A curious journey in the kitchen…

For my birthday my loving hubby bought me a cooking class… and he found just the right one.  HipCooks is a local place that does all kinds of fun classes, and since I just LOVE spanish food he signed me up for the tapas class.  Although I’m pretty comfy in the kitchen, it seemed that no matter the skill level, everyone had a great time.  We made a round of food, sat and ate it (along with some wine), then went back to the giant island and put together another round of food.  We all left full, happy and excited to try it all at home.

Since they are not my own recipes I will just say, these are all delicious so go try the class if you’re up for it!

These empanadas were ah-mazing.image

Stuffed piquillo peppers… image

The whole group helps out as we work around the big island.  I think it’s a max of 12 people.  Most came with friends, but I was on my own… but by the end we were all friends!

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imagePatatas Bravas and olive oil icecream… yep, with a red wine sauce on the ice cream.

SO delicious!

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After a few days of stalking OpenTable waiting for Juniper and Ivy to start taking reservations it finally happened saturday morning.  I got in!  So we got to enjoy the wonders of an opening night, and now I get to share it with you.

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First of all, Top Chef Richard Blais was so personable and welcoming.  He stopped by many tables to see how things were going.  When he stopped by ours we asked about his move to San Diego and he chatted with us for quite a few minutes, not seeming to be rushed at all.  We mentioned how smooth things seemed to be running, and he said in his experience it’s best to start with a limited amount of diners to let the kitchen get used to service.

Sounds like you can expect more reservations to open over the next few weeks as they get ready to ramp up!   My hubby then asked if he’d be willing to take a pic, so Richard just sat right down next to me on the bench!

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Ok, now time for the food… I know that’s what you’re waiting for!  But keep scrolling because there is another cool story yet to come at the very end.

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This was such a yummy, tangy drink… definitely girly but that was what I wanted!  At the end I kindof wished I could eat all the ice but I thought that might be odd…

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Before we ordered they brought by a little amuse bouche of Cauliflower chicharones… yes, you read that right. The normally greasy pig skin was replaced with a cauliflower puree which I think he said was sous vide and somehow made into a brick that they slice then they fry up the slices!  Yummy, but maybe the spicy mayo sauce was a little too heavy since they were already fried… still impressive and fun!

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This pair of tiny street tacos (yes, tiny, miniscule… 2 bites each) really packed a punch.  They were so flavorful!  They had a great balance of salty & sweet, and really integrated different textures into the bite.

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This “Toast” was a good portion of food, and was so interesting and different.  It was a bit of a mexican take on a tartare, with chopped carne asada crudo (that means raw) over toast with the quail eggs.  What an interesting and different thing to try… we both really liked it.  There was a slight crunch that might have been like a cornichon.  The bread was slightly rye tasting, which I have NEVER enjoyed before, but it was a nice undertone and was not the strong in your face taste of normal rye bread.  There was definitely a good bit of acidity, maybe from lime, in each bite.  The jalapenos were on the menu, but I didn’t taste them in the dish… a bit of spice probably would have made this even better! Maybe next time.

We really thought about some more of the small plates, but ended up going in for the entrees instead.

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Michael (my Hubby) had the Fish, and I stole one single bite somewhere in there, then I looked up and it was all gone.  The creamy puree was a great compliment to the dish!  He seemed somewhat speechless about it so I think that’s a good thing.

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I went big and ordered the Steak.  Sadly, the photo turned out ridiculously blurry, so you will just have to depend on my memory for this one.   It was served on a bed of smooth potato puree with long yellow carrots and some super short orange carrots.  A red splash Kimchi Ketchup added a sweetness, but it was used sparingly so it did not take over.  Sadly my potatoes were rather cold, so they ended up bringing me a little cast iron dish and the fresh ones were AH-MAZING… now, the steak was a huge portion and the seasoning was the real thing that made the meal.  It was salty and spicy and just perfect!

Blais delivered my steak himself on a wooden plate, and sent over the Sommelier to help me pick a wine, and ended up with a peppery red Spatburgunder that was definitely a great pairing.

Overall we had a truly wonderful night… somewhat of an early birthday celebration for me (so we had a good excuse to go all out and order whatever we wanted).   Our server Kyle was great, as I could not make any decisions (no wonder with so many great options to choose from!) so he ended up explaining pretty much every single menu item.

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We found out all kinds of fun info when the GM Dan stopped by the table… apparently when the building was first bought the only thing they found inside was an old Barry Manilow record, so of course they started out the opening night with one of his classics.

Ok, the final piece de resistance… at the end I wanted to just wander along the tables by the kitchen to see what I could see.  Blais saw me and I just said I was checking out his amazing kitchen… SO HE INVITED ME IN!  Yep, he actually walked me through the length of the kitchen, yelling VISITOR IN THE KITCHEN, introduced me to the head chef Jon Sloan who was there making sure each dish was perfectly turned out, and showed me what was going on in each area.  When he found out I was a Chem teacher, he even showed me where they keep the liquid Nitrogen… I heard they will be doing a table side liquid nitrogen cocktail soon, so I will definitely have to go back to see that.

Overall, there was nothing I had that I wouldn’t happily order again, so next time I am ready for an upscale night on the town I’ll definitely be back to Juniper and Ivy.

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We decided to have our Valentines day meal a few days late in order to avoid the crazy rush that is the day of love… and my hubby picked a great spot called the Red Door in the Mission Hills area of San Diego.  Overall I think this is actually one of my top 10 meals ever!  Great food, wonderful service (thanks to David!) and we had an excellent time.  Definitely left happy.

 We started with the crostini, which were amazing.  The filet was sweet and saucy, the goat cheese creamy, the jalapeno and microgreens lent a bit of heat and the jam and aioli somehow brought it all together.  Although it was a special dinner, we still wanted to be somewhat budget friendly, which lead us to arrive at the early hour of 4:30pm.  Yep, we are apparently old fogies, but we wanted to get our first couple of rounds of drinks on happy hour, which ends at 5 in the dining room, but 6 at the bar.

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Michael had the Pinot Noir and enjoyed it (especially for the $5 happy hour price!) and I decided to take a trip down the wild side and try the Red Door Julep, promising bourbon, basil and balsamic reduction…  well, I could definitely taste the bourbon but they used Red Basil, which looks nice but did not impart any detectable taste.  I couldn’t taste the balsamic either, and ended up asking for a Prom Night instead, and that was definitely amazing.  I guess I just need to embrace my girlie-drink side.
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 I just couldn’t help but order another appetizer when I saw this.  I am not one to go crazy for a single dish, but this was amazing.  Somehow both creamy and light, I will definitely be back to have this again.  *Excuse the smears on the plate below… couldn’t wait for a picture!  We dug in too quick.

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Time to pick some entrees… Michael went with these delicious meatballs.  They were well caramelized on the outside but still soft inside with none of the dense-qualities that so many meatballs have these days. image

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And finally, for me I went with something that looked to be out of the box.  The green pasta and the sweet butternut squash were great together.  The pasta had a very nice texture, still with a nice bite.  If it were me I might throw something in that had a different texture for crunch in the middle, but overall a pretty good dish.  Sadly the biggest disappointment here was that the fillings weren’t HOT.  The plate and the top was HOT but the filling was just warm enough that I didn’t send it back.  This could just be a timing thing for that night, so it wouldn’t stop me from encouraging others to give this a try!

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imageOverall we had a wonderful evening and I know I’ll be back to try the happy hour menu soon!  I also saw they have a few fun events, like tuesday night burgers paired with brews and half price wine mondays, so I will keep an eye out for those too!

 

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