Monday, December 28, 2009

Pho Van

There are few things in life that I love more than a big steaming bowl of good pho. Luckily for me, there is almost no cuisine more rampant in California than Asian food! Besides Mexican food, the most readily available international dishes come from the Far East, and there's no shortage of hole-in-the-wall markets and restaurants filled with the chattery talk of the AZN Persuasion.

There are delicate differences in each bowl of pho, and they aren't always completely obvious to the pho newbie. You should expect to get a small side dish of optional additives such as lime, bean sprouts, and perhaps jalapenos or some other leafy herb. Most of the time they come with meat, noodles, broth, and some leaves or small spring onions, but there's a world of difference in each bowl. I love a good seafood pho, but few things beat the thinly sliced beef pho standby. Pho Van on El Cajon Boulevard in City Heights had an extensive and surprisingly cheap menu filled with pho and noodle dishes. It was obvious that pho was the main focus and as we were the only palefaces in the place, that was a good sign from the start. I got the somewhat off-putting meatball pho, in which the meat was not actually identified, but delicious nonetheless. Ashton got the mother of seafood phos, and with squid, shrimp, and god knows what else swimming around in there it was a delight to the palate. The large unidentifiable white chunks were a complete, albeit delicious, mystery.

Do I think Pho Van had the best pho around? Probably not. Was it a damn good place with fast and cheap service? Hell yes! Mr. Vo's still holds the title for (thus far in my San Diego pho travels) best pho, but Pho Van's innovation and menu put it right up there.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Antique Row Cafe, Normal Heights, San Diego

In my humble but completely undebatable opinion, fall is the best season for food and drink. Don't get me wrong, a crisp shandy or electric lemonade enjoyed on a hot summer day or a steaming bowl of homemade soup during a wintery storm are delights that can't be replicated. Still, I find the spicy, earthy, homemade tastes hit the spot unlike anything else, and when the sun is still clinging on to the last delicious bits of summer, it's a great time to chow down.

Our latest brunch expedition before the break was to the Antique Row Cafe in Normal Heights. Don't be fooled by the cheap diner-esque feel, on weekends this place is so hopping that there's often a crowd spilling out into the street as they anxiously await a table inside or out. (Note- they even offer coffee and pastries while you wait!!) Inside is a dark maze of bizarrely lined tables winding around oddly placed walls and cramped spaces, but I personally like to hide in a corner to enjoy my meal in a dim setting without worrying about scooting my chair into the obese man next to me or having to step over an unruly child. Bitter? Not as much as that sounded...

Back to the point. This place caters to all sorts of people, and by the looks of it people who enjoy a damn fine breakfast. The menu offered more, of course, but as the Brunch Warriors we focused solely on that menu plus the specials. The Fall special caught my eye, and with Pumpkin Pancakes smothered in homemade applesauce paired with a generous helping of cheesy potatoes and 2 eggs, how could I resist?!? Ashton opted for a standard veg omelet, and we anxiously awaited our goodies.

Our wait was not in vain! Two heaping platefuls were presented to me as my eyes bulged as much as my stomach soon would. Ashton also received a generous helping, and we quickly dug in. Before too long, both plates defeated us, but who needs syrup when applesauce is on the pancakes? They were fantastic, fluffy, huge, well-cooked, and piping hot with great spices. The eggs were also cooked perfectly, and the potatoes were smothered in cheese and hot sauce to make an excellent addition. The cost was definitely on the lower end of the spectrum, and the plates we received could have easily fed twice as many people. The service was okay, and the clientele was diverse, but the breakfast was quick, cheap, and true to the diner feel. Nothing outrageous was found on the menu, but all the expected diner fare was there, and it looked like they had some great specials cooked up. A definite recommendation.

Ashton's scramble

Pumpkin pancakes with applesauce

2 over medium eggs with cheesy potatoes

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Thanks to a flurry of activity such as moving, new job, holidays, etc. I took what was supposed to be a short break from blogging! Thanks to the infinite wisdom of Cox Communications, this break was extended much longer than it should have been, and I still do not have access to my computer. To everyone desperately waiting, hoping, praying for an update, I assure you they are coming. I've stockpiled a few choice items that have just been ripening and are ready to hit the web. Once we get this whole internet shenanigan figured out (hopefully this week) we'll be back in business! Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

brown baggers unite!

I work in an office, and with that comes a vending machine, sodas, snacks, and the ability to eat out every single day. This proves appealing, albeit unhealthy and expensive, guised under the veil of "convenience". However, I believe that eating is not singularly for filling your stomach, but to experience the most primal of pleasantries and an opportunity to enhance ones' daily routine at least a few times a day. I understand that the promise of a $5 foot long sandwich is just too much to pass up, because in this fast-paced world "time is money" and no one wants to take the time to prepare a meal when it's just "easier" to buy it.

Harumph. I don't buy it. I'm a brown bagger, and proud of it. That's not to say that I don't enjoy the occasional treat of a convenient meal, or that sometimes I'm just too tired or lazy to put something together. I just don't see the overall savings of purchasing an individual, probably unhealthy, quick meal 5 times a week. Meals shouldn't just be about eating. It's an experience. What fun is lunchtime if you have to rush rush rush before it's time to clock back in? Do you really think it's cheaper to spend $5-$10 and save some time than going to the grocery store, spending a little bit more up front, and enjoying a healthy, homemade meal at your leisure?

ReadyMade has explored this very enigma. How Much Was That Sandwich In Your Bag? delves into the hidden costs and compares the "time is money" argument. If you're the type of person who enjoys putting together a meal, planning ingredients, buying exactly what you want instead of settling for what's available, then read on. However, if you don't care or notice what slop you shovel into your fat mouth day in and day out for a seemingly cheap and easy way to fill the soulless void in your belly, then don't bother. Eating isn't simply about food. Take a few moments out of your day and think about what YOU want instead of choosing from a menu designed to numb your senses and fatten your thighs. I think if you took the time and challenged yourself to ONE WEEK of making lunch, we'd be better off all around.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Is it just me, or is October THE BEST FREAKING MONTH OF THE YEAR?!?! Not only is it fall, the time of harvest, crisp winds, brisk nights, hoodie weather days, pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, spiced chai, it's home of OKTOBERFEST! Strangely, the original Oktoberfest had little to do with the drunken debauchery that it stands for today- that was just a happy accident. San Diego is home to quite a few of the largest Oktoberfests around, and while the big crowds head to La Mesa, the actual Germans and enthusiasts alike head to El Cajon every year for one of the best gatherings around.

Bowen and I are enthused about what we are about to experience. He's got attendance on me, however, as someone who drinks beer and eats meat, I think I feel a little more at home.

A great Bavarian band graced us with their tunes, and the German dancers never seemed to stop!

Believe me when I say that this brat (extra sauerkraut, extra spicy mustard) and Hofbrau brew NEVER tasted as good as it did then. It's all about the atmosphere...

There was an abundance of German pastries (an entire tent dedicated to their sweets!) and while I'm familiar with a few standards like apple strudel and Black Forest cake, I'd never heard of poppyseed cake. It was unbelievably sweet and crumbly, moist and dense and totally delicious. It had faint twinges of phantom chocolate, although there was nary a cacao bean to be found. An absolute delight.

Ashton was jealous of my brat and decided to retaliate by getting a pretzel the size of his torso. This gigantic monstrosity seemed well worth the price, and I feel confident stating that it could feed a family of four.

Alas, the season for 'festing is over all too soon, but it's never too early to start thinking of next year!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cooking with Beer!

Here's a great article from NPR about the wonder of cooking with beer! Be sure to check the links at the bottom for more great beer related articles.
Sorry this is a short one, but who can compete with NPR? Just read it!


FINALLY! We have been hearing NOTHING but good things about Jyoti-Bihanga, a vegetarian venture in Normal Heights run by the followers of Sri Chinmoy's teachings. It's described as a "divine enterprise" and is closed for a few weeks and weekends out of the year specifically for congregating with their (now deceased) spiritual leader and sporting events such as the World Harmony Run. Hey, as long as the food is good, they could be worshipping Nico for all I care! Still, our several attempts for brunch were thwarted with their odd weekend closing schedules, so naturally we were thrilled to finally make it to dinner.

Luckily, our dining partners were regulars of the establishment, and offered helpful tips on what to order. The mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy were particularly highly recommended, and how convenient that they were the included side for most dishes! Their meatless "Neatloaf" was available vegan and vegetarian, and their special curry of the night was Lentil and Spinach. Their menu is very impressive for a vegetarian/vegan specialty place, and not with the normal boring fare.

The whole place was extremely serene; its high vaulted ceilings and white walls were decorated sparsely with minimalist and spiritual art, with books and pamphlets available to read while you wait. The staff moved slowly, deftly, quietly, and while the voices remained hush, it still maintained a very casual feeling, not at all like being uncomfortably stifled in a place of worship. The food arrived quickly, and it did not disappoint. I'm not a huge tea drinker, but pairing my famous Neatloaf sandwich (pictured below) with a cup of hot Bengal Spice tea was absolutely divine. My friends are now very used to me reaching over to try a particularly tasty looking morsel on their plates (all for the good of the readers of course!) and I managed to sneak a slurp of the broccoli soup (WONDERFUL), the BBQ duck sandwich (a third of our group ordered it- it was as excellent as I had hoped) and the lentil/spinach curry (fantastic). Everything we had was perfectly made, the sauces were delicious, and the service was polite, prompt, and understated. I'd give this place an enthusiastic recommendation with every intention of returning!

All this neatloaf just for me?!?!?!

Their "tziaziki" was just as good as the Greeks!

3351 Adams Avenue
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 282-4116

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 11:00 am to 9:00 pm
Saturday 12:00 noon to 9:00 pm
Wednesday 11:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Two to three Sundays a month we do an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet from 9:00 am to
1:00 pm. Please make sure to call for the monthly schedule.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


If you're like me, you're on a constant quest for a few life staples such as a great beer bar, a great brunch spot, and hey, if the two happen to coincide, so much the better! Toronado has been a solid stop for any beer enthusiast for the last year since opening in North Park (even mentioned in Men's Journal WHERE SAN DIEGO IS NAMED THE NUMBER ONE CITY IN AMERICA FOR BEER DRINKING!), and is now open for brunch! As an avid appreciator of all things brewed and also brunched, obviously we had to give it a try as soon as possible. Luckily, we caught the second Sunday brunch, so a few bumps wouldn't have been surprising.

However, none were to be had! The bar service was much better on a quiet Sunday morning than the usual bustling Friday night crowd, and the menu was solid with fantastic options and reasonable prices. I was torn between the Big Breakfast (2 eggs any style with 2 sausage links and a potato pancake) and the Soyrizo scramble (2 eggs or tofu scrambled with soyrizo and an assortment of red, green, and jalapeno peppers with rosemary potatoes and Bread & Cie cracked wheat toast) but when Ashton declared his intent to order the former, I happily accepted my soyrizo fate. I wouldn't recommend pairing this incredibly spicy dish with an organic wheat beer, which unhappily I did and what a poor pairing it was. However, the jalapenos were plentiful and some of the spiciest I have EVER had. As a spice lover, I relished in this searing, tear-inducing, tongue-scorching masterpiece, but unless you're prepared for it I wouldn't recommend this particular scramble! However, it was absolutely superb, and the generous helping didn't go unnoticed. Ashton's big breakfast was pretty standard, the eggs were well cooked, the potato pancake solid, but the sausage was the star of his plate. Maple cured and piping hot, these puppies were a joy to have reside (albeit briefly) in my mouth.

If you're willing to forgo the usual bloody mary for brunch, make Toronado your next Sunday destination. Don't worry about missing your mimosa, those are available as well!

4026 30th Street
San Diego, CA 92104

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Vegan Zone, Pacific Beach

It still shocks me that for such a gastronomical explorer such as myself the majority of my friends in San Diego have aligned themselves with the vegan movement! Focusing on the glass-half-full mentality, this does offer me the opportunity to dine at establishments that I might tend to overlook, or at least not actively seek out. One of these is Vegan Zone, an all-vegan restaurant in Pacific Beach, somewhat off the beaten track on Hornblend Street just a few blocks from the beach. Our Bostonian friend assured us that though small, the selections were good and prices reasonable for the animal-friendly Asian bistro. We stopped by for snacks and light fare, and with seating for only about 25, at 3 o'clock the place was deserted.

The menu was standard Asian fare sans any animal product, but looked tasty and the prices decent. We shared an order of the Golden Nuggets (fried soy chicken nuggets) with their "barbeque sauce", which tasted like cocktail sauce mixed with BBQ sauce with a dash of black pepper. Not the greatest, or even exciting, but not bad by any means. A clean presentation added some bonus points.

Ashton got the Tom Yum soup (traditional Thai soup flavored with khaffir limes leaves, chili and lemon grass served with soy shrimp, straw mushrooms and tomotoes), which was great! Served hot in a crisp white bowl, it was chock full of fresh ingredients and the perfect amount of lemongrass. The faux shrimp was wonderful and made me believe it was swimming in the sea only a few short hours ago. For $5, it was a lip-smacking delight.

For vegans, definitely a place worth trying. I can't vouch for the quality of the entrees, but based on the solid ingredients and elegant presentation, I'd guess that it would be a nice experience!

Vegan Zone
859 Hornblend St
San Diego Ca 92109
Delivery/Take Out

Tuesday - Sunday
11:30am - 9:30pm
Closed on Mondays

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Station

South Park is what I consider to be the "mature" North Park. For as much as North Park is booming and expanding with plenty of art galleries, shops, and restaurants opening up, South Park enjoys a slightly more established neighborhood and quieter tree-lined blocks, along with a closer vicinity to Downtown. It's one of my favorite neighborhoods in San Diego, with a small but solid community of local businesses ranging from family-owned delis, a fixed gear bicycle shop, the quintessential corner coffee joint, and now a new tavern to boast as their own- The Station Tavern and Burger Lounge on 30th.

The Station opened its doors the last week of August 2009, and had an absolutely insane soft opening. Owner Sam has already had a successful run in his other ventures, with include the Riviera Supper Club in La Mesa, Turf Club in Golden Hill, and a couple other establishments that San Diegans are more than happy to frequent. People poured in from all directions, and it seemed like South Parkians had really claimed this as their own place on their own turf. I worked a few shifts there running food and waiting tables, and this is EXACTLY the type of place I'm likely to frequent. Tons of regulars, good tunes on the stereo, small but solid menu, and some good brews. There's not much of a selection, so unless you're in the mood for a burger you're SOL. There's only 5 beers on draft, and 4 available in bottles, but with selections like Stove Leviathan Ale, Paulaner Oktoberfest, Tiger, and a few more, you're bound to find something to tantalize your tastebuds. The menu is simple- burgers. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, black bean, turkey, or veggie. That's it. Your side choices are fries, tater tots, garlic fries, sweet potato fries, or a house salad. Personally, I'll recommend the Spicy Black Bean burger with either tots or sweet potato fries. I wouldn't steer you wrong!

Like I said, don't bother going unless you're in the mood for a great burger and good times. The bar is an inviting curvaceous triangle, and The Station offers outdoor and indoor seating with great corner views of the nearby streets. Kid-friendly gravel lines the outside patio, with a bona fide choo-choo for the younguns to play in. A fun decor is splashed inside, with multicolored faux train lights above the tables, and if you're looking to rest your tired tootsies at the bar, just plop them on top of the train rails that line the bar wall!

What they lack in choice they make up in quality. You can spruce up your burger with caramelized onions, avocado, or dip your fries in their feta-red pepper-paprika aioli, or perhaps smear their cilantro/lime sauce on your veggie burger. Whatever you get is sure to please.

The Station gets an A for atmosphere, price, quality, and service. Now add a few things to the menu, open for lunch, and you'll have an unbeatable place!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Broken Yolk Cafe- Pacific Beach

As breakfast/brunch enthusiasts, we had yet to experience the oft-recommended Broken Yolk Cafe, which is known throughout San Diego as a great place to grab a diner-style breakfast anytime with an emphasis on quick, cheap comfort food. Quick, cheap, and comfortable- now that's speaking my language! As hunger tore through our insides one fine day in Pacific Beach, we realized our close vicinity to the fabled eatery, and decided to make a long-overdue stop there. The menu offers all breakfast staples, plus some hispanic flair scrambles and omelets, along with burgers, sandwiches, soups, and salads. Nothing out of the ordinary for this place, and I hoped to find some good homestyle cookin' without all the unnecessary trappings.

What I found is pretty much what I should have expected. Nothing extraordinary, basic ingredients and assemblage, and my Rueben was exactly satisfactory. I WAS pleased with the inclusion of a side pepperocini with my sandwich! However, the omelets seemed to be the pride of the establishment, fully loaded with ingredients and toppings to create a mountainous effect of spilling off the plate. Ashton's Rancher Omelet (bacon, home fried potatoes, bell peppers, tomato, green onion, and topped with sour cream) was an experience in delicious, with perfectly beaten eggs, a generous amount of sour cream, and filled to the brim with fresh ingredients, crisp bacon, and some damn good potatoes.

All things considered, not a bad place to snag some breakfast. With 4 locations, they're doing something right, and based on what I saw I'd say it's attracting tourists who want to eat something they can get at home. Their slogan is "We've got Huevos", and it shows. I'd recommend sticking to the egg dishes, and skipping the sandwich/salad options. A perfectly average experience with the potential of being somewhat tasty with quick service.

Rueben Sandwich

Rancher Omelet

Broken Yolk Cafe
Pacific Beach
1851 Garnet Ave. Pacific Beach, Ca. 92109
858-270-YOLK (9655)

*884 Eastlake Pkwy. Chula Vista, Ca 91914
619-216-1144 (Village Walk Mall)

La Costa
7670 El Camino Real, Carlsbad, Ca 92009

355 6th Ave. San Diego, CA 92101
619-338-YOLK (9655)

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Bruery- Autumn Maple

Ah, autumn. Time for pumpkin pie, zucchini bread, spices, cinnamon cookies, and of course Oktoberfest! Autumn is my personal favorite time of year for exciting flavors that really bring out the season, and Fall brews are, in my opinion, the absolute best for experimentation and production of a variety of flavors. The Bruery is a relatively new brewery in California that I was introduced to at the Whole Foods tasting (blogged about here), and I was hooked immediately. America is going through an exciting explosion of microbreweries and beer connoisseurs that are being born daily across this nation. The Bruery is family-owned and becoming increasingly more available, and just released the first casks of their Autumn Maple bottles, which we were lucky enough to spot at Whole Foods during our search for Gyro ingredients.

I'm not a giant fan of Pumpkin beer. It's pretty plain, and somewhat gratuitous, but a good fall brew is a beautiful thing. There isn't a single pumpkin to be found in the Bruery's Brown Ale, but they do include about 17 lbs. of yams per barrel! This lends itself beautifully to the crisp and incredibly flavorful taste with hints of molasses and maple, and with 10% what's not to like? There isn't even the slightest hint of over-alcohol-y taste, and it goes down oh-so-smooth. A definite recommendation from an intense Autumn Beer enthusiast!!

Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pizza Port Solana Beach

I have discovered my new favorite place to grub. Let me just tell you, this is not whatsoever a minor thing to declare. It's not terribly hard to impress me with pizza and beer, but Pizza Port, established in 1987, takes it to an entirely new level. One of my best friends and the person responsible for my foodie-ism, Andy, arrived in San Diego for his first ever West Coast trip for a weekend in which we planned on spending the majority of the time inebriated with beer and also food. We knew that only the best of the best could be considered for his short time here, and Pizza Port came highly recommended from several sources. You can't really go wrong with a good pie with a nice selection of beer, and I can assure you that Pizza Port has both. We drove to the closest one of three, the original location in Solana Beach on Highway 101 (the other locations are San Clemente and Carlsbad), and the line at 6:30 PM on a Saturday was understandably out the door. However, our determination fueled us to stand our ground and surprisingly the line moved faster than expected. I had my doubts as to the possibility of sitting based on the communal sitting arrangement of picnic tables and a few bar tables outside, but in the 15 or so minutes it took us to order our pies there was enough coming and going of patrons that it wasn't a problem. For parties larger than 3 it might have been more problematic, but with a watchful eye and a quick pounce for spaces opening up you should be fine.

We had decided to get 2 small pizzas, the Carlsbad (Pesto, mesquite grilled chicken, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, & feta) and the Monterey (Pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, & artichoke hearts) sans onions, but at the recommendation of the cashier who assured us that getting a medium half-and-half was not only bigger, but cheaper, we obviously jumped at the chance. At the recommendation from my cousin (an Encinitas native and Pizza Port enthusiast) we also got an order of garlic Beer Buddies (Bite sized pieces of signature crust or wholegrain beer crust brushed with GARLIC or CAJUN SPICE served with Ranch dressing or Marinara sauce) to snack on while we enjoyed a few brews while awaiting our meal. The medium pizza measuring 14" seemed to be enough for 3 hungry twentysomethings who planned on filling up with a few beers as well, and it ended up being just the right amount.

Besides being told about their great pizza, Pizza Port's other claim to fame is their un-bottled, cask-only homemade brews that are only available in-house or at select local retailers. They had about 12-15 house beers available along with an assortment of local brews for those who can't live without their favorites. At the recommendation of the bartender, my first beer was the California Honey Ale (recommended for those who enjoy a good lager). Despite the name, it was not thick or syrupy at all, but extremely crisp and refreshing. For a house beer, a fantastic selection. Since I was driving, over the 2 or so hours we spent dining, I only enjoyed two refreshing beers, but both were top-notch. The second beer was the Cardiff Chronic, an amber ale with absolutely no bitterness an a medium body. The color was slightly deceptive, and I anticipated a much maltier finish, but happily it sailed down my tongue without leaving the wince often left behind with heavier amber ales. That particular pint is pictured below on the far left, with the house porter and the house Belgian-style, both excellent.

For a guaranteed great experience, kid friendly, casual, inexpensive but fun, be sure to check out any of the locations. I can guarantee you'll most likely run into me there!

Port Solana Beach
135 N. Highway 101
Solana Beach, CA 92075
(858) 481-7332

Port San Clemente
301 N. El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672
(949) 940-0005

Port Carlsbad
571 Carlsbad Village
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 720-7007

Monday, September 21, 2009

World Championship Competitive Eating- Grits!

Only in the American South would such an event take place. As a relatively new south-of-the-Mason-Dixon-line transplant to California, grits are one of the few food items that I was confident not to experience superiority in San Diego. It's like expecting to find great pizza in L.A., or jambalaya in Wisconsin. It's just not going to happen. There are certain dishes that can't be experienced to their full potential anywhere but the source. These competitive eaters take it to an entirely new level, with the winner Tim Janus taking home top honors from Louisiana with a belly full of 14 lbs. of the stuff. That's nowhere near the record of 21 lbs. set in 2007 by Pat Bertoletti, but still an impressive stat!

Movie courtesy of iReport CNN.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Nature's Express

"Meat is murder!" Even as a proud carnivore, the vegan movement is consistently on the rise and awareness of animal cruelty for food purposes is increasing with every day. More and more alternative options are being made available for those who still enjoy eating out and wish to maintain an animal-free lifestyle. Nature's Express is an all vegan and organic DRIVE THRU for vegans on the go! With 2 locations, on in Yuma, AZ and San Diego, CA, this is the first vegan drive thru that I have personally seen/heard of. Formerly Kung Food, the San Diego location boasts an in-house buffet option where you pay by the ounce, and also a drive thru with an indoor and outdoor seating area. The menu is extensive and completely animal free, with catering also available.

On the recommendation of several vegan and non-vegan friends alike, we made the short trek just next to Balboa Park, and I was surprised at the variety of options. I settled on the "Chick'n" Chipotle Sandwich and sweet potato fries, while Ashton opted for the Pesto Burger and our vegetarian friend Joe got the pre-made Tofu Pesto wrap. Unfortunately for Joe, the wrap was a little bit TOO fresh, and some tufts of mold were apparent inside the wrap. He replaced it with his own Pesto Burger, and was extremely satisfied with the switch. I thought the Chipotle chicken sandwich was just great. The chipotle sauce that they used tasted fantastic, a far cry from many of the vegan sauces I've tried, and the fake chicken was cooked firmly and was as close to real chicken as fake chicken can get! I was expecting to get some soggy patty quickly thrown together like "fast" food, but with a 10-15 minute wait it appeared as though they were cooked to order, and cooked RIGHT!

The sweet potato fries were equally delicious. Not greasy at all, cooked crisply but not burned, and an ample amount to share. Even their water was tasty- inside the tank floated fresh cucumber slices to add just a hint of flavor and hydrate to the maximum! All in all, it's definitely worth the try and repeat visits, especially from hungry vegans craving deliciousness!

Nature's Express
2949 5th Avenue (at Quince)
San Diego, CA 92103
F: 928.317.8304
Dining room open: 11am—8pm Daily
Drive-thru open: 11am—10pm Daily

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Kiki Sushi

Sushi is not something I take lightly. I don't like to waste my time with anything other than remarkable-to-the-point-of-giving-me-a-food-orgasm sushi. I hadn't heard much about Kiki Sushi on University in Hillcrest, but thought I'd give it a shot with some friends when the opportunity arose. Hey, you never know when you're going to find the best sushi place on a whim!

However, I didn't have huge expectations going in. Generally, I find the best sushi at hole-in-the-wall places tucked away, dark, tiny, and full of Asians. Kiki Sushi is large, bright, in a small strip mall on the corner and just screamed Americana Sushi, which is NOT what I am looking for. I want authentic, fresh, amazing sushi served to me by a tiny woman who doesn't understand "Tuna" but nods approvingly when you order "O-Toro". The menu was pretty cheesy, but I suppose the pictures of the rolls were helpful to those who are ignorant when it comes to ordering. Decent selections, seemed to be geared more towards "value" sushi which is a GIANT RED FLAG to me. However, I ordered the Sushi sampler and the Harumaki (Japanese egg rolls) to start, and waited to be impressed.

The only thing that really impressed me was their use of actual crab meat in the rolls. Unfortunately, America seems to love imitation crab more than shootin' guns and eating hamburgers. Imitation crab is now the absolute standard for rolls everywhere, and let me let you in on a little secret. THEY DON'T TASTE THE SAME. Their crab was a pleasant addition to their rolls, which overall I'd rate a B-. I'm looking to be wowed, not simply satisfied with my sushi. The fish was fresh and tasty, but obviously not of the highest quality. The tuna lacked real sustenance, and the salmon was mediocre at best. Actually, the squid (ika) was very tasty and a great consistency. The Harumaki should be avoided by anyone looking to have an experience differing from Chinese takeout. I couldn't tell the difference between that and a deep-fried egg roll from a cheap Chinese to go place to save my life. The sauce was sticky and of the most mediocre flavor. Skip it.

Will I be going back to Kiki? Most likely no. However, if you're looking to have a bargain experience with a sushi newbie who wants a Bento Box for a great deal, I'd recommend it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Westgate Pizza- Bethlehem, PA

For over 30 years, Westgate Pizza in Bethlehem, PA has been a family-owned town icon with a fantastic variety of pizzas, subs, stromboli, and more. Luckily, the lovely Marylou Ivey, native of Bethlehem, knew just where we should stop on our journey to Vermont. After a quick tour of the town (voted #88 of the 100 Top American Cities to Live in!), we stopped here to begin what would prove to be The Greatest Week of Eating in the History of Beth. Scott and I were overwhelmed as first time visitors, but Ashton took charge and made some great suggestions. Eventually I settled on the "small" stromboli, and weighing in at about 1-2 lbs. of pure cheese, meat, and veggies it was anything but small. I got through about half before I succumbed to the food coma threatening to pop my buttons and expose my quickly swelling belly. Ashton and Scott stuck to the famous cheesesteaks, and were kind enough to share bites of the majestic concoctions. The marinara they provided as a dip wasn't the greatest, but the hot n' heavy sandwiches and stromboli more than made up for it.

As if we needed more, their perogies couldn't be passed up, and they were great. Obviously quality, the edges had just a tiny crisp while the molten middle melted in my mouth. My only regret is that I didn't have another stomach to try the Sicilian Pizza, which was voted BEST PIZZA in 2000. If you're in the mood to drool, check out the menu, and if you find yourself in the neighborhood I assure you that anything you get will be fantastic. There are few things better than a greasy hot sandwich from a local deli, and I'm hoping to make a repeat visit to this one in the future.

Westgate Pizza
Located in the Westgate Mall, next to Eckert Drug
Bethlehem, PA

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


The LBC! Home to the Queen Mary, Port of Long Beach, Snoop Dogg, and Roscoe's! One of the 5 locations in Southern California, this monument to the infamous chicken and waffle combination requires a hajj by foodies everywhere. Not only am I a huge Snoop Dogg enthusiast, I had never had the pleasure of experiencing this seemingly wonderful combo. What better opportunity than the present?!?! In true Doggfather style we rolled up 6 deep and hit the bar while we waited for our table. Even at 9:30 PM on a Sunday this place was packed!

Believe me when I say the ambiance of the place is cheap. Neon lights, wood siding, and old-fashioned trappings that looked like they haven't seen an update in about 30 years. Nonetheless, under the neon flickers and decades-faded paint job the place was bustling and the food looked solid. Our server D. was one of the best servers I've had. No kidding. I'm not talking about fancy schmancy schmoozing, I'm talking about get down to business pleasantries and fast, accurate service. Truly a pleasure to have him serving us. I even asked him what if the grits were any good, and since I'm from South of the Mason-Dixon line he couldn't fool me. He didn't know what that meant, but offered me a free plate of grits for me to make up my own mind! They were fine, by the way.

In our inebriated state everything looked like the best option, so finally I decided on a #9 Country Boy- 3 wings with a waffle. The service was fast, despite the crowds, and the waffle was great. Not anything standing head and shoulders above regular batter, but I have an inkling that the atmosphere lent itself well to the experience. The wings, unfortunately, were pretty tough and nearly meatless- nothing a little ranch dressing couldn't fix! Actually, the ranch was great. Nice and thick, not the cheapest variety to be had.

All in all, the experience outweighed the food, but the next time I find myself in Long Beach with the munchies, it will be the first place I go!

Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles
730 E Broadway
Long Beach, CA

Monday, September 7, 2009

Frosted Cupcakery in Long Beach

This weekend my friend from Philly happened to be in Long Beach visiting her old roommate, so I thought I'd join them for a girl's weekend of drinking, debauchery, and of course massive guilt-free sugar consumption. After a lovely evening in which we were the absolute role models to young ladies everywhere, we grabbed some lunch in Belmont Shore and decided we deserved a hard-earned sweet fix. Luckily, Frosted Cupcakery was just across the street, and came recommended by our Long Beach resident friend.

I know that right now the big fads are "fro-yo" and cupcakes (of the two weddings I have attended this year, both have had cupcakes in place of a cake) so I was interested to see just what made these cupcakes so special. They had a nice selection of about 15 different varieties out, and I can assure you that every single one looked amazing. I was torn between a few, but ultimately settled on the Cookies n' Cream cupcake.

One (of many) thing(s) that I truly enjoyed about this cupcake was their masterful application of frosting. Here in America we are trained to think bigger is better, and more more more is preferred! It's sickening to see a stale, shabby looking cupcake with a mountain of frosting to try and disguise its poor exterior and bland flavor by relying on a never-ending swirl of mediocre sugar piled on top. This cupcake was moist and obviously had homemade icing gracing the top in a perfect amount of sweet goodness to fill the mouth.

Other selections were the Chocolate/Peanut Butter Buttercream and Red Velvet/Cream Cheese cupcakes, and since I have the best, most generous friends ever, I got to sample both in the name of food blogging. All of them were equally moist, fresh, light and still filling without having to depend on cheap sugar rush or artificial flavors to satisfy my sweet tooth.

On a nerdy design note, their interior designer and product designers are to be commended for their bang-up jobs making the interior feel modern and cozy, with matching packaging that really captures the spirit of whimsy that their branding just screams. Be sure to check out their blog as well for more eye-catching stuff!

Jess Pollard didn't have to think twice about her selection. The Orange/Cream Cheese cupcake she held in her hands disappeared in less time than is appropriate. I can't judge, I was the first to finish, even with my sneaked bites!

All in all, I completely get the cupcake fad. I can only hope it's here to stay!

Frosted Cupcakery
4817 E. 2nd Street
Long Beach, CA 90803

Friday, August 28, 2009

What the World Eats- Peter Menzel

We all know that Americans are known as fat gluttons who only eat microwaved, prepackaged, brightly colored artificial blobs that resemble food only because of brainless marketing and food dyes, but what about the rest of the world? What does a family of ten in the poorest regions of Kenya have to sustain themselves versus a middle class family of three in Western Europe? How much depends of cost and availability of fresh produce straight from the earth? What regions depend on what food staples, and how much directs these cultures towards physical fitness, mental health, and more- which in turn tilts the balance of world superpowers?

While these questions might not be fully answered, they are at least explored in the book Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel. In his photo essay in Time Magazine, we are faced with 16 families from across the world in their homes and a week's worth of groceries plus their cost. It's a quick but staggering look at the variety of cultures, what is available, what we take for granted, and how food is directly related to issues such as immigration, poverty, the shaping of communities, and more.

See the photos here, and check out the book here and here. I have every confidence this will open the eyes of millions to the unfathomable concept that there are hundreds of thousands or more people without dairy available to them, much less a cheeseburger. The global diet is a vast network dependent on so many factors, and yet we as Americans take grocery stores, convenience stores, and fast food for granted. I for one am incredibly thankful that I live in a place where I have more than one grocery store I could walk to, and even if times are tight there is no danger of me starving to death. It's an amazing, staggering concept to explore the weekly diet or struggle to simply survive in harsh regions of the world, and yet it's a daily reality for so many. Be sure to check out the photo essay and book for what is sure to be eye-opening and jaw-dropping.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vermont part infinity- the rib dinner!

There's nothing quite like being in a lake house, surrounded by mountain air, pine trees, friends, and family to work up an appetite. Despite the fact that most of our days were filled with lounging, swimming, and hanging out, we'd managed to become ravenous in between our snack breaks and pauses for a fresh beer. Our last night was our pinnacle of culinary experience during our week in Vermont, with a bounty of freshly slaughtered and prepared ribs from Dakin Farm! Marylou again wowed us with her ability to clog our arteries with just using our eyes, which got REALLY bad once we actually started stuffing our faces!

Slow cooking is key, with constant re-application of the BBQ sauce of your choice. We, of course, went with a local Dakin Farm sauce, which provided a succulence unmatched by even the great masters. We used a charcoal grill, but I'd recommend a nice applewood wood chip smoke to provide a nice smoky flavor that gets absorbed beautifully in every square inch. Don't settle for tough ribs that require tearing from the bone- these should be dripping off the bone with moistness rivaling... well, something moist.

This is the famous tomato pie- decadence beyond belief. Even thinking about it makes my gut sag and my mouth drool. This Marylou Special is famous in small circles for its ability to transform even the most athletic and fit of people into obese monsters clamoring for more. Best with fresh Hanover tomatoes, take a pie crust (no need to get homemade with this, store bought will do) and line the inside with thick slices of tomato, alternating with cheese (monterey jack or a sharp white cheese of your choice) and basil. Coat the top with a generous amount of FRESHLY grated Parmesean and (are you ready for it?) frost the top with mayonnaise like you would a cake.

I promise, even if you hate tomatoes, even if you hate mayo, even if you are gagging and thinking this is the worst dish ever conceived, YOU ARE WRONG. Plain and simple. The mayonnaise provides the ooey gooeyest crisp pie top that you've ever had melt in your mouth. I truly believe this dish was handed down by God himself to say, "Thanks guys. Have fun!"

As if we needed more pure fat. Marylou thought it would be a good idea to add her famous German potato salad, a glorious dish filled with potatoes, cheese, butter, bacon, and god-knows-what-else. Simply marvelous. I can feel my belly swelling just looking at this.

VA from VA was lovely enough to chop up some fresh tomatoes and mozzarella with herbs to make fresh bruschetta to whet our insatiable appetites.

Confession time- I'm not the world's biggest fan of corn. I know this is a gigantic American staple, and I'm hard-pressed to find ANYTHING without some corn of some type in it, but just plain ol' corn of the cob just doesn't make me die with pleasure. Personally, I think it's kind of a waste to eat something that your body doesn't process, but that's neither here nor there. Regardless, if you are going to eat corn on the cob, this is the only way to do it. You can save this until last because after this the coals will pretty much be smothered and it takes a little while. Soak the corn in the husks in clean water for about 15-30 minutes. Remove the grill top and place the ears directly into the coals. Let them soak up all that nice heat for about 20-30 minutes (completely dependent on how hot the coals are, how done you want them to be, how many, etc. When you think they're done, take 'em off!) Once you let them cool for a couple of minutes, unwrap the husk and peel the silk off to enjoy the best damn ear of corn you'll ever have. You don't need butter or salt, just pure corny goodness.

This is what the final result should look like. All those scorch marks = major tastiness.

Finally, the feast! Woe is me, there wasn't enough room for the corn on my plate so I had to go back for seconds- rough life!