Tag Archives: San Diego

instead of packing

Look at that face!

Tonight is one of four nights between my San Diego stay and my Haverford departure, so spending time with my brother was also a priority. Solution? Make goat cheese with Johnny. kiss my spatula has an absolutely gorgeous blog post about making homemade goat cheese that inspired me to make some myself. I made some in the past with condensed goat’s milk – mistake. This one came out so much better.

As we looked at the recipe on, we found out that the blogger pairs her recipes with songs. The goat cheese pairing was a Yann Teirsen song from the Amelie soundtrack, one that my brother is learning how to play on the piano. How perfect!

Goat Cheese with Lemon, Herbs, and Pine Nuts

1 qt. goat’s milk (we got ours at Trader Joe’s)
1/4 c. lemon juice, or the juice of three medium-large lemons
2 tsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. pine nuts, finely chopped
1 tsp. herbes de Provence
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

Place several layers of cheese cloth in a medium-sized mesh strainer resting in a bowl.

Heat the goat’s milk to 180° (measured with a candy thermometer) in a saucepan over low heat. While it is heating, zest the lemon, and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup until you have over one-quarter cup. Be careful to attend to the milk, though, because you don’t want it to surpass that temperature because it may start to boil or even caramelize. Once the appropriate temperature has been reached, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Let it sit for 15-20 seconds. This time allows it to curdle. You can let it sit for more time; in fact, I chopped the pine nuts together with the lemon zest, herbs, and salt for about a minute while letting the lemon juice and the warm milk mix n’ mingle.

Pour the liquid conglomerate into the cheese cloth-lined strainer. As it strains, a very watery, clear liquid should strain, leaving the curdled cheese behind. If it strains through very fast and cloudy, you can return the mixture to the saucepan and repeat the process, adding more lemon juice once the temperature has reached 180°.

Let it sit for 1-2 hours, or until it reaches your desired consistency. Gather the cheese cloth ends in a bundle, and squeeze the remaining water out. Then, transfer goat cheese off the cheese cloth into a bowl.

Mix in the flavorings, and eat.

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gelato bravado

Chocolat Cremerie, situated in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, was the prime place for me to sample my first West Coast gelato. I had been asking around for recommendations of San Diego’s best, and Chocolat came with the most emphatic recommendation. A Sicilian waiter told me that it was the best gelato he had ever had in his life, including the twenty years he spent in Italy. Translation: I needed to have it.

After trying Lemon Poppy Seed, Cinnamon Chocolate, and Sweet Basil, I settled on Grand Marnier Chocolate combined with Cioccolato di Peperoncino, or chili chocolate. Orange and chili are two of my favorite chocolate accompaniments, and since I have been in San Diego, I realized the merits of pairing chili powder with fruit, so this combination was perfect for me.

This gelato was the creamiest, densest I have ever had. It was the consistency of cold batter for really chewy brownies, necessary to hold up the rich chocolate flavor and its complements. It was so filling and fulfilling that I could barely finish it, especially since I had just eaten dinner at La Pizzeria Arrivederci. The pizzeria had high marks on the UrbanSpoon iPhone app, and boy, did it deliver! My aunt, cousin, mom and I split a small Pizza Margarita, the standard marinara-mozzarella-basil trifecta of perfection, and a small La Bianca, a white pizza baked only with mozzarella and parmesean, then topped with cold prosciutto and arugula. The crust was superb — light, with appropriate amounts of crunch and give — and the toppings were fresh. I couldn’t ask for much more.

There are times when I am proud to be Italian. Most of those times come from experiencing really good Italian food. That night, with three members of my family in San Diego, our bellies full of Italian wine, fantastic and authentic oven-charred pizza, and unreal gelato, I was the most proud I’ve been in a long time that my last name is Cherichello.

my birthday, belated

I have spent the past two summers away from home, and my June 9 birthdays have thus been celebrated without my family. In light of this, and in honor of her visit, my mom and I decided to have a meal at George’s at the Cove in La Jolla, a three-floor restaurant on the water. We sat on the top floor, George’s Ocean Terrace, and got to look at this while eating and drinking and being merry.

Not bad. To start, Mom ordered a blood orange margarita and I ordered a Ballast Point IPA, though I’m not sure whether it was the Big Eye or the Sculpin. I don’t think the menu even indicated which it was, and the beer list isn’t online. Ho-hum. All I know is that I had my mom try it and she was blown away with its strength. I have a funny little feeling that Mom’s palate is not as used to hops as mine is, especially considering my fairly recent affinity for the stuff. Also, sipping a hoppy beer after sipping a sweet margarita doesn’t sound that pleasant.

We followed up our drink order with an appetizer salad: watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, mint, and feta. For the price of this salad, I probably could have made enough of it to serve six people for dinner, but, as I kept reminding my mom and myself, we were paying for the view. The service was also excellent: relaxed but attentive.

My entree was the Garlic Roasted Shrimp, served with chorizo and piquillo pepper risotto, roasted fennel, lemon, almonds, and fried cilantro. I could have done without the risotto; the flavors were excellent, but it was not made properly. It was either made too fast or not stirred enough or something else that left the final product grainy, a word that should never come to mind when enjoying risotto. The shrimp, fennel, and fried cilantro worked together to make up for this error.

The shrimp tasted like it had marinated in garlic for three days before roasting – just how I like it. Even still, the garlic did not overwhelm the shrimp but instead created a nice garlicky crust.

Fennel is always welcome in my life. I once hated the stuff, when Mom used to serve it on Christmas in a tricolore salad and I’d gag at the idea of eating it. It tasted like black licorice! I hated black licorice! Now, I love the stuff (black licorice & fennel), especially when the fennel is grilled or sautéed or, in this case, roasted. My knife went through the veggie like it would room temperature butter, and it completely dissolved in my mouth. The fennel worked very well when eaten with some toasted almonds.

The fried cilantro was an Iron Chef-type jawn. It wasn’t battered, but you could tell that it had been dipped in boiling oil for just enough time to release some of the cilantro essence and add that deep-fried flavor.

Mom ordered Roasted Organic Chicken Breast which was served with fingerling potatoes, rapini, salsa verde, and a grilled lemon. It was the juiciest chicken either of us had ever had.

Dessert was Lemon Verbena Soup with blueberries, blueberry sorbet and pound cake croutons. Pound cake croutons are as good as they sound: a little crunchy on the outside with a soft, rich center. The blueberries were fresh as hell and the sorbet was essentially food-processed frozen blueberries. To quote Ina Garten, “How bad can that be?” A spoonful of the lemon custard “soup” with a bit of crouton, a blueberry, some sorbet, and a spearmint leaf was an ideal dessert creation, and one helluva birthday cake!

Oh yea, one more of this, just because:

SHRIMP!

1. snorkel, 2. eat, 3. eat again

Snorkeling is an invigorating, tiring, hungering activity. As my cousin and I were searching for a place to fill our stomach voids, this woman working for the La Jolla Visitor’s Center asked if we needed help. I immediately ignored her because I thought she was trying to sell me something, but with her assistance,  we settled on The Spot for its diversity of burger meat offerings. Cow and buffalo and lamb, oh my! It has an easy-going sports bar atmosphere with open, full pane windows to capitalize on the California breeze. I was comfortable from the moment I sat down.

I ordered a buffalo burger with caramelized onions (duh), avocado (duh), mushrooms (duh), and provolone (duh). I got the green bean side dish for a semblance of health in my life, but ended up eating a load of my cousins fries so there that went. Whatever, they were delicious: crispy and light and beer-battered.

I also had a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which is a pretty excellent beer, but I was definitely enjoying it more before the burger came. The beer didn’t have quite enough mouth-rinsing power for a burger of this magnitude. Needed to ask for a water.

After walking around in La Jolla and shopping in stores that were almost too expensive for us to even enter (except this one where I bought 8 pairs of earrings for $10?), we stumbled upon Cups La Jolla, an organic cupcakery. We had both heard about it but never went, and when we were approaching the storefront, our craving for gelato was quickly replaced with an itch only a cupcake could scratch.

I got a vegan Chocolate Cheesecake cupcake, a rich chocolate cupcake with thick cream cheese icing. Vegan cream cheese icing tastes exactly like regular cream cheese icing: both are supremely rich and delicious. It also works very well in the roll of glue for a cupcake sandwich, my preferred method to eat this cupcake. My iced coffee was very fresh, and they didn’t even charge me for the soy milk!

Since Cups is not only a cupcake shop but also a lounge, they have a DJ. During our stay, he did transitioned from “Don’t Stop Believin'” to “I’ve Gotta Feelin'” seamlessly. I asked him how he got a gig spinning at a ritzy cupcake shop, and he told me that his girlfriend’s family owns the place. What luck.

24/3/365 (aka, unhelpful)

Last night, I went to see Antibalas/The Sway Machinery at the Cashbah in Little Italy. I’d seen Antibalas once before at the Roots Picnic ’09 in Philly, but the Sway Machinery was a new one. The lead singer is in Balkan Beat Box and the drummer was in NaNuchKa at some point. Go Eastern Bloc!

I had a Stone IPA that left this funny little pattern in its lacing. Heart it laces.

I also had a Stella Artois because I heard good things about it in the past but clearly those things came out of mouths that had not been around the beer block. It was watery and flavorless. For some reason, I like Sapporo much better so I got one of those to replace my judgment error.

So Antibalas announced the start of their last song at around 11:45 and as 12:00 approached, they showed no signs of stopping. Finally, at 12:15, they left stage, only to come out for a 45 minute encore. No complaints at all from me! But it was starting to get to that hour where my stomach acid takes on the role of fidgety-child-in-backseat-on-road-trip-who-won’t-quit-until-fed. I gallantly ordered my (Ford) Mustang, “To Keith’s 24 Hour Family Restaurant! Ándale!”

I pulled into the sketchy, eerily empty parking lot of Keith’s 24-hour, and I was met with something like this:

Angry, confused, disappointed and hungry as ever, I went home to a pantry and refrigerator full of ingredients. Not prepped food, but ingredients. What a night not to have leftovers! I figured out my cravings pretty quick, and whipped up an open face breakfast sandwich worth writing home about.

I toasted a piece of bread while slicing a perfectly ripe California avocado and frying an egg. As soon as the bread was done toasting, I rubbed it down with some garlic, layered on the avocado, balanced the egg atop all them monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs, if you will), and spread some spicy salsa on top. I served it (to myself) with some pickled jalapenos on the side, which have become one of my favorite ingredients/condiments since living in San Diego. I bought a jar for $1.29 at Vons because I figured if they were horrible, I could afford losing $1.29; then they turned out being amazing and probably the best $1.29 I ever spent on jarred food. I’ve also been wanting to pair them with my eggs ever since seeing this blog post from the Amateur Gourmet.

Also, don’t eat MorningStar’s Veggie Sausage Links. I usually dig meat emulators, but at this time of night, the combination of sausage flavor with mealy sand texture in a non-meat-based casing was horrible. I mean, I guess you can eat them. Maybe they’d be good on a nice roll or some baguette bread (ciabatta?) to disguise the texture, and doused in spicy mustard because spicy mustard is delicious. I feel like I should force myself to like them because each one only has 40 calories but I’d rather eat carrot sticks. Same shape, better everything.

I also looked up what the deal was with Keith’s, and they’re only open all night on Fridays and Saturdays. Thanks, Keith’s, for including “Open 24 Hours” on your neon sign. I really appreciate it and I’m sure all the hungry late nighters of San Diego do too. Their website says they’re open 24 hours on Wednesdays. What LIES!!

a hillcrest saturday

Thanks to Groupon, my cousin and I got to enjoy a three-course meal complete with spirits for $28. We went to Kous Kous, a Moroccan restaurant in Hillcrest that gets all the love on Yelp!. I had wanted to go for Yelp! Eats Week, but we decided to go with Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz Club instead. The week after our Croce’s excursion, Groupon comes out with its offer, money was spent, and we were making our reservation at Kous Kous.

We ordered imported Moroccan beer called Casa which was a light, European style lager with a citrus-y bite. It was okay on its own but paired very well with the meal, which prominently featured lemon, garlic, and cumin.

To start, we had the B’stila roll. It came highly recommended, and while I enjoyed it, it was one of the more odd flavor combinations ever to cross my tongue. Chicken marinated in herbs and saffron is combined with orange blossom water, almonds, and honey then wrapped in phyllo dough and dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Yea, we were cynical about it too. It tasted like a savory-sweet baklava with chicken, and it was really, really good. Describing it has made me get a little uneasy about enjoying it last night, because it sounds pretty narsty to say the least, but don’t knock it til you try it.

For the main course, I ordered the Marrakesh Lamb Tanjia and my cousin ordered the Chicken Brochettes. While we were waiting for our meal to arrive, we were given a complimentary plate of cumin-soaked kalamata olives and cumin/cilantro-soaked carrots. Mega-yum. I had never thought to pair either of these ingredients with that amount of cumin, but the spice paired well with the brininess of the olives and the sweetness of the carrots. I am definitely going to make some sort of carrot dish inspired by that salad some point soon. The marinade was actually sharmoula, which is a spice blend/marinade of garlic, black pepper, coriander, cumin, saffron, salt, oil, and lemon juice.

Anyway, my lamb was phenomenal. It was so tender that it took me a while to figure out how to fork it. A knife was not required. It went through a 10-hour slow braise in liquid with saffron, cumin, garlic, and lemon preserves. Damien said that before the braising started, it marinated for 12 hours in the same flavors. I ordered Moroccan bread and sharmoula aioli to go with my meat, and I’m thankful I did because I was able to soak up the braising liquid. Mmmmmm. My cousins brochettes were flavored with ginger, garlic, and fresh herbs then char grilled and served over a bed of sharmoula string beans and peas. She ordered cous cous on the side which Kous Kous garnishes with honey caramelized raisins and garbanzo beans.

Sera and I intentionally left room for dessert after hearing this vanilla bean-orange blossom custard described to patrons at a neighboring table. Served with toasted, slivered almonds and chopped dates, this custard was the perfect texture but more importantly, the perfect temperature. Many a custard in my life have been cold in a way that took from the flavor. This custard had clearly been sitting out of the fridge for at least fifteen minutes to allow it to come down to an ideal temperature for the flavors to shine through.


After Kous Kous, we shopped around at a bookstore and then met up with one of my coworkers. We all went to a hookah bar (Honey/pomegranate shisha with Reisling instead of water? Yea.) where surprise belly dancing entertainment turned into surprise belly dancing for yours truly and her cuz. Didn’t think that was going to happen when I walked out the door for dinner. We ended our night at Wit’s End, a bar nearby, with an Arrogant Bastard Ale and an impromptu harp performance. (My coworker, Jason, actually knows something about cameras so he was able to take that picture of my ale in the darkness of the bar. Credit where credit is due.)

Thanks, Hillcrest, for a lovely evening.

my first mexican food

A lifetime of East Coast Mexican food has been a lifetime left unaware of the culinary greatness that has met me here in San Diego. I would trot along, going to Mexican restaurants in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York like I had something to prove: East Coast Mexican is good! Yes, the food may have been good, but I finally realize why so many West Coasters cringe at the thought of labeling it “Mexican.” It just isn’t. Find below a brief rundown of some of the highlights.

Chicken Mole Plate at the La Jolla Open Aire Market

For $6, I enjoyed tender pulled chicken covered in rich but not overpowering mole. Served with three warm, corn tortillas, I assembled mole tacos. First, I lined the tortillas with a layer of cheesy, salty, and supremely creamy refried beans. Then I added some rice and the mole, topped with two types of house salsa made with fresh ingredients from the market, included grilled and smoked peppers. You can see the cilantro leaves! Mole leaves its eater with such satisfaction and happiness; I guess chocolate really does make everything better.

Pico de Gallo at Fruitilandia in Normal Heights

When I was first looking for a place out here, I found one option in Normal Heights so I scoured the Internet for cool places to eat in the area. I came across Fruitilandia, which is essentially a fruit salad bar, and kept it in mind even when I knew I wasn’t going to live in the neighborhood. When I walked in, I was kind of overwhelmed with the options. There aren’t that many, but I had no idea what they meant. My previous experience with Pico de Gallo had been limited to the fresh tomato, onion, cilantro salsa. This Pico de Gallo, however, was a fruit salad dressed in a vinaigrette of lime juice, salt, and chili powder. I decided to have the cashier choose my fruits for me, and he went with the typical Pico de Gallo fare: mango, jicama, cucumber, watermelon, orange, cantaloupe, and honeydew.

This dish had some familiarity because my dad passed his love for salted watermelon to me in my youth, but the familiarity ends there. The saline, spicy, tart lime juice thoroughly dresses the fruit, which makes for an interesting eating experience. You first notice the salty tang of the dressing, which gives way to the sweetness of the fruit (or the more neutral palate of the cucumber and jicama), and the chili powder leaves a nice heat in your mouth.

Fish and Carne Asada Tacos at Roberto’s Taco Shop in Pacific Beach

Roberto’s Tacos is a fast food Mexican restaurant that is actually delicous. The pictures are pretty bad because I went on a whim (translation: unprepared, without camera) and had to use the iPhone, but at least I captured the greatness. The first picture is a fish taco with crema and cabbage slaw, and the second is a carne asada taco with loads of guacamole and pico de gallo (the tomato kind). Both tacos were so flavorful and stuffed to the brim that would would have been more than enough to satisfy. How was I to know this? You need to eat like three at Chipotle and like ten at Taco Bell to call it a meal.

Also, this doesn’t strictly pertain to Mexican food but guys, the avocadoes out here are plentiful and amazing. This attractive, bearded farmer at the La Jolla Open Aire Market looked me straight in the eye and told me that the avocado he was holding would be the best I had ever eaten. I bought it, ate it, and wholeheartedly agreed.