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Monday, October 23, 2006

Weekend in San Diego

Despite living in Southern California, my hubby and I have only been down to the San Diego area a couple of times. Twice we went with family and friends to pay homage to San Diego’s main attractions, the world famous San Diego Zoo, Seaworld, and the Wild Safari Park. Another trip, with my parents and sisters, was spent in Carlsbad admiring the flower fields that showcased a breathtaking array of colorful foliage. All of our trips were weekend events and never included enough time to see the city and sample the local cuisine.

Last weekend, my friends Jeff, Yam and Valerie were visiting from out of town and we decided to spend part of the weekend exploring San Diego. We purposely skipped the theme parks and agreed to visit lesser-known tourist sites. We planned to leave Torrance bright and early on Saturday, but as with all big groups (there were 6 of us including Jules and Jojo), we ended up leaving past 10:30. We arrived at our hotel (Residence Inn in Scripps Ranch) shortly past noon. We checked in and ala Rachael Ray in her show $40 Dollars a Day, asked the front desk staff for their recommendations for lunch. The manager on dutry, Janelle, who happened to be Filipino too, recommended a small, local eatery that served authentic and very good Hawaiian food. Janelle claimed the place was fast becoming a local favorite and since it was hard to find (it was tucked away in the middle of an office complex), it was hardly tourist-infested.

So our group headed over to Da Kitchen – which was indeed small, hard to find, and a gathering place for the locals. The menu was printed on a white board and featured a selection of grilled meats (kalbi style), breaded and fried meats (katsu style), and teriyaki dishes, all served over rice or noodles with a side serving of fresh greens. Our server explained that Hawaiian cuisine is pretty much a mix of island flavors fused with Japanese, Korean and Filipino influences from early immigrants. I ordered a combination dish (pork kalua and pork katsu over steamed rice). The pork kalua is a traditional Hawaiian recipe of pork slow-cooked with lots of herbs and spices. Once cooked, it is hand-shredded and then cooked again until it becomes incredibly tender and flavorful. The pork katsu is a breaded and fried piece of boneless porkchop that was served with a sweet Hoisin-like dipping sauce. It was not bad, served hot but no longer crisp – which means the dish was reheated and not made to order. Happy with our individual orders, we all sat down to enjoy our meal. And although we were all hungry, none of us could finish the humongous servings.

Our next stop was the Fashion Mall to do some shopping. I know mall-shopping while sightseeing is kind of a cop-out, but we voted that it was too sunny to stay outdoors and since my friends were from out-of-town and needed to get their prerequisite shopping for pasalubong done, we gave in. We did attempt to be disciplined and not spend our entire day at the mall, so we agreed to regroup in an hour and a half.

Our next destination was La Jolla to visit its legendary beaches. The drive was very pleasant and we cruised thru the beautiful and expansive UC, San Diego campus. Set close to the water, in lush surroundings, it is amazing how students can get any studying done. La Jolla Beach was surprisingly average. I was probably expecting too much. The beach is reminiscent of all other the other beaches along California’s coastline. There were a few dozen surfers trying to catch a wave, kids playing in the sand, teenagers tossing a Frisbee, and couples lying on the sand. The water was cold, there was a slight breeze, and the sunset in the horizon was quite dramatic. The view made up for the washed up seaweed on the beach that gave off a strong fishy smell. We spent about an hour walking around and admiring the beachfront property before heading over to Our Lady of Confidence church to hear mass.

After mass, we drove to Old Town San Diego and visited one of the local Mexican plazas called Plaza del Pasado. The plaza was brightly lit, and had several shops selling a variety of odds and ends from Mexican housewares, costumes, trinkets to ceramics, candies and toys. There were several restaurants making homemade Mexican goodies and the smells of roasting tortillas filled the air. There was a mariachi band playing fiesta music and a few men and women were garbed in traditional Mexican finery and large sombreros. The night air had turned cool and the place was festive and alive. While waiting for Val’s cousins to join us for dinner we strolled to the nearby Bazaar del Mundo to browse their beautiful terra cotta pots and wrought iron artwork. I was tempted to buy a few colorful ceramic pots for our patio but was shocked to find out the smallest pot cost $32.00.

We had a late dinner at an open-air Mexican restaurant and shared a meal of carne asada, chicken taquitos, and cheese anchiladas, all served with rice and beans. My favorite part was the tortilla soup with creamy avocado slices and the baskets of warm tortilla chips and fresh salsa that started the meal. Of course, we also had to have the fried ice cream for dessert.

After dinner, we drove around the Seaport Village and stopped by San Diego’s nightlife scene at the Gaslamp Quarter (several streets lined with boutiques, restaurants and clubs). Parking was terrible, Jojo was not feeling well, and we were tired, so soon after we headed back to our hotel.

The next day we had breakfast at the hotel coffeeshop and headed back to LA since my friends were leaving that night. Thus ending our 1-day tour of San Diego city. I know there is a lot more to see and do and I am looking forward to another visit soon.

1 comment:

jol said...

I remembered San Diego as one of the stopovers of our cruise last April. We were treated to a very good italian lunch by our friends Mike and Vivian Yang. It is a very wonderful city with a climate that is simply tops!