Diner en Blanc SD

Having heard of the Diner en Blanc events a couple years ago I considered going to last years for the first time it was happening in SD but ehh was too lazy and ended up not committing. This year we bought tickets fairly early on and I have to say it surpassed my expectations and I will definitely be back next year!

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc started in Paris 25 years ago and now its hosted in cities around the world, everywhere from Quebec to Cote d’Ivoire to Singapore. Basically the premise is that all these people dressed all in white (nicely I might add) bring their own tables, chairs, table decorations and food to a spot. Although mind you, you can also rent tables/chairs from them and purchase a multi-course meal as well if you are not inclined to make your own. After meeting up everyone gets on buses that will take you to an undisclosed location where the thousands of people that participate in these events will set up their tables, chairs and food and have a giant open-air dinner party. They have taken place in the Place Vendôme at Paris and they shut down Rodeo Drive last year for the one in Los Angeles. In SD last year it was at Harbor Island and this year it was in a lovely courtyard in Point Loma.

Diner en Blanc SD 2013

Diner en Blanc SD 2013

Diner en Blanc SD 2013

Diner en Blanc SD 2013

The meet up spot was at Balboa Park and when we arrived I was happy I wore a nice white dress because people go all out for this. Floor length dresses, all white suits, parasols, carnival masks, boas…you name it. Apparently there is an award for best-dressed person as well as best-decorated table. Originally I thought this was a more casual affair and so I was glad that I was informed that yes, you have to dress nicely and no, you can’t just eat on a picnic blanket.

So the only downside is having to carry all your stuff everywhere. Its not too bad but we did have some pot de creme desserts that tipped over and made a bit of a mess. As well as I had trouble carrying our table from the car to the bus but I would blame this more on a personal shortcoming of having the upper body strength of an 8 year old.

The bus took us around a bit, going on the freeway and then back off, around downtown, stopping in a random parking lot (psyche) and then finally to Point Loma. Although initially I was unimpressed by the location once we were in the courtyard and everyone was set up it looked beautiful. The courtyard around us also handily sheltered us from the wind so that both girls in skimpier dressing as well as tall flickering candles were well protected.

Napkin waving

Napkin waving

Once tables are set, dinner starts with a napkin waving thing. It was nice chatting to the tables around us and although we were definitely on the younger side of attendees it was cool to have a good mix of all ages and both couples that came alone and huge groups of people attending together.

Our table!

Our table!

Our table!

Our table!

We went with simple but elegant for our table and a bottle of rosé for libations. Also although organizers say you must purchase alcohol from them and not bring your own, EVERYONE brought their own and lots of it. Next year we will definitely be smuggling some more wine in with our food.

Crostini with Truffled Ricotta and Mushrooms

Crostini with Truffled Ricotta and Mushrooms

For our first course I made crostini with truffled ricottas and mushrooms. When you are cooking you kind of have to keep in mind that all this stuff has to be transported and also that it will most likely be served sort of closer to room temperature, unless you have a nice insulated mode of food transportation like I did not (does a Trader Joe’s bag count? I thought not).

Caeser Salad

Caeser Salad

For the second course I made a caeser salad with caeser-basil dressing. Also known as, I made a caeser dressing and added basil to it because why not.

Roast Chicken with Potatoes

Roast Chicken with Potatoes

The entree was roast chicken with Meyer lemon + roasted potatoes. I followed Kenji’s recipe from Serious Eats for a perfect butterflied roast chicken with quick jus. This was awesome. And I roasted the chicken on top of a wire rack with the potatoes underneath so that the chicken spices/juices/fat/everything dripped on the potatoes and they were sooo flavorful. I used Yukon Gold potatoes, dropped them in a pan with cold water + rosemary, Meyer lemons and salt over medium heat until they boiled and then threw them in with the chicken in the oven. They were the best roast potatoes I have ever made. No lie. Sadly not as good served room temperature but will definitely repeat this recipe.

Dulce de Leche + Coconut Pudding & Strawberries

Dulce de Leche + Coconut Pudding & Strawberries

For dessert we had dulce de leche + coconut pudding with strawberries. This was also great and I want to make it again but with more coconut and a chocolate sauce.

So after dinner there is dancing and we were thinking of just leaving early because we are the lamest 23 and 25 year olds on the planet and have work really early. But the DJ who was playing mostly oldies throughout the dinner sneakily got people on the dance floor with the Cupid Shuffle and from that went to more upbeat music. By the end of the night people were dancing in the fountains, there was a guy running around with a bubble gun and when we snap chatted a picture of the event to a friend she thought we were at Sensation White (the rave).

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Being used to going to loud bars/clubs that mostly have just people your age and that play mostly EDM all night it was super fun to dance around to songs with WORDS that everyone knows the lyrics too. It was also great seeing people of all ages dance and even better to see both 20 year olds and 60 year olds dancing inside the fountain!

Fountain Dancing

Fountain Dancing

Bubble Gun

Bubble Gun

We stayed until the very end and of course the very last song they played was Journey. I don’t even have to tell you which one. Great experience and can’t wait to be back next year! Hopefully with leak-proof containers for the dessert and someone else to take up table-carrying duties 🙂

For more info on Diner en Blanc:
http://sandiego.dinerenblanc.info/

Greece – The Cyclades

So far we’ve only reviewed SD restaurants but after a vacation in Greece I thought it’d be great to share some pictures of the local food. And the beaches. The beaches are pretty nice too.

Koufonissia - Pori Beach

Koufonissia – Pori Beach

So some of the dishes we tried were at the beach above. Koufonissia is a small island, part of the Little Cyclades. You can get to Pori Beach by boat or by taking a ferry to Koufonissia then taking a bus to Pori. There are exactly two restaurants on the beach and besides that you’d be hard pressed to find any other buildings around. The restaurant closer to the beach had way more people in it so that is where we went.

Restaurant in Pori

Restaurant in Pori

The first dish we tried was Taramasalata. Our waitress simply described it as a dip that came with bread and that it was very good, so we were game. Only after it came and we were already halfway through eating it that we discovered there was fish roe in it. This was totally fine by us but I guess if you are vegetarian or have allergies I would tread carefully as in a lot of restaurants their English may not be super extensive.

DSC00709 Taramasalata

The basic ingredients in taramasalata are carp roe, olive oil, bread crumbs, vinegar, lemon and salt. It has a very nice salty, creamy flavor and is nor overtly fishy, I thought it had more of a umami flavor than an obvious fish flavor. Really good with the pita chips that came although I wish some soft bread would have come too.

The next dish we tried was a favorite of the trip, Cretan Husk. Cretan husk is very simple but its the one dish I can’t wait to make at home. They use husk bread which is a stale ish whole wheat country bread and then top it with a very simply, barely cooked tomato sauce, capers and a fresh cheese. We saw feta used as the cheese often but in some islands they also used a mild local goat cheese. I think I’m gonna try chevre or really good feta in olive oil when I attempt to make it at home.

Cretan Husk

Cretan Husk

It’s deceptively simple but soooo tasty. We must have ordered it at almost every restaurant we went to after we discovered it. The bread sops up the fresh tomato sauce and you have the creamy cheese and a hint of sharpness from the capers. If you like panzanella this is right up your alley.

After our appetizers I ordered the Naxos Sausage with Lentils. The sausage I think was goat and it had nice char marks and a slightly gamey flavor. A lot of food for one plate. One positive side of Greece is that its quite inexpensive compared to the Western European countries. Things are a little pricier in Mykonos or Santorini but even then you can easily find yummy, large meals for very affordable prices. Like this one.

Naxos Sausage with Lentils

Naxos Sausage with Lentils

The lentils were smaller than I’m used too but excellent. They were mixed with very thinly dressed onions, tomatoes and a light dressing which contrasted nicely with the fatty, smoky sausage. The whole thing was pretty delicious. The only thing I disliked was that the sausage was studded with pieces of fat which are not my favorite but its pretty normal for sausages and no one else was complaining 🙂

The other entree we got was the Baby Goat with Eggplant Puree. The meat was super tender and a little gamey with a mild tomato sauce and a puree of smoky grilled eggplant. The braised meat with the slightly sweet tomato sauce and the silky, smoky puree was amazing.

Baby Goat with Eggplant Puree

Baby Goat with Eggplant Puree

Everything we had was tasty and the ingredients and preparation were of great quality. For dessert I had a banana, milk, honey, cinnamon and sesame smoothie I didn’t take any pictures of. We were pretty happy with this meal. They also turn into a bar with live music later at night, that night they had Brazilian bossa nova. It went really well with the great food and the great view. Highly recommended.

Sunset in Pori

Sunset in Pori

So the next meal we have pictures of was slightly less successful. This meal was in Paros island right by the private marina. Also can’t remember the name of this restaurant but it was at the end of the first row of restaurants.

Paros

Paros

For appetizers we got a Cretan Salad. This was described as tomatoes, olives, onions, cucumbers, potatoes, and Cretan bread. Weirdly instead of potatoes we got cubes of Swiss cheese in the salad.

Cretan Salad

Cretan Salad

This came with no dressing so we mixed red wine vinegar and olive oil and poured it over top. Almost every restaurant will have olive oil and red wine vinegar at the table which is nice because they normally give you bread but no butter or anything to put on the bread.

For an entree I got the Stuffed Calamari. It said it was stuffed with feta, peppers and sundried tomatoes and came with rice and fries. I asked for roasted potatoes instead and although the waiter agreed to it I got fries anyways.

Stuffed Calamari

Stuffed Calamari

The squid was definitely overcooked and but the tomatoes were fresh instead of sundried and the bell peppers were too raw for my liking. The fries are softer in style than normal American french fries but we saw that a lot. The tartar sauce was ok. Overall it was unremarkable and I gave the rest of my squid to one of the many stray kitties that seem to be everywhere in the islands…

The other entree we got was Cretan Casserole. This was also cooked goat but what we got was not very casserole-y. It came with fries and rice but the waiter forgot the rice.

Cretan Casserole

Cretan Casserole

Although it doesn’t look super appetizing the meat was actually pretty good. Sadly there wasn’t a lot of it and there was a lot of bone, fat, and assorted tissues. Nothing like the baby goat we had in Koufonissia!

Paros

Paros

Overall we ate a lot of good food in Greece. Our number one tip would be to not eat at the restaurants that are right on the water/boardwalk especially if they’re close to the port or where the ferry arrives. These restaurants are mostly there for the cheap drinks and the food is definitely secondary. If you meander in a little into the towns you’ll find cheaper and much better food. Naturally it always pays to ask a local as well or to do some internet sleuthing beforehand.

Our favorite restaurant was in Naxos island. It was only a row behind the boardwalk restaurants advertising 4 euro drinks but it was nice and friendly with only one older lady manning the entire place. She didn’t speak a lick on English and as soon as we sat she handed us the Greek-English menus and after we sat an older Greek lady with a scarf neatly tied around her head came and sat in the table next to us. Always a good sign. Her food was simple but so good. Everything tasted fresh and she did all the cooking.

Sadly we can’t remember the name something like “Family Tavern”, if you get to Naxos by ferry go straight to the boardwalk with all the restaurants and go behind them and walk to the right until you see a white and light teal building. If you find yourself seated in the patio below you are golden.

Our Favorite Restaurant in Naxos

Our Favorite Restaurant in Naxos

The roasted potatoes with oregano and lemon are out of this world and the lady always gave us free dessert whether it was a slice of homemade orange cake or perfectly ripe figs. If we go back we will definitely be stopping by here again.

Sunset over Mykonos

Sunset over Mykonos

Brooklyn Girl Eatery – Brunch

So Brooklyn Girl has brunch, which I had no idea existed or else I would have gone sooner. Came here on Saturday around 11 am and was happy to see that there were plenty of free tables, which is nice considering trying to come around dinner time without a reservation has not worked well for us recently!

Brooklyn Girl

Brooklyn Girl

DRINKS:First of all, let me say right off the bat that Brooklyn Girl has the BEST Bloody Mary I’ve ever had. And this sentiment was echoed by others at our table. It’s so flavorful and has the perfect amount of spice. Watery Bloody Marys might very well be one of the worst things ever. I blame these bland and watered down specimens for me believing I hated Bloody Marys for most of the 24 years I’ve been on this Earth (I have seen the light and converted about 3 months ago). They have a special Bloody with bacon and a pickled quail egg too but we all went with the House Bloody which is described as “No Frills, All Delicious, Svedka Vodka, House Bloody Mix Celery, Jalapeno stuffed Olive, Lime, S&P rim”. Spot on.

Bloody Mary

House Bloody

We also loved their Horchata Borracha, or drunk horchata if you habla español. Housemade horchata + Kraken rum = deliciousness. This also came with a cinnamon sugar rim that was a nice touch.

Horchata Borracha

Horchata Borracha

ENTREES: As far as brunch options go they have omelettes, benedicts, pancakes, french toast, granola, and some less usual fare like their burger (add an egg to it!), a T.A.B.L.T. (Turkey Avocado Bacon Lettuce Tomato), a duck confit + duck egg dish, chicken and dumplings, and a breakfast pizza! It’s definitely an interesting but tasty selection.

I went for the Breakfast Pizza which did not disappoint at all. It comes with thick cut bacon, aged white cheddar, eggs, and chives. No tomato sauce on this pizza, and it was better this way. It’s super savory and there’s enough bacon that you get some on each bite. That with perfectly cooked eggs with soft yolks that are perfect for dipping in was heavenly. Wish the pizza had more char on it but besides that it was just about perfect. And huge too! Definitely more than enough for splitting.

Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast Pizza

Some of the other dishes we ordered were the South of the Border, a Mexican inspired benedict. This came with house chorizo, poblano peppers, black beans, red onions, flour tortillas instead of a biscuit, poached eggs, and an ancho hollandaise. I’m not a huge black bean person but besides that everything was pretty tasty. The chorizo was flavorful and the eggs were perfectly cooked. We asked for some hot sauce for this dish and with that it was good to go.

South of the Border

South of the Border

We also got their Traditional Benedict. This was smoked ham, english muffin, poached egg, and hollandaise with potatoes on the side. Despite this being pretty standard fare I liked it even more than the South of the Border because all the components were individually so good. The potatoes were super crispy and I don’t normally like thick cut ham but this one tasted so much more like real pork than the usual salty processed stuff that I could eat it by itself.

Traditional Benedict

Traditional Benedict

DESSERT: Lastly we also ordered the Bread Pudding. This took a while to arrive but it was well worth it. It was piping hot and studded with dark chocolate chips. It comes with an anglaise sauce to pour over the bread pudding, and when you do that the chocolate starts to melt into the anglaise and creates rippling chocolate swirls in the vanilla sauce. Eating this together with the hot custard-y bread is amazing. I was dying for an espresso after this but sadly their espresso machine wasn’t hooked up yet (they recently remodeled). Oh and I didn’t take a picture of it because we all devoured it immediately. So here’s more picture of food:

Not the Bread Pudding

Not the Bread Pudding

CHECK:
3 House Bloody’s $24 ($8 each)
Horchata Borracha $10
Breakfast Pizza $13
Traditional Benedict $11
South of the Border $14
Bread Pudding $8
TOTAL: $86.40

Overall, Brooklyn Girl continues to impress me both with their creativity and with the top-notch quality of their ingredients. They also do a good mix of having traditional options and bolder dishes for the more adventurous. I would definitely highly recommend brunch, especially before everyone else catches on and it becomes as busy as their dinner services!

Brooklyn Girl

Brooklyn Girl

Brooklyn Girl Eatery

4033 Goldfinch St
San Diego, California 92103
brooklyngirleatery.com

Bailiwick

After seeing pictures of Bailiwick here I decided that’s where I wanted to go for brunch on Saturday morning with a friend. It’s primarily a cocktail bar but they serve brunch on weekends.

Bailiwick – sdcitybeat.com

The restaurant itself has a whimsical decor; a lot of light blue and white with big chandeliers and vintage bird cages. Oh and a bathtub full of champagne by the front entrance:

Tub full of champagne at Bailiwick

Tub full of champagne at Bailiwick

The whole place is light, airy, and a nice option for brunch. Especially if you intended to go to Cafe 21 (which is right next door) but encountered a 2 hour plus wait. Instead of a bread basket you get Frozen Grapes Infused with Syrah to nibble on while you wait for your food.

DRINKS: They have the usual brunch suspects; mimosas and bloody marys. The mimosas come in different flavors besides just orange and you can opt for grapefruit, pineapple, and cranberry. I got the Pineapple Mimosa and it was nicely flavored and not overly sweet like I feared. My friend ordered the Belvedere Bloody Mary and it came with all the fixings, including pancetta. You could also go bottomless for $15.

APPETIZER: I got the Breakfast Cheese Plate which I thought was unique. I was afraid it would be too much cheese (and not enough bread!) as is common with cheese plates (disclaimer: I woke up ridiculously early that day and so had already had breakfast…) but it was perfectly portioned. You get two types of bread (raisin and marbled rye), ricotta and shavings of two strong cheeses. It also comes with cubed fruit (pear, apple, dragonfruit) and some honey yogurt that is lovely but awkward to eat out of a flat board. The dish is a starter and might be too small for someone with a healthier appetite but I was a fan.

Breakfast Cheese Plate

Breakfast Cheese Plate

ENTREE: My friend ordered the Continental Omelet which she added veggies too. It was served with slabs of (VERY) thick-cut bacon and home-style potatoes. This was served in a cast iron pan and the portion was fairly large. Bacon was crisp, potatoes were good, and the omelette was huge. Definitely a good option if you are hungrier.

CHECK:
Pineapple Mimosa $8
Bloody Mary $12
Breakfast Cheese Plate $9
Continental Omelet $9
TOTAL: $41.04 (w/ tax)

Overall this was a enjoyable and affordable brunch place that would perhaps cater to girls over guys given the decor and restrained portions. The menu was fairly small but had good options that covered both classics like the egg+meat+potatoes or french toast crowd but also something for those wanting something more original or lighter fare with the Breakfast Cheese Plate or the Brown Butter Grilled Oysters. Will be returning here. Perhaps not when ravenous/hungover.

Bailiwick
756 Fifth Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
http://bailiwicksd.com/