Posts Tagged ‘San Diego’

San Diego: An Evening Downtown

Posted in advice, Restaurants, travel on March 30th, 2010 by Betsy – 2 Comments

After a day at the San Diego Zoo, on Saturday night, Brittanny and I headed downtown for the evening.  We went to the Beach Bar at The W Hotel, decorated with heated sand, huge TV screens, and private cabanas you can rent.  Apparently it’s quite the hot spot and Adrian Grenier, the actor who plays Vincent Chase on Entourage was even going to be there later that night.  After a drink and some delicious edamame, we moved on to the Gaslamp Quarter, a historic district with lots of restaurants and bars.  Our dinner reservations were at Osetra Water Grill (formerly the Fish House) and the ambiance inside the restaurant was very cool.  Osetra has really high ceilings surrounding the bar and they store all of their wine in a “three-story wine tower” that extends up to the ceiling.  The bartenders get harnessed in and are basically suspended in air when they need to retrieve a bottle of wine.  (I feel like there was a photo shoot once on America’s Next Top Model with a similar theme.  Am I right?)

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The Beach Bar at The W Hotel

Osetra was not very crowded so we got good attention and our waiter served us pretty quickly, maybe too quickly.  Our waiter made it clear from the beginning that I would not be able to have any of the sauces because they thicken them with flour.  I’m ok with that, but I don’t really understand why some restaurants still feel the need to thicken all of their sauces with flour.  There are so many good alternatives to a roux and a floured-sauce.  In my culinary opinion, flourless sauces have better flavors and show off a higher level of cooking.  Anyways, I’ll step down from my soap box now because I can’t complain too much about the meal, since it was still quite tasty, even without a sauce.  For a first course, I ordered the organic greens salad with balsamic vinaigrette.  A nice, simple salad but nothing fancy.  For my main course, I ordered the pan seared salmon (sans chive buerre blanc) with sautéed spinach and herb-roasted fingerling potatoes. The chef cooked the salmon perfectly and the spinach and potatoes complemented the salmon well.

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Osetra's Bar & Wine Tower

If you’re looking for a nice seafood restaurant (with items on the menu for meat eaters as well) in the Gaslamp District, I would definitely recommend Osetra.  The menu was pretty predictable, but both of our dishes were well made and flavorful.  The service was good and they kept me gluten-free.

After dinner we went across the street to the wine bar, Vin de Syrah, for a drink.  This bar was so cool for many reasons.  I won’t give away all of their secrets but it very much has an Alice in Wonderland theme going on.  You enter on the ground level and go down a stair case to enter the actual bar.  Once you get downstairs, you enter another room to get into the bar.  Let’s just say the entrance is difficult to find, and leads to a little embarrassment once discovered.  The décor inside is full of upside down umbrellas large fake flowers and other trippy decorations.  As I’m reading what I’ve written, this description makes Vin de Syrah sound cheesy, but I promise, on the inside it does not feel like you’re at Disney Land. This ‘parlor’ as its name describes it, gives off a distinctly unique vibe, while remaining classy.

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A Look at Vin de Syrah: This photo doesn't do it justice!

Vin de Syrah has a plethora of fun drinks and a great wine selection.  We each enjoyed a drink, did some great people watching and headed back to Coronado Bay.  If you’re staying in Coronado Bay, it’s definitely worth spending at least one night down town in Gaslamp, as it’s an entirely different feel, and the average age drops by about 30 years when you migrate downtown.
Osetra the Fishhouse on Urbanspoon

Lions and Tigers and Bears: San Diego Vacation Part II

Posted in Restaurants, travel on March 24th, 2010 by Betsy – 1 Comment

Despite cloudier weather, our second day in San Diego was still filled with good food and even some activity that went beyond lying by the pool.  After a delicious Friday night dinner that kept me safe from gluten, I woke up bright and early Saturday morning, due to A) my inability to sleep in, ever and B) the fact that the west coast is three hours behind my east coast brain.  I will say Coronado Bay is quite lovely at 5:30 in the morning and I had the opportunity to enjoy it wandering outside.  By 7, Brittanny was ready for the day too so we enjoyed some coffee and fruit at The Market at Loews, while reading the less than impressive local paper.

Saturday was not going to be optimal tanning weather, so we decided to be touristy and check out the San Diego Zoo instead of tanning and reading, my preferred vacation activities.  Many people recommended that we check out the SD Zoo and I must say, it lived up to expectations, and the $37 (!!) price of admission.  (We DC folks are spoiled by all of the free museums we have so the ticket cost caused a bit of sticker shock for me.)

After deciding to venture to the zoo, we then chose our mode of transportation.  Being that our hotel was in Coronado, cab rides getting into the city are pretty pricey and since Britt used to work for the American Bus Association, it only seemed fitting to take advantage of the public bus system.  We were quite successful in navigating the city via bus.  It took a little longer than a direct cab ride but our wallets thanked us.

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miley-cyrus-coffee-beanOur bus route required us to switch buses so we stopped at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to get a coffee.  Apparently Coffee Bean is a very trendy spot for Hollywood celebs, but we didn’t see any at 9am on a Saturday morning.  I, of course being less than trendy, had never heard of Coffee Bean but loved the coffee. and Britt’s smoothie looked great.  I’ve since learned from the website, Gluten Free in SD, that all of Coffee Bean’s, “Coffees and Teas are Gluten Free. Our Special Dutch Chocolate Powder, and our French Deluxe Vanilla Powder are both Gluten Free, so any drinks made with these powders are gluten free as well. Our Caramel sauce is also gluten free.  My guess is that their smoothies are probably GF too, but I’m not sure.

Once we arrived at the zoo, Britt and I took advantage of all of the perks that came with our ticket, including the guided bus tour and tram ride over the park.  Call me a tourist, but I loved getting to see the zoo and the amazing number and variety of animals.  My favorite zoo residents were definitely the meerkats.  They even had little baby meerkats.  Isn’t it amazing how the zoo can make you feel like a kid again?  Other highlights included the giraffes, sea otters, and reptile house.  The koalas were not that exciting since they sleep 22 hours out of the day, but still very cute asleep in the trees.

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After a busy morning, it was time for lunch so we wandered around Balboa Park, the area surrounding the zoo, and decided to eat at The Prado.  For those of you who know me, I’m always thinking about my next meal.  So after our early breakfast we investigated potential lunch possibilities in the zoo vicinity since I knew I wouldn’t be able to just grab a hot dog at the zoo.  The Prado is part of the Cohn Restaurant group, and their menu looked awesome, full of lots of fresh, potentially gf choices.  We sat outside and even though it was a little cloudy, the cool air was perfect.

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Our extremely helpful waitress  went back to the kitchen multiple times to check with the chef about my gluten-free options.  I decided to go with the “Prado Pressed Salad,” a beautiful array of baby arugula, shaved asiago cheese, strawberries, figs, and candied walnuts with a sherry shallot vinaigrette.  I couldn’t get the candied walnuts because they sprinkle them with flour, but the salad was still yummy. It was a tough call between the salad and the naturally GF fish tacos, but since I’d eaten Mexican the night before, I went with the pressed salad (And I’m a sucker for figs and arugula!)With the guidance of our server, I got grilled shrimp on top of my salad and the combination provided a refreshing and flavorful meal.  Delicious! After enjoying an outdoor lunch, we began our trek back to the hotel via the bus.  While not the most time efficient, we minimized our carbon footprint and our spending.  We returned to Loew’s with enough time to catch up on the college basketball scores for the day, and get ready for our evening in downtown San Diego.

Our bus stop near the hotel.  Even though we had to wait awhile, you can't complain about the view!

Our bus stop near the hotel. Even though we had to wait awhile, you can't complain about the view!


Prado at Balboa Park on Urbanspoon

West Coast Vacation: Enjoying Mexican Food in Coronado Bay

Posted in Mexican Restaurants, Restaurants, travel on March 18th, 2010 by Betsy – 6 Comments

Ahh, it’s a rough life.  I am one lucky girl.  In the last two weeks I’ve been in Naples, Florida and San Diego, California.  Both places provided a great escape from cold, rainy Atlanta.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Atlanta, but it was time to have a little distance from the Peach State.

Yes, in the same week, I got to see beautiful sunsets in Florida and California.

Yes, in the same week, I got to see beautiful sunsets in Florida and California.

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After five days in Naples, I flew briefly back to Atlanta on Wednesday night.  Enough time to celebrate my birthday (28…AAH!) with David, do laundry and repack.  Bright and early Friday morning, I set out for sunny San Diego to meet up with my high school roommate/best friend/maid of honor/personal fashion consultant, Brittanny.  David and Brittanny planned this girls’ weekend back in the fall and it was a perfect treat for my birthday weekend.

I had never been to San Diego before so I was a little nervous about the food situation, but I figured people on the west coast have a good grasp on healthy eating so I was hopeful that we would find places that understood all things gluten.  During my Naples trip, I had been spoiled because Jen and I had access to a full kitchen so most of our meals were made by us.  In San Diego I would not have that luxury, making my gluten-anxiety levels rise.

If there’s one thing Brittanny and I love to do, it’s lay out.  Yes, I know it’s bad for me, but I love getting tan.  Fortunately we stayed on Coronado Bay at the Loew’s Beach Resort so we had ample sun time in a beautiful setting.  We spent a lot of quality time at the pool, reading and soaking up rays, but we also did some touristy things, including the San Diego Zoo.  Even though the Loews is about 20 minutes from downtown San Diego, I would definitely recommend this hotel if you enjoy relaxing and not being too active on your vacation. If you’re looking for more action, I would recommend staying downtown at the W, where we went for drinks one night at their swanky rooftop ‘beach bar,’ complete with fire pits and heated sand.

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Brittanny and I arrived in San Diego in the early afternoon on Friday and immediately checked into our room, ordered a tasty adult beverage and went to the pool.  Isn’t vacation wonderful?  After a relaxing afternoon we headed into the town of Coronado Bay for the evening.  We ordered a drink at Tent City, a cute wine bar downtown.  It was so great to be able to sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine.  I can definitely see how people who move to the west coast never come back!

After a leisurely drink we went to Miguel’s, a Mexican restaurant in Coronado Bay for dinner.  Brittanny called ahead to inquire about gluten-free food and sure enough, they were willing to accommodate me.  I was a little nervous because the restaurant was super busy on a Friday night and our waiter can most nicely be described as flaky.  He giggled a lot…very weird.  The hostess was confident that I could be helped and once I spoke with the manager, I felt at ease about safely ordering.  The folks at Miguel’s understood contamination and the manager made clear to me that they would cook my meal on a separate and cleaned surface.  Sadly, I could not eat the chips and salsa but they brought me a cheese quesadilla on corn tortillas as an appetizer with my own salsa.

For my entrée I ordered the chicken and steak fajitas, with corn tortillas, that they grilled specially for me.  The manager even brought mine out separately from the rest of our food, taking care to make sure I received the correct dish.  Britt ordered fajitas too and mine definitely looked different from hers.  This visual distinction is always a comfort for me because I know they restaurant has taken care to ensure my safety.  My meal came with black beans instead of refried beans.  (I prefer black beans anyways.)  The Miguel’s folks did not give me rice, and I’m not sure if this omission was because they add flour to their rice or if they thought rice contained gluten.  (Clarification: plain rice does not contain gluten.)  I didn’t think to ask.  The fajitas came with yummy grilled vegetables, including mushrooms, onions and peppers.  My meal was delicious and it sufficiently accommodated my craving for Mexican.

Miguel’s was a great start to our San Diego weekend, filled with delicious food, gorgeous weather and rest.  I did not get contamination the entire weekend, which is such a relief and allowed me to fully enjoy the trip.  Stay tuned for more details about the great places we ate in San Diego.
Miguel's Cocina on Urbanspoon