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San Diego

Farmer’s Market

So today I finally took the walk a handful of blocks over to the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market. I wasn’t sure exactly how long it would take, so I suited up in workout gear. It wasn’t necessary, it turns out. Read More

Independence Day

Today, I picked up the keys to my new apartment. It’s taken me just over two years to get to this point, where I can stand on my own two feet and have my independence. I could not be more excited.

I’m so pleased with the wonderful apartment I found in North Park. It’s so convenient to downtown, University Heights, Hillcrest, the freeways, and the hip little hot spots around the area.

The apartment is a bit of a historical building. It’s one of the old Navy row house cottages and dates back to 1935. I love the hardwood floors and the tiled kitchen and bathroom. The bedroom and closet are quite spacious for this style of housing. Actually, the apartment feels very roomy and will be more than adequate space for my furball, Aria and me. I’ve never really lived in large spaces, so this is just perfect.

I’m eager to move in and have yet another fresh start here in San Diego. Funny thing is that even though I am a native of this wonderful city, this is my first apartment in San Diego. I’m excited to finally have my freedom, and the independence to create a life that is reminiscent of the way I lived my life when I lived abroad.

I move in on Monday and I am so excited to unpack all those boxes I sent from Hanoi. I’ve forgotten what treasures are packed inside. I’m sure it will be a wonderful stroll down memory lane!

Here’s a couple of photos of my blank slate!

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Chargers Game Day

It’s been probably about 20 years since I’ve been to a Chargers game. I remember very few specifics. Chargers played the Chiefs. I was surprised to find that one of my friends from junior high was a Charger Girl. Given the age of the cheerleaders, I’m guessing it had to be about 20 years ago. And yes, that makes me feel really, really old.

I was excited for the game yesterday. I was attending with a fabulous business group called WISE – Women in Sports and Events – a group which is emerging in San Diego. It’s a national organization and after seeing their success in Los Angeles, I am eager to be a part of the formation in San Diego. As the board member who is serving to do marketing for the group, I’ll be mentioning the events and programs we produce often.

So it was with WISE that I found myself tailgating before the game. With one of our board members an employee with the Chargers, we had a great set-up for the day. We even had the chance to meet Chargers Executive VP and CFO, Jeanne Bonk (far left in photo above). It was nice to get better acquainted with the gals and enjoy pre-game festivities.

Once inside, we took our seats up in the view section, behind the endzone, opposite the big scoreboard. As we sat down, I took in the view and the atmosphere and realized just how many Bengals fans were in the stadium, and how many empty seats there were.

Another thing that surprised me is how few players and personnel are actually on the sidelines. On camera, it looks to be full. But from above, you can see that the roster is not all that deep. And we could see Norv, with his complacent stance and slow steps up and down the field. There is nothing inspiring about that man.

The game was the game – nothing overly exciting happened, as you know. We enjoyed watching the defense score and the kicker score, but Rivers and his offense went scoreless for this match-up.

Of all the things that happened during the game, the event which stuck with me the most happened in the stands. Right about the start of the 4th quarter and three sections over from us, a fight broke out and a bunch of people jumped to their feet. The event staff and police arrived on the scene. It took them several minutes to calm everyone down. And it seemed they cleared up the issue. However, about five minutes after the police and event staff left, the two men went at it again. And then even more event staff and police showed up.

At the moment this happened, a group of small boys, probably 5-7 years old, were escorted out by the three or so dads who brought them to the game. All the little boys were decked out in their Charges gear and they all held hands as they went down the stairs and exited. I’m sure they were confused and upset they had to leave. But the fathers made the right choice. The scene unfolding was pretty nasty. I know those men/families paid a lot of money for those little tykes to watch the game. It was such a shame that the fathers were forced to end their outing early because some jerks in the “cheap” seats couldn’t control themselves.  I wish we had seen the event staff escort this precious group of boys to another section – there were certainly plenty of open seats!

The drunks who started the commotion were eventually escorted out in handcuffs (which should have been done at the first altercation). That’s all good and well, but I do wonder what those dads told their little boys. And I am sad that what was probably their first Chargers experience is tainted with violence and drunken idiots. I get so frustrated when I see situations like this.

Have you experienced a Chargers game this season? How did you enjoy game-day?

Name Your Restaurant!

It’s been just over a year since I’ve been back in San Diego.  I have to admit, I am still getting familiar with the lay of the land.  Just tonight, someone asked me about my favorite sushi place.  Rightly so… you would think that after spending five years in Japan that I would have staked out every sushi restaurant in the hood!  But the reality is… I’m still finding my way around my lovely hometown.

When I returned, I told myself I would treat San Diego like a new foreign city…that I would take the time to explore and discover and find my favorite spots. While I am discovering new places all the time, I recognize that San Diego is a pretty large city and at that a town I haven’t lived in since I was 19 years old. San Diego has changed a lot since then!

What’s funny to me is that all my memories of San Diego are childhood/young-adult memories. I’m a great tour guide for anyone who has never been here because hot spots like the zoo, Sea World and the Hotel Del Coronado never go out of style.  But my favorite dive bar or sushi place, a hot spot for Sunday brunch or the best craft beers? I’m at a loss.

So help me feel at home, dear friends. What places do I need to discover?  Where do you like to like to dine? What San Diego hot spots do I need to check out? Please leave your comments below or post on my Facebook Page On The Bright Side.

Thanks so much!

Jury Duty

Today I fulfilled my civic duty and spent the day at the courthouse for jury duty. To be honest, I have never served jury duty before. When the papers arrived at my parents’ house, I was either away at college or overseas. There were no excuses this time, I had to go.

If you’ve never been to jury duty, you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing the judge welcome you and explain what a wonderful experience you are about to have.  You also have not had the joy of watching the video which explains what jury duty is and is full of testimonials from people who have already completed their service.

Me being me, I had to write down a few of the quotes.

“Don’t worry if you get picked. You’ll be a part of an interesting process.”

“You need no special training to be a juror.”

“You will use your everyday common sense.”

It was described by one juror as a “deep and moving experience.”

Another said, “I felt good about myself.”

I’d like to believe that the process is all that. But I suspect that if the judicial system needs to go through the trouble of making a promotional video for serving on a jury duty, that the experience is far from moving and the process is not all that interesting.

Good thing I was excused.

 

Restaurant Review – Burger Lounge

During the past eight years abroad, there were lots of things I missed about life in the US.  Eating “strange” foods a lot of the time in Asia, one often misses the basics. For me, that was pizza, Mexican food and cheeeeeeseburgers.

On the few occasions I did make visits to the US, I would enthusiastically request that my first meal be In-N-Out Burger. Didn’t matter if my plane landed at 10:00am or 10:00pm, I needed my cheeseburger. In-N-Out was my first meal when I returned from Japan back in 2007.

This past Wednesday, I attended the Taste of Little Italy event. (You can read my post about that HERE.)  One of the better restaurants was the Burger Lounge, which offered fist-sized “sliders” of beef or veggie burgers (officially Grilled Lounge/BL Vegetarian on their menu).  They were both delicious.  With some restaurants offering samples in jello-shot sized containers, a generous sample was welcomed and memorable.

So my friend Michelle and I decided to return to Burger Lounge yesterday to have a casual night out in Little Italy and downtown for the Memorial Day weekend.  On this visit (and trust me, there will be many more), I opted for the Grilled Turkey Burger, while Michelle went for the Crispy Chicken Tenders, served on a stick.  We also shared the 1/2 and 1/2 of the nicely seasoned onion rings and french fries.  This second visit resulted in lots of flavors dancing on my tongue and making me a very happy girl. I loooove a good burger!  The Turkey Burger has the perfect amount of basil with the white cheddar cheese complimenting the creation nicely.  The chicken tenders were definitely crispy, offering good texture and a scrumptious bite.

Burger Lounge is dedicated to serving high-quality products which are super tasty, as well as being environmentally friendly and healthy.  The beef is all natural, 100% forage/grain fed, free-range moo moos.  All animals are hormone, antibiotic and byproduct free. Great focus is placed on the source of the food they serve.  In addition to their burgers, BL serves tossed salads and cupcakes for dessert.  I’m looking forward to trying both of these items.

The Little Italy location is a great spot and I imagine I will take advantage of their patio dining in the warmer summer months.  Another Burger Lounge is due to open in the GasLamp Quarter soon. You can also find them in Coronado, Hillcrest, Kensington and La Jolla.

While I still love In-N-Out, I am 100% sold on the Burger Lounge quality, taste and experience. Folks, I have found my new burger heaven.

Likes: Pretty much all of it at this point.

Dislikes: Pretty much nothing.

Cheers!

Burger Lounge is located at:
1608 India St.
(at the corner of Cedar)
San Diego, CA 92101

619.237.7878

http://burgerlounge.com/

 

Taste of Little Italy 2011

In an effort to reacquaint myself with San Diego, get into the swing of things and enjoy all the wonderful fun this fabulous city has to offer, I jumped at the opportunity to get tickets for the Taste of Little Italy. I bought my tickets about two weeks in advance so that there was no risk of being turned down. The website said they do sell out every year.

My friends Michelle and Carrie joined me, and were equally excited for the event.  Who doesn’t love the idea of trying a lot of great Italian food, strolling through Little Italy and fitting in a glass of wine somewhere in the evening?

With e-tickets in hand, we checked in at Date and India streets and were handed a map/passport to guide us through the evening.  We decided to start at the outskirts, The Restaurant at the W and Karl Strauss, and work our way toward the heart of Little Italy.  Both of these establishments helped set the bar.  The W was serving an absolutely exquisite morsel of Achiote rubbed tuna with tomatillo corn relish and lotus crisp. Divine.  Depending on reaction during the tasting, they were considering this for their new menu. I think we’ll see it featured.  So tasty, that tuna!  The presentation was fantastic as well with nice little, black plastic plates and super cute plastic appetizer forks.  Karl Strauss served generous pours of two of their award winning beer. I’m guessing a good 3-4oz pour was on offer. Awesome!

Aside from these two, there was only one other stand out, the Burger Lounge at India and Cedar.  Their sample “sliders” were enough to make a meal in themselves and were perfection between a bun. They served a sample of the beef and vegetarian burgers. Smart idea. The casual atmosphere invited guests to be seated while eating, versus the typical standing-only style at most of the restaurants.

One restaurant (I’ll spare them the shame) served a polenta that was cold, nearly crunchy and looked as though they had poured canned mushroom soup over the top.  Another served what was a really great wine, but in a jello shot-sized plastic. That comes across as cheap.  Toward the end of the evening, one of Little Italy’s more upscale restaurants served a fusili with tomato, basil and mozzarella balls.  If anyone is so incompetent in the kitchen enough that they cannot make that dish themselves…yikes.  This was, I’m sure a far cry from the brandy cream sauce pasta advertised on their passport. Someone didn’t calculate portions correctly. My question to most all of the participating restaurants – This is the sample that best represents your restaurant?

We did appreciate Craft & Commerce for the atmosphere and tasty corn dog, but after a few other Italian restaurants served meatballs and sausage samples, it made it hard to appreciate a corn dog.  Craft & Commerce is worth a second chance, though, as the people were lovely and the vibe of the place was very hip and cool. I’ll also give a nod to Po Pazzo’s tiramisu. Surprisingly moist for sitting outside for awhile and pretty yummy.

The cost to the participant is $35. I’m not sure what that pays for exactly as I do not know what is the maximum number of guests they allow, and given that, how much of the fee goes to each restaurant to help cover the costs for participating.  There was not a lot of advertising, so that could not have been the majority of the expense.  I’d love to see the cost breakdown. I didn’t feel the value of $35.

Given that the restaurants are so spread out, we didn’t really enjoy the experience of a special event, only the sense that the streets were a bit busy for a Wednesday night.  We didn’t even bother to visit the Spicy Pickle (so sorry), as they are three blocks off the main street. I’m sure others also skipped this venue.  I wouldn’t expect the Spicy Pickle to participate again. We also skipped The Waterfront, who was also serving sliders. Frankly, we were full on beef/meat/sausage samples and also had already enjoyed a slider at Burger Lounge. It was clear the restaurants didn’t communicate with each other to offer a variety of dishes and no repeats.

Only Puerto La Boca was clever enough to hand out a coupon to participants.  Now they will be able to track who comes back after the Taste of Little Italy event (if the coupon was exclusive).  But the others?  How will they be able to measure their ROI?  Or is it a write-off? The marketing person in me was and still is going crazy with ideas for how to improve this event, from promotion to execution, to follow-through with the restaurants involved. I will venture to say that they do not feel it a worthwhile event but more an obligation to participate.

I’m thoughtfully drafting my communication with the Taste of Little Italy and the Little Italy Association of San Diego. I really enjoy attending functions like this and I’d like to help them make this a more rewarding event for all involved.  If any of you know members of the Little Italy Association San Diego, please have them contact me at shannabright@me.com. It’s unfortunate when a highly anticipated event misses the mark.

Cheers!

 

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