The Winter That Wasn’t

Well, it’s been an interesting month… The oven has gone on the fritz and has left me to the mercy of the oven thermometer to determine the actual oven temp. The Hubs went to China and South Korea with his fellow grad school students where he had lots of food adventures. He will, of course, be starting guest posts about his food adventures soon. And, the weather has decided to tempt me into planting out of season, but I’m not falling for it. I did manage to get a lot of spring veggie planting done so far. So, there are a lot of seedlings popping out of the ground. Oh, and as with every spring, I’m currently obsessed with salads.

So far I’ve planted:
Fava beans
Pak Choi
Belgian Endive

I’m starting to move some of the seedlings I started inside to the “greenhouse” stand I have outside. So now I have more room to transplant the other seedlings which I’m very excited to say includes passion fruit seedlings that I grew from the seeds of a passion fruit I got at the supermarket. I’m hoping this will give me a good haul of plants this season and summer, but since the weather has as much of a role to play as everything else I’m still keeping my fingers crossed.

Of all the seeds I planted outside, the one I’m most excited about is the Agretti. It’s an Italian bitter green that I can’t find much info about. I was on the email list for an Italian seed company and when I saw the word rare in the description I had to buy it. I will admit (unapologetically) to having a seed collection that numbers in the hundreds. If I have never heard of something I am compelled to buy it. Or if there is a new variety like the purple tomato. The best information I have so far is that it is best to treat it simply with olive oil like you would broccoli raab.

So I continue my kitchen and garden adventures where we left off…

Vacation Food Continued… Breakfast & Dessert

Continued from: Vacation Food… The Mexican Places


The Breakfast Experience started Friday Morning with breakfast at Americana Restaurant.  It was a nice little place in a great area so we ate outside under a heat lamp.  (Funny thing about San Diego: all the locals apologize for the weather when the sun isn’t out.) The breakfast seemed really simple when we looked at the menu and we ended up ordering some breakfast quesadillas and a burrito.  Even though they seemed simple,  the flavor was really good.  The quesadillas were one of the daily specials and the burrito was on the regular menu.  The eggs had a great flavor and they were light and airy and delicious and combined with chorizo, onions and the tortillas that were perfectly crisped so they didn’t crunch, but added just enough contrast to the fluffy eggs.  They served it with a lightly dressed salad and it was just a great plate of food and a fantastic way to start off a day without a heavy stomach.  Which was good since we went on a 5 mile walk through Torrey Pines that ended with a walk back down the beach.   Tortillas may become the “new pancakes” thanks to this breakfast.  I’ve had breakfast burritos and quesadillas before, but I always manage to forget that this is a great alternative.

First long walk in Torrey Pines. Up the mountain and then back down the beach.

On Saturday morning we dragged ourselves out of bed at 8 in the morning to go to Hash House a Go Go.  It was a 45-minute wait even though we got there quite early.  We were told that the wait can exceed an hour if you don’t get there early and it was absolutely worth it.  The portions at Hash House are enormous!  We decided to go “thirdsies” on everything and ordered the Sage Fried Chicken & Smoked Bacon Waffles, Corned Beef Hash and the Hand Hammered Pork Tenderloin Farm Benedict.

Hash House: Corned Beef Hash (top right) and Bacon Waffle

The Chicken & Waffles were outstanding.  I expected the usual fried chicken with batter an inch thick, but the batter was super light and the sage added so much flavor.  The chicken was actually just breast pieces which I think makes eating a dish like that much easier to eat and they baked the smoked bacon into the waffle.  And I mean entire long pieces of bacon that were pre-cooked (so they were crispy and cooked through) and so long that they were hanging out of the waffle!  The combination of the sage in the chicken and the bacon in the waffle just took the whole dish to another level.

Hash House: There is actually half a biscuit and potatoes underneath all that meat! (Oh yeah... and spinach too)

The Pork Tenderloin was surprisingly good and I mean surprising because I generally don’t like the texture of pork.  But this was dark meat pork so it had a ton of flavor.  I really only ended up having a taste of the Corned Beef Hash (I just couldn’t fit it), but they make corned beef hash the right way with actual chunks of corned beef and real chunks of potatoes.  I like the mushy version too, but the real thing done right is something special.  The potatoes were really well flavored and very crispy with the corned beef flavor infused in them.  They served it with a huge biscuit and eggs.  The biscuit was dense but had a great finish.  I am not from the south and I can understand someone from the south may not have been a fan, but I like a dense biscuit with a great finish.  I like the super light and flaky ones too, but some biscuits have a gumminess that lingers and I just don’t like that.  This one was dense, but still had a clean finish.  It was all good but filling and there was enough food left over for two more meals.  We went to the beach and passed out after all that food.  My sage plants are getting pretty big thanks to all the rain while we were gone so I think I’m going to have to make up a sage chicken recipe to recreate the memory.

We didn’t end up eating much dessert on the trip because there was so much good food and we just didn’t have any room once we finished our meals.  So, the trip to Babycakes was one of the two sweet highlights of the trip.  Their cupcakes are crazy good.  We tried the Black Bottom Cupcake, Classic Vanilla Cupcake, Guava Mango Cupcake and the Lava Cake.  I think the Guava Mango Cupcake was my favorite.  It was so intensely flavored that the one bite I had was enough to last.  I might have to try the flavor combination in a cookie at some point.  I make a coconut thumbprint cookie and make either a guava filling or a mango filling, but now i’m considering ways to combine them.  I have no idea why it hasn’t occurred to me until now.  We also went to Uncle Biff’s for cookies.  We had one cookie each.  I had the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip.  The flavor of their cookies was so good that you didn’t need more than one.  I love desserts like that.  I read somewhere that with food the first bite is always the best, but every bite of the Uncle Biff’s cookies was incredible.  The fact that it was my reward after another 5 mile walk around Lake Murray just made it taste even better!

This was our second long walk around Lake Murray

The great thing about Buff is he’s already planning our next trip out to San Diego.  We’re going to have to stay longer next time so we can have more time to revisit the great places we went and fit in all the places we didn’t have time to visit this time around.  Although, knowing Buff, he’ll have found even more great places and we won’t have time to visit all of them on the next visit either.  My other favorite thing about the trip was the great walking trails.  We had to justify all the eating somehow, right?  There were at least two more spots we didn’t get to go and one of them is a hike up a mountain that looked crazy steep.  I can’t wait to see what kind of restaurant we’ll visit to justify that!

San Diego Vacation Cont’d: Vacation Walks… The Plants

Vacation Food… The Mexican Places

The hubs and I have a friend who we’ve nicknamed Buff.  We both met Buff at the same time in college and we might as well be The Three Musketeers or the Three Stooges considering the amount of fun we have when we get together.  Buff shares my love of great food and he’s one of the few people I trust implicitly when it comes to restaurant and food recommendations.  About a year and a half ago, he moved out to San Diego. We missed him a lot, but in the time he’s been away, he’s amassed a list of restaurants that the hubs and I had the great fortune of sampling over our recent vacation to visit San Diego and Buff.   We were there for3 days and 4 nights and went on two 5-mile hikes and walks to justify the eating madness.  I don’t know why, but it just seems so much easier to work out on vacation for me.  Odd, but true.

So, I have a serious obsession with fish tacos that started when I was pregnant.  I swear, Buff is like my food brother because the very first place he took us when we got off the plane was to South Beach Bar & Grille for Fish Tacos!! I don’t know how he possibly knew about my obsession (I checked and the hubs did not tell him), but I’m telling you, it was exactly the right place to start for me.  We started off the meal with Fried Zucchini and then had the fish tacos with beans and rice.  I tried the Baja (Pollock), Mahi, Oyster, and Lobster (and yes I sampled some of everyone’s).  All fantastic, but as Buff predicted, the Baja was my favorite.  This place has figured out deep frying like few other places I’ve seen.  The batter on the outside of the fish and zucchini was paper thin and mainly served to keep the food moist during cooking since it flew off at the slightest touch and let you taste the food instead of just batter.  I rarely ever fry food at home mostly because I’m far too lazy to get the deep fryer out and all the oil and then do all the cleanup.  And setting up and cleaning up a batter/3 coat station to make food for two people is just more than I’m willing to do.  I don’t take issue with frying the way some people might since I know there are tricks to frying that involve the perfect temperature to allow the food to cook through without leaving the finished product dripping with oil, but it’s a time and cleanup thing for me.

I also had fish tacos at Fred’s Mexican Cafe during the trip and the sauces they used on their fish tacos was so good.  I tasted the carne asada and it was just amazing!  It was lighter than most carne asada, but it was intensely flavorful.  But, the true treat of Fred’s was the tomatillo sauce they put on the table with the chips.  I like tomatillo sauce, but I LOVED their tomatillo sauce and I may be spending the entire summer trying to recreate it.  It wasn’t overly tangy like tomatillo sauce usually is, but it had all the fruity flavor with more weight to it than normal tomatillo sauce so I’m wondering what else they added to make it so good.  Thanks to that sauce I was full by the time the food showed up so I guess I’ll have to go back next time I visit and give their food another chance.

I love Mexican food!!  Correction: I love Real Mexican food!  There are a lot of places near us that make what I call “fake Mexican food.”  Some of my favorite things about Mexican food are its freshness and balanced seasoning.  Instead, many of the “Mexican” places near us use salt as if it is the only spice and seasoning that exists.  There’s something for me about the way real Mexican food uses spice, texture and combinations of flavors to allow you to have a taste experience.  One of the coolest things I learned from a friend who is (parents born in) from Mexico, is to add radishes to tacos.  She is from an area where a lot of radishes are grown.  Although I’m game to try anything new, I thought the radishes were really odd when she suggested it at a taco party she threw a few years ago.  After one taste, I was hooked.  Her tacos that night were really good and flavorful, but I’ll remember forever how the addition of the radishes added the crunch you would get from red cabbage in a fish taco and it added another layer of freshness and clean flavor to the tacos.  I still prefer red cabbage on my fish tacos, but for chicken and beef tacos, I now add radishes.  Who knew…?


San Diego Vacation Continued: Vacation Food… Breakfast & Dessert