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Food & Wine

Hold The Bacon

It may be the case that I am still in reverse culture shock, because for the life of me, I cannot remember when all of our menus included so many items with bacon. Salads, chicken sandwiches, burgers, and now, thanks to Burger King, sundaes.  What? Ice cream with bacon? That’s right, Burger King has introduced a bacon sundae.  And I have to finally exclaim, “That’s just WRONG!!!”

I expressed recently how a popular L.A. restaurant served a burger that included bacon which was strictly served with “no modifications.” When it was delivered, I promptly removed the bacon. I’ve also seen some bacon comments pop up on Twitter. Is bacon worthy of a tweet? This video was shared on Twitter too. Do you think bacon solves all problems?  It just seems everyone is in love with bacon and that all food should be garnished or served with bacon. Does bacon really make the world taste better?

Every once in a while, I do enjoy a couple of slices of bacon with eggs, or a BLT sandwich, but a sundae? A dessert with meat flavor? I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t work for me. Seriously, I’m so over this insane enthusiasm for bacon. I’m going to have to say, “Hold the bacon.”


Father’s Office means business

When I’m in L.A. for business, I do my best to squeeze in a few social visits. Last night, I enjoyed the chance to catch up with my friend Tony. We were both at a loss of where to go. We decided we could both stand a good burger. And so we agreed on  Father’s Office in Century City, out there by the old Helm’s Bakery. I had never been there and it had been a good long while for Tony.

For a Wednesday night, the place seemed overly packed, but we managed to get a seat at the bar and eager to eat, quickly got the bartender’s attention. There is only one burger on the menu and much to my dislike, it came with bacon. So I ordered, “The Father’s Office burger, but with no bacon please.”  The response was a little surprising, “I’m sorry, we don’t make any modifications to our menu items.”  I looked at the girl with confusion and said, “I’m sorry? What?”  And she repeated, “We make no modifications to our menu items.”

Was “no bacon” a modification? I would think that it was just a simple “leave off” request. I didn’t ask to change the recipe or use elk meat or something elaborate. So I kind of shook my head in disbelief that there was like, zero accommodation, and ordered the sweet potato fries with my burger.  Tony ordered the “No modifications Father’s Office Burger with unmodified fries.”

The sweet potato fries arrived as an appetizer with blue cheese aioli. And that was great. The aioli complimented the fries well. When our burgers came, I handed over my bacon to Tony and stole a few regular fries, which are served with garlic parsley aioli.  When the bartender asked us if we needed anything else, Tony asked for ketchup.  The bartender said, “I’m sorry sir, we don’t serve ketchup.”  We looked at each other, looked at the bartender (who must have this conversation often, I would suspect) before Tony leaned in and said, “You don’t serve ketchup? I can’t put some ketchup on my fries?”  The bartender said, “No, sir. We don’t serve ketchup.” Tony leaned in a little closer and said, “You don’t have any ketchup anywhere in this establishment?”  “No we don’t,” was the response.  Tony came back with, “Really. Dude, between you and me, is that reasonable? What kind of restaurant doesn’t serve ketchup with fries?”  All the bartender had to say was, “Sorry.”

As someone who works to build brands and positive, purposeful brand communications, this little episode really stuck with me. Tony and I laughed it off, but only after we made a few loud comments to each other, “What kind of restaurant doesn’t serve ketchup?” “Well, aren’t we all super strict here in Father’s Office? No modifications and no ketchup, gosh darn it!” I mean, really. How can any restaurant take themselves that seriously? Why do people in LA like to go to restaurants where they’re treated like crap? Because that’s what “no modifications” and “no ketchup” say to me.

I took a peek at their website. Not only is it one of the only restaurant’s I’ve seen that doesn’t have a menu on their website, but Father’s Office is for certain the only restaurant which has a “Menu Policy.”  It reads:

Please be aware of our menu policy.  We do not permit any substitutions or modifications to any of our menu items.  Outside food and beverages are not permitted.  Dessert items including birthday cakes are not permitted. 

Father’s Office may have a great beer menu, but this ridiculous Menu Policy spoils all the fun. I won’t be doing business at Father’s Office again. I’m not able to make any modifications to my schedule.

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!

Happy Holidays!

Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday season and merry celebrations.  As I was going through some of my boxes a few weekends ago (I still have not unpacked them all!), I came across some old cookbooks and Food & Wine Magazines I’ve saved for their stellar recipes.  As many of you know, I love to bake during the holidays and serve as the family head chef for the big dinners.  One of my absolute favorite recipes is from a December 1992 F&W Magazine article on holiday parties.  So here’s my small gift to you this year, the ultimate, the delicious, the amazing:




Makes 80 bite-sized brownies

2 pounds milk chocolate chips or chopped milk chocolate

1/4 cup instant coffee granules

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

8 eggs

3 tablespoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups flour


1. Preheat over to 375°. Lightly grease four 8-inch square foil cake pans.

2. Place the chocolate and coffee in a double boiler over simmering water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate melts.

3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar, scraping down the sides as necessary. Beat in the eggs, two at a time, beating until the mixture is pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Stir in the vanilla, cinnamon and salt, then carefully beat in the the melted chocolate and coffee mixture until combined. Beat in the flour; you may have to finish this by hand.

4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, until puffed, cracked and slightly resistant to the touch. Let cool on a rack, then cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve, cut each cold brownie square in 20 pieces.


Seriously – these are the BEST brownies I have ever had! I hope you enjoy making them and more so, eating them!  They go great with coffee! ;p  And if you really want to kick it up a notch, you can top each brownie with a dollop of chocolate frosting and a chocolate-covered espresso bean. Divine! Happy Holidays everyone!

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.


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




Dinner with the Landlords

The family who owns my new apartment building also happens to live in the duplex on the second and third floors.  They’ve been incredibly kind in helping me get set-up in my new home.  In fact, they have focused all their efforts in the two apartments they rent, and not so much on their own space.

The oldest son, Trung knocked on my door this evening and invited me to dinner.  The family was enjoying the Vietnamese traditional food, Pho, a hot noodle soup dish.  Inside their kitchen, they have yet to install the cabinets and many of the conveniences.  They are waiting to build the internal stairs, as the lumber is not ready yet.  They have no living room furniture, except a large, flat-screen TV and a cabinet to put it on.  The dining area contains an old and simple dining table and chairs.  They are sort of like camping in their own home right now.  But they wanted to share a meal with me, and when a Vietnamese family invites you into their home, especially your landlord, you accept.

This is when I wish I could speak Vietnamese.  In moments like these, all my Japanese comes rushing forward and I can only think to say all sorts of pleasantries in Nihongo. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!  Sore wa oishi desu ne!  Omorshiroi desu yo!  Ah, sou desu ka?!   But that sure wouldn’t get me very far!  Fortunately the older son, Trung, does speak some decent English.  And I think both he and his younger brother are keen to learn.  The family knows that I was a teacher in Japan, and I’m guessing that as I live in harmony with this family, we will learn a bit from each other.  To tell you the truth, I saw living above the family as both a positive and negative.  Positive being a good cultural lesson for me.  Tonight was a good start.

The Pho was delicious, and our conversation flowed easily.  I reverted to my uber-simple English so that Thuy and Lien, the parents, could try to understand. We talked about food and popular dishes in our countries.  We talked about the apartment construction; apparently the cabinet maker is very popular in Hanoi and builds things for some of the big hotels, too.  I also learned that what stood on this property before this brand-new building was a century-old, traditional Vietnamese, 1-story home.  The house had been in their family for ages.  And instead of demolishing it altogether, they took it apart plank by plank, roof tile by roof tile.  Once disassembled and numbered, it was hauled off to Danang to another relative’s property and put back together.  Apparently the neighbors (especially the elderly ones) were a bit pissed off at them for taking away this historic home.  Frankly, I wouldn’t have minded seeing it!

Of course, as always, the universe aligns and I get questioned about my marital status and mommyhood dreams.  No and not yet.  Geez…everyone wants to see me married!  With kidlets!  Of course, no one is offering up The Dude, so until that happens…No and not yet.

I’ll look forward to the next chance to get to know my neighbors.  I should probably invite them up for dinner and serve a hearty pasta with garlic bread and some delicious wine.  Good chance for them, too!

On the Bright Side,



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