Hidden Treasures in San Diego

May 17, 2011

This blog is an amalgamation of several hidden food treasures I have come across in San Diego.  In my never-ending quest for the best food spots in SD, I am always snapping photos from my cellphone of the latest and greatest.  Last week’s discovery came right after my 12 mile run (huzzah!) at Swami’s Cafe in Encinitas, California.  It’s not often I find myself that far up north, so when I get a chance it’s always fun to try out new places.  Since my run was up in Carlsbad, my friend Julie, a native San Diegan, had suggested Swami’s for breakfast.  I remembered reading a review of top breakfast spots in the December issue of San Diego Magazine, where Swami’s had made the list, so I was eager to try it.

Swami’s is truly a hidden gem in every sense of the word.  Right off Coast Highway 1, its in a undiscerning shack that barely even looks like a restaurant, with patio furniture outside and only a counter and a caffeine-watering station on the inside.  But don’t be fooled by its dive-y appearance, good food comes in many shapes and forms.

One glance at the menu and I knew I wanted to try their acai bowl.  Acai bowls are something I didn’t discover until I moved to California, where its a common find in breakfast and smoothie joints.  Acai is a berry native to South America that is chock full of antioxidants, which are said to have many health benefits.  Given the health-driven climate of California, it makes sense that one would find it here!  This particular acai bowl came with blended frozen acai berries, raspberries, strawberries, boysenberries, bananas and was topped with homemade granola, local fresh bee pollen, and shredded coconut.  A truly nutritious and delicious meal!

I didn’t take these photo, rather I found them on a fellow blogger’s blog called “In Between Thoughts.”  Thanks!

Anyway, another great find I recently came across was Currant American Brasserie in downtown San Diego.  I checked it out on the recommendation of my friend Jazz whose parents stayed at the adjoining Sofia Hotel on their last trip here.  Thanks to Restaurant.com, I scored an awesome deal and went with my friend Julie for dinner.  I scoped out the menu beforehand and knew I had to try their Asparagus Risotto with mushrooms, tomatoes, black truffle oil, and parmesan cheese.  Basically anything with truffle oil is a given for me.  I also arrived during their happy hour and ordered a cosmopolitan, which was delightful.

Last on my adventure list is Heaven Sent Desserts.  I recently had a friend from out of town visit and on our quest for San Diego’s best cup of coffee, we ended up at this cute bakery in the heart of North Park.  Being the coffee addict I am, I went for the Americano and a red velvet cupcake, while my friend Parry ordered a coffee and their Irish Angel, some concoction of chocolate, layers of cream filling, and maybe a hint of Irish cream?  Whatever it was, it was divine!



West Coast Tavern has Cheap Good Eats

April 15, 2011

There’s a cute little place in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood called West Coast Tavern.  My friend Christina and I had a double date and were instructed to pick a restaurant.  Being the foodie I am, I took it as a serious mission.  My plan was to eat at Urban Solace, a restaurant I have been dying to try!  But life had other plans.  On a Sunday evening (Sunday!) Urban Solace were completely booked up!  We were able to get “reservations” on their patio under the preface that it didn’t rain.  With an 80% chance of rain the odds were not in our favor.

One hour before our dinner reservation my date called to say our reservation got canceled.  In a mad scramble, I looked for another restaurant in North Park that would live up to my, and our guests, standards!  Luckily I came upon West Coast Tavern.  I gave their menu a quick glance, liked what I saw, and was able to get a reservation for 6pm.  Speaking of which, who ever heard of having to get reservations on a Sunday?  That still blows my mind!

West Coast Tavern is swanky.  There’s something about the ambiance that felt just right when I stepped inside.  We were seated  right away and the staff was extremely attentive.  They worked in a 3 person rotation that consisted of the drink guy, the waitress, and the “is everything cool?” guy.  Every 5 minutes or so the next person in rotation would come up and ask if we needed another drink, wanted to order food, or just if things were “cool.”

The guys ordered an appetizer for everyone—the West Coast fries with garlic aioli dip.  French fries aren’t really my thing, but they looked tasty!


While they munched on fries and such, Xtina ordered their cosmopolitan.  I didn’t try a sip, but she said it was really yummy!

I’m a sucker for a good cosmo, but I kept my eye on the prize—I couldn’t wait to order dinner.  I scanned over their menu and was having trouble deciding between a few of their dishes.  I’m a fan of homemade chicken pot pie and the jerk chicken sounded amazing.  The jerk chicken came with a blue cheese and honey corn bread.  Corn bread alone would have sold me, but ultimately I went with the grilled jidori chicken and asparagus.

The jidori chicken was delicious and totally worth every penny!  I think the prices at WCT are extremely reasonable, another reason why I highly recommend this place.  Also, if you go for their happy hour, you can get $5 food selections and take advantage of great drink specials.

One of the guys got the Tavern chicken ‘n’ waffle.  I was excited to try it because I’ve never had chicken ‘n’ waffles.  It was so-ho-ho goooooood.  I definitely couldn’t eat like that every day but I highly recommend trying it if you ever get the chance.🙂

Xtina ordered their filet mignon skewers.  I didn’t try it, but again, she gave it the thumbs up.  I think the photo speaks for itself.

WCT was so good, I ended up taking a couple friends there for happy hour a few days later.  If you’re looking for good eats in a trendy spot that won’t break the bank, West Coast Tavern is definitely worth checking out.

Healthy Breakfast Salad With A View

March 16, 2011

I love finding restaurants that carry a healthy selection of food!  Believe me, it’s hard to find and perhaps the challenge is what appeals to me.  Eating out can create a lot of anxiety in those trying to keep their healthy lifestyles in check, but it’s not an impossible feat.  I try to look at menus before I visit a restaurant to make sure the menu options are in line with my diet.  In the December issue of San Diego Magazine, editors put the spotlight on San Diego’s top breakfast spots.  Of the many categories they covered, healthy restaurants were included.  One particular restaurant caught my eye, and after a long run one Saturday morning in La Jolla, I knew I had to check it out.

I had passed this restaurant many times before and fell in love with the quaint yellow house and the white picket fence that encircled it.  So when I made the connection that Cody’s Restaurant was in the same yellow house I’d always admired, I was even more excited.  My friend and I ate outside on their cute patio, where we caught glimpses of the ocean from our table.

I started the meal off proper with a piping hot mug of kona coffee.  I was looking forward to trying kona coffee for the first time, but was sorely disappointed.  I think they may have made their coffee extra strong, but let’s just say I hope not all kona tastes that way!

For breakfast I ordered their breakfast salad.  I know, a salad for breakfast?!  Believe me, I had never heard of such a thing, but then again I do live in Southern California, the land of the healthy and fit.  Besides, I had to try the signature healthy dish that was featured in SD Magazine.  After all the hype, it was worth finding out if it was good.

See below for the official menu description.

Healthy Breakfast Salad, two poached eggs mixed field greens, leaf spinach, roasted wild mushrooms, asparagus, chevre, basil vinaigrette.  10.95

I have to say, the healthy breakfast salad was actually good!  Other than hard boiled eggs, I’ve never had eggs on my salad.  The idea of it was a little disturbing, but the savory combination of poached eggs, salad, and chevre cheese were delicious.  That, combined with the view, may have been worth the $19 breakfast (tip included), but next time I’ll skip the coffee.

Should Restaurants Get Second Chances?

February 13, 2011

Have you ever had a good and bad dining experience at the same place?  It catches you off guard, like a 70-degree day in the middle of January.  You can’t help but wonder what went wrong and if it was the dish you ordered or if the chef was just having an off-day?

This was the recent experience I had at the new Eden Restaurant in Hillcrest.  I want to preface this by saying that I am a HUGE fan of Eden for it’s food and ambiance (they’ve catered a few events for my company in the past and I loved the food).  I went out for brunch and I didn’t like the particular breakfast item I ordered, which is not to say their other items aren’t great because they all sounded ah-may-zing, but I was looking for something healthiful that day (yes, I totally made up that word).  Now I’m rambling but it’s only because I really do care and love this company as a whole, and I don’t want my review to negatively reflect them in any way.  But, I disgress… let’s get to the food!

I recently went out for San Diego Restaurant Week, an entire week where restaurants in San Diego create a prix fix 3-course menu.  It’s a great way to get out and try new restaurants in San Diego at an affordable price.  In fact, I went to two dinners that week.  My second dinner was at Eden in Hillcrest and consisted of a three course menu with several options for each course.  I happened to choose the following:

Appetizer Course

Gumbo di Vinci

Bayou fare simmered with soul and served with a Dungeness Crab Hushpuppy.

Main Course

Porcini Pillows

House Ricotta Pasta Pillows, Porcini Browned Butter, Wild Rocket and Sun Dried Tomato.

Dessert Course

Banana Cream Pie

Chef Scotty’s Favorite since Kindergarten…comforting, sweet and delicious.

Sadly, I didn’t get a photograph of the first dish.  I was so hungry that I just dove into the food when I arrived and didn’t even think twice until after I had scarfed down the gumbo.  I enjoyed the gumbo even though I am not a huge fan of spicy foods.  I felt like this dish had a nice balance of heat and wasn’t over-powerful to the point that I wouldn’t be able to finish it.

The porcini pillows were amazing.  That is a dish that I could eat over and over again.  I never used to be a fan of mushrooms but in the last few years they have really grown on me, and this dish definitely reminds me of what I was missing out on all of those years!  The wild rocket salad tasted like it had a hint of truffle oil, which sealed the deal for me.  I also just discovered truffle oil last year and every time I see it on a menu I feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

Last, I chose banana cream pie for dessert.  It seemed like a strange thing to find on the menu of a gourmet restaurant in San Diego.  For me, banana cream pie is reminiscent of Indiana and pot-lucks on a hot summer day.  However, Eden’s executive chef, Scotty Wagner, is from Wisconsin so I could definitely see the connection.

Bananas are one of my favorite foods in the whole world.  I know that seems like an exaggeration, but it’s true.  I LOVE anything with bananas.  Banana pudding, bananas in ice-cream, banana ice-cream, banana’s foster, banana bread—you name it.  So when I ordered the banana cream pie, you have to know that going into it, I had HUGE expectations.  Was the pie good?  Yes.  Was it the best pie I ever had?  Not by far.  I have a recipe for the BEST banana pudding you will have ever unleashed your tastebuds on, and there is no question that my banana pudding could have easily trumped this pie.  It is a Paula Dean recipe, after all.

I did, however, get to try my friend’s dessert, which was their Pana Cota with Kefir Lime Dust, Fresh Pineapple & Kiwi-Lime Coulis. Three words: to die for.  Looking back, I would have totally gone for that instead.

So, getting back to my original story about the good/bad restaurant experience, after Restaurant Week I returned to Eden to check out their brunch.  I heard many good things, especially about their $10 bottomless mimosas which sounded too good to be true!  My friend and I decided to check it out one morning after yoga.  Unfortunately, I was not feeling the mimosas at the time since it was the morning after an evening of wine drinking.  Also, the yoga before and some recent lifestyle changes towards a more health-conscious diet made me skip over all the really great sounding dishes, for something simple and healthy.

I tried their Omelet Caprese since it was the most healthy looking thing on the menu.

It was meh.  Yes, official food blogger terminology—respect.  Compared to my last breakfast at FARM, there was no comparison (pictures don’t lie).  I wasn’t feeling the “three eggs with buffalo mozzarella, basil & sun-dried tomatoes.”  The eggs were rubbery and flavorless—overall a huge disappointment.  Had I ordered the menu items that truly captured by attention, like the crabcake benedict or their angel toast, a spin on the classic french toast using angel food cake soaked in frangelico (DROOL), it may have been a different story altogether.  Note to self: splurge when going to brunch.

I guess the moral of the story is don’t judge a book by it’s cover, or in my case don’t judge a restaurant by one bad experience.  Luckily I had the good experience first, which is why I came back.  But I guess what I realize is that a particular dish should not be representative of all that a restaurant has to offer.  That dish may not be the restaurant’s strong point.  Maybe the dish is too simple, or maybe healthy-fare isn’t that establishment’s specialty.  Whatever the case is, I think it’s important to give restaurants another shot before writing them off completely.  You may be surprised what you find.

FARMbloomington: Putting the Comfort Back into Midwestern Comfort Food

January 2, 2011

We all have our favorite comfort foods.  Foods that we grew up on, meals that we ate for special occasions, Sunday suppers, or that special meal our mothers prepared for us when we were sick.  The smell or taste of a particular dish can elicit memories of the time and place when you first had it. So, when asked to write a restaurant review on comfort foods, it only seems appropriate to come back to the place where my food memories started, back to a small town in Southern Indiana.

When I went home to spend Christmas with my family, I decided to check out FARMbloomington, a relatively new(ish) restaurant in my hometown of Bloomington, Indiana.  The chef, Daniel Orr, was originally from Columbus, Indiana (where my mom grew up) and went away to school to study restaurant management.  After graduation, Orr traveled all over the world, working at restaurants in France, Belgium, New York City, and Anguilla before settling back into Bloomington’s quaintly world-class dining scene.

FARM’s focus is on using fresh and local ingredients, fusing together the flavors of island cuisine and Midwestern cooking.  The best part about the restaurant is the ambiance.  Filled with vintage 1950s memorabilia, the overall feel and decor is convincing enough to take you back to your grandmother’s kitchen.

Old Stove

I had heard that FARM has an amazing brunch on the weekends, so my dad and I decided to check it out.  No breakfast would be complete without biscuits and apple butter!  I ordered their biscuit bowl—four homemade biscuits served with real butter and apple butter.  As far as food goes, biscuits and apple butter are a true Southern Indiana staple.  Even better is when the biscuits are fried, which you can get at the Nashville House in Brown County.

FARM Menu

The South has grits—we have apple butter.

 

Biscuits Bowl

Biscuits with applebutter

But that was just an appetizer!  For breakfast, I ordered their special of the day, the vegetarian omelet with root vegetables and my dad ordered their take on eggs benedict.  Both came with a side of “homies” and not the kind wear baggie jeans and say “sup?”  These homies were french fries pan fried with tomatoes, red peppers and onions.

Eggs BenedictEggs Bennies

Vegetarian OmeletVegetarian Omelet

My veggie omelet was tasty, but I think my dad ended up with the winning dish.  Their poached eggs were stacked on top of flaky homemade biscuits instead of the usual english muffin.  I think it was that simple touch that satisfied my Midwestern tastebuds.  What would have been even more of a comfort food for my family, at least, was their biscuits and gravy.  My mom used to make biscuits and gravy for us when we were growing up, but being the picky eater I was as a child, I would not touch the gravy with a ten foot pole.  These days, I love a good plate of biscuits and gravy.

If you’re looking for some good ‘ol Southern Indiana comfort food, FARM’s the place to go.  In addition to a well-known brunch, FARM was recognized in ’09 by Food Network Magazine as having one of the best burgers in the nation for their bison burger.  Breakfast, lunch or dinner, FARM is a nice change of pace from the usual with their fresh spin on traditional favorites.

A Tour of Italy with Cooking Light Supper Club

November 14, 2010

I recently had the honor to attend one of Cooking Light Magazine’s Supper Clubs.  Cooking Light Magazine travels around the U.S. to different cities and puts on a multi-course dinner featuring Cooking Light recipes by their Executive Chef, Billy Strynkowski.  This year one of their stops was San Diego and I was lucky enough to nab a seat at the dinner table with a few of my co-workers!

The dinner was held at the Prado, a beautiful restaurant located inside San Diego’s historical Balboa Park.  I still have yet to really explore Balboa Park, but I did get this great photo of the ampitheatre!

The dinner was titled, “A Tour of Italy,” and began with an outdoor reception. They had lots of different food stations serving hors d’oeuvres such as spinach and artichoke dip, fried mozzarella cheese balls, a caramel apple dessert, almond cookies, etc.  Doesn’t sound very light, does it?

One of the sponsors for the dinner was Frangelico, so they also had a couple of drink stations set-up.  I tried a mixed cocktail with Frangelico and sparkling water, topped with chopped nuts—it was definitely an interesting combo!  I didn’t sample a lot of the food because I wanted to save room for the dinner.

Shortly thereafter, we were directed to go inside one of the Prado’s banquet rooms for the dinner.  When we reached our table, we were already greeted with a basket of bread and a large plate of penne pasta with sausage, garlic and broccoli rabe, which we passed around family style.  Chef Billy took the stage at the front of the dinner and explained that he would be giving cooking instruction on the recipes that we were trying that night and that all recipes were included in our handy-dandy programs.  Chef Billy didn’t waste any time and immediately began teaching us how to make the broccoli rabe.

I didn’t try much of the penne dish (hence no photos) since I’m not a huge fan of sausage, but I was pretty fascinated with Chef Billy’s lesson on how to make broccoli rabe.  When things in my life slow down, I may actually take a stab at it.  Chef Billy was so entertaining because he made cooking seem easy and fun, two words that I never put in the same sentence together!

Next was a healthy spin on the traditional spaghetti and meatballs.  The meatballs were huge!  Somewhere between the size of a golf ball and tennis ball.  There was nothing particularly special about this recipe other than the meatballs being a mixture of turkey Italian sausage and ground sirloin.  Chef Billy gave a great tip about substituting Parmigiano-Reggiano for a cheaper cheese substitute, called Grana Padano, that is basically the same thing.

I finally broke out my camera and started taking pictures of food when they brought out the Heirloom Tomato Salad with Herbs and Capers.  OMG.  That’s all I can say!  For someone who grew up absolutely hating vegetables and refusing to get near a tomato, it’s crazy how much I heart heirloom tomatoes today.  The dish was very simple—just an assorted variety of beefsteak and cherry heirloom tomatoes sprinkled with fresh parsley, mint, and basil, with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and EVOO, and topped with feta cheese and capers.  To die for.

Oh, and just FYI, the penne dish and the spaghetti with meatballs dish were just appetizers.  Yeah, right?!  The next dish, the Chicken In Mustard with Beans, Garlic, and Mascarpone Cheese was the evening’s entree.  This dish was very yummy, however I must say after looking at the recipe, I think the ingredient list is way too long for my taste!  Though, I did enjoy it very thoroughly.

My favorite part about this dish was the mustard sauce.  I love a creamy sauce, but most seem to be high in calories and fat.  The marinade for the chicken is basic and only calls for dijon mustard, shallots, garlic and a handful of herbs like thyme, bay leaves, and pepper.  After it marinates for awhile and you begin to cook the dish, then you add tomato paste, fat-free chicken broth, and mascarpone cheese to make the sauce creamy.

But my favorite dish of all was dessert!  I am a sucker for sweets.  Lucky for me, they served two desserts.  The first was a tiramisu unlike any I’ve ever tasted.  Most tiramisus I’ve had are very light and fluffy, but this one was dense.  I could really feel how heavy the cream cheese and mascarpone cheese was.  The texture was definitely more like cheesecake than tiramisu, but I really enjoyed their spin on it (don’t worry Mom, I still love your tiramisu best!)  For a mere 260 calories, this is a dessert I would definitely consider making for my next get-together with friends.

The second dessert was a dessert liqueur called Frangelico Affogato.  The recipe is super simple:  “Pour Frangelico and espresso over 3 scoops of ice cream.  Serve and enjoy.”  Did I mention… yum?

I’m glad the portion was small because I was stuffed at this point, but I would have willingly made more room, if I need be.  It was the perfect mix of espresso, vanilla bean and hazelnut flavor which, in case you didn’t know, equals love.

You may have missed out on Super Club, but fear not!  Chef Billy Strynowski will be in San Diego teaching a class called “A Taste of South America” and hosting a Tastemaker Dinner with Chef Scotty Wagner from ChileCo Bistro & Catering called “An Evening of Cooking Light,” as part of this coming week’s massive line-up of food-and-wine pairing events during the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival.  For more info, visit www.worldofwineevents.com for prices, locations and to order tickets.

Cupcake Inspired Muffins!

October 13, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Muffins with a Light Cream Cheese Frosting

I got inspired to bake this morning, now with The Gourmet Experience out of the way.  Mind you, I probably ate my fair share of gourmet treats over the weekend.  PubCakes was a favorite and FYI they are local!  A very neat concept—specialty cupcakes inspired and made with beer.  Plus they use some of my favorites like Stone’s Smoked Porter in the batter and the icing… nom!  I wonder how well a cupcake and beer pairing would work out :)  I’ll have to try someday.

This morning, I didn’t want to bake just any ordinary muffin… I wanted to create a muffin that was both healthy and indulgent, like a cupcake!  I decided to make FiberOne’s Apple Cinnamon muffins from the box.  I have no qualms about baking from a box—honestly who has the time to bake from scratch when you are just baking for one anyway?

The only thing I did differently than the directions on the box, other than substitute egg whites for an egg and applesauce for oil, was create a cream cheese frosting!  I used 4 ounces of Weight Watchers cream cheese, 4 tbsps of powdered sugar and 1/2 tsp of vanilla.  Not a lot of sugar at all, and it was still SOOOOOO delicious.  Next time I think I will substitute agave syrup for the powered sugar and see how that turns out.  I love agave plus it’s all-natural, so it doesn’t get much better than that.

Pizza Fusion in Hillcrest

October 12, 2010

Lunch is not an area of my expertise.  Mostly because I usually sit right here in front of my computer with a lunch I either bought in the prepackaged form (Fresh & Easy meals are a favorite) or in the rare case that I attempting cooking (God-forbid), I am eating leftovers.  Currently, I am guilty of the first.  But, on the off-chance that I go out for lunch, say on the weekend, I have a few favorites.

Last month, my friend Stephen from Indiana came to San Diego for a wedding and we got to hang out for a day.  He wanted to check out Hillcrest and I was more than happy to show him around, especially since Hillcrest is a favorite area of mine and one I still have not explored enough of.  Stephen’s tastes are much more simple than mine—where I would love to get some tasty Thai food or try any new kind of ethnic cuisine, Stephen would rather go for a hamburger, and no not the fancy kind like a bison burger with blue cheese—which, btw, is SOOOO delish!  So, instead we settled on pizza.

What we ended up finding was a really neat pizza joint called Pizza Fusion that was reasonably priced and had amazing pizza!  The best part is, I just found out that Pizza Fusion is actually a franchise, so there’s a chance that if you are reading this from somewhere else, you may be able to find a Pizza Fusion nearby!  I can’t rave enough about this place…  They had a great lunch special for $8.99 that includes a Personal Cheese Pizza, Side Salad and drink.  For just $2 extra, I upgraded to one of their signature pizzas.  There was a lot to choose from.

Menu

I almost ended up with the “Very Vegan,” which you can just barely see at the top, but my heart was ultimately won by the “Four Cheese & Sundried Tomato.”  I’m a sucker for goat cheese.  I also ordered a delicious side salad with balsamic vinaigrette.  It looked so good that I dived into it before remembering to take a picture… Whoops!

Side salad

As I looked over the menu, I noticed also noticed they have a nice selection of gluten-free and vegan menu items, ranging from vegan pizza, vegan cheese and vegan brownies, to gluten-free crust and gluten-free brownies.  I think it’s wonderful that they are able to accommodate different dietary lifestyles and needs.  Also, all of their veggies are organic and they are committed to helping support the sustainable living movement.  When I went to use their ladies’ room, I was presently surprised to find the cutest bamboo sink!  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of it, but I did see the same type of bamboo sink available for sale at Fixtures Living in Miramar (San Diego, CA).

But most important of all, their pizza was ah-may-zing!

Pizza

I always let the pictures speak for themselves!  To-die-for.  Surprising, too, since I am not usually one for thin crust pizza.  I know everyone says NYC has the best pizza and I can’t say I’ve ever had NYC pizza, but I can definitely say I’ve found at least two great pizza joints in SD.🙂

Honest Tea

Did I forget to mention my meal came with a delicious Honest Tea?  I have to say, I love these guys.  I’ve seen them at many events here in San Diego and their teas are so refreshing.

Overall, I give Pizza Fusion a five star rating and a gigantic gold star for one of the best lunch spots in San Diego!  Reasonable prices, large selection, lots of variety, tasty food and great environmental practices—what else could one ask for?!  If you’ve got a Pizza Fusion in your area, I highly recommend checking it out.  Next time I’m trying the gluten-free crust!

Pizza Port-astic!

September 11, 2010

For weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out what kind of food defines San Diego.  With the ocean as it’s backdrop, the answer could easily be seafood and it’s no surprise that seafood would naturally be a San Diego staple.  But, what about our proximity to the border and the fact that I could drive 20 minutes South and literally set foot in Tijuana, Mexico?  What about Old Town, the touristy village in San Diego that is filled with Mexican restaurants and souvenirs, all reminiscent of the neighboring country’s culinary influence?  Logically, it would have made sense to chose Mexican food and find the best taco joint around or the best seafood place, but that’s not my style.

No, instead I chose… pizza.

That’s right!  The classic American favorite, and while technically it comes from Italy, I think Americans have taken the idea and completely ran with it.  Gourmet pizzas have taken on a whole new extreme in the States with such strange combination as barbecue chicken pizza; cheese pizza with Gorgonzola cheese, pesto sauce and pine nuts; and Thai peanut chicken pizza, just to name a few.

The reason why I love pizza is a) it’s convenient and b) it’s diverse.  Not only can you find gourmet versions of pizza in the frozen section at the grocery store (think Freschetta, Dijorno’s, etc.), but when you get pizza from a restaurant, there are unlimited combinations.  Choose your sauce, meats, cheeses and veggies.  The possibilities are endless!

My friend was in town this weekend and we headed up to Carlsbad, California (also in San Diego County) for a day at the beach.  We were driving around looking for a place to eat lunch when we passed Pizza Port.  I had driven by once before and the place had peaked my interest.  Then I remembered just recently that my roommate had been ranting and raving about how Pizza Port was the best place to eat in San Diego, so I took the opportunity as a sign and ran with it.

When we walked indoors, we were greeted with a huge chalkboard menu, filled with no shortage of different choices ranging from your vegetarian pizzas to your extreme meat lover pizzas.

Right away I noticed their “Beer Buddies”—bite sized pieces of signature crust brushed with garlic and served with Ranch dressing and Marinara sauce.  I immediately knew this was something I had to try!

The beer buddies were tasty, but I was a little disappointed because I had been expecting something completely different.  In my head, I had pictured little round balls of beer-flavored dough seasoned with garlic and then fried.  Instead, we ended up with cheese sticks with a fancy name.

Their menu also included other items such as salads, chicken wings, mozzerella sticks and portzels.  Looking back, now I wish I had tried the portzel because, well… see for yourself!

Here’s Pizza Port’s description:

Portzel: Discover the unbelievable taste of our giant handmade PIZZA PORT pretzel made from our wholegrain beer crust with sundried tomatoes, feta, garlic, basil & oregano mixed in!

The description alone is making me drool!

As for the pizza, I chose the Pizza Laguna, one of Pizza Port’s “Original Pizzas,” that came with olives, mushrooms and artichoke hearts; while my friend got one of the “Anti-Wimpy Gourmet Pizzas” or perhaps more accurately, the anti-veggie pizza, called the Meet Extreme Meet with pepperoni, meatballs, Canadian bacon, salami and sausage.  Luckily, I was able to sway him to go with their wholegrain beer crust, which was absolutely worth every penny!

We split a small pizza which was the perfect amount of food for me, and I even had leftovers!  I was surprised they actually let us choose two different varieties for each side of the pizza—very cool of them!

Here’s a close-up of my slice of pizza and the side salad I ordered.  Mmmmm… olives!

There’s nothing I love more with pizza than beer.  It’s like the two were made for one another—sort of like Adam and Eve.  Pizza Port has a large menu of local craft beers on tap.  Unfortunately, I was sooooo hungry, I didn’t go for the beers.  Drinking beer can make me lose my appetite, as the heavy-ness of beer can sometimes feel like a meal in itself!  However, with their stellar line-up of unique beers, you can bet your life on the fact that I’ll be back just to try them!

So, next time you’re in San Diego, I definitely encourage you to try our fine seafood restaurants downtown and our authentic Mexican cuisine in Old Town.  And then, when you’re ready to sit down, have a beer with friends and share a great meal, I strongly encourage you to head over to Pizza Port.  Just remember, you may have to get cozy with your neighbors because it’s family-style dining, which means long cafeteria-like tables and first come, first served seating!

For more information about Pizza Port, visit their website at: http://www.pizzaport.com/

Outrageous Oats!

August 26, 2010

Okay, so my oats obsession is still going strong.  Came up with a couple new combos.  Get ready for raspberry peanut-butter & cacao oats and blueberry-banana vanilla-mint overnight oats!

Raspberry Peanut-butter & Cacao Oats

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
  • Handful of raspberries, smashed
  • 1 container Activa light vanilla yogurt
  • Splash of soy milk
  • 2 tsp almond butter
  • 1 tsp cacoa nibs

Mix the first three ingredients together, then top with almond butter and sprinkle cacoa bits on top.  Refrigerate overnight.  Part of my inspiration for this one came from a recent recipe for Almond Butter & Raspberry Panini on Chocolate Bread.  Go ahead, drool.  I did.

Also, if you don’t know already, cacao nibs are sweet raw chocolate bits.  They come from the cacao plant, the same plants whose beans used to produce chocolate and cocoa products.  The raw cacao beans can also be used in this form, where they are sweeten in 100% pure cane juice and organic cacao liquor to bring out the chocolate flavor.

Blueberry-Banana Vanilla-Mint Oats

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
  • Handful of blueberries, smashed
  • 1/2 banana, mushed
  • 1/2 container of Trader Joe’s Vanilla-Mint Greek Style Yogurt
  • Splash of soy milk

Mix all ingredients together, then garnish with 3 blueberries on top.  Refrigerate overnight.

So, I have to tell you, these oats were a totally random creation of items I had on-hand.  As a side note, blueberries don’t smash as well as raspberries.  I was a little bit worried about the taste because they also weren’t as sweet as the raspberries, so I added half a banana to the mix.  Also, the mint was a strange combo in my greek yogurt, but it didn’t make the oats any less enjoyable!

In a taste-test comparison, raspberry peanut-butter cacao oats were way more indulgent!  Pretty much like eating dessert for breakfast, but healthy!

Did I convince anyone yet to try their own version of overnight oats? :)  If so, what did you come up with?