Thursday, October 20, 2016

On November 12Sparks Gallery, a local fine art gallery and event space at 530 6th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101, will open their latest exhibition entitled “Animalia / A Group Show” from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The exhibition will feature 32 local San Diego artists, each presenting a work of art depicting animals, both real and imaginary.     

"For this exhibition we are celebrating the elegance of nature in the animal kingdom through our local artists' eyes,” said Sonya Sparks, owner of Sparks Gallery.  “I wanted to revisit the concept of one piece per artist for this show, which we had done for our grand reopening show in March of 2015 ("One on One"). This requires the artists to trim down the selection to only the best available work for each artist in the exhibition.”

The works on view include oil paintings, watercolor, iron and marble works, photography, archival prints and more. On opening night, refreshments and small bites will be served and the wine sale proceeds will benefit a selected nonprofit organization that supports animals.

Event:                “Animalia / A Group Show” Opening Reception
Date:                 Saturday, November 12
Time:                6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Location:           Sparks Gallery
530 Sixth Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101
RSVP required for opening night via this webpage more information about Sparks Gallery or “Animalia / A Group Show,” please visit

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Shabbat San Diego November 10-12

Last Thursday, I was invited to experience Shabbat dinner hosted by Cucina Sorella in Kensington. What is Shabbat? Shabbat is the Jewish Sabbath, celebrated every Saturday, beginning at sundown on Friday evening, and finishing at sundown on Saturday. Shabbat dinner is time with family to celebrate and reflect, eat, and enjoy the simple pleasure of a meal with family. 

From the Shabbat San Diego website:

Shabbat San Diego is an independent grassroots level community-wide, inclusive and egalitarian organization of volunteers dedicated to encouraging the entire San Diego Jewish community to participate in a unique, international Jewish identity event that inspires all Jews to experience Shabbat together on November 11/12, 2016. The International Unity Shabbat will take place in more than 900 cities and 95 countries around the globe.

There are three events coming up in November that are open to those who would like to attend. The Mega Challah bake, which occurs on November 10, and focuses on the kneading and braiding of the bread to enjoy in the days ahead. From the website: "Thousands will join together at Tifereth Israel Synagogue, the San Diego Jewish Academy and Beth Jacob (our Women's only location) on November 10th at 6:30 for the mega Challah Bakes in order to usher in Shabbat San Diego on Friday evening. The cost is only $5 per person, $18 per family."

The bigger event is the Shabbat services on Friday, which can be done in two ways: request materials to prepare and observe the Shabbat dinner in your home, or be matched with a family and be hosted for Shabbat. The information for this event is found at this link

The final event is the Unity Havdalah Celebration the evening of November 12, at 7:30 PM, held at the San Diego Civic Theater. Information about this event can be found here. From the website, After enjoying a meaningful and inspirational Shabbat San Diego with family and friends, the best way to raise your spirits even higher is to be sure you attend our mega Havdalah celebration at the San Diego Civic Theater with the world-class, heart thumping, mainstream a cappella group, Six13. 

Thursday was an incredible experience, and something that I was so grateful to share. I typically write about the food and the beautiful places that I visit on this page, and yes, the food was wonderful, and oh yes, Cucina Sorella is a stunner of a restaurant, but in this instance, the event itself was the centerpiece. 

We began the evening by meeting some of the organizers for Shabbat San Diego, engaging in some wonderful conversation about kids, Baltimore, 

The evening started with the braiding of the challah bread, a traditional braided bread eaten on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. It was quite a feat; watching the braiding of 6-thread loaf was something that I've never witnessed, nor something I'll probably ever do! The challah is prepared with enough material for two loaves -- one for Friday, and one for Saturday, which will be stored and eaten cold in honor of  the manna that fell from the heavens in during the flight from Egypt. To honor no work on the Sabbath, two loaves fell on Friday.

Challah can be made with fillings of sorts: chocolate chips, dulce de leche, jalapenos, cinnamon and sugar, but the basic egg wash loaf is plenty tasty on its own. The challah must be prepared by a female, then the head of the household recites the blessing over the bread.

The dinner was served family style, which was nice. I feel that the passing of plates and the niceties of sharing a meal can be lost when everyone is simply served their own small plate. There was also the conversation -- "Did you try the oxtail? Fabulous." "This is a very traditional and rare dish." 

And the food was fabulous. Three appetizer plates were set out in abundance for us to share: fried squash blossoms with harissa and cershi, chicory salad with apple and celery, and oxtail terrine. The squash blossom is pictured above, and was stupendous. It was spicy, crunchy, and just perfect. I love squash blossoms anyway, when I can get them, so this dish was a real treat.

The salad was something that I'd never tried, bitter chicory greens, with apple and celery, topped with anchovy dressing. 

The third appetizer was oxtail terrine with frisee and pears. I love oxtail as well, but I'd never had it prepared quite this way. The chef did an amazing job creating traditional Italian Jewish dishes, in keeping with the Shabbat dinner, and the Italian ties of Cucina Sorella.

The meal was leisurely, with no rushed feeling of being on to the next course, and instead focusing on fellowship with new acquaintances and discussions of travel and tradition. Our dinner selections arrived family style as well, which was wonderful. Brisket is a very, very traditional dish for Shabbat dinner, and was served with artichokes. It's a dish that I've had many times, but nothing ever gets old about a deliciously prepared beef brisket. 

 The second selection was seabass hraimi with braised fennel and fregola. I've never had fish prepared in this manner, but it was very good. The rich, spicy red sauce was unexpected on a light fish, but it was wonderful, and the braised fennel's slight sweetness acted as a perfect accompaniment. 

To round out the main courses (and make us extra full and happy!) was a pasta. Nothing's more Italian than pasta, and homemade tagliatelle is by far my favorite pasta. I love the texture of the ribbon shape, and well, fresh pasta is just splendor. The pasta was served with chicken polpetti meatballs and a white wine sauce. This dish might have been my favorite of the main courses, but then the others were so good....

 Have you ever seen a more lovely dessert? This orange sorbet with edible flowers was half of our dessert, along with an apple and honey crostata. The honey and apple are traditionally Jewish dessert items for Yom Kippur, for a sweet new year. Like every other part of the meal, the dessert was stupendous, and just the right amount of sweetness to end the meal without feeling overindulgent. 
The event was unmatched, and something that I will always treasure. Want to join in these glorious events? Sign up at, and join in the celebration! 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Gourmet Tater Tots at Brian's 24

Some places are so good that they merit a return visit and review just because they announce a new menu item. I adore the gourmet diner fare offered at Brian's 24 in our beautiful, lively Gaslamp District, so I was happy to sample their new tater tots offerings!

Brian's 24 has launched a whole new menu featuring one of America's favorite indulgences, tater tots. Included in this special menu are: pizza tots, churro dessert tots, ABC burger tots, and my favorite, carne asada tots. Most of us have wonderful memories of these crispy squares of potatoes that have made a comeback into modern restaurant cuisine in a big way. With three delicious choices for appetizer (or dinner) tater tots, and a dessert cinnamon churro tater tot, served with ice cream, you'll have a new perspective on this American classic! 

I love carne asada fries, as does most of San Diego judging by the large list of restaurants serving them. How about some carne asada tater tots? Even better! 

 The big advantage to the tots over fries? The tots stay crisp the entire way through. One of the things that always disappoints me about carne asada fries is that usually the fries become soggy from the toppings, but not the tots! Crispy and tasty the whole time. 

The ingredients work so well together; it's really a treat. I love the flavor of the tangy sour cream with the beef and cheese. The salsa served on the side has a wonderful chipotle flavor, and is perfect for an extra burst of taste. I highly recommend this dish! 

 For our meals, we were feeling classic, and decided on the delicious cheeseburger and grilled cheese sandwiches! A diner cheeseburger is always a great choice -- they're just so perfectly made and juicy. 
A thick, butter-y diner grilled cheese with fries is one of my favorite meals ever. I love the delicious American cheese toasted on thick white bread. It's such a simple sandwich, but so satisfying. Like everything else, Brian's 24 does the grilled cheese honor and makes it perfect and tasty. 

Check out the new tater tots menu at Brian's! It's a wonderful treat -- you won't regret it!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Woodstock Pizza -- Revisit at College Area

If you've been reading this blog regularly, you know that I love pizza. I love pizza in just about any form, from homemade to gourmet wood-fired. Woodstock is a favorite in our house, and after a blissful visit last spring, we decided to check out the College Area location for more great pizza and salad! 

The beer list is impressive and reasonably priced. And nothing goes better with a classic pizza than a great beer. Groundswell Pineapple Sour and a Bay City Brown Sour were just what we needed. I've been digging the sour beers lately as something new and different. 

A salad is a must on pizza night (to keep it healthy -- ha!). There are several great salads available at the College Area location, along with a create-your-own option, but I wanted classic, and that's just what the Tree Hugger is. Spinach, feta cheese, cranberries, candied pecans, and balsamic vinegar dressing make this a winner. So fresh and a great starter for a family meal. The salads are large, so there is plenty to share. 

The menu is a bit different at each location, but the "build your own" option is available at every store. Of course, I panic at the idea of endless possibilities, so I chose one of their signature creations, Monty's Revenge. Another classic style pizza, but I was in a classic mood. It's nice that you can customize everything at Woodstock. Wheat crust, different sauce, no problem! The toppings are generous, so there were plenty of vegetables and meat piled on top of the crust. 

The Monty's Revenge was piled with peppers, mushrooms, pepperoni, and sausage! So good with the beer, and filling! 

There are loads of options for a great night of food and drink at Woodstock. It's great for families, and a perfect place to get some grub and watch the game! 

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Great Pumpkin Brew

On October 19th, starting at 6:00 p.m., Pacific Beach’s Barrel Republic is hosting a Tap Takeover featuring the tastes of fall as envisioned by Elysian Brewing Company. This Seattle-based brewery is known for their variety, having brewed over 350 craft beers since its inception in 1996. However, they are notorious for their seasonal beers and they will be bringing an exclusive selection for this Tap Takeover.

The list of brews are as follows: 

  • Night Owl Pumpkin Ale
    • HOo-hoO, a very drinkable pumpkin ale spiced with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice
  • Dark O' the Moon Pumpkin Stout
    • You'll howl for this dark pour as it tingles your nose with a little smokiness and flavors including chocolate and coffee
  • The Great Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale
    • A beer fit for the Pumpkin King! Roasted pumpkin seeds and extra pumpkin is added to this intense pumpkin concoction
  • Punkuccino Coffee Pumpkin Ale
    • A pumpkin ale that is sure to wake up the dead as it has shots of Stomptown coffee toddy
  • The Gourdfather Pumpkin Barleywine
    • A veritable pushcart of malt bill brings pale, Munich, Cara-hell, Cara-vienne, C-15 crystal and pumpkin seeds up against a rival neighborhood armed with Magnum hops
  • Old Fashion
    • Stirred together in a cauldron is a mix of pumpkin beer and Old Fashioned Cocktail along with cherries, orange peels, and bitters to create this fall treat 
  • Steam Hollow
    • Don't be fooled by the name, this is not a steam beer, but one that was brewed with a special strain of lager yeast that reacts better to warmer temperatures
  • Blight Pumpkin Ale
    • This delicious brown ale will infect your taste buds with Vietnamese cinnamon

For those who dare to enter the tap room, Barrel Republic will be providing pumpkins and carving tools to make porch worthy jack-o-lanterns. Not to mention, there will be prizes for “Best Pumpkin”, “Most Creative” and “Funniest” pumpkins. Join the Facebook group HERE, and make sure to tell your friends because there is no better way to start the season than with a pumpkin beer in hand!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pacific Beach Fish Shop

Living in a coastal city certainly has its advantages, namely, plenty of fresh seafood! There is a lot of great seafood in San Diego, with fish and seafood served up fried, broiled, grilled, raw, and any other way that you can prepare fish. Luckily, the Pacific Beach Fish Shop has covered seafood and fish in almost every preparation technique. With a gorgeous build-your-own fish taco menu, solid seafood and fish platters, and an impressive local beer list, this PB restaurant is a place to visit over and over without having the same thing twice. 

The atmosphere is that of a casual neighborhood spot for great food. Outdoor seating and easy counter service make this a place that kids are welcome, but still a place that adults are eager to visit.

It was our first time here, so we decided to try out a little of everything: fish 'n' chips, the TKO fish taco, a cup of clam chowder, and the kids' popcorn shrimp meal. 

The weather was super hot the evening that we visited, so soup may not have been a wise choice, but it was delicious. A classic white clam chowder is pretty much the only clam chowder in my book, with a creamy, salty broth, and plenty of fat clams and soft potatoes. This soup was hot, thick, and comforting, just what a clam chowder should be.

Fish 'n' chips is one of my desert island meals, but something that I would never, ever attempt in my home kitchen. To achieve a truly great fish 'n' chips is actually a feat, with just the right beer batter, just enough of said batter coating fresh white fish, and of course, the deep frying of this preparation. The Fish Shop's presentation of this meal was, to use a phrase, on point. The fish was fresh and the outer batter shell crispy and not greasy, with a light salty flavor. The fries were a perfect texture and cut, with that delightful julienned shape and cut that goes so perfect in fish 'n' chips.

I wanted to try the fish taco, as in San Diego, well, it's kind of our thing. You can truly have a one-of-a-kind taco here -- choose from salmon, halibut, diver scallops, lobster, and more. Then, choose your marinade, your cooking style, and finally your tortilla and toppings! 
I kind of panicked on the build your own bit and went for the TKO taco, a mahi-mahi grilled with a sweet cabbage and mango slaw, optional avocado. It was huge and filling, with a nice combination of the salty flavor of the fish and sweetness from the slaw. 

The kids' menu items were also great! My daughter loved the popcorn shrimp and fries! The shrimp had a lot of flavor and was far superior to the usual children's menu item. It's a favorite of mine from childhood, so I couldn't resist a bite of hers! 

With locations in Encinitas and Hermosa Beach,  the Fish Shop has the San Diego area covered for a superior seafood in a casual, family friendly environment. With local beers on tap and great food, it's a place that everyone can enjoy that beachy vibe with a delicious meal. 

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