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Monday, February 27, 2017

Unique Eats: Sunday-Funday Episode II


The beauty of doing some "cross pollination" between my blog here and my youtube channel (below) is that I can get away with driving you readers to my channel and then hopefully my channel viewers to my blog. All with the same exact content but in a different format. I can give you readers a teaser as I will here and then direct you to the "meat and potatoes" video segment over on the full video. Those folks who want just a quick insight, a few pictures, a basic review, and be done with it, this post is for you! Its a win-win for ya'll really. And for me, I can introduce you to the post, post some $$ shots and leave some links to the venues, drop a few honest comments, and be done with the post! That's a wrap! Now take a look, check out these venues, watch the video and go get yourself "A Better Bite" right now!



Pizza Nova Famous BBQ Chicken 10" pie ($13 with tax post 20% military discount)



The ever famous Tiramisu Pancake full stack from Cafe 21 Gaslamp ($14 with tax)



Guahan Grill Point Loma 6lb Chicken Fried Rice Challenge Plate. $25 if not finished in an hour. Free and you win $25 plus a t-shirt if you do! As of now, only 3 people have done it ever!




The pictures do some justice, yes, but the full video feature is where its all at peoples! Take a look, hit the like button and come back for more next week!


Sunday, February 26, 2017

My San Diego Bucket List #7 & #8

This week I made two unusual stops (for me) into two very well known dessert/bakery/pastry shops to take a yonder at two more entree items that our good friend Troy Johnson placed on his 103 items to try before you die in San Diego.  My list of 21 continues with stops 7 and 8 at Le Parfait Paris Liberty Public Market location and then Extraordinary Desserts on Union St. in Little Italy. 

As one who does not really have a true sweet tooth or craving for things like cookies, cake, pie, chocolate etc.....I am much more a savory flavor type guy. I can take it or leave it when it comes to baked goods and sweets without a second thought. But if Troy says these two places have something this good, then perhaps I need to go find out and be sure I am not missing something big, just in case....

For both venue's I did a take out order of the respective item each place has. I brought them home and sampled them out later on in the day after my workout sessions. The items at hand being shown below.....





Pain au Chocolate Aux Amandes

Never actually had a dessert croissant before so this was new. Heck, it had even been a year or more since I had a croissant period. I found this to be a unique little dessert in flavor and texture. Crusty sweet, crunchy outside, soft layers of buttery inside with a delicious layer of chocolate cream on the bottom studded with crushed almonds. Cost was ~$4 and worth it for the novelty alone. 




Blueberry Cheesecake Coffeecake

Any kind of cake I ever get these days is almost always my favorite, carrot cake. So going off the norm and trying a 2-in-1 style cheesecake + coffeecake design was really a stretch for me. The stretch proved worthwhile as it is just that. A perfect balance of cheesecake flavor with coffee cake design and texture. Super moist, very nice cheesecake tartness, soft coffee cake like base and a solid hit of fresh blueberry within and on top of the cake itself. I am glad I had this in the fridge for a bit before biting in as I feel this is certainly best served a bit chilled. Cost was ~$7.




If you are in need of a simple but novel sweet treat to sink your teeth into but want something different, unique and sized just right for moderation, these two picks are sure to deliver you A Better Bite indeed! How "sweet" is that?


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

My San Diego Entree Bucket List: #6







As my 6th of 21 planned stops on my "SD Debut Entree Bucket List".....this was a welcoming, off the path visit for me. To be frank, I am actually a true fan of the midwest deep dish style pizza so to be drawn in for anything but when it comes to a pie.....it takes some strong incentive for sure! (Thanks again Troy Johnson!)


Being a Sunday evening prior to a Monday holiday the place was just as busy as any other normal weekend night I am told by the folks I sat near during my visit. They claimed to be regulars with many visits and many great experiences at B.F. They certainly had their share of menu exposure as well as they were telling me all about the many items I must try!

This visit was all about my seeking the Sergio classic style Italian pizza. Mozza cheese, prosciutto, arugula and parma cheese round this thing out. And of course it's all done in their certified VPN clay oven using imported specialty flour for their pizza dough.

Despite the super busy evening with a line well out the door and pizza boxes flying out the door by pick up customers, I was able to grab a seat at the 7-8 seat side patio table area they have adjacent to the main outside dining space. I placed my order (with an authentic Italian server for that matter!) and had my pizza in front of me within 15 minutes which was good time for how busy it was.

Pictures show this looked great. Texture was good but the center section of the pie could have used a wee little bit more time as it was still quite soft vice the rest of the crust which was perfectly crisp with not a spec of burnt spots. The crust has a nice unique flavor all on its own I found unlike anything you would ever get with a delivery joint. The real praise I offer for this pie is the simple flavor combo of fresh ingredients. The cheeses, meat and red sauce work wonderfully to really please the pallet well. Not super cheese heavy, not weighted under tons of meat, not too salty, not too greasy, not too anything, just right as Goldilocks would say.

This pie was the perfect size for sharing on date night (or just me and my bottomless pit) as the crust is not so thick and dense that its a meal by itself. Again, as a deep dish Chicago guy when it comes to"best pizza" its hard for me to rank this kind of pie up there with those. But as for anything outside that domain, this does rank as a pizza I would not hesitate to have again.

If this pie/visit is any representation of the food/service quality then I feel I need to venture out more often to places like this for return visits to satisfy both my ethnic genes and culinary desires at the same time with some solid Italian eats. Now go hit up this SD Better Bite and make your nonna proud! MANGIA!



Monday, February 20, 2017

My San Diego Entree Bucket List: #4 & 5



 #4/21


This was not my debut for Queenstown Public per say as I had been here twice before during the Sunday farmers market. I had previously just grabbed a drink while waiting for some friends to finish brunch. No bites had ever been sampled from here so it felt like a debut visit to me frankly.

Tuesday night, 645pm, place is fairly busy but not packed. I am escorted in by host and seated just behind the bar at my own table. The menu item I was on a quest for was none other than "The Lamb Burger" with a side of (my all time favorite side) crispy sweet fries!

Ordered up right away and within 15 minutes tops I had my plate-O-goodeness arrive at my table. As the pictures show this was every bit as good if not better then it looked to be.

Burger was on point! Amazing combo of flavors from the unique toppings and the lamb burger patty itself. One of my all time favorite burger experience in SD and that is a hard spot to make on my list! I added the fried egg ($1) as that's the only way to top an already stacked burger and make it better....add a darn fried egg!

The sweet fries also a solid staple side item. I went sans blue cheese which is standard for their sweet fries but even with the sea salt and plain jane fries, they were tasty, crispy and warm just like I like'em! The two dips they give with them (wasabi and sriracha) are well worth trying out on your sweet fries let me tell you that much!

The burger also comes with beet chips and despite my uncertainty of trying them....I did and I liked them!

Only catch at all would be in the relative value department. Compared to other burger places I frequent often, this was a more pricey burger plate. Small order sweet fry and lamb burger with the egg brought me to $23 with tax before tipping which is a bit steep IMO for a burger and fries (even one this good). If price is not an issue for you then by itself this is a MUST stop place for top tier burger fare. You do get what you pay for here, that I can say.









#5/21


This was another welcome venue to hit as it was only my 2nd ever Ramen experience in my life let alone my 4 years in SD now. What rock have I been living under!?

Came in at 645pm on a rainy Friday night, grabbed a seat at the bar and despite the crummy weather the place was decently busy yet. What better than a bowl of tasty hot ramen on a cool rainy night right?

I placed my order at the register and took my seat. Within 10 minutes I had a piping hot "belly of the beast" bowl of ramen in front of me. I added seasonal veggies ($3) as I love my veggies! Tender carrots and asparagus with mushrooms were the veggies added and it really did add some nice variation to the ramen. This broth was sweeter and less coconutty than what I had at Tajima. Not better or worse but different in that regard. More chicken noodle-like I'd say.

The whole egg was perfect! Pops in your mouth with a savory runny yolk waiting to zap the taste buds. The oxtail dumplings really shocked me! These were amazing! Never had oxtail and been years since I had a dumpling. The combo of both done well was the most impressive part of the dish.

Ramen noodles vs egg noodles as I had at Tajima also added a new texture and flavor to the dish which I enjoyed very much. 

The three different meats contained in the ramen were succulent, tender and melt in your mouth good! I am loving how unique these meats taste in ramen bowls as an aggregate of the broth, noodles and their own unique umami flavor punch. 

Great service, quick seating, amazing prices (military discounts!) good portions and way cool experience to sit at the bar and see the chefs work the magic that is real-deal ramen. 

The bar remains very high for what I now deem as "good" ramen in SD. I must find more spots like this to score me so solid bowl of ramen far more often! 

So come in, "belly up" and find yourself A Better Bite (and slurp) at Under Belly!















The series has begun! Unique Eats is born!



Something I have wanted to do for a LONG time now has finally went from concept stage (where it was for at least a year now) to the action stage of being a reality. I am happy to announce I have finished and posted the first weekly episode of this little project and passion of mine and its a goody! The series is going to be on my YouTube channel which as mentioned before is now repurposed in the direction of local San Diego food features, find, good eats, better bites, unique and novel food hot spots. At times I will even throw in a bit of my own DIY creations as well or good measure and balance but for the vast majority, your going to get a front row seat to some of my favorite places new and old alike all around this great culinary mecca city!

As I have posted elsewhere I do have some rules to this Sinful Sunday series. Structure is what I live by in all other domains of my life so this is no different. It keeps the goal the goal and the outcomes clear. So here you have them. Simple but clear guidelines I will be using throughout the duration of this new series.

  • For each location selected, I must feature a new entree each time, no repeats. 
  • I can dine at the same places but not on back to back Sunday's. 
  • I must pick a combo of sweet and savory dishes within the 3 meals I pick for that Sunday.
  • I can order anything I want be it junk or wholesome and healthy. Just can't eat so much of I am too stuffed to eat the later meals of course! 
  • I need to get a close up $$ shot of each dish and a shot of myself with the dish I get at each venue. 
  • Sticking to a Pancake/waffle/french toast entree for breakfast, ice cream/dessert based places for lunch and then pizza/pasta places for dinner.

I invite all of you readers here to take a look at my YouTube channel and watch these sure to be appealing, insightful, funny and entertaining videos (all under 30 minutes) to show you where my travels and my stomach take me each weekend. 

Who knows....maybe you and I will be sharing A Better Bite together at one of these places very soon!



Monday, February 13, 2017

What a weekend of local eats!

This weekend was awesome! Spent some time with some friends both from in town and from out of town between Friday night all the way through Sunday evening and of course we made sure San Diego's food scene made a pretty solid (and impressive) impact on things in a very good way for both myself and my friends who got to partake in these past 3 days of amazing "grubbing."

Let me walk you through the timeline of culinary escapades with some pictures, descriptions, reviews and reactions of the hot spots we hit up. I also want to offer some insights to my recent start of my own top 21 bucket list of places in town I plan to hit in the next 10 weeks time and I am inviting all you readers to partake with me!


Friday night I went solo for my first ever debut experience with Ramen! I chose Tajima Ramen of Hillcrest based on the San Diego Magazine (SDM) recent listing from Troy Johnsons top 103 spots you must visit before you die.  I have adapted this list of 103 to my own smaller and more manageable list of 21 spots. I picked those I have not been to before, are within 20 miles of my home and actually have some appeal to me to go try out of course. I look to hit 2 spots each week for 10 weeks to see how Troy and I compare in our thoughts and perspectives on these venues and dishes.

At Tajima I got the classic, their Tajima Ramen with added asparagus, bamboo shoots and veggies. Bottom line is that I am now a Ramen fan for life! How I waited 3.5 years in San Diego to try this I have no clue!





Next up was a Saturday early afternoon, solo, post farmers market pick in Little Italy to the Crack Shack for another debut experience. I went with the Senor Croquet Chicken Sandwich. This thing was really good no doubt but at $13 for just a chicken sandwich? Little costly in my book.



Next up was a group visit with some out of town folks from Solana Beach and the one place I am sure to take every out of towner is of course Hash House A Go Go! I love blowing people's minds with this place and I just freaking love going there period. The key to going on a Sunday morning is this.....order take out meals and then hop over to Balboa park off 6th ave and set up shop at the park tables and take in the outdoors, the sun, people watch and avoid the hour long (or longer) line that is a norm on Sunday mornings at HH. My group had our 3 entrees within minutes of pulling up and minutes later I was diving into my Sage Fried Chicken Benedict seen below. I had never gotten a benedict from HH before until now and my god am I glad I did! Freaking amazing in every right! The tin pan does not do justice to show this dish is the best possible form but take my word....its everything you need in a breakfast dish that's rib sticking good and of course, filling. I was the only person in our group of 4 that finished my own entree..... booya!



 Next up was a quick stop for 2 of my out of town visitors to satisfy their sweet tooth with something unique a new. During our strolling of Gaslamp I suggested the Ghiradelli Chocolate Shop. Now being very sensitive to lactose I am one who has to bypass on almost all soft cheese and cows milk based dairy items and ice cream is sadly one item I cant contend with. But that wa snot going to stymie my visitors experience here so I used their debut experience to showcase the masterpiece shown below. The Treasure Island Sundae served in a dipped waffle bowl. They got added banana to really top it off. I can't speak from my own experience but according to both of them this was a pretty decent Sundae indeed. Some of the best hot fudge and brownie bites they had ever had period. The vanilla ice cream was good also but nothing outstanding. At $15.50 for one average sized Sundae they felt that your paying for the Ghiradelli brand name and chocolate quality more than anything.



To close out our weekend of eats, myself, my roommate and my 2 out of towners opted for some pizza. This again is an item I normally have to bypass despite my endless love for pizza. I am Italian after all! Cheese heavy pizza just wrecks my gut for hours after. Thin crust, light cheese or no cheese pizza, and renditions of the two are pretty workable for me however. I had tried a slice of Berkely Pizza before at the Farmers Market in Little Italy over a year ago and recall it being outstanding in taste and also agreeable with my gut. I took a chance and said we should opt for that and so we did. We got a small take and bake spinach and mushroom pie ($16) (serves 4 perfectly) and finished it off in the oven at home. They write the exact direction right on the box for you so you can be sure to bake it right. 15 minutes at 425 and bam! Pizza perfection as seen below! My roommate and out of towners (and I) just LOVED this pizza. The other 3 who had never had Berkeley before claimed it was a near deep dish like pizza but without the super thick crust or super cheese heavy ratio but rather topping heavy with loads of tomato and just enough spinach/mushroom. The crust being part semolina over just four also adds a unique flavor and texture to the pie which I loved.



Being the first bite of any pizza I had had in over a year I had to get a close-up shot of the moment my pizza drought ended. It may only have been 1 slice but OMG was it worth it! Pie heaven! Look at them layers of goodness!



So you can see this weekend was in fact a foodie adventure of the best kind. Touring a city like San Diego offers so much in terms of entertainment, history, sports, festivals, beaches etc......their is no shortage of things to do on any given weekend. Bringing in the out of towners to share and experience in these events is always a good time. I enjoy being able to bring the culinary vibe of San Diego to the mouths and stomachs of my visitors whenever I can. In the process I often find myself trying new places and new dishes as well. In cases like that, everyone involved can find A Better Bite!