At the pop up dinner, Elly Brown of the San Diego Food Alliance

Elly Brown, San Diego Food System Alliance, at the pop up dinner

Pop up dining for good

The Gazpacho shooters had flowers in them.  “We tried to use everything in the garden,” Chef Miguel Valdez of the Red Door said, “And what doesn’t get used goes into compost.”

I have to admit my tummy recoiled a bit when told that the pop up dinner would be made of ‘left overs.’ We arrived for the second seating and as earlier guests exited they were smiling. Thumbs up on the Gazpacho especially. My appetite revived.

Waiting for our seating in the Wellington next door to the Red Door

Pre-dinner reception at the Wellington next door to the Red Door

The night was inspired from its inception. Re:Source, an intiative of the San Diego Food System Alliance, sponsored this first of a series of local, pop up dinners. Some of San Diego’s top chefs are using their creativity to transform ignored or un-coveted food that would otherwise end up in landfills. Other cities are hosting these and San Diego has several scheduled (see below.)

Elly Brown, of the San Diego Food System Alliance, is dedicated to building a food waste resource for people. She spoke briefly about Collard Greens and Kale which are from the same plant that grows Broccoli Weeds, another tasty green that never makes it into our stores. “People don’t realize that it’s delicious.” she said, holding a bunch as if it were a wedding bouquet. It was in our pesto.

This is the beginning of something big. Re:Source aims to:

  1. Raise awareness of the staggering volume of food that is being wasted
  2. Inspire new applications for overlooked by-products of our food system
  3. Re-define food waste as an important resource
Pop up entrees: Opah meatballs, granola greens , white and red sangria.

Pop up entrees: Opah meatballs, granola greens , white and red sangria.

Opah fish is another under-utilized food and abundant locally. It’s firm with a mild, delicious flavor. One course featured Opah ‘tri-tip’ ground into meatballs and served atop a beet pulp/carrot top pesto, with smoked carrots, sauteed greens and a sprinkling of feta cheese. You would never have guessed they were fish meat balls!

A glimpse of beautiful Opah.

A glimpse of Opah.

Chef Valdez and Dave Rudie of Catalina Offshore Products pose at the pop up

Chef Valdez and Dave Rudie of Catalina Offshore Products

Libations flowed through the evening, again using un-coveted or ‘ugly’ fruits and herbs. We enjoyed a Honey champagne cocktail with our salad. White and then red sangria followed with different courses.

“Chefs are becoming mindful of all that they source,” said Chef Valdez. He knows it too well from having to watch the bottom line. Tom and Trish Watlington, owners of the Red Door, have been encouraging. Since the Red Door was founded, they have have been supplementing menus with plants from a plot in El Cajon and bringing the harvest into their restaurant. Big into composting, they are also working on closing the loop with other chefs to do more of the same.

Turning empty lots into profitable plots

Supervisor Ron Roberts is part of the coalition behind the San Diego urban agricultural initiative. Land owners can now create income from blighted spaces and local kids will see that not all food comes wrapped in plastic. The initiative also creates jobs, provides savings in property taxes and beautifies neighborhoods.

ReSource Pop Up San Diego

Find out more about the RE:Source pop up and other un-waste events:

  • San Diego Food Alliance Events
  • National Food Waste Summit – Sponsored by Campus Kitchens
  • BIOCYCLE WEST COAST16 Connecting the dots between Progressive Organics Recycling and Climate Resilient Policies and Successful Program Execution
  • The San Diego Food Alliance is supported by Leah’s Pantry, using nutrition to promote healthier lives and prevent disease for under-served populations.
  • Not in San Diego? Get involved in other Food System Alliance programs.

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Pop up Opah meatballs served at dinner  Food Alliance pop up does good