Taste of Hillcrest

Last Saturday, J and I set out to explore a new-to-us (but within walking distance of our house) part of San Diego. Namely, we got tickets to the Taste of Hillcrest event, with over fifty vendors (mostly area restaurants) offering bite-size portions of their food along a walking route of a couple of miles. The event was four hours long, of which we managed about two and a half before getting completely full (maybe we shouldn’t have gone to all of the rize-serving-places in a row…) but we finished most of the loop nonetheless and then enjoyed the walk back home.

Having about 30 samples of foods and beverages might sound overwhelming, and to an extent it was, but I collected business cards of the places I especially liked, plus a handful of them stand out in my memory. So here I offer my favorite “meal” in four tastes.

Appetizer: 100 Wines
When we saw 100 Wines on the list, we assumed a wine taste, but when we walked past them, we discovered they were serving pizza and lamb meatballs. While I didn’t try the lamb (J assures me it was very good), the pizza was some of the best I think I’ve ever had. Seriously. It had the perfect crispiness to the crust, the sauce wasn’t overpowering, and the cheese was lovely. I fully intend to go back and order an entire pizza from them sometime very soon.

Beverage: Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale
I’m not much of a beer drinker, but there were some local craft breweries participating in the event, and this was the one I liked best. The beer itself is an English style pale ale and was served very cold, which was perfect on that hot afternoon. It didn’t leave a heavy aftertaste and was very crisp.

Main: Origano
Origano was on the southern-most loop of the walk, and also a bit of a surprise. They were serving pasta, and I was already feeling the effects of a couple of tastes involving rice (seriously, the Indian and Thai places were all beside each other on the walking map) so I wasn’t especially hungry, but the pasta was so good I finished it. They serve handmade pasta and their sauces aren’t your “traditional” marinara. I wish I’d written down the name of the pasta we tried, though I’m sure if we go for dinner, they will point me in the right direction.

Dessert: Babycakes
There weren’t many dessert places on the list, and while I really like Fiji Yogurt and the bakery place had pretty good brownies, Babycakes was a very nice surprise. Their sample was a tiny cupcake with their buttercream frosting. I’m not normally a buttercream person, but this frosting was light, fluffy, and wasn’t overpoweringly sweet. They had a nice area for seating, and a full cafe menu that I want to go back and try.

All of these places (or drink, in the case of Firestone) were new to us, and we plan on going back for table service sometime soon. To me, that’s the real test of a place, though I have to admit that it was quite a feat for each restaurant to get over 1000 sample-size bites to taste that good. Nothing tasted like it had been sitting out, and a couple of times we had to wait while the next small batch finished cooking. It was a great way to try a wide variety of local places and to get out and walk around the area on a beautiful afternoon. We’ll definitely go back next year.

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