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Restaurants & Bars 2

Eating through So-Cal (Proustian)

joypirate | Dec 5, 200512:12 PM

Took a nice vacation in your fine state and thanks to the hounds whose posts I followed. Did a lot of eating on-the-fly in a group so didn’t always have the luxury of demanding a chow-worthy place, but still a fine visit. If any of you are ever in Philly or Boston hit me up and I’ll see if I can return the favor.

Miracle Mile Deli, Coronado

I swear, it seems that everyplace in Coronado has the “best of Coronado” certificate in the window. A perfectly fine pastrami sandwich though the swiss cheese wasn’t great and they have unusually good pickles.

Girard Bakery, La Jolla:

In general, I demand that $5 cookies be laced with some sort of scheduled pharmaceutical, though that withstanding, these were mighty tasty cookies and nicely decorated. Worth the price once just to check out the skillful decorations and then to eat said decorations.

Baja Rockin Lobster Fiesta-something, Oceanside:

About what you’d expect. A chain-y seafood place that really only sells seafood deep-fried in their quasi-Mexican-spiced batter. If you don’t like the batter, you won’t like 80% of the menu. And I only sort of liked the batter. I really regretted not doing some Chowhound research in Oceanside as we couldn’t find anything good anywhere. And what the heck is a slipper lobster tail?

Pizza Port, San Clemente:

Good place with tasty beers. Had the Pizza San Franscisco and the Pizza Laguna. Toppings were great, crust wasn’t really my style, too bready. Beers were good. I especially liked the El Camino, a really hoppy IPA, almost too hoppy for some of my dining companions.

Buttonwood Winery, Solvang

Small place and apparently a sister winery to Almyra (sp?), which was featured in Sideways. Buttonwood has noticed a spike in business from the movie as well. Sauvignon Blanc was very good, as well as a very interesting Syrah Rose. Picked up a bottle.

Olive House, Solvang

Speaking generally for a moment, we found Solvang pretty cheesy. You can only feign so much interest in all the stores filled with ceramic dolls and model windmills. Olive House was in Solvang proper and I saw they did a tasting paired with olives. The associated vineyard is Casa Cassara. Now, I love wine and I love olives but I was pretty sure going into this that very few wines could hold up to olives and I was right. The tasting went like this:

’04 Riesling w/ double stuffed olive (jalapeno and blue cheese)
’04 Sauvignon Blanc w/pitted Cajun-seasoned olive
’04 Pinot Grigio w/Sicilian-style olive
’02 Cuvee Pinto Noir pair w/Mediterranean style olive
’02 Burning Creek Pinot Noir paired with sun dried tomato stuffed olive.
’02 Syrah paired with Nicoise

Now, by the last pairing, I’d been talking with the guy a bit and I thought we had a good rapport going so I mentioned casually that perhaps beginning a tasting with an olive that has jalapeno in it might not be ideal, as the taste lingers rather noticeably in the mouth for many of the subsequent wines. Per my wife, this pissed him off, but really, save the jalapeno for last. For what it’s worth, I thought the Burning Creek Pinot Noir was the best wine of the bunch.

La Super Rica, Santa Barbara

Excellent work hounds. As good as I’d hoped. Got the Super Rica Special, wife got some sort of crock of melted cheese w/tomato sauce and tortilla to dip in the cheese, and we split the guacamole. I have an unusually strong affinity for the swine and this did not fail to satisfy. Also, they weren’t bashful about bringing the spice. Guacamole was only so-so. Unsurprisingly, Julia Child knew what the hell she was talking about. An unusually gregarious regular named Flash chatted us up and made some future reco’s. Sorry Flash, didn’t make it back for the Sopes, nor did we hit Origato (sp?) for sushi, though we did check out the menu and it does look good. Also, nice to save on our vacation budget by getting a great dinner for only $14.

Opal Restaurant, Santa Barbara

We were going to do one nice meal at Downey’s but the wife doesn’t really eat red meat and we didn’t see a lot on the menu that she dug so we opted for Opal instead (apparently used to be called Brigitte’s). I thought I remembered reading lukewarm chowhound reviews so I was a bit nervous but it was all for naught. At the bar the wife had the ‘flirtini’ and I the Ojai Syrah (02?). That was a tasty wine, wife’s drink tasted like a poorly made fuzzy navel, though not to the bartender’s discredit, I believe that was the idea.

For app’s the wife got a good, simple green salad and I got the tiger prawns wrapped in a webbing of phyllo dough with a coconut curry sauce. In the middle of the plate was an Asian-style cabbage slaw with rice vinegar, black sesame seeds, and carefully separated mandarin orange segments. Very tasty. Wife pilfered most of this. The wife is in the mood for a cream sauce about once every three years and apparently it was time again and she got the penne with chicken in a chipotle cream sauce. Very tasty and something that seems replicable at home. Chipotles made the dish more smokey than spicy, which made for a nice, homey pasta. I got the paella after assurances from the waiter that the saffron was strong enough to smell from a considerable difference. He was correct. Good seafood and spice though I would have preferred larger scallops to the diver scallops. Maybe could have been a smidge heavier on the sausage too. For dessert we decided to split the crème brulee and we were glad we got it to share, it’s more like a cereal bowl than a ramekin. Very tasty with just a basic Tahitian vanilla (though they also had a mixed berry and a Wild Turkey crème brulee that night). Very reasonable at $58 before drinks and tip.

Bitterman’s Deli, Santa Barbara

Again, a perfectly acceptable pastrami sandwich; but what’s with having 6 sides, none of which are potato chips? Also, an almost creepy amount of Seinfeld references around the place.

El Encanto, Santa Barbara

We stayed here and prior posters are correct. This is absolutely where to come to sit and have a drink on the patio or the swings in the yard near the pool and enjoy the view. The Consilience Syrah was a favorite at the bar.

Old Town Mexican Café, San Diego

Previous posters gave this place so-so rating and said to stick to the carnitas, which I did. Very tasty though I regret not trying the shredded carnitas, I stuck with the chunks which are more spiced though less juicy, per the server. I don’t like my carnitas to resemble ropa viejo (which I’ve come across a few times) so I went with the chunks though I would have preferred a more longitudinal swine survey. Menudo was good but needed less hominy and more tripe, as that tripe was mighty, mighty tasty. Also, very good homemade tortillas.

Pacific Beach Bar & Grill, San Diego

Bleh. $2 Blue Moon is a good deal though, even though they kept putting oranges in it instead of lemons. I can best describe this place as, “The Kells of San Diego”, which only really has value as a comparison if you know Boston.

In and Out Burger, So-Cal

Still my burger mistress of the left coast. Don’t change. Well, except maybe your fries.

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