I've been asked a couple of times why I don't give "more love" to my neighborhood? To be perfectly honest, I hadn't been too inspired by places in my neck of the woods. But over the last year and a half or so; things have changed for the better...who'd have thunk that we'd go out for a New Years dinner; a tasting menu even....right down the street. So when Candice mentioned that Bitter Brothers was having an Anniversary Dinner; I decided to go for it. And I'm glad I did as it was quite an enjoyable event. I'd been to Bitter Brothers a couple of times, but always regret not visiting more often. So this was a nice way for me to get reacquainted.
There were just 50 seats available at $70 a crack, and things started fairly promptly at 5pm. Though at first it was just folks mingling. I'm not really a super social kind of guy so I just kinda took things in; perhaps a bit too hard, because I missed my chance at the amuse; a version of Lumpia Shanghai. That's ok; I did enjoy the Czech Pilsner. Crisp and refreshing, it did remind me a bit of what we had during our time visiting the Czech Republic.
What might be my favorite dish of the night was the Porcini Dusted Cauliflower, I loved how all of the flavors went together so well; from the hazelnuts, to the celeriac, to the slightly acidic, yet very tasty homage to celery a la Grecque.
The Missus surely would have loved this dish by Tim Kolanko. This was served with one of my favorites here; the Brotherly Love Dunkelweiss.
Phillip Esteban's dish was an eye catching version of the rolled and tied chicken Ballotine. Instead of forcemeat, this was stuffed with a black garlic based mixture. I'm not a big fan of items on the plate without a purpose; and those dollops of what I'm assuming is sort of a Nasturtium pesto really had no flavor. And the buttermilk leche de tigre added no real acid to the dish. The chicken itself was a bit on the salty side; but the black garlic paste added a nice amount of sweet, complex tones, which really balanced things out. This was paired with the Black Sheep Coffee Porter on Nitro.
Ami Cisneros's dish was a beautiful version of....well, Carnitas.
Pressed and nicely seared; perhaps a bit too lean for my taste, it was nicely seasoned. The kabocha puree was quite rich, creamy, and slightly sweet. To be perfectly honest, I really loved the pear with chamoy and tajin. It went so well with the Prickly Pear Family Tart Berliner Weisse, which almost tasted like a version of agua de sandia (watermelon agua fresca) paired with this dish. I even enjoyed the slice of black radish which was so crisp and had some of the pepperiness toned down....I'm thinking it must have been soaked in ice water for a bit before being dried.
My next dish was a sentimental favorite; since it was created by the one and only Travis Clifford; remember Travis likes food? Anyway, it was nice to see him cooking again....it's been a while since I've tasted his cooking. Funny thing; I've made a career out of being quite non-descript. I'd been to BB a couple of times and had actually spoken to Travis, but I'm fairly certain he doesn't remember me. I kind of like it that way.
Nicely blackened prawns; loved the "Travis made" Andouille, great texture, good smoke. The flavor of the grits, while they had hardened by the time it hit the table had a nice rich and sweet flavor from the marscapone. All of these big flavors were tempered with the Big Brother Double IPA.
I'm not a big dessert/sweets guy and was worried about the Espresso Crème Brulee made by "Bitter Bill" Warnke. I shouldn't have, this was not too sweet, but very nicely balanced with mild coffee tones.
Paired with a nice bittersweet chocolate and espresso sable, which was just perfect. Very good, grown-up flavors. This was paired with the deceptively boozy (only 5.2 abv) Barrel Aged Little Sister Russian Imperial Stout which made it a nice way to end the meal.
The Barrel Aged Little Sister Russian Imperial Stout is BB's first ever bottle release; so I bought a couple. The Missus will love it. And I'm sure to be there the next time BB has another "Family Dinner".
Bitter Brothers Brewing 4170 Morena Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
This year we did something a bit different for New Year's Eve. We decided to go out and have a nice dinner. With the rainy weather we decided to stay close to home and check out the New Years Tasting Menu at Red Card Café. The price seemed quite reasonable at $46 per person and we were pleasantly surprised. We enjoyed our meal.
Red Card Café 4140 Morena Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
While I might grumble about the food and restaurants here in San Diego from time to time; I do realize that there is a nice variety available to you if you take the time to enjoy things. Take breakfast/brunch for example. Over the last couple of weeks, I found myself getting something different from the usual noodle soup while doing my Saturday morning errands.
It's easy to overlook El Borrego. The street parking is limited and it's in sort of a no-man's land right before the main City Heights shopping area. Heck; it's been about four years since I've last visited.
But with temps now dipping into the 40's at night, I just wanted some Lamb Consomme.
The lovely warm embrace of the gamey lamb broth ($2.25) was just the thing I needed to warm me up and get me going. As was the Mexican coffee.
Being a bit hungry, I also ordered two Quesadilla Rellenas ($2.75/ each); one with flor de calabasa and the other with; of course, huitlacoche....I'm thinking that Black Belt Jonez comment on huitlacoche had me craving it.
The huitlacoche here is fairly mild with just a bit of that fungi flavor; the squash blossom goes really well with the cheese; which adds in a slightly milky touch. That salsa roja is no joke either.
Nice and comforting, but not too much food; it was what I needed to get all systems ready for my errands.
El Borrego Restaurant 4280 El Cajon Boulevard San Diego, CA 92115
The Garlic Rice was decent; miost and the garlic wasn't too burnt and bitter. The steam table eggs weren't bad; still soft and runny in the middle; though I do enjoy my eggs with crisp edges. The eggs weren't seasoned, so adding your own salt is a must. The standard issue longanisa was fine; I'd prefer bit more char, but it had a nice snap, wasn't dried out, and had that sweet longanisa hamonado flavor.
Manila Fast Food and Desserts 8979 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
The "Moco Loco" at the High Dive:
So, I've been going into the office during most weekends since we got back from vacation. Some were necessary; on other days, it was just to catch up on admin stuff. I ran to Birdrock on Morena to pick up some coffee beans for the Missus. I'd done my Sprouts - 99 Ranch Market - Nijiya - Costco shopping and was going to grab something quick and head off to the office when I decided to "F that"......I deserved a day off and maybe a nice long weekend nap.
The car took over and parked alongside the High Dive. And my 11am Ommegang Gnomegang clinched the deal.
I haven't been the biggest fan of the food here, but hadn't seen the Brunch menu before. THD opens at 8am on Saturday and Sunday and they had something called the "Moco Loco" ($15)....you know me and Loco Mocos.
This really was a mixed bag. The egg seemed kinda small, but was fine, the yolk still runny. The gravy was straight up mushroom gravy which had a decent texture; not overly gluey, and wasn't too salty. It was just a tad over lukewarm though. The rice had an odd texture......not sure what was going on.
The best item was the burger; which, while being pretty lean and toothsome, had a really nice char with a good beefiness to it.
One word of warning; if you're ordering this and can't take something less than medium, I think you should let them know as what I got was pretty darn rare. Though it didn't bother me.
High Dive Bar and Grill 1801 Morena Blvd San Diego, CA 92110
Well, at least I actually did take a "day off". And I got something other than noodle soup for my weekend breakfast.
There wasn't a line when we arrived and we were lead upstairs, where things did look rather busy. We got the last booth in the place and placed our orders.
It's quite simple; there were two Oden sets available for lunch, each about 680 yen and we ordered one of each.
Boy did this hit the spot.
That simmered daikon had really absorbed the flavor of the broth and was perfectly tender; not falling apart, but so easily cut with a chopstick. Our favorite item was the Toumeshi; indeed this is called the toumeshi set and I can see why. That tofu had absorbed the savory-sweet-dashi based flavor so well and rice was also a great vehicle for passing all of that. Simple, but just wonderful.
The Missus ordered the other Oden set which was quite good as well.
This was just the perfect thing for day like this. Then a kind of interesting thing happened....I'm guessing it's fairly common given the crowded nature of Tokyo.
The Missus and I were sitting across from each other in the booth. Two salarymen came in and sat down right next to us in the booth!
So now we were kinda trapped! The Missus and I looked at each other and cracked up. And we couldn't help but text each other our observations; especially when a couple of pieces of rice got stuck on one of the men's face....it kept moving around while he ate, but wouldn't fall off, and was quite mesmerizing!
Actually they were quite nice. When they noticed we were finished, they both stood up and waved us through. So, I guess this is fairly standard eating in Tokyo!
There was a line of people waiting outside in the rain as we left. I walked across the street to take a photo, and wouldn't you know; that line extended across the street!
It's easy to understand why folks would wait in the rain for this place. Good, comforting food at an inexpensive price. And it sure did hit the spot on a day like this.
Otakou Honten 2-2-3 Nihonbashi Chuo, Tokyo
Feeling nice and warm, our bellies full, we headed off in the drizzle to our next destination. I really enjoy the beer that Hitachino produces and had read that they had opened a beer bar in the Akihabara. I recommended going on the Yamanote Line from Tokyo Station, it's like a 4-5 minute ride. But of course this is the Missus; so we walked.
It turned out to be about a 30 minute walk. The Brewing Lab is located right on the Kanda River.
It's a nice cozy little place and very quiet during this time of the day as there was only one customer the whole time we were there.
There were 8 pulls on this day and we ended up getting 4 beers; even Session IPA. We ended up with the Masters Selection, Nipponia, Weizen and the Nest Lager.
The Lager was my favorite; while the Missus enjoyed the Weizen. Man, Hitachino makes some really good stuff. If you're in the area; this might be a good stop.
Hitachino Brewing Lab 1-25-4 Kandasudacho Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Soon enough, it was time to go. And this time the Missus relented and we caught the train back to Nihonbashi. We had some time to do a little shopping; then head back to the apartment for a short nap before meeting Reiko for dinner.
The Missus loves waffle cut fries; I'm not such a big fan....so here She can get the "Stoner Fries with waffle cut fries"....basically waffle cut fries topped with cheesesteak fillings; beef, in this case provolone, peppers, onions, and mushrooms.
There's a reason they call it Stoner Fries...sheesh. She can never finish this, so we always tell them to drop off a box when they bring the food. The Missus will use the leftovers to make a hash the next day with eggs and some kale from the yard.
Of course I got the Blairsteak.....and got it with waffle cut fries for the Missus.
For years the Missus has told me how gross cheesesteaks were....but this one has made Her change Her tune. I think it's the combination of the soft Amoroso that has a bit of a gritty finish, combined with the milky provolone, the earthy mushrooms and the sautéed onions. I think She wouldn't even need any beef in this....but of course, I'd miss it. She now shares half the sandwich with me. This ain't cheap at about $16 with the upcharge for the waffle cut fries....but it's a nice treat every so often.
Nutty Chocolate flavors, mild sweetness, and a good smokiness that gets you at the end.
The Missus's favorite here is the Monkey Gose Bananas with Tart and Black Cherry.
We've come to enjoy Monkey Paw as a guilty pleasure. Love the divey feel, friendly staff, and the temperature of the beer is always good. The neighborhood might be kind of terminally "in transition", but it kind of helps with the vibe, which we prefer to Hamilton's which was just way too "hipster" and quite unfriendly the three times we've tried the place.
Full of historic buildings that are now glass and souvenir shops, tons of restaurant, and a little sweets kingdom known as LeTAO.
We loved the charming streets, the buildings just gave off a nice vibe, especially since things weren't especially busy.
We were getting a bit chilly, the warming effects of the umeshu was wearing off, so we decided to stop in at this charming little coffee and tea shop built in the former location of the Kubo Store, which was built in 1907.
The Missus got a nice cup of matcha and I a well made pour over, very smooth, but with enough of a nice kick for me.
The barista was a wonderfully dignified looking woman, who just rocked her lavender highlites perfectly. A study in aging well, gracefully, but with just the perfect amount of hipness and edge.
Refreshed and energized, we ended our little walk at LeTAO, which several folks told me I "had to" visit when going to Otaru.
This a multifloor deal, with a sweet shop upstairs, a very popular hot chocolate stand....but the item that LeTAO is known for is their cheesecake.
The cheesecake portion of the shop actually looks more like a jewelry store.
For some reason, I wasn't too keen on the stuff here, but of course, I don't have much of a sweet tooth.
LeTAO 7-16 Sakaimachi Dori Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan
We headed back around and took Rinkosen Street back to the canal area. There was one last stop I wanted to check out before heading to lunch. I'd enjoyed the bottle of Otaru Weisse I had in Hokkaido. I also recalled Kat's post on Otaru Brewery, so I thought we'd give it a try. The place has quite the Bavarian Beer Garden look and makes some interesting claims on the English menu.
Hmmmm.....not hangover with the beer here, eh? Well, let me have at it! I ordered the Dunkel, which had quite a head. The finish reminded me of caramel-burnt sugar with a touch of stone fruit mixed with a bready yeasty fragrance. Not bad at 5.2 ABV....clean finish, sugary flavors lingering, not too bitter.
The place filled up pretty quickly as most folks were starting up on lunch. Several large parties; all Japanese came in, and a couple looked like they were doing some kind of brewery tour finished up as well.
For some reason, I just wasn't motivated to eat here.....we were in Otaru and I wanted to finish up with some seafood.
The Missus got the Weisse and like the bottle I had previously, it had that banana thing going on. I read that in addition to the classic Weisse wort used for the product, it's also sticking to the traditional brewing method and tightly controlling the 4 VG level (4-vinyl guaiacol), hence the increased banana flavor (iso-amyl acetate) and less of the spicy clove that I'm used too. It's quite a pleasant beer, easy to drink, light, high carbonation, very nice overall.
We enjoyed stopping here, it was relaxing, though he place started getting really busy when we left.
In case you missed the post in Eater. I noticed that the former Coco's on the corner of Clairemont Mesa and Ruffner was being built out, so I walked on over. There's no mistaking the logo...plus the "626" area code.
My good buddy Candice expressed disappointment that I hadn't tried out Bitter Brothers since it was basically in my 'hood. So I made some time to visit recently. I like the set-up, typical industrial-hipster, but in a good way. Wide open, nice breezes blowing through. The beer server was fairly all business at the beginning, spending most of his times with his "bro's", but warmed up after I had got past the tasters phase.
I got tasters of the Little Brother Citra Session IPA and the Prickly Pear version of the Family Tart Berliner Weisse.
That Session was very nice and drinkable, that tart Berlinerweisse was really good, not too dry, but definitely a Berlinerweisse, just sweet-sour enough. I've got to bring the Missus here for this one.
I finished up with a nice Dunkelweiss, great not too overpowering chocolate tones.
Nice place, drinkable beers....nothing over 6 ABV if I recall, great for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Bitter Brothers Brewing 4170 Morena Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
Back to the Poseidon Project:
The reason I hadn't been to Bitter Brothers was that I've been enjoying the Poseidon Project since they've opened. The vibe and very friendly folks keep me coming back. I'll bring in some take-out and have a nice meal when the Missus is working.
On this fine Thursday I didn't have to worry about that since two of my favorite neighborhood places joined forces.
I'm hoping they increase the number of pulls, which now numbers 8.
But don't discount the bottles....I was quite surprised to find the bottle prices in line with most retail locations. And once in a while they have some nice surprises.
Love the way they've embraced the neighborhood....the place is crazy dog friendly and food friendly. I think someone was having a birthday the other night and brought in like three boxes of pizzas......no problem.
I'm wondering what'll happen when my friends and I bring in a bushel of oysters???? For some reason, I think they'll be just fine with that.
Poseidon Project 4126 Napier St San Diego, CA 92110
Here are a couple of "bonus bottles". Interesting stuff from the Bruery.
This one I first had at Poseidon. It's a nice dessert type of brew.
For some reason; and I'm not big fan of regular Horchata, but The Bruery's Or Xata really hit a home with me. Great, balanced, not too sweet tones. Great mouthfeel. To me, the base flavor seems closer to coconut than cinnamon though......
Back to see the "Little Squirt", who was getting a lot of attention as always.
And since we were there, a visit to Grand Place was in order as well. For some reason, the Missus really never took to Grand Place....not sure why.
From here, we headed south, skirting the hills and then back up to the very popular shopping district of Ixelles.
Full of big time chains, boutiques, trendy shops....big city life. But, just head up one of the side streets and you'll find quaint little shops, apartments, and on this street a ton of construction. I was looking for a brasserie I'd read about, in several food blogs and even the New York Times, Les Brassins. The word "traditional" was sprinkled about in most of what I read, so I thought this would be a nice farewell restaurant meal in Brussels.
We'd arrived early and the place was empty except for one table....it was packed when we left. I found the place very comfortable.
Our server was very nice, relaxed, but very efficient. This is of course, Belgium, so we'd get some liquid refreshment with lunch. Nothing too heavy for the Missus; a Silly (how appropriate) Blonde (well, maybe not so much). I had a Caulier Blonde.
The Missus wanted to get Her last fix of Sausage and Stoemp. This was a nice version of the dish. The stoemp was full of greens and was delicious. The sausage well.
The "bacon" was probably the weak link, but the sauce was very nice....a good last version for the Missus.
I had intended to get the Carbonnade Flamande, the classic beef and beer stew that I enjoyed everywhere in Belgium. But all those posts and the New York Time recommended the Rabbit Leg in Cherry Kriek. So I went with the Lapin a la Kriek.
First off, I gotta say, that sauce was just plain delici-yoso! The kriek added a nice sweetness, but wasn't too cloying, that cut the richness. Also, the frites here might be the best I had in Belgium, crisp exterior, fluffy interior. The rabbit, if you've never had rabbit.....when done well, it's fairly mild in flavor, as this was. It was a bit too tough and dry for my taste though. Still, that sauce....
While I think my favorite meals in Brussels were at Viva M'Boma or perhaps Le Fin de Siècle, I don't think you can go wrong at Les Brassins.
Les Brassins 36 Rue Keyenveld Brussels, Belgium
We walked back to our apartment in Saint Gilles. It was a beautiful day for a stroll. We had our customary nap, then made dinner with stuff we'd bought at the Marche du Parvis.
So this was it huh? Last night in Brussels. The Missus and I looked at each other and instantly knew, this was not the way to end our trip to Brussels. We got dressed and headed out....and back to Moeder Lambic.
It was a bit busier than on our last visit. However, most everyone had taken a table outside. I told the Missus to shoot for the moon and I got a Hop-Ruiter, which I loved so much on my previous visit. So She did.....
I then tried a Vicaris Tripel, which was fairly creamy, though bit too sweet for my taste.
I then helped the Missus finish Her Gueuze. I couldn't help but think that this was why we work so hard. To be able to have a bottle of Cantillon at Moeder Lambic in Brussels. Life doesn't get better. Of course, eventually the glass was empty.
A recent weekend morning found me in Mission Valley. It's kind of interesting, when we first moved to San Diego, our condo was in MV, but these days, other than the Missus enjoying a shopping day, we almost try to avoid Mission Valley!
Funny thing, the service is totally like any pho shop on University....as in, "what you want"........
Haven't not been here in 10 years, I took the #49, regular, which was $7.69. Basically the proteins minus the rare steak, which I didn't think was going to be too good. What was really interesting was the plate of herbs and sprouts, which has got to be, the most stingy plate I've seen to date.
It was so amazingly stingy....I enjoy bean sprouts in my pho and have requested more on occasion, but this seemed a bit absurd. So, while waiting, I decided to count the bean sprouts.....which barely filled the palm of my hand. There were exactly 27 bean sprouts on that plate. Perhaps I could have requested more.....but really, should I have to beg for my sprouts?
So, lets get to the pho. The broth had nice hints of anise, but was lacking in richness and had way too much msg, the tendon and all the other proteins, including a decent amount of tripe was good. The noodles were a bit over cooked and mushy, but overall, it was hard to over come the amount of msg.
The service is typically perfunctory.....
Such is the state of pho in Mission Valley.
Pho Cali 1400 Camino De La Reina San Diego, CA 92108
So, I did Mike's BBQ, where I mentioned the beer offerings were much better than Coastal Crave's, which meant I had to return. I try to do a bit of due diligence when possible. This time, I avoided any of the dishes I had before and went with a simple burger.
But first, I can still say; there's not much craft beer here....they count Shock Top as a craft beer....
The Coastal Crave Burger?
Well, this was interesting. The burger was made to a nice medium, but the exterior was almost burnt and quite tough. Really sad, because this could have been a decent burger. Instead, it came across as being a bit bitter. The brioche style bun was good, the fried onion rings ditto....so close.
The young lady working on this evening was a joy; I believe her name is Kristin, or something like that. So maybe, maybe, since it's up the street......though they've got to step up their beers....
Coastal Crave 3065 Clairemont Dr San Diego, CA 92117
We're sort of creatures of habit....the Missus has Her favorites and it's pretty much up to me to do the exploring and find new places these days.
Not sure why; but here are two places on our rotation that we hadn't visited this year. I think we've been busy and having two international trips fairly close together kind of messed up our schedules a bit. But anyway, we're finally getting back to some normalcy around here, which means revisiting our favorites. We've posted on these places a ton of times; so I guess this is a "most photo Friday?"
A favorite of ours since they first opened, I think the Missus had Her fill of Yakitori on our last trip to Japan and needed a break. Then of course, right when She was starting to crave it again we headed off to Spain. As it stands, we returned on a Monday night and I was back at work at 6am the next morning so it took a while for me to get back in the groove.
But, if the crowd right after they opened on a Tuesday evening is any indication, they are doing just fine.
If you want some additional info, you can read any number, of posts I've done on Taisho; even a comparison of Taisho versus Yakyudori. The thing is; as Yakyudori descends, Taisho seems to have gotten even better...except on Thursdays, when Taka-san is off.
Yakitori Taisho 5185 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. San Diego, CA 92117
Another one of those places that I've posted on a number of times. The truth of the matter is; we were going once a week and the Missus finally got burnt out. we were still hitting up Toronado, but the Missus needed to give TT a rest. And we're glad we did....a fresh seasonal menu and fresh beer options....and instead of a large order of pate, they now offer a nice charcuterie plate. This is the half portion. That house made pancetta was really good.
Wood fired potatoes......
One great thing is that when you order the sausage sandwich without the roll, is that they'll automatically make it into a salad for you! This is the linguica.
A big plus is the beer server here; I believe her name is Dez; who is always so awesome to us!
Tiger! Tiger! 3025 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92104