joanna irl

Happy Doughnut Day 2015!

Beavers Donuts, mini doughnutsToday is National Doughnut Day in the US, one of our multitudinous holidays celebrating things that are random about mostly involve food. Not ones to pass up an opportunity for a good doughnut, though, we happily participated at a new-found gem: Beavers Donuts + Coffee in the French Market in downtown Chicago. We got a variety to try: from left to right, the June special (Oreo cream), cinnamon, and powdered sugar. So, so good. No-one does mini doughnuts like they do in the midwest. I have to give them credit for that.

joanna irl

An evening with Extraordinary Desserts

Extraordinary Desserts, cake case

The other night, a friend and I decided to try a new-to-us place called Extraordinary Desserts. The location we visited is only about a mile and a half from my house, and it was incredible. This is the same-day cake counter. They do wedding cakes and catering and the like, but they also have a huge walk-up dessert counter, plus a large selection of teas and coffees.

Extraordinary Desserts, with tea

The line took about 25 minutes, from the time we joined it to the time we sat at our table, but then our tea and desserts came out almost immediately. Considering the fact that it was Friday night, the wait wasn’t bad at all. And wow was it worth the wait. We ordered a roobios chai tea to split, and a raspberry tart (not my order so I don’t remember exactly what it was) that tasted amazing. And then I had my bread pudding.

Extraordinary Desserts, bread pudding

The bread pudding was one of the specials and just beautiful. I hadn’t ordered ice cream with it (so glad, it’d be too rich with it, I think) but that scoop on the side? That’s the real deal, homemade whipped cream. SO GOOD. The bread pudding is made with chocolate croissants and very light, all things considered. I couldn’t finish it by a mile, so I brought the vast majority of it home. This will definitely warrant a return trip.

joanna irl

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.

joanna irl

A couple of random photos from my new camera

I got a new point and shoot camera for Christmas (sometimes it’s nice to just have one with you, so you don’t have to lug around a full size camera bag; this one fits nicely in my purse!), and pulled a few photos off of it. First, seeing The Hobbit in 3D with my sister:

J and E see The Hobbit movie

We were both a little excited..

The next one is of a really good Mexican dinner I had the other night. If you come to visit me, I’ll take you to this place.

Mexican food

And lastly, Caspian has been very whiny lately, and I haven’t been able to figure out why. He stands over my shoulder, or at my feet, or wherever and yells nonstop. Finally he leaped onto the back of my desk chair and clung there, and I realized at least one of the things he wanted: he likes to “koala” on the chair while I type (hang onto the chair back, while I sit backwards in the desk chair, so he’s kind of in my lap and watching the computer screen). So here he is. ^_^

Caspian koala cat

Happy kitty. Of course, it makes it hard to type… which is why you should appreciate these posts all the more because half of the time they are written around the cat. ~_^