Category 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 Popular Restaurants Travel

{Tokyo} Sukiyabashi Jiro

My trip to Tokyo would be best described as Sandi Dreams of Jiro Dreaming of Sushi. As the 2nd most difficult restaurant in the world to get into, going to Sukiyabashi Jiro may be the biggest accomplishment of my life. And I had to have a lot of help to get there.

We started thinking about a trip to Tokyo in July. My husband used to live there and my friend Sandra is living there now as an expat (whenever anyone tells me that they’re an expat all I hear is “living like a Kardashian”).  For someone who loves food, fashion and bathrooms as much as I do, Tokyo is pretty much Mecca.


Getting a reservation at Jiro’s, especially as a foreigner, was no small feat. From

With three Michelin stars, an acclaimed documentary on the chef, and limited space, it’s no mystery that it’s tough to get in. What makes it nearly impossible to pull off, though, is that no one on staff speaks English, and that they tend to not welcome foreigners without a Japanese host. “If they detect an accent, it’s likely that they’ll tell you nothing is available,” says A Life Worth Eating’s Adam Goldberg, who had trouble getting in for quite some time but has since managed to dine there on multiple occasions.

For this we elicited help from Sandra’s friend Meg, whom I’ve never met but who, as far as I’m concerned, must be a mythical creature with superhuman powers to have gotten us a reservation. Attempt #1 was in September, where Meg was told that she could not make a November reservation until October 1.

On October 1, Sandra ventured over to Meg’s to commence the reservation-making. She dialed. And dialed. And dialed….and on the 100th try, got through:


Meg, a native Japanese speaker, made the reservation for us, under San-do-ra. San-do-ra was to bring a deposit of 20,000 yen at least a week before our reservation.

On November 14th, San-do-ra (not a native Japanese speaker) styled her hair like mine and did a reconnaissance trip, appearing at Jiro’s to bring the deposit. San-do-ra’s Japanese had clearly degraded between the time she made the reservation and the time she brought the deposit, but she had cash so it was okay. Even though she had her son with her as well as Flat Stanley.

On the morning of Monday, November 19th, we practiced asking if it was okay to take pictures, and then did photo drills (since the sushi should be eaten immediately after it’s made) where we pretended that a bunch of cheese was the sushi and I had to take photos and eat in rapid succession. I was also instructed to say, “Konichiwa, San-do-ra des” (“Hello, I am Sandra”) after which, as a non-Japanese speaker, I would be able to say nothing else and it would be clear to the staff that San-do-ra had a serious language-debilitating condition.


We arrived early to the Ginza district and we did a practice run to the restaurant, followed by some brief shopping and a return about 10 minutes in advance of our reservation. We approached the door tentatively and were waved in by one of the apprentices, and after announcing my “San-do-ra des”, we were the first ones seated of the 10 seats in the restaurant.

Behind the counter were Jiro, his son Yoshikazu and an apprentice. I’d heard that Chef Ono is stern and the atmosphere is intimidating, but I didn’t get that feeling at all. It felt respectful, and focused. I didn’t mind the quiet so much.

We were presented with the day’s menu, which was listed in Japanese as well as English, and asked if everything looked okay:

  • Sole fish (Karei)
  • Squid (Sumi-ika)
  • Yellowtail (Inada
  • Tuna (Akami)
  • Semi-Fatty tuna (Chu-toro)
  • Fatty Tuny (Oo-toro)
  • Gizzard Shad (Kohada)
  • Abalone (Mushi-awabi)
  • Jack Mackerel (Aji)
  • Clam Shell (Hamaguri)
  • Needle fish (Sayori)
  • Prawn (Kurumaebi)
  • Ark Shell (Akagai)
  • Bonito (Katsuo)
  • Squilla (Shako)
  • Sea Urchin (Uni)
  • Baby Scallops (Kobashira)
  • Salmon Roe (Ikura)
  • Sea Eel (Anago)
  • Egg (Tamago)

I hid my camera (actually, San-do-ra’s camera) under the counter until my husband asked in Japanese if it was okay to take photos. They said that it was fine — sushi photos only — and actually provided a little orange mat for my camera to live on. I noticed as the meal progressed that others were taking photos too so I felt slightly less weenie-ish about it.

Yoshikazu cut the fish and Chef Ono assembled and shaped the sushi, brushing it lightly with soy sauce just before serving. First up was the sole. It was presented, as were all the other pieces, with a side of ginger, which I never used. The first thing I noticed was the delicious vinegared rice, which had a firm and decisively lively texture where you could feel each of the individual grains. The wasabi was, as was the case in each of the pieces, assembled into the sushi itself. Delicious.

I wasn’t a very experienced squid sushi eater, so have limited basis on which to compare this one. What surprised me about the squid was that the initial contact was crunchy – followed on by a chewy, cushiony texture.

Next up was a tender yellowtail:

And then the tuna. The lean tuna was the most beautiful piece of sushi I had ever seen. It had a breathtaking hue and it glistened as it awaited consumption. It didn’t disappoint – it was unexpectedly tender and a smooth, warm flavor, and it’s amazing that anything with low fat content could taste like that. The semi-fatty tuna was soft and smooth as well. The fatty tuna was like butter. That’s a very good thing.

The gizzard shad had quite a fishy flavor, reminiscent of sardines:


A tender jack mackerel:

After this one Jiro gave us lean tuna again — at which point his son and the rest of the staff starting yelling, “ah ah ah ah!!!” — he had given us another guest’s tuna! He laughed and apologized and gave the tuna to the rightful eaters, we all had a little laugh amongst ourselves. The mood was a bit more relaxed after that.

And this gorgeous clam:

In the film, Jiro says that he makes smaller portions for women, since sushi is meant to be eaten in a single bite. I didn’t observe this to be the case with me, but perhaps they perceived me to be large-mouthed. In any case, when I saw this one, I was little worried about how I was going to consume it in a single bite.

I was right. As soon as I put it in my mouth, I realized that there was no room for the manipulation involved in chewing. So I started to breathe deeply in the completely silent restaurant, telling myself do not gag, do not gag, whatever you do do not gag…and eventually my saliva must have broken it down a bit because I was able to chew. All this to say that I have little memory of how this particular one tasted since I was mostly focused on not being horribly offensive. I do recall that it was firm and that the sauce complemented it nicely.

Needlefish, which reminded me of squid in flavor:

Yoshikazu prepared the prawn and placed it in front of me. I gawked at it, six inches in length, and was trying to think of a way to eat it in a single bite without asphyxiation, until Yoshikazu started pointing at my camera and saying, “Photo! Photo!”

“Oh!” I said (very articulate) and laughed and snapped a picture. To my relief he took the prawn back after the photo and cut it into manageable halves. It was lovely, soft and lobster-like.

Ark shell had a snappy texture and flavor of a clam (since it is a clam):

The bonito to me was the star of the show. It had an unbelievably delicate texture, with smoky and scallion notes, balanced by a sauce that just made it all incredible. More bonito! I wanted to shout. More more more! But I just ate it and nodded as much like a Japanese person as I could.

The squilla, or mantis shrimp, surprised me. It was gritty and dry in texture — not at all what I expected. Hard for me to judge the quality of this one since it was my first time consuming squilla, but it was not my favorite.

The uni, or sea urchin, however, was divine. It completely melted in my mouth…like ice cream.

The baby scallops looked delicious. And they were. Again, this one was quite big: as you can see it’s taller than the other pieces, wrapped in some seaweed and topped with the scallops. I decided this was going to be a two-biter.

After bite #1, it totally fell apart. I tried to eat the fallen parts surreptitiously when Yoshikazu said, “One bite! One bite!” (Mental note: get mouth enlargement procedure before next visit.)

The salmon roe was divine: smooth, delicate and perfect:

By the time the sea eel came around I was pretty much drunk on food and started taking blurry pictures. It had a nice light sweetness to it from the sauce.

Last piece was the egg (tamago), which was perfectly evenly cooked all the way through, with a touch of sweetness like a very light, airy cake:

After the tomago we moved to a table away from the counter to have dessert, which was a sweet, incredibly juicy musk melon:

This is what someone looks like after eating all of that:

 Here’s me with Jiro:

Photo credit: @KatyPerry

Just kidding. That’s Jiro with Katy Perry. I don’t think he’d ever let me get that close.

We went to pay and chatted with Yoshikazu about the release of the movie (they had posters and flyers by the door). Apparently Japan is the last place the film is being released. He was friendly and we had enough Japanese and English between all of us to have a pleasant exchange.

Then we exited and disappeared into the Ginza night.


Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Thank you to San-do-ra and Meg without whom this would never have happened!


{Del Mar, CA} PrepKitchen


Photo credit:

It was a dark and stormy night. Naw, actually it was a kind of hot and humid late afternoon after a soccer game when we decided to go out for dinner. This is our first soccer season and my oldest is playing for the very first time. In this action shot, I’m pretty sure she’s thinking, “Wha…?” because she says that a lot during games. One of these days I’ll have to tell her how it’s played. Once I figure it out myself.

It’s been unseasonably warm here which makes it a perfect time to head down to the beach. In my food snobbery I’ve often bemoaned the quality of San Diego restaurants, but I’ve been to two of the three PrepKitchen locations and both have been quite good. I’ll review them separately though since the menus are slightly different, and the venues are quite disparate from each other in feel.

The one in Del Mar (which just reopened recently after a years’ worth of post-fire renovation) is just a couple of blocks from the ocean with ample outdoor seating and, if you peek a bit, a view of the ocean. There’s a glass enclosure around the outdoor seating, which makes it preferable in my view to the one in La Jolla, which was quite windy last time I was there. The tables and seating at the Del Mar location are also nicer — sturdier, and more permanent-feeling.

I can only explain this photo by the fact that there’s a full moon tonight.

Every day, between 3 and 6 PM PrepKitchen Del Mar offers a happy hour menu featuring $3.75 tapas and $5 sangrias. There seems to be some daily variation in what’s offered, but here’s a link to a sample happy hour menu. It’s also super-easy to make a reservation, via OpenTable — because of my sheer laziness and the fact that technology has rendered me nearly incapable of speech, I only really go to restaurants that allow me to book online.

We started off with the Salami and Tapenade (left), Salmon Tartare (right) and White Bean Bruschetta (front).

I was excited about ordering the tapas since I’d had it at their sister restaurant Whisknladle, where it was excellent. Sadly, this tapas didn’t hit the mark. First off, bread seemed to be part of these dishes in overweighted proportion — it seemed odd that three of the five tapas items I ordered were dominated by bread. Although none of these were bad, they weren’t outstanding either. Bread aside, the portions seemed unusually small, even for the size of the mini-dish. Bread quality was excellent, however. The sangria was just ok.

Next came the Patatas Bravas, of which I had fond memories from my happy hour at Whisknladle. It hit the mark on crunchiness — nicely done — and texture, balancing the crunch with the smoothness of the sauce, which had just a touch of slow-simmered chile to it. It was certainly a notch above the first three dishes that came out, but still a notch below the one I had at Whisknladle.

The last tapas dish I ordered was the Caramelized Brussels with Bacon. This one was a real disappointment — the brussels were beyond caramelized and quite charred. Caramelized onions were a nice touch, but the sauce was far too sweet for what could have been a lovely savory dish.

At this point, I decided: no more tapas.

Best decision ever.

Out came the Local Mussels and Frites ($16.50), in a white wine, garlic and aioli sauce.

The mussels were plump and juicy with a healthy texture, and the sauce was out of this world. The frites were perfectly crisp on the outside, soft inside and seasoned with salt and parsley. I dipped many a frite in the delicious sauce, and when the frites were no more, my husband asked for a spoon. The sauce alone was worth the trip and the demoralizing tapas experience. I am telling you to get the mussels! You will weep.

Next came the Cutting Board. A half board, at $16, is perfect for two people.

It came with a lovely assortment of rilettes, olives, house mustards and tapenade, salami, cheeses and walnuts, accompanied by their signature ciabatta. The small olives were particularly tasty, and the cheeses were smooth and tasty.

The kids had the WnL Burger, which featured gruyere, cured bacon, caramelized onions and a farm egg ($16.50). I didn’t have a bite but they seemed to enjoy it.

We finished off with the Bread Pudding a la Mode ($7.50) with nutella, banana and caramel sauce. It was nicely done, flavorful without being overly sweet.

After dinner, we took a leisurely stroll along the beach.

I think that old people are on to something…if you eat early enough you can work off 1/100th of what you just ate and enjoy a nice sunset.

Or maybe you just want to go to bed.

So would I recommend PrepKitchen Del Mar? Definitely. I wouldn’t make a special trip for the tapas — in fact, I won’t get it next time — but I’ve never gone wrong with the full-priced menu items. Judging only based on the latter, PrepKitchen makes it onto my list of favorite San Diego eateries.

PrepKitchen Del Mar

1201 Camino Del Mar
(between 13th St & 12th St)
Del Mar, CA 92014

(858) 792-7737

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

Food Restaurants Travel

{Paris} Creperie Suzette

Beware, I’m going to gush in the this post. Recently I highlighted a good, solid creperie which I’d recommend if you were in the vicinity of the Centre Pompidou and wanted to get a decent bite to eat. But today, I want to share about a creperie that you should try to go to even if you have to join a flying circus to get there. These are the best galettes I’ve ever had in Paris, and they just might be the best in the universe.

Creperie Suzette is nestled in the lovely neighborhood of Le Marais. What makes it exceptionally wonderful is that there are gorgeous shops and galleries all around, ranging from boutiques where the owners sew the little linen baby outfits to well-known luxury brands. I was able to make a quick pit stop into Yi’Ness (4 Rue de Birague, 750004 Paris), a boutique with funky, affordable clothes where I was able to triumphantly procure two cute little summer dresses in the face of excessive whining from my offspring. Place des Vosges is also nearby, if you’re in the mood for some low-key sunbathing and people-watching in Paris’s oldest public square.

The creperie is cozy — there’s outdoor seating, a tight row of seating on the ground level, and then another room of tables  on the second floor. There is only one restroom though, for men and women, so you can see a line of dancing children forming outside its door.

The service is friendly, really friendly for Paris, and everything on the menu is affordably priced between 5 and 11 euros.

I ordered a galette Pastourelle, which was a buckweat crepe over lettuce stuffed with salmon, cream and lemon and topped with a basil pesto:

Presentation is a key part of any good meal and Creperie Suzette nailed it. My husband got the Carnavalet: eggs, cheese and bacon:

The kids, in a surprising turn of events, ordered a Salade Suzette, which was a beautifully arranged with tomatoes laid out like flower petals along the edge:

There was only silence as we ate, each savoring the complex textures and delicate flavosr of our meals. Except the kids, who were loudly saying, “Mmmmm” the same way they do when they get cake pops. And that’s saying something.

Creperie Suzette
24 rue des Franc-Bourgeois
75004 Paris

Food Restaurants Travel

{Paris} Creperie Beaubourg

Summers in Paris are so lovely from the seat of a creperie. I love how the chairs at the cafes in town are turned unabashedly outward, for better people watching. How the vibe that says to enjoy all the richness in food and life, but to do it in chic measure.

Paris for my husband is about bread: one of his chores growing up was to do the daily bread run for the family, during which he would rabidly consume an entire baguette on his way home. Paris for me is a visual feast of architecture, arts, fashion and of course, food. And when it comes to food, few things make a meal as satisfying as a simple, perfect crepe.

We arrived early in the evening, and, wanting to stretch our legs after the journey through the Chunnel, headed out to the vicinity of the Centre Pompidou in the 4th arrondisement. It was 95 degrees and humid with all of Paris seeming to want to be on the metro at the same time as we did. It was like we were a bunch of sardines who decided to douse ourselves in fly paper glue and get canned together in a sauna.

Out of the metro, we headed straight for the fountain behind the Centre Pompidou.

 Just beyond the fountains is the Creperie Beaubourg.

The creperie has outdoor seating, with a view showcasing a juxtaposition of old and new:

We were thirsty so asked for a pitcher of water; we were treated to a peppery concoction which was surprising yet pleasant (I think it was water, flavored with white pepper. It was unusual enough for me to wonder whether it was an accident, but I’ll assume for now that it’s a signature offering there). I ordered a galette called a Quimper, which is a thin buckwheat pancake stuffed with ham, mushrooms and cheese, and topped with a fried egg.

The pancake was crispy on the outside with nice big crannies, and soft on the inside as it nestled the ham, mushroom and cheese into a cozy little packet. Simple, but good.

Dessert was a chocolate crepe with molton chocolate and cocoa powder, and a Crepe Suzette topped with sugar, lemon and a generous helping of butter:

Both were very good, solid executions of classic crepes.

A meal for four plus the two desserts cost us 46 euros, which was quite reasonable. Average menu items hover between the 4 and 9 euro range.

Is this the best creperie in town? I wouldn’t say so; I’ll be writing a review soon of one that just may be. But if you’re looking for a very good, no-frills, kid-friendly and affordable place to eat near a tourist trap, this is an excellent option. The presentation is basic, and the service is efficient. It does the job it’s meant to do.

Afterwards, we headed back in the heat toward the flat.

Isn’t Paris beautiful? Luckily you can’t see the whining in the picture.

Creperie Beaubourg
2 rue Brisemiche
75004 Paris