By now, you may have heard a thing or two about Callie, a highly-executed and decadent dining experience from Travis Swikard. A San Diego native, Swikard moved back to Rancho Peñasquitos from New York to start building his first restaurant in 2019. Here, we get in the kitchen with the chef to find out what seasonal flavors are inspiring him and why Callie’s commitment to supporting the local food community was always a huge part of his plan. 

Plus, Swikard shares a recipe for taramasalata, a simple Greek dip with addictive bursts of umami flavor that’s hard to get enough of.      

What are you interested in cooking and or eating lately?

Pasta, pasta, pasta. It's been a passion of mine for a very long time and I learned even more about it during my travels through Italy, watching nonnas prepare theirs. I just got back from New York City and had many incredible meals centered around pasta. Misi and Via Carota, among others.

Image: Karla Sandoval.

What are your essential kitchen tips, shortcuts, and tools?

My biggest tip is that there are no shortcuts. Your best tools as a craftsman are your hands and sharp knives.

Do you have a recipe to share? Tell us about it and include it here.

This recipe for taramasalata is a favorite. It’s a creamy Greek dip intensely flavored with fish roe and it’s easy to make.

  • 5 ounces cured and smoked fish roe 
  • 5 slices of white bread with crust removed
  • 2 cups of milk 
  • 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
  • 3 cloves of garlic 
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice 
  • 3 cups of vegetable oil

Makes 4 cups, roughly 10 servings

Pour milk over white bread to allow to soak and squeeze out excess liquid. Add the rest of the ingredients, minus the oil, and puree it in a blender. Slowly emulsify the oil into it. 

Are you enjoying seasonal ingredients or dishes? 

We recently put a new leek dish on the menu that's perfect for the season and includes black truffles and an incredible aioli.

What do you love about San Diego's food scene?

The city's access to the most amazing ingredients; we're so incredibly fortunate to have that. We're surrounded by local farmers and fishermen and women who provide us with so many quality ingredients on a daily basis that it's truly inspiring.

Image: Lucianna McIntosh.

Where do you like to shop for food and dine out?

Bistro du Marché in La Jolla is phenomenal. Other go-to's include Sushi Tadokoro, Jeune et Jolie, and Campfire. Also very excited for Andrew Bachelier's new spot, Chick & Hawk, to open. He's a good friend and I grew up skateboarding so I am happy that Tony Hawk is a part of it.

Would you like to give a shout-out to a favorite local grower or farm? What do you value about their growing practices and produce?

Nopalito Farm, Dassi Family Farm, Stehly Farms Organics, J.R. Organics, and Mindful Mushrooms. These local growers have bought into the high standards that we hold here at Callie in terms of the quality of produce. Now we're having conversations six months in advance so they can plan their crops ahead and I can plan upcoming menus around those crops.

What steps do you take to support a sustainable food system and why are these values important to you?

Callie aims to be as close to zero waste as possible in an effort to stay true to our sustainability measures. Our team incorporates methods including preserving, pickling, and confit to preserve the season and use each product in its entirety. As part of this commitment, the restaurant sources local ingredients as much as possible, not only to support San Diego's ecosystem but also to reduce Callie's carbon footprint. It's important that we make these strides now to provide the way towards a more sustainable future.

How would you like to connect to the Edible San Diego food community and why?

I'd love to connect in any way possible and continue to align myself with the community's mission that's much like our own at Callie.

You can visit Callie Wednesday through Sunday, 5–10pm. And be sure to follow Swikard on Instagram for more kitchen fun.

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