly recommend a Mai Tai for an extra-summery tropical kick.”


For Chef Paul Arias at The Fishery, spot prawns are the stars of summer seafood. Trap-caught about 50 miles off our shores at a depth of several hundred feet, they are only harvested when the seas calm in late spring and summer. Spot prawns have an exceptional marine sweetness due to the colder waters in which they live, and Arias combines these limited-availability crustaceans with classic ingredients from neighborhood farmers markets in Chilled Spot Prawns with Corn, Peach and Avocado Salad. “Stonefruit like peaches and fresh corn right off the cob pair an inherent sweetness with the richness of seafood; locally grown tomatoes add a complement of acidity,” he states. “This is a luxurious dish that nonetheless exudes the casual vibe of summer.”


Drawing on his French background, The Marine Room’s Executive Chef, Bernard Guillas, presents Héritage Jambon De Bayonne Prosciutto as his idea of how summer should taste. “Héritage Jambon de Bayonne, is the prosciutto of France, air cured in the Basque and Gascon regions in the south, and its nutty flavor and ‘melt in the mouth’ texture makes it one of my favorites,” he raves. “This preparation embraces the season with the quintessential American summer fruit, compressed watermelon, and locally harvested leaves and flowers. The creaminess of the feta, crunch of pistachio and delicate soft gel of 50-year-old sherry weaves all of the flavors together in a celebration of summer.”


Conjuring up the ideal day at the beach, Paglia e Fieno is Osteria Romantica’s homage to the season in owner Fabio Speziali’s native Italy. Succulent clams are the main attraction in this dish, arranged on a mound of housemade white and green taglioni pasta. “This is a light and fresh dish,” declares Speziali, “with the clean taste of the clams enhanced—but never overpowered—by a delicate white wine clam sauce. It is redolent with the aroma and tastes of the seaside and the easy living of the season.”


“A summer vacation for your mouth” is how Chef Mareyja Sisbarro at Brockton Villa describes her Sesame Crusted Ahi Salad. Salads are an easy go-to for warm weather eating, but “salad” doesn’t have to mean boring, as this far-from-ordinary one so deliciously exemplifies. “It’s green and light, and the generous portion of seared-rare ahi adds high-quality protein that is substantial, but not heavy,” the chef continues. “Plus, there’s a lot of flavor and texture going on in this salad—grapefruit slices, edamame, snap peas, avocado and Kaiware (sprouted daikon radish seeds), all splashed with homemade Green Goddess dressing and garnished with watermelon radish as a nod to what is probably summer’s most iconic fruit.”


According to Alex Emery, Executive Chef at The MED Oceanview Restaurant, nothing tastes better than a chilled soup on a warm day, especially when it is an upgraded interpretation of a classic. In his King Crab Cucumber Gazpacho, he switches up the usual tomato red for a vibrant green and the result is a refreshing take on a classic favorite, made substantial by the addition of succulent king crab meat and the balancing saltiness of salmon roe. “To me, this gazpacho has all the flavor elements of the season,” Emery points out. “Cucumber is a summer crop and has the added advantage of helping to keep the body temperature down, so it really does cool you off—hence, the saying ‘cool as a cucumber!’ I add kale and other greens for a healthy combination and meadow-green hue that stays bright to the last drop. Touches of lemon juice, lemon fluid gel and lemon-flavored butterfly sorrel raise the refreshing factor with citrus undertones. This is my idea of what summer tastes—and looks—like.”


“When I think of the taste of summer, stone fruit immediately comes to mind,” muses Jason Knibb, NINE-TEN Restaurant & Bar Executive Chef. “Cherries, peaches, apricots, plums and nectarines all are in season, plentiful and at their juiciest and sweetest. Summertime is berry time, as well. Although great to eat on their own, these fruits add exceptional layers of flavors when prepared with certain proteins, especially poultry.” This is evident in Knibbs’ Duck Confit with Stone Fruit, in which pickled cherries, blueberries, apricot, mustard seed mostarda, and fennel and arugula balance the richness of the duck with sweet and acidic profile of the fruit.


The taste of summer in a pizza? Definitely, if it is a Summer Squash and Goat Cheese Pizza with a nod to the season right in its name! At Bella Vista Social Club & Caffé, the oceanview patio on the cliffs above Torrey Pines is the ideal setting for enjoying this made-to-be-shared pie, especially during Happy Hour on a balmy evening. Chef/co-owner Nico Caniglia cites the bright flavors of the toppings as being summer crave-worthy: “The beautiful yellow squash looks like sunshine, and the juicy red tomatoes are one of the season’s most delicious offerings. The goat cheese is light and refreshing. Pair the pizza with a Burrata, Spinach and Heirloom Tomato Salad, and it becomes a meal that totally fits on summer’s social calendar.”


Lastly, for fish lovers, the taste of summer has to be that of the local California halibut that is caught off of the Baja coast. Its mild taste and flaky texture make it a regional favorite and Chef Percy Oani of The Shores masters it in his Local Halibut with Cauliflower Couscous. “This dish promotes better bathing suit bodies for summer,” the chef jokes. “Riced fresh cauliflower takes the place of the traditional wheat couscous, and the local halibut itself is naturally low in fat, so the dish is healthy and light without the heaviness of starch, cream or butter. But that doesn’t mean lacking in flavor, by any means! Lemon tarragon-infused chimichurri enhances and excites the freshness of the halibut, and the dish will leave you feeling well satiated, but not stuffed.”

In defining the “taste of summer,” we use words such as “light,” “refreshing,” “beachy” and “fruity.” The flavor of the season is found in the freshness of patio dining cooled by gentle breezes and warmed by good company.

And when you put it all together, the taste of summer is: delicious!