Monday, December 30, 2019

Birthday Dinner at Cowboy Star
(Plus a visit to the San Diego Central Library)

For my 48th birthday, Tori treated me this year to a Steak Dinner at Cowboy Star. Since we arrived Downtown about an hour early, we went for a walk over to the San Diego Central Library which opened back in 2013. We took the elevator up to the 9th floor to check out the dome made of metal scaffolding. At 143 feet, the diameter of the dome is larger than the one atop the U.S. Capitol Building.

I have been wanting to go to Cowboy Star for awhile now and we made reservations for the last weekend before they closed for most of January with major interior renovations. Personally, I thought the interior looked pretty good already with their western theme and exposed wooden beams. Their separate butcher shop was already under construction. I wish we had reserved spots at the counter, but our table was in a good spot with a nice view into the open kitchen.

We started with Spicy Margaritas and the delicious Parker House Rolls served in a tiny cast iron pan. We shared the Wedge Salad. Normally, I don't care for such a thick cut of bacon (I like it thin and crispy) but it tasted perfect. Since Tori doesn't eat bacon, I had her slice as well. For our main course, I wanted the 8oz. Filet Mignon and Tori had the King Crab and Black Truffle Risotto. My steak was cooked exactly how I liked it. So very tender! I didn't really need the additional Bearnaise Sauce I ordered since my filet was already flavored so well on it's own.

Normally we share a dessert, but we splurged and ordered the Sticky Toffee Cake as well as the Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding. The bread pudding with dark chocolate ice cream was delicious but the date cake covered with a maple toffee sauce was our favorite.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Christmas Lights - Encinitas Tree of Life

The Encinitas Tree of Life on Neptune Avenue.

I have been passing this beautifully lit tree on my evening walks after work.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Torrey Pines Extension Hike at Sunset

The last time we hiked the Torrey Pines Extension, it was overcast and cold so we came back today at sunset. This separate area to the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is on the opposite side of Los Peñasquitos Lagoon. This extension was acquired in 1970, eleven years after the main Torrey Pines Reserve became a State Park, to preserve the threatened grove of pine trees on the north bluff. This 197 acre piece of land holds half of the 3,000 Torrey Pines in San Diego. Santa Rosa Island off the coast holds the remaining trees.

We headed up the sandy Mar Scenic Trail and then turned left to ascend the ridge up the DAR Trail which stands for Daughters of the American Revolution. We first headed South on the ridge dotted with the rare Torrey Pine to a viewpoint with benches overlooking the lagoon and ocean before back-tracking to the North side of the DAR Trail that led down into small forest of trees. Our total hike was only 1.5 miles out and back but we saw some awesome views and the setting sun painted the chaparral-covered hillside a rosy glow.

Next time we come back, we will hike the Margaret Fleming Nature Trail to the east side of the small valley and circle the Red Ridge Trail along the top of the plateau. In total, there is 4.3 miles of trails crisscrossing this reserve. The trails do not connect to the beach like in the main reserve, but there is free parking.

Update: 1/1/2020

We returned on New Year's Day to hike up to the Red Ridge Trail via the Margaret Fleming Nature Trail.

On our walk back, we encountered two locals who live near the trail who gave us a tour and told us about the history of the surrounding sights.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Weekend Getaway (Biking Ocean Beach and Mission Beach)

Tori and I took a short weekend getaway and stayed at The Dana on Mission Bay. The resort hotel is a short distance between Ocean Beach and Mission Beach so we took our bikes with us to ride around and explore the two beach communities on either side of Mission Bay.

After parking at the hotel at 11am, we biked over the San Diego River into Ocean Beach and had lunch at OB Surf Lodge across the street from the beach. Heading south on our bikes, we followed Sunset Cliffs Boulevard all the way to the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park at the far end. The overcast sky began to turn burn off as we explored the dramatic cliff face for the first time. It was low tide but the natural arch entrance to the cave was still blocked by waves as we circled around the large hole in the ground.

We rode back to the hotel to check-in and relax for a bit. After chips and guacamole with margaritas by the hotel pool, we rode back into Ocean Beach to watch the sunset from the Ocean Beach Pier. Afterwards, we went to dinner at Bo-beau Kitchen. Since it was Restaurant Week in San Diego, we ordered their special 3-course dinner. Tori loved the Mushroom Ravioli as her starter and I thought the Boeuf Bourguignonne was delicious as my entree. I requested extra bread to sop up the remaining sauce. We both ordered the Flourless Chocolate Cake for dessert which was very tasty.

The clouds returned on Saturday morning. After the hotel's breakfast buffet, we checked-out and rode into Mission Beach, except that we went the wrong way and ended up on the long jetty between the San Diego River and the Mission Bay Entrance Channel. After our interesting detour, we back-tracked over the correct bridge and rode into Mission Bay and walked out on the South Mission Beach Jetty to check out the Graffiti Shack sitting on the rocks. The abandoned structure used to be the electrical box for the fog light at the end of the Jetty.

Leaving the rocky jetty behind, we slowly cruised up the boardwalk until we reached Pacific Beach and stopped for drinks to people watch. We rode all the way to Palisades Park at the north end of Pacific Beach. After snacking on some fries at Biggie's Burgers to get out of the light rain, we headed back to our car and headed to Aerial Revolutions for the Saturday AcroJam.

p.s. - I had quite the experience with a crazy homeless man in a Mission Bay park bathroom. He was talking to himself as I walked past him to the urinal. As I was peeing, he started shouting and banging his stick against the walls and bathroom sinks. I kept my eye on him as I finished up and he brandished his stick and yelled at me for looking at him. I had to walk out backwards because I didn't want to get hit in the back of the head.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Michelin Star Dining at the Addison Restaurant

Last night, I finally used all my OpenTable reward points and splurged on a wonderful dinner with my wife at the Addison located in the Grand Del Mar resort.  (It ended up covering about 20% of the tab.) The French Restaurant received their first Michelin star this year, the only one awarded in San Diego.

Michelin Review - Among other luxuries, an evening at the Addison is like wrapping yourself in culinary excellence. A lengthy drive through the exquisite grounds of the Fairmont Grand Del Mar resort sets the scene. Inside this much-celebrated space, arched ceilings stretch overhead, while a roaring fireplace sends light dancing off the marble. Glossy windows overlook the golf course greens, and guests settle in for one of San Diego's most coveted meals. Critically acclaimed Chef William Bradley spins out one long dinner every evening, which is brought to you at the hands of gracious, polished and effortless servers. His French-influenced compositions are downright gorgeous, brightened up with a touch of southern California sparkle—and every resulting morsel is nothing short of revelatory.

Except for L'atelier De Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas, this is only my second meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Addison has also received 5 Stars from Forbes and 5 Diamonds from AAA. After dropping my vehicle off with the valet, we were seated by the window overlooking the golf course in the half rotunda. Since it was a week night and had to work in the morning, we only ordered one glass of wine each. Tori had the Pinot Noir and I ordered the Cabernet / Merlot Blend. Even though we decided to order the five course option instead of the Chef's Ten-Course Tasting Menu, we were more than full by the end of our 3 hour stay.

Amuse Bouches - Kiwi Granita, a refreshing iced sorbet topped with yogurt cream and foam.

Petites Saveurs (Canapés) - Queen Beluga Caviar Bites with Cheese Gougères, tiny biscuits filled with a liquid bacon. This was my first time having caviar and it was delicious! Tori has eaten caviar before and she thought this was way better. Our favorite was the local inspired canapé that resembled a tiny gourmet taquito, filled with an avocado puree and topped with pickled peppers, onions and carrots.

1st Course - Alaskan King Crab (Coconut, Thai Basil and Passion Fruit) served with Prawn Crackers. While I have seen this type of crab caught on "Deadliest Catch" many times, I have never tried this delicacy from the Bering Sea before and I enjoyed every bite.

2nd Course - Artichoke Au Gratin (Whipped Parmesan, Potato, Thyme) was a perfect dish! Like they did all night, the servers set down our plates and poured the whipped Parmesan around the artichokes in perfect unison. It was just the two of us at our table but it was impressive to watch the swarm of servers descend upon the bigger groups.

Intermezzo Snack - Curling Potato Chips and Rosemary Dip. These were simple but fun!!!

3rd Course - Wild Arctic Char (Roe, Chanterelles, Sauce Vin Jaune).  Tori's special request before the meal was no red meat, but it wouldn't have changed anything since our five regular courses contained only fish and poultry anyway.

Before our 4th course, we were presented with delicious Parkerhouse Rolls served with Fleur de sel Butter, Honey Butter and a Tarragon Herb Butter. To save room, Tori skipped her 4th roll which I happily ate for her.

4th Course - Barbecued Squab (Red Cabbage, Beetroot, Blackberry, Mustard, Liver Mousse). I almost broke down and paid $80 extra for the Wagyu Beef instead, but I am glad I tried squab (or pigeon) for the first time. It reminded me a bit of the pheasant I ate at Maude in Beverly Hills. I enjoyed pairing the squab with the different flavorful items on the plate.

We skipped the Cheese Course because we were almost full but I did order the Tea Service. To avoid caffeine so late in the evening, I had Peppermint instead of Black Tea.

Dessert Amuse Bouche - Gooseberry Sorbet with Cantaloupe Melon and Elder Berry was a refreshing palate cleanser for desert.

5th Course - Variations of Praline, Chocolate and Coffee (Caramelized Banana / Meringue). Tori enjoyed it but the coffee flavor was too strong for me.

Gormandises - The desserts kept coming with a small selection of Petit Fours, Cherry Truffles and Cognac Caramels. They were all great but the smooth caramels were my favorite.

It was an awesome meal and as we were escorted out, we were presented with the printed menu of all the dishes and gift boxes filled with Pistachio Toffees that we ate over the next three nights for dessert.