URBN

[Edit: This post was updated with new pictures because we went again and pretty much ordered the same gosh darn thing. But took better pictures because the old ones were taken with my Jurassic-era iPhone 4 with a smashed screen. Damn you Barcelona pick pocketers for taking my sister’s phone so that she had to steal my upgrade. And damn you AT&T for your ridiculous early upgrade fees. Anyways]

urbn Pitcher

urbn Pitcher

urbn Pizza

urbn Pizza

If you like your pizzas thin and crispy with a good char and most importantly free with a pitcher of beer, URBN in North Park needs to be on your radar. URBN is owned by the same people as Basic in downtown that also put out crispy, thin Neapolitan style pizzas with yummy toppings and blistery crusts. And while Basic gives out free slices of pizza during happy hour you do have to fight other patrons over the slices while here you get an entire free pizza with a purchase of a pitcher of beer from 5-6pm!

urbn Pitcher + view

urbn Pitcher + View

URBN has an amazing craft beer selection, lots of taps on draft and an extensive bottle collection. Once one of my dining companions inadvertently ordered a $48 dollar bottle of Imperial Russian stout…she swears it was worth every penny though. We were not trying to order a $48 dollar bottle of anything so we went with the brewery that was on special that month so that you can get a discounted price and picked a nice crispy Hefeweizen pitcher for $18 dollars.

urbn Interior

urbn Interior

The interior is nice too, huge with super high ceilings and huge fans. Definitely more of an industrial look but it suits the place and you’ll be hard pressed to not find seating.

Along with pizzas they have some salads and appetizers if you’re not in the mood for pizza. I decided to complement my pizza with a Caprezanella, which is a mix of a panzanella and caprese salad with bread croutons, olives, red onions, fresh mozarella and tomatoes.

Caprezanella

Caprezanella, why yes I did eat all the mozzarella before I took a picture

The small portion is more than suitable for a side and could even pass as a meal if you’re not that hungry. This was simple but tasty and went well with the pizza.

Now for the pizza. You get a free small pizza but the small pizza is actually quite large and we could not even finish it between 2 hungry people. You get 2 toppings free but we added 2 more because we’re greedy people. Topped off with salami (SO GOOD. BETTER THAN PEPPERONI. DO IT.), cherry peppers, garlic and mushrooms this thing was a beauty.

urbn Pizza

urbn Pizza

Slice

Slice

The crust was delicious and my only teensy complaint is that despite loving some good char on pizza crust there was a smidgen too much char but nothing that stopped me from thoroughly enjoying our pizza.

You also get little containers of sea salt, shredded parmesan, oregano and red pepper flakes to liberally apply to your pizza.

Pizza Condiments

Pizza Condiments

Overall a great deal and for a good price. Sadly they include 18% tip on the original price of the meal (i.e. with the price of the pizza included) so it wasn’t quite the deal we were expecting but definitely still a nice happy hour.

CHECK:
Pitcher of Hefeweizen $18
Pizza (free with purchase of pitcher) $0
Caprezanella small $7
Mandatory 18% gratuity for happy hour $7.74
TOTAL: $32.74

URBN Coal Fired Pizza

3085 University Ave, San Diego, California 92104
(619) 255-7300

www.urbnnorthpark.com/

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Greek Fattoush Salad & The Best Healthy Tzatziki Sauce

Salads get a bad rep as a main course because oftentimes what we picture as a stereotypical salad are just the saddest little leaves of iceberg lettuce with some grainy tomatoes, limp cucumber and dry shreds of carrots strewn over top. When people say they don’t like salads though I believe they just haven’t found the salad for them yet. There’s a salad out there you’ll like.

Greek Fattoush Salad

Greek Fattoush Salad

From Thai som tam papaya salad with peanuts and shrimp to warm spinach salads with bacon, mushrooms and a poached egg. Jean George’s carrot and avocado salad is a must order at his restaurant ((or must make at home) and the pomegranate seeds on Joy the Baker’s apple and brussel sprouts salad really make the whole dish.

Anyways. Lately my favorite salads have been more Mediterranean leaning. I love fattoush salad which is a Lebanese salad that normally has lettuce (or purslane), cucumber, tomatoes, mint, radish, pita chips and a tangy dressing made of lime, garlic, olive oil and sumac. It sounds terribly simple but its quite addicting, plus a perfect complement to fatty, charred gyros. Another classic I think most people are familiar with is greek salad which has tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives, feta, red onions and a dressing of red wine vinegar, oregano and olive oil.

Greek Fattoush Salad

Greek Fattoush Salad

Greek Fattoush Salad

Greek Fattoush Salad

So my clever idea that mostly arose out of coincidentally having most of these ingredients at home was to combine both these salads. Unfortunately I did not have sumac lying around so I omitted it but I highly recommend it if you can find it. It’s a reddish tangy spice that really adds a lot to the dressing and almost vaguely tastes like cranberries.

Lastly I added some simply cooked shrimp to the salad and made some amazing tzatziki sauce to go with this salad (and so that I could I dip extra pita chips in). This is an amazing tzatziki sauce recipe that’s pretty healthy to boot.

Chopping Away

Chopping Away

Chopped

Chopped

Chopped x2

Chopped x2

INGREDIENTS:

Serves 2 as a meal and 4 as a side.

1 pound of Persian cucumbers or 1 English cucumber
2 tomatoes
1 cup chopped romaine
1 cup of fresh mint leaves
1 cup of plain salted pita chips (add more if you like)
1/3 cup of kalamata olives
2-3 ounces of good feta (the one packed in olive oil is my favorite)
Juice of 2 limes (or lemons)
4 teaspoons of ground sumac
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup of olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Mix the lime juice, sumac, oregano, red wine vinegar, minced garlic cloves and olive oil into a small bowl. Whisk vigorously until incorporated and set aside.
2. Chop the tomatoes and cucumbers into 1/2 inch pieces. Add to a bowl.
3. Add in romaine, mint leaves, pita chips, and kalamata olives.
4. Add dressing and toss everything together.
5. Crumble the feta over top.
6. It’s ready! I would add a protein to make this a meal or serve as a side.

Greek Fattoush Salad

Greek Fattoush Salad

Now for the tzatziki. I love having a creamy side to have with the tangy salad but this tzatziki is great for serving alongside kebabs, pita chips, lemon shrimp skewers, you name it. It is especially good as part of a meal when you dollop it over rice.

Tzaziki

Tzaziki

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup fat free greek yogurt (strained if you want it thicker, I used Trader Joe’s brand but I like Oikos too)
1 cup fat free sour cream
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tbsp vinegar
1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 cucumber (any kind) peeled, seeded and diced into cubes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Combine the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk together.
2. Add in all the ingredients except for the lemon and whisk together.
3. Add the juice of the lemon, adjusting for how tart you want it. Combine.
4. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil over top before serving.

Tzaziki

Tzaziki

So yes. This is how I ate my huge salad. The good thing about this salad is that its quite substantial but because the dressing is fairly healthy you can eat a lot of until you’re quite full. When trying to be healthy its generally good to always control portion size but when you’re eating a big bowl of what mainly consists of cucumbers and tomatoes you can pretty much dismiss portion control and eat until you are pre-tty full. Provided you didn’t go too crazy with the pita chips.

Final Product: Greek Fattoush Salad with Shrimp and Tzaziki

Final Product: Greek Fattoush Salad with Shrimp and Tzaziki

This is the final product. I pretty much made this in a large salad serving bowl and then just kind of ate out of the bowl. Even after eating until my post-gym induced ravenous heart’s content I still have a good amount of salad left for the next day. The pita chips do get a tad soggy so if you have extra this is either an excuse for eating all the pita chips and adding more next time or for picking them out when you eat the salad later.

Close Up

Close Up

Bleu Bohème

For Restaurant Week Bleu Bohème used to have a dish called Tournedos Rossini which is filet mignon tournedos in a Madeira demi-glace on top of a crouton topped with foie gras and truffles. These are basically all my favorite things so I bookmarked this place but unfortunately never made it to Restaurant Week. We did however make it to happy hour and managed to sample quite a few dishes.

Bleu Boheme Patio

Bleu Boheme Patio

Their happy hour is quite short but worth it if you can make it to Kensington between 5 and 6 pm! Their martinis, champagne drinks, wine by the glass and craft beer selection (which is awesome btw) is all 50% off. They have a selection of appetizers and of mussels + fries that are all 50% off as well.

Basil Martini

Basil Martini

Red Ale

Red Ale

We started with the basil martini with citrus and a red ale. The basil martini was refreshing and not to sweet, it has tiny pieces of the basil in the drink which gave it a strong basil-y flavor. They also serve you crusty bread with butter right away. We liked the bread but it was extremely crusty so much so that we ended up just eating the insides.

Bread

Bread

APPETIZERS: We ordered quite a few of these. Our favorite was the Nouille au Fromage, a.k.a. the mac n’ cheese. Flat wide pasta with creamy gruyere cheese sauce, peas, duck confit and bacon all baked so the cheese is browned on top and piping hot inside. We did not see much of the duck confit but there was a good amount of bacon and this dish is a fairly large portion.

Nouille et Fromage

Nouille au Fromage

Next with so many options for mussels and fries, we chose the Moules et Frites au Champignon which has a creamy garlic sauce, white wine, bacon and wild mushrooms. This was also delicious and it came with PLENTY of mushroom and bacon (see picture below). The sauce was very flavorful and we definitely were mopping up the extra sauce with the crusty bread we did not eat (problem solved). The fries were very thinly cut and perfectly fried, we just wished they were a tad saltier. Overall would definitely order this again!

Moules et Frites au Champignons

Moules et Frites au Champignons

Next came the Galette du Crabe or crab cakes. These were 3 small crab cakes with an aioli on top and served with jicama remoulade and tomato-rocket salad. These were good but nothing too remarkable, I prefer when crab cakes have big lumps of crab as opposed to the finer shred meat, nonetheless it was not the type of crab cake that is predominantly bread and it was very well seasoned. Although it doesn’t sound very traditionally French, we loved the jicama roulade which was cool and crunchy and a nice contrast to the fried crab cakes.

Galettes du Crabe

Galettes du Crabe

Perhaps the dish I had the highest expectations for was the Crèpe de Homard, a lobster crepe with marscapone, asparagus and white truffle-carrot sauce. However the crepe was quite small and had finely shredded lobster that did not have a strong lobster flavor. The thick orange sauce had carrot and truffle but I did not care for it too much and thought it overwhelmed any lobster flavor in the crepe. Don’t think we would order this one again.

Crepe au Honard

Crèpe de Homard

Lastly another dish we quite liked was the Carpaccio de Saumon Fumé which was rum cured-house smoked salmon, crème frâiche raifort, baby arugula salad with shaved fennel, lemon zest, Champagne vinaigrette and capers. This is the only semi-healthy dish on the happy hour menu if you care for that sort of thing, but it is so flavorful we were all fighting for the last pieces of the salmon. Although we could not taste the rum-curing (not even sure if this would impart flavor though?) the combination of all the elements was very good. You had the salty smoked salmon with Champagne dressed greens, the crunch of the anise-y fennel, tangy capers and lastly the crème frâiche raifort to balance it all out.

Carpaccio

Carpaccio de Saumon Fumé

You thought that was it didn’t you? Well after all this can you imagine we still ordered dessert? We can.

DESSERT: There were many good dessert options and we had heard good things about the crème brulee crèpe however we ultimately decided on the Brioche aux Cerises. With brioche bread pudding, dried cherries, white chocolate, toasted almonds and Amaretto with crème fraîche this sounded like quite the combo. The bread pudding was not dense and was very light in texture but still custard-y in the middle. The white chocolate flavor was not very prominent but the dried cherries added sweet, chewy bites to the pillow-y soft bread. We really, really wished this had come with ice cream because that would have taken it to the next level.

Brioche aux Cerises

Brioche aux Cerises

CHECK:
Red Ale $3.50
Basil Martini $5.50
Galette du Crabe $7.48
Carpaccio de Saumon Fumé $7.98
Crèpe de Homard $8.98
Nouille au Fromage $6.75
Moules et Frites au Champignon $6.98
Brioche aux Cerises $9.95
TOTAL: $61.69 (w/ tax)

Patio View

Patio View

Overall we thought happy hour was a great deal. There are quite a few options for food and drink which was nice. The dishes that really blew us away were the Nouille au Fromage and the Moules et Frites. Everything else was good except for the Crèpe de Homard which I thought was a little underwhelming. Definitely want to make it back here for the Tournedos (*crossing my fingers it will be in the next SDRW menu*).

Bleu Bohème
4090 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116
www.bleuboheme.com

Jayne’s Gastropub

Jayne’s came highly recommended from a friend and after leaving Polite Provisions we were hungry then what do you know…Jayne’s Gastropub was right there. On the corner of Adams and 30th. How convenient.

On the outside it looks like a simplified English pub. White building, dark green trim, and Jayne’s discreetly written on the front. Once you go inside its quite cozy with lots of dark wood. Its a smallish space with a smallish bar but the drinks sounded good and the place was packed, which is normally a good sign.

We wanted to sit at the bar and just order appetizers then bounce, we told the hostess this and she was quite gracious and said we could wait for a spot at the bar or sit at a table outside. We chose to sit outside and this was quite lucky because their outside patio is gorgeous.

Jayne's Gastropub Patio

Jayne’s Gastropub Patio

There are tall hedges surrounding the patio and then a tall wall with aged brick on one side. There are globe lights overhead and heaters to stay warm and the tables have white tableclothes and red roses. Its quite the charming place to have dinner and probably a perfect date spot.

White Linens and Red Roses at Jayne's

White linens and red roses at Jayne’s

APPETIZERS: We ordered two appetizers, the Gambas al Aljillo and the Calamari. The Gambas were shrimp in a spicy garlic sauce with sliced baguette bread. Though the shrimp were good, the sauce was somewhat lacking. The chilis and garlic didn’t have enough time to infuse in the oil, so the oil was relatively flavorless. It was a little pricey for 6 shrimp as well. The calamari on the other hand was great. It was served piping hot and had the perfect amount of breading. Sometimes you get too much cakey breading and its slipping off the calamari rings. Here it was crunchy but not greasy and you could tell it had just left the fryer. The calamari comes with cocktail sauce and aioli.

Gambas Al Aljillo

Gambas Al Aljillo

Calamari

Calamari

Overall, we thought the food could’ve been a tad cheaper but its hard to be upset when you’re dining in such a pleasant environment. Their menu also had some really great sounding dishes like their crostini with white bean puree and roasted peppers, the brick chicken and especially the gnocchi with cream, mushrooms, and chicken.

CHECK:
Calamari $10.50
Gambas al Aljillo $15.50
TOTAL: $38.88 (w/tax)

Their drinks sound good, their burger won best burger in SD at one point, and they have a $5 dollar happy hour plates special. Jayne’s: We will be back.

Another view of Jayne's patio

Another view of Jayne’s patio

Jayne’s Gastropub
4677 30th St
San Diego, CA 92116
http://jaynesgastropub.com

Asian Braised Pork Buns

Ever since we got our slow-cooker so many dishes that appeared too time consuming or labor intensive have become such easy weeknight staples. Instead of coming home and then having to braise something in a hot oven for 4 hours before eating it you can start the prep work at night, finish it in the morning, stick in the slow cooker and come back home to some delicious falling-off-the-bone tender main course. Not only that but braising for that long turns cheap cuts of meat into dinner party worthy fare. For everyone who comes home ravenous and/or exhausted from work the slow-cooker is your friend.

For this dish we took inspiration from the pork belly steamed buns at Momofuku Ssam Bar in New York. This dish involved super tender pork belly served with scallions and hoisin sauce on pillowy steamed buns. Pork belly is very rich and very fatty and we prefer something a little leaner and with more texture. This is why we decided to sub pork shoulder for pork belly and to add some more veggies on the side.

Asian Braised Pork Shoulder

Asian Braised Pork Shoulder

For this large portion of pork shoulder (easily serves 4) it cost us approximately $5.14. Another great money saving tip is to shop at ethnic grocery stores. Having to procure some Asian ingredients like chili oil, bok choy, and the sesame buns we went to 99 Ranch in Kearny Mesa. They recently re-did this so it’s a lot nicer and cleaner then it used to be. Not only do they have a wide variety of exotic fare they also have lots of cheap, fresh produce and very inexpensive meat. Now we wouldn’t recommend you get your filet mignon here but for cheaper cuts (like this pork shoulder) they have great deals and our meal was superb.

Asian Braised Pork Shoulder

INGREDIENTS:
1 boneless pork shoulder (3-4 lbs)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Lawry’s seasoning salt (you can use regular salt too)
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 2 inch piece of ginger, grated
3 cups of chicken stock
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup of oyster sauce
1/4 cup of brown sugar
4 tbsp of sambal oelek (you can use more or less depending how much spice you want or substitute Sriracha)

DIRECTIONS:
1. Trim skin and fat from pork shoulder as desired (we took off most of it)
2. Mix sugar and salt and then rub all over the pork shoulder
3. Cover pork in plastic wrap and leave in refrigerator overnight or for at least 6 hours. Place over plate in case any juices leak out.
4. Whisk together the garlic, ginger, chicken stock, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, oyster sauce, brown sugar and sambal oelek.
5. Cut the pork shoulder into 3 pieces and place in slow cooker. Pour in the soy sauce and spices mixture. Make sure some of the tops of the pieces of the pork shoulder remain uncovered by liquid, these will become the crispy bits.
6. Turn the slow cooker on low and let it cook for 8-9 hours.

To complement the pork we made this Momofuku inspired dressing:

Ginger-Scallion Sauce

Ginger-Scallion Sauce

Ginger-Scallion Sauce

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup thinly sliced scallions (green and whites, 3/4 of a large bunch)
1/4 cup finely minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp grapeseed or other neutral oil
1/4 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp chili oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt, more to taste

DIRECTIONS:
1. Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl. Taste and check for salt, adding more if needed.
2. Let sit for 15-20 minutes before using.

Because braised meats go so well with rice and bitter greens we decided to add sides of fried rice and bok choy, if you have leftover rice this is a cinch to make:

Brown Fried Rice

Brown Fried Rice

Bok Choy

Bok Choy

Simple Brown Fried Rice and Bok Choy

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups of leftover brown rice (already cooked, can also use white rice)
4 tbsp of virgin coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tbsp chopped scallions
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp grated garlic
1 tsp of sesame oil
1 1/2 lb of baby bok choy, cut in half
salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:
1. Add 1 tbsp of coconut oil to a hot pan.
2. Add 1 tbsp of ginger and 1 tbsp of grated garlic to the oil. Let crisp for 20 seconds.
3. Add the bok choy and cook over medium high heat until tender (3-5 minutes)
4. Remove the bok choy from the pan and in the same pan add 2 tbsp of coconut oil.
5. Over medium high heat, add the two eggs and scramble them.
6. Remove the scrambled eggs from the pan and set aside.
7. Add the last tbsp of coconut oil then add in the brown rice.
8. Add in the soy sauce and the chopped scallions.
9. Stir fry until heated through (about 4 minutes).
10. Add the eggs back in and its ready!

Now after all this all you need is to buy the appropriate buns. We used these guys:

Sesame Bread

Sesame Bread

But you can also use green onion pancakes, or soft steamed buns. I think next time we might do the green onion pancakes, you can buy them frozen from 99 Ranch and they are SO good.

So once you have all your ingredients you can add whatever toppings you like; we did thinly sliced onions, sliced thai chili peppers and chopped scallions. I imagine other chilis, cilantro, and hoisin sauce would all be great with this too.

Toppings: Thai Chilies, Sliced Onions, Scallions

Toppings: Thai Chilies, Sliced Onions, Scallions

And then assemble as you like and eat away.

Asian Braised Pork Buns

Asian Braised Pork Buns

Asian Braised Pork based on this recipe.
Ginger-Scallion Sauce based on this recipe.

TIPS:
– Feel free to adjust the amount of sugar and spicy elements (like the sambal oelek and chili oil) in these recipes, some people like it sweeter, others like it spicier.
– Any other cabbage-like vegetable would complement this dish, if you don’t like/can’t find bok choy: regular cabbage, Chinese cabbage, kale or brussel sprouts would work.
– You can definitely use any oil for the fried rice and bok choy, we like coconut oil because its a good source of medium-chain fatty acids which are great for your health and can aid in weight loss by promoting fat oxidation and reduced food intake (source). They are also coconut-y and delicious! However, naturally if you are allergic to coconut please substitute for vegetable oil.

Crispy Broccoli

Originally found this recipe on Pinterest and it came along with a hefty claim that the lady’s husband preferred this broccoli to french fries. I will come out and say these are no french fries; but it probably is the tastiest way to serve broccoli I have encountered. They are simple, pretty healthy, and the texture and taste of the broccoli is downright addictive. Will definitely be making these again!

Crispy broccoli

Crispy broccoli

The edges of the broccoli get browned and so crispy and the combination of lemon + parmesan really adds flavor. Maybe it won’t substitute a side of fries with your burger but it will definitely convert any broccoli haters.

(ALMOST) BETTER THAN FRENCH FRIES BROCCOLI

Serves 4
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 a lemon

PREPARATION:

  • Preheat oven to 400° F.
  • Place the broccoli on a baking sheet (foil-covered if you want to make clean up easier).
  • Drizzle with olive oil and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the broccoli
  • Add the parmesan, salt and pepper then toss to coat everything evenly.
  • Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until broccoli is crisp.
  • Serve. You can add some more parmesan over top before serving.

based on this recipe

TIPS:
– I think a little of browning is ideal but if you leave it in for longer you can get more of the brown crispy parts. Adding more oil with also increase browning.
– Best eaten right after you make it since it won’t remain crispy the day after.
– You definitely need fresh broccoli for this, frozen broccoli will be too wet and won’t crisp up nicely.