Swiiiing and a . . . HIT!

I have a short list of favorite dining establishments. I know if I want pizza, I go to Luigi’s. If I want a great view, I go to Mister A’s (awesome happy hour, by the way). If I want fish tacos, well, that’s still up for debate. Every weekend, the same question arises: Where should we go out to eat tonight? I read about so many new places, and I add the new spots to my list. But when Friday night rolls around, my husband and I usually hit the same old restaurants. Why? Because we know they are good! I hate trying a new place and thinking “Why didn’t we go to Blind Lady for their frites and a pizza?” However, I really do like trying new places, and sometimes I have to force myself out of the rut.

This past weekend, Franz and I got out of our comfort zone and hit places we’ve been wanting to check out. We went to 6 places, and (SPOILER ALERT) we enjoyed every single spot!

First up to bat was a taco truck that I have heard about FOREVER, Mariscos Nine Seas Seafood. More intriguing was that whenever I passed the parking lot for Gala Foods Grocery store, I always saw hoards of people crowding around the truck. I ordered 2 fried fish tacos, and Franz got 2 fried and 1 grilled. There are a few unlabeled self-serve hot sauces, which I greatly appreciated. And unlabeled hot sauces is about as far as I go in adventure seeking, so that was right up my alley. I love the food truck concept, however I’m not a fan of eating in a parking lot. I like the idea of grabbing one or two of these bad boys for a very small amount of money as a way to start my night. It’s what my husband would call an amuse-bouche. Then again, he could call a rack of lamb the same thing.
Taco TruckTacos

Mariscos Nine Seas Seafood on Urbanspoon

Right across the street is The South Park Abbey. Again, we always drive by it, but we’ve never taken the time to stop. So batter number two? Another hit. We only had the opportunity to have drinks here, but the food that was coming out of the kitchen looked tasty. The wings seemed to be a big hit. What I love about this place is that it is super dog friendly, has a great view of the outside world passing by and they have a happy hour. I had a Delirium Red in Brussels over the Summer, so I wanted to try it Stateside. It came out a little murky compared to the one (or 2 or 3) I had in Brussels, but it tasted good. This is a place my dog would love, so this will be visited again in the near future.

South Park Abbey

The South Park Abbey Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Next up was Thorn St. Brewery which hit it out of the park (http://thornstreetbrew.com/). I love the vibe of small tasting rooms, and this fit the bill. There is an outdoor area in the back of the building, so in case you feel like enjoying the San Diego weather, there is a spot for you. It’s also dog friendly, so of course I love this place. They don’t serve food, but there was a sausage truck right outside the front door, and Pho Realz was a few steps away, and you can bring food in (http://phorealzsd.com/).  Franz and I opted for a taster of the beers.  We’ve seen Thorn St.’s beers here and there, but we never knew just how many they brewed.  I will note that they quickly sold out of many of their beers while we were there, so I suggest getting there a little early.
Thorn Thorn 2Pho Realz 1Pho Realz 2

It was a tough choice between the two food trucks, but we saw a guy chowing down on a Banh-Mi and that sold us. In addition to the sandwich, we ordered Bun Cha-Cha-Cha which is a delicious cold rice vermicelli dish with BBQ Pork and egg rolls. The Banh-Mi was super spicy, which I love, and it didn’t feel heavy or greasy.

Oh, and that was just Friday! Saturday, we went for a long, and very needed, run in the morning.  That also helped us to prepare ourselves for dinner later at Sea180.  I’ve wanted to check this place out ever since it opened, but Imperial Beach is a little bit of a haul.  We decided to make the journey South, and we were greatly awarded with a spectacular ocean view.   We arrived a little early for our reservation, so we took advantage of the Happy Hour that goes until 5pm everyday and had a glass of wine and a Hamachi Poke appetizer while watching the waves from the bar area.  We felt like we left our home faraway and went on a tropical vacation.

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Fresh and Yummy Hamachi Poke

Korean BBQ Pulled Flatbread

Korean BBQ Pulled Flatbread

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Not a bad view from our table!

Franz is picky with his Bloody Mary, and he loved this one!

Franz is picky with his Bloody Mary, and he loved this one!

Super meaty Osso Bucco!

Super meaty Osso Bucco!

7 Hour Lamb Osso Bucco

7 Hour Lamb Osso Bucco

Special of the Night!

Special of the Night! I was craving steak and mashed potatoes!

Sea 180° Coastal Tavern on Urbanspoon

Sunday was another hot but beautiful day in San Diego, so Franz and I decided to go for a long walk starting at Mission Beach. My real intention was to check out Draft I have family coming into town next month, and I thought this might be the kind of spot they would enjoy.  I was inside this place before it was renovated, and I had no interest in ever going back.  Thank God someone changed this to a place that is deserving of the location.  It is wide open so that it takes full advantage of the ocean front property.  The inside has multiple screens for sports events, and one entire wall was showing video from someone wearing a video camera while skateboarding down the boardwalk.  There are almost 70 beers on tap, and many of them are actually good!  I associate beach bars with Budweiser and Coors, but Draft had many local brews and even a couple of Belgians.   Franz and I split (unheard of for us, just so you know) a Fried Chicken Sandwich.  The bun was fresh and tasty, and we loved the pickled onions and cabbage on it.   The fries were hot and delicious, and I could have easily had a bucket size portion of them!

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Draft on Urbanspoon

It was so nice to get out there and check out some new places, and it was even better that every place was so good. I think we have found a few places that will be added to our “Usual Haunts List”! Have you checked out any new places lately that you would recommend? Let me know! I’d love to hear about them!

I have a lot to fill you guys in on – trips to Amsterdam and Belgium, Cabo, San Francisco, Portland, OR, a big birthday for me, and some really tasty and easy recipes I discovered over the Summer. I can’t wait to share!

Until next 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!

Guest Blogging Over At Hoptology SD

Hello everyone! I hope you have some fun plans for the weekend or you have planned some time just to wind down from the week. My friend just got married and headed across the pond for his honeymoon. He asked that I do a guest blog for his beer blog. Here’s the link.: p2vJCt-i

If you like beer and cupcakes, I think you’ll enjoy this post.

Take Care and Happy Eating!

 

PubCakes on Urbanspoon

Next Door on Urbanspoon