Tag Archives: restaurants

Food Restaurants

{San Diego} Valentine’s Day Offers and Prix-Fixe Menus

D Bar San Diego 

Recently (SuperBowl Sunday, in fact), I was at a women’s event where a couple of women a few years ahead of me on the kid timeline were talking about college, and about how a book called The College Solution changed their approach to choosing colleges and saved them hundreds of thousands of dollars. My kids have years yet before we have to start thinking about that, but it’s probably a good idea to start planning, especially if I can save a buck. Or a few hundred thousand.

All this talk of impending financial strain was on my mind when someone (a reader!) from OpenTable reached out to let me know about some great prix-fixe menus that are on tap for Valentine’s Day and I thought, YES! Because what is more romantic than showing you ways to save money on your Valentine’s Day / week dinner so that you can save for college? Oh, and if you don’t have college tuition to pay for, and even if you don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, this will still save you money. You’re welcome.

So without further ado, here is the link that will save you tons of money and help you pay for college (sort of).

Some of my favorites on the list:

  • Addison at the Grand Del Mar. Make no beans about it, it’s expensive. And I’m pretty sure they don’t even serve beans. But if you’re looking for luxury with a discount, this is an opportunity to dress up, check out fancy cars in the parking lot, and savor a delicious meal. $155/person.
  • Cucina Enoteca Del Mar. Wine bottles on the walls? Horses hanging from the ceilings? All are here at Cucina Enoteca, where there is no shortage of burrata and I have had nothing but deliciousness to report. Prix-fixe menu available.
  • Cucina Urbana. Cucina Enoteca’s sister restaurant downtown has a $48 prix-fixe menu that will not disappoint.
  • D Bar San Diego. 6 courses!!! 3 desserts!!! Did you hear that? I said THREE DESSERTS. All for $75/person. You will recall that D Bar is where we had our MasterChef encounter, so it holds a special place in my heart.
  • The Red Door. So cute. So cozy. So delicious. 3 course menu for two, $80.

Saving you money, one bite at a time.

Food Restaurants Travel

{Berkeley, CA} Summer Kitchen + Bake Shop

I’ve just spent a week up the in San Francisco Bay area and am experiencing major withdrawal symptoms. Of all the places I’ve ever been, I feel most at home in San Francisco, which is weird because I’ve never actually lived there. But I love the pulse of the city. I love the mindset. The proximity to Napa. And how the people love food! Cheerfully queuing for blocks at a time to experience the latest culinary delight! The way their eyes light up when we talk about eating! I guess the way to my heart really is through my stomach.

We were up north visiting my brother and sister-in-law, who are expecting their first child next month. So, it was going to be my last chance to invade their space for a while. They live in Oakland, in a cute little part conveniently situated near the BART, so the kids and I went into the city quite a bit — and I even got to have a night on the town with some friends sans kids at a Michelen-star restaurant (I’ll save that for another post).

I was planning on going into the city at night, so during the day I took the kids on a 1.3 mile walking excursion into Berkeley.

Estimated wpm (whines per minute): 48.7.

Pilgrimage destination: Summer Kitchen + Bake Shop. Here’s an excerpt from their website:

Summer Kitchens were used for preserving the bounty of the farm before the days of air conditioning. This was where the harvest was transformed into delicious meals and preserves were made to last the winter. These small buildings found behind large farm houses were the center of communal cooking and gathering.

Our Summer Kitchen, in the heart of Berkeley, is a modern interpretation of this classic idea. We strive to be our community’s summer kitchen-a place filled with ingredients from local farms, delicious meals cooked fresh daily, and local food craft created by us and artisans we admire. 

You can see their full menu here.

The restaurant is cozy, cheerful and packed with people of all ages. The girls and I ordered a pizza, half Black Mission Fig, La Quercia Prosciutto, Caramelized Onion, Gorgonzola and Wild Arugula (for me), and half Tomato, Mozzarrella and Fresh Basil (for them…ok, maybe me too). We bellied up to the counter to wait. The crazy look in her eyes is because she’s ravenous. I just started reading The Passage and am pretty sure this is how vampires look when they’re about to go for the jugular.

 Meanwhile, our pizza was being birthed before our very eyes.

These are the deft and capable hands of Paul, one of the owners of Summer Kitchen. Except that at the time I didn’t know him as Paul, only as the guy who I probably creeped out a bit by taking so many pictures.

Here’s a picture of Paul where he’s trying to figure out whether it’s time to call the cops on me. To his right, our pizza baking in the oven.

Wouldn’t this oven look so nice in my house?

I imagine that little elves are back there stoking the flames to optimize the flavor.

And then, our pizza was done.

Isn’t she beautiful? I just had to stare for a bit and take in the aroma (and more pictures).

Let me tell you how good this was.

The sweetness of the figs and caramelized onion were perfectly balanced by the sharpness of the gorgonzola and the saltiness of the proscuitto. The arugula gave a nice peppery tone to the symphony of flavors. And the crust! So thin, so crispy, so aromatic…all the things you’d want to be if you were a girl in Southern California. It was spectacular. The kids devoured their pieces, and my younger one said, “I think this is the best restaurant in San Francisco.” (Which might be true if only it were actually in San Francisco.)

I only got a bite of the Margherita half, and it was lovely.

I would have wept if I hadn’t acted strangely enough already.

We stuffed our faces. We gushed about the pizza. Paul, no longer afraid, came over to chat with us. We revealed that we were from the land of Legoland, and unaccustomed to such culinary delights. He revealed that he and his son once did a day trip to Legoland. As a side note, Legoland has pretty good food for a theme park.

We finished our food and got ready to head out. As a kind parting gift, Paul gave the girls a big chocolate chip cookie which brought them great joy and made the walk home far happier than the trek in.

So if you find yourself in the East Bay, do check out Summer Kitchen. I hear their fried chicken sandwich is to die for too.

Summer Kitchen + Bake Shop

2944 College Ave.

Berkeley, CA 94705



My Many Travels

We have a lot to catch up on. By “a lot” I mean approximately the ten pounds I’ve put on in the past week. The other day I took off my jeans and I literally had welts along the waistline and the thighs because they were so tight.

It started out early next week (and by early, I mean 4 AM, which is when I got up to catch my flight) when I made the trek from San Diego to Hartford, CT. There is no direct flight between the two points, so much of that day was spent stuffing airport food and snacks into my mouth in between and after flights. Our corporate partner put us up at the Saybrook Point Inn in Old Saybrook, CT, which was surprisingly nice. Old Saybrook is a cute little New England town, where as far as I could tell people never left. The Inn was lovely — the photos that you see in the Photo Gallery link on their website is actually very representative of the facilities. The rooms were huge, and best of all, the bathrooms were spacious and incredibly well-lit (and as someone who is prone to such strange afflictions as the occasional zit on the eyelid, I can attest that the lighting was adequate for the alchemy required to cosmetically remedy my maladies). The photo above was the view taken from my room. I should have had a really good nights’ sleep but there was this nautical mirror in the room which gave it a sort of shipwrecked/haunted feeling, which resulted in paranormal paranoia and thus insomnia on my part in what should otherwise have been an incredibly romantic environment. In short, the inn is great for couples, not so good for the paranoid.

I took this picture at the restaurant at the hotel, Terra Mar. The food was surprisingly good; I had pretty low expectations of a small-town operation, but then again, I do come from a town with not much to brag about in terms of restaurants. I started off with the Maine Lobster Bisque, which was delightful, and followed up with the Stonington CT Seared Sea Scallops, which were a bit overdone but otherwise good. Breakfast was hearty and satisfied me well into lunchtime (which was fortunate since the salad we ordered in, from a local lunch place, was basically rabbit food with no dressing).

That evening, we proceeded on to New York, where we stayed at the Westin Times Square, whose rooms are not nearly as nice as depicted on their website. I suppose they look roughly like the photos, but the pics have clearly been photoshopped to appear a lot more upscale than they actually are. The common terminology amongst the group when describing the restroom was “prison bathroom”. It wasn’t terrible by any means, but compared to the Old Saybrook Inn it was tired and certainly a few steps down.

We headed over to Valbella in the Meat-Packing District for dinner, where an acquaintance arranged for us to get a room in a private wine cellar. There was a vault-like door, which, once closed, made the room completely silent, and I felt like we were a bunch of teenagers at prom in a restaurant at which we were much too young to patronize. The waiter there confirmed my sentiments. I don’t recall too much detail on the gastronomic joys of the dinner (being surrounded by hundreds of bottles of wine might have had something to do with that), but I did discover that 1) the President / COO of our partner company loves beets as much as I do, and 2) I pretty much could not fit another bite into my body due to clothing constraints. The food was good, but I’m not sure it was commensurate with the price, and all that was blunted by the haughty attitude of the waiter on staff.

The next day, after a sleepless night and waking at 3 AM PST for a day of meetings, we went around town and met with other business people. Without going into too much more detail, let me just recommend Quality Florist if you ever need a florist in New York (they do a great job, and really care about their customers), and Schweitzer Linen if you’re in the market for luxurious sheets. There was then a trip to the airport, and then 7 hours spent at JFK while our flight was perpetually delayed and I was ready to slit my wrists with a plastic knife. I swear the plane we took back was made of Legos and had half the space of any normal plane.

I was home then for a day, and then headed out on a spa getaway weekend with a friend of mine from business school. We went to Palm Springs and stayed at the Westin Mission Hills , which was a nice-enough-looking resort but could have been better on service. We were first booked into a room with a King bed, which was annoying since 1) we had specifically requested a room with two double beds, and 2) as two working moms looking for a break, we were really looking forward to hogging up an entire bed and sleeping spread out into a star shape. We were eventually moved into such a room, only to discover that we had a room with a leaky sink. The resort was pretty dead — probably reflective of the economy. The restaurant at the resort was ok — nothing that blew me away.

We ate one evening at Thai Smile, which, despite the alarming lack of Thai people, was actually pretty good. We also watched the latest Bond flick, Quantum of Solace, which eliminated any doubts I might have had that being a secret agent is a very family-unfriendly job. After a week back at work, I’m ready for another vacation. Sadly, there are none on the horizon. Ah well, there’s always wine.

Food Travel

San Francisco and the DNC

Did you happen to watch the first night of the Democratic National Convention? I’m not super interested in politics, and even less interested in discussing them, but — wow. Since when did the DNC become as effective a tear-jerker as a chick flick? I was teary when Jimmy Carter was interviewed. I was teary during the Ted Kennedy tribute video (and when Maria Shriver was teary). I was teary during the Michelle Obama video, her brother Craig’s introduction, and I outright bawled when Michelle Obama gave her speech. What an awesome woman! Anyway, whatever your political leanings, the Dems put on a great show. Afterward, a commentator said he felt Michelle Obama missed an opportunity — this was her chance to describe what Barack was like at home, and what he was like as a regular guy. Frankly, I don’t really care. I mean, I’m happy that he seems to be a decent guy, but I’m not going to be living with him. I’m more interested in what his plans are for the country, his approach to solving problems and his ability to execute. But enough about politics — on to the important stuff: food!

So I spent the weekend in San Francisco, and WOW and double wow! Let me just begin by telling you how depressing it is to have to leave a place where the food court fare is of equal or higher quality than the priciest restaurants in San Diego. I went to the food court at the Westfield in Union Square (I think they call it “Restaurants under the dome” or something like that, but it’s really a food court). I cannot even begin to describe how awesome it was. I don’t even like to use the word awesome. But here are a few pictures. Look closely. Remember, this is a food court at a mall.


My husband got a delicious moules meuniere and the kids and I had Thai food. Speaking of Thai food, we also stumbled upon King of Thai Noodle House, in Union Square at Powell and O’Farrell. It’s been a long time since I’ve had good Thai, so I was really really excited to have extraordinary Thai. I had the Pad See Ew, and it was exactly what I wanted, cooked to perfection. It’s a no-nonsense kind of place — like the good Chinese restaurants with the bad decor — but you know it’s good if it’s packed with Chinese people. Anyway, this was the best Thai I’ve had in a looong time. King of Thai indeed! Apparently it is also the first Thai restaurant in San Francisco. That might just be restaurant propaganda though.

We also went to Pizzeria Delfina in the Mission District for the most amazing pizza (I’ve lived in NYC and had NY pizza; Chicago with Chicago pizza and New Haven with Sally’s and Pepe’s — but I think this is the best pie ever). I had a prosciutto and arugula pizza which defied expectations. It inspired me to make a potato salad at home with argulua — potatoes, extra virgin olive oil, fried bread crumbs and arugula — yum!

Another highlight was Katana-Ya, a Japanese restaurant on Geary. The chef there is a ramen master — apparently real ramen requires years of training to produce the ultimate ramen noodle — and it didn’t disappoint. I had the ramen in miso soup with the fried chicken pieces and wanted more.

Ok, back to the Mission District. We wolfed down an ice cream while we were there, at the Bi-Rite Creamery, a wonderful place where you get two scoops of ice cream when you order a single. The flavors are as funky as the Mission District, with Balsamic Strawberry and Salted Caramel being my favorite. And the ice cream is creamy. There’s a long line.

You will be shocked to discover that with all this eating and my sedentary lifestyle I am very out of shape. I am so out of shape that my abs and thighs hurt after walking around the city in order to eat.

I also hit the only place in the world where the dollar isn’t weak , H&M;. I went to Zara as well, where I scored a trench for $25! One of the world’s greatest mysteries is why every city doesn’t have an H&M; and Zara.