Monday, September 26, 2016

Wine and Roses 2016

Wine and Roses is the annual fundraiser for Camp Oliver, featuring award winning wines from local and national vineyards. It's quite an event, with loads of great wine, a beautiful setting, music, and food. This year, the event changed both its timeframe and location. Held in June in past years, the event this year was held in September at the Darlington House in La Jolla, a change from the past location of the Grand Del Mar. 

The new location gave the event a much more intimate feel, with attendees enjoying the beautiful, historic house and back gardens.

Funds were raised for Camp Oliver via a silent auction full of cool items and experiences! 

And, of course, the wines! 

 Delicious passionfruit wines from local winery San Pasqual.
 Always great, Robert Hall is a cornerstone winery of Paso Robles.
 Faulkner is one of the best wineries in Temecula.
 Olson Perri is a new winery, but has amazing reds!

Camp Oliver is a camp for at-risk youth of San Diego, located in East County. They have done an amazing job organizing activities and camps for children and young teens, giving them a different perspective and a wonderful friend-building experience. To find out more, or to donate, check out their website at  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Brockton Villa for San Diego Restaurant Week

Have you made your reservations for San Diego Restaurant Week yet? If not, get thee to the internets and make that reservation! The restaurants fill up quickly, and the special menus (at embarrassingly low prices) make the event something not to be missed. If you need some help in choosing, might I suggest Brockton Villa right on La Jolla Cove? The view alone is worth the price of admission (hello sunsets over the cliffs!), but the food stands up to the expectations and exceeds them every time.

I've been to Brockton Villa plenty of times for their outstanding breakfast menu, featuring the famous Coast Toast, but I've never eaten dinner at this La Jolla landmark. I was soon to be blown away to find that the dinner menu is just as scrumptious as the breakfast, and watching the sunset over La Jolla Cove just made the meal more magical.

The Restaurant Week menu typically features an appetizer, entree, and dessert for a fixed price. Different restaurants have different price tiers, but Brockton Villa is sharing theirs for the meager price of $30 per person, plus tax and tip. Our very nice server recommended the Epic Chowder, featuring clams, blue crab, potatoes, and bacon in a creamy bisque. Bursting with salty sea flavor, this soup was the perfect start to a dinner with a view of the ocean. 

For my entree, I chose the cioppino, as recommended by our server. It might not sound like the best course of action to have soup after starting with a soup appetizer, but it was not a mistake in this instance. The cioppino would do any Italian fisherman proud, with plenty of shrimp, fish, and scallops served in the spicy, salty red broth. Delicious with the huge wedge of Italian bread for dipping.

The roasted herbed Mary's chicken was our other entree, with a free-range breast of fresh chicken, served with vegetables and fingerling potatoes. A Brockton Villa favorite, this is a very homey, comforting meal, just like your mother would make if she lived in a grand restaurant with a spectacular seaside view.

We wound things up with the famous Coast Toast dessert! The toothsome slice of French toast from breakfast is re-envisioned as a dessert at suppertime by adding a nice scoop of vanilla gelato. It's sweet, and the perfect unification of cold and hot and sweet and just perfect.

There are loads of great restaurants having specials next week, and I intend to try out a couple of new places, but I really feel lucky to have had the chance to check out Brockton Villa! For reservations, click here

Saturday, September 17, 2016


World-renowned chef Pascal Lorange has brought his Michelin-star skills to Del Mar in the form of Crudo -- a Japanese-Mediterranean fusion restaurant specializing in seafood prepared in surprising ways to bring about new tastes, textures, and flavor. Located in the heart of Del Mar at the Pacific Highlands,  Crudo is already drawing a crowd of eager patrons to sample these delicious offerings.

The elegant atmosphere is perfect for a date night, or a celebratory occasion. The celebratory occasion can be Wednesday after work, of course! The decor is clean, white, opulent. The look is stately and chic, a perfect place to enjoy sumptuous fare and socialize. 

After oohing and aahing over the ambience, we got down to the business of starting dinner, and chose two cocktails from the list of drinks. The drinks also draw a lot of inspiration from Japan and the Mediterranean, using ingredients such as plum wine and kumquats. 

For our drinks, we chose the Crudo signature cocktail, and the True Blood. The Crudo is a concoction of plum wine, rum, kumquat, and Calpico, a milky drink from Japan. It was sweet and very refreshing. 

The True Blood was the perfect happy hour unwinder: rum, blood orange, and ginger beer combined to make for a sweet, tangy, invigorating mix. 

The menu at Crudo is filled with lovely bites that are perfect for starting dinner or just popping in for a cocktail and a snack. We started with the a trio of their Ricetini -- a toast with different toppings to get the meal started, wonderful to start things or to eat with cocktails. Pictured are the proscuitto, ricotta, dates, and scallions; the foie gras, smoked duck breast, fig chutney, scallions, soy balsamic; and burrata, tomato, sun-dried tomato pesto. Of the three, my favorite was the burrata and pesto, with the simple cheese and tomato paired with the pesto is classic, but the flavor was incredible. 

The date, duck, and foie gras was unlike anything that I've ever had, with the sweet date 
balancing the richness of the foie gras. The proscuitto, ricotta, and dates was a perfect sweet and salty treat, and definitely something I would order again. 

The signature dish at Crudo is of course, the crudo. Sashimi style fresh fish served with a unique, homemade marinade or sauce to accentuate the flavor in new and pleasing ways.  
The colorful beets carpaccio combined two types of beets, pesto goat cheese, slivered almonds, and tomato. I usually shy away from beets, but sliced thinly and served with pesto goat cheese, the salty, creamy flavor of the cheese accentuates a fresh flavor in the beets.
A feature of the Crudo menu is the papillote items, which is French for "cooked in parchment." Served in a tajine bowl, this is the lobster fish soup papillote, with salmon, shrimp, lobster, and vegetables. Baked and then swarthed in a rich lobster soup, this dish evokes some of the flavors of the beloved cioppino soup, but with more delicacy and brighter punctuation of herbs. A wonderful dish to share or to have as an entree.
The main course menu contains a variety of seafood and "turf" items, but the shining star is the grilled branzino, a light white fish similar to flounder, but not as flaky. Grilled in a lemony oil, the fish was simple and flavorful, garnished with tomatoes and served with couscous and asparagus.
Dessert was an incredible end to a memorable meal, with a fresh strawberry carpaccio, served with vanilla gelato and a strawberry yogurt sauce. The flavor of the three together reminded me of good childhood memories of a strawberry ice cream that my mother loved. 
The second dessert (yes, we each got a dessert) was a white chocolate mouse cake with fresh whipped cream and crunchy layer of chocolate brittle at the bottom. The cake sounds rich, but it was very fresh and light tasting, but rich enough to feel like a chocolate dessert! 

I highly recommend making a reservation for Crudo when you plan a visit, as it's already buzzing with excitement! It's a very interesting concept in fusion cuisine, executed in precise, enticing manner.  

Monday, September 12, 2016

Common Theory Public House

The public house concept seems to be popping up left and right in San Diego, and believe me, I have not problem with it! One of the newest additions to the exploding culinary scene of Kearny Mesa is Common Theory, a public house with an impressive menu and beer list. Kearny Mesa is a community known primarily for it's Pan Asian restaurants, but Common Theory might make you want to skip the ramen and barbecue to sit down with a beer and some of their incredible brussel sprouts.

Like most of the restaurants of Kearny Mesa, Common Theory is located in a strip of shops and cafes.

The atmosphere is very casual, with a big screen television, a bar, and plenty of great pub food with a gourmet flair. For starters, the menu lists such favorites as ceviche, poke, pretzel bites, and brussel sprouts. We loved the poke that we had in Hawaii, and have been unable to find anything like it in San Diego, so we had to try it. The poke at Common Theory is served with taro chips, made solely with tuna (some pokes have other fish as well), and doused with that magical shoyu sauce that makes poke more than just raw tuna. I will pay this poke the highest compliment that I can and say that it is comparable to the poke that I loved in Maui. So fresh, and with a salty, slightly sweet sauce tying the dish together. The chips were a nice addition, making it more like an appetizer than the traditional rice. 

Did I mention the great selection of beers? San Diegans might not have the poke of Hawaii (although now I've found it!), but they certainly have their choice of great beers. Common Theory has a very extensive list of beers on tap from San Diego breweries as well as other small breweries. For our dinner, we chose the Get Thee to a Nunnery made by Burning Beard, Pure Project's Bright Side of the Moon golden stout. The Burning Beard was a great, stately Belgian ale, but the Pure Project was one of the strangest, most interesting things I've tasted. A golden stout is pretty innovative, in that it had all of the flavor of a stout, but lighter and cleaner. 

The brussel sprouts are one of the signature dishes for Common Theory, so of course, we had to try them. If you follow me on Instagram, you most likely saw my picture of these amazing sprouts, and I have to say, I've never had better green vegetables. They were so good, I hardly felt like they were something good for me! Baked in balsamic vinegar and topped with parmesan curls, I can hardly believe that something so simple could be so delicious.

It would be a fine thing to just sit down and snack all evening at this great pub, but dinner is pretty impressive as well. For our mains, we chose the mussels with Thai curry sauce, and the chicken-fried cheeseburger. 

The mussels are another of their signature dishes. They can be prepared with typical white wine sauce, mushroom and bacon, hellfire (very spicy), or Thai curry, which I chose. I've had mussels plenty of times with the white wine sauce, and enjoyed it, but it seemed too plain with all of these options, so I wanted to try the Thai curry, since I adore Thai curries. The mussels were cooked well, prepared to rest in the sauce to absorb its flavors well. The curry sauce was a surprising and delicious match for the mussels, and the garlic dipping bread was great soaked in the sauce! Fancy enough for a date, but still great drinking food.  

The chicken-fried burgers is just what it sounds like -- an all-beef, half-pound (!) burger patty, battered and deep-fried! Yowsa! Not something that my doctor would want me to eat every day, but we can't exist on kale, am I right? For an indulgence, it's just what the doctor ordered (see what I did there?). Juicy, crunchy, and everything that you want in a luscious burger. 
After a huge meal like that, of course we had some dessert! A homemade apple cobbler is just the sort of comfort food dessert needed after such a rigorous meal. I loved the buttery "crouton" bits of this cobbler, and the melty, caramel laced ice cream was perfection. 
There are many tempting, amazing places in the area, so it's hard to be the new kid in Kearny Mesa, but Common Theory is a great addition to this culinary kingdom!

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