My hypothetical awards ballots are up, and some of the comments are priceless – mostly whining about bias or calling me an idiot. You can also see my briefer-than-normal scouting reports on the eight playoff teams:
I hope to resume regular dish blogging now that those playoff previews are done. Thanks for bearing with me.
We didn’t make it to my old favorite, Cafe 222 (waffle heaven), but did get to The Mission, recommended by readers and by a scout as well. It pushes a hipster vibe but on Sunday morning the place was full of families with young kids, so all the talk about “revolution” seems a little silly. All of the food was fresh with bright colors, and the egg dishes come with two slices of light, airy rosemary bread that I’d probably buy by the loaf if I lived in San Diego. The blueberry-cornmeal pancakes were a disappointment, as they’re not cornmeal pancakes but regular pancakes with some coarsely-ground cornmeal thrown on the griddle – dry – with pancake batter poured over them, resulting in an unpleasant, pebble-like texture that ruined what was otherwise a soft, fluffy pancake. The meats, both bacon and chicken apple sausage, were better, while the rosemary potatoes were hit or miss, with some pieces perfect but others overcooked. I’d like to try them again while ordering differently.
Our other breakfast spot was Brian’s 24 on 6th, offering huge portions of solid-average food (eggs, pancakes, french toast) but nothing spectacular. It had the advantages of being fairly quick and walkable from our hotel, but I’d rate it behind the Mission and Cafe 222.
Ortega’s Mexican Bistro in Hillcrest was the huge dinner find, authentic homestyle Mexican cooking in a more upscale setting. The restaurant is in what looks like a converted two-story house with funky internal architectural features and lots of distressed wood, but really, who cares about that when you have someone in the back making fresh flour tortillas by hand? I might fly to San Diego once a week to grab a bag of those things – the texture and fullness was amazing, and if you told me they used lard in there I’d believe you. The roasted-tomato salsa that came with the chips before the meal was also outstanding, thick but not unwieldy and not in the least watery, and they make a very solid jamaica agua fresca. The sopecitos appetizer was rich, a little too dense for me (that’s a comment on my tastes, though, as “dense” may be authentic for all I know), and didn’t need the sour crema laced over the tops. Their carnitas were superbly done, no hint of dryness with lots of crispy edges, and with the sides of rice and charro beans it was more than either of us could finish. That whole Hillcrest neighborhood looks like the kind of place I’d love to live.
We had one dinner in the Gaslamp district – I got a lot of suggestions from readers, but many weren’t appropriate for dinner with a four-year-old – so we called an audible and went to Trattoria la Bocca, offering well-made if overpriced Italian food. My wife’s mushroom risotto was perfectly cooked, just al dente with a creamy (texture, not flavor) sauce that didn’t overwhelm the rice or mushrooms; I had a sauteed veal dish with artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and zucchini where every element was cooked properly but the dish as a whole had too many competing flavors. For what it’s worth, of those reader recommendations, the most intriguing one was a bar-restaurant called Neighborhood, which will be at the top of my list of places to hit the next time I’m in San Diego by myself.
Right near Petco is a small boutique shop called Cupcake Heaven that sells … well, you know. We tried several kinds over the 48-odd hours we were there, with the chocolate-chocolate and peanut butter ones my favorites; the peanut butter frosting had a texture somewhere between mousse and buttercream, and there were peanuts in the cupcake itself, resulting in something like the lightest peanut butter cookie you’ve ever had. The pumpkin cupcake’s frosting was very gingery, fine for me but lost on my ginger-hating wife. And the cupcakes were still fairly moist the second day.
I only tried one concession stand at Petco, Randy Jones’ BBQ, which was nothing more than standard, boring ballpark Q drowned in a sticky-sweet sauce. I hope there’s something better there for Padre fans.