Kirk is working, Cathy is eating, and ed (from Yuma) just got back from Julian:
Tina and I were spending a few days in Julian to escape Yuma in July and go someplace with dog friendly activities and restaurants. Jeremy's on the Hill in Wynola, about 3 miles west of Julian, is the most culinarily ambitious eatery in the area though it looks pretty ordinary from the outside:
The chef, Jeremy Manley, is a local kid, only about 25 years old, and a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco. Several denizens of Julian told us they were delighted he chose to open his restaurant "back home." His menu stresses that he tries to use organic and local ingredients.
In addition to a decent selection of local craft beers (including several varieties of Alesmith and Lost Abbey in bottles), the beverage list contained a range of reasonably priced wines (many local) and numerous reds and whites were available by the glass – this is an Orfila chardonnay ($8):
The quality stemware was changed every time a new wine was served. The waiter also consulted each bottle's date of opening so that we were not served any tired wines by the glass.
We accompanied one set of entrees with Fancy Quest ($41), a good Lodi old vine Zinfandel, from Jessie's Grove, a small producer of whom I had never heard. It was a full flavored wine with a very appropriate label – considering how many horses we saw in the Julian area:
The next night we chose a brightly fruity Orfila Sangiovese ($32 and served a few degrees warmer than is my preference):
Our first meal began with some slices of an artisan French baguette with a nice crunchy crust, accompanied by green curry hummus. Never had green curry hummus before, but the flavors melded nicely with the bread. A great start to a meal:
The next night no bread. Not sure why.
The thin batter crust cracked and shattered as you bit into it. Extra crispy. And the onion slices were thick slices of sweet onion:
In most respects, the rings were excellent. They did, however, leave a light greasy aftertaste in the mouth and a slick of fry oil on the plate:
We also sampled a pair of soups. The cup of gazpacho (the soup of the day both nights) was fresh and wonderful ($5):
The quality of the fresh tomatoes shined throughout. The dice of zucchini, yellow squash, red onion and fresh peppers added flavor and varied the texture. A citrus sourness and a jalapeno heat balanced the cool sweetness of the tomatoes.
It was clear that the Sherry had been added to the soup at the end as the aroma and flavor of the wine hit the nose and tongue first. Then the rich flavor of lobster filled the mouth – followed by a long, smooth and creamy finish that flowed over the palate. Well done.
We also had two different salads. The first night, we chose the salad with mixed greens, a round of goat cheese, pecans, and orange slices, all dressed with a combination of orange vinaigrette and black truffle oil ($10):
We agreed that this salad was a great success in every way. The disparate ingredients (baby lettuces, orange slices, pecans, and goat cheese) worked very well together. The greens were clearly sourced from farmers' markets. Look at the baby crinkly red leaves in the left foreground joined at the base, not cut and separated into separate leaves. And the dressing was truly superb, the pronounced black truffle taste and aroma given the whole salad a rustic earthy woodsy flavor.
The next evening, we chose a salad as one main course (part of three courses – including a bowl of the gazpacho and dessert – for $25). Again, the baby greens were fresh and tasty, and they were accompanied with cucumber slices, avocado slices, and cherry tomatoes. The salad was topped with a roasted chicken breast, perfectly cooked, still moist and tender. The dressing, with a lemon vinaigrette this evening, had the same wonderful truffle oil:
I thought the chicken was somewhat under flavored, but Tina pointed out that it went perfectly with the rest of the salad. This was not an entrée of roasted chicken on a bed of lettuce, but rather a salad in which the chicken was an important part, but just a part. The flavorful woodsy and lemony dressing made the chicken as well as the vegetables taste better.
Over the course of the two evenings, we shared three meat centered entrées. The blue cheese bison burger ($18) was an easy choice since Tina loves blue cheese burgers and I was intrigued that chef Manley uses bison raised by a local rancher:
As you can see, it was a thick, slightly charred, hand formed patty topped with a triangle of creamy blue cheese. Just enough red leaf lettuce, red onion, and red tomato. All on a ciabatta roll. I have no idea about the sauce on the burger because I hardly noticed its flavor.
The accompaniment for the bison burger was something new to me – fresh cut California corn mixed with farro, which the waiter spelled out and identified as an Egyptian grain (in that case, shouldn't it be spelled Pharaoh?). According to Wikipedia, farro seems to be a name used for three different types of primitive wheats – the sort of things that ancient Egyptians would have actually eaten. Not usually made into bread or pasta, it's normally served in the whole grain or berry fashion as in this dish. While unusual, I appreciated this accompaniment more than something like french fries. The sweet corn and whole-grain flavors and chewy textures were a nice contrast to the rest of the plate.
Another great thing about this burger was that it was prepared rare. In fact, our helpful and friendly waiter explained the lean meat dries out when the patty is overcooked. This is what the burger (minus the top bun) looked like cut it in half to share with Tina:
Notice how the cheese has melted and how juicy the burger is. It was as good as it looks.
It was accompanied by three nicely cooked asparagus spears and a slightly al dente sliced baby carrot. The chop and vegetables lay on a mound of garlic mashed potatoes:
I never imagined that the mashed potatoes would contain whole garlic cloves, but they did:
While the pork chop was more than we could eat, it had a nice charred smoky flavor and was perfectly cooked, lightly pink and wonderfully moist:
Our other meaty entrée consisted of lamb chops ($25), their rib bones circled by a single ring of French fried onion, lying around a hill of smoked cheddar polenta topped with bitter greens:
The polenta was truly wonderful. The smoky cheese flavor played a supporting role while the sweet rich creaminess of the cornmeal took center stage. The menu said the greens were spinach, but they tasted unlike any spinach I have ever eaten. They seemed to be cut from much larger leaves than spinach and were chewy with a very pronounced bitterness. My guess is some type of mustard green instead. However, I am not complaining. The contrasts between the starch and vegetable made each of them taste better and spotlighted the differences in flavor, texture, and appearance. In my mind, this was the best of the three sides, and each of them was very good and original.
The lamb chops were lamb chops, medium rare, meaty, and perfectly okay. Looking back, I'm amazed that the least impressive entrée item was perfectly prepared lamb chops. That speaks well to the overall quality of the food.
Exactly perfect. Light, cool, sweet, and redolent of the best parts of watermelon. The berries offered a tart contrast. A great way to end a meal.
Tina and I were generally very happy at Jeremy's on the Hill. The service, good both nights, was absolutely exceptional the first evening. While there were a few glitches, there were no disasters. The menu offers a limited number of choices, but the chef seems really good at the preparations. While nothing was wildly creative, there were many original touches, and I was truly impressed by much of what I ate. I would happily – no make that joyfully – return.
Jeremy's On the Hill
4354 Highway 78
Open for Lunches and Dinners Daily, and for Brunches on the Weekend.