Daylight Savings Time is forcing us to turn the clock ahead, spring is around the corner and the sounds of a bat hitting a baseball in parks all around town remind us that the baseball season is about to begin. Calendars are being filled in with evenings that are being saved for watching our Padres move ahead to another winning season.
So the question is, where to have dinner before the game?
McCormick & Schmick Seafood Restaurant is one of the most popular dining destinations. "We often have over 200 diners coming in several times a week to enjoy fresh seafood before cheering our team. Many of the players also come in, both before and after games," General Manager Jason Weathens said.
The restaurant is located in the Omni Hotel, which sits in the shadow of Petco Park. Home runs probably bounce off the hotel's windows. John Moore, who owns the Padres, occupies the entire penthouse. He can probably watch games without leaving his living room.
As a further incentive to dine at McCormick & Schmick, there is a special walkway from the hotel to the ballpark. Eat well and avoid the crowds.
But the best reason of all to dine at McCormick & Schmick is the quality of the seafood, which is fresh daily.
"Our seafood is so fresh, we print our menu twice daily," Weathens said. "Some of our daily arrivals are listed at the top of the menu but, for each dish, we show the type of fish and place of origin. Fish that arrived this morning will usually be sold within 3 days." Products come in from such distant seas as Philippines, Costa Rica, Fiji and New Zealand.
McCormick & Schmick is one of our nation's largest seafood dining companies, with 80 locations from coast to coast. Because of its high purchasing power, the company receives the finest and freshest products on the market.
Fish is prepared as a recipe or, for purists, just grilled. "Our new chef really understands how to work with fish," Weathens said.
The dining room is two stories high, with tall glass windows that look out onto the Convention Center on one side and on Petco Park on the other. The curves and lines of the buildings create a futuristic landscape. Seating at tables is comfortable and there are intimate cabana style booths available. The cabanas are particularly good when large parties occupy the tables. Servers are well informed about the tastes and textures of the seafood dishes to help diners select what they would most enjoy to have pleasurable dining experiences.
A Wine & Jazz dinner was being enjoyed at the time we arrived to dine. "We hold such events about once a month as a special treat for our guests," Weathens said. The music provided a backdrop to the clicking of wine glasses sampling current vintages from Willamette Valley in Oregon. They produce excellent, full-bodied, pinot noir and pinot grigio.
Deep Fried Calamari with a trio of dipping sauces is one of the popular appetizers as is the Blackened Ahi. Jumbo Prawn cocktails are another good way to begin. There was a good selection of fresh oysters from Washington state and from New York available that evening. A wedge of iceberg lettuce, with blue cheese and bacon, was tasty, with the strong blue cheese taste coming through. Heirloom Tomatoes with Fresh Mozarella and Balsamic Reduction was beautifully presented, with the balsamic drizzled in lovely patterns, with lots of tomato and soft cheese. Lobster Bisque was delightfully light, rather than heavy, with a good balance of cream and chunks of lobster floating in the broth.
The list of fish that evening included catfish, tilapia, ono, halibut, lobster and more. My selection of Dry Pack Sea Scallops (from beautiful Cape Cod) was wonderfully prepared, crisp on the surface and tender in the middle, four large pieces on top of a very pleasing Truffled Potato Cake.
The menu includes a choice of steaks, including rib eye with a Kentucky bourbon sauce, top sirloin and filet. Whether one dines on fish or steak, a long list of wine by the bottle and glass fills the back of the menu.
Desserts are not to be forgotten. One's server brings forth a tray full of that day's offerings that can be overwhelmingly tempting.
McCormick & Schmick is located at 675 L Street, in the lobby of the Omni Hotel. It is an excellent choice for dining before a game or at any time. Validated parking is available in the self parking lot across the street. Call 619-645-6545 for information and reservations.
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Rottenberg is editor of Dining San Diego Magazine and member of the California Restaurant Writers Association. Send comments to the firstname.lastname@example.org. All letters are forwarded to the author and may be used as Letters to the Editor.