Working as a freelance writer guarantees a steady stream of press releases in my inbox, and while the majority of them are off target or just plain useless, occasionally a truly exciting opportunity comes my way. The latest example was an offer for a $100 credit for Instacart, a grocery delivery service that recently launched in San Diego. I’d previously used a $20 credit to stock up on Cool Haus ice cream sandwiches and found the service convenient, so obviously I said yes. This time around, I gave myself a noble challenge: use the $100 to procure the ultimate selection of snacks.

instacart-screen

When Door Dash reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in trying out their restaurant food delivery service, I jumped at the opportunity, mostly because I work from home and on weekdays, the car I share with my husband is with him in Sorrento Valley. As you can probably imagine, that puts a bit of a clamp on my lunch game, because while I’d love to eat a sandwich from places Ike’s or Carnitas’ Snack Shack, the time I’d spend getting there on the bus (or the Car2Go rental fee) isn’t quite worth it.

door-dash-carnitas

At a special dinner for local food bloggers hosted by Caffe Calabria and Specialty Produce (and catered by chefs MJ Testa and Javier Plascencia), Specialty Produce gifted me with a Farmers’ Market Box brimming with delicious things, like juicy blackberries, heirloom garlic, beets, tiny radishes with a peppery punch, dill, citrus, and more. Inspired by a renewed commitment to eat better, I decided to put as many ingredients as possible into a ridiculously healthy salad. Here’s what I came up with. I think it’s a keeper!

roasted beet and quinoa salad

Sovereign, the modern Vietnamese restaurant helmed by two-time Michelin Bib Award-winning chef Michael “Bao” Huynh, isn’t open in the Gaslamp Quarter quite yet, but Food Shop, the restaurant’s more casual kitchen, is. There, you’ll find a shortlist of affordable street-food inspired eats, including pho; bowls with rice, vermicelli noodles, or veggies; wok dishes like garlic noodles and drunken noodles; fresh and fried rolls; and most importantly: banh mi. I’ll gush over the banh mi in a bit. For now, I wanted to share some photos of the other options I tried during back-to-back visits.

Beef Banh Mi from Food Shop in San Diego

The Gaslamp Quarter was in dire need of a bakery. Before Le Parfait Paris opened shop, croissants, eclairs, and tiny, perfect cakes were practically nowhere to be found…and when they could be found, they were nowhere near as good as what Executive Pastry Chef Jean François Fays is stocking the cases with at this bright and airy bakery in the former Borders building.

Chocolate eclair from Le Parfait Paris

Looking at this photo takes me way back. Well, back to 2009, and my second visit to Hodad’s. A few days earlier, I had my mind blown by my first-ever Hodad’s cheeseburger and was already craving another fix. I was visiting San Diego to see my first love, over a decade after we connected on IRC as angst-filled suburban teenagers (and then reconnected on Facebook as mostly responsible adults).

Hodad's Bus

I crave pasta year-round. It’s one of the few things I’m awesome at making, and I’m always hunting for exciting new dishes at local (and not-so-local) restaurants. For the winter issue of Dining Out SD, I tasked myself with finding four delicious pasta dishes, covering a range of noodles and sauces.

asparagus lasagna from Hanna's Gourmet

In recent months, Little Italy has cemented itself as San Diego’s hottest dining ‘hood. With everything from ramen to classic standbys, deciding where to eat is now a daunting proposition. To help narrow down the options, I consulted a panel of food experts for Dining Out SD’s winter issue.

hot bites in San Diego's Little Italy