Barmel

If you have been following the #BurdFamilyRoadTrip on Instagram, then you might have seen we recently went up to the Monterey Peninsula. With Nana taking very good care of the Little Birds, we escaped for a date night into my hometown of Carmel. It happened to be the busiest weekend of the year up there, as the Concours de Elegance seems to have grown into “Monterey Car Week,” and we couldn’t get a dinner reservation until 8:45 pm. So we decided to get a drink and bite beforehand. Since I’m a longtime fan of Mundaka, trying out the new Barmel next door was an easy choice.

Barmel cocktail and tacos

Mundaka owner, Gabe Georis, took over the old dive next door about a year ago, and completely redesigned the space — which is very approachable, comfortable, timeless yet contemporary. The “bar” is vintage and there is a small stage for live music. That night a bluegrass trio played. The Barmel Facebook page is the best place to see the line up. The Georis family does great restaurants. They also know music. Papa Bird can be hard to please, so it was super satisfying to see him relax and enjoy the food, drink, show and feel.

barmel menubarmel menu

Since I couldn’t find a menu online, I’m sharing it here, even though they aren’t the best quality photos, and the menu probably changes frequently. Chef Brandon Miller of Mundaka does the food here, as well, and I suspect they share a kitchen. We tried all four of the street tacos. And then ordered more. Living in San Diego gives us a taco-critiquing license and they were tasty, as was my “Country #2” cocktail (Bourbon, Absinthe Rinse, Lemon, Ginger.) We got to chat with the chef, a total character, as he took a break to hear the music and sip a Calimocho. I also slipped away for a few minutes to shop for cute clothes for me and the girls in the new boutique, Kai Bella, in the same courtyard. Super cute stuff.

And our dinner reservation? The moment we sat down at the other restaurant, Papa Bird missed the atmosphere and wished we had stayed at Barmel. The other place has a great reputation as “farm to table.” But their waiter had pushed us to order a Caprese that had underripe tomatoes. Underripe tomatoes. Even had they been ripe, it would have been a boring plate, and I was wishing we had ordered the mozzarella stack at Barmel with house made cheese.

Maybe next time. I’m sure we will be back!

Barmel Info

  • San Carlos St, Between 7th and Ocean Ave Carmel, CA 93921 (That’s as close as an address you will get for Carmel — it’s too quaint for street numbers.)
  • No website but here’s the Facebook link.
  • Hours: 2:30 pm – 12:00 am, Daily
  • Live music: Thurs-Sat 7-9pm, DJ’s Fri/Sat 9-midnight.
  • Happy Hour: 4:30-6:30pm.
  • (831) 626-3400
  • Kids are okay! Just have to be 21+ to sit at the bar.
  • No reservation at Mundaka? Have a drink at Barmel, and they will get you when a table is free.

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Roasted Beets, Radishes, Squash and Green Beans with an Orange-Dill Vinaigrette [Recipe]

I consider recipes to be inspiration, not gospel. This next recipe, a roasted veggie salad, is intended to be a template, not a prescription. I had beets, radishes, summer squash, green beans, dill and oranges on hand. But PLEASE substitute anything you might have.

Roasted beets, radishes, squash and green beans with an orange-dill vinaigrette <div class="hrecipe jetpack-recipe"><div class="jetpack-recipe-content"></div></div>

Since learning about Specialty Produce at this event, we have since ordered their Farmers’ Market Box twice. I’m definitely a fan. You can see a sample below. If you use the group code BABYBIRD when signing up, you will automatically have $2 taken off each box. For $20 – or $18 for you – it is a generous amount and variety of produce. I don’t receive any kickbacks, per se, on your purchase, but it is possible I will get invited to more of their events, so letting them know I sent you is very much appreciated! Enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post to receive a box for FREE.

If you have been a long time reader of this blog, you may remember my focus on the produce of our yard… see this early post on a Three Sisters Succotash, for example. But with the current drought, we have really let most of our garden go. Sadly, for the first time in seven years, there is no summer harvest. Having fresh, local finds from Specialty Produce’s CSA-type box is proving to be the next best thing.

Example of a Specialty Produce Farmer's Market Box

For this particular box, I ended up hitting the road right after getting it to take the Little Birds up to my sister’s house. I didn’t want the produce to go to waste, so I threw it in the car with us. As luck would have it, she had plans for us to go to her friend’s BBQ and asked me to make a “veggie side.” I found some delicious blood orange olive oil in her cupboard, which I used for both roasting the veggies and the vinaigrette.

baby beets from #specialtyproduce

Aren’t those little beets pretty?

Roasted Beets, Radishes, Squash and Green Beans with an Orange-Dill Vinaigrette
 
Author:
Recipe type: Easy
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Seasonal cooking: take what you find in your Farmer's Market Box, from the CSA, or your backyard, cook simply to highlight the freshness and toss with a light vinaigrette. I list the ingredients I used, but please improvise.
Ingredients
Roasted Veggies
  • 1 bunch of baby beets
  • 1 bunch of Easter egg radishes
  • 1 pound of summer squash
  • ½ pound of green beans
  • ⅓ cup of blood orange olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
Vinaigrette
  • ⅓ cup of blood orange olive oil
  • juice of ½ an orange
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper
  • ½ cup fresh dill, chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400* F. Peel and chop all of the veggies. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 30 minutes or until fork tender. (I added the green beans half way through.)
  2. Mix the oil, vinegar, orange juice, salt and pepper. Toss on the veggies when slightly cooled. Top with the chopped dill.
  3. Enjoy!

What are your favorite ways to enjoy summer bounty?

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Catania Coastal Italian: Aperitivos at the Latest La Jolla Restaurant from Whisknladle

Featuring San Diego restaurants has been so fun lately. Papa Bird and I have enjoyed every single meal we’ve shared at Prep Kitchen and Whisknladle. So when my friend, Cassidy, invited me to happy hour, or “Aperitivo,” at Catania Coastal Italian, the latest from Whisknladle Hospitality, “YES” was an easy answer. In addition to the excellent, peak of season food you might expect, Catania has a peaceful ocean view and laid back, upscale vibe.

Gorgonzola Cheese plate at Catania

Disclaimer: We were invited by the restaurant to sample the Aperitivo menu and craft cocktails. I wouldn’t share here if I wasn’t impressed and thought my readers would appreciate. The general manager, Steven, even invited the two of us behind the bar to view all the Italian liquors, wines and craft beers. Being old (well me, not Cassidy), married moms, we tried not to get into too much trouble.

Catania Coastal Italian - behind the bar

Aperitivo Menu at Catania

The menu changes frequently with seasonal availability, but my pick of the summer happy hour menu was easily the Gorgonzola (pictured at the top of the post). On my first bite, I swore it was the best gorgonzola I had ever tasted. And I take my cheese seriously. Yup, this is the girl that once made a version of Humbolt Fog at home. I grew up sampling everything in the Cheese Shop in Carmel; it was the only store ever that had a charge account for my family. Anyway, at $6 during happy hour, the cheese plate is a surprisingly good value (especially for the upscale location in La Jolla), and is accompanied by fried almonds, a nectarine mostarda, grilled bread, basil and olive oil. Yum!

aperitivo happy hour menu at Catania

We sampled, clockwise, from upper left:

  • Beef Heart Carpaccio ($6), arugula, parmesan and olive oil.
  • Grigliata Mista ($9), Suzie’s Farm squash, peppers, eggplant, basil pesto, and bread crumbs.
  • Gorgonzola ($6), fried almonds, nectarine mostarda.
  • Prosciutto and Melon ($6), ricotta salata, saba.

Prices listed are for the happy hour, which is daily, 3pm-7pm.

Craft Cocktails

In addition to an impressive collection of Italian wines and craft beers, the cocktails are mighty tasty. Luckily, we were with a group of friendly foodies, and were able to taste many of the cocktails.

craft cocktails at catania

I gravitated towards the Grigio Bianco (Gin, Carpano Bianco, Lemon, Thyme and White Wine), as I’m obsessed with vermouth bianco, even simply on the rocks. Our waiter’s recommendation was a Boulevardier, which was not actually on the menu, but replaced the gin in the Negroni (gin, Carpano Antica and Campari) with bourbon. Another favorite of the group was the Api E Radice (vodka, honey, roasted carrot and lemon). Pictured above is the Ciao Bella in the foreground (bourbon, seasonal jam, sweet vermouth, angstura bitters) and a Seasonal Bellini in the background. The Bellini was a little sweet for me, but I am not a Bellini fan.

roasted carrot cocktail and sunset at catania in la jolla

Above is the famous roasted carrot cocktail and roasted olives. The olives ($6) were roasted with rosemary, orange, garlic and chili flakes, and inspired me to start cooking my olives (see how below.) As long as you are taking advantage of the “Aperitivo” hours, from 3pm to 7pm, the craft cocktails range from $5 to $8– totally reasonable!

So I Was Invited for Happy Hour but Stayed for More

Since the little birds were safe sleeping at home with their papa, and the menu looked so tempting, I ended up staying on! On the recommendation of Steven, I ordered a Yellowfin Crudo, that came with avocado, jalapeño oil, and a melon-cucumber granita that reminded me of a refreshing summer drink.  It was amazing, light and cool, perfectly balanced in taste. New friends Laila and Cindy also shared a bite of their Peach and Prosciutto Crostini (below.) I reposted it on Instagram. By the way, I recently made my (four-year-old) Instagram account public and have been enjoying sharing quick glimpses of food and our urban homestead. Please follow!

Catania is Truly Farm to Table

I’ve written before about how every restaurant that boasts a farm to table garden is not all that. And more recently, San Diego Magazine highlighted outright fraud in an article entitled Farm to Fable. Catania’s fresh food is the real deal. I’m so glad I stayed longer and got to hear more. As our water served us a plate of squash roasted with walnuts, rosemary, honey and parmesan, he told us how he and the rest of the staff had planted the squash at Milagro Farms.

“Our waiter planted the squash he served us.” True #FarmToTable – tweet this

Small world, but our friend and neighbor, Ari of Revolution Landscape, happened to help Whisknladle Hospitality set up their garden at the Milagro Farm Winery. Ari told me that the owners of the restaurant group are also part owners in the winery. They recently developed a portion of the winery with produce for the restaurants, and brought in Revolution to get them started. He confirmed that the restaurant staff helped plant. So I can confirm that our waiter wasn’t just boasting!

Easy Recipe Recreations and Inspiration

I love getting inspiration for cooking when I dine out. Some restaurant dishes I can only admire and go back for. But others are easy enough to recreate. After eating at Catania, I threw some Kalamata olives in a hot pan with some rosemary from our garden and red pepper flakes. Along with Carpano Bianco on the rocks and Gorgonzola crackers, I enjoyed “aperitivo” watching my kids dip in their kiddie pool.

Fried Olives with rosemary and red pepper flakeswatermelon, burrata, cherries and hazelnuts

Above is an example of a restaurant recreation from last month, a burrata, watermelon, cherry and hazelnut salad, inspired by a similar appetizer at Kettner Exchange — another quick post and recipe I only shared on Instagram.

Visit Catania

Catania website

Suite 301, 7863 Girard Ave, San Diego, CA 92037
(858) 551-5105

Click to add a blog post for Catania on Zomato

Go and Let Me Know What You Think!

Blueberry Mascarpone Tart

Today is National Blueberry Day!

Blueberry Marscapone Tart

Here is a quick snap of a Blueberry Mascarpone Tart. I used the cheese filling recipe from Chef Dennis Littley’s “No Bake Peach Tart” with an almond crust and a pound of organic blueberries. Gotta snap up those berries when they are on sale!

What is your favorite way to use blueberries?

Three San Diego Date Night Ideas: Bracero, Caffe Calabria [Giveaway] or Cook with Specialty Produce

Three cheers for date nights! Papa Bird and I have a professional Disney princess who babysits and sings. And with the Little Birds happily entertained, we are starting to venture out to more San Diego restaurants. Here are three of my top date night picks in San Diego for foodie couples — including a giveaway to one of them below.

Abby of Baby Birds FarmMany thanks to Jenny from Vintage Sugar Cube for the picture of Papa Bird and me.

Disclaimer: Specialty Produce invited us to a night of fresh Italian and Mexican dishes by chefs Javier Plascencia of Bracero and MJ Testa of Caffe Calabria in order to sample their Farmers’ Market Boxes. There was no obligation to write about them and my decision to post was based on my excitement to share them with you. Opinions are my own, as always.

shrimp and squash from specialty produce, made by chefs javier plascencia of bracero and mj testa of caffe calabria

1. Modern “Baja Med” Fusion at Bracero in Little Italy

Javier Plascencia’s restaurant empire in Tijuana ranges from the modern Misión 19 to Mediterranean/Mexican “BajaMed” fusion and often features fresh Baja California ingredients. Over the last decade, he has frequently outshone most San Diego chefs. Bracero Cocina de Raiz, named after a guest worker program that brought Mexican labor up to the U.S., is his second restaurant this side of the border (after Romesco in Bonita), opens tonight in Little Italy, and is at the very top of my list of San Diego restaurants I most want to visit. Check out a sneak peek of their modern Mexican fusion menu here, and see why I can’t wait.

Below is a sample of what to expect: Yucatan-style cochinita pibil sopes, made from heirloom corn masa, slow braised pork, heirloom beans and fermented pineapple. You can make a reservation for their upstairs dining room here, or try your luck walking in to the more casual downstairs and crudo bar. And if I haven’t convinced you to try Plascencia’s cuisine, maybe Jonathan Gold or Dana Goodyear can.

cochinita pibil sopes made by chef javier plascencia of bracero at a specialty produce event at caffe clabria

2. Neopolitan Pizza and Craft Cocktails at Caffe Calabria in North Park

When I was chipping away at my Masters of Social Work, I often studied at Caffe Calabria. I usually ordered a Viennese and brought home a bag of the beans they roast on site. Since then they have added a traditional wood-fire pizza oven from Naples, and brought in chef MJ Testa. Caffe Calabria has also started mixing craft cocktails with the same level of attention they bring to the coffee bar. Enter to win two free pizzas from Caffe Calabria at the bottom of this post.

My favorite dish of the night was chef Testa’s Grilled Prawns with farmer’s market box squash and peppers in a cream sauce, inspired by the Amalfi Coast of Italy. I was too busy chatting and the first dish she put out was inhaled by the crowd. For dessert, she roasted white donut peaches and served it with a honey marscapone crema.

As an aside, they have done a lot to renovate the upstairs and back patios. I would definitely look into Caffe Calabria for hosting a private event. The building was once a bank and has tons of character. North Park has changed a lot since I lived there, and there are a ton of bars and clubs to walk to after dinner. Want to be the lucky couple to win dinner there on me?

caffe calabria cappuccino with a roasted doughnut peach by chef mj testa

You can see more of our night in the gallery below.

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