San Diego Part 1
First let’s make it clear, I’m not getting paid to write this, I didn’t pay for anything during that trip (except a cortisone cream due to a sudden hive rash, and a toothbrush AHAH!) because I was sent there as a reporter/photographer for Savour Magazine and San Diego Tourism Authority, so it’s not an ad per se, this is just me, talking about that amazing experience I had!
So this happened quite a while ago, but I actually never posted anything… I started writing about it almost right after I got back, which is good as I remembered everything so it’s going to be fresh out of the brain type of tale. I’ll try to separate this in 4/5 posts probably (as in the number of days I was actually there) it’s going to be about the trip, but mainly about food, because let’s face it, that’s why we were sent there with Editor of Savour Magazine Georga Spottiswood, that trip was made possible by San Diego Tourism Authority and their PR agency in the UK, Black Diamond.
You know how they tell you, when you've never been to the US before, “when you go through customs, stay chill, don't joke around, answer all the questions and it'll all be fine” and if you're anxious, like me, you get a bit scared they're not going to let you in with your big camera? Well none of that happened, the customs guy went “Wooooooo, a French womaaan”, asked us if we were carrying 10.000$, ask me to look in the camera, stamped my passport and it was done. But let's back up a bit here, why was I in the US in the first place?
Fancy joining me on a food trip to San Diego?
That's pretty much how Georga, the editor of Savour magazine, that I've known and work with for more than a year now, approached me with the offer a couple of months ago. I thought about it for approximately half a second and said “yes, absolutely, let's do this” it all went very quickly and once all insurance and practical things were settle, my suitcase, support stockings and I, flew to San Diego. The challenge was not to sleep on the plane so we could actually get on the proper time over there (-8h from the UK).
We had a rental car booked, that was suppose to come with a working gps, surprise surprise, the thing decided not to work properly when we needed to go to our hotel, at 10pm after an 11h flight, with a driver who has never driven on the right side of the road and a co-pilot who hasn’t touch a wheel in seven years , with no data on our phones, peeeerfect! Luckily we manage to find someone who was still out at that time begging for directions, we ended up following the nice man there.
For our first two nights, we were sleeping at The US Grant, an amazing 4 stars hotel downtown. This was literally my first time in such a fancy hotel, so after taking a few snapshots of the room (it was about 11 pm at that point there so 7 am in the UK, with no sleep) and trying one of the pastries waiting for us in our room, (that’s when I realised I forgot to take my toothbrush weeee) I slept like a log, until 5 am but eh, best bed I've ever slept in! I mean honestly, the mattress was dreamlike, and so many cushions, I could have made another mattress with them if I wanted to! I also made a little video tour of my bedroom to send to my parents and my bf on whatsapp, you know, priorities and whatnot.
Little Italy, chicken and beer
Our first booked meal was breakfast at The Cracks Shack, a super cool restaurant/snack where people often go in the morning, they are very popular and have several other places in the US and are planning on opening even more of them! The one we went to was situated in Little Italy and is open all day from 9, there's also a bar that opens around 11 am. The food was amazing, a bit heavy for our European stomachs to get in the morning, but if you want to eat good fried chicken, with local ingredients served in a very cool place, that's where you want to go! I took The Señor Croque with crispy chicken, bacon, fried egg, cheddar, miso-maple butter and brioche bun, Georga went with The Royale, savoury chicken sausage with sunny side egg, smoked cheddar and English muffin bun.
We also took their Deviled eggs made with French toast crumble and candied bacon, and the mini biscuits, the manager also insisted that we try the chicken oysters. Everything was honestly soooo good, one amazing thing in the US is that everything is made possible for you to bring your food home if you don't or can't finish, small cardboard boxes at the sauce stand and paper bags, because yes, we didn't eat everything, but it was so good and probably the best fried chicken I've ever eaten in a restaurant/snack. Chicken oysters for those who don't know ate the most flavoury, soft and amazing part of the chicken, so I let you imagine how the fried version might taste (heavenly).
We had some time before heading to a craft beer tasting in North Park, so we decided to take a walk around the restaurant, visit the area and go to the harbour. With our gps adventure from the night before, I downloaded the San Diego map with the key addresses of our trip on my phone, Google maps has been a lifesaver on our entire trip, but on this one, we got tricked and trusted it too well…
To the desert and back
Of course I'm exaggerating, slightly though, here's the thing, Balboa Park was on our list of places to visit, and happened to be in between the two places we had to be that day. Google maps was showing that there was a road crossing right in the middle and that it was an hour and a half minute of walk, but the road, was a proper car road, impossible to walk next to and the actual park/desert, is huge. And after realising that, luckily, we crossed path with a taxi, we finally arrived at Mike Hess’ brewery. (Side note, that’s when the rash decided to show up, put that on stress + heat + whatever dust mites were on that taxi we took, all I know is that both my inner thighs were red, slowen and veeeeery itchy).
But back to the brewery, we got welcomed by a lovely “Beer Tender” and soon after, Greg Hess, Mike's brother. You see, this a family business, they're all in and they're loving it. I think my favourite thing about visiting food and drink places is to see how passionate every chef, entrepreneur and manager is about their job, their restaurant or their menu, to see the light switching on in their eyes when they talk about what they do and why they do it. The crafted beer was amazing and we had a private tour of the brewery up and down, which was so cool, we met a few members of staff along the way as well. I'm not a big fan of beer in general, but I drank and tasted all of them which is quite a good sign! I won't show you the picture Georga made of me trying the most bitter of them all though… Let’s just say that it’s quite priceless… After saying goodbye to this wonderful team, it was time to head back, once again we thought we would actually have time to go across the park until we had to go to dinner, wrong!
Hiking trails are fun, when you're properly equipped and you know where you're going, not in a dress and a vague idea how to reach civilisation… Plus it was getting dark and we didn't really want to encounter a coyote or other creatures of the wilderness (yes your mind goes wild when you’re tired and in unknow territory and you hear a bush move). Luckily we reached civilisation after two hours of walk and manage to get on a bus (for free thanks to the super nice driver lady, I don't know how desperate we looked…) to get to our hotel!
We had a dinner reservation at Herb & Wood, a really popular and original restaurant in Little Italy, we were welcomed right away by the amazing staff and got seated in an already packed restaurant. The ambience is really cosy and I loved how the light was arranged, to make you feel like you're in a very intimate place even though you're surrounded by a hundred people. It did make my job impossible though, which is why I won't post any of my food picture on this one!
The bar immediately caught my eyes with its retro looks, and I really liked that there are plants and greenery all over the place! Right after we ordered a bit of everything on the menu to share, chef Malarkey joined us for a little chat, he is so passionate about his work, he told us that he knew pretty early that cooking was what he was really good at so he didn't think too long about what his job would be, he also talked about how the industry is currently struggling because there are way too many restaurants and too little staff, about the dedication being a chef/cook takes and how he loves seeing what his staff comes with when it's time to create new dishes! He also added a few things on our order that we absolutely had to try!
Now, let's talk food, the first course was a grilled avocado, then a ceviche with rice crackers (which was incredible), then the gnocchis that the chef advised us to try (surprise, they were excellent), we also wanted to try a wood oven cooked pizza, we went with the Prosciutto, Pistachios, Mozzarella, Red Onion, Chili Flakes, Honey one, but we didn't finish it so we decided to bring it home in a doggy bag (we did eat the leftover slices in the morning ahah, yep…) and finally, even though we were so full, we tried one of the desserts, something I love about those restaurants is dishes are always the perfect size for you to feel full without eating tons of food, the dessert was no exception full of flavours and the ice cream was a perfect finish to the dinner. Then we went back to our hotel to prepare for our crazy next day.
Next blog post will come next week or the one after, for my favourite day of all in Mexico!
You came this far, so here the little video of me crashing into my bed after a very very long day