travel

Dennis and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary in the city of Paris, France. You can't explore the city of love without some good eats, right? We were in the city for a couple of days sightseeing (read our 3 days in Paris - itinerary and tips post) and picked restaurants close to the hotel and nearby our tourist destinations. Below we describe what we found and what we thought of them.

Despite being close to the border, I have never been to Mexico. This summer, I finally took the plunge for a foodie day trip led by Scott Koenig, frequent traveler and author of A Gringo in Mexico. After picking up two friends in Mission Valley, my assistant navigators directed me to to the last highway exit before Mexico. The border parking lot had cheaper rates on weekdays, only $8 instead of $15, for up to 12 hours, with payment secured by credit card. Scott picked us up there and away we went! The border gate delay was short going into Mexico, which mostly consisted of being asked purpose and length of time for our trip.

Tijuana was our first stop. Mariscos Ruben truck, one of the top 50 street vendors per Scott, had an extensive salsa bar with over 15 flavors to spice up your meal!

Exploring the city can be fun, especially if it involves food. The Bite San Diego tours are created to spotlight a few eateries as well as teach some history about a particular area of town. Downtown/Little Italy was my choice for a makeup tour (following the La Jolla tour).

A friend and I walked into Royal India a little before noon, where our friendly tour guide Hank was gathering the other people attending the tour.

Hank hails from New York and told us a little about himself and the tour, then ushered us towards the buffet. Can there be a better start than this? I mostly remember how much I enjoyed stuffing every tasty food item right into my mouth. Royal India is worth revisiting in the future!

Upon exiting the restaurant, I noticed this awesome status with a bowl. It held cardamon fennel, which is supposed to help with digestion when you chew on it but boy was the flavor potent!

San Diego is a wonderful city to live in and it's nice to discover things about where you live. We were invited to check out a Bite San Diego tour and after browsing the options, Dennis and I settled on their La Jolla tour.

We met up at the starting location of Ohana, a family owned restaurant serving homestyle Hawaiian food. Our tour guide David was easy to spot, the guy keeping an eye out for all the other "lost" folks who would be joining us that afternoon.

Everyone waited at the tables until the whole group had arrived. David started the tour with a quick intro, then started passing out the food. This is the point where you mingle with the other folks. Or keep to yourself, your choice! 

Our first bite was this kahlua pork and coconut rice. I have to say that coconut rice was damn delicious with its shreds of coconut, partially toasted, and a little bit of coconut creaminess. The shredded pork was tender and juicy too so we were fans of this sample.

One restaurant wasn't enough to experience Texas BBQ. Dennis and I needed more after visiting Harmon's Barbecue! The next day we headed to another recommendation, a little further east than the last.

City Market is situated in the little town of Luling. The whole city population is under 6k. When googling, I also found a "Luling City Market" in HOUSTON, approximately 140 miles away, but they are unrelated. Added to my Texas food list!

When we got to the parking lot, there was a really strong smell of oil or similar. We noticed these oil rigs across the street. Not sure if they were real and/or in working condition but we were in Texas after all where gas is cheap! We hustled inside to get away from the smell.

As much as I love Cali, it's still nice to visit the home state of Texas once in a while. There was also a small mission set for this trip... check out some of the Texas BBQ scene that I missed while growing up here. The only BBQ joint I remember eating was the local joint. They practically catered for the whole town, including at my mom's wedding! I needed to expand that experience!

We met my high school friend and her family at Harmon's BBQ, which was close by their home. Immediately to the left of the restaurant is a BBQ Crossing! I already thought that was a good sign! Pun intended. You can also glimpse a peek at their smoker in the shed. Not sure why they didn't lock the gate per the sign.

Here's the restaurant entrance. It's the same wooden color as the walls so you could miss it if you weren't paying attention. That may have happened to us...

Food preview...

After basking in the breathtaking beauty of the Grand Canyon, we headed out of that wilderness into a different kind of wild... the lively Las Vegas strip. After a few hours on the road, we finally arrived at our hotel, the MGM Grand.

The main reason we selected the MGM Grand Hotel? It was listed as having one of the top 10 pools in Vegas!

Presenting the long and winding lazy river in the Grand Pool Complex...

Even without tube rentals, you can easily ride the gentle current while traversing the various areas including the simulated rain droplets or occasional spouting fountains.

After visiting the Grand Canyon last year, Dennis and I hit up Las Vegas for a couple of days before returning to San Diego. We decided to venture off the strip for one of our meals and I set my sights on Firefly on Paradise. Tapas here we come!

Firefly had a really cool looking bar area and artsy bright decor. I loved all the red and orange accents!

We were the first customers of the day so had our pick of seating. The shady patio area seemed perfect for the warm but comfortable weather.

Dennis ordered a delicious Cherry Mule to start. It was a tad bit heavy on the ice but the awesome copper mug kept it ICE COLD. In fact, Dennis couldn't help himself and ended up ordering his own copper mugs for home use! Drinks anyone?