Saturday, September 26, 2009

La Fachada Taco Truck

The restaurant is La Fachada, but they also have a taco truck in the parking lot. We visited the taco truck for dinner, after looking for the Churros El Tigre churro cart. Alas, the little cart was forced to cease operations due to permit issues. Since we were in the neighborhood, we decided to dine at La Fachada's taco truck.

The tacos were so good that I barely took pictures of them, let alone any exterior shots. I apologize. The truck is a classic food truck, with a row of Mexican
aguas, salsas, and pickled carrots in front. To the side is a grill with all-you-can-eat beans and grilled onions. The seating in front of the truck is shaded, generous, and one can dine with the musical selection blasting behind you. For our dining pleasure, they were blasting hits from the late 90's, which I approved of. Ah, nostalgia.

I had four tacos: 2 of the
birria (stewed goat), lengua (cow's tongue), and tripa (fried tripe)

The birria was excellent. I love goat, which is gamey without being too tough. Birria's broth, with its smoky depths, brings out the richness of the meat. It soaked through the handmade corn tortillas in a few minutes, but no matter, I ate the small tacos quite fast.

I didn't mind the tripa, but I didn't love it either. The texture's fine and the frying gives it a nice crust, but there was something... earthy about the tripa that made me think it wasn't fresh or it hadn't been cleaned out too well. Yikes. I'd prefer not to think about it too much. Otherwise, it was kind of bland, with only breading and no other means of seasoning. Oh, well, an opportunity to showcase their different salsas. I liked a spicy red one that tasted like it might have had pasilla in it.

The lengua was inspiring. Tongue is a very richly flavored cut, and La Fachada cubes the tongue and keeps it tender and flavorful. The cubes were melt-in-your-mouth moist. They needed no condiments, but a touch of onions and cilantro were nice.

Drop by, grab a few tacos, and enjoy! San Diego has a few great taco trucks and this one is one of them.

La Fachada
20 25th St

(at Imperial Ave)
San Diego, CA 92102

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wine Vault & Bistro

I'd argue that Wine Vault & Bistro is one of San Diego's better-kept secrets. For me and D., it's our favorite fine-dining restaurant. San Diego doesn't lack for fine-dining, but I have to say that some of the restaurants I've tried in that genre tend to try too hard or not hard enough, with execution falling flat either way. Top that with high prices and shoddy service and I begin to feel like I could put my money to better use elsewhere. I like Wine Vault because they have a wide range of prices, the execution is usually excellent, and the service is simple.

To be fair, my assessment of fine-dining may be a little biased, as it's only been within the last three years that I was willing to spend more on dining in general. I have more disposable income, but still have the mentality of a former student: maximal bang-for-buck is key.

Wine Vault has $20
prix fixe menus on Thursdays and Fridays. Three courses with a handful of options per course. On Thursdays, one dish for each course will be specifically paired with a showcased wine flight.

Our first visit, descriptions from the menu (you can take the menus home... yes!):

peach + bourbon glazed pork belly|pickled peaches|fried green tomato|rocket

Beautiful, isn't it? It was extremely flavorful, but this is a dish of textures, too. Crisp rocket, crunchy tomato, rich/creamy pork belly, smooth peaches, sticky glaze. Perfectly cooked, the pork belly exploded with fatty goodness and the sweet glaze. From the top and bottom came tart/bitter, with the tomato, peaches, and rocket, which lightened the richness of the belly fat.

lamb osso buco|eggplant fondue|tomato confit|summer beans

Delicious dish with perfectly braised lamb that fell off the bone. The little chunk of marrow at the top was a nice little treat.

peach crisp|vanilla bean ice cream

The dish was tasty and the peaches wonderful, but the crust was burnt and could have been a little sweeter. Ice cream was good, but a little more vanilla bean would have been nice.

ahi tuna|red curry|preserved black beans|macadamia nuts

Great take on tuna tartare, with fresh fish and a nice crunch from the macadamia nuts. The black beans were a pungent contrast to the tuna.

braised beef brisket|caramelized onions|sour cream spaetzle|habanero relish

Spaetzle was wonderful, but the brisket was a tad dry and could have been a little more flavorful. The relish helped bring a little more out of the meat, but it was the spaetzle that was the memorable part of this dish.

pommes frites|roasted garlic + chipotle aioli dipping sauces

Great appetizer and we picked it when the featured wine flight contained a champagne. Bubbly goes well with the salty crispness of frites. The frites were delicious and the dipping sauces strong, which I liked.

sweet corn soup|tomato confit|micro cilantro

The soup was light and sweet, the tomato confit was a contrast in texture but a match in sweetness, and the micro cilantro gave little sharp bursts of flavor to contrast with the sweetness of the soup and confit.

steak au poivre|cipollini onion rings|smoked potato puree|asparagus|rosemary jus

I love that Wine Vault executes well and gives elegant interpretations of otherwise ordinary dishes. This is essentially steak and potatoes, but the potato was musky and the steak had the strong bite of pepper. Well-made, nothing unusual... it's just good cooking and good food.

cheesecake panna cotta|fresh berries

This was absolutely gorgeous. The panna cotta was light and really smooth, but with the tangy sweetness of cream cheese. They kept the cream cheese as a mild presence, which allowed the berries to shine. If anything, the texture was the winner in this dish, with the mouthfeel evoking feelings of decadence.

With the wedding and all, we haven't had any time for further revisits of Wine Vault, but it's our favorite fine-dining location. Their email list always includes menus and wine flights, so dinners and their prices are never a surprise. These dinners range from our favorite $20 3-course menus to 5-6 course menus with featured winemakers. Sign up for their mailing list on the website.

Wine Vault & Bistro
3731-A India Street
San Diego, CA 92103

Monday, September 21, 2009

Guilty pleasures

Another light post... just stretching the rusty blogging muscles. I have to say that I do have a soft spot for so-called bad food. I don't eat "bad food" often and I recognize that they're certainly not the best in their breeds, but I like them because they're tasty. They may not be scions of amazing technique or ingredients, but that's why they're guilty pleasures.

May I present... the Disneyland churro. It may have been fried at some point, but to warm it, the staff member puts it through one of those bagel toasters. The ones with a conveyor belt that you find in cafeterias.

After they complete their journey, they drop into a pan of cinnamon and sugar. He tosses the mixture completely over the churro and then wraps it in paper.

It ends up fairly crispy and full of sugary goodness.

Next up is a creation from The Cheesecake Factory. Hey, even Ruhlman had a meal there... his comments echo how I feel about the place. The food's not bad if you order the right dishes (it's not easy, considering the menu is a literal book), but as he puts it, the chain is "simply a company responding to the demands of America, and the demands of America were helping us to take our food one step backward rather than one step forward, and I don't think we have time for backward steps." I also agree with his friend LJ, "It's a guilty pleasure, liking bad pasta." Something about certain dishes at CF (mine is the Thai Chicken Pasta) hit a spot.

They cooked up a red velvet cheesecake. I ordered it without having seen it in the display case at the front of the house, so I was a little worried I'd get cheesecake dyed red or something. However, their take on it was rather nice. Decent layers of fluffy buttermilk-y red velvet with creamy cream cheese-y cheesecake (kept much creamier than their usual) in lieu of the usual cream cheese frosting. I took the slice home and ate a little of it at a time.

Of all of their creations, I think this one is one of my favorites.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


One of our wedding gifts: gorgeous new sheet/duvet set.

We love 'em, but apparently Bear felt the need to assert his thoughts. The sheets are a winner.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Spaghetti with Sardines, Dill, and Capers

Well, 2009 is flying by and I'm freshening up the blog a little bit. A little change of color and font, plus a new banner picture of the Moeraki Boulders in New Zealand. I even started a Twitter account, because a lot of food blogs have them and it's time I caught up.

Obviously, I'm seriously lagging behind, but I have a memory card full of pictures to post and I'm hoping to have this blog going again. It's been a long year... more than that, considering a lot has happened since mid-2008. D. and I got married (and the food... I can't wait to tell y'all about the food), we did a lot of traveling, I applied to grad school, was rejected from grad school, and now am reapplying. On top of that, it's been a long and rough emotional journey for the last year. A lot has happened and it's just one of those periods of life where I just had to shut down, withdraw, and re-emerge a little fresher.

If you think I'm out of the blogging game, then I hope you'll follow along as I try to catch up and recap some of my adventures. After all, still doing the eating/cooking bit... hope I still have a little corner of the interweb!

For now, I'm going to mention one of my new favorite recipes. I subscribed to Gourmet in the spring. It's funny that I never really read too much of
Gourmet before, despite being obsessed with food. It was in the middle of one of these crazy life-upending moments that I picked up an issue and read through it. I had decided, of all things, to dye my hair. Never wanted to, never had the patience or time to, but my new (and awesome!) hairdresser convinced me to give highlights a try. Well, they involve sitting around and the salon had a copy of Gourmet. I was hooked, subscribed, and my first issue (May 2009) had this recipe. It's easy, fast, and it'll make you convert to sardines if you don't already like them. The recipe works best with sardines packed in olive oil.

Spaghetti with Sardines, Dill, and Capers
Gourmet, May 2009

1 pound spaghetti
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup drained capers, patted dry
2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from a baguette)
1/2 cup chopped dill
2 to 3 (3 3/4-ounces) cans sardines in olive oil 4 garlic cloves

Cook spaghetti in a pasta pot of well- salted boiling water until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Fry capers until they "bloom" and are just a shade darker, about 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Toast bread crumbs in same skillet, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with capers, dill, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

Add sardines to skillet with their oil (if using 3 cans sardines, discard oil from 1 can) over medium-high heat, then force garlic through a garlic press into skillet. Sauté until sardines are golden in spots around edges, about 2 minutes.

Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain pasta. Add pasta to skillet with cooking water and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Toss until pasta is coated and sauce is slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve topped with seasoned crumbs.