Benjamin Eastman

San Diego St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations

It’s that time of year again where San Diego’s Irish community celebrates in true kilt-wearing, bagpipe blaring, whiskey drinking camaraderie! San Diego St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are scattered throughout the region and there is no shortage of green beer! So whether you’re out to celebrate your heritage or just be Irish-for-the-day (we won’t tell!), get out there, do a jig and keep an eye out for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

Harrah’s Resort Southern California

For those looking to celebrate a little early, Harrah’s Resort Southern California will be partying “Clover The Top” all weekend long with a number of events including their Neon Nights Lazy River Party, River Dancers & Fiddlers and a performance by The Fighting Jamesons – not to mention loads of specials in the casino, restaurants and bars!
Location: 777 Harrah’s Resort Southern California Way; Valley Center, CA 92082
When: March 15-17, 2014


We couldn’t forget the Gaslamp Quarter‘s major Block Party SHAMROCK!  In it’s 19th year of helping San Diegans celebrate all things Emerald Isle, 20,000 revelers will swarm the streets of downtown drinking Jameson Irish whiskey specials, green beer and rocking out at one of the 3 main stages of performers.
Location:  Gaslamp Quarter
Time:  4:00pm – 12:00am
Cost:  Starting at $30


Music lovers will want to head to Hooleyfest in La Mesa for an evening of performances by Tony Cummins, Jukebox and Lexington Field. This Guiness sponsored event is raved about every year for its memorable performances. And since San Diegans love our tacos, why not try one of Hooley’s famous corned beef tacos while you’re there?
Location:  Tents at Grossmont Center in La Mesa
Date:  March 17, 2014
Time:  5:00pm – 12:00am
Cost:  $25 at the door

Want to celebrate, but not excited about the crowds and big events? San Diego has plenty of great hole-in-the wall Irish Pubs that will welcome you with open arms, such as Dublin Square, Stout Public House, Gallaghers and O’Sullivans.

How will you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in San Diego? Let us know in the comments.

Robert Arends

Valentine’s Day, LGBT-style, in San Diego

Walking under Hillcrest Sign
Walking under Hillcrest Sign

Feel the love in Hillcrest this Valentine’s Day

Love is in the air and for LGBT couples looking for something romantic to do this Valentine’s Day, San Diego is THE place to cuddle close and feel the warmth – especially in Hillcrest, our fabulous uptown “gayborhood” located just a couple of miles from downtown.

Following are a few unforgettable places to wine and dine your significant other or special V-day date.

Start the Night with Dinner in Hillcrest

Temperatures rising at Kitchen Bar & Kitchen this Valentine's Day

Temperatures rising at Kitchen Bar & Kitchen this Valentine’s Day

In Hillcrest, begin your heart-filled evening at the comfortably modern Heat Bar & Kitchen on Park Blvd. Amber lighting radiates to create a cozy ambiance to enjoy a menu of California fusion cuisine. The steamed local Carlsbad mussels are delish, as is the duck breast and braised lamb shank!

Another tried and true Hillcrest dining option is the chic retro-modern D Bar on 5th Ave. where comfort food based on childhood favorites will have you both smiling from ear to ear – and reaching over to sample each other’s entrees! Highly recommended is the Southern Fried Belgian butter milk fried chicken with sweet potato fries. OMG 😉

After Dinner Drinks in Hillcrest


After dinner, head to The Wine Lover with its intimate little patio to toast your love as you gaze into each other’s eyes. For something extra special, ask for a dessert wine flight (which isn’t on the menu) to sweeten the mood.

Mix it up at Martinis Above Fourth

Mix it up at Martinis Above Fourth

If decadent martinis or craft beer are more your style, grab a nightcap at Martinis Above Fourth or the Hillcrest Brewing Company, the “World’s First Out and Proud LGBT Brewery.”

Fall in Love on Coronado…or is it Italy?

Enchanting Coronado, a bridge away from downtown and Hillcrest, is gay friendly and welcoming with a renowned romantic French bistro called Chez Loma. Couples are drawn to its private candle-lit rooms and delectable French classics like Boeuf Bourguignon.

The Gondola Company's romantic cruises through the Coronado Cays

The Gondola Company’s romantic cruises through the Coronado Cays

Before dinner, take a relaxing sunset gondola cruise – complete with a gondolier serenading you in Italian! – through the Coronado Cays. The Gondola Company provides chocolate-covered strawberries, and you’re welcome to bring your own wine or champagne!

Make a French Connection in Downtown San Diego

In downtown San Diego, Café Chloe holds a special place in my heart as the closest thing to a night out in Paris. The café is small and charming, and they usually do something extraordinarily quaint for Valentine’s Day couples, like little poetry verses you can recite to each other. Ahhh… 🙂

> Find more Valentine’s Day ideas and offers on

Book your dinner reservations now, as Valentine’s Day tables fill up quickly.


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.


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


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?

Brent Bernasconi

San Diego Celebrates Margarita Day

Margaritas in San Diego's Old Town

What do you get when you mix tequila, orange liqueur and lime/lemon juice? Why a classic margarita of course. February 22 is National Margarita Day (NMD) and what better excuse to celebrate then by enjoying a Cadillac Margarita under the San Diego sun!

I know finding just one place to enjoy a great margarita in San Diego can be challenging. To help you out, here are a few places you can satisfy your craving throughout the county:

Margaritas in San Diego's Old Town

Margaritas in San Diego's Old Town. Photo Courtesy of Prayitno.

Cafe Coyote

Cafe Coyote, located in the heart of San Diego’s Old Town, offers the perfect place to celebrate this classic beverage. For NMD 2012, you can enjoy one of 20 different flavors of margaritas for only $5 all day long. Don’t worry if you can’t make it today, they still offer a great selection of margaritas all year round, just not for $5.

El Vitral

If James Bond wanted a Margarita he would jetpack over to El Vitral in San Diego’s East Village for the delectable and $300 “El Chilango Margarita.” Made with Clase Azul Ultra, Grand Marnier 150, Del Maguey Tobola Mezcal, Palo Cortado Viejo Sherry, Lime Juice, El Chilango is a drink to sip and savor. El Vitral also has a slate of other more reasonably priced margaritas and over 250 tequilas to choose from.

Las Olas

For those in the North County, Las Olasoffers margaritas made with flavor infused in-house tequilas. Looking for something sweet? Order the fresh mango or strawberry margaritas. Feeling sweet yet desiring something spicy? Try the Pineapple and Chile Margarita for the perfect blend of spicy and sweet. With locations in Cardiff by the Sea and Carlsbad, you’ll have your pick for the most convenient place to sip and enjoy.

Casa de Pico

Casa de Pico's famous "Bird Bath margarita"

Casa de Pico

San Diego’s East County is all about “Go Big or Go Home” with its wide open spaces, mountains and lifted F-350s. Casa de Pico definitely follows this mantra with its enormous Giant Bird Bath Margarita. You might want to bring a friend (or two) with you or order one of their smaller options like the Casa de Pico Margarita, made with the same unique recipe since 1971.

There are plenty of other options for a great margarita in San Diego. Let us know your pick by leaving a comment below.


Quality Social Mixes it Up for Cocktail Week

At Quality Social the "H" is for happy.

The San Diego Spirits Festival starts tomorrow and downtown’s Quality Social will be there with a booth serving Pickleback shots and tasters of their new Kitchen Cocktails.

Pickleback shots may sound quirky but they’ve got an impressive pedigree. At Quality Social, they pair a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey with a shot of homemade pickle brine to create their Pickleback shots.

With Kitchen Cocktails, QS is taking farm-to-table from cuisine to cocktails. Muddling farm-fresh produce from local purveyors into lively libations, bartenders create concoctions like the Strawberry Fizz. Made with fresh chandler strawberries from Crows Pass Farm, mint bitters, house infused lemon vodka and simple syrup, the drink is vigorously shaken, strained over ice, topped with soda and garnished by a slice of strawberry and organic mint.

Try them both this weekend at the San Diego Spirits Festival but, first, head down to Quality Social today and order up today’s Cocktail Week special pictured above. They are highlighting their signature “H” cocktail for just $5. Named in honor of one of their favorite bartenders on the West Coast, it’s an easily crafted, booze heavy, summer time porch-sipper.

1/4 oz simple syrup
3/4 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1 1/2 oz Square One Cucumber Organic Vodka
Cucumber slice
Fresh ground black pepper

Shake first four ingredients in cocktail shaker and strain over ice into a collins glass garnished with fresh cucumber slice. Top with splash of soda and finish with pinch of pepper. Enjoy!


From Garden to Glass at the Grant Grill

Summer's bounty on the rocks at the Grant Grill!

Cocktail Week rolls on toward the San Diego Spirits Festival with amazing specials on cutting-edge cocktails at some of San Diego’s most legendary bars.

Certainly, the Grant Grill at the iconic US GRANT falls into that category. The 100-year old hotel has cocktail history on lock down (with prohibition era tales all its own) but continues to look to the future. They recently transformed their downtown rooftop terrace into an intimate garden farm, growing produce that inspires the seasonal culinary and specialty cocktail menus at the Grant Grill.

There, super talented mixologist Jeff Josenhans creates seasonal cocktail menus utilizing ingredients that are grown in the garden. His recently launched summer cocktails, like the Cinnamon Basil French Julep, highlight the seasonal bounty of summer’s fresh herbs. To make this light, summery drink, Josenhans combines Pierre Ferrand Cognac and orange blossom sugar with muddled pink lavender and Cinnamon Basil from the rooftop garden before topping it with bubbly, delicious Moet Chandon.

Today and tomorrow you can order up a Cinnamon Basil French Julep or any of Josenhans’ signature specialty cocktails for just $4 when you mention ‘Cocktail Week’…now that’s reason to celebrate!


Coastal Cool: Ted Gibson at George’s at the Cove

Ted Gibson of George's at the Cove...gonzo bartender!

Are you looking forward to this weekend’s San Diego Spirits Festival and the Ultimate Bartender Battle?

Over the last few months, San Diego’s top bartenders have been battling it out for the right to represent their neighborhood in this ultimate showdown. This week, I’m sharing a couple recipes from the competitors.

Today we have the “Dear Rum Diary” from Ted Gibson at La Jolla’s landmark George’s at the Cove. This is the drink that snagged Ted top honors in the ‘coastal battle’ and it definitely captures that laid-back, coastal vibe:

2 oz Plantation Rum (Barbados 5 year)
2/3 oz Homemade vanilla bean/raw sugar syrup
2 Lemon wedges
3 Japanese shiso leaves

Start by muddling the lemon wedges and shiso leaves in a mixing glass. Fill that glass with ice and add the rum and vanilla syrup before shaking and straining into a cocktail glass over fresh ice. Garnish with vanilla bean pod fresh shiso leaves.

You’ll probably notice that this drink is half the ingredients and 1/10th the work of yesterday’s recipe. That’s because Ted’s focus was to create an original drink that was approachable, easily replicated and delicious in its simplicity.

The name, “Dear Rum Diary,” is a reference to an early Hunter S. Thompson novel (The Rum Diary).  Set in Puerto Rico in the 1960’s, it’s a story of love, jealousy, and crazy, rum-fueled adventure.

Sounds perfect for our ‘coastal’ winner…and I can’t wait to see what Ted whips up this weekend!


Mike Yen, Mixology Maestro of Avenue 5

Mike Yen works his mixology magic this weekend!

One of the highlights of this weekend’s San Diego Spirits Festival will be the Ultimate Bartender Battle. Over the last few months, San Diego’s top bartenders have been competing in neighborhood battles for the right to represent their ‘hoods in this ultimate showdown and, this week, I’ll be sharing a few recipes from the competitors…starting with the most technically challenging of the bunch.

The recipe below is for “Asians Driving Cadillac,” the drink that won Mike Yen at Avenue 5 top honors in the Uptown battle. This, my friends, is a master at work:

  • 2 oz – Milagro silver Tequila
  • 1 oz – Yuzu juice (filtered)
  • 1 oz – Aloe juice (filtered)
  • 1/2 oz – Lime juice (filtered)
  • 1/4 oz – St. Germaine elderflower liqueur
  • 1/4 oz – Milagro agave nectar
  • 2 slices – Baby ginger
  • swab – Blood orange perfume
  • 1 – Cadillac “olive”

Swab the rim of chilled cocktail glass with blood orange perfume. Set aside. Muddle ginger with agave nectar and St. Germaine. Add remaining fluid ingredients and ice. Shake until chilled and strain into prepared glass. Garnish with speared “olive.”

Sounds simple, right?

But, it’s all in the preparation. To get those juices to the perfect clarity, Yen filters them with grade 203 filter paper and a Buchner Flask. To create the blood orange perfume, he uses a microplane to zest six blood oranges and soaks that zest overnight  in a cup of Grand Marnier before boiling it down until only sugars and oils remain.

For the piece de resistance, the Cadillac “olive,” he hollows out a white grape before injecting a mixture of fresh blood orange juice and Grand Marnier that has been infused with calcium lactate. Then, he submerges the grape in a sodium alginate bath and allows the gelatin barrier to form and seal in fluid contents.

Why go to all the trouble?

Yen says “My inspiration was to provide a creation that offers illusion, flavors, and technique. The goal was to present the image of a dirty martini, but playfully deliver a completely different flavor profile by applying Asian flavors to a popular drink, the Cadillac Margarita.”

Mission accomplished. Can’t wait to see what he comes up with this weekend!


Cocktail Week Starts Shaking Today

Kick off Cocktail Week with a Pear Martini at BICE!

This coming weekend the San Diego Spirits Festival will take over Broadway Pier to highlight the region’s craft cocktail community and the talented bartenders who are shaking up the San Diego scene.

You don’t have to wait until the weekend to celebrate though. The fun actually kicks off today with Cocktail Week, during which area bars will be showcasing their tastiest concoctions and serving up delicious drink specials.

  • Jsix at Hotel Solamar is offering $5 house-infused “Chile Tequila” Shots for $5 plus 1/2 off Manhattan, Chili Mango Margarita and Aviation cocktails.
  • Downtown’s BICE is also going to offer select drinks off their “signature cocktails” list at half off – including the dreamy Pear Martini pictured above.
  • Quality Social will be serving up a new $5 drink special each day. Tonight’s will be themed to match their “Reel Quality” movie and tomorrow look for the “Chata #$%* UP!!” horchata cocktail to pair with their taco Tuesday specials.

With great deals on these mixology masterpieces and many more, Cocktail Week is the perfect introduction to San Diego’s sophisticated sips.

Guest Blogger

3 Nights, 3 Different Delights

I live for the perfect night out. But for me, perfection has nothing to do with price, place, style or energy required, but rather the synergism responsible for turning an outing into an evening. Below are my picks for three diverse, adventurous evenings – just add good company and enjoy!

South Bay Drive-in and Ye Olde Plank Inn.

South Bay Drive-In

Imperial Beach is home to the South Bay Drive-In Theater, which would be completely retro, except drive-ins of my nostalgia never feature amazingly delicious, cheap carne asada street tacos and churros. Choose among three huge screens, each playing a double feature, for only $7 admission. To round out the evening, swing by Ye Olde Plank Inn – a kitchy dive bar at its best, full of locals and cash only. The whole night can be done with a twenty dollar bill. I know, shocking!

House of Blues and Suite and Tender

House of Blues in the Gaslamp Quarter

Completely deserving of its fame is the legendary House of Blues, located in the Gaslamp. It is one of my favorite San Diego venues due to its ability to envelop you in light and sound like a huge stadium concert while remaining as intimate and personal as a private party. I like to make it a night and stop next door at Suite and Tender in the Se San Diego Hotel for dinner or drinks beforehand. The vibe is chic but relaxed, plus you can enjoy a signature cocktail and a little socializing before the awesome brain-thumping you are about to receive. Just make sure to stop by the restroom before you leave – it’s quite a conversation piece. 

San Diego Opera and the Grant Grill

Madame Butterfly at San Diego Civic Theater

In 2006 the U.S. Grant Hotel, located in the heart of downtown San Diego, completed a $56 million renovation with STUNNING results. The hotel’s Grant Grill is high ceilinged and low lit, becoming a perfect match for a dry martini and formal duds before your 8 o’clock curtain. Thankfully, the San Diego Civic Theater is only 1.5 blocks away. And for those like me with champagne taste on a beer budget, there are ways to enjoy opulence without going for broke. Happy hour at the Grant is fantastic – $6 martinis and half price small plates! Tickets for the opera run $35-$195, but some shows have $50 “rush” tickets, which are sold 2 hours prior to curtain at the theater and consist of unsold, more expensive seats. They are definitely worth it. A last piece of advice for the neophyte, familiarize yourself with the plot of the opera before going, and maybe a few “hit” arias. Then you’ll be ready when an orchestra of 60+ people, a chorus sometimes upward of 100 and fabled prima donna start their beautiful cacophony without any electronic amplification. Now THAT is hard core.

Maren Severtson is San Diego raised and New York City educated. She is a trained classical singer who loves everything from Tuvan throat singing to Lady Gaga. Mix in her love of food, art, travel, conversations with strangers and adventure and you’ve got a bon vivant that well exceeds her age, social status and alas, income.