Thursday, August 7, 2008

Edible City Celebration

This upcoming week (and weekend) is the first annual Edible City Celebration hosted by Food Not Lawns of San Diego. There will be several workshops around the downtown San Diego area. Some of the workshops will be:

  • Food preservation through fermentation (Kim Chi, Sauerkraut)
  • Indian cooking
  • Bio-Intensive Gardening
  • Composting
  • Solar cooking potluck (people will be cooking in Balboa Park with solar ovens and sharing the food with people interested)
  • Food related movie nights
Most of the workshops are free. There's a few that ask for small donations. You can find out more info here:

I'm helping out with the promotion and can answer any questions you might have, so feel free to contact me with any questions.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Vision Cafe

4596.5 30th St
San Diego, CA 92101
no phone or website available...too new

San Diego has a rich Ethiopian cultural presence but there's always room for more. Vision Cafe is the latest addition to the North Park contingent. This place has been a work in progress for a few months now. It has a few dishes listed on their modest whiteboard, but often you'll find that they are out of whatever you've come in for. Had a plate of beans, tomatoes, feta and red onions tonight for $6. It was very filling and spiced very well; simple and delicious. It came with some bread (not injera, just a small white boule, and a bit dry at that). It's still worth checking out if you're in the neighborhood and into Ethiopian cuisine. The bulk of their menu is dedicated to coffees. They have some pastries and meat sandwiches (thought nothing on the menu looked very ethnic by their simple descriptions like "Ham").

They have sambusas as well (another name for samosa): meat or lentil. These are a bit different than Indian Samosas with savory mix of spices. They also have shelves with spices and incense on them (though you can probably buy the same stuff at the Awash market for cheaper).

If you want a place that's a bit more established, check out Harar, Awash Market or (if in City Heights area) Red Sea. fly off on a total tangent, I've recently been hearing/reading a lot of people calling Ethiopian food "Eritrean" cuisine. The two terms get thrown around like synonyms, so I decided to read up on it a bit. Apparently, Eritrea is its own country that was once colonized, independent, annexed by Ethiopia and then declared independence from Ethiopia. So, if I understand the wikipedia article correctly, the two countries of Ethiopia and Eritrea are distinct and there could potentially even be offense taken by confusing the two. Now, which restaurants are around town are Eritrean and which are Ethiopian is beyond me. I believe I did see one specifically labeling its cuisine as Eritrean (I think that was Asmara out in City Heights). Other than that, I don't know which belong to which countries. Please chime in if you know for sure which restaurants are which. I'm sure there's a lot of overlap in cuisine (for the same reasons England has a lot of curry dishes and Indians play a mean game of cricket) but it's good to know what you can find where and what the subtle differences may be between the two cuisines.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Middle Eastern food and art...the art was better

Fairouz Restaurant & Gallery
3166 Midway Dr
Ste 102
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 225-0308

I often use yelp to find new places to try out. The reviews are usually pretty candid and accurate. I was on the hunt for more Mediterranean food and I was very stoked to read about a buffet place in a part of town that I still haven't explored nearly enough: Sports Arena/Midway. The place has been here forever (25 years) and I was a bit surprised to hear about it so late since it seems like something right up my alley. They're in a strip mall (like all good buffets) so they're easily missed.

The yelp community told me that the owner was exceptionally nice and the art on the walls was weird and cool...but the food was lacking. This synopsis was spot on. The buffet was $12/person and you could also order from the menu but, as is often the case in such places, the buffet seems like a much better value, as most of the dishes from the menu are between $9 and $16.

Upon entering, the art is striking. The place is jam-packed full of art and after a short while it becomes obvious that despite the variety in styles, every piece is painted by the same person. The host told me that his brother is the artist and apparently he's been painting for a long time as many of the pieces are dated from the 80s (and just as many are from last year). Some of the pieces are incredibly intricate. Some are realistic, others are abstract, and all of them are quite good.

But the art I'm interested in is on the end of my fork. The buffet has a ton of vegetarian options. There is a variety of hot vegetable dishes, cold salads and decent selection of deserts. My wife, her friend and I stuffed ourselves silly. Unfortunately, there were only a couple of dishes that were really, truly good. The rest of them were either a bit dry or flavorless or both. I think the buffet in general is too ambitious. They've tried to put out too many different dishes and in the process they sit out longer than they should and probably don't allow the chef to pay them their due attention. It also has the effect of forcing me to try everything on the buffet...which is dangerous. The cuisine was (from what I can tell) a mix of Lebanese, Greek and Persian. I think narrowing down the selections to about HALF their current number could drastically improve the quality and enjoyability of the selections.

The chef is the wife of the operation's host, so this is decidedly a family business and super authentic. The host was the most remarkable part of the evening. He was so amazingly friendly that I felt bad for not having discovered his place before. He will talk to you as much as you care to (the place wasn't very busy, but I get the feeling he'd go out of his way to make time to chat no matter how busy they get). He asked if everything was okay EVERY time we went to the buffet. I'm almost uncomfortable with this level of service because no one pays so much attention to the customers these days. It's sad that this exceptional service makes me feel awkward. It should be the standard of any sit-down restaurant.

I think I'd like to hit this place again for lunch to give them a fair chance to serve something fresh with a bit more care put into it. One unusual aspect of the buffet is that it seemed to have very little in common with the selections available via the menu. Not sure if this is a deliberate strategy or not, but I definitely want to see their take on spanikopita (on the menu, but not the buffet). Will report back when we're able to do that.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Vegetarian / Vegan Cooking Club

For some time now, I've been trying to find a casual group of people that I can get together with and learn to cook. Of course, I have a basic need that other cooking groups may only partially fill: I want to cook and eat exclusively vegetarian food. I found a couple Yahoo groups with general San Diego Cooking themes...but they only had about 10-30 people in them and were decidedly defunct looking (no messages in the past couple months). So I decided to start my own group.

We met for the first time this past weekend and though there was only a couple people that attended, we were pretty enthused about the idea of a group that focused on vegetarian cooking. A couple of the people that showed up still "cheated" with meat now and then for different reasons, but they were about 90% vegetarian. I decided not to promote the group too much for fear of too many people coming, but that fear was apparently not very well founded ;^) Now that I have a clearer idea of how many people will come based on how many people SAID they would come (a percentage) I can know how many to invite to get the actual number I want (8-12).

I'll post a few flyers in strategic places (Rancho's, Whole Foods, etc.) and see if I can hit my magic number for the next meeting. Next meeting is slated for Saturday, January 12th @ 4pm at my place in North Park. If you're interested in attending, join the Yahoo group (I'll send out more info, address, etc. via that group):

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