Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I Love Viva Pops

You might of seen the cute cart filled with ice cold Viva Pops at local farmers markets around town but did you know that they have a store in Normal Heights that you can pop into anytime? I served these pops the other night for dessert and they were a huge hit. The unique flavors like salted caramel, lavender rose, and strawberry basil were fought over and shared.
Owner Lisa Altmann makes some out-of-this-world-pops and has one store front location. You can also find them at the Little Italy Farmers Market every Saturday from 9:30am-1:30pm, serving up ice cold pops from their adorable ice cream cart.
All of the fruits and herbs used are organic and come from local farms around San Diego. The pop flavors are changing with the seasons and are inspired by what local farmers are growing. There are no additives or preservatives added to keep the flavors in the pops as true and natural as possible.
The pops sell for $2.50-$2.25. You can also rent out a cart for your next event which is such an awesome idea! Pool Party Anyone?
The flavors are categorized by Fruit Based Vegan, Dairy Based and Sugar Free w/ organic agave (also vegan).I had the hardest time deciding which flavors to get. They all are so interesting and inviting.
Oh and don't fret about these pops melting if you have to drive far. Viva Pops provides a container with ice packs to keep the pops cold.
Some of the flavors I purchased were: Strawberry Basil, Chili Mango, Lavender Rose, Lavender Lemonade, Key Lime Pie, Mexican Chocolate, Orange Cream, and Salted Caramel which I think was the hit of the evening! All unique in flavor and all divine.
If you are looking to cool down from the summer heat get yourself a Viva Pop.
So damn cool.
Viva Pops
3330 Adams Ave. San Diego CA. 92116

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Terra American Bistro

Terra American Bistro has relocated to the East College District after being in Hillcrest for 13 years. Terra brings local, sustainable, and organic farm to table food to east county. Well it's about time someone offers east county folks some good grub! And this grub was damn good!!! Terra's ambiance has a rustic farm feel with a communal farm chefs table and old school tractor in front of the building. The decor is simple but to the point.
It was a Tuesday night and I was surprised to see how busy it was.
We started with Padron Peppers from Suzie's Farms. The were fried then tossed in salt, pepper, fried garlic, and finished with lemon, lime and orange zest.
They were not spicy but sometimes you get one that has some heat to it. So eat at your own risk!Fried Okra with Chorizo Aioli
Did you say there is chorizo in the aioli? WELL HOT DAMN!!!
I am not a huge okra fan but you cant go wrong with fried okra. Okra done right! Rosemary Garlic Crostini topped with Ricotta and Yellowtail Bottarga
Bottarga is sometimes called the poor mans caviar and while we eating it that night, we got the full story of how it is made by Loren Brent, who is the Sous Chef at Terra. While filleting a yellowtail fish Loren came across a large roe sack. He took it out wrapped it in cheese cloth and rested it in a bed of kosher salt and covered it with kosher salt. 3 weeks later it had shrunk in size by almost half. He then removed it from the sea salt grave and buried it a fresh salt grave for another 3 weeks. Then took it out and thinly sliced it and preserved it in house made house-smoked tomato oil. The appetizer consisted of a rosemary garlic crostini, ricotta cheese, bottarga. It was broiled then finished with a summer micro blend from Suzie's Farms tossed in lemon juice.
Cured seafood huh? Don't see that too often. Yeah, you can say this was a special treat. Thanks Loren!
Cambazola Crostini - garlic confit, house pickled mushrooms, rosemary-garlic crostini
The mushrooms are pickled in red wine vinegar, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. They are atop the rosemary garlic crostini, with melted cambazola cheese which is like a brie/blue cheese and garlic confit was placed in a ramekin which I spread on top of the crostini. This was a favorite of everyone at the table for sure and one of us doesn't even like mushrooms! The baby greens along side next to them came from Crows Pass Farms tossed in a kaffir lime vinaigrette. Can I get this dressing to go? Delish!
Beets & Greens - goat cheese, toasted hazelnuts, honey-miso dressing
How gorgeous are these beets? Thinly sliced and so colorful and sweet. The fresh from the farm lettuce was lightly dressed and had a splendid sweet light flavor. Grilled Local Fish - Yellowtail with ginger-soy glaze, stir fried vegetables, wasabi-aioli, organic brown rice
This was my meal and it was light and healthy. The vegetables were cooked al dente which is how I like my vegetables cooked. The sweet & tangy ginger-soy glaze complimented the yellowtail really well. Chipotle Skirt Steak - black beans, pico de gallo, chili honey glazed potato brie quesadilla, field greens and avocado crema
Okay this was my favorite dish of the night. I could not stop taking bites of it and it wasn't even mine. This will be my main course when I return to Terra for round two. Loved the potato brie filled quesadilla although I didn't taste too much brie. I would like more brie and less potato personally. The steak was tender and melted in my mouth. Who knew skirt steak could be so good?Grilled Flat Iron Steak - avocado chimichurri sauce, smoked onion marmalade, mashed yukon potatoes, market vegetables
I didn't get to try this one but it looked amazing and disappeared pretty fast from the plate! The special steak of the evening was a Gorgonzola Crusted Flat Iron Steak with local market vegetables, baked potato, and local maitaki mushrooms sauteed in brown butter & herbs
All of this goodness extends to the bar too. Terra has more then 80 bottles of mostly California wines, and unique local craft beers, seasonal fruit and herb infused vodkas. I had a basil martini that went down oh so smoothly.
Oh and the water of the evening was flavored with orange and mint. Absolutely delightful and refreshing.
Chef Jeff Rossman of Terra has done it right this time, and you east county folks need to be making Terra a weekly stop. Hey I moved out of East County a year and a half ago but now with Terra present, it's more of reason to go back sooner then later.

Oh, Banana & Candied Pecan Bread Pudding is on the menu now! And a pork belly basted in sweet caramel-like garlic milk should be ready to go by as early as next Tuesday or Wednesday. I got to sample the milk. It tasted like candy.

If that doesn't get you there...I don't know what will?
Terra American Bistro
7091 el cajon blvd. san diego ca. 92115

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Stunning Baby Sprinkle

This past weekend was my best friends baby shower. I hosted it along with other family and friends. It was held in Hillcrest on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon. It was a fabulous day filled with lots of excitement for the baby boy who will be arriving mid October. The mommy-to-be wanted a fun, not-so-baby-baby-shower filled with good food and her closest friends and family. So that is just want we provided. Happy not to plan cheesy baby shower games that no one really likes to play anyway, I jumped into the planning of a bad ass baby sprinkle.
We had it catered by one of our friends, Alison Tobey. Ali specializes in gluten free baking and cooking, she is a personal chef and caters on the side. She just graduated from the culinary arts program at The Art Institute in San Diego. She always goes above and beyond and her food is so delicious. What an amazing job she did as I will share with you below.
We wanted a casual summer theme barbecue with a gourmet twist and the menu she created exceeded our expectations.
Appetizers included the following:
Jerk Chicken Wings
Grilled to perfection and such a huge hit. I had to pull myself away from spoiling my appetite for the main course. They were Juicy and had little kick to them.
Grilled Peaches wrapped in Pancetta with Honey GlazeAnother appetizer I could not stop eating. Peaches are so good right now and these guys were ripe, sweet, and salty. A favorite among guest and myself.
Grilled Veggies with White Balsamic GlazeFor the the main course Sandwiches were served with a toppings bar.
Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Mango Habanero Barbecue SauceThe pork was tender, moist and so flavorful.
The toppings for this sandwich included: Mango, Granny Smith and Red Cabbage Slaw and extra Mango Habanero Barbecue Sauce.Wow, this slaw was so different, sweet and went perfect with the pork.
Hoisin Marinated Tri-Tip SandwichesThe meat was cooked medium and was so also so tender and flavorful. I loved the hoisin sweet sauce it was marinated in that gave this sandwich an Asian flavor. The toppings included: Rice Wine, Sesame, and Mint Slaw and extra Hoisin Barbecue Sauce.
I cant decide which one I liked better. I loved them both.As if this wasn't enough food Ali made some summer salads too.
Butter Lettuce Salad, Fennel, Peaches, & Pine NutsTossed in a light vinaigrette, this salad was so refreshing.
Roasted Fingerling Potato SaladI love a good potato salad and this one was not good. It was excellent. Roasted potatoes tossed with dill, mayo, and celery. It was not too heavy but was rustic, creamy and earthy.
Fruit SkewersThis is such a great idea. So much better then the typical fruit salad.
Last but definitely not least was the drink Ali came up with.
Blueberry Tarragon LemonadeAli squeezed fresh lemons for this this lemonade. It was actually the best lemonade I ever had. The taste of fresh tarragon and sweet blueberries that lightly flavored it was like nothing I have ever had before.How gorgeous is this drink? Almost to pretty to drink, with the pink edible flowers. And it tasted as pretty as it looked.
Oh and I can't forget dessert! It was left up to the hosts and we planned a Milk & Cookie Bar.
All the desserts were homemade by the mama-to-be's mother, mother inlaw and aunt.I loved the rice crispy treat pops dipped in chocolate.These ladies need to open up a bakery.We served soy milk, skim milk and chocolate milk out of mason jars.The centerpieces and decor was done by one of the hosts, Laura with Green With Envy Events.

All together it was a stunning baby sprinkle for one stunning mama-to-be. I can't wait for the little monkey to get here already. Auntie Marci is going to spoil you rotten.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bottega Louie...heaven on earth.

"Is this what heaven is like"?
My first words as I walked into Bottega Louie on South Grand Avenue in Los Angeles California. I swear I heard an opera's singers highest pitch in my ears as the doors swung open.
I felt like I was walking into Sakes Fifth Avenue on Fifth Avenue in New York but there was no clothing insight for sale. Instead I saw this.
And this.And this.Why have a never been here before? It is way to good to be true, but it is true. I experienced it. Heaven on earth exists and it's called Bottega Louie.
Its a 10,000 square foot gourmet restaurant, market and patisserie in downtown Los Angeles. It's located on the ground floor of the Brockman Building below 11 floors of empty condos, who's developer filed for bankruptcy. 20-foot ceilings, white marble floors, white walls, brass rims and floor-to-ceiling windows are the perfect pallet for the edible artwork displayed on the white plates. There are 200 employees, 600 recipes for the Italian menu and the bakers turn out 800 pastries a day. A rainbow of macaroon's filled the deli case.Cupcake anyone?Simply breathtaking.
There is a full bar, a counter with 20 different kinds of bread, a brick oven for pizza's and a carving station.
The Bread, though beautifully baked and sculpted could of been hot.I went for lunch and we started with the Portabella Mushroom Fries. Lightly battered and served with an aioli dipping sauce.Meat Ball Sliders were our next dish to share and hit the spot for sure. House made meatball sliders topped with marinara sauce and fresh melted mozzarella cheese. I will be recreating this dish at home!

We also shared the Louie Salad. Iceberg lettuce, hearts of palm, jumbo shrimp, avocado, sweet onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, and Dijon Vinaigrette. It was cold, crisp and refreshing. I loved how the dressings was light and tangy rather then your standard mayo based thousand island dressing that would typically come on a shrimp Louie salad.
What a treat this meal was. I can't wait to go back to try brunch and dinner. It's 2 hours away but is totally worth the trip and might head back sooner then later. I saw too many enticing looking meals on other tables that I MUST try. such as this...
Torpedo Sandwichand this. Pepperoni Pizza.
Bottega Louie is heaven on earth. I have been there and can tell you first hand it is real.
Maybe I should buy the building? Not a bad investment to buy the building that sits on top of heaven...I seriously want to move in.
Bottega Louie
700 south grand ave. los angeles ca. 90017