Candice

National Dessert Day in San Diego: All Desserts, All the Time

Extraordinary Desserts San Diego

Life in San Diego is sweet, and not just because of the great weather. When it comes to sweet treats, San Diego calls with cupcake shops, pie joints, and some of the best ice cream in the country (just ask the readers of Travel + Leisure magazine).

In fact, San Diego loves desserts so much, we have several restaurants that specialize in just that. Today you can celebrate National Dessert Day in San Diego, but you don’t need an excuse to indulge in the delicious treats from these dessert-first restaurants.

Extraordinary Desserts

Extraordinary Desserts San Diego

Pastry is art at Extraordinary Desserts

Extraordinary Desserts has been a beloved spot for decadent desserts for more than 20 years. Chef/owner Karen Krasne trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and has become famous for towering flower- and fruit-topped confections that incorporate everything from rich chocolate ganache to passion fruit crème. Head to their locations in San Diego’s Little Italy and neighboring Banker’s Hill to try an elegant tart, slice of sinful cake or indulgent pot de crème.

Where:
Little Italy – 1430 Union Street, San Diego, CA 92101
Banker’s Hill – 2929 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103
> Find out more about Extraordinary Desserts

Swoon

Swoon San Diego - National Dessert Day

Tempting carrot cake at Swoon (photo courtesy of Erin Jackson and SeriousEats.com)

You can make a full meal out of just desserts at this recently-opened dessert shop in North Park. On Fridays and Saturdays at Swoon, guests can indulge with a three-course dessert flight. The menu changes often, giving you plenty of reasons to return, but recent offerings have included strawberry mascarpone gelato, stout-infused chocolate mousse and basil tres leches.

Where: 3139 University Ave., San Diego, California 92104
> Find out more about Swoon

D Bar

D Bar San Diego

“Sunshine on a Plate” at D Bar (photo courtesy of Erin Jackson and SeriousEats.com)

Fans of the Food Network will recognize celebrity chef Keegan Gerhard from his appearances on Food Network Challenge, and thanks to D Bar, locals and visitors can sample the sweet creations of this award-winning chef. Desserts range from simple milk and cookies to elaborate plates like the “d=mc²,” which is made with milk chocolate mousse, salted caramel, peanut butter rice krispies, peanut nib crumble and milk chocolate ice cream.

Where: 3930 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103
> Find out more about D Bar

Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro

Eclipse Chocolate San Diego

Sample Eclipse’s “Three Ways” paired beer with sweet treats this National Dessert Day

Can’t wait until the afternoon for your dessert fix? Luckily, Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro serves up a dessert-inspired brunch every day until 2 p.m.  The bistro also features a monthly tasting series called the “Chocolate Threeway”: for $20, guests can join Eclipse’s chocolatier and a local brewmaster for an hour-long guided tasting complete with three exotic truffles paired with three artisan cheeses paired with three craft beers.

Where: 2145 Fern Street, San Diego, CA 92104
> Find out more about Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro

> Celebrate National Dessert Day Everyday at San Diego Restaurants

Where will you be celebrating National Dessert Day? Let us know in the comments below.

Brent Bernasconi

Top Things to Do in San Diego – April 30 – May 5, 2013

Folklorico Dance in Old Town State Historic Park

From Cinco de Mayo in Old Town, to bugs paired with local beers in Balboa Park, to Bluegrass music in East County, there’s a lot going on! Here are the top things to do in San Diego this weekend:

Cinco de Mayo

Mariachis in Old Town

Mariachis entertain throughout San Diego this Cinco de Mayo.

Ajua! Celebrate the culture, dance, music and food of Mexico during the weekend long celebration of Cinco de Mayo in San Diego.

> Read our blog post on Cinco de Mayo 2013

Bugs & Beer, A True Test of Your Taste Buds!

Jerusalem Cricket - San Diego Natural History Museum

“But be forewarned! The stars of this exhibition are sure to delight the young, inquisitive minds in your family and some grownups might find the little creatures quite outrageous.” Dr. Michael W. Hager

Sip, sample, and savor edible insect delights and enjoy a selection of local brews. Not feeling up to eating arthropods? Not to worry, as there will be hosted appetizers available as well. While your taste buds are experiencing an explosion of flavor, explore Dr. Entomo’s Palace of Exotic Wonders! Learn from Dr. Michael Wall, Museum Curator of Entomology, how insects help create the amazing flavors we experience in our everyday foods!

Where: San Diego Natural History Museum – 1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
When: May 1, 2013
Time: 6:30 to 9:00 PM
Cost: $20-$25
> Find out more about Bugs & Beer, A True Test of Your Taste Buds!

Ramona Bluegrass & Old West Fest

Ramona Bluegrass and Old West Festival - Top Things to Do In San Diego

Enjoy Bluegrass music and an Old West Festival all weekend long

Enjoy two full days of bluegrass and old-fashioned cowboy music, along with jam sessions and workshops for children, at the Ramona Bluegrass and Old West Festival. Make it the whole weekend by camping under the stars as the music in the background lulls you to sleep.

Where: Ramona Outdoor Community Center – 421 Aqua Lane, Ramona, CA 92065
When: May 4-5, 2013
Cost: $5-$20. Entry with Camping Spot – $15-$40
> Find out more about the Ramona Bluegrass & Old West Fest

Carlsbad Spring Village Faire

Carlsbad Spring Village Faire

Enjoy a day of shopping, food and entertainment at the Carlsbad Spring Village Faire

Considered the largest single day street faire in the nation, the annual Carlsbad Village Street Faire features vendors sell everything from clothes, accessories, plants and household products to art, antiques and home decor; an international food court; and a children’s entertainment area includes games, a super slide, a bounce house, a rock climbing wall, face painting and arts and crafts.

Where: Grand Avenue between Carlsbad Blvd. and Jefferson St.
When: May 5, 2013
Time: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about the Carlsbad Spring Village Faire

2nd Annual Chocolate Festival

2nd Annual Chocolate Festival at the Maritime Museum of San Diego - Top Things to Do in San Diego

Perfect for adults and children the 2nd Annual Chocolate Festival: A Celebration of Chocolate on the Bay, a tasting and educational showcase and festival featuring food, wine, and of course, a variety of chocolate treats. Kids activities include games with prizes, a scavenger hunt and building a personal chocolate pizza.

Where: Maritime Museum of San Diego – 1492 N Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101
When: May 4-5, 2013
Cost: Members – Free. Nonmembers – $15.
> Find out more about the 2nd Annual Chocolate Festival

Sage & Songbirds Garden Tour and Festival

Sage & Songbirds Festival - Butterflies

Butterfly releases at Sage & Songbirds Festival.

Celebrating Alpine’s designation as America’s First Community Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation with and Garden tour and a festival including caterpillar races, butterfly releases, live birds of prey, live hummingbirds, snakes, reptiles, bugs & other critters, a garden mart, plant sales, opportunity drawings and live entertainment.

Where: Viejas Outlet Center – 5000 Willows Road, Alpine, CA 91901
When: May 3-5, 2013
Cost: Free. Garden Tour – $20
> Find out more about the Sage & Songbirds Garden Tour and Festival

Del Mar National Horse Show

Del Mar National Horse Show - Hunter/Jumper Week

Don’t miss out on the exciting Hunter/Jumper Competitions at the Del Mar National Horse Show

The last week of the Del Mar National Horse Show is dedicated to Hunter/Jumper riding. The week also includes the $100,000 Grand Prix of Del Mar, an evening filled with exciting speed, agility and nail-biting competition!

Where: Del Mar Fair Grounds – 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd, Del Mar, CA 92014
Dates: Through May 5, 2013
Cost: $10-$19. Weekdays – Free.
> Find out more about the Del Mar National Horse Show

> Browse more top things to do on the San Diego Event Calendar

Know of some other top things to do this weekend? Let everyone know in the comments below.

Maren

Valentine’s Day Ideas – A Guide for Single Ladies in San Diego

Andaz goes red - Valentine's Day Auction

Pop culture doesn’t always paint a pretty picture for the single gal on Valentine’s Day. But let’s be honest, who needs roses and stuffy restaurants when you have dance clubs and desserts? Being single is fun, and San Diego is a perfect place to be reminded of this. After all, Travel + Leisure Magazine readers voted San Diego #2 city for most attractive people. Between beautiful weather and beautiful people, San Diego is always in love. So this Valentine’s Day, San Diego salutes the single ladies and their right to flirt, be fierce, and eat an entire bowl of chocolate fondue.

Bid on Bachelors

Andaz goes red - Valentine's Day Auction

The Andaz Hotel goes Red this Valentine’s Day with the ultimate ladies night out. Bid on dates with San Diego’s Most Eligible Bachelors, featuring Cosmo Magazine’s Bachelor of the Year 2011 and occasional San Diego co-host, Christopher Lynch. Even better, this event has its heart in the right place. 100% of the auction proceeds benefit American Heart Association’s ‘Go Red for Women’ Movement. Mingle with the bachelors during a cocktail hour 6:30 PM in the Andaz Wine Bar before the bidding wars begin at 8:00 PM in the Ivy Nightclub.

Where: 600 F Street, San Diego, CA 92101 (Gaslamp Quarter)
When: February 14, 2013
Time: 6:30 PM
> Find out more about Andaz Goes Red

Get Fierce at FLUXX

Fluxx Nightclub

Get fierce with Lil’ Kim, performing Valentine’s Day 2013 at FLUXX Nightclub.

If bidding on bachelors isn’t what you had in mind, FLUXX Nightclub has your number. This Valentine’s Day, roll with the baddest, um, lady, in the game, Lil’ Kim, as she graces one of San Diego’s hottest nightclubs with a performance of her greatest hits and general fierceness.

Where: 500 4th Ave., San Diego, CA, 92101 (Gaslamp Quarter)
When: February 14, 2013
Time: Doors open at 9:00 PM
> Find out more about Lil’Kim at FLUXX Nightclub on Valentine’s Day

Eat Dessert

Extraordinary Dessert Cupcakes

Extraordinary Desserts creates Valentine’s treats as pleasing on the eyes as they are on the taste buds.

There is never anything wrong with ordering dessert first, but on Valentine’s Day, there is nothing wrong with ordering dessert exclusively. Extraordinary Desserts has been the fool-proof San Diego dessert joint since it came on to the scene in 1988. Year after year it is voted “San Diego’s Best Desserts” in San Diego Magazine Reader’s Choice Awards. Try the chocolaty Dulce de Leche cake or perfectly sweet/tart Lemon Bars at one of their two locations.

Another great option is the newly opened South Park location of Eclipse Chocolat Bar & Bistro. Not only does Eclipse specialize in making high-quality chocolate infused with exotic flavors, but the new digs boast a craft beer bar featuring a rotating selection of 8 local brews on tap. After all, enjoying some local chocolate with San Diego craft beer sounds like a match made in heaven.

Extraordinary Desserts
Little Italy location: 1430 Union Street, San Diego, CA 92101
Banker’s Hill location: 2929 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103

Eclipse  Chocolat Bar & Bistro
2145 Fern Street, San Diego, CA 92104

> Browse more Valentine’s Day Ideas and Packages in San Diego

Candice

Deliciously Educational: Chocolate at the San Diego Natural History Museum

Chocolate exhibition at the San Diego Natural History Museum
Chocolate exhibition at the San Diego Natural History Museum

This life-sized box of chocolates and vintage wrapper collection are all part of “Chocolate” at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Whether you’re still recovering from the Halloween sugar coma or just can’t get enough of the sweet stuff, Chocolate at the San Diego Natural History Museum tempts visitors to its galleries with delicious exhibition that explores the history, science and culture around one of the world’s most popular treats.

The Journey of Chocolate at the San Diego Natural History Museum

Cocoa beans on display at San Diego Museum of Natural History

Would you like to be paid in Chocolate?

Tracing chocolate’s journey through history, the exhibition begins at chocolate’s birthplace, the tropical rainforests where the cacao tree grows. From there, museum visitors follow chocolate through the ages, from Aztec civilization where beans were used as currency to the Spanish conquistadors who introduced chocolate to Europe and through the Industrial Revolution that led to widespread manufacturing and the emergence of chocolate in most American pantries.

Chocolate at the San Diego Natural History Museum Information

Dates: October 29, 2012 – March 13, 2013
Time: 10:00 to 5:00 PM
Cost: Included with admission
> Find out more about Chocolate at the San Diego Natural History Museum 

After the Exhibition, Get a Taste of Delicious Chocolate in San Diego

Truffles from Eclipse Chocolat in San Diego

Truffles from Eclipse Chocolat in San Diego

If all the chocolate treats on display at the San Diego Natural History Museum have you craving some samples, fear not: San Diego is home to some terrific chocolatiers creating museum-worthy confections. Not far from Balboa Park, you’ll find Eclipse Chocolat, where exotic truffles and decadent drinking chocolates are accented with flavors like sage, peppercorn and goat cheese. Drive up the coast to North County to one of Chuao Chocolatiers’ three locations and sample their creative flavor combinations, including a potato chip-laced chocolate bar or the “Spicy Maya” made with chipotle and homemade popping candy.

Candice

Trick or Treating in San Diego, the Grown-Up Version

Smashing Pumpkin Martini

As little ghosts and goblins come out to play and traipse from house to house in their sugar-fueled quest on October 31, it’s hard for the grown-ups not to feel just a little bit envious. Just because we’ve grown older doesn’t mean we have outgrown our sweet tooths (well, some of us, anyway)!

If you’re looking for a little sweet indulgence this Halloween, fear not – San Diego offers some diabolically delicious holiday treats sure to delight those too old for trick or treating.

Drink-or-Treat

Smashing Pumpkin Martini

For pumpkin with a punch, try the Smashing Pumpkin Martini at the Grant Grill.

No trick here: Halloween cocktails have seized San Diego. This Halloween, adults can do some drink-or-treating around downtown by hopping between hot spots offering spooktacular cocktails.

At Whisky Girl, ghouls and guests can choose from the Wolfman, a chocolate martini with vanilla vodka, the Frankenstein with Malibu, melon, blue Curacao, pineapple juice and whipped cream, and the Dracula served with a single shot of rumplemintz, a splash of cream and grenadine.

At the Grant Grill in the US Grant Hotel, the Smashing Pumpkin martini is a delicious mix of pumpkin and star anise infused rum, Grand Marnier, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, saffron syrup, cardamom bitters and fresh meyer lemon.

If you’re not too squeamish, try the Femur Shot at Searsucker, a concoction of coconut, lime and vodka served in steer femur bones and designed to be sucked out, bone marrow style.

Crazy for Candy

Truffles

Eclipse Chocolat truffles – a perfect addition to any grown-up trick-or-treat bag. Photo courtesy of Roger Tsen.

If liquid treats just won’t cut it and only the real thing will do, die-hard candy loving adults won’t be disappointed this Halloween.

Chocolate aficionados should head straight to Eclipse Chocolat in North Park. Exotic flavor combinations are offered daily, but seasonal specials include the Pumpkin Muscavado truffle and Spiced Pumpkin cupcake, a decadent chocolate cake filled with pumpkin butter and topped in a dark chocolate ganache and grains of paradise (said to taste like a mix between pepper, ginger and cardamom).

If waiting for Halloween to roll around each year is simply too long to wait to get your candy fix, at Alchemy of the Hearth in San Marcos, candy lovers can learn to make sweet treats at home with classes that teach the secrets to creating toffees, caramels, lollipops and even candy apples.

How will you indulge your sweet tooth this Halloween?

Robert Arends

5 to Try: Hot New Dining in Coronado

Coronado is making waves in the local dining scene this summer with the opening of four fabulous new restaurants. The Hotel del Coronado also gets into the gastronomic act with the debut of a new culinary team at 1500 Ocean. From urban eclectic cuisine and gourmet burgers to savory sushi and classic English pub fare, there’s something to tickle just about everyone’s taste buds. Let’s dine around the island, in five easy courses:

1.  Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge (1015 Orange Ave., next door to Mootime Creamery), brings urban chic to the Crown City with its hip industrial look and a fresh flavorful menu of locally-sourced sustainable food created by Executive Chef Mel Ford. Standouts include the Diver Scallop Sliders, Duroc Bone in Pork Chop with maple bourbon glaze and ginger pears, and refreshing Watermelon Salad with arugula, dry goat cheese, almonds and balsamic reduction. In a word: yum!

Saiko Sushi - as fresh as it gets!

2.  Saiko Sushi (116 Orange Avenue near the Coronado Ferry Landing) is a progressive Japanese restaurant and sushi bar featuring modern Asian-styled food, sustainably-sourced fish, seasonal produce and micro-brewed sake. There’s a great family-friendly atmosphere with patio seating to enjoy amazing views of downtown San Diego.

The (English) Tavern.

3.  Blimey, is that an English tavern across the street from McP’s Irish Pub? Yep! Aptly named, The Tavern (1310 Orange Avenue) boasts a vintage industrial look designed with weathered materials from yesteryear, including salvaged high school basketball court planks – a slam dunk for the flooring and bar top! Casual and welcoming, enjoy a pint while noshing on chicken sliders, fish sandwiches, mac & cheese with breadcrumb topping and more.

4.  The island is abuzz about Nicky Rottens Bar & Burger Joint, opening in two weeks at the corner of 1st Street and Orange Ave. Burgers are primo here, hand-pressed and made from Grade A corn-fed Midwestern beef, using fresh organic vegetables and house-made sauces that bring out the freshest, most robust tastes possible. I’ll update everyone on the vibe and design after the grand opening.

1500 Ocean's new Chef Aaron Martinez & Wine Director Joe Weaver.

5.  The Del’s 1500 Ocean welcomes Chef de Cuisine Aaron Martinez who developed his passion for food at restaurants in Belgium and Spain, and most recently at Addison at the Grand Del Mar. He believes in fresh, local ingredients and uses the hotel’s onsite herb garden to create coastal-inspired dishes. Also new is Wine Director Joe Weaver who cultivated his passion for wine while traveling in Europe; he currently holds a Court of Master Sommeliers Level 2 Certification.

Sweet San Diego Chocolatier!

For dessert I MUST mention Sweet San Diego Chocolatier which just opened at the Coronado Ferry Landing. Chocolate-dipped strawberries, Rocky Road apples and peanut/peacan sticks are just a few of their sweet sensational creations.

All this talk of chocolate, fine wine and food is making me hungry…

Bon appétit from Coronado!

Suzzanne

Spring Garden Festivals in San Diego

San Diego Zoo's Discovery Days: Garden Festival

It’s the middle of spring, and what better way to celebrate than with these festivals celebrating San Diego’s blooms and buds.

1. Guests will have a full day of activities at the San Diego Zoo’s Discovery Days: Garden Festival, May 5-8. Visitors can learn about the rare plants growing at the Zoo, which is a certified museum based on its rich horticulture, and partake in self-guided walking tours and botanical bus tours while enjoying special performances, scavenger hunts and more.

2. Starting today through Sunday, the Sage & Songbirds Festival takes place at the Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine. This annual celebration of Alpine’s recognition by the National Wildlife Federation as “America’s 1st Community Wildlife Habitat” features a plant and art sale, live butterfly exhibit and daily butterfly releases.

3. This one has my name all over it! The San Diego Botanical Garden is hosting a Chocolate Festival. This annual festival for chocolate fans features dozens of tasting, demonstrations, gifts and more. All in the beautiful setting of the Botanical Gardens. If you’re bringing the little ones, be sure to check out the West Coast’s largest interactive children’s garden, the Hamilton Children’s Garden.

Robert Arends

5 to Try: Coronado Holiday Delights

Just a bridge away, Coronado is full of sparkling surprises to put visitors in the holiday spirit and bring some smiles amidst the hustle and bustle of the season. Following are my five fav fun and festive finds from this fantasy island (say that five times fast!):

Gondolier at Loews Coronado Bay Resort

1. That’s amore! I love the Gondola Company at Loews Coronado Bay Resort, with their blissfully relaxing Venetian gondola rides through the Coronado Cays to view homes and boats festooned with holiday lights. It was pure magic as we glided over the calm bay waters, sipped cocktails and listened to the gondolier singing Christmas carols.

2.  Chocoholics unite… for not just any ol’ chocolate dessert. But a chocolate bread pudding with coconut (!) at Tartine, a charming French bistro & bakery near the Coronado Ferry Landing (1106 First St.). Decadent doesn’t even begin to describe how delicious this is. Dozens of other delectable desserts and pastries are made fresh daily (pick up some ginger snaps for Santa!).

3. Talk of the town. This yuletide, take a trip back in time with Coronado Touring. Hear riveting tales of dreamers and daredevils who turned a Christmas tree-less isle of jackrabbits into the shining crown city of today.  And discover insider secrets like a supposed tunnel connecting the Del and Glorietta Bay Inn (Santa’s shortcut?) and kelp ‘n sand dunes on the beach that spell “Coronado.”

The Del's 2010 collectible Christmas ornament.

4. Trim the tree. Each year the Hotel del Coronado debuts a collectible Christmas ornament. My coworker has a nifty Limoges-style one from 2008 that I can’t find on eBay (oh well). But you can still trim your tree with this year’s treasured glass creation. (Sidebar – Last-minute holiday shoppers: enjoy two hours of free metered parking on the island!)

5. Ice princess. The Del’s Skating by the Sea is simply surreal and incredibly cool with its postcard backdrop of palm trees, sun, sand and surf. Christmas doesn’t get any more SoCal than this. And it’s for a great cause too: portion of proceeds benefit Make-a-Wish Foundation. Ice is nice!

Suzzanne

National Dessert Day – San Diego Style

It’s National Dessert Day, not that I think there needs to be one, to me every day is dessert day. My go to dessert is chocolate. Pretty much anything with chocolate will get my attention. Below is a sampling of some delicious creations you can find in San Diego. Tell us, what is your favorite dessert?

Cucina Urbana–This Banker’s Hill hotspot located at 5th and Laurel is well known among locals as a great place to get an affordable meal without comprising taste and ambiance. Currently, Pastry Chef Ben Rollins is featuring an Apple Gratin. They serve the dish in a miniature cast iron skillet with shortbread acting as the crust below layers of apples that are slow baked with brown sugar and custard, forming an intense layer of moist apples. They then warm it in the oven and finish with a layer of brandy sabayon which is toasted using a torch, then crumbles of walnut brittle are scattered over the top, adding a nice crunch. All I can say is Yummy!
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