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Dec 23, 2013 11:05 PM

Out & About in SD...Day 3

I think the old saying goes something like this...after 3 days fish and relatives start to stink...and that was certainly true today. After so much familial togetherness a little "me" time was in order

No breakfast lunch out...only time to do our own thing and not have to worry about someone else. YEA!!

My first stop of the day was Iowa Meat Farms. Holy Cow! at 1:30 pm the place was bedlam. When I walked in they were calling for number 5, the next number out of the ticket dispenser was 25. waiting through 20 people just for 4# of pork butt. So off I went to BevMo! in La Mesa. Line of cars trying to get into Grossmont Center was enormous, thankfully far too many years in the area means I know how to avoid the usual routes. BevMo! was not too busy, an easy in and out.

I had purchased tickets for the Holiday Pops concert by the SD Symphony, so dinner before was in order. Off we went to Fogo de Chao. Holy Cow, squared...literally. This is the old Border's Books space at 6th & G. It has been tastefully redone. Loved the lighting installation above the salad bar and adored the ginormous sprays of flowers atop the salad bar. But, frankly, we just really loved and adored dinner.

Like the decor, the salad bar was tastefully done. Along with the usual lettuces were some very interesting choices (jumbo asparagus, taboule, hearts of palm, spinach salad, salami, pepperpaw peppers, proscuitto, assorted cheese and more), tastefully displayed and (thank you Fogo de Chao) clearly identified and marked as to what they were. The salad bar comes with the meal and you do need to put a little bit away because the rest of the meal is an Atkins dieter's delight. If you are a carnivore, this is the place for you!!

Like any Brazilian churrascurria, the premise is simple. Roving bands of attractive waiter (with equally attractive accents) offer diners a random and rotating selection of grilled meats. Each place setting comes complete with a small pair of ice tongs...the waiters carve and you use the tongs to pick up your selection when carved. I'm pretty sure that between the 4 of use we tried every meat offered.

The winners were the house special sirloin, tenderloin and flank steak. Also good were the rib eye and other sirloin options as well as the leg of lamb.

Good but noticeably less successful were the pork items...loin that had been rolled in cheese and ribs, lamb chops, chicken and liguica

Temperature on most of the carved items was good and you could specify the degree of doneness you wanted. We started with medium rare, although I moved to rare after the first item. Rare is not still moo-ing blood rare, and it ended up being the preferred degree of doneness for all of us.

They also brought a basket of pan de queso, made with yucca flour (and therefore gluten free) to the table along with some mashed potatoes (okay) and crispy polenta (so-so). The dessert menu is extensive, though we were so full we passed on it. This was not a cheap ticket...the meals, wine, coffee/tea, tax and tip was about $100 per person, but oh, so worth it.

We walked back to symphony hall and as we got closer I couldn't figure out why there didn't seem to be as much activity around it as usual on concert night. Could be because the concert was actually last nignt, December 22nd, not the 23rd...OOPS.

So still being early we decided to go somewhere for a drink and to possibly catch the tail end of Monday Night Football. We ended up in the upstairs bar at Tom Ham's on Harbor Island. It was, and still is, a fantastic view.

They have an extensive craft beer menu and will do pours in various sizes. This was enough to keep my nephew occupied. His IPA flight was okay but the real winner was the stout/porter flight he did. Did you know there is a stout called Zumbar and, you guessed it, it has a very pronounced coffee flavor. It was my nephews favorite of the night and probably my second fav. I was partial to the peanut butter cup Karl Strauss porter, which was pretty outrageous. Yeah, it is kind of like a Reese's in porter form but not as sweet.

Tom Ham's was recently remodeled and the stairwell leading upstairs is filled with old maps of San Diego bay. The earliest is mid 1800s, the latests 2012. It's easy to see the changes that have taken place over a 200 year period. It's even better when Tom Ham's grandson gives you a personal tour of the maps and explains what they are and puts some context to them. That happened to us tonight and it was pretty cool.

So, we all used our down time today to get some time and space from each other. We came back together for an absolutely fantastic meal at Fogo de Chao, we laughed at the ticket fiasco with the symphony tickets and ended the evening watching planes come in to land at Lindberg in a comfortable bar drinking weird beers and chatting with the founder's grandson.

All in all, not a bad day...only 2 more to go :-)

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  1. You appear to handle the stress well, bet you'll be needing a break from restaurants for a while.

    1. Hey! We were at Fogo de Chao last night too! For my husband's 50th birthday. Our dinner was excellent.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Dagney

        What time were you there. We ate early because...well because we *thought* we were going to a holiday concert. Boy were we wrong :-D!!

        I'd go back to Fogo de Chao in a heartbeat. My nephew had been to the one in Dallas and he said this one is better. Most of the guys serving the meat were quite charming and it wasn't hard to engage them in conversation. We found out that the meats are cut down to a certain level (where it gets too rare) and then resalted and put back on the grill. We also asked what they did with the leftovers and they said they either ate them or threw them out. My sister asked why they didn't donate the leftovers and the answer was liability issues and the risk of being sued. I suspect they probably do have some way to use their leftovers, either that or their corporate offices have some fancy formula for forcasting nightly usage. In any event, everyone that served us and that we talked to was super nice and it was pretty clear they wanted us to eat up and enjoy ourselves, which we did.

        1. re: DiningDiva

          Charities and food kitchens won't really accept food that isn't packaged and sealed so I doubt they'd be able to give it away to them. And I'm guessing they don't really want to start putting it on their back doorstep out of fear of getting a lineup every night.

          1. re: DiningDiva

            We arrived around 6:40-ish for our 7:00 reservation. We had drinks in the bar before dinner.

            This was my second visit. My squad ate there when they first opened, and I was so impressed. I thought the room was simply beautiful, and the service, from the host staff to the bussing staff were ultra-professional and well trained.

            Last night proved their impressive opening service was not a fluke. We were greeted by the same, smart host staff. No, "hey guys," or a lazy valley girl sounding, "Hiiiyeee," thank goodness! Rather we were treated to a solid, "Good evening, welcome to Fogo de Chao." The wait staff was sharp, efficient, and competent. I promised my husband, be READY when you flip that card from red to green, because an army of guys with meat and knives are going to appear as if by magic. Sure enough, I think the Picanha (spelling?) arrived literally 5 seconds after the initial card flip.

            The food, across the board, was perfect. I loved the salad bar. Husband could not get enough of the mango shrimp salad. We opted for rare-medium rare meat choices and they were all just soooo wonderfully seasoned. The server chose a bottle of red wine for us. By this time, we had already been drinking since 3:00 (I mean, we were celebrating a half century of living). We told him what we like, he zeroed in a two choices that were not over the top on the budget, so I told him, "you favorite of those two." Ordinarily, I would have preferred to write more detail about the wine, but alas, 4 scotches and a martini into the day, all I can say was it was a more full bodied Pinot Noir-type of wine and we drank it vigorously.

            Husband loved his first visit, and I was just as impressed during my second, as I was the first. We will go back.

        2. The Zumbar stout is from New English Brewing, and it has been quite popular. Their brewery and tasting room are on Sorrento Valley Blvd, not too far from Zumbar - thus the collaboration idea. Generally, they specialize in English ales, though they do an IPA (called "Humbly Legit") and a few other American styles on occasion.


          The Karl Strauss peanut butter porter is pretty decent, though I think Belching Beaver's peanut butter milk stout is a tastier beer along the same lines. It has a little less "bite" and is sweeter. You can find bottles of it in Whole Foods, Sprouts, and various other local bottle shops - though it tends to run out pretty quickly. I mention this brewery mainly to imagine Fakey's reaction to its name.

          2 Replies
          1. re: RB Hound

            I am kind of horrified and but then, yes, admittedly, kind of intrigued by the thought of a coffee flavored beer, let alone a peanut butter flavored one.

            But, what do I know? Hubby loves the peanut butter sandwiches with mayo, strawberry jam, salami and garlic powder on whole wheat that that I make for his lunch.

            1. re: Gypsy Jan

              It might be because when you think "beer" you think something Budweiserish, or maybe a hoppy pale ale. Save for some occasional experiments, the only beers that would be flavored with peanut butter or coffee are stouts and porters, and in most cases it is a pretty subtle flavor, not something that slaps you in the face.

          2. FdC has maybe one of the best salad bars around.

            That alone may be worth the price of admission.