Taste of Hillcrest 2014 recap

Only a week after stuffing ourselves at College Area Taste, we were back for more at Taste of Hillcrest! This year’s Taste of Hillcrest was on April 19th 2014 between noon and 4. Dennis and I came out with Oh-So Yummy’s Cathy and Dave, who also joined us last year for Hillcrest’s Taste N Tinis. It seems the Hillcrest events just happen to occur around our birthdays so we’ve been gifted tickets twice! A happy foodie thanks to Cathy!

We already had printed tickets so we started closest to where we parked, at Brazen BBQ. They were promoting a new item to their menu which I think was sweet and spicy tri tip? It was tender but we thought it needed a tad bit more seasoning or maybe a stronger rub flavor. Typical tasting beans were paired with this sample.

Next was the indian buffet at Bombay. I always remember this as the place where you self-serve and possibly eat too much! Everything was fresh because we were first in line! I am always a fan of saag. Cathy commented that the tofu wasn’t that great but the rest of the sauces were. The lychee mousse dessert was sweet and fluffy.

A plate full of samosas! I only sampled one! I thought these were yummy but mine had quite a bit of salt on the outside, which I easily dusted off.

Coming into Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria, everyone was ‘self-seated’, which meant the staff had no idea what order to serve the food in. Also, they weren’t quite ready yet so about half of the tasters left after a couple of minutes. I saw Darlene (from My Burning Kitchen) with Paul seated at the table next to us and exchanged a few words while waiting. Finally we were served some pizzas. The philly pizza slice made me think of a tasty sausage. The veggie pizza slice was a little salty from olives.

At D Bar, we were offered the front one with pesto hummus and the other with quinoa goat cheese and chives which we enjoyed with the soft pliable pita bread. The dessert had a chocolate shell wall enclosing gooey raspberry fillings inside.

At Saigon on 5th, we were served a sample of their delicious sea bass with a fish curry sauce. Their potsticker was fresh out of the frying pan too. The shrimp on the other hand was just so-so. We visited this place a long time ago and had ordered three different sea bass entrees, each with their own unique flavors, and have been meaning to go back, hopefully later this year!

East Village Asian Dinner had Korean BBQ. We saw them at Taste N Tinis where they had only been open for only a few days. They’re still a couple months fresh. The meat was a bit overcooked or perhaps it cooked differently with their outdoor grill? For the amount of meat, there was too much rice. The self-serve monk sauce was strange and complex but the dish would have been dry without it.

I prefer the ground sirloin kabob over the chicken at Luna Grill although both are great choices. I didn't care for the mediterranean salad with its kinda slippery texture.

Next door was Bread and Cie. We saved these treats for later! The chocolate croissant was amazing when toasted in the oven with its chocolate melty center! A little more chocolate would have been even better! The macaroon was standard with a strong coconut flavor.

At Urban Mo’s, they served fried green beans which were actually too crispy and fried for me! They also served pink lemonade which was heavily watered down.

I popped into Fiesta Cantina and grabbed samples for our group. Their Santa Monica Roll was also served at a previous taste event so I didn’t want to fill up on this huge sample. Dennis likes this one and I’m sure I’d enjoy it too if I weren’t getting full from everything else! We also had a mini margarita sample here.

I haven’t heard of Ebas Bar and Bistro before but they sampled multiple items. The mini corndog was yummy but can you really mess that up? The fried zucchini was soft inside and didn’t have enough ‘content’ for me but Dennis thought it was okay. The pizza was relatively plain. The pilaf was overfried and dry but the seasoning seemed like it would have worked had it been cooked well. There was dry salmon on top.

Our next stop was EmpireHouse Urban Palate. The chicken wings were one of our favorites, crispy even to the last of the bucket (that's what we got). The flavor was excellent but a bit on the saltier side. We’d still order it though!

At Ortega’s: A Mexican Bistro, the bean soup was wonderfully presented but ended up being too beany for me (go figure). I couldn't taste the pumpkin influence either and thought it needed a little more spice to it. I like that the toppings gave it texture. For the taco, the tortillas were our favorite style and amazing. The slow roasted carnitas itself was fine but liquid from the pico de gallo washed it out a bit and made the taco a bit too wet.

At Au Revoir, they had some… escargo. It’s still not my thing, and mainly felt like chewing on a mushroom that was super buttery. The chocolate mousse here was tasty like the previous Hillcrest event.

Einstien Bros Bagel had five different mini bagel bite flavors. We saved the asiago cheese and blueberry ones for later. After a mini zap in the microwave, they were soft as new. Dennis thought it was weird to be in ‘bite-size’ form though!

Mmm Pinkberry. I enjoyed my chocolate mint with yogurt chips (love the crunch of those) and Dennis got pomogranate with kiwi. These almost full size samples with toppings were infinitely better than the Yogurtland sample from College Area Taste.

At La Pizzeria Arrivederci, the crust was very thin which I prefer. I would get the pineapple pizza over the pepperoni which was very greasy. I had to pat down the oil before eating!

At Crest Café, we tried their sloppy joe. The pretzel bread was tasty but got soft very fast due to the sauce insides (as expected). The soup was way too strong on the cheesy brie flavoring and we couldn't eat more than a drop.

We're back again at the Tractor room with their fantastic pheasant cognac sausage with fresh chives! Delish! I actually like the spicy mustard on the polenta, which is very fried like tofu but with a better texture on the outside.

At Lotus Thai, we were given mini to-go containers, perfect for eating later. A friend had recommended this place and I can see why. The curry sauce! Even though the corn fritters were tasty, Dennis thought it was a strange sample for a Thai place.

With a name like Oscar’s Mexican Seafood, we were curious to see what they had. Their fish ceviche was just soooooo citrus-y, and probably soaked too long. The soup on the right that they served was super salty with a strong fishy taste. The hibiscus drink in the middle was a perfect thirst quencher at this point in our journey. The lemonade worked better for me because the other drink was a bit sticky sweet for me.

At Harvey Milk Diner, Dennis felt so full already. We think this sample was decent but our stomachs were getting fussy.

I saved the pad thai and chicken sate from Taste of Thai for later. When we tried it, the peanut sauce had mixed in with the pad thai and actually worked well together. I even forgot they started out as two separate items!

Nami Sushi had a very standard California roll with meh crab filling. The chicken was a little on the dry side too. Is it that hard to provide a good sample for a sushi place?

At Local habit, we sampled the pineapple kambucha fermented tea, which was not quite my thing… a bit of a sour taste right? They sampled their four cheese (quattro formaggio) and cremini mushroom pizzas and we wished the samples were bigger! We’ll be back to write about their amazing truffle mac... to be continued.

Rockfire Grill is a new place in the area. They were serving various pizzas and the pizzas changed after we picked up our samples! One was a chicken chipotle stuffed flatbread which didn’t have a lot of filler or chicken. Maybe our sample was too near the crust? The other was a typical pepperoni pizza. Only months ago at Hillcrest’s Taste N Tinis, this place was a brand new Kasi fast food Indian! Wow, fast turnover, just like French Concession...

We came back here since our first attempt looked way too busy. Their brussel sprouts had a really good flavor, were tasty and crunchy with bacon bits but overall a bit oily for me. Actually, the whole restaurant smelled like brussel sprouts. The pasta was just okay. I was scared of the caramel in the dessert but it ended up being quite a treat, light and similar to dulce leches with a caramel top and cream. I remember seeing a fourth food on the plate when we entered the first time but can't remember what it was! Guac?

Our last hit was Fresh Asian Bar and Bistro. They were also planning to have their grand opening that night! Their katsu sample came with standard sauce or their chili sauce. The top sushi piece was easy to go down, but the bottom was cream cheesy. Dennis stays away from sushi with cream cheese and now I’m starting to understand why!

We practically hit everything on the west side except Salt and Cleaver (ran out of food when we got there). There were still 14 other eateries on the east side so I wonder if any other bloggers made it there! It was already 3:30 and we were full and tired of walking so thus ended our adventure.

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Comments

Mary's picture
Submitted by Mary (not verified) on Wed, 05/07/2014 - 9:18am

Man you guys tried so much more than us. Maybe we would have been able to if we had skipped around a little or gotten there a wee bit earlier. That chicken wing from EmpireHouse is still my favorite! I was surprised to see the sloppy joe actually came on a pretzel bun haha - when we went by it was only being served in little cups and it was dreadful. The sample from Taste of Thai looked quite generous, too, almost like a whole meal by itself! Also, what is the sample from Harvey Milk Diner? It sort of looks like a pulled pork sandwich maybe?

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Wed, 05/07/2014 - 1:04pm

So much food! We even quit early this year, but some events we are sampling the entire time. Maybe I should make a "tasty bites leaderboard" page listing the events we attend and how many we managed to get! I bet we could do even more if we didn't have to wait in lines and take the time for pictures haha!

I don't really know what the sample from Harvey Milk Diner was but I'll update the post after I find out. Dennis picked it up (just one) and we were giving those carbs the evil eye because we were practically full. Funny how I still managed to eat a couple more places following that one! I'm a trooper!

J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats's picture
Submitted by J.S. @ Sun Dieg... (not verified) on Fri, 05/09/2014 - 12:17pm

I love Oscar's ceviche because its so lemon-y and the fish stew because its so nice and salty! Haha. Then again I am a citrus and salt fiend, in college everyone used to horrified because when I got carne asada fries I always put lemon and extra salt on them. Definitely not for the faint of heart....

For Oscar's though I think their tacos are definitely their stand out product, don't know why they wouldn't show case though. The surf n turf especially is probably one of our favorites in SD :)

lynn's picture
Submitted by lynn on Fri, 05/09/2014 - 1:35pm

Whoa, I feel like our taste buds are so opposite! I'm not into the extremes!

The yelp reviews at Oscars are really positive. I wouldn't mind giving them another try as long as it's not that soup! I wonder if it was the same salty level as what you usually like or a slipup because of the mass production. I'll take your recommendation of surf n turf for next time though (or you should post about it soon!)

Faye's picture
Submitted by Faye (not verified) on Tue, 05/13/2014 - 9:59am

That is seriously an impressive round up. How did you make room in your stomach for all those samples? Please teach us oh mighty Yoda of tasting events :) This looked like a great event.

dennis's picture
Submitted by dennis on Tue, 05/13/2014 - 10:22am

The secret is to bring tupperware and/or ziplock bags. Eat enough of the sample they give you and then save the rest for later so that you don't fill up too quick!

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