Sunday, February 21, 2021

Encinitas Walkabout (Captain Keno's, Dave's Rock Garden and Falafel Burgers at The Roxy)

On our walk to Downtown Encinitas for Sunday dinner, Tori and I passed the new construction on the El Portal Underpass for the Leucadia Streetscape project. When finished, there will be a tunnel under the railroad tracks that connects Vulcan Avenue and North Coast Highway 101 and allows safe access from Paul Ecke Elementary School to Stonesteps Beach at the top of South El Portal Street.

We also stopped to check on the status of the vintage Captain Keno's sign made of carved wood that is being repainted in the parking lot. It has been chipped and peeling for a long time so it is great to see the classic sign freshened up. Currently, the artist is working on the fine details of the Captain and his Parrot. I have always had a soft spot for the English Tudor style of this local restaurant/bar that matches the design of my childhood home. 

The sun was setting as we passed Encinitas Boulevard so we detoured down B Street to Dave's Rock Garden and walked along the sunlit paths lined with hand-painted rocks. In just five years, Dave has transformed this trash-strewn empty lot owned by the city into a beautiful garden full of cactus and succulents. The small garden is across the street from Cottonwood Creek that drains into the ocean at Moonlight Beach.

Since The Roxy had a 45 minute wait, we left our names and continued our stroll all the way down to Swami's Beach and back. With another 15 minutes to kill, we stopped for a beer at the new outside patio of 1st Street Bar. It is a lovely spot and I hope they are able to keep the outdoor seating after the pandemic is over. We will have to come back to try something from the food truck parked out front. 

While The Roxy Encinitas has definitely changed in the last few years since it upscaled from the café / ice cream parlor that has been around since I was a kid in the 1970's, it has kept its famous Falafel Burger that Tori loves. I think they make an awesome regular burger as well that is super flavorful. Tori was entranced by the $5 Frosé machine but we ordered more beers instead.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

First Time driving Tesla Model 3 (plus PlayStation VR)

Chad, Tori and I went up to visit our friends, Greg and Barb, on Monday. After lunch in Downtown Temecula, Greg let me drive his Tesla Model 3. It was my first time driving an electric car. It took me a little while to get used to the regenerative braking that slowed the vehicle if I released my foot from the accelerator. It doesn't coast like a gas-powered car. This extended range model is capable of 0 to 60 in 5 seconds. With the extra weight of five people in the car, we only managed 6 seconds when I stomped the pedal to the metal, but it still felt exhilarating. The Tesla Model S Plaid can reach 60 in less that 2 seconds. I imagine it is like being propelled forward on the Superman rollercoaster at Magic Mountain.

Back at his place, Greg broke out his PlayStation 4 and let us try the system's VR Headset. It was really cool being able to see in all directions with Virtual Reality and we tried several of the mini-games in the VR Worlds game. Playing Danger Ball, an extreme form of pong where you hit the spinning ball with the movement of your head was the most fun. Racing down the road in the Luge game was thrilling as well, but could be disorienting in a crash. I didn't experience the nausea that I felt trying VR many years ago but it was very tiring on the eyes after a while, probably from all the rapid eye movement.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Valentine's Dinner at Herb & Sea (Veterans Park Hike)

For our Valentine's dinner on Saturday, we made reservations for Herb & Sea on their first day reopening after the winter shutdown. While we have never had dinner at Brian Malarkey's new restaurant, we enjoyed a delicious brunch here before the pandemic started. (We are in the middle of watching the 3rd season of Top Chef where Brian made his first appearance.) There is still no indoor dining in the art-deco building, but we sat out on their new Moonlight Deck, a raised wooden patio built in the parking lot with an enjoyable ambience. We both started with the tequila cocktail, Fire & Nice, to go along with our first course, the Blistered Tomato & Burrata Salad and the Baja Shrimp Cocktail.  The salad was tasty but we loved the combination of horseradish and citrus with the shrimp.

They were serving their Valentine's Weekend Prix Fixe instead of their regular menu so Tori and I had our choice of four entrees. While I picked the Filet Mignon, my wife ordered the Plancha Whole Fired Branzino. My steak was cooked perfectly and Tori shared a bite of her fish topped with Castelvetrano Olives and Calabrian Chilis. I don't eat a lot of fish, but I thought it tasted delicious. Our family-style sides were the Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and the Roasted Baby Carrots. The potatoes were good but we loved the tender carrots topped with Aleppo Yogurt, Carrot Top Pesto and Dukkah, a Middle-Eastern mixture of herbs, nuts, and spices. We shared the Chocolate Lava Cake, topped table-side with raspberries, creme anglaise, and chocolate sauce. Tasty, but not too rich after a large meal.

While we had our romantic dinner a day early, on the actual Valentine's Day we went for a hike at Veterans Memorial Park in Carlsbad. The 1.5 mile loop has great views of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon and the Encina Powerplant that is in the middle of being demolished. I will miss seeing the 400 foot smokestack along the coastline. While some may see the tower as an eyesore, I have always found it a cool reference point to orient myself. After circling the loop, we used the tunnel to pass under the road to hike the Golf Course Trail up the other side of the small valley to the Crossings at Carlsbad clubhouse. With the added out & back trail, our total hike was 3.3 miles total.

Update: 2/21/21

Since it was a little overcast during our first hike, we returned the following weekend to hike the loop again under clearer skies. At the top of the loop, there is a great view eastward of the dormant Calavera Volcano. While I could also see the farmland visible from my office window, I could not see our hidden building with my camera's zoom lens.

After the recent rains, the graded section of the undeveloped park is covered with green grass that is normally dead and brown during most of the year. The City of Carlsbad has plans to transform the site into a finished park with a veterans memorial, playgrounds, picnic areas, rock climb, bike course, fitness areas and restrooms. The Master Plan was completed in January 2021 and will be voted on later this month.

We ended up circling the loop twice to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. In the last photo, you can see that almost half of the 1954 power plant has been demolished. There are plans to replace it with a smaller 588-megawatt plant next to the new water-desalination plant that was constructed in 2015.