destination: san diego (feat. barista jay) pt.1

the year was 2011. my fascination for german altbier and michigan saisons was still nascent when i first met master barista jay-a fellow wolverine, engineer, and snob. if i were asked to pick one person who could fully grasp my penchant for gourmet foods and craft beers, it would, without doubt, be jay. as a result, i’ve welcomed third wave coffee to the list. (remember portola? well, jay helped me find it!)

jay the photographer-at-the-moment, but really, a barista

thankfully, having been a seattleite, i knew better than to check boxes on a cup stamped with a green twin-tailed-siren (ironic, perhaps?). but ordering a mochaccino (read: mocha + cappuccino) with a black cat blend wasn’t all that impressive either. likewise, jay was drinking blue moon. there was much to be explored for the both of us.

our interests blended well together and brewed something extraordinary-we not only shared passion for great food, but also for each others’ interests in tasty beverages. i explained the articulate balance of hops and malts while he taught me the importance of ‘rule of 15′. his first sip was a weihenstephaner hefeweissbier (also taught him how to pronounce it!), and mine, a latte with a blend from red bird coffee of montana. since then, we’ve been exchanging our discoveries.

paninoteca maggio chef sharron working on our paninis

for the memorial day weekend, jay flew out from ann arbor to rescue me from the doldrums. just in time for jay’s arrival, paninoteca maggio had its grand opening. located in santa ana, paninoteca maggio isn’t your everyday panini cafe. chef sharron decided one day to drop everything, fly out to italy (he’s italian) and attend a culinary school. he then came back to stateside to open his own restaurant.

the eight italian cities!

jay and i picked amalfi and toscana. amalfi (prociutto, mozzarella, tomatoes, arugula, basil pesto, balsamic glaze) and toscana (porchetta, crispy skin, arugula, and lemon aioli) were nothing short of perfection. however perfection comes with a pinch of caveat: roma is rather pedestrian and could probably use a bit of tweak to deserve its place on the menu board.

paninoteca maggio
195 e city place dr

santa ana, ca 92705

overall: ☆☆☆½
price: $

looking over the bluffs of la jolla

since this is a post about the trip to san diego, i will start with a preface for it (within an already lengthy preface!). if it weren’t for san diego, i’d probably have a very hard time explaining where irvine is. so i casually say ‘oh, it’s halfway between l.a. and san diego‘. however geographically inaccurate, it gets the job done. so thank you san diego (or as socal indigenes would call it, s.d.)

our first stop was la jolla. a cliché i know, but for a michigander, it’s an eye-opener: can’t beat the sight of wild seals taking a bath on the formations.

seals being ‘seally’

as usual, parking was a nightmare. so we enjoyed a brisk walk down to the cliffs. we observed 20-somethings in their bikini tops and torn jean shorts, casually riding their sun-faded beach cruisers, barefooted surf boys in their wetsuits with boards tucked to their sides, and artists with their wooden easels erect on the cliffs, capturing the aura onto their canvasses.

red & gold roasted beets salad!

since our trip was mostly charted around restaurants, i will actually start talking about one. prep kitchen of la jolla was at an unassuming location, next to ralph’s. industrial but cozy. we took a seat in the patio and perused the menu. it was a hot, somewhat humid day and we wanted something to freshen us up. beets and tangerines. with a handful of watercress, dried cranberries, sliced almonds, and goat cheese, the roasted beet (red & gold!) salad definitely brought us to life again.

bacon-wrapped dates, goat cheese & golden beets, and quinoa pilaf trio

for our second menu, we settled on a dish, also with beets. we had a trio of well-prepared bacon-wrapped dates, beets with goat cheese, and a quinoa pilaf. can’t go wrong with bacon and dates, alone or together.

prep kitchen
7556 fay ave

la jolla, ca 92037

overall: ☆☆☆½
price: $$

since our secondary objective was to explorer the coffee situation in san diego, we had to visit a café in la jolla as well. we started the day with a kyoto from portola, the first (and only) stop in san diego was bird rock coffee roasters. other than the fact that it had a gorgeous-looking strada machine (yellow letters!), the coffee was rather bland. we each ordered a macchiato and it came with a small sugar cookie!

macchiatos with sugar cookies

bird rock coffee roasters
5627 la jolla blvd
la jolla, ca 92037

overall: ☆☆☆½
price: $½

did i mention that jay has almost no tolerance for caffeine? that’s almost as bad as me being allergic to hops! speaking of which, if you’re a massive hops addict, go out and get yourself a bottle (or two) from lagunitas (little sumpin’ sumpin’ ale or maximus ale are my go-to brews).

while you grab that, i will continue on with the second part of the san diego trip. i will start with café chloe and actually end with it. because the restaurant simply deserves its own post!

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