La Jolla and San Diego – 10/27/17 – Galaxy Taco and Juniper & Ivy

Galaxy Taco
I so wish Galaxy Taco was in downtown San Diego instead of La Jolla!

Juniper & Ivy
It’s always my first choice when anybody comes to visit!

carne cruda asada, quail egg, cotija, jalapeno

persimmon caprese, burrata, lemon balm, puffed rice, champagne vin, persimmon jam

country ham pancake, candied pistachio, persimmon

sweet potato agnolotti, maple glazed chestnuts, sage, brown butter

ahi tuna wellington, mushroom duxelles, gravy, kale, horseradish fingerling potatoes

Tijuana – 6/29/17 – Mision 19 and Tacos El Franc

Mision 19
I don’t know what the typical dining scene is in Tijuana on a weekday but I was very surprised to almost have the entire restaurant to myself for lunch.  Javier Plascencia had a place right down the street from my new apartment but unfortunately it closed before I moved.  My lunch at Mision 19 was lovely as was the service and for a minute I really wasn’t sure where I was but I wouldn’t have guessed Tijuana.  If you find yourself in Baja California absolutely seek out one of Plascencia’s spots.

Tacos El Franc
I really hope that some of the rumors of Mexican taco spots moving north of the border come to fruition.  These were delicious and ridiculously cheap.

Tulum – 4/23/17 – Taqueria Honorio, Kitchen Table and Hartwood

I feel that I am ruined for tacos forever.  These were fantastic and I still can’t get over how inexpensive they were.  I can only dream of someday finding tacos as good north of the border.  It was so sad that the next two mornings in Tulum I biked here first thing in the morning hoping it would be open, but it sadly was not.

Kitchen Table

I was insistent that we go to Hartwood while some others in the group wanted to try Kitchen Table so double dinner it was.  If only we had stayed here!

deviled avocado

crispy shrimp

costilla de cerdo

pulpo a la parrilla

It has been over 3 months and I am still pissed off about this dinner.  Before Noma temporarily set up shop in Tulum, Hartwood was THE place to go so of course I had to get in (challenging when they aren’t especially responsive to reservation requests).  When one of my friends had a terrible experience with the front of house staff the night before my visit it should have been a sign, but I was willing to disregard one bad experience despite completely trusting the source.  Many restaurants in Tulum are cash-only, such as Kitchen Table which we visited earlier in the evening.  It is absolutely no problem when you know that ahead of time and we showed up prepared at Kitchen Table.  But it turns out that Hartwood is cash-only which they don’t tell you on their website, in their confirmation emails or on social media.  As we were waiting for our table at the front of the restaurant we became aware of the policy via the menu board and confirmed with one of the staff who was almost too ready to point us to the nearest ATM, or 3 because we were told they would likely all be out of pesos.  Two of us set off down the road where indeed it took us 3 ATMs to find one with any money at all, although it was out of pesos yet oddly dispensed USD with a hefty service charge (about $30 which makes those $3 fees look like pennies).  At this point I was furious and felt completely ripped off.  Why are the only ATMs on the tourist strip of Tulum dispensing only USD other than to take advantage of the tourists?  And if I would have known about the policy I would have withdrawn more cash from the ATM at a legitimate bank in town earlier in the day.

By the time we hiked back to Hartwood I was a bit over the whole thing.  When the check came it was conveniently (for the restaurant) in both pesos and USD and the USD amount was at a truly atrocious exchange rate.  So between the ATM fee and the exchange rate I estimate we paid about double what we should have for this dinner.  No matter how much I may spend on food I despise being taken advantage of.  I was so pissed off by the end that I honestly have no idea what we ate and how good it was.  It didn’t matter.  Sometimes great food offsets poor hospitality (i.e. Major Food Group) but there is a point of no return.  To quote a friend who visited a few weeks after me and had an abysmal service experience, “Fu*k Hartwood.”  While Noma was in Tulum the Hartwood staff should have taken the opportunity to walk down the street and learn what great hospitality is.

NYC – 4/10/17 – Empellon Midtown

I still remember my first visit to Empellon Taqueria soon after it opened.  It was very quiet.  Just myself and a friend and a food blogger taking a lot of photos.  I continued to go back frequently as well as to Empellon Cocina.  The midtown Empellon is a fantastic next step once you get past the midtown location.  The chopped cabbage salad may be one of my absolute favorites of the year.


king salmon ceviche with jicama and hibiscus broth

octopus tacos with celery and savory peanut butter

short rib confit with picadillo garnish

chopped cabbage salad with toasted fave bean dressing

NYC – 6/3/15 – Empellon Cocina

Since it opened this has always been one of my go to places on the short list of restaurants that I visit repeatedly. I was very curious to see what the remodel looked like in person. Waiting at the bar for my guest to arrive, it honestly just felt really weird because the old bar was so unique and I felt like I was somewhere else completely. But oddly mid way through dinner all felt right again.  I loved the concept, and taste of the deviled egg filling, but felt a bit like it was odd to just eat on its own because of the texture and resorted to spreading some on the chips that came with the guacamole.  The sliced mango was outstanding as was the ceviche.  The last time I had friend smelt was at Alinea so I had high hopes for these tacos and I could have eaten at least two more.  A definite must order!  Loved both of the desserts but unfortunately didn’t write down the descriptions.  I’m looking forward to returning for the kitchen table and the pan-roasted lobster because when the table beside us got it we immediately regretted not doing so.

Pan-Galactic – Pandan-infused rum, oloroso sherry, lemon juice and egg white

Guacamole with pistachios

Deviled egg filling with trout roe

Sliced mango with perky toe crab, chile powder and lime

Ceviche of the day

Fried Maine smelts with cabbage and jalapeño relish

Shredded chicken with yucatecan pipian and toasted pumpkin seeds