A weekend in San Diego

by foodhoe on November 23, 2015

sd_view

Mr. K and I went down to San Diego last weekend and had an excellent time sampling some fabulous bites around town.  We stayed at an Airbnb in Little Italy which is close to everything and had incredible views of the bay.  I took the above panorama from the balcony of the apartment, and the below shot is from the same balcony where we liked to hang out at in between the day’s adventures.

sd_view wine

We got settled in and then drove down to the third to last exit before the border, to Mariscos German, 3269 Beyer Blvd, San Ysidro which was found to be the best fish taco in San Diego according to this article in the Huffington Post.   We got there early, the truck was parked in the rear lot of a convenience store and we each ordered a fried fish taco.

Mariscos German Lonchera Taco Truck Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The fish taco was delicious, there were several chunks of fried fish which maximized the surface area of golden crispy batter to juicy melting fish innards ratio, which made us swoon with our first bite.  The tacos were drizzled with rich crema which blended into crisp cabbage slaw and flavorful pico de gallo, the slice of lime provided perfumed acidity.  We made good use of all of the delicious spicy salsas in squeeze bottles that are communally shared on the table and ate in reverent silence.  That was our single fish taco excursion, and it was excellent, but not as good as those we had in Ensenada.

sd_mariscos_taco

That night, we had dinner at Baja star chef Javier Plascencia’s new restaurant Bracero Cocina,  1490 Kettner Boulevard, which was a few blocks walk from our apartment!  Chef Plascencia hails from Tijuana and has been very involved with the creative Baja Mediterranean cuisine that has sparked a  culinary renaissance around Baja Norte and the Valle de Guadalupe wine valley.  The Placenscia family empire runs many restaurants in the area, including Caesar’s that is famous for its claim to being the birthplace of the Caesar salad, the award winning Misión 19 also in Tijuana and Finca Altozano in the neighboring wine country

Bracero Cocina de Raiz Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The restaurant is beautifully designed and pays homage to the bracero program that brought Mexican laborers to the United States during the heart of WWII until the mid-1960s.  I loved this display of hats and horses heads in the stairwell going up to the main dining room.  I also was glad to see that they had a number of wines by the glass from the Valle de Guadalupe!

sd_bracero

We began with the Vuelve a la Vida Shot ($12) with oyster, sea urchin, abalone, quail egg, smoked steelhead roe served with zaåtar & sea salt chips, tempura salicornia (sea beans).  We asked our server if this was a shareable item and she said no, you will each want to order your own, and so we did.  It was served in a shot glass, a lavish Veracruzan seafood cocktail full of rich briny bits and and creamy mellow flavors.  The chips were thin and crispy and dusted with a dark spice mixture that tasted of ash.

sd_brac_shot

Next was Albacore served two ways ($16.95), a slice of seared tuna, on top of a thin slice of eggplant tempura, another layer of tuna tartar over lime salsa verde spread on another thin slice of eggplant tempura, placed on top of a smear of burnt onion crème fraiche and drizzled with  jalapeño ponzu.

sd_brac_tuna2ways

Mexiterranean (gyro style) adobada ($5.5) a griddled flour tortilla topped with a slice of savory  meat marinated in a spicy chili pepper and vinegar based sauce known as adobo, jalapeño tzatziki, olla beans and a slice of juicy grilled pineapple.  This was very flavorful with all of the savory fillings and the counterpoint of the sweet tropics and cilantro.

sd_brac_taco

My favorite dish was the Perfect egg surrounded by crispy corn masa ($13), topped with beef tartare, potato foam, onion confit, and seared padron peppers.  The potato foam was substantial but super light and creamy, I loved the combination of flavors and textures.

sd_brac_perfect egg

We also couldn’t resist ordering Tijuana’s original Caesar’s Salad ($12) which was a very fine classic rendition, and though we’ve had so many caesar’s, we couldn’t say this was the best by far.

sd_brac_caesar

We shared the Chocolate from the Americas, a scoop of beautiful, dark chocolate sorbet on holjadre (fried dough), with hazelnut and salted caramel over a rich chocolate custard infused with the flavors of Mexican hot chocolate.  We loved the rustic elegance of both the setting and the meal.

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The next morning we walked over to the farmer’s market called the Little Italy Mercato, which is held every Saturday 8-2, more than 150 booths lining W. Cedar Street from Kettner Blvd. to Front St.

sd_mercado

It’s a fun market, I like the intimate layout along the street, it made for a casual stroll with plenty of room for strollers, shoppers and four legged friends.  A display of round carrots.

sd_mercado_carrots

These Thai pancakes (kanom krok) were $1 for five pieces and perfect to take the edge off my morning appetite.   They are delicately sweet and savory treats, made from a coconut milk batter that’s poured in a cast iron pan and are rotated to crisp the edges.

sd_mercado_coconutcakes

We stopped off at the Poppas Fresh Fish booth and were disappointed to find that they had no fresh urchin.  What?!?!  I had been drooling over their posts on Facebook like this one and this and so we consoled ourselves with some oysters and clams on the half shell.  The oysters were good, plump and briny, the clams were sweet and meaty, an excellent plate to begin with.

sd_mercado_oysters

Fortunately Mr. K found another booth a couple of blocks down, the Salmon Slinger, that had some urchin, which was $7 for the whole thing, and it was so fresh that it recoiled when I squeezed lemon on it.  This was even better than the one we had last week at Swan’s in the City, this was fresher and was like swallowing ethereal buttery clouds infused with the essence of the sea.

sd_mercado_uni

Mr.K couldn’t resist this cheesemonger, who had an amazing selection!  He asked the man which was his favorite, and got a slice of it and didn’t remember what it was called.  We also picked some excellent spicy dry salami from the Meat Men booth.

sd_mercato_cheese

We decided to check out one more restaurant Carnitas’ Snack Shack 2632 University Avenue, which  is a small booth that serves pork-centric comfort food that my friend CW said was the one spot I really had to try.

Carnitas' Snack Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

sd_carnitas_snackshack

I decided to order the Triple Threat Pork Sandwich ($9.50)  which is a brioche bun piled high with pork loin schnitzel, pulled pork and bacon, with pepperoncini relish and shack aioli.  It seemed to have a little of everything.

sd_shack_3ways

The best thing was the Pork Belly App $8.50 braised duroc pork with sweet-spicy glaze, frisée salad made with apples, radish and tossed with a vibrant lemon vinaigrette.  This was one of the my favorite belly dishes ever!

sd_shack_belly

We were saving our appetites for my cousin Ligaya’s wedding reception that night, which was at their home and featured a taco cart, nacho bar, lumpia and pancit, and a delightful assortment of desserts, chocolate coated pretzel sticks, chocolate covered marshmallows on sticks, cupcakes, cookies, nothing bundt cakes and this beautiful centerpiece.  Congratulations Mr and Mrs to a long and happy life together.

sd_mrandmrs

The next morning Mr. K surprised me by saying he wanted to try one traditional Mexican restaurant before we left, and since we needed to get to the airport by noon, we had to find somewhere that was open early, and we ended up at the family owned restaurant, Talavera Azul 365 Third Avenue in Chula Vista.  It was featured in the Food Network show, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, they have another restaurant in Tijuana, El Espadana.  The interior is filled with beautiful handpainted talavera pottery, especially blue, hence the restaurant’s name, Talavera Azul.

Talavera Azul Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The restaurant was filled with regulars and the service was brusque and efficient.  I can never resist Chilaquiles Divorciado with two sauces ($8.50), red sauce and mole topped with cottage cheese, with refried beans and country potatoes, topped with two over easy eggs.  The fried tortilla chips were crunchy and infused with the savory sauces, but I found the mole a little too sweet, next time I’m getting the red sauce again, and the poblano crema sauce…

sd_chilaquiles

Mr. K had the Poblano Omelette, which had fresh corn, poblano chilies, cheese and fresh herbs, refried beans and country potatoes.  The sauce was spicy and complex and really made the dish.

sd_talavera_azul_poblano

That’s all we were able to consume during our weekend journey, but given our obsession with Baja cuisine, we have plans to go back soon… especially for the Uni!

Love, Foodhoe, over and out.

 

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Rowena November 30, 2015 at 7:22 am

Outstanding! Honestly, this post was sensory overload at every single meal and now you got me thinking that perhaps I should try to get a hold of my long lost cousins in San Diego.

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foodhoe December 1, 2015 at 6:14 pm

ha! yes you absolutely should!

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grace November 30, 2015 at 8:18 am

i believe you’ve taken a proper tour of san diego! 🙂

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Ben @Focus:Snap:Eat November 30, 2015 at 10:18 am

OMG, I can’t believe all the fresh uni you’ve eaten lately! I’m surprised you’re not feeling the uni overkill. Sure looks like you got your fill of food in your jam-packed weekend. The $12 for the uni shooter looks a bit pricey. Do you feel San Diego has the best Mexican food in California?

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foodhoe December 2, 2015 at 7:49 am

I know! But up until now I’ve never really encountered uni raw and fresh like this and we’re like kids in a candy shop… and the price for it at the farmers market is so reasonable! And then you get a little shooter with tidbits that costs twice as much at a fancy restaurant… it was a bit pricy, but the dishes are Bracero were solid and excited our tastebuds. Re: best Mexican food in CA, I need to go back for more research! 🙂

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Brenda Ton December 3, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Oh man, all the uni you’ve been eating *drools*. I wish there were more uni vendors near us. Great photos, looks like you guys had a wonderful time!

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Tom Erickson December 22, 2015 at 6:00 pm

We’ve enjoyed your exploratory foodie pilgrimages. We lived in ocean front Nayarit for 7.5 years to begin an early retirement. Two New Years ago we stayed at a resort on the south side of Ensenada and missed the urban Ensenada. Can you give us the name of that modest hotel you mentioned which is close to all the food excitement in the city? We could trade you for info on La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit including food stuff. La Cruz is about 45 minutes from the Puerto Vallarta airport by mini bus cab.

Thanks,

Tom and Laurie Erickson

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foodhoe December 23, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Hi Tom and Laurie, thanks for visiting! We stayed at Americas Best Value Inn – Posada El Rey Sol that I found via the very helpful Trip Advisor site. I would love to get info on Nayarit, they are also famous for seafood, no?

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Susie L. April 4, 2016 at 8:07 pm

OMG, Bracero is my favorite restaurant in Downtown LA. So classy ans such great food.

Next time you should try Tacos El Gordo, they have a few locations in San Diego.

They’re amazing, definitely not as upscale as Bracero but probably some of the best tacos on this side of the border.

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Ligaya Wantland December 20, 2016 at 12:15 pm

I was on your blog looking for the clam recipe and saw this post! Aww…. you need to come back to San Diego and try more yummy food! And I’m so honored you mentioned our wedding. Love your blog and love you Couz!

P.S. I’m making your clam dish (with the butter, white wine, and chorizo) for Christams eve light lunch/snack at our house. I’ll take pics and send them to you. The whole family is excited to have it and they know I got the idea/recipe from you! YUM!!!!

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