Tag Archives: san diego

Weekly Travel Theme – Motion

train sunset(Racing by a show-stopping Santa Barbara sunset on the Amtrak Coast Starlight)

The back-to-back, Monday-Tuesday, one-two photo challenge punch continues with this week’s Travel Theme of “Motion” from Where’s My Backpack. It is a counter-intuitive concept, to capture motion in a snapshot – I thought Ailsa picked the perfect quote to reflect this:

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.” – William Faulkner

And, with that, here are a few glimpses of motion I have captured both here and abroad.

dolphins(Dolphins playing alongside our whale watching trip in San Diego)

monkeys(Young rhesus macaques playing with prayer flags – and visitors – at Swayambhunath – The Monkey Temple – in Kathmandu, Nepal)

surfers(Watching the last wave of the evening, and resting after a long day in the sun and sea – Playa Dominica, Costa Rica)

pelaton(The Peloton entering Place de Concorde in the final stage of the Tour de France – Paris, France)

cairo(The slow meander of The Nile on a clear night – Cairo, Egypt)

niece on the move

nephew on the move(And, of course, no “Motion” post would be complete in my world without featuring my niece and nephew (both newly) in motion – thrilled with their mobility and clearly on a mission to tackle my camera.)


Summer of San Diego!

balboa park(Museums in Balboa Park)

It is a funny thing, living in a vacation destination. Although I pass by the Sea World tower each day during my shuttle-ride to the lab, I am most often oblivious to the tourist attractions and natural wonders by which we am surrounded. In discussing how to spend our non-BBQ time during this Fourth of July weekend, The Bat and I got to discussing all of the San Diego attractions that, as residents, we have never taken the time to see and/or experience. Our list grew quite fast and the idea of a summer blogging project bloomed along with it.

east county (Looking out over the arid farm country of East San Diego county)

June was a hectic month – what with constant birthday parties, family gatherings, Whole30 restrictions and work schedule changes. I am very happy to put those days behind me. Luckily, July has opened full of sunshine and, thus far, much more relaxing. So, in the interest of living in the moment and soaking up what the city has to offer – I am officially declaring it The Summer of San Diego. I want to play tourist in my hometown and see what makes San Diego “America’s Finest City.”

alesmith (Beer tasting at AleSmith)

There is no time like the present to really explore the nooks and crannies of San Diego. After 7 years in Boston and 4 years in Paris, I can easily make lists of things I never took the time to see and do (Glass flowers, anyone? Or wine tasting in the French countryside?).  I do not want to take this city for granted. To that end, no project of mine is complete without a list. So, without further ado – here are more things than I could possibly fit into the next 8-12 weekends. Of course posting them here holds me somewhat accountable and provides excellent blog fodder as the summer moves along.

la jolla cove(Sea Kayakers in La Jolla Cove)

Let the games begin!


San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Sea World

Legoland (I want to go this summer, mainly for this)

Belmont Park


Historical Landmarks:

Cabrillo National Monument

Mission San Diego

Old Town San Diego – Food and Tours!



Balboa Park:

–       Museums (so many, and free on Tuesdays)

–       Botantical Garden

–       Concert at the Organ Pavillion

–       Play at the Globe Theater

–       Japanese Friendship Garden

San Diego Botanical Garden

Picnic at Kate Sessions Park

Tidepools at Sunset Cliffs

Hiking at Torrey Pines

Palomar Mountain Observatory

Anza Borrego Dessert (might have to wait for flower season next spring)

Camping/Hiking @ Idyllwild



Watch San Diego Padres baseball game at Petco Park

Play Disc Golf at Morley Field

Surfing Lessons (?)


Sea Cave Kayaking in La Jolla Cove

Watch (do?) paragliding at the Torrey Pines Gliderport

Del Mar Horse Races

Sailing in the San Diego Harbor


Food/Drink as motivators:

Beer Tasting (at one/some/all of the booming craft breweries in the area!)

Julian Road Trip and Apple Pie

Sunset cocktails at the beachside bar at the Hotel Del Coronado

Farmers Markets



The Stuart Collection

Dr. Seuss Collection

Fallen Star


Beyond San Diego:

California Missions Road Trip

Joshua Tree National Park

Big Bear Lake

Wine Tasting in Temecula

Wine Tasting in Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez

Catalina Island

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Train to The Big A for an Angels baseball game

ucsd teddy (“Bear” on the campus of University of California, San Diego)

San Diegans (and visitors), tell me what I have missed, but must see!

Friends (or other bloggers?), let me know if you want to get in on the fun and join me on any of these adventures!

The list is long (and somewhat overwhelming), but it is so exciting to realize how much fun there is to be had in my own backyard!







Taco Tuesday – Carnitas Snack Shack

carnitasCarnitas Snack Shack has been on my “must try ASAP” from the moment I stepped off of that transatlantic flight six months ago. A new darling on the restaurant scene, the Snack Shack serves locally sourced, pork-centric tacos, sandwiches and small plates from a window-front stand at University Ave and Oregon St. in North Park. They also stock plenty of local craft beer, so if you are not in a rush after ordering, settle into the picnic tables set up around back, admire the garden beds, soak up some sun and stay awhile.snack shack earlyI snuck out of work a bit earlier than usual a few weeks ago to meet friends here to finally taste what the buzz was all about. I arrived a bit early – they had pups to pick up at home, as the Snack Shack patio is extremely dog friendly. There was no line when I got there – around 5:30 or so – and I was able to order a Green Flash Trippel to tipple while I waited in one of the few tables still getting direct sunlight in the garden area.beer and sunshineOnce the rest of the crew arrived, we worked out a plan to try as many things on the menu as possible. I ordered the carnitas tacos (of course!), M ordered the specialty of the house, the Triple Threat sandwich and H rounded out the main courses with steak flautas. Additionally we agreed to split the pork belly appetizer and an order of fries. I am getting the idea that my friends delight in having this blog as an excuse to order almost everything on the menu (we did skip a vibrantly colored and delicious looking beet and goat cheese terrine).back gardenWe were lucky in our timing – within about 10 minutes of putting in our order, the line outside of the solitary window to pork-goodness started forming and snaking rapidly up the street. While we waited we helped ourselves to water – both in glasses and in a graciously provided doggie bowl. Thankfully, our food was also first out of the kitchen and it was not more than 15-20 minutes before we had a steaming, smoky feast set before our eyes (and watering mouths), while the newcomers watched with hungry anticipation.salsasThere was no order to the service – our pork belly and fries came delivered with everything else, and we immediately started to divide things into threes such that we could all get a taste. H had also noted that the Snack Shack purchases locally crafted salsas, which were available upon request (and were delivered quickly). We started to pass the plates around and the universal indication of tastiness – silence – settled around our table.carnitas2First, the tacos (it is Tuesday). There is a reason that the entire restaurant is names for this dish alone. The carnitas themselves were incredibly tender, smoky and moist, but retained that spicy crust from a high heat sear along the outside edges that provides a satisfying crunch before each bite melts in your mouth. The tacos were piled high with meat and garnished simply with fresh avocado, a heaping scoop of homemade pico de gallo, lime and a side of corn slaw. Together, the flavors created what is now my favorite carnitas in San Diego – it really is that crispy roasted outer edge that gets me every time.  The serving was more than enough to fill my belly, but with four more dishes on the table, I had to keep tasting. Yup, life is hard.flautasAlthough we tried to love them as much as the tacos, we all agreed that (despite being talked up by the man behind the ordering window) the beef flautas were our least favorite of the bunch. The steak was cooked medium-rare and had great flavor, but compared to the slow roasted pork in the other dishes that melted in our mouth, the somewhat chewy hunk of meat took an immediate back seat. The fries were also not necessary – not in the scope of our meal, certainly – but also in general. They were great fries – thin, a well-balanced combination of crunch and steaming soft potato –but given what the Snack Shack does so well (pork), there is no reason to order anything else.triple threatSpeaking of which, let’s get back to the pig. Our collective tie for first place was split down the middle (one vote for each and me, undecided) between the Triple Threat and the pork belly appetizer. The Triple Threat sandwich is a study in absolute excess, featuring pulled pork topped by schnitzel topped by bacon, with a schmear of house aioli and a pickle/pepper relish, all sandwiched between a buttery bun. I think, before tasting it, we all expected it to be too much – too rich, too fatty, too much everything. It was definitely rich and over the top, but not grossly so. In fact, the meats harmonized much better than I expected and the crunch and vinegar heat from the relish went a long way through cutting through the heft. It was, simply, super – not at all a gimmick, but a seriously good sandwich that I would not hesitate to order again (and encourage others to do the same).pork bellyThe pork belly was a completely different type of decadent. Seemingly somewhat out of place on a menu of finger foods, this slab of pork belly had clearly been braised for hours and was served coated in a thick sweet-spicy glaze and tart apple lemon slaw. The tender meltiness of this dish put even the carnitas to shame and the sauce, possibly a bit too cloying at first, grew on us until we were dipping the salad greens in it as well, so none would go to waste. We all devoured the belly immediately after its initial tasting – there was an instinctive competitiveness, even among friends, because we all knew without saying that if you didn’t get your fork in for another bite now, you would be left behind (and belly-less). Both M and H went in for the last bite at the same time and there was some very careful negotiation to decide who would actually taste victory.puppiesCompletely stuffed and leaning back in our chairs, we took some time to digest, catch the last of the sunlight and comfort the dogs who looked up at us with such longing that it was clear they knew exactly what was going on table-side. After groaning our approval and commenting on our bulging bellies, M and I were shocked when the server returned, cleared our plates (and remaining fries) and plopped down a foil-wrapped surprise in the familiar shape of an ice cream sandwich. H had ordered it behind our backs and he unwrapped it with the excitement of a little kid experiencing the ice cream truck for the first time.ice creamSandwiched in between two chocolate wafer cookies was vanilla ice cream studded with toffee and bacon chips. The server assured us that it was made by  a visiting guest pastry chef and that it was not to be missed. I am, oddly, without a sweet tooth or a fanatical love of chocolate, so I do not think I would go as far as claiming this cookie confection to be an essential component of a Snack Shack meal; but it was a pleasant, cool, salty-sweet treat that rounded off the meal nicely.snack shack lateWe departed shortly thereafter, letting the dogs say goodbye to the neighboring tables and skirting the line that had continued to replenish throughout our meal, now stretching halfway up the block. Restaurants that serve food as fresh and tasty as the Snack Shack make it incredibly difficult to branch out and try something new  – I am already looking forward to the opportunity to drag The Bat & Co. here for a late afternoon Sunday supper. In the local scene, what I am saying is nothing new and I am only adding my voice to the chorus of Snack Shack lovers, but it is always worth sharing a place worth your time, taste buds and hard-earned dollar.

Carnitas Snack Shack

2632 University Ave. 

San Diego, CA 92104

619.294.PORK (7675)

Sunday Brunch – Fig Tree Café

benedictMy favorite meal of the day, without a doubt, is brunch. Granted, I don’t do brunch on a daily (or even weekly/monthly) basis, but every once in a while it is a great way to kick off a lazy Sunday. Conveniently, we live in one of the few truly walk-able areas of San Diego, and on a sunny weekend morning there is nothing better than taking a casual stroll around the neighborhood that culminates in sitting down for a tasty meal.fig tree signThere are several places in Hillcrest that specialize in brunch. Our favorite, thus far, is the locally owned and operated Fig Tree Café. Fig Tree started out as a popular breakfast joint in Pacific Beach and only recently opened its second location on University Ave. It is definitely smaller and less well known than its local brunch competitors, but after sampling our way through the area, we both agree that the quality of the food and service (not to mention affordability) pushes Fig Tree to the top of our lists. bloody marysOne particular Sunday The Bat and I slipped in before the rush, grabbed a table for two and settled in for a meal we ended up terming Blinner, as it was filling enough to take us through the entire day (breakfast, lunch and dinner). We both started with Bloody Marys, spicy. What arrived was perfection – thick, vegetal, strong and peppery, with plenty of bite. The Bat is a sucker for Eggs Benedict, especially if a seafood variation is involved, so he settled quickly on the Crab Cake Benny (with avocado on the side). monterey scrambleI, on the other hand, took my sweet time. I am not a sweet breakfast person typically, which is good when it comes to the excessive choice on the Fig Tree menu – at least I could immediately disregard the French toast/pancake options. After much debate between everything else, I finally decided on the Monterey scramble – eggs scrambled with scallions, bacon, Ortega chilies and Monterey Jack cheese and served with avocados, tomatoes, black beans, Spanish rice and tortillas. Breakfast tacos!breakfast taco Our food was, to put it bluntly, scrumptious. The Eggs Benedict was cooked perfectly, the yolk mingling with Hollandaise, avocado and chunks of real crab. The side of breakfast potatoes, normally an afterthought, almost stole the show, heavily seasoned, crispy and tossed with rosemary. My scramble was chock-full of chunks of bacon, strips of roasted chili and gooey pockets of melted cheese, perfect for layering with the smoky black beans and rice for tacos. The service was impeccable and, despite the relatively small space filling up while we were there and a line forming outside, we never felt hurried or rushed to leave.wine collectionI am looking forward to returning for soon – the evening specials, written by hand on the roof-to-floor chalkboard adjacent to the bar sounded tremendous – braised meats and handmade pastas constructed from seasonal, locally sourced products. Not to mention the extensive wine list and great Happy Hour deals  ($6 wine flights! $5 pizzas!). Last, but certainly not least, I must return to order their specialty – “Man Candy” – thick-cut bacon candied with brown sugar and paprika. How can that possibly be anything other than delicious?