2014 ~ The Year in Cuisine

2014 ~ The Year in Food

I never published this. Back at the beginning of 2015. 

2014 now stands as the year in which I did the most prodigious amount of traveling in my entire lifetime. Traveling on business took me to Richmond, San Jose, New York City, and Toronto. Traveling for pleasure landed me in Toledo, Columbus, Tampa and Dallas.

Along the way, I was forced into the unenviable position of exploring new gastronomic horizons. What follows is a summation of the most memorable food-related experiences I had in 2014. Listed by location in alphabetical order, of course. Because, why not?

Razor Burger
The Razor Burger at The Forge in historic Ben Wheeler, TX

Ben Wheeler, TX

Razor Burger @ The Forge (cheese-stuffed jalapeños, bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion on a toasted, buttered bun)

– Columbus, OH
– Sauerkraut Balls & Mac’n’Cheese @ Hey Hey Bar & Grill
– Pork Bratwurst, Smoked Bahama Mama, Garlic Knockwurst, German Potato Salad @ Schmidt’s Restaurant und Sausage Haus
– The Village Addiction @ Brown Bag Deli (smoked turkey, havarti, cranberry mayonnaise, served on grilled sour dough)
– Sriracha Slaw Dog @ Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace (Sriracha slaw (coleslaw with a touch of sun-ripened chile garlic sauce), mustard, & fresh onion)
– Sunfish Tacos @ The Sycamore (arbol chili rub, sazon yogurt sauce, mizzuna sprouts)
– Beer @ 16-Bit Bar + Arcade

Cortado @ Café Grumpy in Manhattan
Cortado @ Café Grumpy in Manhattan

– New York City, NY
– Cortado @ Café Grumpy in Manhattan
– Wurst and beer @ The Standard Biergarten in The Standard Hotel High Line, Meat Packing District, Manhattan
– The Famous Original Pizza @ Roberta’s in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn (tomato, mozzarella, Caciocavallo, oregano, chili)

Brunch with my good friend Andrew @ the Iris Café in Brooklyn
Brunch with my good friend Andrew @ the Iris Café in Brooklyn

– Cortado & Shakshuka @ Iris Cafe in Brooklyn (roasted tomato, tahini, toast, sesame seeds, poached egg)

The Burger @ Pasture in RVA
The Burger @ Pasture in RVA

– Richmond, VA
– Burger @ Pasture (special sauce, house dill pickles, lettuce, onion, American cheese, fries)
– Bavarian Pretzels, Garlic-Herb Mussels, Fish and Chips @ Capital Ale House (Pale ale battered cod fried crisp and served with fries, brown ale Tarter sauce and cilantro lime slaw)
– Top Sirloin @ Comfort
– Chicken Tenders, Catfish, Candied Yams, Peach Cobbler @ Mama J’s

Sizzling Shark
Sizzling Shark @ Churchill’s Pub & Grille in San Marcos, CA (Mako shark filet rubbed in Caribbean green seasoning then breaded and fried. Served on a ciabatta bun and topped with scotch bonnet slaw, red onion, heirloom tomato, and pepper sauce)

San Diego, CA

  • Lobster mac & cheese burger @ Churchill’s Pub & Grille (1/2lb Kobe beef patty on a beer battered lobster mac and cheese bun topped with truffle cheese and heirloom tomato)
  • Ceviche flight and Chronic Roll @ Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub (crab, spicy tuna and avocado wrapped in rice and nori, deep fried and finished off with spicy aioli and sweet and spicy citrus sauce)
  • Triple Stuffed Popper and Sizzling Fried Shark @ Churchill’s Pub & Grille (Anaheim chili stuffed with diced jalapeño, habañero, serrano peppers, and pepper jack cheese. Then beer battered, fried and topped with chipotle mole. — Mako shark filet rubbed in Caribbean green seasoning then breaded and fried. Served on a ciabatta bun and topped with scotch bonnet slaw, red onion, heirloom tomato, and pepper sauce.)
  • 50 Alarm Burger @ Slater’s 50/50 (carne asada fire beef, ghost pepper jack cheese, bacon habanero spread, fresh jalapeño, beer battered habanero poppers, brioche
  • (waiver required; gloves provided))
  • El Fútbol Taco @ Tacos Perla (Smoked Albacore, green chile, pippin, jack cheese & red onion)
  • Shack Burger @ Carnitas Snack Shack (lettuce/ tomato/ bacon jam/ white cheddar/ shack aioli)
  • San Diego Restaurant Week @ Puesto La Jolla (Lobster taco [Black beans,‏ crispy onions, avocado, crema de cilantro, jalapeño pico], Rajas Veg taco [Crispy melted cheese, rajas mix (chile poblano, sweet corn, oyster mushrooms), avocado, tomatillo fresca], Zucchini & Cactus Veg taco [Crispy melted cheese, calabasitas (zucchini, corn, tomato), cactus, avocado, cilantro-tomatillo], Pork Chilaquiles, Calabasitas [Fresh zucchini, corn, tomato, queso, crema], ice cream cookie dessert)
  • Battered Fish Tacos @ Oscar’s Mexican Seafood (served with Cabbage – Onion – Tomato – Cilantro)
  • Bomb Burrito @ Karina’s Taco Shop (carne asada, shredded cheese, guacamole, taquitos, sour cream)
  • Ribeye Steak @ The Steakhouse at Jalapeño Grill & Cantina (Ribeye flavored with Signature House Seasoning and grilled over a Mesquite flame, fresh bread, Mexican caesar salad, Jalapeño Cheddar Mashed Redskins)

Little Gems

Salad @ The Farmer’s Union in San Jose, CA (Little Gems, Avocado Green Goddess, Candy Bacon, Ricotta Salata, Pickled Onion)

San Jose, CA

  • Burger @ The Farmer’s Union (Farmers Union Grass Fed Burger, Brioche Bun, White Cheddar, Pickles, All the Fixins)
  • Salad @ The Farmer’s Union (Little Gems, Avocado Green Goddess, Candy Bacon, Ricotta Salata, Pickled Onion)
  • Shiitake Jack @ Konjoe Burger Bar in San Pedro Square Market (beef, lettuce, pickled jalapenos, shiitake mushrooms, jack cheese, r.g.s.t aioli)
  • Sausage & Kale Stuffed Pork Tenderlion @ SP2 Communal Bar + Restaurant (Parmesan Polenta, Baby Carrots and Chasseur Sauce)
Florida Pompano at Ulële in Tampa, FL
Florida Pompano at Ulële in Tampa, FL

Tampa, FL

  • Florida Pompano @ Ulële (Pan-seared pompano fillet, sundried tomato shallot cream, fried carrot ribbons)
  • Burrito Prenado Pescado (Grouper) with Guacamole @ Taco Bus (X-large flour tortilla stuffed with your choice of filling, Mexican rice, refried beans, taco veggies and cheese)
Cowboy Ribeye
Cowboy Ribeye and Lobster Tail at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Mississauga, ON

Toronto, ON

2014 ~ The Year in Review Begins

2014 ~ The Year in ReviewAs this list coalesces from the sum of my temporal experiences in 2014, I realize that the amount of preparation involved is actually more than ever before… rendering the process a little less involved than past years. And so it feels half-hearted. But it’s not.

I live within striking distance of the second largest metropolitan area by population in the United States, and I have missed a number of things.

I missed seeing The Notwist in San Francisco in June – when I was actually in the city. My phone died, I had no means of transportation and it was dark. I should have gone anyway.

I missed seeing Whiplash, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Birdman, The Book of Life, Calvary, Force Majeure, Wild, The Imitation Game, Godzilla, Selma, and Inherent Vice, despite the fact that they all played nearby.

I missed going to Peasant in New York City and trying Frank’s Steak, based upon a recipe born in the middle ages after a battle where there were hundreds of dead horses on the ground. Never let a good horse go to waste…

I missed visiting the Guggenheim and the Met, my car broke down en route to a Padres home game that I subsequently missed, I also missed going on Drinkabout in North Park, swimming with the seals in La Jolla Cove, and going to a vertical tasting of every vintage of 3 Floyds Dark Lord.

Those are things I missed. Sometimes, dwelling on missed opportunities can obscure all of the caught opportunities and adventures the year had in store. This is my review of 2014, and I shall break it into some bite-sized, pop-culture-centric pieces for rapid consumption.

2014 ~ month by month

January – our good friend Cat and her daughter Kyla visit us in San Diego, CA for some fun in the sun, on the beach, eating sushi and unwinding. While driving around La Jolla, we get hungry and stop at the nearest Mexican place we could find – and thus, discover Oscar’s Mexican Seafood. THE BEST FISH TACOS EVER.

February – The Stone Brewing Co. “Calm Before the Storm” event allows me the chance to try nearly every single, retired Vertical Epic brew in their archive. Bree and I go to Urge Gastropub for a special Valentine’s Day dinner date and had some house-made truffles that were literally amazeballs. Tania and Bree make home made sushi after we did some shopping at an Asian supermarket down in San Diego.

March – I join the Bruery’s Preservation Society in order to get my hands on some fancy beers and expand my brew-consciousness. Anthony comes back to visit and ponder whether or not to move again to the great state of California and I take him to Churchill’s Renaissance to drink expensive beer. Tania, Bree, myself and John decide to hike to the top of Mount Woodson, home of the famous “Tater Chip Rock.” My second cousin Kaarin also comes to visit and we take her to Oscar’s for the BEST FISH TACOS EVER… and she agreed.

April – I travel to Richmond, VA for business.

May –

June – I travel to San Jose, CA for business. We move into a house – huge upgrade from being in an apartment. Bree is thrilled to spend our anniversary in a new location for once.

July – We attend my cousin Caleb’s wedding in Sylvania, OH, also we attend the San Diego Comic Con, also I return to Ohio (Columbus, this time) to be a groomsman in Sam Shepard’s wedding. I visit a lot of people in July. It is glorious and very expensive. Benji and Megumi put me up in their charming new home near the German Village in Columbus.

August –

September – I travel to New York City for business, arriving in the Big Apple on my birthday.

October –

November – I travel to Toronto, ON for business and then take a flight from the great, white north down to Tampa, FL for another cousin’s wedding. Bree comes from San Diego, separately.

December – For the holidays, Bree and I travel to East Texas to visit her family. We arrive on Christmas Eve and return to San Diego, which had just received a rare dusting of SNOW(!), on New Year’s Eve. Bree’s family all got sick while we visited, and so I finally succumb to it on the day we return. We ring in the new year huddled under blankets, drinking soup and ginger tea.

2014 ~ The Year In:






2013 – The Year’s Best Eats – Restaurant Edition


I never bothered to publish this – then again, I have not written anything for quite some time.

For what it’s worth, here are the lovely dining establishments I enjoyed visiting in 2013 ~

Consider this Joel’s substitute for Yelp.

Sea & Smoke in Del Mar, CA – Niman Ranch Burger, Warm Spinach Salad
Under The High Wheel, Edmonton, Alberta – House Burger
Rudy’s Taco Shop in Carlsbad, CA – California Burrito with Guacamole
The Crown and Anchor in Monterey, CA – Cheeseburger
Señor Pancho’s in San Marcos – California Burrito with Guacamole
Lallapalooza in Monterey, CA – Blue Cheese Steak Bites
First Food and Bar @ The Palazzo in Las Vegas – CLOSED – Mini Wedge Salads
Golden Road Brewery Pub in Los Angeles, CA – GRB Burger
Urge Gastropub in Rancho Bernardo, San Diego, CA – Garbage Burger
Sublime Ale House in San Marcos, CA – Jalapeño Popper, BYO Mac & Cheese
Tin Leaf Kitchen in Carlsbad, CA – Grilled Loch Duart Salmon
Pizza Port in Carlsbad, CA – BBQ Chicken Pizza
Marina Kitchen in San Diego, CA – Tuna Nicoise Salad
Hubcap in North Park, San Diego – CLOSED – Herbed Boursin Burger
The Linkery in North Park, San Diego – CLOSED – Beer Battered Cheese Curds, Fish Tacos
Tommy V’s Urban Kitchen & Bar in Carlsbad – Hanger Steak Salad
Slater’s 50/50 @ Liberty Station in San Diego, CA – Peanut Butter & Jealousy Burger
Slater’s 50/50 in Pasadena, CA – Nacho Supreme Burger
The Waffle in Hollywood, CA – Red Velvet Waffle
Peace Pies in Leucadia, Encinitas, CA – Bliss Burger (Vegan)

My list of the top ten spots I would love to visit in 2014:

  1. Verde y Crema in Tijuana, Baja México
  2. Bull Taco in Cardiff By The Sea, CA
  3. Carnitas Snack Shack in North Park, San Diego, CA
  4. Rocky’s Crown Pub in Pacific Beach, San Diego, CA
  5. Blind Lady Ale House in Normal Heights, San Diego, CA
  6. Ballast Point Tasting Room & Kitchen in Little Italy, San Diego, CA
  7. Young Hickory in North Park, San Diego, CA
  8. Urban Solace in San Diego, CA
  9. Romesco Mediterranean Bistro in Bonita, CA
  10. Caesar’s Restaurante Bar in Tijuana, Baja México

2013 – The Year’s Best Eats – Burger Edition

We are all aware of the fact that it is no great secret: my inner Epicurean blossomed with great fanfare and rampant hedonism in 2013.

Or, wait – maybe that was supposed to be a secret. Ehhh…

I was introduced to a bevy of fascinating foodstuffs in my new home in San Diego, California. I also was blessed to do a bit of traveling for work – to Las Vegas, NV, Monterey, CA, Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Vegas was a whirlwind, Monterey afforded me a few, different opportunities to sample the local grub hubs- though i weighed a record-low 138 lbs at the time- and Canada didn’t really have much to offer, although I did visit a trendy, natural foods grocer that was attached to an Italian-style cafe and quaint, farm-to-table restaurant.

I have broken this post into two sections – one is simply a list of my favorite restaurant experiences of 2013, and the other is dedicated to the finest burgers I had in 2013. Because, for whatever reason, San Diegans are SERIOUS about their love of burgers. And surfing and skating and fish tacos and California burritos, and beer and coffee and art and love and peace and the sunshine, etc. etc.

But BURGERS. Burgers are an art form, and subject to a very high standard of excellence in America’s Finest City.

Hubcap Burger - Diagram
Hubcap Burger – Diagram

Not only is a burger a serious work of art, it is a punishing enterprise to try and sell said work of art in San Diego, CA. This was part of the challenge faced by Hubcap, the source of my #1 favorite burger in 2013. I ate it there during Comic-Con, and was blown away. Sadly, the restaurant never quite took off in such a way that maintained profitability, and they closed doors after only 4 months of service. The quality of ingredients and artisanal care that was poured into making Hubcap’s transcendent burger fare necessitated a much higher sticker price in a market where you could literally walk from any one point to a burger joint in 5 minutes flat.

Hubcap Burger
Hubcap Burger
Hubcap Burger - Detail
Hubcap Burger – Detail

I took photos of many of the other burgers I enjoyed in 2013. I was particularly happy to be able to go to Hodad’s on my 30th birthday, a local standby that has been cooking fabulous burgers in Ocean Beach for 44 years.

Happy Burger to Me
Happy Burger to Me
Hodad's Bacon Cheeseburger
Hodad’s Bacon Cheeseburger

My #2 favorite burger of the year was an inspired mash-up of nachos supreme with a Slater’s 1/3 lb burger patty, mixed with taco seasonings. Based on a request from a Make-A-Wish child, this burger was a dream come true for me – deep fried, coated in a thick layer of nacho cheese, topped with a dollop of sour cream and pickled jalapeños. Heaven.

Slater's 50/50 Supreme Nacho Burger
Slater’s 50/50 Supreme Nacho Burger

Behold, a few more photos of burgers:

Slater's 50/50 Peanut Butter & Jeallousy Burger
Slater’s 50/50 Peanut Butter & Jeallousy Burger
Golden Road Brewery GRB Burger
Golden Road Brewery GRB Burger
Sublime Alehouse - Southwest Burger
Sublime Alehouse – Southwest Burger
Slater's 50/50 - The Henry Winkler
Slater’s 50/50 – The Henry Winkler
Sea & Smoke - Niman Ranch Grass-Fed Burger
Sea & Smoke – Niman Ranch Grass-Fed Burger

And here is my ranked list of the top ten burgers that went into my body, nourishing it and strengthening it, in 2013:

  1. Herbed Boursin Burger @ Hubcap
  2. Nacho Supreme Burger @ Slater’s 50/50
  3. Hubcap Burger @ Hubcap
  4. Single Bacon Cheeseburger @ Hodad’s
  5. The Compass Burger @ The Compass
  6. The Southwest Burger @ Sublime Ale House
  7. The Garbage Burger @ Urge Gastropub
  8. Niman Ranch Grass-Fed Burger @ Sea & Smoke
  9. Peanut Butter & Jeallousy Burger @ Slater’s 50/50
  10. Farmhouse Burger @ Karl Strauss

And there you have it. Believe it or not, I actually ate more salad than anything else this year. For some reason, I couldn’t find very many photos of those…