Herb and Eatery

A few of us lucky food bloggers got a chance last weekend to visit Brian Malarkey’s newest venture, Herb & Eatery – an extension, really, of his award-winning restaurant Herb & Wood.

Herb & Eatery is the front of the store and the Herb & Wood dining room is in the back.

img_2047

Herb & Wood has already won a ton of accolades for being the most stylish and sexy new restaurant in town- and now with Herb & Eatery, you can take all of the goodness home with you.

Jars of goodness at Herb & Eatery

Jars of goodness at Herb & Eatery

Herb & Eatery essentially has all of the goodies that make chefs (and humble food bloggers) swoon. Brian Malarkey gave us a sweet tour of the chef’s shop and restaurant before filling us with food.

Brian Malarkey

Almost everything is made in-house. You like the tapenade or the salsa that was part of your (award-winning) dinner at Herb & Wood? Come next door and you can buy a jar of it to take home.

Want some fresh herbs, fresh-baked croissants, imported cheeses, frozen ice cream cookie sandwiches, or even the designer flatware you used? It’s all for sale next door.

View of the pastries from the second floor

View of the pastries from the second floor

Herb & Wood was the first phase of this project; and this awesome shop is phase two. They have already expanded the upstairs area into a lounge for private gatherings; and the adjacent space into an art gallery and private event room.

Art on display in the private event space next door to Herb & Eatery

Art on display in the private event space next door to Herb & Eatery

In addition to a drool-worthy “chef’s shop,” a host of housemade pastries are available, every one of them made around-the-clock by pastry chef extraordinaire Adrian Mendoza.

pastries and kombucha

And don’t forget the house-made kombucha.

pastries

Speaking of croissants, YOU WANT THESE CROISSANTS.

They are made fresh daily (and sell out really fast) with tons of specialty imported butter and they are said to rival the best Parisian café. We enjoyed them plain, stuffed with chocolate, stuffed with meat and cheese, and made into these lovely breakfast sandwiches.

This is the Maple Croissant: filled with maple pork sausage, a fried egg, gruyere cheese, arugula and aioli.

croissant

We also got to sample a few of the baked eggs dishes: Brian was very exited about these … they take a loaf (bread) pan and fill it with scrambled eggs and potato, then bake it, slice it, and cover each slice in one of five different topping combinations.

This is the one with mushrooms, Humboldt goat cheese, herbs, kale, and crème fraiche. It was heavenly.

mushroom baked eggs

And this is the baked egg with tomato, capers, olives, basil pesto and lemon zest:

baked egg with tomato

We weren’t even close to being finished. Next we got to sample a few of the items from the All Day Menu (breakfast is only served from 8-11 a.m.).

One of my favorites was the poke & avocado salad, with kimchi, cilantro, housemade ponzu and mixed greens:

poke

… but I also loved the smoked curry chicken and cashews salad with kale and cilantro.

curry chicken salad

We also sampled some of their amazing sandwiches, like the banh mi with chicken sausage, papaya, and chicken liver pate:

banh mi

… as well as the amazing tuna melt with olive oil-poached albacore tuna, preserved lemons, herbs, capers and white cheddar cheese.

tuna melt

As if that wasn’t enough carbs to put us all into respective food comas, we also got a sample of two of Brian Malarkey’s favorite appetizers: a Marin triple cream brie with seasonal mustard and jelly:

brie

…  plus these beautiful sugar cane Thai chicken skewers:

thai sugar cane chicken skewers

And really amazing root fries with homemade smoked French dressing and yusu aioli:

root fries

Aaaand ice cream cookies …

ice cream cookies

The ice cream cookie flavor blends were perfect: they have chocolate chip cookies with mint chocolate chip ice cream; cranberry oatmeal cookies with vanilla bean (my favorite) and peanut butter cookies with banana ice cream.

I’m sure this won’t come as a surprise given the amazing reputation that Malarkey enjoys in this town, but LITERALLY everything they have is amazingly delicious.

This isn’t one of those places where you might drop in for a breakfast pastry because they have a good baker, but not come for lunch or dinner because other items aren’t as good.  Here, everything is good. You can tell that the chefs and employees there take food quality seriously and want you to experience the best. I’ll definitely be back!

Advertisements

Bar Basic is anything but Basic

I was invited to join a group of awesome San Diego food bloggers this week for a pizza party at Bar Basic in the East Village, and it was fantastic! Despite their name, the bar is anything but Basic … the drinks were well-made and strong (hello, Classic Mule!) and all of their pizzas were simple but packed a great punch.

We started off with (cocktails) and the BASIC Salad: a simple but very delicious mix of greens, sliced pears, candied walnuts and gorgonzola, tossed in Basic’s house made vinaigrette.

BASIC SALAD

I knew when I arrived that I had to try the “MASHED” pie – a white pizza with mozzarella, mashed potato and bacon. It sounds like carbs on top of carbs might not be a good idea, but it’s actually pretty small blobs of mashed potato alongside tangy cheese and smoky bacon, so it’s not as overwhelming as you might think.

I regret nothing.

I regret nothing.

We got one pie that was half Mashed and half “4 MAGGIO” also a white with mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, gorgonzola and basil. You guys know how I love cheese, so this was perfect – and the fresh basil on top was a perfect touch.

half Mashed, half 2 Maggio

My second favorite pie of the evening was the “SO MEATY,” a red pie with bacon, pepperoni, sausage, ricotta cheese and fresh basil. It definitely had a lot of meat, but contrary to the name, the meat wasn’t overwhelming or too greasy (which I find often happens with meaty pizzas).

SO MEATY

 

Fresh finds at the new Ceviche House

This month, I got to check out San Diego’s newest and freshest spot. The Ceviche House in North Park combines a family atmosphere with fresh and fast food.

For the last four months, I’ve been on intense chemotherapy, so my doctors didn’t let me eat any raw fish or other foods that might present a greater risk of illness. I finally got the All-Clear to eat some, and I am so excited to be able to enjoy beautiful dishes like this again.

And it was perfect.

I got the Ensenada (yellowtail, watermelon, pomegranate seeds, microgreens, avocado, and chili-sesame oil) on a tostada — but you can get any of their menu items on a lettuce wrap or bowl if you want to skip the carbs. I was concerned that the chili-sesame oil might be too spicy (my mouth is still a little sensitive to spice after chemo), but it’s a perfect compliment to the sweetness of the watermelon and the saltiness of the fresh yellowtail. I could have eaten 2 or 3 of these!

ensenada tostada

And just look at how pretty it is! I’d never had ceviche without peppers and onions before, or with fruit, but the combination of flavors in this dish is amazing … I can see why it’s one of their most popular dishes.

I had a hard time deciding, because all of the options looks amazingly delicious. Tuna, cucumber and orange zest? Yes, please. Shrimp and mango? Totally.

CHmenu

Owners Viviana and Juan Carlos make sure to procure only the best from sustainable sources like superstar seafood mongers Catalina Offshore Products. You can taste the quality in every piece of fish and produce.

acapulco ceviche

To show off their new store, The Ceviche House is giving an Acapulco Ceviche away to two lucky winners. Be sure to follow Starbright’s Kitchen and The Ceviche House for more chances to win:

ENTER CONTEST HERE:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/2f9e1bf95/?hh

Crazee Burger’s movin’ on up to a new location

I was lucky enough this week to be among the first to experience Crazee Burger at their new digs, at the intersection of 30th and Lincoln in North Park — the new location just had it’s “soft” opening on June 17.

I have to admit that I came late to the party — I never visited the old location, and the only time I ever had Crazee Burger previously was at the Mission Valley Craft Beer and Food Festival in April. My boyfriend and I took complete advantage of the “unlimited” tastings and had — let’s say, more than one — of the Kobe beef, wild boar and buffalo sliders.

They were awesome.

MV samples

One of my favorite things about Crazee Burger — come on, everyone loves the fact that you can eat things like elk, camel, kangaroo and ostrich, in addition to their many specialty beef burgers — is their sauces. The sliders we enjoyed at the festival were topped with creamy horseradish and chipotle, and their many specialty burgers are topped with inventive sauces perfect for pairing with rare meats.

sauce

For example, their Gator burger is topped with a curry fruit tapenade, their duck burger features a white wine/hoisin reduction, and the turkey burger is served with an orange marmalade glaze. The Cajun burger I enjoyed (which has a spicy blackened beef patty and sauteed onions) is topped with a delicious – but spicy! – smoked chili sauce.

Cajun burger

If “exotic” elk, duck, buffalo and ostrich isn’t your bag, you can choose from a huge number of specialty burgers, all made with top-notch organic beef. I basically need to find an excuse to come back here at least 10 more times to experience all of these.

beef options

The Chubby Charlie especially has me drooling … especially if you follow Crazee Burger’s Instagram feed. And the El Jacobo? I love chorizo. The Texas?! I love BBQ sauce.

And the cheeses … so many cheeses.

So if you’re craving the perfect burger for whatever mood you’re in, head down to visit the new location at 30th and Lincoln. In addition to a bigger, and by all accounts, better spot, the new menus will have duck burgers and elk burgers.

Be sure to let me know in the comments or on social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) about your favorite Crazee Burger burger. Happy eating!

 

Green Acre showcases Farm-to-Table concept

Yesterday I got the chance to visit a fabulous new farm-to-table restaurant in La Jolla — Green Acre at Campus Pointe, run by celebrity chef Brian Malarkey.

green acre

Green Acre is located in the Alexandria Center for Life Science, a state-of-the-art building housing multiple science companies, and the building itself hosts weddings and other celebrations and conferences.

The center itself is pretty amazing, with lush gardens and a full outdoor dining, gathering and recreation area adjacent to the actual restaurant.

033

It’s pretty incredible. As you enter the parking lot, you pass the garden where many of Green Acre’s food is grown, and it’s open to visitors.

garden

It’s definitely worth a stroll through the garden.

kale palm trees

The kale plants have been adorably trimmed to look like palm trees, and they made excellent kale chips.

grapes

artichoke plant

And I am glad they opted to let some of the artichokes bloom (even though they’re delicious), because the purple flowers are so beautiful.

berries

The food itself is all fresh and organic, and we started off with a plate featuring a few of Green Acre’s special sides, including root fries topped with chilis and cotija cheese, a jar of pickled seasonal veggies, and a few bits of pickled pineapple and yellow beets, which were really delicious when sampled together.

sides

In addition to the regular menu ….

menu

… there are also daily specials. The special of the day when I visited with my food blogger friends, it was a light chicken Parmesan with zucchini noodles.

zoodles and chicken parm special

Although a stroll through the gardens mentally prepared me for the big lunch I was about to eat, I artfully dodged the waiter’s suggestion of a smoky and spicy tuna melt (it comes with jalapeno and smoked cheddar) or the “Havana Affair” panini, with slow-roasted pork shoulder, Oregon ham and Gruyère …

Havana affair

… yet still managed to get the least healthy salad option; the corn cobb salad. It was a fabulous (and huge!) arranged salad with egg, chicken, bleu cheese, avocado, bacon and greens, as well as a light-as-air roasted corn vinaigrette.

corn cobb salad

To me, the salad is a perfect example of seasonal California cuisine, right down to the summery corn flavor and accompanying pretzel roll.

fig pizza

Our table also got to split a couple of their specialty flatbread pizzas, prepared in the open-air restaurant’s brick oven. Above is the fig flatbread, which is also topped with bleu cheese and prosciutto, and below is the mushroom, with garlic, burrata and truffle oil. Both were excellent, with fresh cheeses and delicious greens.

mushroom pizza

Both Green Acre locations are open for breakfast and lunch only, but the Campus Pointe location also has Happy Hour Thursdays and Fridays, and is open for special occasions and events in the evenings and weekends. Check out http://www.greenacresd.com for more info.

Grand Opening of Fresh Catch Fish Market and Grill

April 30 is the grand opening party of Fresh Catch Fish Market & Grill in Hillcrest – from 5:30 to 9:30 tonight, you can enjoy complimentary tastings and free wine.

070

I got a sneak peek of a few of their specialties before the big event. The shop is full of fresh seafood offerings, right there in the window for your inspection when you walk in the door.

097

099

The menu is deeper than it looks … every type of fresh seafood they offer is available in a salad, sandwich or plate … making a decision is really, really hard.

075

But I managed. I seriously considered the oysters and the salmon burger, then waffled about a fish taco or some sea bass, when I finally settled on the shrimp mac and cheese.

 

061

I did not regret my choice. The shrimp mac and cheese was just the way I would make it at home – big, meaty shrimp, a thick, yet delicate creamy cheese sauce, and extra crumbs on top – served in a perfectly adorable teeny-tiny cast-iron skillet. (You know I would totally do that part!)

shrimp mac and cheese

I also shared a salad of lump Blue Crab and shrimp.

blue crab and shrimp salad

The night I visited, they offered three different varieties of ceviche … red snapper / jalapeno, octopus and shrimp.

066

065

Fresh Catch Fish Market & Grill is located in the Hillcrest area, at 3650 5th Ave.

They’re open all day, but the event tonight is only from 5:30-9:30.

Don Chido for San Diego Restaurant Week

I’ve mentioned a number of times how lucky I am to live in San Diego, which has some of the best food and restaurants in the world. Locals get to take advantage of this bounty several times a year during San Diego Restaurant Week, where some of the best restaurants give a sample of their most groundbreaking dishes for a great value.

I was already planning to visit more than one of the restaurants this week, when McFarlane Promotions hooked up this awesome pre-SDRW deal for local food bloggers. I won a visit to Don Chido, a really authentic and trendy Mexican restaurant in the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego.

I had already visited Don Chido once a few weeks ago for another event called the Toast of Downtown, where we got to sample small plates of food as well as each restaurant’s signature cocktails, and I really loved their lovely little street tacos.

This is one of those places where “handcrafted” is not just a slogan. You can taste it.

toast of downtown

One of the best things about SDRW for me is to see what dishes the chefs choose to highlight. It’s even great to go to places where you’re already a regular, just to see what foods the staff thinks will make newbies want to come back again.

Don Chido actually had a whole new menu for SDRW. For just $20 per person (a steal for dinner in the Gaslamp District!) you get three amazing courses:

sdrw menu

Being a good food blogger, I checked out the SDRW restaurant list online (each restaurant has their full SDRW menu posted). I was pretty sure I wanted to try the pozole and the stewed lamb.

Pozole (or posole) is one of my favorite soups ever —  I make a slow-cooked version of it at home with smoked chicken — so I was really excited to taste this one.

pozole de verdura

It definitely did not disappoint. Pozole, although traditionally pretty thin, was stuffed full of lots of hearty hominy and black beans, and the broth was obviously slow-simmered and well-spiced. You can also get it with chicken, but I kept mine vegetarian.

more pozole
My boyfriend got the empanadas, which were stuffed with pollo adobado and cheese. The masa dough was also obviously fresh and homemade (as are the tortillas, and pretty much everything else at Don Chido), and the pollo adobado was hearty and saucy but not too heavy for the dough. That might seem like an easy balance to achieve, but anyone who as ever tried to make their own empanadas knows better.

empanadas
For the main course, I got the Borrego en Mole Amarilla de Oaxaca, or stewed Colorado lamb shoulder with mole, rice and root vegetables.

stewed lamb shoulder

It was so amazing! The mole was really flavorful, yet it still allowed for the lighter flavor of the stewed lamb shoulder to come through. The meat was piled on top of spicy rice and root vegetables and covered in a delicious sauce. If you order this, tell the waiter he can keep the knife — you won’t need it.  In fact, if it wasn’t accompanied by crunchy fresh green beans, I don’t think you’d even need a fork.

Borrego en Mole Amarilla de Oaxaca

The lamb is extremely tender and juicy, and you can practically eat it with a spoon.

So, I have this thing called Entrée Envy. It’s a completely untreatable foodie disease, and it manifests itself at great dinners and lunches like this.

I see a menu.

I narrow my choices down to two or three.

I settle on one.

Someone else orders another one of the two or three.

We get our food.

No matter how delicious my dish is, I also want the one I didn’t choose.

Note I did not say “instead.”

I said “also.”

I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of my stewed lamb. But my handsome boyfriend got one of the other dishes I was considering, the seafood enchiladas, and I had to have a taste or two. (Note about the photo: they come with beans and rice, but he’s allergic to beans so had to get rice only.)

seafood enchiladas

These enchiladas were killer! Stuffed with scallops, shrimp, bites of fish and lots of cheese — and topped with a poblano cream sauce that made all of the rest of the ingredients come together beautifully.

I really can’t say enough about the poblano cream sauce. It’s not on any of Don Chido’s regular menu items, and when I spoke to the chef, she said it was a new sauce they came up with for this particular menu item — one that they will only have for SDRW.

The lovely chef was also kind enough to share: it’s just roasted garlic, roasted poblano peppers, cream, cheese, and salt and pepper. I will definitely be attempting to make this sauce for my next batch of homemade enchiladas, so I will let you know how it works out. In the meantime, I suggest you use your SDRW time to try it yourself at Don Chido. You won’t be disappointed: the way it combines with the seafood and the (obviously fresh and homemade) tortillas, it’s insane.

I say the tortillas were obviously fresh and homemade, as was the masa dough for the empanadas, because when you taste a freshly made tortilla, you just know.  In this case, you will know for sure when you taste them.

There were only two options for dessert, so my honey and I got them both: the dulce de leche cheesecake had dulce de leche IN the cheesecake and then a spiced caramel sauce on top.

dulce de leche cheesecake

The almonds on top are also a nice crunch that blends really well with the cinnamon and salt in the caramel sauce.

mexican fried ice cream

The Mexican fried ice cream was a fabulous twist on the traditional: it has toasted coconut and corn flakes forming the crunchy shell, and it comes with a slightly sweet strawberry compote. They’re both pretty small in size, but after the other two courses, good luck finishing your dessert anyway.

The whole meal overall was amazing, yet understated. This is one of the best options I have seen on the SDRW menus in a really long time.

 

* Disclaimer: This was a sponsored review, but the thoughts and opinions are all my own.