Monthly Archives: February 2010

The Black Awning of Mystique

For the last two or three years, every time I drive down G Street I see this little black awning that says “cafe and wine bar” in white writing.  This awning and the shop it overhangs lives at the corner of 9th and G in downtown San Diego.  I’ve been dying to figure out just what this place is all about and Friday, I finally did.

Cafe Chloe

My friend Teresa and I met for a drink and bite to close out the work week.  It is a darling little place run people who really seem to care about their customers and the products they serve them.  What struck me is that I always thought it was a wine bar, but Teresa, who works downtown and has been there many times before, thought of it more as a restaurant that serves wine.  Before we met, when I kept telling her I wanted to go to the black-awning wine bar by her office, she had no idea what I was talking about until we got there.

The decor is modern and comfortable and the prices are mid-grade – just about right for downtown.  We shared a cheese platter that came with toasted bread and various spreads.  The wine offerings were plentiful and diverse; the food menu appeared to be one that changes regularly based on seasons and what local farmers have to offer. Teresa kept raving about their most delicious macaroni and cheese.  In checking out their Web site, they offer an afternoon tea in attempt to bring French culture to East Village San Diego.  Something different; I like it. 

I’d go back again for sure.  As far as downtown goes, Cafe Chloe is more my speed as it is comfortable, moderately priced and it is not filled with Red Bull & Vodka-ordering, striped-shirt guys.

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Filed under Drinks, Eats, Restaurants

Low-Cost Recognition; Big Impact

Some of the coolest and most dedicated people I’ve ever met are usually drenched in sweat … or at least they are when I see them.  One of my alter-egos is an aerobics instructor for 24 Hour Fitness.  I am blessed because aerobics is a hobby of mine that I’ve figured out how to get paid for.  

Bendable Smile Men - 24 for $10 at Party City

 

The people that take my classes put many of us to shame.  They are dedicated to their passion, committed to health and regularly push themselves to their limits.  I’ve been teaching many of them for close to five years.  Just recently I’ve started giving away little prizes to first-time attendees, the person who worked the hardest, or those who dress up for holidays, etc.  It is not something I do every week, but it adds a little excitement to class and encourages people to put forth extra effort.  

I ran out of awards at my last class, so this morning I set out to get more.  I typically hit Party City because they have a big variety and pretty good prices.  This morning I picked out some  plastic “you are a star” medals and some bendable smile face men.  Yes, I’m serious.  It is kid’s stuff, but these very mature adults get a kick out of it. 

I got to thinking that this little gesture of thanks and recognition could go a long way in any one’s life.  People don’t require Swiss time pieces as tokens of appreciations, they just like to know you notice them for what they’re doing.  My tokens of appreciation come in 24 packs for $12 or $10, respectively – that equates to about  a 50-cent thank you.  Not bad. 

You're a Star Medals - 24 for $12 at Party City

 

A few ideas of low-cost recognition: 

  • candy bar
  • flowers from your yard
  • stickers
  • note card
  • a feature on your blog

Get creative.  Recognize a friend, an employee or even someone you barely know.  It goes a long way.

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Filed under Business, General, Recognition, Resources, Sports, Thoughts

Shopping at Home without a Computer

Living Room Turned Boutique

With the day-to-day integration of the internet into our lives, shopping at home is no new revelation.  However, there are often unknown variables with online shopping, like the way something feels or fits, that can’t compete with going to the store.  I’ve found a perfect middle ground.

Lolly O'Dorisio

My friend Lolly is a consultant for the Etcetera clothing line and runs Shopping Therapy by Lolly out of her home for one week each quarter.  She invites people into her home for private shopping appointments, which is so out of the norm and just as fun as it sounds. 

 Last night I went to her house to check out the spring line.  Every time I go I want to buy at least 4-5 pieces, but have to restrain myself and stick to getting just one. 

Etcetera clothing is more expensive than what I typically buy, but the quality is second to none and every time I wear a piece from the line I get tons of compliments. 

This is a really cool way to catch up with friends and shop in a comfortable environment.  It is a very unique experience.  Lolly is always willing to show people what she’s got for the season, so if you want to check out the spring trunk show let me know and I’ll put you in touch.  The last day for this season is Thursday.

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Taste Spotting: Crack Pie

  

Source: Los Angeles Times

 

Last week LA Times came out with an article on Momofuku’s Crack Pie, served at Momofuku Bakery & Milk Bar in Manhattan.  Naturally a name like Crack Pie is going to generate some fodder, and not only did I get a great-looking recipe for the Crack Pie, but I also go the recommendation for TasteSpotting

TasteSpotting is sort of an open-source food Web site that aggregates recipes from readers and bloggers and organizes them into a clean, concise portal.  Unlike many of the big-name recipe sites, this one is not cluttered with ads or propaganda from the featured chef or promoter.  

My friend Kim, who introduced me to TasteSpotting explained that when you click on a picture, it takes you to that persons blog or Web site where they also have posted all of their other recipes. It becomes and endless web of food-lover’s bliss. She added that you can search for anything you want to make on TasteSpotting and it will generate multiple different recipe options. 

Very cool.  Thanks, Kim.  For now, I spotted me a crack pie that needs to be tasted.

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Nimble Boys Make Good Food

The origin and history of the word chopsticks is as follows:  1699, sailors’ partial translation of Chinese k’wai tse “fast ones” or “nimble boys,” first element from pidgin Eng. chop, from Cantonese kap “urgent.” Chopsticks, the two-fingered piano exercise, is first attested 1893, probably from the resemblance of the fingers to chopsticks (source: Dictionary.com)
 
This explanation is quite apropos for one of my favorite restaurants in town that bears the namesake: Chopstix Too.  This little Kearney Mesa-based Japanese eatery is the most nimble restaurant I’ve ever seen.  It is an amazingly streamlined operation.  The second you walk through the door you are given the most prompt service you’ve ever seen and it never stops until you leave.
 
You can literally have a sit-down lunch in less than 30 minutes at Chopstix Too.  They also offer take-out.  The restaurant gets packed around noon, so it is best to go around 11:30 or after 1 if you are in a huge rush.  Even if you get caught in the lunch traffic, it won’t be a long wait – these people are expert table turners.  The same menu is offered at dinner time and the restaurant tends to be less crowded. 
 
Chopstix Too Lunch SpecialThat, coupled with incredibly low prices, makes it a winner in my book.  Their combination specials average around $5 each and come with a full plate of food, plus miso soup.  I always get the edamame, chicken salad and roll combo.  Today it was a spicy tuna roll.  The food is always very good – no matter what I order to eat.   
 
 
 
 

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Cheers!, Burbs Style

If you are a San Diego local, you’ve likely eaten at some sort of cook-your-own-food-style place, like the Gaslamp Strip Club, The Turf Supper Club or Buga Korean Barbecue.   

I love the interactive nature of cooking my own food but rarely get to do it because of the high prices and time involved in heading downtown to grill it up.

After a recent move to the ‘burbs, we were itching for an interesting place to grab some eats and drinks.  Enter Cheers. 

Cheers is a little watering hole located in the middle of a strip mall in Rancho Penasquitos.  The clientele is mostly middle-aged suburbanites – some who look like they’ve been at the bar since 6 a.m.  The lighting is dark and the decor is sports-driven.   The walls are adorned with video games, dart boards and a juke box that has a good selection.  If you’re looking for a classy night out this is not the place.  It is your proverbial dive bar.

All that said – they have a friendly staff, good drink prices – AND a grill-your-own-food indoor barbecue, which is why we keep going back. 

The food is good quality at amazingly low prices.  Scott orders and grills his own filet mignon every time – and the price is less than $9.  It comes with a salad and garlic bread too.  I don’t eat steak, but he tells me it is just as good as any filet  you would buy at the store. 

I order the veggie skewers (2 for $3) and grill them up with Teriyaki sauce and spices.  The whole meal is delicious and keeps me thinking about it for days after the experience. 

Another bonus is that, unlike its do-it-yourself indoor grilling brethren, you don’t have to elbow your way in to get a good space at the grill.  We haven’t been there once when it was overly crowded. 

I can’t find a Web site for Cheers, but here is the Yelp page. Clearly those that gave it a mid-grade review didn’t have the veggie skewers.

Next time you’re looking for something to do ‘burbs-style, Cheers is worth checking out.

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The View from the Nest

It is no secret that I fantasize about some day living life on a farm filled with animals and crops.  If you tune into Martha Stewart from time-to-time she features people who have  done just that – gone from a high-paced corporate life to a seemingly simpler farming lifestyle. (Though we all know that farming is not simple work.)

A few years back I had the opportunity to visit my friend Lawrence Hornbake’s parent’s alpaca farm in Gettysburg and experience firsthand what these people are all about.  The Hornbake’s have one of the most interesting life stories around – he started out to be a monk and she a nun, both changed paths, met one another, worked in corporate America, started a few businesses on the side and now are full-time alpaca farmers.  Check out their great set-up here

I admire their ability to morph their passions into their careers and think of them often.  Yesterday, I got a taste of that same phenomenon again – right here in San Diego County. 

Dennis Grimes

We recently made some new friends, Dennis and Julie Grimes, who started Eagle’s Nest Winery in Ramona.  Julie is a college professor and Dennis is an engineer – both are military veterans.  They both grew tired of living on top of their neighbors in metropolitan San Diego, and decided to embrace a longer commute to work in exchange for space and living out their passion. 

They invited us up to their beautiful home and winery, which is where the wine is grown, processed and bottled.  Yesterday we decide to go visit.  When we arrived,we were greeted by Julie and their rescue Doberman pincer, Duke.  They welcomed us as if we were royalty and graciously showed us around the property, explaining each step of the wine-making process. 

I’ve tasted a lot of wine in my day, but never have I received such a thorough education and knowledge of each step – particularly by the people who own the winery and actually make the wine.  Each sample they gave us came straight from the barrel, had a story behind it and was made with lots of TLC. It goes without saying that they were all delicious and very drinkable, with premium taste at very average prices. All of the love and work put into each wine has paid off as Eagle’s Nest wines are starting to rack up awards for their excellence.

 My favorite part of the winery were the four-legged creatures that live there.  Aside from Duke, there are three darling mini-Shelties and three Babydoll sheep.  Each animal plays an integral part in the winery.  Duke is the main greeter, the Shelties add the colorful commentary and the sheep keep the weeds trimmed and the ground naturally fertilized.  The winery is a big place and the Grimes’ do not use pesticides or chemicals, so the sheep are employed as full-time groundskeepers. 

In return for their hard work, each animal has its picture on a label of one of Eagle’s Nest’s wines.  Our favorites were the one with Duke, one with the sheep and one with the Shelties. 

I left a piece of my heart with the Grimes family yesterday.  They invited us back again a we very well may take them up on it. Eagle’s Nest is a working winery without a formal tasting room for the  public.  They are always happy to make new friends so if you want to check it out, give them a call to set something up.  If you can’t make the trek any time soon, then you can always  buy the wine online here

If you are on Twitter and want to chat directly with Julie and Dennis, follow them @eaglesnestwine.

Buy local. Help your neighbors. Support small business.

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Filed under Activities, Animals, Sights