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!
When I was a little girl, and old enough to walk home from school by myself or with my neighbor (remember those days?), I made sure to pass this one, white house. On the porch would sit an older woman and it seemed she always had kittens in a box. Of course, my memory may be recalling just one day, but I feel like I passed by her house often and on purpose to see those kittens.
I would often ask my dad if I could bring one home, and the answer would inevitably be, “No.” We brought home our Golden Retriever, Farrah the Christmas I was in third grade, and while I loved her and was satisfied with a dog as a pet, the idea of a kitten/cat was always appealing. What little girl doesn’t find kittens adorably cute?
There was one time a stray kitten showed up on our doorstep. It was a rainy day and I decided to make a bed for the animal and give it some milk out in our outdoor/patio laundry room. My dad came home from work, and while he was reading the paper and my mother was preparing dinner in the kitchen, the kitten had come out of hiding and comfort and planted itself on the back door steps. There was a loud “meow.” My father folded down one corner of the paper, looked at me and asked, “Did you feed that cat?” I confessed. It took a few days for the cat to go away and find some other neighbor to feed it, but I was quite disappointed that I couldn’t keep it.
Our family dog was put down when I was 19 years old. And since then, I have never had a pet in my life. Several of my friends have dogs and/or cats, and I sort of have an auntie relationship with their pets. The Nelson family has Tank, who I knew when he was a puppy, and who loves to play when I visit and for some reason, remembers my command for “speak.” My friend Sarah has two cats, both of whom know me well. Ella loves me more than Taluhla, but they both know me as a frequent visitor and friend.
When I moved in with my friend Michelle at the end of August, I was happy to become a second mommy to Bailey and Belle. They are both senior cats, but appear rather delighted to have me around. When I arrived, it was well into kitten season. Michelle is a volunteer for the Humane Society and from May through about November, takes in foster kittens. Her role is to provide a comfortable home and to socialize them with humans and other animals well so that when they are adopted, they will easily adapt to their new owners and be good pets to have. I have enjoyed being a part of this process since I moved in. You have to admit, itty bitty kitties are pretty darn adorable!
About two and a half months ago, we got a litter of six very young and ferrel kittens. They had been found in a parking lot and were horribly afraid of humans. They were tiny, maybe just two weeks old (just under a pound). They hid from us and hissed when we tried to pick them up. Slowly but surely, they started to warm up to Michelle and I, realizing that we were the ones providing them food and comfort. Because we already had two other kittens, the whole litter of six became too much to care for, and so we decided to keep two and give the four others to another foster family, leaving us with two older and two younger kitties to care for. We chose “Wolverine” who we named for his coloring and crazy fur, and “Jag” named her distinguishing swirl/circular marks which distinguished her from the other three identical tabby kittens. Wolverine was just super cute and Jag was the first to be at my feet when I opened the door to the kitty room. This was a complete turnaround from the hissing and cowering behaviors she displayed when we first got her. Jag also was very vocal, and with her strong voice, sort of sung her way into my heart.
From the time Jag arrived until now, four of her siblings left, two kitties who were already here were adopted out, Wolverine was sent back for adoption and three orphans joined us for a few weeks so that we could socialize them and prepare them for a new life. All the while, Jag remained petite, grew slowly and sang for her supper every night. During TV show viewings, she was more than happy to cuddle on my lap and even grew to enjoy a kitty “sling” I fashioned so that I could hold her and still have my hands free. In a nutshell, we bonded.
Eventually, “Jag” finally passed the two pound mark and under normal rules, would be ready for adoption. However, this little kitty, who sings so sweet, cuddles so lovingly and looks and me as though I am her mommy, has found a way into my life that I did not expect. The thought of giving her up and putting her up for adoption was absolutely inconceivable. I’ve not had any problems saying farewell to the other kittens. But I could not imagine parting with her. Sometimes, I truly believe, animals choose you. And this little angel has chosen me as her caretaker in life.
“Jag” was officially adopted on November 19th. I have absolutely fallen for this little sweetheart and am so glad she wiggled her way into my life and into my heart. After looking through many possible names, I decided I would call her “Aria” to acknowledge the powerful song which has become her voice. Once I brought her home from her final visit with the Humane Society, I looked at her and said, “You know, from today, you and I are kind of official….” And as she typically does, she looked at me, stretched her body and let out a melodic, “meeeeoooooow.”
Here she is sitting in my office chair. Make no mistake, she runs the show.
Sore Green Thumb
My body is an absolute mess today. I spent all of my Sunday doing yard work at my friend, Michelle’s house. Gardening is something I haven’t enjoyed for a long, long time! Michelle and I whacked, racked, dug, cleared, potted, planted and cleaned. We broke for lunch and a Home Depot run, but the rest of the daylight hours were serious business!
My hands are puffy today, I have a random streak of red sunburn just above my pants line, which is slathered in aloe gel. There’s a few scratches on my arms and I am acutely aware of every single muscle in my body. My joints have been screaming at me, “What the heck did you do that for?”
I’ll tell you what…. I love it. There are few chores which provide as much joy as cleaning up a yard. I love being outside in the sun, sweating from an honest day’s work, cooperating with Mother Nature and setting the stage for what will be a fantastic outdoor living space and a calming oasis of nature and vibrant colors.
I wouldn’t recommend tackling your garden in infrequent spurts, but I do urge you to get out there and get your hands dirty. It feels terrific!
Who is to blame?
Summer in San Diego is really a treat, and a season I have missed a lot while living abroad. Most people are out and about, seek activities outdoors and just soak up the blue skies and sunny weather.
Coronado has a Concerts in the Park series which began May 29th and runs until September 11th. My friends Michelle and Carrie invited me to the July 3rd concert and I accepted with enthusiasm. I love Coronado and was eager to celebrate 4th of July weekend.
Michelle and I were lucky to find a great parking spot (thanks to the miniature sizeof my MINI!) right across the street from the park and met up with Carrie, who lives in Coronado to reserve her favorite and “usual” spot on the grass.
I was impressed with all of the things people brought with them to the park. Large ice chests and folding chairs aside, people brought full-sized/on wheels BBQs, large foldable tables and some tables which looked straight from the dining room. The city lifted an alcohol ban for the concert series and so the bottles of wine, beer and mixers flowed generously. It was a first for Michelle and I who brought only a blanket to sit on, making us feel not only a novice, but as though we were seated at the kids table in and amongst adults in camping chairs.
The music starts at 6:00pm, and some enthusiastic visitors make their way toward the gazebo to dance on the grass or just dance at their picnic spot. Most folks enjoy the music as a backdrop to friendly conversation and campfire-like storytelling.
The three of us gals were talking, actually is was me who was yapping, when an absolutely unexpected and not-in-the-program event took place. In mid sentence, I heard this crackle and pop and looked up at a large Eucalyptus tree. At that moment, a large branch had snapped and was falling to the ground. Without other branches to break the fall, few people under the tree were able to move quickly enough and get out of the way. One man who was sitting in a chair, just wasn’t able to move at all and happened to be right in the line of the falling branch. It struck him on the head.
What ensued after that was a series of events which still have me shaking my head…
Many people stood around staring at the man and not helping. The people who were there with the man were taking care of him, and a few other guys pitched in to remove the branch (The branch was so big it took 3 grown men to lift it), but most onlookers just stood and stared. (It made me feel like I was in Vietnam, where everyone stares, but doesn’t help the hapless victim.)
All around, you could hear people say, “Well, there’s a lawsuit,” or “That’s an expensive tree,” and “That guy is going to get a lot of money from this.” Really? The branch randomly snapped off. It was really a freak accident. Why is it that someone has to be “at fault” for the incident? Why does blame need to be placed? Can we really not comprehend that it was an unfortunate accident? For goodness sake, no one could imagine this scenario nor want for it to happen.
The paramedics arrived quickly and which drew even more looky-loos as the guy was taken away. The city workers showed up about the same time, and along with the firemen, decided they needed to move everyone away from the tree and with police tape, sectioned off a circle around the tree, about 20 feet in diameter. Is this the protocol for fallen branches? Was this done because there might actually be a danger that more branches would fall, or was it done to just look good and responsible, as though the situation was being taken seriously and appropriate response taking place? Do you think there is a page in some manual that refers to this type of incident? Will they write one?
Most of the people at the park did not see the event and simply carried on with their picnics. The band still played and people still ate, drank and danced. But even after the man had been taken away and the under-tree had been sectioned off, several people came over to the section and stood there looking up at the tree. Were they trying to identify the guilty branch stub? Searching for the next branch likely to fall? Were they silently cursing the tree? More than one person stood in several spots and glanced up, trying to solve the crime, apparently. I was puzzled. What purpose did that serve? (That’s about the time I took a picture, because I was baffled by the number of people looking at the darn tree.)
As it got darker and we decided to meet up at McPhee’s, the city trucks drove up under the tree. I was almost certain they were going to cut the darn thing down and so had to ask a worker what they were doing. He said they had to assess if there were any other loose branches or any weak ones which may fall. I asked if they had to do this at night, and he explained that it had to be done before people were in the park the next day (early action in the park on 4th of July). I imagine the efforts were made simply to avoid any lawsuits from future falling branches.
I’m sorry that guy got hit in the head by a branch. That pretty much sucks. What a crappy thing to happen when you’re just trying to enjoy a picnic and some live music. But the over-reaction afterward and the assumption that the city would be sued and this guy would get millions of dollars… well that just makes me mad and embarrassed. That’s not my America.
A Gnome Affair
My friend Michelle has been an awesome friend since my return to San Diego. She’s been one of the most instrumental people in helping me settle-in and re-establish myself in my hometown. She also happens to be well connected. So was the case today, when we attended the Padre game.
Her boss, Doug is married to a wonderful woman in the Padres’ organization and so we enjoyed the Gnome giveaway night from the 19th row just on the first base side of home plate. The seats were fantastic, the beer hit the spot, the Padres won and Michelle went home with two Gnomes.
Great day at the ballpark! Expect more Gnome pictures as the Padres want photos of the Gnome about town. That’s a fun challenge!
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 [email protected]. It’s unfortunate when a highly anticipated event misses the mark.
It is with terrific pleasure that I announce my new business venture, Beaming Bohemian. I have tinkered and toiled over the website design, the business plan and the lead list and am already booking clients. As any business owner knows, it is hard work, but very much a labor of love. Now that I am re-establishing my life in the US and in San Diego, I couldn’t think of anything else I would rather do. It is a very exciting time in my life and your support is greatly appreciated. Can I get a woo hoo? Woo hoo!
Please take a moment to visit my website:
And if you or someone you know could benefit from naming, content or social media services, then please send them my way. I promise to provide absolutely and unconventionally brilliant communication.
You can find Beaming Bohemian on Twitter @beamingbohemian or like the BB Facebook Page. For the socially savvy, BB is also tumbling and flickr-ing. : )
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