Gourmet Live and BlogHer Road Trip: San Diego Food Guide

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This month we're heading to southern California for BlogHer's national conference in San Diego. See where the bloggers will be, then hit the streets with our guide to Cali coastal cuisine, including beachside barbecues, the most authentic Mexican fare and the best year-round farmer’s markets.

San Diego

Photo by David Olsen / Getty Images
San Diego Food Guide: Tips From Local Bloggers
Maria Hunt Bubbly Girl
What's the best value in the city right now?
We didn't know it until we walked into Cucina Urbana in Banker's Hill, but a lot of us were secretly craving a casual and rustic spot with a Cal-Ital menu of thin-crust pizzas, seasonal salads and hearty entrees like pork milanesa -- mostly priced under $20. Chef Joe Magnanelli delivers with dishes that are both relaxed and refined, like mushroom, leek and taleggio wood-fired pizzas, polenta slathered in duck and sour cherry sugo and Italian rib-eye. There's an eclectic wine list or diners can pick up a bottle in the retail wine room to take home or drink with dinner for $7 corkage.

-- Maria Hunt, The Bubbly Girl

Recipe Renovator
Where would you send a vegetarian or vegan?
Evolution Fast Food: house-made everything that's vegan and organic, including a fabulous raw burger. Jyoti Bihanga: delicious veggie food in a groovy atmosphere, served by blissed-out followers of Sri Chinmoy. Famous for their neatloaf. And Rancho's Cocina North Park: delicious vegetarian Mexican food, with some seafood on the menu as well. Fabulous Frida-Kahlo interior.

-- Stephanie, The Recipe Renovator

Caron Golden San Diego Foodstuff
Where can you find the best farmers markets and what are the best ingredients to buy?
Little Italy Mercato on Saturday (Date St. and Kettner) and the Hillcrest Farmers Market on Sunday (Normal St.). The best ingredients are seasonal and vary, but for special treats, look for Happy Pantry Pickles, Bitchin Sauce, Temecula Valley Honey, Bella Vado avocado oil, Caxao Chocolates, and Terra Bella Ranch's red walnuts.

-- Caron Golden, San Diego Foodstuff

Amanda Simpson
What is the best hole-in-the-wall place for a great carne asada burrito?
Since San Diego is situated directly north of the Mexico border, the city is filled with hundreds of awesome hole-in-the-wall spots for great carne asada burritos. Unique to SD is the a California burrito: carne asada, french fries (yes, you read that correctly), cheese, salsa fresca and guacamole all rolled up in to a thing of glory. Personally -- for a California burrito, I recommend one of the original drive-thru Robertos, which have several locations around the county. As far as a sit down hole-in-the-wall is concerned my favorite place for straight carne asada burritos or tacos is a tiny little place in Ocean Beach called Ortega's on Newport. I hesitate to mention this place because there are only four booths and a bar. Also, the best salsa verde I've ever eaten. I would hate to see it get too popular and never be able to get a table... but that's just selfish. ;)
--Amanda Simpson, What We're Eating
Karen Fine Cooks Everything Gluten-Free
Where do the locals head for the best crab, shrimp and lobster in the city?
"The" places to go are the Fish Market (right downtown by the convention center for BlogHer '11 goers), The Oceanaire (also downtown) and Blue Water Seafood. All have gluten-free options.

-- Karen Fine, Fine Cooks... Everything Gluten Free

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San Diego Recipe:
Susan Russo FoodBlogga
Where's the best dessert?
Extraordinary Desserts. Yes, that's the name, and it's not an exaggeration. Go to the spacious, modern Little Italy location near downtown for a dazzling selection of artfully crafted desserts such as the decadent torta misu, layers of espresso-soaked ricotta cake and Italian mascarpone rum cream. Or try the tropical roasted coconut creme torte, an ambrosial concoction of vanilla cake with coconut mousse, coconut custard, whipped cream, and fresh fruit. There's more than cakes: You'll find countless tarts, pies, cupcakes, custards, cookies, ice creams, and specialty desserts such as passionfruit pavlova.

-- Susan Russo, FoodBlogga

Lori Lange Recipe Girl
If we're in town for the BlogHer '11 conference, where would you send us?
Here are a few places you must consider visiting. Bring your appetite. These places have irresistible menu items, and you may wish to sample many things! For breakfast, head to Hash House a Go Go in Hillcrest. This place has plates the size of manhole covers. Don’t miss trying the sage fried chicken (yes, even for breakfast!), French Toast, and mile high buttermilk biscuits. Hodad's in Ocean Beach has been featured on Food Network for a good reason. They have the best burgers in San Diego, and their milkshakes are topped with three scoops of ice cream, whipped cream and syrup. And I love Cucina Urbana too, especially their jarred vasi (burrata with garlic confit) and their special polenta boards.

-- Lori Lange, Recipe Girl

Stephanie Recipe Renovator
What is the best restaurant with a view of the ocean?
The Marine Room in La Jolla is a classic restaurant dating back to the 40s -- with updated food by two great chefs. I also like Il Fornaio (on the bay side). While it is part of a chain, we have always had fantastic Italian meals here. It's got the best view of downtown, plus a view of the wood-fired ovens (where they make fresh bread and thin-crust pizze) in the open kitchen.

-- Stephanie, The Recipe Renovator

Amanda Simpson
What are the best restaurants by the beach and what do you order?
Most of the time, I find that restaurants by the beach can get away with being mediocre due to the prime real estate which is true pretty much everywhere I've traveled. Pacific Beach has a really good restaurant called JRDN, which is directly on the boardwalk just north of Garnet Ave. I particularly love the steamed mussels with chorizo, garlic, chardonnay and herb butter. It's a great option for brunch, followed by a day spent strolling the boardwalk and chilling on the beach. For a less pricey option, try out South Beach in Ocean Beach. While their fish tacos are very Americanized, the grilled mahi tacos are some of my favorite. Also try the mahi sandwich, aloha burger, and oyster shooters (with peppered vodka, of course.) Mmm. Couple of warnings about South Beach though: They are cash only, and 21 & up.
-- --Amanda Simpson, What We're Eating
Caron Golden San Diego Foodstuff
Best cheap eats?
Mamas Lebanese Bakery, which is not a bakery at all, but a longtime Middle Eastern phenom of a hole in the wall restaurant. My favorite? The fried eggplant wrap -- with, of course, their homemade hot sauce. Plus, they make their own flatbread. Also, Super Cocina. For about $8, you get your pick of three dishes--unusual regional Mexican dishes made by the abuelitas in the City Heights neighborhood. This isn't Mexican for gringos; it's as authentic as it gets.

-- Caron Golden, San Diego Foodstuff

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