Saturday, May 23, 2015

Havana Kitchen, Temecula, CA in Pics

Dean and I were in Temecula a few weeks ago to check out its wine country and our previous short stint living there a few years ago left us with measured expectations about the food we'd find upon our return.

Ropa Vieja Egg Bowl

As expected, there was still quite a bit of stuff to appeal to the Applebee's palate, but also as should have been expected, there's been a lot of growth and evolution in the kinds of cuisines and concepts that are starting to take hold there.


Now I know that lots of people complain that yelp is an unreliable source of restaurant reviews, but I personally have found that in well populated areas, yelp can be a pretty helpful resource if you learn to read past the clearly bullshit fake marketing and/or friends and family posts as well as the outlier reviews (as in totally glowing when the middle says differently or super negative and nitpicky that have I WAS WRITTEN BY A GENERALLY MISERABLE HUMAN BEING written all over them). 

Chemex Coffee. I know, I know - ¿Por qué no cafe Cubano???

Because we felt like drip is all. :)

And so yelp is where I found Havana Kitchen. For breakfast. I wasn't feeling the whole bland American breakfast thing.

Bella savoring her beloved 
"rice and bains." ;)

And neither of them disappointed.

Post-desayuno funny faces with Daddy.

The music's great, the atmosphere is totally chill, and it's some of the best food I've had in Temecula, period.

Easy recommendation if you're in the area.

¡Buen provecho!


Havana Kitchen (yelp link - their website is pretty sparse as of this writing)
41955 5th Street, Suite 101
Temecula, CA 92590

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Blurb About Temecula Wine Country & Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, Murrieta, CA in Pics

A few weeks back, Dean and I braved Temecula wine country for a couple of days with a toddler just because we felt like doing something different and also to scope the area for future retreat locations.

Bella and Bunny braving the woods.

I'll just be straight and say that the experience, while it had its moments, left me lukewarm on the idea of overnighting in Temecula again, especially for anyone who has Napa or Sonoma as a reference point for a California wine country experience in terms of both wine and food, but also that I think it could be a fun local daytrip if you don't have to go to too much expense and effort to get there.

And not that Temecula isn't a nice town, or that lots of other people haven't had a wonderful time in its wine country. Just that I personally feel their wine industry needs a little more development, experience, and sophistication before I'd want to spend the kind of money we spent to stay there for a couple of days again. And that's why you won't be seeing a full post about it from me in the near future.

I'll also be straight about how taking a toddler for a wine country getaway was admittedly not the best idea (which should have been readily apparent to someone who's already raised two older children), but sometimes parenting a little one really makes you crave pre-parenthood adult normalcy so much you lose most or all of your sense in decision making moments. Other times as well.

That said, our planned visit to the Santa Rosa Plateau in nearby Murrieta (I did some research ahead of time and found out it was only 25 minutes away from where we were staying) on a gloriously green week after much needed rains added quite a bit of value and enjoyment to our 2 night stay in the area.

Nature walks give Bella a serious case of
the GLEES. :)

Having to leave a THREE HOUR nature walk
gives Bella a serious case of the unhappies.

And as we're between rains again, I thought it would be a perfect time to share some pics and perhaps entice my fellow local-ish fair weather nature lovers out there. (Love it when it's temperate and green - not so much when it's hot and dry!)

As of this writing, fees are $4 per adult and $3 for children 2 to 12. A steal to help keep such a beautiful open space alive.

Happy Hiking. :)


Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve (link)
39400 Clinton Keith Road
Murrieta, CA 92562

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dump & Simmer Thai Inspired Chicken Curry

Printable Version (Recipe Only)

I created this recipe on a lazy fridge cleanout day when most of the ingredients I had left just made sense for a Thai-inspired curry.

On the day I took this particular pic, I had Chinese eggplant, red bell pepper, and zucchini on hand, but you can use 2 to 3 cups of whatever chopped veg you like. You might have to adjust the salt a little if the veg you use has high water content.

White rice usually takes about 25 to 30 minutes (brown rice a bit longer), so you'll want to make sure to get it started once your curry's simmering.

Dump & Simmer Thai Inspired Chicken Curry
Serves 4 to 6 over rice
Time: About 15 minutes active + 60 minutes stovetop time
Printable Version

- 2.5 pounds bone-in chicken pieces
- 1/2 a yellow onion cut into 1/2" slices
- 4 slices (about 1/8" thick) of fresh ginger root OR 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed OR 1/3 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tomato, quartered
- 5 Kaffir lime leaves OR the zest of half a lime or lemon
- 15 basil leaves (Thai is preferable, but if you have some other kind, that's ok, too)
- juice of half a lime
- a 15 oz. (or so) can of coconut milk
- Thai chilies to taste (if you don't have Thai chilies, you can used crushed red chili flakes for heat - start with 1/2 teaspoon for moderate heat and adjust as you like)
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar

- 2 to 3 cups chopped veg to add later

1) Dump all ingredients except for veg into a large pot or Dutch oven, and give it a few gentle stirs to incorporate.

2) With the pot covered, bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and let it boil for 2 to 3 minutes. This should take 10 to 12 minutes or so.

3) Turn the heat down to low, and simmer the curry for 30 minutes, still covered.

4) Stir in your veg, turn the heat back up to medium, and continue to cook for another 20 minutes or so, 10 minutes with the lid askew, and another 10 minutes completely uncovered. After the first 10 minutes is a good time to adjust the seasoning for salt and heat.

That's it!

Enjoy. :)


Monday, May 11, 2015

On Reflected Lessons In Letting Go...

A while back, my teenaged son ran into some old friends he hadn't seen in years. During the encounter, they all seemed genuinely happily surprised to see one another, and they parted ways exchanging contact information and talking of getting together sometime soon.

And then my kid texted them to follow up.

No reply.

I could see the anxiety it caused him to think that they had possibly accidentally given incorrect information but probably hadn't. There were two of them, after all, and we both knew deep down the chances of both of them inadvertently giving him wrong numbers was slim.

As a mom who wants to protect his heart, a big part of me wanted to tell him to forget about them right then and there. But as a mom who wants to teach him to be patient and reasonable with others and to not jump to awful conclusions, when he wondered several days later why they didn't reply, I encouraged him to contact them one last time on the chance they somehow didn't receive or see his first message.

I kinda knew how it was going to end - they didn't reply - but due diligence is a necessary means to a conscionable end, and I wanted my son to learn that, too.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Café Secret - Del Mar, San Diego, CA in Pics

A few weeks back, LAM and MAP joined us for a little local staycay to get away from their OC surroundings, and rather than have them stay at our place as they usually do, we booked them a room in a funky little boutique inn in Del Mar called Les Artistes Inn. (A tiny token repayment of their constant generosity with us whenever we spend time with them.)

As it turns out, the very friendly and eccentric-artsy Thai woman who owns and designed the hotel also leases restaurant space in front of her other little inn to the proprietors of Café Secret. Both of us being lovers of good food, we talked a bit about where we each like to dine in San Diego, and she tacked Café Secret to the end of her list of local restaurant recommendations.

Canchita - Peru's Unpopped Popcorn

Bella crunching canchita and conducting business
on Wa's Flintstone phone. ;P
Who knew she'd love them so much?

Del Mar does fairly well with some higher end, Cali-inspired elevated concept food as San Diego goes, but it's not a place where you go looking for so-called "ethnic" food. So in a way, Café Secret really is sort of a secret café that you don't expect to find in Del Mar where you can have well executed Peruvian food in a charmingly casual setting that you could easily miss as you drive past.

Ceviche Mixto -
locally caught fresh fish, octopus, jumbo shrimp, Peruvian
scallops, New Zealand green lip mussels, calamari

Macho -
pan seared local catch, Maine scallops, New Zealand green-lipped
mussels, jumbo shrimp, prawn, and calamari, tossed in a creamy
rocoto sauce and served with garlic rice
Bella also loved this. :)

As I'm writing this post, I'm wishing I was again sitting on their patio with a glass of Albariño, crunching on canchita, and waiting for my beautiful ceviche to arrive.

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

Cheers! :)

The check tucked into an Isabel Allende novel -  a charming touch
(and one we're seeing more of these days in other places
as well - not always Allende, of course. ;) )

The walk back to the inn. Del Mar is a lovely place.

Looking forward to returning to the restaurant and the inn. :)

Café Secret (link)
1140 Camino Del Mar
Del Mar, CA 92014