Sunshine in San Diego

I awake to the warm glow of the morning sun striped across my face. As my consciousness steadily brightens from a sedate state, a wave of adrenaline rushes through my veins bursting in my core, rendering me coherent. A shock to the senses can only be aroused by the allure of one thing, the sweet promise of Mexican food.

With a leap from bed, followed by some incoherent mumbling of protests from unimpressed companions, we eventually head for Highway 101 and race down the coast. fullsizeoutput_8588fullsizeoutput_858dWe pulled up a stool at Bull Taco, a casual beach bar serving “inauthentic” (average) tacos with an outstanding view of the San Diego surf. fullsizeoutput_858cThe perfect accoutrement to the salty sea breeze are fluffy, crispy nuggets of fried tater tots, dipped in Sriracha ketchup. fullsizeoutput_858eHaving had our fill of salt and surf, we headed farther south to La Jolla and walked along the shore. fullsizeoutput_8592We spotted a seaside wedding, with a seriously stunning backdrop. fullsizeoutput_8593fullsizeoutput_8595And found some of my favourite sea creatures, sunbathing in the cove. fullsizeoutput_8597After establishing I could not sneak a seal into my sweater, we decided we were in need of something sweet to cleanse our salted palates. We wandered over to Bobboi’s Natural Gelato for just the treat.  fullsizeoutput_8598They offer really interested flavours made with natural and organic ingredients, making the selection process all the more difficult. I went for Mediterraneo, a delicious blend of almond, hazelnut and pistachio, and Chocolate Milk, having already tasted five other potentials. fullsizeoutput_859aThere’s nothing like a day of sunshine in San Diego to leave you feeling like: fullsizeoutput_859dLet me know your favourite places to eat, treat or explore.


Best Bites of 2015

Well, hello there. Yes, yes, happy new year. How much longer must we go on saying this? But really, when is it socially acceptable to stop wishing people a happy year, because I don’t want to get half way into February optimistically encouraging peoples’ vibes. Basically, I hope your year is happy, healthy and successful, but I’m probably not going to say it again.

Now that it’s a new year, it’s fun to look back on memories close to the heart. Yes, I’m talking about those fond moments of foodporn. All those resolutions you made to eat healthier, get to the gym and steer clear of the sugar? I wish you luck, my friend, because by the end of this post, you’ll need something substantial to come down off the filthy high of discreet foodporn browsing. Last year was indeed a gluttonous one, so join me in looking back on some of my best bites of 2015.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 It started on a sweet note, indulging in the expert confectionary of Yauatcha‘s dessert counter. An assortment of my favourite macarons, and some of the most beautifully intricate and flavourful pastries and cakes. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015East London gem Lyle’s, serving up elegant British cuisine, hosted Parisienne chef James Henry, with a menu of cured meats, perfectly prepared fish and noteworthy veg. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Bone Daddies previous pop-up joint that now permanently resides in Soho, Shackfuyu, had heads turning and instagrams posting. Prawn toast masquerading as okonomiyaki topped with bonito flakes was particularly great, but we all know this mention is about the best dressed on the menu. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 The kinako-style french toast with a stacked side of green tea soft serve stole the limelight of social media channels in a paparazzi-like frenzy. Lime green swirls atop pretty blue china appearing in every frame of each drawn out scroll. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 The Clove Club, claimed to serve often overlooked ingredients with British flair, stirred the pot with their buttermilk fried chicken topped with pine salt. This arrives nestled amongst pine needles, cushioning the crispy morsels of tender meat. A moreish treat, indeed. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Inspired by the changing seasons, Claridge’s resident Fera serves a sensational tasting menu of expertly executed dishes in stunning receptacles. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Although my passion for food involves tasting, judging and critiquing dishes to myself and amongst my dining partners, I have often been told I’m much more judgemental when it comes to dessert. Now, I don’t know that this is due to my significant sweet tooth, that I feel the need to seriously scrutinise the sugary details, but it’s rare that I’m pleasantly surprised by pudding. However, I must admit, Fera’s aerated yoghurt and rhubarb dessert is a sensational treat – both complex and flavourful, leaving a memorable impression.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Worldwide, Japanese hotspot Zuma creates some of the most visually appealing plates of expertly prepared meats, fish and vegetables. This particular masterpiece had delicately combined pieces of lobster, wagyu, crab, truffles, broccolini and peppers.  Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Three Michelin-starred Epicure, the masterpiece of Chef Eric Frechon, served another most memorable dish of the year. Caviar from Sologne topped ratte potato mousseline flavoured with smoked haddock and served with a buckwheat crisp stuffed with sourcream and chives.Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 A luscious bite indeed. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015The spotlight shone, however, on their most popular dish: foie gras filled macaroni with black truffle. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Three of the most perfect macaroni served with a heavenly filling. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Last year it was decided that fried chicken topped Belgian waffles with truffle salt and maple syrup should be a mandatory brunch item (by me). Luckily, London’s Hot Box feels the same way. This perfect combination of sweet and savoury is what brunch is all about.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Yashin Sushi, my favourite sushi spot in London, touts their delicious sushi as best consumed “without soy sauce”. However they serve it, I’ll eat it, because this fish is beyond phenomenal. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Taiwanese street food place, Bao London, served up a threesome you want to be involved with. Lamb shoulder with jalapeño, confit pork with sticky sweet sauce and fried chicken with sichuan mayo and golden kimchi were unbelievable bites worthy of the overindulgence. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Although their Taiwanese take on blood pudding wasn’t the tastiest bite of 2015, it was certainly foodporn popular. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 This beauty was one of my favourite bites of 2015. Rabbit Restaurant’s pickled mackerel with potato and anchovy is a flavour and texture combination I’ve since craved on numerous occasions. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Ottolenghi’s Nopi creates a myriad of phenomenal flavour combinations topped with stunning spices, but the simplicity of this burrata and peach with coriander seeds and plum wine was a definite winner. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015

Another dessert worthy of a shoutout, Polpetto‘s chocolate flan with freshly made crème fraîche. Simple, clean flavours with a powerful punch of chocolate is enough to make you swoon.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015

Camden market resident, The Frenchie, turns heads with its duck confit sandwich, topped with crispy duck-skin scratchings, rocket, mustard, red-onion chutney, goat’s cheese and truffle honey, all piled atop a brioche bun. A proper mouthful. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Whilst galavanting ’round Europe this summer, a particularly memorable meal was that of a picnic in Budapest. The air was thick, sun was hot and our feet growing heavy with each step. We soon stumbled upon Nagyvásárcsarnok, or the Great Market Hall, a restored neogothic hall where food traders now sell products and ingredients from their stalls. We picked and pondered over each stand, leaving with our arms loaded with goodies, before finding a shaded bench near the Danube. Sweet knotted bread, spicy meats, milky Hungarian goat’s cheese and sour cherries warmed by the sun made for the most enjoyable snack. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015King of the world of pastry (sounds like a fairytale land I’d like to reside in) Paris has long since been crowned for its patisserie production. Established in 1903, Angelina’s signature pastry, the mont-blanc has been creating queues as far as the eye can see, and stomach can bear to stand. But it’s all worth the wait for a bite of this sumptuous combination of meringue, whipped cream, chestnut cream vermicelli. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Another moment of picnic perfection involved lazily lounging in the Jardin du Luxembourg nibbling on meats, pâté, goats cheese, Brie, cherries, peaches, figs, fresh baguette and the pièce de résistance, an excessive amount of Pierre Hermé macarons. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Amsterdam is internationally known for its Indonesian fare, and I have to say that Kantjil & de Tiger is the best I’ve ever had. Each dish more flavourful than the last, the tender meats and saucy vegetables combined for an enjoyable feast.  Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Upon recommendation, another delightful find amongst the picturesque canals of Amsterdam, lies the little gelateria IJscuypje. With hazelnut, speculoos and milk chocolate gelato piled high, I uttered a statement I never thought would escape my lips so far from the Italian motherland. This is the best gelato everBest Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015One of my favourite sky-high spots is the much loved Duck & Waffle. With sugar spiced ox cheek stuffed doughnuts served in apricot jam, what’s not to love?  Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 This grilled asparagus with smoked buttermilk curd, dandelion and pickled walnut was a special I won’t soon forget. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Another one of my all-time favourite brunch dishes, silky Turkish eggs served with yogurt and chilli oil, can be found tucked away in Covent Garden at KopapaBest Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Only in America’s capital, Washington DC, can something this indulgent be found. Good Stuff Eatery’s toasted marshmallow and red velvet milkshakes are worth slowly sipping into a caloric coma.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Bring on the brain freeze! Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Switch coasts to California for a cult-like love of burger fanship. In-N-Out may not be the best burger on earth, (calm down, burger snobs) but the freshness of the ingredients and addition of salt-scented ocean air beats your fine dining fat feast any day. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 I finally made it to Los Angeles’ star-studded Gjelina last year, and man was it worth the wait. The quality of ingredients are incredible, with a pretty awesome kale salad representing the Californian flair. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 The wood roasted cauliflower with garlic, vinegar and chilli really makes you want to eat your veg.  Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015And the eggplant caponata with burrata on toast, as well as the gruyere and caramelised onion pizza were dough-topped delights worthy of the after effect.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015At Manhattan Beach Post, there’s a mandatory order of bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits with maple butter. Promise me, should you ever visit MBP, you will not leave the premises without trying these biscuity bad boys? Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015The pomegranate couscous with lavender feta, Marcona almonds, grapefruit and mint is really special, as well. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015With my casual burrito obsession flexed to the fullest whilst residing on the West Coast, I popped into Lucha Libre Taco Shop to see what all the fuss was about. The Surf & Turf burrito comes with steak, shrimp, rice, potatoes and secret chipotle sauce. A tip of the hat to you, you absolute burrito babes.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015We then kicked it old school at El Indio, the family owned Mexican restaurant that’s been serving San Diego for 75 years. This California burrito is quite possibly one of the best I’ve ever had.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015

Why have one burrito, when you can have three? Yes, it’s a bit absurd to have three burritos on my list of highlighted dishes. But if you think about it, is it really? The final tortilla encased bliss can be found tucked away in a seaside town in Baja California, Mexico. At this little side of the road taco shop called Magañas, you can find the quesotaco, a burrito filled with succulent rotisserie chicken, beans, onion, cilantro, and a salsa so fiery, you’ll sniffle your way through every bite.

That’s it people. Your diet is over, goals squashed, and resolutions railroaded. Rather than wish you a happy new year, I wish you a happy food year. Happy eating and good luck with those resolutions! Let me know any must-try dishes for 2016 and where you’re most looking forward to eating in the comments below, or tweet me @Alessandra_LDN 

Union Kitchen & Tap

Whilst I’ve been away, living across the pond, a new local hot spot has popped up in sunny San Diego.
Union Kitchen & Tap is a new, neighbourhood restaurant located in Encinitas, minutes away from the ocean. They serve lunch & dinner and brunch on the weekends.
The interior is minimalist and masculine and would be the perfect spot to watch the big game or meet up with a group of friends.

Union Kitchen & TapUnion Kitchen & TapUnion Kitchen & Tap The UNION Bloody Mary looks like it would punch a hangover right in the face. Asparagus, onion, olive and yes, a big strip of bacon “garnish” this cup of cure. Union Kitchen & TapThey have a great selection of flatbreads which proved very difficult to choose from. We settled for the Fig Flatbread with Laura Chanel Goat Cheese, poached figs, balsamic onions and fried sage.
Decadent, delicious and could’ve easily been dessert. Union Kitchen & Tap Union Kitchen & TapTo accompany our meals, we ordered a side of Kennebec Frites. These were delicious, but were served with a side of their house ketchup which I really disliked.
I think they flavour it with anise, which gave it a black liquorice taste.
Hate to stay it, but I’ll stick with the Heinz, thanks.  Union Kitchen & TapNote the T-shirt: reppin’ LDN in CA Union Kitchen & TapThen my monster arrived.
Green Eggs & Ham Burger with fried egg, prosciutto, oven roasted tomato and pesto. The flavour combination was incredible and the fried egg slathered with pesto was such a decadent topping.
Prosciutto is sort of a tricky meat to take bite size pieces of which made the messy burger even more difficult to eat, but gave it a great saltiness.
Matched with my favourite sweet potato fries, this is definitely a lunch worth coming back for.
Union Kitchen & TapUnion Kitchen & Tap

Union Kitchen & Tap

I would definitely recommend grabbing some friends and heading to UNION for a game and some great food.
And after, it’s only a short walk to the beach to work off the couple thousand calories.

To find out more about the restaurant, click here and for reservations, you can find their number here.

California Burrito

Another forecast of relentless rainy and gloomy weather has just about pushed me to my limit. I used to celebrate rain, running barefoot with friends down the streets of San Diego which were only ever wetted by the sprinklers feeding perfectly manicured lawns. But now, my days of rain dancing are long gone.
With my tinge of homesickness and craving for sunshine, comes another, much more powerful craving that is impossible to alleviate with any form of substitution: Mexican Food.
Now I know you’re listing all the new faddy Mexican restaurants popping up across London in your head, but it just isn’t the same. There’s something about homemade Mexican food combined with salt hanging in the air and the crashing of waves nearby that really gives it its flavor.

In Southern California, we have a very strange cultural obsession with the Taco Shop. Similar to having your favourite sports team or favourite band, you form an allegiance, an unspoken bond to your favourite taco shop. There’s Karina’s Taco Shop, Juanita’s Taco Shop, Rico’s Taco Shop… do you see a trend here? Now I know that this is bold and somewhat controversial of me, but Roberto’s Taco Shop is the best. There, I said it.

Anyone from SoCal, knows exactly what i’m talking about. But, for those of you who don’t, i’m sure you’re wondering how on earth you differentiate a bunch of taco shops. Is it the venue? No, most taco shops are small, unattractive little hole in the walls. The focus is on good, freshly made Mexican food.
Is it the menu? No, most taco shops have a similar menu, and although they may have a specialty, there is a standard assortment of Mexican food goodness on offer.
Is it the price? No, that’s the best thing about Taco Shops. You get an incredible meal for an incredibly reasonable price.
Alright, you’re getting frustrated. I’ll reveal the Taco Shop secret to their cult-like following. It’s all about the sauce. Each Taco Shop has their own freshly made, traditional salsa. To be honest, they’re all phenomenal. Roberto’s however, happens to have the best.

It’s a double knockout, red sauce and green sauce. Both fiery hot, one with red chillies, the other from jalapeños. Now that i’ve enticed you with their sauces, you’re wondering what you should order. Listen closely, because this piece of advice may just change your life. When and if you are granted an experience to visit Roberto’s (that’s right, shameless taco shop plug) you are to do exactly this: walk into the Taco Shop (Roberto’s) and utter these two words: California Burrito. Maybe you should throw in a por favor, but other than that, that’s all you need. After receiving your order number, make your way to the two metal containers sitting on a bed of ice that proudly display a sea of chilled red and green sauce. Gather several of each of the small pots and collect your order. A gracias would be nice.

Roberto’s has several locations at which you can dine, but I would suggest taking a friend, grabbing your burritos, and driving to the beach. With your toes wriggled into the sand, a friend by your side, and a view of blue ocean and suntanned surfers, the California Burrito tastes that much better.
I’ve told you about the Taco Shop, introduced the sauce culture, and even taught you how and what to order. Now all that’s left is the California Burrito.
A fresh, warm, flour tortilla encasing one of the most beautiful, unexpected combinations ever: Carne Asada, Sour Cream, Shredded Cheese…. and French Fries. I can tell your mind has just been blown, but trust me when I say it is the most magical, tastebud tantalising mix offered in a delicious bundle. With each bite of your burrito, pour a drop of green then red sauce. This becomes a delectable, drawn out process which maximises the flavour of each bite.

You’re welcome / De nada 

Sunny San Diego

Since moving to London 3 years ago, I’ve had varied responses to why and how the California girl has ended up here. From cab drivers to croupiers, bellhops to businessmen, the standard response is shock with underlying anger. They seem appalled that I would give up my sunny beaches and palm trees for rain and rudeness. I try to laugh and tell them the grass is always greener, but then remember the lack of green grass in this concrete jungle.

I stand by my love of London, but this past month of “monsoon weather” in place of promised summertime sunshine, is giving me pangs of homesickness. I blame it on my lack of Vitamin D and don’t know how much longer i’m going to make it.

I thought i’d share a few snaps of Southern California to allow those of you suffering with me to daydream yourselves away…

I love you London, but you really need to get your act together.

Love Boat Sushi

Hi, my name is Alessandra, and I am Love Boat Sushi addict.

It started out as a simple flirtation, lead into a bit of an affair, and ended up with me being head over heels in love. By now the staff greet me by name and sushi chefs nod my way with a smirk, i’ve practically tried every roll on the extensive sushi menu, and I do believe I’m the only customer to insist they allow me to purchase their LBS mug to take with me back to London. When I am home from London, I manage to slip in for a roll at least every other night to attempt to tide me over until my next trip back.

Love Boat Sushi is located in San Diego, California and has, hands down, the best sushi ever. It’s not just the freshness of the ingredients, mesmerizing presentation, or friendliness of the staff that makes this place my open obsession, it’s the rolls themselves. Each roll is a masterpiece, completely different from the next with its own flavors and textures creating individual perfection. Did I mention its very reasonably priced? I could detail and drool over every roll on the menu, but that would take too long and would leave you overwhelmed. I’ll describe a few of my favorites as long as you promise to try Love Boat Sushi for yourself if you’re ever in San Diego. Deal?

Let the food porn commence!

The TNT Roll is on fire, literally. The enormous roll is presented with a flaming cucumber in the middle of the plate providing breath taking presentation. The roll consists of spicy tuna and cucumber, is topped with seared tuna and avocado and is covered in spicy sauce. As you try to stuff a monstrous piece of this roll into your mouth, the spicy sweetness floods your tastebuds bringing a smile to your overstuffed, hamster cheeks. Not ideal for a first date…

The Geisha Roll is fascinating presentation wise as you’re presented with a lime green and hot pink coated sushi roll surrounding a nest of fire. Inside is chopped salmon, crab, cream cheese, and avocado and the outside is covered in colored popcorn crunch before the roll is…wait for it… deep fried. This roll is delicious and sinful, but must be shared as it is incredibly filling.

The Sunshine Roll is my favorite of the Love Boat concoctions. A California Roll topped with salmon and tuna sashimi smothered in fiery chili and a sweet and sour ponzu sauce. It burns your mouth and tantalizes your taste buds in a confusing, delicious experience unlike any other. The textures and flavors melt together creating bliss in your mouth.

To support the best American Football team, the San Diego Chargers, the Chargers Special Roll is a local favorite on the menu. This roll is more of a stack of fresh shrimp tempura topped with spicy tuna, albacore, and avocado kissed in spicy ponzu and garnished with a spicy salsa. It’s enough to convert anyone into a Charger’s fan!

Pause for dramatic effect…….The Jackson. Read on with caution, this is not for the faint of heart. This roll is absurd. This monster takes tempura tuna, combines it with sweet potato, stuffs it into a roll, layers sashimi and avocado on top before smothering it all in fried onions and ponzu sauce. So delectable but so naughty.

The Hurricane Roll is a beautiful combination of crunch shrimp, crab, avocado, gobo, cucumber, and topped with tuna tataki. The tanginess of this roll makes it light and enjoyable versus some of Love Boat’s heavier rolls. The spices coating the tuna tataki miked with japanese vinegar burst with flavor in your mouth.

The Rainbow Roll is a lovely combination of soft shell crab, cucumber, and avocado topped with five different types of fresh sashimi. Perfect if you’re having trouble choosing between ordering a roll or sashimi – best of both worlds if you ask me.

I’m guessing you’re hungry now. If you’d ever like someone to accompany you to share some rolls and i’m in town, i’ve yet to turn down an offer!