Wednesday, December 31, 2008

wiggy stew

Our first crock pot experiment! We had gotten gigantic steaks for $5 at 99 Ranch Asian Market and marinated them in red wine vinegar, A1 with Tabasco, scallions, basil, salt, pepper, garlic, and a smidge of Tapatio for a few days. We'd already eaten 2 of the 3 so we decided to put the remaining one to good use as a stew. We added a potato, chicken stock, a dollop of Chili Garlic paste, carrots, half of can of High Life (only the best beer for us) and of course a can of drained La Choy veggies with a splash of Sriracha. A few more herbs and we were cookin!

I'd caught some flak for acquiring the "lazy mans" kitchen utensil, but we didn't want it because of laziness! I simply enjoy the tenderness of slow-cooked food and it's unbelievably convenient! It smelled AWESOME when I got home from work and when Ashton and I finally sat down to enjoy it tasted even better. The steaks had been somewhat chewy and tough when we'd stir-fried them, but this was just the ticket for tender meat. It was surprisingly spicy, but thinking about it I have no idea how this came as a surprise considering the amount of peppers we added. We called it Wiggy Stew because basically Wiggy is an inside joke and just a funny word that was repeated often during the meal. It has nothing to do with the wig as an ingredient.

I think this is the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship, minus the fruit.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wasabi Soy Chicken

Ashton and I love asian food and cooking. What better way to unite these than to cook asian food?!?!? Being the innovators that we are, we got some powdered wasabi, chicken, and soy sauce with some jasmine rice and prepared a feast. I made a more liquid wasabi to pour over the chicken and then drizzled some soy sauce to marinate overnight. A pinch of garlic salt, and voila! I would have added toasted sesame seeds if there had been any at the grocery store, so alas we did without. I cooked the 5 large chicken breasts on 350 degrees for 55 minutes and served with jasmine rice. I took the soy sauce that had baked with the chicken to pour over the rice, and that added a really nice kick.

If I did it over again, I would have used some ginger as well and smoothed the wasabi more, so that the heat would be evenly distributed in the bites. On some pieces you couldn't taste it at all, and some brought tears to my eyes. Still, it was a great experiment that is worth trying. Right now I'm enjoying the nice leftovers at work; the wasabi has coagulated more regularly and maintained the bite without being offensive to the tastebuds. All in all, a success! I'd rate it a B, with A potential.

Monday, December 29, 2008

the linkery

I haven't yet had the pleasure of eating at the Linkery in North Park, but I was browsing their site today and found their list of recommended places in San Diego. I found some real gems in there, and can't wait to try ALL of them!

urban solace round 2

Unknown to some people, Ashton actually has another significant other besides myself by the name of Scott Henley. They've been friends since the womb and their relationship is something that I have accepted and embraced. Scott flew out here on Christmas Day and has enjoyed some of the best cheap eats in San Diego so far, so obviously brunch was going to have to be a guaranteed hit. The Mission was packed, so we wandered down into North Park and ultimately decided on a repeat performance by Urban Solace. Their bluegrass brunch has already been reviewed by me, and given an enthusiastic thumbs up. This time we were pleased once again, Ashton with his portobella sandwich repeat, Scott with his incredibly tantalizing looking burger, and me with my Egg-Bacon-Lettuce-Tomato. I was torn in several different directions before throwing it all to the wind and going with this classic:

Incredibly messy, incredibly tasty. I did add a nice slopping of full grain mustard, which I find really goes well with any egg sandwich. Plus I wasn't wild about their aioli that was already smeared around the bread, but it certainly wasn't offensive by any means. It came with a generous helping of sweet potato fries, and while normally sweet potato fries don't excite me to this level, I again assure you that they are fantastic. Another home run for Urban Solace!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

sushi photo blog

Here is a photo documentation of our sushi making experience

Monday, December 22, 2008

Vo's Cafe

(image from myspace)

I've been curious for a while about the strange little walk up sidewalk hut advertising Vietnamese food about 4 blocks from our apartment on University Avenue. Ashton tried Vo's Cafe a week or so ago, and sang its praises to me, causing me to flop myself on the floor and have a tantrum until we went over and satiated my craving for All Things Noodle. I settled for the Mock Duck Lo Mein, which sounded delicious and at less than $6 seemed like a steal. We made our way to the back patio area, and were greeted with an adorable little nook that made me feel like I was really in Vietnam. Bamboo walls, small tables, hanging plants, and Vietnamese music playing softly set the atmosphere as we took our seats at a window bar and awaited our feast.

This is my Plate of Glory. Believe me, this was worth every penny of that $6. Not only was it delicious and cheap, Vo (I'm assuming this was the do it all owner) is a totally awesome, really nice guy, and based on what I've read about Vo's online, he is something of a neighborhood legend. Everyone seems to know and like this guy. He took our order, and since I didn't see/hear anyone else, I assume he cooked our food, and also brought it to us, and then came back out to box it up! What service! What charisma! How could anyone do anything but sing Vo's praises?!? My ONLY qualm is that I asked for it spicy, and it came pretty mild, but I will note that he brought out that delicious chili flake paste which I used obscene amounts of. My only other qualm is that Ashton ate my leftovers which led to a sad discovery the next day. Only the ties of true love kept me from cutting out his betraying tongue. But believe me, Vo's is going to become a major staple in my diet.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

OB brunch

Sundays really are the best. Here it is, less than a week before Christmas, and we've spent our day outside in the sun with short sleeves on buying awesome things at the Swap Meet at the Sports Arena, and then washing everything down with a giant fish burrito about a block from the water in Ocean Beach. It really doesn't get any better than this.

We were scoping out OB for a good brunch spot, and it's strange to think that such a laid-back place has such slim pickin's for brunch. Maybe we were in the wrong area, but there wasn't a lot of emphasis on the majestic meal. We wound up at El Rodeo taco shop on Newport Ave. underneath a tattoo parlor almost on the sand. As you can see, OB is all prepped for the holidays...

Ashton and I both got the "giant" fish burrito, which lived up to the name. Cabbage, salsa fresca, guacamole, fish, and white sauce all wrapped up in a perfectly formed tortilla, with no breakage or spillage. Wonderfully crunchy white fish with excellent salsa on the side (could have been spicier, but the flavor was first rate), and the salsa fresca and cabbage added just the right amount of crunch in the soft tortilla. An excellent spot for an excellent meal, offering only outside seating and great people-watching opportunities. This spot is definitely recommended.

To round out the meal, we stopped at Pirate's Cove "coffee ship", a large coffee hut in the parking lot of a grocery store but it's shaped like a giant ship! They had a a VERY reasonable selection of coffee for a parking lot java hut, and even offered smoothies and blended coffee! I got the Chai Freeze, which was basically magic in my mouth. Ashton just got a regular coffee, but it came with a chocolate covered espresso bean on top! The cashier was a wonderfully pleasant girl who obviously has a wonderful life. This place is also highly recommended for its EXCELLENT cup o' joe and EXTREMELY reasonable prices.

All in all, a good Sunday!!! Coming soon, our 99 Ranch Market experience, sushi rolling, and Vo's Cafe of North Park!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Today I tried my first guava fruit. I feel like I've had it in smoothies and whatnot, but have never taken just a bite of the actual fruit. Michel, my next-desk-neighbor was kind enough to share this delicacy with me. My conclusion is "strange". There are a lot of tiny seeds which are mildly annoying, and the taste really is too mild to describe. I like the "meatiness" of the fruit and the fact you can bite through the skin, but the aftertaste tasted a lot like the smell of fresh grass. I couldn't taste it on my tongue, rather it was an a taste experienced during my exhale. An interesting experiment, but I'm not sure it's going to make me a guava enthusiast or anything. It is a pretty fruit though, all the right shades of light peach and pink.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

In N Out

We had a bit of an unconventional brunch today, due to the "day after" festivities of my cousin Stewart's 24th birthday party. Last night (and most of the day for that matter) was spent sitting on our fat butts watching TV and eating truly delicious pizza from Papa Toni's in Encinitas as everyone nursed their hangovers and stuffed their faces.

Anyway, since this morning our tum tums were still full of num nums, we lazed about during the regular brunching hour and went to The North Park Craft Mafia Holiday Hit List in Point Loma. (Hop over to my other blog, the newly re-vamped Design Bunny, for all the details).

On the way there, we spied an In-N-Out burger, and I guess we had both silently made up our minds that that was the answer to our brunching needs.

I got my usual Cheeseburger and Ashton his usual Double Double, splitting fries and a drink. Since we recently discovered their Not So Secret menu, I was delighted at the option of adding pickles to my already delicious burger. Next time we're going to have to try it Animal Style, which I'm sure will cause massive indigestion, but I feel as though it's a risk worth taking.

I've learned that often times the food that looks the grossest tastes the best. I'm sure this case that is no exception. Plus the fact that picture was taken from a website called "Gluttonopia" is a clearly a sign from God.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ranchos Natural Market

Now that I have a bit of income coming in, Ashton and I can actually GO OUT TO EAT occasionally WITHOUT WORRYING IF WE CAN PAY RENT afterward. It's not even like we go to super nice places, we just enjoy good meals and going out to eat is more expensive than just going to the grocery store. Now that I've dropped that huge bomb of wisdom on you, let me enlighten you to another tidbit of info. Ranchos Natural Market is, as they say, the "shit".

Last night I was craving Mexican in a bad way, so we decided to ride around North Park and explore some places we haven't been yet. We rode past Ranchos on 30th and enticed by the "Mexican and Vegetarian" cuisine we decided this was the place for us. The outside makes it look much smaller than it really is because there's a small fenced in sidewalk patio with huge plants and vine obstructing the view from the street. Incredibly quaint. The inside is a hodgepodge of religious art and authentic Mexican bean and coffee sacks on the walls with a mishmash of kind of matching tables and settings. Basically it looked just like our kind of place. There were enough people in there with smiles on their faces to convince us this was a wise decision.

The real thing I was craving was the salsa that generally comes in Mexican restaurants, and their salsa was not only unbelievable, it was one of the most unique tasting delicacies I've ever experienced. This is coming from someone who really prides herself on the variety of salsas that I've come across and I can say without hesitation this was a top 3 experience. Extremely fresh and just exploding with flavor. I can't identify what it was that made this so exceptional, but I think the mystery of it is part of the allure.

The staff was incredibly pleasant and basically jumped at us whenever we looked up, whether we needed something or not. They were under the impression that we must get drunk immediately or else they weren't doing their jobs. Apparently it was unacceptable that we were both okay with water. A never ending stream of suggestions of "tequila shots?", "tecate?", "pacifico?" etc., all of which were ultimately refused, but duly noted in case we ever decide to go back and get sloshed.

MENU! Breakfast ALL DAY?? Calamari?? Oh man. As a non-vegetarian, I feel as though I have a greater chance of getting a really interesting and glorious tasting meal simply due to the fact that I don't limit the possibility of anything entering my body (within reason, of course... and minus veal but that's a whole other story). So when I DO find exceptional vegetarian options, I feel as though it's my duty to inform my vegetarian friends so that they have the opportunity for a fantastic meal as well. I'm not saying vegetarians can't have good meals, but especially our age group (the "broke" age) often doesn't have the time or budget to experience really high quality vegetarian options, instead eating a lot of potatoes and Morningstar chicken patties. Not the healthiest, but cheaper to be sure.

I've gotten off track. The menu was phenomenal. A great variety beyond any of that I've seen in a standard Mexican restaurant. I mean, really truly great. It took me a little longer than usual to make my selection, but I went big and got the "Tocho Morocho" (The Works) burrito, which was carne asada, lettuce, tomato, cheese, guacamole, rice, sour cream, beans, and your choice of beef, chicken, or shiitake (I went with shiitake). Ashton went for the Lentil, Avocado, and Cheese Burrito. They came fast, but not fast enough to make me question the freshness. Just the right amount of time. Since this wasn't brunch, I wasn't prepared with the camera, but I feel as though the description speaks for itself. This was a place where the emphasis was on the food, not the presentation. I don't mean that in a bad way, the place just didn't have a swirl of beans or pyramid of tomatoes to catch my attention or anything. It didn't need to. It was love at first sight.

My ungodly burrito was probably the size of my forearm and weighed a good pound and a half. Ashton's was slightly smaller but still in the gargantuan range. I almost wept with joy at the first bite. Heaven. The carne asada much closer resembled shredded beef in the way it was prepared, but since carne asada > beef, it was a tasty addition. I got through about half of my burrito before I was about to pop, but Ashton manned up and cleaned his plate like a champ. So proud.

We tottered back out onto the street, happy with life and with our expectations exceeded by about a thousand light years we rode off slowly but merrily.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

travel book

Something that I've been thinking about doing for a very long time is finding the best burrito places in all 50 states (or maybe the continental 48) and writing a travel book about them. Honestly, I think this would be a good idea just because the concept of a "burrito bar" has only been around less than a decade and in that time has exploded and dominated the market. I've come up with a pretty good system for going around and feeling out their "niche" dish to ensure I'm not just ordering the same thing to fit my own personal tastes.

I've already compiled a few places in California, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, but I would like to come up with a few more places to explore to get a rough draft going. If anyone has any (non-chain) suggestions, I'd be happy to hear them and try them out. My plan is to focus on small independent restaurants, and ignore chains like Qdoba and Chipotle. I can't ignore their monumental impact in the food industry, but since those standard items can be found nationwide, my goal is to explore innovation and focus on quality and independence.

So write me, tell your friends, if you want to see your favorite little place around the corner hit it big, then let me know and I'll give them a try.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

brunch at idyllwild

Basically this might be the most delicious brunch ever. Anyone who has ever eaten outside early in the morning over a roaring fire, munching on nibbles that you have prepared in the sunrise dew, perhaps washing it all down with a nice cold beer knows what I'm talking about. There's something about fresh air that makes your stomach say, "Hey, I'm starving" and your mouth say, "Everything you put in me will taste more delicious than you could ever imagine".

Travis is seen lurking hungrily over Mel's egg cooking (the egg pictured was eventually destined for my stomach) and believe you me, there is something to be said about open fire cooking. It might have been the 1/2 pound of butter we used to "grease the pan", but maybe not. Anyway, that was only the beginning. We finally got to use our propane grill that we got at an estate sale about a month ago, and it proved its worth.

Step 1: cook bacon and eggs over the fire
Step 2: toast bread and cheese on grill, add bacon.

Step 3: add sausage.
Step 4: combine toast, melted cheese, cooked egg, crisp bacon, and sizzling sausage into one melty delicious treat.


Monday, December 1, 2008


Obviously, Thanksgiving weekend just passed, and with it a multitude of food-eating activities. That, plus the fact that we went camping this weekend in Idyllwild, leaves me with multiple occasions to blog about. First of all, last week Ashton and I made tofu stir fry, and I have yet to upload the pictures from it. Finally, here they are, our vegetarian culinary exploit of the week:

Looks like barf, I know. And tofu doesn't ring pretty with everyone. But believe you me, this was definitely a major success- especially for me, the girl who almost burned down her apartment in Newport News making stir fry. No fire alarms this time, just delicious alarms.

Basically it was olive oil, store bought stir fry sauce, canned bok choy veggies, and we added carrots, garlic and the tofu that we had cooked crispy with a little spice. Really incredible! Ashton cooked the tofu just a little more than what I think most people would like, but I really like it better that way because it's not as weird and squishy. Instead it was nice and crispy with a lot of good flavor from the olive oil and stir fry sauce.

That was our last adventure into the culinary unknown before we left for Thanksgiving in Cherry Valley and then Idyllwild for the weekend. I know that my vast network of readers were sorely disappointed without the brunch update, but have no fear- it will be up probably tomorrow or Wednesday. Brunch was cooked over an open fire in the San Jacinto mountains, so it was no restaurant this week. Just fresh air, some pancakes, and a couple of beers. MmmmMMMmmm.