San Diego’s Obsession With The Beet Salad

During my recent visit to San Diego for the Travel and Adventure Show, I dined at some of the most reputable restaurants in the city. I was delighted to find that many of the places cooked with fresh, high quality, farm to table ingredients that included locally sourced vegetables and meat.

San Diego is blessed with temperate climate, abundant sunshine and varied topography that allows for a variety of foods to grow year-round. Beets are in season during the winter and spring, although the chefs I inquired told me, “San Diego folks ask for it year round” and every restaurant is unofficially required to have beets on their menu. Apparently, the locals complain when they don’t see “beet salad.” Nothing wrong with that since beets are one of the healthiest vegetables out there. They are rich in antioxidants, folic acid, fiber, anti-inflammatory properties and cancer-fighting agents.

Trust me, after 5 days of noticing the beet salad at every venue, I started to think that all the chefs in San Diego area must have received some sort of a memo about it. Here are some of the variations I discovered…

Hotel del Coronado‘s flagship ocean front seafood restaurant, 1500 Ocean served homemade burrata (Italian cheese made with mozzarella and cream), with heirloom beets and valencia oranges, tossed in Temecula (a city in California) balsamic.

beet salad with goat cheese
beet salad with goat cheese

Prep Kitchen in Little Italy’s version included fresh baby spinach, satsuma (Japanese mandarin), avocado, goat cheese, whole pistachios, with a gentle dressing of balsamic vinaigrette. It tasted more like a salad with beet as an important ingredient hiding below the spinach leaves.

Amaya, the Mediterranean restaurant at Grand Del Mar, took a slight twist on the classic recipe. Their Roasted Beet Salad was a simple concoction of pickled shallots, tangerine, goat cheese, molasses-candied walnuts and mache (French name of the edible salad green Valerianella locusta).

My favorite was this elegant creation by Chef Jason Knibb of Nine-Ten Restaurant, located at at Grande Colonial Hotel in La Jolla. Red and yellow baby beets were adorned with a light goat cheese pudding, shaved fennel, smoked oranges, drizzled with citrusy beet vinaigrette, and sprinkled with pistachio and cacao crumble. I would have never thought of using cacao dust for garnish but its an ingenious idea. The dish was a symphony for all the senses.

nine ten la jolla

The chefs in San Diego have inspired me to cook Beet Salad at home more often. Here is a simple recipe that I have created using all that my tastebuds have guided me from this trip.

Easy Beet Salad Recipe:

Soak the beets in water with a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, then scrub them well. Cut them into quarters and boil in water for 15-20 minutes until fully cooked but not too tender. If a sharp knife can go through easily, the beets are good enough to use in salad. Drain water and cool. You can also use them raw if you like.

In a large bowl, combine any greens (Boston lettuce, Bibb lettuce, Baby spinach), with fresh chopped oranges, diced avocados, crumbled goat cheese and roasted pistachios. Add good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar, toss gently and serve immediately.