Cancun Mexican & Seafood

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Review #79

Cancun Mexican & Seafood is literally a hole in the wall.  And the wall is adjacent to a gas station, which is next to a 7-11.  None of this fine 101 dining with ocean views here.  Let’s be honest.  We were scared.

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The old, faded, cheesy pictures of their food on the front window did little to ease our concerns.

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Walking in we thought the establishment was very clean and there quite a few people eating here which was a good sign.  You can order in one line if you have a credit card or you can order in the other line with cash.  Both go to the same cash register, so make sure you get in the right line.  Exactly.

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Any restaurant boasting “seafood” in there name requires me to order some.  I chose the Seasoned Grilled Sea Bass which sounds very fancy for a fast-food Mexican hole-in-the wall next to the gas station.

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Their salsa bar is impressive with delicious additions such as grilled onions and marinated carrots.  It’s also the best labeled salsa bar in town.  Most places have you guessing by color which sauce will burn your face off.  Thank you Cancun!  The only downside is that there’s a sign on the glass stating patrons are limited to three small cups from the salsa bar.  But I didn’t see that sign.  What sign?  No picture of it, I must be wrong.  I may have taken 5-6.  Oops.

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In addition to the regular soda dispenser, they have one full of sweet Mexican drinks.

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Our food came out quickly.  Jen ordered the chicken soup which came with so many condiments, it was a really large meal.  The other soups looked just as good.

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Joyce got the enchiladas and said they were delicious.  She said she would rather come here to eat over Casa De Bandini any day of the week.  Except they have the margaritas at CDB.

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Hubby (still too nervous about eating at a gas station) played it safe and only ordered one chicken taco.  He was impressed.

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The grilled fish tacos were as good as anywhere, and hats off to the double tortilla vessel.  Well done.

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Kelly was in love with his Machaca burrito but I found the side salad hilarious.  Not sure he could finish all that salad!

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Kelly was impressed with the large number of peppers inside his burrito and wants to show you.

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My sea bass was delicious!  A little heavy on the onions, but it didn’t bother me.  The fish was well seasoned with crispy bits on the ends and flakey meat in the middle.  It came with rice, beans and a Miami Dolphin container of tortillas.  I would order this again next time.

(No, of course I don’t know that blue and orange are Miami Dolphin colors.  I bring sporty friends who know these things.)

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Everything was going great until this giant beast of a vehicle started backing up into the spot right by Kelly.  Eat near the window at your own risk!

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Bottom Line:

Cancun Mexican & Seafood was a nice surprise.   For a cheap(ish) Mexican fast food joint, this place rocks!  You can grab a burrito here, get some gum, magazines and condoms at 7-11 all while filling up your car at Berri Brothers.  Now that’s convenient!

Why fly all the way to Cancun when you can get a piece of it right here in Leucadia?

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Hubby & Joyce in (at) Cancun.  Should I be worried?

Good to know:  Rumor has it that Berri Brothers matches Costco’s gas prices and has the cheapest gas in town!

 


Join us this Saturday, April 20th at 9:00am at

Leucadia Donut Shoppe

https://m.facebook.com/LeucadiaDonuts/

Yes, I do know it I will be eating chametz during Passover, but I had a talk with God and he said as long as it’s for a good cause like the blog, I’m ok.  Phew!

chametz: leavened foods such as DONUTS forbidden to eat during Passover.  Oops.

The Leucadia Farmers Market

Farmers mkt sign

Review #78

Blogging the Leucadia Farmers Market is an important milestone because it was here, two years ago in April, maybe even to the day, that I came up with the idea for this blog.  Hubby and I were leaving the market and I looked across the 101 at all of the restaurants that we had never tried.

“What if we commit to starting a project to try them all, in order and I’ll write about it?”.  Seventy-seven reviews later, we are here, finishing up our loop.

The Farmers Market is open every Sunday from 10-2.  I’m not going to sugar coat it, the parking sucks.  All of your nice, sweet neighbors become beasts in this cut-throat game of “Paws off bitch, that spot is mine!”.  The best time to come, if you want parking, is close to closing, but you take the risk of the vendors being sold out of premium stuff.  The best option for us is to walk there.  If I end up buying more than can fit in my backpack, I just Uber home.

The Paul Ecke elementary school is otherwise the perfect spot for a farmers market.  It is so country-cute with their own gardens and chickens.  Bring the kids, there are tons here, but leave your dogs at home.  They are not allowed here and the ones I see tied up at the fence are usually hot and whining.  I come here to be happy and this makes me sad.

Farmers mkt school

The Farmers Market isn’t just my happy place, it’s BP’s too.  We often come here together, just the two of us.  Today he made a b-line for his favorite spot, Masala Cottage Indian Cuisine.  It’s kind of amazing I was able to grab this picture without the crowd because there is always one here.

Farmers mkt Indian

This Indian food is as good as I’ve ever had.  My only complaint is that their naan bread is not my favorite.  And good naan is such an important part of the meal!  However, this never stops BP, he just goes naan-less.   He barely held off attacking his plate so I could take this picture.

Farmers mkt indaina go
Bottomless Pit’s Indian Plate

Hubby ordered a plate from here too.  That’s how good this Indian food is.

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Hubby’s Indian Plate

I wanted something really healthy so went with the Kenyan vendor, Rafikiz Foodz.  They offer lots of vegetable options and everything is MSG, gluten, dairy and soy free.  Yet still very flavorful.  You can get samples if you don’t believe me.  Plus it’s fun trying something new, and how often do I get to eat African food?

Farmers Mkt African

I got a plate of stewed chicken, braised cabbage and collard greens over coconut rice.  Abzolutely Deliciouz!  I don’t know why the spork isn’t more common.  It is so darn useful.  Need a fork for stabbing and a spoon for scooping?  It’s all here in one!

Farmers mkt Kenyan

BP and I strolled among the vendors while we waited for some of our friends to join us.  Lots of vendors give out samples, and BP tried each and every one. It’s like the giant plate of Indian food never happened.

“Bring me back sweet potato pie!” yelled Hubs.

“I’ve never seen that, where is the vendor?” I asked.

“He’s THE nicest guy at the farmers market.  You will know!”

So off we went.

Here are a few of my favorite things:

Baba Foods:  Good luck sampling the hummus here and not bringing home a tub or five.  I can’t do it, I’m a total sucker.

Farmers mkt hummus

Loose Leaf:  LOVE my tea girl, she hooks me up!  Organic, loose, delicious organic teas with tons of variety.  My favorites are the Gunpowder Green, Matcha and Oolong.  (Read “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane” by Lisa See and you will start drinking Oolong before long too!  See what I did there?  Oolong before long?  Hubby says if I have to explain it, I shouldn’t say it so there’s a very good chance this part will be edited out.)  If they run out of Oolong or Matcha (both popular) , I pay for it and it is shipped to my house in just two days.

Farmers mkt tea

Hopkins Almonds:  These almonds are so good, but you shouldn’t trust me.  Sample away my friends!  BP’s favorites are:  Mexican Chocolate, Vanilla, Honey Cinnamon, Italian and Dry Roasted.  But he’s never sure so has to try them all every single time we come.  These almonds make nice gifts.  But if you are bringing them on a train for your friend in LA, they probably won’t make it all the way there.  I think.

Farmers mkt almonds

Driana Foods:  Do not skip Diana Foods.  This gorgeous Spaniard is a magical genius in the kitchen.  Her sauces are TO DIE.  We mix them with chicken and pasta or quinoa for a quick dinner.  And the Spanish olives are our favorite.  They aren’t salty which is so surprising.  My boys sure do love them some olives.  I always have “regular” olives in the fridge for them and then hide a tub of these safely in the vegetable drawer for me.  Shhh.

Farmers mkt Driana

What’s better than buying local raw honey?  Nothing!  And bring back your glass jars to get $.50 back.  I always have 2-3 jars of this at home.  Try the Grapefruit Honey when you’re there.

Farmers mkt honey

Booboo’s Sweet Potato Pies:  I found the nice pie guy!  No, not nice.  NICEST.  EVER.  How can someone be so enthusiastic about their pie and you not buy one?  Just $3 for a small, so I bought a few to bring back for our table.

Farmers mkt pie guy

This sweet potato pie was cold and creamy, almost like frozen custard.  It didn’t have as much cinnamon and nutmeg and my tastebuds were searching for, but on this hot day, this was delicious and refreshing as hell.

Farmers mkt pieOne of the kids in our group scrunched up his nose at the word “sweet potato”.

“It’s your thing, you just don’t know it.  Get into it.” I told him. (“Get into it” is a phrase I picked up on my recent trip to New Zealand.)

“Whoa…say that again.  What you just said.” from our new friend Billy.

“What?  It’s your thing, you just don’t know it.  Get into it?” I asked.

“Yes, I love that.  True wisdom.”  He even wrote it down.

Katie and Jack ordered from another one our favorite vendors, Sushi Drift.  But it was long gone before I could get a picture of their meal.  They have really good sushi, and since sushi is my all time favorite food, I can say this with confidence.

Farmers mkt sushi

John said his steak sandwich with avocado and arugula was delicious but this was all that was left.  I believe him though.

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Not sure what the vendor’s name is but John said it’s the one selling sandwiches and donuts.

Bottom Line:

Come hungry to The Leucadia Farmers Market.  You can sample your way around to fullness for free or order something wonderful from one of the many food-truck style vendors around.   There are always new vendors popping up so it never gets old here.

They also sell wonderful produce, bakery items, succulents, clothing, oils, candles, even worms for your gardens.

You might tell me that there are better Farmers Market in the area.  The Carlsbad one is bigger.  There’s one in Oceanside I should probably see.  All true, but you would get a great big “Nope” from me.  This is MY Farmers Market.  Not since I went to school in Davis have I found a better one.  (That one still RULES!)  This is where I run into my neighbors, my gym friends, my kids’ teachers.  I get an ocean breeze while I enjoy my walk over.  It feels so good to be out in my community, supporting the local farmers and businesses.  Even if it means paying a bit more, I’m ok with that.

Shame on you if you live in the area and have not been to the Leucadia Farmers Market.  You are probably the same people who pay a premium to live close to the beach and never go.  I will never understand your kind.  I bet it’s really your thing.  You just don’t know it.  Get into it!

Farmers Mkt group
We love the Leucadia Farmers Market!

Join us Sunday, April 14th at 6:30pm at

Cancun Mexican & Seafood

http://www.cancunmexicanandseafood.com/

 

 

 

 

Chiko

Chiko sign

Review #77

There’s a new kid in town and we got here just in time to get the skinny on them.  Usually when I blog I get, “What do you mean you have never been there before?” Like to VG Donuts, Angelo’s Burgers and The Kraken.  Places that have been around forever and a day, yet they have all been new to me, someone who never got out much.  But this time, I’m at a new place before many of you even know about it and I feel so hip and cool.  Until I just read that back.  Nope, I’m still a dork.

Chiko is located on the east side of the 101 next door to Encinitas Surf Shop.  I love the Encinitas Surf Shop but I hate going there because of the parking.  Pulling in is easy enough, right off the main highway, but trying to leave is nothing less than hellish.  Trying to back out onto oncoming traffic is very scary.  I was a bit nervous going to Chiko for dinner.  In the dark.

Before Chiko opened last November, this location was Shibari Organic Ramen that was there for about five seconds.  Nope, never made it there.  Before that it was Bull Taco for a short run.  Prior that is was Jamrock and before that DB Hackers.  Before that there wasn’t an internet so who the heck knows.

The place is small and elongated.  You order at the counter and then can choose from a few tables to the left or right.  There is a nice outdoor patio but it’s pretty small.  I bet it’s great to eat outside there on a warm night.  They were very accomodating to our “large” group of 8 and put some tables together for us inside.  It was actually really nice and we could have the kind of restaurant conversation you can hardly find anywhere.  We could hear each other!

I like that the menu isn’t too large.  They carefully picked their dishes to be unique and clever.  They don’t need a ton of them.

Chiko menu up

We ordered a bunch of things to share and they had no problem keeping things nut-free for Oldest’s girlfriend.

Andrew Kim, the owner, was there and came over to talk to us.  He is very excited to have opened this Encinitas location to add to the two he has opened in Washington DC.  He also let us know that as of tomorrow (which is now today) Chiko will be opening for lunch.  He was practically giddy about the sandwiches on the new lunch menu.  Kimchi + Cheese = Kimcheese!

Chiko lunch

Our food arrived quickly on family-style plates.  You get to serve yourself in these cool, little metal bowls which makes sharing and eating more fun.  I’m not really sure why,  but it does.

Chiko bowls

Mary sat down with a small can of Sac-Sac.  What she was hoping for was something refreshing with a light grape flavor.  What she got was a redo of the pregnancy glucose drink.  Moms, remember that sickening sweet, syrupy thing we were forced to drink to see if we had gestational diabetes?  Yep, that!

Chiko sac sac

The Wok Blistered Chinese Broccoli was a very nice portion for $8.  It included sauteed shiitake mushrooms and crispy garlic.  D-lish!  I really like that it was chopped up into bite-sized pieces.  It was great to add to all of the other dishes we put into those cute silver bowls.

Chiko broccoli

The San Diego Spice Bag had crisp shrimp and tater tots “Honoring DB Hackers” (it states on their menu) for their well-know fish and chips from back in the day.  Nice touch.  These fried shrimp were honestly the best I’ve ever had.  This batter is superb!  The Chili Miso Aioli (on the side) disappeared but they brought out more for us to use with the rest of our meal.  Oldest ate most of it.  He’s a Spice Bag.

Chiko spice bagI heard rumors before coming tonight that the Pork and Kimchi Potstickers were great, so we had to get some.  Who can say no to crispy yet soft Chinese-ish dumplings filled with yummy stuff?  Not us!

Chiko dumpliings

Jen and Greg ordered the Asparagus Special.  Here’s Jen’s review, “Scrumptious.  Tempura”ed” the perfect amount.  The sauce was flavorful without burning your mouth or clearing your sinus. ”  And I will add, beautifully presented!

Chiko asparagus

The Smashed Salmon with Wild Mushrooms and arrived and this was my favorite thing.  The salmon was cooked just right, not a second longer than necessary.  It melted in our mouths.

Chiko salmon

Next came the Fried Rice that Mira told me was so good when she was last here.  Ok, so some people have made it here before me, but not that many!  Does Mira know her stuff?  Can fried rice really be worth recommending at a place like this?  The answer is hells to the yes!  Best fried rice we have ever eaten.

Chiko fried rice

And finally came the Orange-ish Chicken.  Again, the batter they use for frying is out of this world good.

Chiko orangish

Andrew Kim came over to check on things and we raved and applauded our meal.  He was very pleased and then told us we had better not be too full for dessert.  We were, but come on.  What does being hungry or full have anything to do with ordering dessert?  He was really talking it up, and I wouldn’t be doing this blog any justice without at least trying it, right?  It is a “Sesame Custard” with caramelized dragon fruit, blood orange sorbet, candied almonds and rehydrated basil seeds.  It was cool, fruity, creamy, textured and wonderful.  When you have a dessert this good, there only needs to be one on the menu.

Chiko dessert

Time to leave and my palms started to sweat.  I had to back up out of the spot, in the dark into oncoming traffic.   Hubby offered to get out but that wasn’t practical.  If there is an opening without cars coming, there is no time to get him back in the car before I would have to high tail it out of there.  So I took my chances, backed out blindly but really slowly, saw lights bearing down quickly on me, and I lead-footed the gas pedal, burned tires and raced the car forward.  One car had to swerve out of my lane to miss me and there were lots of horns blazing.  Someone may have screamed.  But we made it out of there alive.  Not the best part of the meal.

Bottom Line:

Not only did we love the food at Chiko, the service was exceptional. Although the restaurant is small, the seating arrangements worked out great and we had actual conversation with each other without yelling. (Isn’t this something only old people talk about?  Shit.).  This is the finest dining you will find at a walk-up counter.  This unique, funky, tasty little spot is exactly what Encinitas needs on the 101.

We didn’t just have a great meal.  We had a great night.  Come here with friends.  Try something new.  Order the desert.  Come for lunch, because of the new sandwiches and because there is daylight for when it’s time to leave.

Chiko= Chinese + Korean

CaWaToCoB= Can’t Wait to Come Back


Sunday, April 7th at 11:30 we will be heading over to where it all began:

The Leucadia Farmers Market Food Trucks

http://www.leucadiafarmersmarket.com/

Dining News

I thought I should give you an update on our plans.  You may have noticed that we are heading towards the finish line of the 101 in Encinitas.  A couple of things going on:

1.) We made a last minute decision to skip Lofty Coffee East last weekend since I have already blogged Lofty Coffee West and it’s the same thing.

2.) When we started this endeavour, we started it on the west corner of Leucadia Blvd. and the 101.  That was WRONG!  We should have started it further north at La Costa Blvd.  In order to do a complete loop that encompasses all of the 101 in Encinitas, we will continue on from where we are going north, cross over to the west side at La Costa and then head back to Leucadia Blvd. where we started.

3.)  Then we’re done, right?  Not so fast.  Plenty of new places have opened up since we started so we will do a “101 Clean Up” to hit all of these restaurants, still in order, until we have looped back around again.  And if need be, we will do that again.  And again.  This may end up being the Golden Gate Bridge of Encinitas, where as soon as we finish, it’s time to get the new places again.  But once we really get a leg up on that, we will officially be done with Encinitas.

4.) The option now is to finish the blog Dining on the 101, Or, continue on!  This project has just been too much fun and we don’t want to stop.  So after Encinitas, we plan to head up the 101 to Carlsbad, then all the way to Oceanside.  There’s really no end in sight!

So that’s the news!  Please join us this Sunday March 31st at 6:30pm to try a new restaurant in town called Chiko– Chinese+ Korean = Chiko

Thanks for reading, sharing the blog and for all of your supportive comments.  I know not everyone agrees with my reviews, but I hope I’ve contributed to eating out more at our wonderful local establishments.  We have some great places, don’t we?

Leucadia Pizzeria Italian Restaurant

Leucadia Pizzeria

Review #76

I don’t think it’s possible to live in San Diego and not know about Leucadia Pizza.  They send coupons out in all the local mailers, support numerous local community events and have drivers everywhere at all times.  In fact, I bet these delivery cars are just driving around town doing marketing as much as they are delivering pies.

Leucadia P cars

Leucadia P car

A few small wonky details set us on our “off night”.  Their website under “About Us” says they have three locations, but under “Locations” it lists six.  None, ironically, are located in Leucadia.  When I called ahead of time to make a reservation for 13, I was asked if I wanted to sit inside or outside.  I have been there before.  There is no outside seating.  Weird.  We all arrived promptly at 6:00 and had a long table set up for us.  They brought out garlic bread right away.  Nice touch!

Leucadia P garlic bread

Unfortunately, the bread was drowning in butter and very sweet.  I didn’t care for it at all, but our group gobbled it up.  We were all hungry.

Bottomless Pit noticed that not all menus were the same.  Some had menu items listed on them that others didn’t.  Kind of weird to not have uniform menus, right?  We put in our order for drinks, some salads, a few pastas and some pizzas.

Our water and beers arrived promptly and as the sun was starting to set, we enjoyed this spacious, comfortable restaurant with beautiful ocean and sunset views.

After a while some of the food arrived.  Oldest and Girlfriend ordered the Santa Fe Chicken Pasta.  I took a bite and almost burned off my tongue. Spicy! Luckily those two didn’t have a problem with it.  I was surprised to taste something that hot without being advertised as spicy on the menu.  I would  have sent it back.

Leucadia P pasta

We ordered a full Greek Style Salad for the table to have with our pizzas.  The salad arrived, but no pizzas.  Here is the description of the Greek Salad:

Greek Style Salad

$8.49/Half
$13.19/Full
Mixed greens with sweet bell peppers, Greek olives, feta cheese, pepperoncinis, and sun-dried tomatoes. Served with a lemon-herb dressing
But what we got was a spinach salad, NO mixed greens and No feta.  This is nothing like a Greek salad.  And is this seriously a “full” size?  Wow.
Leucadia P greek
We happened to have a very distinguished food critic with us tonight with the most discerning palate.  Luckily the Mac-N-Cheese passed Lily’s scrutiny.
Leucadia P Mac

Dee ordered the salmon which is a nice choice if you are dairy-free or just don’t want pizza for some reason.  Which I can’t imagine.  She said it was very good.

Leucadia P salmon

So you might think that our pizzas were coming soon, but oh, you would be wrong.  As everyone finished their entrees and we ate our Not-At-All-Greek-Salad, our waitress came to clear plates.

“Anything else I can get you guys?” she asked as if we were finished.

“Just waiting on those three large pizzas” I reminded her.

“Yep, just clearing out some space for them.” But it sure did seem strange that half our group who ordered entrees were finished, and our salad that I thought we would have with the pizzas was gone too.  This would have been a good time for her to actually check on those pizzas, no?

Now it was 7:15, we had been here since 6:00.  Hubby got up to go and ask where our pizzas were.  It wasn’t that crowded, and no other wait staff had been over to check on us for a very long time.  Hubby came back red in the face.

“Well, there’s no good news and the bad news is that no one ever put in our pizza order.  Do we want to leave or wait?”

We were all really hungry and didn’t see the point in going somewhere else now so we had them start our pizzas.  But half our group couldn’t wait.  They were mostly the ones who ordered pastas and salad so they paid for these and left.  I sent my boys with Girlfriend home in an Uber.

“At least the dinner will be comped” someone said bitterly.

The manager came over to our table overflowing with apologies and excuses.

“I would like to offer you half off of your meal tonight to make up for your wait.  Is there anything else I can do for you?” She asked apologetically.

“Actually there is.  You can also comp the other half.” said Rich.

“We’ve been waiting for our dinner for almost two hours and half of our group left hungry.” I said less friendly than Rich.  The manager looked at our now half empty table.

“I see.  Let me comp your entire dinner except for the beers.  I can’t comp alcohol by law.” We accepted.

We waited hungrily but we had our beers and were all happy to be in good company.  And our time wasn’t wasted because I learned something very important that I never knew before.  Did you know that squeezing your sphincter muscles can calm you down?  I know, how did the conversation just go there, right?  I mean, I can’t even remember ever having a conversation about my sphincter.  And at the dinner table?  I will admit that this is an area that gets very little mental or verbal attention.  Here’s how it went down:

I was asked how my flights were to and from my recent trip to New Zealand.  I commented on how much turbulence there was.  Dee, a very knowledgeable yoga instructor, explained that clenching one’s sphincter helps combat the feeling of falling when there is turbulence.  Who knew?  Then Minnie piped in that awhile back when she was having episodes of heart palpitations, her doctor recommended sphincter clenching as well!  Dee said that every part of our body needs to be acknowledged and loved.  So although kegeling may be for women only, sphincter clenching is for everyone.  Admit it, you’re doing it right now!

I glanced over to the men’s side of the table and was fairly certain that they were not talking about sphincter clenching.  I was glad the boys and Girlfriend weren’t here for this conversation.  They would have been mortified.

It still took 35 minutes to get our pizzas, but when they arrived, they were piping hot and delicious!

Leucadia P bbq
BBQ Chicken
Leucadia P delux
The Delux
Leucadia P veg
The Vegetarian

My only complaint on the pizza is that the crust is really sweet.  The BBQ Chicken Pizza had very sweet BBQ sauce, and the sweet on sweet wasn’t for me.  But everything else about the pizzas were terrific.  They were cheesy and loaded with fresh toppings.

Bottom Line:

Leucadia Pizza does 60% of their business through delivery and this is where they shine.  They knock it out of the park by having tons of drivers and valuable coupons which makes pizza delivery quick and affordable.  I don’t love the sweet crust, but that’s a taste preference.  Most people I know really love their pizzas.  And they deliver right to Moonlight Beach!  We have had exchange students from both Spain and Israel, and they were blown away to have pizza delivered to the sand.  It’s cool.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again.  It’s not about having the perfect meal or perfect service.  It’s about how you handle things when something is “off”.  Even though someone forgot to put in our pizza orders, had the wait staff done a better job checking on our large group, it could have been caught faster.  But “Thank You” to the new manager (only been there one month) who felt terrible about our experience and ultimately did the right thing by comping our pizzas.

But my God Man!  Pull yourself together Leucadia Pizzeria!  You have been a pillar in the community for over 40 years, now act like it!  Update your website.  Have menu conformity.  Greekify your Greek Salad.  Train your staff.  Breath.  Clench!


Join us Saturday morning, March 23rd at 9am at

Lofty Coffee EAST

https://loftycoffee.com/

Maurizio Trattoria Italiana

Maurizios signReview #75

Maurizio Trattoria Italiana is the story of a young Italian boy coming to The States to learn English and live out The American Dream.  Maurizio Carbone started working with the Vigilucci Restaurant Group in the kitchen at the Cardiff location.  He worked his way up the ranks through the various restaurants from busboy, Maitre D’ to general manager.  He was able to fulfill his lifelong dream of owning his own restaurant with the help from Roberto Vigilucci and good friends by converting the Encinitas Vigilucci to his own, now Maurizio’s.   A dream was realized through hard work, good people and a bit of luck.  I already loved Maurizio’s before I ever took my first bite of food.

On the night we went, all of our faithful Dining on the 101 followers scattered.  I don’t know if it was just a busy night, the scary prices on the menu, or the fact that the tables had actual white table cloths, which is a deal breaker for some.  Regardless, it turned out that Hubby and I were on a long over-do romantic dinner for due (that’s “two” for you estraneo).

I made a reservation ahead of time to ensure a good table and put on a little make-up.  Hubby wore jeans (That’s dressing up for Hubby,  he’s a programmer.  He wears shorts everyday to work. ) I was steppin’ out with my man!

The restaurant was hopping.  We were shown to our table along the far wall and took in the lively crowd and the delicious aroma of garlic wafting into the dining room from the kitchen.  As I looked around the restaurant I soon realized that this very lively crowd all knew each other.  And if they didn’t, they were walking around to each others’ tables introducing themselves to one another.  But no one came over to ours.  I felt left out.  Clearly this was some or other private party having an event, and we were sitting on the side lines.  Awkward.

For starters, Hubs and I ordered the CALAMARI ELENA for $13.95 “Baby calamari sautéed with garlic and white wine in a spicy marinara sauce.”  It was a nice portion of calamari to share, but I wasn’t a fan of the breading.  Also, what they call “spicy marinara” was really just very bland tomato sauce.   My favorite calamari in the whole world is across the 101 at Q’ero.  In fact, this calamari was such a miss I feel the need to make up for it by going to Q’ero later this week for theirs.  This will make the world right again.  That’s not to say that this dish was bad, trust me, there wasn’t a tentacle left when we finished.

Maurrizios calamarie

For our meal we shared:

PAPPARDELLE CON FUNGHI PORCINI E CAPESANTE
$26.95
Homemade wide ribbon pasta with assorted field mushrooms and pan-seared jumbo scallops in a white truffle and brandy cream sauce.
They were kind enough to split the plate for us.   This is an extremely rich dish, but also very delicious.  There’s just something about thick ribbons of homemade pasta, am I right?  And I’m always a sucker for scallops.
Maurizzios pasta
In fact, all of their pastas and gnocchi are homemade here, I am sure this is where they shine.  Unfortunately, we just didn’t have enough people with us to try more dishes.
The private party that we were crashing was winding down as we were finishing up.  I told Hubby we should just get up and start introducing ourselves around like everyone else was doing.  When in Rome…but just as I was doing so, they all started leaving at once.  “I’ll save you a seat” I heard more than one person say.  A seat for what?  I wondered.
“Come on, let’s follow them!” and I grabbed Hubby’s hand before he could say no.  The crowd walked across the street to La Paloma Theater and they all went inside.  There was a man standing out front.
“Excuse me sir.  Can you please tell us what is going on tonight?” I inquired.
“Yes, there is a private screening to a new movie coming out.” he answered.
A movie is perfect.  Hubby had to get home for a conference call, but I had nothing to do and a movie sounded like just the right thing for me.
“Can I please see it?” I asked.
“Sorry, this is a VIP screening for those on The List.”
“Can you tell us what the movie is about?” I asked, not at all discouraged. I knew I would get in.
“It’s a very powerful and controversial film that is going to make huge waves nation wide.  My wife stars in it.” he said.
“Wow, it sounds incredible.  Are you sure there’s no way I can come in?  Just me?” With a little eyelash bat bat.
“NO” said Mr. Movie Gestapo Man.
So we continued on our walk down the street.  On our return trip back, that guy was gone and a new man was about to walk in.  I recognized him from dinner.
“Excuse me sir, would you mind terribly if I accompanied you into the premiere?” I asked.
“Sure, ok” he said.
“SEE YA!” I yelled to Hubby as I practically ran inside before anyone could turn me away.
“How will you get home?” Hubby asked.
“Uber” I yelled as I closed the theater doors behind me.  Score!  I was in and quite proud of myself I might add.
I found a seat on the aisle and settled in smugly to watch my VIP PREMIERE movie that wasn’t even out yet.
“Excuse me” the gentleman was back who was my “date”.  “Hey, I don’t really know you and I want to trust you, please don’t pirate anything you see tonight.  Some of the footage shown here won’t be out on the big screen, and what you see here needs to stay here until the actual release date of March 30th.”
“No problem.” I told him.
“And one more thing.  This movie is going to be very graphic.  It’s rated ‘R'”
“That’s fine, I’m a big girl.” I reassured him.
A few minutes later the producer of the film got on stage and thanked everyone for coming.
“The movie you are about to watch is called “Unplanned”  How many people here are pro-life?”  ALL hands raised.
“How many people here love Jesus Christ?”  ALL hands raised.
“You are about to watch an incredible true story about the evils of Planned Parenthood.  Prepare yourselves for some very graphic scenes.  Let us all pray.”  THIS GIRL IS OUT OF HERE- EXIT STAGE LEFT!
Hubby was upset that I didn’t stay to watch it.  Even if my views are different, he felt I should have stayed to see another side.  My point is this.  I just enjoyed a delicious Italian meal with the love of my life.  A graphic movie on abortion was NOT the after dinner mint I was hoping for.  I Ubered home to watch something equally controversial, but slightly more benign:  The Bachelor.
Bottom Line:
Our romantic date night here was kind of ruined by the large private party happening at the same time.  If they had only sat us outside, it would have worked out much better.  I’m sure this is an unusual thing to happen, but it was our experience.  Even though the calamari wasn’t special, our main meal was.  I would definitely give Maurizio’s another try.  I’m a sucker for homemade pasta.  I just don’t like it with a side of graphic abortion footage.

Join us next Sunday, March 17th at 6pm at

Leucadia Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant

The End

During one of our pit stops in a slightly bigger town than most (two pubs not just one) I had the most peculiar bathroom experience I’ve ever had.  It was a “Smart” bathroom.  I entered and then tried to lock the door.  An automated voice came on saying “To lock the door, press the button.”  The only button I saw was this big green one, but when I pressed it, the toilet flushed and the door remained unlocked.  I pressed the button again and again, flush flush flush.  I started pressing everything I could find, but nothing worked.  Finally the automated voice came on again and said, “I’m not feeling so well.  How about you?”  WTH???  Finally after a really long time, I popped my head outside and asked the next person to watch the door for me as I could not lock it.  But I certainly knew how to flush the toilet really well.IMG_0316


 

It’s our last day.  I walked outside our farmhouse into the brisk morning air to grab the last pictures of Mt. Cook as the sun was coming up.  Spectacular.

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FYI: Trying not to scratch my still very present sand fly bites, thanks for asking!  Will these things ever go away?  And how come Hubby didn’t get a single one?

I laughed as I packed up my things that included the three decks of playing cards I brought so I could teach everyone Consecutive Gin Rummy during some down time on this trip.  If we weren’t driving, we were hiking.  If we weren’t hiking, we were eating.  If we weren’t eating, we were sleeping.  We played zero minutes of cards on this trip.

Random thought:  I was in the friggin’ Tasman Sea on Milford Sound!  Cool!!

This trip has been two weeks of just showing up.  All meals have been beautiful prepared, served and cleaned up for us.  Heaven.  We get on Ernie and are taken to whatever beautiful place is next and then we are told what to hike before we pile back on Ernie to do it again somewhere else.  We are told what time to show up for dinner, which room our bags are in and what time to be at breakfast.  I haven’t worn a stitch of makeup or used a hair dryer in over two weeks.  We have had every single decision made for us for 14 days and it’s been awesome.

Our last Laura-Breakfast was salmon eggs benedict with a chipotle cream sauce.  Of course it was.  Everyone was quiet and in deep thought.

Borut sat staring blankly into his breakfast, “I’m not going to know what to do.  I’m going to get home, wake up in the morning, come downstairs, and wait for something to show up for breakfast.  Nothing is going to show up.  No coffee with sugar.  Nothing to eat.  My wife will tell me to get off my ass and make something myself.”

I said, “I’m not going to know how to start my day.  Who’s going to tell me what to do?  I’ll be sitting around for hours waiting to hear which hike to prepare for.  Who’s going to do ALL THE DISHES?” Then a horrible thought crossed my mind.  When I get home, I’m the Laura.  And I am in no way ready to be The Laura!  Nooo!  Not yet!!!!

Oh, by the way, did you know that Duck Herding is a thing in England that people pay a shit ton of money to do?  People pay thousands of dollars to take brooms and herd ducks.  I didn’t believe it either, but Borut was right.  Here it is:  Duck Herding is legit

So what was the best thing I ate on this trip?  That would have to be Borut’s mussels (Instance #6042 when spelling is so important) Best dessert was Laura’s Sticky Date Pudding.  The weirdest thing I ate was Linda’s Veal Cutlet that wasn’t veal.  Which did included every single thing from yesterday’s left-overs to Kellen’s missing rain jacket:

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If you come to the South Island, you will understand why New Zealanders are referred to the friendliest people on earth.  It’s totally true. Every single person here, even those working the most mundane jobs, are downright jolly.   There is only one mean person on this entire island: The Gravel Monster.  You will recognize him if you see him.  I’ve decided I’m going to take some of this New Zealand friendliness back home with me and leave a bit of my California Bitch here.  But not too much, ’cause I still gotta be me.

I’m ashamed to admit that I had expected at least one male guide when we signed up for this rugged trip.  Shame on me.  New Zealand women are the strongest, most capable people I know.  At the end of some days Tess and Laura would shout out, “Who needs some help with their bags?” and everyone in our group would raise their hand, including the guys.  We would all be exhausted.  “If my wife saw this, she would absolutely kick my ass. ” said a defeated Borut as Tess and Laura would haul like 4 suitcases each out of Ernie then run them up a hill to our rooms.  But man or woman isn’t the point.  These people are bred from different material.  They are doers.  They are backpackers and mountaineers.   And they are impressive as hell.

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Chef Laura
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Captain Tess

If you are looking to have an amazing experience like we did, please don’t hesitate to use Active Adventures.  I wish there were more stars on Yelp for the review I will write.  We did the New Zealand South Island Rimu trip, but I hear they are all excellent.

Here’s the link:  Active Adventures

With all of the time we had in Ernie, I was constantly blown away by my boys’ deeply intellectual conversations on science, philosophy and politics.  They would discuss physics, space and geeky technical stuff that I had not one single thing to contribute towards.  When asked my opinion, which wasn’t often, I was a deer sheep caught in the headlights.  My kids and husband are freaking brilliant human beings.  But you know who the reigning champion is in the game GHOST?  That’s all ME!

As we neared the airport Ernie blasted, “Leaving on a Jet Plane”.  The situation is already sad enough, for the love of God don’t play that song now!  I’m only human.  I lost it.

The world sees us as they want to see us-in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions.  But what we found out is that each one of us is so much more than just a programmer, a sarcastic genius, a scuba diver, a terrorist-looking finance guy, a granny, a mother/blogger, two snotty teenaged boys, two beautiful kiwi guides, and a mere bus pulling a green trailer.  We are New Zealand Tramping Warriors.  And we are family.


New words:

A “cracker day” is a good day

jafa- Just Another Fucking Aucklander