A few months ago at the San Diego Influence Awards, a few of us from the San Diego "Momfia" totally accosted the cutest guy in the room and tried to talk him into letting us adopt him and make him an honorary Mommy Blogger. Theresa from Rock on Mommies and I then spent the next few months internet stalking Aaron Hier (or @AHizz as he's known by his adoring fans), like a bunch of 12 year old's would stalk Justin Bieber. Yes. It was kind of pathetic. But our efforts paid off in the end... and a few weeks ago we got the invitation we were waiting for.
One of Aaron's best friend's is Chef Rich Sweeney (of Top Chef Season 5 fame), and just last month Chef Rich opened his new restaurant, R Gang Eatery, in Hillcrest. Being the Top Chef uber-fan that I am, I was THRILLED when Aaron invited us to dinner at San Diego's hot new restaurant and got downright giddy over the propect of meeting Chef Rich in person.
Drinks and Apps
We began the evening with R Gang's signature cocktail, the "Prickly Pear Margarita". With habanero-infused vodka and pear lemonade, this drink was definitely "prickly" - and that chili flavor hits you in the back of the mouth as you swallow. Of course, it didn't stop me from DOWNING mine. For the appetizer, Aaron ordered us the portabello fries. Now, I'm not a huge mushroom fan, but I am a huge fan of fries, so I gave them a whirl. And politely had to stop myself from scarfing up the rest of the plate and leaving none for my dinner-mates.
While both Theresa and Aaron had the fab looking burger with TATER TOTS on the side (yes, TOTs, which almost swayed my decision) I decided to go with something a little different. I had a hard time deciding between the Mac n' Cheese and the Chicken Curry Pot Pie, but thanks to the suggestion from our totally a-dorable waiter Terence, I went with the Chicken Curry Pot Pie. And I was SO HAPPY I did! While apparently the burgers at R Gang are good enough to turn a vegetarian into a meat-loving sinner, the pot pie was more unique in its flavors and was very well seasoned. Oy, how Tom Colicchio of me to say...
Now, if you are as obsessive about Top Chef as we are around here, you may remember Chef Rich's shining moment - when he was asked to pack his knives and go for making S'Mores for the Foo Fighters. And as a nod to his last night with Padma, you better believe that there are delish S'Mores for dessert at R Gang... along with banana pudding with homemade Nilla wafers covered in chocolate, and strawberry rhubarb cobbler. And yes, we did order all three. NOMNOMNOM.
The food, the drinks, the adorable waiters all put this restaurant high on my list. But really, I was a bit star-struck and could not get over how amazingly gracious Chef Rich was. When things slowed down a bit, he took the time to hang out with us and talk to us about his Top Chef experience. Being the TV whore that I am, I was practically squirming with excitement.
First thing, the thing I know you all want to know. Yes, it's not just your television: Padma is smoking hot. Rich said there was something about her...she is fabulous in every way. He also said that Gail has the most amazing palate he's ever met. He said you could put a pinch of something in your dish and she would catch it. Tom was hilarious and had a great personality, and Toby Young, who can come across as the harshest of the Top Chef judges, was actually a really great guy. Chef Rich also had nothing by praise for his fellow contestants, and told us that they are kinda like a fraternity; only people that have been on Top Chef can truly understand the experience.
Rich answered our questions about where they went after they packed their knives ("Elimination Island", a secret location where the eliminated chefs are sequestered until the regular season wraps up shooting) and talked about how hard it was not to be able to tell your friends and family where you went off to for 5-6 weeks - even after coming home.
Chef Rich was honestly one of the nicest people I've met in a long time. He was open, sincere and the type of guy you would want to sit back and have a few drinks with. We talked about his love of bacon, and I tried to impress him with my Bacon Cupcake/Bacon Toffee achievement, which he immediately topped by hinting at the BACON MADNESS that he's perfecting for his new brunch menu, along with chicken n' waffles and his build your own Bloody Mary/Maria option. Drool.
The evening was a blast, and while in the beginning Theresa and I may have wanted to adopt Aaron, now we are just hoping he and Rich will adopt us!
R Gang Eatery
3683 Fifth Avenue - Hillcrest
Dinner Tues-Sat 5-11PM & Brunch Fri-Sun 9A-3PM