The Whole Hog

The Whole Hog is a sandwich shop that S found on Yelp by searching for “pulled pork”. We’ve been really craving pulled pork ever since our trip to North Carolina in April. The Whole Hog boasts a “Carolina-style” pulled pork sandwich, and while I’m generally skeptical of Southern food in California, we decided to give it a try. Our friend A tagged along, too!

The Whole Hog

The restaurant is located in a small lot on Park Blvd. It was small and unassuming, yet quite charming in its own way.

The Whole Hog

We were given a quick introduction to the menu and settled on a few items to try:

PORK BELLY TACOS [$7.5]
Pork Belly Tacos

The pork belly tacos were a recent addition to the menu, I believe. The pork belly was cut into bite-sized chunks and were quite tender. I liked the pico de gallo and smoked salsa – the flavors complemented the pork belly quite nicely – but the cotija cheese and avocado crema were actually a tad overwhelming.

CAROLINA GOLD PULLED PORK SANDWICH [$8]
Pulled Pork

We learned that they actually use a South Carolinian mustard-based BBQ sauce for this pulled pork. …

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Blaze Pizza

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a pair of tickets to the Big Bite Bacon Festival!

Blaze Pizza is another one of those “build-your-own” pizza joints. S isn’t a big pizza fan, but somehow our friend A and I convinced him to try it with us.

Blaze Pizza

Blaze Pizza is located next to Dickey’s Barbecue Pit on Balboa Ave. The store was pretty empty when we visited just before noon on a Saturday – the lunch crowd started showing up as we were eating, though.

I didn’t get any photos of their topping selections, but it’s quite similar to most of the other customize-your-own pizza joints. There is a list of “Signature Pizzas” that have pre-set toppings, or you could choose everything you want from a large selection of meats, veggies, cheese, and sauces. Here is the menu:

Menu

I like that you could choose different toppings for the two halves of a pie, so that you could try more flavor pairings!

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Tabletop Commons

Tabletop Commons is a “board game bar” that opened up a couple of months ago in Hillcrest. Being lovers of board games, S and I checked it out along with our friend A shortly after their grand opening.

Tabletop Commons

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The main dining room is downstairs, and there’s a lounge area upstairs with a Wii. The board games are all displayed on a shelf:

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As you can see, the collection is pretty extensive. There’s a good variety of casual and more serious, strategy-based board games.

Onto the food and drinks. There is a list of game/geek-theme cocktails, including names like “Health Potion” and “Senor Mario”. I picked a Hibiscus Orange Margarita, which was obviously not geek-themed, haha.

Hibiscus Orange Margarita

Hibiscus Orange Margarita [$8]

 The margarita is made with Corralejo Tequila, Cointreau, orange juice, lime juice, and hibiscus. It was sweet and pretty strong. We noticed a lot of people around us ordering “The Dude Abides”, which is Irish Whiskey with Dolce Cilento Hazelnut Creme liquor, Caffe Borghetti (coffee liqueur), and cream, and also tried that on a separate visit (not pictured). That one is really smooth and creamy, pretty much an elevated version of Bailey’s.

We also ordered a few “Small Bites” to share:

Poutine with Duck

Poutine with Duck [$10]

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Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a sample of Nut Exactly snack bites and $50 Costco gift card! Ends TOMORROW night!

Frequent readers of this blog will know that S and I are pretty big fans of barbecue. I lived in Texas in my high school years – and that’s where my family currently resides – and S and I went to college in North Carolina, so I like to say that I’m from two barbecue meccas. After moving to California, we’ve really missed Southern food and have been on the constant search for barbecue. Recently, Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill opened a location in San Diego and invited us to check it out.

Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill

(Photo courtesy of Wood Ranch BBQ)

The menu was quite extensive and included barbecue items as well as burgers & sandwiches, salads, and steaks. Of course, we were just there for the barbecue. The manager was happy to have us try pretty much everything and offered to do a couple of 3-meat combos.

Brisket, Tri-tip. Pulled Pork

Brisket, Tri-tip. Pulled Pork

We were initially slightly worried when we didn’t see much of a smoke ring on the brisket, but it turned out to be quite smoky in taste. The tri-tip was also juicy and tender, even though it tasted more like steak than barbecue. We learned that the beef items were smoked with pecan wood, and the pork with hickory.

Baby Back Ribs, Beef Ribs, St. Louis Ribs

Baby Back Ribs, Beef Ribs, St. Louis Ribs

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Kitchen 4140 (Dinner)

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a sample of Nut Exactly snack bites and $50 Costco gift card!

Kitchen 4140 is one of our favorite brunch spots, and we’ve always planned to check out their dinner but never got around to visit. Recently, we were invited to try their dinner menu, and of course I gladly accepted.

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We took a look at the menu and were slightly overwhelmed – there were a certainly a lot of things we wanted to try! So we decided leave our dinner fate at the hand of the chef.

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Complimentary pistachios

Instead of bread, every table has a small jar of pistachios, seasoned with a variety of spices – I can’t remember all of them, but there was definitely cinnamon. I love pistachios and munched on these while waiting for our meal.

Homage a la Fromage [$12]

Homage a la Fromage [$12]

We started out with a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich – made with brioche bread and three types of cheeses: Humboldt Fog (my fave!), aged cheddar, and taleggio, and finished with a drizzle of truffle oil. As if that wasn’t decadent enough, it was paired with the best tomato soup I’ve ever had – the tomatoes are smoked, which gave the soup a rich and meaty flavor. S said that it was like we were drinking barbecue… haha.

Smoked Pork Belly [$14]

Smoked Pork Belly [$14]

Our other appetizer was one that we requested – the smoked pork belly. The pork belly was quite tender and had a light smoky taste. We also really enjoyed the crispy brussels sprouts, as well as the crispy polenta (which pretty much tasted like cornbread), topped with a confit egg yolk that reminded us of Chinese-style salted duck egg yolk, which was rich and delicious.

Our next course was seafood:

Sea Bass [$40]

Sea Bass [$40]

This sea bass was served in a light miso broth with wilted spinach and topped with crispy garlic slices. I loved the flavor combination and the perfectly-cooked fish.

Seared Scallops [$19]

Seared Scallops [$19]

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C Level

This post is way behind – from two months ago, to be exact. It was our friend A’s birthday, and she requested C Level for her birthday dinner. C Level actually shares the same space as the fancier Island Prime, and both belong to the Cohn Restaurant Group which has a pretty big presence in San Diego.

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Being the more casual of the two adjoining restaurants, C Level does not accept reservations. Good thing A’s birthday falls on a Monday – and we were seated without having to wait at all.

Oysters on the Half Shell

Oysters on the Half Shell [$12/half-dozen]

We started out with half dozen oysters, served with a raspberry mignonette and a fire-roasted cocktail sauce. The oysters were fresh and briny, and we really enjoyed them.

Kemo Sabe's Famous Black & White Sesame Salmon [$29]

Kemo Sabe’s Famous Black & White Sesame Salmon [$29]

A chose the sesame-crusted salmon for her entrée. It was served with wasabi mashed potatoes, wilted arugula & baby spinach, pickled cucumber salsa, and a soy sauce reduction. As you can tell from the description, this dish had a heavy Asian flavor influence. The salmon was cooked really nicely, although the sesame seed crust was falling off. My favorite part was actually the wasabi-infused mashed potatoes. I’ll have to try that at home next time.

Chef Deborah's Filet Burger [$18]

Chef Deborah’s Filet Burger [$18]

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Vessel Restaurant

S and I first visited Vessel Restaurant at the Kona Kai Resort during a media preview dinner last year, and we had an absolutely wonderful experience. We were lucky enough to be invited again for a summer menu preview a couple of weeks ago, and of course we happily obliged.

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The tables were set beautifully in the private dining area. This was to be a beer-pairing dinner, and the four beer tasters were already prepared.

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Sorry for the blurry photo. I guess my camera (and I) decided to focus on the butter in the back instead, haha. The four beers that we tasted were: Alesmith .394 Pale Ale, Refuge Blood Orange Belgian Ale, Stone Delicious IPA, and Maui Coconut Porter. Out of the four, I really enjoyed the Blood Orange Belgian and the Coconut Porter – which was also S’s favorite.

After catching up with some blogger buddies and making some new friends, we were hungry for dinner! There were a few baskets of asiago cheese rolls, which were awesome, and I really had to stop myself from eating, like, 6 of them. 

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This was our menu for the evening… and also why I reminded myself not to eat too much bread.

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48-Hour Pork Belly

48-Hour Pork Belly; Beer: Maui Coconut Porter

Our meal started out with a 48-hour roasted pork belly. It was so incredibly tender and simply melted in your mouth. It was served with plantain powder, sweet potato spaetzle, and a mole sauce with anise and chocolate. The mole sauce really did it for me – the bitterness and sweetness really complemented the pork belly well.

Roasted Pear

Roasted Pear; Beer: Alesmith .394 Pale Ale

After the pork belly, we were given a simple roasted pear. But don’t be deceived by its simplicity – this was packed with flavor. I loved the caramel notes in the roasted pear, and the cheese was actually a blue Stilton (the chef wasn’t able to get Roquefort). I enjoyed the floral notes in the dish but couldn’t taste much of the black pepper in the vinaigrette.

Corn Dusted Albacore

Corn Dusted Albacore; Beer: Refuge Blood Orange Belgian Ale

I was looking forward to this dish, given that I have a corn obsession. The albacore was fresh and seared lightly. It was served with a savory bacon powder and onion jam – I really enjoyed the sweet and salty interplay. This dish was additionally paired with a serrano-corn custard, which I found to be too sweet and not spicy enough. I liked the fresh corn at the bottom of the custard, though.

Dry-Aged Ribeye

Dry-Aged Ribeye; Beer: Stone Delicious IPA

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Regents Pizzeria

Don’t forget to enter my KRAVE jerky giveaway!

Regents Pizzeria is our go-to pizza parlor – it’s close to our home and serves up really good pizza. (Then again, I’m not from a pizza city, nor am I a connoisseur of pizza, but other New Yorkers I know really endorse this place!) It used to be just a small shop, but has recently expanded to a huge space, featuring many beers on tap, big-screen TVs, and a patio.

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I couldn’t get a great picture of the interior, though, because it was pretty crowded when I visited.

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Like I said… tons of beers on tap! (I wasn’t feeling like drinking that day, though, so I passed up on the alcohol.)

S, myself, and our friends ordered several slices. We could have also done a large, I guess, but each of us wanted some variety.

Pizza Pazza & Milano

Pizza Pazza & Milano

These are two of my favorite pizzas from Regents. …

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Mess Royale

Don’t forget to enter my McDonald’s Arch Card giveaway!

Mess Royale, San Diego’s first “poutinery,” opened up a couple of months ago in Hillcrest. I’ve never had really good poutine before, so of course I wanted to go check it out, and we went with our friend A, who has spent some time in Canada before and would serve as our judge.

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The owner is a Montreal native, Hugo Tassone, and he chatted with us a bit during our visit. We learned that the cheese curds in the poutine are from Wisconsin, and he ships in his Montreal-style bagels from St-Viateur Bagels.

Smoked Salmon Bagel [$12]

Smoked Salmon Bagel [$12]

These sesame-topped bagels were quite delicious. They’re smaller and taste lighter and crispier than New York-style bagels to me (full disclosure here that I am not from NY). I loved the Norwegian smoked salmon used here, and there was just the right amount of cream cheese and capers. The only thing that I wasn’t a huge fan of was the red onions, which had quite a bite – but I wasn’t a huge fan of raw onions to begin with. The bagels are served with a small side salad, dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.

Of course, we also tried the poutine:

OG: Original Montreal Poutine [$8.5]

OG: Original Montreal Poutine [$8.5]

The original is plain and simple: hand-cut fries, “Mess Royale” gravy, and cheese curds. …

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McDonald’s All-Day Breakfast Giveaway

S and I love McDonald’s breakfast, especially the sausage egg McMuffin. Ever since leaving the South, we’ve really missed breakfast sausage patties, but thankfully we can still count on McD’s. We used to miss the 10:30AM cutoff all the time, though, and have always wished for all-day breakfast. Now, our dreams have come true!

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All-day breakfast launched about a month and a half ago, and since then, I’ve stopped by a couple of times to order breakfast for dinner!

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I was so happy to be able to get my favorite Sausage Egg McMuffin and the signature hash brown at 9PM, hehe.

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To celebrate the launch of McDonald’s all-day breakfast, I’m hosting a giveaway! I’ll select two winners – first place will receive a $5 Arch Card and a T-shirt, and second place will receive a $5 Arch Card. …

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