Sunday, June 30, 2013

Eating My Way Thru Encinitas

Vertical succulent garden at the Bier House
Submitted by Michelle

When taking a vacation, many people plan their trips around activities and interesting things that one can do while in a certain locale.  Not me.  I like to plan my trips around food.  While some may think I have a food obsession, I prefer to view myself as a foodie.  I like to try new things and experience flavors and tastes that I can't cook for myself or get in my own neighborhood restaurants.  Since we have been coming to Encinitas for many years now we have our favorites, but some new places have popped up that deserve a Front Row Friends endorsement.  

The first is Honey's.  One of my Weight Watcher friends in the desert recommended this breakfast and lunch establishment to me. 
It is close to where we stay, so David and I were able to walk over one morning for breakfast.  He had the blueberry pancakes and I had the coconut french toast (pictured below.)  It was to die for!  The coconut is part of the batter and ends up getting caramelized when it is cooked.  While I'm not sure of the Weight Watcher's Plus Points Value of the coconut french toast,  I am sure that it was delicious.  And as luck would have it, Debra (my friend from WW who recommended Honey's to me) came in while I was there!  
Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria is a tried and true favorite of ours.  We went there on our last day at the beach which was coincidentally my birthday.  
We tried the Summer Pizza, which usually isn't on the menu.  It consisted of tomato sauce, mozzarella, locally grown organic vegetables and basil puree.  I loved it, especially the ultra thin slices of eggplant that were baked into the cheesy goodness of the pizza.
We also got our favorite pizza which is called Staff's Favorite.  It has tomato sauce, sausage, heavy cream, parmigiano reggiano and basil.   The heavy cream is just a drizzle at the end before the basil is put on.  It is fantastic!
 Since it was my birthday I had a glass of Prosseco to celebrate,  
and David split the Butterscotch Pudding with me for dessert.  This is the only dessert that they serve at Blue Ribbon and it has an amazing combination of flavors.  The bottom portion is butterscotch pudding, then there is a layer of caramel sauce and it is topped with sea salt and whipped cream.  Click here for the recipe.
The owner's of Blue Ribbon recently started a new venture called the Craftsman.  On a whim, David and I gave it a try, mostly because I looked at the menu online and Southern Fried Chicken with all the fixins' was the special of the day.
The Craftsman is only open for dinner and we arrived at 5pm as the doors were being unlocked. I tried a Southside, one of the signature cocktails, and David tried a cask beer on the recommendation of our server.  I learned that a cask beer is brewed locally from traditional ingredients and matured in the cask from which it is served. It is fresh and unfiltered which gives it a unique flavor.  The Craftsman has a different cask beer each week.  

I had the fried chicken, of course!  The sides consisted of warm potato salad, pickled watermelon, blackeyed peas, collard greens, and corn bread.  It was out of this world!  I was so absorbed in my chicken that I forgot to photograph David's scallop dinner.  (You can see a tiny portion of it in the top left corner of the photo.)
For dessert I planned to order the Blue Ribbon Butterscotch Pudding, which The Craftsman serves, but our server talked me into the chef's special:  house-made churros with dark chocolate dipping sauce. Let's just say our server got the Christmas tip that night!  

David had his favorite, warm bread pudding with butter pecan ice cream. I love how it is served in a cast iron Staub dish.
The Craftsman also has live music every night, which was an added plus.  We enjoyed ourselves so much we decided to go again when the special of the night was locally caught fish and chips.  
Two Happy Diners

Having learned how amazing the food is from our first experience at the Craftsman, we decided to try a few appetizers on our second trip.   
PBF:  Pretzel Bread Fondue
Fried Brussel Sprouts.  It was so good I almost didn't get a picture of it.  
David and I both ordered the fish and chips and though the photo didn't come out well, it was tasty!  

Now that I am home, I can get back to Weight Watchers. Yesterday I went to the farmer's market and got lots of fruits and vegetables to combat the pounds I'm sure I put on during my foodie vacation.  
It's a good thing we only visit Encinitas.  I could be in real trouble if we lived there.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

Submitted by Michelle
David and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary yesterday.  He gave me the card in the photo above and I thought it was mighty appropriate given we are vacationing at the beach.  

Prior to our vacation I wracked my brain trying to think of a gift to give him. In my opinion, buying presents for men is difficult, especially if said man is a techie who doesn't care much about music, fashion or sports.  One unique thing about David is that he has a degree from the CIA (the Culinary Institute of America, not the Central Intelligence Agency.)  He also mentioned that he wanted to eat Thai food while we were on vacation.  With the help of Yelp, I found True Taste of Thai.  

True Taste of Thai is a home cooking program run by Krongtong Na Songkhla a.k.a. Krong.  Krong is a native of Thailand and she went to Culinary School there.  She also earned her MBA at the University of Michigan.  She lives in San Marcos now, with her husband and son, and runs her own cooking school business. The approach is very straight forward. You chose a menu from her website and for a fee, she comes to your home with all the ingredients for the dishes and teaches you to cook them.
Krong, David and a piece of lemongrass.
For our meal we learned to prepare a salad, soup and fried rice. Preparation was the key to the cooking.  There was much chopping and sauce making to be done prior to actually cooking the meal.  
David expertly slices onion.
David has better knife skills than me, and the present was for him, so I let him do most of the work while I took photos and asked questions.  

As we chopped ingredients, Krong put them on a plate or in a bowl in an organized fashion so that we wouldn't get confused when cooking.  
Yum Nuea - a cucumber and mint salad waiting for grilled beef to top it off.
Everything we needed to make Tom Kha Kai, sweet and sour coconut soup with mushrooms and chicken.
David's favorite: Kao Pad Kai aka Thai Fried Rice.
Once all the ingredients were prepped, it didn't take more than 15 minutes to cook the meal.  The soup was made first so that it could sit for a few minutes and let all the flavors marry together. 
Then came the fried rice.  

Finally, David grilled the marinated sirloin steak and sliced it.  We added it to the salad and tossed everything with the dressing.
 Our meal was complete and the 2 happy chefs were ready to eat!
We throughly enjoyed our time with Krong and couldn't have been happier with the food.  It was fresh and authentic, and now we know how to cook it at home.  Not to toot my own horn, but I think I should get 3 Michelin Stars for this year's anniversary present.  This one will be hard to top.  Oh well, at least I have 364 more days to think about it.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Life is a Beach!

Submitted by Michelle
I've been on vacation for a week now and I figured it was about time for me to brag share the details of my fun and relaxing trip.  Each year, David's brother and sister-in-law graciously share their vacation condo in Encinitas with us.  It is always a welcome treat from the heat of the desert.  
Our friends Carrie and Sam joined us the first weekend, along with their daughter Samantha.  We went shopping and explored a variety of eateries, including a great place in Carlsbad called Bistro West
Bistro West offers a large variety of locally sourced and grown food.  
They also have a wall of water that changes color every few minutes.  
The house made pastas and fresh seafood were delicious and as you can see, I didn't stop with dinner.  David and Sam helped me stay on Weight Watcher's by sharing the Mudpie with me.  
And Carrie helped with activity points by going for walks with me on the beach. 
The sunsets at the beach are truly magnificent, but we also experienced the Super Moon over the weekend.  We weren't able to see the moon due to cloud cover but, the full moon did lead to extremely low tides which made for excellent viewing of the ocean floor during one of my morning walks.
This is a view looking back at the condo.  The condo is on the cliff in the far right of the photo.

A flock of seagulls enjoyed the view, too. 
 Tide pools....
and a reef.
On my walk I met an interesting fellow who pointed out to me that the reef is made up of living organisms.  He also pointed out that people were walking on the reef and therefore destroying the organisms.  He had some very strong feelings about the situation.  His colorful language isn't appropriate for this G-rated blog, but let's just say he firmly believes in saving the earth.  
Reef walkers killing the anemones and such. 
I found two sand dollars that I couldn't resist bringing home.  They will be a lovely reminder of our vacation.
We have a few more days left of our vacation, and even though I miss this cute little bundle of fun, it is wonderful having time alone with David and getting caught up on my afternoon naps and embroidery. Tomorrow is our 15th wedding anniversary and I have a special culinary surprise planned.  I'll tell you all about it in my next post.  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Uncle Sam and a Yoyo Flag

Submitted by Linda
Remember these cloches I found at Remnants? Well, soon after I got home I realized that Spring would soon be gone, and I would need something summery to put  in them.
Well, I had received some "Stamp Your Heart Out" bucks, and made my way to their darling store in C-Mont, just to see 'what I couldn't live without'. I found some papers and other paper crafting supplies, but I also came across this Uncle Sam pick.
I love the way he looks old and vintage, with his pipe cleaner hair and his grumpy-ish kind of face. On the back of his head, you can see he was made in Japan, and I'm sure he cost just pennies to make, despite his price tag.  I came home, and wrapped some old wooden spools with bakers twine, ribbons and trip and popped him in the tallest spool.
Ta Da! So cute in that little pint sized jar cloche!
Another project I have been working on is the yoyo flag pictured above.  I had seen it at a quilt shop, and then bought the kit which included all the fun, old time fabrics, enough to make two flags! You can see the yoyo maker tool in the picture below.
Now, yoyos are super easy to make, with or without the gadget shown above. In fact, when my boys were elementary age (before Pinterest), I found a picture of a yoyo bedspread in a magazine and decided to make it. It called for 3,000 yoyos (no, that is not a typo. It says, 3,000). So, everywhere I went in those days (usually the little league ball park), I had a ziploc baggie containing my circles of fabric and my needle and thread.  After I made the 3,000 (out of the boys baby clothes, fabric scraps, and from the bridesmaids dress from my wedding), I realized I didn't really want a bedspread, but rather just a throw. I'm sure a smarter person would have thought about this before she made the 3,000 yoyos. Well, the end of the story is that my mom and I both ended up with a fun yoyo throw, so all's well that ends well.

So back to the current project: In the picture below, I'm laying out the yoyos for the flag so I can start whipstitching them together.
And here it is, in all it's glory. I put a pen beside it so you can see how small it is. So stinkin' cute, if I do say so myself.
If you are interested in the kit so that you can make your own flag, I believe you can find it at My Red Door Designs. The kit includes fabric to make the flag shown here, and a teeny tinier one. You will want to buy the yoyo makers, so that your yoyos all turn out uniformly, but I've seen them at JoAnn's, where you could use a coupon.

Next, I think I need to find a twig for a flagpole, or maybe a cute old vintage hanger to clip it onto.