Newport Beach and San Diego 3/12-3/15/2014

Another travel post from a business trip turned personal weekend in SoCal.  I started in Newport Beach and then drove (or more accurately, was driven) down to San Diego for the weekend.

Wednesday 3/12, Dinner at Basilic

Balboa Island has a quaint area full of small boutiques and restaurants.  I found Basilic after a few searches online and was interested in the Swiss/French blend of cuisine.  It had a cute look from the outside, covered in vines, and the interior had no more than a handful of tables for seating.

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For food and drink, I chose the following items:

  • Soupe à L ‘Oignon – Swiss onion soup, croutons, Gruyère cheeses
  • Special – grilled sea bass with black rice, seasonal vegetables, and citrus slaw
  • Semillon, chenin blanc blend rotating wine

The wine came first and was pleasant, but paired with the fish was amazing.  The flavors really opened up and somehow the buttery fish, smokey char of the grilled vegetables and citrus from the slaw all enhanced and complemented the various aspects of the wine.  I always love it when food and wine pairings create such lovely synergy.  I’m always a fan of a good onion soup, so overall, I really enjoyed this meal.

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Thursday 3/13, Dinner at Ruby’s Diner

My friend that met me for the weekend is a fan of diners, and I read online about this local chain that had a location at the end of Balboa pier off Newport Beach.  Sounded like a fun evening trip, so we made our way over.
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We of course started with shakes and then proceeded with burgers and fries.  Here’s the list:

  • Black Forest Shake
  • Bacon Cheeseburger – Piled high with savory, thick-cut bacon, crisp lettuce, tomato, RubySauce and double Swiss cheese melted to perfection.
  • Reuben Burger – this was a special around the St. Patty’s Day weekend
  • Garlic Fries

The shake was nice and thick – almost hard to drink with the straw, which is just how I like them.  The burgers were messy but that was because they were plenty juicy, and I was definitely a fan of this limited time special.  Overall, solid diner fare.

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Friday 3/14, Lunch at Cucina Urbana

The always-reliable Eater 38 for San Diego brought me to Cucina Urbana.  We went to the Laurel St. location for lunch after the morning drive down from the OC.  I don’t recall the cocktail I had, but I don’t remember being disappointed.

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For food, we got the following items:

  • Lamb sausage + honey ricotta pizza – gaeta olive, fontina, baby chard
  • Lasagna al forno – beef + pork + tomato + bèsciamella
  • Giant meatball

I really enjoyed all of these selections.  My friend’s favorite food is lasagna, and he was very pleased with this one, so much so that the only reason I got to taste any was because he got full.

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Friday 3/14, Dinner at Searsucker

Another lead from Eater took us to Searsucker for dinner.  We were pretty full already, so we opted for a few small dishes to share.

For drinks:

  • Jalaberry Strawpeno – Strawberry jalapeno tequilla, lime agave
  • Indian Summer – Grey Goose La Poire, Leopold Apple, apple, lemon

For food:

  • egg + bacon “pork belly”
  • kurobuta meatballs + mushroom ragu + parmesan
  • salad – strawberry + champagne + walnut + goat

The pork belly was pushed hard by our server and was good but a little heavy for us.  The meatballs weren’t very exciting to me, which is saying something because meatballs in general (along with dumplings) are a favorite of mine.  I just thought these were relatively bland.  The salad was great, though, and my friend enjoyed his steak.  Overall, the meal was pleasant, but it didn’t really stand out to me.
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Saturday 3/15, Lunch at Acqui es Texcoco

Final destination from Eater, we went to Acqui es Texcoco because my friend loves lamb, and I was looking for something Mexican.  Plus, I generally trust the famous foodies with Minnesota roots like Andrew Zimmern from Bizzare Foods.

I chose to get horchata, some guac, and the combination with a flauta, taco, and sope all with lamb.  This came with lamb broth and a variety of garnishes (limes, fresh onions with cilantro, and pickled onions with habanero) as well as the mole and green chile sauce.  This was all amazing.  Enough said.
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Saturday 3/15, Dinner at Bertrand at Mister A’s

Dinner was planned by my friend at Bertrand at Mister A’s.  This place had a beautiful view of the water, which was especially beautiful at sunset.  We both started with lobster bisque, which had lovely presentation.  My dining companion ordered a steak, I got fish, and we shared a side of Mr. A’s Mac and Cheese (black truffles and pancetta).

IMG_3371 IMG_3373 IMG_3374San Diego lived up to expectations.  The zoo was way too big to explore in a day, and we thought the Gaslamp Quarter was a fun spot if a little crazy for St. Patty’s Day.  We didn’t venture into the public transit system, but I think that might be worth investigating on a future trip because the city seemed too large to travel on foot, and cabs are expensive.

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