Saturday, August 27, 2016

Decoy Delivers Dockside Dining in San Marcos!

Update (As of October 2016, Chef DJ Tangalin is no longer at Decoy)

My husband and I had the pleasure of experiencing Decoy Dockside Dining at their soft opening recently at the invitation of the chef.  Under the leadership of Executive Chef Danilo "DJ" Tangalin, tapped from JRDN, the service was outstanding and the food, impeccable.  I have dined on Chef DJ's food a couple of times now (see these posts here and here) and the more I engage with his food and get to know him as a person, the more impressed I am with his talent, work ethic, dedication and humility.

Decoy is an upscale lakefront restaurant located at the Lakehouse Hotel and Resort in San Marcos. Currently Decoy upstairs will be open for dinner while downstairs will be open for lunch.  They are aiming to start Sunday brunch at the end of September 2016. The food can be described as hunting lodge home-style cuisine revised.
The hunting lodge theme is apparent right when you enter the restaurant with the words "OPEN SEASON" greeting you and by the artwork on the walls.

A chandelier of buoys adds a splash of color to the ceiling and imparts the "dockside" aspect.
A lit onyx background gives the bar character and appeal. 
The restaurant is airy and huge. Intimate seating for two up to a large banquet style table is available, plus plush couches are available for groups if drinks and bar food is all your party needs.
A long banquet table is available for large parties.
Lounge seating area.
Bar menu which features lumpia!
We had some drinks, the Smoky Mango-rita (a bit too strong for me), the Madre Mojito (forgot to take a picture, but it was delicious) and a Lemon Drop (my favorite of the night)! Although we didn't have wine, something different at Decoy is that they will bring the bottle of wine to you and pour it table side. I observed this happen throughout the night as people were enjoying their glasses.
A mango-rita
Lemon Drop
The dining menu at Decoy is high end, with something for everyone.  For appetizers, we started with Foie Gras Pate, served with toasted peanuts, basil, seasonal jam and baguettes. Because I had not had foie gras since the ban in California was lifted, I had to order it!  The silkiness of the foie gras paired with the crunchy peanuts, sweet preserves and chewy baguette were a perfect combination.

My husband is a fan of game meats so he had the Bison Tartare. It contained caper salsa verde, cornichon emulsion, egg yolk vinaigrette, and was served with black pepper flatbread. I'm more of a beef girl, and hesitate to try other meats but I took a bite and.... it tasted like beef, hahaha! My husband was even talking about the dish the next day so I know he really liked it! Decoy also has elk and duck items on the menu too.

Chef DJ incorporates his Filipino heritage in the menu with not only lumpia, but also offering bibingka as an appetizer. Bibingka is a rice cake made with coconut milk and cream cheese. Oh. my. gosh. This was by far, one of the best bibingkas I have ever had. I am not kidding.  If Chef DJ opened a bakery that sold these, it'd be like Portos and their guava rolls! It was soooo good, I wanted to take a whole one home for my parents to try! The only suggestion I have is presentation-wise, to maybe serve it on a banana leaf or in a small basket or something because all the other plated items were so pretty. 
For our entrees, we had the 8 oz. Prime Filet Tenderloin served with creamed kale, smoked potato puree, buttermilk fried onions, au poivre. The filet was so tender, cooked just to my husband's liking, medium rare. You could slice this meat with your fork, it was that tender. Those onions mmmm-mmmm...I suggest they offer those as a side so you can get a whole bowl of them!
We also had the Sea Bass, served with roasted artichokes, chinese sausage, braised beans and clams. This is one of my favorite fishes. My fork gently parceled big white pieces of the fleshy fish straight into my mouth. I really enjoyed this. The broth was tasty, in fact I wish there was more! If I had some bread, I would sop up the broth with the beans. I didn't care too much for the sausage bits though, too salty and chewy. I think the dish was great enough without the sausage.
As a side, we ordered mac and cheese. This had just the right ratio of cheese to pasta. The delicate pasta was not drowning in cheese.  My mac and cheese loving daughter would have really liked this.  We liked it too, as evidenced by the empty bowl at the end.

For dessert, we shared the Brown Butter Blondies, served with salted caramel nut spread honey orange poached figs, purple haze goat cheese semifreddo and candied pecans. Salty, sweet, sour, crunchy, smooth, all the textures covered in this dessert! It was definitely edible art!
Overall we had a fantastic dinner service, thanks to Alyssa and all the other attentive Decoy staff! It was a special night out as we considered it our wedding anniversary celebration, 24 years on August 30th!
Decoy Dockside is located at 1035 La Bonita Drive in San Marcos, CA and will be fully opened as soon as next week. I'd love to go back and appreciate the lakefront view during the day and also try the Roasted Bone Marrow, the Kung Pao Crispy Sweetbreads and the Tomahawk steak for two!! As you can see, I already have my food selections ready! 

I wish the restaurant featured an exhibition kitchen so that you can see the chefs work. There is however, a window looking into the kitchen from the outside. I snapped this picture waiting for the right moment and probably seemed like a stalker of some sort, lol! Chef DJ Tangalin is definitely a chef to watch. Follow him on IG as he is doing big things in the culinary world here in San Diego.
Thank you so much Chef DJ for your kind invitation to your newest venture. I anticipate Decoy being another great success! Follow Decoy on FB: /DecoyDockside and on IG and Twitter: @DecoyDockside   

Monday, August 8, 2016

Disney's next Pacific Islander film, MOANA!

Its been years since we've had a Pacific Islander themed movie from Disney.  Lilo and Stitch came out in 2002 and MOANA arrives in theaters everywhere on November 23rd, 2016. On our first family vacation to Hawai'i, I saw Lilo and Stitch everywhere we looked! They were Disney ambassadors connecting Disney fans visiting from the mainland to the locals. On our next trip to Hawai'i, I'm planning to check out Aulani, and am certain I will see the MOANA stamp everywhere there too!   

What's the movie about? Well, besides being guaranteed funny due to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson being one of the main characters, Maui, the movie is about an adventurous teenager, Moana (voice of AuliÊ»i Cravalho) who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana meets the mighty demigod Maui who guides her in her quest to become a master wayfinder. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity.  The description of Moana reminds me of another animated Asian-themed heroine seeking her identity, Mulan!  I hope the soundtrack for MOANA is just as good.

Check out the latest TV spot on the movie:

So mark your calendars and after a thankful meal, round up the family to see MOANA opening on Thanksgiving!

Connect with all things #MOANA

Like MOANA on Facebook:

Follow MOANA on Twitter:

Follow Disney Animation on Instagram:

Visit Disney Animation on Tumblr:

Visit the official MOANA website here:

Saturday, August 6, 2016

5th Annual U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge Coming Up Labor Day Weekend!

The U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge is returning to San Diego at the 'B’ Street Cruise Ship Pier downtown. This will be the fifth year that one of the world’s most important sand-sculpting competitions will be held on this built-for-the-occasion beach, with over 300 tons of sand dumped on the pier on San Diego’s Big Bay. It will be open to the public Sept. 2 - Sept. 5 from  9 am-7 pm each day.

Sculptors Background
World Master Class sand artists carve for four days to create the finest sculptures ever seen in Southern California. Sculptors come from all over the world to challenge the best from the U.S.For 2016 ,three new international Masters will participatefor the first time; Katsuhiko Chaen from Japan, Agnese Rudzite-Kirillova from Latvia, and Benjamin Probanza from Spain. Another new Master Sculptor addition to this year’s challenge will be Thomas Koet from Melbourne, Florida.

Last year’s grand prize winner was Melineige Beauregard of Canada. JOOheng Tan, from Singapore, took the Grand Prize in 2014, while SandisKondrats from Latvia won it in 2013. The last American winner was Rusty Croft from Carmel, CA. in 2012. Where will this year’s winner be from?The U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia?

At stake, more than $60,000 in appearance, prize money and expenses… and national pride.Plus back by popular demand, the Cool California Carvers Class, which is comprised of seven teams of three professionals that will each be carving for two days.

This family-friendly extravaganza offers a wonderful array of activities for guests of all ages.

The Dimensional Art Exposition
No matter how much you love them, you can’t buy the sand sculptures. But you can buy more than 1,000 works of art in other media, like metal, wood, glass, jewelry, hand-made clothing, wall-art, acrylic, fabric, gemstones and more. Many of the finest artists in the Southwest exhibit and sell their amazing one-of-a-kind art on the pier next to the majestic sandcastle creations at the show.

Family Fun -- Live Entertainment, Gourmet Food Trucks, Kids Giant Sandbox & Rides
How would you like to have your kids taught to build sandcastles by professional sculptors who’ve created award winners in Amsterdam and Paris and Tokyo? For mom and dad there is a beer garden and the family can choose from over 100 kinds of yummy snacks and meals from gourmet food trucks. Live bands will play during the weekend to really infuse the fun tone of this unique annual Labor Day event.

2016 is the first year that the event offers a V.I.P. option, with easy admission, special seating and accommodations, an exquisite bay view, free beverages and more.  See the website for details.

Take Transit
Easiest way to get to the event is by MTS trolley or bus to America Plaza/Santa Fe Depot, just 1 block South and 2 blocks East.  North County Coaster and Amtrak both terminate at that location.  You’ll get $2 off each adult ticket when you show proof of transit at the gate.  What could be easier?

Stay Downtown
Official hotels of the event are the wonderful boutique Sofia (, about 7 blocks East of the festival site on Broadway and Front Streets, and the newly renovated Wyndham San Diego Bayfront (, diagonally just across Harbor Drive from the show on the cruise ship pier. 

Your Attendance Helps Kids
A portion of proceeds from the event goes to local children’s educational charities.
  •    The San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts is a public arts magnet school that          was named one of the best in the Nation by U.S. News and World Reports. Students are              bused from throughout the San Diego Unified School District and take classes in theater,            music, dance, visual arts, video production, stagecraft and creative writing along with regular    academic subjects.

·        Young Audiences of San Diego/Arts for Learning brings performers into elementary and middle schools to show kids what life in the arts is all about, yanks them out of their shells by teaching them to perform some of their ethnic songs and dance, and instills pride in self as they learn how to learn.

·         It’s All About the Kids Foundation (IAATK) helps less fortunate children through a network of 14 San Diego charities that have served over 11,000 kids.  IAATK directly supports 10 previously homeless kids.

Save on Tickets Right Now – Prices valid only through midnight, August 15, 2016. Buy now and save up to 33%!

Friday only “Preview Day” Ticket
Kids (under 12 years), seniors (62+) - $6.00 (event day price at gate $8)
Active Military – Show I.D. at gate and get in FREE(Friday only – no need to buy tickets online)
Adults - $8.00 (event day price at gate $10)

Saturday – Monday Single Day Admission:
Kids (under 12-years), seniors (62+), active military with ID - $6.00 (event day price at gate $9)
Adults - $11.00 (event day price at gate $13)

Any 2-day Admission:
Kids (under 12-years), seniors, active military with ID - $10.00 (event day price at gate: $15)
Adults - $17.00 (event day price at gate $20)

V.I.P. Single Day Admission:
Online Only… Skip the “Buy Tickets” booth line and save!  Includes easy admission, 2 free beverages (beer, wine, soft-drinks — value up to $8 each; total $16), plus special shaded bay-front viewing area with deluxe seating and facilities, plus additional V.I.P. amenities to be announced. Good for any one-day V.I.P. admission for adults, kids and seniors on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday. Prices increase 8/15/16.
All ages, any day: $27.00 (event day price at gate: $35)

Admission Discounts
Active duty military, EMT’s, fire and police are admitted to the event free with valid ID on the first day open to the public, Friday, Sept. 2. All adults save $2 at gate by showing transit card or trip receipt.

To find more information and pictures of the sculptures go to

Monday, August 1, 2016

2016 Disney Vacation Club Jubilee Celebration!

In celebration of its 60th birthday Disney hosted a Jubilee Celebration on July 17, 2016 open exclusively for Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members and their guests.  It was a double celebration since this was DVC's 25th birthday of the timeshare vacation program.
Since this was a rare event, I wanted to go and check it out! We've been DVC members for awhile now and I was excited to see what was in store! On the west coast, the event occurred on July 17th in the Sequoia ballroom of the Grand Californian Hotel.
The ballroom was set up with many exhibits that were picture taking opportunities. (This is the actual dog from the Pirates ride in Disneyland.)

Of course Mickey and Minnie were there to host their guests!

Each family also received a complimentary 5 x 7 print of these pictures courtesy of the Photopass photographers.  Other characters were also available for picture taking. This is Clarice, Chip and Dale competed for her attention in one of their Disney movies.
Music was provided by a DJ and carnival style games were available for everyone to play!

Coffee and desserts were also provided.  

Some of the desserts were really Disney-inspired and almost too cute to eat!
Belle's Crunchy Cream Puff
Cinderella's Coach Chocolate Cake Pop
Wookie Cookies
The two-hour party ended with some trivia questions and one of us in our group won this cool tablet carrier!
It was a fun party, but I have a few suggestions for the next event:
  • Parking was not included.  For DVC members who get a "Welcome Home" greeting by cast members, it did not feel like coming home by getting charged for parking. The ticket to attend the party was just as much as the buffet at Storytellers Cafe. If you eat at the buffet, your parking is complimentary.  didn't make much sense to me.
  • It would have been great to have some kid-friendly drinks and at least some savory food served. Punch, Corn dogs, Dole Whips, teriyaki skewers, or even just popcorn would have been an added value. 
  • I think the DJ thought he was in a rave night club at times. I later found out he's the DJ who hosts the Mad Hatter Tea Party at California Adventure.  Kids love to dance but I thought the volume and EDM (electronic dance music) wasn't appropriate for the event.  He could have played music for the whole family to get out on the dance floor.
  • The complimentary photos with Minnie and Mickey were a nice touch, but it would've been cool to get a swag bag of DVC merchandise as souvenirs. 
I am planning to attend the next DVC event in November, the 25th Anniversary Bash in California Adventure.  I hope to give a better report of that event!
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