Tuesday, February 28, 2006

San Diego eats

I just got back from a few days in San Diego (downtown) and had a lot of fun visiting my friend. Thank goodness I was hanging out with great people who love to eat too. We ate everything from Mexican to cheesecake.

My first food outing was a quick dinner at Prado (in the lounge) in Balboa park. I wasn't really impressed considering the prices but the food wasn't bad. We were pressed for time so I just got the shrimp tacos. In case you can't tell from my blog, I like to eat well for cheap. So I wasn't thrilled that my two tiny shrimp tacos were $7.50 when I'm sure I could find the same thing for much cheaper and even tastier (right, Kirk?). Don't get me wrong, the food was perfectly fine and is probably a great place to go if you're a tourist checking out Balboa park (which is SO beautiful! I should go more often).

For breakfast on Monday we went to St. Tropez bakery and cafe in Hillcrest. I wanted to get something cheap and they had a few pastries available up front. In my opinion, you can tell if a French restaurant is going to be good by their pastries. If their pastries aren't good then you probably won't like the rest of the food. I always love brioche (especially the round kind with the sugar crystals on top) and almond croissants so I figured I couldn't go wrong. To be honest with you, I was really disappointed. I miss the French bakery near my house when I was growing up. These pastries were extremely dry. I had to wonder if they even baked them that same day. (Which is sad because it was only noon! They should still taste fine). My companions got egg dishes that came with a side of potatoes. The potatoes were pretty good and they seemed to like the eggs so if you like eggs you might enjoy this place. I, on the other hand, will probably not go back. Oh, and my friend had a side salad which I SWEAR had store bought Italian dressing on it. You can call me a snob, but I think that's a big faux-pas in a French cafe/restaurant. Can't they make a vinagrette themselves?

For dinner we decided on P.F. Changs (it's one chain restaurant that I actually love). I know it's not authentic Chinese food but I love to go to P.F. Changs when I'm in Mission Valley. We ordered the chicken lettuce wraps (pretty good, I hadn't had them before), pan fried veggies dumplings (very good but small), spicy green beans (they got rid of the long beans! but these were fine), mu-shu chicken wraps (I didn't try this), and crispy honey chicken (one of my favorite dishes, usually I get the shrimp dish, though).

For dessert we decided to get some Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. I had actually never had cheesecake there. My keylime cheesecake slice was nice and light. I also tried the vanilla bean and chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecakes. They were all tasty.

So, now I'm going to get prepared for a dinner I'm having on Monday for four friends (plus my husband and I). Here are some restrictions: no cilantro, one person doesn't like shrimp, one person doesn't eat meat but does eat chicken/seafood, and no apples or pears. I have some dishes in my repetoire that I could make but I would like to make some new dishes too. If you have any ideas let me know! Oh, and my mom is visiting this weekend so I'll be doing most of the cooking the day of the dinner.

Hope you all had a great weekend!


honkman said...

St. Tropez bakery has nothing to do with French food/restaurants. That is just a horrible franchise idea by Frederic Naeyaert. And I know verybody has different preferences but P.F. Changs is a lousy chain, not looking on the authenticity but only on the food quality. I think there are so many restaurants which delivery better food for a lower price. I tried them twice and it was both times very disappointing. Life is too short for lousy food.

Gourmetish said...

honkman, do you have any suggestions for better Chinese food near Vista, CA? If so, I'd love to hear it. We can't afford to drive into San Diego very often so places near us are preferable. Although we do go for dim sum a lot in Kearny Mesa (I think that's what the area is called).

We only went to St. Tropez because it was recommended. I actually like P.F. Changs but mainly for two dishes: crispy honey shrimp (the chicken was good too), the beef a la sichuan (it's actually just as good if not better than most "real" Chinese restaurants I've been to), and their tea (Revolution Dragon Eye Oolong is so good, pricey to buy as a whole box, but soooo good).

You know what? I agree with you that "life is too short for lousy food" (hence the food blog) but I have to make the point that sometimes you don't have a choice on where you eat when you're with friends or when you're traveling and don't know the area or don't have time to do research (which for me isn't often since I'm a research-a-holic but this weekend I didn't have a chance and didn't neccesarily care). When you have a group of people and everyone has different tastes you can't always please everyone.

Despite going to chain restaurants, I found the company to be outstanding and had a wonderful weekend with a great group of people. While I'm obsessed with food and think about it ALL of the time, I think friendship and the company you hold is far more important any day.

honkman said...

I completely agree that there are situations where going out with a great group of people is much more important than looking for the best food.
I live in Mira Mesa and normally drive around quite a lot in SD for good food or any good grocery stores but I don't go often to Vista. There is one Thai restaurant in Oceanside which I think is one of the best on SD, Thai Garden (4750 Oceanside Blvd # 18). I read somewhere that Overseas Restaurant (2820 Roosevelt Street) is one of the best Chinese restaurants in Carlsbad but I have no idea if this is true.

Gourmetish said...

Overseas Restaurant? I think I've heard of it but some of the Chinese restaurants around here look sketchy. I'll have to check that one out.

I love Thai food. I'm adding Thai Garden to my list. There is a decent one called Ocean Thai not to far from that in a shopping center on Mission. They have good appetizers and tom yum. Their noodles are decent too.

There's another good one in Carlsbad called Lotus Thai Bistro but I can't eat there because something they cook kills my stomach. I love spicy food, too, so I think it's something else in their cooking.

Thanks for the two recommendations. I'll be sure to check them out.

Kirk said...

Hi Kady - LOL for those shrimp tacos! I guess they'd be worth the price if they were out of this world good. Chain restaurants are a part of life - when we (rarely) have visitors, many of them want to go to PF Chang's or Cheesecake Factory. Actually the Missus loves something called the "Great Wall of Chocolate" at PF Chang's, I pick it up as take out once in a while. I've only eaten there once. Kady, I'd recommend Pearl in RB for Dim Sum - I think it's closer to You then anywhere on Convoy.

Gourmetish said...

Kirk, do you think Pearl is better (and as cheap) as Emerald? I love Emerald and have had pretty good luck and usually only spend $30 for 11 dishes. Not bad, huh? I was looking at Pearl's website last night and I can't decide which dim sum place to take my mom to this Sunday. I already know I love Emerald but Pearl looks good too. Their dim sum menu online is small but I'm assuming that's just a smattering of their selection.

What do you think?

Kirk said...

Kady - I don't know if you know this, but Pearl and Emerald have the same Owner, if that's of any comfort. We last visited Emerald in Oct:


Emerald used to be our favorite - but after the fire it just didn't seems to be as good.

We've been to Pearl several times since and even went for Thanksgiving lunch:



So we do enjoy Pearl. They also always seem to have some special going. Like 2 free dim sum when you buy 10, or Peking Duck for $18. Pearl's Dim Sum is more modern then Emerald - notice the Taro Gok. We live in the Bay Park area, and are actually pretty close to Emerald, but still will make the drive to RB and Pearl. That said, we'll be making another visit to Emerald in the near future just to see if they have improved....

Gourmetish said...

Thanks Kirk. I'll definitely try Pearl soon if not this Sunday.

Oh, I can't wait. I think dim sum is my favorite type of food.

Rorie said...

I second the vote for Pearl ... we eat there all the time! I like Emerald a lot too, but since Pearl is right around the corner ..... I will also second the general suckiness of St Tropez. Kady did you ever eat at La Madeleine in DC? They are a local Dallas chain (no idea why he opened one so far away)owned by a French ex-pat and they are wonderful!

Gourmetish said...

Hi Rorie,

Thanks for the advice. I think we will probably go to Pearl on Sunday. I have eaten at La Madeleine many times. It was always hit or miss with me. I like La Madeliene (they have this great huge loaf of brioche bread) but some chains were better than others.

Maureen said...

The best Thai restaurant is Taste of Thai in Del Mar at Flower Hill (not the Hillcrest branch). The best brioche I have found is at the French Gourmet on Turquoise in PB. One can really taste the butter in the dough. They have both a counter to buy breads, cakes and pastries as well as a restaurant. My favorite bakery is Bread & Cie in Hillcrest (no brioche however). They have the best bread, pastries, sandwiches.

Rorie said...

I love the Franch Gourmet, too - I think it's the best French bakery in San Diego. And Bread & Cie is just wonderful. Period. The California Muffaletta is to die for and they have great tarts & desserts as well as their delicious bread!

leigh said...

overseas restaurant is okay but chin's gets my vote for chinese in north county. chinese food in sd seems to be hit & miss unless you're around convoy (we love emerald so we'll have to try pearl next time we're down in sd). chin's has a lot of restaurants around north county and they even have a spot near you in vista. :-)