San Diego based food and restaurant review blog. Documenting all types of food, events, and recipes.

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These days, we no longer count candles but instead just enjoy the company of friends, such as this surprise birthday meal at Azuki Sushi in Banker's Hill. Since the restaurant was farther from University Ave, the parking was easy (across the street) on this early weekend dinner. Most of us arrived before the guest of honor.

You can watch the sushi chefs at work if you sit at the bar! Dennis had been here once before but didn’t know about the upstairs enclosed patio area until we were seated there! He thought it had better ambiance and mood lighting verses the brighter front area.

At our table, we were given these huge portions of ginger and wasabi in preparation for the approaching gastronomy.

Oh my... what is there to do during the most festive time of year? Why not have a food and drink adventure in San Diego? For the fourth year in a row, we ventured to Hillcrest for Taste 'N' Tinis on December 8th, 2016 between 4-9pm. Event ticket and martini glass in hand, away we went! Not long after, we were out and about for Toast of Gaslamp on December 10th, 2016 between 1-5pm. Suffice to say, it was a fun weekend! Highlights for each event are below!

Taste 'N' Tinis

One thing we noticed this year is that each location had a huge cooler pre-filled with the drink of the night. This kept the drinks flowing quickly so there was hardly any wait! Also, some locations added ice after pouring to keep the drinks refreshingly cool!

Santa would love this kind of 'milk' and cookies... a little something to keep you toasty warm for the night!

I've been wanting to try Grater Grilled Cheese ever since the first brick and mortar location opened in La Jolla. Before I knew it, there was another one in Mission Valley plus a third one is slated to open in Del Mar in 2017! We had a chance to stop by one of the existing locations (La Jolla) to check out this fast casual restaurant. It was an overcast Saturday afternoon and the beaches weren't as busy as the summer months so we were able to park across the street.

You basically order at the counter then they will bring your food out to you. Friendly Juan was working the front register and recommended a few items, as well as customized combinations that he personally enjoyed. The menu had plenty of grilled cheese options and we decided to try two flavors plus some other food items.

Overhead shot of the goods. I'm excited just looking at the picture again!

Barbecue is one of those things that we have yet to get enough of... so many places in San Diego just waiting to be explored by us! Brazen BBQ Smokehouse & Bar was an enjoyable stop during Taste of Hillcrest, especially this year's sample of Smoked Peruvian Pork with smashed potatoes. With this good thought and the temptation of incredible southern style barbecue, we excitedly rolled through for a media invitation.

The options of indoor seating included picnic tables, booths, and bar stools but the blissful San Diego weather led us to patio tables for grubbing and people watching. Each table had its dutiful paper towel dispenser, of which I was ever so grateful while continually getting my hands messy during the meal!

Smoked Pig Candy 9.99 - Thick bacon slices dusted with our Barnyard Dust and a mix of sugars, smoke to a delicious gooey perfection.

Free Food for the Free Spirited at Flower Child. That newsletter header caught my attention! The restaurant's grand opening was set for December 6th but Pacific San Diego Magazine was promoting an exclusive hosted preview on the prior Friday or Saturday on a first come first serve basis! Of course I signed up to claim a spot which included a plus one.

The restaurant is located at Flower Hill Promenade off I-5 and Via De La Valle. Since it was dinner prime time, parking was a little harder to find in the lot. Dennis ended up parking on the street but another option was the parking structure at the nearby Whole Foods market. We noticed Flower Child took over the space of the former Sea & Smoke restaurant.

Upon entering, my eyes were drawn to these drink fountains of fun! It included three fresh lemonade flavors (pomegranate ginger, flower child lemonade, and organic apple cinnamon) and three tea flavors (black, mango, one more). There were two drink stations in the restaurant, one in front and one in back.

Foie gras sliders, bacon wrapped jalapeno tacos and duck a l'orange meatballs? Yes, just a few of the unique items sampled at Florent Restaurant & Lounge within the last two years. We were recently invited to check out a new protein-driven menu by Chef Brad Hightow. There were 18+ new recipes incorporated for brunch, lunch or dinner! A Wednesday dinner worked best so we parked at Horton Plaza before getting seated at the restaurant.

Blistered Shishito Peppers 7 basil lime / smoked olive oil / cotija

Our first appetizer appeared. This eye-catching array of colors drew me in. There was a slight crisp to the paper thin skin and a wonderful sprinkle of sea salt. I'd say it was just a tiny bit too spicy for my weak spice tolerance but I did enjoy that first bite prior to hitting the seeds! And just because I liked the texture and taste, I attempted a couple more bites before chasing it with the nearest liquid!

Ever tried Italian Japanese food? Don't let that unfamiliar combination keep you away. We were invited to try out this new spot called Shin's La Jolla in downtown La Jolla.

The restaurant was on the second story so it wasn't as easy to spot from outside. They do have a menu at the bottom of the stairs so that you can preview the menu before taking the stairs up to the restaurant.

My favorite sight inside the restaurant. Tree art surrounded by a gorgeous orange-red hue. Wooden beams completed the "forest" look on this wall.

The restaurant had a very simple modern aesthetic look, with easy on the ears jazz music playing in the background. This seemed the perfect ambiance for the lighter fare we enjoyed this evening. The restaurant wasn't too big but it was spacious for the existing guests. We were seated in the corner area so this was our view of the entire restaurant. There's a small outdoor patio on the far right side.

The menu was one page and consisted of a few main sections: appetizer, pasta, and entrees.

Encontro North Park is a quick service restaurant located on the busy intersection of 30th St and University Ave. It's been open less than a year and I've passed by this corner full of curiosity. We finally stopped in for dinner and a meet-and-greet with the new chef!

The seating is open with multiple communal tables and a few tables on the patio. After ordering at the counter, the servers will find you by number and then the feasting begins! One of the walls has a large mural of hops and more art will be added in the future! We visited during October so it was decorated for halloween.

After taking a seat at the window, Executive Chef Jason Hotchkiss came out to greet us personally! He described the menu as paleo style food, mostly meats and greens. Just about everything was made in house too. We suggested that he 'surprise' us since he knew the menu best.

Portobello Fries - crisp fried, shaved parmigiano-reggiano

We began with some appetizers first. This portobello is deep fried and delicious!