Tag Archives: San Diego

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

Getting My Color Back (Amazing Lash Feature)

The last time I went to the zoo, I overheard a tour guide talk about the flamingos. Everyone knows they are pink because of their food and has heard, “You may notice the babies aren’t bright pink yet because they haven’t had the time to develop their color.” drained flamingo
But this time I heard something new. She said that the mothers of young birds lose their bright color, too. They give so much of their energy to raising their babies they literally fade to pale pink or white. Raise your hand if you can relate!

So… funny thing: you may not know this about me, but there was a time I was on exhibit at the San Diego Zoo.livingfountain I was actually right across from the flamingos, near the entrance, and heard the speech of the tour guides several times a day. I downplay it, but as a classical statue that came to life as a living water fountain, there was a beauty and glamour I now miss. I got to travel internationally as a performer, but perfected the show at the zoo.

And now, if I’m at the zoo, I’m just another mom in running shoes, juggling two small kids. No more red velvet curtain and dramatic music to mark my entrance.

But guess what? I’m starting to get my color back! The good news for flamingo parents is that they gain this color back eventually as the chicks become independent and eat on their own.* And a friend and I were invited to try out lash extensions at Amazing Lash in Carmel Valley. To be honest, she never made it as her son ended up sick, and well, priorities…

Lash extensions are semi-permanent lashes that are individually glued to your natural lashes. They last a few weeks and fall off as your lashes naturally fall out. I have stick straight lashes that point down and had always wondered about extensions.

before

I think they came out pretty. What do you think? In the photo below I am not wearing any eye makeup at all. “I woke up like this,” the ads boast.

after lash extensions

I also wanted to show a comparison of lash extensions to what I look like with eye makeup. I thought that would be a more telling comparison. So in the next image, I’m wearing two-coats of mascara and eyeliner, and mechanically curled my lashes.

before with makeup

Below, again, I didn’t put on any eye makeup. That’s how they look! (And that’s a crappy selfie with a cell phone. I wish I had a real photographer and real camera to show them off.)

Abby - Baby Birds Farm

The studio in Carmel Valley is new, and is very clean and upscale. I learned that all of the lash artists are either licensed estheticians or licensed cosmetologist, but that they have to be licensed. They have four different styles to choose from. I went with the “natural” and they get more dramatic from there. I’m really happy with them because they look better than any applied eye makeup, yet it’s not too much to wear to work with no makeup. They feel light and nothing like fake eyelashes.

Amazing Lash Carmel Valley

The staff was friendly and my stylist was a sweetheart. I actually had an issue with one of my natural lashes falling into my eye under the weight of the extension. It was curling into my eye, poking me, and I couldn’t remove it without ripping out some adhesive. I called the shop the next morning when I realized what was going on, and they got me in instantly. The stylist fixed me up, and there was no charge. Disclaimer: I received the initial lash application free as part of a blogger outreach program. However, the experience I’m sharing, and the before and after photos are all mine.

About Amazing Lash

Amazing Lash Studios are retail salons that apply semi-permanent eyelash extensions with a proprietary, patented process to your own lashes, replicating the curve and size of natural lashes. It is patented application process that enables our highly trained staff of licensed estheticians to complete the service in a fraction of the time required at traditional outlets. Currently there are two locations in San Diego, Carmel Valley and Mission Valley.

*Flamingo reference and flamingo image credit

Picking Perfect Potatoes

Hanukkah started last Sunday. We had everything we needed for latkes, except for potatoes. In years past, we used Japanese sweet potatoes from our backyard for latkes, but this year’s potato harvest was slim. We could’ve run to any grocery store, but I thought it might be more fun to explore the Specialty Produce warehouse with the Little Birds. I figured we would find more potato varieties there, or at least something fresh and local.

hunting for potatoes at Specialty Produce

Specialty Produce is known for supplying the majority of the good restaurants in San Diego with fruits and vegetables. They also let the general public shop, seven days a week. That day it was just us, the most recent winner of MasterChef Claudia Sandoval (not to celebrity name drop or anything), and restaurant buyers in the warehouse. I had picked up Farmers’ Market Boxes there before, but this was our first time shopping the warehouse. After signing a liability release, the Little Birds and I were asked to put on gloves before touching any of the produce. The girls thought this was great. They were already dressed like princesses, so gloves only complemented their outfits.

We explored the organic section and the three large walk-in coolers, including the Farmers Market cooler, which is filled with finds from local farms. Tip: wear layers! It was a warm San Diego December day, and I froze in the cooler with just a sun dress on.

hunting for potatoes at Specialty Produce

Great success! We quickly found organic Russet and sweet potatoes. Diving into the Farmers Market walk-in, we discovered little purple potatoes from the Weiser Family Farms, and “Masquerade” potatoes. I had to look up the Masquerade potatoes on the Specialty Produce App – they are a yellow-fleshed potato, with purple skin, and a lighter gold coloring around the eyes. We also found these pretty potatoes with violet pink lipstick “kisses.” I tried to Google “kiss potatoes,” as the staff called them, but only found a Gene Simmons Mr. Potato Head… My best guess is that they are Klondike Royales.

We also stocked up on fruit, including super sweet, pink-fleshed Cara Cara oranges and crisp Shinko asian pears from Ken’s Top Notch Produce, Fuji apples from Fair Hills Apple Farm, and Pomegranate from Koral’s Tropical Fruit Farm. I kept checking our receipt for a mistake. The medium-sized bag of potatoes (above) and a large bag of fruit was only $12. Try spending only $12 for this quality of produce at a farmer’s market or Whole Foods!

purple potato latkes

We love our latkes! I fried them in avocado oil and served them with homemade applesauce, alongside Tri Tip from Seaside Market (aka Cardiff Crack), donuts and gelt.

For latke-making tips, see last year’s latkes and lox with home-smoked salmon. And for a yummy twist, our Brussels sprouts and sweet potato latkes from two years ago included cumin seeds. Yum!


Free Summer Fun in San Diego

I’m excited to spend extra time off work this summer with my “little birds.” We’ve been enjoying museums and parks, but they can start to add up. So I thought I’d share some of the free activities and fun I’ve found to do in San Diego this summer (2015.)

Free Summer Fun in San Diego.

Photo by Sarah Burvenich, via unsplash

1. Hullabaloo at the Waterfront Park

We caught the first of this series and loved it. If you have a little one and live in San Diego, odds are you have heard Hullabaloo play their fun, infectious “kid-folk.” Little Bird is in groupie status, having seen nearly 20 shows. I love the small intimate shows (see number 2), but nothing beats a summer evening outside in San Diego. Skip the hot midday concerts, and bring a picnic dinner and a blanket. I won’t tell anyone if you have an adult beverage in your thermos.

Remaining dates are July 19, August 30 and September 27. Activities by Kid Ventures start at 5:30 pm, music by Hullabaloo starts at 6:00 pm, and the park is open all day. Go early to let the kids play in the fountains, on the playground equipment and friction hill we call the “North Mountain” at the Waterfront Park.

Hullabaloo at Waterfront by Chiles Photography

Photo by Natalie Chiles Photography, via Hullabaloo

Other free outdoor shows are planned for Solana Beach, Belmont Park and Mission Hills. Check the Hullabaloo calendar for dates and info.

2. Free Music at San Diego Libraries

If you enjoy smaller music shows for kids, nothing is better than catching Hullabaloo at your neighborhood library. Steve, Hullabaloo’s lead vocalist and guitarist, played our library last week. Little Bird told me she most wanted to hear the songs “Little Bird” (no relation) and “Run Bunny Run.”

Watch this video to see my Little Bird flapping her wings to Hullabaloo:

During the smaller shows, shy kids, like mine, have room to bounce between dancing up front and returning back to “home base” (their parents.) Check your local library for their lineup. To catch Hullabaloo, subscribe to their emails, or check their calendar.

3. Summer Reading Prizes from the San Diego Library

Speaking of the library, while we were there we signed up for their summer reading program. The incentives are awesome! As long as your little (or you and your little) read 10 books or for 10 hours, you are guaranteed a full list of free passes and meals. Here is the list for children aged 3-11:

  • Flute/Recorder or Inflatable Guitar
  • San Diego Zoo Pass
  • San Diego Air & Space Museum Pass
  • San Diego Natural History Museum Pass
  • Ruben H. Fleet Science Center Pass
  • Free Kid’s Meal at Chipotle
  • Free Kid’s Meal at Daphne’s
  • Free Kid’s Meal at Wendy’s
  • Free Kid’s Meal at Rubio’s
  • Free Round Table Personal Pizza

Seeing as how it can take 10 books to get to sleep any given night, we are looking forward to returning to some of the museums I didn’t think we could afford. You can sign up online here. The Summer Reading program runs June 15th – August 15th and is completely free. There are also programs for infants/toddlers, teens and adults.

Go enjoy your summer!

What are your favorite free fun things to do during summer in San Diego with kids?

The Power of a Bake Sale: Mama’s Kitchen Pie in the Sky

Mama’s Kitchen is a San Diego charity that provides free meals to adults and children affected by HIV/AIDS and cancer. As I do, they believe FOOD is LOVE. One of their biggest annual fundraisers also happens to be the biggest bake sale on the West Coast and features one of my favorite obsessions: pies! Each professionally baked pie you purchase provides over 8 healthy meals delivered to neighbors in need. This year Mama’s Kitchen delivered their 7 millionth meal. Seven million, can you believe it?

baking pies for mama's pie in the sky bake sale

About Mama’s Kitchen

Mama’s Kitchen started with one woman, cooking for her neighbors. The organization was founded in 1990 when volunteers from the AIDS Assistance Fund discovered that many of their clients were becoming too ill to take care of themselves. They realized that a reliable home meal delivery service was needed to ensure that these individuals would continue to receive nutritious, life-sustaining food. In 2004, Mama’s Pantry was opened to provide HIV/AIDS-positive individuals who are able to prepare meals the opportunity to supplement their nutritional needs. Today, the community-driven organization has expanded its service to San Diegans affected by AIDS or cancer that are vulnerable to hunger. Mama’s Kitchen provides three meals a day, for every day of the year, free of charge, to approximately 350 men, women, and children in San Diego County. Learn more and make a donation at www.mamaskitchen.org.

Pie in the Sky - Mama's kitchen

Pie in the Sky

Mama’s Kitchen’s annual Pie in the Sky bake sale is one of their largest annual fundraisers. All proceeds directly fund thousands of free, hot and nutritious Mama’s Kitchen meals, which help ensure that no one living with AIDS or cancer will go hungry in the San Diego community. Hundreds of volunteers will take to the streets to sell the pies to friends, family and co-workers. Many of San Diego’s top pastry chefs, caterers, and bakeries such as Urban Solace, Sea and Smoke, Sycuan, Sea World, Behind the Scenes Catering and more will donate traditional Thanksgiving pies for this annual Mama’s Pie in the Sky Bake Sale. Pies will be available for pick-up the day before Thanksgiving on Wednesday, Nov. 27 at more than 20 convenient Wells Fargo Bank branch locations throughout San Diego County and at Mama’s Kitchen in City Heights. You can purchase a pie through my personal page, or set one up yourself.

Mama's Kitchen Pumpkin Pie from Twiggs Bakery

Photo credit for above photos: Mama’s Kitchen

If you are interested in picking up a chef-made pie and helping a good cause, the Pie in a Sky bakesale is a win-win. Interested in baking your own pie or live outside of San Diego? You can purchase a pie for a Mama’s client and then try one of these recipes:

Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie

Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie Recipe

real pumpkin pie with maple whipped cream

Real Pumpkin Pie with Maple Whipped Cream

pumpkin pie with spicy pepita brittle

pumpkin pie with spicy pepita brittle thanksgiving dessert recipes