Thursday, August 24, 2006

Carlsbad Dog Pond

Yep, another doggie post so skip to the end if you are looking for food junk. This time it’s all about the little known Carlsbad dog pond. I doubt many dog owners know about this place. I guess the original owner of the property built this park for his employees to have an area to bring their dogs. Pretty amazing. When the property was sold, the city of Carlsbad took over the "pond" and left it as a dog recreation area.

Mortons $99 meal deal
Once in awhile I’ll share food deals I run across – this one seems pretty good. Any thoughts one way or another?

USA Dine Out – San Diego
Some sort of premium bottled water is spewing out a two week USA Dine Out in several cities. Around 20 or so restaurants (so far) will be participating here. $35 will get you a so-called “special three-course prix fixe gourmet menu”, it’s just $20 at lunch. 3rd and 4th week of September. No weekends.

Poway BBQ
A reader named Leanne left a comment (that’s pretty rare itself) but also left a recommendation (now THAT is really rare!) of a newer BBQ joint in Poway near the Del Taco. I drove by one day and didn’t see it – I’ll have to look again some day. She left a slight impression that it wasn’t all that anyhow. But still…

*** Update! Google is my friend! I ran across this blurb about the new Poway BBQ restaurant called, what else, Poway BBQ.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

F.A.Q. About Tasting Encinitas

Q: Tasting Encinitas, California?

A: Please, please, pu-leeze, someone slap some sense into me and stop me from going to this shite.

What’s that?

The Taste of Encinitas. Okay, officially it was the 17th Annual Taste of MainStreet International Food Festival in downtown Encinitas. Man, what a mouthful.

The best thing that can be said for it is that it was an embarrassment. That being said, there were some fairly tasty things being served up. Like the Lobster Shrimp Bisque at Meritage.


A tumbleweed rolls by.

That’s about it.

Come on now, what else was good?

Well Starbucks gave a little sample of latte something or other plus a chocolate chunk cookie.


Oh, Chuao Chocolatier offered up some tasty treats. So did a couple of other restaurants. And going on the same night was a classic car show, so that made things a little more interesting plus they had 4 or 5 bands set up at various locations so that added a street fair feel to it all.

A tumbleweed?

The short run down, and please do know that this isn't everything: Something called the Sakura Bana Sushi Bar served up a teriyaki chicken with a piece of sushi, the Potato Shack served up a nice sized bowl of potatoes with onions and green peppers, covered in cheese, D Street Bar & Grill served up mini plates of hot wings (2 per plate with the celery sticks and ranch dressing) and were thoughtful enough to provide a wetnap. El Callejon had a greenish chicken goo – that was pretty good.

There were two wine bars on the tour – neither served wine. That’s a little odd. One had an olive sample (and that place is now dead to me) and the other served up a little appetizer of skirt steak on a little slice of bread. That was really good. And then there were a half dozen so-so Italian places that could only think up some sort of sauce with penne pasta. Mostly those got tossed in the trash.

The whole thing probably jumped the shark for me when I discovered 7-11 was on the list. Wow. Now I’ve seen it all. They had delicious slurpees or slushie or whatever the hell they are called. Before this, the closest I’ve been to a slurpee has been the Quik-E-Mart on the Simpsons. Seriously.

You saw a shark?

No, but to add to the horror of it all, we got our tickets and a lanyard so we could hang it around our necks. Kind of a good idea if we wanted to look like jackasses. Actually, it was a pretty good idea – map on one side with the restaurants on the other that would be marked off at each stop.

Okay, so it wasn’t as horrible as I jokingly wrote at the beginning of this post. But it was probably the least favorite of this sort of event I’ve been to. So, if I might borrow a bit from Stephen Colbert, bring out the big board, attention all “Tastes Of”, you are on notice!

Isn’t there a Taste of Downtown coming up?

Heads up! Forget everything I just said, this one I am really interested in!!! The Taste of Downtown San Diego is coming up on Sept. 13th. The website shows a total of no less than 53 participating restaurants. I outright defy anyone to make all of them!

What about Taste of Slow Food?

Forget about that last one. This is the ONE. It’s a whole different beast than those other events. This might interest someone even though I like my food as fast as possible. $65 if you aren't a member.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Mendocino Eats

After a night in Carmel that had been mostly beach, eats and sleep (we had been in the Monterey Bay area a few years ago after a northern CA trip – the aquarium is tops!) we drove north, through and beyond San Francisco as our main slightly hastily planned August getaway had us for three (count ‘em, three!) nights at an inn in the Mendocino area – actually a couple of miles outside of this little tourist town at The Inn at Schoolhouse Creek in Little River, right off Hwy. 1 with a good view of the Pacific Ocean (this is about a 3 hour drive (a 3 hour tour!) north of San Francisco well on your way to Oregon.)

Man, is that a run-on sentence or what? Grammar fiends out there must feel their stomachs tightening or gurgling or whatever happens when they see foul sentence construction.

Of course, our pups, Belly (that would be Scully, of course) and Mr. Cooper were along and welcomed at Schoolhouse Creek – a collection of a dozen or so rooms and cottages. Super dog friendly – at least half the people we saw and talked to also had their pups with them.

Mendocino is much more of a Bay Area getaway destination, I would think, but here we were. No need to drag out every detail of our escapades since this is going to work out to be one damn long post – I’ll focus on the eats:

Little River Inn
Our first night we ate at the restaurant at the Little River Inn – a recommendation of one of the innkeepers. Those with more cynicism might think there is some monetary interest in that recommendation (maybe her brother’s housekeeper works there – ah who knows?) But it’s vacation – no time to be skeptical. Anyhow, the bar of this inn has a few windows that overlook the ocean with the dining room in back that has windows showing off the gardens.

I had the pinenut crusted salmon with spinach purée, parmesan polenta, and basil coulis – all really good as I gobbled it up quickly. I’m a clod. The L got the ribs, which took quite awhile to eat – it was one of a couple specials that night. The ribs were meaty and the sauce had a good taste. Dessert was something chocolate (what else, right?)

Just before we left a server dropped all the plates he was cleaning up – the entire room clapped.

Café Beaujolais
How many times can you be served by Albert Einstein himself? It is true! We had read that this is a not to be missed restaurant. We had also read that Robert Redford eats here when he is in town – or maybe it was that he ate here once or maybe glanced in the direction of the restaurant. Located in an old house – nothing special compared to some of the other beautiful house here – the space was painted an attractive sage green with white wainscoting. A sharp look. Just two servers were working – possibly the owners (we didn’t ask) – and heard one say that the restaurant had been there for 40 years.

We started with a special appetizer of stuffed figs (I think with goat cheese) that was really good. (Yum! says The L.) We had some great local wine that I can never remember and for eats I had (as posted on the website dinner menu – good God no, I don’t take notes!) the pan roasted duck breast, buttermilk spaetzle, carmelized onions and sautéed kale with fresh Bing cherry sauce. I was warned that the sauce might be a bit tart but the sauce and the duck were excellent. The duck was cut into thinner pieces than I would have expected.

The L had the pan seared local wild king salmon served with horseradish mashed potatoes, green beans, blackberry demi-glaze and onion confit. Very tasty – as always we make up a tiny plate to share with each other. The sauces made things a little more interesting.

Dessert was French chocolate mousse cake with ice cream – pretty good.

Plus Albert Einstein works there.

Mendocino Café
A causal eatery in Mendocino with dining inside and outside – a patio where we would take our doggies! We had lunch here. I had the Thai chicken burrito and The L had a chicken sandwich with melted gruyere, pesto, and aioli – this was served on a good looking roll with a really tasty side of pasta salad. That burrito didn’t come with any side. Damn. I wonder why not. Anyhow, I added on a local Red Tail Ale (err, maybe it was Red Seal Ale) and The L had a tasty organic iced tea.

I liked the attitude of this place – they use local organic produce, free-range meats,hormone-free dairy and wild harvested seafood.

The puppies got a bowl of water. They did a good job until a cat ran across the patio and birds were landing on the patio looking for food.

Mendo Bistro
This restaurant is not actually in Mendocino even though the name might suggest it was, but instead it’s in Fort Bragg. This town of about 7,000 people –10 miles to the north of Mendocino on Hwy. 1 – a so-called working class city where you can leave the tourist life behind and eat with the locals. Mendo Bistro is located on the second floor of what looks like had once been a department store (like a Monkey Wards) so it is pretty spacious with floor to ceiling windows that look out over the street.

This was probably my favorite meal. We started with the seared sea scallops appetizer with tarragon and tomato garlic confit. I had St Louis style spare ribs with blackberry barbecue sauce. Oh yum! This is one plate I can still picture while I write this. I had asked if there would be enough meat for me and the waitress responded that I would get plenty of meat. It ended up being pretty big – 5 or 6 meaty long bones plus potatoes and veggies. I was stuffed and that BBQ sauce was thick, spicy and excellent (I surely ruined a white cloth napkin.) The L had pasta shells stuffed with ricotta and spinach covered with marinara and topped with mozzarella.

No room for dessert this night.

Sorry for the seemingly overabundance of the word “tasty”.

The L?
Apparently “The L” doesn’t want me to use her real name as she removed it from a draft – thus The L. Is it Lori, Lindsay or Lokelani?

Berry berry good
Blackberries are very much in season up there right now – we saw plenty of blackberry plants along the road/streets/trails. Unless they were the apparent cousin olallieberry as we saw olallieberry cobbler on the menu a couple of times. I never heard of an olallieberry before. I’m not even sure I spelled it right.

Who cares? It’s vacation. But for anyone interested, pretty normal, typically mid to upper $20’s for entrees, desserts around $7. The lunch at the Mendocino Café had many selections around $10 (website shows lower prices – they must up them a buck or two for summer?) The Mendo Bistro had all pasta at $14 and the ribs I had were $18. Great value there!

We picked up $8 or $10 worth of treats at the Mendocino Chocolate Company. We weren’t too impressed. It’s no Chuao, baby!

Where else to eat?
No shortage of $$$ places to eat at with a number of inns in the area like the MacCallum House in Mendocino or Rendezvous Inn Restaurant in Fort Bragg. If we had a little more time there, I’d try the North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg – I think they do a 10 beer sample thing with better than average pub grub. But I’d recommend all the places we ate at.

Food at the Inn
Every day they had wine and cheese with a light mix of other snacks at 4:30 pm and then a hot breakfast in the morning (leek tart, blackberry crepes and an Italian egg cup (scrambled eggs with veggies made in a muffin cup which was lined with a mini piece of toast) were the three hot breakfast items (one each day) along with a mini-breakfast buffet filled with tasty breakfast goodies.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Carmel goes Woof!

Carmel goes the dogs, in fact. No, I didn’t write a camel goes woof, I said Carmel. And not that wealthy San Diego suburb Carmel Valley – we’re leaving (NOT on a jet plane) but leaving San Diego all behind for Road Trip 2006. It’s Carmel-by-the-Sea in the Monterey Bay area! This little town (right on the ocean, ya know!) made the news some years back when some old cowboy was elected mayor. Yes, you might know that Clint Eastwood was the mayor of this little city, uh, by the sea for a couple of years.

We decided that this place would be a nice stop on a road trip (with two doggies, no less) to points further north (more on that later this week) and discovered that Carmel is super dog friendly. Consider: dogs allowed off leash on the entire length of the Carmel City Beach – a beach that rivals our own Coronado beach in beauty. A dozen hotels/inns that welcome dogs – and these are those crumby bowel-dumped on holes, but real posh lodging. And a dozen restaurants in this small town fully welcome puppies of all sizes – on the patios of course, but they have some nice patios.

Sure, San Diego offers up much of this scattered about the city (we have 2½ off leash dog beaches (Del Mar makes up the ½ beach as it isn’t year round) plus a slightly festive island) along with some dog friendly lodging (not needed, we live here) and some dog dining.

Cooper (aka The Boy) and Scully (aka Bits) had a fun afternoon of running on the beach – we got out there again before hitting the road the next morning. The weather was perfect. This is one beautiful beach. Parking was a little bit hard to come by – but we lucked out with a spot right on the street that runs along the beach (Scenic Road).

We didn’t do any real restaurant research for the trip except printing off a few pages from Chowhound, plus a Moon Handbook on Coastal California (they tell it like it is) and our trusty Dog Travel book for activities. We decided we did not (but we would later this trip) want to take two wet and easily excitable Golden Retrievers to any restaurant that evening.

So, the two of us wound up at Porta Bella – and sorry, didn’t take one damn picture of our eats the whole trip. This is a pretty good place – seems like a few restaurants share ownership as we received a coupon card with our check good at 4 or 5 other “sister” restaurants. We did see a few other dogs – and you truly haven’t lived until you see a waiter following a dog and his owner with a white cloth napkin and nice dog water bowl. Some restaurants do serve a doggie menu – others I think might just offer up a doggity biscotti. I guess the doggie dining thing might be more for the toy doggies that live in purses, but we sat right next to a 80+ pound lab that took up a walkway between tables (everyone had to step over him.)

Oh yea, the food? Um, pretty good. I wasn’t overly hungry so I stuck with appetizers (a Roasted Corn and Crab Bisque and then a Tapas Plate made up of a little skewer of meat, smoked salmon and I think some cheese on a bed of salad. Linda had a Grilled Halibut with (pulling this right from the website menu) Citrus Confit, Almond Rice Pilaf and Asparagus. I got a share of this and it was all very tasty. So thumbs up from me.

Our dessert here was the best of our trip, we think, the Espresso Chocolate Mousse Cake! Yum, smoothy rich! Those looking for a strong coffee flavor might be disappointed; it was mild – but just right for us.

Oh, no doubt there are better restaurants up there - but another dog friendly one that is said to have good food (in a Claim Jumper way) is The Forge in the Forest.

Where do we land next?

The Dining Diva
I usually make mention of new to me foodie blogs in the area, so here is another: The Dining Diva – she just had a great Oceanaire post. My birthday is coming up too! Hint hint, anyone?

Friday, August 11, 2006

What I did on my summer vacation…

…or maybe it would be better to title this one “Never buy a new pair of shorts for a trip that has a snap instead of a button – you’ll pop that snap like a hernia six hundred times while on vacation.”

Yes, because of the overeating. South Beach Diet 2006 starts on Monday!

Maybe sooner.

Oh, I'll get around to my write-ups some time and I’ll post them, but for now any guesses where we were?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Rachael Ray Does San Diego

No, it wasn’t in the same way that Debbie Did Dallas (although, any guy who saw her FHM photo spread might really want to see that), instead it was as part of her Tasty Travels series. Since she pretty much covered the US (and other parts of the world) with her $40 a Day series, she’s gone back to show more favorite eats in each city. It’s part travel guide, part a showcase for the next Martha Stewart conglomerate and part foodie promo for the city.

What the ^%#$ you talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?

Shameless promo for Rachael Ray.
It was on Tuesday night, on the Food Network. Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels, San Diego style. Yea, people either love her or hate here. I enjoy most of her shows (she’s had 4 on the network so far), but sometimes in limited doses. In theory the travel show showcases a dozen or so local favorites that tourist foodies would like just as much as the local folk do. Oh, no doubt there is a small advance team working closely with the chamber of commerce / visitors bureau / restaurant association or maybe the restaurants are straight out paying a promotional fee (that might be the cynic in me) but I’ve never watched the credits that closely. Maybe it is more of an honest organic discovery of some local places by her production team.

Spoiler alert!
So each of the following restaurants gets a little treatment: Anthony's Fish Grotto, World Famous, Peohe's, JRDN, Rice and The Gas Lamp Strip Club with smaller mentions of The Big Kitchen and The Wine Encounter and a couple of low profile little places. All looked pretty tasty and fun with the exception of Anthony’s.

If you missed it, catch it later this month – see the Food Network website for details.

More foodstuffs.
I keep meaning to get around to posting about other food outings of the last month – that is about all you can hope to get out of me – you know damn well you ain’t getting any recipes here. Oh, I could talk about the Anaheim Hilton and their breakfast buffet (pretty good at $15.99 I think, a nice breakfast spread with everything you could want plus toast and made to order omelets (a big time requirement in my book)) or an all out dinner (on an all expenses paid work trip) at the Italian restaurant, Pavia, where I overstuffed myself once again before going to Disney but there is little time for that now.

Or maybe I could write about the near car accident (right in the parking lot!) before going to Yummy Sushi in Carmel Mountain Ranch. Or maybe how I stumbled across the parking lot only to hear a work acquaintance call out my name from the near by Mexican hole-in-the-wall joint, Jalapenos. He said that place is the real deal. I went back a few days later and it’s pretty good – but no better or worse than a dozen other places I’ve been to. Yet there are more to try!

What’s next?
Don’t expect anything new here for a wee bit, but I’ll be back with lots more later in August. Pictures galore! Restaurants a-plenty.

Maybe lords-a-leaping?

Probably not.

Full disclosure: I've been drinking heavily (and heavenly) tonight. I'm sure it doesn't show.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Pumpkin Report 2006

Wee! I have the absolute first August 2006 San Diego Food blogger post.

I rock!

So, anyhow, how are those pumpkins growing?

Pretty darn good, I'll say. This one will be plump and orange soon.

Don't go nuts - this isn't quite pumpkins as far as the eye can see - it's soybeans further away from the camera.

And this is what the field looked like just a short month ago. These pictures come from my Dad back in the great midwest. One should set up a time lapse system to provide photographic history of the growth. Or just take a picture at noon each day.

Of course, these pumpkins are grown (in my mind anyhow) to be carved up - not eaten.

August food fun.
There is the
Taste of Encinitas on Aug. 17th. I think I’m going to this one.

And then the same exact night a food and wine event and the Bernardo Winery. Hmm.

And then the San Diego Taste of the Nation event on Aug. 23rd might interest someone.