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!).

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A more interesting BBQ

So our grill had some slightly more interesting fare tonight.

I cooked up some black bean kebabs- ( see below), some honey-lime marinated chicken, along side a green bean salad, fresh tabouleh and a saffrom herb dip.

All were great, although the chicken was the highlight. Shame I didn't get a photo before it was eaten up.

To marinate 2 breast of chicken:

1/2 cup honey
Juice of 2 limes
2 tpsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
3 cloves of garlic

Marinate inside a ziploc back, suck out the air with a straw, leave for several hours, then grill and enjoy!

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

First BBQ of the summer

Well, it is always good enough weather for a BBQ here in San Diego, but now that we have turned the corner into summer we felt like we should mark the occasion with a good grilling.In the apartment we have recently moved to we have the great benefit of being able to set the grill up permanantly just outside our frount door (along with the tomato and herb plants). Its a really great addition that we didn't have in the previous place we lived.

So last night, nothing too interesting went on the grill. A couple of burgers, soem asparagus, then seperate skewers of peppers, onions and mushrooms. (We find it much better to have individual skewers of each vegetable so they can be cooked the exact amount of time that they require.) We added to the grilled items with a great tomato salad (complete with our own fresh basil, thai basil and oregano), and some of our quick and easy aioli.

For the aioli:

1 cup of mayonnaise
4 cloves of garlic chooped small
an assortment of fresh herbs- (lots of chives, some basil, some parsley)
Scattered saffron threads

Mix up the mayo with the garlic and herbs, then sprinkle with saffron, leave for a few mins and then dip to your hearts content!

A fairly tame grill to start off with, but soon we will be out with the haloumi, the black bean skewers, and the marinated tumeric chicken thighs!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

OB Peoples Coop Food Miles article

A few posts back I wrote about the OB People's Coop and how I was disapointed that they do not take much of a stance with Food Miles. I was really pleased therefore when receiving this month's newsletter to find that they included prominently on thier front page an article showing the connection between food and oil- the link to carbon emissions was not exactly spelled out- but it should be clear enough to most people.

I congratulate the co-op in this effort and I hope it encourages lots of San Diegos to take seriously the task of buying locally grown food.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


We finally made it to Sipz last night- a place we had been meaning to go to for quite a while now. Sipz, for those of you who don't know, is a Vegetarian Asian restaurant on Clairemont Mesa Blvd. The philosophy is healthy food at reasonable prices (dishes are served by the bowl and all a roughly similar price.)
Sipz is located in a strip mall which as I have mentioned before is not necessarily a bad thing- it certainly means that money goes on the food rather than the real estate. We entered the cafeteria style restaurant and were at first unsure whether we should sit at a table or go and order food at the counter. Eventually someone came over and seated us at what I am afraid to say where some incredibly uncomfortable chairs, and a table that was a little to wide for easy conversation- my wife and I felt so far apart from each other that we had to constantly raise our voice. We looked through the menus and, being very hungry, fairly swiftly decided on the dishes we wished to order. Some pot stickers for an appetizer then a lemongrass dish and a "chicken" curry. (The chicken being not really chicken, but mock chicken). Unfortunately our quick decision making did not translate into our getting our food shortly. I think we probably sat there for 15 minutes (o the uncomfortable chairs) before anyone even took our order. We were then greeted with an eve longer wait for our food and in fact my wife had finished her Thai Iced Tea long before any nourishment was put on our plates. When the food did arrive it was sadly our entrees, the appetizer having been, apparently, forgotten. Our server bustled off to get it and returned with it a little while later.
In the mean time we tucked into our entrees- I was shocked at how incredibly hot (temperature to spice) my dish was- whilst my wife remarked that her rice was almost cold. It seems that one of our dishes had been sitting out on the side waiting for its fellow.
The food was okay- I thought it was better than a lot of vegetarian Asian food, the dishes having been designed with vegetarians in mind rather than just substituted with tofu. My wife was less impressed, and while she quite liked the chicken curry ( a creamy coconut concoction with some delicious pieces of eggplant), she was barely able to stomach the lemongrass dish not being at all impressed with the "fake meat" that it mainly consisted of. The pot stickers also were so so- definitely not something I would order again.
That being said the bill did match the fare- only costing $22 for the two of us. The main reason we went to Sipz however was for my vegetarian wife and she not being too impressed most likely means we won't be going back for a long while.