Living in Northeast Mexico didn't allow for my culinary creativity to explore ideas using fish. Growing up I remember my mom telling us she didn't like to buy fish because she didn't feel it was fresh. So, the only times I was able to enjoy sea food and fish were when we would travel to a beach or a lake. Everything changed once I moved to the East Coast in Virginia when I married Jo. Fish became a once a week dish in our house menu. I felt living only 4 hours away from the coast would facilitate fresh fish.
Then one day after shopping for fish at a national where you can find everything one stop shot and cooking it at home my perception about fish changed again. I don't know what was wrong with the fish, but it only took one bite for me to never buy fish from a store that big. It was nasty!
Thankfully, few years after that we moved to San Diego I felt like I could enjoy fresh seafood and fish. Opening Cueva Bar then allowed me to work closely with distributors until I found the one I feel comfortable with in order to create tapas inspired dishes. I've tried making empanadas stuffed with fish, or sea food but the dough in our empanadas and sea food or fish didn't work out well. The only Mexican inspired tapa I know can work would be a corn masa, pan fried or deep fried fish or sea food empanada. If you have another idea of what sea food or fish to put in a hand made baked empanada please share with me, even better, lets get together and try it out in our kitchen at Cueva Bar.
We live in a coastal city where we have access to the freshest sea food so it's logical to think that all San Diegans would be interested in eating only fish and sea food that's sourced in an environmentally friendly way, right? Not so much. As San Diegans, we still need to do a better job at helping each other become educated about our ecosystem so that together we can create a sustainable economy that protects our natural resources. Per example, cheap ingredients make for cheap food. Nothing wrong with the second option but if we dig into how cheap food results in cheap food we'd be surprised about where ingredients come from. It's a process too, so it is not realistic to expect we change our habits as a society. It will take time to create a fully conscious society that supports an overall sustainable economy and community. The other day someone told me they saw cheap avocados at the store and asked me when the guac would make it to the best happy hour offerings in San Diego again. I asked this person, did you see where these avocados come from? My suspicion is they came from Peru. I reaffirm you there is nothing wrong with avocados from Peru, other than that's a long long way for an avocado to travel just to satisfy our selfish palate, and we really don't know the conditions in which these avocados are grown and harvested.
Next time you come to Cueva Bar, look out for the specials. We might have a catch of the day tapa special, or fish tacos (tacos are the ultimate Mexican tapa), sourced from Catalina Offshore Products who work closely with Trace and Trust, a group dedicated to supporting and promoting sustainable fisherman.
Speaking of fresh fish. We feel so excited for our new neighbors, Soichi Sushi! They are opening soon and I can't wait to sit down at their bar and just have chef Soichi send delicious fresh (not frozen) fish presented in a traditional Omakase way. Omakase is a Japanese phrase that means "I'll leave it up to you".
Cueva Bar offers a fusion tapas inspired menu.
Our happy hour is from Tuesday to Saturday from 4pm to 6pm. Happy hour offerings are $5 tapas, $5 wines, $5 sangria, and $4 craft beer on tap.
We're located in the eclectic University Heights neighborhood.
About the author:
I chef Oz write these blogs. I am a home cook gone pro when my wife Jo and I decided to open Cueva Bar, the first fusion tapas bar and restaurant in San Diego California. I am passionate about offering an inclusive space where people gather for a good time, and to enjoy our mindfully prepared tapas, made with love and passion by our culinary team.
Let tapas bring us together!