Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hello summer

Friday evening was the first official night of the summer and one spent at Ian Johnston’s wedding reception, which was beautiful and full of love, life and spirit just like the Johnston family. There were friends, family, dancing, cake and of course the ever important task of decorating the honeymoon car.

One of the things I love most about Mormons is how much importance they place on doing things as a family, even if that activity is toilet papering (as demonstrated here by the adorable Emily Brown).

Friday was also the start of a sweltering summer heat wave and it stayed in the 80’s long after the sun had set which made a late dinner at the Linkery all the more enjoyable. It was my first visit to the Link since they moved a few blocks north. The new location is much more spacious than the previous but still feels just as neighborly and cozy as their last digs, due largely in part to the delightfully friendly staff. One of my favorite parts about the new place (aside from all the extra room and not having to wait long for a table) is the design of the exterior walls. The walls are mobile and remind me of garage doors as they can roll up completely to allow all of the fresh outside air in on a warm summer night (such as Friday) and can just as easily be rolled down to keep the chill out during cooler months.

To start I ordered a glass of Happy Canyon Chucker 2007, a Bordeaux style blend from Santa Barbara. I am still not much of an expert when it comes to picking wines so I choose this one because typically I enjoy Bordeaux’s and I still had Santa Barbara on my mind from our recent holiday there, plus it helps that all of the wines offered on the Link’s menu are consistently delicious. But this wine was not just delicious it was AMAZING! Layered with rich flavors of berries and a subtle hint of spice, it was bold like a cab but with an exceptionally smooth, velvety finish leaving your tongue both satisfied with the lingering flavor from the last taste and anxious for another sip at the same time. Really it was one of the most enjoyable glasses of wine I have ever tasted. I probably could have drunk another glass (or bottle) but I resisted and instead slowly savored the one glass and promised myself I would order a bottle for the house soon. Along with the wine we had the Stone Fruit Salad which had flavorful greens, rich goat cheese and of course fruit. Juicy plums, apricots, nectarines, and cherries all at the peak of their tasty season served with a sweet, fruity dressing on the side.

Normally it’s hard for me not to get a main entrée that involves one of their delicious sausage links but seeing that it was pretty late in the evening when we arrived the main links I wanted were already 86ed so I decided to try something that had caught my eye a few times before. White Sea Bass served atop perfectly spiced sautéed summer veggies.

It was light, fresh, flavorful and absolutely perfect for a hot summer night’s dinner. As always dining at the Link did not disappoint, delicious food prepared by wonderful people in a fabulous new location. I could have stayed for one of their delicious desserts (my favorite being the decadently delicious Oaxacan Chocolate Ice Cream accompanied by a freshly ground and pressed pot of coffee) but because it was so late I decided it would be best to call it a night and head home as my brother was to be coming into town tomorrow morning and we had made plans to go for a family breakfast at one of my mom and Hammy’s favorite restaurants, The Original House of Pancakes.

Saturday morning I awoke bright and kinda early (9am, not too bad for a Saturday). Chris arrived home just as I was leaving for the gym. We exchanged hugs and hellos and then I scurried off to squeeze in a quick workout while he unpacked. By 11:00am Chris was unpacked, I was showered, mom and Hammy were home, and we were all hungry as can be. It was also already 100 degrees outside! And what pray tell you may ask did we decide to eat on such a sweltering day? Pancakes of course! Mom and Hammy are frequent visitors to the Original House of Pancakes on Pomerado Road and on their last visit they noticed a little card on the table announcing the recent addition of Gluten Free Pancakes to their menu (yay!). Of course as soon as she learned of this addition my sweet mom called me to share the exciting news and said as soon as I had some free Saturday morning time she wanted to treat me to a gluten free pancake breakfast. There is no better way to get me to clear some time in my schedule than family and so as soon as Chris came into town and said he wanted to meet up Saturday our gluten free pancake breakfast date was set and we were not going to let a silly thing like a heat wave stop us from enjoying our hot fluffy pancakes! It did however stop us from ordering coffee, when the girl came by the table holding a hot pot of steaming coffee we all shuddered a little, politely declined, and requested four ice waters instead. For breakfast I ordered the gluten free pancakes, of course. They came with the option of adding blueberries or bananas to the batter, I choose to get blueberries since I had eaten banana oatmeal every day of the previous week, plus one of my favorite late night meals when I was vegan some time ago were the whole grain pancakes with blueberries from Keith’s diner in Miramar. When our plates arrived Chris and I were both in shock at the portion sizes.

I think my one plate of pancakes could have easily fed two people and I think Chris’s platter of sourdough pancakes came with even more flapjacks than mine did. After sharing one of my pancakes with Hamilton and Chris I was able to finish a little more than half of the cakes on my plate. The pancakes were pretty good, thick and fluffy on the inside and golden brown on the outside. Cooking gluten free foods at home has made me into a bit of a food snob so I must admit I still prefer the ones I make at home but for a Saturday morning breakfast outing with the fam in a town full of gluteny chain restaurants being able to order gluten free pancakes was a yummy treat. I think it’s great that a place that typically only serves gluten laden bready foods can have a nice gluten free bready option as well. I run into so many families these days where only one child out of two or three in the family might have a need to be gluten free. Most of the time I only have to worry about feeding one gluten free me, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to prepare or order healthy affordable meals for a family with different dietary wants, needs and restrictions. Cheers to Original Pancake House for having affordable and delicious pancakes that the whole family can enjoy!

After our delicious breakfast we headed home for a leisurely afternoon of relaxation, iced coffees, and catch up chit chat. Later in the afternoon Steve popped by to visit for a bit and to pick me up for our outing with our favorite married couple, the Fords.

Justin and Kelly picked us up at Steve’s in Southpark and from there we headed downtown to the gaslamp for drinks and small bites at a place near the ballpark on the corner of G Street called Neighborhood Restaurant. Neighborhood is the Gaslamp’s take on a neighborhood sports bar. So like any good sports bar they have burgers, beer and fried things but they make it their own by fancyfying the typical bar food with things like sweet potato fries and burgers topped with gruyere cheese, sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions. They also have an extensive list of beers from near and far and are very good about serving them in the appropriate glasses. I looked through the beer list just to see what exciting offerings they had and saw something wonderful that caught my eye…

Gluten free beer, and a good one at that! This tasty brew hailed from Belgium and was brewed using millet, rice, buckwheat and sorghum. I was beside myself with excitement and tempted to order another delicious bottle to sneak into the ballgame we were headed to afterwards but I resisted for fear that my beer smuggling efforts would be unsuccessful and I would be forced to chug the bottle before entering the park (visions of me being forced to hastily drink a good beer wrapped in my Kate Spade purse while sitting on the curb out front of the park…not pretty). So I stuck with one beer which turned out to be a good idea because as a non beer drinker I am not accustomed to drinking such a voluminous intoxicating beverage so I am not sure I could have fit a second one in my belly even if I had wanted to. In addition to gluten free beer I also ordered a Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese salad with an infused mouse. The whole salad sadly turned out to be pretty bland. I can’t recall what type of dressing was suppose to be on it but it pretty much just tasted like leafy greens coated with oil and there was no goat cheese anywhere to be found. The mouse was the worst part it pretty much tasted like thick flavorless cream that did nothing for the palate but coat it in a creamy film. The beets were good but tasted exactly the same as the ones I buy in the veggie section of Trader Joes. I also ordered the Parmesan and Truffle Coated Popcorn.

Normally I am not a huge fan of popcorn (probably due to working at a movie theater for nearly 8 years) but I had previously had popcorn with truffle at Blanca in Solana Beach that was quite scrumptious so I could not resist when I saw it on the menu at Neighborhood. The presentation was cute, a paper popcorn bag on a plate overflowing with popcorn. The corn was visibly speckled with bits of butter, cheese and specks of Italian flat leaf parsley and it tasted of the same. What it did not taste of one bit was truffle, I don’t know if they forgot or if they thought they could leave it off since I was wearing my hair in pigtails and looked like I was 12 and thought that I might not know what truffle tastes like and not even miss it but I do know what it tastes like and that did not. It was decent cheesy popcorn which as far as popcorn goes is one of my favorite flavors, but it was not the truffle popcorn flavor I was anticipating so I was slightly disappointed. But not terribly disappointed because the beer was still amazing and I am sure that there are other items on their menu that are scrumptious like their burgers or the Crispy IPA buds that the Fords ordered (battered and fried balls of jalapeño mashed potatoes served with a cheese dipping sauce). I am sure I will return again someday, maybe not for food but definitely for the gluten free beer (unless of course I could somehow talk them into changing the oil for me and frying up a non contaminated batch of sweet potato fries).

After we finished up at Neighborhood we headed up the street to the ballpark just in time to catch the end of the National Anthem and watch the first pitch. It was a close game there for a little while which made the game exciting, but the Padres ended up losing which was slightly expected but still sad. What was not sad were our awesome seats.

Field level, front row, and the best seats at a game I have ever had. You could hear the players in the outfield talking and see the grass stains on their white uniforms! Much thanks to the Fords and Kelly’s pop for hooking us up with the spectacular seats. We were seated next to a charming gentleman known as Harry the Heckler that provided witty commentary throughout the game and was kind enough to take a picture of us.

Steve noticed that he also had awesome shoes (as captured in this super secret camera footage).

At the end of the game there were fireworks, which we watched from the top of our parking garage as to avoid getting stuck in traffic on our way out (it was actually a pretty great viewing spot).

From there we headed northwest a few blocks to Extraordinary Desserts on Union Street. I had a scrumptious blueberry tea with soy milk and honeycomb ice cream with fresh berries. The ice cream was decadent! It tasted exactly like honey and even had bits of honeycomb nestled at the bottom of the dish. It was almost too sweet to be served with berries though and would probably been better served solo with an espresso or with a piece of buttery shortbread on the side. The other desserts enjoyed at the table were gorgeous and judging by the squeals of delight and empty plates were equally scrumptious as well. After we all had our fill of desserts we said our goodbyes and headed home to slip into a sweet sugar induced sleep.

Sunday started off like most days, a trip to the gym, a refreshing shower and a big bowl of banana nut oatmeal. What made this Sunday stand out from all of the previous weeks Sundays was that this Sunday was day three of 100 degree heat and all of the running about, cooking, eating and fun having in said weather was starting to catch up with some of us. It was 12:30 and I had a family party to be at by 3:00, not really enough time to do anything terribly productive, especially when I was feeling so sluggish. I washed up the dishes and headed into the living room where I noticed Hamilton, fast asleep in one of the zero gravity chairs and that’s when it hit me. I ran straight to my room, put back on my pajamas and hopped into bed. I used to love taking naps and it had been so long since I had taken one, I was almost too excited about the prospect of taking a nap to actually fall asleep but I did and it was awesome! I awoke feeling refreshed, energized and ready to head outside into the heat to Santee for the outdoor 1st birthday celebration for my cousin’s adorable daughter, Brianna.

At the party it was hot but there was a nice breeze (albeit a warm one) that kept everyone from baking too much. Of equal help in keeping everyone cool were the washcloths brought by my Aunt Leah and the squirt guns brought by my mom. Grams Eleanor and Uncle Rick came too which was a nice surprise as I was not sure they would make it out due to the heat. Brad and Jen are such loving parents and put on a great party complete with delicious food, a bouncy castle (that I myself would have been in had it not been so hot), pretty pink decorations, and even cute pre packed bags of duck food for feeding the feathered pond friends. Everyone had a great time, especially the birthday girl.

She’s going to fit in perfectly in this food loving family. I can’t wait to teach her all about the deliciousness of gluten free baking someday!

After the party we headed home with the ac blasting. Even though it was still pretty hot when we got home I turned the oven on anyhow to prep some oatmeal bars and bread for the week. I promised sandwiches for next weeks lunches and I’ll be dammed if I am going to let a little old thing like a heat wave keep me from baking!

No comments: