Azucar (Revisit)

I LOVE Azucar. They have delicious desserts for good prices, the staff is always super friendly and in addition to fancy desserts their Cuban snacks and pastries plus coffee are on point.

Divina Cake - Vanilla Cake, Passionfruit Curd, Raspberries and Toasted Marshmallow Topping

Divina Cake – Vanilla Cake, Passionfruit Curd, Raspberries and Toasted Marshmallow Topping

I used to go to OB more often but now I rarely find an excuse to go. This time we were heading to Pizza Port and so obviously had to make an obligatory stop at Azucar, even though I was too full to eat dessert. Fortunately I could take these babies to go.

Azucar Cakes

Azucar Cakes

My favorite thing at Azucar are their mini cakes. Instead of buying a huge slice of cake you can buy little mini cakes (for $4 to $6 dollars). They are all complex and lovely with a lot of them showing a Cuban influence in the use of tropical fruits or dulce de leche. Some stand outs include the Divina (pictured here) with passion fruit and marshmallow, the cheese flan with coconut, the cinco leches cake, mango cheesecake, rum coconut cake….amongst so many.

The Divina cake is one I always get. I ADORE passion fruit, and this is the perfect combination as passion fruit’s tartness takes so well with super sweet foods like marshmallow or white chocolate. The Divina is a super moist vanilla cake filled with passion fruit curd, fresh raspberries and topped with toasted marshmallow. Amazing.

Divina Cake

The other cake I got was called the Havana I think. It is also vanilla cake (you can always see the black specks of real vanilla in their cakes, always a plus in my book). But this one is filled with a thick layer of dulce de leche and topped with vanilla frosting and crystallized sugar. Sweeter than the Divina and a little sweet for my taste but my sister loves it. This is for her which is why I left the plastic layer around it (sorreez). I was afraid that if I unraveled the plastic covering all that dulce de leche would just ooze out…For a picture sans plastic see my old post on Azucar here.

Havana Cake

If you want something simpler than a cake they also have fantastic pastries; scones (including a gluten free option), flaky pastries filled with guava and cheese, brownies, bars, cookies (try the Mojito cookie or the peanut-butter-white-chocolate Tiger cookie), caramels (dark chocolate with sea salt), muffins and even coconut almond granola. They also have some Cuban inspired salty snacks like croquettes and papa rellenos. As far as real food goes they have inventive sandwiches like the Cuban in Paris (brie, ginger spread, arugula, pears), Berto (serrano ham, manchego cheese, arugula, drizzle of extra virgin olive oil) and the Havana (oven roasted turkey breast, cream cheese, guava marmalade). And lastly the many coffee options are all great.

But I would definitely order a cake.



Just sayin’.


Azucar

4820 Newport Avenue (Ocean Beach)
San Diego, CA 92107
619-523-2020

www.iloveazucar.com

Azuki Sushi

Azuki Sushi is in Banker’s Hill and from the outside it’s an unassuming little house but when you walk in the inside is surprisingly nice. The decor is simple but trendy-ish with accent lighting and they project movies on one of the walls, then past a narrow corridor they actually have a large covered patio area. Oh and the sushi ain’t bad either.

Azuki Sushi

Azuki Sushi

While I love pricier sushi options like Hane Sushi (a couple blocks up the street, see a review on it here) and Sushi Ota in PB sometimes you just want yummy sushi that’s affordable. But not too affordable like the gross discount stuff filled with cream cheese they peddle at so-so places like PB Sushi or god-awful places like Yakimono’s by the Vons in UTC/La Jolla. It’s closed now but has anyone ever been there? Every underage UCSD student used to go there because they did not card at all but the sushi was SO BAD.

Anyways Azuki has turned into our go-to stop; really good sushi at good prices and great happy hour specials. They have really good traditional nigiri and sashimi as well as creative entrees and super creative (and delicious) rolls.

Azuki Sushi Rolls

Azuki Sushi Rolls

Azuki Menu

Azuki Daily Specials

Normally we come for happy hour because they have great deals on sake and beer as well as appetizers like the huge super-garlicky Garlic Edamame for $3 and their amazing Tuna Tataki with ponzu and jalapeño for $6 dollas. However this would be a great Valentine’s Day stop (HAPPY VALENTINE’S CHILDREN) because sushi in general is a much better idea than overpriced red wine, steak and chocolate lava cake dinners. We did that last year for Valentine’s and afterwards you feel like a beached whale and you just want to lie comatose on the couch and watch Netflix…which is perfectly fine every other day of our lives but perhaps not the best way to spend Valentine’s. Sushi on the other hand is sufficiently fancy and very delicious but also light and you feel great afterwards. Sprightly even.

APPETIZER: To start with we got their Root Vegetable Fries. These are super thinly cut super crispy strips of carrot, green beans, zucchini, and potatoes that are tempura-fried and served with a creamy aioli.

Root Vegetable Fries

Root Vegetable Fries

Of course we finished all the aioli before I remembered to take a picture. Yum emulsified oil and egg.

ENTREES: We’ve tried so many of their rolls and they are all awesome but a favorite is the By the Border Roll which has spicy tuna and avocado inside and seared albacore, sliced jalapeño, signature ponzu and spicy aioli on the outside.

By the Border Roll

By the Border Roll

The avocado, ponzu and jalapeño are a great way to add flavor to the tuna so that it’s a good roll for sushi neophytes who are not yet crazy about raw fish. At the same time you get a very decent serving of tuna and albacore and their fat little dot of spicy aioli makes it the perfect amount so its not one of those rolls that is swimming in mayo.

By the Border Roll

By the Border Roll

Me on the other hand, am all about the raw fish, no accoutrements necessary. I went with the Adventurous Nigiri course that comes with (from back to front, might have some mistakes): chu-toro (medium fatty tuna), saba (mackarel), sake (salmon), kanpachi (amberjack), ebi (black tiger shrimp), hamachi (yellowtail) and snow crab. The snow crab actually should have been uni but I hate uni so I asked to sub in ankimo (monkfish liver, tastes like foie gras, is awesome) but they said they couldn’t substitute that in so I left it up to the chef. I got fresh snow crab and I was pretty happy with that because it was delicious.

Adventurous Nigiri

Adventurous Nigiri

This was amazing and I love the way they do their nigiri here with only a small amount of rice and a nice huge slice of fish that drapes over both ends of the rice. I’m constantly picking out rice from rolls that have too much rice but this is never necessary here.

Perfectly Draped Sushi

Perfectly Draped Sushi

Overall it was a great dinner, as always at Azuki (alliteration). The only disappointment was that on OpenTable I mentioned it was our anniversary dinner so I was hoping for a free dessert but no one read the notes or asked if there was an occasion so no dessert for us. Our waitress misheard me when I ordered the Adventurous Nigiri and thought I ordered the Adventurous Sashimi and that was brought out then had to be sent back so I felt bad being all ‘hey its an arbitrary personal milestone for us give us a thing for free’. Nonetheless, can’t wait to be back.

CHECK:
– Root Vegetable Fries $6.95
– By the Border Roll $13.50
– Adventurous Nigiri $28.00
– TOTAL (w/ tax) $52.48

Azuki Sushi

2321 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101
619.238.4760

http://www.azukisushi.com/

Pho Hoa

So I had never had pho until freshman year in college when I got introduced to this magical dish. I don’t know whether it really cures hangovers but I know its absolutely delicious and I love my pho tai. Even if it might be full of MSG.

There is nothing like watching those thin thin slices of rare steak cook in steaming hot beef broth with rice noodles, thinly sliced onions and herbs until the steak is mostly cooked thru but just kissed with pink in the center. At that point I add the fresh basil leaves, as much of the bean sprouts as I can (surreptitiously if I have to share my pho condiment plate with other people) and a couple slices of jalapeno. After that all I need is some hoisin and sriracha in a little side bowl to dip the slices of steak in. Ok that was a lot of steps but still. SO GOOD.

Pho Tai

Pho Tai. All IPhone Pictures Here Btw. My bad.

I’ve only eaten at a couple pho places in San Diego and so far I find them all good. I probably don’t know enough and haven’t had enough pho to be a good critic of it. I like the pho at Phuong Trang, Pho T Cali and Pho 5th Avenue. Pho La Jolla less so, partly because of the high prices and partly because even I could have guessed pho in La Jolla would not be super legit. But I was excited to try Pho Hoa in City Heights. A lot of people swear by it and its really well-reviewed on Yelp. All they do is pho too so one would think if they are still around they must be doing something right.

See Only Pho.

See, Only Pho.

Overall the verdict was this was pretty good but not amazing. Broth was a little oilier than I’m used to but had a decent beef flavor, noodles were a wee bit clumpy but there was a generous meat portion. However, and take this with a grain of salt as I mentioned before I am by no means a pho expert, I didn’t think it was leaps and bounds better than the pho I have at Pho Fifth Avenue or Phuong Trang.

Pho Condiments

Pho Condiments

I do like that they give you ngo sai (the hidden saw-toothed leaf thats peaking out from underneath the basil in the picture above and that I initially thought was a rogue weed that made it onto the plate) as I had never tried it before. I also pretty much like all herbs and often ate the herb garnishes off peoples plates as a child like a rabbit. So more/new herbs is always a good thing for me. Service was also very efficient, they take your order and set down the pho condiments plate and literally 5 minutes later our food was in front of us. The restaurant is definitely bare bones but decently sized.

We ordered the Pho Tai, which are thin slices of rare steak. Weirdly it seemed like some of the steak slices had a pearly sheen to them. No idea what this was and although it must be some kind of connective tissue there was no chewiness or detectable taste besides the steak. Steak was a little tough and could definitely have been more tender, but it was nice to have a lot of beef.

Pho Tai with Bean Sprouts, Basil and Jalapenos

Pho Tai with Bean Sprouts, Basil and Jalapenos

We also ordered the Pho Bo Vien which is beef meatballs. This was ok too but the meatballs could have been more moist. My dining companion was Vietnamese and she said the meat balls her mom buys have (I think) tendon in them so they are yummier/less dry. She also shared my opinion that the pho was good but not worth the drive there.

Pho Bo Vien

Pho Bo Vien

Lastly, I also ordered Che Ba Mau or tri-colored dessert (or three colored dessert? not sure). It comes in a cup with crushed ice which I thought was quite nice. You have the green jellies at the bottom, sweet red beans, and jackfruit; all covered with coconut milk sweetened with condensed milk and a sweet red syrup at the bottom. This was great except I don’t love the sweet red beans, I mostly just stir it up and eat the jellies with the sweetened coconut milk. Definitely melted a little (and ok I ate a lot of it) before I got around to taking the picture, trust me it was much prettier before I mixed everything/it melted.

Three Color Dessert

Three Color Dessert / Che Ba Mau

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So the final verdict is solid pho but not out-of-this-world pho that is worth driving all the way to City Heights for. Fast service and low prices but in the end I’ll probably just keep going to Pho Fifth Avenue or Phuong Trang which are closer and have other good food options besides pho. Mostly those delicious charred beef rice paper roll things from Phuong Trang. Yum.

CHECK:

Pho Tai $6.50
Pho Bo Vien $7.50
Che Ba Mau $3.00
TOTAL (w/ tax) $18.36

Pho Hoa

4717 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115
(619) 283-6431

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Eleven Madison Park

We had been planning an epic meal at a three Michelin star restaurant in NY for ages and after much debating and perusing on ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot.com who apparently dines at these establishments on the reg we decided on Eleven Madison Park. Seriously though if you want to look at thorough reviews of NY restaurants this is a great blog, this guy eats everrrryywhereee.

Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

Although Per Se is more well-known, it was more expensive with fewer courses and a lot of the more interesting or ‘fancy’ courses like the foie gras, the caviar and the Japanese Wagyu are supplements. And not $20 dollar supplements, $40-100 dollar supplements which on top of a $310 price tag (albeit service included) is a little hefty. Le Bernardin is too seafood focused for us, Daniel did not impress as much and Brooklyn Fare is impossible to get a reservation at + a little too molecular gastronomy-esque for us. So EMP it was. Plus we hear there’s smoke and magic tricks at EMP and we are easily swayed by such trickery.

EMP is unique too in that there is not a set menu (although naturally they do have their stand by dishes) and you can tell them what you like and don’t like so that you won’t be eating any courses that you dislike. For me that was no offal except for foie gras and for my sister it was no shellfish. Included all the courses from both our meals (mine first and my sisters second) as they could be pretty different. Note that there might be mistakes in identifying all the components of each plate as this meal was from a couple months ago but I think it should be generally correct.

First Course:

Black and White Savoury Cookies

Black and White Savoury Cookies and Iphone 4. Kidding, who even has an Iphone 4 anymore (I do).

A nod to black & white cookies being a NY staple these were a savoury cheddar version that came with apple and the black tint from vegetable ash. Pretty tasty and I love pairing cheese and fruit. I heard the old version was parmesan and truffle though which might have been even better.

Second Course:

Oyster with Champagne Vinegar Granita

Oyster with Champagne Vinegar Granita

Goat Cheese Pannacotta with Rhubarb Gelee

Goat Cheese Pannacotta with Rhubarb Gelee

Both of these were great. Cannot for the life of me remember what made my granita so purple. And although I love oysters I tried some of the panna cotta and together with the rhubarb have to admit it was a very nice contrast of creamy with slightly tart.

Third Course:

Sweet Shrimp with Uni Cream

Sweet Shrimp with Uni Cream

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese

The sweet shrimp came coated in panko and their mild flavor was really enhanced with the super savoury uni cream and the herb foam on the plate. I just cannot get into uni when it comes to large quantities of it but as a slight flavor addition it works very well, especially if its contrasted with something more herbal or acidic. The beets were all prepared perfectly and always go nicely with goat cheese. Thought my shrimp dish was a lot more exciting though 🙂

Fourth Course:

Sturgeon Sabayon with Chive Oil

Sturgeon Sabayon with Chive Oil

Same for both of us. We were really concerned this was going to be overly fishy but it was SO GOOD. So creamy and the chive oil at the bottom makes this taste unbelievable. Really nice combination of flavours that initially I did not think I was going to love. One of my favorites.

Fifth Course:

Smoked Sturgeon Course

Smoked Sturgeon Course



Same for both of us as well. If you are like me you got super excited at that fat tin of caviar. However sorry to disappoint, although it is a very decent caviar portion, it is only one layer and beneath that its all cream cheese. The bread is thinly sliced and crisp and you can eat the sturgeon on the crisp with cream cheese and caviar or with the quail egg salad. Or all together like I did. Pickles were also quite nice but nothing out of this world. Sadly no pictures of them removing the glass dome filled with smoke over the sturgeon.

Sixth Course:

Parker House Rolls

Parker House Rolls

Venison Butter and Vermont Butter

Venison Fat Butter and Vermont Butter

For the meat courses you can pick a lavender duck or the venison, we went with the venison so venison fat was mixed into the butter for our Bread and Butter course. So GOOD. I wish you could buy this at the grocery store because beef-fat butter is amazing on everything. THe bread is also divine. I’m not a huge fan of puff pastry or croissants but this had the perfect balance of real bread chew and flakiness.

Seventh Course:

Seared Foie Gras

Seared Foie Gras

Foie Gras Torchon

Foie Gras Torchon

You also get to choose how your foie gras is prepared, for the sake of diversity I chose seared and my sister chose torchon. Loved the torchon with the crisps and the fruits on the plate, I have a hard time eating foie gras torchon without some bread or acidic fruit to contrast how rich it is. Did not think I would love the seared preparation as much but the sauce with it was incredible.

Eighth Course:

Carrot Tartare

Carrot Tartare

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As soon as the guy brought the grinder to the table we said we could not wait for the carrot tartare. He was kind of disappointed and said it was supposed to be a surprise. I think I’ve known about the carrot tartare for a long time but that might be due to frequenting an enormous roster of food sites on a regular basis. Sorry guy. Anyways this came with so many toppings; a quail egg yolk, bonito flakes, mustard seed, smoked sturgeon, sunflower seeds, chives, etc. Mixed everything in just because it was there. You eat it with bread and it was definitely an interesting flavour. I liked it but ultimately thought it was more interesting than surprisingly tasty, unlike the sturgeon sabayon.

Ninth Course:

Lobster with Brussel Sprouts

Lobster with Brussel Sprouts

Poached Fish

Poached Fish

The lobster course was naturally very tasty and I was eyeing the bland fish my sister got with pity. However after one bite of it my opinion completely changed. This fish (does anyone know what kind of fish it was? Cannot remember and it was so amazing) was probably my favorite course of the entire meal. The texture, the taste and the sauce were unreal. Very sad I cannot remember what was the name of the stupid fish :/

Tenth Course:

Butternut Squash Course

Butternut Squash Course

Same for both us. As it was fall this was supposed to evoke Thanksgiving. The butternut squash was prepared different ways and also came with cranberry compote and pumpkin seeds. This was lovely and a nice nod to the season.

Eleventh Course:

Venison Course

Venison Course


The venison loin they cook is first brought out to you then taken back to the kitchen. What comes to your table is a perfectly cooked venison loin and a skewer with different parts of venison, including a venison sausage, and a shallot. This was all lovely except for the grayish item on the skewer. Not sure what it was but it was definitely some kind of organ I have no love for. Very creamy, grainy texture and offal-y taste. Blergh. This is obviously a personal preference and if you are an offal-positive person I’m sure it was perfectly executed and whatnot. The venison loin was impossibly perfectly cooked although I wish there were more fatty elements on the plate to offset how lean venison is. In the past when this was a beef course you also got beef consomme and a course with braised oxtail with potato foam and foie gras. Wish there had been something comparable for the venison course!

Twelfth Course:

Picnic Course

Picnic Course

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This was also one of my favorite courses, the picnic basket is dropped off at your table and then you unwrap it. It comes with pretzel bread, cheese, grapes, an incredible violet mustard and a bottle of German apple cider. Everything was really good and paired together wonderfully. On ramblingsandgamblings they had charcuterie too but this was not in our basket. Clearly looking at all those EMP posts made me want things I would not have known to miss had I not seen them in the other posts…

Thirteenth Course:

Malt Egg Cream

Malt Egg Cream

Egg cream with vanilla and seltzer. Have always been wary of trying these as the concept of a carbonated egg mixture is somewhat ambiguous in my mind. This was excellent though, very very vanilla-y. It also tasted very reminiscent of something we’d had in our childhood but could not figure out what it was.

Fourteenth Course:

Creme Brulee Tart with Sorbet

Creme Brulee Tart with Sorbet

So so so good. Sometimes desserts with too many elements can be a little too many things but everything here played well together and was expertly prepared on its own right. I am not a big creme brulee person as I do not like clunky rock-hard layers of caramelized sugar on my custards but this one had the thinnest crackle of caramelized sugar and I finally understood why one paired so well with the other. The tart was very rich and it was nicely offset by all the other lighter elements on the plate.

Fifteenth Course:

Magic

Magic

Squash Cheesecake

Squash Cheesecake

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Lemon Chocolate

Lemon Chocolate

Although you can’t tell from the first picture, this is the card magic trick they do. You get your dessert course and after picking two random cards from the shuffled cards, ta-da! You lift off your plate and underneath is a chocolate flavored like the card you picked. We got orange and lemon and I was a little sad considering all the other more exciting flavors (passion fruit i love you), but they were surprisingly really really good. The squash cheesecake was interesting but ultimately I do not love squash with sweet elements so this was not my favorite. I blame that on particularly gross cloyingly sweet and overly creamy cafeteria butternut squash soup I had in college once but unfortunately the distaste stuck with me.

Sixteenth Course:

Black and White Cookies

Black and White Cookies

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Chocolate Pretzel

And here we are full circle with sweet black & white cookies. Very Lion King. The pretzel is actually made up of ground pretzels that are mixed with white chocolate and then reconstituted into pretzel form and dipped into chocolate and sea salt…Very Inception.

Breakfast for the Next Day:

EMP Granola
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Once you are done they give you an adorable little bag with a personalized mason jar filled with EMP granola. This was pretty great stuff with lots of dried peaches, pumpkin seeds and all kinds of other stuff. Loved this nice touch at the end of the meal.

Overall this was a pricey experience we thought was completely worth it. It’s a 3-4 hour ordeal. Possibly less if you eat as fast as us but that’s pretty questionable. Pretty sure we ruined the surprises for everyone considering we were always 2 courses ahead of everyone. Our bad. The service was phenomenal, a perfect mix of the professional formality required at that level of restaurant but still very friendly and fun. You get different people presenting the dishes and they are the ones who made the dish which we thought was really cool. And although there were people ordering wine pairings or bottles of Champagne our servers were perfectly fine with us just sippin’ on tap water.

Our biggest regret was not asking for the kitchen tour which takes you inside the kitchen (provided they are not too busy) and where they usually prepare you a cool drink. Next time 🙂

CHECK:
$225 per person x 2
TOTAL (w/ tax, service not included): $495.00

Eleven Madison Park

11 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-0905

http://elevenmadisonpark.com/

Davanti Enoteca – Little Italy

I’ve been a huge fan of Davanti Enoteca since the first time I went so its about time I had a post on them. Davanti is fantastic for dinner but this post is on brunch which it turns out is pretty great too. We came here on a Saturday morning post-Little Italy’s farmer’s market and there were plenty of tables. Always nice to not wait 45 min+ for brunch.

Davanti Enoteca

Davanti Enoteca

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There are two appetizers that you absolutely must start with, and luckily they are available for brunch. These are the focaccia di Recco a Ligurian style baked focaccia filled with soft cow cheese (add the honeycomb option) or the vasi with ricotta and honeycomb. Not both at the same time mind you because they are quite similar but one time order one and the next time the other. I personally prefer the vasi but most people I know like the focaccia di Recco better.

Davanti Lunch Menu

Davanti Lunch Menu

Davanti Brunch Menu

Davanti Brunch Menu

We went with the vasi with ricotta and honeycomb this time. You get grilled Pugliese bread with a whiff of truffle oil, a jar of impossible creamy and rich ricotta with sea salt and olive oil, and a wedge of honeycomb.

Vasi with Ricotta and Honeycomb

Vasi with Ricotta and Honeycomb

Ricotta

Ricotta

Grilled Pugliese Bread

Grilled Pugliese Bread

The combination of the toasty warm bread with cool creamy ricotta and sweet honeycomb is completely addictive. I do not know how they get their ricotta so smooth and creamy, I’ve tried both whipping it and blending it at home to obtain the same effect and sadly have not yet matched this texture. I suppose for $8 I can just keep coming here to get my fix for the real thing.

Grilled Pugliese bread with ricotta and honeycomb

Grilled Pugliese bread with ricotta and honeycomb

This is a large appetizer for two people, you get a lot of ricotta and they will gladly give you more bread if you run out, which we normally do 🙂

Next we ordered their salad with escarole + gala apple + pecorino dolce + celery + hazelnuts. It is a simple fresh salad and its also a sizeable portion. Simple and tasty with a basic olive oil dressing this is a light salad that has interesting texture and taste with the slightly bitter escarole contrasting with sweet cubes of gala apple, nutty toasted hazelnuts, crunchy celery and salty pecorino. Even though I am an avid meat eater I would not mind having this salad as an entree even though it also makes a mighty fine side salad when you are ordering pizza as your main dish.

Love that even though the toppings might look scarce on top when you mix up the salad there are plenty of all the other components so as to ensure that you’re not just eating fistfuls of escarole like a rabbit.

Escarole Insalata

Escarole Insalata

Escarole Insalata

Escarole Insalata

So for the actual brunch dish we ordered we went with the Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane which comes with toasted tuscan bread with prosciutto, fontina, parmesan cheese, sunny side eggs on top and roasted tomatoes on the side.

Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane

Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane

Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane

Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane

This was amazing and the portion was large enough that we split it between two people and still had leftovers (ok we also ate all that other food before too but I maintain its split-able). The prosciutto is super crispy and the cheese is nicely melted into the toast. Mix it together with the runny fried eggs (make sure to request them more cooked if runny is not your thing) and the juicy roasted tomatoes and you have a perfect bite.

Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane

Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane

Also appreciated the pesto on the roasted tomatoes as pesto makes almost everything better.

Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomatoes

Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane

Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane

Overall had a lovely and very reasonably priced meal with fantastic service to boot. Our waiter was friendly, super attentive, and even offered to take our picture before we asked, most likely because it was hard to ignore my fat Nikon intrusively sitting on the table for the duration of the entire meal. It was also about 75 degrees and sunny so sitting on the patio was quite nice. Although I suppose I have to attribute that part to the amazingness that is San Diego in December.

Davanti Patio

Davanti Patio

Loved their Christmas decorations too.

CHECK:
– Vasi with Ricotta and Honeycomb $8
– Insalata with escarole $7
– Prosciutto e Uovo Il Pane $10
TOTAL (w/ tax): $27.00

Davanti Enoteca – Little Italy

1655 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 237-9606

www.davantienoteca.com/

New York – Cronuts & The BEST Chocolate Mousse Ever

Super belated post but thought I’d upload some of the many food pics from a trip to NY a month ago. Every time we go to NY we eat. SO. MUCH. FOOD. Something like 4 meals a day plus squeezing in snacks everywhere (paninis at Eataly, the banana bread pudding at Magnolia, the Salty Pimp cone at Big Gay Al’s…). So I guess this time was no different. Part 1:

DOMINIQUE ANSEL CRONUTS:

Perhaps I am disqualified from properly judging this particular cronut flavor because I dislike things that are overly sweet (white chocolate, fudge, caramel….) but on the other hand I love dulce de leche so this should have been amazing.

Dulce de Leche Cronut

Dulce de Leche Cronut

Although I appreciated the flakes of sea salt to offset how sweet it was it was still SO SWEET. And very very buttery. A little too buttery for me. I had one bite and I think that was all I could eat. It’s not all bad news though, could definitely see this being delicious with the right flavor, maybe something more tart like raspberry? And it was perfectly executed, crisp shell on the outside, soft flaky layers inside and perfectly smooth dulce de leche cream between the layers. Lest ye abandon all hope.

Dulce de Leche Cronut

Dulce de Leche Cronut Innards

Dominique Ansel

189 Spring Street (between Sullivan and Thompson)
New York, NY 10012

http://dominiqueansel.com/

BUVETTE:

Buvette is a lovely little (and I mean little) bistro style restaurant in the West Village. We always go for their unbelievable Croque Monsieur/Madame and for the best chocolate mousse in the world.

Buvette

Buvette

The menu is fairly small and fairly traditionalist French with croque monsieurs, charcuterie, steak tartare, duck confit rillettes, coq au vin, tartinettes, etc. Portions are somewhat small too so be advised (perhaps that’s French too?). We prefer to come here for breakfast/brunch.

This time we all shared the Steamed Eggs with Prosciutto, which seems small but with the bread it becomes a more substantial meal.

Steamed Eggs with Prosciutto

Demolished Steamed Eggs with Prosciutto

Not substantial enough because we also individually ordered the Salade de Poulet which sounds boring but is actually quite nice. It comes with shredded roasted chicken, green beans, potatoes, butter lettuce and creamy mustard dressing. Probably one of the lightest things you can get at Buvette even with that rich dressing.

Salade de Poulet

Salade de Poulet

The Croques. You truly cannot go wrong with any of them. At most places vegetarian attempts of “real food” are often dismal but here the Croque Forrestier with creamy bechamel sauce and wild mushrooms is as good as the Croque Monsier with prosciutto and the Croque Madame with prosciutto AND an egg. All have gruyere and despite their apparent diminutive size these things are super rich and they pack quite the punch.

Croque Madame

Croque Forrestier with an added Egg

Croque Madame

Croque Madame

Lastly to end you must order the Chocolate Mousse. I  solemnly swear it is the best chocolate mousse I have ever tried. Incredibly rich and chocolate-y and with a texture so dense its almost chewy.

Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse

We sneakily tried to find out what was in it by pretending to have a range of allergy afflictions and self-imposed dietary restrictions from lactose intolerance to keeping kosher in order to find out if there were dairy, eggs, nuts or gelatin in it. Sneaky. And for the record there is no dairy in the mousse itself (not including the whipped cream on top of course) and no gelatin. Hmm.

More to come and please forgive the amount of chipped nail polish in these pictures. Probably should have gone with gel nails.

Buvette

42 Grove St
(between Bedford St & Bleecker St)
New York, NY 10014

http://ilovebuvette.com

Sab-E-Lee

Pork Nam Tok

Pork Nahm Tok

I’ve always wanted to try Sab-E-Lee having read many posts about the great quality of Thai food there. I think just mmm-yoso has about a million Sab-E-Lee posts, which all look verrry tempting.

After spending a month in Thailand a couple years ago its hard to be overjoyed with the insipid vaguely ketchup-y Pad Thai stuff that is passed off as Thai food in many places. It is also hard to will myself to drive to Linda Vista but getting a half day off work helped with that 🙂

So I stopped by the Sab-E-Lee on Ulric Rd and got some Pork Nahm Tok and their Papaya Salad to go. They have a Yum-Woon Sen salad with shrimp and ground pork on glass noodles as well as a Nam Sod Salad that sounded more interesting than the papaya salad but according to them their papaya salad is “VERY POPULAR!!!” and the use of not one or two but THREE exclamation marks won me over.

The location is verrrry small and despite them obviously being successful enough to open a second location this place is tiny and very bare bones. Don’t come here with a large group expecting to be seated right away. Or at all depending how large. The waitresses were friendly and the place was half full for lunch. I was happy to see the many kinds of chili you can top your meal with set out at the table just like we saw everywhere in Thailand.

Now for the food. The pork nahm tok was very flavorful, the pork was thinly sliced and topped with lots of cilantro, red onion, and rice powder. Could have been a little more charred but the abundance of spices and herbs guarantees its anything but bland. The nahm tok comes with cabbage and cucumbers for you to make little cabbage tacos with the pork.

Pork Nam Tok

Pork Nam Tok

Pork Nam Tok

Pork Nam Tok

Cucumber + Cabbage

Cucumber + Cabbage

The papaya salad comes with green papaya, dried shrimps, sliced chiles, tomatoes, green onions, peanuts and has a very strong dressing. I personally liked it but I think people who have more reservations about fish sauce might be discouraged.

Papaya Salad

Papaya Salad

Papaya Salad

Papaya Salad

Now the only downside: I read that their spicy levels are more legit than most Thai restaurants where a 10 is generally pretty unimpressive. So I was conservative and ordered a 4 (I would normally go with a 6). But even so the spiciness level was wayyy too high for me. For the papaya salad there are slices of Thai chili and biting into one of those larger pieces made my eyes water. I generally avoided them after that but for the nahm tok the sauce itself was pretty spicy so there was not much to do. I ate I think half of both and then just kind of drank copious amounts of water for a prolonged period of time….

I will readily admit that my spicy tolerance is kind of mediocre though as I did not grow up eating spicy food so perhaps take this with a grain of salt. I do however love hot sauce on my breakfast burritos, jalapenos in my sandwiches and have sriracha in my fridge at all times so I have somewhat been indoctrinated into San Diego’s spicy loving ways.

Pork Nahm Tok

Pork Nahm Tok

Overall despite the out-of-my-league spiciness I quite liked the food. Will be back to try the Pad See Ew and the Pork Neck Nahm Tok! Will also probably order a level 2 (the shame).

Sab-E-Lee

Two locations:
2405 Ulric Street, San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 650-6868

13223-2 Black Mountain Road, San Diego, CA 92129
(858) 780-0022

http://originalsab-e-lee.webs.com/

Banker’s Hill Bar & Restaurant II

The first time we went to Banker’s Hill we kind of have mixed reactions but loved the place and given it was new figured it just had to work some kinks out. We still haven’t been for the very enticing happy hour with $5 dollar appetizers…but we did stop by for SD Restaurant Week and I have to say this definitely won us over. Touche Bankers Hill.

Banker's Hill Bar & Restaurant

Banker’s Hill Bar & Restaurant

Banker's Hill Bar & Restaurant

Banker’s Hill Bar & Restaurant

Banker's Hill Bar & Restaurant

Banker’s Hill Bar & Restaurant

APPETIZERS: For the first course we got the Crispy Pacific Red Snapper with Lentils, Preserved Lemon and Remoulade. Although I didn’t realize the crispy meant fried this was a lovely dish. The fish was super crunchy and the beluga lentils were delicious, topped off with a tangy and creamy caper remoulade this was awesome. Didn’t really get too much of the preserved lemon but still overall my favorite appetizer.

Crispy Pacific Red Snapper with Capers, Preserved Lemon and Remoulade

Crispy Pacific Red Snapper with Capers, Preserved Lemon and Remoulade

The other appetizer I tried was the Bacon-Citrus Marmalade Bruschetta with Bucheron + Minted Apples on Grilled Levain Bread. Levain bread is an awesome sort of partially whole wheat sourdough and bucheron is a stronger goat cheese, it almost tastes like a mixture between brie and chevre. The bucheron was creamy and tangy and with the salty-sweet bacon citrus marmalade and crisp apples on the toasted bread this had a lot going on. In a good way. Couldn’t taste the mint on the apples but I was ok with that as I don’t know how mint would have tasted with everything else.

Bacon-Citrus Marmalade Bruschetta  Whipped Bucheron, Minted Apples, Grilled Levain Bread

Bacon-Citrus Marmalade Bruschetta
Whipped Bucheron, Minted Apples, Grilled Levain Bread

Bacon-Citrus Marmalade Bruschetta  Whipped Bucheron, Minted Apples, Grilled Levain Bread

Bacon-Citrus Marmalade Bruschetta Whipped Bucheron, Minted Apples, Grilled Levain Bread

ENTREES: My entree was a Mesquite Grilled Local Yellowtail with Roasted Garlic Masa, Corn & Pasilla Saute with Salsa Verde. The yellowtail was just charred on the outside and perfectly pink and rare in the middle. The roasted garlic masa was similar to grits or polenta and together with the tomatoes, corn and salsa verde this was a fresh but satisfying dish with that creamy garlic-y masa.

Mesquite Grilled Local Yellowtail Roasted Garlic ‘Masa,’ Corn & Pasilla Saute, Salsa Verde

Mesquite Grilled Local Yellowtail
Roasted Garlic ‘Masa,’ Corn & Pasilla Saute, Salsa Verde

The other entree I tried was Black Angus Bistro Tender with Crispy Bacon & Cheddar Twice-Baked Potato, Broccolini & Cabernet Reduction. This was cooked nicely to the requested medium-rare and its hard to go wrong with steak, potatoes, bacon and veggies. Nothing super inventive but still very tasty.

Black Angus Bistro Tender   Crispy Bacon & Cheddar Twice-Baked Potato, Broccolini, Cabernet Reduction

Black Angus Bistro Tender Crispy Bacon & Cheddar Twice-Baked Potato, Broccolini, Cabernet Reduction

DESSERT: It seems to be a recurring trend for me to not post dessert photos because everyone (read: me) gets too excited and it disappears before I think of snapping a picture. Either way we got the Spiced Apple Cobbler Walnut Streusel, Salted Caramel Sauce, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and the BH ‘S’more’ Ice Cream Sandwich Graham Cookie, Chocolate Sauce, Toasted Marshmallow. Hot apple cobbler + vanilla ice cream is a classic and this was no different. Great fall dessert. The s’mores ice cream sandwich came with a swipe of toasted marshmallow to dip your ice cream sandwich in and the ice cream was studded with crunchy almonds. Although it was served a bit too frozen this was pretty great.

Banker's Hill Bar & Restaurant

Banker’s Hill Bar & Restaurant

Patio

Patio

Overall everyone really enjoyed their meals. The restaurant has a great sort of minimalist and masculine decor with all the dark accents and deer heads and whatnot. Hopefully we will get to enjoy happy hour on the patio which has a huge wall of succulents. I guess given its restaurant week its hard to comment on price but for $30 bucks this was a great meal.

CHECK:
Restaurant Week Menu $30 x 2
TOTAL: $69.94 (w/ tax)

Banker’s Hill Bar & Restaurant

2202 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 231-0222

www.bankershillsd.com

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Doods Foods

We’ve heard a lot of good things about Doods Foods, the place is a small independent owned counter slinging burgers out of a little stand in the Tin Can bar with stellar Yelp reviews as well as cheap, cheap prices.

Now we love Burger Lounge but sometimes you don’t really want to pay $15 dollars for a burger and fries no matter how great that grass-fed burger and crispy fries are. Sometimes its ok that your burger was fed things other than grass…

The Tin Can Bar

The Tin Can Bar

Perhaps the best part is that Doods Foods is super close to us, in Banker’s Hill on 5th. When you enter the Tin Can its the ideal dive bar. Small, dark, Christmas lights, a great beer selection, a small crowd, 70s game shows on the TV and quirky live music. You order the burgers from the Doods Foods counter where it’s just one guy doing all the work. Note that if they’re pretty busy it can be kind of slow because as mentioned its one guy. You can get burgers, grilled cheese variations, sandwiches + fries and/or a salad with your burger.

Tin Can Bar

I got the Doods Burger, a classic burger a.k.a. thin patty, American cheese, tomato, onions, lettuce and chipotle buttermilk on a bolillo bun. Ok. Everything in this was very well done. The bolillo bun is AMAZING. The perfect amount of soft and squishy yet still held up to the burger. The tomato/lettuce/onions are super fresh and they also slice the onion suuuuper thinly which is nice because I for one think super thick crunchy slices of onion can completely overwhelm if not entirely ruin a burger. Lastly, the chipotle buttermilk is a nice touch, creamy and flavorful it definitely added a little twist to the otherwise classic cheeseburger.

Doods Burger

Doods Burger

Now for the bad news. The meat. The meat they use is apparently sourced from a Mexican market and its more fatty than usual chuck and super finely ground. Its definitely a little more greasy which I didn’t mind but the fact that it was super finely ground and tightly packed made the patty seem a little too mushy and too dense. The outside bites where that extra fatty chuck crisped up were nice but once those crispy edges are gone everything just seems so mushy and sadly the same cheap meat that makes the burger so attractively affordable also tends to be not so flavorful.

Doods Burger Inside

Doods Burger Inside

I got a side salad and that was good but nothing crazy. Just simple lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, shredded carrots and an Italian vinaigrette. I appreciated the freshness of the vegetables but I wish it had come with the chipotle buttermilk instead of the forgettable Italian vinaigrette.

Doods Foods side salad

Doods Foods side salad

The other more daring burger they have is the Flying Cheeseburger. This baby is a double patty, double American cheese, double bacon, lettuce, tomato, onions, chipotle buttermilk on bolillo bun MONSTER. Definitely a generous portion of everything but sadly the already kindof extra greasy pattys paired with all the bacon and extra cheese and whatnot makes this a super greasy mess. Tasty but hard to finish and afterwords you definitely feel a pang of regret for eating the whole damn thing. But then again maybe that’s how people like to feel after polishing off such a huge thing?

Flying Cheeseburger

Flying Cheeseburger

The fries are ok, a little too crispy/greasy for me.

Overall, I think Doods Foods is doing everything right except for the meat they use. Its definitely not a bad burger at all but it could be PHENOMENAL with a better meat selection. Then again that might be why the prices are relatively cheap compared to Burger Lounge.

Despite not entirely fulfilling our burger dreams I can’t help hoping that this place improves the meat and really nails it. Sitting in this hipster-ish little dive bar under the green glow of Christmas lights talking to the super friendly bartender, drinking good beer and listening to a girl sing about her crappy boyfriend from Riverside I can’t wait to be back and have a really great burger to top the whole experience off.

CHECK:
Doods Burger $4
Flying Cheeseburger $8
TOTAL w/ tax: $12.96

Doods Foods

1863 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 381-2756

https://www.facebook.com/doodsfoods

Carnitas Snack Shack

Carnitas Snack Shack is, as the name hints, an inconspicuous little shack in North Park on University Av. that serves a delightfully pork-centric menu. You order at the window on the front and then walk towards the back where you’ll be surprised to find a nice spacious shady patio with an herb garden and another shack towards the back that pours cool draft beer. How handy.

Rib Eye Sandwich

Snack Shack Steak Sandwich

The food is inexpensive and portions are generous. Yet they use high quality all local ingredients and have inventive if sometimes over the top dishes. Not that that’s a bad thing. Its a casual but pleasant atmosphere and despite the uncharacteristically high temperatures and humidity that has been plaguing San Diego lately it was a nice spot to linger at with friends – especially in the evening when it cooled down a little.

Carnitas Snack Shack

Carnitas Snack Shack

Anyways onto the food. Some of their dishes change daily and they’re really good about updating their menu on their website but we ordered dishes that were all staples. You can order their Carnitas in either taco or torta form. The taco form is topped with guacamole and tomatoes on a tortilla and the torta form has guacamole, tomatoes, lettuce and mayo on a roll. I chose taco. Seeing as you only got 2 tacos I was concerned I would still be hungry. This was a completely unnecessary concern because they PILE ON the meat and I could barely finish my plate.

Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas Tacos

The carnitas are pretty good but not as amaaazing as I expected. Still really good though. I was hoping for more crispy bits but then again that might be a personal preference. There was a lot of meat and not a lot of just bits of fat which is nice because it sucks when you realize that half your carnitas portion is just blubber. And as always the combination of carnitas + guacamole + tomatoes + greasy tortillas (from the carnitas of course) is always a winner.

The entrees all comes with the corn salad you see in the picture. Its corn tossed in a spiced mayo with some herbs. Its cool and creamy and really tasty and goes well with the fatty meats that seem to populate most of their dishes. Yum.

Another popular item is their Snack Shack Steak Sandwich. This is reminiscent of Board & Brew’s Baja Beef which we boldly declared the best sandwich in SD here. Its sliced rib eye steak, pepper jack cheese, pickled serranos, chipotle mayo and tomatoes on jalapeno bread. And its glorious. Its steak-y and creamy and spicy and super messy but really satisfying. If you’re not super into pork and come here this is the way to go.

Snack Shack Steak Sandwich

Snack Shack Steak Sandwich

Lastly we also ordered the Triple Threat Pork Sand which is a pork loin schnitzel + pulled pork + bacon + pepperoncini-pickle relish + shack aioli sandwich. Pretty much pork every which way. Now sadly I did not get to try this but it was decided that this was superior to the Snack Shack Steak Sandwich which surprised me because that had been my favorite.

Triple Threat Pork Sand

Triple Threat Pork Sand

Dammit I should have tried it.

Oh and we got the fries too. They have bacon salt on them and come with a salsa like condiment that might be an attempt at homemade ketchup. These were pretty tasty and perfectly fried, reminiscent of McDonald’s fries – which is a very high compliment for any attempt at fries by the way. And for only $2.50 well worth it.

Fries

Fries

They have a very decent beer selection too. I went with the Cherry Cider which was crisp tart and not too sweet. Very nice.

Cherry Cider

Cherry Cider

For dessert I got the Banana Split Truffles. You get 2 super chocolate-y ganache truffles covered in dark chocolate and then drizzled with white chocolate, salty peanuts and banana chips. Really tasty. Sadly no pictures because they disappeared too fast. I wished there were more salty peanuts and banana chips to balance out the richness of the ganache but can’t complain too much.

Anyways. Great atmosphere and great food. The only mild annoyance is that on hot days you have flies around because they’re trying to hang out with you on the shade. They light candles that are supposed to keep them away but I would recommend sitting underneath the fans so they stay away definitively. Can’t wait to be back here and try the Triple Threat Pork Sandwich!

CHECK:
Snack Shack Steak Sandwich $9
Triple Threat Pork Sandwich $9
Carnitas $7
Fries $2.50
TOTAL: $29.70 (w/ tax)

P.S. Can’t remember how much the Cherry Cider was so left that off. Sorry kiddos.

Carnitas Snack Shack

2632 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 294-7675

http://carnitassnackshack.com

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