Tag Archives: farm to table

A Fun Day of Food and Family

Sorry I haven’t written much in a while. Life gets busy! Lately I have been sharing quick Instagram posts. It takes a fraction of time to post a quick picture there, and can be done “in the moment.” Yet instant is fleeting and soon forgotten. And days like this last Sunday are meant to be savored and remembered.

San Diego Food - 1

Ever since Papa Bird and I flew the coop to celebrate the first anniversary of the fun restaurant/night spot Kettner Exchange, we have had a gift card to their side business, Devil’s Dozen Donuts. The donut shop shutters up once they sell out and every time I’ve been by we were too late to get any. I try to feed the kids a balanced breakfast, aka not pure, refined sugar. But I got the tip that on the weekend they make a secret menu item: a breakfast sandwich with eggs and bacon on an unglazed donut. It sounded healthier, right?

Devil's Dozen Donuts

We also selected a salted caramel and a Nutella hazelnut “sweet treat.” My plan was for us all to share everything. But Littlest Bird (age 2.5) said, “No, I don’t want to share! I want the whole thing!” Little Bird (age 4.5) said, “It’s too pretty to eat.”

Devil's Dozen Donuts

If you go, you can park for free in the Kettner Exchange valet spots. Don’t miss the view from the second story balcony. (I guess I didn’t take a picture, but we enjoyed the Jacarandas, planes, and boats.)

Next the girls and I rolled over to our favorite place to shop, Specialty Produce. The last time we were there, Littlest Bird thought it was hilarious to run away from me. Keeping kids close is a big rule there as it is a busy industrial warehouse, with forklifts, carts, and lots of people. She even ran past an “employee only” sign into the truck loading area. So this time I asked her if she would like to “go uppies.” We haven’t worn Miss Independent in any wraps or the Ergo in ages, but she thought it was a blast to go for a ride. Problem solved!

Specialty Produce - San Diego

Along with groceries for the week, we picked up a baker’s dozen of local corn from the Farmers’ Market cooler. We were headed to a potluck that night. Alright, I didn’t think I’d be sharing a recipe today, but here is one:

  • Soak corn in the husk in water for 10-30 minutes.
  • Grill for 20 minutes or so at 375*-400*.

Simple food, peak of season… the best way to eat.

soaking fresh corn for the grill

We also brought summer berries and stone fruit (all from local farms and found in the Farmers’ Market cooler) to share with our friends. Clockwise from the top in the picture below, Carmen Miranda nectarines, blackberries, Saturn peaches, Persian mulberries, and elderberries. The elderberries were quite tart. I later looked them up in the Specialty Produce App and learned elderberries are meant to be cooked. Technically they are considered poisonous raw (oops) but the toxicity level is pretty low.

summer berries and stone fruit from Specialty Produce

All of the pictures in this post were taken with an iPhone, with the exception of the following. I received a new camera for my birthday and have been trying it out. This is a preview for an upcoming post for a nectarine pie. Please hold me to it so I finish the new recipe before summer is over!

Carmen Miranda nectarines

And if that weren’t enough yumminess for one day, we sampled nearly half the menu at the soft opening of a new restaurant. Urban Plates is a smallish chain with nine locations throughout California. They focus on “from scratch” salads, braises, pastries and more, and highlight quality organic and natural ingredients. If you have been reading my posts, you know that’s how we like to cook and eat! See the current menu here.

Urban Plates La Jolla

From left to right: the urban kid plate with grilled free range chicken, roasted Brussels sprouts with turkey bacon, and chargrilled focaccia, served with organic apple juice. Seasonal replenisher (a watermelon and mint agua fresca.) The grilled steak salad with pineapple-mango salsa, jicama, mint, coconut roasted cashews, and a mild jalapeno lime dressing. Corn and poblano soup. Moroccan chicken braise (free range chicken slow cooked with squash, onions, preserved lemon, olives, turmeric, paprika, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, parsley, cilantro) with brown rice. Seasonal green drink. And finished with a chocolate dipped macaroon and a slice of famous mango tart. It was all delicious!

Urban Plates Mango Tart

Ah the famous mango tart! This dessert is what started it all… My co-worker was raving about the tart one night and then brought one in for us to share. The fresh mango is perfectly ripe and painstakingly shaped into flower petals. The cookie crust is crisp and not too sweet and the rum cream filling subtle. Perfection! My dad would’ve loved this dessert. I snapped the above pic and posted it on Instagram. I then started following @urbanplates and learned they are in the process of opening a new restaurant location in San Diego. Their community manager invited us to the soft opening. That’s the best of social media, right there! I almost forgot to add, all of the money collected at the opening went to St. Vincent de Paul’s. I used to work at the shelter for four years and was happy to have our money go towards the homeless and hungry after such feasting.

Melissa D'Arabian at Urban Plates La Jolla

As we enjoyed our lunch, I noticed that the woman next to us, eating with her daughters, looked awfully familiar. Turns out it was cooking show host Melissa D’Arabian. She comes across on TV as genuine and friendly, and she is even nicer in person. We met three of her four daughters, and learned her daughter Charlotte loves cooking with her. Little Bird, who has been cooking since before she could walk. See this post of her first recipe here. For more cuteness, see this short video of Little Bird at age 3. She also LOVES watching other kids cooking. We have already seen some of Charlotte’s videos, like this one.

Urban Plates La Jolla

We will be back to Urban Plates, and I will order the refreshing steak salad again. As for last Sunday, our feasting did not stop there. We ate very well at our potluck with good friends. I left my phone/camera in the backpack and enjoyed the company. You’ll have to take my word that the food was all delicious, homemade with love and authentic. Arroz con pollo from a Cuban, homemade tabouli, Caprese, Asian grilled drumsticks, cornbread and potato salad, various tequilas, wine, cheese, cake….  Never stop, my friends! Keep eating and enjoying life.

Please enjoy, too!

Devil’s Dozen Donut Shop

2001 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
619-780-0914
www.devils-dozen.com

Urban Plates La Jolla

(Opened yesterday)

8707 Villa La Jolla Dr
San Diego, CA 92037
858-263-0818
urbanplates.com/la-jolla/

Specialty Produce

1929 Hancock St., Suite 150
San Diego, CA 92110
800-221-9730
www.specialtyproduce.com

Vermouth Bianco and Cocktail Grapefruit

While living a year in Spain, I took a weekend trip to Paris, and stayed with friends, two sisters. Before dinner in their parents home, they served me a simple cocktail of sweet white vermouth, over ice, with a twist of lemon peel. “Vermouth Bianco” is a fortified wine, infused with botanicals and aromatics, like vanilla. I’ve been on the lookout for it ever since.

vermouth bianco and grapefruit

Vermouth Bianco can be harder to find in the states, but as slightly bitter, drinkable cocktails are in fashion, it is making a resurgence. In San Diego, the BevMo on Rosecrans carries several brands, but other BevMos in Southern California do not. (I’ve looked!) The also have a few online. If you know of other places in San Diego that carry Vermouth Bianco or Vermouth Blanc (the Italian and French versions, respectively), please let me know!

vermouth bianco and grapefruit

I really enjoy some of the “finer” brands, like Carpano, Contratto and Dolin, but for the money, Martini & Rossi Bianco Vermouth, is quite drinkable. At less than half the price of the other brands, it has a great balance of bitter and sweet, botanicals and vanilla, and is lovely straight up on it’s own. All Biancos should definitely be served well chilled.

vermouth bianco

Above photo credit: Punch

I was inspired by the super sweet “Cocktail Grapefruit” at Specialty Produce right now to riff on the classic aperitif of my French friends. This “cocktail” recipe is really just chilled Vermouth Bianco on the rocks with a thick wedge of grapefruit. You can give a slight squeeze to add a smidge of juice. Be sure to select an organic or pesticide-free grapefruit so you can add the peel, too. The citrus and bitterness of the grapefruit peel pairs so well with the aromatics of the Vermouth Bianco. The quality of your fruit will make a difference.

Vermouth Bianco and Cocktail Grapefruit

The Cocktail Grapefruit at Specialty Produce are currently from the local Koral’s Tropical Fruit Farm, and the flesh has ranged in color from pink to the orange above. Most are pretty seedy, but otherwise easy to snack on, with relatively thin membranes. All have been super juicy and extremely sweet, and a little smaller than other grapefruit. Usually I cut one grapefruit up, put one slice in my cup, and the Baby Birds devour the rest of the slices in a matter of seconds.

When you have such good quality ingredients, keep the recipe simple to highlight their taste and freshness. Give it a shot!

Prepkitchen Little Italy: A Restaurant Week Preview

Happy January friends! We may be passed the decadence of the holidays but we are still eating very well. Last night Papa Bird and I went down to Little Italy to the “partying step-child” of Prepkitchen locations.

prosciutto wrapped trout with carrots and lentils

I am collaborating with San Diego Restaurant Week (SDRW) to celebrate their 12th year of discounted fine dining and preview one of their 180 restaurants. You may know I’m a fan of seasonal, farm-to-table fine dining, so when they matched me with Prepkitchen Little Italy, I was thrilled. The Prepkitchen concept started with the La Jolla location as a spot “for chefs by chefs.” They serve seasonal comfort food, often Mediterranean-inspired. As it has expanded, each location has its own character, and Little Italy is known for being fun and in the center of nightlife.

Prepkitchen Little Italy

For those that have been living under a rock, San Diego Restaurant Week is when an impressive list of restaurants offer prix-fixe meals for a steal. A three-course dinner is $20, $30, $40 or $50 per person, and lunch (two-courses) is only $10, $15 or $20 per person. For reference, my entrée (the trout pictured above), would normally cost $28.50, so for $30 for the SDRW dinner at Prepkitchen, an appetizer and dessert are basically free.

San Diego Restaurant Week 2016

And let’s talk about appetizers. Prepkitchen is a particularly fun choice for Restaurant Week. They don’t offer a traditional prix-fixe meal with a few options for each course. They throw the whole menu open and let you pick from anything they are making that night. My pick of the appetizers was the Ahi Tartare (normally $14.50; GF) with a smoked onion puree, pickled shallots and crispy sunchokes. I was really hoping there would be some kind of crudo or sashimi dish available. I personally believe that all of the restaurants in the Whisknladle group (Prepkitchen, Catania and Whisknladle) do crudos exceptionally well. The General Manager (a sweet and friendly guy named Darin) told me they would keep one on the menu for SDRW. The menu changes nightly and the fish may change with the catch, but the basic idea will stay the same.

a wintery ahi tartare

The Ahi Tartare was definitely the most interesting dish we tried. Wintery, rooted and warming, yet refreshing at the same time. Papa Bird said tasting the sunchoke chip with the smoked onion purée reminded him of BBQ potato chips (in a good way.) The sunchokes certainly had the crunch of a perfect potato chip. The dish was light but substantial, and garnered an “I’d definitely eat it again.”

burrata, prosciutto, butternut squash mostarda, fried sage

I had checked out a sample menu before going down and was hoping the Burrata and Butternut Squash Mostarda would be there. It was! And should stay on through the season. Most of the squash is grown by the group at Milagro Vineyards. I wrote more about their farm2table efforts here. Mostarda is sort of like a jam or preserve with fresh mustard seeds. With quality ingredients, it was a classic combo: sweet and creamy from the burrata, with the salty prosciutto and crunchy pumpkin seeds and crostini. Satisfying. Probably the best part was the fried sage, perfectly brittle and crisp. (Normally $16.50 and GF without the crostini.)

Prepkitchen Little Italy January Menu

The menu changes every night, so I can’t promise every item will be there. In general, it will be similar, but may feature a different fish or cut of meat, for example. For entrees, Papa Bird chose the Fusilli Bolognese, with Beef, Pork, Rosemary and a ton of Parmigiano-Regiano (normally $20.50.) He was a trooper with my obnoxious photo taking, so I let him have one dish without stealing its soul. The GM was confident it would be on the menu throughout Restaurant Week and we all recommend it. The pasta was al dente, the proportions spot on. Cheesy and filling, it could easily have been shared.

Likewise, the Prosciutto-Wrapped Trout (pictured at top, GF) should be available throughout the week. For a humble fish, this was hands down my favorite dish of the night, with a sliver of lemon (rind and all) tucked into the fish. It rested above a bed of super flavorful lentils and shared its cast-iron tub with the cutest, sweetest agave-glazed carrots.  Topped with pickled mustard seeds and a liberal sprinkle of fresh parsley, I don’t think it even needed the prosciutto to be full of rich umami. Those carrots were super fresh and were sourced by Specialty Produce, who provide most of the restaurant’s fruit and vegetables. We chatted the server about the fun of going down to the Specialty Produce warehouse to shop as a home cook.

Other dishes that are popular include the Bacon Wrapped DatesBeef TartareMary’s Pan Roasted Chicken, and the Burger. Go! And please tell me what you order so I can vicariously eat more.

Prepkitchen Little Italy Drink Menu

Drinks are not included in the $20 lunch or $30 dinner, but are highly recommended. (You will be saving so much on the food, you will be able to afford an extra drink or two.) PKLI is known for their cocktails and eclectic wines and beers. My favorite was the Heart of Darkness with Tequila, Aperol, Lemon and Pomegranate Shrub. It was balanced, refreshing and very drinkable, as was the Comfort Blanket with Orange-Tea Infused Bourbon, Vanilla, Citrus and Angostura Bitters. Other drinks I’ve enjoyed there include the Colonel Jerry and Horse & Buggy. The beers and wine are thoughtfully chosen and unexpected. While they emphasize local makers, it is definitely not the same lineup as most restaurants around town.

budino

One of the best parts of Restaurant Week is that even though you are too stuffed for dessert, oh well, you have to get it. The Warm Chocolate Budino is a year-round staple on the menu because, chocolate. It is a chocolate pudding cake served in a wide mouthed mason jar, offering warm comfort with a zingy espresso gelato (house-made), whipped cream and little chocolate crunchies. I got half way through it before I felt guilty for not sharing it with our sweet-obsessed daughters.

Prepkitchen Little Italy Info

  • Get a reservation if you are thinking about going during Restaurant Week!
  • 1660 INDIA ST SECOND FLOOR, SAN DIEGO, 92101
  • 619-398-8383
  • prepkitchenlittleitaly.com
  • If you post a picture of any SDRW meal on social media, use #Food4Kids and tag the restaurant and Sysco will donate $1 to hungry children!

 

Green Eggs and Ham

“That’s not how my school made green eggs and ham,” Little Bird was quick to point out. No, probably not.

We had ham leftover from Thanksgiving. And the basil she planted from seeds from a Mother’s Day fundraiser at Green Acre is still going strong, so we made a hand-chopped pesto and served it over fresh eggs and the leftover ham.

green eggs and ham

Little Bird was happy to cut some of her basil.

cutting the basil she planted from seed

Our youngest hens have just started laying.

backyard eggs

I wanted to try hand-chopping the pesto. I saw someone in Italy do that once on a show several years ago. I used a curved knife and chopped the dry ingredients first and then stirred in the olive oil. The ingredients were the same as from my pesto recipe here.

hand-chopped pesto

To make a more complete dinner, we ended up eating all of this over spaghetti. And we added avocado, because, well, we eat avocado at almost every meal!

Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Ponzu

Fresh shishito peppers are in season. We received some in our most recent Farmers’ Market Box from Specialty Produce.* Shishito peppers are a small, mild pepper, very similar to a Padron pepper. Approximately every 1 in 10 is spicy, which makes eating them like a fun, culinary version of Russian roulette. When I lived in Spain, one of my most favorite tapas was pimientos de Padrón, in which the peppers were simply cooked with salt and pepper.

Fresh Shishito Peppers are in Season

When my sister and her family came down to help celebrate our Little Birds’ birthdays, we cooked up a batch. We were loosely inspired by the Shishito peppers at Mahe in Seal Beach, which are tempura fried and covered in a ponzu sauce with bonito flakes. We just seared ours in a hot pan instead of tempura battering them. Since we also ordered pomegranates from Specialty Produce, I let pomegranate take center stage in my ponzu. And to mimic the fishy hint from the bonito flakes we added fish sauce into our version of ponzu. Well they turned out great, so I picked up another batch of Shishitos from Melissa’s Produce at Sprouts and made it again.

Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Ponzu

Don’t you love the look of our picnic table (above)? Papa Bird got the matte black look by charing (burning) the wood in the Japanese tradition of Shou Sugi Ban. It also preserves it from the elements. 

Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Ponzu Recipe

Notes: 1. I made this once in a wok and once in a large frying pan, and I liked the frying pan better because I could get all of the peppers to fit in it, which made it easier to blister them evenly. You could also use cast iron or broil them. You want to cook them quickly on high heat so that they blister. If they are in the pan too long they’ll steam and get mushy. 2. I used avocado oil because it is a neutral tasting oil that is suitable for high heat. (It’s also good for you!) You could use grapeseed oil or another vegetable oil. 3. The peppers cook very quickly (just a few minutes) so have the sauce and other elements ready to go before you start them.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Ponzu
 
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Asian Fusion
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Shishito Peppers are blistered in a wok or pan, and tossed with a pomegranate ponzu made with pomegranate concentrate, soy, fish sauce and Go-Chu-Jang.
Ingredients
  • Shishito Peppers or Padron Peppers
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate concentrate
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Go-Chu-Jang
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil (or other light, neutral vegetable oil)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (can substitute white vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil (or other neutral vegetable oil)
  • pomegranate arils for garnish
Instructions
  1. Rinse and dry peppers, discarding any that no longer appear fresh.
  2. Mix the pomegranate concentrate, soy sauce, fish sauce, gochujang, avocado oil and vinegar together in a small mixing bowl. Taste and adjust according to your preference. Set aside.
  3. Prepare the pomegranate arils by pulling them out of a fresh pomegranate and set aside.
  4. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a medium high to high pan or wok. When it is hot add the peppers. You want them to cook quickly and hotly, so that they blister on the outside. You don't want them to steam, or sit too long. Once the peppers are cooked, pour about half the sauce to all of it (depending on how sting or saucy you like it) over the peppers and very briefly (30 seconds) continuing cooking.
  5. Remove from the heat, garnish with the pomegranate arils and serve immediately.

*Specialty Produce is the leading supplier of fresh produce to San Diego’s top restaurants. They also let retail shoppers (aka normal home cooks like me) buy from the warehouse and feature local farms in a weekly Farmers’ Market Box. If you use the group code BABYBIRD when signing up for a Specialty Produce Farmers’ Market Box account here, 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 I not so secretly want to be invited to more of their events, so letting them know I sent you by using the code is very much appreciated!