Benjamin Eastman

Champagne Dreams on a Working Man’s Budget!

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While it is a good bet that on any given night of the week you’ll find me in one of San Diego’s numerous 24 hour Taco Shops, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like to “suit up” and head someplace nice for dinner every once in a while. There are so many options in town that I almost don’t like going to the same place too often, because I want to try them all!

With the economy the way it is these days, everyone is watching their pennies. A lot of times that is reflected in the places we eat and the activities that we do. Fine dining restaurants have definitely seen this reflected in their dining rooms over the last year.

So..I was super excited to hear about a new website promoting prix-fixe, 3-course meals at fine dining restaurants throughout San Diego county. To my knowledge, there isn’t anything else like this around the country! Ingrid’s List has begun working with a number of fantastic restaurants in the region to bring $30 and $40 prix-fixe meals to those of us who might be a little short on the cash, but still wanting to dine with The Joneses.

Desert at Bertrand at Mister A's

Dessert at Bertrand at Mister A's

It’s truly simple. Log on to the Ingrid’s List website and see which restaurants fall under what pricing. Pay online and print out a certificate at home. Then just call the restaurant to make your reservation (this is fine dining after all!) and tell them that you’ll be using an Ingrid’s List gift certificate. Upon arrival you’ll have your choice of a few different options for each course. In a sense, this is like a year-round Restaurant Week for fine dining!

My stomach is growling just thinking about it!

Katie S.

Get Your Brain Freeze On

The weather is heating up, and one of the surest ways to cool down is a nice cold slurpee. You know, the iconic iced beverages at 7-11 that have names like Mutant Berry, Radiation Rush, and Slurpurita Pomegranite? Well tomorrow is July 11 (or 7/11) which means National Free Slurpee Day! Most local San Diego 7-11’s  are offering free slurpees and discounted snacks tomorrow until 11 p.m. There’s even a 7/11 Slurpee Pub Crawl happening tomorrow that will hit up 11 free slurpee spots via party bus.

Big Hugs for Giant Slurpees!

My personal (and probably boring) favorite happens to be the Diet Pepsi Slurpee. What could be better than a thirst-quenching Diet Pepsi in ice-slushy form? I’m already imagining myself on the beach tomorrow with my 75 SPF in one hand and my free giant Diet Pepsi slurpee in the other. Or maybe I’ll be adventurous and mix all the flavors together (a.k.a. The Suicide) and head to the Over-The-Line Tournament  in Mission Bay. Either way, I’ve got a fever, and the only cure for it is Free Slurpee Day.


Happy Hour Takes You Higher

Ahh, Friday in July.  The weather is gorgeous.  Are you looking forward to the weekend?  

With sunshine like this, there’s no way you should consider kicking it off indoors.

Just Se "Hello, weekend!" at Siren

Just Se "Hello, weekend!" at Siren

Naturally, there are lots of outdoor cocktails to be had in San Diego but, I’d suggest reaching for the sky and heading for the roof. 

Yes, you should beat a path to the newest downtown rooftop lounge…Siren at the Se San Diego. 

I’ve heard that every weekday from 5-7 p.m. they serve up half-price specialty cocktails like the St. Germaine, prosecco and aloe juice Silver Leaf or the Studio Sutra with VeeV, blueberry and cucumber – regularly about $11, yours for $5-6  – and free tray passed appetizers like mini Kurobuta corn dogs and Hamachi fish tacos.

A few other rooftop happy hours where you can kiss the week goodbye in style:

  • Tuesday-Friday from 5-8 p.m. Stingaree has half-price signature cocktails and wines by the glass, $5 wells, $3 beers.
  • Next door at Lounge Six, from 5-8 p.m. Monday-Friday, they’ve got $3 drafts, $4 bottles and half-off wells.
  • Even higher, 22 stories high actually, Altitude has $5 premium wells, $4 domestic drafts and half-off artisan flatbreads from 5-7 p.m. Monday-Friday.
  • Over in PB, Firehouse has $3 drafts, $4 wells, $3 house wines and half-off appetizers from 4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday – and ocean views all day, every day.

Hollywood Modern at the Mingei

If you’re mid-century modern fan, The Mingei Museum in Balboa Park has an exhibit for you this summer.  Masters of the Mid-Century California Modern covers the careers of Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman, designers whose home accessories, furniture and architectural elements were at the forefront of the now iconic design movement.

In celebration of the exhibit, the museum is hosting Hollywood Modern: Modernist Set Design in Mid-Century Cinema, a film series with screenings on three consecutive Thursdays in July. 

The three films they’ve selected all feature amazing mid-century modern design and hilarious hi-jinks: the romantic comedy Pillow Talk, the Doris Day and Rock Hudson classic (July 2); the spy spoof Our Man Flint starring James Coburn (July 9); and Blake Edwards’ raucous comedy The Party with the incomparable Peter Sellers (July 16).

I don’t know about you but I love me some Peter Sellers! 

Hollywood Modern at The Mingei also features that staple of the 50’s and 60’s – the cocktail party – with film-inspired cocktails and appetizers from 6 – 7 p.m.

Admission is $10 for members and students and $15 for non-members.


Happy Hour is Tiki Time

I’m having a Calgon moment and a bubble bath won’t cut it.  I need something stronger.

What’s a girl to do when only a technicolor cocktail with an umbrella will suffice?

Follow the lead of generations of Californians and embrace Tiki culture, of course.  That way, I can take an exotic getaway – just for a happy hour (or two) – and I don’t even have to leave the Gaslamp Quarter much less blow 1000 bucks on airfare to Tahiti.

So, I’m heading to Mister Tiki’s Mai Tai Lounge for their $5 on Fifth happy hour specials. 

This is not the $5 drink.  What are you crazy?

This is not the $5 drink. What are you crazy?

Just five smackers will buy me my choice of fun island-inspired drinks like the Haole Mai Tai, Lilikoi Mojito or Coconut Kiss Martini.  And, my guy – he’s not a big umbrella fan- can enjoy a large Sapporo for the same price. 

Of course, the South Seas – like happy hour – are not just about the drinks. to say and fun to eat!

PuPus are fun to say and even more fun to eat!

Mister Tiki’s deals cross over to the sushi bar where for five bucks you can choose from California, spicy tuna, spicy yellowtail, shrimp tempura or vegetarian rolls.  And, $5 PuPu specials offer modern takes on Tiki fare with crispy shitake & goat cheese wontons, spiced chicken potstickers, chicken lettuce wraps, tempura baby shrimp and calamari fries.

It’s a proven fact, PuPus are far superior to appetizers in elevating one’s mood.  And, tropical cocktails will make your happy hour happier than most other drinks.

Mister Tiki $5 on Fifth specials, Monday-Friday from 5-7 p.m. 

Mai Tai, take me away!


C’mon Get Hoppy

The hops are on the right...

The hops are on the right...

So, you’ve heard about how San Diego has one of most exciting craft brew scenes in the world and you want to come explore for yourself.   

Maybe you’re a hard-core hop head who wants the insider scoop on cult favorites.  Maybe you’re a newbie looking to broaden your beer horizons.  Maybe you just want to relax and enjoy without worrying about driving. 

If any of the above apply, I’d highly recomend a guided, chauffeured beer tour with Brewery Tours of San Diego  or BrewHop.

Recently, I spent an afternoon with the later touring a few breweries around town.  BrewHop is great because they do custom tours – just you and your group – with tons of personal attention and lots of craft beer insight from their expert guides.

I got to chat with the brewers, sip some blow-your mind beers and hip to barrel-aging, the technique San Diego brewers are using in the country’s most sought-after small-batch brews. 

Check out photos and all the details after the jump… Continue reading

Benjamin Eastman

Dinner & A Drink – Gaslamp Style!

So what does an attractive, single, 30-something professional do on a Friday night in San Diego?  Well I don’t know about guys like that, but here’s what I did…

Stingaree's Peach Tiramisu

Stingaree's Peach Tiramisu

I had the distinct pleasure of patronizing Stingaree for the evening last Friday, and all I can say is that my friends and I will be remembering that night for a while to come.  No, it was not a Hangover reminiscient night of debauchery that I couldn’t remember the next day.  Rather, it was an opportunity to enjoy a delicious dinner with friends, a few dances on the dance floor, and to relax under the stars listening to the DJ (accompanied by the live instruments of Jason Whitmore and Kofi) on Sting’s rooftop deck.

More well known for their nightclub than their restaurant, Stingaree’s been doing great things to bring the restaurant to people’s attention.  Their Happy Hour includes 50% off their lounge menu, and reduced prices on drinks.  But if you’ve got the time, I recommend sitting down for a full dinner!  (TIP:  Those eating dinner at Sting, have complimentary access to the nightclub afterward! Avoid the cover charge & lines and enjoy a great meal instead!)

Continue reading


The Confab Cooks Cook Meat!

Cooks Confab Chef Paul McCabe served up smashing steak tartare.

Cooks Confab Chef Paul McCabe served up smashing steak tartare.

Last Sunday, I went to an amazing foodie event in La Jolla at The Grande Colonial.  The tasting soiree was called Meat! – and the exclamation point turned out to be more than just fancy punctuation.

There was lots of meat, naturally, but the excitement was all because the party was thrown by the Cooks Confab chefs. 

This group of friends just happen to be chefs at some of the most buzzed about restaurants around town and they regularly get together to cook on a theme (past events have included seafood, cheese, truffles and more).  This time, they focused on sustainably raised meat and the use of the whole animal.  

That’s how I found myself on a patio, overlooking La Jolla Cove, nibbling on Paul McCabe’s “Steak and Eggs” beef tartare with mini-toad in the hole and crispy bone marrow.  Paul just launched Kitchen 1540 – a complete renovation of his restaurant at L’Auberge Del Mar.  If I hadn’t been tempted to make a reservation before, I am now.  The tartare was melt-in-your-mouth tender and perfectly complemented by the rich, creamy egg yolk and crispy fried nugget of bone marrow. 

I was also taken with the “Tongue and Cheek” offered by Katie Gebrow (chef at downtown’s Cafe Chloe), Jeff Jackson and TK Kolanko (the team behind AR Valentin at the Lodge at Torrey Pines).  The adorable name was just the beginning.  They paired fresh pickled spring vegetables with beef tongue confit in butter (for six hours!) and a velvety beef cheek terrine.  Cheeks are already one of my favorite (sinfully rich) cuts of beef but, this perfectly spiced terrine was just beyond decadent and lovely.  Wow.

AleSmith's Wee Heavy is The Bomb!

AleSmith's Wee Heavy is The Bomb!

Now, it wasn’t all fancy French preparations.  Amy Dibase from Roseville served up some excellent little sliders, Brian Sinnot from 1500 Ocean at the Hotel del Coronado took the Philly cheesesteak to another level and Christian Graves from Jsixat Hotel Solamar handled dessert.  I was too stuffed to try his “sweetbreads” cinnamon roll but I did have a sip of his homemade Kahlua.  (I’m swearing off the commercial stuff forever!)

Speaking of locally made drinks, I stuck to the San Diego craft beers being served by AleSmith.  My fave was their award-winning Wee Heavy, a darker Scotch Ale that definitely held up well to all the meat.

The August Cooks Confab - Craft Beer

The August Cooks Confab - Craft Beer - Coming Soon.

Foodies and craft beerlovers will be happy to hear that the next Cooks Confab event is already in the works.  The theme will be “Craft Beer” and, in addition to beer-inspired dishes from the Cooks Confab crew, it will feature brews from San Diego’s AleSmith, Ballast Point, Stone, Lighting, Green Flash and Lost Abbey. 

Mark your calendar for Aug. 9 at Stingaree!


Power (Happy) Hour at The Fleetwood

The Fleetwood in the Gaslamp Quarter

Actually, today, I think I'm more hungry than I am thirsty!

Friday again and I’m looking forward to happy hour.  This week, I’m thinking about heading to The Fleetwood for their Power Hour from 5-6 p.m.  The $4 you-call-its are calling my name.

You can’t beat that price and I really like being able to sidle up to the bar and order whatever strikes my fancy at the moment.  Plus, they’ve got some of the most inviting patio seating in the Gaslamp Quarter.  Think comfy couches and low tables.  Perfect for relaxing and people watching.

And, if I decide to stay for dinner, their 3 for $30 dinner specials look amazing.  Tomato bisque, grilled salmon with kalamata tapenade and creme brulee.  Or ahi poke, braised short ribs and house-made carrot cake?  Yes, please!

What’s even better?  The Power Hour happens every day.  So, if I don’t hit it up later today, I’m definitely going on Tuesday – that’s when they have their amazing Crab Night with all you can eat snow crab legs for just $19.95.  Mmm…crab legs.