Thursday, May 28, 2009

Food Festival: Taste of Little Italy

For my birthday I wanted to go to the Taste of Little Italy event because I hadn't gone to Little Italy at all, really. So two of my friends shelled out the $40 for the ticket and off we went, with our little maps in hand.

It was really quite fun, since the card told us which places were serving what, and where they were all located. We wanted to hit all 20 places, but in the end, we only hit 15. Pictures below!

Indigo Grill: Ceviche

Illume Bistro: Pork shoulder with orzo, spinach and feta cheese

Petrini's: Sausage and meatballs, canoli

Anthology: Watermelon salad with arugula and toasted pepita seed

Enoteca Style: Prosecco

Buon Appetito/Sogno DiVino: Farfalle with mushroom and Penne in some cream sauce

Yogurtland: Vanilla wafer and orange cream froyo

Vincenzo Ristorante Italiano: Ravioli stuffed with spinach, goat cheese and ricotta in pink sauce

Caffe Italia: Lemon bar

Caffe Italia: cappucino

Cafe Zucchero/Trattoria Fantastica: Cappucino cake

Mimmo's Italian Village Deli & Restaurant: Cavatappi pasta with sausage and spicy tomato sauce

Mimmo's Italian Village Deli & Restaurant: Penne in basil pesto

Zia's Bistro: Penne with chicken, asparagus, sundried tomatoes in cheese sauce

The Glass Door: Miang of king crab with ginger, lime, coconut palm sugar drizzle and dragon fruit mojito

Pappalecco: Pear gelato

Really fun time!!! Though I definitely got pasta-ed out by the end. Still, totally fun way to spend my bday night in lieu of a traditional bday dinner!

Taco Tuesday: Old Town Mexican Cafe

Hung out in Old Town yesterday, doing the touristy thing. By 7, I was starved and there was a HUGE line in front of Fred's for some reason. Which makes no sense to me, because I think of it as an eh Mexican chain that simply reminds me of spring break. Instead, we went to Old Town Mexican Cafe. I was sucked in the moment I passed by the windows and saw the women making tortillas. A surefire way to capture my attention is to show me the food being made!

I ordered a carnitas taco and a pozole soup (which I've been thinking about since I had pozole last in Encinitas!).

The carnitas didn't look so pretty - it was just this taco with lettuce and a single slice of tomato, so I was a little dubious. The meat itself was good, though nothing I was in awe over. What I WAS in awe over was the tortilla. No joke. It was bubbly and fresh and slightly crispy but a little doughy... omg, so good. The taco was also HUGE! Lucky for me I only ordered one -- I considered another one since it was Taco Tuesday and the soup didn't seem like it would be that much in addition. Wrong. They ran out of "regular" sized soups, so for the same price they gave me a large. This pozole, unlike the one I had last time, was not a red one, but a white pozole. Still delicious -- big chunks of pork and lots of hominy and tons of oregano and red pepper flakes and lime juice and onions on the side to throw in (I avoided the cilantro as I do). Really tasty, and so big I couldn't finish it all. Leftovers = lunch!

Old Town Mexican Cafe has had a lot of hype, but I'd say it was pretty damn good and reasonably cheap. I like the atmosphere too. And those tortillas.. mmm..

Old Town Mexican Cafe
2489 San Diego Ave
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 297-4330

Revisited: Urban Solace

I love Urban Solace, so I took my visiting friend for his last meal in SD. He wanted to try the duckaroni!

For appetizer, we had the cheese biscuits that OC had loved when she came to visit. They were as good as I remembered. Crisp on the outside, buttery on the inside, with bits of garlic and cheese and whatnot. And that delicious butter!

For mains, my friend ordered the entree portion of the duckaroni. So good.

I had the dungeness crab "pop-tart" -- the middle was crab and some veggies, topped with salad. Really tasty.

We were too full for dessert!

I love this place and will miss it when I'm gone...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Picnicing out East: K's Sandwiches and Julian's Cafe and Bakery

On our way to Borrego Springs, we picked up K's Sandwiches to picnic later. I got the K's Special, which is the combo anywhere else. I've heard that K's is one of the best bahn mi in SD so I've been meaning to try it. The place is big, and has a large menu of shakes. I got an avocado shake, which was really yummy. The sandwich itself was okay... it could have used a little more pate and I missed having sriracha, though the bread was nice. It was good, but unremarkable. I liked it though, but not so much more that I'd make the drive out there all the time. I'm pretty happy with Cali Baguette near me!

On our way back from Borrego Springs, we went to Julian for apple pie. We wanted to go to Mom's but it was closed, so we went to Julian's Cafe. It was so good! I thought people were exaggerating when they said the apple pie there was amazing, but it actually was! It wasn't too sweet, the apples were perfect in texture (not too soft but not too firm), and the fact that you could choose to have a crumb crust instead of pastry crust was awesome! It was really one of the best apple pies I've ever had!

Definitely try the apple pie in Julian if you haven't already!

K's Sandwiches
7604 Linda Vista Rd
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 278-8961

Julian's Cafe and Bakery
2112 Main St
Julian, CA 92036
(760) 765-2712

Revisited: Crazee Burger

I took my friend to get burgers from Crazee Burger too, since he's a burger lover.

He tried the Santorini burger, which is half beef, half lamb, with tzatziki sauce. He said it was REALLY good, like having gyro street meat but having a burger at the same time. We also shared their fries.

I had the Aloha burger this time, which was delicious. It's basically a beef burger with terriyaki sauce and pineapple. Really tasty.

Nothing more to add. Crazee Burger is still just awesomeness for burgers in SD.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tacos in SD: Tacos El Paisa and Mariscos German Taco Truck'

My friend from back East was visiting, and so obviously, the must have items here in SD are some good tacos. I decided we should make two separate trips -- one for your traditional red meat tacos, and one for seafood tacos.

The first trip we made was to Tacos El Paisa in Memorial. The place is super cute, with a lot of outdoor seating. We were told to order outside at the outside truck type station. Neither of us speaks any Spanish, so the menu was a bit tough, aside from the obvious carnitas, asada and pollo. We eventually ordered a carnitas, an asada and one adobada and one more which I can't remember... pork shoulder?

The outside area to order tacos

We sat down and were immediately given a tray full of different salsas, guacamole, radishes and carrots, as well as a small plate with grilled peppers and onions and a cup of refried beans each. So good.

The tray of condiments we were given

A plate of spicy peppers and grilled onions... actually the peppers weren't too spicy, and quite nice to eat.

These refried beans were really really good for some reason. Smokey flavored.

Where they were grilling the peppers and onions.

The tacos were good, though the problem was that I had no idea which was which. We both liked this one taco that had a really fatty, melt-in-your-mouth meat in it, but unfortunately, I couldn't tell you which taco it was. I'm a taco novice, coming from New York, so forgive me.

Our tacos... I actually asked for mine without the cilantro since I hate cilantro, but this looks prettier.

We also each had a pineapple drink which was really tasty.

A bit sweet, but nice.

The next day for lunch, I took him to Marisco's taco truck on University in City Heights. It's basically located in this dirt lot.

Again, we ran into the same problem of not knowing what anything was. We wanted to try a fish, a gobernador and a marlyn, but they ran out of the marlyn, so each of us just had two fish and a gobernador instead. They gave us a cup of vegetable based soup, then we sat down at one of the two picnic tables in the lot and waited for our names to be called.

Taco truck!

The menu neither of us could really decipher.

The soup was really nice. It had cabbage and celery floating in it, was light and a little bit spicy, and a really good way to kick off the meal.

The soup... complimentary!

The fish tacos were AWESOME. Maybe a little more batter than I'd like, but beyond that, so freaking crispy and light and perfect. But I might say that this is the best fish taco I've had in San Diego. Or ever. The gobernador was good, though I kind of wished for the fish to be chopped up so it was easier to eat.

So good...

Overall, really good, and I wish I had known what the other things were so I could have tried them.

The problem with both these places is that they don't really speak English, so communication is a little bit of a struggle, but they're both really inexpensive and worth taking the trip to!

Tacos El Paisa
3096 National Ave
San Diego, CA 92113

Marisco's German Taco Truck 3
3504 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 392-2351

Revisited: Boiling Crab!

I took my visiting friend to Boiling Crab because I knew he'd like it (we went to the Euclid location this time). This time we got crawfish, sausage, corn, clams and one HUGE dungenness crab. Everything was delicious just like before, but oh man, that crab!! It was SO BIG, but so moist. I'm not sure if it's just that on the East coast, dungenness isn't as fresh or what, but the flesh in this crab was so meaty and moist that it was good all on its own. Nums.

Corn and crawfish

Huge dungenness!

I am officially a huge fan of Boiling Crab and will miss it when I move back East.

LA Food Trip: Father's Office, Kogi Truck, Scoops

Last weekend I went up to LA for the weekend to visit some friends, and in the process got to hit two meals I've been wanting to have!

For dinner on Thursday night, we went to Father's Office in Culver City for their beers and burgers, two things I love.

We all got the Office Burger, which is basically a delicious beef patty with arugula, caramelized onions and blue cheese on a sub type bun. Mine came out a little rarer than I normally like my burgers, but the quality of beef was so good that I didn't mind -- in fact, it was quite tasty because it was so tender and melt-in-your-mouth. I ordered a beer which was dark and smokey and slightly sweet.

Beer and burger... nums.

Inside of the burger. So good despite it's rawness.

We also ordered a basket of sweet potato fries which came with tartar sauce to dip it in.

I love sweet potato fries!

On Friday for lunch, we stalked down the famous Kogi truck.

Kogi truck spotted!

The menu...

I was really excited, and felt the need to try every type of Kogi taco - 2 short rib, one spicy pork, one chicken and one tofu. All topped with a little sriracha and a squeeze of lime. They were all quite tasty, and I love having kimchi in my taco! I think the slightly pickled flavor and crunchy texture go so well in a taco... I wonder how it'd taste with my carnitas.... My favorite taco was the short rib, but I think that's because I've always liked kalbi better than bulgogi anyway. The meat in the tacos were okay -- it wouldn't win any awards at a Korean bbq, but they were good enough and I think the novelty of the Kogi tacos were just worth it. $2 a taco isn't too bad anyway.

The chicken and tofu tacos

I think this is the pork...

Short rib?

For dessert, we finished off our meal with some ice cream at Scoops. I am such a fan of unusual ice cream flavors, and had a lot of trouble settling on a flavor. Finally I went with strawberry lavender, because I love lavender flavored desserts, though I seriously thought about blueberry honey for a moment. My friends had a guava sorbet that was really refreshing.

Guava sorbet on the right, strawberry lavender on the left. So colorful and pretty!

It was a really successful food trip... like most of my trips to LA!

Father's Office (two locations)
3229 Helms Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 736-2224

1018 Montana Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 393-2337

Kogi Truck
Moves daily - check Twitter!

712 N Heliotrope Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90029

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Homemade Italian: La Taverna

Cyn took me out to an early birthday dinner last night. She asked me to pick a place, but I couldn't come up with one -- not for lack of options, but simply because there's SO MUCH I could eat! In the end, she decided to take me to her favorite Italian place in La Jolla, La Taverna. It's a small cozy place and was empty when we arrived. Cyn mentioned it's one of those local gems that nobody really knows about, which in my experience usually means consistent, good fare.

We started off with some appetizers, a caprese salad and some tiny meatballs with crostini. Both were really solid. The salad needed some balsamic I thought, but luckily the bread came with a ramikin of garlic balsamic vinegar which I drizzled over my mozzerella and tomatoes.

Next, we each had a pasta. She got the gnocchi with vodka sauce, which was very good. The gnocchi wasn't overly sticky or gummy like they can be sometimes, and the vodka sauce had a tiny bit of heat which gave it a nice kick.

I ordered the Pasta Toscana, which was essentially spaghetti with pesto, parmasean and tomatoes diced on top. Because I love my protein, I asked for sausage to be added on, which felt a tiny bit out of place on the dish (chicken might have been better) but I love my sausage so I wasn't complaining.

For dessert, we were given an option of two homemade cakes. The first was a chocolate cake, which sounded good, but I was in love the moment he mentioned a banana walnut cake. I love banana desserts. And this banana cake was really yummy. Huge though, and we ultimately couldn't finish the whole thing.

Thanks Cyn for the delicious birthday dinner! Good food and good company -- what more can you want? :)

La Taverna
927 Silverado St
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 454-0100