Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Einstein Bros. Bagels

Well you can tell I am kind of in a cheap mood lately, what with my slight displeasure at the Lai Lounge and my choice of Lalos Tacos for lunch. Next stop on the cheap trip was Einstein Bros. Bagels, which, surprisingly I had never been to before. We were looking to pick up breakfast on Rosecrans street, and although slightly tempted by the famous Breakfast House we didn't quite feel like that much grease.
So Einstein Bros it was and I have to say again I was very pleasantly surprised. Opting for the Spinach Omelet on a Five Cheese Bagel I really enjoyed my breakfast which was warm (it has been so chilly in San Diego lately, and yet I never learn about wearing proper footwear) but not heavy. I have to say I was a little put off by the Candy Cane bagels (Red and Bagels just don't seem to mix) but many of the other menu items looked very intriguing, in particular the Lox Bagel. Looking forward to my second round of Einstein Bros. soon which................. won't be for a while. We are heading over to England to visit my wife's family for a while. I will make sure to carefully document our fun Holiday eating whilst we are there and try to shut away some stereotypes.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Lalo's tacos

Living in Hillcrest there are so many different places to grab a bite to eat. Some of the more strip mall types are often looked over and simply ignored. This can be a mistake Bai Yook Thai cuisine is one of our fave places for takeout, Wine Encounter has a really great selection and Unlce Biff's cookies are wonderful!
There are many places that I must admit I often over look also, and Lalo's tacos had been one of these. Perhaps due to the reputation of some small fast food Mexican restaurants I was just afraid of the lard, but I shouldn't have been so alarmed- Lalo's offers some of the more healthy Mexican food around.
The reason I ended up at Lalo's was actually due to a fault of Chipotle, Chipotle's managers might think its location in central Hillcrest is a great one, but when parking is that hard it must occasionally hurt there business. This was the case for us, after driving around for a couple of minutes and realizing that nothing was available we headed instead to Lalo's which has parking (albeit shared with a dozen or so other stores and always very crowded).
Entering the store I was very impressed with the range of the menu, not only were there dozens of different tacos to try there were also many other dishes, including burritos with wholewheat tortillas. Something I have often lamented the lack of at other Mexican establishments.

We ordered our food happily and were pleased to see it arrive within minutes.

Of course my burrito (chicken) with its wholewheat tortilla was not the best I have had in San Diego, but it was good and for the $4 or so I paid for it exceptionally good value. Most of all I appreciated the healthy aspect, the wholewheat and the distinct lack of dripping lard.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Lei Lounge

Well we thought we would try a new place for brunch today and headed over to Lei Lounge in University Heights. Wow just wow, what incredibly over priced brunch- the only thought I can have is that people are paying for the atmosphere which really, fo my tastes was rather over the top and incredibly fake.

Stuffed into a back yard in University Heights Lei lounge is trying to transport you back to Hawaii- bright white linens adorn the tables, purple (fake) leis are placed on every table, there is hawaiian palm thatch on the roofs and little tables filled with lava rocks for the cooler nights. some tables are set out in little alcoves.

For brunch you may choose between a range of different entrees for $11.95. ouch- no champagne was included, so this had better be good we thought. After seeing many couples presented with cute little cakes, I thought maybe the outrageous price included a complimentary dessert- no such luck.

I ordered the mini kobe beef burgers whilst my wife got the only veggies option; a garden omelet. for her I believe the price was particularly egregious- 12 bucks for an omelet (which by the way included no fancy ingredients such as wild mushrooms, goats cheese, sun dried tomatoes or anything which could have commandeered this price), and a few breakfast potatoes (again nothing special, just fried potatoes). The brunch drink specials were more reasonable- $3 for a champagne cocktail, with a range of different choices available. these were pretty good. In fact the kobe beef burgers were good, one of the more reasonable options for $12.

Perhaps it was because we were at the lei lounge an a windy and slightly chilly day but this forced Hawaiian atmosphere just wasn't doing it for me. Even in the Hawaii the endless fake leis presented at every turn got to be too much, but here is San Diego it seemed particularly silly. University Heights is such a cool little neighborhood with eclectic little dining spots and interesting looking craftsman cottages- this place just seemed to me to be in the wrong spot- PB or somewhere might be a better location. and if we are going to go for this Hawaiian theme get some better real estate, just a little garden setting going, or a cool view please don't just pack a whole bunch of people into a tiny little courtyard and have them pretend they are in paradise.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Sky Bar

Well after two nights at December nights in Balboa park I think I am something of an expert on what to do and what not to do.

First trick- do not even try to find parking near the park. we walked from home and it took about 25 minutes. If you don't live close enough park about 25 minutes away and walk, it will save you a lot of time. (Morley Fields area seems like a good place to park, then just down Morley fields drive and up the hill, you are at Balboa.)

Second- come on Friday. Friday was much less crowded, Saturday was (with the exception of the Sky bar which I will come to later), mayhem.

Third- wear comfy shoes. Balboa park is pretty massive, you will be walking around a lot, standing most of the time when you eat/ drink/ watch performances. Good comfy shoes are essential.

Forth- If you need a break go to the organ pavilion, you can almost always find empty seats and most of the choral ensembles they have there are top notch.

So what's good.....

Well initially the taste of San Diego (ten tastes for $10) looked interesting - although I did like the set up last year much better along the Cabrillo bridge. Then we realized that ten tastes meant waiting in ten lines. The restaurants taking part were not too interesting either- Baja Betty's El Indio, Mo's etc. we can go to these restaurants any old time. Plus no one seemed to be offering anything very interesting.

The international food was more fun. Irish stew was heartily enjoyed as was Palestinian cheese pie, Hungarian sausage and Swedish pea soup. Some of the countries just didn't seem to be putting in the effort though- the Italian tiramisu was not tiramisu and seemed to eb a frozen ice cream cake from Costco, the Meatballs all looked they came from Ikea and the Scottish beer on offer was Karl Strauss??

In the bustling beverages quarters our favorite was the spiced hot chocolate with Rum from Austria, the eggnog was a bit too strong and the different varieties of glogg just okay.

Elsewhere we enjoyed an Indian taco which was good, although a rip-off at $6.

Entertainmentwise my wife always enjoys the young ballet and tap dancers in the Casa del Prado, we also went to see excerpts from the nutcracker which was fun. The San Diego zoo were showing off a delightful South American Anteater that I don't remember ever seeing before. The organ pavilion had some nice shows on and it was fun to look in at the Old Globe and the set off the Grinch.

So the highlight and the secret of December nights- the Sky Bar in the Natural History Museum. This is a bar set up on what is essentially the roof of the museum. There is a $5 cover charge to enter, but oh how that $5 was worth it! After the crowds and masses elsewhere in the park I fully expected this bar to be packed, with the free appetizers having already been ravaged over- much in the style of Casa Guadalajara on a Friday happy hour.
I couldn't have been more wrong, the bar was nearly deserted, calming music was playing and the views were spectacular. As we walked through the doors out onto the roof we were greeted by a bartender who attended directly to our drinks and then ushered over to the free appetizers- turkey wraps and a wonderful vegetable soup.
the Natural History museums sky bar was definitely the find of the night and I am happy to be able to share this secret with blog readers. Next year you know where to head to!

Friday, December 01, 2006

December Nights Tonight

Very excited to head out to December nights tonight and sample some of that yummy international food, not to mention the restaurants on the bridge and of course the international holiday style beverages area.

Will report back!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Stuffed Strawberries

My wife had her first photo shoot for the recipe book she is making today. In honor of this I thought I would post one of her fave recipes which will feature in the book. For now you will have to make do with my photography, but we will update in due course.

From the book:

Strawberry Dreams

When my mother-in-law turned 60 we decided to throw her a surprise party. The menu was set to be finger food and one of my very favorite creations was to be endives topped with blue cheese and spicy candied pecans. the evening before the party I started to stress, we had one small packet of endives and I just didn't know if it was going to be enough to serve all the guests, I needed an alternative vessel. I went to sleep in a fit of panic and during the night I dreamed of nothing but food and catering and recipes. When I awoke I had dreamed a new recipe. Everything from my dream I could remember clearly- hollowing out fat juicy strawberries, reducing onions in a thick gloop of balsamic vinegar, topping the dish with a crunchy spicy pecan. Of all the things I make this dish is the one which receives the most comments and recipe requests, people always ask where the recipe came from and I simply tell them- I dreamed it!

For the Balsamic Reduction

2 large onions thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 cups balsamic vinegar

For the Candied Pecans

1 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup sugar
1tbsp lemon juice
dash of water
1 tsp chili powder

For the rest

25 strawberries
1/2 cup of gongonzola

Start by making the balsamic reduction. Fry up the onions until they are lovely and caramelized, sweet to taste. Then pour in the balsamic until it covers the onions plus some. leave to simmer until it gets thick and gloopy- you may need to add more vinegar. I like to simmer for an hour or so.

The most tricky part is the candied pecans . You basically just throw all the ingredients in a pan and heat on a medium setting. The sugar will melt and you will need to keep stirring for 10-15 minutes or so, coating all the pecans. I like to test one to see if they are done, the pecans should be crunchy but of course not burnt, the coating should be clear and shiny, in no way granular. Once they are done spread the pecans quickly on a piece of parchment, separating one from another with a fork- work fast or they will all stick together. If they do stick together you can reheat and start over.

One the pecans are done you can start to assemble the strawberries. Start by chopping of the top of the berry and lopping a tiny bit off the base so it can stand upright. then carefully hollow out the center of the berry. Stuff first with the balsamic onions, then with some blue cheese and finally top with a candied pecan. Beautiful and tasty!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Recipe Book News

My wife is currently working with a graphic design friend to create a vegetarian recipe book- with Jamie Oliver style artwork and photography. Hopefully we will be able to get some of the photos taken up on the web for this blog. they are kicking off with stuffed strawberries and spiced adzuki bean burgers on thursday- should be a fun time.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Well, I thought I would share our Thanksgiving menu- so far Amanda's thanksgiving fare on what were' eating is the best spread I have seen on the Blogosphere.

Our menu:

Turkey- (Courtesy of America's Test Kitchen- the new best recipe)

Stuffing (with sausage or chesnuts)

Mashed potatoes with peas onions garlic and mustard

Purple potatoes mashed with buttermilk

Yorkshire puddings

Brussel Sprouts with Cannelini beans, garlic and pecorino cheese

Cranberry Sauce with pears and ginger

Onion Gravy (vegetarian)

Arugala, Orange and Goat cheese salad with pomegranates

Roasted Beets and Squash

Jello Salad with cottage cheese and pineapple

pumpkin pie
maple flan with pears
apple pie
lemon meringue pie

Yes- it was quite the feast, no room for more food for some time now!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

'tis the season

Well Christmas and Thanksgiving are just around the corner so we have started to kick off our mulled wine some evenings. Even living in southern California there is nothing like a nice mug of warm mulled wine on a winter evening- it certainly takes away the sadness caused by the shortening days.

Here is the recipe we have come up with (economic and cutting down on the sugar!)

1 bottle Charles Shaw Merlot
2/3 cup rum
splash Amaretto
1/2 wine bottle water
2 oranges (sliced)
1 lemon (sliced)
3 cinnamon sticks
1 cup splenda
25 cloves
2 tsp ginger
2 tsp allspice

Stir all together and gently heat never letting the wine boil. Heat from 20 minutes and serve in festive mugs!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Cheese Shop

One thing we have never really found in san Diego is a really good sandwich place. Saturday afternoon lead to the perfect opportunity to embark on such a search. After having worked all Saturday morning we were in the mood for a nice chill out at the beach, without the hassle of picnic making. A good sandwich seemed like the perfect plan.
Having a guest staying with us we decided to head up to La Jolla and see the seals, (unfortunately they had been scared off the beach by some of the pro- children's pool folks so that plan didn't work out too well.) Nonetheless the sandwich part of our trip turned out to be much more satisfactory. After extensive internet research we found The Cheese Shop widely recommended as the best sandwich place in La Jolla and perhaps even in San Diego. The shop is very simple and fun, stocked with many British chocolate bars and pantry items, and decorated with photos taken around the world with the cheese shop Frisbee.
A slight initial disappointment was that the cheese selection was not as extensive as the name of the deli might suggest- the sandwiches certainly made up for this slight lacking however. I went for the Pork Loin sandwich, my wife got the evergreen (the main veggie option) and our guest got the chicken salad. We picked up a few of the house cookies and a drink each and headed out to a nice picnic bench on La Jolla shores- (la Jolla really is so nice in November with all the tourists gone). All sandwiches were superb, the bread in particular was excellent, with the highlight being pumpernickel. Each sandwich was absolutely stuffed to the brim with ingredients, but bread was soft enough that this did not make for unpleasant eating. All salad components were incredibly fresh and the meat was of top quality.
Very happy with the cheese shop- a great value meal with a beautiful sea view!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Umi Sushi

As promised a photo from my first forray into sushi. It was actaully really good. I was a little surprised at my friends orders for me (knowing it was my first time) - really throwing me off the deep en. The eel was probably the most adventurous, it was really great until I remembered I was eating ell, and was then a little bit too icky. My wife got the vegetable tempura roll, which she really liked, although wasn't so keen on the rice or the seaweed. Would probably have just been better off with vegetable tempura!

Umi Sushi was a fun restaurant- wonderful presentation and service.

So here's a picture of Salmon Sashimi, so good. I was very surprised.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Liar's Club

Things have been a little subdued in our household lately, trips out for dinner have been quite scarce and home cooked meals mainly have consisted of big batches of chili or soup. One of the reasons is that my wife is right in the middle of completing her Law School applications, a very tedious process that consists of a large variety of different essays, forms and other paraphenalia.
We will be moving away in nine months time and it occurs to me I will have to change the name of the blog when we do! Currently Good East in DC, New York or the Bay Area seem like the most likely options! What will I do when we move (apart from checking out all the best places in town). Well I really have to figure out moving forward with my career education. I've been looking at Educated Nation recently to try and get some inspiration of the way to go. I still sometimes think of Culinary school, Unfortunately the district of Columbia seems to only have online Culinary Schools, but New York and the Bay area both have great options.

Anyway back to the Liar's club... So after a very uneventful week we decided to go out for a fun night. First we headed out to Umi sushi was a lot of fun- photos may be added soon! Then it was on to Liar's club. This was my first visit to the bar and I was really very impressed with the selection of beers, my wife favored one of the Alpines (which she said tasted like peaches ??) and I really enjoyed a couple of the beers from Stone Brewing Company. The only slight let down of the night were the chili cheese fries (how can you eat chili fries without a fork, it just doesn't make sense).
After a while of being poked fun at by the very knowledgeable and slightly cocky bar tender we headed off to the beach, ending the night with a calming seaside stroll, and a little touch of the freezing water. Mission Beach is a fun place to go out, a big change from our usual Hillcrest haunts.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Happy Hour on Adams

I have just discovered the wonders on Happy Hour on Adams avenue. The Green Tomato Restaurant and Kensigton Grill, (and possibly some others) have a great happy hour schedule going on.

Mondays and Tuesday are well drinks, Wednesday's bonus is half price bottles of wine, Thursday is Margarita night and Friday is Martinis. The happy hours run from 4pm-7pm and include some low price food.

Both restaurants have great atmospheres and it is pleasure to sit in the elegant surroundings - a very nice break after a day at work. We were there for Margarita night, and opted first for the top shelf at Kensington Grill. This was a really wonderful margarita, (far better than most that I have tried in Old Town). For some tastes it may have been a little strong, but this being top shelf alcohol, it just tasted really great. We also ordered a mango and Brie quesadilla (not on the happy hour menu but it looked too good to miss). The quesadilla was excellent- although the hightlight foodwise was probably the squaw bread with accompanying red pepper dip. The bar tender was very affable and managed admirably the very full bar, having time for everyone's little wants and needs.

Green Tomato was a new restaurant to us. The dining room is very calming and the slightly darkened bar led for a lazy late night feel that was very enjoyable. There were a fair few 'regulars' at the bar- some of them on their 6th or 7th margarita by the looks of it! Still despite being newbies everyone made us feel very welcome and the margaritas were again excellent.

So a really fun night out, excellent value. I would love to come back for Martini night, and Green Tomato will certainly entice me back for dinner at some point. The namesake green tomato appertizer look particuarly appealing.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Our favorite Soup

Cooked up our favorite soup last night. It's the thing my wife would always make surprise guests when they can over unexpected. There was always chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and pasta in the larder and spinach in the garden. Sauteing the onions in rosemary makes the whole house smell wonderful!

We cooked this up last night as a symbol of the cooling days. I think we are going to try and start cooking soup more often, it feels so good to be eating soup. I'm going to pick up that nice bean and grain mix from WholeFoods and get some interesting variations going.

Chickpea, Spinach and Pasta Soup

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

4 Cloves Garlic (crushed)

1 Onion (chopped)

1 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary (chopped)

2 Cans Chickpeas

2 Pints Vegetable Stock

3 oz Small Pasta Shapes

4 oz Fresh Spinach Leaves (shredded)

Salt and Pepper

Grated Nutmeg


1, Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Fry the onion garlic and rosemary for 5 minutes.

2, Add the chickpeas and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes.

3, Add the pasta and return to the boil for 6-8 minutes.

4, Stir in the spinach and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes.

5, Season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Kous Kous

After parking in the free parking lot on 4th avenue (Hillcrest) we wandered up and down the street looking for Kous Kous, and initially were a little confused as it was not immediately apparent. After a more thorough search however we found it, located underground (beneath Martinis) and not clearly visible from the road.
Initially a little put off by the location we were incredibly impressed once we stepped inside the restaurant. They have really done an amazing job with what is, essentially, a basement. The ceiling pipes and cables have all been nicely painted, and have become almost invisible. A canopy structure in the corner of the restaurant adds some interest. Palms and other house plants abound the space making for a wonderfully exotic feel and the beautiful furniture table linens and dinnerware were nicely contemporary and made for a clean sophisticated feel. The sense of Morocco is impressive (without being overbearing), from the rugs and scattered pillows right down to the wonderful hostess and staff who were friendly and attentive throughout our meal.
Our server turned out, in fact, to be the brother of the proprietor. He has his own similar restaurant in New Zealand and is just here a few weeks to help his brother get off the ground. A more charismatic server would be difficult to find, and he really increased our enjoyment.
We started off the meal with a jug of Sangria- the waiter making sure to add plenty of fruit to our glasses. The Sangria was certainly one of the better mixes I have had, and it was a nice change from wine. For nibbles before the meal we were presented with a plate of marinated carrots (excellent) and olives (quite good).
Perusing the (rather short) menu I had a hard time choosing, but settled in the end for a Shrimp Kabob. My wife went for the Vegetable Tagine. One of the main reasons we had come to try out Kous Kous was the coupon we had received in Uptown magazine. This was for one entree. It was fortunate that we had the coupon as the food turned out to be really quite pricey. At $15+ per entree we really would have expected a little bit more. Don't get me wrong, the food really was excellent, flavorful, fresh and authentic. Perhaps the problem is that we often cook in a similar way at home. Cous cous is a huge staple in our larder and the Moroccan spices and flavors are very familiar.
We really enjoyed our meal at Kous kous, and I hope that the wonderful staff succeed in their venture. This certainly adds a nice alternative to the Hillcrest staples. I would very much like to go back, (particularly once the menu has been a little expanded), but will have a slightly difficult time justifying a trip at the current prices.
I wish them luck and encourage everyone to pay a visit.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The past week

It's been a fairly uniteresting week culinarily speaking. My parents were down for the weekend, which meant a roast dinner one night and a BBQ the next. We've been eating a good deal of left overs.

Went to Apertivo again on Wednesday night. the food was good, and the price even better. However there was one issues, which really did spoil our meal to an extent: the five people in our party were all crowded onto one tiny little table. The fifth person at the end had no room for his legs which was incredible uncomfortable. What was most ridiculous is that his is a place that serves tapas, i.e. many small plates. After our wine and water glasses were in place there was barely enough room for 1 plate, let alone 5 or 6. We asked for a change of table and were met with a rude frustrated response. not good service.

Tonight we are considering the new Kouskous place. Wine and tapas served until midnight. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Julian Apple Pie

Drove up to Julian yesterday for the start of Apple season.

I have to say we were really quite disappointed. First of all it was an incredibly cold and blustery day, dressed in our San Diego clothes we were not really too happy- but you can't help the weather.

Next thing, nearly all the apple orchards were not yet open to the public, the one we did find was really none too impressive. Two varieties one golden delicious was pretty good, and one Gala, which honestly was bland and watery. We had fun however, picking the most attractive apples we could find from the trees and filling up our bag right to the brim.

Then we headed off for Apple pie. This time we decided to try the Julian Bakery right in the center of town. They were offering a pumpkin and apple pie. At first I was a little wary but always one to try new things I decided to go for it, whilst the others in my party had the regular Apple Pie a la mode.

My choice was definitely worthwhile. This isn't something I would eat every day, but the flavors went surprisingly well together. The pumpkin was not overwhelming, but more of a subtle after taste. More predominate were the typical pumpkin pie spices, which are always delicious. Funnily enough in fact my pie turned out to be far more satisfactory than the regular apple, which was very heavy on the cinnamon, luke warm and had a very dry and unappealing crust.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Stuffed Tomatoes

Got some great tomatos from the farmers market today, really huge.

I'm going stuff them for appertizers tonight:

Stuffed Beef Tomatoes

4 Huge (Beef) Tomatoes

4 cloves garlic (finely diced)

1 small red onion (finely diced)

Freshly chopped mint

Freshly chopped oregano

Freshly chopped Basil

Freshly chopped chives

½ cucumber (finely diced)

1 ball mozzarella (finely diced)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp white wine

1 tbsp lemon juice


1, Cut off a lid of each of the beef tomatoes, 1 cm from the top. Hollow out the flesh from inside the tomato. Place the flesh in a bowl, setting aside the shells.

2, Roughly chop the flesh and combine with the onion, garlic, herbs, cucumber and mozzarella.

3, Add the oil, vinegar, white wine and lemon juice, and carefully mix together. Spoon the mixture back inside the tomatoes. Leave for several hours, and then serve with thick slices of bread.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Parallel 33

Well, the moment we have all been waiting for my review of Parallel 33. Unfortunately I was really quite disappointed. The food was very good, that I certainly can’t deny, but I don’t think I have encountered such bad service since the Corvette Diner!

At eight o’clock on Saturday evening we arrived at Parallel 33 ready for our reservation. Stupidly I had been under the impression that one reserves a table so that it is there for you when you arrive. This sadly was not the case, of course a few minutes wait would not have been a problem, but we were not seated at our table until 8.45, this is just bad management in my opinion. As a small restaurant with very low capacity P33 should just consider the Linkery’s option of refusing to make reservations, if this is going to be how they treat their customers that do.

During our wait we tried the Tears of the Prophet, which was good, but again I was disappointed by the bartender. One of our fellow diners asked for some recommendation as to how to drink Green Tea vodka- the answer “however you want to drink it” “however you like it”. This is not good bartending, and the man flatly refused to inspire any of our party also.

Once we had been seated at our table we then began the long long wait for food, I had lost count by this point as to how long we waited, but it was a considerable amount of time. In the mean time the request we had put in for more flatbreads had apparently been completely forgotten, and we were getting rather hungry.

The food, as I have said was good. My wife wasn’t utterly thrilled with hers, and wonders why the only vegetarian option at most restaurant always has something to do with sun dried tomatoes and feta cheese- not that she doesn’t like them, its just a little overdone. I got a steak dish, with wonderful potatoes as an accompaniment, this was really excellent, the steak cooked to perfection.

After we had finished our main course we were offered dessert menus. I should add here that earlier in the evening one of our friends had quietly asked if they did anything for Birthdays, she was told that yes a dessert plate would be arranged. We were rather surprised therefore to see the dessert menus, but assuming they had forgotten like many other things in this meal, glanced at the menu and decided to instead head to Heaven Sent desserts, making arrangements to meet a couple of friends there. Waiting another 20 minutes for our check, suddenly the dessert platter arrived- made up of a chocolate cake and a date cake that would certainly not have been any preference of ours. Still it seemed like a nice gesture, and we all tucked in- room could still be made for Heaven Sent!

The shock came with the check- not only had we been charged for the dessert plate- but it was the cost of two desserts. Now I don’t want to sound cheap, but every restaurant I have ever been to for any sort of special occasion throws in a free dessert for the honoree. I have to say we were pretty disappointed. Not that it cost loads, just the principal of after our long long wait this was.

Ah well, nice concept for a restaurant, good food and some good drinks. Maybe I had just been looking forward to it too much and building it up in my head?

Friday, September 29, 2006


For the birthday itself, we decided to go somewhere close by in North Park. First choice was Spread, but unfortunately they were closed this very day, catering an event in Los Angeles. Second choice was Terra (we had a coupon and really enjoyed the quality of their breakfast ) unfortunately Thursdays is BBq and blues night at Terra, not so good for the vegetarians. Browsing through uptown magazine at our coupons we came (not for the first time) upon Hawthornes. My wife had previously called and asked about vegetarian options only to be told there were none available. Still it seemed worth calling again, (if for no other reason that repeated phone calls might make them reconsider their menu). So she called, and was pleasantly surprised that they offered to create something for her in the kitchen. After this we couldn't very well not pay them a visit and so we headed off.
Hawthornes always looks so attractive from the street, the bright white lights and the clean linens making a nice contrast with a shabby North Park. Being attached to the theatre this dictated the decor, and shots of actors adorned all the walls.
the menu at Hawthornes is not extensive and focuses on very traditional dishes. My wife of course was taken care of by the kitchen and was served with some fusilli, artichoke hearts, shitakke mushrooms, and white asparagus. I opted for the Fettucini with clams- this was enjoyable although a little dull. Perhaps the fault of a poor choice on my part.
The service at the restaurant was incredibly friendly, and our waitress seemed great at first. Unfortunate she however used the whole- 'I don't need to write things down on paper' approach, and then summarily forgot many of our requests and orders.
For dessert we ordered a cheesecake , which was really excellent, probably the highly of the meal.
Definitely enjoyed Hawthorne's will come back and order something more exciting next time (although as I mentioned, this may be tricky.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Birthday Meal

Well the birthday is coming up this week and I think we have been persuaded by all the kind posters to go to Paralell 33. Now we are just deciding on whether to go the actual birthday date, or if to wait and go on Saturday when we can relax a bit more.
I'll definitely post how it all goes (and try to remember my camera).

Monday, September 25, 2006


Well my poor wife called me at 5 yesterday, desperate for a ride home and some food. She had been running around like a madwoman and hadn't eaten since the night before, a migraine fast approaching she needed feeding fast. We briefly considered old town, but then thought of the poor service that we have encountered there before- Gulf Coast Grill was another option, but I think we have eaten the same three menu items there enough times to be pretty sick and tired of them by now! She said she felt like a burger, and so where better than Islands in Mission Valley. I like Islands because it always has great fast service, you can get a whole wheat bun, and the different selections of burgers are very interesting.
Happily we were not disappointed- when asked what could be on our table within 2 minutes, our server responded with some chips salsa and guacamole in a matter of seconds. I enjoyed some Hawaiian burger and my wife went for the Blunami- (basically a veggie patties with blue cheese and a few other fixings). We shared a basket of fries, and as usual with Islands came no where close to finishing.
So Islands saved the day- not the best burgers in town, but always reliably good, parking is never a problem (except I guess during a Chargers game) and the service is always good. The only bad thing I can really say is the irritating love song music and the endless videos of surfers.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sunday Brunch at the Beach House

First let me say how much I adore the Sunday Brunch Master site. The perfect site that I wish I had the time an patience to create! Congrats to Jim, that site is amazing.

Anyway, browsing through the Site we searched for a place to go on Sunday morning. The beautiful day clearly called for a view and preferably outdoor seating. We had some time on our hands and planned to visit the beach afterwards, so we settled on the Beach House in Cardiff. Best decision ever!

The Beach house outdoor seating is located to all intents and purposes actually on the beach, a beautiful view of the sea, and less developed area than San Diego bay views. The service was absolutely impeccable We were seated immediately and then treated to the complimentary champagne, which, bottomless, was refilled extremely regularly. The brunch also comes with complimentary pastries and a bowl of fresh fruit. The pastries could have been fresher, but were still a very nice touch.

Choosing our breakfast entree I decided to branch out and try the lobster benedict. My wife went for the Ranchers omelet. Both dishes were great, the lobster benedict came with an orange hollandaise, a very interesting touch, and perfectly cooked eggs. The ranchers omelet was packed with asparagus, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms and many other delicious veggies.

We lingered long enjoying our brunch, the sunshine and the amazing view and finished our meal with a wonderful cup of coffee. The best surprise of the meal was yet to come with the check- only $34. That's for 2 huge entrees, pastries, fresh fruit bowls, endless champagne and delicious coffee. Surely the best value meal I have had in a long time.

We spent the afternoon (our brunch having been a rather late one), on Cardiff beach which was very peaceful, and had a great refreshing swim in the sea. Certainly the best Sunday I have had in a long while.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Kitima Thai

We decided to head out to Hillcrest and try a new Thai restaurant last night. I have heard great things about Celadon Thai, and so we headed in that direction. We had no reservations, but it was 9.15pm by the time we went out and we didn't think we would have any trouble.
We arrived at Celadon and waited for someone to seat us, unfortunately servers passed us by never acknowledging our presence, giving us not even a smile of welcome. After 10 minutes waiting in the lobby and not been giving even a hello, we decided to leave. It would have been one thing to be informed there was a 20 minute wait, but to be ignored so completely was, in my opinion, just rude.
So we wandered down University Avenue a bit further and eventually came across Kitima Thai. My wife at once fell in love with the eclectic decor, so different from the regal Thai restaurants we are used to, so we decided to give it a try. The menu was certainly interesting with a wealth of both vegetarian and meat entrees. An added bonus also came from the jazz trio playing upstairs in the restaurant, which made for a great chilled out atmosphere.
The menu being so extensive, it took us some time to settle on our choices. Gone were the usual options of Drunken noodles and Swimming Rama, Instead I went for a lemongrass chicken and my wife took the Tofu Fitness dish. Both dishes were absolutely wonderful, I haven't had such a great lemongrass flavor in a while and I had forgotten quite how much I love it. I tried some of the veggie dish and was impressed by the wealth of different flavors and textures.

We really enjoyed our late night at Kitima, a refreshing change from Amarin and Lotus Thai, definitely somewhere I would love to take guests.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Birthday Meal

Where shall I take my wife for her birthday?

On the shortlist are:

Parallel 33
Kemo Sabe

Recommendations? Thoughts? Preferences?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Making up for lost time, here is my second post of the day:

For dinner we are having Red Bean Moussaka, a favorite of my wife's. No she doesn't come from Greece, but from England and this is one of the things her mother would cook on special occasions. She says the smell of cinnamon always brings it back to her.

The recipe comes from Entertaining with Cranks- which still remains in my opinion one of the best vegetarian recipe books. Everything is so simple to make and yet so wholesome and delicious- with a usual touch of elegance.

The key tips to this recipe are: Salting the eggplant and removing all their moisture before placing them in the moussaka. Adding an egg to the bechemel- makes for a great texture when cooked and of course the cinnamon in the mixture, a very unforgettable flavor.

The Air Conditioned Lounge

Sorry for lack of posting recently. I have been feeling quite ill the last few days- hopefully not as a result of food I have eaten somewhere.

Anyway a few notes about the Air Conditioned Lounge in North Park- first off wierd name, don't really like it but hey....
We headed over to the lounge on Saturday night, we usually don't do the whole bar thing, but we were meeting a friend and thought we would give it a shot. I'm not really a fan of being cooped up in a place with low lighting and no windows-some of the decor was cool, but mostly the atmosphere was not great. We went early and I am sure later on in the evening it is really packed (even less fun for myself).
Anyway the one thing this place did have was really good cocktail waiters, no flairing but very nice unpretentious complete knowledge. We ordered everything from a woo woo to a vodka gimlet and it was prepared flawlessly.

Happy hour at the Air conditioned lounge runs until 9.30pm on a Saturday so if you are looking for a place for some cheap drinks to start out a night out give it a shot.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Taste of Italy

We have previously passed through Taste of Italy in Hillcrest for just an appertizer or a drink. Finding it to be very late and having not yet eaten we headed in there. The pizzas have always looked amazing, they come out, gigantic and are placed raised in the center of the table for all to share. We were happy to find that unlike Pizza Nova we could actually split a pizza and went for half vegetarian and half 'the works' or some such variety.
Waiting for our food we ordered a couple of martinis, I got the lemon drop and my wife the melon ball. Of the two the melon ball was far superior. This was a new martini menu and the first time they had made the drink. Subsequently it came out in a rather large tumbler (perhaps they had not quite anticipated the volume). Nonetheless it was really excellent, tasting just like a honeydew melon.
It was a little wait before our pizza arrived, but that wait was well worth it. I think I would not go too far in saying this was the best pizza I have had in San Diego. True the ingredients were not as fresh or as interesting as Pizza Nova, but the pizza base itself was unsurpassable. Soft with a little crispness, topped to perfection with ideally sized vegetables and meat, a delicious tomato sauce and great cheese. Really really good.
Of course the pizza was massive, far too big. We only managed two slices, but our extremely friendly waiter boxed it up for us and we enjoyed it the next day for lunch.
I have heard pizza nova does excellent pasta dishes, this may very well be so, but I would encourage everyone to try this pizza that I would go back for time and again.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Hillcrest Wine bars

Well after hearing some less than encouraging thins we decided against Spread on Friday night. I have since heard some good reviews however, with the consensus that you should go there 'at least once' and so we have put it at the top of our list.

Friday night we instead headed out to wander Hillcrest. We had a coupon for Bamboo Lounge that promised $15 off a bottle of wine. This seemed a little too good to be true, paticuarly when we entered the bar and found the menu to range from $16-$40 a bottle.

The bar is attractively decorated with its bamboo theme. It was unhappy deserted however, not adding much to the atmosphere. Still rather than brace the oppressive crowds at Wine Steal we decided to stay and use our coupon. Checking to see if it was valid we were informed that there had been a misprint-print. The server told us that in fact the coupon should have read $1.50 off. Hmmmmm I doubt that, $1.50 would have been a joke. I imagine it was intentioned to read $5 and they were trying to ease our disappointment. In true appeasing style they offered us $5 off the bottle, a free cheese plate and a seat in the VIP lounge (a couple of leather couches in the corner LOL!).

Still, the server was very courteous and our wine was not bad. The cheese plate being n more than a few slices of cheddar and some crackers we also ordered the bruschetta. This came in two parts, regular bruschetta and some flat bread with an artichoke spread. The spread was fantastic definitely the highlight.

I can understand why people prefer wine steals- better wine, better cheese, knowledgeable staff and a buzzing atmosphere. However the availability of a place to sit down ad reasonable prices made bamboo quite attractive and we had a great time.

Leaving Bamboo Lounge we headed on to Wine Encounter. This is a place we had previously overlooked due to its strip mall setting. Inside however the bar was attractive enough and the wine selection really excellent. The bartender was far more knowledgeable than the staff at Bamboo and helped us pick out some great choices. The pricing here is a little expensive and none of the appertizer food sounded appealing enough for us to try.

Both bars were fun, and we had a great night. It will be interesting to see in Bamboo as the 5th or so wine bar in Hillcrest will be able to make a name for itself.

Friday, September 01, 2006


We are thinking of going to Spread in Northpark tonight, but hear such mixed reviews I'm not sure.

Anyone reading the blog today please let me know your thoughts!

From what I hear- presentation is amazing, produce is wonderfully fresh, food creative and good.

But- over priced, rushy stressy staff, uncomfortable seating.

Is this a good summary?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Happy Hour at Region

The last time we visited Region was during the week of $30 dinners- we had a really great meal and were very impressed with both the atmosphere and the quality of the food.
Region's happy hour runs from 5-7 pm mon-thursday. It consists of half price drinks and half price appertizers- basically anything off the menu in the anti-pasta section. This is good because usually things here are pretty pricey. For such a great deal I was surprised to find us as the only ones in the bar- perhaps the location (5th avenue a few blocks south of university) doesn't offer itself too well to passers by?
We ordered a raspberry mojito and a strawberry lemonade. Both were made with fresh fruit and were really excellent, the mojito particuarly so. The bar tender was incredibly friendly and ready to oblige our every need. Looking at the menu we thought the anti-pasta platter looked like a good bet, although a little heavy on the meat side. Again Region was incredibly accommodating and prepared us a more vegetarian friendly platter. I was certainly very happy that we were there during half priced appertizer night. The anti-pasta came out on a salad plate and consisted of maybe 4 slices of cheese, 4 slices of meat, some radishes, lettuce, 6 slices of zucchini and a slice of bread (bruscheta topping had been removed due to pork content). The quality of everything was excellent but it felt much more reasonable to pay $6 rather than $12.

Region is a wonderful place and I hope one day we can treat ourselves to the $50 trust the chef 4 course dinner. For the time being I think we shall stick to Happy Hour.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Garde Manger

What is a Garde Manger I was asked today. A little piece of trivia that someone was sure I would no teh answer to. Sadly they were wrong and I had no idea- however I know now, according to this culinary site a Garde Manger is someone "who creates salads; hot and cold appetizers; sandwiches; garnishes; and table decorations." I was so excited by this- this is exactly my dream job. Especially the salad creation part, and the garnishes I guess. How commmon are these jobs really? Maybe Culinary School is for me after all. I mean check out my mouse- if this isn't some serious garnishing skills I don't know what is :-)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Med Grill

Went out for lunch at Med Grill yesterday. We used to go a lot to this restaurant, but hadn't visited in quite a while. Its a good reasonably priced place to eat, and lunch can certainly be done very cheaply. This time we ordered the vegetarian mezze platter and the Med Grill salad.
The hummus there is good, but sometimes a little sickly, the baba ganoush and falafel just okay. The salad was pretty good, with some excellent olives. The house Red wine is really a great deal.
Service is always nice at Med Grill, although the emptiness of the restaurant can be a little off putting.

A good local eatery, with a big selection of food and friendly staff.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Georgia's Greek Cuisine

Stopped by Georgia's today for lunch. Had previously been there just for a cup of coffee (they advertise cappucinos on the window but no longer serve them since the arrival of Starbucks).

the lunch 'specials' at $9.95 a pop were way too pricey for Rosencrans on a workday, but the sandwiches were reasonable so we grabbed a falafel and a chicken sandwich. They were both okay- certainly not great. The value was pretty poor when you consider just across the street you can get a huge plate of different Thai delicacies for even less money than we paid for our little sandwiches.

Still- try new places, you never know when a gem will turn up.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

India Palace Lunch Buffet

Looking through our coupon book today we decided to head out somewhere for a spot of Sunday Lunch. India Palace had a great offer of 2 for 1 lunch buffet and so we headed over there. There's something strange about Indian restaurant Lunch buffets, well maybe just something strange about an Indian restaurant at lunch- they are so gloomy. Whenever I walk into one I feel slightly depressed at having left the delight of the sun outside and wonder why they decide to not let in any natural light, and why they then don't make up for this with some lights of their own. This is definitely a place better to visit after dark when the atmosphere can be romantic and soothing.

We walked into the restaurant and as so often with lunch buffets, were a little unsure as what to do. There was no wait to be seated sign, but neither did it seem like the type of place to just grab a table. No one paid us too much attention and eventually when we did manage to make contact with a waiter he just waived his hand invited us to sit where we chose. No menu was proffered and we waited a little longer , now not sure whether we should just grab plates and start helping ourselves. When no one appeared we decided- our hunger getting the better of us, to just go ahead.

The array of food was wonderful, lots of choice, and yet not so much that you either miss out on something good, or end up stuffing yourself far too full of food. Highlights were the tandoori chicken, and the vegetable massala, the lentil dish was also excellent. We sat down, and after being greeted by no waiter we eventually managed to flag one down and ask for a drink, this eventually arrived, as did a basket of naam bread- although unfortunately it came after most of the food had been demolished.

The lunch buffet was great, the service just bizarre and barely existent. Still the waiter we eventually manage to grab was incredibly kind and cheerful. So a great Sunday lunch- probably without our 2 for 1 coupon this would have been a little overpriced, but with the deal it was wonderful.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Nothing too exciting for dinner tonight- just the usual stand back of pasta pesto, a few veggies thrown in and a bit of protein.

Our basil supply is still doing us proud- we have two full planters full of the stuff- mostly genovese, but some thai and some red ruffles. On our windowsill is also another basil container- I passed it by yesterday, noticed it was a little short and was shocked to see a giant green caterpillar chomping away to his heart's content. I have set the cats out there to chase him away, although I doubt this will work!

Anyway I am loving the profusion of basil, something I have dreamed of ever since we saw a similar set up in Italy. We also have our pine nut stash from costco- so any time to want Pesto we can just throw everything in the blender and hey presto! Personally I often admit the Parmesan and Pecorrino- we add cheese to our food after serving so often that it seems too much to put cheese in the pesto as well.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Party Food

So we had a party Saturday night- it was a bit last minute, so not too much time to prepare.

Here's what we laid out- Tortilla chips with Tzatziki, Guacamole, two types of Salsa, Hummus,
Olives, Caprese salad, New Potatoes, Fruit salad and then some little pizza things from TJs.

Funny thing- the things to go first- the little store bought pizzas, makes me wonder if I should bother making things myself or if I should just order in Dominos.

Just a thought......

Friday, August 11, 2006

El Fandango

Passing by Old Town this evening we decided to stop in for a quick drink and bite to eat. The nice thing about Old Town is I always feel I am on vacation when I go there- I guess it's because everyone else is, plus the Mariachi bands and the rose sellers. The ultimate tourist experience.

Lines at Casa Guadalajara were insane, so we wandered around and found ourselves in the usually fall back of El Fandango, a cute little restaurant with a nice patio. El Fandango attracted us primarily as we could actually get a place to sit down- okay our table was next to the entrance to the kitchen and not exactly prime seating, but at least we were outside.

We ordered a couple of margaritas (one house, one strawberry) and the Fandango Sampler to share. The strawberry maragrita for $5.95 was actually incredibly good, far better than the house variety of the same price. Really this is just what frozen fruits are made for.

The sampler arrived fairly swiftly- it consisted of nachos, guacamole, an empanda, cheese quesedilla and a couple of shrimp stuffed with crab. It was all fairly okay- the guacamole a bit below par, but the nachos were good. The shrimp stuffed crab were rather overpowered by the bacon n which they were wrapped, but nonetheless added an interesting component to the sampler.

Most of all the evening was interesting for the people watching element. Families on vacation are always so amusing to watch. Sadly no one looks to happy- many families- especially those with older children, just seem to sit there and stare, no one talking very much- occasionally conversation is made. Then you get the older tourists, the ones who like to act like they are in a foreign country and treat the Mexican waiters like small children, speaking loudly and slowly, sure that such people won't understand a word they have to say. And finally you have the couples, a romantic getaway- you can always tell the ones on their first vacation- they are the ones who get the rose, order the margarita especial, hold hands, with their eyes all starry.

Lucky we had plenty to watch, because the service was just horrible. We asked one of the busers for our check, as we hadn't seen a waiter in quite some time, and then watched bemusedly as he chased our waiter around for ten minutes or so, desperate to pass on the message. Eventually the waiter himself passed by our table and we asked for the check again, many long minutes later it arrived and eventually we could leave.

We have learned our lesson here before, and I don't know what makes us such slow pupils. Saturday night in Old Town is always a bad idea.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Best Mashed Potatoes ever

Feel in need of some comfort food today. It has been a long difficult week. Luckily these mashed potatoes seem to solve any problem. I like them with a few sausages- the ole "Bangers and Mash"

4 Large Potatoes (peeled and chopped into large chunks)


2 Tbsp olive oil

2 onions (sliced)

8 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

1½ cups of peas

1 8oz packet frozen spinach, (thawed and drained)

4 Tbsp milk

3 oz butter

1 large tsp Dijon mustard

4 oz cheddar cheese (grated)


1, Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft. Drain and set aside.

2, Meanwhile heat the oil in a wok. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are soft. Add the frozen peas and spinach, cook on a medium heat for 8 minutes.

3, Place the potatoes in a bowl, mash a little. Add the milk and the butter and mash until they are creamy. You may need to add more milk and butter, depending on the potatoes. Add the mustard and cheese and mix it in well.

4 Stir in the vegetables into the mashed potatoes. Season to taste and serve whilst still nice and hot.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Cane's Bar and Grill

The plan was this morning to get up early and head out for breakfast at the Broken Yolk. Unfortunately Sunday beign the only day in the week I can sleep in, things didn't quite go as planned and we were going to be facing some horrific lines with the sunday mornign breakfast crowd. The Broken yolk still seemed like a possible option- it is one of the 'famous' breakfast places in San Diego that we have yet to go to, it certainly has a lot of intersting options, including the rather nasty idea of 12 eggs and a pile of biscuits that only cost you $1.95 if you eat them all alone in 1 hour. Still a fun place to go prehaps- until we looked at the reviews.... it seems that this is one of those places that lives on its reputation and doesn't do a great deal to earn its keep. We read of 45 minute waits for food after being seated, rude wait staff and mediocre food. Well I won't say too much until we have tried it ourselves, but it was certainly enough to put us off.
We looked through our coupon book and found we had a 2 for 1 breakfast coupon at Cane's bar and grill in Mission Beach- not a place known for its breakfast so we figured there wouldn't eb a long wait. We were correct in our thinking, and also fortunate enough to get an easy parking space, and of course a great sea view whilst we ate. Okay it wasn't the greatest breakfast ever, the coffee was pretty bad, and the menu certainly not extensive or creative. However the food was good enough- certainly for the price. I got the breakfast burrito, which was really good actually, and my wife got a veggie omlette which came with fairly good house fries and some nice fresh fruit. At the end of the day, with our coupon discount, we got our breakfast with a view of the sea for $12 (for us both), and didn't have to wait in any lines. You can't really beat that.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


After the success of the melting pot we decided to invite our friends over for the other great Swiss invention- the Raclette . For people who are not familiar the Raclette is a cooking device you place in the center of the table, there is a hot plate on top to grill, and then little dishes which fit under a heating element below. Like the fondue the key to the raclette is cheese, and lots of it! At its most basic Raclette consists of boiled potatoes, which you then smother in raclette cheese that you have cooked under the grill. When you get a little more adventurous there is no limit to what you can cook on the raclette- in the past we have had stuffed zucchini flowers, mini pancakes, turkey and gongonzola bakes- the list goes on.
Last night we settled on a mainly seafood and vegetable grill. Heading out to wholefoods we picked up a couple of different shrimp, 5 different cheese a huge assortment of vegetables and some turkey chorizo sausage. We then marinated the meats and fish, boiled some purple potatoes ,prepared some of the vegetables ( mushrooms stuffed with pesto and feta) and left the rest to our guests.
There was such a great selection of cheese (Halloumi, Raclette, feta, stilton and boursin) that it was easy to create a wide variety of treats. The nice thing about the racelette is that much like a fondue dinner, it is slow. for each little dish you prepare several minutes must go by before it is ready to eat. It is also very interactive and fun, and allows each person to eat their own favorite foods, missing out any ingredients they are not so keen on. Definitely one of our best wedding presents!

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Melting Pot take 2

Wow, had the most wonderful night out at the Melting Pot on Friday.
This was our second trip to the restaurant although last time we just got dessert.
The basic set up at the Melting Pot is a 4 course dinner. Each table comes with a burner or two built in, and fondues are prepared at the tables - apparently there is very little cooking apparatus in the kitchen, all just prep with a single microwave.
To start you choose a cheese fondue or too, our waiter was very helpful describing each of the cheeses in detail. When he came to the special of the day and described at as tasting a bit like a chilli dog we were a little surprised, but I guess it was a good thing as it warned us away from what would most likely have been a bad choice. So, we went with the Swiss and the Fiesta which was fired up with jalapenos and Mexican spices. The cheese fondues came with a variety of things to dip, a selection of breads, tortilla chips, granny smith apples and an assortment of vegetables. The tortilla chips went really well with the Fiesta fondue, and the apples contrasted really well. Much as I loved the Fondue we ate whilst we were in Switzerland I had also wanted that contrast, endless cheese and bread can little a little sickly after a while.
Whilst we dipped into the fondue we created a little game for those who dropped. We were together with one other couple and so decided that each time someone dropped their bread or whatnot their significant other would tell a secret, none of which are to be divulged on this blog. It was a lot of fun.
Along with the first course we ordered a couple of bottles of wine for the four of us. We started with the white, I will try to find out the name of the wine as it was complete heaven. Perfectly crisp without being sharp with lots and lots of depth.
The next course to wing our way was the salad course- the favorite here was the strawberry almond salad which had the most wonderful vinaigrette. The other salads were also pleasant enough, but the strawberry left them in the dust. All the while of course we are trying not to eat too much of anything in order to get through all four courses!
For the main course we were provided with 2 platters, one was the lobster indulgence plate which included lobster tail, shrimp, sirloin, chicken breast and ravioli. The vegetable platter was filled with artichoke hearts, eggplant, tofu, portabellas and a spinach and gorgonzola ravioli. To cook all these items we chose two different boullions, and tucked in. Everything was fantastic and then made even better by the wonderful sauces that accompanied, the green goddess was the highlight.
By this time we had moved onto the red wine, a delicious cabernet sauvignon which was almost as good as the white. It was certainly a wonderful accompaniment to the chocolate which now followed. For our choice in chocolate we asked advice from the very friendly manager who was extremely attentive at all times. I think we got a mixture of chocolate, peanut butter and caramel although perhaps it was a little more complicated than this. Everything again was just great, the little brownies we had to dip in, the juicy strawberries and the indulgent cheesecake. A great end to a meal.
I think we must have been in the Melting Pot for three and a half hours by the time our meal was over. There was never a dull moment and we emerged late that evening extremely happy, replete (of course) and all knowing each other a little better after the food dropping and secret telling antics.
A very enjoyable night- would recommend to all, just remember don't order too much food!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Baja Fresh

Went out to Baja Fresh for lunch today- first time since I have been living in San Diego. This was the location on Midway and Rosecrans. We were looking for something cheap and my friend recommended - I wasn't so sure about the idea but was actually plesantly surprised. I love the slogan about no microwaves, no can openers etc. It's a nice way for a fast food chain to be. I was also impressed how incredibly clean and sparkling everything was inside- very 'fresh' indeed.
I ordered a burrito and actually really enjoyed it- especially for the $4.95 price. The portion was just pefect for lunch (I find chipotle to be far too big), it was also presented in a very comfortable way- again Chipotle's burritos are quite the challenge to eat. Salsa bar was also a great selection.
So thumbs up to Baja Fresh, will definitely keep it in mind next time I need a quick bite

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Nothing to Eat

I just went to make my lunch and found that the fridge, although absolutely full of all sorts, contained nothing that I wanted to eat- nothing at all. Its really quite amazing a fridge can be that full and yet quite bare. We have salsa, sour cream, youghurts, pickles, olives, mayonnaise, nut butters, ketchups, relishes, chutneys, hummus the list goes on and on. But sadly not a single vegetable is left- all were used up last night in a stri fry that provided a scrambled attempt to pull something together for dinner. Stir fry was excellent actually, lots of ginger, sesame oil and a few eggs stirred in for good measure. Still I am regretting it now- looks like a slice of toast and a yoghurt is the best I will get.
Thankfully I am off to the OB Farmers market tonight and should return our kitchen to its former glory.

Monday, July 24, 2006

My horrible Forray into Betty Crocker- NEVER AGAIN

My wife had a work party a couple of days ago the main guys making up the party were a bunch of boy scouts. It was a fairly early morning work party (in an attempt to avoid the worst of the heat) and so we decided to make some sort of breakfasty type food. We had gone through "The New Best Recipe" and found the perfect recipe for Bluebery muffins. As the time approached however and we became smoothered with other concerns it occurred to us that Boy Scouts would most likely not really appreciate our perfetly made blueberry muffins, would probably appreciate very little at all. What the hell, we thought it will be quicker and cheaper to just throw together some of that Betty Croker stuff.
Well I don't really know what we were thinking but it was a huge mistake. We got right down to making the first batch, mixed it all up as we were told, preheated the oven to the perfect temperatue on the box and set them in the oven. We came back 1 minute before the minimum suggested cooking time and found them- burned to a crisp. If I was baking myself I would of course have checked far more reguarly, but I somehow figured they had this thing down to a fine art and stupidly trusted them.
Never mind, we said, we have another batch- this time we turned the oven down a bit, waited for it to cool, and took the muffins out far before instructed to on the back of the pack. They looked okay at first, but when we lifted them out most of the bottoms were singed, and even the ones that were not just didn't taste at all good.
Ah well, lesson learned, Betty Crocker really is just as bad as I thought.
In the end we threw all the muffins in the garbage and ran to the local doughnut stor before heading to the work party- of course Boy Scouts noticed no difference.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Park House Eatery

We headed out for Sunday morning breakfast today. It was very lucky for us that we made our decision to venture out before 9am, as after this time the crowds began to grow- sitting and waiting in this heat is not something I could have endured.
Looking around for somewhere new to go we came across Broken yolk- the famous PB breakfast house, but my wife having a meeting at 11am we decided that somewhere closer to home was in order. Searching a little harder we found a well reviewed, close to home restaurant in the Park House Eatery in University Heights, feeling that if the long lines were too much for us we could always fall back on Gulf Coast Grill.
It was not too warm when we arrived at the restaurant and so chose to sit outside- inside having a wait time of 30 minutes. The little front patio is a very cute place to sit, and was wonderfully peaceful until another customer arrived with her 2 dogs. This is a policy Park House might really want to reconsider, Sunday brunch is a time when one should be able to sit and relax, anticipate the relaxing day ahead and forget that Monday morning lies just around the corner. Sad little babies are one thing, but yappie dogs seem just unnecessary.
The service when we arrived was wonderful, the waiter explained the breakfast specials to us, was great with any questions, and happy to give us a few extra minutes to sort through the mountain of options that Park House had to offer. Eventually my wife settled on a spinach and artichoke scramble whilst I got the daily special of Italian sausage, asparagus, yellow tomatoes and smoked mozzarella scramble. The food took a little while to arrive, but we were happy in the sun sipping our coffee and freshly squeezed juice.
The food portions are pretty massive here, neither of us finished our plates. Everything was excellent, the house potatoes were some of the best I have had in San Diego- with the skin mixed into the hash adding wonderful texture. The house preserve was also great and the scrambles both lived up to expectation.
One slight down note was that as the morning progressed and more and more people showed up to breakfast the service went massively downhill. It was at this point that I could well understand why the Linkery had decided to stop serving breakfast. Us San Diegans love our Sunday morning treat so much that we show out in incredible numbers and it is hard for any establishment to do a good job accommodating so many people. More staff would be an answer but in a building as small as Park House, (and indeed the Linkery) t really would be too crowded with any more employees. It seems that financial success in this matter is certainly going to bring about a loss of quality- perhaps discouraging disgruntled breakfasters from dining there in the evening or at lunch.
Still, we had a wonderful breakfast and were very happy to have sneaked in before the crowds, the heat and humidity being what they currently are we certainly needed a no hassle Sunday.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Mister Tiki

Much as the Cohn restaurant group did us proud on Sunday night, we were utterly let down down at Mister Tiki last night. I had sworn to myself that I would start taking more food photos for the blog- but even after taking my camera along I have to say there was just nothing worth photographing.
I should have realized Mr. Tiki was a bad idea when I called to make reservations, after being put on hold for several minutes my call was eventually dropped. It really bothers me when I am put on hold making reservations- the whole thing should take about 30 seconds, and there should be someone there dedicated to providing this service.
So, we arrived at the restaurant, its in the heart of Gaslamp, which I am starting to think is just not a good thing (Read over priced, pretentious, too crowded) and was absolutely packed to the brim- possibly due to the comic book convention, or maybe just that is what it is always like in the summer.
We were greeted by a very odd waiter who had his little 'line' about tiki carvings, and told us that every single thing on the menu is absolutely amazing- not exactly the most helpful advice.
There being 4 of us we decided to go for the 80 oz pitcher- which the menu told us was perfect for four or more people. It sounded very exotic and so at this point we had high hopes.
After probably about 15 minutes we finally saw our waiter again who came over to tell us something about running out of pitchers, and using carafes instead and I don't know what else. A few more minutes later and he did arrive with the drink. It was 75% crushed ice- certainly far from 80 oz of liquid and tasted largely of fruity water. Not good.
At this point we also decided to order a couple of appertizers- some edamame and some goat cheese and shitake wontons. These didn't take quite as long to appear as the drinks, but none the less they were slow in appearing. I wouldn't have minded waiting if there hadn't been obnoxious repetitive music blaring in my ears, causing every person in the place to shout in order to increase the possibility that they may just be heard. This is a restaurant/lounge not a night club.
The edamame were edamame and very good, the wontons were also excellent, although the cheese spilled out very easily burning the hands of two of our party. At this point we ordered entrees, we were not exactly sure how the menu worked and our waiter had not been particuarly helpful- perhaps we should have just ordered a ton of appertizers and shared- there were certainly not many entree choices. Nonetheless being pretty unaware we went for the entree choice- I got a Szechuan Beef dish, my wife got a Lo mein dish with tofu and our friends took the pineapple glazed short ribs and a sushi platter.
At some random time after this our friends Miso soup arrived, which she had actually asked to be brought out along with the entrees, she said it was okay. A long wait later and our entrees came, well three of the entrees came, the sushi was no where to be seen. My wife took one bite, found the food the most boring bland dish she had tasted in a long while and pretty much decided just not to eat much more. My dish was okay, certainly nothing special- in fact I much preferred my 5.95 Amarin Thai lunch special than this $18 dish that lacked presentation, originality, an indeed any thing that could cause it to be valued at this price. The short ribs came with Wasabi potatoes, which were delicious, they were certainly the highlight of the evening. In all this time the sushi had still not arrived, we had all dug into our dishes imagining it to be not far behind, but sadly it was and most of us had finished before it finally made its appearance.
I could go n about this experience, but I think you get the picture, nothing very good to report, the service was just horrible, the place is clearly understaffed and if they want to serve that many tables they need to start employing some new wait staff and, it would appear, someone in the kitchen also.

Big thumbs down to Mister Tiki, save your money and go elsewhere.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Red Curry with Shrimp

Not quite as exciting as Island Prime, but here is a red curry I cooked up last night. I first stirf fried the veggies with a whole load of ginger, then I added red cury paste, coconut milk, pineapple juice and lime juice. Adding in the shrimp a little later on.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Island Prime

One word for this restaurant- exquisite.
Far and away the best restaurant we have visited in San Diego. The views, tea service, the Martinis and of course most of all the food, what a perfect way to spend our first year wedding anniversary.

Before heading to Island Prime we had read a few reviews, all excellent except a very few who felt they had been treated like second class citizens, made to wait whilst VIPS were treated ahead of them. Whilst I abhor this behavior in any restaurant we already had our reservation and so hoped that by dressing up, acting the part and letting them know it was our anniversary we would be treated well. Whether that made a difference I don't know, all I do know is we were treated incredibly well (with the slight exception of the bartender who was a little on the rude and brusk side).
We had been under the impression that we would have to wait a little while for a seat with a view, but we were fortunate enough to be seated within a couple of minutes- it was not perhaps the most perfect view in the house, but it was stunning all the same, especially once the sun went down and the city was lit up in all its glory.
Our waiter, as I have said, was very courteous, and hearing my wife was vegetarian immediately bustled off to the kitchens to see what they could create for her. Her was even happy to entertain her suggestion of a permanent vegetarian option on the menu and promised to pass it right along.
We sat with our heavenly martinis for a while until our appertizers arrived. For me this was perhaps the only disappointment of the evening. I received 5 shrimp, with a very nice dipping sauce it is true, but cold shrimp have never been too much to my taste regardless of the caliber. Hoping they were at least served atop something interesting I was disappointed to find it only ice. My wife on the other hand had a sumptuous souffle of cheese, truffles served alongside figs. I tried a little and it really did melt in the mouth quite wonderful- my wife felt it the best thing she had ever tasted- until she took her first mouthful of the entree that is!
For my own entree I took the advice of our waiter- a prime filet mignon with wild mushroom butter, served with a side of goats cheese gratin. It was just perfection itself, the meat cooked exactly how I would dream, the butter with just a wonderfully slight taste of mushroom and the gratin decadence itself. My wife was equally fortunate, the kitchen having cooked up for her a wild mushroom rissoto which was soft, smooth incredibly flavorful and very attractively presented.
It being our anniversary we finished off the night with a wonderful complimentary dessert. It was a refreshing change not to have a dessert menu thrust upon you after having gorged your way through appertizer and entree, but instead to be presented with something light, fragrant and very delicious.

Island prime lived up to its stunning reputation, however the size of the check and the problem with all other restaurants comparing universally unfavorable must leave it to be only for the most special of occasions- like first year wedding anniversaries.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Home Grown

Well I know that I have posted Caprese Salads before on this blog- but here is one from our very own garden! the first of the season, and it was amazing. the tomatoes were so much better than anything we buy, really really flavorful after hours of sun. We followed all the trips and tricks we learned at tomato mania and they turned out just awesome. The basil and oregano were from our little garden also, and jst as wonderful as ever. We are especially proud of the basil which we grew from seed.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


We all felt like Mexican today, and so headed over to Old Town. Initially we checked out El Agave, which looks fab- but probably more for a special occasion than a casual Sunday Lunch. Discussing where else to go our friends remembered a little Latin American restaurant that they had been meaning to try- Berta's. We headed over there, checked out the menu- which ranges in cuisine all over South and Central American, and even into Spain.

We arrived the restaurant about 2.30pm, which I guess was a little late, but still reasonable lunching hour I thought, and were therefore a little surprised at the manner of the waiter, who seemed to feel we were disturbing him in some way. His manner was most odd, expecting us to order after glancing at the menu for 30 seconds, and just generally quite abrupt. The soft flour tortillas and salsa verde he brought out for us to nibble on were, however, delicious and so we were all quite content.

We ordered our food- I opted for the Spanish Lemon Saffron Chicken Stew which was apparently chicken cooked with pine nuts, sherry wine, saffron, lemon juice and cilantro. My wife was actually surprisingly spoiled for choice with the vegetarian items on offer- and being a little confused as to why tortilla Espanola would have feta cheese in, opted for the Venezuelan Arepas- a fried patty of Venezuelan corn flour.

The food came- not big portions, all side salads. It was nicely enough presented and on the whole pretty good, nothing too special, but good enough. It is certainly nice to try something from a different cuisine for a change. The price was reasonable for Old Town, but then Old Town is horribly over priced.

On the whole a fun afternoon out, trying something different and getting away from the crowds of summer tourists that flocked the streets.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Recipe at last!

Sorry for the delay-

Here is the recipe for the stuffed peppers

4 large red peppers (halved)
1 cup dried cous cous- steamed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion (diced)
12 button mushrooms (quatered)
1 cup pasata
2 tbsp sundried tomatoes (julienne)
8 artichoke hearts (quatered)
1 tbsp dried herbs
1 cup mozzerella cubed
handful pine nuts

1, Heat olive oil in small pan and fry onions until soft- add mushrooms and cook a further 3 minutes.

2, Steam couscous, mix with pasata, mushrooms, onions, sun dried tomatoes, arthichokes and herbs.

3, Stuff peppers with couscous, bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

4, Remove peppers from oven, top with cheese and pine nutes. Cook for a futher 15 minutes.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Coucous stuffed peppers

I think today we will go for the classic American fare of hamburgers and what not- but here is an overview of what we ate last night:

Couscous stuffed peppers and an olive and artichoke salad.

I'll try and get the recipes up later today, but thought I would at least get this posted before the July 4th fun starts.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Asian/ Tropical Evening

I marinated some Chicken Tikka for our BBQ tonight, and so had to coem up with a few accompaniments to go with it. I searched through a few books and my own imagination and this is what I came up with.

Green bean and Mango noodle salad, with a Ginger Soy Sauce Vinegrette

Pineapple and Peanut Salsa ( served in half a Watermelon)

Arugala, Watermelon and Cilantro salad (served in a Pineapple basket)

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Culinary School

We have recently purchased a television- we previously used to just watch DVDs and downloaded programs on our computer. Apart from the size and quality, one of the main differences with our current set-up is that we watch commercials. Something we fortunately managed to avoid with the computer. One commerical that I do like however is a local one which starts asking certain questions about oneself, and which I immediately thought- "Yes- that's me!"
The commercial is for culinary school , a local one in San Diego. and I must say they do make it look enjoyable. I have always been under the thought that not only am I unlikely to make a professional career out of cooking, but I am doing pretty well self taught. I guess I kind of like the prestige of when asked " where did you learn to cook like this", being able to say that I taught myself. Still it is something I sort of idly think about from time to time. It's fun to browse through the different resources - I didn't even know that you can actually do a Bachelors Degree in Culinary Arts which apparantly focus on the business and management side in addition to the culinary. I am fully supportive of vocational degrees such as that- and I also really like the idea of apprenticeships.
Well, probably not for me right now- but who knows how life can twist and turn.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Kensington Grill

My wife had an evening meeting in Kensington yesterday, and before she headed there we decided to pop into happy hour at the Kensington Grill. It's a place we have been meaning to try for a while, and seemed to have a fairly interested drink rotation for happy hour, plus a bunch of tasty sounding apertizers.
We entered the restaurant and were very impressed with the decor- nothing showy but just clean, elegant, non-nonsense calm. Just what we were looking for on a Friday night after a very hard week of work. The place was not busy, but still had a pleasant enough atmosphere and we were greeted by an incredibly genial bartender.
I will save my main review of Kensington Grill until we have the pleasure of dining there, but I can very happily recommend happy hour to anyone who likes to get a seat, a relaxing evening and doesn't mind paying a little bit more than happy treats in Old Town and Pacific Beach tend to cost. Friday is $5 Mai Tai night- which I opted for and was mixed up to perfection by the bartender, my wife opted for the Firehouse Brewing Co. Pale Ale, which she found to be very refreshing. I also opted to partake of the happy hour munches and ordered the quesedilla of the day- composed of duck meat, caramalized onions and goats cheese, which although a little more deep fried that I had anticipated was nonetheless delicious.

So review on hold- but great happy hour Kensington Grill, we shall be back.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Extraordinary Desserts (well not quite)

We were celebrating a birthday yesterday so where else to head to in San Diego but Extraordinary Desserts. We had previously visited the Hillcrest location and been very impressed- with the dessert, the atmosphere and the service. This time however the downtown location was more convenient and so that is where we headed.
At the Hillcrest location you simply scope out the desserts, order at the counter, take a number and then head to a table to wait. This was not the case at the downtown location. We were again presented with desserts, but were told that we had to wait for a table, and that our order would be taken once we were seated. So, we duly waited 15 minutes or so and eventually were seated. The restaurant is square, open with tall echoey ceilings leading to considerable noise, even at 10pm in the evening. It was not exactly chilled out. The tables were placed very close to other tables, with uncomfortable seating and I couldn't quite shake the feeling that I was in a school cafeteria.
After a very lengthy period we were presented with menus, after checking these out for a while we realized these were not the dessert menus, and we couldn't really tell what was going to be available for dessert that evening. Fortunately during our wait for a table we had taken a good luck at what was on offer and could pretty much remember what we wanted.
The girls decided (bizarrely in my opinion) that after all they didn't feel like sweets and settled on a cheese platter. I went for a Gateau D'Ivore or something along those lines, whilst Mr. Birthday chose the chocolate croissant bread pudding. I also decided to get ice cream with my cake looked at the menu chose a couple of options an was promptly told by the waitress that neither of those options were available. I therefore asked her what the "coconut combo" ice cream was. I was told that it was a combo of coconut ice cream and coconut sorbert, but that I wouldn't be able to tell- it just tastes like ice cream. Now I'm not overly fond of sorbet but do really like coconut icecream, so I decided to trust the waitress and go with the choice.
Again we waited an age before our cakes and cheese arrived, sitting on our uncomfortable chairs, finding it very difficult to talk due to the noisy surroundings. Also getting a little stressed by the time- this was taking a lot longer than we had imagined.
Eventually we were served. The cheese was very very good- but then expensive cheese always is. The bread pudding was also good- although the accompanying chardonnay apparently not so much. My cake was good, but the icecream, well tasted much more like sorbert than icecream and I felt very let down.

overall not the best night- a dessert place should be calm and comfortable, a place to go after a night out to just chill with a tasty dessert. This is true in Hillcrest, but was quite the reverse downtown. The desserts were tasty enough, but we should have just gotten take out if that was all we required. (Would have meant a rather smaller tip also!).