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Return visit to SD - Need help prioritizing

After 14 lovely years in San Diego, I moved to the Midwest to attend medical school. It's been an exhausting first semester and I'm coming home for about a week. I left this July and I've eaten my way through town, so my question is: If you were returning to SD, where would you re-visit? How would you rank them? Any new places to try? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Dec 05, 2013
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Eclairs in SD?

Special occasion and the hubby loves eclairs. Anyone have a favorite place in SD for them? I don't see them around much, so figured I'd ask.

Aug 01, 2012
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Central Coast- Need help with wineries... which ones am I missing out on?

Hey all... I visit the Central Coast fairly often and try to visit as many new-to-me wineries possible. At this point, I've hit most of the ones I've wanted to visit and need some fresh entries on the must-visit list. Or perhaps a revisit if any changes have occurred recently. Or an edit to my current must-visit list. Can y'all help? Thanks! Please see the list below.

Wineries Visited:

Adelaida
Pipestone
Denner
Norman
Halter Ranch
Tablas Creek
Justin
Opolo
Thacher
Calcareous
Minassian-Young
Villa Creek
Linne Colado
Eagle Castle
Lone Madrone
Eberle
Chumeia
J. Lohr
Cayucos Cellars
Harmony Cellars

On the must-visit list:

Red Soles
Cerro Prieto
Fratelli Perata
Turley (I've been, but was DD and didn't really taste)
Chronic
Villacana
Alta Colina

Dec 27, 2011
geekyfoodie in California

Yu Me Ya Sake House (Hillcrest)

Woohoo! Encinitas is a haul for me (shedding a tear for my beloved Elizabethan Desserts) and I've wanted to go to Yu Me Ya for a while. Hope it's the same people!

Feb 25, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Fresh Hake or Cod?

Point Loma Seafoods might have it... I also tried a cod-like fish from there that was caught in Baja waters. For the life of me, I can't remember the name of it. Used it in paella and it was fabulous.

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Point Loma Seafoods
2805 Emerson St, San Diego, CA 92106

Feb 25, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Casual Downtown Reccomendation

The two above, plus Neighborhood for burgers and local beer.

Feb 22, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Dinner suggestion for a rainy night

I didn't say Cafe Chloe was quiet. It has a more intimate ambiance than Cucina Urbana. It is quieter, though... I've been at CU and felt like I had to shout across the table.

Feb 18, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Dinner suggestion for a rainy night

Hm... that's a tough one. I haven't been to El Vitral, so I can't say anything about that one. Both CC and CU are going to be busy. I'd actually pick Cafe Chloe because it's such a cozy and intimate setting. It's rainy, you have a babysitter, and that French bistro vibe is perfect for such a night out. CU is crazy-loud and a place I like to go with a bunch of friends (actually going this Sunday with friends)... if you pick CU though, definitely check for reservations. There might not be any left at this point.

Feb 18, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Sprinkles Cupcakes in UTC--does it live up to the hype?

An errand brought me to the area and, despite having lots of work to do, I had to see what the fuss was about.

The line wasn't very long... I estimate roughly 15-20 transactions in front of me. Yet, it moved at a snail's pace because the bottleneck was at the lone cashier. No matter how fast she moved, there was no beating the steady stream of orders, any extras customers wanted (drinks, for example), or people who infuriatingly thought that monopolizing the cashier's time was their right when there's a line behind them. ;)

I waited 30 minutes (11:15-11:45am) this morning. The demographic today was overwhelmingly mothers out with their kids. Everyone else seemed to be a smattering of professionals working in the area (or at least I presume that from the shirt/tie) and students. The clientele was also 99.9% female.

Red velvet (without the Red Hot frosting) was ok. Texture was great, but it was overwhelmingly chocolaty and I like my red velvets with a hint of cocoa and the tartness only buttermilk can give. I think Elizabethan Desserts, Influx, and The Daily Scoop do the red velvet cupcake better.

Lemon Coconut is a total winner and I don't normally like coconut. Beautiful lemon frosting on top of a moist vanilla cupcake and topped with shredded coconut. The only thing I'd change is to toast the coconut lightly.

I have a black and white (chocolate cupcake with white frosting) and a vanilla and chocolate (yellow cake with chocolate frosting) left. I wanted to try a peanut butter cupcake, but they didn't have them today.

All in all, was it worth the wait? Not really. Don't get me wrong... it wasn't bad. I think I just fall solidly into the camp of "why am I waiting for this?" As mentioned above, they do run on the too-sweet side. Not a problem for me, but I recently tried Pubcakes (local business featuring cupcakes made with SD's craft brews) and the complex flavor combos have been unforgettable. I feel like the cupcakes I bought today were great, but nothing unique and likely something I can duplicate at home.

I will return for a PB cupcake, though, and perhaps try to time my visit so that there's no line. Do I have to show up 5 minutes before it opens? :P

Feb 18, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Short Visit (Unfortunately!)

Feb 17, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Short Visit (Unfortunately!)

Yeah, I haven't been following the news that closely... last I saw, Ipsit (I think it was Ipsit) had mentioned the brick-and-mortar place was going up, but wasn't open yet. That's why I mentioned that Excel should look up the CC threads. Thanks for the links.

Feb 17, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Short Visit (Unfortunately!)

Farmers' markets are really great places here. Little Italy and Hillcrest are two of the best in the area, methinks.

Feb 17, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Short Visit (Unfortunately!)

Sorry for the assumption there, Excel! When you said that you'd probably skip the Chinese/dumpling places, I just went, "Of course, why wouldn't they?"

With that said, you're here for a short time and, unless you have a very short must-eat list, there are going to be choices made. I stand by my rec that, in the same situation, I'd probably forgo Asian. That's not a dis to San Diego, it's just that you have four meals not including breakfast. If you want any kind of Asian, however, here's a quick rundown:

Japanese- Cgfan's recs hit all of the favorites in the area. And if you go to Kaito for lunch, drop by Elizabethan Desserts (they're not open late enough if you go for dinner).

Vietnamese- We do Vietnamese pretty well here, so if you don't want more Mexican for lunch, then I'd go to the City Heights area (there are some good places in the Mira Mesa area, too) for Viet "deli" style items: egg rolls, sandwiches, banh beo (steamed tapioca patties), and a lot of other specialties.

Chinese- it's passable here, but the whole "You're from Vancouver!" really applies with Chinese food. It's enough to relieve cravings, but nothing to write home about.

Indian- Copper Chimney truck is a CH favorite and it's a great stop. The truck's a little hard to find and there's word that Allen is opening a brick-and-mortar location. There's a thread here on the place, so take a look there. Punjabi Tandoor is a nice stop for lunch, but it's in a random location (Miramar area) and may not be worth your time to drive there.

Korean- I like Dae Jang Keum in the Kearny Mesa area... they use real charcoal for their BBQ and the meats' quality is pretty good. Buga is another favorite, although I'm not a fan. Not an expert on Korean food, but from what I hear, it's kind of like Chinese here. Passable and can be good, but not necessarily a cuisine that's a must-eat in this neck of the woods.

Filipino- We have a big community here and there's plenty of good food, but I don't know much about it and where the best places are, so someone else should jump in on this front.

If you're up for anything, then I'll throw in Pizzeria Bruno as a place to try. I know it was mentioned upthread that pizza may not be a great rec, but whatever... the pizza's pretty spectacular there. Venissimo is a great cheese shop to stop by if you want a snack. And really, I don't think one will tire of Mexican in two days... tacos one day, guisados the next, and there's still more to be had.

It also depends on what you plan on doing while you're here. I know you said you'd travel to good food, but driving can suck up a lot of your time. Areas like North Park hit a lot of things at once... great beer, farm-to-table, pizza, American comfort food, and Mexican. We also have a sizable Ethiopian community and the Ethiopian food's pretty good (although I really have no basis for "good" or "authentic"... it just tastes great to me) here.

Josh mentioned Wine Vault and Bistro upthread and I really, really love that place. If you like fine-dining at not-fine-dining prices, that's a place to consider. I rec'd Urban Solace and, if you're here Sunday morning, their Bluegrass Brunch with live music is awesome.

Good luck! You're certainly not lacking options.

Feb 17, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Short Visit (Unfortunately!)

Yeah, I wasn't a huge fan of the pizza at CU, but I've had a lot of great meals there. Like I said, not inventive. I'd actually rec Bruno to the OP, but like Cstr said, good pizza isn't exactly unique. Bruno's one of my favorite places in SD and, at least to me, good pizza isn't something I've had regularly.

Feb 16, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Short Visit (Unfortunately!)

On that note, I'm a little puzzled as to why you didn't just recommend it to begin with? Why wait until it was brought up?

Feb 16, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Short Visit (Unfortunately!)

Like I said, I skipped Japanese in Vancouver because I ran out of meals and we have a good scene here. If the OP wants to jump in about that, they should.

You guys miss my original point... I made my recommendations based on what the OP said. They're from Vancouver, they have two days, they want to try things that are based on San Diego's strengths. I recently visited Vancouver and I was absolutely blown away by the quality and diversity of the Asian food there... and I'm a San Gabriel Valley native, so I grew up with a very extensive expat Asian food scene. That is my perspective.

If y'all think Kaito (or any other Asian place) should be a priority for Excel, then just say so. My $.02 is just that, an opinion.

Feb 16, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Empirehouse Urban Palate

Isn't that where The Better Half was?

Feb 16, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Short Visit (Unfortunately!)

But would you travel somewhere to eat something that you can get at home? The OP wanted to know what San Diego does best. They have two days. Vancouver has some of the best expat Asian food on the continent, if not the planet... so they do have it better. Vancouver has good sushi, an active izakaya scene, and places for good ramen. We don't have to apologize for the Japanese and Vietnamese offerings in San Diego, but I wouldn't steer a time-strapped Vancouver native to them. With six meals to consider and two being breakfast, I don't think they need to try our Asian offerings and based my recs on that.

On a side note, I was in Vancouver 6 months ago and was asking for beer recs. Coming from a big beer town, I like trying local brews when I travel. The Vancouver 'Hounds (amazing bunch, btw) quickly convinced me that I had better things to spend my short visit on. They were right. And for what it's worth, I ended up cutting an izakaya crawl from my must-eat-Vancouver list... I knew I could get good Japanese here.

Visiting Kaito is up to the OP, of course, but given their specific situation, I feel they have other options.

Feb 16, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Short Visit (Unfortunately!)

On the dessert front, I'm going to say that there is nothing you can find at either of the EDs that you can't find at Sweet Obsessions in Vancouver. So, if you're walking around Balboa Park and want a hot drink and a sweet snack, then visit Extraordinary Desserts. If you're driving up the coast, then stop by Elizabethan Desserts. Both great stops, but if I was in town for that short of a time, would I travel specifically to either place? No.

I'll throw my vote in for Aqui es Texcoco. Definitely skip Chinese and Japanese here... you have it WAY better at home. BLAH's a great rec and I'll toss in a non-food beer rec: Toronado. Divey little bar that's a great stop after a run at SC/MG. Great selection of beer.

I wouldn't go to the Fish Market... again, that type of food's way better in Van. However, I'd actually recommend Cucina Urbana for lunch. It's an example of what San Diego does well, which is an American restaurant with good food and fun ambiance. The dishes are tasty, but nothing outrageously inventive. It'll be fun to kick back with a glass of wine and enjoy the atmosphere. Unfortunately, you'd have to be here Tues-Fri for them to be open for lunch. Urban Solace is another good lunch stop on the same vein as Cucina Urbana and they're open all week for lunch.

Feb 16, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Pandan (screwpine) leaves in SD

If you go to A Chau (Vietnamese Deli) in City Heights, there's a market in the same strip mall. The market looks awful from the outside, but it has an amazing and super-fresh herb selection. In general, it's well-stocked and I think they stock the local restaurants, so the turnover's pretty high. Pandan is often found frozen in So Cal, so check both the produce and freezer sections.

Feb 15, 2011
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Out of Towner Recommendations please

Rent a car for sure.

We rock craft beer, so tastings at various breweries would be fun. Bars like Toronado, Small Bar, and Hamilton's feature a lot of local brews. Beer would be a great gastrogift, although it'll be a pain to transport. We don't have markets like Reading Terminal and San Diego doesn't exactly have any signature dishes that are easy to transport. So, beer might actually be one of your better bets.

Check out the farmers markets at Little Italy and Hillcrest for local producers of various goodies. San Diego also does Vietnamese food pretty well... I didn't recall Philly having a great Viet food scene. This thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/742499 has some great recs.

Dec 21, 2010
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Need help deciding on a wedding caterer in San Diego

I started this thread (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6508...) after Mr. Geeky and I tied the knot last year. We went with The French Gourmet and they did a truly spectacular job. We had a tasting at Continental and I just remember it being really bad. The food was poorly prepared and the catering rep was inept. At Peartree, Stefanie (if she's still with them) is amazing, although we didn't do a tasting with them. She's really nice and helpful and they've catered some work events for Mr. Geeky. He thought the food was pretty good.

Don't know anything about Chile & Co or Indulge With Style.

Good luck and congrats!

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French Gourmet
960 Turquoise St, San Diego, CA 92109

Dec 21, 2010
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Vietnamese in San Diego

Just to add to my A Chau rec... turns out their delicious chao tom comes in a banh mi, which makes one helluva sandwich. Just in case anyone needs a change in their usual banh mi selection.

Dec 15, 2010
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Aperitivo

If you're unwilling to risk a major investment on Apertivo, there are Restaurant.com certificates available right now. $25 for $10 (look for a discount code and it'll cost much less) for a minimum $35 purchase.

We went last week and it had improved a bit from the last meal we had at the 30th St. location (totally agree with MrK's take on its last year). Two pastas were decently prepared, with the Afumigato being the better of the two. It's tossed with bits of smoked mozzarella, sweet onion, and prosciutto. The other was made with a Gorgonzola cream sauce and pecans, was pretty rich. Not bad, though. Their antipasto platter was really uninspired, with everything tasting bland. The chicken marsala was really dry with a flavorless sauce, which is sad, because I remember an amazing marsala sauce on squid steaks once upon a time at the old location. Eggplant parm was pretty good.

My major complaint is that they really need to improve their baked goods. The bread (wheat breadsticks and foccacia) was poorly made. I had the key lime pie and it tasted ok, but the execution was piss-poor. You'd have to see it to know what I mean, but the crust and filling were just sloppy.

Plates ran from $4-$10 and the two of us ran a tab of $52 (that's without the certificate) for the antipasti, two pastas, eggplant parm, chicken marsala, key lime pie, and beer/wine. In the end, it wasn't a bad meal. If I may say so, however, I could probably make a similar meal at home with better bread and dessert, although it'll cost me a lot in time. On the other hand, Apertivo's concept with the small-plates and booze, works really well for hanging out with friends. I'd like to see their quality and execution improve, but I've also had a lot of good memories with good friends at the old location, so I'm rooting for the new location to succeed.

Dec 15, 2010
geekyfoodie in San Diego

San Diego Beer Week 2010

Add my vote for Victory at Sea.

Unfortunately, SDBW isn't very work-friendly (for me, at least)... can't go out drinking every night and expect to be functional all week. And what was up with Stone's rare beer breakfast? Friday morning? Damn near took the day off just to attend.

Definitely look forward to hearing what other 'Hounds thought. Toronado still has some BW beers around, so they're worth a stop.

Nov 18, 2010
geekyfoodie in San Diego

List of Shops in San Diego to buy cooking ingredients

Your best bet, I think, would be the Vietnamese markets in Linda Vista and City Heights. There's Minh Hoa Supermarket on El Cajon Blvd. in City Heights... it's small, but usually has what I need. There's the one in Linda Vista right by Yum Cha Cafe and the name escapes me.

If you're looking for holy basil, I believe KirkK has found it somewhere in the Euclid area (check his mmm-yoso blog), but it's one of the harder-to-find Thai herbs.

Nov 12, 2010
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Food packaging in SD- Boxes, bags, jars

Hey all... with the holidays coming up, I'd like to start collecting packaging items for food gifts. Jars for pates and jams (I love the glass ones with the attached flip-top lid), boxes and small bags for cookies, cake boxes, etc.

Any good places with a decent selection?

I've found some of these items at Cost Plus (jars), Smart and Final (bags tend to be too big or really ugly), and Michaels (expensive). Any packaging or wholesale restaurant supply store that carries these items would be invaluable. Thanks!

Nov 12, 2010
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Vietnamese in San Diego

Thanks for the Pho Convoy rec, cgfan! I haven't been in ages, but went a few days ago for the first time in year. Great bowl of pho ca vien (fish broth, fish balls, fish cake, and rice noodles) and their nem nuong cuon is delicious. Most places like to compress the nem nuong (grilled pork meatballs) into an unidentifiable loaf, but Pho Convoy keeps theirs as proper meatballs and they had a nice char to them. The rolls were properly wrapped with sprigs of Chinese chive and the dipping sauce was decent.

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Pho Convoy
4647 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

Nov 08, 2010
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Vietnamese in San Diego

A Chau on ECB

Cha gio (egg rolls) and chao tom (grilled ground shrimp with sugar cane)

Thanh Son on ECB

All manner of Viet snacks: banh cuon (rice noodle rolls), banh it (sticky rice dumplings with shrimp/pork filling), and banh beo (steamed rice patties topped with dried shrimp, mung bean, and scallions). They also do a decent braised pork belly with hard-boiled eggs.

Minh Ky on ECB

Mi (egg noodle) dishes. They have an ok roast duck.

Phuong Trang on Convoy

Com tam (broken rice) and the beef wrapped in caul fat

Mien Trung in Linda Vista

Bun bo hue (although I haven't been in a long while)

Sorrento European Bakery in Mira Mesa

Pate chaud (the flaky puff pastry buns with a pork meatball in the middle)

Pho Viet Cali in Mira Mesa

Nem nuong cuon (grilled pork spring rolls)... theirs have a crunchy rolled-up-fried egg roll skin in the middle, which is wonderful. Great dipping sauce.

Bolsa in Mira Mesa

Pho ga

My latest obsession is bun mang vit (duck noodle soup with bamboo shoots) and KirkK has some good leads on a decent bowl. Haven't had time to explore those leads, though.

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Phuong Trang Restaurant
4170 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

Bolsa Restaurant
9225 Mira Mesa Blvd Ste 118, San Diego, CA 92126

Mien Trung Restaurant
7530 Mesa College Dr Ste A, San Diego, CA 92111

Oct 26, 2010
geekyfoodie in San Diego

Manna Korean BBQ coming to San Diego?

Oooh, AYCE panchan bar. If it's the same Manna, then I'm in.

Oct 05, 2010
geekyfoodie in San Diego