Pleasures Along the Pacific

Traveling is full of unexpected surprises.

Sometimes, a meal we are anticipating is a complete disappointment. Sometimes, a simple breakfast can be elevated to something truly memorable. During my trip to San Diego last week I was reminded that no matter how much you plan and research, travel will find a way to venture off on its own path.

Weather may have cancelled my sunset hot air balloon ride, one hotel might have lost my reservation and was fully booked for the night when I arrived at 10pm, and the pool may have been drained for cleaning on the 1 relaxing day of the trip – but if everything had gone as planned – I would’ve missed out on what turned out to be some of my favorite San Diego moments.

L’Auberge del Mar

Here are some highlights from my San Diego trip.

1. Meyer Lemon Ricotta Pancakes at L’Auberge del Mar:  Somehow being on vacation feels even better on a Monday. Waking up to the sound of the Pacific at L’Auberge del Mar, this vacation Monday started with an epic breakfast. I read the newspaper, nibbled on a fresh tropical fruit plate, and drank my coffee while waiting for the Meyer Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. The stack of three, plate-sized pancakes, topped with candied lemon peel were simply divine. They came out steaming hot right off the griddle, and from the first aroma to the last bite, the pleasure from these pancakes reminded me what vacation breakfasts should be all about.

2. Mount Palomar Winery in Temecula Valley: One day of the trip was spent north of San Diego sampling wines in the Temecula Wine Valley. The region doesn’t have the best reputation for wines, and in fact, I tasted some pretty terrible whites and reds throughout the course of the day. Yet none of that could take away from the fact that the wine country is incredibly beautiful. At Mount Palomar Winery, I was almost disappointed that the tasting room was inside, and not outside on their Tuscan-inspired patio. If this wasn’t my first 11am stop, I would have happily had a second glass of rose on this patio in the sunshine.

Patio at Mount Palomar Winery

3. Cruising Across the Bridge to Coronado:After a long, cold winter in New York – nothing sounded quite as appealing as renting a convertible during  my trip to California. In San Diego it is easy to take advantage of a rental car and explore surrounding beaches and towns. The bridge from San Diego to Coronado is incredibly striking in pictures – and provides an exhilarating few minutes for the driver as well. Once we arrived in Coronado, there were many quiet seaside restaurants, expanses of beaches, and further along in Imperial Beach, a fishing pier that was perfect for an afternoon stroll. It was confirmed that we had found a lovely place for a walk when I saw dolphins playing in the waves by the pier as well.

4. Duck Fat Fries at Searsucker: Fans of Top Chef will instantly recognize Executive Chef of Searsucker, Brian Malarkey. He has transformed a space that was once home to a 24-hour pharmacy into a chic and comfortable restaurant. A Wednesday night had the feeling of a Saturday night – but this buzz didn’t take away from a special dinner. Highlights of the night included the addictive duck fat fries and jalapeno chorizo corn off the cob. This restaurant is perfect for dining with a group so everyone gets a taste of the inventive, yet unfussy dishes.

Bridge from San Diego to Coronado

5. Organic Beet Salad at Kitchen 1540: My trip to San Diego was (happily) dominated by the cuisine at Kitchen 1540. The Meyer Lemon Ricotta pancakes are definitely a dish I will crave – as well as the organic beet salad with pistachio brittle and valdeon cheese. This salad transformed me into a beet lover. The combination of textures, flavors, and colors was not only memorable, but exciting. If you’re ever anywhere near San Diego, Kitchen 1540is worth a pilgrimage, for this salad and much more. If not, head to your local cheese shop and pick up a hunk of Valdeon – you won’t be sorry.

Food, wine, and cruising along the coast gave me a teeny taste of California – I’m sure I’ll be back for more.

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