Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Heart of Pacific Beach Restaurant Walk

After nearly two months of eagerly anticipating the Heart of Pacific Beach Restaurant Walk, the day finally arrived. Micah and I attended the other Pacific Beach Restaurant Walk in the spring and loved it! We could hardly wait for this day to arrive so we could gorge ourselves on delicious food while enjoying a nice stroll through P.B. This time, we weren't alone. Our friends Angie and LeeAnn joined us for the culinary adventure. Here's the story of our journey.

We arrived in Pacific Beach shortly after 6 p.m., which left us with about three hours to complete the 19 restaurant tour. Despite the unorganized crowd waiting to pick up their will-call tickets, it only took a couple minutes to get our passes. Since we were right in the middle of the walk, we decided to head east on Garnet first to make sure that we made it to Pure Cupcakes, which closed early at 8 p.m.

Our first stop was Cafe Bella Italia. I've been intrigued by this cute Italian restaurant for years now and comment on how I want to try it about every other time that we drive into P.B. Tonight I finally got to try a sample of their food. They served us pasta with bolognese sauce, a breadstick that looked like a donut hole, margherita pizza and what I believe is crispy risotto balls. While I skipped the latter, everything else was delicious and this was a great place to start our meal.

Costa Brava, a restaurant with an I-can-only-imagine authentic Spanish feel, was our next stop. This lively restaurant offered samples of sangria with a twist. Everyone passed the pitcher around and poured it directly into their mouths. Why I didn't capture a photo of this is beyond me but I think I was simply to entranced by the craziness around me. This seems like a great place to go to have fun! 

They served us samples of paella, which included practically every kind of seafood and meat imaginable. We found chicken, sausage, mussels and shrimp. I've never tried paella although I remember learning about it in my high school Spanish class. While this one had a few too many ingredients for my liking, the rice and chicken were wonderful!

Paella sample

The paella is served from a giant skillet.
We continued our journey with a stop at The Fish Market. After waiting in line, we were served samples of beer and shrimp. As a non-seafood fan and non-beer drinker, I passed both along to Micah.

Me and Micah waiting at The Fish Shop.
Shrimp and beer.

The Fish Shop in the late afternoon sun.

At the far eastern end of the walk, we visited The Patio on Lamont. I've heard great things about this spot, particularly how dog friendly it is, but their Restaurant Walk offering of a seafood ceviche-like dish was too intense for me. Micah described it as being quite acidic, which I believe is how ceviche usually tastes.


We began to circle back and visited Yogurt on the Rocks. We received a small sample cup and were instructed to chose whatever and as many flavors of frozen yogurt that we would like. I couldn't decide and ended up with a squirt of berry, graham cracker, cupcake and red velvet. It's impossible to pick a favorite. Everything was delicious!

The girls with our fro-yo.

My quadruple selection of flavors.

La Cosa Pizza offered us slices of pizza and Cafe Athena served up a chicken pasta, rice pudding and spankopita. I enjoyed the chicken dish but skipped the other two.

Greek food from Cafe Athena.

After grabbing a meatball from the Great News! Cooking School, we hustled over to Pure Cupcakes. Hidden at the back of the shopping center, this cupcake shop is wonderful. We had a choice of four mini cupcakes: chocolate, carrot cake, lemon and red velvet. I ended up trying the chocolate and red velvet. Delicious!

Red Velvet and Chocolate mini cupcakes

Mr. Frostie's ice cream shop continued our mid-dinner dessert with hand-dipped chocolate cones. I'd likely prefer their cherry dipped cones, which I noticed on the regular menu, or even just a plain cone, but then, I'm not a huge chocolate fan.

Angie just couldn't wait for a bite!
PB Cantina was serving pork tacos and as a non-pig eater, I bypassed this location.

Sugar and Scribe bakery was more my speed with another mini-cupcake sample. Again, I had chocolate but not by choice. They were just randomly handing out the cupcake flavors and I would have preferred a different flavor.

Chocolate cupcake
Papa Luna's Empanadas is a place that I've been to before and the Dulce de Leche Apple empanada is delicious. Unfortuantely, they were only serving dinner empanadas tonight and the spicy corn, butternut squash and one other option that I've forgotten were not my cup of tea.

Tavern, which has recently been remodeled, looks wonderful and I fell in love with their pig bookends on the table. Sadly, their adorable mini hot dogs were actually pork too and I was unable to eat it. If only they were beef hot dogs...sigh! Micah enjoyed this stop though as it was another beer tasting location and none of us girls wanted our samples. Score for Micah!

Awesome pig book ends.

Mini hot dog wrapped in a pretzel bun.
The last leg of our walk took us to sister restaurants, Typhoon Saloon and Fred's Mexican Cafe. Typhoon served chicken wings, which were okay but I really prefer my meat off the bone. I wasn't a big fan of their cumin ranch either. Fred's offered a choice of shredded steak or shredded pork tacos. Everyone in my group raved about the steak tacos and the avocado sauce but shredded meat just weirds me out. I have issues, I know. :)

Trader Joe's served a Caprese salad, pasta and macaroons. I don't believe that I've ever had a macaroon before but it was soft and sweet. 

Although I'm a regular at Woodstock's for its Thursday night trivia, their pizza selection tonight left me disappointed. I was hoping for some Garlic Bird, my favorite, or at least something simple like cheese. 

Our final stop was Tap Room and we ended with some pizza and pasta, just as we had started the night.

Pizza and pasta at Tap Room.
With about 30 minutes to spare, we completed the tour of 19 restaurants. Angie was the only one who actually tried each of the spots as Micah passed on the cupcakes. 

All in all, it was a good night. Slightly less hectic than our last walk, which featured over 30 restaurants, but we still left full, fat and happy!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Things I Learned in Vegas

- Always try to get a better deal. Many hotels in Vegas charge $25/day for a ridiculous resort fee. Ask to get it removed. They may do it. Or they may offer you another deal, like a food or beverage credit for the hotel. Something is always better than nothing.

- Ask for a room on a lower floor. Vegas elevators move very quickly and shooting 28 floors up in a short period of time leaves you feeling nauseous and disoriented...and that's when you're sober.

- Try to get a room with a balcony. Many of the Vegas hotels don't offer this but if they do, it's a great opportunity to enjoy the warm night air without dealing with the crazy people on the streets. I wasn't lucky enough to have a balcony and that's all I wanted.

The busy pool at MGM.
- If you want a lounge chair near the pool, be there before 10 AM. Chairs fill up quickly, especially by annoying people who claim their chair by simply throwing their towel on it and then disappear for hours at a time.

- Sunscreen is a must. Too many people walking around looking like scary lobsters. Not an attractive look.

- Don't order a drink poolside. The drink will no doubt be incredibly overpriced and you won't find out the price until they bring you the drink and you have no choice but to accept it and pay. $22 for a 20 ounce mixed drink. Insane!

- Avoid the pool at 5 PM. All the boys are very drunk, like stumbling over their own feet and mixing up their words drunk. Yet this doesn't stop them from trying to hit on you.

- If you do go to the pool at 5 PM, bring your sense of humor. You never know what the drunk boys might say. You'd better just be able to laugh at it or you will be offended.

- Walk. Not only is it great exercise, and let's be honest, who in Vegas doesn't need a bit of extra exercise to work off the extra food, but it's also free. Cabs are slow and cost $$$.

- Along the same lines, if you're a girl and like to wear high heels, carry a pair of foldable flats. My boyfriend bought be a pair for Christmas a couple years ago and trust me, they are a lifesaver. They even come in a convenient clutch for when you reach your destination. 

- Eat at the buffet early in the day. Buffet prices skyrocket at night and especially on the weekends. Lunch prices are much more reasonable and the food selection isn't that different. 

You can see the fork to the right. The piece of chicken
was longer than the fork and almost as tall.
- Split a meal with a friend. Many times, portion sizes in Vegas are enormous. If you're a light eater, like me, and stay in a refrigerator-less room, splitting the meal can save you money and keep you from wasting perfectly good food or gorging yourself.

- Always carry a bottle of water. The Vegas sun is unforgiving and the dry air parches you quickly. Dehydration sets in fast.

- Also, always carry lip balm. Same story. Step outside and almost immediately it feels like your lips are on fire.

- You don't need to drink to have fun. This may just be me but I actually had a great time in Vegas without a single drink. I'm not a big drinker to start with (maybe a glass of wine here or there) but I didn't miss the alcohol at all. Plus, no hangovers!!!

Friday, April 12, 2013

My Wish for Zoe

As many of you know, Micah and I adopted an Italian mastiff in October 2011. Zoe is now 21 months old and while she has learned a great deal, she still has some learning to do when it comes to interacting socially with other dogs. 

Zoe in her new t-shirt.
Part of it is her breed; Italian mastiffs are known for being territorial and protective. Good traits for a guard dog but not great for creating a social butterfly. 

Part of it is her size. Being 90 pounds, she's a lot for other dogs to deal with. Many times, they get overwhelmed by her size and panic, causing Zoe to overreact.

Obviously, she can get along well with other dogs. Just look at how she interacts with her pug sister. They love each other and play extremely well together. She's also made friends with the ridgeback that lives across the hall from us. But it involves time and patience, things we don't necessarily have when going for a walk or potty break. 

Zoe and Emma, puppy kisses!
I just got back from taking her for an afternoon walk in the park behind our apartment. We left the pug at home so I could focus solely on Zoe. For the most part, she behaved and listened when I told her to sit or stay close. But the part that made me sad was the way that she looked longingly at the black lab and boston terrier pups playing together in the center of the field. She wants to badly to join them and to be able to romp and play with the others. 

But too many times, I've seen a happy play time go wrong with her. She doesn't understand her size and that while little dogs can bark and yip and sound playful, her barks sound threatening and scare other dogs and their owners. Once the other dog acts aggressive towards her, she pins it to the ground and growls at it. Thankfully, she's not a biter.

My wish for Zoe is that someday she could prove to us that she could be trusted to play, or even simply greet, the other dogs that we encounter on our daily walks. I feel terrible depriving her of these play times but we just can't take the risk. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

In Memory of Aunt Loyza

When my mom called this morning and said that Aunt Loyza passed away last night, I was slightly surprised (or at least as much so as you can be considering that she was nearly 93 years old). I knew that she hadn't been feeling great for a couple of months but the last I had heard, she was doing better. She was a fighter and I thought my spunky great-great aunt would live "forever." At the very least, I thought she would surpass the "record" set my great-grandpa, who lived to be 93 years and about four months. 

Aunt Loyza was my great-grandpa's little sister. I guess you could say she was little in more ways than one. Not only was she one day shy of being 15 years younger, but I'd guess I had bypassed her in height by the 4th grade. She more than made up for her lack of stature with her big personality and even bigger heart. With my great-grandpa gone since 1998, she was the last remaining sibling of that generation.

I know that when people reach their 80s and 90s that they're often prepared and ready to move on. I know that everyone who knew and loved Aunt Loyza can take comfort in the fact that she's now happily reunited with her husband, parents, siblings and countless other friends and relatives. I know that Aunt Loyza will be forever missed but never forgotten.

In memory of Aunt Loyza, I'd like to share a few memories.
  • My earliest recollection of Aunt Loyza consists of her reading books to me. This may seem like an ordinary event in every child's life but Aunt Loyza had a special way of reading that made the experience unique. She read me the book backwards. Throughout my childhood, the running gag would be that we would sign cards to each other by writing our names backwards. I became Ybba and she was Azyol Tnua.
  • When I was in elementary school, I visited Aunt Loyza at her house with my grandparents. I don't remember what the visit was specifically about but I do remember it being a dewy morning and I remember sifting flour. At the time, I had no idea what a sifter was (not sure I even know now). Wish I could piece together the pieces of this memory better.
  • In recent years, I've gotten to know Aunt Loyza better and I'm so thankful for that. When I lived in Seattle, I joined her at several Williams Family Picnics. It was always a blast to see what kind of tricks she had up her sleeve and the gifts, such as the bright blue leg warmers below, were always worth a laugh.
July 2006: Williams' Family Picnic 
July 2008: Williams' Family Picnic
July 2009: Williams' Family Picnic
July 2010: Williams' Family Picnic

July 2010: Williams' Family Picnic with all our goodies.

July 2010: Something must've been funny!
  • After I moved to San Diego, I stopped by to see her on my visits home. In the past year, I saw her both on my summer and Christmas trips and I'm incredibly happy that I made these visits a priority. As a huge history lover, I enjoyed listening to her stories of childhood during the Great Depression, working during World War II and more. You just never knew what would come out of her mouth next and she always had us laughing, often with a twinkle in her eye that let you know that she was in on the joke. 
  • Last summer, I visited on a rare warm Seattle day but Aunt Loyza was chilly and had kept a fire burning all day in her living room. Being a true San Diegan now, I found the 75-degree day to be slightly cool too and I didn't mind the additional heat.
July 2012: Visiting in the summer heat.
  • This past Christmas, my family stopped by to visit Aunt Loyza en route to Christmas Eve at my grandparent's house in Lake Stevens. While the visit was short, I'm so happy to have seen her one more time.
Christmas 2012: Family Photo

Christmas 2012: Aunt Loyza meets my pug, Emma

Christmas 2012: Hugs!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Grizzley: Hard to Believe It's Been Ten Years

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of the death of my beloved childhood dog, Grizzley. Even after an entire decade, I have a hard time believing that she's gone. While I may have added to my canine family with Zoe and Emma, I still think about Grizzley regularly and often mind myself comparing my two pups to her. I'd like to think that she's their guardian angel.

Grizzley with me and my brother on the day she joined our family.

Looking back, I should have realized that nearly 13-year-old Grizz was getting old and sick, but in my mind, she was the same adventurous pup that she had always been. I thought she would live forever...and the moment that I realized she was slipping away was the hardest experience of my life. 

Grizzley, me, Damon and Prancer in 2002
My parents were out of town for the weekend, leaving my brother and I home alone with Grizz and our cat, Prancer. It was a typical blustery March day in Washington and I remember letting Grizz out to go to the bathroom on Saturday afternoon. I can still picture her walking back up the driveway to me and coming inside for the last time. She curled up on her dog bed by the fireplace and I went to my room to read. 

A couple hours later, my brother knocked on my door and said, "Hurry, Grizzley is acting weird." I rushed to the living room and knelt next to my furry best friend. Her body was rigid but her eyes were responsive. I grabbed the cordless phone and frantically called my mom. I didn't know what was wrong or if we could help her in any way. In the short phone conversation, I realized that I had no choice but to say goodbye to the best dog that I had ever known. I watched as she took her last breath and I burst into tears. 

The next couple of hours were a blur. My mom contacted my grandparents and they drove the thirty minutes to pick us up for the weekend. There was no way that I could be alone. My other grandpa, who lived closer, came by to move Grizzley outside.

My parents returned on Sunday and I took Monday (and I think Tuesday) off from school. I spent most of those days crying. 

On Monday evening, as the grey sky drizzled and the daylight began to fade, we buried Grizzley on the side of the hill near our house. We made a cross and decorated the area with flowers. 

Ten years later, the memory still brings tears to my eyes. I guess you can never truly get over the loss of a great friend. 

I love you, Grizzley!

June 1990-March 1, 2003

Our last photo together, New Years Eve 2002

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Yelp Elite's Red Party

I really need to catch up on my blogging. I've had stories to share but no time (or desire, I suppose) to write about them. But today is a bright, beautiful day in San Diego and I'm feeling alert and focused so I will take a break from working one of my million jobs to share the story of the most recent Yelp Elite party.

On February 13, Yelp threw an amazing pre-Valentine's red-themed party at Carruth's Cellars in Solana Beach. For my Seattle-based friends and family, Solana Beach is a mere two exits up the freeway from my place and this is the first Yelp party that we didn't have to drive at least 20 minutes to attend. The party immediately won points for its close proximity! Micah attended as my +1 and our friends Ashleigh (a fellow Yelp Elite) and Jeff joined us.

The winery was the perfect setting for the party. It was spacious and provided different rooms for different  activities. There was the wine and cupcake room, the food buffet room and the lounge-like upstairs area where we spent most of our time sitting on the plush red velvet couches. 

Of course, one of the highlights of a Yelp party is the food and this party provided an abundance of it! On the downstairs buffet table there was an assortment of bites, including an antipasto platter and deviled eggs. There were also servers walking around with trays of food. My personal favorite was the Filet of Beef on Potato Crostini. While a lot of the food was not "me-friendly," Micah loved it all! But I heard from several people that my deviled eggs are better. :)

There were four wines to try, a white, two roses and a red, and our glasses were never empty. 

The mini cupcakes were delightful. I was partial to the red velvet but the strawberry shortcake was good too. Even better, they never ran out!

This Yelp event stood out for the entertainment too. While there was a DJ downstairs, we avoided the loud music and hung out upstairs where a magician demonstrated mind-blowing tricks and a caricaturist drew our pictures. Amazing!

Possibly my favorite part of the Yelp events is the photo booth and we took full advantage of it again. This is just a small sampling of our awesome photos.

Overall, it was an amazing night and I can't wait for the next big Yelp event!