Taiwanese Bakery Treats

We celebrated our 12 year anniversary together by going to an amazing Russian/Georgian restaurant in North Park. We actually also celebrated our 7 year anniversary here. Afterwards, I was craving 菠蘿麵包 (pineapple bun), so we stopped in the Convoy area to get some yummies at 85 Degrees c. They did not have anything labeled in Chinese (not that my Chinese is that great), but it gets confusing when every Taiwanese bakery insists on naming the damn 菠蘿麵包 something different. It was “Bolo Bread” at Sunmerry in Irvine. Here at 85 Degrees it was “Boroh Danish,” which was particularly confusing because I do not associate it with Danish-style pastries at all, and there is no filling inside. I also saw 太陽餅 in the check out line and had to have that too.

The 太陽餅 was awesome, the 菠蘿麵包 was not as good as the Sunmerry one. Maybe it has to do with being pregnant but I’ve really had a tooth for Taiwanese bakery treats recently. Too bad all the good stuff is a 30-minute drive away from our place. Or maybe that’s a good thing. I really think Asians are increasingly starting to move into San Diego County, but it still feels like this:

 

The New Typical Saturday

Weekends have changed a bit since being pregnant. Waking up late hungover is no longer an option, and since I don’t party all night, I don’t sleep in as much. Even so, I love sleeping in, so it was sort of a big deal that I woke up at 8:20 a.m., drank some coffee, had husband snap a “Week 23” picture, brewed some caramel macchiato flavored coffee, and headed off to yoga. I’m not in the habit of taking pictures of myself half asleep in gym clothes, but I noticed that my outfit was unintentionally extremely pink and obnoxious (hot pink shirt, purse, yoga mat) and husband found it amusing.

 

After yoga, I played some Chopin for Fetus: an etude and the Fantasie Improptu. She wasn’t impressed. No kicking, no response. Sort of like how my cats flee the room when they see me reach for the guitar, except Fetus is imprisoned inside me and has no choice. Afterwards, I finished up some chores. Husband had to go into work on a Saturday, so I went to lunch with Tony and Belen (also preggo). We first went to a smoothie shop in San Marcos called Disfruta. I got there a little before them, and scanned the menu, which was entirely in Spanish. This was exciting because it makes getting a smoothie near your house feel like a foreign adventure.

Fortunately, I had learned lots of fruit names on DuoLingo, and further, have a shortcut to Google Translate on my phone. I ended up ordering a Jugo Berry (berry juice) and Belen and Tony ordered smoothies. The berry juice was basically pure blended berries, probably consisting of strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. I didn’t think any sugar was added, and it was totally amazing. Belen and Tony ordered smoothies; I tried theirs, and they were really good, though I am partial to the simplicity of pure juice.

Next, we hit up Mi Rancho Market in Escondido again for the best tacos on the face of the earth. This award as determined by me has been stripped from Tacos El Gordo and bestowed upon Mi Rancho. I ordered the adobada and lengua, which I had last time and loved. They were just as good this time. On this day, Belen also pointed out they had birria de chivo (goat) tacos, and so I had to get one of those. The first and only time I had birria was in Rosarito in November, and this was a pleasant surprise. The birria taco was juicy and delicious and I wished my stomach was bigger so I could have a few more.

 

We went to the mall afterwards, where Belen wanted to check out the maternity section at Macy’s. The maternity section was fairly predictable. Everything was boring and frumpy as fuck, and the sale items weren’t very cheap, so I changed strategies. I went to the junior’s and women’s section, and bought items in larger sizes and/or stretchy material. I ended up getting a a $6 dress, a $7 sweatshirt, and another $7 dress. I did splurge just a little and buy a really pretty maxi dress with cherry blossoms on it for $24 (gasp!)

Next, I went across the way and bought a large stretchy pencil skirt at Cotton On, and another dress for $15. Seriously, fuck maternity clothes. They are hideous, and a total rip-off (but maybe check with me again in 3 months to see whether this strategy is still viable at 7-8 months pregnant). While I was trying on about 20 items, Tony and Belen wandered off to Brookstone and other stores, then made their way back to me. I told them I was at Cotton On, but I happened to be in the changing room when they showed came back:

I met them at Spencer’s. I probably had not been inside a Spencer’s since high school and had no recollection of this store stocking sex toys, but there it was – a big wall of dildos indeed, in pretty much every color of the rainbow.

Preggo Shopping

Over the weekend, I drove down to Pacific Beach to my husband’s cousin Amy’s pad, where she had laid out a beautiful spread of snacks and drinks on her dinner table for a ladies’ day. Her smorgasboard included sweet peppers, a whipped garlic spread, brie, homemade fig jam, plum preserves, baguette slices, tapenade, among other treasures that sang to me. These were paired with champagne and beers for others (so jealous), but Amy was incredibly thoughtful and had a couple of fancy non-alcoholic options for me. After gorging on the snacks, paired with a coconut (mango?) oolong tea, and an elderflower and rose lemonade, we went shopping with a crew of ladies.

The first stop was a store I’ve been to on a couple of prior occasions. Half of it contains normal clothing. The other half is most accurately described as an awesome costume/stripper store, featuring wigs in all colors of the rainbow, garter belts, masks, S&M collars, corsets, animal ears, steampunk goggles, and things normal people do not wear out in public. Every time I am here, I Snapchat a glimpse of this wonderland to my stripper friend. If I lived closer, I’d be here all the time. Being about 5 months pregnant, I briefly felt reminiscent browsing through slinky dresses I could have previously worn. Amy assured me I could buy them anyway because I would eventually fit into them again, but I am vehemently against buying ill-fitting clothes many months in advance (especially considering how fickle I am in my style). However, she did plant a seed in my head, and without much further deliberation promptly decided I could still wear these things if I bought items made of stretchy material, and in the largest size available.

So I left the store with a form-fitting black spandex dress (size L) that was not made for pregnant people and a gray, over-sized, shirt featuring the classy slogan, “ALCOHOL YOU LATER.” Although this may not have been the shirt’s intent, I figured this was entirely appropriate for me, since indeed, I cannot alcohol until many months from now. Additionally, I picked up a black, lacy, billowy dress with spaghetti straps for $5 that seemed perfect for preggos, which is also probably why it was on the sale rack for $5 in a stripper store. I wore the black spandex to the bowling alley with 5-inch wedges the next day, because fuck it. YOLO.

On a side note, in our shopping adventures, I noticed an abundance of choker necklaces, ribbed shirts and dresses, and floral prints. Holy shit, are the 90’s back in? Goddamn I am getting old.

How I Found Out I was Pregnant

This is a true story and it could happen to you. My brother was in town for the holidays, and I planned some brewery hopping for a Friday night. It was a really nice, sunny, warm day in December (23rd), even by San Diego standards. I ran stairs at the beach after work, went home and showered, and we were ready to head out the door early evening. Before we left, I decided to take a pregnancy test, because ever since going off birth control, I thought it was a good idea to take a test before decadent, booze-filled nights out. I was down to my last test and strangely, after peeing on it, I realized it was broken. Seriously. Instead of the little lines that show up on each window of the stick, both windows remained completely blank, even after about 15 minutes.

I had never heard of this happening before, and I felt vaguely ripped off by Target. These things are not that cheap, after all. I was not too concerned and decided I could always stop at a grocery store and grab another one on the way to the first brewery. We made a quick stop at Vons for this purpose and then were on our merry way.

The first scheduled stop was Burgeon Brewing, a new brewery nearby which I had not yet tried. Like so many breweries these days, Burgeon is a sort of warehouse facility located in an industrial park, with 30-foot ceilings and hipster lighting.

I ordered a flight of beers, which were served on a tree-trunk-shaped taster holder. Based on the picture of their menu, if I had to guess which beers I ordered, it was likely the Carlsbad Crop IPA, Thuja IPA, Mixed Greens Double IPA, and the Moo Moo Farm Milk Stout.

Halfway through the taster, I was able to pee again and snuck off to the bathroom to take the test, which turned out to be positive. Barely. The blue lines were faint, yet unmistakable. I cannot say I was shocked, because at this age, I’d have to be an imbecile to be unaware of how pregnancy comes about, but I was still a little surprised. I did not want to return to the group and announce this to a table full of people, so I tried to text my husband while in the bathroom stall, but the reception was exceptionally poor and I failed. Finding out you’re pregnant in the bathroom stall of a brewery and texting your husband while on the toilet has to be about the most romantic and classy way to break the news, if you ask me.

 

I had no choice but to emerge from the safety of the bathroom stall and return to the table. Once I was able to discreetly pull husband aside and share the somewhat surprising news, continued indulgence in beer was no longer an option, so I opted for the cold brew coffee on nitro. This cold brew was smooth and delicious; it was practically a dessert, even though it is not sweetened. Thus concluded my beer adventures for approximately 9 months, and began an adventure of different sorts.

Holiday Drinks 2016

My birthday is around Christmas, so it can be hard to get friends together during this time, but I was lucky enough to round up some of my favorite people this year and hit up some beer adventures.

Having lived in San Diego for almost a decade, I wanted to make the rounds in a neighborhood that was not one of the usual party spots (e.g. Downtown, PB, etc.) I also wanted to drink somewhere walking distance from a Coaster station, so I decided we would take the Coaster and get off at Old Town Transit Center. It’s really unfortunate San Diego increasingly has a stick up its ass, and banned alcohol on the Coaster, but I guess it’s not like we needed any extra alcohol, considering how the night progressed. We took a short stroll from Old Town to Modern Times Brewing, which was on a nondescript street corner that appeared relatively uneventful and dead until we got inside.

Modern Times was full of the holiday spirit, complete with Christmas tree and arts and craft supplies for those who like to play with glue, glitter, and pipe cleaners while drinking craft brews.

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Modern Times beers are fantastic, with my favorite probably being the Blazing World. While I rarely favor ambers, this one definitely is more related to an IPA in flavor profile. They served their tasters in cigar boxes.

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We stayed at Modern Times for a few rounds of beers, and made our exit when we had our fix of making Christmas trees, wands, and headbands out of popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners. We took an Uber to Old Town Public House. It’s a pretty small bar, but even so, it was surprising that at 9:00 p.m. on a Saturday, there was literally only one other person in the bar. They had a fantastic selection of Belgian beers, which is unusual. Bars in San Diego tend to emphasize a vast collection of IPA’s, and rarely feature any significant selection of Belgians (dude, Stella does not count).

We had just one pint each here, and walked over to Home & Away, another neat bar in the area. Again, this was another joint that had a decent selection of beers on tap, and also had games a plenty, including ping pong on the patio. We really liked this bar, but again, it was surprisingly empty for a Saturday night. We did make friends with a regular who lived walking distance away. He treated us to a round of Fireball shots, which was wonderful of him, but regrettable when the morning rolled around.

When the bar closed, we Ubered back to our place to hang out and play Catchphrase until almost 4:00 a.m. It was a perfect end to a birthday celebration.

A Few Breweries Downtown

We decided to walk around to some breweries downtown a little while back, and started out at Monkey Paw Brewing,where we did several tasting flights.

Dr. Bill’s ESB was malty and a little sweet. The I-5 Coconut Black IPA was more coconut and less IPA than I would prefer. The Gibbon Back IIPA was lemony and floral. The Low and Slow Smoked Lager was interesting. I’m not usually one for lagers, but decided to give this one a go. It smelled sort of like smoked salmon, and had savory notes with a hint of smoked plum.

For our second flight, we had the Rhubarb Saison, which was fruity, slightly tart, with grapefruit tones. The Dark Side of Paradise, a macadamia nut milk stout, was a big hit with us. It was smooth, velvety, and practically a dessert. The Might Joe Young Stout was another good stout, with an obvious coffee flavor, more of a bite, but still smooth.

Our friends ordered some food while we were here, and decided it was the best Philly Cheesesteak they’d ever had.

Next, we made our way to Mission Brewery. Mission Brewery operates out of a building that used to be the Wonder Bread factory, which gives it a unique atmosphere and a certain charm that sets it apart from other breweries located inside industrial parks. We hadn’t been here in about 5 years, and were surprised to find some major changes to this place. You still have to walk through some pretty sketchy areas of downtown to get here (at one point, our friend saw an entire block of trash, tents, and shopping carts and questioned whether there was an alternative route to get to this place) but once you get in, it’s a whole different world.

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When we came 5 years prior, it was relatively empty and quiet. This time, it was busy as hell, and they’d added more tables, a small store, and opened up an additional area in the back.

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Mission has a great selection of IPA’s, so this was sort of a heaven for me, but if you’re not into IPA’s it might be a bit less exciting. After Mission, we walked to Half Door Brewing, which is located in a converted house. It is adorable, and I’d passed it with curiosity on several occasions in the last year. This was another IPA heaven, and I enjoyed most of the beers I tasted, including House of Hops, the Pale Ale, the Buzz, the Northeast IPA, and the Hoban. My only complaint about this place is that the tasters are a bit pricey for what they are.

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Stumblefoot 2.0

A friend was interested in coming to Stumblefoot after having tried their beers somewhere down south, so I came back here for the first time since we moved out of our old neighborhood. Good ol’ Stumblefoot. I remember when a lot of their beer tasted a bit tart, with a distinctive home brew taste.

They have come a long way since then. We’ve continued to come here periodically (for instance, see this previous post), and I definitely notice an unmistakable and continual improvement. They frequently change up their menu, which makes things exciting. This time, my friend suggested the Nelson IPA, which did not disappoint. It was fresh, well-balanced, nice, rounded, with a bitter, hoppy, finish.

I was even convinced into trying a sour or two here. I haven’t developed a taste for sours, but I’ve been wanting to branch out and switch things up. The cherry sour was tart, fruity, not too sweet, and probably a good introduction into sours. The Naughty Leprechaun was a sour porter, which was very interesting indeed.

After a good time at Stumblefoot, we made our way to Arcana, and played a round of Jenga, then to good old Pizza Port.

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Coming Back From The Desert

Sometimes you get greedy. You have a good weekend and you don’t want it to end so you delay by stopping at random places on the way home to extend the good times. This is not a bad thing.

On our way home from Anza Borrego, we stopped by Hill Top Winery in the Valley Center area. shareBearPic895 shareBearPic897

Cute location, though the day was a bit overcast and cold. It was nice to have a couple of glasses of wine to warm up.

After that, we hit up Valley Center Brewery. This was an unpretentious place with a divey-feel, located in a nondescript strip mall. They are able to do this and still have great reviews because their beers are pretty damn good.

Woods Valley Cream Ale: 4.3% ABV. Nutty, vanilla, smooth, light. Very nice cream ale.

Hunza Hill Hefeweizen: 7.2% ABV. Quite the bold one and quite the alcohol content for a hefeweizen. Saison flavors, fruity, warm, with a little bit of a tart edge.

Burnt Mountain Road Smoked Ale: 6.5 ABV. This is a barrel-aged smoked red. It tasted a bit like campfire and leather, in a good way, if you can imagine it. It was unique.

Hellhole Canyon Stout: 6.5% ABV. Smoky, full, deep, tastes of bourbon and coffee.

Morning Star Circle: 5.0% ABV. Belgian IPA. Smooth, creamy, floral, and slightly nutty. It was apparently dry-hopped with lavender which is pretty interesting.

Our bartender was very friendly and helpful. We had a fun tasting experience here. The bear sitting at the other end of the bar was quiet, but I think he was having a good time too.

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Modern Times In The Desert

We joined family up at a campground in Anza Borrego recently. We had just bought a case of a Modern Times variety pack from Costco, and had never tried it, so we brought some to the desert with us. Modern Times has been around for some time now, but I will totally admit I was in no hurry to try it because I had a lingering prejudice against canned beer. Well, after this, no more.

First of all, the red IPA was my favorite, though that’s no shocker. It was deliciously hoppy, powerful, and everything you want in an IPA, except red. It wasn’t timid like typical red beers. It was a brave and wonderful IPA. Their Hoppy Dank Amber was almost just as good for me. It was hoppy and dank indeed. In fact, it had a similar flavor profile to the red IPA, which made it awesome. It didn’t even taste like a typical amber, which can be a bit subtle, indecisive, and boring. On the contrary, this hoppy dank amber was assertive and badass. As you can see on the labeling below, it has 85 IBUs. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s highly irregular for a mere amber beer.

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The tropical wheat was on the lighter and brighter side, but also excellent. I tasted some passion fruit in there, and this actually might be one of my favorite lighter beers, owing to my predilection (or indeed, passion) for passion fruit. I cannot wait for it to be summer so I can drink this on the patio, under the sun, while one of my cats circles my lap jealously. The rustic saison was probably the weakest link of the variety pack, though this is not to say it was not a good beer. Just a little less well-rounded and complete than the rest.

Belle Marie Winery

It’s true that this is mostly a beer blog, but wine drinking adventures are just as fun. I’m pretty sure my palate is too crude to deeply appreciate the complexities of wine, but I do enjoy it almost as much as beer (sometimes). We were driving back on the 15 when I noticed a castle from the freeway. Driving on the 15 is not exactly a rare occurrence, so I must have seen it before, but this time we decided to stop and check it out.

The location is charming, and the grounds are pretty neat. Unfortunately, the photos I took don’t do it justice because I am not a great photographer, and on top of that, the sky was overcast. If you can use your imagination, trust that would be a really cool and romantic place for a picnic and a bottle of wine.

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We had a flight and all of them were pretty good. I particularly liked the 2012 Barbera, which was fruity (berries), smooth, peppery, and a little smoky. The 2013 Grenache had a similar profile – berries, and smoky, but was a bit more tart than the Barbera, and lacked the nice peppery touch. I’m less a fan of the whites, but did like their 2014 Chardonnay, which was buttery, smooth, and light.

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Nice little detour. Next time, I’m stopping by with a picnic basket.