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February Food Diary, San Diego Edition

February was a fun foodie month for me. The month was filled with repeat visits to some of my favorite spots along with a new discovery as well. Food is such a fantastic way to connect with others. Whether it's with your significant other on a date night, a family member, or your friends, you'll always find that eating a meal with others is a great source of connection with them. Join me on my San Diego February foodie journey by reading ahead. Feel free to drop me a note and share some of your favorite restaurants in San Diego; I just may add them to my list of places to check out and feature them in my future Food Diary posts.

This swanky bar opened in the Bird Rock neighborhood of La Jolla just six months ago and is certainly off to a great start. The tropical interior of the historic space is not only uber chic, but it's the kind of place that makes you want to get a bit more dressed up than usual. The large, u-shaped bar is a great spot for perfectly crafted cocktails and delicious appetizers. I've dined here for a full dinner and find it rather expensive for the small portions. However, for just drinks and apps, which will set you back $100 for two drinks and two appetizers (not including tax or gratuity), I do love the scene here and the extremely fresh ingredients used by both mixologists and kitchen staff to deliver some memorable drinks and bites. My favorite dishes here have consistently been the beet salad (this dish is sooooo good) and the tempura halibut lettuce wraps. Their cocktail list is presented in a descriptive, colorful catalog of boozy options ensuring that you'll return several more times to sip your way through the menu. In my opinion, a seat at the bar at Paradisaea is the ultimate date night spot.

You'll likely find me and my daughter at The Flower Pot almost every Sunday morning for our weekly ritual of mother/daughter bonding time. We religiously order two iced hot chocolates (ie chocolate milk over ice), one chocolate croissant to share, one bean and cheese burrito, and one breakfast burrito which is normally stuffed with eggs and cheese but I like to add black beans for added protein. Although these are our all-time favorite items you can't go wrong with ordering anything on the menu. My husband loves their tuna sandwiches, while our two teen boys pretty much inhale any sandwich the kitchen staff prepares. This neighborhood cafe is the epitome of a neighborhood hub where locals lounge on the colorful front patio sipping on their lattes with friends and family. Amanda, the owner, is often there to greet her guests in a friendly manner. The staff here especially love furry friends and eagerly prepare puppuccinos (a cup of whipped cream) and hand out other tasty treats to their four-legged patrons. We have been loyal customers at their previous and current locations. It's been a year and a half of eating here almost every week and we're still not sick of it.

I love the story behind Puesto which is the brainchild of La Jolla High School friends who opened up this neighborhood favorite together and have successfully expanded the concept to several locations. Whether you want to sit on the heated, expansive outdoor patio or in the colorful indoor space, you'll find a lively environment throughout. I think the food is good here, but not great. However, their margaritas and housemade chips, salsas, and guacamoles are insanely delicious and have me returning over and over again. This Mexican joint is a great go-to spot for a girl's night out, which is generally when I end up here because nothing pairs better with a little gossiping sesh with the gals than a mean margarita.

If I had to list my five favorite restaurants in all of San Diego, Catania would make that small list. I have loyally eaten here over a dozen times and would have dined here even more often except that getting a reservation here is quite challenging (so plan ahead!). The four dishes I must order every time I visit, and that are consistently extraordinary, are the Farmer's Market Green Salad, Wood Roasted Cauliflower, Arancini, and Wild Mushroom Pizza. The ingredients chosen to create these exceptional dishes are quite simple yet extremely fresh and favorable. The outdoor patio has gorgeous sunset views although I like eating inside so that I can admire the details that comprise the interior decor, which is warm and unpretentious. I'm making my next reservation at Catania the second I am done publishing this article.

Manhattan of La Jolla does a fantastic job of creating a mafia-era eatery with leather banquet seating, brick walls, a piano player, and a homemade New York cheesecake that will put any cheesecake made in New York to shame. At any moment it feels like Joe Gambino can walk through the doors. This is a lively restaurant with an eclectic mix of diners comprised of different age groups who seemingly flock from other neighborhoods for an enjoyable night out. As the night progresses you'll find people dancing to the tunes of the live singer in their suits and skimpy dresses. The ambiance here is simply pure fun. You'd expect an establishment like this to make superb cocktail, but sadly they do not. Stick to a simple drink, like a vodka tonic. The food is solid. Not amazing, but not disappointing either. The Caesar salad is prepared table side, which is a nice touch. Their desserts are the highlight of the menu so make sure to leave some room for this decadent experience. Although the restaurant is one of the few in La Jolla that remains bustling past 9:00 pm, expect the staff to politely ask you to wrap it up when they turn on the lights brightly at 10:30 pm. We lingered here with our friends over a three-and-a-half-hour dinner and would have stayed longer if we weren't reminded to leave. Manhattan is just the kind of space where you want to dawdle with a drink in hand, people-watch, and have an overall entertaining weekend night out.

I look forward to delving into March with many more dishes in new places to bite into!


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