Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Barrio Foodie: Phu'o'ng Nga Banh Cuon

Last time I made a blog post was 2013, all I can say is that working full time within grey cubicle walls did effectively zap the creativity and the will to blog. Anyhoo, I'm back for now and if all my plans succeed I won't need to go back to an office anymore.

I live in North Park, all along 30th street and Adams Ave, new restaurants and breweries are popping up like mushrooms. In many cases they have supplanted dives, stores and eateries that don't meet with gentrification standards. Business that have been there for decades are being forced out for something new, shinny and pricey. So now I'm turning to the City Heights area where I can get great authentic food at very reasonable prices. For now I will be going to the restaurants on University starting on Malborough Ave.

The first restaurant in my review is Phu'o'ng Nga, located at 4141 University Avenue, zip 92105

Everyone at the restaurant was Vietnamese, which made me feel like the hipster I'm pretending not to be, but can't help it. At least I know my Mexican stomach can take any food.

The menu is extremely simple, has very few options but they all have Banh Cuon as the center and thankfully they had pictures. So I pointed to their combination plate at $6.99 not knowing what I ordered and this is what I got:

First of all, you see that white roll under what looks like fried chicken? That is Banh Cuon, which is a thin rice roll, inside it has minced meat with onions and not sure what else. Very tasty, slightly chewy consistency, topped with fried onions and warm. Has the feeling of comfort food. The plate came with a dozen little rolls. This is something I will have to try again.

What looks like fried chicken is fried pork, a bit greasy and very good. This was the hottest item on the plate and had to wait a bit for it to cool down.

The round patties were not my favorite and was the only thing I left on my plate. The beige ones are meatloaf and the pink one is called nem chua (cured meat), both were at room temperature and they were not bad, just didn't find them to my liking.

The veggies on the side were bean sprouts and thinly julienned cucumber, which was a nice fresh touch to the savory items.

And that's it! I already saw a few more places I want to visit that area. This will be fun!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

New Year's To-Do List - Hike Cowles Mountain

Hey There:

I took a peek at my New Year's Resolutions and taking into consideration it's already August, I'm not doing that well with them. In some cases it is the old conundrum of not having the money when I have the time and vice versa. One thing I did accomplish last month was hiking up Cowles Mountain!

What got me out on a Sunday morning  when I should be in bed was the enticement that I was going to do the hike with a very handsome guy. I met him through an online dating site and this was to be our 2nd date. It was my idea to do the hike, he enjoys doing them and is experienced and I figured I would tough it out so I wouldn't look like a wuss in front of him.

He picked me up early and took me to where he said was the "easy" hike. This is the path located opposite to the main entrance. To get to this path we had to park on residential streets and get in to the grounds crossing a locked gate.

Very quickly I realized how big of a mistake I made, I got winded within the first 10 minutes and I just wanted to go back. I'm not going to mention how horrible it was, nor the vertigo I got, the desire to throw up from the exertion, the sweating and cursing. All the time, my companion had the patience of a saint and just kept pushing me to the next curve, the next rock, the next bush. It took me two hours what other people do in 45 - 60 minutes.

Of course, I wore black, which was another mistake on my part, but I don't have colors in my wardrobe. Although I will admit it's starting to get annoying trying to find a particular black top amongst a sea of black tops.

And then when I finally made it to the top and could be proud of my accomplishment, I realized how overrated the whole conquering-the-mountain thing is! I've seen better views at night from the top of a high rise with a beer on my hand. The air smells better when I'm lying on the beach. This is officially off my list and not something I will ever do again!

As for the guy, I doubt I'll ever see him again and I'm not too worried about that. We may have a lot of things in common, but our idea of entertainment is very different.

hiking cowles mountain

san diego hiking

hiking trails

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Garden Window Decor - Comic-Con

Hey There:

My garden window decorations usually revolve around seasons or holidays, this time, my theme revolves around an event. It is the holiest of comic weeks, San Diego Comic-Con International, an event like no other!

I went around my place and gathered a few of the items I've purchased at Comic-Con over the years, I had to leave quite a few things because of the lack of space, but this collection is representative of my favorite themes.

First of all are the collectible books from each time I've been to the event....9 in total and I'm lucky enough that I will get to go for a 10th time. The most memorable occasions have been when I've been with my brother and sister, and I really feel like an old timer when I tell people I used to be able to buy tickets the same day! Imagine that!

In the back I have a print autographed by James O'Barr creator of The Crow, I have two of his prints and the graphic novel. Next to the collectible books are Magic The Gathering cards, my new game and obsession.

Here we have Buddy Christ from the movie Dogma, this was so hard to find! I went through every single booth until I found it and it's been with me for at least 8 years now. In the back you'll see a furry brown ball...that's a Tribble, originally seen on Star Trek TOS on the episode The Trouble with Tribbles. This one makes the cute Tribble noises and thankfully it does not breed!

The upper shelf is dedicated to Doctor Who, last year (2012) is when I got most of my collectibles, including a Tardis lunch pail - which I've used to take my lunch to work - sticky notes, a Dalek foam hat and the ever crucial sonic screwdriver!

Last but not least, I painted my nails in Comic-Con colors, which are also reminiscent of super hero costumes.

This year I will only be going on Saturday and Sunday, I know it will be a tiring and painful experience, but it is one I don't want to miss!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Cross-Stitch - Heirloom Baby Name

Hey There:

My latest cross stitch project was done in honor of a dear friend, chick lit author and client Susan Buchanan. She recently had her first child and I was just waiting for someone close to me to have a baby so I could create this heirloom piece:

The pattern was purchased from - Loving Hands Tiny Feet and it took me close to 4 months to make, working on it an average of 3 - 5 hours per week. So if someone is in a hurry to make it as a gift, I expect it can be done within a month. It felt so good making it, especially the precious little toes...too cute!

And as a shout out to Susan Buchanan, check out her books, she writes very funny chick lit based in Scotland and it always makes me smile when I think about the kilt scene on the Dating Game....she put those Scottish hunks in kilts just for me!!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Taste of Adams 2013

Hey There:

For the second year in a row my sis and I go out and take the challenge of the annual event Taste of Adams. Restaurants from Adams Avenue Antique Row, Normal Heights and Kensington participate. This year it was an impressive 31 restaurants, compared to 24 we had last year.

In case you're wondering what the event entails, first you buy a ticket ($30 pre-sale, $35 the day of the event).

On the back of the ticket there is a map and the list of all the participating restaurants and off you go from place to place sampling the goodies they have in store for you. In some cases, the restaurants set up the food outside, in others you will need to go inside. This is a small sample of the food offered:

Jayne's Gastropub
Sausage over mashed potatoes topped with caramelized onions by Jayne's Gastropub - You were encouraged to sit down and enjoy the food in their cozy pub or the sunny patio.

Twiggs Bakery
Cheese Omelette and bite size cake by Twiggs Bakery - A chef made each omelette right in front of us.

Cafe 21
Short ribs on top of potato pancake topped with gorgonzola cheese, a cookie and iced tea - It was devoured!

Asparagus lasagna - so good and creamy!

El Zarape
Choice of Chicken or Beef fajitas, beans, rice and a fish taco - People were impressed with the amount of food, the rice was just right and I loved the fish taco.

Carnitas tacos by Ponce's Mexican - I got here almost at the end of the event, was lucky to get the last batch of carnitas.

The Haven Pizzeria
Brussel Sprout pizza by The Haven Pizzeria - Very good way to get in some brussels sprouts in my diet!

Kensington Cafe
Grilled cheese and veggie sandwich from Kensignton Cafe - The crunchiness was just right!

Some places, like Rosie O'Grady's gave beer, others wine. I also had desserts - cheesecake, ice cream, brownie, ice pop - as well as chicken and waffles, vegan food, Thai food and so much more. I did not get to all the restaurants, 4 hours were just not enough....really! But there's always next year!

In case you want to do this type of event here are a few tips:

  • Carry your own water, it can get hot and not all the places offer drinks and where they do it is usually in small quantities.
  • Sunscreen! And maybe a hat or visor to protect your face from the sun.
  • Carry as little as possible and keep your hands free to make it easier to eat.
  • Take advantage of the trolleys going up and down Adams, they are free but a tip for the driver is appreciated.
  • I had a tupperware on my bag and put on it the desserts so I could eat later. Every bite adds up and I had a long way to go!
  • The best accessory I wore and the one that most peopled envied was a lanyard. I made a small hole in the tickets and attached it to the lanyard. It can be a pain to be constantly searching for your ticket and it kept my hands free to eat, take pics and share online.
So there you have it, this type of events are unique and very fun to go with a group of friends!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

North Park Festival of Arts - Craft Beer Block

Hey There:

So what do you do when events are sold out, you didn't get a free pass and you don't have any money? You volunteer! That's what I did at the North Park Festival of Arts - Beer Craft Block a few weekends ago!

I volunteered as part of the San Diego Beer Club Meetup group, the event would be at a walking distance from my place, seemed like fun and I thought I would have a chance to drink craft beer while I was at it....more on that later.

There were two shifts, one that started at 9:30 AM until 2-ish and my shift from 1-ish til 6 PM. We gathered at The Old  Mill on Ohio street for sign-up, a light lunch and orientation. The biggest shocker: I wasn't allowed to drink any beer, Oh no! And it was a hot day....would be torture for sure!

I was assigned to the Green Flash booth and had the huge luck to be paired with an ex-co-worker, it was total coincidence, neither of us knew we would be there. I had no idea what to expect, but she was a veteran volunteer, so I just followed her lead!

Our job was to pour the beer for the ticket holders and thanks to our different heights, we never bumped into each other, even though we worked side by side for 3 hours non-stop. It was a great pairing!

The beers we were pouring were Imperial Pale Ale and Saison San Diego

India Pale Ale
San Diego IPA, as it has come to be known by many, is pale in color, super-hoppy, high-gravity, yet a highly quaffable ale. Our Imperial IPA is created in this new tradition with intense hop flavors and aromas from a unique blend of Summit and Nugget hops.

Saison Diego®
Ale Brewed with Spices

Unfiltered golden farmhouse ale, brewed with Seville orange peels, Chinese ginger and grains of paradise. Light, bright, spicy aromas, lively carbonation and earthy flavors co-mingle with musty notes that add funky complexity.

That was my first time being a server and pouring from a keg, but I quickly got the hang of it and I received many compliments on my tidy pours.

For the event University avenue was closed at 30th street, there were booths, music stages, food and I'm sure many cool things which I had no chance to see. Our shift at the volunteer booth ended early when we finished our kegs. People kept coming back and it was common for some to take a shot and then another pour for the road. Green Flash was a great favorite!

The time went by incredible fast, we barely had time to sip water and to the question, why do you do it? Because it's fun! Plus the event organizers threw a get-together at U-31 with beer and food later that week, not to mention the morning volunteers received a ticket for the beer garden after their shift I know for next year!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Geek Tattoos - Star Trek part 1

Hey There:

I love tattoos, I like having art on my skin that I can look at any time I want. Over the years I've had several pieces done, big and small and now I'm preparing for my geekiest piece yet. I want the final design to have elements of my favorite sci-fi shows: Star Trek, Doctor Who, Firefly, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and we'll see what else I can add in there.

I wish I could do it all in 1 - 2 sessions, but my budget will only permit me one image at a time. So here is the first one, the Star Trek logo.

Star Trek tattoo

My new tattoo artist is Leo Nava from Studio 767 in Chula Vista, CA. While he admits he's not a geek, he is an amazing artist and I look forward to more sessions with him and showing off my new tattoos.

Do you see that painting in the background? Here it is, made by Leo Nava:

Painting by Leo Nava - Studio 767