Sheltering in place has surly put a damper on our little project here. Although we still support all of our local restaurants as much as we can through take-out, like many others, cooking more at home has become our new norm.
Over this last year I have taken my life back by joining Weight Watchers (WW) and have lost over 100lbs. Yes, I did this whilst dining on the 101!
Now I would love to share some of my favorite recipes and have started a YouTube channel. I make easy, healthy, WW friendly meals at home, with my dogs.
If you, my valued readers, would kindly follow me on this next chapter of my dining journey, I would be most grateful. We can hopefully get back to dining out on the 101 early next year. Solona Beach here we come!
My Instagram is cookingtolose_ww
My goal is to turn 100% of my Dining on the 101 followers to Cooking to Lose followers!
You can find my YouTube channel by searching Kori Clark Cooking to Lose or go here and please SUBSCRIBE to my channel:
When our local, stinky, iconic D St. Bar & Grill closed Tracy and I sadly wondered where we would go for beer and trivia now. We hadn’t actually been there in years but it was comforting just knowing it was there. Come to find yet another stinky bar and grill was to take it’s place. I wasn’t excited. I didn’t want more bar food. I wanted to stay home. I wanted to stay away.
Our dedicated blogging group of 13 stormed the newest spot only to find out I wasn’t the only one who wanted to stay home and away. The place was empty. And the only thing more depressing than an empty sports bar is the latest news blasting over all of their many TV sets. This was not the light, fun night of blogging we signed up for.
The remodel away from the stinky D St. Bar & Grill is definitely a step up. No more stuffy booths, but instead, lots of long tables to share with your neighbor. And they have lots of fun toys for kids of all ages.
Home & Away prides itself on having top notch food, a boast I was happy to take to the test. The menu is pretty limited, but still offering all your bar-food staples: wings, burgers, nachos and fish tacos. The old gluttonous me would have started with some calamari, ordered something in a bun with bacon and would never pass up on the brussel sprouts. But the new svelter me saw limited healthy choices on this bar menu. Blowing all my hard work on warm buttery rolls and butterscotch pudding at Herb & Sea– worth it. Blowing it on tater tots and burgers here at this bar- so not worth it. I scoured the menu again and saw something promising. Shrimp Ceviche: marinated shrimp in citrus and chilies. I can have that.
A slightly scary tattooed guy with a hole in his ear the size of my car tire, brought out water and chit-chatted with us amicably. (I am sooo old. “I don’t get these kids today I tell you with car tires in their ears by cracky!”) When I told “Mikey” about the blog he seemed very nervous. He was hell bent on doing a good job. It was very cute to see this tough guy turn into a sweet marshmallow who wanted to do nothing but please us.
You order at the bar at Home & Away which seems kind of strange. We were lucky that no one else was there because had there been a line, it would have been a hot mess. They have tables lined up almost right to the register where you order. Doesn’t seem like an optimal design if you ask me. Which no one ever does.
The beer choices were outstanding.
After a few minutes, Mikey slinked over to our table and pulled me aside. “I am soooo sorry, but uh, well…. we ran out of shrimp. There’s no ceviche tonight. We make it fresh every day and we just can’t make it right for you without the fresh shrimp.” I swear I saw a tear drip down his cheek. Before I could answer he said, “You know, my first baby is due in a few months.” Oh sure, stab me in the heart right before I burn you at the stake in my review! What I wanted to say was. “What in all the hell is going on here? I’m blogging about your food, which I need to eat! The only thing I can eat off this fried menu of caloric hell is ceviche! And now you’re telling me there is none? No ceviche? No food for me?!” But after looking at this new dad-to-be’s woeful face I heard myself say, “That’s ok Mikey. It happens. Hey, The Lanai sold out of food like 14 times before we could eat there. No sweat.” Who just said that? Who was this kind, understanding soul who just brushed off the small fact that she couldn’t even eat at her own blog tonight? When I explained there was nothing else I wanted to order, he wouldn’t take that as an answer. And soon, along with everyone else’s food came mounds of tater tots and french fries, on the house. Totally unnecessary but very nice.
Cami ordered pork tostadas. She said it was good, not great, and ended up leaving most of it over.
Most people ordered the 3 Ensenada Tacos for $10. A good price but the tacos are small. Actually, just the tortillas are small, they pack them nice and full. Everyone said they were delicious. “These are excellent fish tacos, and I know my fish tacos.” declared Mary. There’s no opposing Mary, she really does know.
Kelly’s Porky Sandwich looked mighty good to me, did I mention I was starving? But Kelly said it was just “ok”. “The problem”, explained wife, Joyce, “is that it’s just too messy. After your first bite you need to put it down and eat it with a knife and fork. I don’t like sandwiches served on brioche. ” I get what she’s saying. Brioche makes for a very soft roll, not optimum for a sandwich that is saucy. But if I’m being honest, I would have demolished that whole damn soft, delectable, porky sandwich without a complaint in the world if I wasn’t being so damn good!
I was informed that The Wedge salad was tasty but could have used more “stuff” on it. I don’t know, it looked like it had plenty of yummy stuff on it to a very hungry me. But everyone’s a critic!
Little Brandon ordered the Hot Wings with Korean BBQ sauce. Little Man has been here before. This ain’t his first rodeo.
Mikey insisted that I order something to take the place of the lost ceviche so I asked for the Smoked Chicken Sandwich which I would pack up for BP to eat at home. He brought me out a delicious looking sandwich with The Imperfect Salad (another healthy option I could have gone for.) I looked at the sandwich then looked at the salad. BP didn’t really need a chicken sandwich, he already ate dinner at home tonight. I saw mouth watering cheese dripping off the smoked chicken, hitting the fatty, crisp bacon on it’s way down. Or…I could just have the ugly dry salad with vegetables. I lifted up the sandwich brought it close to my lips then yelled at Hubby, “GET THIS THING OUT OF MY FACE!” Hubby quickly snatched it away and put it in a to-go box before I could change my mind. If he were a good husband, he would have done this before I ever saw it. Now I’m mad and it’s his fault. So I was stuck with the salad, which in fact, was really good. Not cheesy- bacony good, but good enough.
After our group ate and had a few beers, we were becoming good friends with not-so-scary in fact, very sweet, marshmellowy Mikey. He brought us all out a shot of Regal Gold Rush. This is bourbon mixed with honey, lemon and grapefruit peel. I thought I didn’t like bourbon but this drink was delicious. “To a kind review!” offered a hopeful Mikey. “No way” I corrected. “To your new baby!” and we all cheered to that!
Then just when you think you’re done and going home….you find yourself drinking more whiskey in an upstairs gay cowboy bar. Yep. That happened.
This upstairs spirits bar is awesome. And by awesome I mean so freaking cool I could just squeal!
Faux cow hide seats. Love.
Actual cowboy attire residing in shelves as our own model, Julie, shows you with these here boots.
A bad-ass lit up sign. LOVE.
The menu offers all kinds of upscale cowboy whiskey
And an homage to The Greats. I don’t even know who they all are…John Wayne I get…but they all look like Greats.
The only thing this bar is missing is the right bartender. And guess who showed up? Matt!
When I tried some of this:
My face looked like this:
That’s because, like I thought before but now know for sure, whiskey is a yucky adult drink. REAL grown-ups drink whiskey, not me!
But when Matt made us a fancy whiskey drink that he loaded up with cinnamon and then lit on fire, it was great! Now here’s a whiskey this cowgirl can saddle up to!
Who knew that we would have one of our most fun night’s blogging ever at Home & Away? Although I didn’t eat much of the food, everyone was impressed and agreed that it was much better than standard bar food fare. A larger menu would be nice though. Even though he already had dinner, when I brought that Smokey Chicken Sandwich home to BP he inhaled it saying it was one of the best sandwiches he has ever had.
I’ve said many times before, it’s not being perfect that get’s a good review. It’s how things are handled when it’s not. Running out of ceviche wasn’t ideal, but the mishap couldn’t have been handled in a more gracious manner. Mikey took care of our group like a pro. We were practically family by the time we left. “Little Mikey” will be calling me “Auntie Kori”.
And the très-cool upstairs was the icing on our cake… or maybe the whiskey in our barrel? Either way, we love love love The Aloha Cowboy bar and can’t wait to go back! Ask Matt for the whiskey-fire-cinnamon-drink-thing. It was fantastic.
WE HAVE OFFICIALLY FINISHED BLOGGING THE 101 IN ENCINITAS! Whoo hoo! We did it! If you hear of any new places coming, please let me know! We will continue to blog anything new landing on/nearish, the 101 in our home town. But until then a major decision has been made.
SOLONA BEACH, HERE WE COME!
Next stop, it’s breakfast this Sunday, February 2nd at 9am at
San Diego- We pay a fortune to live here for three reasons: weather, ocean, tacos. Here in Encinitas, our taco choices have been plenty. But on December 1st, 2016, the Encinitas opening of The Taco Standcompleted me. We now have:
cheap tacos at our endless hole-in-the-wall Mexican food places
fancy tacos at almost every sit down restaurant in town
Haggos tacos, for an organic taco experience
Do you see the gap? Nothing in between “cheap and tasty” and “elevated Ameri-Mex”. Finally, we have something in the middle, The Taco Stand, which has been my favorite. We’re good. DONE.
But not so fast.
When I heard about a place called “City Tacos” recently opened on the 101, I couldn’t imagine more tacos coming to an already saturated market. I was discouraged and even a little mad, blaming Hubby for having to blog about tacos again, when clearly this was all his fault. But I suppose more tacos isn’t a bad thing, so I went with a hungry belly and opened mind….ish.
City Tacos is located in the Lumber Yard and offers inside or outdoor seating. The outdoor tables come with little fire places which, I had to admit, were inviting and comfortable.
Who doesn’t love a foosball table? The Taco Stand doesn’t have a foosball table.
Bryan Ferry and then The Smiths played through the outdoor speakers and my skepticism on this place started to dissipate.
Waiting in line, we looked at their menu. Sure they offered some “regular” ol’ tacos, but the other tacos here sounded ridiculous! Ingredients like octopus, portobello mushroom and crispy avocados are components I’ve never associated with my beloved taco. Their pico de gallo is anything but standard here with fig, pineapple and honey added into the traditional onion-tomato-cilantro mix. “City Tacos” should be called “Wild & Crazy-Ass Tacos”. A much more appropriate name if you ask me. Which no one ever does.
There was no way I was going with my standard Grilled Chicken Taco here. Not here. Instead, I went for a variety of concoctions to share with Hubby like the Especial taco with shrimp, squid and octopus. A Pescadilla which has smoked tuna, and an Al Pastor Salmon, being their Taco of the Month.
I’m ALL about a good do-it-yourself salsa bar. So many places we have been to serve good tacos, even great ones, with these teeny-weeny cups of salsa they think you should have with it. I want to make my own choice! And I want a lot, not a teeny-weeny cup full. City Tacos won my heart first with their sign.
Then with their salsa bar. Here’s why: First of all, their salsas and sauces are clearly marked so you know exactly what you’re getting.
And second, they offer large boats, not minuscule cups, to load up with. The Taco Stand has a top notch salsa bar, but offers those minuscule cups which leaves me with no option but to take large soda lids to load up their pickled onions, cilantro and lime wedges with. No need to do that here. Boats. We have boats.
I couldn’t get a good photo of all the goodies in this bar, but they have lots of yummy things including chunks of jicama and rounds of crispy cucumber. Look, a good salsa bar isn’t really for your tacos, right? We want a mini meal before our meal. Hey, I’m just saying what we all already know. We want to start eating the bar before our food comes. So you order chips and go to town on the bar. A salsa bar needs to stand alone and here, it does. We macked out hard on jicama and cucumber dipped into all the delicious salsas. No chips needed.
Soon our food started coming and it didn’t stop. The side of vegetarian pinto beans didn’t sound super exciting but was beautiful. A large cup of delicious homemade beans topped with a confetti of crispy vegetables, a sprinkle of cotija cheese, with a gnarly looking roasted pepper nestled on top.
The big, strong men in our group played the “I AM MACHO. SEE ME EAT HOT PEPPER” game. But apparently this pepper was so hot, that all they could do was take a nibble and pass it to the next guy. And watching big, strong, macho men nibble, is really funny.
We ordered lots and lots of unique tacos. Some vegan, some Paleo, some seafood. And then there’s Debbie and her daughter Emme, eating grilled chicken tacos. Come on ladies! You can order those tacos everywhere! Branch out! Try a City Taco lobster taco over fried rice noodles or a taco with watermelon and broccoli! But for some, it’s traditional tacos all the way, every time. (I’m not ratting these were two out for being some of the wimps afraid to eat the scary Filipino food at Carin de Ria on our the last blog, but….THEY WERE!) For others, we went HAM on these Wild & Crazy Ass tacos!
Israel, City Taco’s super friendly manager, let us know that there are four City Taco locations with three more coming. Sorrento Valley is next. He sounded so excited and passionate about the fresh and unique ingredients City Taco uses, he was bursting with pride. He brought us out two orders of Bunelo tacos for dessert. It’s apple pie on crack as a taco.
When you have out of town guests come to visit San Diego for the first time, would you only take them to Moonlight Beach to get a feel of what Encinitas is all about? No! They would need to also see Swami’s and probably Beacons as well. It’s the same with our tacos. Apparently there was one more spot left open for yet another taco shop on the 101 in Encinitas. City Tacos is not like the others.
You can’t take guests to only one taco place and do our taco-rich city justice. You would need a minimum of a three-taco joint experience. When my guests come to town, we start them slow and easy, heading over to Karina’s Taco Shop for a cheaper taco or carne asada burrito meal. Our next stop with them is over to The Taco Stand because… YUM! And the third place now, is City Tacos. But be careful not to start here. City Tacos is for advanced taco eaters! People need to be educated and ready for the sophistication offered through the tortilla here. And that does not come on their first taco eating day. Work them up to it. Plan your tacos carefully. But trust me, finish with some Wild & Crazy Ass tacos here.
Please join us Sunday, January 26th, wait… that’s TONIGHT!!!!
Don’t you just hate it when you are supposed to write a review on a restaurant but then you don’t do it right away for one reason or another? And then it’s placed on the back burner for so long you start to feel guilty but you keep finding other things to do with your time instead of blogging it? And then the holidays are here, and New Years and before you know it, it’s time for the next blog, but you don’t even remember this blog so how can you do the next one?? So you go through your pictures to spark some memory of the dinner you had there nearly a month ago, but you turned 50 last May, and your memory ain’t what she used to be, so even though you know logically you were there, at this restaurant, and there are pictures to prove it, it’s completely foreign to you. I hate when that happens too! But really, it’s totally Hubby’s fault.
Much like there are six degrees from Kevin Bacon, anyone who knows my family knows that everything ends up being Hubby’s fault. The boys and I blame him for things such as a bad grade in school, nothing good to watch on tv, the printer being out of paper while he’s at work, or any other thing going wrong with our day. And honestly, we can prove that every single thing really is his fault. So with the blog, for instance: Hubby could have
a.) reminded me more often to write it
b.) inspired me with his wit and charm to come up with something clever
c.) bribed me with foot rubs
So clearly, this late blog is ALL his fault. Luckily, I took a few notes that night. Please excuse the lack of details I have to offer.
Carin de Ria is not exactly on the 101, but it’s close enough to count. It’s located next to The Potato Shack on I St.
If the food is from The Philippines, why is it spelled “Filipino” instead of “Philippino”? The Filipino family who makes the Filipino food are from the Philippines. “Why?” I ask. WHY??
Some of our regular blog partakers were too scared to try Carin de Ria. “I don’t think I like that kind of food.” said some. “I’m not a very advanced eater” said another. Really?? Because Filipino food isn’t adventurous eating to me. You can find chicken, beef, pork, rice, noodles and more. It definitely has some ethnicity to it, but I would be surprised if most people can’t find many things on their menu to enjoy.
There is both outdoor and indoor seating at Carin de Ria, and it is tastefully decorated. (You can silently add the phrase “from what I remember” to the end of each sentence.)
When we walked in, we were hit smack in the face with the most amazing smells! Whatever concoctions were being prepared in the kitchen had to be delicious. The aromas were intoxicating.
Our waitress looked very nervous at our group of 12. This is a quaint restaurant that obviously has never dealt with a group this large before. Tables and chairs were shuffled around and they made the small space work for us. Not only that, but they offered to separate all of our checks for us, which is not easy to do with a group our size. They were extremely nice and accommodating.
Right away everyone ordered lumpia. Lumpia is a Filipino favorite and they are delicious. (FWIR)
Classic Lumpia — 3.00
(4pc) crispy fried egg rolls with minced pork, crunchy napa cabbage,
carrots, sweet chili dipping sauce*
Trying to stay on the healthier side, I found a soup on the menu that sounded promising: Chicken Tinola Soup — 9.00 lemongrass, ginger, chayote, greens
I love, and I mean LOVE lemongrass. I grow it in my garden and make broths, teas and other dishes with it. It is heavenly. What this soup offered in health, it lacked in flavor. It was quite dull with little lemongrass to be found. For $9 a bowl, I gave it a thumbs down. (And I actually DO remember this!)
Mary ordered a different soup. One with coconut milk.
Vegetable Coconut Stew (Ginataan) veg, gf — 12.00 carrots, zucchini, broccoli, sweet potatoes cooked in light gingery coconut milk Now this soup was the bomb! They took all the flavor from the other soup, mixed it with more flavors and stuck it in here. Creamy, flavorful and delicious!
Jules ordered the Grilled Pork Belly gf — 12.00
simply seasoned, bold traditional Filipino flavor, soy-sauce vinegar dip
I remember trying it and loving it even though I’m not really a pork person (except for bacon). More yummy cucumbers please.
I ordered the Chicken BBQ gf — 12.00
boneless marinated chicken marinated with lemongrass, glazed with banana ketchup
I enjoyed it, but wished there was an all white meat option. More yummy cucumbers please.
I think they liked it but remember they mentioned that it was not spicy. (FWIR)
Any dish that comes with rice can and should be upgraded to the Garlic Rice.
Hubby wanted to be sure he was getting something authentically and uniquely Filipino, so as we pulled up to the restaurant he texted a friend in The Philippines and asked him what to order. Before we were even seated, his friend replied and recommended getting the “Sisig”. He explained that Sisig is made from pig heads and chicken parts with onions and peppers and calamansi (a citrus fruit). Personally, I’m trying to cut down on my “sisig” consumption these days, but that delightful description didn’t stop everyone.
BP ordered the Sizzling Salmon Sisig — 12.00 wild-caught salmon, bell peppers, onions. It was a large plate of delicious food and HUGE kudos to Carina for using wild-caught salmon! Wild-caught is more sustainable and much healthier than farm-raised. After licking this giant plate clean BP said, “Mom, they don’t eat much in The Philippines.” When we got home, he ate another dinner.
Jennifer and Ayda shared one of the Family Feast menu’s which came with this:
Pancit Canton — 8.00
pan-tossed egg noodles with vegetables veg, gf
add chicken +2.00 or shrimp +2.50
The Family Feast for two came with so much food, they took a ton home. This Feast is definitely the way to go. Unless you have a BP with you.
I think the prices were for most dishes were fair, with a few things being too much. $12 for a modest cup of Vegetable Coconut Stew was steep for something without meat or organic ingredients. But the $12 Sizzling wild-caught Salmon Sisig was a very good price.
Is it the most amazing food we’ve ever had? No, of course not. But how nice to have some diversity among the countless brew spots, pizza places and taco joints already flooding Encinitas. Once you’ve tried lumpia, you crave lumpia. And now we have a local place to get lumpia! Different is always good!
And on a personal note, learn to take some stress off of yourselves by throwing some of life’s mishaps to Hubby. Whether you can’t find your keys or are mad about the weather, with some creative deductive reasoning you too can see how ALL things are Hubby’s fault. Feel free to use him as your scapegoat whenever need be. He can handle it.
Prayers going out to those dealing with the potential volcano danger in the Philippines
The reason Hubby and I started this blog is because we have lived in Encinitas for over 19 years and until now, never got out. We saw all of these great looking restaurants and cafes, but never went to any of them. So when we started going each week, it was usually the first time we had been to most of these places, even the ones that have been here forever. I got such flack for never having been to landmarks like The Kraken and VG Donuts before. But now that we have completed the first loop of the 101 throughout Encinitas/Leucadia/Cardiff, and are hitting all of the new places that have popped up since we started, we are restaurant-savvy. We went from being last to know to first to know, and I’ll tell you, I like it much better this way!
Herb and Sea opened just this week, and here we are, front and center. It is the new Malarkey/Puffer restaurant that took the place of Manhattan Giant Pizza and Kialani on D St.. OK, so not technically exactly on the 101, but close enough, and like hell are we not blogging it!
Celebrity chef Brian Malarkey was a “Top Chef” finalist and is a partial owner of many restaurants here in San Diego. I took a cooking class from Brian about eleven years ago right after he was on “Top Chef”. I was really hoping he would be here tonight, I’m sure he would remember me. I would call him “Bri” now ’cause of how close we are.
The only rez we could get was for 8:00. 8pm! That’s almost midnight for me with recent daylight savings. I typically eat dinner around 4pm. Now that I’m 50, I find this very normal for my age. I like to go to sleep with my meal well digested, on an empty stomach for optimal sleep, waking the next morning light and refreshed. Herb & Sea was crowded, even at this late hour and by the time we ordered, it was 8:30pm. I was hungry. Eating after 9pm is practically next day’s breakfast for me.
Decor: The restaurant is beautiful. It is large and open with a great upscale yet beach- casual vibe. The lighting is great. The acoustics are rough. With the large open ceiling, it gets really loud. I heard from our waiter that they are going to fix this somehow, and I am glad to hear it. I literally couldn’t hear one word Dana was saying to me all night and she sat directly across from me. And the art….well…you decide:
And if you are a fan of beach balls, you will love it because there are tons of these beach ball pictures all around. Just like this one.
I don’t know, maybe the true sophistication of the wall art was lost on me. I’m more about the food, so art shmart, let’s get to it!
We found the exact menu pricing hilarious. The Fennel Sausage Pizza is not $17, it’s $17.08. The Field Greens Salad is $10.14.
Tracy and I noticed a lot of mom’s night out happening.
“How do you know they are on a mom’s night out?” asked a clueless Hubby. These ladies were in groups of 8-10, dressed to the nines, drinking boat loads of wine, giddy with the thrill of just being out. Oh, these were definitively mom’s on a night out!
I got tipped off from some friends sitting at a nearby table to order the Parker House Rolls off of the “secret menu”. Cindy and Todd’s daughter, Brooke, knows what’s going on. OMG, I LOVE secret menus! I ran to find our server and asked him to please bring two…no, make it three orders of the Parker House Rolls to our table.
Waiting for those rolls. Waiting. And hungry. Hungrily waiting for rolls. Tracy and I have been on a kick-ass weight loss bonanza and have been doing great. But as many of you know, it’s hard, hungry work losing weight! But we have been perfect little angels lately and were both excited and nervous about eating out here tonight. The best thing to do is to make a plan then follow the plan. So we looked at the menu online before we came and decided ahead of time that we would order and share both a salad and the Branzino fish. I am perfectly capable of going out to eat, making a healthy menu selection, and then eating a normal portion. It is possible. I’ve seen other people do this. Now where are those roooooolls??????
“Would you like some more water, Love?” asked a very darling young server. She called me “Love”! It made me feel nice and warm inside. I wondered if I could pull off throwing “Love” around. I want to be that person. I waited a while and tried it.
When someone at our table asked me to pass the carafe down I said “Here you go Love“. But the words felt wrong and fake coming out. Hubby glared at me, totally embarrassed. He mouthed “N-O” shaking his head. He’s right. I’m not really the “Here you go Love” as much as I’m the “You want water? Get it yourself bitch!” kinda gal. Good or bad (bad) that’s just more me.
I liked the large linens that were more the size of towels than napkins. Not dish towels, actual bath towels. When I get into food, I get into it, so a bath towel is actually very useful. The water glasses are way too small though. But leaving carafes of water on the table is good. Just noting all the little things here whilst waiting for our rolls.
At 9pm our salads arrived. They were all good, the kale with delicious bits of crunchy Parmesan and toasted pine nuts being my favorite.
You know what goes really well with salad? ROLLS! I asked another server to please go check on them. And finally, they arrived.
One order went on our end of the table, one in the middle, and one at the far end. Tracy shook her head, denying these rolls with the most intense willpower I have ever seen. I respected it, but I was going in. I had to try one, they are on the SECRET MENU for darn sake!
This roll was warm, flaky, and moist. It was brushed with a sweet garlic butter and might be the best bread I have ever tasted. Tracy looked at me with sad eyes.
“Should I?” she asked.
“Oh yes you should!” I answered, though she was already diving in. If I was going down, she was going down with me.
“OH MY GOD!” she moaned with her mouth full of roll. We have been living on things like salad with no dressing. White meat chicken, no sauce. And soooo many steamed veggies. Now, a plate of warm buttery buns are set before our starving selves and we are supposed to only have one?
“I’m going back in!” she confessed, but I was already a roll ahead of her. I finally pushed the plate away and let the others gobble them up. But there were still some rolls at the far end of the table and I couldn’t stop staring at them. I was obsessed. “Roll. Roll. Roll.” was the mantra playing in my head. I couldn’t hear any of the other conversation going on around me.
“Hey, why aren’t they finishing those rolls?” I whispered to Tracy.
“See the one with the crispy edges?” she asked.
“What if I had one more. That makes three. Three’s not actually that bad.” I justified.
“I mean, we’re just sharing fish for dinner” she agreed.
“You could reach right over and grab those two.” I suggested.
“No one knows we’ve already had two each. For all they know, these could be our first rolls of the night.”
I was starting to sweat. I finally reasoned that eating one more roll was better for me than dealing with the stress of not eating one more. And since I care about my health, I went for the third.
My friend Todd came back over to ask what I thought about the rolls. Really Todd? Because I look like someone who maybe wouldn’t like them? Too much warm buttery goodness for me? Frankly if it wasn’t for your family, I wouldn’t even know about those damn rolls and wouldn’t be in three deep before my meal has even arrived!
Food started coming out and it was all superb. Every morsel was flavorful and unique.
When we were done, Cindy from the next table came over and said, “You MUST order the butterscotch pudding.”
“Yah, I saw that but they have chocolate lava cake on the menu, and we are going to have to go with that.”
“Noooo, noooo. You are getting the butterscotch pudding or you can just kiss our friendship good-bye!” and she left. OK, so she didn’t say those exact words, but she certainly meant business. So I ordered both for the table. (When it comes to dessert, it should never be one or the other.) See, now that I was three rolls deep plus dinner and of course, those delicious and “healthy” (not even a little) side vegetables, there was no stopping me. Us actually, Tracy was right there with me burning in caloric hell.
I was not really excited about the butterscotch pudding. Ever since Blue Ribbon Pizza opened with theirs, it seems that everyone is doing it! And although quite delicious, I find it just way too sweet. Until I tried it here. This pudding itself is rich and creamy but not overly sweet, it lets the caramel do that job. And let’s not dismiss those shortbread cookies that accompany it. To. Die. For. No matter how big they make this dessert, it will never be enough. Order many for your table, trust me on this one. After this little pot of goodness was passed around, I took the next 15 minutes trying to scrape every last droplet of flavor from the jar with my spoon. Ryan told me I need one of those “scrapey things”. It’s called a spatula Ryan. Cook much, do ya? How BRILLIANT would it be for them to serve each pot of pudding with a wee-sized silicone spatula? Bri- call me. I have tons more ideas to help you out.
The lava cake came to our table as just a plain dome of cake. Then they added the creme anglaise, rich chocolate sauce and gelato table-side. Nice touch. It was very dark chocolate, even a little bitter, with the other creamy elements giving it the sweetness. This is very advanced chocolate eating. Do I even have to tell you how good it was?
When the lava cake was down to just a messy pool of chocolate smudge at the end, I looked longingly at it.
“You know what would be perfect right now to get into that chocolate mess?” I whispered to Tracy.
“A roll?” she guessed.
Hell yes a roll! I love my Hubby, but Tracy…completes me.
At the end of our meal, executive chef Sara Harris came to our table where she received a standing ovation from our very satisfied group.
We left Herb & Sea at almost 11pm. That’s usually my 5th or 6th REM cycle of sleep, not my just-getting-home-from-dinner time. Oh well, one evening of late night food debauchery won’t kill me. I walked out with a smile on my face, clutching my food baby. Worth it? Absolutely!
Encinitas needs a place like Herb & Sea. We already have plenty of coffee, beer, tacos and vegan food. Herb & Sea fills a void. Come here for your mom night’s out, your celebratory occasions or your romantic evenings. Sure, our food came out pretty slow this night, but this is Herb & Sea’s opening week and delays were expected. I’m sure the kinks will be ironed out in no time.
The staff and servers were extremely friendly and surprisingly knowledgeable. We were told by ours that they have been doing nothing for the last three days except eating and drinking everything to get an intimate knowledge of their entire menu. They all got paid for a three day bender? Folks, that’s not called work. That’s called heaven.
We loved literally everything we ordered, but my absolute personal favorites were the Wood Fired Portabello Mushrooms, Branzino (whole roasted sea bass) and Butterscotch Pudding. Were there any other favorites? Hmmm. Ah yes, the Parker House Rolls!
I’ve passed by the new brewery, Modern Times, a few times and thought I knew what I was in for. Yet another brewery in Encinitas featuring drunk 20-somethings hitting on everyone, not enough seating, serving greasy potato skins and wings. Not my scene at all. “We can skip it” offered Hubby who was even less thrilled than I was about going. “Not a chance. We have a mission of going to every single place, and we aren’t stopping now! We have been to Capt’n Keno’s for God’s sake!” I reminded him. So off we went.
We got there early expecting a huge crowd, but apparently Sunday night is not when the cool kids go. It was pretty empty, which was fine by us, the slightly older than 20-something crowd.
It’s funny that it’s called “Modern Times” because the decor is anything but modern. In fact it’s a total throwback to the groovy 70’s down to the macrame plant holders.
This was my exact living room. How did they do that?
Now I could go on blogging the real food they served, but I’m more interested in re-living my youth and talking about the tv dinners on the wall. Mom just threw these bad boys in the oven, stuck me in front of the Brady Bunch, and took off. I was stoked. I just peeled off the hot aluminum wrapper (what do you mean cooking in aluminum may cause Alzheimer’s? Nahhh) and dug in. Who wants a home-cooked meal when you can have sodium laden processed food that comes in neat-o geometric tin shapes?
This chicken-fried steak with instant mashed potatoes with a dollop of margarine was a hit! Probably “Morton” brand. Peas and carrots for veg and over-baked chocolate cake for dessert. What more could one want?
The corn dog meal with mac-n-cheese and carrots was another favorite. Maybe this one was by “Swanson”. Though the center of that dog was always slightly frozen still and there was no dessert.
Chicken drumsticks by “Banquet” with the standard veg offered cherry pie for dessert- winner!
Not a fan of the tv dinners? They got you covered.
After looking the menu over I realized something: The food is all vegan. A vegan brewery! I never heard of anything more preposterous and had to investigate further. Sure enough the whole establishment is vegan! That means all the food, coffee and beer brewed. I didn’t realize that beer included any animal parts to start with, but again, I learned something new. Sometimes gelatin is added. (If you don’t know what gelatin is, think “hot dog” and let it go at that.) Sometimes fish bladders are used in the filtration system. But you won’t find anything fishy here!
We ordered a couple flights of fish bladder-less beers to get the taste of what we they have to offer. These all look the same, but tasted totally different. And one of them stole my heart. It’s called “Visible World” and might be my new favorite beer. It’s a hazy 9.5% IPA, but drinks much more like a 9.3%, 9.4% tops. Any way you slice it, you’ll need Uber.
When I think “vegan” I think “healthy”. Tis’ not really the case here. What you have is true fried bar food, that just happens to be without animal.
Mom loved her Beyond Burger.
The Crispy Brussels were delish.
Hubby’s Meatballs were the best meatballs I think I’ve ever had, whether we’re talking cow or plant. Grant it, we aren’t big red meat eaters, but I’m telling you, these are to-die!
My Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps were scrumptious! Really really good.
I never order a Fig & Arugula Salad because I hate, and I mean HATE goat cheese. But we are goat-less here at Modern Times, so bring it! Umm, guess what? Unfortunately for me they nailed goat cheese in some magical plant-based way and I had to pick it all off.
Cami’s shishito Peppers were very yummy and not too spicy like you might think.
Kelly and Joyce ordered the Loaded Asada Fries which were quite substantial.
We loved our far-out vegan meal!
I should probably mention that Modern Times has a small area sectioned off for their retail swag.
And psychedelic beers to-go. “Visible World” is a great thing to bring a hostess let’s say for dinner….Hanukkah…birthday (May 12th but happily celebrating the big 5-0 all year)….the weekend….or weekday….
We loved our vegan food and beers very much at Modern Times! We were not only surprised but impressed. The staff was super-duper to boot. There are other Modern Times locations around, but none with our Encinitas charm. I will have to come back to try both the coffee and more beers.
Even though this was a Sunday and not too crowded, it was still the typical meat-market (meat-less market actually) I was expecting. I was getting hit on all night, and it was so annoying! Ok, so it was by Hubby and I actually liked it.
Before Gelato 101, this location was Moonlight Yogurt and Ice. Before that it was Berry Happy which turned into Berry Unhappy according to my kiddo’s. What can they really do that differently to make this location successful? I was dubious.
I have to admit that the outside looked a lot better than before. Cute round tables with plants and artificial grass attractively decorated the small space.
Inside was different too with sweet sayings of family and community literally growing on the walls.
Sweet and maybe a little cheesy even.
But I do love me some organic ingredients. Now you’re speaking my language! (So not “love” and “family” just “organic food”)
It’s really hard to blog a gelateria when I’m on a limited sugar/fat eating phase. Thank goodness for calorie-less samples or I would have nothing to write about! Samples given on tiny spoons are free of any sabotaging elements that might derail a person’s good eating habits.
And there, behind the display case, was heaven.
Giant mounds of decadent gelato smothered in bits and pieces of ingredients like fresh fruit, chocolate, cookies, whatever your heart’s desire. So I took a taste of this, and a taste of that. A taste over yonder, and a taste right here. One from that batch, and next to it too. Tasting is not eating. So I tasted. A lot of them. Had to. My two favorites? Dark chocolate and cinnamon. The only gelato I have had that can rival this was in Florence last summer at Vivoli. The hazelnut gelato at Vivoli was life changing. We were in Florence for two nights. I think we went to Vivoli seven times. Once for breakfast. http://vivoli.it/en/home-2/
I’m just going to come out and say what I know everyone is thinking: WHY IS GELATO SERVED IN SUCH SMALL SIZES?
Gelato is churned slower than ice cream, infusing less air. The result is a silkier, creamier and denser product than ice cream so the theory is you need less to fill you up. It has more milk than cream and often uses no eggs, so has less fat and calories than ice cream. SO MAKE THE GELATO BIGGER. Who eats one tiny cup of gelato and feels satisfied? Uh uh, I’m not buying it.
Whomever decided that our scoops should be small is STUPID. And stupid people should not be in charge of our ice cream sizes! Come on people of America! Stand behind me! The USA is known for our giant portions. Let’s show Italy what a frozen treat should really look like! Not this skimpy little child-size version! Serve gelato like the one that is hanging out front of your own establishment Gelato 101!
Gelato 101 is fantastic! I need to come back for their acai bowls. And more samples.
Join us this Sunday, November 10th at 8pm at the brand new, exciting, just opened….
Herb & Sea
131 W D St, Encinitas, CA 92024
Please let me know if you want to join us as I have a reservation in. email@example.com
Choice Organic Café & Juicery is a small spot located upstairs in the Moonlight Beach Lofts shopping area. Next to Lofty Coffee and just up some stairs from Handel’s Ice Cream. Before coming here you need to take this survey:
1.)Are you a health nut?
2.)Are you an environmentalist?
3.)Are you Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free or GMO-free?
4.)Will you pay high prices to eat organically?
If you answered “No” to all four of these questions, then run, don’t walk, run straight over to Handel’s Ice Cream. Choice juices and smoothies are not for you. Pass “Go”, save your $, and go straight to dessert! Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream
If you answered “Yes” to one or more of these questions, then come with me. I will take you on a review of my experience to a safe haven, free of toxins and genetically modified foods, to a place of healthy desires!
Choice Encinitas just opened their doors October 5th but have four other SD locations. You understand how pure this place is as soon as you walk in.
There are all kinds of juices, elixirs and smoothies to choose from, with the menus painted right on the wall.
I was interested in trying something uber healthy and green but didn’t know where to start. Desiree behind the counter was here to help and suggested that I sample all the ones I was interested in. A pretty nice offer before dropping $11 on juice, so I took her up on it.
I found the “Citrulicious” to be too fruit-forward. Much too sweet for me. The “Madly Greens” was better with lots of lemon, but still too sweet for me. I am used to taking wheat grass shots which taste like real grass. You know, actual lawn. They taste truly terrible and for the first 20 years of drinking them, I needed an orange slice chaser just to get the bastard to go down and stay down. But after 20 years of drinking these small shots of turf, I got used to it, and dare I say, I even now like the horrible, raw taste of fields. The “Choice Greens” was my favorite. Just ever so slightly sweet, with the familiarity of raw, green meadow that I have comfortable grown fond of.
Their drinks are, of course, served in eco-freindly packaging.
Most of the food at Choice is pre-packaged and ready-to-go in the grab-and-go refrigerator. Inside the packaging, they all kind of looked the same, so we just grabbed a variety and went to ring it all up.
You can read the menu to really know what you are getting.
At the counter I noticed these little glass jars of almond butters. Desiree asked if I would like to sample them. I happily obliged and tried the Pumpkin Spice. Ohhh man was it good. Amazing actually. I couldn’t believe how tasty this almond butter was! She asked if I wanted to try the Cake Batter but I declined. Nothing could be as good as the Pumpkin Spice. No way.
Desiree asked if we would like our salads tossed since we were eating them here. What a nice touch. Yes Desiree, please toss away!
We took our food and ate outside on this crisp, sunny fall day.
Mary showed me her jar of Cake Batter Cashew Almond Butter. “You didn’t taste it?!” She yelled at me, then forced me back inside to sample it. I came back out owning a jar of this too. So freaking good!
Hubby had grabbed a little pumpkin bread starter. (I won’t say a “GF” pumpkin bread since everything here is “GF”). What it lacked in size, it made up for in deliciousness. It was so darn tasty, we just needed more!
BP loved his “Macho Nachos Salad” with walnut “meat” so much, it was mostly inhaled before I could snap a photo. One has to be fast when dining with Bottomless Pit.
My “Mediterranean Power Bowl” was absolutely delicious with lemon, spinach and a ton of quinoa. I was very impressed since the last two salads I have ordered from restaurants listing a “Quinoa Salad” had so little quinoa in it, I had to go back and ask if it was forgotten. Both times I was told, “Oh it’s in there, see?” and was shown what I thought was a few sesame seeds that were mistakenly dropped onto the salad from a different dish. I won’t name the places that served them to me, but they were Eureka! in Carlsbad and Notorious Sliders & Salads at the Windmill Foodhall in Carlsbad. Thank you Choice for your generous amount of quinoa!
Hubby’s avocado toast was divine. Not only was there a ridiculous amount of perfectly ripe avocado on it, it was topped with a deliciously flavorful shaved “Parmesan” only really Brazil nuts. But the bread. Ohhhh this bread! Never had I, or any of us, had a GF bread as decadent and wonderful as this. It is made with chickpea and oat flours, chia seeds, and other delectable, healthy ingredients. They sell this house-made loaf for $12. Whether you are GF or not, you need this bread in your life.
Cami’s “Spicy ‘Suntuna’ Salad” was very flavorful and quite spicy indeed. Soooo good on this bread!
I noticed Mary had a teeny-tiny glass bottle of “Brain Booster”. I asked her why she didn’t just buy a regular juice. “Oh, I’m not buying it for the juice. I’m buying it for the jar.” Mary is a pre-school teacher who’s teeny-tiny students like to pick her teeny-tiny flowers.
There’s only one thing left to do after feeling so good from eating such an exceptionally healthy meal. Get some exercise? Nah. Take a nap? Nah. Do some meditating at the Self Realization Center? Nope. You know exactly what it is.
We are praying for you Choice Cafe and Juicery! This location has been the kiss of death for shops such as The Sandwich Spot (loved it!) , Melt 101 (never got there) and The Lion’s Pack (never tried it, but think maybe it closed on name alone). They actually sold raw, vegan cookie dough. “Kid’s, would you rather have some raw, vegan cookie dough or go next door to Handel’s that offers gigantic scoops of homemade ice cream, with over 50 flavors to choose from which you can sample first to your heart’s content?” Closed did ya’ Lion’s Pack? Shocker.
If you’ve passed the quiz at the beginning of this blog post, then I’m sure you will love Choice Café & Juicery as much as we did. No, it’s not for everyone. It’s for the psychotic health nut. And for us, this place rocks! The grab-and-go food is perfect for a picnic at the beach. Anyone not used to eating organically will definitely balk at the prices. But for those of us already desensitized to it, these prices are about right. You know what they say, “Pay for good health now, or really pay for it later.” And for anyone who’s just human, if you need a little balance after eating so cleanly, Handel’s is right down the stairs.
Back on April 22, 2017 we blogged our second location: Pandora’s Pizza. I will include a paragraph I wrote way back then:
“Now when it comes to pizza, I hold everything in comparison to the Holy Grail of pizzas which, for me, is at Buona Forchetta. Since I am only blogging about dining on the 101 in Encinitas, and Buona Forchetta is located at 3001 Beech St. (South Park) San Diego, I can’t tell you about the amazing homemade authentic pizzas they make using recipes of their ancestors from Italy. It wouldn’t be right to mention their pizza “Marisa” with their luscious pesto, fresh, crisp, grape tomatoes and pine nuts toasted to perfection. So good, that you have to rethink if it is even worth eating any other pizza for the rest of your life….And if you do make it down to Buona Forchetta, say hello to Sofia for me (their handmade pizza oven with clay that comes straight from the Sorrento region in Italy. Yes, she’s named Sofia.)”
Fast forward two and a half years later, and where does Buona Forchetta open up another location after Liberty Station?? That’s right, our little town of Encinitas. And where in Encinitas? Right here on the 101! Coincidence? Maybe….but come on! I’m pretty sure that after I wrote that blog, swarms of Encinitians (well, what else are we called?), flooded their South Park location. My readers begged, pleaded, even threatened the owners of Buona Forchetta to open a location all the way up the coast, right here on the 101. All due to this little blog. That’s just one theory of course.
We knew how fantastic their South Park location was and we were excited to try it again, here in our ‘hood. We got a nice group together and stupidly went for a 6pm dinner on Sunday. AS IF! There was a line out the door. We were told by our hostess that she would try really hard to get us a table in about an hour. My people were hungry. They couldn’t wait. We ended up aborting our mission and had dinner at one of my favorite go-to’s: Encinitas Fish Shop.
A few weeks later we tried again, only choosing 5pm as a more realistic starting point. But by then, every single one of our friends had been there! Not one of them could wait for the blog, and ate there on their own. So it was a romantic evening for just Hubby and me. Which was kind of sad because we love blogging with our friends. But was also good because getting a table for two took no time at all, even with a line out the door this early. And yah, it’s always nice spending time together, just the two of us, blah blah blah.
The restaurant is quaint with seating inside and outside. By “quaint” I mean this location alone will never do, they need a much bigger space! But you are seated right next to other patrons which makes socializing and kibitzing with your neighbors almost a must.
They started us with a plate of crusty bread plus a dish of lentils in EVOO right away. If you’re clueless like Hubby, EVOO stands for extra virgin olive oil. I think Rachael Ray coined the term. The plate didn’t last long.
Before I knew it, a fresh plate of refilled bread and lentils were sitting on our table.
I had to barricade it away from myself, because I can’t be trusted with something this delicious.
Our neighbors were just finishing up their meal and were hugging the maître d’ as if they were life long friends. I asked them if they had been here before, as if there was even a question. I was told they come every week. They said tonight was all about the brussel sprouts.
Our waitress, Alessia, came over with the thickest Italian accent I have ever heard. She out-Italianed every local Italian I met in Italy last summer! She’s from Padova, a small city nestled between Venice and Verona. She’s the Real Deal and couldn’t have been sweeter or more accommodating.
Since Hubs won’t eat pancetta which accompanied the brussel sprout dish, and there was no one else here ordering food at our table because some people COULDN’T WAIT TO EAT HERE FOR THE BLOG….we had to go sproutless. Instead, we ordered something to share from the “Specials” to start our meal that sweet Alessia recommended. It was called “Zuppa Della Mamma” which I was told translates to “soup from the chef’s mamma’s kitchen”. How does one not order that? Thank goodness mamma loves calamari because so do we! And I can tell you I have never in my life had calamari melt in my mouth like butter until now. Seriously, no teeth required. This soup, or stew really, was so hearty and delicious, Hubby says it’s one of the best things he has eaten on any blog we have done. It ain’t pretty, but it sure is good!
Trying to stay away from cheese and carbs (great idea to come to an Italian restaurant), I ordered the Marinated Seafood Salad, hold the dressing. The flavors were delicious but I wasn’t crazy about the marinated texture of the seafood. Hubby had no problem finishing it for me, he loved it.
Like their South Park location, the Encinitas has a pizza oven made in Naples then brought to San Diego to cook these amazing pizzas. This pizza oven is named “Isabella”.
Hubby ordered a pizza with half pesto and half pesto with red sauce with fresh tomatoes. The bottom of the pizza is paper thin, almost tortilla-like, with a crunchy rim of thick baked dough around the outside. The half with both the red sauce and the pesto won. Of course I tried it! As long as I was only sampling Hubby’s, the carbs and cheese didn’t count. I didn’t order one myself after all. It’s all in the ordering you see. Fantástico!
Ok, I made it through dinner with minimal damage of carbs and cheese. One slice of bread. One taste, ok, slice if you’re being technical, of pizza, and just soup and salad. I did pretty darn good if I do say so myself! No pasta, no alcohol…I rock!
Oh Alessia, what have you done? I’m all out of willpower! You kicked me when I’m down! I made Hubby try the mystery pastry first. It was filled with Nutella. This was going to be ok because I’m not a fan of Nutella. But after trying the second one, he just looked at me and said, “Uh ohhhh” because he knows me. Believe it or not, I have never tried panna cotta before. It was a little mold of vanilla heaven. Rich, creamy and delicate with just the right amount of slightly tart, slightly sweet raspberry sauce. I was hosed. This was way too good for only one bite.
I tried snapping some pics of the gentlemen at work on the pizzas, but there was too much glare behind the glass.
The maître d’ invited me to go around into the kitchen to get better pictures. The kitchen is tiny! I can’t imagine how these chefs work their magic in such a minuscule kitchen, but they do. And here is lovely Isabella in all her glory, heating up pizzas past 1000 degrees to perfection:
This is practically the entire kitchen you are looking at in front of Isabella, with these guys killing it.
When you love what you do, your passion shows through and through. Head chef, Marcello, on the right.
It’s not like Buona Forchetta has to actually thank me with profit sharing for the great Encinitas 101 location idea. I’m not suggesting they put my face on the menu or anything like that. But maybe a pizza called “The Kori” or “Korinana” to sound more authentic, would be nice. It would have both red sauce and pesto. Check the menu folks, I wouldn’t be surprised!
I would have loved to tried more dishes, but with only two of us, we could only order so much. Next time I will get the brussel sprouts and the grilled artichoke that we heard about. We love Buona Forchetta for it’s authentic flavors, charming atmosphere and scrumptious menu choices. But there’s something more. The people eating here are happy. The people serving here are happy. The people cooking here are happy. There is a sense of “family” here. A true sense of “home”. There’s a reason why Buona Forchetta made it into Conde Nasta’s 2019 top 25 restaurants in San Diego: https://www.cntraveler.com/gallery/best-restaurants-in-san-diego
Buona Forchetta is truly “Good Fork”!
Oops, you can’t join us on our next blog at Choice Juicery, because it was today. And if you are only now reading this, then you missed it because you weren’t there.
But our next blog will be on Sunday, November 3rd. Check back soon for the exact location if you would like to join us!
We have officially finished blogging the entire 101 throughout Encinitas and are now coming back around to hit all of the new joints that have opened up in the last year and a half since we began our endeavor.
Moto Deli started out as a food truck, morphed into a brick and mortar, then blossomed into Valentina. Same great owners, same location, it’s just all grown up now. You will still find some remnants of Moto here and there, like the helmet on the wall, but Valentina is definitely a fresh new place. Still casual, but with more elegance.
One of the things we loved about Moto Deli was the cool patio to eat on, and thankfully, Valentina knew to leave well enough alone. She just sparkles now with tea lights.
A few months ago my neighbor, Carolyn, sent me a text. It read, in all caps, “GET THE CHOCOLATE DESSERT THING AT VALENTINA”. No “hi” or “how’s it going”. Then a few weeks later I get, “WELL?? Have you had THE DESSERT THING yet??” So when I arrived to find my old friend Kim finishing dinner here with her newly fiancee’d man Ryan, I thought it would be nice to send them over a “chocolate dessert thing” even though I hadn’t even tried one yet. Congratulations you two!
Valentina’s on-line menu does not list prices, so we were all a bit nervous to see what we were about to shell out for dinner. We literally had no idea. Our waitress, Rachel, sat us outside and brought us menus. We all let out our breaths. Ok, nothing too scary. I liked the small menu. It didn’t offer a lot of options, but everything sounded great. Small place, small menu.
The short and squat water/wine glasses didn’t do it for me. I think Valentina can do better here. But I always enjoy having my lemons labeled so I don’t get confused as to which are the ones I brought and which are the lemons belonging to the restaurant.
Our server Rachel talked us into a few of her favorite apps, and she wasn’t wrong. The Heirloom Tomato & Burrata was the bomb. As Valentina is the elevated form of Moto Deli, Burrata cheese is the elevated form of Mozzarella. It’s Mozzarella on the outside, with curd and cream throughout the middle. If you are imaging pillows of soft, creamy, decadence, you are understanding Burrata cheese.
Jules was thrilled to see Serrano ham on tonight’s menu. This ham from Spain is dry-cured producing deep flavor. I don’t eat pork, just bacon.
The Meatballs and Marinara were delicious. And when Rachel noticed we had plowed through the bread before every droplet of marinara was enjoyed, she just brought us out more. Because two ain’t gunna cut it folks.
The cheese plate looked pretty, but honestly, meats and cheeses aren’t typically my thing. Although I love Burrata, I don’t like other soft cheeses like bleu, goat and brie. Or figs. Or pepperoni. But I liked the olives.
But the curried crusted egg was very unique and very delicious. More of those on the plate please!
Someone ordered the Anchovy Plate. Again, not so much my thing. But I tried it. Fishy, salty, and oily. No thanks. But if my friend, Danielle, were here, she would have lost it over this dish. We traveled throughout Italy together this summer and she ordered anchovies everywhere. I don’t remember seeing anything as good looking as this over there. But I’m not the chovy-chick that she is so bleck!
Dana’s salmon was cooked perfectly, look at that crispy skin!
The Chicken Palliard was delicious. I have no idea how much oil or butter they used to get a crust like that without any breading, but good heavens it was delicious. The little side salad was great too, I wish there was more.
The winner was the Skirt Steak & Frites. A few people ordered this and everyone went crazy over it. The side of chimichurri knocked this dish out of the park. Everyone knows that fried potato sticks called “frites” always taste better than french fries. You can get “fries” anywhere. Young, carnivorous Ricky puts this steak in his top 10 favorites he’s ever had.
Jules and Dana left their son at home, but ordered him the Macaroni to go. Our BP was left at home too, who also had macaroni. Though his was more from a box and less with pancetta, chantarelles and microgreens. Clearly, they love their son more than we do.
And finally, it was dessert time. I was momentarily seduced by the words “Tres Leches” but I have been burned too many times before. If I want Tres Leches cake, and I do, always, I know where to go. Q’ero. Tonight was about the “chocolate dessert thing”. I was worried about the espresso. I’m not a great sleeper and caffeine at night usually keeps me up for three days. But I’m sure just a small taste wouldn’t hurt.
So now I know that there is no such thing as “a small taste” of this “chocolate dessert thing”. OMG- it is absolutely incredible. Wafer thin and crispy on the outside, with warm chocolate goo mixed with melting vanilla ice cream on the inside. My left hand had to grab my right hand and hold it down to let others share in this magical dish.
Churros scare me. They remind me of 4th grade. The kids from our cushy San Fernando Valley elementary school were bussed out be part of the “Integration” also called the “Desegregation” movement in the ’70’s. They bussed the kids from more affluent areas to attend schools in low- income areas. Our prissy white privileged asses never saw a neighborhood in LA quite like this one before. This new school was scary. Many kids were in gangs. We were not welcome, and understandably so. The playground was so violent, we all chose to have recess and lunch inside the classrooms. But I remember there was this churro cart on the corner that parked between the bus and the school’s entrance. We never stopped to get one, but the sugary, cinnamon smells filled our noses as we ran top speed, clutching each other, to class everyday. And since then, I have always associated churros with fear.
But I’m all grown up now you see, and churros don’t scare me anymore! So when Ricky offered to share a taste of his, I put on my Big Girl panties and tried one. It was warm, crispy and utterly delicious. These churros are served with a side of Mexican chocolate. I had mine served with maybe just a small side of fear.
Of course Hubby had to take things a step further and went ahead and dipped his already-ridiculously-chocolatey-dessert-thing into the churro’s side of Mexican chocolate for an over the top chocolate experience. This is a very advanced move, not meant for beginners.
Lynne and I couldn’t help but notice how much one of the servers looked like Milo from the show ” This is Us “. We are sure he hears it all the time!
We love Valentina! With a few tweaks, this place is going to be fantastic. Here’s a few suggestions:
The staff is super warm and friendly, but the service has some room for improvement. Things came out pretty slow.
Water glasses should be bigger and the wine should have their own glasses. Float some candles in these squat ones instead.
The main course meals could use one more component. The Chicken Palliard needed some potatoes, rice, polenta, just one more thing to complete it. Same with the Atlantic Salmon. The flavors are there, but to warrant these prices, they need something more on the plate.
Make sure you order this delicious chocolate dessert thing! Turns out the espresso in the chocolate had little effect on me falling asleep. The power of age beats the power of caffeine.
Join us this Sunday, tomorrow, October 6th at 6pm at
April 15, 2017 we blogged our first 101 dining experience at Kotija Jr. Taco Shop where it all started with a taco. For the last year and a half-ish every Sunday night-ish Hubby, me, sometimes BP, always friends, sometimes strangers, have joined us as we took on this project to try every single place selling food on the 101, in order, throughout Encinitas. Karina’s Taco Shop closes the loop.
A lot has happened over this last year and a half. I started writing this blog as a judgmental, highly critical pissant if you will. Along this endeavor, Kellen found his taste buds and became our Bottomless Pit, “BP”. We survived an incredible hike/bike/kayak trip through New Zealand which I blogged: https://whythehellisntanyonepayingmetowritethisblog.home.blog/
Oldest started college and youngest started high school. And I’ve changed too. I’ve turned 50, and like to think I have matured a bit over the course of 95 blogs. I now play pickleball. I drive slower. Hell, I move slower. Oh, I’m still judgmental and critical, but I have started to soften up a wee bit around the edges. And this is why I have retired the nasty term “Crap Taco Shop” also previously referred to as “CTS”. CTS: low quality Americanized, fast-food type of seemingly generic Mexican food.
Before coming to Karina’s I checked out their website to see what their hours were and whatnot. I browsed through their “gallery” of pictures expecting to find photos of luscious burritos and voluptuous tacos. Which they have. Just substitute the word “women” for burritos and tacos though. Out of 16 pictures in their gallery, only one photo is of food. It is nice to see a family run place. And quite a good looking family I may add!
Standing in front of Karina’s Taco Shop I noticed a few other odd things. First of all, there is an actual payphone here! I don’t mean an actual working one, but still. I was curious to see what year they stopped replacing phone books. What’s your guess?
If you guessed 2006 you are a winner!
Some of us just can’t accept new technology no matter what everyone else is doing.
Under Karina’s Taco Shop sign it says “Mexican you can taste…” Now I was really excited to read this. I can’t tell you how many times I’m eating tacos and think to myself, “What the hell am I eating? Am I even eating? I know I’m chewing something, but I just can’t taste anything.” When I eat Mexican food, I want to actually taste Mexican food. Karina’s promises us we will!
As I am about to walk in, I hear someone call my name. I turn around to find a tall, slightly familiar looking surfer-dude smiling at me. Then it hits me. OMG, this is Nick, my college roommate from Davis!!! I can’t believe I am running into him here, right at Karina’s Taco Shop in Leucadia! We place our orders and sit down to catch up. As Nick started spilling some of my less-than-proud crazy college moments, I decided to change the subject and asked what brought him and his daughter to Karina’s.
“I am a bred and born north county coastal Mexican food expert and I promise you this is the best food anywhere. We eat here about twice a week.” Now that is some pretty high praise from an actual Mexican food eating expert! Nick explained that Karina’s used to have a 5 star restaurant downtown. Now they serve 5 star Mexican food out of a run-of-the-mill looking taco shop. He told us not to judge a book by it’s cover. He schooled us on the criteria of what makes a taco shop great. He said to always judge Mexican food by their carnitas. I’m not a big carnitas fan, but I trust him when he says Karina’s has the best. He insisted that we try the ceviche, so Debbie and I ran back in and ordered some.
Inside Karina’s has a picture of their “Bomb” burrito. It’s called the “Bomb” because every single person who has ever ordered one has died. Immediately. To have a burrito already filled with every artery clogging ingredient only to add deep fried ROLLED TACOS inside as well?! I was mortified. Hubby felt nothing but respect for Karina’s and said he now loves them. He thought about ordering one, but decided to choose life instead.
Our food was ready quickly. One bite of this ceviche and it was all I could do to stop myself from jumping up and bringing it two doors down to Solterra. “THIS is what ceviche can taste like!” I would shout to their chef right in their kitchen. Solterra’s ceviche was bland as sand compared to this one. But then I would be escorted out and there were a lot of people over there. I just wasn’t up for that kind of embarrassment in front of an old friend. So I stayed here enjoying the almost over-the-top burst of flavors from this ceviche-done-right. But then a slow burn started taking over my mouth and my fork desperately tore apart the ceviche in need of some cooling avocado. There was none! So it’s a BYOA type of ceviche here folks. Very delicious indeed, but don’t forget to bring your own avocado! I look over at Debbie who takes a bite, wipes her eyes, blows her nose, then takes another bite. It hurts so bad but it tastes so good! As I’m flailing my hands in front of my burning mouth and doing a hot-mouth-dance in my seat, I notice Nick looking oddly at me. “Still strange…” I think I hear him whisper under his breath.
The Seven Mares soup arrived and was delicious.
“Howth your thoup?” Asks Debbie, completely congested from the nose running spiciness.
It was loaded with tasty sea creatures like calamari, octopus, fish, shrimp and mussels. I took a bite or two. I couldn’t have tasted past my first “mare” when that heat started coming right back to bite me! I gulped down some water and the pain would temporarily subside. But like those trick birthday candles, as soon as I put the water down, the heat came right back stronger than ever, burning my tongue, my cheeks, my face, my eyelashes! I quickly passed the soup over to Hubby who gobbled it up saying how amazing it was.
That left me to eat a grilled fish taco. The problem was that my mouth was so completely burnt, all I could taste was “hot” and I don’t think the taco had anything spicy on it at all. Interesting that they serve lemons instead of traditional limes with their dishes.
So now I know what “Mexican food you can taste” means. There was no doubt whatsoever that I was eating Mexican food. I tasted those chilies, ohhh yes I did!
It all started with a taco. And it all ended with one too.
The Encinitas 101 is filled with small, inexpensive taco shops. I once found them all to be the same, completely interchangeable. But I have come to see the light. I’ve had my Jewish come-to-Jesus moment, a bit late in the game, but better late than never. Karina’s Taco Shop is truly one of the better ones in town. They love things spicy, so if you don’t, be careful of what you order. They want to make sure you taste what they are putting out, and their food is aggressively flavorful.
When you go to Karina’s Taco Shop you’re likely to see a good looking, tall, surfer-dude named Nick. You can ask him what I was like as a college roommate. Honestly, I don’t remember all that much from those years in Davis. There may have been some drinking. I’m sure there was some studying. I know there wasn’t any Mexican food!
Now that we have completed the 101, we need to do “CLEANUP ON ISLE 5!”. Much like the Golden Gate bridge that is being continuously painted from end to end, we will head back the way we came and catch all of the new places that have popped up since we began!