Tag Archives: San Diego

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.

Fashion Shopping Travel

{San Diego} Emme J Boutique


Every once in a while you come across an ethical dilemma. Let’s say you find out, through the kindness of a friend (who is obviously a lot more generous than I am — thanks Alice!), about a super secret but awesome source of brand name clothing where everything is 80%+ off. You go there and confirm, it’s true, this place is for real. This could be your secret source of inspired and interesting apparel at prices that rival those of Target…but then you meet the owner of the store who says she would love some publicity because she isn’t allowed to advertise. Do you keep this information to your self, continuing to mine it for a suspiciously evolving wardrobe? Or do you share it, introducing competition for the the inventory but bringing benefit to the business owner?

Sigh. I must really love you guys.

Emme J sells excess merchandise from the distribution centers of such major brands as Joe’s Jeans, Athleta, Free People, Anthropologie, Wilt and Urban Outfitters. Joni, the founder, came upon this business in a most tragic way: years ago, while she was working for Seven Jeans, her family was killed by a drunk driver in a highway accident. Joni, understandably, couldn’t stand to commute on the highway on a daily basis anymore. Her boss suggested that, as she was a veteran of the garment industry, she may be able to work out a way for her to set up a retail operation close to home — essentially leveraging her years of trunk show experience, while alleviating brands of their excess inventory. Though brands were initially concerned about cannibalization, she’s been able to prove that their brands and sales remain intact, while she’s able to provide for them a valuable service.

And what a valuable service it is! Especially for me (er, us). Joni gets 11,000 pieces of inventory a month (with a shipment of 5,000 bags from Nordstrom on the way!).

When you walk in, you’re greeted with racks and racks labeled $15, $25, $30 and $40. Joni also told me that most items would probably fit me well, since I was pretty much the size of the fit models they use for the brands she carries — at which point I loved her immediately, since no one has every accused me of being a fit model.

It was here that I discovered the joys of Wilt clothing, delightfully clever and slouchy awesomewear with uneven hems and clean lines.

Emme J also offers event services, such as birthday parties, girl’s night out, fashion shows and fundraisers. Tell ’em Sandi sent you!

Emme J
6840 Embarcadero Ln (directly across from the Carlsbad Coaster station)
Carlsbad, California
(619) 208-7639

Open Tuesdays / Thursdays 9 AM – 6 PM and on select Saturdays

Crafts Gardening

Terrariums: a DIY Love Story

I’ve got terrariums on the brain. The one pictured above? I have it on my desk. I look at it. Then I also look at the picture of the same terrarium that I have on my computer. Desk, computer. Desk, computer. True story.

I saw the most amazing hanging assortment at Grounded in Encinitas, where you can buy supplies to make your own:

and I thought: that’s what I’ve been missing my whole life!

I didn’t buy them that day though. I just let it stew inside me like…well, a stew, til it boiled over and I woke one day with an unmistakable mission: MAKE. A. TERRARIUM.

You can get the cute little 6-inch orbs (which have a flat bottom so you can set them on a table) online here in bulk for less than the $14 or so apiece at Grounded (and if you click the link my kids’ school district gets a percentage donated toward their science, tech, art and music programs!), but I had to buy some just to carry out the calling immediately.

I wanted to populate my terrariums with air plants, or Tillandsia, which can grow without soil. Grounded has the best assortment of air plants that I’ve seen locally, but again, they’re at a premium ($4-9 apiece) to what I’ve seen on Amazon where you can buy in bulk (for around $2-$3 apiece for the more common varieties — more for exotics or larger plants). Tillandsia like bright, filtered light — so within 6 feet of a sunny window is ideal. Air plants are pretty low maintenance — just soak them in a bowl of water for an hour a week.

I also wanted to fill my terrariums with colored sand and preserved moss, which I got from my local Michael’s Craft Store. The sand was $2.99 a bag and the moss, for the colorful variety pack, was $7.99 a bag.


Then, just stick the plants in anywhere you’d like:


I played around with upcycling some bordeaux glasses I have:

and conceptualized a display using some glass flower vases I have stashed in a cabinet:

The possibilities are bounded only by the number of glass containers that you have. Old jam jars, vases, whatever — they’re all good.

I’ve been trying to figure out what it is I love about terrariums. Simplicity of construction? Ease of care? Yes. But maybe, in some way, it’s the ability to have complete control of a tiny spherical universe when we live in a world that can be so hard to understand.

Now, to wrestle with the question of how many terrariums is too many.



{Del Mar, CA} PrepKitchen

 Source: PrepKitchen.com

Photo credit: PrepKitchen.com

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 Travel

Baker & Olive

San Diego is known for its natural beauty, and perhaps even for its artificial beauties, but a foodie haven? Not so much. Having lived collectively in Chicago, New York, Boston, London, Paris and Tokyo before moving here, my husband and I had to adjust to living in a place where people seemed too busy working out to be concerned with food. Which saddened me, because Food, you complete me.

I want to start brewing my own vinegar. That will make for two pets in my home: a 5-year-old sourdough starter named Pete (which is also what my daughter calls the holes in her jeans), and a vinegar mother that will heretofore be known as Wilma. Fermented pets are the best ones.

You can imagine my excitement when Baker & Olive appeared in my neighborhood. You can be excited too, because you can order online.

This is a place where they allow you to drink olive oil and balsamic vinegars out of a cup.

It’s like the land of milk and honey without the milk (but a good selection of raw honey). See those silver things? They’re like kegs of olive oil and vinegar, and when you walk in the staff dispenses these deliciously viscous liquids for straight from the tap. They’ve got beautiful gift sets as well which are a nice way to try a variety of flavors.

Why yes, I do drink gravy, why do you ask?

Back to the vinegars: a nice variety vinegars, both balsamics and lighter ones. I was focused during my visit on the balsamics; you can see some of the varieties here. Their website says that “the density and complexity of our balsamic vinegars are a testament to the fact that they are made in Modena, Italy from high quality grape must, cooked down over an open wood fire and aged in oak barrels without the addition of much else, unlike so many “balsamic-like” products on the market.” Whatever they did, this vinegar is smooth, rich and complex. I bought a bottle of the violet-infused vinegar, which has a lovely fragrant bouquet; I tasted a strawberry balsamic which would be divine over a panna cotta topped with berries.

The violet balsamic, while lovely in concert with olive oil with bread as a convenient carrier, was a bit too floral for my standard vinaigrette — and I make vinaigrettes just about daily, so I need to head back to get a good basic balsamic.

I’m a vinegar novice though, so would love to hear if anyone else has experience making vinegars, or if you have recommendations on particularly good ones.

Excuse me while I have a glass of the violet now.