Opening Day at Del Mar is apparently a big deal.
I’ll be honest – I’ve never really paid attention. I’ve seen the commercials though – the ones singing about Del Mar. And I’ve heard about the “hats” that women wear for opening day. But beyond that, I don’t know a thing about horse racing. All I know about it is from what I’ve seen in the movies Seabiscuit and Secretariat.
But this post isn’t about the races – it’s about one of the after parties that happened in Del Mar celebrating Opening Day at the racetrack.
At Flavor Del Mar they had a special menu prepared for the day – a Trifecta Feast – with a three course meal to help you bask in your post-win celebration at the races.
[Trifecta Feast Menu]
Here’s a little peek at the menu and the offerings!
[Flavor Del Mar dining room – do you spot some hats?]
Laura and I started feeling a little under dressed as more people trickled into the dining room that evening for their Trifecta meal. It was great for people watching – seeing people all dressed up in suits and dresses with4 the ladies wearing their finest hats and high heels.
[Bread, butter, and fancy salts]
We started our fancy feast with some bread. This was a bit fancy though as we had a little tray of various salts laid down before us. The tiny little spoon for the salt just killed me, too. So freaking cute!
No one explained what the salts were to us – but I suspected the far right one was some kind of pink salt. One was also a bit gray-ish in color but the other two I wasn’t sure of. They were all coarse grained salts and I got a little over-eager and put too much salt on one slice of bread. Oops.
The bread was a whole wheat type of bread. I found myself wishing the bread had been warm but I loved the tray of salts.
[Crispy, spicy shrimp with crazy frisee & arugula on the bottom]
For my starter dish, I chose the crispy, spicy shrimp. The shrimp was in light, crispy batter and definitely packed a punch of heat. It wasn’t the lingering kind of heat though – just a passing through heat. The spiciness managed to enhance the whole dish without taking away from the shrimp – a welcome surprise for someone who has shunned heat and spiciness for a long time! I ignored most of the frisee and arugula on the bottom. I had a taste of the frisee, but it just really isn’t my thing. And, it seemed more like a garnish than anything else – the shrimp is the real star of this dish.
[Spanish Octopus Ceviche]
Laura and I had a strong tendency to order the same things when we go out to eat together. Our tastes are so similar that we always want the same thing! But in the spirit of trying new things, she ordered different dishes than me this time. She chose the Spanish Octopus Ceviche and gave me a little bite to try.
I had never had octopus before so I didn’t know what to expect from the dish – but all I really tasted was the flavor of lime. The texture was pretty chewy, but that didn’t bother me since I love calamari, which can sometimes be a little chewy. I don’t know if the octopus has a distinct taste on it’s own or if its just soaks up other flavors from this first experience – so that just means I’ll have to try again in the future!
[Wild mushroom, meyer lemon and squash blossom risotto with blue spot prawns]
For my main entree, I went with the risotto. The risotto had a great mixture of things – mushrooms, meyer lemon and squash blossoms with prawns! I thought the prawns would be nestled into my risotto, but they were served on the side, heads and all.
The rich, creamy risotto really shined through with all of it’s flavors – the lemon was apparent, but not overpowering. The mushrooms gave it an earthy richness that I love. The sweet tomatoes mixed in with the squash blossom to round out all of the flavors nicely. There was a good mix of cheese in there, too, making this pretty rich. After a while it became a bit too much to eat by itself since I had finished off the prawns early on.
I think I’m going to stick to risotto at home though, since there I can have it as a side dish rather than my main meal. It’s wonderful stuff, but better either shared or in smaller doses.
[Black Angus Strip Steak with crispy potato-arugula salad]
Laura got the other item on the menu that I was eyeing – the Black Angus Strip Steak. It was a very large portion too, though I don’t know if you can tell from all of that green stuff on top.
She gave me some of it to try and to help me off-set my rich risotto. The steak was perfect at a nicely cooked medium. Very juicy and flavorful with each bite! I would have been quite happy if I had chosen this dish instead.
The butterscotch budino was my clear favorite of the desserts listed. I’m not sure what the difference is between budino and pot de creme? I think they’re both just fancy words for “creamy delicious pudding stuff”. In any case, I’m all for creamy and delicious things and the offering at Flavor del Mar was quite a tasty one.
It wasn’t mindblowing, but it was very, very good. I liked the creamy, smooth texture of the budino and the notes of caramel and butterscotch flavors that rolled off of my tongue. Maldon sea salt makes a welcome appearance in the dish, enhancing the rich, buttery notes of flavor. It was sort of like a salted caramel pudding and that make me a happy girl.
[Ice Cream Profiteroles]
Laura ordered the Profiteroles which were stuffed with vanilla ice cream. I wasn’t too excited about these, but that might have been because the budino was calling me to finish it. I did have a few bites though before I kept returning to the salty sweet combination resting in the glass of budino.
Dessert, you are my favorite part of any meal!
The food we had at Flavor del Mar was good – but Laura commented later that nothing stood out from the rest – nothing that we would really gush over later and not a real star, signature dish and I agreed with her. The food was good – high quality, cooked very well – but nothing that really pushed any envelopes. Still, it’s a great place to dine – and the view is simply breathtaking. We were able to watch a partial sunset as the sun got hidden by a few clouds. The place was really jumping when we left with more parties going on all over downtown Del Mar as people celebrated Opening Day in their own way.
Disclaimer: I was invited to dine at the restaurant for this special feast. My meal was complimentary. I was not paid for this review and all opinions are my own.
Flavor Del Mar
1555 Camino Del Mar
Del Mar, CA 92014