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!

Go Ahead – Make Someone’s Day!

It’s Thursday! The past few days have been busy! I’m sure everyone is feeling the same way. On top of everything, it’s August!? Yesterday, I sent a text to my sister asking when that happened?? Commercials for back to school, talk about football on the radio? Is Summer over already? I haven’t even gone to the beach yet! I did get a chance to take a 2 hour wave runner tour over the weekend. I highly recommend it!!! I went through Seaforth Boat Rentals at their Mission Bay location (http://www.seaforthboatrental.com/). What a blast!  AND . . . (drum roll) August is “Eat Your Dessert First” Month! Who’s with me??

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I’ve also noticed that a lot of people are giving back and are doing so in creative ways.  That’s one awesome way to spend one’s Summer!   I have a friend, Jeannine, who is running the Nike’s Women’s Marathon in San Francisco in October. She works with patients who have been diagnosed with Lymphoma and Jeannine loves to run.  What did she do?  She joined The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team In Training.  She’s about half way to her goal of $3200, and she’s been coming up with interesting ways to raise money.  She poured beer at an Oyster Festival in June – from the pictures it seems like most of the beer went on her.  Jeannine even got Rubio’s in Mission Valley on board to help her raise cash.  She was able to hand out flyers so that on a particular day a percentage of a customer’s bill, who had the flyer, went to Jeannine’s cause.  I had to take advantage of that!  Hey, it’s for a good cause!  Check out her site: http://pages.teamintraining.org/sd/nikesf12/jeannineshively  Her next fundraiser is on August 25th at Rubio’s (http://www.rubios.com/ 2075 Camino de la Reina San Diego, CA 92108).  It will last all day and night.  Jeannine will be at the Mission Valley location starting at 4pm with flyers in hand.  This event only pertains to the Mission Valley location!!  So grab a flyer, a fish taco and a Stone Brewing Co. IPA.  Like I said before, it’s for a good cause!  Last time I went, I ordered a Carnitas Burrito that had a good meaty flavor and was a decent size.  I’m used to my favorite local taco stand that makes a burrito that’s pretty hefty, but Rubio’s was large enough to satisfy me.  I love checking out their salsa bar, too.  There’s a small outdoor patio area as well.  What better way to spend a Saturday?  Prior to August 25th, I’ll post a link so you can print one out before you go.

Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Another cool fundraiser going on right now: http://reciperenovator.com/cookies-for-cody/  A fellow blogger, Stephanie Weaver of The Recipe Renovator, is raising money for her nephew, Cody, who was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer. If you go to her site, you can bid on cookbooks signed by the authors, desserts, gift baskets, and kitchen items.  The bidding ends at 5pm (Pacific Time) on August 5th, so you still have time to check out the items and place a bid.  It’s a fun way to raise money!  Good luck!!

At times, it seems like there are too many amazing causes to help.  Where do you start?  When do you stop??  I have two organizations in which I feel strongly and support:  NAMI San Diego (http://www.namisandiego.org/) and San Diego Humane Society and SPCA (http://www.sdhumane.org/site/PageServer?pagename=home_page).  I think it’s good to find where you are passionate and direct that energy towards a particular group or person.   Having said that, it’s fun to find these various fundraising tactics and give a little, if one can.

Now if fundraising for major organizations just isn’t your thing, I love doing small things like baking for others.  In June, Amanda of I Am Baker took this idea to the next level and asked her readers to nominate someone who deserved baked goods delivered to his or her house.  She had over 160 nominations (I nominated my parents.).  Then she threw out the request for volunteer bakers so that every nomination could receive a delivered treat.  She received over 400 volunteers!  My parents received a box of wonderful Mexican Wedding Cookies from The Urban Baker (http://www.theurbanbaker.com/an-old-favorite-mexican-wedding-cookies-gluten-free/).   My parents were so happy to be nominated, and they couldn’t believe how professional the cookies and packaging looked.  So if you know someone who’s having a tough day or week (or year!), drop off a little treat.  If you don’t bake, stop by a local bakery and pick up a couple brownies.  If the person doesn’t like sweets or is watching their weight, pick up some veggies or flowers at a Farmer’s Market and surprise your friend or family member.  A little act of kindness can really make a difference in someone’s life.  I know you all know this, but it’s good to get a reminder!

I made one of my favorite brownie recipes the other day for someone’s birthday.  There are about as many brownie recipes as there are fundraisers!  I have a handful of recipes I go between, but I like this one because it’s more fudgy than cakey, and the brownies are a little on the thinner side.  Thinner in terms of thickness, not in terms of calories!   Add a dollop of ice cream, and you are good to go!  Another great thing about this recipe, you don’t have to worry about bringing the butter to room temperature.  You just melt the butter!  The original recipe is from Bon Appetit (September 2004), but the recipe below is with my adjustments.  I have another fav brownie recipe that is SUPER fudgy!!  It’s best to make them the day before they are consumed.  They need a day to rest.  And you’ll need a day to rest after eating a couple!  I’ll have to share that one another time.

Heath Bar Brownies

3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks for faster melting

3.5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 2/3 cup sugar (I use vanilla sugar that I make.)

3 large eggs (room temperature)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup Heath English toffee chips

1 cup nut pieces (whichever you prefer – I like walnuts or pecans), toasted and cooled (If you hate nuts, leave them out.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour 13x9x2-inch pan.  Stir butter and chocolate in a heavy small saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth.  Cool to lukewarm.

Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, eggs, and vanilla in large bowl until thick and billowy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in chocolate mixture, then flour mixture.  Make sure not to over mix!  Fold in nuts and Heath English toffee chips.  Transfer to pan.

Bake brownies until puffed and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 28 minutes.  Cool pan on rack.  Store at room temperature.

Take Care and Happy Eatings!