4th of July

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In lieu of a fourth of July post here are some of my favorite 4th of July posts spotted around the web (do people still say ‘the web’):

 

 

Steph’s flag mini pavlovas

 

The perfect summer uniform

 

Alana’s amazing flag chocolate haupia tart

 

Girls on the 4th of July be like.

 

MINI. BLUEBERRY PIE. ICE CREAM. SANDWICHES.

 

This Reddit thread on the most beautiful sentence or paragraph you have ever read.

 

Not explicitly Fourth of July-esque or American but Betty’s Berry Japanese soufflé cheesecake is red, white and blue.

 

Feeling like not turning your oven on? Fourth of July ice cream cake!

 

Red, white and peanut butter. Cuz that’s American too.

 

And lastly I’m sad I missed this epic Canada Day burger at Burger’s Priest. But I will be in Toronto next week and cannot wait to go eat at all my favorite spots. I might even revert to my high school diet of sushi, Diet Coke and raspberry yogurt muffins from Pusateris, with the occasional late night nachos at Sneaky Dee’s or subs at Belly Buster’s (do those places still even exist!!!).

 

That’s it. Hope you guys have a safe and fun holiday! Unlike that picture up there from last year’s 4th of July where the bf wins the award for the saddest you can ever look while on a freakin’ America floatie.

 

Sovereign Food

Despite all the restaurants in downtown/Gaslamp I have always tended to avoid the area. The food is generally overpriced and mediocre and the parking is atrocious. Not finding parking and abhorring traffic in fact are my two most convincing reasons for never wanting to live in LA. So they are enough to make me avoid downtown SD (unless we’re taking Uber), even though its a mere 5 minute drive away. Speaking of LA, inevitably when I go to LA I either get a parking ticket (THOSE SIGNS) or I pay for valet that charges 88% of the price of a parking ticket. No joke. I think I paid $58 dollars for overnight parking at the Mondrian (as a guest no less). An extra $7 bucks and I might as well have left it anywhere I pleased on the street as that is how much a parking ticket costs you.

 

End rant

 

Anyways I recently had a revelation that a) there are restaurants worth getting to know in downtown San Diego and b) parking at Horton Plaza is kind of the best because its free (for 3 hours with validation at one of those machines) and super close to everything. After reading about Sovereign on Eater San Diego I was intrigued. Although our go-to spot for pho is Pho Fifth Avenue (its SO close…we’re SO lazy) we have not found any banh mi we like nearby. So after a much easier than expected drive to downtown and aforementioned parking at Horton we walked the two blocks to Sovereign Food, a small to-go shop serving Vietnamese food and affiliated with the brand new adjacent Sovereign Kitchen.

 

Sovereign Food

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Sovereign Food

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They serve banh mi, pho, stir frys and bowls. You can pick your protein and whether you want rice, noodles or veggies. For sides they have have chips, egg rolls, and fresh spring rolls. They also serve Vietnamese coffee and waffles for dessert. Although its not hole in the wall Vietnamese joint prices for the amount of protein and food you get + location I found it fairly priced.

 

Sovereign Food

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Sovereign Food

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Sovereign Food

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I started off with some Shrimp Chips which if you are not familiar with essentially taste like shrimp-y styrofoam. My mom used to buy these when we were kids and they are the most fun thing to watch fry. When the bf tried them he said “I can see why you like them” …but I don’t think he liked them.

 

Sovereign Food

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Sovereign Food

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It’s chill more for me.

 

To start with we went with the Egg Rolls which were unbelievably bubbly and crispy on the outside if a bit pale.

 

Sovereign Food

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Sovereign Food

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Sovereign Food

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Sovereign Food

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I liked that these were nicely filled with pork and mushrooms. On their own they might require a touch more salt but wrapped in lettuce and snuggled up with some daikon, carrot, mint and shiso leaf followed by a quick dip in the fish sauce dressing they were perfect. The bf and I were split on the iceberg lettuce, he enjoyed the crunch but I like way romaine or softer lettuce drapes around the egg roll.

 

I was torn between the pork and the BBQ beef but the very helpful lady behind the counter nudged me in the beef direction admitting it was her favorite. So I got a BBQ Beef Noodle Bowl which comes with noodles; a crunchy lettuce, cabbage, and bean sprout salad; pickled veggies; and the BBQ beef showered in crushed peanuts and green onions. (P.S. how satisfying is it to get to use semi-colons properly in writing. boom.)

 

Sovereign Food

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Sovereign Food

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My only complaint would be that I wish there had been more of the fish sauce dressing. I love that stuff and the plain noodles need it. I did later notice there were bottles of hoisin on the counter which would have come in handy as well.

 

The bf also heeded the lady’s advice and went with the BBQ Beef Banh Mi.

 

Sovereign Food

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Sovereign Food

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Sovereign Food

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Sovereign Food

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He properly doused this thing in their sriracha-esque hot sauce. It was nice to get large chunks of good quality meat as opposed to the little bits and shreds of meat you find in more traditional banh mi. This was definitely meat-ified white-ified banh mi. And we were ok with it. Bf did note the banh mi we had at Outsidelands was better but that’s our banh mi unicorn (the best term ever for that one perfect insertfoodtype you had that one time and has never been surpassed by any other, courtesy of Faye). I think it was compounded by the fact that it was really cold and rainy so we were starving but had also had several beers at this point so food was just tasting extra tasty – Outsidelands is also the home to our arepa unicorn. They say hunger is the best spice but hunger + summer in SF (f*cking freezing) + alcohol is really the BESTEST best spice.

 

Oh we liked that they had carafes with water at the table. Always appreciate this as I am an adult who can pour my own water and always feel kind of bad when the servers have to keep coming back to refill your water. The bf drinks A LOT of water.

 

Sovereign Food

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I was born with a congenital inability to not order dessert so naturally had to order the waffle. I went with the Coconut Waffle which is made fresh to order, topped with shredded coconut and a coconut syrup + filled with crunchy peanut butter.

 

Sovereign Food

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Sovereign Food

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Sovereign Food

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This was awesome. Warm and crispy on the outside and fluffy AND peanut butter-y in the inside. The sweet coconut syrup and coconut shreds on top added just the right amount of sweetness. Definitely definitely eat this hot. And perhaps heed their advice to walk over to Chocolat and get a scoop of ice cream on top of this baby.

 

To accompany this behemoth I got a cup of their Vietnamese iced coffee. This was intense coffee but it wasn’t too bitter. And I was worried it would be cloyingly sweet with the condensed milk but in the end almost wished there had been more condensed milk. Then again huge baby about coffee, at home I make it with tons of almond milk and agave –> not at home / not in California lots of creamer and sugar you know what I mean.

 

Sovereign Food

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Service was great, attentive and informative and everyone was quite pleasant. It was not crowded although that might change as they are new. We sat outside on the street and had a nice time people/dog watching and contemplating the infinite possibilities that come with free parking in downtown.

 

Sovereign Food

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Sovereign Food

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Playa del Carmen

I’ve mentioned this before but the first and last time I went to Cancun was when I was 17 on a grade 12 grad trip (12th grade senior trip if you aren’t fluent in Canadian). Our school and all the other all-girls schools in Toronto teamed up with a bunch of the all-boys schools and took over an entire building of the Grand Oasis Hotel. Our package included nightclubs every day as well as all you can eat and all you can drink at the hotel. You can imagine the shenanigans that went down. I apologize to anyone staying at that hotel that fateful first week of March in 2010. In our defense the hotel should let you know of these things in advance. Hundreds of intoxicated sun-burned Canadian teenagers were swarming the hotel bars, the buffets, and the pool at all given hours. We made technicolor sand castles with the free margaritas, someone fell into the giant hotel lobby glass table and shattered it, people chased the peacocks that roamed the property and some poor unfortunate passed out boy was taken to a tattoo parlour and got ‘Viva Cancun’ inked on his bottom forever. In short although it was a, uh, memorable experience I vowed to myself to never return to this place of stereotypical MTV Spring Break-ness, cheap tequila on tap and foam parties at Señor Frogs.

 

Well. A couple of months, ago I broke that promise and touched down at Cancun International Airport once again. It all looked surprisingly familiar. The senior couples in Hawaiian shirts, the Duty Free that gives out free ‘samples’ of tequila, the aggressive currency exchange vendors….Which is why I was pretty happy to jump on a bus and head the f*ck away from Cancun to Playa del Carmen.

 

Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen and Tulum are both much smaller and less developed than Cancun. There is a bit of a hipster vibe in Tulum but in general I would say these places are just more low-key compared to Cancun or Cozumel. Less mega hotels, less of those resorts where people don’t leave the property for 5 days, less giant thumping nightclubs and more not shit food. We were here for a friend’s bachelorette party and the vibe was perfect for hanging out at the beach all day followed by tacos and pitchers of tamarind margaritas and mayyybe a beach club or two. We stayed at an airBnB that was perfectly located just off the main drag of Playa del Carmen and 20 steps from the beach.

 

Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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The first night I arrived around dinner time and ironically we were heading back into Cancun for dinner (why) but we were assured that the restaurant was amazing by friend’s friends who were from Mexico City but who had beach houses in PDC and Cancun and thus came here often. It felt a bit silly to drive a whole hour back to where I had (gladly) just left but to be fair the food was pretty amazing. We had queso fundido, tacos, esquites, and a million of this pineapple jalapeño drink. It was definitely a more upscale restaurant and we got to sit outside by the water which was quite nice. They also had carts that scooped up fresh esquites and fried up fresh churros that were dusted with cinnamon sugar and handed over to you in a paper bag. The shitty part is: I cannot for the life of me remember or find the name of this restaurant.

 

Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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But the food was entirely worth the drive if you are looking for authentic but upscale Mexican food. There were three kinds of cheeses served with the queso fundido and we attacked it with such voracity that by the end all that was left was embarrassingly empty ramekins and thin little strings of cheese criss-crossing the table, like spider webs bridging our wine glasses and on occasion clinging to our hair. Yup. The esquites too were a total revelation to me. Kind of deceptively boring looking but together the sweet, steamed corn generously topped with mayo, salty crumbles of cotija cheese and served with a squeeze of lime and dusting of tajin was a little life-changing. It’s been months and when we mention the trip everyone who tried the esquites still sighs wistfully about the ‘corn cup with all that mayo’. URGH WHAT IS THE NAME OF THIS RESTAURANT.

 

The next day me and the bride to be woke up quite early, as we always do which is why she is one of my preferred travel buddies. When she’s not there my MO consists of roaming around in the dark, tripping over suitcases but trying to not make noise and wake anyone else, ultimately ending up silently scrolling on my phone while telepathically wishing someone else would wake up. So I’m always happy when I find a fellow early riser. We decided to get breakfast and luckily didn’t have to wander too far because right across from our building was this:

 

Playa del Carmen

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Regina’s! We ate here a total of 5 times. In 2.5 days. It was our breakfast spot, our post-beach drinks spot, our I need a pick-me-up coffee spot, and the I drank too much champagne to wait another 2 hours to have dinner spot. The food was good and well-priced, and they especially excelled at breakfast. The ‘integral cakes’ (whole wheat pancakes) were amazing, especially for a pancake-hater like me. They were hearty and nutty, only slightly sweetened and with a toothsome texture from the whole grain. With a swipe of butter and a dollop of jam it was all you needed. That is if you already agreed to share the scrambled eggs or the chilaquiles with someone. And when they ask if you want ‘the queso’ with your scrambled eggs, DO NOT question just accept. We could not suss out what kind of cheese it was (‘its just queso’) but it was like Oaxacan cheese and burrata had a beautiful Mexican-Italian baby. The dishes all came with a side of black beans and plantains which was quite nice as well.

 

To accompany our food we decided we needed a) coffee and b) beer. The coffee you must try is the cafe de la olla, a slightly sweetened coffee brewed with cinnamon and served in clay pots. These pots were so cute we attempted to find the store where the waiter indicated they purchased theirs from. Unfortunately he was a bit vague with directions so after 20 minutes of walking ‘that way’ we gave up and consoled ourselves with the fact that we could probably find something like this on the internet. Someday.

 

Oh as soon as you sit down you get a little mortar and pestle so you can smash-your-own-salsa. I did now know smashing your own salsa was even a thing but fully plan to copy this for a dinner party someday.

 

Playa del Carmen

Integral Cakes

Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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We walked around the town and stopped by a little mini market to buy some more beer. I was overjoyed to find that this little Mexican pharmacy carried Bioderma micellar water and Avene Thermal Spray. Two products I fell in love with when I was in France and that now I mostly find online. Yay Mexican pharmacies. They also sell a lot of items that you normally need a prescription for in the US like Retin-A and Latisse. Not sure how legal it is to take them back with you but I’ll leave that up to you.

 

 

Although it was around 8 am and the sun was already out, the streets were quite. It seemed the tourists were all still in bed and stores and ice cream parlours were just beginning to creak open. Waking up early during trips is always, always worth it. If only I could communicate that to my younger self who never woke up earlier than noon in Barcelona (also never went to bed before 5 am in Barcelona as well) (< — I would die if I attempted this now)

 

Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Once the rest of the group was up we decided to walk to the beach and check out some of the beach clubs. The first one we went to was pretty crowded so we walked over to Mamita’s. Mamita’s kind of looks like a mini Burning Man just descended at the beach. We loved the crochet screens hanging over the day beds and to secure a bed it ended up being a very affordable $30 bucks per person which included two bottles of tequila. The vibe was fun but chill, people were having fun and music was pleasant but it wasn’t the claustrophobic, elbow-to-elbow crowds and ear-defeaning bass of Vegas beach clubs. We poured ourselves margaritas, we swam in the ocean, we splashed in the pool, and we ordered fries. It was all I wanted it to be.

 

Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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We then headed home because the bridesmaids had planned a beach photo shoot. We were all mysteriously told to ‘bring a white outfit you like’ to the trip and when we got the airBnB we each had flower crowns with our names on them. So we donned the white outfits and our flower crowns and went to the beach looking very much like some kind of mermaid cult. But you know what. The pictures turned out pretty cute.

 

Playa del Carmen

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PDC-beachphoto

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Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen

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Andddd the dinner we had at Almirante Pech will be part of the next post as this baby is sufficiently long. I promise you ceviches and cenotes in Part 2.

 

Playa del Carmen

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If you are wondering yes some poor bystander had to take all the group pictures. But in our defense when you see a group of girls with cameras dressed like they are taking part of the rapture isn’t it common knowledge to run away in the other direction unless you want to be held hostage taking pictures on 2 cameras and 3 iPhones. Right.

 

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