thursday things – we went to san francisco!

san fran bridge

I totally typed up a post for Thursday Things last week, then I got onto a plane and flew to California and woke up Thursday morning and instead of hitting “Publish” I got into a car and drove from San Francisco to Napa and forgot all about my Thursday Things post. So sorry, guys. Really.   Continue reading

thursday things – wee eats san diego (again)

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HI HI HI HI HI HI HI!

Those of you who follow on Instagram know by now that FH and I took a quick trip to San Diego last week.  We rented a place on airbnb, which was a perfectly-situated adorable apartment… slightly on the major flight path of the airport (the above picture was taken standing outside the apartment). Every day I waited for the loud crashing sound of the airplane not quite clearing one of the buildings…

While our primary goal was to take care of wedding-planning things, we managed to accomplish my secondary goal of eating our faces off as well.

Seriously. So much eating.

If you’ve never been to San Diego I insist that you go – it’s basically in the 70s all year long with the only downside being the humidity which hovers around 1,000,000% at any given time. But the city is absolutely gorgeous and full of delicious foodstuffs, like these:

Cucina Urbana

We ate here the last time we visited the San Diego area, but this time we “coincidentally” ended up staying just a few short blocks away… so we ate here a few times on this trip. On top of the delicious food, I love the ambiance of this restaurant. I did learn, however, that you must make reservations. They are booked. Always. All the time. However, if you like to live on the edge (like us) and not make reservations for anywhere, you can grab a seat at the bar if one is open and still enjoy everything the menu has to offer along with friendly chit-chat from the bartenders.

Below you will see the formaggi + salumi (a sort of build-your-own charceuterie board) which comes with a pear compote, several mustards, red pepper, and some of the best honey I’ve ever tasted. Amazing. Below that is their ricotta gnudi with arrabiatta sauce which, although it only comes with five little gnudis (to be fair, it’s a “side” item) is actually rather filling. They are light, pillowy ricotta dumplings swimming in a bright and flavorful tomato sauce. Lastly, their giant meatball (also a “side” item, I was clearly feeling snacky this day). I’m a bit of a meatball snob but this meatball is pretty solid. Their pizzas are all amazing as well.

 cucina urbana antipasti gnudi meatball

Craft & Commerce

FH and I stopped in for lunch after walking 23942384 miles around the city and shared their giant panzanella salad and some french fries. Their panzanella isn’t as bread-centric as most, which I consider a plus, however I’m not sure what percentage of a salad is supposed to be bread in order for it to be officially considered a “panzanella.”

This particular salad comes topped with all of my favorite things, including pickled red onions, finely sliced salami, and feta cheese. My tummy is rumbling just thinking about it…

craft and commerce

Fun fact – even though everyone stares at me like a crazy person when I say it, “panzanella” is actually pronounced “pan-za-nell-uh’ and NOT ‘pan-za-nay-uh’. Look it up, I promise. No go forth with this knowledge and do with it what you will.

Pappalecco

pappalecco

FH and I passed by this place on our way to breakfast at Hash House and the aroma nearly took us off our course. We stopped in on the way back to our car and couldn’t resist ordering a couple lattes, a prosciutto sandwich, and an almond croissant to go.

This place has what very well may be the best latte I have ever put in my mouth. Hands down. Their almond croissant was a standard croissant split and filled with sweet almond paste and topped with sliced, sugared almonds. It was to DIE for, and their prosciutto sandwich is lightly-grilled, just enough to warm the insides, and one bite will transport you straight to Italy.

I mean, I’ve never been to Italy, but I’m assuming that’s where it was taking me…

Hash House

Hash House is pretty well-known and I’ve been to their Vegas location before but didn’t realize they had locations elsewhere in the country. The food is good but I think they are more known for their over-the-top portions. These pictures really do the food no justice because these plates are at least 12-inches in diameter… at least.

hash house french toast

FH got the french toast which is dipped in banana cinnamon cream with pecan maple syrup. It comes topped with pecans, strawberries, and roasted bananas. I got the strawberry frosted flake pancakes which are pancakes filled with, you guessed it, strawberries and Frosted Flakes. Because how many times have you been eating your pancakes and wondering why they weren’t filled with Frosted Flakes?

hash house pancake

I’m pretty sure any one menu item here could feed at least four people… just saying.  But of course you’ll never share them because there are so many options that you will want to try…

Extraordinary Desserts

This was on our list to stop at as part of our “wedding cake” investigation. I had planned to try a few flavors of cake but since we ended up here at 10:00 AM on a Sunday morning, my body wasn’t as prepared as I’d have liked it to be. We settled on trying a flavor similar to what we were considering for the wedding and grabbed a lemonade too.

We tried the Ivoire Royale which has layers of vanilla bean-soaked pound cake, whipped white chocolate ganache, fresh berries, and whipped cream.

extraordinary desserts ivoire royale

We did not feel the need to stop at any other cake shops while on our trip.

Panera

Of course we had to go to Panera.

I know that it’s a chain but whenever we leave Arizona we look for Panera. This was an obligatory stop. They did finally build a Panera here in town but a> it’s out of the way of anywhere I go, b> it’s a super tiny downtown location with a limited menu, and c> THEY DON’T SERVE BAGUETTES!!!  WTF IS THAT ABOUT, PANERA!?

panera

Anyway, it was too hot for soup but I got their strawberry poppyseed salad with a flatbread sandwich… AND A MOTHER-EFFING BAGUETTE. BECAUSE I COULD. I think I’m just super not into the bread generally used for “flatbread” anything (lavash and pita are good, anything else… no thanks) but I approved of the salad, and of course of the baguette.

Pinkberry

pinkberry

Oh Pinkberry, God of the Frozen Yogurt. Another thing we don’t have in AZ (not in Phoenix at least… how? Not sure.) I will seriously eat anything if you put that luxe chocolate topping on it – “milk chocolate crunch” is what they call it. It’s like a super creamy chocolate sauce filled with crunchy rice crisps(? maybe?)…. I’m not completely sure what is in it really. Probably crack, though, because that sh*t is addictive. I’m getting the shakes just thinking about it…

Donut Bar

donut bar

Donut Bar was the main thing on my radar pre-San-Diego. It was on my list last time but we didn’t make it to the shop because we were staying way far north up in La Jolla. I did not allow us to make the same mistake again.

Donut Bar is famous for its unique and creative donut flavors, and for being crazy busy, and for selling out of everything super early. I’m not sure if Tuesday mornings just aren’t their thing, if the rain scared everyone away, or if sweet baby Jesus was just smiling down on us from above because we saved this as our last stop and hit it first thing Tuesday morning before we left town. We mucked up the parking a bit (I saw a valet stand and urged FH to pull up to it because I forgot any of my meter change and, hello, VALET!) and it turns out if we had driven like five more feet towards our beloved donut shop we would have seen tons of free street parking. Oops.

The Strawberry Split donut was a must, with fresh berries and whipped cream sandwiched between a light and fluffy cinnamon-sugar donut. This thing is like heaven. It’s also huge, actually, all of their donuts are huge. Their yeasted donuts are probably a solid 5 or 6 inches in diameter. FH and I made a team effort to take this one down and still didn’t make it all the way through.

donut bar strawberryAnd, because sometimes you can’t choose just one… or two…. or six donuts to sample. We went for the bakers dozen, nevermind that there were only two of us.

Decisions are hard but “one of each” is easy. Unfortunately they didn’t have their “Cro-Bar” cronut, so I have yet to see what that hype is about…

donuts

In case you were wondering what $40 of donuts looks like… now you know.  bottom-left is the best apple fritter of your life, you already met the strawberry split, a super delicious salted caramel which is a raised donut topped with salted caramel glaze and a sprinkle of sea salt, and a boston cream pie donut.

Up top we have maple bacon – which is a raised donut topped with a maple glaze and, well, bacon (duh). I thought it would have a filling for some reason but it didn’t, the flavor of that donut was great though – obviously – since maple and bacon were made for each other.

None of the doughs are too sweet, which makes it much easier to consume their sugar-laden toppings.

The music note one is the “Elvis” which has banana cream filling and peanut butter glaze, the criss-cross one is a mud pie which is topped with oreo crumbs, peanut butter, and glaze. Then you see red velvet and cookie and cream cake donuts… the giant pistachio-lemon donut (which tasted mostly just like a lemon-glazed donut with a bit of pistachios sprinkled on top), then going back up the right side is a blueberry meyer lemon which was a blueberry cake donut (not much blueberry flavor going on) with a lemon glaze, an old-fashioned donut topped with a delicious vanilla bean glaze, and their famous creme brulee donut. The creme brulee is filled with vanilla cream, and topped with crunchy bruleed sugar. I thought this one would be my favorite but I found the filling to be too sweet and tasted almost just like powdered sugar to me. /Shrug.

Strawberry split was definitely my favorite, the apple fritter and old fashioned were close behind.

Because these came home with us, I had to make sure to take the utmost care on the trip home to ensure their safety. They had a buffer zone around them to ensure they wouldn’t be squished and since they were my babies I made sure to buckle them in nice and snug.

seatbelt

FH definitely judged me.

thursday things: we went to san diego

san diego sea set

We went to San Diego.

Where the sunsets are gorgeous, even when the clouds are rolling in.

birds of paradise

And even the plants are better.

Seriously, my dad spent YEARS of his life babying a bird of paradise plant at home, and  I never once saw it flower like this.  These plants are everywhere.

We spent a week living within walking-distance of the beach.  It was amazing.

aaron

We imagined what life would be like if we lived there.  And didn’t have to go to work.  We could just bum around the beach all day and leisurely stroll from store to store.

In Phoenix, everything is brown and the sprawling city is not very walkable.  In La Jolla, it is the opposite.  There were a bajillion restaurants, cafes, and shops all within a few minutes walk.

We enjoyed this view with our Easter brunch.

easter brunch

We walked around a lot.

We walked around a lot more.

We went to the Birch Aquarium and saw lots of jellyfish and seahorses.

jellyfish

We watched them feed the sharks.  We took a lot of pictures.

And I took pictures of the BF taking pictures.

aaron san diego

We went to the famous San Diego Zoo, where I got to see one of my favorite animals, the adorably sleepy red panda.

redpanda

We did the “backstage pass” where we got to watch spotted leopards frolic, and howl with a wolf.  Which caused an extreme desire to find a way to acquire one for myself.  There is no way those things could be even a tiny bit vicious.  I don’t see it.

We also got to get up close and personal with a rhino and a zebra.  I touched a bearcat (did you know they smell like popcorn?), and stood (kinda) next to this cheetah.

cheetah

Apparently it’s too dangerous to let you stand right next to her.

Or to hug her.  Snuggles were definitely out of the question.  I bet she likes snuggles.

BF and I also decided, officially, that the “Giant Panda” is a stupid and gross animal.  Look at him, he’s just a mess.

giant panda

Go home, Panda, you look drunk.

We spent a day wandering around Balboa Park as well, which is filled with beautiful gardens and like a bajillion museums.  We went to the SD Museum of Natural History, which advertises with pictures of dino bones.  We did see some dino bones.

trex

But they are right in the entrance and the only ones they have.  I would say it was probably the worst museum I’ve ever been to, which I mean in the least offensive way possible.  It’s not horrible, it’s just super small and there isn’t a lot to see.

So, yeah, save your money on that one.

And now… what we ate.

Our first night there, we ate at La Taverna.   If you follow on Instagram you may have seen these.

meatballs

We shared the “tiny meatballs with crostini” appetizer, Aaron got gnocchi, and I got pasta al pomodoro fresco.  All of it was delicious.

We took a cue from Serious Eats and checked out the burger at Nine Ten.

nine ten burger

The burger was pretty dang good, but the rest of it, not so great.  Service wasn’t that amazing and the restaurant was filled with old people.  Like, 70+ years old “old people”… then again, could’ve been an off day I guess.

cucnia urbana

We also checked out Cucina Urbana where I got a meatball pizza, BF got a sandwich of some sort.  I really dug the ambiance, and the food was pretty amazing too.  I would love to try their drinks, but I think a cocktail midday is probably frowned upon… even though it was vacation.  Next time we go to San Diego we will definitely be going there again.   I’ve heard good things about their desserts as well.

We had breakfast at The Cottage, walking distance from where we were staying.  I got lemon ricotta pancakes, BF got eggs benny, and the biggest latte in all the land.

pancakes the cottage

We also ate at Prepkitchen, where we had a pretty stellar charcuterie plate, some tasty patatas bravas, and there were probably a few other items…

prepkitchen

In summation…

We are already trying to figure out when we can go back, and where to stay… and fantasizing about living there… no big deal…

seal

So, if you’re planning a vacation, here’s what we did and where we ate.

What we did: 

Where we ate: 

thursday things – what i ate on vacation

On my trip back east, I flew 5,393 miles, drove 850 miles, and ate an incalculable number of calories. Well, I’m sure they are calculable, but I think it’s best not to calculate them.

In Boston I had the best lobster roll that I’ve ever eaten in my entire life at Neptune Oyster. It’s also the only lobster roll I’ve ever eaten in my life, but it is the dish that every piece of lobster I consume afterward will be measured against.

We wandered around Boston’s own Little Italy, and snacked on some pastries from Modern Pastry. We had breakfast Joanne Chang’s Flour Bakery, where her infamous sticky bun lived up to its hype.

We had and an amazing dinner at, Myers + Chang some pretty legit barbecue from Sweet Cheeks Q (despite the short ribs being a bit tough, and not being able to try their biscuits because apparently they are made of gold and they don’t give them to you for take out, even if you’re going to pay a lofty $10 for them).

Oh, and we probably ate our weight in Pinkberry. Pinkberry is famous for a reason, people. Their amazing luxe toppings, which I gave a variety of less-than-appetizing names to describe them…they taste way better than they look, by the way. But I’m sure you can think of some creative names based on their looks…

Anything??? Anything at all?? No???

We did some touristy things too… visited the Boston Museum of Science, a brief walkthrough of Harvard University, and a Duck Boat Tour of Boston… all in all a pretty great time.

Then, I ate my way through Ohio, while visiting the family of course. I even earned a “most frequently visited place” on facebook for Mr. Freeze which as far as I’m concerned is the best soft serve ice cream ON THE PLANET. It appears my beautiful nieces and nephews agree.

If you ever find yourself stuck in Toledo, Ohio (I pray you never do), you must go to Mr. Freeze. Assuming it’s summer, and they are open. I recommend anything, but the Hot Fudge Cake and Strawberry Shortcake sundaes always hold a special place in my heart (and belly).

In Columbus I usually have the same lineup – Northstar Café, China Dynasty, Pattycake Bakery, Pistacia Vera, Happy Greek, and then whatever else I can fit in. Le Chatelain, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, etc… You can check out the best spots (according to me) to eat in Cbus here.

Now I feel the need to go on some sort of intense workout/cleanse routine, but I’m sure that feeling will pass. I’m excited to get back to baking this weekend… I’ve got a pie crust ready to go… just no clue what exactly I’m going to do with it…

In non-vacation news…

I’ve been drooling over Shannon’s “Best Oatmeal Ever” over at her blog A Periodic Table. I pray that I get the motivation to make it over the weekend.

and these chicken cheesesteaks from How Sweet It Is

Oh my gosh… and THESE bars from Savory Simple… everything I love all smooshed together into one glorious dessert bar.

and even though it’s still a thousand degrees out, I’ve got Fall Fever and started my Fall Flavors board on Pinterest.

I-O

Happy Halloween! Before we begin Ohio Part Deux, I just wanted to let you know that cake balls are still exhausting to make. Also, white chocolate does not coat as cleanly as candy coating, so if you were thinking you might try it… just buy the right stuff :)

In addition to raining for the entire time that I was in Ohio, the rain also decided to follow me to the desert. What a jerk, right? On the up side, I got to see a rainbow right over our house. So I guess that makes it worth it? … No gold though. Bummer…

So back to the second installment of WHAT TO EAT IN COLUMBUS …

To review, the places we’ve discussed so far are:

Pistacia Vera – french macarons

Pattycake Bakery – sticky buns (saturdays) & whoopie pies, and sugar cookies

Jeni’s – ice cream

Northstar Cafeeverything… especially cookies, cloud pancakes, and burgers; NOT flatbreads (thanks, bff)

 If you missed part 1, you may view it here

Since people need real food, too, check out Happy Greek. It’s the best (that I’ve had) in Columbus. I mean, maybe next to the gyro cart that hangs out near the gateway in between the bars and BFF’s apartment… but that’s another story altogether.

Happy Greek is located in short north. On top of having an amazing happy hour with $4 martinis and super cheap apps, their spicy chicken pita is amazing and their gyros are pretty solid, too. Actually, all of their dips are great… except the eggplant one, but I’m sure that people who love eggplant love that one. It’s just not really my thing. My fav is the spinach feta dip (which I have yet to recreate and I have not been able to find anywhere else), skordalia, which is garlicky-potato dip, and they have a pretty solid hummus and tzatziki as well, served with their warm, fluffy pita bread. They also have saganaki (flaming cheese) which is next to impossible to find in Phoenix. I’m going to spare you guys because we forgot about taking it before we smashed the food, and it’s all half eaten by the time we took the picture… oops?

Thanks to Serious Eats, I had to try a new place this trip too. A hole-in-the-wall pizza place called Rubinos. They serve a pizza with a cracker-thin, yet surprisingly crisp, crust adorned with the usual suspects of pizza companions – pepperoni, sausage, etc… We got there like 8 minutes before they closed and had to get it to go – it’s not the kind of pizza that really travels well so BFF and I sat in her car and ate it like savages. Worth it. Needless to say, no pictures available… Actually, maybe SE has one I can borrow…

photo from seriouseats.com. NOT MINE.

In fact, since I was feeling a little “under the weather” when we went, and we were forced to eat it in BFF’s car in the rain, while trying not to make a mess or burn myself with the molten cheese, you can check out SE’s much more romantic sounding dissertation here.

Another new place I tried on this trip was the Rossi, which is a cute little bar/restaurant right on High Street. A little pricy, but not bad. BFF LOVED the pizza, which I didn’t really see anything amazing about. I must’ve been missing something though because she really really loved it… maybe I’ll have to give it another shot. Our dining companions got a glorified ham and cheese sandwich and some AMAZING braised short ribs. They do have an interesting, fancy-pants cocktail menu, though, and it’s a cute little place that’s probably worth checking out. Again, a little bit on the pricy side… just sayin’.

Not to regress to pastries, but La Chatelain in Upper Arlington has AMAZING french pastries, fresh fruit tartlettes, baguettes, mousse, etc… also killer french omelets in the morning.

No trip to Columbus is complete without a stop at North Market, which has fresh produce and food vendors galore (and a Jeni’s booth). I missed it this trip, maybe that’s why I left Ohio feeling so unfulfilled…

I totally forgot to photograph, and tell you about, China Dynasty (also in Upper Arlington) – get the sesame chicken, szchuan green beans, and potstickers. So yummy. If you visit their website, don’t hold their jingle against them. Just give them a try :)

Last, but not least, my one honorable mention in Toledo is Cake-in-a-Cup. You may recognize them from Food Network’s cupcake wars. I was expecting this to be just another overrated bakery, but these cupcakes were seriously good. Of course, my favorite was the peanut butter… the frosting on top was DIVINE. Although the snickerdoodle cupcake was good, I didn’t think the marshmallow frosting was the right match for it. The cookies-and-cream cupcake was another winner, with a whole Oreo cookie hiding inside! $2.50/ea is way cheap in the gourmet cupcake world, so definitely give this place a try if you ever find yourself in Toledo, OH.