Aki

About Aki

After living in 8 cities in 4 countries, I adopted San Diego as my home town 10 years ago. Everything I love is here - the Pacific Ocean as my back yard, museums and galleries exhibiting world-class art, endless dining options, the coolest attractions, friendly people, a dynamic business community… the list goes on. And after a decade of living here, there is still so much more to see!

What would you do on your ideal San Diego Day?

As a resident of coastal North County, my perfect San Diego Day always starts with a good surf session. Packing up the family, we’ll head to our favorite beach in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. After some fun in the sun and surf, we’ll head to Swami’s Café in Encinitas for their famous Acai bowl, then hit the road down south to any of the great San Diego attractions. Maybe a day at the Zoo, or check out some museums in Balboa Park? As an art lover and former gallerist, I love checking out new exhibitions at local galleries in La Jolla or Little Italy.

In the evening (if we can get a sitter), we love seeing live music at any of the great music venues in town. A concert at Spreckels Theater, a show at the Casbah, or an outing to the Belly Up in Solana Beach is always a treat. For dinner, we'll gather up some friends and head out to Stone Brewery Bistro & Gardens, or Cucina Urbana in Bankers Hill. What's the best way to cap off a perfect day in San Diego? With perfectly crafted cocktails at Starlite, Craft+Commerce, or Noble Experiment.

What is your favorite San Diego outdoor activity?

Surfing & hiking. I also love yoga, which you can enjoy outdoors in San Diego. And shopping too, it’s officially an outdoor sport here.

Do you prefer burgers and beer or linguine and red wine?

That’s an apples and oranges question... On most days, I’m a linguine and red wine kinda gal. But I’ll go for a good Kobe burger and wash it down with a Hefeweizen.

Latest music purchases for my iPod player are…

Archade Fire, Bon Iver and The xx.

Follow Aki on twitter: @akimartinsd
Aki

February is Museum Month in San Diego

February is one of my favorite months of the year in San Diego. With longer days, warmer temperatures and a shorter month, the race to spring always brings an extra boost to my step. And what better way to celebrate the turn of seasons than to explore San Diego’s many museums throughout the county at half the price?

February is Museum Month in San Diego. Each year, the San Diego Museum Council organizes this month-long promotion, presented by Macy’s, which provides half-off admission to any of the 40 participating museums. And with 2012 being a leap year, you’ll have an extra day to explore the vast and diverse wealth of San Diego’s arts and culture attractions.

From art and history, to science and nature, San Diego museums offer exploration and education into a diverse range of interests. From iconic institutions like the San Diego Museum of Art or the USS Midway Museum, to hidden gems like the San Diego Botanic Garden or the Museum of Making Music, this is the time to visit an old favorite or discover some place new.

San Diego Museum Month Passes

Pick up your Museum Month pass at any San Diego County Macy’s location near you, starting February 1, and start planning out your museum month.

What museums will you visit during Museum Month?

Aki

The Finest of America’s Finest: Indulging San Diego Restaurant Week Picks in North County

What’s better than indulging in some fine dining in America’s Finest City? How about two or three decadent courses for $10 – $40? Indeed you can, during San Diego Restaurant Week, where you can taste two-course lunches from $10-$20 or three-course dinners for $30-$40. Indulgence that’s kind to my wallet? I’ll raise my fork to that any day.

San Diego’s North County doesn’t just offer gorgeous beaches, expansive vistas and charming coastal communities. It is also home to some legendary fine dining establishments that celebrate everything from inspired Mediterranean fare, sumptuous French-inspired cuisine and the freshest fruits of the sea. So put on your finest threads, and venture out for an elegant culinary experience in San Diego’s North County.

Whole-Roasted Filet of Prime Beef Tenderloin at Amaya

Whole-Roasted Filet of Prime Beef Tenderloin at Amaya

Amaya at the Grand Del Mar

Dinner only – Three Courses for $40
Feel like whisking yourself away to Tuscany? Escape to The Grand Del Mar for an enchanted evening amidst rolling hills and Tuscan style architecture. Elegance, romance and indulgence await you at the Amaya, where executive chef Camron Woods creates artful Mediterranean-inspired American classics, such as the Whole-Roasted Filet of Prime Beef Tenderloin served with fragrant red wine jus and smoked onions (pictured above). Or try the Cider-glazed Hot-Smoked Salmon with roasted baby root vegetables and celery root puree. For $25, complete your Mediterranean dining experience with wine pairings for each course, selected from their collection of fine Spanish, Italian and French wines.

Sugar Spice Salmon at Pacifica Del Mar

Sugar Spice Salmon at Pacifica Del Mar

Pacifica Del Mar

Lunch – Two Courses for $20
Dinner – Three Courses for $40
Not only was Pacifica Del Mar the site of my wedding reception, but it’s also the place to I go in San Diego when stuck with a seafood craving. Their Sugar Spice Salmon (pictured above) is the stuff of legend, and is thankfully offered on both their lunch and dinner menu options for Restaurant Week. The overwhelmingly popular choice for guests on my big day, this perfectly grilled salmon filet is spiced with a glaze that is both sweet and succulent. Often imitated but never matched in its perfection, the salmon is just one of the many reasons to try Pacifica Del Mar. Go for lunch if you want to take in gorgeous sunny views of the Pacific Ocean, but go back for dinner if you want to treat your taste buds to their chocolate filled Beignets. Served with blood orange sorbet, these Beignets could be a dangerous start to a new obsession.

Mille Fleurs

Mille Fleurs

Mille Fleurs

Dinner only – Three Courses for $40
A San Diego establishment since 1984 and winner of numerous awards (including a designation by Food & Wine Magazine as one of America’s top 25 restaurants), Mille Fleurs is the original creation of legendary San Diego restaurateur Bertrand. Nestled in the heart of Rancho Santa Fe, Mille Fleurs offers a seasonal menu of French-inspired California cuisine, featuring the freshest ingredients available at local farms and markets. For the Restaurant Week menu, chef Woesle has whipped up delectable options that beg to be seen as much as savored. Always artfully presented, a meal here is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the palette. With entrée options like the Quenelles of Trout and Grilled Shrimp with Brocco Flower Risotto finished with Nettle Leaf Champagne Sauce, or the Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Prosciutto, I may need to go back a few times to try every dish of each course. Then again, this just may be the perfect opportunity to brush up on my French while savoring all they have to offer.

Which Restaurant Week options will you try in North County San Diego?

Aki

Breakfast Served with a Side of Ocean Views in North County San Diego

There’s nothing like starting your day with a good breakfast. Whether you’re in the mood for something hearty or healthy, North County San Diego has options galore, all served up with a side of sweeping ocean views.

From the savory to the sweet, served on a plate, in a bowl or wrapped in a tortilla, there are some delectable options that’ll fuel you through the holidays and well into the new year. Here are some of my favorite places that will get you eggcited to jump out of bed!

Bowl of Health: The Açai Bowl at Swami’s Café, Encinitas

The famous Acai Bowl at Swami's Cafe energies and detoxifies.

Located just south of downtown Encinitas, Swami’s Café is a favorite among locals for breakfast and lunch. Their menu ranges from the usual breakfast fare of pancakes and french toast, to uniquely filled omelettes, savory huevos rancheros, and of course, the original Açai Bowl. This legendary bowl, said to energize the spirit and detoxify the body, is topped with berries, coconut, bee pollen and bananas. Boasting all of the health benefits and power derived from the superfood-classified Açai berry, you can fill up on your daily dose of antioxidants and vitamins, and kick-start your healthy eating habits for 2012.

Swami's Café pays hommage to their namesake yogi, Swami Paramahansa Yogananda

After you fuel up, be sure to head over the café’s namesake spots: the internationally renowned surf spot Swami’s to catch some perfectly formed waves created by the point break; or meditate at the Self Realization Fellowship Hermitage & Gardens founded by the famous Swami Paramahansa Yogananda.

Best Wrapped Breakfast: Breakfast Burritos & Surfers at Pipes Café, Cardiff-by-the-Sea

A popular hangout for post-dawnpatrol surfers, Pipes Café in Cardiff serves up the perfect breakfast wrapped in a tortilla.

In the quaint beach community of Cardiff-by-the-Sea, across highway 101 from the infamous Cardiff Kook statue, is the favorite breakfast nook among local surfers, Pipes Café. Serving up the best breakfast burritos in town, you’ll likely find a long line of sandy footed and salty surfers, hungry from their morning session and eager to sink their teeth into one of their delicious burritos, like the #3, which includes fluffy scrambled eggs cooked to perfection, cilantro, green chiles and cheese and their secret pica sauce, all perfectly wrapped in a warm flour tortilla. Served with a side of their homemade roasted salsa, it’s big for enough for two meals (at least for me). With other breakfast offerings like pancakes, french toast, scramblers and fresh-baked muffins, the place is usually packed with surfers, families and dogs alike.

If there is a line, the wait is definitely worthwhile, especially if you keep your eyes peeled for pro surfers who frequent the place. Be sure to bring cash, but if you forget, there’s an ATM machine conveniently located inside. With a walk-up espresso bar to boost, Pipes is the perfect spot to curb your morning cravings, whatever they may be.

Historic Breakfast with Iconic Views: La Jolla’s Brockton Villa

La Jolla's Brockton Villa serves up a historic breakfast with breathtaking views of the Cove.

Nestled along the hillside by La Jolla’s famous Cove is the quaint and charming Brockton Villa Restaurant. First built as beach cottages in 1894, the building is now a San Diego Historical Landmark. With sweeping views of La Jolla Cove, no wonder they’ve won such coveted awards as “Best Breakfast in La Jolla” by the La Jolla Village News.

Brockton Villa’s award-winning breakfast menu boasts such unique dishes as the Crab Ipanema. Soft poached eggs rest atop succulent blue crab cakes with sliced tomatoes, artfully placed on an English muffin and topped with a spicy tomato coconut sauce. Served with a side of breakfast potatoes, it’s large enough to share, or last you well through early evening if you manage it all in one sitting. Their most popular breakfast dish is the Coast Toast, which Brockton also generously shares the recipe on their website. The thick cut French Toast infused with a hint of fragrant orange and served with Wisconsin maple syrup also comes with a side of fresh fruit.

With breakfast meals like this, you’ll have enough energy and fuel to last you through an active day exploring San Diego. What’s your favorite San Diego breakfast spot?

Aki

Theater Thursday: Holidays Take the Stage

If you’re like me, the holidays arrived out of nowhere and the stress may be bearing down on you about now. With lists to make, gifts to buy, trees to decorate, end-of-year projects to finish, and holiday cards to mail out, you just may be one more task away from shouting BAH, HUMBUG!!

Every year, the holidays come and go, sweeping me up in a frenzy of hectic travel, last-minute gift-buying and furious baking. So I hereby declare that this year will be different. We are staying in San Diego, for one. And two, we are starting a new holiday tradition: To enjoy what the season has to offer and take in some holiday cheer at the theater. San Diego offers a variety of holiday-themed plays and performances that will surely get you to slow down and reflect on what this season is all about. Be inspired, celebrate and enjoy some of these lively shows!

The Nutcracker
San Diego Civic Theatre
Through December 23, 2011

Be swept away by this magical and classic tale of a girl and her holiday dream. Featuring the talented and dazzling dancers of the California Ballet company, accompanied with soaring overtures by the San Diego Symphony Orchestra.

It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play
Cygnet Theatre
Through December 31, 2011

Take a visit to Studio A of WCYG Radio for the telling of this classic tale about a selfless man on the verge of giving up his life, and the apprentice angel who earns his wings by helping him see how his town, family, and friends would have turned out if he had never been born.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Old Globe Theatre
Through December 31, 2011

Based on the classic Dr. Seuss book the Old Globe Theater presents a production of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Celebrate the season with this whimsical musical, back for its 14th year, in a theater that’s been transformed into the snow-covered and festive Whoville.

Festival of Christmas: The Spirit of Christmas Present
Lamb’s Players Theater
Through December 31, 2011

Enjoy this quirky and fun production by the talented actors and singers of Coronado’s Lamb’s Players’ in their yearly Festival of Christmas showcase. This year’s production premises on unknowing neighbors – an 8 year-old orphan, a Vietnam Vet, a Pop Star and a former investment banker – brought together by Mrs. Riley, the neighborhood welcome wagon, as they discover a sense of community.

Aki

Attraction Action: San Diego Snow Days!

The two years I spent in Toronto affirmed my desire to live in a warm climate. True, Toronto is a lovely city, but the winters were long and brutal. I remember being snowed in, literally, where 2/3 of our house got buried and we couldn’t get out! On a few occasions, I had to cross-country ski to school. Winters spent in New York didn’t help my loathing for snowy winters either. Walking on slippery slush mixed with salt and dirt, the cumbersome layers of clothing, numbed fingers and icy toes made for hassle and discomfort during the cold months, which is why I love the year-round temperate climate of Southern California.

Having lived in San Diego for a decade now, however, I do miss the snow. My daughter has yet to experience the exhilaration of a sleigh ride, the joy of making a snow man or the thrill of a good snowball fight. Luckily, there are two San Diego attractions that answered my yearning for wintery goodness. Both Legoland and SeaWorld accomplished what nature could not: to let it snow in San Diego! Looks like we can have our snow balls, and eat them too.

Holiday Snow Days at LEGOLAND

The weather forecasts unprecedented snowfall in Carlsbad everyday, now through January 2 during LEGOLAND’s Holiday Snow Days. Visit the festive winter wonderland in Holiday Fun Town with plenty of LEGO accessories to adorn your snowman, or aim your snowball at a LEGO target. At the center of Holiday Fun Town is the 30 foot giant LEGO Christmas tree made of more than 245,000 forest green DUPLO® bricks.

If you’re looking for unique photo-ops with Santa, be sure to watch for the new life-sized LEGO Minifigure Santa as he strolls throughout Holiday Fun Town with his helpers. Or pose with the life-sized LEGO Santa, perched on his sleigh and two reindeer, of course, all made entirely out of LEGO bricks. And be sure to visit SEA LIFE™ Carlsbad Aquarium to see the underwater LEGO Christmas tree ‘planted’ at the bottom of the impressive 200,000 gallon ocean display, the Lost City of Atlantis. Other SEA LIFE holiday features include a Daily Dive Shows and crafting events.

SnowWorld at SeaWorld

SeaWorld San Diego celebrates the season with a number of Holiday themed shows and attractions. Located in Arctic Plaza, SnowWorld comprises 6,500 square feet of fresh snow made each day, where kids and families can enjoy all the delights of snowy fun. From snow angels, snow balls to snowmen, there’s plenty of frost and flakes to go around, but be sure to get there before the exhibit closes on January 1. While you’re there, don’t miss all the new shows including Shamu’s Christmas, the Christmas Tails pet show, Clyde and Seamore’s Night Before Christmas and the Polar Express 4-D experience.

Yearning for snow in San Diego too? We’re giving away two (2) sets of four (4) SEALIFE HOPPER PASSES good for entry into LEGOLAND and SEA LIFE, good for use through 12/31/2012. Leave a comment on this blog post by noon P.S.T. on Friday December 9, 2011 for a chance to win!

Aki

Live Music in San Diego: Nov 26 – Dec 3

Thanksgiving is upon us. And while we’ll all indulge in the bounty of the season – with an oversized helping of turkey or that extra slice of pumpkin pie – the best way to shake off that tryptophan-induced coma is by seeing some live music.

San Diego’s robust music scene offers diverse options for concert goers. From intimate venues and expansive outdoor arenas, to iconic rock clubs and moody jazz halls, you can quench your thirst for good live music any day of the week.

So get off that couch, leave the Thanksgiving leftovers at home and indulge your senses with some lively performances.

Here are some great shows at some of my favorite local venues:

Saturday, November 26
Crooked Fingers at THE CASBAH
w/Strand of Oaks & Little White Teeth
Doors open at 8:30 p.m.
$12, 21 and up

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Led by singer Eric Bachmann, this North Carolina-based band recently released their sixth full length record, Breaks in the Armor.

November 30 & December 1
Boney James at ANTHOLOGY
Shows at 7:30 pm & 9:30 pm
$19 – $98, All ages

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A three-time Grammy Award nominee, Soul Train Award winner and a pioneer of urban jazz, Saxophonist BONEY JAMES combines traditional jazz with elements of R&B and hip-hop.

Wednesday, Nov 30th
B.B. King w/ Walter Trout at Belly Up
8:00 pm
Doors at 7:00 pm
$99.00 / $104.00 day of show, 21 and up

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Don’t miss this chance to see the reigning King of the Blues, B.B. King up close and personal at this local favorite intimate venue in Solana Beach!

Saturday, December 3
The Holiday Hootenanny! at the Jenny Craig Pavilion at USD
My Morning Jacket, Two Door Cinema Club, Matt & Kim, Delta Spirit, and the Blackout Party
7:00 pm
$40 +, All Ages

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This annual holiday concert festival has a line-up that will surely get you movin’ & groovin’ for the holidays.

Aki

MOPA’s Photography Exhibitions Awe and Inspire

Infinite Balance showcases artists shortlisted for the world’s top prize for photography and sustainability.

One of my favorite art museums in San Diego is MOPA (Museum of Photographic Arts). Located in the appropriately picturesque setting of Balboa Park, my admiration for this museum not only stems from their consistent showcase of highly inventive and beautiful photographic art, but also because I always leave there with more knowledge and awareness of the world around me. The power of photography is undeniable, and the current exhibitions deliver a true visual tour-de-force.

Located in the Casa de Balboa Building in Balboa Park, MOPA is one of few institutions in the US dedicated to presenting the entire spectrum of the photographic medium.

The headliner exhibition, Infinite Balance: Artists and the Environment is the first US presentation of artists shortlisted for the prestigious Prix Pictet, the world’s top prize for photography and sustainability. The show presents the work of acclaimed contemporary photographers from across the globe, created under the three guiding themes: Earth, Growth and Water.

Infinite Balance showcases artists shortlisted for the world’s top prize for photography and sustainability.

The pictures are stunning – alarming, somber and telling about the impact of human progress on the environment. Many of the works are large-scale, presented beautifully in MOPA’s modern and open gallery space, leaving plenty of room to walk around, step back and absorb the photographs. There is a seating area set up in the main exhibition space, with monitors that show interactive videos created by the Prix Pictet. In these videos, artists talk about each of the themes represented in the exhibition – Earth, Growth and Water – providing a broader context to the work on display.

The second exhibition showcases the whimsical and creative talent of San Diego’s youth.  The 2011 Annual Youth Exhibition, See/Saw, features photography and film produced by San Diego student artists, created during MOPA’s education programs in 2011. Each photograph displays the name and grade level of each student artist. Many of the photographs are accompanied by artist statements written by the students themselves. The wonderfully fresh photographic works provide authentic and unencumbered views of the world, seen through the eyes of San Diego’s youth. Not only was I astonished by the high-caliber quality of the artwork, but was surprised also how clearly and concisely each artist conveyed their ideas in the artist statements. An innovative and interactive feature of See/Saw is a SMS text messaging system that allows you to send your comments to the student artists directly. I loved that I could to send encouraging feedback to a few of my favorite artists from the show.

MOPA's annual youth exhibition, "See/Saw" showcases photographic art by San Diego's youth.

The exhibition also highlights a special program that MOPA developed in India earlier this year, using photography to teach Indian teens to explore environmental issues in their communities. The photographs taken by twenty Indian students who participated in the program in January of 2011 are on display, revealing insightful and haunting images of the rural region in India. This video showcases the program developed by MOPA.

Both exhibitions are on view for the next few months: Infinite Balance closes February 5, 2012, and See/Saw closes on January 29, 2012.

Want to check out these exhibitions for yourself? We’re giving away two (2) sets of four (4) MOPA guest passes! Leave a comment by Noon on Thursday, November 10, 2011 for a chance to win!

Aki

Amazing TRASH at the New Children’s Museum

My 4 year-old daughter LOVES the garbage truck. When she hears them rumble down our street, her eyes light up in frenzy as she runs outside to witness the ceremony of collection. She is mesmerized by the arms of the green beast as it reached out for the monstrous bin, heroically lifting it overhead and pouring out our magnificent waste. Waving at the garbage men, who are superheros in her eyes, they wave back, smile and then drive away. Her fascination with the waste disposal process came full circle with Toy Story 3, when Woody’s crew find themselves in the incinerator. A terrifying scene (which brought me to tears as well), she now carries an acute awareness of what happens to trash after it’s picked up. She refuses to throw her toys away even when they break, mending them with  band-aids and keeping them in a toy hospital in her room. While our home slowly caves in with the accumulation of toys, we are faced with the same conundrum as our planet.

Learn how The New Children’s Museum taps into this fascinating and important issue of waste…

Aki

12th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival

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My recommendation for the upcoming San Diego Asian Film Festival, October 20-28, 2011, has nothing to do with my Japanese heritage, my love for movies or being an ardent festival-goer. Sure, I was the obvious pick to cover this festival, but I am here to tell you that even if I was of Irish descent, watched only 80’s Rom Coms, and was agoraphobic, I would still be recommending this film festival.

Whether you’re an Asian film buff, a foreign film guru or just your run-of-the-mill movie goer, there is something for everyone. Now in its twelfth year, the festival is one of the largest showcases of Pan-Asian cinema in North America, screening over 160 films (feature-length and shorts) from 21 countries in the span of 8 days. From feature to indie films, shorts, animation and documentaries, you’ll be hard pressed not to find something that peaks your interest.

Read more and leave a comment on this post to win tickets to the 2011 SDAFF…

Aki

Art Safari: Experience Southern California’s LIGHT & SPACE

Southern California’s expansive vistas and ethereal light have an unspoken power. If it were a sound, I would imagine it to be a deep cleansing exhale, like a cool breeze blowing off the ocean on a warm sunny day. If it were to be conveyed as an image or object, it is undoubtedly captured in the body of work created by a group of artists from the region in the 1960’s, who were part of an art movement known as Light and Space.

The transcendental experience of being in Southern California – the deep blue Pacific Ocean and the glowing light that pervades every corner of the unsuppressed landscape – inspired regional artists to create art objects that depict this beauty. Now, through an unprecedented initiative that examines this and other influential art movements spawned in Southern California from 1945-1980, the Getty Institute in Los Angeles, along with 68 other institutions, has mounted a collaborative region-wide exhibition series called Pacific Standard Time.

Two of San Diego’s museums are taking part in this initiative:

Step into light and space. Don't miss 'Phenomenal' at MCASD.

The Museum of Contemporary Art has organized their largest exhibition to-date, Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface, which encompasses both the downtown and La Jolla locations. The exhibition features exemplary works by vanguard artists that shaped the Light and Space movement, as well as site-specific installations that predominantly use the medium of light. In addition to the unique atmosphere of Southern California, the emergence of the iconic car and surf culture in the 1960’s gave way for artists to experiment with new materials – acrylic polymers, resins, enamels and new plastics – to create immaculately slick surfaces that  gave the movement its alternative name, Finish Fetish. The exhibition at both locations will be on view through January 22, 2012, so you’ll have plenty of time to plan your trip to San Diego to take in this awe-inspiring exhibition.

 

See the whimsical creations of San Diego's foremost artist craftsmen at the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park.

The Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park presents San Diego’s Craft Revolution – From Post-War Modern to California Design, which opens October 16, showcasing important contributions of San Diego craftsmen from the 1940’s through the 1970’s. The exhibition traces the progression from sleek modernism to unconventional handcrafted functional objects, showcasing whimsical presentations of furniture, doors, jewelry and ceramics. This exhibition will be up through April 15, 2012, so be sure to include this exhibition in your next San Diego vacation itinerary.

Plan your Southern California Art Safari by visiting the official Pacific Standard Time website for more information, and a full schedule of participating exhibitions.