Sunny San Diego w/o the Sun.

I just returned from a week-long Mexican Riviera cruise. In case I forget, would someone out there please remind me for the future, that I am NOT a cruise girl. I’ve decided that cruising is definitely a Love it or Hate it issue and I fall heavily into the latter camp.

I had planned the trip to give my mom a break from the cold Seattle snow, and since the cruise left from San Diego, I thought we should arrive a few days early to thaw her out. Yeah, right…for the next three days we were froze our butts off, without even a glimmer of sunshine. (All the locals kept telling me this weather was exceedingly rare, which really didn’t help in the slightest.)

The good news was that I had booked a room right in the heart of downtown, at the iconic US GRANT, on the National Registrar of Historic Sites since 1979. I usually lean towards more modern/chic-even edgy hotels, but I had stayed here before and thought my mother would enjoy it. It turned out to be the perfect choice for looking out at the damp gray drizzle that never let up. Comfy/cozy with an air of understated elegance and refinement, (and a huge bathroom, which I adored) our accommodations were perfect for cocooning. We nestled into our pillowy beds, happy to emerge only for museum visits and once to dart across the street for some delicious Indian food which we brought back to our beds.

Our last night we bundled up and went for dinner at a fab restaurant, The Linkery, located in the up & coming artsy, foodie area of North Park. The ultimate farm-to-table resto where Sausage, in many delicious flavors, shapes and guises, RULES! Totally hip,original and refreshingly void of pretense, The Linkery would be my neighborhood restaurant if I lived in the nabe.
The bisto oozes coolness, with it’s high beamed ceiling,sophisticated wine colored walls, and in-the-know foodie crowd. The ever changing- menu features the freshest seasonal cuisine and almost everything from the hearth-baked breads, mustards, sauerkraut, sausages to the rich and creamy ice-cream is made in house.
An interesting touch is that you can ” MEET YOUR MEAL” either by reading about who and where your food is coming from, such as Farmer Barney (pastured Berkshire pork, B&B Farms, Grinnell IA), or Christine and Jim (pastured goat and lamb, artisan cheese, Rinconada Dairy, Santa Margarita CA), and Marisa (pastured chicken eggs, Fountain of Youth Farm, Ramona CA) or watch the continuous slide show on the wall featuring the various farmers and their happy animals, although I have to admit it was just a little weird watching slides of a contented sheep nibbling on his grass as I nibbled my home-made sausage which had been made from one of his relatives.
Plan on showing up early, since they don’t take rezzies, and also because it takes a while to order. Not because the staff is slow, but because it all sounds scrumptious and you’ll have trouble narrowing down your selections. I’d suggest ordering family style with everyone sharing, and if you can’t reach a consensus, the wait-staff make great arbitrators. A few major standouts from our dinner (although there wasn’t a clunker on the list) were:

-Grilled green beans in ginger and cask-aged Shoyu
-Smoked chorizo & goat flatbread
– the best Choucroute I’ve had outside of France with house made sauerkraut braised in Mosel Riesling, house cured jowl bacon, melted Gouda cheese, house baked bread, and your choice of sausages
– for a bunch of different tastes, try the Lowcountry boil: Wild Mexican shrimp, local Manila clams,Andouille sausage, Pee Wee potatoes,and California corn served with house made jalapeño cornbread.

During our mediation, I had surrender my order of Country-fried pig’s ear sandwich, since no one else would try it but it sure sounded good to me:Pig’s ear (Niman Ranch), black pepper mayo, bbq franks and beans.

The same mix and match philosophy will work when ordering your beverages since they offer a huge list of craft beers, a flavorful cask beer and a wide selection of unique sparkling meads, wines and ciders. These are all offered in various sizes from mini- tastes up to full bottles, so you can go nuts with imaginative pairings or flights.

We left full of good sustainable food and enthusiasm and decided that it was the most enjoyable meal we’d eaten and only wished they delivered–to Northern California.

Posted by Janice Nieder on January 16, 2009 in Travel

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