November 16, 2011

3 Things You Need to Do in San Diego

San Diego beckons.
For those of you living in New England, you are more than likely aware of the craziness that was this year's so-called "Snowtober," a snowstorm that slammed us in October, dumping several inches of snow on our poor little pumpkin patches, downing tree limbs and power lines, and spoiling Halloween for countless kids (and adults - myself included, damn it).

Not to mention the week spent without power ... and heat ... and, for some, water. If you'd seen my most recent post, you may have some inkling of how excited I was for the Halloween party of the year at the Wadsworth Mansion. Alas, the party was canceled, marking my first un-Halloween. Sniff.

Where to go when your backyard looks like this,
and it's not yet even Halloween?  Fly south. Pronto.
As it is, I'm not a big fan of the autumn months, so sans power and heat, and with Halloween erased from the calendar altogether, I ask you, what was I supposed to do? Um, fly to Southern California, that's what.

I swear I'm not that much of a prima donna. It just so happened that I'd planned my vacation with uncannily perfect timing - on the Thursday that we were scheduled to depart for San Diego, it was Day Six of no electricity. Otherwise known as Time to Get the Hell Out of Here.

OK, so San Diego. If you haven't been, I recommend it to anyone who hopes to escape the winter doldrums. It's the perfect getaway for the non-snow bunnies among us, like moi.

In addition to the heavenly weather, there are oodles of things to do there - from the San Diego Zoo to the beaches to Tijuana (just 15 minutes away), you can spend numerous vacations there, as I have, and not see everything. But there are at least three things I do recommend you do once you've arrived.

1. Eat

San Diego is among the largest cities in the United States. Suffice it to say there about a zillion restaurants, bars, and food trucks out there serving deeelicious food. But there are two stops in particular that I'd recommend over any other: Hash House a go go (serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus brunch on weekends) and The Tractor Room (serving dinner and brunch on weekends). Both in the Hillcrest section of San Diego, they are well-known for their monstrous portions and amazing food. Oh, and their lines. So make a reservation if you can or be prepared to wait for some time - though I can't stress enough how much it is worth the wait.

I could really go on and on about the food, but I kinda think some of these pictures speak for themselves. For one, please behold The Tractor Room's chocolate chip bacon pancake:

The $10 special - a gigantic chocolate chip and bacon pancake.
(And yes, strips of bacon are embedded in it, that's right.)
Or, try The Tractor Room's braised, free-range buffalo quesadilla, which comes with scrambled eggs, tomato, cheddar, a venison stock reduction cream sauce (ooo lah lah!) and the best home fries around. I shared this with a friend and we still didn't quite finish it:

Massive, I tell you. And massively delicious, too. (P.S. Try the cornbread, too.)

I haven't even mentioned the Drinks of Giant Proportions. Think Bloody Marys as big as your head, with a skewer of filet mignon if you like. For reals.

Hash House a go go - the same geniuses behind The Tractor Room - is just as outstanding. Hash, as the name implies, is their specialty. Similar to The Tractor Room, most meals arrive not on plates, but on huge cast iron skillets. Like this one beautiful hash, complete with eggs, home fried potatoes, fruit, a scrumptious biscuit, and, oh yes, a full stalk of rosemary:

Sooo tasty!
2. Hike
Um, time to burn calories. Thankfully, there are innumerable trails and scenic state parks all over San Diego County. Two that I'd highly recommend are Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego and the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in La Jolla, Calif. Among the better known hiking areas, they each have their own unique advantages.

Mission Trails is huge (about 6,000 acres and 40 miles of trails), with all levels of hiking available - for novices up on through hard-core rock climbers. Torrey Pines has about 8 miles of trails, but comes with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and interesting plants and trees - namely, the very cool-looking Torrey Pines, which is in fact the rarest pine tree in North America. Again, pictures from each of these destinations probably tell a better story:

Up for some cardio? Try Climbers' Loop Trail at Mission Trails Regional Park.
A short hike, but one of the most challenging, you'll ascend quickly - more than 400 feet - and get to hike right along the face of this mountain of granite.

A view from the top of Climbers' Loop Trail at Mission Trails Regional Park.

Hang with some of the Torrey pine trees, at the aptly named Torrey Pines State Reserve
Hike along the cliffs at Torrey Pines, or stroll down to the Pacific Ocean.
If you're going down there, though, be prepared for the long, steep walk back up the bluffs.

3. Drink beer (especially if you're an IPA fan)
No joke, there are designated parking spots
for those folks who come in to get refills
on their Stone Brewing growlers. Genius.
Third? Get yourself to the Stone Brewing Co., about a half-hour north of downtown San Diego. You will not be disappointed. And if you're a lover of pale ales, you're even less likely to be disappointed, as this appears to be their specialty. The Stone Brewing Ruination IPA boasts more than 100 IBUs, or international bittering units. That's pretty much off-the-charts bitter. Ruination indeed. You better like hops if you're going to try this one.

Even better is that this establishment is reportedly planning to build a hotel across the street from the brewery - what they're claiming to call the most "beer-friendly" hotel around. I'm not 100 percent sure what that means, but I like the sound of it. (P.S. Per our tour guide, they're actually looking for suggestions for said hotel. Personally, I think such a place would only be complete with a flowing beer fountain placed in the lobby, from which you can drink their beer at any time. Thoughts?)

Anyway, go for the tour. It's free! (Tours run Monday-Friday at 12, 2 4, and 6 p.m.; Saturday on the hour every hour from 12 noon to 7 p.m.; and Sunday at 12, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 p.m.)

Why thank you, sir, I will take another.
Stone Brewing Co. brews a whole lotta different beers - all with rather steep alcohol contents, mind you. Prior to the tour, we sat at the bar in their bistro and sampled quite a few. (Yes, we may or may not have been those people on the tour.)

The tour itself lasts about 40 minutes, and in our case was narrated by a friendly and chatty dude named Phil. Afterward, you are invited to partake in four pretty hefty-sized samples (see above). You also have the opportunity to shop around for shirts, hats, and other Stone Brewing paraphernalia - or, of course, bring in your empty growler for a refill.

P.S., if you're lucky enough to be in San Diego in November, as we were, you may also want to check out the festivities that are a part of San Diego Beer Week. We were there, too...Stories for another time. For now, do what I tell you, and get yourself to this fabulous city.

Happy, shining people, no?
My Best Coast West Coast BFF, Licia, and yours truly,
enjoying white ale at Stone Brewing Co.


  1. Such good recommendations! Wish I liked IPA, heh. :)

  2. Such good recommendations! Glad I love IPA, heh. :)