Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mexican Soup: La Especial Norte

On Monday, I went to La Especial Norte in Encinitas for lunch. The company I was with told me that, although this place offers typical Mexican food items, we could ONLY order soup here. I don't know if that means the rest of the food is just mediocre or what, but I took the advice.

The list of soups were numerous, and to be honest, I had no idea what most of them were. However, I had heard a lot about pozole soup since moving here, and still had yet to try it, so when I saw it on the menu, I went for it. My companion ordered an eggplant soup.

The soup was awesome. Unfortunately, I didn't capture an image of it, so the picture below is pulled from elsewhere, just to give you an idea of what it looks like. I was given a choice of pork or chicken, but of course I went for the pork. The soup was flavorful, full of tender fatty pork chunks and big pieces of what reminded me of Peruvian corn because they were so big. It was accompanied with a plate of radishes, raw cabbage, chopped onion and limes, all of which I threw into the soup, along with shakers of oregano and chili flakes, as well as a tortilla on the side. So tasty.

This is a stolen image from elsewhere since I didn't get to take a picture of mine. It looks a lot like mine though... minus the cilantro.

Apparently the version I had was a "red" pozole - there's supposedly two other types, one that is plain and white, and one that is green, made with tomatillos. And supposedly sometimes they are accompanied by fried pork rinds (so bad... yet so good). I am now on a hunt to try other versions now that I've experienced this yummy soup. :)

La Especial Norte
664 N Coast Hwy 101
Encinitas, CA 92024
(760) 942-1040

Monday, April 27, 2009

Brooklyn's Best-Kept Secret Spilled Here

Tom's Restaurant.

That's right. I've said it.

Tom's has been one of two restaurants ever that has made me consider moving.
Tom's is a classic New York diner type place, with black-and-white photos of B-list celebrities on the walls, packed with kitsch and scarecrows and fly-by plates of free samples (ok, so maybe not that typical). It's in Prospect Park, just off the Brooklyn Museum stop, so you can pop by for breakfast before going to check out the cherry blossom festival or the totally under-appreciated art at the Brooklyn Museum.

The wait staff are the nicest people in the world, and the line to get in wraps around the block. But never fear, it moves quick and people bring you trays of beef sausage samples and coffee to keep you perky.

I suggest breakfast, only because I've had it there twice. I had the harvest pancakes--sweet corn and dried cranberries--with a side of kind of spiritual homemade beef sausage. My dad had pumpkin walnut pancakes, and my sister blueberry ricotta parmasan pancakes. (My brother had an omelette, that loser.)

Yumm harvest pancakes. Notice the three kinds of special homemade whipped butter everything's served with. One is apple cinnamon, one is (we think) strawberry, and the third is a mystery, although a good guess was apple walnut.

<3 Pancakey love.

"New York" Style Pizza: Pizzeria Luigi

There are a few things that they do in New York better than anywhere else: 1. Bagels. 2. Corned beef/pastrami. 3. Pizza. (I'm sure that's not all, but I'm simplifying here.) I never eat a bagel outside of New York if I can help it for this very reason, am consistently disappointed by reubens, and accept that I can have "different" kinds of pizza outside of NY. Like Papa Johns or CPK. I like my gourmet pizza's too, the thin-crust kind that they also serve in places in NY like Serafina's or Patsy's.

But I love NY style pizza. I love that it's just the right thinness, with just the right amount of sauce and melty cheese, and a crust that is more crunchy than doughy, but still just the slightest amount of dough. I love the perfect garlicky flavor infused in the pizza. Some say it's the water. The brick ovens. Whatever it is, it's GOOD.

Yeah, it's slightly different everywhere. I love Famiglia's. I love Koronet's. I love this little hole in the wall place by where I used to work called La Strada (looks like a shithole, but the sauce in that pizza is perfection). I LOVE the pizza from an Italian restaurant near my apartment building (okay, granted that's in Hudson county, but still).

So when I came to SD, I stopped eating pizza. No joke. I think I had it once, for Super Bowl, where I ordered from this place across the street from me. It was all right. Better than Domino's, but definitely not NY style.

Then I heard of this place in Golden Hill called Pizzeria Luigi. First from a friend who saw it on the Food Channel, and then from another friend who lives literally a block away from it. Supposedly, I was told, they serve New York style pizza. So OF COURSE, I put it on my list of to-eats.

The place is nothing special to look at - it's eating area is small, although the area behind the counter is surprisingly large and bustling with people - very different from the cramped corridors of a NY pizzeria. Nonetheless.

I am accosted by interesting options in the display window, and ultimately decide for my two slices, an artichoke and marinara slice (to which I add fresh tomatoes) and a ricotta and spinach slice (to which I add mushrooms). The first is yummy, because I love artichokes and haven't gotten a normal slice with artichokes on it. It works well with the marinara on top, which sits there in dollops. Then I make the discovery about the spinach/ricotta one -- there's no marinara in it at all! It's a white pizza! And this is a problem because, well, the cheese isn't all that substantial. It tastes all right, but I miss my marinara.

That big black bump is a scorched bubble... of nothingness.

So I decide what I must do, to get a true account of this place, is to get a plain slice. I've satiated my hunger on the two slices, so this is definitely gratuitous. But, all in the name of research. My first bite of it, and I can tell a few things immediately: 1. Crust is a bit soggy. 2. Cheese is not melty or stringy enough. 3. Marinara is too sweet and not garlicky enough. Thus, my verdict is, it's good for a craving, but not quite right.

The true test is in the plain slice!

Of course, nothing can beat New York's.

On a side note though, they do offer an impressive range of bottled beers for pretty cheap, including my favorite, Chimay, and are open fairly late on a weekend. Which means you can just sit there and drink if you'd like. :)

Also, as an update: Just thought you might like to see the cupcake I got from Babycakes this past weekend - called the Black Bottom cupcake. Chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting and inside (on the bottom) is cream cheese cake with raspberries. Very good.

Cupcake with a Morrocan mint tea. Enjoyed on their outside patio with their wall art in the back!

Pizzeria Luigi
1137 25th St
San Diego, CA 92102
(619) 233-3309

3766 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 296-4173

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dinner by the beach: El Pescador

Last weekend was a really nice weekend in San Diego, so on Saturday I went to La Jolla Cove to do some reading a little before sunset. Afterwards, I walked up to Pearl St. to El Pescador, a seafood market/restaurant. It was completely packed. I'd been there once before, for lunch when my parents were in town. At the time, I'd gotten a grilled fish taco and a clam chowder, both very good and fresh.

This time I got the grilled Cajun snapper plate, which came with a salad and rice. I also ordered avocado for the side, which they forgot to give me, and I didn't realize until I was almost done! The fish was really fresh and flavorful. I was sitting by some people having salmon burgers which also looked really delicious.

Delicious cajun snapper.

The avocado that came when I was almost finished!

There's something really great about having a simple grilled fish or a fish sandwich, and that's it, and the seafood here really is quite good. You can also take raw stuff for home, and they also sell shellfish, shrimp, chowder, and stuff like seaweed salad and ceviches. Really good.

El Pescador
627 Pearl St
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 456-2526

Thursday, April 23, 2009

OC's Visit to SD, Day 7: Crazee Burger, Azucar and Ba Ren

It was OC's last day in San Diego, so we had to make the most of it.

We started our day off at Crazee Burger in University Heights. They have good burgers, including some really interesting options, so we decided to try a couple. OC had a gator burger with curry fruit tapenade, which was good (I had a bite), but I think she said it was rubbery at places. I had a venison burger with red wine poached pears, bacon, mushrooms and cream and plum jelly. It was less gamey than I expected, and the combo of flavors were delicious, although I must say I still prefer a traditional beef burger. We also shared a side of their fries, which are dusted with parmesan and garlic.

In my enthusiasm to eat, I forgot to take pictures. But these two stamps represent our burger consumption!

After we went to Legoland again (yes, we went back to get to the 2nd half of the park!), we rushed to Ocean Beach to try to get to Azucar before they closed. I'd heard about Azucar, a Cuban bakery, and I really wanted to try it. We made it with like 10 minutes to spare, and OC hopped out while I searched for parking. By the time I went into the bakery, she had ordered half a dozen things and put them into a box. These included a cinco leches cake, an artemisa (coconut pinneapple cake), a coconut cupcake, a key lime cupcake, and a flan de queso. Later, OC would awaken me with a loud exclamation of joy as she took a bite of the cinco leches. She also got this caramel coconut cookie thing to eat immediately, and I got a mojito cookie. The mojito cookie was SO good, it actually tasted like a mojito. We enjoyed the coconut cupcake later that night, and everything else, OC took a bite from the next day and left it for me. All the desserts were delicious, but the cinco leches was definitely amazing with its toasted almonds on top. I also liked the flan, which was surprisingly dense. I'll definitely be going back soon to try something new :)

Some caramel cookie

Mojito cookie and our big box of bakery goods.

The desserts from Azucar

Then we walked around the farmer's market, where OC bought a blue cheese truffle (strange but surprisingly delicious) and I bought a Scotch Egg, which is basically a hardboiled egg wrapped in sausage and rolled in breadcrumbs.

Scotch egg with some mustard and sauce

Amazingly, despite all this munching, we still went to get dinner at a place I'd read about and was DYING to try: Ba Ren Szechuan (in Clairemont Mesa).

Some background: my parents currently live in Beijing right now, and I go back once a year to visit them, and when I do, all I do is eat Chinese food. Because, frankly, America has very little authentic Chinese cuisine, and VERY little GOOD Chinese cuisine. My favorite regional Chinese cuisine is Szechuan food - I love ths spiciness of it, thanks to hua jiao - Szechuan peppercorn. It's really fragrant and spicy in a different way than your typical chilis. However, most Szechuan places in America just use regular chili oil for some reason, so I'm always on the lookout for a place that does good Szechuan.

My favorite dish, possibly in the whole world, is la zi ji, a sort of Szechuan style popcorn chicken. It's bite sized chicken fried in a huge pile of chilis and hua jiao and garlic, and is intensely flavorful if done right. So of course when I saw it on Ba Ren's menu, I had to get it. It was the best I've had in America. Spicy, with the strong fragrance of hua jiao, not too greasy. It could have been a little bit crispier, but it was by far the best version I've had outside of China.

This would be my last meal if I had to have one.

We also ordered spicy braised duck with taro jelly slices, which was also really good. We'd expected chunks of taro, instead of jelly slices, but I really liked the texture of the jelly, which was a cross between chewy and crunchy (Chinese people are suckers for texture). The sauce was really flavorful and spicy, perfect for rice.

I removed all the cilantro before we dug in.

Lastly, we ordered a vegetable - cabbage cooked in vinegar and chili. Simple, but really really delicious. So delicious in fact, that when the waitress came to clear the plates and put the other stuff into takeaway, she was like, "You probably don't want any more of this, right?" gesturing to the cabbage, and we both clamored, "No, no! We want that too!" It came back to us in a tiny tiny container.

This was DELICIOUS despite how simple it is.

For dessert, they gave us complimentary bowls of a cold red bean/wild rice porridge. Lightly sweetened. It was the perfect thing to finish a meal of intense spicy flavors.

Sometimes it's really nice to have something light to finish a meal off with.

It was so good, that it was by far my favorite meal out of the meals we'd shared. Probably exacerbated that I rarely eat Chinese food in San Diego, while when I was in New York, I'd go to Chinatown at least once a week for dim sum. And this Chinese food was exceptionally good. I HIGLY recommend it to anyone looking for authentic Chinese. And I can't wait to go back.

Unfortunately this was the end of OC's visit, but I know we'll soon be reunited when I go back to New York for new eats... and until then, we'll keep eating in our separate paths!

Tioli's Crazee Burger
4201 30th St
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 282-6044

4820 Newport Ave
Ocean Beach, CA 92107
(619) 523-2020

Ba Ren
4957 Diane Ave
San Diego, CA 92117
(858) 279-2520

OC's Visit to SD, Day 6: El Zarape and Legoland

We decided to go to Legoland on this day, so before we went, we went to El Zarape in University Heights to grab some tacos.

I love this place. The scallop tacos are seriously so good. So of course, I ordered a scallop taco, a fish taco and a lobster taco. All were freaking delicious. OC ordered a fish taco, a mahi mahi taco and a carnitas taco. I haven't tried their meat tacos yet, but it looked good. Plus, their 99 cent fish taco can't be beat!

Fish taco, scallop taco, and lobster taco. They were all delicious.

Carnitas, mahi mahi, fish.

Then we went to Legoland, which was so much fun! But what made me most excited were their granny apple fries! Exclusive to Legoland! They're basically these apples in strips, dusted with cinnamon and sugar, and served with vanilla cream. They're sooo good.

Granny apple fries! I kept getting cream all over my fingers. So good I kinda wanted more.

Because we had so many leftovers, we decided to stay in tonight and eat them all. And even then we didn't finish them all!

El Zarape
4642 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 692-1652

OC's Visit to SD, Day 5: Cali Baguette and Pomegranate

Monday was the warmest day during the time OC was here, so we decided that we'd grab bahn mi from Cali Baguette Express to go for the beach.

I love Cali Baguette. It's close to me (in Rolando), and it's like a bahn mi place/mini-Asian snack mart. In addition to the delicious Vietnamese sandwiches, they also sell stuff like spring rolls, buns, desserts, bubble tea, and Asian candies and snacks. Plus they have a drive-thru!

One of the things I love about San Diego is the easy access to bahn mi. I love Vietnamese sandwiches, but in New York you pretty much have to venture to Chinatown to get one (although recently, according to this article, new "gourmet" places are flooding the market), and it's more expensive! Bahn mi here are like $2.50 a pop - cheap lunch!

Anyway, we both ordered a combo bahn mi -- for those not in the know, it's basically a French baguette with various meats, pate, a bit of mayo, chili, cucumber, pickled radish and carrots, and cilantro (though I usually take that out). And a little bit of fish sauce! Cali Baguette isn't necessarily the best bahn mi I've ever had (this time there was an apparent newbie in the kitchen who left off the fish sauce), but it's pretty solid and it's close! I still have yet to try K's, which I hear is the best in SD...

Combo bahn mi on the beach. Nums.

We also got two milk teas to go. Since we were driving to Del Mar, we needed a couple of snacks to tide us over -- so we got two Vietnamese spring rolls and this sticky rice with peanuts and green bean (like red bean but green - not like peas - I don't know the proper English term for this) mixed in. The first was a steal - 2 for a buck - the second was really yummy. A little salty, a little sweet. Really good.

One of the best things about takeout bbt is the cute Asian cartoon lids

After the beach, we decided to go to Pomegranate Russian-Georgian, which I'd been to with Moonrat and Cyn in February. It's a really homey place with writing all over the walls, haphazard decorations, and a waitress whose accent you can barely understand. Apparently, the exec chef is an Irish guy named Jon, despite the fact that I hear it's really authentic. Jon also sits outside on a bench in the back and told us to Yelp them when we were leaving.

The inside of the restaurant.

We started with the salad sampler, which consisted of a cabbage salad with berries, a carrot salad, a beet salad, a mashed bean salad, a cucumber potato salad, a veggie ragout salad, as well as some pickled button mushrooms and red peppers. Everything was really good. The carrot one was OC's favorite. I liked just about everything, besides the veggie one, which had a bit too much cilantro for me.

Salad sampler!

Next, we each ordered a soup. I got the Russian peasant soup made with cabbage and smoked sausage and meat chunks (very bacon-y) and OC got the Jon's special soup which was a kidney bean soup with chunks of cheese. They were really delicious, but also REALLY filling and hearty!

Peasant soup

Kidney bean soup

Lastly, we ordered a chakapuli, which was a stewed lamb with onions and tarragon. This was a little bit underwhelming. Although the flavors were good, together they didn't pull together as well as they could have. I felt the flavor could have benefited from a bit more acid. The meat was very tender though.


And one tiny random potato to accompany it. We mashed it with the herb butter!

By the way, they gave us some bread, and although we were too full to eat it, the butter was so good, we smashed it into our potato side.

In true Asian fashion, we included the bread and butter in our takeout container.

Oh, and to top it off, we text-harassed moonrat, who had threatened to unfriend me if I took OC to Pomegranate. All done out of love, my dear! :)

Cali Baguette Express
5125 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92115
(619) 286-8888

Pomegranate Russian-Georgian
2302 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 297-4007

OC's Visit to SD, Day 4: Farmhouse Cafe and Muzita

Day 4 was Easter Sunday, which meant brunch time! Since we'd gone to Urban Solace for lunch the day before, I didn't want to go back, even though I've been curious about their Bluegrass Brunch. Instead, I took her to Farmhouse Cafe, a French bistro on Adams, which I think is one of the best valued restaurants I've been too in SD. My family and I went there for dinner over the winter, and the food was really good, and really well-priced. Then again, I'm comparing to NYC prices though, so who knows.

I ordered the eggs en cocotte, which is basically eggs in a tomato-parmesan sauce baked in this crock, accompanied with rustic toast and potatoes. I hadn't thought of ever cooking eggs in this way and really enjoyed it. The toast was really crusty and nice too. Also, because I like having protein with my brunch, I ordered a side of chicken sausage. To top it off, I had a mango mimosa.

I thought the bread would be soft but it's actually crusty!

OC ordered the Easter special, which was a lamb hash. Think a corn beef hash, made of lamb. It was topped with eggs and mixed greens. I tried some of it, and it was really good. I love corn beef hash, so this totally won me over.

Easter special! Plus my mimosa

By dinner time, we were STARVING. We had spent the day at the Wild Animal Park, and after frolicking through the plains of "Africa", we decided to go to Muzita, an Abyssian bistro. I had no idea what Abyssian meant, but apparently it's comprised of Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. First we ordered some honey wine, a really sweet wine served in a flask and sipped like sake.

Honey wine.

After ordering our entree, we were so hungry, we begged for anything they could make us in terms of appetizers. We were presented with birsn korosh, a lentil spread with fried injera chips. It was pretty good, though immediately after, our mains arrived.

The appetizer intended to tide us over in our hunger!

We ordered siga kilwa, which was like a stewed beef with different spices, and a zigini beggie, which was a lamb with tomato and onion. This came with hamli (collard greens) and alitcha atakilti (mixed stewed veggies) and a salad. All of this came on injera, of course (a thin spongy crepe-like bread). So of course as soon as this came, we dug in! Best part of Ethiopian is the fact that you get to use your hands! We ended up ordering more injera, thinking we could finish, but we ended up becoming so stuffed that we had to take home tons of leftovers.

All of our food on one big plate! It was so good...

The couple sitting next to us cleaned their plate. Or rather, I watched as the husband cleaned it. It was rather impressive :)

Farmhouse Cafe
2121 Adams Avenue
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 269-9662

Muzita Abyssian Bistro
4651 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 546-7900

OC's Visit to SD, Day 3: Urban Solace and Whisk 'n' Ladle

On Day 3, our friend Margaret came down from LA to visit, so of course we had to find some really delicious places to go.

For lunch, I wanted to go to Hash House, because I haven't been there yet, but when I called, the wait was 45 minutes, and we were STARVING. Instead, I went back to a favorite, Urban Solace, in North Park. I wanted to save it for their Sunday brunch, but their comfort food is so good, it's worth it to go at anytime.

We started with a couple of appetizers to share - a butternut squash/goat cheese dip that came with toasted bread and crackers, and cheese biscuits with orange-honey butter. They were both really good, but OC practically had an orgasm at the table in reaction to her first bite of the cheese biscuits. Her words were, if I recall, "I need to know how to recreate this right now."

Delicious dip!

OC's most favorite item we ate her entire visit

For our main courses:
OC ordered grilled cheese with tomato. It came with a tomato soup and sweet potato fries. Margaret had an ahi tuna sandwich which also came with sweet potato fries. I had pulled chicken and dumplings with gravy, which was delicious, because it was like a chicken pot pie without the pastry!

Grilled cheese with tomato - classic!

Ahi tuna sandwich

Those big white mounds are the dumplings... swimming in gravy!

For dinner, the three of us got dressed up to go to my favorite restaurant in SD, Whisk 'n' Ladle, located in La Jolla. The restaurant, like many of the fresh food restaurants in SD, changes its menu constantly, so even though this was my fifth time at the restaurant, there's always something new for me to try.

While waiting for our table, we ordered cocktails, which Whisk 'n' Ladle does really really well. My favorite is the Lavender cosmo, which has some vanilla and blueberry notes in it as well, and is garnished with a real sprig of lavender. Margaret got a honey and cucumber mimosa which was really refreshing. OC ordered a New Fashioned, which was basically straight bourbon with muddled apples and oranges, which she found too strong to consume, unfortuantely.

Next we ordered four dishes to share: a mixed greens salad with goat cheese, mussels in white wine with fries, bone marrow with garlic toast, and herb and ricotta ravioli.

Bread with herbed butter and salad with goat cheese

Bone marrow topped with parsley. Mussels with fries in the background.

Herbed ravioli (we ate a couple already!)

As always, everything was delicious. The soup in the mussels is quite creamy and rich, and we were using bread to sop it up. The bone marrow is one of my favorites -- I love scooping out the fatty rich marrow and spreading it all over the toast. The salad wasn't anything special aside from the goat cheese, which was really creamy and flavorful, but it was fresh and not over dressed. And the ravioli was also quite good, in a sort of balsamic sauce.

For dinner we shared the rose-scented creme brulee with cardamom shortbread. The great thing about this place is that its desserts are as good and inventive as their mains -- I hate when dessert is pedestrian and a letdown. In this case, OC wanted the creme brulee, which I'm glad she ordered, because I rarely order it at any restaurant, thinking it's too rich or not that special. But I actually really liked Whisk 'n' Ladle's version, because it was light and creamy, almost more custard/pudding-like than a thick flan. Really good.

Rose creme brulee topped with pistachios!

It was just the right amount of food for three people -- before I've always gone with two people and over ordered, going home too full, but at the end of the night here, I was really satisfied without feeling like I should become a bulimic.

Urban Solace
3823 30th St
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 295-6464

Whisk n Ladle
1044 Wall St
La Jolla, CA 92039
(858) 551-7575

OC's Visit to SD, Day 2: Mama's Bakery and Pho Superbowl

Topping our list of lunch places to visit was Mama's Bakery, a fabulous Lebanese bakery in University Heights that has shwarma plates, Lebanese wraps, baklava of all sorts and other deliciousness.

OC ordered a manakeesh "ultimate" wrap - basically a flatbread with herbs, tomatoes, olives, mint and yogurt sauce. I took a bite and it was so flavorful and delicious, that despite the fact that I normally miss protein in my food, it was quite satisfying. I had a meat/spinach/feta "pie" basically all this stuff baked into a flatbread pita thing. It was also really really good. Because we are fatties, we decided to share a fool mudamas, a bean puree stew type thing that came with pickled vegetables and pita. Because we couldn't resist, we also bought a bunch of different baklava for later - pistachio, walnut, rose, and one I can't remember. As we were leaving, I grabbed a yogurt mint drink, but it was kinda salty, which I don't like. Luckily for me, OC did.

From left to right: manakeesh wrap, fool mudamas with pickled vegetables, meat/spinach/cheese pie. Also, that little plastic container in the upper left is a bunch of baklava we bought!

For dinner that night we decided to go to Pho Superbowl, in La Mesa close to where I live, because it was kind of a rainy cold day. I love pho, and one of the great things about San Diego is that Vietnamese food is in abundance. I ordered a combination pho, which includes thinly sliced beef, beef balls, tendon, tripe and flank, while OC just got the flank + sliced beef pho. So good with a few squirts of hot sauce, hoisin sauce and sriracha sauce, a squeeze of lime and some chilis! We also each ordered a hot milk tea each. Soup + hot milk tea completely hits the spot on a cold day!

Combo pho. Num.

Full and satiated, we went out in the rain to go home.

Mama's Bakery
4237 Alabama St
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 688-0717

Pho Superbowl
8342 Parkway Drive
La Mesa, CA 91942
(619) 469-8984

Sunday, April 19, 2009

OC's Visit to SD, Day 1: Mama Testa's Taqueria and Babycakes

The day of OC's arrival, the foremost question on our mind is, of course, what should we eat tonight?

Ultimately, we decide upon tacos, which takes us to one of my favorite taco places - Mama Testa's Taqueria in Hillcrest.

The best thing about this place is by far it's amazing salsa bar. They have every kind of salsa imaginable, including a mango salsa, a parmesan salsa, and my favorite, a sesame salsa. The only downside is they're not all that spicy, but they're so tasty, who cares? We also ordered a side of guacamole - Mama Testa's guac is really limey, which isn't how I make my guac, but am very happy to consume.

Salsa and guac and chips!

We started off with a bowl of sopa washanware each. It wasn't all that special - reminds me vaguely of the "fiesta chicken" soup they used to serve in our undergrad dining hall, but better. It's tasty but nothing to write home about.

Sopa Washanware

Then OC ordered the three soft taco combo plate. I can't remember which three she ordered, but my personal favorite, the Yucatecos, were out, unfortunately. Her plate came with a side of rice and beans. She said everything was pretty good.

I ordered the scallop tacos, which came with mashed potatoes. To my dismay, the scallops were overcooked and rubbery - nothing like the scallop tacos I've had at El Zarape (where we ended up going later in the week). So lesson learned - stick to the meat tacos here. Find seafood elsewhere.

Scallop tacos in front (bad flash), meat tacos in back, already eaten

After dinner, we headed to my favorite place in the whole world (okay, not quite, but possibly in all of San Diego), Babycakes. It is a cupcakery/coffee house in Hillcrest. What makes it great is the fact that there's a patio out front AND back for nice days, free wifi, tons of outlets, a fun music mix, and of course, delicious cupcakes.

The signage inside

Hard decisions...

Pistachio cupcakes in the spirit of Easter...

We each got ourselves a spiced cider, which kicks Starbucks' steamed cider anyday, and then OC got a blood orange cupcake and I got a pommy cupcake. The blood orange cupcake is filled with berry filling and oozes with it when you cut into it. The pommy cupcake is a combo of pomegranate, raspberry tea and green tea. As a serious lover of cupcakes, I have to say that one of the best things about their cupcakes is how incredibly moist they are. And when you eat in, they decorate the plate for you with syrup too!

Pommy cupcake

Blood orange cupcake

Staggeringly full, we waddled back to the car...

Mama Testa
1417A University Ave
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 298-8226

3766 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 296-4173