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Spoiler alert: We get into the paella scene, Goli pizza and martini experience at Cielo Village and the new look/feel/makeover of the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe presently. Followed by an update on the continuing sad saga of $20 a pint ice cream and Mrs. Chino’s meltdown at Chino Farm.
Now, on to the good news. paella!!!
Starting with the paella guy at the Sunday Rancho Santa Fe Farmer’s Market. We’re talking Emilio’s Paella (619) 852-1632 “Discover the flavors of Spain” at the southwest corner of the market, close to Cafe Positano.
Yum yum, yada yada, molto delizioso (we know, Italian, but still,) this guy is the real paella deal. Emilio also is quite an interesting soul, so you’ll enjoy hobnobbing with him and his wife who handles the finances, and she definitely handles that while he stirs up the largest pot of paella imaginable teeming with highest quality seafood this side of Valencia, Spain.
We’ve been interacting with Emilio for three years, or so. Generally, we only make it to the market area where we check our post office box as the vendors are packing up. Emilio is such a colorful presence and gregarious character that an acquaintance was struck.
Emilio also is quite secretive. He hasn’t divulged many personal details, preferring to let the paella do the talking, which it does quite well. He doesn’t maintain a web site and wasn’t revealing where else he pops up in public, but does provide catering services, so give him a call.
For the record, a small bowl as shown above was $10-$12 and super-sized bowl was $20 last time I checked although you may want to verify that in person as prices are subject to change. Best to get there as early as possible though because despite the humongous size of his cooking pot, paella is so popular it may not last through the 2 pm market closing.
Thankfully, Emilio saved us a bowl just in case we passed through after closing, which we did a few weeks ago. And the good word for that was yum, pass the paella.
Me Heart Goli at Cielo Village
Cielo Village, that touch of Tuscany on the road from Rancho Santa Fe to Escondido, always has been a guilty pleasure. We’ve been going there for over 23 years.
The 50,114-square-foot office and retail center in front of Cielo’s main gate at 18055 Calle Ambiente was the first local shopping center opened since since Del Rayo Village in 1990 and Fairbanks Village Plaza. It officially opened in 2007, although the center was fully completed in 2005.
Cielo Village’s unique Tuscany-themed boutique shopping and office center just below the massively upscale residential Cielo development has represented the stuff of legend, not to mention abandoned dreams.
The housing development of multimillion dollar estates and infinity pools across sprawling properties was begun just before the California real estate market went bust in the early 1990s. Through the years and bankruptcies, development managers soldiered on, attracting high-end residents and what now seems to be a prosperous future of large homes and high as the cielo sky hopes. Or maybe they just were high.
Much of the mixed retail/business center space has been unfilled over the years, from time to time attracting an eclectic list of clientele who have come and gone like the whizzing traffic along busy Del Dios Highway below.
Center officials tried a variety of publicity and visitor attracting ventures including a disastrous 2013 farmer’s market, a black tie invitation-only opening night with chamber orchestra and fashion models and several “now open” events.
Nothing seemed to work.
The place has picked up steam during the last few years, fueled primarily by the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District moving its administrative office there around 2011. The center is about half full now, but you know what they say about a glass half-full. Still, an improvement over once there was.
The restaurant space there has had a similarly checkered past. The first guy we remember was in his 20s and formely some kind of sommelier at Doug — ugh — Manchester’s Grand Del Mar luxury hotel when it opened before Manchester bought newspapers and stripped them for cash, then helped Donald Trump rape America. But we digress.
Young sommelier went bankrupt and skipped somewhere owing rent, but leaving behind a collection of wine that was passed from failed eatery venture to more spectacularly failed eatery ventures. A supposedly famous — we were skeptical — French pastry chef cratered. A plastic surgeon went belly-up. A Cielo couple failed miserably, accent on the miserable. All in all, about 10 different attempts, by our count, came and went.
Finally, we got someone who knows something, is super personable, lives in the community and is on track with fashioning this into the food and drink experience this neighborhood deserves. Arta Modatel has created a great space with high class healthy food and bar experience that also is quite reasonably priced.
We love the place, two thumbs up, five stars and whatever the best Michelin Guide ratings are for the Goli experience. Modatel named Goli — not to be confused with the nutritional supplements– for his mother who imparted to him the love of great and healthy food.
Love the place and its great karmic vibes. Everybody is super-friendly and super chill to hang with, so check it out and say The Grapevine sent you.
Call 858-367-8020 or stop by 18021 Calle Ambiente, Suite 403, Rancho Santa Fe 92067 and check out the website Goli Pizza Eatery Martini Bar for more info.
“Our vision was to create a healthy, fun, unique restaurant where you don’t have to feel guilty about eating delicious food,” Modatel said. “Pizza doesn’t have to be a rare indulgence. As former scientists, we enjoyed the challenge of making a pizza that had less fat, less carbohydrates, and less sodium but more flavor.”
And, as the full name implies, also 37 types of beer, wine and mixed drinks.
The 10th, or so, time is the charm for Cielo Village’s epic journey to a successful local eatery. This one looks to be there for a long and tasteful time.
The old (new) Inn at Rancho Santa Fe
The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe was a very classy and beautiful place when owned and operated by the Royce Family from 1958 to 2008. We loved going there to experience the serenely evergreen grounds and elegant gardens coupled with friendly, impeccable old school charm, grace and service.
That was then. This is now. The Inn has changed ownership three times– and twice within the last 10 months — each change marked by ridiculous promises and a descent in class and focus.
We’re not saying that former Rancho Santa Fe resident whose brother still lives here and Padres owner John Moores and his JMI Realty tanked the place when it bought the Inn from Royce Family, but it came close.
Actually, Moores is a smart guy, was involved in the RSF community and someone we were personally acquanted with and liked. However, come on child, his company’s tenure there was a joke wiping away the best qualities of the Inn, leaving shlock and shoddy service in its wake. Whatever the motives were for this hotel reduction, only the John Moores shadow knows.
That led to hotel robber baron Steve Hermann and his rope-a-dope year-and-a-half ownership where he promised the moon and stars, then quickly exited stage right (make that staged wrong) with $100 million paid after buying the property in spring 2022 for a reported $42.7 million.
In the end, the elusive Hermann who, again, we met and spoke with at length about his “vision,” which, with due respect to misquoting Hamlet, was full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Except maybe bullshit and greed.
This leads us to the corporate giant geniuses who Hermann weaseled into doubling his money by buying the Inn. They swept into town with even grander stated ambitions and even grander rhetoric than Hermann, if that is possible this side of PT Barnum. Alrighty, then, Jim Carey fans.
They re-named the feeding area “Lilian’s,” a nod to RSF’s premier architect Lilian Rice, who was one of America’s first acclaimed women architects. While Rice was good, she may not have been so good as to merit the bizarre fetish following of local historical fans and local hoity-toity wealthy fake society denizens.
Be that as it may, none of the new staff who are a lot like the old staff but less knowing, seemed to know where “Lilian’s” monicker came from, i.e. Lilian Rice. We got all sorts of weird answers, when asked — sort of like Jay Leno’s old “jaywalking” bit — none of which were remotely close to architect Rice.
That wasn’t even close to the most ridiculous exercise in this strange branding by the new super-corporate ownership. Most ridiculous aspect of this to anyone actually knowledgeable about history and the true Lilian Rice might be that she was totally into simplicity, perhaps the diametric opposite of this new “luxury” branding. She would have been appalled at the misuse of her name and fame for such a tacky outlet as that. Lucky for them she is dead and can’t sue for theft of image, apart from the grave.
The new corporate overlords seemingly have completed a massive interior makeover turning the once stately and understated Inn into a version of what corporate overlords imagine a stately and venerable property should resemble, complete with crazy lime-themed and other fruity colored decor and jumbles of couches, “comfy” chairs, tables and weird sorta-kitschy knick-knacks everywhere.
All well, and maybe not so good — decide for yourself, we’re three-dotting is all — but the touch that truly made us guffaw out loud and at length were the massive array of books; books, books everywhere, maybe rivaling the Great Library at Alexandria of Third Century B.C. fame. Books on tables, books on shelves, hundreds, and hundreds, of books strewn across the interior landscape without regard to theme or continuity for all the world to see and somehow think these corporate overlords must sure be smart.
Yeah, potential Inn at Rancho Santa Fe patrons are true bookworms. Surely, that’s what draws them there. (Sarcasm.) Nobody was reading any books during any of our visits so far. Wake us up if you see anybody, any time, even just once by accident, reading any of the books there. Doesn’t get more pretentious and weird than that.
OK, where were we; oh, that’s right, food. Don’t know if it’s any good, but definitely know it’s very expensive, too expensive for us to try. Enjoy it while you can. Who knows when this property gets flipped like a flapjack again.
Oh, the (in)humanity at Chino Nojo (Farm)
Lastly, a few more words on the apparent controversy at Chino Farm where Mrs. (Don’t Know Her First Name) Chino banned The Grapevine due to her extreme — and we mean extreme — umbrage over a previous Three Dot Lounge column deriding the obscene overpricing of $20 a pint ice cream sold at the farm stand by her son and his girlfriend; who, by the way, denied being involved with the pricing even though the I scream you scream website listed her as ice cream maker co-owner.
Let us say, firstly, Tom Chino is a great guy. He always has been kind and generous to The Grapevine. Perhaps no longer since he will stand by his wife who is petty and without understanding of journalism, i.e. a columnist is free to express an opinion whether she likes it or not. She seemed to believe this was a straight soft-serve story, and since everybody kisses her ass, nobody has the right to opinions different from hers.
Recently, we went over to Chino Farm to buy some overpriced corn. Mrs, (???) Chino ran like Forrest Gump over 100 yards to confront us about the Three Dot Lounge take on $20 a pint of ice cream — a pint of Haagen Dazs vanilla bean ice cream, for example, at Target is $4 a pint; so, is Chino Farm ice cream five times better? Doubtful.
Mrs. Chino expressed her dismay in very colorful terms, too colorful to repeat here. Then, impolitely said, “You don’t want to go here. It’s too overpriced.”
Upon attempting to receive clarification about whether that meant The Grapevine was banned, clarification was rendered. No problem. That means saving a lot of money rather than being subjected to overpriced produce and fruit — not actually priced at all, since no prices are posted for transparency; salespeople simply tell “customers” what they believe should be paid.
Have it your way Mrs. (???) Chino. We drive by the farm stand practically every day and laugh and laugh and laugh at you. And you don’t get a penny from us.
We have considered a few outstanding three-dot items stripped from below, well below, today’s sundry headlines. But lastly, and not leastly, a reminder and salute to he who pioneered the three-dot lounge way…
It’s been over 25 years since famed San Francisco journalist Herb Caen (1916-1997) died. For journalists and San Franciscans, Caen was a superstar. Known as “Mr. San Francisco,” his columns were a vital piece in the mosaic of one of the world’s great cities.
Caen wrote a column six days a week from July 5, 1938 until 1991 when he cut back to five days a week, then three, before dying in 1997 at age 80. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for lifetime achievement. A special Herb Caen day in The City in 1996 drew 75,000 enthusiastic fans to honor him at City Hall.
Mr. San Francisco was a master of what came to be called “Three-Dot Journalism.” He threw everything from one-liners, gossip, anecdotes and information into this format that became a journalistic staple in the 1930s and 1940s.
There was a method to the madness of presenting San Francisco legend Herb Caen’s three-dot lounge history along with its various re-interpretations. That was to set up Escondido Grapevine’s own three-dot lounge approach to local news. For more about the concept, visit our story here. For more local three-dot news, keep on trucking…and support The Grapevine, otherwise we won’t post the likes of this again. send your donations to us via Paypal at this link.