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Thursday, 04 February 2016 12:29

Meet the Celebrity Chefs of San Diego

BlaisAtBeard 252 PicmonkeyRichard Blais heads the kichen at Juniper + Ivy

by Candice Eley

February 4, 2016 - With a booming culinary scene, San Diego is currently home to some of the nation's most talked about gastronomic stars. In recent years, San Diegans have been crowned champions of nationally renowned cooking shows, and established celebrity chefs excited by the city's culinary energy have been relocating to the region.

Saturday, 30 January 2016 19:10

10 Killer Taco Joints in San Diego

Taco images Picmonkey


By: Ann Wycoff

January 29, 2016 - New Orleans has po'boys, Chicago loves its pizza, Philly takes pride in its cheese steaks, and San Diego, well here, it's all about tacos - a nod to the city's beach lifestyle and Baja neighbors. Tacos are the ultimate expression of San Diego's Cali-Baja cuisine that celebrates two cultures, along with fresh fish, farm produce, wood-smoked meats, zesty salsas and sauces. From food trucks and hole in the walls to oceanfront and high-design eateries, San Diego offers up everything from delicious 99 cent deals to gourmet tacos prepared by local top chefs. Here are a few of our favorite spots for tasty tacos.

Tuesday, 05 January 2016 18:21

Winter Whale Watching in San Diego

Gray Whale breaching PicmonkeyA breaching Gray Whale

TASTE News Service, January 6, 2015 – Winter ‘til spring is the time to see Gray Whales. From mid-December until April, more than 20,000 gray whales make a 10,000 mile round-trip journey from Alaska to the lagoons of Baja California, where the females give birth to their calves. They typically spend several months in the warm Baja California waters, time for their young to grow strong enough to make the journey home, before making their way back north again in the Spring. It is the longest known distance any mammal migrates on an annual basis and is truly an extraordinary spectacle to observe.

Friday, 25 December 2015 18:17

December 25, 2015 Beer Pick of the Week

Ballast Point Calico Amber Picmonkey

Calico Amber Ale


Ballast Point Brewery

San Diego

Style: amber ale

Alcohol: 5.5%

IBUs: 35

Serving style: 12, 22-ounce bottles, kegs (our sample from draft)

Availability: Year-round throughout the West Coast

Saturday, 23 May 2015 19:52

May 22, 2015 Beer Pick of the Week

ruination 2 Picmonkey

Ruination 2.0


Stone Brewing Co.

Escondido, California

Style: Imperial or Double IPA

Alcohol: 8.5%

IBUs: 100+

Serving Style: 12 and 22-ounce bottles and kegs (our sample from draft)

Availability: Year-round in 41 states and some limited int'l. distribution


Appearance:   “Clear golden color with creamy white head.”

Aroma:   “Hugely hoppy. Oodles of citrus and tropical fruits.”

Taste:   “Big in one sense, in that those hops (Citra, Simcoe, Azacca, Magnum, Nugget and Centennial) are so prominent. However, it drinks easy—almost ‘sessionable,’ but at this alcohol content, you wouldn’t want to pour down more than a couple of glasses. Piney and resiny, it’s quite bitter (check the IBUs), but will please a lot of fans of this style.”

Food Affinity:   “At first it seems difficult to figure food pairings for a beer this big. However, even at eight-point-five, it’s about 40% less alcohol by volume than the average table wine. Maybe we have to think more creatively. Perhaps a full-flavored fish, such as salmon, napped with aioli or a lemon and butter sauce.”

    --guest review by George Lane, a Brit who remembers that IPA means India Pale Ale


Editor’s note:   “At the time of this review, four beer fans were sampling 6-ounce glasses of both the original Ruination and its 2.0 replacement version. Three of us preferred the ‘old’ Ruination, considering it better balanced. The fourth taster liked the in-your-face assertiveness of the new 2.0 (obviously, our limited consumer sampling was less than ‘scientific’, but did generate a lively late afternoon discussion).

"Some of us wondered why the brewery would keep the name of a proven crowd-pleaser, but change the recipe. Would this be another marketing disaster like the ‘New Coca Cola’ of some years ago? At this point nobody can say for sure, but visiting Stone’s website we found that the brewery’s rationale was pretty strong (hops not available when the first Ruination came on the scene, changing tastes of the craft beer lover, etc.). Apparently, they’ve put a lot of thought into the change and had good responses from consumers who sampled test recipes prior to introduction of the new product.

"You can get a much fuller explanation by visiting stonebrewing.com yourself (they also have pairing suggestions for foods in all categories of a multi-course meal, as well as cigar selections to accompany the Ruination 2.0)."

Thursday, 30 October 2014 23:25

October 31, 2014 Beer Pick of the Week

Lucky Bastard pint Picmonkey

Lucky Basartd


Stone Brewing Co.

Escondido, CA

Style: American strong ale

Alcohol: 8.5%


Serving Style: 22-ounce bottles and draft

Availability: Selected markets in the western U.S.


Appearance: “Color is the rich, dark tones of autumn.”

Aroma: “Sweet mix of malts with a smokey undertone.”

Taste: “Full-bodied. Malty.”

Food Affinity:  “Would challenge the spiciest food you can put before it."

Michael Mallett Oct 30 2014 Picmonkey



Reviewed by Michael Mallett

Bagby Beer food plates PicmonkeyThere's more than beer at Bagby

TASTE News Service October 24, 2014 - Located at the western end of San Diego’s “Hops Highway,” Oceanside’s craft beer industry is booming. In the last year, nearly a dozen new venues, from microbreweries and tasting rooms to gastro pubs with a craft beer focus, have opened in the city providing visitors and locals with numerous options for sampling the best brew of the region.

So fast and furious has been the growth in craft beer venues, that Visit Oceanside recently added a dedicated section to its website (www.visitoceanside.org/oside-beer-tours) where visitors can view an interactive map of the venues and also be inspired by recommended “pub crawl” itineraries. These itineraries include the Coast Highway Crawl, which features hot spots that offer both sensational beers and delicious local eats; Brews on Shoes where visitors can explore the diverse beer scene in downtown Oceanside’s walking district; South O Swing that takes visitors to the charming neighborhood of South Oceanside, which sports a fun and eclectic vibe and is frequented predominately by locals; and Back Alley Brews featuring popular brew spots off the beaten path, but worth checking out.

“People have always traveled for great food and drink and, when it comes to craft beer, Oceanside is serving it up in spades,” says Leslee Gaul, CEO of Visit Oceanside. “Our map is like an insider’s guide to the area and makes it easy for visitors to decide which places they want to check out during their stay.”

Among the most ambitious of the newly opened beer venues, and destined to become a flagship destination for Oceanside, is Bagby Beer Company. Two years in the making, the 1,500 square foot facility is prominently located on Coast Highway and features two stories, outdoor gardens, a restaurant, private dining room and on-site brewing with special tasting areas where guests can watch legendary brew master Jeff Bagby in action. Formerly a brew master for the Pizza Port chain, Bagby is one of the most highly decorated brew masters in the country and recently took home a bronze medal at the prestigious 2014 Great American Beer Festival in Colorado for his Dry Stout Asphault Jungle, only the fourth batch of beer to be made at his new facility.

“Craft beer is the perfect fit for Oceanside’s laid-back surf culture and creative spirit,” says Gaul. “The quickly expanding Oceanside beer scene is being spearheaded by local entrepreneurs looking to create fun, one-of-a-kind experiences and a destination where locals and visitors want to hangout.”

Stone Oside PicmonkeyStone's outdoor barOceanside’s other homegrown beer labels with tasting rooms include the popular Oceanside Ale Works—Oceanside's first microbrewery, Legacy Brewing Company—which pays homage to the founding fathers of the United States, and Breakwater Brewing Company—a downtown gathering place since 2008. Although not technically a beer, Golden Coast Mead is another specialty drink made in Oceanside and also recently opened a tasting room to showcase its popular version of mead, a drink that dates back to ancient times.

Complementing Oceanside’s local beer labels are an eclectic mix of new restaurants, tasting rooms and tasting gardens that feature a wide selection of regional craft beer. Like Bagby, many of these venues have made their homes along Coast Highway near Oceanside’s downtown beach community. Some, like Surfside Tap Room, Stone Company Store Oceanside and Beer Brewing Company, are primarily places for beer tasting. Others, such as Local Tap House, Master’s Kitchen & Cocktails and Mission Avenue Bar & Grill combine a rotating selection of regional beer with delicious local pub cuisine based on fresh, seasonal ingredients.

“Craft brew is taking off throughout San Diego and Oceanside is defining its niche in the industry,” says Gaul. “Each of our local venues has a unique personality, but all are reflective of our city’s popular beach culture and welcoming spirit.”

About Oceanside

For more than 125 years, Oceanside has been known as an ideal place to stay and experience Southern California's casual spirit. Located along the beautiful Southern California coastline between metropolitan San Diego and Los Angeles, Oceanside boasts a number of important historical and cultural attractions such as Mission San Luis Rey (The King of Missions), California's longest wooden pier, vintage 101 Café, 1920's era Robert's Cottages, Top Gun House, California Surf Museum and the Oceanside Museum of Art. The city has served as a film location for dozens of Hollywood productions and was once the preferred getaway of many of Hollywood's elite. Bordering Camp Pendleton, Oceanside has long enjoyed a strong relationship with the U.S. military and a deep commitment to the men and women serving the nation. Today, with 3.5 miles of sandy beach, a quaint New England-style harbor and a stellar year-round climate, Oceanside is a highly sought after location for enjoying active pursuits including surfing, stand up paddling, kayaking, boating, fishing, bike-riding, skydiving and more.

Editor's note: If you're thinking of visiting Oceanside, or any of San Diego County, check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as sections linking to the sites of area wineries and craft beer specialists.

Hotel Del Coronado holiday lights PicmonkeyHoliday lighting at The Del

TASTE News Service September 18, 2014 - “Hotel del Coronado's holiday celebrations have always reflected the spirit of America itself,” according to author and Del historian, Christine Donovan. “For example, when the hotel opened in 1888, the nation was experiencing a renewed interest in the first Thanksgiving, which helped popularize our bountiful, Pilgrim-inspired harvest meal—a tradition that has held fast for more than 100 years.”

The resort's original vacation season, when guests from Eastern cities spent the entire winter season at the hotel, mirrors today's current holiday season of Thanksgiving through New Year's. At that time, Hotel del Coronado helped put San Diego on the map, touting, “We are picking roses in the West, when you are freezing in the East.”

A new book paying tribute to Hotel del Coronado's 126 years of festive celebrations. Hotel del Coronado Holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's is filled with vintage photography and printed pieces, including Del menus, invitations, and guest activity brochures. Also featured are authentic Victorian greeting cards and other vintage holiday artwork.

The 160-page volume also sheds light on more recent traditions such as how the exterior lights are installed (thankfully, professional steeplejacks still exist) to what it takes to construct a seaside skating rink (besides a 40-ton crane). In addition, sections of the book detail decorating the interior of The Del (14 Christmas trees alone) and the history of the annual collector's ornament.

Historic sidebars offer information on everything from the turn-of-the-century tradition of playing football games on Thanksgiving to how Victorians ensured the safety of their homes at a time when trees were illuminated with candles. A handful of vintage holiday recipes, as well as a Del-themed version of “'Twas the Night Before Christmas” round out this keepsake collection.

Hotel del Coronado holiday book PicmonkeyAmerican Christmas history owes its roots to the Victorian period. Before then, Christmas was a relatively humble holiday, but by 1888, the country had become enamored with European-style celebrations. Drawing mostly from German and English traditions (and influenced by the popularity of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol), Christmas in America became more festive and children-centered. Christmas trees, greeting cards and even songs came into vogue, as did one very special person: St. Nick.

Although many of America's Christmas traditions were established during the Victorian era, the nation's post-World War II prosperity put a new spin on the holiday with mass-produced holiday decorations (including artificial trees), a plethora of Christmas-themed merchandise, and the pile of toys under the tree increased proportionately.

New Year's celebrations have also evolved. In 1888, socially-prominent Americans attended private or public balls, where dinner was served near midnight (as late as 1930, The Del's celebration started at 10:30 pm, with “supper” served at 11pm). New Year's Day, meanwhile, was reserved for “calls,” whereby society matrons and their unmarried daughters hosted single gentlemen for brief visits, a tradition that was also practiced by vacationing Del visitors.

“The Del's holiday history is among its most requested,” concludes Donovan. “Our guests love learning how its traditions have evolved through the years as they make their own holiday memories at the resort.”

Editor's Note: The Hotel del Coronado is one of the country's most storied properties. More information about its history and the holiday book can be found at the hotel's website. You'll find a link to it in San Diego's Coronado listings at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

Oceanside Pier PicmonkeyThe pier at dusk in photo from Visit OceansideLocated along the beautiful Southern California coastline, Oceanside is considered the gateway city between metropolitan San Diego and Los Angeles. A classic Southern California beach town, Oceanside enjoys a rich history as an ideal place to stay and experience California's casual spirit. The city boasts a number of important historical and cultural attractions such as Mission San Luis Rey (The King of Missions), California's longest wooden pier, vintage 101 Café, 1920's era Robert's Cottages, Top Gun House, California Surf Museum and the Oceanside Museum of Art. The city has served as a film location for dozens of Hollywood productions and was once the preferred getaway of many of Hollywood's elite. Bordering Camp Pendleton, Oceanside has long enjoyed a strong relationship with the U.S. military and a deep commitment to the men and women serving the nation. Today, with 3.5 miles of sandy beach, a quaint New England-style harbor and a stellar year-round climate, Oceanside is a highly sought after location for enjoying active pursuits including surfing, kayaking, boating, fishing, bike-riding, skydiving and more.

Spirits are in abundance in Oceanside, but not the scary kind. This coastal town is quickly becoming a hotbed for local entrepreneurs producing everything from wine to craft beer and even mead, a historic beverage once enjoyed by kings. Visitors may want to check out these new offerings:

Legacy Brewing Co.

Opened in October, Legacy Brewing Co. features a tasting room and brewery perfectly poised at the gateway to Oceanside's surfer's alley. The handsome 1,000 foot tasting room includes a 37-foot concrete bar and two eight-foot long picnic-style tables where visitors rub elbows with Oceanside's surf community. Head Brew Master and Co-Owner Mark Mericle is an award-winning industry veteran who co-founded Heritage Brewing Co. in Orange County in the early 90s. The tasting room offers up to eight beers a day, including Mark's Founding Father's Nut Brown Ale.

SD County Fair Wine Winners PicmonkeySan Diego County Fair Winners  photo: VisitOceansideBeach House Winery

Tucked away on the ridgeline of the “Sleeping Indian” in the South Morro Hills section of Oceanside, visitors will find the award-winning Beach House Winery. The first vineyard/winery established in Oceanside, the winery features stunning panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and a wide selection of wines including Merlot, Viognier, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, rosé and Cabernet Sauvignon. Family owned and operated, owners George and Kim Murray have earned gold, silver and bronze awards for several of their wines and recently were awarded "Best of California's North Coast" appellation, as well as a gold medal for its 2010 Melange and silver medals for its 2011 Viognier and 2010 Petite Sirah at the California-wide 2nd Annual 2013 San Diego County Fair commercial wine competition. Visitors are welcome by appointment and tours are available by request.

Golden Coast's Oceanside Meadery

Among the most unique products produced in Oceanside is Golden Coast's Mead. An age-old beverage that dates back to Ancient Greece but was virtually unknown to consumers even 20 years ago, mead is a brew made from honey. Founders Frank Golbeck and Praveen Ramineni have made it their mission to reintroduce the ancient brew to Southern California's beverage scene. And, while you can't visit the Meadery for tastings, a number of local markets and restaurants now carry the mead including Whole Foods, Pizza Port and Primo Foods. Those who imbibe can also feel good about their purchase since the company donates money to scientists who are studying ways to save bees, which are being ravaged by a virulent species of mite.

Oceanside Pints Stone Brewery PicmonkeyAlfresco tasting at Stone Brewery in photo from VisitOceanside

More Still To Come…

In 2014, Bagby Brew Company is expected to open on Coast Highway and will feature a world-class brewery, tasting room and restaurant. Other great watering holes in Oceanside include Oceanside Ale Works, Breakwater Brewing Company and Stone Company Store Oceanside.

Editor's Note: If you're planning a trip to this beautiful city, you should visit the San Diego County section of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as listings of area wineries and purveyors of craft beers. Another good resource is www.visitoceanside.org.

Saturday, 11 January 2014 19:48

January 10, 2014 Beer Pick of the Week


Mermaids Red bottle and glass Picmonkey

Mermaid's Red


Coronado Brewing Co.

San Diego, California

Style: American Amber Ale

Alcohol: 5.7%

IBUs: 50

Serving style: Kegs (our sample), 12 and 22-ounce bottles

Availability: Year round in California


Appearance:  “Deep red. Almost red enough to be a brown.”

Aroma:  "Relatively hoppy, but also a bit syrupy and sweet.”

Taste:  “A very nice toasty malt flavor. It has a light hop to it. Very dry on the back end, but it sticks around—it's very sticky. Definitely a little toasty aftertaste.”

Food Affinity:   “Match with fowl or red meat dishes prepared with rich brown sauces or gravy. Sauteed mushrooms would be nice. It might even work if served after dinner with crème caramel.”

Justin Wenz Jan 11 2014 Picmonkey



    Reviewed by beer connoisseur Justin Wenz






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