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/

Buona Forchetta

I’ve been hearing about Buona Forchetta for a while and was really excited to try this place with its gorgeous golden pizza oven (look at the website!).

Sergio Pizza

Sergio Pizza

First driving into the Golden Hill / South Park area was great. I don’t frequent that area too often but its beautiful and I promised that I’ll start exploring it more. Its completely different from the other side of the Balboa Park along 6th Av., much less busy and so charming. But anyways, I digress.

Buona Forchetta Menu

Buona Forchetta Menu

The place has a rather small inside but a nice patio with heaters. Loved the vibe of the place. The menu was fairly simple: appetizers, salads, pastas, pizzas (regular, white, fried), calzones and desserts. There was no happy hour but with glasses of sangria regularly priced at $4 and beer at $5  who needs happy hour anyways.

DRINKS: Even a better deal than the cups of sangria is a carafe of sangria. For $18 we got a carafe of fantastic white sangria. It was very crisp tasting although not very alcoholic. This was fine by me.

White Sangria

White Sangria

APPETIZER: To start off we ordered the Pizzelle, fried up little rounds of puffy pizza dough with marinara sauce and parmesan. You get three of these little babies and they are quite tasty. They’re very tomato-ey with all that sauce and the marinara is very fresh tasting.  I liked these but eat them fast as they get soggy and cold sitting under all that sauce for a while. Also since I prefer marinara that tastes more like fresh tomatoes instead of stuff thats been cooking for days I really liked the sauce on the pizzelle and on all their pizzas.

Pizzelle

Pizzelle

Probably because I felt guilty about my imminent consumption of vast amounts of cheese and dough I also ordered a salad, the Gamberi. It had shrimp, arugula, capers, artichokes and a lemon-y dressing. This salad is quite tart with the brininess from the capers and the lemon dressing, but it was tasty and refreshing. They also give you decent sized shrimp, I hate ordering something with shrimp and getting the tiny cheap crap shrimp. No such thing here.

Gamberi

Gamberi

ENTREE: We got three pizzas to share. As a note the pizzas are personal sized and cut into 4 pieces, however we were 4 people and got three and it was more than enough. The first was the Sophia with mozzarella, artichokes, mushrooms and prosciutto cotto. Prosciutto cotto is cooked prosciutto. It was torn into small piece and it was crispy at the edges, tasting more like the best crispy ham ever instead of silky prosciutto. This was my personal favorite. There was just enough cheese + the mushrooms and artichokes worked wonderfully with the prosciutto cotto to feel like you were eating a fantastic hearty pizza. I have to commend them on their crust too; thin but still chewy with the perfect amount of char. That fancy oven is doing you good Buona Forchetta.

Sophia pizza

Sophia

We also got the Sergio. This was mozzarella di bufala (fresh mozzarella made from buffalo milk), fresh prosciutto and arugula. For this pizza the arugula and the prosciutto are added after the pizza leaves the oven so the prosciutto was still that silky soft texture and the arugula was crisp. This was also delicious, my only wish was that there was more mozzarella di bufala, I think that would have made this my favorite pizza. It definitely feels less hearty than the Sophia because its not all hot melty everythingness but its a perfect hot weather pizza since the fresh prosciutto and arugula balance out the hot crust and cheese.

Sergio pizza

Sergio

Our last pizza was a pizza bianche, or white pizza. We ended up choosing the Isabella, with creme fraiche, sun dried tomatoes, goat cheese, onions and rosemary. Sadly this was my least favorite pizza but I normally prefer regular tomato based pizza over the white sauce versions. The sun dried tomatoes were a little too charred for me and the overall pizza felt dry, we all wished there had been more creme fraiche. They have very thinly sliced mostly raw red onions on the pizza too so if you love onions you will like this one.

Isabella pizza

Isabella

DESSERT: So for dessert we got the Millefoglie a flaky pastry that was filled with a sweetened mascarpone cream and fresh strawberries. There was also chocolate sauce drizzled on the plate. This was amazing. I wish there were more strawberries because getting the flaky pastry + cream + strawberries in one bite was heavenly. Sadly we were sharing this and it got devoured so fast I don’t even have any pictures of it 😦

Overall we all loved Buona and cannot wait to go back. The prices are very reasonable and you legitimately don’t see people doing really good Neapolitan style pizza in San Diego. Don’t get me wrong I love ALL kinds of pizza but especially kinds that are thin and light enough that I can consume three pieces without feeling excessively full and/or guilty. Looking at that menu I already know what I wanna order next time…and definitely not planning on sharing dessert again 😉

CHECK:
White Sangria $18
Pizzelle $5
Gamberi $10
Sofia $11
Sergio $13
Isabella $13
Millefoglie $6
TOTAL: $82.08

Buona Forchetta
3001 Beech St.
San Diego, CA 92102
http://www.buonaforchettasd.com/

The Healthy Peanut Butter & Jelly Smoothie

This is the perfect post-gym or late night snack when you’re craving something sweet but don’t want to actually indulge on sugary sweets. It’s creamy and peanut butter-y with a swirl of fresh strawberry that will hit all the right spots. And the best part is that its almost fat free and just about 160 calories!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Smoothie

The magic that makes a peanut butter smoothie so low calorie is a product I recently purchased called PB2. Its powdered peanut butter and you essentially can mix into anything and it will taste like peanut butter but with none of the fat! I have not had it on its own or on bread (that might be pushing it) but I love mixing this stuff in smoothies or even in my morning cereal. If you do want to just eat it on bread (or by itself) you just have to mix it with water. The other day I made a quick stir fry with shrimp, kale, and bok choy to which I added soy sauce, grated ginger, coconut flakes and 1 tablespoon of the PB2. I was skeptical of it working in savoury dishes but it was so GOOD!

powdered peanut butter

PB2

Whereas regular peanut butter has about 90 calories per tablespoon, this stuff only has 15 calories per tablespoon and is all natural with no weird additives:

PB2 label

PB2 label

I ordered it from Amazon and it was $4.60 for a 6.5 oz jar (buy it here).

So the smoothie has fairly simple ingredients besides the PB2: greek yogurt for creaminess, almond milk, oats, strawberries, and you need some kind of sweetener. Thats it. Read on for the recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup of greek yogurt (this could be frozen for a thicker smoothie)
1 cup of almond milk
3 tbsp of PB2
2 tbsp oats
1/2 cup of strawberries (could be fresh or frozen)
Sweetener (We used Splenda, but you could use stevia or if you don’t mind the extra calories real sugar, agave, honey etc.)

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Blend the strawberries with some of the sweetener. Alternatively if you like more texture, crush them with a fork with the sweetener until they are thoroughly smashed to bits. Set aside.
2. Now blend all of the rest of the ingredients with your desired amount of sweetener until smooth. The oats add fiber but will leave a bit of a grittier texture so if you are not a fan of this feel free to leave out.
3. Pour the peanut butter mixture into a large cup.
4. Pour the blended/smashed strawberries over it and give it a swirl with a knife.
5. Drink up!

peanut butter, jelly, smoothie, healthy

Peanut Butter & Jelly Smoothie

TIPS:
– Instead of 1/2 cup of strawberries you could add real sugar free jam if you have it at hand
– I have done this smoothie with banana instead of strawberries and highly recommend this as well.
– Other great additions would be coconut, dark chocolate or a big swirl of honey on top.
– This could also be made with regular milk, soy milk, etc. I just love the taste of almond milk and its extremely low calorie
– You can easily make this vegan by substituting soy or any other non-milk based yogurt for the greek yogurt!

peanut butter, jelly, strawberry, swirl

Swirl!

Now I’m just waiting for someone to come up with powdered low calorie Nutella….

peanut butter, jelly, smoothie, strawberry, healthy

Peanut Butter & Jelly Smoothie

If you prefer a Healthy Peanut Butter Banana & Chocolate Smoothie

Or a Healthy Berry & Peanut Butter Parfait with Granola….

This is PB2’s company website http://www.bellplantation.com/

They also have it with chocolate!

Strawberry Vanilla Pound Cake with Almond Crumble

There are certain flavors that can really take a dish the extra mile and at the same time it’s hard to put your finger on what’s missing when it’s not there; nutmeg in cream sauces, a squeeze of lemon to brighten up roasted asparagus, and almond in vanilla-based baked goods. This pound cake is a simple pound cake recipe to which we add fresh strawberries, almond extract, a glaze and almond crumble. Nice to serve with ice cream for dessert or just lightly toasted for breakfast.

Strawberry Vanilla Poundcake

Strawberry Vanilla Pound Cake

RECIPE:

STRAWBERRY VANILLA POUND CAKE WITH ALMOND CRUMBLE

Pound Cake & Glaze:
1 cup softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
3/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups self-rising cake flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup of chopped strawberries tossed with 2 tablespoons of flour
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1/2 tsp of almond extract

Almond Crumble:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cold butter, diced
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup sugar

– Preheat the oven to 350C and grease a loaf pan.
– In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar, then add the lemon zest.
– Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of the flour for each.
– Then gently mix in the rest of the flour.
– Add the lemon juice (saving 2 tbsp for glaze), vanilla, and finally almond extract.
– Mix in the chopped strawberries then add to the loaf pan.
– Pulse all the ingredients for the crumble in a food processor until you have a crumbly/granola consistency. Set aside.
– Sprinkle the loaf with caster sugar (about 2 tablespoons should do it) and then the crumble as it goes into the oven. Then bake for 1 hour or until a cake-tester comes out clean.
– Remove to a wire rack, and let cool in the tin before turning out.
– Whisk the confectioner’s sugar with 2 tbsp of lemon juice until the glaze is smooth. Add lemon juice/sugar as needed to adjust the consistency.
– Once its cooled swirl the glaze on top.

Based on Nigella’s Madeira Cake

The final product is a nice mix of rich pound cake with tartness from the strawberries, extra sweetness from the glaze and crunchy texture from the crumble. The almond perfumes the loaf and the strawberries get the tiniest bit jammy from being in the oven. Try it out 🙂

TIPS:

– You can sub out the strawberries for other berries, fresh or frozen.
– Be sure to toss the fruit in flour so they don’t sink to the bottom of the cake.
– You could also use dried strawberries if you don’t like how fresh/frozen fruit can bleed into the cake.
– Tastes even better the day after.