Mr. K and I spent a fun weekend in San Diego recently and decided to drive down to have dinner at Corazón de Tierra in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja’s rural and secluded wine country.  We planned a couple of stops along the ride down the coast which offers breathtaking views of Salsipuedes bay.  The first stop was at the town of Rosarito because Mr. K had a hankering for a perron from Tacos el Yaqui, a definitive taco made from smoky charred skirt steak that is cooked on a wood fire grill, then chopped up and served in a griddled flour tortilla with just the right amount of melted cheese, freshly made guacamole, some pinto beans, chopped onions and cilantro.  It’s served with a bowl of radishes, grilled jalapeño and fresh lime slices.  It’s actually pretty massive as far as tacos go, but perfect to share when you are on a foraging adventure.

We drove south for about an hour to Ensenada where I wanted to check out Sabina’s Restaurant, which opened this last year just around the corner from her world-famous food truck La Guerrerense, which has been visited and featured on shows with Anthony Bourdain, Rick Bayliss, Andrew Zimmerman, among others.  The restaurant is casual and offers the same fantastic seafood as the truck but with comfy tables and chairs along with wine and beer to enhance your meal dining experience.

We shared two tostadas and a seafood cocktail.  Everything is so fresh and the menu now includes shrimp or fish tacos, and a new house specialty of Pozole.   One tostada had a layer of urchin mixed with finely chopped vegetables topped with meaty slices of raw clam, the other had a mixture of chopped seafood topped with raw sliced scallops, all were topped with slices of perfectly ripe avocado, dosed with hot sauce a squeeze of lime and spoonfuls of Sabina’s housemade salsas.  And the seafood coctele?  It was the best!  We ordered the mixto, which had a little of everything, octopus, shrimp, fish mixed with tomato, onion and cilantro, fresh lime juice and topped with avocado.

From Ensenada it is a quick trip on a two lane highway called the Ruta de Vino that goes through wine country and we stopped to taste wines in a dark cool cave at Vinicola 3 Mujeres and shopped for local olive oils and cheese at Cremeria los Globos, located at the only streetlight along the entire route.   The Cremeria is packed with local food products like mole sauces, fruit jams, guava paste, baked goods, lots of cheese, wines and trinkets.

Our reservations were for the last seating of lunch at 4pm, as we thought it might be easier to drive back to San Diego while it was still light.  We turned off the road when we saw the sign for Corazon de Tierra onto an unpaved dirt road.

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6118 Medau Pl, Oakland, CA 94611 | 510-823-2354 | website

I heard about a new restaurant called Daughter Thai that opened recently in Montclair, a lovely town nestled in the Oakland Hills near the intersection of Highways 24 and 13.  It is the latest project from chef Kasem “Pop” Saengsawang, who has two other restaurants in San Francisco, Kitchen StoryFarmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine and another Farmhouse Thai that just opened up in Portland.  The inspiration for this latest restaurant comes from business partner, Kimberly Gamble whose mother owns Lanna Thai in Livermore, hence the name Daughter Thai Kitchen.  Her family has roots in the southern part of Thailand, and she wanted to introduce some of their favorite recipes prepared as they are back home in a beautiful Farmhouse setting.

Interior of the restaurant, photo: Daughter Thai

To get an idea of the festive spirit of this group you have to watch one of their goofy videos!  Mr. K and I met up with my frequent dining partners Ben of Focus:Snap:Eat, (read his review here) Christina from East Bay Dish, and Brenda and Patrick of Bites & Bourbon  for a very fun meal that happened to fall on the night of their Full Moon Party, which included a fun beach theme dinner, games, and a special grilled seafood platter.  The servers all dressed up in resortwear with neon face paint, and all the guests got lei’d.

The flamingo man came around with a platter of fried grasshoppers ($6) that we couldn’t resist trying.  They were gruesome to look at, but crunchy and well seasoned and utterly delicious!  If the insides had squished at all, I would have been grossed out, but it was all crunchy and if I had been blindfolded, I wouldn’t have guessed I was eating fried bugs…

Brenda’s spicy Michelada that came with a copious amount of delicious belly on skewers and I loved that the umbrella looked like it had turned inside out.

Our party of six ordered a lot and all of the plates arrived at once, which made it seem a bit chaotic!  I loved that they use the same brightly colored plates we saw all over Thailand when we went years ago.

I always want to order Mieng Kum Kung ($12) when I see it on the menu.  Their version came with 3 green leaves with a scoop of a zesty mixture of lime, ginger, onion, roasted coconut and peanuts mixed with Tamarind sauce topped with a crispy crusted fried tiger prawn.  It was boldly flavored, hot sour salty and sweet with crunchy, sticky textures and the crispy fried shrimp was meaty and sweet.

The Chicken Wings ($10) were flavorful and crispy with buttermilk battered panko coated shells lacquered with a tangy chili plum sauce that had us smacking our lips and licking our fingers.

We loved the Sai Oua Northern Thai Sausage ($8) a dense and meaty pork sausage flecked with aromatic kefir lime leaf, intensely flavored with herbs, spices and curry paste.

The Daughter Thai Tacos ($11) were flaky roti tacos filled with crunchy battered and fried chicken in sweet and tangy sauce, cilantro, onion and cucumber pickles.  They were delicious but were really just orange chicken tacos (yawn) and there was just too many other spicy and delectable diversions.

Another dish that I can’t resist when I see it on the menu is the crispy rice salad called Nam Khao Tod ($12) with Thai fermented Pork Sausage, crispy red curry rice, ginger, chili, and peanuts with fresh Thai herbs.  It is an exciting mix of flavors: savory, sour, spice and crunchy textures that come together when rolled up in a leaf with aromatic herbs and fresh vegetables for a deliciously tasty rollup.

Crab Fried Rice ($21) was an interesting platter filled with twice cooked rice mixed with a cage free egg, onion, tomato, cilantro topped with a mountain of Dungeness crab meat, julienned carrot and thinly sliced cucumber along with a chili jam and shrimp paste sauce served on a lotus leave with a bowl of bone broth.  We sipped at the broth and mixed everything up to create a luxurious and fragrant dish.

The Phi Phi Platter ($33) was packed with huge grilled river prawns, PEI mussels, octopus, sea escargots, and clams served with vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs and seafood sauce so you could wrap them up.

Ben must have ordered the one vegetable dish, Pad Asian Broccoli ($14), crunchy and tossed in a spicy XO sauce with garlic.

We felt compelled to order the Southern Fish Curry “Gang Tai Pla” ($22) even though we were warned it was SPICY.  It was one of the few southern specialty dishes on the menu and I thought I would be able to at least handle a couple of bites to sample this highly talked about dish.  It is made with fermented fish (including the funky entrails), stewed in turmeric, lemongrass & exotic herbs along with squash, Thai eggplant, and green beans and contains no coconut milk to help cool things down.  It is served with crispy pork belly, vermicelli noodle & herbs on the side.  Whoooo!  I managed one bite and as my mouth filled with an intensely gamey heat, based on the fireworks crackling around my mouth and the klaxon bell woop-whoop warnings from my beleaguered tastebuds, I stopped right there and waited.  The ensuing fireball that flared out and smacked me in the head made me glad that I was cautious because my head wept copious tears from everywhere but my eyes as I emptied the water bottle and crammed vermicelli and fried pork belly into my mouth.  So, for those who can only handle 2-3 out of 10 on the heat scale should probably just pass on this fiendishly hot dish.

Thank the gods for Yellow Curry ($14), a flavorful comforting bowl with big chunks of potato, onion and crispy shallot.  Spicy but not in the least hot and if I had room I would have asked for some roti to dunk in.

We were so full that we just ordered Thai Vacation to share, warmed coconut sticky rice under coconut sorbet served in a half coconut shell which I felt would help sooth my traumatized heat sensors, but the owner had noticed all of the instagramming going on at our table and brought over their special Luk Sao Platter ($26) on the house!  We thank you so much Daughter!  The platter included the Thai Vacation, along with Daughter croissant bread pudding with caramel sauce, and a moist chocolate cake topped with billowy whipped cream, and a bunch of beautifully cut fresh fruit, just like in Thailand.

As we were walking out we were beckoned over to the Daughter Night Market stall where we attempted to throw rings onto bottles for the chance to win beer, but everyone was rewarded with candy!

It was a very fun and delicious meal, and I’m interested in going back to try the other less spicy southern shrimp dish and the 24-hour beef noodle soup, among other things.  I’m glad to have this warm and cheery crew serving deliciously spicy dishes so close to home.  On the way out, you pass through the outside patio which is very reminiscent of the night markets in Thailand, minus the heat and the humidity, in fact they probably could use heat lamps…

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Sons of Liberty Alehouse in San Leandro

August 8, 2017

150 W. Juana Ave., San Leandro, CA | website I’ve lived in San Leandro for 14 years and am just dizzy to see so many new places opening up! We now have craft breweries, T4 boba teashop, Liberian food from Kendejah Restaurant, Cinco Tacobar, a worthy sushibar, and now a brewpub in the downtown plaza. […]

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Ippudo Ramen in Berkeley

July 28, 2017

2015 Shattuck Ave. (at University), Berkeley | website If you haven’t heard, Ippudo Ramen is opening its first west coast location today in downtown Berkeley. These are exciting times for local ramen enthusiasts who have waited two years to welcome the 70th location of the global chain, so expect long lines!  I was lucky to be invited […]

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Farley’s East in Oakland reopens grandly

July 14, 2017

33 Grand Ave. Oakland, CA 94612 | 510.835.7898 | website | Menu Today is the official grand reopening of Farley’s East who remodeled to include the next door space (formerly Subway) so they now offer more space, and an expanded menu with wine and beer on tap.  Join them today Friday, July 14 from 7-9pm.  There will be door prizes, give-aways, […]

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Koja Kitchen in Walnut Creek

June 16, 2017

1550 Olympic Blvd, WC 94596 | 925.448.8218 | website I was so happy to hear that Koja Kitchen opened a restaurant in Walnut Creek.  I’ve loved their delicious koja burgers (the ones with the fried garlic rice buns) since the first time I tried one from their food truck at the Eat Real festival 5 years ago…  Koja is a […]

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the tale of the catio

June 15, 2017

Life was good with our cozy little cat family until the outside cat Nori got hurt and we brought her inside to recuperate.  The two younger cats were really opposed to adding another cat in the house, especially Zumi who would hurl herself at Nori shrieking like a banshee, and Nori who grew up on the streets, fought […]

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