October 22, 2012

Taste of North Park 2012

Mr. Tall and I were so excited and optimistic about our ability to eat and drink at Taste of North Park. Oh yeah, we could totally hit up all fifty-something restaurants, bars, and shops. Boy, did we overestimate our stomachs. This year was the 4th annual Taste of North Park, which is an event where you can sample food, wine, and beer at the numerous restaurants, and sip (a copious amount) craft beer and microbrews while perusing through the shops in the San Diego neighborhood of North Park.

Mr. Tall and I worked our way from Sea Rocket Bistro, down on 30th Street, and through University Avenue. Here are photos of a fraction of the food and drinks that we consumed.

First top: Sea Rocket Bistro's mussels in creamy Ballast Point beer broth and bacon. I love mussels, but am partial to a tomato-based, not cream, broth. So, this was not my favorite version, although the mussels were plump and fresh. The last time Mr. Tall and I stepped into that space was when it used to be The Linkery, which was a long time ago. The restaurant had minimal decor and not much of an ambiance, but I would like to check out their $1 raw oysters every Tuesday night one of these days.

After Sea Rocket Bistro, we made a couple of stops, including at Zensei Sushi, where I was pleasantly surprised by a tasty vegan roll, and The Smoking Goat, where we had shots of watermelon-tomato gazpacho and crispy croutons (which was delicious, although I was hoping they would bust out their duck-fat fries ...). Our next stop was Mosaic Wine Bar, which is in a huge, 2-level space. The top level is a small, gallery area, and downstairs is a wine bar and shop. They were not only serving blanco and rojo sangria, but also offered flatbread pizzas. The pizzas were good, but nothing to write home about. However, the white sangria was refreshingly tasty--the perfect drink for a warm summer, er, fall day.

Mr. Tall and I made our way through several spots that had forgettable samples: Lefty's Chicago Pizzeria (we love Lefty's, but they chose to serve 2 terrible pasta dishes and a vegan pizza aka pizza sans cheese), Eddie's (decent philly cheesesteaks, but I have had better), and Paesano's Fine Italian Food (an old-school, Italian-American spot, but their lasagna was not very good). We walked over to the busier part of 30th Street, and sampled some "loaded" tater tots at True North Tavern (not very good) and fried green tomatoes at Urban Solace. I was super excited to try fried green tomatoes, especially because they were frying them to order--which is an impressive feat! However, I was just not a big fan, perhaps I just don't really like green tomatoes. Urban Solace is a hit or miss for us, so it remains to be seen if we'll ever go back there again.

Oh, and someone brought their pygmy goat--it was so adorable! Here is the owner is feeding it some sort of pet food. I think I may have to convince Mr. Tall to get us one as a pet. Apparently, pygmy goats make great pets (if you have a lot of space), and you can even milk them.

Not surprising there were 2 versions of ceviche. The first was fish ceviche with bacon at El Take It Easy; flavorful, but the ceviche was chopped so finely to a point of mush and their presentation was not very appetizing (they were scooping the ceviche out of a bucket on to a chip). Mr. Tall and I have been to El Take It Easy once and enjoyed the food, so it was disappointing to see that they didn't seem to try very hard or care very much about promoting their restaurant. We had a better version at El Comal, which had a variety of seafood, corn, red onion, and olives. I think Mr. Tall tried a gordita con pollo, which was average. We would like to return to El Comal to try their regular menu offerings because we are always looking for a new, good Mexican restaurant.

At almost every participating shop, you could sample a full cocktail-size glass of beer. Toward the end of our stroll, I was so stuffed with food and beer that I almost couldn't eat or drink any more. So, at Home Mercantile, I asked them for just half a cup of Green Flash Oktoberfest beer. We also sampled beers from Stone Brewery and the Lost Abbey among many others. I'm more of a wine gal, but Mr. Tall prefers beer, so he was happy to have tried a variety of local brews. 

There were a couple of pizza spots along Taste of North Park, including Lefty's, URBN Coal Fired Pizza, and Sicilian Thing Pizza. Unfortunately, Lefty's and URBN left a lot to be desired; URBN didn't even serve pizza! But we were so happy to have finally tried Sicilian Thing Pizza because it was seriously good! Mr. Tall and I usually pick up a whole pie from Pizzeria Luigi's, but we have since converted to Sicilian Thing. They had samples for thick-crust, Sicilian-style pizza and thin-crust pizza. Both were delicious as they were made from the same, amazing dough. We already went back last week and got a Sicilian square, thick-crust pizza. Total carb heaven. 

Mr. Tall and I also checked out Caffe Calabria. Their concept is a bit confusing; it's a coffee and espresso bar, which also serves Neopolitan-style pizza. The common thread is that they both have Italian roots, and they do them really well at Caffe Calabria. They generously offered a choice of a small coffee/espresso drink and a buffet of pizzas! I had a latte flavored with cinnamon and honey, which was delicious. If I lived in North Park and drink coffee and espresso on a regular basis, Caffe Calabria would be my spot. They're not messing around with their pizzas either; they are made in a genuine, Italian wood-fire oven. Great crust, simple sauce, minimal toppings. Considering Mr. Tall's favorite food is pizza, we will definitely go back to Caffe Calabria to enjoy more of their Neopolitan pizza. 

Our last top on Taste of North Park was Heaven Sent Desserts, where they were giving out slices of red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting to everyone as the event was coming to a close.  I had been to Heaven Sent several years ago and was not impressed. I think they have since changed their pastry chef, and this red velvet cake was quite delicious. Mr. Tall and I were so full at this point, after walking around, eating, and drinking for 4 hours, that it was a bit difficult to enjoy this last bit of dessert.

Overall, Taste of North Park was a fun and unique experience--and totally worth $30! We only managed to try about half of the fifty-something restaurants and shops, but loved discovering the neighborhood. We'll have to work up our appetite for next year!




Roger said...

a coffee/espresso bar that also serves pizza... scratching my head over this one.

Was this $30 for unlimited eats? Or do you have a handful of vouchers that you hand in to restaurant owners?

Little Miss Contrary said...

@Roger--Yeah, it's definitely a confusing concept. Fortunately, their pizza and coffee/espresso are pretty good! Also, $30 was for one offering of food and/or beer sample per restaurant/bar/shop. You had a little card that most places would stamp to make sure you don't get seconds :)