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Meet the Small-batch San Diego Businesses Spawned by Challenging Times

San Diego chefs are getting creative during Covid-19.

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Most restaurants in San Diego are closed or operating with to-go only options, prompting some local chefs to look for new ways to share their culinary creations. If you want to keep up with the latest chef-driven developments, or place an order, your first stop should be Instagram.

Pastry Chef Pies

Pastry chef Aly Lyng has pivoted to pies. Each week the George’s at the Cove executive pastry chef offers upwards of 11 mini pies with fruit, chocolate, and citrus fillings baked into a crisp graham cracker crust.

Aly says she’ll likely put pies on pause once quarantine restrictions are over, as she’s excited to get back into the kitchen at George’s and create new plated desserts that showcase summer fruit, like cherries, peaches, and melons. For now, her side hustle is keeping her occupied, and on her busiest day yet, she turned out 120 pies.

Favorites include 63% dark chocolate s’mores pies with torched marshmallows; sweet and jammy passion fruit strawberry; classic lemon meringue; and banana dulce de leche with vanilla bean pastry cream. All flavors are five dollars a pop.

Delivery is available Tuesday through Saturday. Order online via Instagram or email alylyng@gmail.com.

Filipino Meals for Good

Phillip Esteban had several projects in the works in National City before the pandemic hit, including a food hall, grab and go bakery, and his first solo restaurant. While construction is paused, he’s had to make some adjustments.

Luckily, he and his business partners Marcus Twileger and Jamuelle Zumel were able to shift Craft Meals—a Filipino rice bowl business—from corporate catering gigs to a sustainable 1:1 meal delivery program that generates jobs and provides a free meal to a family in need for each bowl purchased.

Esteban says the company’s partnership with World Central Kitchen has been a blessing. Craft Meals currently delivers 3,500 meals free meals a week to a variety of locations, including homeless centers (through Hugs and Bags), schools, seniors centers, food banks, and frontline workers fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ambitious chef says the new reality has been a challenge since the restaurant business is built on face-to-face interaction, but he’s embracing the opportunity to give back, be creative, and expose the community to Filipino food.

Bowls range from $14-$15 and include options like Tocino Manok (grilled Mary’s Chicken), Lechon Kawali (crispy pork belly), and Tortang Talong (charred eggplant and mushroom). All bowls come with garlic rice and a sous vide egg.

Delivery is available seven days a week. Follow Craft Meals on Instagram for the latest updates and to place your order.

Bakers United

Pastry chef Samantha Bird (of Mille Fleurs) and best friend Amanda Estrella (of cottage baking business @pandelbarrio) are teaming up to deliver laminated pastries and bread to the carb-craving community.

Their project, dubbed The Bakers Collaborative, aims to nourish the locals during an uncertain time.

Plant-based brioche, crusty sourdough, brie and blueberry Danish, Kouign Amann, and sesame and poppy seed knots—inspired by Bird’s time spent working in a bakery in Denmark—are some of the standouts.

Bird is looking forward to returning to Mille Fleurs and hopes to resume work on a bakery concept with the owner of The Rose Wine Bar when restrictions are lifted, so get her goods while you can.

Pick up and delivery is available Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, and you can also find her pastries at Chino Farms on select Saturdays. See the full menu and place your order for delivery or pick up in Barrio Logan or North Park here.

Samantha Bird has been busy baking.

Friendship and Fine Pizza

Christopher Gentile is chef de cuisine at AVANT and Brandon Sloan is chef de cuisine at Provisional Kitchen, Café & Mercantile in The Pendry, and the pair recently turned to Instagram to launch a new pizza startup, Pandemic Pizza.

Gentile says they are currently making upwards of 70 personal-sized pies per day, and have burned out the motors of three Kitchenaid mixers. They are currently searching for a larger space to keep up with demand.

Cheese and classic pepperoni pizza are always on the menu, along with two specialty pizzas and a daily scratch-made pasta. Past specials have included eggplant parmesan, ricotta and mushroom ravioli with truffle cream sauce, and a chili-laced, green hog and cheese pizza produced in collaboration with Pop Pie Co.

One dollar from each sale goes to pandemic relief. So far, the duo has donated dozens of pizzas to local hospitals and contributed funds to Frontline Foods, a nonprofit organization that supports local restaurants and feeds heroes working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Follow Pandemic Pizza on Instagram to keep up with the latest specials and to place your order via DM.

Pandemic Pizza
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Erin Jackson
Erin Jackson is a food writer & photographer and the founder of Friendly Feast, a nonprofit organization that produces food and drink events to benefit the local community.
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