Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New Jersey - College Funnels

It’s illegal to pump your own gas in New Jersey and though there’s no rhyme or reason to this rule, if you disobey, you will be scolded and shamed back into your car by a disgruntled attendant.

So besides being called a “yankee”, there was another part of moving to Tallahassee that I had to get used to when attending college in FL- the self serve gas station. All went smoothly, until senior year when I got into a car accident that dented my car's rear end. Since it still drove fine, I didn’t pay much attention until the next time I went to pump gas. Dent = impossible insertion of gas nozzle.

Putting my college education (and financially strapped status) to use, I decided that instead of getting it fixed, I would go to Auto Zone and buy a funnel.

The plan: I would stick a flexible funnel in the gas tank and all my troubles would be alleviated for $5.95. Of course it wasn’t as simple as that. The problem was that every gas station had different pressure on their pumps and sometimes when I would squeeze, there would be a burst of gas, which flew out of the pump and directly onto me. Needless to say I was very popular at school.

“Hey did you get Tuesday’s notes?”
“No, ask the girl that smells like gas.”

I finally had to put my funnel to rest when I graduated and was returning to NJ, realizing I wouldn’t be able to ask for $10 of regular and then pass my funnel out the window.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

San Diego restaurant- Hash House

Skillets bearing behemoth portions always make me wonder how the wait staff doesn't have carpal tunnel from the massive mounds of food they carry. This is a definate spot when impressing out- of-towners for an unduplicated experience in gluttony. Breakfasts, "Flinstone-ian" in size, would leave even Fred with leftovers.

The bacon waffle acts out the most devious of sweet and savory fantasies, satisfying every wicked craving. They hit the nail on the hand-hammered pork loin, crisp with yellow tomato, spinach and bbq cream. Sage fried chicken with maple reduction, eggs, bacon mashed potatoes and biscuit also performs amazing acts of "breakfastry".

But, is this where I go regularly on weekends? Never. Besides the wait, the attraction of mammouth portions wanes when you have eight pounds of eggs to cart home (not too good the next day) and no visitors to impress.

But I still have love for a place that lists a 20 oz. Bud can in a paper bag on its menu.

Friday, April 25, 2008

San Diego restaurant- Lucky Buck's

The Jinx

Not long ago, I saw a banner reading "voted best burger in town" waving outside of Lucky Buck's (1459 University Ave). I twisted my head in revulsion trying to reread these words that could only be decoded as "the judge of this contest burned his taste-buds off in a childhood tragedy".

Lucky Buck's advertises gourmet burgers and burritos, which must mean Burger King is true royalty. Just because it's labeled gourmet doesn't make it so (meaning: pepper jack cheese does not equal sophistication.)

No such thing as medium rare here, since the cook mercilessly presses every last drop of juice from the charred patty.A new accessory for the palate, the charcoal clutch, gave a lip pursing effect that had me spitting nails (or nail-like gravel of meat.)

Buck's stale, stripped garage aesthetic gives a dirty feel to the place (or maybe it's just the loose topping/condiment station). Their waffle fries and onion rings aren't half bad, but it's not worth another trip back to this jinx.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

San Diego restaurant- the Better Half

The 'Half' has the Whole Package

Rule 1: Give me free food and I’ll be back.
Rule 2: Give me phenomenal free food and I’ll be back for life.
Rule 3: Give me multiple offerings of phenomenal free food and I’ll be sleeping here.

Somebody get out the cot.

Quaint quarters welcomed us into a cave-like glow where Chef John Kennedy swept in and out of the dining room, visiting tables and toting his sassy sense of humor like a favorite teacher where every student was his pet. The dinner bell had rung and it was time for class.

Lessons of the ‘Half’ life

Lesson 1: Half and half – Owing its name to the fact that they only sell half bottles, our forty-three dollar, Baker Lane (Hurst vineyard) pinot noir was worth every penny. A cask wouldn’t have been enough, so the half bottle didn’t come close, but their idea of pairing a white for the first course and red for the second makes for an excellent multiple choice. Allowing outside wine of any size for a five dollar corking fee also brings up the GPA.

Leson 2: Toast of the town - Is there anything better than an amuse bouche? This bite sized morsel of gratitude boasted a toasted baguette swirled with goat cheese, sundry tomatoes and micro-greens. FREE

Lesson 3: Beet feats - Not much of a beet lover, but along for the ride with one, the “leaning tower” of beets was sculpted in svelte architecture and though not my favorite, it impressed (and ap-Pisa-ed) me.

Lesson 4: Signature salad - I was skeptical when I saw strawberries, candied walnuts and fig vinaigrette. It sounded much too sweet, but somehow it all blended into a delicate mix with greens and bursts of tartness from goat cheese. All doubts dissolved on my tongue.

Lesson 5: Ice cream cleansing - Maybe the most important lesson of all, cleansing the palate. Miniature ice cream cones bearing lemon sorbet were inventive, practical and playful. FREE

Lesson 6: Down and trout - For extra credit, the pecan encrusted trout appeared on tonight’s specials with maple compound butter and herbed rice pilaf, bathing me in its sweet and salty afterglow (top photo).

Lesson 7: Tongue and cheek - As soon as that veal cheek hit my tongue, its tender texture floated down my throat. The aftertaste was potent from the savory, chocolate sauce similar to mole with a French flare (depth without overpowering), along with lentils that also softened the dish like a kiss on the cheek.

Lesson 8: The long and the short (rib) of it- Cabernet short ribs voluntarily shredded off the bone served with cauliflower and horseradish mash that had a consistency similar to a browned couscous. Veggies that taste like starch- I’m all in.

Lesson 9: Sprout-prise! - Sautéed and chopped, Brussels sprouts appeared like a tasty quarter pulled from my ear. FREE

Final exam: Brulee relay- We handed off the maple glazed crème brulee to one another, ending our well-rounded education with sighs of stuffed triumph.

They had passed all my tests. In a time where economic strain had most restaurants feeling the pinch, the Better Half’s dining room still bustled in calm reliability. Our waitress, Kelley, revealed that the menu would soon be revised for Spring, which only gave us more reason to study new courses here. Their ability to change with the times, maintain success in a plummeting market and engage the community through a chef that’s a “man of the people”, the Better Half gets my vote for the “Stove-al” Office with Kennedy as President.

Monday, April 21, 2008

San Diego restaurant- Island Prime

‘Prime’ Time gives viewers mixed messages

A light fog seemed to have drifted off the water and into Island Prime's (880 Harbor Island Drive) dining room, creeping low on wooden paneled walls and dimly lit tables, stark of linens. A kaleidoscopic view of all aquatic fronts reflected in countless countless bay windows, resting beneath raised rafters, and forced me to switch seats twice before choosing San Diego’s downtown lights over harbor reflections.

A Titanic ensemble ranged in apparel from jeans to formal wear, creating an unclear impression to whether this was an elegant experience or a high priced hoot-nanny. I was torn between my pleased palate and wilted wallet.

Our waiter immediately arrived to fill drink orders and inform us that he would be indisposed for a few moments with a newly seated table of six. Impressed with his direct communication, we were never questioning his brief, yet noticeable absence as we were plied with cocktails and pancake battered muffins that reminded me of an upscale carnival treat.

But the most memorable part of the meal arrived in the form of an inspired, salad accessory that I plan on campaigning to become a staple of the American table- the tempura, fried anchovy. This warm, crispy burst of saltiness arrived like a feather in Caesar’s cap and was far superior to any crouton. The salad itself was a foggy memory as I reveled in the delight of a newfound, deep-fried friend. I wanted 100 more of them. Our clams casino were gone faster than cash in its gambling namesake, shelling out moist, garlic breading with hits of citrus in each dime sized bite.

A ‘study in lobster’ focused on three individual preparations of the Maine variety, making a sweeter, more succulent entrance than the west coast, Mexican lobster. Opening with bisque, a heartfelt “hallelujah” escaped my lips before an opaque blanket of pink velvet enveloped my tongue. Claw meat arrived like a present resting on my spoon and I admired someone doing their homework on what makes superior bisque- cream, sherry and lobster- easy as 1-2-3.

In a clever sequel, the mini grilled cheese and lobster sandwich warmed comfort food cockles, while the third theory translated a Mexican tostada with shredded lobster and black beans. I liked this last choice least and formed the same conclusion I had in prior studies- lobster is best “au natural”, but with its impeccable and playful presentation I would take this course again.

Not a fan of scallops, but admiring their hazelnut coated preparation served with a goat cheese risotto cake, I asked if the snapper could be done the same way. Accommodating my wish I received the flaky, luxuriance of snapper matched with the tart decadence of savory cake. My dinner colleague ordered NY strip steak with pancetta in a pinot noir reduction, which was adequate, but as he noted, “nothing to jump up and shout about”.

Sideshow acts ranged from freakishly common sautéed mushrooms to jaw-dropping, truffle macaroni and cheese. Introduced to the earthy delicacy of truffles for the first time, my counterpart wrangled with the concept that this Kong-sized strain of flavor could spawn from one ingredient. This potent pasta indeed rivaled the great ape as eighth Wonder of the World.

Rounding out the event was the potted brownie performing sautéed bananas splits as vanilla ice cream skated on a sweet brulee shell, finally cracking under the weight of plunging spoons. It scored a 7.2 by the judges and was a worthy competitor.

As much as I enjoyed each avenue of this meal’s tour, my resounding memory was the absorbanant price. With entrees ranging between $29.95-48.95 it’s impossible to make this your regular Saturday go-to, but even for special occasions its casual nature makes it difficult to drop that kind of money at the ‘Prime’ anytime.

A compromise is struck at C-Level, Island Prime’s subdued sibling that occupies the same structure and sits to the left of the bar. Its less expensive menu features highfalutin appetizers (ahi tuna stack) and entrees (lobster mac-n-cheese) indulging in an identical view at a fraction of the cost. C-Level still allows the finer things in life to be experienced while wearing flip-flops, but lets you leave with part of your paycheck.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

San Diego restaurant- Rosie O'Grady's

A Good Catholic Bar

Blending those God-fearing Irish and Mexican cultures, Rosie O’Grady’s (3402 Adams Ave) potent splash of Chicago charm acts as a backdrop where Norm and Cliff’s west coast doppelgangers might come to rest their weary livers. Everybody knows your name and another important one- Mary. Bloody Mary that is, served up as a spicy homebrew that clears the sinuses and heavy heads.

The all-you-can-eat seven dollar brunch doesn’t hurt either with healing powers all its own. Order at the back window and witness the blessed birth of fried French toast- a true breakfast miracle with its crispy, syrup-doused shell dissolving into billowy tears of bread flesh. Eggs, corned beef hash, breakfast burritos and other gluttonous sins are also included in the brunch has this “church” filled with believers every Sunday morning. Religion might be the opium of the people, but fried French toast is a close second.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

San Deigo restaurant- Farmhouse Cafe

Cultivating the buds of my tongue, Farmhouse Café (FHC) plowed through all Sunday brunching desires and planted its name firmly in my head for future jaunts. This miniature postcard of a bistro, stamped with a signature duck awning, took us from the ninety degree heat to cool grays and soft bulbs accentuating a lineup of about 20 wooden ducks (all with nametags- we sat between Stacey and Avry).

It was about 1:30pm so there was no wait (perfect timing since the place only fits about 30). Time to re-hydrate…with alcohol! I got the passion fruit mimosa that swirled thick nectar into the bubbly for $7 and beer was on tap at $4 a pilsner glass. Forget about the drinks- the food, the food…

The FHC burger kept winking at me with its allure of pickled onions and Tillamook cheddar, but ultimately pursued the flirtation with garlic aioli (Dear Ketchup, I am seeing someone else- we’re through.) The mixed greens and roasted tomato finished the job nicely with my audible sound effects proving further infatuation. Fries had a grease-ful grace about them- astute appearance, tapered shape and not a soggy one in the bunch.

We had to break some eggs since it was brunch and the Farmhouse “Frenches” fabulously. Eggs en cocotte- eggs, spinach and parmesan cream- arrived simmering in its individual pot of splendor, adorned with a woven quilt of potato threads tucking me into potato galette- the Farm’s version of home fries. Tasty tip: order the ricotta pancake (petit version) with orange wedges as a starter for the table.

Hands down, this is my number one pick right now for burgers, breakfast and undoubtedly more (dinner menu features- app: caramelized onion flatbread, crispy bacon, arugula, aged parmesan and balsamic reduction, entrée: house-made fettuccine with spring lamb Bolognese- I’m there!) Besides the food, the quality people running the Farm are the real deal. Chef Olivier Bioteau flowed in and out of the kitchen, chatting with friends and wife, Rochelle, who figure-eights the front of the house in her efficient, welcoming manner. The Farmhouse’s intimate nature forces you to be involved with your surroundings, but in the most charming way.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

San Diego - Alexander' s the (somewhat) great

Aesthetically speaking, Alexander's (3391 30th St) sublime setting was a vision in white, but then reality splattered all over my fabric cushion, and I realized sometimes the best ideas aren't practical. Service was deathly slow and all the white and waiting gave the hazy ambiance of arriving at the pearly gates, but this wasn't exactly heaven.

The Emperor Caesar's spicy salad was easily overthrown by their Goddess greens using feta and a simple, Italian vinaigrette as its weapon. Alexander's also needed to look up the definition of "stuffed" because their mushrooms with this namesake were anything but. Evidence of the absent snow crab was covered up with a heavy layer of extremely bland provolone. To make it worse, Alexander's doesn't offer salt and pepper on the table which is something I've never agreed with. I understand that chefs want customers to get the true experience of their cooking, but I don't think they should be the final judge if it would makes my meal more enjoyable to me (especially when these cheese ridden mushrooms were in desperate need of seasoning.) Don't shame me for wanting salt.

But, then pasta entered the room and I softened, endearing myself to Alexander's traditional, Italian comfort food (remember this is the spawn of Old Venice owners). Rigatoni with caramelized walnuts, broccoli and tomato were folded in a gorgonzola cream sauce that produced flexible flavor combonations with every bite. The spicy sausage bolognaise over penne with vodka sauce was so good that I dragged a friend back the next day for another taste!

My hungry hubby also was jonesing for his, "Theodore's Fix" pizza topped with Maui onion, pepperoni, sausage, peppercini and chili flakes. It was an A list selection of toppings, but an overload of cheese made it a second rate attraction. I wouldn't claim it's my favorite pie, but it was tasty. The North Park pizza (blue cheese, pine nuts and tomatoes) also hit the right ingredient medley, but left its big cheesy handprint all over the pie.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Boston restaurant- The Grotto on Bowdoin St.

The Phantom of the Opera would find this a suitable haunt for entertaining dinner guests, amongst the shadows. A tawdry woman swirled in oils held court beneath chandelier prisms and exposed pipes covered in bloody red. The far wall, made up entirely of wine, had customers "bobbing and weaving" the wait staff as they leaned in to grab necessary vintages.
(photo courtesy of http://grottorestaurant.com/dinnermenu.html)

I'll document here that my appetizer special won "best first course ever." Duck meatballs with foie gras ravioli made this milestone easy to name. The decadence was only enhanced by the addition of cippolini onions and port wine reduction. Mussels and clams (fresh, fresh, fresh) had a subtle broth highlighting the seafood. Beet and goat cheese salad reminded me of a Chip-wich with a thick baseball of goat cheese between two hearty slices of beets.

For entrees, steak was served with a parmesan risotto that was so creamy, it resembled mashed potatoes. Butter= happiness. The lamb osso-bucco was tender and shredded easily, but didn't have much flavor. Neither did the large white beans served with it. The spaghetti and meatballs were worthy of savoring, but could never override my duck version. The pre-ordered, individual apple pie made us order when hungry and eat when full. The crust was a little heavy for my liking, but that didn't mean I left any on the plate.

Besides the food being stellar, there's something I like about a place where the worst seat in the house, a scrawny corner under a heating duct, is somehow the most romantic.

Got Milk? - Colombia, South America

I sat horrified after chugging what looked like ordinary milk (which I had been craving like a crack fiend for about a week now) and gasped as intense heat burned my ribcage. Had this been some type of practical joke? The woman who handed me the glass seemed pleasant enough. She worked on my grandfather’s farm and even though I was only three at the time, I sensed that Colombia (South America, not South Carolina) was different in more ways than the milk. Straight from the cow and boiled for pasteurization, this new twist on my favorite drink opened the hatch to an unexplored dimension. I was disgusted, but also intrigued.

Columbia didn't have "modern" milk, but they did have the best chicken I ever ate. Coco- Rico’s was the name of the small hut (also the name of the stray dog that lingered outside for scraps) that dripped with distinct rotisserie scents of seasoned flesh and crisp skin, whose juices seeped so deep into my being that I can still conjure the taste on my tongue today. Soda came in a bottle (made with sugar, not corn syrup) and my only job was to sit back and drink it all in…

Friday, April 11, 2008

Boston restaurant- Daisy Buchanan's on Newbury St.

A blustery afternoon led me to this downstairs tavern (240A Newbury St Ste 1)named after Gatsby's great love, offering authentic Boston feel from the heavily accented, female barkeep to the Patriots' fans cheering their team to victory.

I was worried that the holiday spirit had gotten the best of me when I ordered the candy cane martini, nervous I would end up with a glass of peppermint Schnapps, but was pleased to find fresh espresso from Ciao Bella (the bay-windowed Italian eatery upstairs) and vodka as the base of the drink, the candy cane making its only appearance in the crystallized red and white rim and mini stirrer.

Bar food is an art form and Daisy's canvas was the deep fryer. Some of the best wings reside here with crispy skin and tender meat, along with mozzarella sticks and cheese fries that are greasily gourmet.

Though I've never been at night (which seems lucky after hearing it turns into a crowded, underage hangout), the service and finger-licking libations warmed me from the inside out.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Boston- East Coast Follies

Home for the Holidays
I was already at the airport when I realized I had forgotten the winter coat I just purchased and the present I had bought for my boyfriend’s mother. As I cursed myself, I boarded the plane destined to Newark, NJ, venturing east for Thanksgiving.

Born and bred in the Garden State, my home turf had recently become most associated with “The Sopranos” and by many referred to as the armpit of our nation, but for me it meant home, family and freezing cold weather (with a little Bruce Springsteen thrown in). This year I would not be spending the actual holiday with my own unique brood of relatives since I had been invited to spend Thanksgiving in Boston with my boyfriend’s family.

My boyfriend, Bubba (yes, he’s called Bubba, but was raised in FL- if you grow up below the Mason-Dixon line it’s allowed) was picking me up from the airport. He still resided at the Jersey shore and would be moving to San Diego in January. It had been three months since we had laid eyes (or hands) on each other and was the longest we had ever been apart. After much canoodling and thin crust pizza eating, we returned to Bubba’s for a release of pent up tension. Absence = makes the heart (and loins) grow fonder.

While I was in town I decided to find out how some of the old pals were doing. I went out to breakfast with my girlfriend who just had a baby in April. As we chatted about ancient memories over our pork roll (a deliciously, salty breakfast meat native to NJ) and cheese sandwiches, she just happened to mention that she was pregnant again. Whoops! The pill doesn’t always work. New life = another damn kid I’ve got to buy a present for!

Unfortunately, with life, there’s always death. I found out upon my arrival home that a friend of ours had died of an overdose. He had just passed the NJ and NY bar and was one of the funniest people I ever met. Heroin = death.

Boston proved to be the spectacular city that everyone had named it. We went ice skating at the outdoor rink in the heart of downtown and laughed at the kid with the full face helmet, who went really fast, but then just slammed into the wall (again and again).

That night we went to “The Lion King” musical. At the end of the show, I reached under the chair in front of me to retrieve my sweater. It was gone. As I started to become alarmed, the woman who had occupied the seat held it out and asked if it was mine. I took it appreciatively as she guiltily darted out of the aisle. I was puzzled until a moment later when Bubba asked the question, “Where’s my souvenir bag?”

We had gotten a free hat and program when we arrived at the theater since his mom had bought a package deal. The woman looked back as his question rose into the air, desperately trying to make her way up the crowded aisle (with her seven year old daughter and the souvenir bag in tow).

“Our hotel key was in that bag!” I cried out. It was a bold lie, but my tactic had worked as she quickly peeked into the bag, further proving her guilt. I couldn’t believe that a grown woman would do that. Thanks for giving me back my sweater! Theft = karma.

Well, soon enough I was back at Newark airport, only to find myself bumped off an extremely overbooked flight the Monday after Thanksgiving. Bumped = $300 voucher so I can do this all again at Christmas.

To sum it up, my vacation consisted of :
ice skating,
(and a partridge in a pear tree).

Monday, April 7, 2008

San Diego restaurant- Bite

Once Bitten, Twice Try- Bite's top rate tapas deserve a second round

We materialized like the Ghost of Christmas Present in the middle of a well kept, stylish living room where a soiree seemed to be in full swing (or an Ethan Allen photo shoot- the edgy minimalist choice). The four of us parted from a rather misty San Diego evening into Bite’s (1417 University Ave) nondescript corridor* and were instantly abracadabra-ed into a covert space divided between lounge and dining room. The extension into the adjacent storefront remained an incognito slate to the outside observer while inside, my eyes glazed in awe of this indulgent fortress that walked softly, but carried a big (bread) stick. “Come one, eat all” was the battle cry of this Empire of libations, led by Chef Chris Walsh, where Bite’s gluttonous glory served as hero at the end of the war.

A flat screen noiselessly flashed over a snowy mantle with bellicose laughter rising like subtitles from the more informal, somewhat communal tables of the bar. We placed our name with the hostess and had just plopped on leather couches perfect for bouncing quarters when she reappeared to offer cocktails. Their list of infused sakes had me intrigued and I decided to feed my sweet tooth with a lemon drop (candied ginger and lemongrass infused sake) as another of my culinary cohorts chose a lavender/blueberry fizz for sipping more smooth than sweet (blueberry sake and lavender dry soda).

Not to be outdone by the lounge lizards, the “pristine clean while still getting the dirt” dining room erupted with spikes of head back, mouth open laughter amongst lush conversation churning the richness and warmth of cultivated soil. Bolts of dense brown drapery ensconced the room in womb-like calm, matched by soft pulses of light sprouting from the center of our table and filtering through a glass orb filled with Gerber daisies- innovative, simple and pretty.

Our server Bryan with a “Y” ( Why? Because he likes you), made an astounding first impression with his amicable instruction on Bite’s family style, small plate celebrations and remained a non-intrusive, helpful presence throughout the meal. I was also a pushover for the small affection of an amuse bouche. Tonight’s one bite wonder- garlic bread-pudding topped with cherry tomato- music to the mouth.

“NO, look at this one! Did you see those?! I NEED that!” I squealed emphatically, fingering the menus of my mignon minions. We had been matched with one of the best edible collections I had seen in years and my only hope was that the listed heavyweights lived up to their hype. Round one: knock- out. Duck confit over spinach with cherry tomatoes, mangos and bacon-dijon vinaigrette lumped a pound of shredded duck in front of us to ensure no squabbles over shared portions. A “duck virgin” and those with prior foul experiences would benefit from this like a first rate opera- a fine art form thriving at its full potential- it made me want to stand up and sing an aria anyway.

Lamb meatballs arrived with a crisp, golden cake of polenta (a perfect example of its capabilities as a guilty, starchy pleasure) and a delicate red sauce that gave enough zip to act as yin to lamb’s tang. Yam gnocchi reinvented the wheel on my plate as I relished in the fact that gnocchi = potato, so why not have gnocchi= sweet potato? These pumpkin hued gobs of goodness were tossed with rock shrimp, hericort verts, hazelnuts and bathed in sage butter. My eyes pleaded, “More, sir,” as I handed my licked plate to Bryan.

The endorphins had taken a pounding, leaving my head fuzzy and lips freakishly upturned, but the allure of another small bite had my senses aroused. Round 2: Grilled fontina on a baguette with crimini mushrooms, thyme and roasted shallots was so comforting it made my feet ache for slippers. Chicken skewers wrapped in pancetta were salty treats with mashed acorn squash that had enough butter to make me realize eating your vegetables can be a very good thing. Short rib raviolis with red wine demi-glaze were mandatory and the rock shrimp pizza with purple potatoes and feta left my hubby with heaps of happy. Even intimidating contenders like duck pate with cherries and pistachios or smoked trout over potato pancakes became harmless shadows under the brilliance of their dainty delicacy- no bark, all bite.

A large “W” mounted on the far wall embraced Chef Walsh as the head of this hungry household and was reminiscent of Mary Tyler Moore’s “M” with a bouncy, optimistic confidence that Walsh was “gonna make it after all” (as if his years as executive chef at California Cuisine and now Confidential, along with his own Café W hadn’t proven that already). But, now I realized that the “W” hung more like the “S” on Superman’s chest. Conquering his field by leaps and bounds, Chef Walsh had indeed exhibited the force of his superpower- masterminding flavor combinations in a single bound. Choosing to utilize his powers for good while erecting his food empire, Walsh might be content to see Napoleon and Caesar only as menu options, but for me I say, “Hail Walsh!” - Emperor of the Edible.

(Side note: I cannot overlook, hands down, the best public restroom in San Diego. I wish there was an award for “top toilet” because the cascading candlelit pathway, brilliant fish tank and the cleanliness of Felix Unger in this urinary oasis deserves recognition. I’ll be drinking all the water I can just to have another go at the john.)

Most menu items range between $8-11. Champagne Happy hour is Wed 5-7pm. Tuesdays offer a four course, prix-fixe menu for $20.
*Bite’s name is now displayed on a neon red placard above its doorway

Friday, April 4, 2008

San Diego restaurant- Adams Ave Grill

Grilling me softly

Adams Ave Grill might not be able to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but they have managed to make one out of crab meat and walnuts, giving a luxurious new meaning to "pursing your lips". This all around good guy grill is easy to miss with its modest storefront exterior, but shines within all of the mealtime cliques. Morning wakes to waffles dressed in caramelized bananas and the lunchtime whistle blows for pulled, bbq chicken sandwiches (desserts like the warmed pecan triangle are included 11am-2pm).

A palpable shift settles in at supper with its quasi-polished persona, reminiscent of mom expecting dinner guests and warning you to be on your best behavior. Nostalgic plates of pot roast keep the home fires burning, while diverse fare unfolds, from bacon wrapped shrimp and cheese grits to stuffed red peppers served with polenta and white bean stew. Unassuming and comfortable in its own skin, the tasty appeal of this adorable star comes from its oblivious nature to how wonderful it truly is.
*Make sure to leave time because the service can be DEATHLY slow.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

San Diego restaurant- Krakatoa Coffeehouse

Fall through the Krack's

Krakatoa (1128 25th St)sits on the main drag, but setting foot on the porch of this remodeled craftsman transported me to an open-air, tree-house sprawling greenery over its outside deck. A secluded back table under “nature’s roof” had me listening for rain forest noises amongst its overgrown, yet well kept foliage and feeling like a character in Swiss Family Robinson (if they served coffee.)

The interior also seems oddly out of place, but in the most delightful way. It’s as if someone left a pastry case in the living room and no one had the audacity to mention it. Both elements brought a fantastical, care-free flare to this ordinary, little shop.

Their smoothies, not the healthy fruit ones (that they do offer), but indulgent choices like the peanut butter and banana smoothie with frozen yogurt are worth the gluttony. If you’re feeling lucky, punk, then try the strawberry cheesecake smoothie-it’s a little rich (cream cheese will do that!) They offer sandwiches made with telera rolls (whole wheat Mexican bread) and also serve it toasted with butter and cinnamon sugar. It makes for a warm breakfast treat at this hideaway that’s still on the beaten path.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

San Diego restaurant - Epilogue to Urban Solace

Bluegrass Brunch

I said I was going back and I meant it. It was on my fourth trip where the air wafted banjos and biscuits introducing Sunday’s Bluegrass Brunch. Twangs of guitar and a $6 bloody Mary continued the mental wake up call, alerting us to a menu boasting many of my previously declared Solace favorites (burger, Caesar, sweet potato fries* [SPF*]), but adding an array of admirable breakfast triumphs.

Did I say who needs gravy? Scratch that. I do. Topaz colored, sausage gravy covered biscuits topped with split sausages red as garnets. My (literal) gravy train had finally arrived.

Straying off track from steadfast rules of grammar, Solace decided to spell their BLT with an “E” in front for the egg on top. This EBLT earned its true place on the breakfast lineup, not only because of the “E”, but with brown sugar, cured bacon on sturdy egg bread that soaked in how simple elements could collectively bring out the best of each flavor (served with none other than SPF*).

side note: small details like ceramic ramekins of salt and pepper (brought by request) were a classy touch and even more impressive that I hadn’t noticed their absence in prior visits - good seasoning me thinks.