Archive for April, 2014

RECAP // April 2014 on Dig This Jive

| April 30, 2014



Between working in an office, traveling up to Anaheim to help put on a convention, and keeping this blog up and running, I’m relieved to reach the end of April a little worn but not worn out. It was a busy month, one that taxed every bit of my well-being, from my mental state, to my emotional state, to my immune system, which is why it was that much more important to eat as healthy as I could while enjoying what I ate.

Enter strawberries, avocados, Oro Blanco grapefruits, Cara Cara oranges, and navel oranges. California-grown in every case, organic with most. It was part of my editorial plan to come up with recipes to highlight farmers market produce in April since the month includes Earth Day and, thus, is often associated with the environment, and one way I try to be a more environmentally-conscious consumer is to buy local and organic fruits and vegetables.

But, as it turns out, this focus helped me in an immediate sense, too. Despite being cooped up in buildings with people of all ranges of health, in which our source of air is recycled rather than fresh, I’m convinced I haven’t gotten sick (or felt an inkling of sick) because I made it a point to buy and eat locally-grown organic fruits and vegetables this month.

One thing I wish I did more of in April was go on more walks and hikes. But, hey, I need a theme for May, don’t I?


10 THINGS: SPRING | A list of reasons why spring is my favorite time of year.

100 HAPPY DAYS: HALFWAY THERE | Celebrating the 50th consecutive day of my participation in the 100 Happy Days challenge.

PUBLISHED: SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE’S APRIL 2014 ISSUE | Find out which write-ups I contributed and penned for “The Best of North County Now” feature in the April 2014 issue of San Diego Magazine.


STRAWBERRY GALETTE | How to take a basket of ripe organic strawberries and turn them into a rustic tart without the use of a tart pan.

AVOCADO TOAST | An easy recipe for a breakfast or afternoon snack that takes advantage of San Diego’s avocado bounty.

LUNCH BOX LIFT: SUBSTITUTING MAYO WITH HUMMUS | Have you ever used hummus instead of mayo in a sandwich? It’s awesome.

CITRUS SALAD WITH WHIPPED MASCARPONE CREAM | Enjoying the seasonal abundance of Oro Blanco grapefruit, Cara Cara oranges, and navel oranges via a healthy dessert.


NEW SPRING DISHES AT DAVANTI ENOTECA LITTLE ITALY | Chef de Cuisine Christopher Vera-Tudela at Davanti Enoteca Little Italy introduces seven new menu items in celebration of spring.*

WONDERCON ANAHEIM 2014 AND DISNEYLAND RESORT | What the heck I was doing in Anaheim during Easter Week 2014.


AROUND THE WEB: 7 EASTER DIYS | The classy and creative twists that seven bloggers put on Easter DIY decor.


TOTE’LY SPOILED FOR CHOICE | Tempting tote bags inspired by the style of Michelle Williams’ character, Margot, in the 2011 indie “Take This Waltz” directed by Sarah Polley.

*Sponsored post

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New Spring Dishes at Davanti Enoteca in Little Italy

| April 29, 2014


(This post is sponsored by Davanti Enoteca Little Italy.)

A few weeks ago, I was invited to join a handful of other bloggers and freelance writers at Davanti Enoteca in Little Italy to sample the restaurant’s new spring dishes. On the menu were five new dishes and two new desserts, each developed by Chef de Cuisine Christopher Vera-Tudela. Thankfully, I lasted through all seven offerings! Here are my thoughts on each:

Rock Shrimp Salad (pictured above right, courtesy of Davanti Enoteca): The highlights of this antipasti dish for me were the plump quarter-sized shrimp, the pick-up-sticks heap of spring pea tendrils, the halves of baby heirloom tomatoes, and the lemony vinaigrette. My only hang-up with the shrimp lied in its flavor, which was clean yet almost too subtle. When eaten alongside one of the salad’s herby yet deafening croutons, it was easy to forget that a whole shrimp was part of the bite. To solve my problem, I began to eat around the croutons, sticking instead to the quiet crisp of the pea tendrils in order to fully appreciate the combination of fresh spring vegetables with light seafood.

Asparagus antipasti: Thick, raw asparagus spears are shaved into meaty, bright green diagonals and mixed with toasted hazelnuts in a lemon and pecorino dressing. Because raw asparagus is bitter on its own, I enjoyed the flavors of this dish most when I had asparagus and hazelnut together.

Risi e Bisi: I don’t usually think to order risotto since previous encounters at other restaurants have left me hesitant. Either the rice was undercooked or the flavor was too one-note, and the note played was salt. But then Davanti’s Risi e Bisi came along. This fragrant vegetarian dish made with arborio rice, spring peas, green garlic, marcona almonds, and pecorino was an instant favorite. Maybe it’s because somewhere in its making, Chef Christopher adds goat cheese from Sardinia. Or maybe it’s because its texture isn’t all cream all of the time thanks to the intentional crunch provided by the almonds. Whatever it is, I helped myself to three oozy ladle-fulls.

Capesante e Fave: Three tender stumps of seared diver scallops are plated atop a mash of fava beans and slightly wilted spring pea tendrils, and dressed with a vinaigrette made with guanciale, an Italian cured meat prepared from pork cheeks. The scallops were over-salted for my taste, but it was a fact easily subdued by the creamy, almost-sweet puree of fava beans. As with the asparagus antipasti, eating elements of this dish independent of the other ingredients isn’t the way to go; opt for a combination for the best taste.

Pesce con Peperonata (pictured above left, photo taken by me): This dish, which features seared corvina and roasted bell peppers set in a gaeta olive demi-glace, was an abrupt left turn from the bright green spectrum presented in the rest of the spring menu. Deep reds literally take the plate, acting as the moat and island on which the thick piece of white fish is beached. The dish felt like a spring day taken over by hot Santa Ana winds. Each taste reminded me of stews rather than outdoor picnics. Maybe I was over the savory options at the point this was served; I just know that it didn’t send me.

As for the desserts…


Chicago Popcorn Panna Cotta (photo courtesy of Davanti Enoteca): A jar of creamy panna cotta is topped with an overflowing of caramel popcorn and cheddar cheese popcorn. Surprisingly, the sweet and salty mix of the caramel and cheddar cheese tastes very good, and the textures of the popcorn and panna cotta work as well as granola and Greek yogurt. Why the reference to Chicago? “The practice of selling cheddar- and caramel-flavored popcorn together in the same bag is from Chicago,” said Chef Christopher. “It is often called the ‘Chicago mix.’ It is pretty famous in Chicago!” I want more.

Cioccolato PB&J (photo courtesy of Davanti Enoteca): I want more of this dessert, too, and I don’t want to share it. Featuring a flourless dark chocolate cake and dressed with a fudge sauce, raspberry compote, peanut butter whipped cream, and house-made salted peanut brittle, it tastes of a deconstructed PB&J if the PB&J was made from scratch and for royalty. I just about fell over for the the peanut brittle, which Chef Christopher said is made with sugar, corn syrup, water, and fresh peanuts. “You let the sugar melt in a pan and add water and let it come to a light golden color with a low heat, and then you throw the peanuts in there with butter and pinch of salt,” he explained. “Then, you can put the brittle on a baking mat to cool and break it up as preferred once cooled.” Oh, it’s on.

And, by the way, many of the ingredients used by Chef Christopher are sourced from the Southern California region. “Items including the bell peppers used in the peperonata, pea sprouts, hazelnuts, asparagus, and the corvina are all sourced locally,” he said. Local suppliers include Garcia Farms in Riverside, Valeeta Farms in Carlsbad, and Pete Thorn Farms in Malibu.

All seven of these new dishes are currently available at Davanti Enoteca Little Italy (though they don’t appear on the online menu). Oh, and before you break a sweat…


…the cheese-stuffed focaccia bread topped with honeycomb known as Focaccia di Recco hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s holding strong, anchoring the “per la tavola” section of the menu. (Photo courtesy of Davanti Enoteca.)


Davanti Enoteca Little Italy // 1655 India St., San Diego, CA 92101 //

Christine’s picks // Focaccia di Recco // Rock Shrimp Salad // Risi e Bisi // Cioccolato PB&J // Chicago Popcorn Panna Cotta

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ABROAD // WonderCon Anaheim 2014 and Disneyland Resort

| April 28, 2014

After months of planning, the time for WonderCon Anaheim 2014 arrived two weeks ago. Here’s a little glimpse of what that meant for me during and after the show.


(DISCLAIMER: All thoughts and opinions shared in this post are my own. They do NOT represent Comic-Con International whatsoever.)

I work in the Programming Department, supporting the team that’s responsible for planning all of the panels enjoyed by attendees during the show, from what’s showing in the big room (i.e. the Arena) to the programs that take place on the 2nd floor and 3rd floor of the Convention Center. Yup, if you’ve never been to either WonderCon or Comic-Con, there is more to the event than what’s set up on the ginormous exhibit floor.

I man what’s essentially a panel-emergency dispatch center: When one of the Programming Volunteers I’ve assigned to run a panel room runs into an issue in the room, she or he contacts me and I either provide the volunteer with the necessary solution or I contact the appropriate support team and ask that team to help the volunteer resolve the issue.

This, of course, means that 90% of my time at the show is in an office, sitting behind a desk on which are the supplies I need to do my job as best as I can.


Since it’s important that I stay at my post, lunch is sometimes what I make of it with food I brought from home. Other times, my husband is onsite and can make a lunch run for me, like the one he did to The Viking Truck, a gourmet sausage-schlepping food truck that was part of the mobile food lineup parked outside of the convention center this year.


Most of my breaks come in the form of visitors. This year, I was able to persuade a couple of my LA-based cousins and their families to check out WonderCon. My only request was that they come up to the office to say hi, which they did. (Lesson learned: It’s tough to take a selfie with a 9-month-old.)


The best chance I have of taking an extended break away from my desk is on Sunday, the last day of the show. If I’ve scheduled enough Programming Volunteers on Sunday (which I did), and the day is running smoothly (which it was), I can have a Programming Volunteer cover the desk for half an hour while I explore a bit of the exhibit floor.


Beyond the traditional comic book sellers and booths, it seemed like Funko Pop! vinyl figures were a popular item on the floor. One person I know stocked up on Game of Thrones Funko Pop! figures, another snagged Funko Pop! versions of Marty McFly and Doc Brown from “Back to the Future.” Even I bought a couple: a Gandalf the Gray Funko Pop! to give to my husband and a Gru, from “Despicable Me,” for my godson.

Aside from shopping, I happily came across an attendee “dressed” as the Tardis from “Doctor Who” and another who decided to emulate a different kind of superhero.



At the end of Sunday, I hung out in a nearby hotel lounge with friends from my department to celebrate the success of another show. (I also indulged in a couple of glasses of wine.) Afterwards, I joined another group of colleagues to play electronic Catch Phrase!, a fun describe-and-guess game that quickly turns hilarious and rowdy, especially when cocktails are involved.


The next morning? Well, a couple of years ago, my husband took part in the Bike MS ride. Outside of riding 150 miles, he also raised something like $2000 for multiple sclerosis research. The fundraising feat earned him two Disney park hopper tickets which we finally decided to use last Monday.

First stop: California Adventure! It was our first time and, since I was pretty tired from the show, we decided to avoid the stress of trying to pack all of the rides we could in the few hours we wanted to spend there. Instead, we opted for a few attractions: the California Screamin’ coaster (AWESOME!), Cars Land and Radiator Springs Racers (it was like we had stepped into the animation!), and Mickey’s Fun Wheel (avoid the swinging gondola if you’re even slightly hungover like we were). After our not-so-fun experience on Mickey’s Fun Wheel, we felt it would be best to save The Twilight Zone Tower of Terrorâ„¢ for another time.





On the Disneyland side, we started with the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction on Main Street. Neither my husband nor I had seen the presentation in decades. So, feeling a lot nostalgic, we sat in. Though the technology dates to the late 1960s, we were impressed with the animatronic Lincoln for the fact that it’s still in working order (and moves pretty smoothly at that).


From there, we hit our favorite past times. (Not pictured: the actual frozen banana because I ate it all before I thought of taking a photo of it, Matterhorn, and Pirates of the Caribbean.)



Ending my Anaheim stay with a trip to California Adventure and Disneyland was a wonderful send-off to my third WonderCon year. Now, it’s full steam ahead to Comic-Con 2014!


(Photos taken by Christine Pasalo and Scott Norland.)
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RECIPE // Citrus Salad with Whipped Mascarpone Cream

| April 25, 2014


This simple dessert shines a light on three different types of citrus currently in season in California’s San Joaquin Valley: Oro Blanco grapefruit, Cara Cara oranges, and navel oranges. How did I get a hold of some all the way down in San Diego? It’s all thanks to Dinuba-based Sweet Tree Farms, which sells their organic citrus at farmers markets all over the Golden State, including the one in Hillcrest that takes place on Sundays.



The Sweet Tree Farms stall is located just off of the Hillcrest Farmers Market’s border on the corner of Normal Street and Lincoln Avenue. To draw visitors in, Sweet Tree Farms sets up a table with freshly cut wedges of their seasonal fruit. Being spring, that means samples of ripe white-fleshed Oro Blanco grapefruit, sunset-red Cara Cara, almost neon orange navels, and a variety of other citruses. Not once did sourness creep into a taste; each piece of fruit was a pleasing, healthy helping of breakfast and juice in one bite.


To make this refreshing dessert, gather up three different citruses.* Stick to the kinds of citrus you might eat as a snack: grapefruits, oranges, pomelos, tangerines, tangelos. If possible, pick citruses of different colors. That way, you give the dessert layers of flavor while also adding variety to its presentation.

Also grab some heavy whipping cream,* mascarpone cheese, granulated sugar,* and vanilla extract. For an optional garnish, keep some honey or agave syrup, as well as a packet of mint, on hand.

(*Organic in my case.)


Start by cutting out the segments of each citrus over a mixing bowl as demonstrated in the Serious Eats video, “Knife Skills: How to Cut Citrus Segments.” For each citrus, make sure to squeeze the de-segmented piece of fruit over the bowl to extract all of its juices. Fish out large seeds as necessary.


Gently mix the segments and juices in the bowl, being careful to keep the segments intact.



In a separate mixing bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of mascarpone cheese, 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream, a tablespoon of granulated sugar, and a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract using a hand mixer with the whisk attachments. Whisk the mixture until thick soft peaks form.

To serve, divide the citrus salad and its juices among two dessert bowls, then top each helping with a dollop of the vanilla-ice-cream-tasting whipped mascarpone cream.** If you like, drizzle the entire dessert with a little bit of honey or agave syrup and garnish the cream with a sprig of mint.

**The whipped mascarpone cream tastes great on top of a slice of strawberry galette, too!



(Footed glass dessert dishes from Crate & Barrel)

Citrus Salad with Whipped Mascarpone Cream
Whipped Mascarpone Cream adapted from a recipe on
Makes 2 servings // 20 minutes to make

For Citrus Salad:
3 different citruses, such as 1 large Oro Blanco grapefruit, 1 medium Cara Cara orange, and 1 medium navel orange

For Whipped Mascarpone Cream:
1/4 cup of chilled mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup of chilled heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp of granulated sugar
1/4 tsp of vanilla extract

For garnish (optional):
Mint leaves
Honey or agave syrup

  1. Over a small mixing bowl, cut the segments out of each citrus. Squeeze the de-segmented citruses over the bowl to collect their juices. Fish out any large seeds as necessary. Gently mix the segments and juices in the bowl, being careful to keep the segments intact. Set aside. (If not serving immediately, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.)
  2. Make the whipped mascarpone cream: In a separate mixing bowl, add the mascarpone cheese, heavy whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Using a hand mixer with whisk attachments, mix the ingredients until thick soft peaks form. (If not serving immediately, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the whipped mascarpone cheese chill in the fridge.)
  3. When ready to serve, divide the citrus salad into two small bowls. Divide the juices among the two bowls as well. Add a dollop of the whipped mascarpone cheese on top of the salad. Garnish the salad with a drizzle of honey and a mint leaf as desired, and serve.
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My Picks: Things to Do in San Diego, April 26-27

| April 24, 2014


Saturday, April 26, 2014, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Suzie’s Farm Strawberry Jam. Fun, family-oriented, and free to attend, this San Diego to-do takes place at the farm’s Suzie’s At Sunset spot located east of the Tijuana Estuary. Should you pick your own strawberries from the fields, the haul is yours for $2.50 a pound. Already-picked strawberries will also be sold by the pint and case, as will strawberry-centric foods from food trucks Green Truck, God Save the Cuisine, and Calexico Creamery. That said, you don’t need to buy anything to enjoy an afternoon on the farm. Simply bring your own picnic and take in the live performances from American roots bands Plow and The Big Decisions. 2570 Sunset Avenue,


Sunday, April 27, 2014, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.: 25th Annual EarthFair. Boasted as the largest free environmental fair in the world, this volunteer-run festival will include a Children’s Earth Parade, more than 300 exhibitors, an all-vegetarian food pavilion, a Cleaner Car Concourse, live entertainment, and art gallery. Don’t know if you’re doing enough to make your home energy efficient? Then check out the eHome exhibit which will also show you ways to make your home environmentally sustainable. Balboa Park,


Saturday and Sunday, April 26-27, 2014, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.: 30th Annual Mission Federal ArtWalk. Get a lot artsy in Little Italy as you wander up and down Beech, Cedar, Date, Fir, and India Streets during this free event. Explore sculptures, paintings, and illustrations, make your own mandala, and embrace the mix of precision and flow that is street art as its created from scratch by renowned graffiti artists APEX, Oceanside native Chor Boogie, Codak, and Mike Bam. There will also be live music and dance performances, as well as a KidsWalk where children can draw, paint, paste, and even make musical instruments, kites, and paper lanterns. 2210 Columbia Street,

(Flyer from the ArtWalk San Diego Facebook page. Photo by Kristie McClure, shared on ArtWalk San Diego’s press photo website.)


Saturday and Sunday, April 26-27, 2014, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: 31st Annual Encinitas Street Fair. For those looking for a free-to-attend family event in North County, head out to Downtown Encinitas this weekend and enjoy good food and live entertainment. Got a pup? Hit the Dog Zone, which will feature a dog park and dog obstacle course. Bringing the kids? Hang out at the Kid Zone. Of drinking age? Bask in the beer garden. And if you like pancakes, show up at the 7-11 parking lot on D Street between 7-11 a.m. on Saturday only and get served a stack by the Encinitas Fire Department (profits from the pancake breakfast support local firefighters). S Coast Hwy 101 between D Street and J Street,

(Collage from the 31st Annual Street Fair page on
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