Suzie’s Farm Second Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Suzie’s Farm Second Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Such a magical night was had at the second annual Suzie’s Farm Autumnal Equinox dinner. It was an evening filled with enchanting scenery, great company, and delightful food and wine pairings. The event started out on Suzie’s Farm with appetizers and refreshments in the middle of their towering Sunflower maze. As the sun began to set, and the temperatures began to drop, we found ourselves crunching over leaves and fallen sunflower stalks heading in the direction of other people’s chatter. The sounds of bees buzzing past your ears, and the foliage under your feet, transforms you into this tranquil state as you explore this living piece of art. There were different rooms to be found, other than the center hay filled meeting place. Of course with the temperatures still being in the eighties at 6pm, making it to the beverages and appetizers almost felt like a reward. We snacked on pickled vegetables, Chayote and eggplant crostinis, Lambcetta dipped in a charred vegetable “dirt”, and savory cannolis. We sipped a Cucumber Lemon Verbena water that was more than refreshing. The dinner portion of the night was held at their Sun Grown property.

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

We mingled during the cocktail hour taking in the intoxicating aromas floating around from the outdoor kitchen. Hello, Caja China so nice to see you again. We enjoyed a glass of Vesper Vineyards Carignan, as we waited for the dinner bell to be rung. The dining area with long tables covered in crisp white linens and twinkling lights above was just gorgeous. This was like a scene that came out of my imagination. Oh wait, not everyone day dreams about dinner parties in rustic settings and farms? Well, I do, and I could not wait to see how the night would unfold.

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Four local Chefs came together to create a four course meal and pairings for all of the attendees. Now that I have described the scenery, let’s get into the indulgent part of the evening, the food.

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Chef Joe Magnanelli – Cucina Urbana
Blistered Little Gem Lettice with soft boiled hen egg, pickled red onion, squash blossoms stuffed with sunflower seed puree

Pairing: Brother Levonian Saison with Basil Flowers and Sancho Buttons, Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits

The first course by Joe Magnanelli of Cucina Urbana was a lovely start to the dinner. The charred flavors from the blistered Little Gem lettuce, that soft boiled egg, and let me say have you ever had a squash blossom stuffed with sunflower puree? The flavors and textures of this dish were outstanding. The pairing was a Brother Levonian Saison with Basil flowers and Sancho buttons by Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits. I could honestly say that it is one of the best beers that I have tasted. The Basil came through with bright notes, and the Sancho buttons left your lips and tongue feeling a bit numb. It was quite the pairing.

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Chef Max Bonacci – El Take It Easy
Handmade Japanese eggplant noodles with beet and radish kimchi, fermented chickpea sprouts, smoked carrots, and Cayenne chile sauce with Turkish eggplant-infused Ensenada Olive Oil.

Pariing: Alsace, Kuentza-Bas

The second course by Max Bonacci of The Linkery & El Take it Easy was a dish that had us and everyone around us asking,”How did he do this?’ The handmade Japanese eggplant noodles were so tasty, and the their texture was just fantastic. There was a nice heat from the Cayenne chile sauce, and how could you possibly go wrong with Turkish eggplant-infused Ensenada Olive oil. The Alsace, Kuentz-Bas wine pairing cut through that heat, and was simply delicious.

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Chef Javier Plascencia – Misión 19
Caja China roasted goat with Green Zebra salsa, yellow chard, burnt onions, and goat cheese quesadilla.

Pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Syrah, “El Take It Easy”, Villa Montefiori

The third course by Chef Javier Plascencia of Misión 19, is where that Caja China came into play. Mouthwatering goat with Green Zebra Salsa, and quesadillas with thick flour tortillas hailing from Sonora filled with Goat cheese from Tecate. I can not stop thinking about that goat, everything about this dish was just so right! The red blend “El Take it Easy”, Villa Montefiori wine pairing tied in perfectly with all of the flavors.

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Chef Karen Krasne – Extraordinary Desserts
Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

Pairing: Smoked Porter, Stone Brewing Company

The fourth and final course by Chef Karen Krasne of Extraordinary Desserts was a pleasant sweet ending to the whole evening. Chocolate and Croissants together, have always been a divine pair in my book. The Smoked Porter by Stone Brewing Company pairing was rich, and full of similar chocolate notes.

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

Suzie's Farm Autumnal Equinox Dinner

We really had an amazing time at this event. It will be a night that I will always remember, and look back on as a wonderful beginning to my favorite season of the year, Fall.

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Mercado Hidalgo: A whirlwind of aromas, colors and textures

Mercado Hidalgo: A whirlwind of aromas, colors and textures

The weather for the past week in both San Diego, and Tijuana has been quite the scorcher. Of course, we weren’t going to let that pesky 109 degree heat get in our way of making a visit to Mercado Hidalgo. Okay, so maybe we weren’t walking around for hours or anything, but I just can’t resist spending some time there on a Saturday morning. You may have seen me write about Mercado Hidalgo before, but there is no possible way to capture all of the beauty in one, or even twenty visits, at least in my opinion. Here are some photos, to show you guys a little bit of what our visit was like over the weekend. As you can see, there was no way that we were leaving without a mini Buzz Lightyear piñata, he is one of Giovanni’s favorite Disney characters after all. Mercado Hidalgo always leaves me feeling inspired. Just being able to capture the aromas, colors, and even touching the different textures is an experience that you will not forget.

Mercado Hidalgo de Tijuana

Mercado Hidalgo de Tijuana

Mercado Hidalgo de Tijuana

Mercado Hidalgo de Tijuana
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Gabardine

Gabardine

Chef Brian Malarkey’s neighborhood restaurant in Point Loma was a delightful setting for dinner and drinks with friends. The interiors are bright and lighthearted, which set a very refreshing tone for the evening. The menu items from the restaurant’s cold and hot bar are just begging to be shared, and that way there is still room left to venture out to sea, or stay on land with your entree choice. Oh, and of course there is always room for some dessert.

Chef Brian Malarkey's Gabardine

There is nothing quite like starting the evening off with a variety of fresh oysters. It was definitely hard to decide between local Baja oysters, and those hailing from British Colombia. Believe me, whatever your decision may be, they were all delicious. The taste of the salty ocean sloshing through your mouth is always a treat in my book.

Chef Brian Malarkey's Gabardine

Chef Brian Malarkey's Gabardine

Next up were the hot bar plates. There menu offers a nice variety, and honestly I could have ordered each and every item, but just knowing that an entree, and perhaps even dessert was ahead of me, it was time to take control. We ordered the Duck Confit and Malarkey style fries. The duck confit was outstanding, and the fig jam was the perfect compliment. The Malarkey style fries consisted of caramelized onions, white cheddar, and their signature Gabby sauce.

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El Trompo

El Trompo

Gearing up for your child’s first birthday, if not before that, you begin to anticipate his or hers first steps. You see them fall time and time again, and then before you know it they are off, and waddling away. As if you thought they could get into everything crawling, walking is now a whole new level. Fast forward to current day, where our son is almost 2, and well..running! There is not even time to blink before he has gotten over his current toy, and is on to the next object, which recently involves a lot of my kitchen tools. (Safe for his use of course, ladles, strainers, whisks..and so on.)


This summer has been unpleasantly hot at times, and if we don’t make it to the park before 9 am, the slides are already scorching, and sweat begins to bead on our foreheads. Not so cute. I am always on the look out for new and exciting things to do with him, and indoors is sometimes a plus. On the weekends Antonio joins in on the fun, and often times we are on the other side of the border. Case in point, recently we had our first visit to El Trompo. El Trompo is an interactive museum located in Tijuana, where children and their families can explore the worlds of science, technology, and art. There are different levels, and even a 3D theatre where they can run free, and really be themselves. The 0-6 years room was a our favorite, and of course age appropriate. Giovanni didn’t even know where to start. There was everything from finger painting on clear sculptures, an interactive car, to different areas that you could step on and various weather patterns would be exhibited. The older that Giovanni gets, the more he will appreciate the “Pretend you are a doctor or Mechanic” areas, but for now this was stimulation madness. I love not only exploring new options for him, but watching him discover the world one little step (or sprint) at a time.
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Birthday Celebration in El Valle de Guadalupe

My birthday actually fell on a Saturday this year, and it could not have been more perfect. We headed down to the vineyards for a late lunch at Finca Altozano, and as far as plans after that, well there weren’t any. That is the best way to go, just let the wine or your appetite lead the way. In this case, we were full from the amazing lunch at Finca Altozano, but of course that did not stop us from eating a little bit of birthday cake at Corazón de Tierra. Bougainvillea ice cream anyone?

The whole setting at Finca Altozano was just gorgeous! The weather has actually cooled down a bit, well okay so it’s 85 degrees instead of 95, but honestly it makes a difference.

Once the menu was placed in front of me, I had to do my best at holding back and not ordering every single item. That is even more of a reason to go back, not that we need an excuse in any way. Take the feeling of a nice breeze blowing, chilled white wine, and assorted food options, all the while looking over vineyards… Hi, is this heaven on earth?

We thoroughly enjoyed Jamon Serrano, Pulpo a las brasas, Pato de cerdo, some of the most amazing chorizo that I have ever come across, and tacos de borrego. Oh my, and now stomach has started to growl…

Finca Altozano we will meet again. I can guarantee it.
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Deckman’s En El Mogor

Deckman's at Mogor Badan in Valle de Guadalupe
Deckman's at Mogor Badan in Valle de Guadalupe

During our two night stay at Hotel Endémico, once the sun began to set, we decided to leave our serene eco-lofts and venture out into the night. Bill pointed us all towards the direction of Deckman’s en El Mogor. Deckman’s en El Mogor is the pop up that Chef Drew Deckman is running for the summer season, while his restaurant in San Jose del Cabo is closed for that time being. Underneath a canopy of pine trees are wooden tables, chairs, and wine barrels, that make up the seating area. The kitchen is an outdoor grilling station, that billows the sweet smell of mesquite as soon as you approach the area. The table setting tied in with the scenery perfectly. Mason jars, mis matched plates, and a little bouquets of flowers from the surrounding area were on each table. Rustic wooden tables and eclectic table settings are one of my favorite sources of inspiration for design. You could not ask for a more beautiful backdrop for the evening. The sun setting left the sky with an irresistible hue of pink, and the temperature outside was nice and mild. They offer either a 3 or 5 course meal, which in all actuality is made up of 5 or 7 courses. We decided on the 5 course meal, with the wine pairings, and a mezcal shot just to get the evening started off on the right note. Go big or go home..right?

If you are reading this on an empty stomach, I highly suggest that you grab a snack, because this is going to take you on quite the tempting ride. Alright, here we go.

Deckman's at Mogor Badan in Valle de Guadalupe

The first course was abalone offal (Yes, you read that right.), beet and duck confit. The drizzle of local olive oil, added this smooth finishing touch to the overall richness of the dish. There were so many textures, and flavors, that my mind didn’t even know what to process first. At first bite, I knew that this was going to be a memorable night.

Deckman's at Mogor Badan in Valle de Guadalupe

The second course, fresh oysters from nearby Salsipuedes, drizzled with a red wine vinaigrette and pink peppercorns. The acidity was refreshing, and still let the natural juices of the oyster shine through.
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Valle de Guadalupe: Encuentro Guadalupe

Hotel Endémico in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California
Hotel Endémico in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California
Hotel Endémico in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California

The Hotel Endémico located in the Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, is just about a 90 minute drive south of the San Ysidro border. The hotel is designed by Jorge Gracia of GraciaStudio, and is a part of the Mexican Hotel Grupo Habita. Hotel Endemico is made up of 20 individual Eco-Lofts, that sit on steel stilts up into the hillside. They are each built above the ground, so that they will not disturb the soil, or nature in any way. As soon as we approached the property, our eyes were automatically drawn up into the hillside at these beautifully constructed lofts. My mind was blown, and this was before I even set my eyes on the scenery from our space. The minimalist design of each eco-loft is just stunning. The tone for the interiors of the mini cabin are set by the stark white walls, and crisp bed linens. Each room houses a king sized bed, bathroom, and a table and chairs. Each eco-loft also comes with its own individual patio terrace with a table, chairs, and a clay kiva.

Hotel Endémico in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California
Hotel Endémico in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California
Hotel Endémico in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California

There is a short drive up from the lobby up to the loft that you will be staying in, which is provided by the hotel’s staff. As you make the whole 2 minute drive, you will notice their pool, jacuzzi, and restaurant that is tucked away into its own area of the hillside as well. In all honesty, you never have to leave the property during your stay, everything that you may need is provided, even WIFI.
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Deli Sweet Room

Deli Sweet Room in Tijuana
Deli Sweet Room in Tijuana

Deli Sweet Room is run by Ana Juncal and Doriella Galindo, who are two recent graduates of the Culinary Art School in Tijuana. It all began as just a coffee and dessert spot, up until very recently they added a savory side to their menu. The two women behind this cafe, have an incredible passion for the time spent in creating each dish and baked goods that their customers order. That and their love for the restaurant business is what had them aspire to opening the doors of Deli Sweet Room.

The second that I stepped foot into this chic little eatery, I immediately felt enveloped in a whirlwind of what inspires me. Let’s start off with a little bit about the interior design. The mismatched and eclectic chairs are one of the first things that my eyes were drawn too, or it could have been the light bulb fixtures hanging from the ceiling, either way I had a huge smile on my face. The colors were so bright and cheery, and honestly this is what I dream of our house interiors becoming one day. Everything from little ornate frames, and mirrors to the different coffee tins holding the utensils, I just couldn’t handle all of its greatness. I adored every song that came on in the background, and even opening the menu, and seeing such detail, I could feel the love that went into this space. Many of you may or may not know about my obsession with all things French. I have stacks of books at home from cook books, to books on Paris interiors. My husband and I are huge fans of foreign films, and 85 percent of the time, they are in the French Language. My first recipes that I ever started playing around with in the kitchen were from French cookbooks. Okay now are you starting to get the picture?

Deli Sweet Room in Tijuana

Deli Sweet Room is the epitome of where most of my inspiration stems from. Well now that I have gotten that point across, lets talk a little bit about what we ordered. We started off with an espresso and a cortado. We live off of espresso in this household, and this was nothing short of delightful.
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The Baja Culinary Fest 2012 is coming!

Baja Culinary Fest 2012
Baja Culinary Fest 2012
Baja Culinary Fest 2012

After attending the press conference for the 2012 Baja California Culinary Fest, we could not be more excited! We drove up to Los Angeles, and had the pleasure of meeting Chef John Sedlar at his beautiful restaurant Rivera, where the event was held. He hosted the event along with Bill Esparza, and Baja Tourism representatives. You could feel the overwhelming enthusiasm and passion for Baja California filling up the room. Bill gives off this extremely contagious vibe of love for Baja, and lights up just speaking about it. Juan Tintos Funcke, Baja Secretary of Tourism, and Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero also spoke to all of the attendees, just fueling up everyone even more.

Baja Culinary Fest 2012
Baja Culinary Fest 2012

After the presentation we all got to mingle eating and drinking. Each and every bite was just prepping your taste buds for the gastronomic adventure that the Baja Culinary fest will be. What better way then to wash down the delicious food with some Baja wines and craft beers. Below you will see the bite size wonders that we got to taste. It started off with an Ahi Tuna tostadita topped with avocado, and a 9 chile sauce. Following that was a fresh oyster shot. To me the most unique of the afternoon was the corn flan with black quinoa and squash blossoms. It was the texture of custard, but the full blown flavors of a tamal. It really was something else. The chipotle chicken cone was a nice addition to the fresh seafood bites, with its heat and smokiness. The final tasting was a yellow tail tostadita. All of these just increased my appetite, and immediately had me thinking of crossing the border to Tijuana for a meal, as soon as we drove back home.
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