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13 Year Old's Strange Food Adventures In San Diego - Reporting Back

Thanks to all of you who posted to my query for strange food. We had a FABULOUS time.

We visited 2 of the mariscos taco trucks & sampled fish tacos, marlin, scallops, clam (concha?) & shrimp cocktail. We asked for the octopus, but they didn't have any. Nothing very strange about any of it, just that we don't have access to Mexican of this nature in out neck of the woods. Delicious.

Then we visited Zia Pizza & Viva Pops on Adams Ave. in Normal Heights. My sister's a vegitarian & we had to give her some choices too & it was close to home. Viva Pops was great & we visited them every day, trying new flavors daily & sharing tastes. We got thru almost the whole menu. The best were ruby red grapefuit, nectarine lime & blood orange....yum!

Vallarta Market in Escondido was lots of fun, things we've never seen before. I got reprimaned for taking pictures there. We had lunch there, but it wasn't anything to write home about. Sadly, the Mingei Museum was closed that day despite what their flyer stated. There's a great sculpture garden in town though at Kit Carson Park.

We had dinner that night at Noodle Town in Kearny Mesa, the spicy baby octopus bulgogi Josh recommended. Josh, you didn't find that too spicy? My son said, "my nose is running, my lips are burning, I have a headache & indigestion...this is the spiciest thing I've ever eaten ..... it's great!" He drank a lot, some kind of flavored water (what is that? we liked it?) & at one point, unaware, picked up the entire pitcher instead of his glass. I found it pretty spicy as well, but it really was good. My sister didn't find any of the menu appealing, so she just sat & watched us eat.

I've got to go out to walk the dog now, but I'll be back in a bit with more.

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  1. Sounds like fun! The flavored water is roasted barley.

    1. Trying to attach a couple of photos at Viva Pops, we'll see if it works.

      1. Wow, it worked, good for me! So, back to the trip.

        So, my son made some friends in the neighborhood & gave my sister & I some time to ourselves. We lunched at her favorite mexican place, where she's been going for must be close to 20 years, Chiquita's on Home Ave. Good margeritas & a light meal.

        For dinner we drove to Linda Vista to Sab E Lee. When we arrived, they were not busy but, by the time we left, every table was filled & they brought another one out of the kitchen to accomodate a few more people. WOW, that was fantastic! We had Papaya Salad, the best I've ever had except the peanuts are usually chopped & in this version they were whole, Tom Yum soup with shrimp (sooooo good), steamed pork leg stir fried w/ basil & vegetables & a couple of Thai iced teas. My sister had a vegetarian green curry. My mouth was very happy that night!

        Next year I must remember to try the squid salad, it sounds great.

        1. We spent the next day at Belmont Park & Mission Beach with 4 13-year olds. There wasn't any great food there, but I did try a Chicago dog. I've never had one before & was quite pleasantly surprised. Especially since I don't like relish. The boy hated it though.

          For dinner we visited Crazee Burger. Last year he had a kangaroo burger & was very eager to try one of the other strange offerings. He settled on antelope this year but was disappointed. He said he prefers venison, which has a somewhat stronger flavor. I had a Santorini burger which is half lamb/half beef & is topped with tzatziki sauce. Not strange, but it was quite tasty.

          On Saturday morning we headed over to the farmer's market at Little Italy. I'd never been to this one & it was great! Did someone say this was a small market? First we visited the sea urchin vendor & had a taste, then we made our way thru the market. The artichokes were humongus, my son took a picture of me holding one & it was like a bouquet of flowers with that long, long stem. We chatted up the vendors & had lots of tastes. Then we returned to the uni lady. I've got to tell you, this was one of the highlights of our trip. We bought a sea urchin & my young man had a lesson in how to break it down. She gave him gloves & a knife & took him thru the process step by step. People were stopping to watch him & we took tons of pictures. It was like he was on the food network. Then of course we ate it & it was incredibly yummy!

          3 Replies
          1. re: pgsmama

            So here's the little foodie with his sea urchin. He's eaten it before but it was my first. He also tried an Italian soda that was made with the flavored syrups used in the coffee bars, Pellegrino sparkling water & evaporated milk topped with whipped cream. Pretty tasty. The Hatch chile guys were in the next booth & we got to talking. I bought a couple of chiles to take back to my sister's.

            That afternoon we went parasailing, what a kick! Unfortunately, after flying high, I was brought low...I got seasick! Yuk. Recovered in time for dinner though. We went to Pecktopah (a/k/a Pomegranate) which my sister & her friend had been wanting to try. We started off with khachapuri (a cheese pie), which was pretty tasty. The boy had pork shashlik with a pomegranate glaze. Sister & I shared a cold yogurt/herb soup & took the leftovers home for breakfast & a combination platter of 6 salads (potato salad, cabbage salad, beet salad, carrot, bean & green bean salads). Oh, & there was a very very spicy gingerale that the boy loved. The meal was ok, but not one of my favorites.

            Sunday morning was the Hillcrest farmer's market. I've been there before. Saw a number of vendors from the Little Italy market on Saturday. Noteably the artichoke guys (I couldn't figure out how to bring a few of those home, they were just too danged big!) & the chile guy. I did buy a few of those, unroasted, & tucked them into my luggage. Roasted them the other night & I'm making chiles & eggs for breakfast tomorrow.

            We spent the day at the museums in Balboa Park & then went to the Linkery for dinner. Well, that was the plan anyway. My sister said she'd have some vegetarian appetizers for dinner & we stopped to look at the menu, That place is really over-priced. I would have been happy to try the hot dog wrapped in bacon with lots of fix-ins (I guess it's what you call a Tijuana dog), but darned if I'll pay $14.50 for a hot dog ANYWHERE.

            We decided to try Tao. It's a new Japanese/Vietnamese restaurant on Adams Ave. They're particularly known for their tofu. They have lots of vegetarian choices but do serve meat & fish. Delicious. They start you off with a complientary salad with a bit of tofu. Then we all shared the vegetarian tofu rolls. They were wrapped in rice paper with tofu, lettuce, mint, bean sprouts & rice noodles with a nice spicy sauce. It was a very generous portion & 1 person could make a meal of it. I had the chicken ramen noodle soup whick, after a week of eating, was rather comforting. The boy had vermicelli with shrimp & pork. My sister's dinner was delicious, a rice bowl with "chicken" tofu. Even better than the vermicelli. They offered complimentary ice cream after dinner, lemon or green tea. Good meal.

            1. re: pgsmama

              awesome serial reports! I like the shirt he's wearing in the uni photo!

              1. re: pgsmama

                Great post! We returned to Tao Friday night--Wow! I am no vegetarian, but this was great food. I ordered the pineapple curry at level 5 spice. Served in a fresh pineapple and chock full of fruit spears and veggies cooked just right. I even liked the tofu chicken meat balls. I might have to rethink my position on soy meat. My partner got the salmon which was also delicious with brown rice--another prejudice of mine blown away. We just finished eating the generous leftovers. Steamed up a few shrimp and added them to the two dishes, and enjoyed another tasty meal.

            2. RE: the baby octopus bulgogi, I didn't find it too spicy, no. But then I like habanero salsas and other really hot food. Glad he enjoyed it, though. That's good stuff.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Josh

                Yeah, you're also eating Sab E Lee's koi soi at a 10. I had it at a 5 and was crying uncle 3/4 of the way through the dish. So fiery, yet so good. Face it, Josh, you're a master of spicy foods. :)

                1. re: geekyfoodie

                  I think I liked the Koi Soi better at 7 than 10. 10 is painful. 7 is hot, but manageable.

                  1. re: Josh

                    Koby wouldn't let us go under a 5. Mr. G can handle fiery foods, but I'm much more of a lightweight. We asked him to make it around a 3 and he said it was no good unless it started at a 5. It was really spicy for me, but they used a super-fresh cut of meat and we could pick up the rich gamey meat flavor alongside the herbs and chiles. A 7 makes my mouth hurt just thinking about it and a 10 is a place I won't traverse, even on a dare.

              2. Now we were down to our last day. What was left that we really wanted to do? Oh yes, Aqui Es Texcoco! What can I say, that is a unique experience. We called to get directions & to make sure they had some lamb's head. When we arrived, we were greeted by the owner & talked about the food & chowhounders. I'd been dying to try the huitlacoche & squash blossom quesadillas & the boy ordered his feast - tongue, cheek & eyeball. My sister requested rolled potato tacos. We also had jamaica & horchata. The salsas, onions & cilantro, & limes came to the table. The soup was delivered. Yummy soup, with chick peas, rice & pieces of chiplote chile, mmmm so good. My sister took a bite of her tacos....uh oh, there's meat in them! Back they went with many apologies. My huitlacoche & zucchini flowers were scrumptious. All eyes however, were on the boy & his meat. He liked the tongue the best. Thought the cheek just tasted like meat. I tried both & they were good, but that was all I tasted. Next came the eyeballs. He had to work himself up to taking a bite...but he liked it. Still, he pretty much had to make himself eat the rest, said he couldn't quite get past what it was, particularly when he encountered a large piece of eyeball. He actually gagged. But he was not yet done. The owner stopped by to hear how he'd liked his meal & asked if he wanted to try the brains. Yes, sir. These he compared to the texture of scrambled eggs. He was so full though that he could not finish it all. It was, as I said, a unique experience.

                We headed back home to pick-up a couple of 13-year old girls & went to Torrey Pines Glider Port. That was for me...I wanted to see some of these guys fly! I was lucky in that there was one guy who took off from the cliffs. It was very exciting to watch & the view is spectacular.

                On our way back home we made our last food stop ---- Chuao Chocolates. We had to try the firecracker truffles. We bought a box of 9 to take home. Then we all had some gelato.
                A sweet & spicy end to our trip.

                We started every morning with my sister's coffee klatch at Le Stat's on Adams Ave. After the 2nd day I was awarded my own seat, like one of the regulars. So that's where our trip ended as well. The boy was even invited by one of the guys to go out for 1/2 day fishing on our next trip. He accepted the invitation.

                We had a fantastic trip & much of it was due to your input. So thank you so much & I'll be sure to check back next year!

                1 Reply
                1. re: pgsmama

                  Thanks so much for the reports. Great reading - sounds like you all had a good time.