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Sea and Smoke and Cauliflower Dip

2014 June 28


When we moved from Los Angeles to the suburbs of San Diego, I was a little concerned about the dining out situation.

I always knew San Diego for its great Mexican, but not much else.

And I can only handle so many margaritas.

But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the foodie scene down by the beach has evolved considerably in recent years and creative, talented local chefs are offering up new concepts and menus that are far beyond the standard San Diego fare (i.e. tacos and margaritas).

One of our favorite early finds was Chef Matt Gordon, who owns and operates three restaurants in the city: Urban Solace in North Park, Solace & The Moonlight Lounge in Encinitas, and the newish Sea & Smoke in Del Mar.

Matt’s concepts are approachable and aspirational at the same time. Fresh ingredients, great flavors, classics that you can count on…but with a heavy dose of inspiration. He prides himself on sourcing the best regional resources (they even make their own ketchup!) and creating a cool, laidback atmosphere where the food takes center stage.

I was recently invited to a lovely dinner at Sea & Smoke with some of San Diego’s coolest ladies on a warm early summer evening. We started with a tasting of their newest cocktails – Slutty Negronis, anyone? – and enjoyed a perfect three-course tasting on the restaurant’s outdoor patio, string lights overhead, wine flowing, and lots of oohs and aahs over every bite….especially the restaurant’s famed Cauliflower Cheese Dip. Cauliflower is having a major moment right now, have you noticed? It’s the new kale. This rich, creamy dip puts eating your vegetables into a whole new – very delicious – light. So naturally I had to ask Matt and his team how to make it and thankfully they were happy to share:

Sea & Smoke Cauliflower Cheese Dip

5 cups of Mornay sauce (here is how to make a Mornay sauce – note this recipe is for 2 cups and you will need 5)

1 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 1/4 cup cauliflower puree  (first blanch cauliflower then blend with stick blender)

1 1/4 cup chopped roasted cauliflower

Mix and serve with grilled bread or crackers

A nice glass of rosé is not a terrible idea, either.

And if you ever find yourself at Solace in Encinitas, get the oysters and the burger. And thank me later.

*Update: I should have noted this recipe is a PARTY dip. Makes about two quarts, so invite your friends over and enjoy!

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Julie-Anne permalink
    June 28, 2014

    Hey Raluca! Love a good recipe. Sounds so good. Is it served hot or cold? Also how many does this serve? Trying to picture what I would do with 7+ cups of dip (5 cups mornay+ 1 1/4 cup puréed cauliflower + 1 1/4 cup roasted cauliflower +…). Seems like more of a “party” size serving?

  2. June 28, 2014

    Having some envy here. I lived in del mar for 10 years – and miss it- and used to interview chefs for the San Diego Reader. The food scene is so great in San Diego. Enjoy for me!

  3. June 30, 2014

    OMG! I’m going to have to try this recipe. It sounds amazing!!!!

  4. Julie-Anne permalink
    July 16, 2014

    Just letting you know I made this last weekend and it was a big hit. I made about half of the recipe – well, about 40% – I made one recipe of Mornay sauce (2 cups) and adjusted everything else accordingly. I did bump up the amount of roasted and pureed cauliflower slightly and added some salt at the end after tasting. I served it at two different dinner parties – even the kids really liked it. Thank you for the recipe!

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