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Posts Tagged ‘restaurants’

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, San Diego

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!

carnitas menu

While we waited for our food, we enjoyed the ambient artwork and the raised bed of vegetables behind our table.

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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.

 pork belly appetizer

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!

carnitas triple threat sandwich

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.

carnitas tacos

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.

indigo grill truck

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.

north park brew market

chocolate stout

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.

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Everyone who knows me knows that I travel.  I travel a lot. I love it too.  And I always find new and interesting foods as well as quirky things to see as I go.  What’s not to love about that, right?

My last trip, however, will probably be presented from end to beginning because I suspect it is more intriguing that way.

Today, while waiting for my flight to bring me home, I did something I often enjoy.  I got to the airport a wee bit early so that I could sample the airport restaurant fare.  More and more airports are opening concessions with great food and drinks–and I like tasting them all.  So, I arrived quite early for my flight with the intention of having my dinner dining experience at the airport since I had a relatively late flight.

Obviously I had no idea what was in store when I made that decision.  I’d been invited to several spots in the area but turned them down.  Why?  Because I’d heard that airports were elevating the bar of dining experiences and that I could get a great meal on the deck while waiting to board my flight.

It turned out to be very true.  I sat down to a lovely Specialty Bloody Mary as a starter.  It was infused with a ton of garlic and delivered quite an alcoholic punch.  The prawn that rested on the rim begged to be bathed in a squirt from the lime wedge and devoured.  So I did just that.

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Then, soon after, our appetizer arrived.  My travel companion and I had ordered a plate of fried oysters to share.  I ate one and was immediately convinced the restaurant was well worth the money. That oyster was succulent and sweet, not overcooked yet fried lightly to highlight all the best aspects of a fresh oyster.

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So I ate another.  I bit into it and it seemed to bite back.  Something wasn’t quite right.  And I found myself working something around with my tongue and eventually out into my napkin.  Wow!  It was a miniature pearl!  The most delicate and delightful thing to ever come from a dining experience.

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I’d heard that finding a pearl in a raw or fried oyster was extremely rare and yet, here I was with my own mini-pearl.  I quickly bagged it in a pill bag and stuffed it into my carry- on as one of the best souvenirs from a trip ever!

So, you wonder whether I endorse dining at the airport before a flight?  Yes, decidedly yes, you can enjoy a wonderful meal full of nutrition and even perhaps a small surprise treat if you open yourself to the dining options that surround you.  Please dine out and find treasures!  It will build our economy and nourish you at the same time.  And you might even find yourself with a lucky charm or two even if it isn’t St. Patrick’s day weekend.

 

 

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After suffering high temperatures and suffocating humidity, New Orleans still left me wanting more. Music filled the thick night air and morning haze raising spirits with rousing beats while restaurant and bakery kitchens wafted alluring aromas into the streets even without a hint of a breeze.

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Most impressive is the fact that dining out three to four (even five) times a day didn’t make a dent in the extensive list of places to eat! One of my favorite aspects of travel is experiencing local cuisine, landmark restaurants and regional specialties.

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The best approach is to find places to eat in an assortment of categories: formal, informal, celebrity, suburban, farmer’s markets, downtown, walk-up, dine in, bar, coffee shop, bakery and everything in between. This can keep a person busy all day long and into the night!

So if you are heading toward New Orleans make dining high on your list of things to do. You won’t regret a bite of it!

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Everywhere you go, there are signs pointing you toward food and drink. My comments below relate to just a few of the places we enjoyed. To discuss each one, well, would take days. So here are some highlights.

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At Café du Monde you can sit and watch the people while enjoying a hot beignet and coffee. The Original Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand was established in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market. Be prepared, however, to leave looking like you’ve just eaten one of these sugar-coated delicacies!

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Southern pecans are some of the sweetest to be found, especially when cooking into candy.

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Cochon Restaurant will serve you memorable garlicky cochon (roasted suckling pig) with cracklins, amazing pork rillette, ribs with watermelon pickle, and tasty oyster-and-bacon sandwich. If you are short on time, run next door to Cochon Butcher and grab a sandwich or some sausage to slice and snack on.

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Take a short drive (about an hour) across Lake Pontchartrain, the second largest saltwater lake in the United States, and continue on to a pleasant tour and tasting at the Abita Brewing Company’s Brewery. Founded in 1986, they brew over 90,000 barrels of beer and 5,000 barrels of root beer using their own artesian spring water from Abita Springs.

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Mandina’s Restaurant began as a modest grocery store in 1898 under the management of Sebastian Mandina. Later his two sons took the store from groceries to a pool hall that sold sandwiches and eventually, in 1932, they established Mandina’s Restaurant catering proudly to the “needs and desires” of the neighborhood.

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The menu is full of Cajun and Creole dishes and seafood and I highly recommend a cup of the Homemade Turtle Soup au Sherry. If you can also get your mouth around one of their po’ boys you’ll feel proud!

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Commanders Palace is known as much as a century old landmark as it is as a fine dining establishment. This is Creole cooking at its best. Here is a place where the chef insists his ingredients are “dirt to plate within 100 miles” and grows over 1400 herbs on the roof! Because of the chef’s policy regarding local food, I hesitate to recommend any dishes because they can change with the local produce daily.

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The amazing variety of New Orleans!

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Camellia Grill, established in 1946, is known for its breakfasts, specifically its omelets which are fluffy and heavy and an outstanding pecan waffle, and its sloppy burgers and chocolate freezes. There is usually a wait but it’s well worth it and just watching the staff work is entertaining too!

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Muriel’s, in Jackson Square, is uniquely decorated restaurant gussied up like a Gothic parlor. Whether you dine in The Bistro, The Balcony or at the 100-year-old Courtyard Bar, the staff and atmosphere will delight you. The menu makes choosing a dilemma due to an appealing array of contemporary Creole cuisine. The General Manager and Chef, as you can see, are quite proud of this place.

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Aside from the food, Muriel’s also boasts about its resident ghost. The upper area, which used to be a bordello, is his haunt and you are free to visit his rooms.

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There’s nothing to fear. The restaurant states, “We firmly believe that our resident ghosts here at Muriel’s are harmless, and can sometimes be very entertaining. Those who have seen or felt a presence have never felt threatened and instead we’ve welcomed an old kindred spirit to dine, by always keeping a table reserved for Mr. Jourdan set with bread and wine.”

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New Orleans is enchanting with a long history involving food, spirits, music, and metaphysics and as a refuge for lost souls. Its expression lives in the music, cuisine and literature making it a destination filled with entertainments of all sorts.

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