Sunday, April 10, 2016

Bite San Diego Food Tours Leaves You Craving Seconds!

I went on a food tour in Chicago with some of my BFs a number of years ago. We had such a good time sampling Chicago food that I have always wanted to go on another one. When the opportunity arose to attend one here in San Diego through Bite San Diego Food Tours, I immediately responded with "Sign me up!"  There are different tours/neighborhoods to choose from on their website. I specifically wanted to go on the Liberty Station Tour that was on hiatus for some months awaiting the opening of Liberty Public Market. A couple of vendors were now included on the tour and I wanted to check out the market.  My companion for the tour was my lovely sister, Melanie!

Me and my sis!
The tour is a three and a half to four hour walking tour. There are typically five or six stops and you travel with a group of up to fifteen people. I suggest wearing good shoes and bringing some water with you.  Not only do you get to sample food from different restaurants but you get to meet fellow foodies and learn some history about the neighborhood or location you are touring!

Our tour guide, John, was great! He mentioned that he was a Social Science teacher and gave us background information throughout our time together about Liberty Station, which was originally called the Naval Training Center. It is registered as an official Historical Property. I don't want to spoil all the information he shared but here's one fascinating tidbit. John let us know that the walkways at Liberty Station are larger than your usual outdoor facility because the soldiers had to march through them in formation. Cool, huh? Ok, I'll share another one with you.  One of the roads that you walk on during the tour is where they filmed the last scene of "Top Gun" with Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis speeding off on the motorcycle into the sunset. You can feel the presence of "Maverick" when you stand there because you picture him in his spiffy Naval Aviator uniform and you have the huge American Flag there at Liberty Station waving in the air in all its glory. It is truly a patriotic moment. Ok, that's all I'll share. You'll have to go on a tour to learn more.

First Stop - Point Loma Tea
Our first stop was Point Loma Tea. Owner Cheryl closed her cute shop for fifteen minutes just to entertain our group privately. We sampled an iced Apricot/Peach tea and also a hot fruit-infused Coconut/Kiwi Tea.  Both were really delicious. Cheryl is a certified Tea Somelier so she really knows her stuff! The shop has a tremendous selection of different teas and tea products from around the world. You can find unique items for all ages at this shop. They hold tea parties at 2 pm on Tuesdays as well!

Second Stop - Stuffed
From Point Loma Tea we entered into the Liberty Public Market and made our way through the maze of vendors to the counter of Stuffed.
Stuffed is known for their organic, grass-fed burgers with out-of-the-box toppings stuffed inside their patties. They originated as a food truck. The staff clearly have a fun-loving personality and I dug the comic-book themed font! Check out the burger! I also liked that they serve their burgers with tots!  After the owner talked to us in front of his counter, we all took our burgers and found a a table around the perimeter of the market to eat. The burger was really delicious!

Stuffed with mac and cheese!
The sign says, "He is single ladies!!!"
Third Stop - Venissimo Cheese

Next, we traveled down the hallway from Stuffed to Venissimo Cheese. We stood as a group in front of the cheese counter while the owner came out to talk to us. We sampled 3 different cheeses here, an American cheese, a sheep milk's cheese and a brie wrapped by a sliver of prosciutto.  I love a good charcuterie plate and wished our samples included more meats. I learned that there is such a thing as vegetarian cheese, made with no animal enzyme!

Fourth Stop - Slater's 50/50
From Venissimo's we headed to Slater's 50/50, a burger chain known for their half beef/half bacon patties. They even have a bacon milkshake and bacon salt!! I wondered if we were going to sample another burger, but they served our group a family style mix of their most popular appetizers: fries, sweet potato fries, fried mac and cheese, their vampire dip. and their deconstructed guacamole.

At this point in the tour, after eating a burger, tots and samples of cheese, I was parched! This was the first time too that we sat down as a group at tables and were served some water. Hence the suggestion to bring a bottle with you. I have eaten at Slater's before and besides their custom burgers, they have signature shakes.  Although all the appetizers were good, they were ....underwhelming. I mean, for a bunch of foodies, we all know what sweet potatoes fries and guacamole taste like and we also just ate mac and cheese at Stuffed. I wished that we could have tried some items that were unusual, perhaps the shanimal fries or frickles or their porka-cola sandwich! Something that would oooo and ahhh. It was more like ehhh for me.

Slater's is popular for their customized burgers, bacon, and craft beer and their fun signature milkshakes. Unfortunately on this visit our group didn't get to taste any of that. Well, except for me and my sister.  I ordered a bananas foster milkshake that we shared and it was slurping good! A flight of mini milkshakes would have me writing about a totally different experience at Slater's. Hopefully they can put together a more thoughtful tasting menu for future groups.  What saved this part of the tour was the animated conversation I had with Jered and my sister about what else, FOOD! I think the sugar in the shake had my brain synapses firing! We laughed and had a good time exploring new ideas for future tours in San Diego!

Fifth Stop - Solare Restaurant

It is important at any event to end on a high note, right? Well, Bite hit the target with having us end our time together at Solare! Wow, what an impression!  Solare is named as one of San Diego's best restaurants by San Diego Magazine!  We were seated outside on one of the patios and Petra, the general manager, won us over with her knowledge and adorable Italian accent. She shared that Solare also holds classes, like pizza making and pasta making and special events like Sound Bytes, where courses are paired to specific music played. Inviting the public in to learn about the food they prepare and experience it in different ways is very cool!

Then Chef Accursio Lota came out to greet us!
Chef Lota hails from Sicily and uses only fresh, local ingredients from various San Diego area vendors. Everything on the menu is authentic and hand-made. The food that was brought out was just beautiful to look at. We sampled a pear and goat cheese pizza, a meatball (that is available anytime, just ask the server), and a spinach, arugula, ricotta cheese whirlpool pasta.

I asked Chef about the epic whole suckling pig feast that I saw on their menu. It requires a 72-hour advance order. The roasted pig is presented for its big moment to your party and then is brought back to the kitchen for butchering and is served with salad and two sides. I think my husband would like this. (and we would probably take the leftovers home to make paksiw!) 

Petra then gave us a restaurant tour and pointed out a few special dining areas to make your experience extraordinary! There is a table in the wine room that is available on a first-come-first-serve basis, no reservation needed, except of course on holidays, when there is a minimum charge implemented.  It is definitely a very intimate location!
Then there is the Chef's Table, more a counter, where two people can dine and feast on the Chef's Tasting Menu.  The four, six, or nine course menu is decided by the Chef and is cooked right in front of you and even served by the Chef himself.  Market price.
Solare chefs are ready to serve us the Chef's Tasting Menu!
The main dining room is also available for private events and there is an additional private dining area in the back of the restaurant.  This restaurant is very popular for rehearsal dinners, holiday parties, family gatherings and the like.

We went back outside after the restaurant tour and many in our group ordered wine and some items from the happy hour menu since it was nearly 6:00 pm at this time. Petra invited us to stay as long as we wanted. 

John and Jered said their last few words and mentioned that Bite San Diego offers an annual pass of sorts, called the "Bite Passport" for $149. This allows you unlimited food tours for the year and unlimited number of guests that you can bring for 50% off. What a great idea for out of town guests or for any foodie friends!

One recommendation I would make regarding this tour is to include a sampling of sweets. Most foodies love desserts! Some gelato at Solare or a stop at Chi Chocolat would just complete the experience and bring it full circle.

At the end of our time together, I met some really great people because you know, foodies are friendly and overall, it was a fun experience! As a matter of fact, my sister and I were talking about who out of our friends would really enjoy this before the tour even ended! We look forward to another tour!

Thank you to John and Jered, and to our group for a great day! Check out Bite San Diego Food Tours and as they say, happy chomping!

Disclosure: My sister and I enjoyed complimentary tickets for the tour in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own.

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