Melissa’s Produce Challenge – The Sequel!

The San Diego Food Bloggers are at it again!  Several of us were sent another box of goodies from Melissa’s Produce http://www.melissas.com/ .  Not sure what I’m talking about?  Check out my blog from March 19th, Melissa’s Produce San Diego Food Bloggers Challenge, to read all about this company.

This time I received a box containing several nectarines, 1 Korean Melon, 8 Rhubarb Stalks, a bunch of Fava Beans, Peaches, a Coconut and an opener, and a jar of Hatch Salsa. There was a delay in receiving the shipment due to the local fires and crazy weather, so the timing wasn’t the best for me. And it was about 100 degrees on the Coast. Enough of my moaning. We don’t get to complain often in San Diego, so just humor me. I loved the challenge placed before me!  Really, I did!

Two more items I decided to use at another time. Melon was eaten just simply sliced.  I hadn't had one before, so I wanted to try it on its own.  I still need to open the salsa.  I love Hatch peppers!!

Two more items I decided to use at another time. Melon was eaten just simply sliced. I hadn’t had one before, so I wanted to try it on its own. I still need to open the salsa. I love Hatch peppers!!

Melissa's Produce

Very cool to receive both of these ingredients, but I opted to save those for another cooking adventure!

Very cool to receive both of these, but I opted to save those for another cooking adventure!

Fava Farro Salad

I will post this recipe soon!

I knew when I saw the Rhubarb, that was a must. Rhubarb is one of my most favorite things in the world. I made a rhubarb cocktail last year.  I really need to do that again!!  But back to this challenge!  I decided to create a flat bread and top it with rhubarb, nectarines, peaches, and goat cheese. I had never tried a Korean Melon, and I was limited on time, so I opted to set that aside. I wanted something to serve alongside of the flatbread, so I made a Farro Salad with Fava Beans and Tomatoes.

First step: remove the fava beans from the outer shell.

First step: remove the fava beans from the outer shell.

Second step: peel away the second "shell".  I read that some say this is not necessary.  I tried a fava with and without that second layer.  I found the second layer to be a bit bitter, so I removed it.  It does take time.

Second step: peel away the second “shell”. I read that some say this is not necessary. I tried a fava with and without that second layer. I found the second layer to be a bit bitter, so I removed it. It does take time.

Since I had some goat cheese on hand, I crumbled some more goat cheese into the salad. Why not? If I could get away with goat cheese in my coffee, I would.  This flatbread turned out to be so good that my husband and I ate the whole thing in one night.  Don’t judge us!  You try to stop halfway!!

Yum.

Yum.

Thyme to make the dough!  I can't get enough of that pun. Sorry.

Thyme to make the dough! I can’t get enough of that pun. Sorry.

Thyme To Eat Your Fruit Flatbread!

1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)

1 package active yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

2.5 to 3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Several sprigs of fresh thyme (extra to sprinkle on top)

3 Tablespoon olive oil

6 fresh rhubarb stalks, trimmed and chopped

2 nectarines, chopped

3 peaches, chopped

4 oz goat cheese (You can really add however much you like. I could easily add way more.)

Cornmeal for dusting

1) In a small bowl combine water, yeast and sugar. Let stand 10 minutes or until foamy.

2)In a large bowl combine 2 cups of flour and salt. Add yeast mixture, thyme, and 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Stir until combined. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead in additional flour until dough becomes smooth and elastic.

3) Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl; turn to coat. Cover; let rise 30 minutes or until double in size.

4) Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet; sprinkle lightly with cornmeal. Set aside. Punch down dough. Roll and shape until the dough is the size of the entire baking sheet. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Gently press the rhubarb, nectarines, and peaches into shaped dough. Top with crumbled goat cheese and sprinkle with extra thyme. With a pastry brush, brush remaining olive oil over the flatbread.

5) Bake 18 minutes or until flatbread is the desired color and the fruit is tender. I turned the broiler on for an additional few minutes to get it a little crisper. Remember to never leave the room and keep an eye on it because broilers can work fast!!

Make sure to check out this link and read what the other Food Bloggers created!  And huge THANK YOU goes out to Melissa’s Produce!  Once again, you sent a wonderful box of tasty treats!!  Thanks again! Take Care and Happy Eating!  An InLinkz Link-up

One Heck Of A Meal

If you are free, try to checkout this awesome fundraising bake sale! Cupcakes can reduce body temps! It's a fact;)

If you are free, try to check out this awesome fundraising bake sale! Cupcakes can reduce body temps! It’s a fact:)

 

How often do you cook dinner? I usually cook dinner 5 nights a week. That’s a lot of meals. As much as enjoy trying new recipes and making some up, I have those dishes that I always revisit throughout the year. As a kid, my mom’s favorite go-to meals were meatloaf, perch, spaghetti with jarred Ragu, and liver and onions. There was always a half-gallon of milk on the table, and it always had this orange plastic holder with a handle. Why? I’m not sure. Where did my Mom even get that thing? And where did it go?

My go-to meals are salmon (either seared or in cake form), big salads with a ton of stuff in it, good old pasta with a tomato sauce (and I admit, often it is Barilla), and some kind of grain salad, like wheat berry or Farro, with roasted veggies and chicken. But because I cook a lot of meals, I don’t want to get too repetitive, so I look everywhere for new ideas.

I made a meal the other night from an article in the San Diego Union Tribune (http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/Apr/08/Armenian-cookbook-vegan-eggplant-casserole/), and Franz claimed it is one of his favorites. It is so simple to make, it smells awesome, and it is delicious. This will be added to my “go-to” meals without a doubt. The creator of the recipe, Dikranouhi Kirazian, is a local San Diegan who just published Armenian Vegan: A Pure Vegan Cookbook with 200+Recipes Using No Animal Products. I might have come up with a sexier title, but if this recipe is a good example of the rest of her work, I will have to buy this one!

Eggplant Casserole (Any notes in parenthesis, highlighted and in italics are my notes or additions.)

Serves 2 to 4

2 large eggplants

Olive oil (for brushing eggplant)

Salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste (or any herbs you prefer that can withstand being broiled)

For the sauce

2 medium onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped  (I added more because I love garlic.)

1⁄4 cup olive oil

2 cups sliced mushrooms (I added more because I love mushrooms.)

2 bay leaves

1⁄2 teaspoon oregano

1⁄2 teaspoon dried basil

15-ounce can diced tomatoes

8-ounce can tomato sauce (I had a 15 oz jar of tomato sauce from Trader Joe’s, so I added the whole thing. I like it a little saucy!)

Wash eggplant and cut into 1⁄2-inch-thick round slices. Place slices on a large tray, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder ( I had some Santa Maria seasoning that I wanted to use, so I sprinkled that on them.). Turn slices over and repeat on other side. Put under a broiler preheated to between 350 and 400 degrees (I put my oven to 425 degrees to achieve the necessary browning), and broil both sides until a light golden brown. When done, remove from oven and set aside.(I opted to slice each round in half after broiling. I figured it would be a little easier to eat.)

Prepare the sauce while eggplant is cooking: Chop onions and garlic and sauté for several minutes in small amount of olive oil; then add the rest of the olive oil, mushrooms and all other spices. Add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, and stir frequently. Cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, then turn off heat.

Prepare for baking: Pour several spoons of sauce on the bottom of an 11-by-7-inch or 9-by-9-inch casserole dish. Layer the bottom of casserole dish with eggplant slices. Spoon some of the sauce on this layer; then add new layers, spooning sauce over each. Be sure to keep some sauce to pour over top layer.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and bake casserole dish for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot, as a main dish with rice or any pasta, and with a crunchy baguette. Can also be served cold as an appetizer. (I served this with Barilla’s Linguine.)

Sorry there are no photos.  I didn’t take a picture because I didn’t realize how much I would love it, and the leftovers didn’t look very pretty.  However, if you go to the UT link noted in the beginning, there is a beautiful photo!

I couldn’t leave you without one image.  I found my childhood milk holder!

This is it!!!!

This is it!!!!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Melissa’s Produce San Diego Food Bloggers Challenge!

Recently, I received an email from Barbara from Barbara Cooks (http://www.barbaracooks.com/) asking if the bloggers of San Diego might be interested in receiving a box of items from Melissa’s Produce (http://www.melissas.com/).  The “Challenge” was to take what was delivered to you and create a delicious recipe.  First, I love getting things shipped to me.  I feel like it’s Christmas!  Second, no surprise, I love food.  Third, I love playing around with food to create something new.  Fourth, I love knowing that a bunch of people out there have the same ingredients and will come up with very different recipes.

I’ve heard of Melissa’s Produce, but I didn’t know much about the company, which the owners, Joe and Sharon Hernandez, named after their daughter.  It’s basically an online grocery store for very unique items.  There’s everything from organic fruit baskets to organic blue agave syrup to Pinot Noir and Chestnut basket.  Can’t find Armenian cucumbers at your grocery store or Farmers’ Market?  Just go to Melissa’s Produce.  There are a ton of recipes online created by their five Corporate Chefs.  Say you bought quinoa at your grocery store and you don’t know how to cook it, or maybe you’ve cooked it a million times and you need a fresh idea for dinner.  Just type in “quinoa” on the website’s recipe search engine, and several recipes are at your fingertips.  Maybe Muscato Cashew Quinoa will strike your fancy.  My only question, are you hiring, Melissa’s Produce???

I must admit that this service is pricey.  Here’s what I received: Fava Beans (shelled, steamed, and ready to eat, 8.8 ounces), Baby Beets (peeled, steamed, and ready to eat, 8 ounces), Brussel Sprouts (10 ounces), Leeks (cleaned and sliced, 6 ounces), Red Quinoa (6 ounces), Dried Chanterelle (.5 ounces), Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes (1.5 pounds), and Ojai Pixie Tangerines (1 pound).  I received smaller quantities than if I were to have ordered the items myself.  I estimate the total amount for the portions I received to be around $40.  For certain items, overnight shipping is required, so you can add almost $20 for the FedEx delivery.  Everything I received was in perfect condition and tasted great.

Melissa Leeks

Melissa Brussel

Melissa Chanterelle

Melissaquinoa

Roasting Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes

Roasting Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes

My mom was visiting from Cleveland, Ohio when the shipment arrived.  She was excited to see what was in the box and what I’d make with it.  A few days after I received the box, I just started sautéing things.  My Mom asked what my plan was, and I honestly wasn’t certain.  It just kind of came together.  We were talking, and I’d roast Brussels Spouts.  We’d talk more, and I chopped Fava Beans.  We’d talk some more, and I sautéed leeks and cook quinoa.  Next thing I knew, I created  Quinoa Stuffed Chicken with a Spicy Soy Orange Glaze and, as I call it, Mish Mosh Potato Salad.

My finished product! This was one tasty potato salad!

My finished product! This was one tasty potato salad!

For the potato salad, I halved the Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes and put them, sliced side down, onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.  I covered the sheet with foil and put them into the oven at around 400 degrees.  Once the potatoes were soft, I removed the foil, flipped those bad Dutch Babies over and continued cooking them in the oven until they were nicely browned.  I roasted the Brussel Sprouts in the oven at around 400 degrees, as well, until they were browned and softened slightly.  Once I removed them from the oven, I did a rough chop on those lovely mini cabbages.  I placed the potatoes and Brussel Sprouts in a large bowl and added the Red Beets which I roughly chopped, as well.  I took walnut oil and balsamic vinegar, whisked it until it emulsified, and added it to the potato salad.  I usually do a ratio of one part vinegar to two parts oil, but I must admit I don’t really measure.  I added a little salt and pepper, too, and that was it!

The final product for the main course!

The final product for the main course!

Like I mentioned earlier, this was a “do whatever I felt like” kind of cooking day.  I love sautéing leeks and garlic, so that’s where I started.  First, I sautéed the leeks in olive oil over medium to medium high heat until the softened and were golden, probably around 6 minutes.  I added a few garlic cloves I had chopped and continued cooking for about a minute.  I added about 2 ounces of white wine (mainly because I felt like a glass of wine while I was cooking), and I raised the heat and cooked for a few minutes.  Right about then, the house smelled amazing.  I had cooked the quinoa in chicken stock earlier, so I added the leek mixture to the quinoa.  Earlier, I had also reconstituted the Chanterelles. I simply boil water, add the mushrooms, turn off the heat, leave the lid on, and let them sit for 30 minutes or until they have softened.  I rinse the mushrooms very well after.  I chopped the Chanterelles and the Fava Beans, and I added them to the quinoa mixture.  I added some ground pepper and salt, to taste.  The amount of quinoa filling was enough for 8-10 chicken breasts.  I didn’t realize just how much it would make, but I love leftovers!

I pounded the chicken and put as much filling as I could in each breast, approximately 1/2 a cup of filling for each.  I folded the chicken breast so that the filling remained inside, and I tied the chicken with kitchen twine.  I put the stuffed chicken into a baking dish coated with olive oil, covered, into the oven (around 375 degrees) for about an hour, or until it reached 165 degrees internally.

While the chicken cooked, I threw together a few items I had on hand for a sauce.  In a bowl, I whisked together orange juice (about 1/2 cup), soy sauce (about 4 tablespoons), agave (4 Tablespoons), white vinegar (2 healthy Tablespoons), and a couple of Tablespoons of chile paste.  If you like it really spicy or not very, this amount can be catered to your taste.  After whisking to combine, I placed the mixture into a pan and brought it to a boil while continuing to whisk.  Once it reached a boil, I reduced the temperature and I let it simmer for about 10 minutes.  It will reduce slightly and thicken.  I added the chicken breasts to the pan and continued cooking at a medium heat while basting the chicken with the sauce.  At this point, the chicken is cooked, I just wanted to really infuse the chicken with the flavors of the sauce.  I got the idea of doing an orange juice based sauce because of the tangerines in the shipment.  I decided to simply eat the tangerines as a dessert.  It was a perfect meal, if I do say so myself!

I can’t wait to read what other local bloggers created!  What a fun idea!  A huge “Thank You” goes out to Barbara and Melissa’s Produce!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Here is the link to see all of the Bloggers who participated: An InLinkz Link-up

Mardi Gras Time!!

Where has 2014 gone?  I feel like I just got back from visiting family and friends in Cleveland, Ohio for Christmas. Yikes.  And now it’s March (start the Christmas ads already!), and I’m awaiting my Mom’s arrival later today.  Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Monsieur says “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

I remember, as a kid, Fat Tuesday meant a lot more.  Being Catholic, it meant Lent was coming, and that was the toughest part of the year for me.  No meat on Fridays?  No fried bologna sandwiches after I got home from school?  I don’t think I was supposed to eat before church on Sunday, too.  I think I’m remembering that correctly, or my parents were just trying to get me to wait to eat again?  And I had to give something up for the entire Lent season which is about 6 weeks??  No wonder Easter was such a big deal to me!  I searched for that hidden basket of candy on Easter like I was Indian Jones searching for the Ark of the Covenant!   Hey, I loved to eat back then, too.

So if you are in San Diego, and you want to live large today or tonight, here are my top 5 pics.

5) If you haven’t had breakfast yet (If you are a SDSU student and just rolled out of bed and realized you just missed Psych 101 and Intro to Badminton, this is really for you!), start the day off right with a breakfast burrito with chorizo at Dos Brasas (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dos-Brasas/113327022054498).  They pack it full and it is steaming hot when you get it.  Have some chips, salsa and carrots while you wait.  If you’ve had breakfast already, it is perfectly acceptable to have this for lunch or dinner.

4) Venissimo (http://www.venissimo.com/)  What better way to live large?  Really go big and sample a ton of their cheeses, and then buy a bunch to take home.  Eat, and then eat more.  That’s today’s motto.

3) Cookies!!!  I love making my own cookies, but sometimes I don’t have the time.  The recipe I use requires my dough be refrigerated overnight, so it’s good to know where to go in a pinch.  I love 2 companies: Badunkachunk (http://www.badunkachunk.com/) and The Cravory (http://thecravory.com/).  Both companies sell online, but you can find them in San Diego.  My favorite spot to get Badunkachunk is at Rubicon Deli (http://therubicondeli.com/) .  Hey, that’s a great Mardi Gras stop!  A fatty sandwich on house made bread with an outrageously fat cookie is one sweet meal.  I checked out The Cravory at a bloggers’ event this past Saturday.  The owners, Adam, Nate, and Derek, take cookies seriously.  They spent a crazy amount of time (or as I see it, just the right amount of time) making sure each ingredient is the best. Cookies

This Rosemary cookie was one of my favorites!

This Rosemary cookie was one of my favorites!

The owners of The Cravory

The owners of The Cravory (and me!)

The result is a delicious, thick, flavorful cookie. But you have to hurry in because the cookie menu is always changing, and once a flavor is sold out, it could be gone forever, my friend. Previously you had to drive around to farmers’ markets to find their stuff.  All you have to do now is look for the Souplantation (http://www.souplantation.com/locations/restaurant.aspx?store_id=2&store_name=Point_Loma) in Point Loma and you will find their new storefront.  It’s super tiny, so it’s easy to miss, but it’s really cute inside.  Check it out!

2) Garlic Knots (or as they are listed on the menu, Garlic Nuts, but I refuse to order them that way) at Hillcrest Brewing Company (http://hillcrestbrewingcompany.com/).  I haven’t had great garlic knots since I was in NYC.  Talk about an indulgent thing to eat.  There is not one health benefit to eating one (or 6) of these babies.  I was never a fan of the beers crafted at HBC, so I would always stick with the list of guest beers.  However, the bartender explained to me and my husband that the owner was no longer brewing and there was a new brewer on board.  I was very happy to hear this because the Hillcrest area needs to improve its beer situation, and this is a great step!

I will always order these as "Garlic Knots".

I will always order these as “Garlic Knots”.

1) This is tough.  I kept it to five because that is a reasonable amount to cover in a day, right??  I don’t want to list a great dinner place because I’m trying to suggest places where you can eat something and not be full for the entire day.  Hmmm.  And I would suggest Extraordinary Desserts (http://www.extraordinarydesserts.com/) or Eclipse Chocolate (http://eclipsechocolate.com/), but that is just too obvious.  I wish the hush puppies at American Voodoo (https://www.facebook.com/pages/American-Voodoo/629546020395414) were better because that would work so well for this day.  I hate to do this, but I can’t help myself.  My final suggestion for tonight is another cheese item, an appetizer at Mozza (http://www.pizzeriamozza.com/).  Whether it’s today, tonight, or in a month, you have to go and order Mozza Caprese and Pane Bianco with extra virgin olive oil.  It’s kind of annoying the two items aren’t listed and sold together because you obviously need this divine (yep, I wrote divine) bread to go with this out of this world burrata.

You will NEVER want Caprese anywhere else after this experience. Period. Burrata. Period. Enough said.

You will NEVER want Caprese anywhere else after this experience. Period. Burrata. Period. Enough said.

I hope this gives you a nice road map for the day!  Let me know you favorite indulgent spot!  Please!!  I love hearing what you guys like, too!

Sir is looking forward to his next meal.  Are you?

Sir is looking forward to his next meal. Are you?

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Dos Brasas Taco Shop on Urbanspoon

The Cravory on Urbanspoon

Hillcrest Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Pizzeria Mozza on Urbanspoon

Jail House Rocks!

Elvis knew what he was signing about in Jail House Rock! Fun times to be had! Wait, what???

Near an area known as Seaport Village in Downtown San Diego, a major structure has been standing empty waiting to be put to good for decades.  In 1939, a 100,000 square foot Police Headquarters was constructed.  Amongst the five buildings, it housed a crime lab, 274 jail beds, courtrooms, a three-story gym and more.  Eventually a larger space was needed, so the new police headquarters was relocated at Broadway and 14th in 1987.  The original building was going to be demolished, but some wise people fought against that and had it added to the National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historical Resources and preserved the architectural styles which consists of Spanish Colonial, Pueblo Decor, Mediterranean, and Classical Revival.

Jail Cells

Today, when you go to The Headquarters (http://www.theheadquarters.com/) you will be much happier than the previous “visitors”.  It’s a retail bonanza!  Now you can shop and dine to your heart’s content.   There are 23 businesses and there are a few more to open in the near future.  What I was looking forward to the most was  Pizzeria Mozza, owned by Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joseph Bastianich.  I had the Burrata and Oven Roasted Tomato appetizer at their location in L.A. some time ago.  I still dream about those amazing flavors.  I’m so happy to have the opportunity to dine there with only a 15 minute drive!

A group of us Food Bloggers were invited to check out the new facility this past Tuesday.  The renovations are truly amazing.  Original skylights, clay roof tiles, courtyard pavers, carved-wood doors, ceramic tiles, ironwork on the windows, light fixtures, all have been saved.  Each restaurant and shop very wisely incorporated what was original to the space.  You can take a quick tour of the original jail cells, browse past some Historic Police memorabilia, and look at photos of criminals who spent time behind the bars.  And it lists the crime committed by the people, which is very entertaining.  Again, for you, not them!  My favorite crime listed was “Weed Head”.

I will mention just a few of my favorite spots because there is so much to discover here.

1) Aaron Chang Ocean Art Gallery (http://aaronchang.com/gallery):  Mr. Chang’s photographs are crisp, inviting, and intriguing.  What I love is that he wants you to know the story behind the images.  My background is in Art History, so I’m accustomed  to trying to decipher meaning behind a painting.  I found it very cool that he wants to share the story of his work.  Next to many of the images is a QR code that you can scan with your phone to get more information on the photograph.

Aaron Chang 2

2) Dallman Fine Chocolate Boutique (http://www.dallmannconfections.com/): We weren’t able to try the chocolate, so I can’t tell you how it is. I can share that I love the cute little interior of this shop.  This is a family business that started in Austria in 1954.  In 2006, they opened a shop in San Diego. What I loved about this store is their pairing suggestions.  Since I just had a beer, cheese and chocolate pairing at my house, the Chocolate and Beer Pairing Box caught my eye.  This is a great option for someone who is afraid to make the first step in pairing two of the best things in the world.

Dallman Chocolate 4

I loved that the original spiral staircase is Dallman’s. Prisoners would go through this area for processing.

Dallman Chocolate

3) Kitson (http://www.shopkitson.com/): If you know someone who loves to be an “L.A. Hipster” (I’m thinking my niece would love this place), you will find some great gift ideas here!

Kitson

4) Lolo (https://www.facebook.com/LOLOBOUTIQUES): If you are over the age of 25, this is a great locally owned shop for you. Everything is really well priced and super cute.  This was one shop I had to return to after our tour was over and buy a sweet necklace for $15.  We were told that the owner likes to take ideas from the major runways and make it affordable.  Stop in this place, and you will leave with something.

I loved the wallpaper!

I loved the wallpaper!

5) Pizzeria Mozza (http://www.pizzeriamozza.com/): Originally an L.A. restaurant, it has a full menu, but it is known for its pizza.  As I mentioned before, the Burrata appetizer I had in L.A. was phenomenal.  At this location, we sampled two pizzas: a Mushroom, Fontina, and Taleggio Pie and a Finnochiona Salame, Mozzarella, Tomato and Fresno Chiles Pie.  My favorite was the meat pizza.  The tomato sauce was so bright and fresh with a nice flavor of olive oil and an extra kick of heat from the chiles.  I’d recommend this one!

Mozza 3

6) Puesto (http://www.eatpuesto.com/): I love this place. Quickest review ever: Super friendly staff, amazing Mexican street food, restaurant designed by the well-known Thomas Schoos, mural artwork by Chor Boogie (http://www.chorboogie.com/), and a trifecta when it comes to mixologists - you will not get some crappy Margarita here, my friend.  And that term “mixologist” can be used loosely or just plain incorrectly.  Not here. Check out this bio: http://queenconnerward.com/about.html  Jen Queen told us about some interesting tequila events that are upcoming, and explained that they do table side Margarita mixings.  Who doesn’t love a drink cart that pulls up tableside? Do not miss this place.

PuestoPuesto 2

7) Seaside Home |Paper:  The store combines the best of their La Jolla location (http://www.seaside-home.com/) and their Coronado location (http://seasidepapery.com/) in one spot.  Is a friend about to get married?  Stop in here for wonderful stationary, wrapping paper, or custom monogrammed paper coasters.  There are so many fun things to see here. Don’t pass it by.

Seaside Home|Paper is beautiful inside!

Seaside Home|Paper is beautiful inside!

Seaside's window display was so pretty!

Seaside’s window display was so pretty!

Maybe you can find out what the fox says at Seaside?

Maybe you can find out what the fox says at Seaside?

8) Seasons 52 (http://www.seasons52.com/): Talk about friendly!  I loved this place. We tasted some lovely flat breads that weren’t too heavy while sipping on a delightful Raspberry and Mint Lemonade.  We capped off our tasting with beautiful and very tasty individual desserts.  The Pecan Pie was to die for!  “52″ refers to the 52 weeks in a year, hence many menu items are constantly changing to incorporate Seasonal items.  Having a special party?  Go here and request the patio or their Chef’s Table. The little tastes we got just makes me want to go back and investigate this place further! FYI, if you don’t live in San Diego, they have a bunch of locations throughout the U.S.

Seasons 52

Lobster Flatbread

Lobster Flatbread

The Pecan Pie was amazing!  it tasted like Pecan Pie Crème Brulee!

The Pecan Pie at Seasons 52 was amazing! it tasted like Pecan Pie Crème Brulee!

9) Simply Local (http://simplylocalsandiego.com/): LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this place.  Looking for an extremely cool gift to give to someone that is made in San Diego?  Look no further.  Have a friend who loves local honey?  It’s here.  Love Pub Cakes? Buy their mix here. Don’t even know what Pub Cakes is (http://pubcakes.com/#craft-beer-cupcakes)?  See what your San Diego small business owners  have been up to in one spot!  Need a hip beer t-shirt?  Simply Local has you covered.  Not only are the products for sale so interesting, the shelving has a unique story as well.  Owner Brian D. Beevers made them out of his family barn.  Yep, it’s that kind of store.  I hate shopping, but I can actually spend a day in here.

Simply Local is simply awesome.

Simply Local is simply awesome.

10) Venissimo Cheese (http://www.venissimo.com/): Best cheese store in San Diego.  Boom!  Need I say more?

Apparently Venissimo means Cheese Heaven in Italian.

Apparently Venissimo means Cheese Heaven in Italian.

Possibly the best single bite of the day.  Thank you, Venissimo.

Possibly the best single bite of the day. Thank you, Venissimo.

This Cinnamon Almond Butter paired with Delice de Bourgogne and topped with an Amarena Cherry.  Want to amaze people at a dinner party? Start with this treat.

This Cinnamon Almond Butter paired with Delice de Bourgogne and topped with an Amarena Cherry. Want to amaze people at a dinner party? Start with this treat.

Do yourself a huge favor and check this place out.  The only drawback is parking. There is valet parking for $10 Monday – Thursday from 11am-3pm, and is

Cute gifts to be had at Venissimo, too! And crackers!  And meat! And, ok, I'll stop.

Cute gifts to be had at Venissimo, too! And crackers! And meat! And, ok, I’ll stop.

$15 from 3pm-11pm all day Friday through Sunday.  There is self parking at the nearby Seaport Village.  With a minimum $10 purchase, you pay $3 for the first 2 hours and $2 every 30 minutes after.  Without validation, it’s $8 an hour.  I’m always bummed when I have to pay to park at a place where I am coming to spend money.  Oh well.  Such is life.

I promise to have a couple of tasty recipes coming up soon!  Thanks for taking the time to read my blog!

Take Care, Happy Eating and Happy Holidays!

I Want To Wake Up In . . .

. . . that city

That doesn’t sleep

And find I’m king of the hill

Top of the heap . . .

Sing it, Ol’ Blue Eyes!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMfz1jlyQrw

What a great song about a great city.  After living in The Big Apple for a New York Minute, as they say, Franz and I agreed that we had to return for a visit every year.  Last year a pesky hurricane cancelled our trip, so we were super excited to return this year.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve never stepped foot in NYC, or if you have been so many times you feel very comfortable telling a cabbie about to hit you as you cross the street to stick a knish where the sun doesn’t shine,  it’s overwhelming because there are so many options!

This year we opted to stay in the downtown area, right across the street from One World Trade Center.  Hotels can be a little less expensive, its away from the major foot traffic, and it is easy to get from here to anywhere on the island and beyond with the subway.  Interested in seeing One World Trade Center?  Wait a year or two.  It’s a pain in the butt, especially if it’s snowing or raining, entering the space.  There are so many people visiting and I felt like I was going through airport security.  Not a peaceful entrance to say the least.  You can walk around the two impressive waterfalls, but the museum is not scheduled to open until Spring.  Again, wait a year and then go.  It’s best to make a reservation well ahead of time.  One year we went and didn’t have a reservation and it was booked for the entire weekend.  This time one could get a spot without a reservation, but it requires waiting in an additional line which was very long.  After getting through all of the check points, waiting in line after line, and removing coats and belts, I felt very moved and beyond sad seeing the actual site and all of those names listed around the fountains.  It’s a tough way to start a trip, but necessary, I believe.

One World Trade 6

Between checking into our hotel and making our appointment time at One World, we grabbed the subway and headed over to Brooklyn for a pie at Grimaldi’s (http://grimaldisnyc.com/about/).  Again, this is where one can get very overwhelmed.  You can read websites, blogs, newspapers, Facebook post, whatever – you will get so many great recommendations for pizza.  I like Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn because I love their pizza and I love seeing the Brooklyn Bridge.  The crust is a nice thin, but not too thin, crust.  They put just enough fresh sauce on it to make me smile, and not so much cheese that I want to take a nap.  I like my pie simple: pepperoni with fresh ricotta.  They put fresh basil on it, but I asked for extra on the side.  I like lots of fresh basil.  And pepper flakes.  That’s it. Fold that baby in half (lengthwise) and now we are talking!

Grimaldis Entrance

The location I’ve been to in the past was a couple of doors down from the new spot. I loved the new location. It’s more comfortable, and I like sitting upstairs. Again, I love people watching!!

Grimaldis 1

No Frills Menu

No Frills Menu

We had to include our pup, Monsieur.

We had to include our pup, Monsieur.

Day 2 of our trip was Thanksgiving.  We slept in (which we never do!), polished off some coffee and amazing bagels in the Hell’s Kitchen area called Pick A Bagel. We found it through Yelp, and it was way better than some of the reviews!  Just like the pizza, you can become inundated with recommendations for a good bagel place – and there are bad ones.  Sometimes you have to wing it and you might be pleasantly surprised! Our plan was to walk throughout Central Park after the Macy’s Day Parade was over (we had zero interest getting into that mess), call the family in Ohio, check out our old neighborhood around 71st and 1st, and then meander up to Harlem for our Thanksgiving Buffet reservation at Ginny’s Supper Club.

Pretty sure this is what Heaven smells like.

Pretty sure this is what Heaven smells like.

Now this is the way to start Thanksgiving morning!

Now this is the way to start Thanksgiving morning! We shared an Egg Salad on Rye.

Pick A Bagel even had cupcakes that looked like Hostess Cakes! I really wanted one.

Pick A Bagel even had cupcakes that looked like Hostess Cakes! I really wanted one.

Making plans for Thanksgiving was a huge deal.  I love making a turkey dinner, and I’ve never gone to a restaurant for the special day.  Thanksgiving and Halloween are my favorite days of the year by far!  I didn’t want to screw it up!  I’ve been wanting to go to Chef Marcus Samuelsson‘s Red Rooster restaurant (http://redroosterharlem.com/) for years. While trying to find the perfect dinner spot, I discovered Red Rooster has a restaurant on the basement level, Ginny’s Supper Club (http://www.ginnyssupperclub.com/).  My checklist for the perfect restaurant Thanksgiving dinner:

  1. Buffet style.  We didn’t want one plate of food or a silly 3 course option.  Boo!
  2. Not crazy expensive.
  3. Turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing had to be on the buffet.
  4. Cozy atmosphere with a Holiday vibe.

Ginny’s hit everything on my wish list.  And there were fabulous entertainers throughout the meal, too.  I felt like I went back in time.  I ordered a Moscow Mule and let the eating games begin!  I would highly recommend this place.  My only complaint was that we officially had the worst server in the world.  Everyone else around us had great servers. Ours, to put bluntly, sucked.

Here are just a few photos of what was consumed . . .

Ginnys Buffet

The spread . . .

Ginny's Meats

Meat . . .

Ginny's Turkey

. . . and more meat.

The Mac and Cheese was one of our favorites!

The Mac and Cheese was one of our favorites!

I could eat roasted veggies ever single day.

I could eat roasted veggies ever single day.

Never had Catfish on Thanksgiving before!

Never had Catfish on Thanksgiving before!

Delicious Butternut Squash Soup!

Delicious Butternut Squash Soup!

Thanksgiving isn’t complete without these sides!

 . . .but these were just meh.  I think they were mislabeled.  They tasted like a  simple Pumpkin Bar.  Kind of a buzz kill.

. . .but these were just meh. I think they were mislabeled. They tasted like a simple Pumpkin Bar. Kind of a buzz kill.

The Pumpkin Whoopie  Pies were good . . .

The Pumpkin Whoopie Pies were good . . .

Ginnys sign

Two very full customers!

ginnys table

Our table had such a great view of the band – and awesome spot for people watching!

I will give you a few more recommendation in the next post.  One of my goals on this trip was to spend more time in Brooklyn which we accomplished.  It is an amazing area with so many things to do.  I’ll fill you in on some spots not to miss and a couple of places that you can pass by.

Whenever I go to NYC, I always go with an itinerary in hand.  However, the best tip to give on traveling around the city is to be flexible (and learn to use the subway! So easy and so much faster than a taxi!).  If you see an interesting bar or shop, stop in.  If you can’t make it to that amazing cupcake shop you read about in some random blog like this one, who cares?  I love looking back at my itinerary to see which places I never visited.  Hey, it’s a list for another time!!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Amazecheezeballs! And Chocolate! And Craft Beer! OH MY!

I feel I need to explain the title of my post. One of my favorite celebs is Giuliana Rancic.  It’s odd how much I like her because I’m not a fan of reality t.v., and I don’t usually care for celebrities. I did cry over meeting Gene Simmons of KISS, but I was about 5 years old, and I was really scared.  I also cried at a few New Kids on the Block concerts.  And a George Michael concert.  OK, maybe I do like SOME celebrities.  Anyway, I started watching G’s reality show, Giuliana and Bill, when she was just starting to have infertility issues and I never missed an episode since.  One of her favorite words is “amazeballs”.  Let me be clear, I hate the word – I can hardly even write it! – balls.  However, if “amaze” or “schweddy” is placed in front of it, it seems ok.

Classic SNL

Now that I got that out of the way, my beer blogging friend (www.hoptologysd.com) suggested that the two of us collaborate and host a pairing of all pairings: cheese, chocolate, and beer.  I could do a cheese, cheese and cheese pairing, so adding two of my other favorite things in the world was a no-brainer!  The plan was that I would pick the cheeses and chocolates, inform him of my selections, and he would select beers to complement.  My first order of business was to get my mind under control.  Why?  Because I could really overthink the options.  I held myself to 5 pairings and had to keep the cost low.  Another thing I had to consider: people’s tastes.  I am happy to have cheeses on my plate that one could swear might get off of the plate and walk away.  I like super funky cheeses.  Having said that, I also love a simple Muenster.  I knew I had to create a nice balance of flavors – not too overwhelming, but not underwhelming.  Then I had to consider the chocolate – some people hate milk chocolate while some hate dark.  My goal was for someone to have thought he or she didn’t like something and discover that, along with the right pairing, it was tastier than the person thought.

The Glasses Are Just Asking To Be Filled!

The Glasses Are Just Asking To Be Filled!

A Little Guidance Navigating the Tastes

A Little Guidance Navigating the Tastes

Here’s how it all went down:

Pairing #1: English Vintage Reserve Cheddar paired with Dark Chocolate Covered Cranberries.  Beer: Ninkasi Total Domination IPA

Pairing #2: Uniekaas Reserve (Aged Gouda) paired with option #1 Chili Infused Dark Chocolate and/or option #2 Chuao Firecracker which consists of dark chocolate, chipotle, sea salt and Pop Rocks.  Beer: Drake’s Black Robusto Porter

Pairing #3: Point Reyes Aged Blue with Dark Chocolate (85%).  Beer: Ommegang Abby Ale

Pairing #4: Cinnamon Apple Goat Cheese (from Trader Joe’s!) with Dark Chocolate (75%) and Almonds.  Beer: Ayinger Brauweisse Hefeweizen

Pairing #5: Le Delice de Bourgogne Triple Cream with a selection of Chocolate Truffles (Participants’ Choice of either a Dark Chocolate Truffle, Godiva Milk Chocolate with Caramel, White Chocolate Ganache and Toffee Truffle, or Chocolate Caramel Truffle).  Beer: St. Bernardus Tripel

Cinnamon Apple Goat Cheese From Trader Joe's Was Fantastic!

Cinnamon Apple Goat Cheese From Trader Joe’s Was Fantastic!

Always Delicious Cheese Choice: Point Reyes Aged Blue (From Whole Foods)

Always Delicious Cheese Choice: Point Reyes Aged Blue (From Whole Foods)

Like Butta (or Butter to some)! Le Delice de Bourgogne Triple Cream From Trader Joe's

Like Butta (or Butter to some)! Le Delice de Bourgogne Triple

Cream From Trader Joe’s

It’s fascinating watching people during a tasting like this.  Some people want to know “the rules”.  What order should I follow?  Do I try the beer first, then the cheese, then the chocolate?  Then you have people who spot a favorite cheese, and just jump in, suggestions be damned!  While others follow suggestions for a bit, then start really playing around with mixing and matching.  This really could be a psychological test!  Hmmmm.  My buddy, Tom, and I gave a little guidance and I prepared a menu with a suggested order and pairing, but we really encouraged experimenting.  People quickly started asking what were the favorites.  It was near impossible to make a decision.  I thought the beer pairings were spot on!  I have a weakness for Blue Cheeses, so the slightly pungent flavor with the creamy texture of the Point Reyes was almost mind blowing with the very slight sweetness of the Ommegang Abby Ale.  And following the Ale, the bite of Dark Chocolate brought that little bit of sweetness back around.   If you ever taste cheese with me, be prepared for an emotional ride!

I think Flo Rida sums it up:

He’s obviously singing about a cheese, chocolate and beer pairing evening!

Another perfect pairing that really threw me for a loop was the Aged Gouda, Porter, and Chuao Firecracker.  Chuao is an amazing Chocolatier located in San Diego.  You can purchase at Cafes in Del Mar or Encinitas.  La Jolla UTC mall used to have one, but it is no longer open.  These creative and tasty chocolates can be found at stores around town and can be purchased online (http://chuaochocolatier.com/).  For this tasting, I bought my Chuao at Bed Bath & Beyond. I love BB&B because I love using coupons!!!   And, regarding the cheese, I picked this Gouda because it is unlike your average Gouda.  There is a snap to it and a smokiness not always tasted in a Gouda.  The chocolate with its hint of chipotle really brought out that smoky flavor and then, BAM!!!, Pop Rocks kick in!  Then, WHAM!!!, a sip of Drake’s roasty Porter!  KAZAAM!  It’s like you are fighting Superheroes in your mouth! Fortunately, with this battle, every one wins!

We had the good fortune of hosting this event on October 26th, so I loved bringing in some Halloween decorations.  Yep, it was one of the best nights EVER!!

Full TableFull Room View with Hanny

Halloween Decor #2 Halloween Decor #1

I Had Way Too Much Fun Creating This Tablecloth!

I Had Way Too Much Fun Creating This Tablecloth!

I Love Adding Little Touches! I Placed A Bowl With "Cobwebs" In The Center Of The Table & Had Spider Rings Coming Out Of It!

I Love Adding Little Touches! I Placed A Bowl With “Cobwebs” In The Center Of The Table & Had Spider Rings Coming Out Of It!

What A Fun Night! And Notice The Decapitated Head In The Background.  I Love Halloween!

What A Fun Night! And Notice The Decapitated Head In The Background. I Love Halloween!

Perfection On A Plate!

Perfection On A Plate!

The Beermeister, His Wife, And Some Guy Off The Street Who Likes Gouda

The Beermeister, His Wife, And Some Guy Off The Street

Who Likes Gouda

I can’t tell you how happy this event made me.  What could be better than getting a group of friends together to eat and drink amazing things and talk about it!  This was a great start to many more Pairing Gatherings!  Have you done something similar?  Let me know!!! And head over to the guy who made this night happen and read his side of the story: www.hoptologysd.com.

Take Care and Happy Pairing!

Charlie Trotter

Once again, I’ve waited too long to write, and I have so many things piling up that I would love to share.  I had a great Beer, Cheese and Chocolate Pairing event at my house that I hosted with my buddy from over at www.hoptologysd.com.  I will post that tomorrow (See, if I write that then I have to get it out to you guys!).  However, this morning I learned that Chef Charlie Trotter, age 54, passed away yesterday.   He wasn’t the kind of chef that needed spiky hair and sunglasses around the back of his neck, nor was he a chef that had loud catch phrases.  I didn’t know him personally, but he seemed like a straight forward, serious, and dedicated chef.  He had 10 James Beard Awards under his toque  along with ten cookbooks.  He recently closed his Chicago restaurant, and I learned today that his plan was to return to college to study philosophy.  The San Diego Union Tribune quoted him saying recently, “What’s the worst that could happen?  Life’s too short.  You may be on this planet for 80 years at best or who knows, but you can’t just pedal around and do the same thing forever.”

I keep getting reminders that life can be shockingly short.  I think Charlie Trotter had the right idea.  I’m not suggesting everyone quit their jobs and study pottery and live in a commune (unless the commune is stocked with amazing beer, wine, cheese and chocolate, and that commune will take your crappy pottery as payment).  But it reminds me not to get stuck in a rut.  I do that a lot.  Thanks for the reminder, Chef Trotter!  And thank you for your dedication to your craft.

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Baja In Your Backyard!

How is everyone? I have had some really good days along with some really bad ones for the past couple of weeks. Thank God for the good ones, right? I want to focus on the good stuff for the moment! I was so fortunate to get an invitation from Carolyn Kates to a Blogger and Media Event at 7th Avenue Pub at Whole Foods Market in Hillcrest. What, you just go to there to shop? My friend, you are missing out. Granted, not every WFM has a pub, but a few in the San Diego area do, and I highly recommend checking it out. I even noticed a Whole Foods Market recently opened pubs in Arlington, VA and Wayne, PA. Check out if your local store has one, and if not, ask for one!
When my local WFM opened its pub, aptly named 7th Avenue Pub, my husband and I were curious as to how well it would do and what quality of beers would be offered – and at what price. (By the way, the La Jolla location’s pub is named Torrey Pints. I love that name, too.) We have become regulars. Usually we stop in for a flight of beer after a run around Balboa Park. You get 4 tastings for $5 during happy hour. And there are always plenty of taps of local brews from which to choose. Often, Franz and I will throw in an order of the delicious Roasted Brussels Sprouts and/or Seared Tuna. Nice way to end a run!

7th Ave Pub Whole Foods 2

I Highly Suggest a Post Run Beer Flight

However, the event I attended focused on the new menu created by Chef Martin San Roman and the wines from Monte Xanic Winery. The menu is Baja inspired, and Chef San Roman has an extensive background in French cuisine.  What better taste combo?? You can taste both influences in the Flautas de Pato, a smoked duck with chile de arbol. Another favorite of mine was the Baja Burger. If you are a fan of turkey burgers, but can’t find a good one, give this one a try and let me know what you think. The Cranberry Cabernet Jam makes me feel like I’m seated with my family around a big Thanksgiving meal.

Baja Turkey Burger

Mini Baja Turkey Burger

There are so many flavors to take in when eating the Flautas De Pato. Just give into it!

There are so many flavors to take in when eating the Flautas De Pato. Just give into it!

It is suggested to pair the Baja Burger with Cavas Valmar Tempranillo.  Yes, please!

It is suggested to pair the Baja Burger with Cavas Valmar Tempranillo. Yes, please!

Rustica Salad - Super Fresh and Delicious!

Rustica Salad – Super Fresh and Delicious!

I’ve always focused on the beers at 7th Ave Pub, but at this event, we sampled wine from Monte Xanic Winery, from the Guadeloupe Valley. Baja wines? Hmmm. My favorite wines seem to come from California, Australia, Spain, and Argentina. My least favorite wines seem to be from areas like France and Italy. I didn’t say I don’t like wines from those areas, I just tend to go for the bolder wines – kind of like my love of IPAs. I guess I like a punch to the taste buds every so often. Hans Backoff Sr., founder of Monte Xanic Winery and Master Enologist, was on hand to discuss the wines from this area.

Mr. Hans Backoff Sr.

Mr. Hans Backoff Sr. (left) and Mr. Juan Tintos Funke, Secretary of Tourism of the State of Baja California (right)

So what did I think?  What an eye-opener – and taste bud opener. I sampled three whites and one red. All were delicious and perfectly paired with Chef San Roman’s dishes. I could eat Molletes Tapas (amazing mini bread layered with beans and three cheeses with olive oil, sour cream and pico de gallo) and drink Monte Xanic’s Cabernet Merlot blend ($6 a glass) all night long!

Baja Wines Baja Wines 2

The great thing about this place is that it feels really comfortable.  I’ve seen many families having dinner and drinks with strollers in tow.  I’ve seen women having a drink before they most likely head out for a night on the town. I remember those days!  Now I call it around 9pm, if I’m lucky!  There always seems to be someone from the local craft beer industry striking up a conversation with random people at the bar.  There are a few televisions, so it’s a great place to watch the game.  Franz and I watched a football game this past Sunday.  For $19, we had a pitcher of Tailgate Dodgy Knight IPA and a pepperoni pizza.  Not bad at all!  And with the huge floor to ceiling windows facing 7th Avenue and University Avenue, you don’t feel like you are stuck in some grocery store.

Trio Of Ceviche

Trio Of Ceviche

Like Bruschetta?  Try Molletes Tapas!!

Like Bruschetta? Try Molletes Tapas!!

Vegan Jicama Wraps with Tofu

Vegan Jicama Wraps with Tofu

I will still order my Brussel Sprouts, but I will definitely add a few of the new menu items to my after-run menu!  And, I would love, in addition to the beer flights offered, if maybe a wine flight might be added??  Just a suggestion!

Chef San Roman and Mr. Juan Tintos Funke

Chef San Roman and Mr. Juan Tintos Funke

Job Well Done To The Entire Whole Foods Market Staff!

Job Well Done To The Entire Whole Foods Market Staff!

I was so honored to meet Chef Su-Mei Yu.  Have you watched her show Savor San Diego?  Have you been to Saffron?  Both are a must!

I was so honored to meet Chef Su-Mei Yu. Have you watched her show Savor San Diego? Have you been to Saffron? Both are a must!

7th Avenue Pub on Urbanspoon
Take Care and Happy Eating!

Honey Do!!!

Hello! It’s been too long since I posted. The Summer was a busy one, and now I’m a little overwhelmed with everything I want to share with you guys. I couldn’t resist telling you about an item I just bought today at Whole Foods in Hillcrest.  A man was handing out spoons with a dab of honey on them, so I couldn’t resist. His flyer claims that this is “The World’s Best Tasting Honey”. Again, how could I turn a taste down? I just wish my in-laws were here because they love honey. When they visit, we usually stop at Julian to pick up a few jars and a pie, of course. My Whole Foods plan was to buy Sencha Tea, and I came out with tea, a container of olives (couldn’t resist that either) and an amazing honey.

White Gold is from northern Canada (www.whitegoldhoney.com) . It is unheated and untreated. It is thick, creamy and has a perfect touch of sweetness. You can use it like any regular honey, but considering how thick and delicious this is, I think I would prefer it on a scone or with some delicious cheese (preferably from Venissimo! http://www.venissimo.com/). It is about $13 for 1 pound 7 ounces.

Whenever I go grocery shopping, I have my list and coupons in hand. I rarely, if ever, deviate from my list. This shopping excursion made me realize I should slow down and take a look at some other products. I love how Whole Foods really searches for those smaller companies who are just so passionate about whatever it is they are creating and selling.

I can’t wait to share some more awesome food spots I checked out over the Summer!  Any let me know about any food spots or products you discovered over the Summer!

SO GOOD!

SO GOOD!

Take Care and Happy Eating!