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An Easy Way to Avoid Grill Heat on Memorial Day

| May 20, 2014

It’s simple: Don’t host a Memorial Day barbecue. Instead, find out if there are any Memorial Day events going on in your city, pick one, and roll out to it with some family and friends in tow.

If you’re in San Diego and looking for a spot that will offer prime meats and icy cold craft beers this Memorial Day, consider heading out to Salt & Cleaver in Hillcrest. From 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Monday, May 26, the kind folk behind The Cleave will offer $2 4-ounce beer tasters, $4 mini sausages, and $10 bottomless mimosas on top of their full menu.

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(Flyer from Salt & Cleaver’s Facebook page.)

My favorite Salt & Cleaver eats so far include the Ribeye, a housemade ribeye sausage that’s laden with goat cheese, roasted Brussels sprouts, and S&C’s secret sauce; and the Duck.Duck.Pig., a housemade duck and bacon sausage topped with duck confit, baconaze, and orange marmalade. You can find both listed under the “Sausages in a Bun” section of the daily menu.

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Salt & Cleaver’s Memorial Day BBQ will take place on Monday, May 26, 2014, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. // 3805 5th Ave., San Diego, CA 92103 // enjoysausage.com

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Eat, Drink, and Play at SILO in the Makers Quarter on April 5

| March 28, 2014

On Saturday, April 5, SILO in the Makers Quarter will host the second Craft Beer + Bites, a 21+ beer and food event celebrating the SDSU Business of Craft Beer Program and benefitting the San Diego Brewers Guild and The Front Burner Fund.

From 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., attendees will get to sample beers from 10 local breweries and food from 10 local restaurants and food vendors. They’ll also get to play a variety of interactive games from bocce ball to life-sized Jenga, and shop wares from local makers, artists, and mobile boutiques.

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Joining the likes of Alchemy, The Patio on Lamont Street, and Sessions Public in the food lineup is Calexico Creamery, San Diego’s newest artisan ice cream company. Owners Monique Fresquez (aka La Creamera) and Ivan Feerman (aka El Scoopo) will serve two ice creams, each of which will be paired with a different Groundswell beer. As is true of all of Calexico’s frozen desserts, the helados will be inspired by Mexico’s culinary traditions and made from scratch using 95% organic ingredients.

“We use all organic milk, cream, eggs, and cane sugar in every single one of our ice creams,” says Monique, who officially launched Calexico Creamery with Ivan, her husband, just last month. They also believe in supporting local, sustainable food systems, sourcing as many ingredients as possible from local farmer’s markets.

“Care for the environment is one of our priorities,” she says. “We feel that even the most simple act, such as buying ice cream, can have a positive impact.”

Though this will be the company’s first showing at Craft Beer + Bites, Calexico Creamery has quickly become a must-stop stand for regulars at the North Park Farmer’s Market, the Kearny Mesa Farmer’s Market, Ripe Market North Park on Saturdays, and the La Jolla Open Aire Market. How to find Calexico Creamery among the Craft Beer + Bites canopies? Simply look for the sweet white and baby blue 1964 Cardinal camper which Monique and Ivan have turned into the Calexico Creamery ice cream trailer.

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Sloshing out suds during this edition of CBB are Green Flash, Lost Abbey, Societe, Alesmith, Karl Strauss, Twisted Manzanita, Thorn Street, Culture, the aforementioned Groundswell, and BNS.

Tickets for Craft Beer + Bites, which include 4-ounce pours from each craft brewery as well as food samples from each restaurant, can be purchased online before April 5 for $32.04 (that’s $30 plus a service fee). Tickets at the door are $35 flat.

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(Photos by Chris Brake. Flyer and photos courtesy of SILO in the Makers Quarter.)

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Craft Beer + Bites takes place at SILO in the Makers Quarter on Saturday, April 5, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. // 753 15th Street, San Diego, CA 92101, on the corner of 15th and F St. // $30 in advance ($32.04 with service fee), $35 at the door. Advance tickets available at http://craftbeerandbites2.bpt.me.

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Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day in San Diego

| February 04, 2014

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Since lessons in palate refinement are never a poor date choice, consider reserving a couple of spots at Venissimo Cheese’s February 16 tasting event which takes place at its Del Mar location. Those who attend will sample cuts of Venissimo’s curated collection of quesos with champagne and chocolate. Tasters also get a 10% in-store discount on purchases made that evening. $50/person, venissimo.com // Photo courtesy of Venissimo Cheese

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Looking for something less focused on lactose? Then check out Bacchus Wine Market. On February 14 and 15, the Downtown darling plays host to a fromage-free tasting event listed on its website as “Port, Bubbly, & Chocolate.” Per Karin Kiser, Bacchus’ resident wine specialist and educator, tasters typically enjoy pours of a white port, a ruby port, a Pedro Ximenez sherry, Italian prosecco, French Crémant, and French Champagne alongside three different types of chocolates. Book ahead or just show up–admission is breezy until the tasting room is at capacity. $25/person, bacchuswinemarket.com // Photo by Christine Pasalo

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In what seems like an effort to help couples beat the Valentine’s Day rush, Davanti Enoteca in Little Italy is hosting an intimate 5-course prix fixe dinner on Wednesday, February 12. Each course is paired with a specific wine, but take note: you’ve got to be an omnivore to get the most of the evening. Only 16 more seats are available for the rustic and Italian-inspired dinner which takes place from 7-10 p.m. and includes a poached lobster dish, a bone-in pork chop main, and a Julian apple bread pudding dessert. $75/person, davantisandiego.com // Photo courtesy of Davanti Enoteca Little Italy

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A night at the movies takes a literal spin at Cinema Under the Stars, an outdoor movie venue in Mission Hills. Slated to project in HD on its 20-foot screen on February 14 and 15 is “About Time,” a rom-com with a time traveling twist from the creators of “Notting Hill” and “Love Actually,” and starring Rachel McAdams (”The Notebook”). Though the theatre boasts four types of seating, I recommend nabbing the zero-gravity recliners because they’re nap-time comfortable. And there’s no need to worry about feeling a chill from the February air: the venue is weatherproofed to keep everyone dry and warm. TIP: Bring cash for movie snacks. $17/person if seats reserved ahead of time, $15/person if purchased the night of. Seats are limited, so reservations are recommended. topspresents.com // Photo by Eric Rife for KPBS

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If you prefer live, on-stage entertainment, then head down to the Horton Grand Theatre in the Gaslamp Quarter to see The 39 Steps, a Lamb’s Players production. Adapted from the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name, this smart and hilarious play follows falsely-accused-of-murder Richard Hannay as he dodges London police to prove his innocence, attempts to foil the spy ring known as The 39 Steps, and finds an ally (and romantic interest) in an attractive woman. Talk about multitasking. General admission $28-58; half-off for active military with ID; $5 off for Seniors 66 and over. lambsplayers.org // Photo by Christine Pasalo

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Want more ideas? For 40+ date recommendations, take a look at last year’s “It’s A Date!” feature in San Diego Magazine (co-authored by yours truly).

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My 3 Go-To Breakfast Spots in San Diego

| January 24, 2014

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There are three San Diego restaurants that jump to mind when I’m asked to suggest a place for breakfast or brunch: R Gang Eatery, Jasmine Seafood Restaurant, and The Mission in North Park. Waiting for a table for two never surpasses 10 minutes; waiting for a table for four or more has seldom taken longer than 20 minutes. The menus at each are vast and, while I have my favorite dishes, I haven’t been disappointed when I order something new. And portions are take-part-of-it-home generous.

So rather than wait until I’m asked for ideas to get breakfast in San Diego, I thought I’d just put this out there. Enjoy!

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This is my breakfast joint of choice when I’m coordinating a last-minute brunch with out-of-town friends and cousins. The wait for a table is tolerable, the seating is roomy, and the food is come-back-over-and-over-again good. Plus, Chef Rich Sweeney knows how to put the “F” in “Fun.” From pacos (bacon-and-egg tacos wrapped in buttermilk pancakes instead of tortillas), to scrambles featuring R Gang’s infamous cheddar-and-chive-stuffed tater tots, to Bloody Marys featuring a totem of meats and cheeses known as the Meal on a Stick, breakfast and brunch at this Hillcrest restaurant is never a downer. 3683 5th Ave. rgangeatery.com

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Since I didn’t grow up eating traditional American breakfast, I don’t hesitate to venture away from it. When my husband and I do, we end up at Jasmine to eat our fill of dim sum. Proteins come in the form of shrimp, pork, chicken, and beef. Carbs are predominantly some form of rice wrapped around the proteins. The best part of it all? Freshly cooked dishes are carted directly to your table and all you have to do is point and nod to get what you want. If you’ve never been before, I recommend going with a dim sum veteran willing to show you the ropes. My must-have items: shrimp har gow, baked pork siopao, pork shumai, congee, barbecue pork rice noodle rolls, and Chinese brocolli for good measure. 4609 Convoy St. jasmineseafood.com

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The Mission is a local restaurant chain touting three locations around San Diego. I frequent the one in North Park since it’s closest to where I live. If I can get out to The Mission for breakfast during the week, I order the 2X2X2 (two-by-two-by-two) because it’s a meal of two eggs (you decide how they’re prepared), two bacon strips, and two fluffy pancakes (you choose between buttermilk or blackberry), and it only costs $6. The fine print: The 2X2X2 isn’t available on weekends and it isn’t listed on the menu; to order it, you have to know about it. When I want to go healthy, I go with the Zen Breakfast, a meal made up of tofu braised in a black bean sauce, brown rice dashed with a tad of soy sauce, scrambled egg whites, and grilled slices of green and yellow zucchini. I salivate just writing about it! 2801 University Ave. themissionsd.com

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Tips For Enjoying Balboa Park’s December Nights

| December 02, 2013

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This year, December Nights at Balboa Park takes place on December 6 and 7. For those who’ve never been, it’s a free annual affair that draws out thousands from San Diego and beyond, including my husband and I. There are many events scheduled throughout the park and most of the museums offer free admission during the event’s evening hours.

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I won’t lie. Driving to the event, finding parking, and walking through the park requires a lot of patience because so many people attend. But with a little planning, December Nights can be for you what it has been for my husband and I these many years: a fun way to get in to the holidays!

Now, to the tips!

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Keep it in the immediate family. My husband and I love our family and friends. But unless we meet at one person’s place to carpool or caravan, we attend the event on our own. Keeping track of the two of us is easy; keeping more than six people together is work.

Bring cash. It’ll make transactions at the many food vendors that much simpler.

Plan to carpool and/or caravan. Fewer cars means less time parking. And save yourself the headache of trying to meet in the park! Planning a carpool or caravan also encourages you and your party to meet outside of Balboa Park and enter the event together. This helps keep everyone together from the start.

Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged, but don’t rely on it. Cell phone service can be iffy in the park when thousands of others are calling and texting at the same time. So don’t expect to immediately connect with whomever you’re trying to call or text.

Review Balboa Park’s Parking and Transportation page. The event coordinators know what they’re talking about! Just make sure to read the page carefully as there is an important note about the free shuttle service taking people to and from the PETCO Park and City College lots. Also included on the page is a PDF map of the event that points out the locations of $20/vehicle preferred parking lots.

Arrive closer to 5 p.m. Most of the museums that are offering free admission during December Nights are open to the public from 5-9 p.m. on both days. Plus, if you plan to park at PETCO or City College, you’re encouraged to park no later than 7 p.m.

Once inside, agree on an “If You Get Lost” spot. Since cell phone service isn’t guaranteed, it doesn’t hurt to have a backup plan for reconnecting, especially if there are kids with you. Consider using spots like the Japanese Friendship Garden’s concrete sign or Santa’s sleigh as if-you-can’t-find-us-within-10-minutes-of-losing-us-come-back-here spots since both are in the center of Balboa Park and face Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

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Buy food from the booths around the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages. Filipino chicken adobo and pancit. Turkish baklava. Peruvian arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) and picarones (donuts)! Bratwurst from the House of the Czech and Slovak Republics. Everything around the International Cottages is so much better and homier than the carnival-like vendors around the fountain. To see a tentative list of what each of the 32 cultural organizations will sell, check out the event’s Food & Spirits page.

Pick one museum you HAVE to see. I like to take my time to appreciate one thing well rather than split my time over many things I only have time to appreciate half as well.

This year, I’m hoping to check out the San Diego Museum of Art’s new exhibit, “Women, War, and Industry.”

If you’ve never been to December Nights and you’ve got kids in your pack, I recommend visiting the San Diego Model Railroad Museum because the Lego Train City Exhibit never disappoints.

Pick a second museum to serve as backup if you can’t get in to see your first choice. The Mingei International Museum is a great folk art museum almost secretly located across from El Prado. If we can’t get in to SDMA, I’m definitely open to seeing Mingei’s “Please Be Seated” exhibit and Quilts exhibit.

Otherwise, there’s always the San Diego Museum of Man’s BEERology exhibit.

>>> Do you have tips for enjoying December Nights? Please leave them in the comments! <<<

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Balboa Park’s December Nights | Friday, December 6, from 3-11 p.m. and Saturday, December 7, from 12-11 p.m. | Free to attend | Visit the event website for a full list of the days’ entertainment, vendors, and activities.

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