Sandwich at Home with Trish Watlington

By Maria Hesse | Last Updated September 20, 2017
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A sandwich is a universal meal comprised of anything you wish. It’s a way to literally break bread with good friends, which is what Sandwich at Home is all about. And, Trish Watlington just happens to be a good friend to break bread with.

Watlington is the farmer and owner behind two highly-respected farm to fork dining and garden to glass imbibing experiences—The Red Door and BAR by Red Door (formerly, Wellington Steak & Martini Lounge).  

That’s right. Farmer. And owner. Watlington is also the pioneer behind San Diego’s first Community Supported Restaurant (CSR).  In January 2017, she successfully launched San Diego’s Farm to Fork Week, the second of which will be held September 9-17, 2017.

Watlington admits that the restaurants were not focused on farm to fork sourcing when they first opened eight years ago, but she decided it was important to serve food that best reflected her family’s personal food choices. This change came in 2011, when her family bought out the initial partners in order to begin a conscious shift toward sourcing and producing food as sustainably as possible.  

The tail end of the previous sentence is all too often a loaded statement as some restaurants greenwash their menus, attempting to bank on the marketability of sustainable eating when they are only able to marginally execute it. For Watlington, this is not the case.  Hers is a life that actually requires hours under the sun, growing and harvesting 6,000-7,000 pounds of produce annually.

Watlington does this in her backyard at the restaurants’ gorgeous farm, located on the eastern side of Mt. Helix overlooking the El Cajon Valley. Watlington reiterates a sentiment often spoken of in the slow food movement, “We’ve always said, you shouldn’t order your produce from the place where you’re ordering your mop heads.” Most of what Watlington grows annually is delivered to the restaurants on Thursdays, supplying between 30-70% of the produce for the farm-fueled dishes touched by the genius of Chef Miguel Valdez.

At home, Watlington grows, purchases, and eats what she preaches at her restaurants.  She began practicing organic gardening in the 80s and was preparing baby food with vegetables from her garden for her first-born Justin—now 32 and general manager of the restaurants—well before Pinterest existed. Dedicated to eating seasonally and locally, her family eats a small portion of what the farm produces. In addition, Watlington is a regular at the North Park Thursday Market, making it a practice to shop on her way home from her weekly delivery and meeting at the restaurants.

As for what Watlington typically eats in a day, she laughs and asserts that every day starts with shade grown and fair-trade organic coffee. “Breakfast is kind of random. Sometimes breakfast doesn’t happen until lunch. Usually I prefer cooked foods to raw foods, and I’d rather stir-fry a bunch of vegetables and add an egg than have a salad. I usually cook dinner and make a small protein or something vegetarian. Whatever is in the fridge, I’m pretty sure I can make something out of it, and there are always tomatoes, butternut squash, lettuce, and whatever right outside my backdoor.”

She is emotionally invested in how she eats, stating, “If the only place you can get blueberries from is Chile, then don’t eat them.”

Watlington reminisces over hours spent doing ravioli prep with her grandmother, explaining that growing up in her Italian family, “I experienced the impact that really great food has on families. And, the commitment to just being together and having a meal together has always been really important because of that.”

Look below for Trish's sandwich & more recipes from the The Red Door


The Red Door 741 W. Washington St. San Diego 619-295-6000




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