Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Looking Back at 2007, and Forward to 2008

When I started thinking about this past year, my first thought was that it wasn't quite as momentous as 2006. It's true that I started this blog in '06, which changed my life far more than I expected (for the better.) I also changed jobs, which was something of a watershed moment. New friendships bloomed and my foodie life blossomed - thanks to the blog, culinary classes and lots of "gastro-travel" to the Bay Area and Santa Fe.

While 2007 didn't have any watershed moments per se (unless you count having your picture taken flanked by Tony Bourdain and Eric Ripert) it was still full of surprises and delights. On the personal front, new friendships have developed and old ones have held steady, my loving husband is as delightful as ever, my parents are well, my grandmother is hanging in there at 91. We did some traveling again - eating our way up and down the Southern half of the California coast on a trip to Big Sur and back, and I managed to wedge in three trips to San Francisco. I also met some fabulous chefs at the Gourmet Institute in NYC, ate some amazing food and took fascinating classes from the magazine's staff.

It was a very good year for food in San Diego as well. Several new and quite notable restaurants opened this year, including Anthology, Bite, Urban Solace, Avenue 5, Currant, Starlite, The Guild - and Jayne's Gastropub really hit it's stride. In the casual arena, the Neighborhood, Burger Lounge, Enoteca Style and the Kebab Shop stepped up. A new Hard Rock hotel opened with a Nobu, and a couple of other newbies have opened that I haven't tried yet, including the Better Half in Hillcrest, Cafe Lavande in La Jolla, and the Pearl Lounge in Point Loma.

Sadly, we lost some restaurants too - including Bud's Louisiana Kitchen Downtown and Asia Vous in Escondido - and some prominent chefs, including Jason Schaeffer and Gavin Kaysen. It does look like the trend is up instead of down though, and I have high hopes for the scene to continue to grow and improve through 2008, even out here in the East County. We just earned a new Rancho San Diego branch of the Hillcrest Italian restaurant Arrivederci (our first takeout meal from there was excellent and it appears to be doing well) and Sammy's Woodfired Pizza has announced they will open a new branch in Grossmont/La Mesa in 2008. The new Fresh 'n Easy Market is also slated to open soon in Casa de Oro. I'm also looking forward to joining friends Dominic and Donna in further developing the San Diego Slow Food network. The Fancy Food Show is also coming to town this month, bringing lots of exposure to San Diego's food scene.

Last year, I did a list of the best and worst of the year, and a rather embarrassing list of new year's resolutions. Just for fun, I'll do some of the best and worst again, but I'm going to go a little easier on myself with the "resolutions." (Maybe that tells you how well last years' stuck!)

Here goes:

Most Memorable Meal (anywhere): Dinner at Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn, as much for the setting as the food, but both were very good.

Best Meal at a Local Fine Dining Restaurant: 1500 Ocean (during restaurant week, no less.)

Best Meal at a Local Neighborhood Restaurant: Tie between Bite and Urban Solace.

Most Promising Newcomer: Currant

Best Dining Experiences Outside of San Diego: Lucques (LA), Delfina (SF), The Hungry Cat (SB), and the Tasting Room (NYC). I also had a stellar breakfast at Norma's at the Parker Palm Springs (those last two are still in the queue.)

Best Surprises of 2007: The excellent food at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. How awesome the Gourmet Institute in NYC turned out to be.

Best Dessert: Warm Chocolate Chipotle Cake with Banana and Caramel Gelato at 1500 Ocean

Best Cocktail : The "Proper Greyhound" at the Hungry Cat in Santa Barbara, and of course, my kick-ass margaritas.

Best New Discoveries: K Sandwiches, Croissants from Opera Patisserie, Guanni Chocolates, Winchester Aged Gouda, Cherimoyas. Eberle and Robert Hall wines (in Paso Robles), Hacienda de las Rosas wines (from Ramona), the rediscovery of the Farmers Market (especially La Milpa and Sage Mountain Farms), Brandt beef, Ballast Point beers, Rancho Gordo beans.

Most Mediocre Dining Experiences/Biggest Disappointments: the flavorless food at Bleu Boheme in Kensington; Bad service and a ridiculously undercooked veal chop at Trattoria Acqua in La Jolla; Bad service, burnt sauce and overpriced steaks at Jack's Ocean Room in La Jolla.

Interestingly, my two most memorable experiences of 2007 were thrilling in their own way, yet could not be more different. One was visiting Esalen and soaking in the cliffside baths, and the other was the Gourmet Institute - particularly the evening I spent having cocktails in the bar at Per Se.

My "Hopes and Expectations" for 2008 are :

  1. to branch out a bit with respect to ethnic foods - especially Vietnamese, Indian and Mexican. (My efforts thus far have been mixed, but I plan to soldier on.)
  2. to cook "lighter" and offer healthier recipes on the blog, including lightened modifications for most recipes.
  3. to eat at Manresa in Los Gatos
  4. to continue to eat locally, try the new local restaurants and champion the best of what San Diego has to offer.

Happy New Year!!!


  1. Thanks for a great year of food blogging, Alice. Whenever I'm trying to find a place for dinner that we haven't tried before, your information is my go-to stuff. We've tried several new places this year based on seeing you talk about them here.

  2. Great overview Alice. Happy new year and he is looking forward to another great year of food!

  3. Too bad you had to add the snarky comments about the restaurants that you did not like. Just because you found them lacking doesn't mean everyone will.

  4. Stephanie - you are so welcome! I'm glad you enjoy it, and thanks for reading!

    Gil - Thanks, isn't food blogging fun! :-)

    Anonymous - I am sure everyone has had some less than perfect meals over the past year, but I can only speak about my experiences. Cheers!

  5. Happy New Year, Alice!

    Didn't think your disappointing meal comments were snarky.

    If you're looking for more Vietnamese, my favorite pho is at Pho Hoa Hiep (they also do good Bun Bo Hue). My favorite BBH is at Mien Trung. You might want to try the sticky rice dishes at Pho Tu Do.


  6. Happy New Year! I look forward to your reviews and honesty and I like that you say what you think.

    I'll probably try to lighten things up a bit too, after my extravaganza up the coast with my relatives!!

  7. Alice,

    Did you know that Hacienda de las Rosas now has a store in Old Town at Plaza del Pasado? It's right by Temecula Olive Oil Company where you can do tastings of the garlic infused oil.