Sunday, June 18, 2017

San Diego - Day 1

I made a quick trip to San Diego recently, and while other issues took first priority, where we were going to eat was important.  I had never been to San Diego, but I had been interested in it for a while.  It is a military town, specifically a Navy town (and I was in the Navy) and the military influence is obvious for those familiar with it.  It is right on the border with Mexico so there is also a very Mexican influence, and it is a sea, desert, and mountain town.  I knew ahead of time that it had a pretty good beer scene (and a pretty good punk rock scene), so I was interested to see what there was to see.  I will say that the city was surprisingly small and there was much less traffic than I would have expected.  Living in Norfolk, Va, another big Navy town, for four years, the traffic was much worse, so I was very surprised with how easy it was to get around.  We arrived in early afternoon and decided to grab some tacos while making a plan of attack and went to a place called Sarita's Taco Shop in Spring Valley.  The place was small and simple like a typical taco joint, with counter service and seating for about 20.  Generally, when I go to a taco joint in Chicago, I plan on ordering three tacos for a meal.  I did notice that the prices for a taco here were significantly more than the tacos in Chicago, but I also knew that prices in California are a bit more expensive than those in Chicago, so I decided to play it safe and assume that the tacos here would be the same size as those in Chicago.  It would also allow me to maximize the number of tacos I tried.  They had some interesting types of tacos, so I wanted to try what I could and ordered a Cabeza (Head), Birria (Goat), and a Shrimp Taco.  This place is also known for Carne Asada Fries, so these were ordered as well.  A big reason that the tacos cost more than the standard Chicago taco was that they were enormous.  The three tacos and the fries covered our small table.  I started with something that I knew that I would like, the Shrimp Taco.  The shrimp was chopped, shelled (obviously), topped with Pico de Gallo, and served in two tortillas with limes on the side.  The shrimp was sweet and the Pico tasted very fresh, crisp, and slightly spicy.  The lime added a nice contrast of flavor.  After the shrimp, I went for the Birria.  I had had goat before and liked it, but I had never had a birria taco.  Also served in two tortillas with limes, the goat was tender and shredded.  Texturally, it was like pulled pork, but it tasted nothing like that.  Goat has a slightly gamy flavor and it seems to have been braised in a red salsa because it was red and slightly spicy.  It was topped with Cilantro and Onions.  It was very good and I would happily try it again.  I had seen Cabeza Tacos at taco carts around town, but I had not had the opportunity to try one.  I know that the idea of what it is, the meat off of the skull of a cow, might put some people off, but it's meat and I had no problem with the idea of it.  It was served like the Birria, with two tortillas, limes, and topped with cilantro and onions.  It did, however, have the strongest flavor of the three tacos and was the richest.  As it was the third of three large tacos, it didn't get finished.  The Carne Asada Fries I tried (a few times) and they were very good.  It was like Mexican Poutine with crisp fries, chopped and grilled spicy Skirt Steak, Sour Cream, and Cheese.  While it was possible to eat it by hand, a fork did really help.

After we had accomplished what we came out to accomplish, it was time for a drink or two (and some food to help soak up the alcohol).  I had wanted to go to Pizza Port, a regionally famous chain of brew pubs associated with (although independent of) Stone Brewing located in the area known for both their beer and their pizza with many located on the beach.  Fortunately or unfortunately, I read the map wrong and we went to an area where I thought there was a Pizza Port, but was mistaken.  We went to Coronado, a peninsula on the ocean with a lot of Navy presence.  It is very pretty and while we did walk around, it would have been nice, if we had had the time to explore some more.  Luckily, we discovered that there is a brewery located on Coronado, the surprisingly named Coronado Brewing Company.  Located on the north side of the peninsula near one of the many naval bases, it is a low-slung brick building with a Naval/seaside theme.  It was pretty busy, so we had some time to look around before we were seated.  The floors were tile and there was a lot of polished wood that looked very vintage and reminded me of a sailing ship.  Looking into the brewing area, I was very surprised to see Copper Brewing Kettles.  Most kettles nowadays are stainless or aluminum.  There are advantages to copper, it removes sulfites, and provides a micronutrient for the yeast, but it is expensive and the actual differences are small.  It does look really cool in the brewery though.  They also had a one quart canning machine for crowlers (can half-growlers) behind the bar which looked pretty cool.

Before I was seated, I took a look at the beer list and saw that I flight would be in order.  I started, while we were waiting, with a Stay Kolsctal Kolsch.  It was light with a nice flavor, slightly fruity, with a dry finish, and would be a great summer beer.  When we were seated, we went with flights.  It could have been possible to choose 5 IPAs and while I like an IPA, it is generally not my first choice.  I like to experience other flavor profiles than simply hoppy.  Having said that I did choose a few IPA variations.  My list started with Waste the Day XPA, an experimental pale ale that varied the hops from batch to batch.  This batch was lightly hoppy with a slightly funky flavor.  It continued with Waylaid White IPA which was light, starting with a citrus flavor and finishing with a Belgian Saison funk, Conquista IPA (a collaboration with Cigar City Brewing of Tampa Florida, a collaboration I have to wonder how it happened), Sealift Hefeweizen. and Old Scallywag Barleywine, which was my favorite and had the highest alcohol content.  My partner's flight was similar although exchanged Stay Kolsctal Kolsch for the Waste the Day XPA and the Undertow Hoppy Red for the Conquista IPA.  The beers were all very good and despite having several IPAs, they were all very different and they did have several beers that were not IPAs.  As I had had a very large lunch, food was not big on my mind, although I figured that it probably would be a good idea to eat,  I decided to go with an appetizer (which turned out almost big enough for a full meal), the Calamari which were served with Lemon, Tartar Sauce, and Cocktail Sauce.  Despite being breaded and fried, they were some of the tenderest calamari that I have ever had.  The breading was crisp, but the calamari just melted in my mouth.  While I was served both tartar and cocktail sauce and did try both, I thought that these were better with the spicy sweet of the cocktail sauce.  The rest of the menu had a variety of seafood, as well as salads, burgers, pastas, and pizza and did look good.  My partner ordered a fish taco and some very good mussels (not pictured) in a garlic pilsner sauce and served with crispy garlic bread.  Everything was very good and we left nicely full to end day one of our trip. 


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