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Feeling Oaklandish

A long delayed post on the beauty that is Oakland, California. My annual conference for work brought me to San Diego and I had to tack on some time in the north. My first foray to California was in Los Angeles back in March 2013 so it’s only fair I continue to stack up the cities and appreciate this massive state.

Turns out when you leave your house in Baltimore at 4 a.m. and arrive to SFO at 9 a.m., you can get a lot done in a day. Here’s a look at some of the awesome eating, drinking and wandering we did in Oakland. It’s not the hood you think it is (if you grew up on the other coast listening to rap about the West Coast). Details and web addresses follow.

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Grand Lake Kitchen: http://www.grandlakekitchen.com Quick to get my fix of MexiCali food, I opted for chilaquiles and was not disappointed.
Friday Nights @ OMCA (Oakland Museum of California): http://www.museumca.org/friday-nights-omca Food trucks and a rocking band and the open air, right on beautiful Lake Merritt.
Morcom Rose Garden: http://friendsofoaklandrose.org/ A beautiful place to stop and … smell the roses. (too easy?)
Boot & Shoe Service: http://www.bootandshoeservice.com/ Crispy, bubbly, beautiful pizzas. Do I really need to say anything else? Ok one of them had fingerling potatoes on it..
Chinatown: Every city has one! We managed to grab bahn mi sandwiches and bubble tea while strolling around the area.
Jack London Square: http://www.jacklondonsquare.com/ Home to a farmer’s market and some great people watching, I really like this area.
Heinold’s First and Last Chance: http://heinolds.com/index.html Located in Jack London Square, it’s a very cool piece of history related to the writer himself.
Boca Nova: http://www.bocanova.com/ Also located in Jack London Square, we had a divine brunch al fresco including scallops and a perfectly poured cup of coffee. Great for posh post-Farmer’s Market snacking.
Champa Garden: http://www.yelp.com/biz/champa-garden-oakland This hole in the wall in East Oakland was unbelievable. A mix of Thai / Lao cuisine in a laid back atmosphere full of foodies.
Doughnut Dolly: http://www.doughnutdolly.com/site/page/home now in Oakland and Berkeley, these handmade donuts filled before your eyes are a great way to start the day. Have two!

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Impossible to Starve in San Diego

A recap of a late May foodie adventure in San Diego, California during an international education conference. The city did not disappoint, and neither did it’s restaurants. Below are a few of my picks for breakfast, seafood & Mexican (the holy trinity?). Enjoy!

Broken Yolk Cafe – 355 6th Avenue
As usual, I am completely derailed by a long list of Eggs Benedict options. I stuck with the (south of the) Border Benedict that placed poached eggs on sweet corn cakes under poblano sauce. Yes, really.

Fish Market - 750 N Harbor Drive
Recommended by our hotel concierge (shout out to the Omni SD), the cioppino at this restaurant has it’s own webpage. The old school seafood stew really hit the spot, particularly from our waterside seat in early evening.

Chocolat – 509 5th Avenue
As the kickoff to our #foodieolympics, the girls and I rendezvoused at the place that boasted 1) gelato, 2) crepes and 3) reminded us of Johnny Depp. We were not disappointed! In fact I returned again later that week because … gelato. One day a fruit mix, another day for sinful chocolate.

Hector’s Mexican – 1224 Rosecrans Street
A haul from the Gaslamp District in holiday traffic, we enjoyed our business burritos in a small, nondescript cantina. Sizable portions and legit Mexican comfort food helped power us through the day, along with the high octane Mexican Coca Cola.

Cafe 21 – 802 5th Avenue
The menu at this location was truly outstanding. I usually suffer menu ADD between sweet and savory items, and strike a deal with my dining mates to split the difference. What we all agreed on first was the prosciutto bloody mary – garnished to the hilt and delicious. Now did we want chicken curry cakes or the short rib omelet? The answer is yes.

Taka – 555 5th Avenue
Can’t go wrong with sushi in California, right? Taka proved this point with a wide variety of rolls, and we brought the wide world of fresh fish to two newbies. For a bowl of miso, a special roll and a pot of tea this was also reasonably priced.

Lucky’s Lunch Counter – 338 7th Avenue
Just around the corner from the Omni Hotel sits a tiny restaurant with coffee, bright chalkboards and a solid breakfast sandwich. You can sidle up to a table facing the street (next to Petco Park baseball stadium) or you can sit at the counter and watch the kitchen magic happening.

Casa Guadalajara – 4105 Taylor Street (Old Town)
When you Google “best fish tacos in San Diego” this is what you get. Thanks to friends with a car we made our way to Old Town San Diego about 15 minutes from the Gaslamp District. This lovely restaurant is massive, alive with bright patterns and plenty of greenery – including a big old tree sprouting up in the courtyard. One of their signature margaritas made for the right end to a sunny San Diego day.

Also enjoyed receptions at some prime locations:
Dublin Square Irish pub – 554 4th Avenue
Hotel Palomar – 1047 5th Avenue
Tipsy Crow – 770 5th Avenue
Andaz – 600 F Street

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Satisified in San Francisco

My first foray into beautiful San Francisco included most of the major highlights, thanks to my trusty tour guide. 1) The thrill of public transportation: riding the BART in from Oakland and hopping a street car in the city. 2) The beautiful Ferry Building, chock full of market wonders and yes, ferries. 3) Strolling along the Embarcadero, marveling at the size and grandeur of overflowing flower baskets and serious fishermen. 4) Listening to the absurd sound of barking sea lions at Pier 39. 5) Chowing down on chowdah and sourdough at Boudin on Fisherman’s Wharf. 6) Staring in absolute awe and over-photographing the Golden Gate Bridge and indulging in a hot cup of chai from the Warming Hut along the Presidio while kite surfers race along the bay. 7) Walking through the Palace of Fine Arts and thinking thoughts of Europe. 8) Having dessert before dinner at Dandelion Chocolate on Valencia.

Altogether we probably walked 5 miles for the day, and I’d do it again in a minute. Satisfied in San Francisco? I’d say so.

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Discovering Towson 3.0

The dine around town continues!

Shoofly Diner – 510 East Belvedere Avenue, Belvedere Square – A delicious location with a newly touted rating as one of “100 Best Bars in the South” per Southern Living magazine. We traded the bar scene for the breakfast table and feasted on beignets, chicken & waffles and general awesomeness.

Nordstrom Café – 700 Fairmount Avenue, Towson Town Center – If you’re tired of (or turned off by) food court cuisine, this cafe tucked into the Nordstrom store is fantastic. Arguably some of the best hummus I’ve ever had in my life, and even when the presentation is in a to go box, it’s still impressive.

Cunningham’s – 1 Olympic Place – One of the Bagby Group restaurants nestled into the very heart of Towson, just beyond the circle. Their happy hour specials are truly phenomenal: priced right ($2 – $6 appetizers), delicious (brown butter popcorn) and paired with wine, beer or a well-made cocktail (also $2 – $6). With a beautiful terrace outside and a stunning full restaurant indoors .. and complimentary valet parking in the garage .. this place is perfect. Happy hour is Monday – Friday from 5 to 7 p.m.

Although not in Towson proper, I really must give this restaurant it’s due after we had a spectacular Restaurant Week experience in February:
The Prime Rib – 1101 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore – ranked as one of the most romantic restaurants in town, the girls and I took the opportunity to dress to the nines and enjoy an evening out. I’m happy to say that my leopard print pumps matched the carpet! The decor is dark and moody and classy and several decades old, which only adds to your tux-clad waiters, live piano music and the absolutely tremendous steak served to your liking.

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Black Eyed Susan Day

Two years ago I attended the Kentucky Derby with my dear friend Holly. It was quite an experience .. hats, horses, drunks, mint juleps. When I moved to Baltimore a few months ago, I remembered that the Pimlico Race Course was the site of the second jewel in the Triple Crown – it’s here they run the Preakness Stakes. “Let’s go!” I said to my mom.

“Let it rain,” is what Mother Nature said in the days leading up to Preakness weekend. We planned to attend Black Eyed Susan Day, the Friday prior to the Preakness, meant to be a ladies day out. And let’s be real, the tickets are half the price. We purchased two seats in the Upper Grandstand, and I had the opportunity to scope out the course while volunteering at a wine festival in early Spring.

Turns out the rain DID go away (it was probably our singing and dancing) and by 12 noon we were pulling into a very muddy parking lot to go to the races. Early reports of attendance say that 37,000 people were at the track on BES Day, compared to the 120,000 that would roll in for Preakness the following day to see California Chrome take the second jewel in the Triple Crown.

The first bet we placed was a winner, a horse named Exchange Student ridden by a female jockey. Obviously, I was meant to win. She placed second and won me $13.20! No further wins followed but we had ourselves a lovely, if muddy, day.

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