Friday, December 25, 2015

Let iDessert be your next dessert destination in San Diego!



iDessert is the latest interactive, customized dessert destination in San Diego!  Famous Chef Jean-Philippe, known for his chocolate patisserie in the Aria resort in Las Vegas, brings dessert magic to Little Italy.  This is the first location of its kind.
Photo by iDessert
Inside iDessert is like a scene come to life from the board game, Candyland, with some Willy Wonka colors mixed in!  So many tempting visuals to whet your appetite!




You might guess from the name of the place, that orders are taken on what else, an iPad!

Each screen gives you easy instructions to follow.  Basically this is a gelato shop with meringue being used as a crust for the base of your dessert.  You can create a regular dessert, a sundae or a milkshake.  Gluten free items are also available. There are literally thousands of combination options when you have a choice of crust, gelato, cream, cake, sauce, and fruit. If the endless possibilities overwhelm you, you can choose from Chef's favorites, combinations that are already put together for you.

iDessert prides itself on the quality of their ingredients.  Everything is made in house.  Fruit is always fresh, never frozen. Sauces are not made with high fructose corn syrup but with heavy cream. And the gelato and cakes are made from scratch.
Photo by iDessert

Photo by iDessert
My son chose a regular oreo milkshake!

I chose to build a dessert. Mine had a hazelnut crust, exotic sorbet, lemon cake, berry sauce and butterfinger crunch.  There was no rhyme or reason. I just went with flavors I liked!  Of course I ordered it Las Vegas bowl style.  Check it out! 

video

It was truly an "out of this world" dessert!  I thought the flavors maybe wouldn't blend well, but I ate the whole thing! I loved the different levels of texture! The crunchy meringue,  the smooth gelato, the density of the cake and the sticky sweetness of the butterfinger bits made it a very enjoyable experience!

Jean-Philippe also invented the dessert "tools". We were instructed to take the dome off the top and squeeze the lollipop straw to sauce your dessert.  It worked like a turkey baster! 

Our attention was also brought to the spoon which has a flat tip to crack your meringue crust! 

Besides the custom desserts, iDesserts sells all sorts of other goodies including gourmet coffee and teas, candies, biscotti, and more! At the time of this writing, their Christmas goodies were 50% off.





The novelty and quality of the product is worth at least one visit!  Out of town guests will surely be impressed. However, be prepared to pay a moderate price for the experience! Also, allow for time to find parking as street metered parking is what is close by. iDessert is located at 1608 India Street in the Little Italy area of San Diego!

Disclosure: My son and I received complimentary desserts.  All opinions are my own.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Farm-To-Table at Farmer's Bottega in Mission Hills!

Farmer's Bottega already had me with their logo. I thought that it totally encompassed their "Farm-To-Table" concept in a very clever way.  This restaurant has been open for nearly a year in the Mission Hills area of San Diego and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. When you step inside it has the feel of an open rustic place. The restaurant is covered in brown and gray hues. Interesting fixtures and items are used to evoke a sense of the "unexpected". For example, this sewing machine is used as the hostess table.
This antique meat grinder had me looking at it for quite awhile. It sits on the window sill near the front.  I'm still not sure if that is what it is, but that's my best guess.  Take a look at the iron right next to it too.  These pieces of machinery makes one imagine the people using them translating back to working with your hands, the concept of creating, farming.

The light fixtures are also eclectic.  The exposed ceiling gave the place a "not so finished" look which added character.


It is not a big place. I think there are ten or so tables that sit 2-4 people. There is one tall table that sits 6 and another communal bench seating area that sits about 10.  

We arrived just at the tail end of their happy hour.  You can see the specials listed for every day of the week on this chalk board. I especially think the value of Date Night on Wednesdays is incredible. $38 for 2 entrees, an appetizer and a dessert. I am not sure where you would find this for the quality of food they provide. I also noted that they include pets as patrons.  You can bring your furry family member and dine out on the patio.

The menus for Happy Hour are printed on wine bottles.  I was amused by the novelty! Again, unexpected.



Friday and Saturday, Happy Hour specials are only at the bar, which seats about 10.

Javier, our server, quickly greeted us and brought us water.  There's something about water served from a bottle and drinking them out of mason jars.  I liked the mixmatched look!

We started with a couple of cocktails.  I had a strawberry bellini and my hubs had a kombucha mule. Executive Chef Alberto Morreale lists all of the businesses he partners with on the back of the menus. The kombucha comes from Living Tea. Both drinks were delicious!

I thought the menu was quite extensive for a quaint place. Items such as Bison Tartare and Oxtail Ravioli caught my attention. The menu contains numerous items that are labeled as gluten free and vegan friendly which I thought was very considerate for diners with special dietary needs. 

I am a huge fan of cheese, bread and charcuterie.  There were bread plates, focaccias, flat breads, bruschettas and cheese and meat boards that were calling my name, BUT since the menu offered so much diversity, especially with exotic meats, I vowed tonight to try items that I do not have the opportunity to eat. 

I did give in though  to ordering jars of hummus and olive tapanade served with grilled focaccia to start off with.   I loved the display! The food being served in jars  relayed another fresh from the farm feel. 

Next we had fried green tomatoes and burnt carrots. The fried green tomatoes were good but I never had burnt carrots and I was so glad we ordered it. They ate like meat! Fleshy and with a good bite to them, not soggy and just with the right amount of sweetness.  I highly recommend this "salad".  It really could be an entree.


We also tried the Grilled Octopus "Blackened" served with mango relish.  My husband and I love izakaya places and I wondered if this would be similar to a Japanese dish. The octopus was huge! A great amount of skill is needed in cooking this. Just like squid, cooking it too long would make it rubbery.  It was not rubbery, but the thickness of the octopus bothered my palate.  My husband liked it though.  I passed.

For my entree, I chose the Wild Boar Sausage Risotto served with roasted cherry tomatoes, wild mushroom, and crispy brussel sprouts.  Risotto is another dish that takes great care in its preparation. Too long of a time in cooking it and it may be sticky, too short of a time may make it not tender enough.  This was the dish of the night for me, along with the carrots.  The brussel sprouts were cut a bit too chunky, however I overlooked that because the taste prevailed. This dish was absolute perfection on a cold winter night.  I told my husband if I was sick in bed, this is what I would crave to nourish me back to health.  I asked him to make a mental note of this for future reference!

My husband ordered the Buffalo Filet, served with garlic mashed potatoes, broccoli rapini, with a dark chocolate petite sirah reduction. Chef Morreale orders the buffalo from Wyoming from Durham Ranch.  It is operated by the third generation of the Flocchini family near Wright, Wyoming. I believe this is the first time I tasted buffalo. It tasted much like beef. 
I asked Javier to pick the dessert for us.  He brought us the pear-strawberry tart. There was cheesecake on the menu and a chocolate lava cake, which is one of my guilty pleasures, but the tart was a great pick. It was a great ending to this feast at Farmer's Bottega.


If I go back, wait...WHEN I go back, I already know what I am going to order.  I am interested in the charcuterie board, the bleu cheese parma proscitutto-dried fig bruchetta and the "Black & White" Tagliolini.  Then I will have the chocolate lava cake for dessert!

Kudos to Chef Morreale on the care and quality of the products he serves.  With such a huge selection, one cannot go wrong in dining here even with the pickiest of eaters.  I WILL BE BACK!

Disclosure: My husband and I were treated to complimentary meals.  All opinions are my own.

Monday, December 7, 2015

PASACAT Presents the Parol Festival!

The PASACAT Philippine Performing Arts Company will be hosting the Parol Star Festival this Saturday, December 12th, 2015. A "parol" is a star lantern usually displayed during Christmas time in the Philippines.  Festivities will include parol making workshops, cultural exhibits, vendors and pabitin for children 12 years old and younger.  The event will take place at the Jacobs Center Celebration hall, located at 404 Euclid Avenue in San Diego.

Scheduled to perform are the following:
The Filharmonic - from "The Sing Off" and "Pitch Perfect 2"

Marvin Calderon Jr. - from "American Idol"

Lion Dancers from Three Treasures Cultural Arts Society


Mariachi Divinas

teye sa thiosanne


and of course, PASACAT!

A merienda ("snack") of pancit, lumpia and turon is also included. This cultural event was made possible from the funding provided by the Jacobs Presents Cultural Celebrations and Performances Grants; City of San Diego Creative Communities of San Diego Grant; AT&T Foundation Grant; and the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Fund.

For more information, please visit: www.facebook.com/events/765751203570231
and www.pasacat.org to purchase tickets.  Use code "FILBLOG" for $12 tickets! See you there!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Modern Bar Fare at West Coast Tavern in North Park




I wondered why the name of this place was lit up on a theatre sign. Little did I know it was because the restaurant used to be the box office of the Observatory North Park theater that it is attached to! I was told that the West Coast Tavern is hopping during happy hour. A mix of DJs come in and spin too during the week, so this place gets packed! In North Park, street parking can be challenging but luckily there is a parking structure just around the corner for $5 bucks for the night.

The front entrance automatically leads you past the busy bar area, with the dining spaces further back.  We sat at an elevated table on bar stool-height seats. These tables surrounded the perimeter of the room. There was this cool leather booth that can seat a party of six right in the middle. It was noisy because music was playing in the background and crowds were chatting, but that was what I expected of a "tavern". Reservations are welcome!

It was pretty dim in the room, but our eyes quickly adjusted.  This pretty chandelier was a focal point of the room. This building has been here since 1921 and the architectural beauty was kept intact for some parts of the tavern.

Since we were in a tavern and all, we started with drinks. I had the "The Dude" - Ketel One with kahlua and creme!  I love white russians and this one was really good!

My hot date (hahaha, my husband will laugh out loud when he knows I called him that!) had "The Jackalope" - white rum, pineapple juice, apricot juice, lemon, orange bitters, and simple syrup. These warmed us up for the feast we were about to taste!

We ordered the following appetizers. I love anything that's wrapped in bacon, so we tried the bacon-wrapped nut-stuffed dates.  The walnuts mixed with the creamy goat cheese dipping sauce paired with the sweet date and salty bacon was a flavor and texture home run!  My daughter gobbled up the rest of this when we brought leftovers home.  I made a note that this dish was simple enough to make for our next potluck dinner.

Then it was bone marrow time.  My husband likes this and orders it whenever we see it on a menu. This was bone marrow with avocado aioli and tuna tartare mixed in.  So yummy, I think its the best we've had in SD so far!


We also tasted the prosciutto and burrata, arugula topped flat bread.  This was what you expected it to taste like, good but unremarkable.  

Then the mussels arrived. Crispy slices of baguette topped this dish, ready to sop up that broth at the bottom of the bowl.  I was warned that this was spicy, but I was not prepared! The heat crept in after one or two mussels. I rate this a 4 out of 5 on the spice level. I needed the bread to halt the sensation happening on my tongue!

Next, our entrees came. I had one of the new items on the menu, the Stuffed Pork Loin, filled with tender pork belly, pistachio and cherries, served atop garlic mash with a cherry reduction. A crisp apple arugula salad complemented the entree. This was a sophisticated dish. This pattern of nut-fruit-meat sweet/savory mixture (see previous date dish) impressed me again!
Photo courtesy of West Coast Tavern
Pork would normally not be my top choice of entrees, but this ended up being my favorite dish of the night.  All the goodness of home comfort food was in every bite.  

On the suggestion of our waitress, my husband enjoyed a portobello mushroom burger. A nice hearty portobello slice on top of the beef patty with garlic aioli, goat cheese and arugula (sure must love arugula here) inside the buns...it was very good as well. 

To finish off, we couldn't leave without tasting the flourless chocolate cake, made with peanut butter frosting, chocolate sauce and, butterfinger crumbs, yes...BUTTERFINGER crumbs on top. This my daughter Allison would love because she's a fan of you guessed it, BUTTERFINGERs! The texture of the cake was like a huge chocolate truffle, smooth and creamy. 

What's cool about West Coast Tavern is that each day there are different specials, drinks paired with special dishes.  On Thursdays though, this is the special! Right on!

Paris, the manager that night, was sweet enough to let us check out the adjoining theater when we finished our meal. It was beautiful!



The show that night was the "Down the SocioPath Tour 2015 with Youth Code and Skinny Puppy". Interesting mix of people that would seem like BFs with Marilyn Manson. I saw a lot of black leather, metal spikes, black makeup, ripped black clothes, and hair that was teased like it was the 80s all over again. Paris did mention they try to get a good mix of artists. Although we didn't stay for the music, the line of people going through security was long! These groups sure had a solid fan base! Check out upcoming events at the Observatory theater here

For sure it was an unforgettable night, and mainly because of the gourmet food! Kudos to Chef Abe! Knowing he grew up in Imperial Beach, I felt the South San Diego ties in his food, like an old friend serving up his best dishes for visitors.  Try West Coast Tavern soon for the special ambiance, drinks, food and shows!

Disclosure: I was invited for a complimentary tasting in exchange for this blog post.  All opinions are my own.
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