Monday, August 31, 2009

Tender Greens - San Diego

Tender Greens
Its not easy to find a restaurant that allows you to eat indulgently and feel virtuous at the same time, but Tender Greens manages both quite nicely. Part of a mini-chain with outlets in Liberty Station in Point Loma, and Culver City and West Hollywood in Los Angeles, the quick service cafeteria-style concept serves a menu of meal-sized salads, entrees and desserts made with produce grown on their very own farm, located in Lompoc, CA.
Tender Greens
The menu includes seven or eight entree-sized salads - including a Nicoise with seared ahi, a Cobb with romaine, grilled chicken, bleu cheese and chunks of bacon, a Chinese Chicken, a Vegan Couscous, a Chipotle Chicken with a Mexican flair, and a few others. Entree plates feature Rocky's organic chicken, flank steak or fish - and their specials might feature local seafood or other additional options like sandwiches, roast pork and braised beef. A recent special of halibut served over a white bean and bacon ragout with a lemon vinaigrette-dressed salad was by far my favorite of the three meals I've eaten there - easily as good as if not better than many I've been served in far fancier restaurants.
Tender Greens
You place your order at the counter when you walk in, and they make the salads in their open kitchen as you watch. (This is where I always have second thoughts, as I watch them build other people's salads with their beautiful produce and other tempting ingredients.) By the time you reach the dessert display at the cash register, your salad is handed to you on a stainless steel sheet pan. Select a beverage and either resist or succumb to the desserts, and you're free to find a table in the open airy dining room or on the patio.
Tender Greens
The desserts are made by the mother of one of the owners, and are to. die. for. Let me say that again. To. Die. For. They're homestyle, as you might expect - picture what you would expect the best home baker you know to turn out but a lot more of it. The selection is always different, and usually includes at least one tart made with local fruit, two kinds of cupcakes, some cookies and other assorted delights. Their red velvet cupcake (down below) - though not nearly as cute looking as some I've tried in the past, was unquestionably the best I've ever eaten. This lemon tart was also creamy and refreshing with authentic tart flavor - not too sweet, with a crunchy buttery crust and real whipped cream.
Tender Greens
My favorite thing about the place, is that everything has a homemade quality - like what you would make yourself if you had a larder full of the freshest ingredients and the time and ability to brew up a different pot of soup or a batch of cookies every day. Even their soups have that made-by-hand character - they're pureed, but not strained, retaining more of the original flavor and texture of the vegetables they're made from. The tomato soup on one occasion was a little too thick, but the corn soup, pictured below, was one of the finest I've enjoyed anywhere - including some pretty high falutin' restaurants and my own kitchen.
Tender Greens
They Twitter their daily specials, which sound so good, you could easily follow them just for the menu inspiration. Case in point: "roasted local golden sand bass, summer corn pudding, point loma farms heirloom tom, large leaf basil, olive oil, micro daikon." or "Pork Tenderloin Sandwich with Chipotle Aioli & Roasted red Peppers. Butternut Squash Soup Pork & summer Shell bean soup." Peach and Raspberry crisp has been making a regular appearance as a dessert special, as have raspberry and blackberry clafoutis, and housemade ice creams. The Twitterfeed also includes the specials at their Los Angeles restaurants in West Hollywood and Culver City, which is handy if you live in LA. If not, it's great exercise for your salivary glands. :-)

Tender Greens
(fair warning - the site has sound and lots of flash!)
2400 Historic Decatur Road
Liberty Station, Point Loma 92106
619.226.6254 M-Th 11-9, Fri/Sat 11-10

Monday, August 24, 2009

A beautiful couple, their beautiful home and some beautiful cakes on Design Sponge.

ds collage
I just can't get over these photos of newlyweds Caitlin Williams and James Freeman's splendid home and her amazing desserts. He is the CEO of Blue Bottle coffee in San Francisco, and she is a former co-owner of Miette Patisserie. They were just married at City Hall, and she is now producing these gorgeous art-themed confections for the SF MOMA's rooftop coffee bar.

Cakes designed to look like Theibaud paintings? Why didn't I think of that?? Sharp eyes will also note the Mondrian and Avedon themes. For the full story and photo credits, head on over to these two posts on Design Sponge - about their home and about the sweets.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Doughnut Ice Cream!

Doughnut Ice Cream

Last weekend we entertained our six and nine year old nieces, Caelan and Emma for the first time. I'm sure it won't be the last - they were an absolute delight, skipping around, singing, chatting with each other in their little-girl voices and giving the dogs way too many treats over the course of the three days they were here. To end the weekend on a high note, we invited their parents over for a barbecue on Sunday afternoon - with burgers and potato salad, and ice cream for dessert. Not just any ice cream though - Doughnut ice cream - inspired by our recent trip to LA Mill.
Doughnut Ice Cream

On Sunday morning, James went out for the doughnuts with instructions to come home with some plain cake doughnuts, and a few plain glazed ones as well. We had a few with coffee (and milk for the girlies) and I took them to the Hillcrest Farmers Market for supplies for our party and the weekly shopping. We came home with a crisp, delicious yellow watermelon, some Brandt ground beef, Bread and Cie buns, heirloom tomatoes, freckled leaf lettuce, red onions, and some tender little baby potatoes for a potato salad with viniagrette.

The girls were a little tired from the previous three days of non-stop activities, (I dunno maybe something to do with the fact that we stayed out until 10 the night before playing skee ball and air hockey at the Corvette Diner's new arcade?) so they watched a movie while I went to work in the kitchen.
Doughnut Ice Cream
To flavor the custard, I infused the milk for the custard base with three plain cake doughnuts, but when the custard came off the stove, I still didn't think it had enough flavor - so I pureed one more doughnut into the hot custard. That turned out to be just what it needed. It disappeared completely and had no effect on the texture, but added just the right amount of flavor. I added nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla for a little more oomph, and chilled the mixture in a water bath, floating a smaller stainless bowl in a large one filled with ice and water to chill it down in a hurry. (Refrigerating the mixture overnight too if you have more time.) Once it was good and cold, I loaded it into my Krups ice cream maker, and spun it until it looked like pulled taffy. I added the chunks of doughnuts to the container as I spooned the ice cream in.
Juju eating Doughnut Ice Cream
The kids absolutely loved it, and everyone agreed that it did indeed taste like doughnuts. I especially liked the chunks of doughnuts mixed in - the crispy edges create a nice contrast with the cold creamy mixture and add a nice bit of texture to the equation!

Doughnut Ice Cream

1 1/2 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
5 large egg yolks (or 4 extra large)
2 cups of whipping cream
pinch of sea salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 plain cake doughnuts, cut into 1 inch chunks - one doughnut reserved
4 glazed old fashioned doughnuts, cut into half inch chunks

Heat the milk, stirring, over medium heat until hot to the touch but not boiling. Add 3/4 of the chunks of cake doughnuts and cover. Steep for about an hour. Stir the mixture and strain it through a very fine mesh sieve - pressing down to extract the liquids, but not hard enough to press the doughnuts (which will have become mush) through the strainer.

Lightly beat the egg yolks and set aside. Put the doughnut milk in a medium saucepan with one cup of the cream and the sugar. Whisk together and cook gently over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture starts to thicken and just coats the back of the spoon. You should be able to draw your finger through the custard on the back of the spoon without having it move.

Remove the custard from the heat, and strain into a bowl. Add the remaining 1/4 of the plain cake doughnut chunks. Puree with a hand blender (or remove one cup of the mixture to a blender and puree together, then add back to the mixture.) Add the pinch of salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla extract and the rest of the cream.

Chill the custard either in an ice water bath or in the refrigerator until cold. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. (If the weather's warm and you have one of those freezer containers, try wrapping the basin with a couple of towels for a little extra insulation.) Layer the chunks of glazed doughnuts into the mixture as you put it into a container. Place in the freezer for at least one hour to ripen before serving

Makes about 1 quart, serving 8-10 people.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

"We Like it Wild" on Design Sponge

flowers and pie
As part of a new weekly feature, strawberries do double duty over on Design Sponge today, in both a strawberry rhubarb pie and a fabulous flower arrangement created in the box. Check out the beautiful post for detailed instructions on how to make both, with lots of gorgeous photos!

This is the first installment of a new weekly garden/floral design feature for the site called "we like it wild" - by Jill and Alethea of the lovely studio choo. So sweet - literally!

photo credit: Design Sponge

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Kid Friendly Eats in San Diego

I don't have kids myself, but I'm often asked for recommendations for family friendly dining here in town, and spending some time with our six and nine year old nieces this past weekend really got me thinking about options for dining with kids that aren't abysmal for adults (or the kids either, for that matter!)
Emma enjoying a Rubios churro
Kid friendly dining falls into a couple of different categories, as far as I can tell. Most quick service places are fine for kids - and I can't think of a single one of the places on my original list in that category that wouldn't work, as long as they like the food. Then there are the places that serve adult food, but are unpretentious enough to be family friendly. Finally, there are the nicer places that seem to tolerate kids better than most - as long as they're well behaved. I've divided the list below into three sections roughly along these lines, and I've also included a category for kid AND adult friendly treats - because the grownups shouldn't be left out either.

Caelan and Emma
If you think I've missed something - or you have local (i.e. non-chain) places you like to take your kids that I haven't mentioned - feel free to chime in in the comments!

Quick Service and Takeout
  • Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill - Seafood on India Street - walk up and order, they deliver to the table.
  • Bread & Cie - lots of kid friendly options, nice sidewalk cafe seating. Peets is right next door if you need a caffeine fix.
  • The Cheese Shop - get sandwiches at the LJ Shores branch and take them to the beach for a fun picnic.
  • El Pescador - seafood shop with fish sandwiches in LJ. And hot counter-guys.
  • Hodads - the kids can eat their burger and fries n a VW bus - and there are lots of fun shops around there to explore too.
  • Girard Gourmet - kids love the giant cookies in the window. Decent sandwiches and specials in LJ at an affordable price.
  • K Sandwiches - serves ordinary deli sandwiches as well as bahn mi - kids would also like the coconut waffles and enjoy looking at all the jello based desserts.
  • The Kebab Shop - chicken kebabs downtown - lots of garlic, but otherwise fine for kids.
  • Mama's Lebanese - great homestyle Lebanese with patio dining in N. Park close to Hillcrest - the falafel are especially good.
  • Saladstyle - just a walk up and take away, but the salads are to die for. My friend's 3 year old eats the Couscous one all by himself.
  • Tender Greens - great fresh soups, salads and entree specials in Liberty Station, and to die for homestyle desserts. Cafeteria style - like Nordstrom Cafe. Lots of seating inside and out.
  • Zinc Cafe - lovely cafe in Solana Beach with fountain and fresh vegetarian offerings, like a black bean and cheese quesadilla, pizzas, etc. Great homestyle desserts - check out Mabels - just behind the restaurant for great kids clothes.
  • Con Pane Rustic Breads - bakery in an old bank building on Rosecrans in Point Loma - past Shelter Island. The food is excellent but service can be slow, so get something to munch on while you wait. A good spot to pick up picnic sandwiches.
  • Mona Lisa Market and Deli - fun Italian market and deli in Little Italy - great sandwiches and good for a little grocery shopping. Feels like you're in a different city.
  • Opera Patisserie - great spot in Sorrento Valley for lunch - excellent French cafe style food and pastries. Try the macarons.
  • Saffron Thai Chicken - takeout or sit down for Thai style grilled chicken and noodle dishes - Kid friendly options include Pad Thai and Satay, as well as the chicken itself.
  • Lefty's Chicago Style Pizza - The new branch in Mission Hills has a children's play area. Also in S. Park.
  • Blind Lady Ale House - new option in Normal Heights - serving gourmet pizzas and craft beers in a Portland-esque hip but comfortable atmosphere.
  • Sammy's Woodfired Pizza - A little more sophisticated than your average chain, Sammy's does pretty good pizzas and salads as well as interesting appetizers and starters, like duck tacos and pita with labne. Convenient locations all over - Downtown, E. County, Mission Valley, La Jolla, UTC and North County.
  • Basic Urban Kitchen - another somewhat sophisticated pizza joint in the Gaslamp - a little bar-like, but should be fine for kids during the day or early evening.

  • Not for kids, per se, but neighborhood places that are fine for well behaved kids:
  • Antica Trattoria - La Mesa family Italian restaurant. Not inexpensive, but they really are from Italy. Good pastas and entrees. No pizza.
  • Arrivederci Ristorante - Hillcrest spot with excellent pastas - there is also a branch in E. County in Rancho San Diego, and a pizzeria just a little further down the street.
  • Urban Solace - Upscale comfort food in North Park. Kid friendly food and lively atmosphere.
  • Cucina Urbana - new family friendly but sophisticated Italian eatery in the old Laurel location. Pizzas and salads and healthy kids options.
  • Tony's Jacal - traditional Mexican in Solana Beach - one of a trifecta on the block with Fidels and Don Chuy.
  • Barbarella - nice family friendly spot near the Shores in La Jolla
  • George's Ocean Terrace - the food is fine, but the view is amazing at this La Jolla spot perched over the Pacific Ocean. One of the few places I can think of with both a kid friendly menu and good cocktails. Especially good for lunch.

  • Fancier Places that Might Tolerate Kids Better than Most:
  • 1500 Ocean at the Hotel Del - high end dining room at the Hotel Del
  • A.R. Valentien at the Torrey Pines Lodge - lunch on the patio would work well - try the Drugstore Burger
  • JSix Restaurant at Solamar - Sophisticated but not stuffy spot in the Gaslamp
  • Arterra at the Del Mar Marriott - located in a Marriott in Carmel Valley - if any fine dining is kid friendly, this ought to be it.

  • Treats:
  • Influx - fantastic cupcakes and pastries in a coffee house in Golden Hill.
  • Zinc Cafe & Market - great homestyle desserts - near Mabels, a fun boutique for women and kids in Solana Beach.
  • Pannikin Del Mar - lots of sandwiches and options for kids - and a bookstore to browse to your heart's content.
  • Rebecca's Coffeehouse - great scones and lots of space. Across from Scoop - an ice cream store serving Niederfrank's ice cream.
  • Twiggs - good pastries and cookies in University Heights.
  • Extraordinary Desserts - fancy pants, but fun for kids - they can ogle the case while you sip an espresso.
  • Eclipse Chocolat - Will does fun cupcakes and chocolates with interesting flavors on El Cajon in North Park/University Heights.
  • Gelato Vero - SD's classic gelato, at the foot of Washington Street, near the 5 fwy.
  • Pappalecco Gelato - Italian Gelato and some light sandwiches and salads in Little Italy. Great espresso. (Fun shops to explore around there as well)
  • Cafe de l'Opera - North County spot in Sorrento Valley with nice French cafe lunches and excellent pastries. Be sure to get some macarons.
  • Michele Coulon Dessertier - sweet spot for lunch in La Jolla with good desserts.
  • Sage French Cake - Cafe on Convoy, near Nijiya - great for a mid-shopping or after meal pick me up.
  • Cafe Zucchero - Italian bakery with beautiful pastries and gelato on India Street in Little Italy. Love their Cannoli.
  • Mariposa Ice Cream - homemade ice cream in Normal Heights, right on Adams - if you can catch them open - they do tend to close early and keep erratic hours during the off season.
  • Oasis Ice Cream - unassuming Mexican-style ice cream parlor and paleteria in a strip mall in Imperial Beach - I especially liked their peanut butter flavor.
  • And yes, as you will note in the photos - I took the girls to the mall and got them kids meals from Rubios and Hot Dog on a Stick. We can't all be perfect all the time. ;-)

    Sunday, August 02, 2009

    A Perfect "Proper" Greyhound

    Proper Greyhounds

    We have a favorite new cocktail in this house, and I think it might be time to think about a grapefruit tree for the potager. This all came about a few weeks ago, when James ordered one at the Hungry Cat in Los Angeles. On their menu, it's called a "Proper Greyhound." I'd kind of forgotten about them since we'd first tried them at their Santa Barbara restaurant a couple of years ago, but one sip and it all came flooding back. The tang of the grapefruit juice and the zip of the Plymouth gin are a match made in heaven - and with just a little sweetening, they go down easier than one might think.  I found some ruby red grapefruits at Sage Mountain Farms, and made a trip to BevMo where I picked up the gin. (That 5 cent wine sale is dangerous!) I had some simple syrup in the fridge and with that we were in business.
    Proper Greyhounds

    This is so not a fussy drink that it hardly even needs a recipe, but here is an approximate formula for one cocktail. Multiply it as you see fit and of course feel free to modify it to your taste. Perfection is subjective, after all!

    A Perfect Proper Greyhound
    inspired by The Hungry Cat

    The juice from two-three large-ish ruby red grapefruits  (to make about 6 oz. of juice)
    2 ounces of Plymouth Gin
    1-2 teaspoons of simple syrup*

    Fill two rocks glasses with ice cubes. Pour the gin over the ice, and top the glasses up with the juice. Add a teaspoon of simple syrup - taste, then add a little more syrup if needed. Isn't it a lovely color?

    *to make simple syrup just combine equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar, remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in the fridge.

    Bonus - if make the candied grapefruit peel using this method, which just requires simmering the halves in water then candying them in a sugar syrup. They make a lovely garnish, but by no means are they necessary to fully enjoy the intoxicating effects of this beverage.