Grillin’ season has begun! Tequila Lime Grilled Chicken with Corn and Black Bean Salsa over Brown Rice. Dinner is ready!
Leaving Mother’s Day fare in our wake, for tonight we decided on simple vegetable grilled sandwiches. We used a marinated portobello with garlic and vinegars, red pepper and almond puree, caramelized onions with spinach and basil leaves on a ciabatta bun. It’s one of my go-to recipes for an easy yet healthy meal. I put this one together in the 70s when I had a limited budget and a co-op membership. And yes, I made the ciabatta with all its holes. Served with a herb and mixed green salad, homemade balsamic vinaigrette and a Sancerre wine to complement. As a surprise I had fresh strawberries as a condiment instead of anything brined and it worked beautifully.
A great way to utilize leftover vegetables from Mother’s Day and have an easy meal free of time consuming cooking.
Fun is what makes a weekend different from the humdrum weekday routine. Sightseeing in your hometown can take surprising turns. We were out shopping for a baby gift, visiting all the haunts for deals so we could put together a great “baby basket” for the expectant couple. This meant a sightseeing tour of neighborhoods we don’t frequent.
After a few hours, our tummies were growling. Where should we eat? We passed a handful of fast food shops. Nope, none of us would spend money there. We quested for a bonafide restaurant. After many blocks of nothingness, we made a pact that we would stop and take a chance at the next place we passed where we could sit down to eat.
Along came Woody’s Burgers! We couldn’t have stumbled upon a better lunch that day. We went to the counter to order and it took several minutes for each of us to decide on a dish. Once we did, the fun began.
Our order taker was polite, humorous, and informative. Best of all he got all our orders correct and delivered them hot and ready to eat.
The only problem was deciding which burger, of the ones we ordered, was the best. We couldn’t. They were all good. We also had a shared plate of sweet potato fries that was plenty for three people. A very generous portion that satisfied all of us.
So, if you are in the San Diego area and have a craving for a burger (or even a Portobello burger) with an icy cold locally brewed beer, Woody’s Burgers is the place! Oh and they have a shop in Palm Springs too if you are dirt biking in the desert.
The Blue Cheese Burger: A 100% Angus Beef with tomato and Blue Cheese Crumbles and special Blue Cheese Sauce
The Hawaiian Burger: 100% Angus Beef, Grilled Pineapple, Toasted Bun, Lettuce, Tomato and Teriyaki Glaze
The Jalapeno Burger: 100% Angus Beef, Jalapeno Pepper Jack Cheese, Toasted Bun, Lettuce, Tomato, Jalapeno and Spicy Sauce.
Aren’t you hungry now? I am. I could do it all over again right now. Fresh ingredients, great service, and food served as it should be.
(This is my unsolicited opinion and I have no relationship to the restaurant or anyone involved in it. I just loved their food enough to write about it.)
Tonight’s dinner was an adaptation of a recipe we found in Cooking Light magazine from May of 2012. Our adaptation utilized most of the same ingredients but we reduced the olive oil, upped the ginger and we used less salt and it worked just fine. Since we like spicy food around here so we upped the freshly ground pepper too. I think it was better that way.
A cooks night out is a wonderful experience. For a few hours, being away from a flame and out of harm’s way from razor-sharp knives while removed from the demands of meal preparation is a delightful treat.
For me, dining out doesn’t have to be a fancy meal spanning several hours but it has to be good food. Good food governs my desire accompanied by a hearty brew or a fine wine alongside. Therefore, I follow the perceived aroma when I review a menu and if I end up at a white cloth eatery or a local order-and-take-out place then that is where my tastes have steered me.
This weekend what I craved was a casual experience with terrific food flavored such that it totally satisfied my palate. My appetite wasn’t taking precedence here. My taste buds were in charge. In San Diego, it is easy to satisfy my requirements.
My dining companions and I ended up in North Park. We heard there was an arts festival that evening and thought that would be a relaxing and stimulating stroll after our meal. We’re a motley crew with eclectic tastes so arts and food just seem to fit like a glove.
North Park is dense with fine food establishments from sit down eateries to places where you need to perch on a planter while you eat. It is an area with restaurants galore, great deserts shops, taverns and bars, even a wonderful coffee spot to end the night, Café Calabria.
We began the night at Carnitas Snack Shack, always a favorite, which specializes in pork (you guessed it) carnitas!
While we waited for our food, we enjoyed the ambient artwork and the raised bed of vegetables behind our table.
Our starter was an exquisite Pork Belly appetizer with sweet chili glazed served with a frisee salad. It was tangy sweet, melt in your mouth memorable, balanced by the slightly bitter flavor of frisee with some fresh radishes to surprise your palate.
One of my companions (with a mouth the size of a mason jar opening) ordered the Snack Shack Triple Threat Sandwich: pork Schnitzel, pulled pork, bacon pepperoncini, pickle relish, shack aioli served with a sweet corn salad. I had to participate in an arm wrestling match in order to get a bite; it was that good!
The last dish we enjoyed was the Carnitas Tacos: two carnitas tacos with guacamole and salsa fresco served with a sweet corn salad. If you prefer, you can order this as a torta sandwich. This one made my taste-buds smile and my tummy feel content.
We did order the seasoned fries, served with a sinfully good bacon ketchup, but they vanished before I could get a photo. Let me just say that this food is so good that you should try to get photos before it hits the table or it’s gone in minutes.
After dinner, we strolled the length of the arts festival and encountered some wonderful food trucks. Too full to taste them we just stood and inhaled their goodness. This one represents some fine restaurants in the San Diego area. Great food all around.
The evening ended with a visit to a brew market and then a tavern for a glass of chocolate stout to top off the evening.
One of us, not me, bought a decadent piece of cake at a nearby bakery before we left the area. It too mysteriously vanished before I could take a shot of it—or get a taste! But word has it that we should go back so I can get my own piece.
One of my favorite and easiest dinners is a simple risotto with spring vegetables. I knocked this one up a notch by grilling the asparagus and the chicken. I used fresh-shelled peas, homegrown asparagus and some organic chicken. I had some wonderful Australian chardonnay (a gift from a recent guest) to use in the risotto (and then for drinking along with it) and a touch of onion, garlic and lemon with a palm full of Parmesan to bring the flavors to a taste bud high. It worked. I decided to garnish the dish with some fresh chopped parsley and some toasted walnuts with a hint of walnut oil. Nothing else was necessary for dinner except that chilled crisp glass of wine. Dessert? Hmm, would you believe Girl Scout cookies? Yes, that’s the truth. Served with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a squirt of local honey. Break the cookies up with a spoon, mix them with the yogurt and honey. Divine. Trust me.
Here’s the small dish:
A simple vegetable medley that makes a great side dish or becomes a whole meal with the addition of some protein. Fresh snap peas, thin slivers of red cabbage, crimini mushroom slices, caramelized onion with a touch of garlic and a small knob of fresh ginger finished with a splash of seasoned rice wine vinegar. I love the colors! Delicious.