It’s been two years since I started Kirbie’s Cravings. I completely missed the one year mark, so I made sure to calendar this second year. To help celebrate the occasion, I did some redesign of the banner and added a couple of items to the page tabs of the blog.
It’s hard to look back at my original posts and photos without cringing. I get the same feeling I get when I read my old high school year book. The blog has evolved a long way since I first started (hopefully for the better).
I wanted to use this day as a sort of reflection into this little hobby of mine that has taken over so much of my free time. I often get asked why I blog or how I got started.
My goal in the beginning was simple: I wanted to add to the San Diego food blog community. There are many wonderful bloggers in San Diego, but the community is quite small, so I wanted to add my little contribution.
Things started quite innocently. I’ve always loved food and eating out. I was reading restaurant reviews one day when I stumbled upon a little blog you might have heard of called “mmm-yoso“. Mmm-yoso was the first food blog I had ever read. Ever. I had heard of personal blogs before, but didn’t pay much attention to them. When I came across mmm-yoso, I was stunned by the amount of posts, knowledge and details about restaurants in San Diego. Reading mmm-yoso was a million times better than reading yelp reviews.
For the next few days, I tried to read through all of the posts on mmm-yoso. It was no small feat as there were about 8 years of posts to read through. When I finally finished, I had a list of restaurants a mile long that I wanted to try.
After mmm-yoso, I searched for other food blogs. I found many great ones that I soon began to follow. As I tried new restaurants, I began writing about them on yelp. But the yelp reviews weren’t very satisfying. A seed of thought began to creep into my mind, toying with the idea of joining in the San Diego food blogging community.
While I loved the food blogs I found, I also noticed that the San Diego community of food bloggers is quite small. So I wanted to add to that community, with the idea of providing other San Diego food lovers another source for reviews of restaurants. So that was the goal when I started my food blog.
From there…things just sort of kept evolving more than I had ever imagined. I began adding a cooking/baking section when I realized I enjoyed posting daily but didn’t dine out enough to post daily. This gave me a whole new set of readers that I wanted to give frequent posts to. As I got more involved in the food blogging world, my list of restaurants and foods I wanted to try grew exponentially and I found myself baking and eating a lot more to check off items on my list.
I also began noticing gorgeous photographs on other blogs, and I soon found myself buying a new camera, and then eventually getting a dslr camera so I also try to take pretty photos.
So now two years have passed. I’ve reviewed hundreds of restaurants and baked hundreds of desserts. I’ve gained weight, emptied my wallet, but I’ve enjoyed the ride and hope to continue. I have met some great people through food blogging and it’s so nice to meet others who share the same passion for food. I’ve gotten great tips and advice on places to dine at whether in San Diego, or when I’m roadtripping to LA or vacationing outside of CA. On the cooking side of my blog, whenever I post a problem I have or a recipe that didn’t turn out, tips and advice are quickly provided by readers solving my dilemmas. I’ve even gotten a few free meals and products, a perk I didn’t know existed when I started, but have definitely enjoyed.
And best of all, through this blog, I’ve been able to reach out and communicate with people that I would never have been able to do without this food blog. Whenever I get a comment that one of my recipes was a huge hit with their family, or they are happy they discovered something through reading my post, it really makes my day.
For those of you who follow my blog, I hope you continue to do so. I wanted to say a few mentions to people who have made this blog possible. Maybe because I just finished watching the Oscar’s. To the readers, thanks for reading and commenting. I love getting comments and I encourage you to keep commenting and reading. I also want to mention Kirk, because his blog is really what inspired me to begin blogging and if I never stumbled on his blog, I probably never would have started blogging. I was lucky enough to meet him in person a few months ago, and he is as knowledgeable, funny and kind in person as he appears on his blog. I want to mention Dennis of A Radiused Corner and Roger of The Fifth Deadly Sin. Kirk, Dennis and Roger were the first to welcome me to the San Diego food blog community, immediately putting me on their blogrolls and giving me a warm welcome to the community during the blog’s infant days, giving me the courage to continue. Their initial warm welcoming is something I always remember, and I’ve tried to follow their example when I encounter new bloggers.
Of course I have to mention my family, who come along on these eating adventures, help polish off the baked goods and read all my posts. And finally, I have to mention the boyfriend, who provides the biggest support for this blog. He is my constant dining companion, my driver on LA trips, my photo assistant when I’m photographing, my tech support when my site goes down, and my graphic designer for the blog.
Last week, the BF and I got to dine with Rosa of The Catty Critic, her husband, and her fellow LA food blogger friends, Kristen of Rock My Palate and Mark and Angela of I Flip For Food, at the pop up Relate Restaurant headed by Chef Dan Moody.
“Pop-up” restaurants is a concept that arguably has been made most popular by Chef Ludo Lefebvre. The idea is that for a limited time, a chef will temporarily take over a venue and turn it into his own kitchen/restaurant. The concept allows a chef to experiment with his cooking without dealing with the overhead costs of having to maintain a physical restaurant space.
Chef Ludo became quite popular after being featured on the tv show Top Chef Masters. He has successfully done six versions of his “LudoBites” pop up restaurants, popping up in all different parts of LA. His last venture, LudoBites 6.0, was so popular that despite teaming with opentable to handle the reservations, opentable’s site completely crashed as thousands of food lovers attempted to get a reservation. Apparently the site received 35,000 hits in a very short amount of time, and all the reservations were filled up within 90 minutes for the 6 week stint. BF and I were one of the many unlucky ones that did not get a table.
A few months ago, I heard a pop-up restaurant would be coming to San Diego, set up to temporarily take over St. German Cafe in Encinitas. I became even more intrigued when I learned that the Chef Dan Moody, who is also known as the Relation Chef, had been a sous chef for Chef Ludo at his last three LudoBite incarnations.
After Rosa invited me to join her and her food blogger friends, my mind was made up, and I decided I had to give it a try.
The menu at pop up restaurants usually change from day to day as the chef continues to experiment with new ideas. The menu for the night was as follows:
Our first bite was the French onion soup. A little small piece of fried dough sat upon a spoon. Upon popping it into my mouth, I was greeted with a squirt of hot onion soup. I found the little bite quite playful and wished there was more. I’ve never had french onion soup presented this way and it was a fun way to open the meal.
For each course, the waiters waited until everyone was finished, simultaneously removing all of our plates and presenting us with new plates and new silverware for every course. I thought this was a nice touch.
Our second course was Chef Dan’s take on breakfast. This was probably the most popular dish among the table that night. The breaded and fried ball was an egg. When I cut into it, I discovered a runny yolk. I wasn’t always a fan of runny yolks, but BF’s love for it has rubbed onto me. Now I love the taste of a runny egg yolk. Bits of fried bacon also graced the plate and there was a potato pancake and lettuce.
Our next dish was a grilled octopus. I love octopus and the preparation of this dish was really delicious. The octopus was extremely tender and had a great smokey flavor. Later on Chef Dan told us the process to get the octopus so tender since octopus usually has a very chewy texture. I actually love the chewy texture, but I also appreciated the complicated process to make it tender.
The next dish was a redrock fish, served with a puree of beets, a coconut curry and fried spinach. I’m not a big fan of beets, so I could have done without the beet sauce. I liked the crisp seared skin of the fish and the fried spinach leaves were tasty.
The next dish was a spiced beef, with avocado puree, and crispy porcini. This was my favorite dish of the night. The meat was cooked and seasoned perfectly.
The final dish was supposed to be a creme brulee dessert, which we didn’t actually get to try. But we got something even better. It was Angela’s birthday, and so Kristen had asked Chef Dan to make a cake, which he agreed to do. I thought this was a fabulous idea. It must almost every foodie girl’s dream to have a special personal birthday cake made by a chef.
He made a enormous chocolate mousse cake. I should have stood up to get a better picture. Each of us had a small slice of the extremely rich and decadent cake. And after all those slices, more than half the cake remained.
The cake was made with a bittersweet chocolate, which kept the dessert from being too sweet. The chocolate mousse made the cake nice and moist. It was topped with a cognac buttercream frosting. Normally I’m not a frosting girl, but this frosting was so utterly light. I ate all my frosting, all the while suspecting that it was probably made with a lot of butter, later confirmed by the chef.
Because we were the last patrons left that night, we got a chance to hang out and chat with Chef Dan after. It was fun listening to how he prepared his dishes and his experience so far opening his first pop up.
So I like playing with my food. I especially like making turtle shaped foods whenever I can. I attempted turtle shaped pretzels a long time ago. It’s something I’ve been wanting to revisit for a long time to improve on my first attempt.
These turtles came out much cuter than my first attempt. I rolled the dough out into ropes but then instead of shaping them like pretzels, I rolled the dough into a spiral shape. After that I pinched the front to shape a head, and pinched the sides to form feet and tail. The first time I had used separate pieces of dough for the face and feet, but this led to the dough falling off.
For the eyes, I was thinking of putting little dollops of chocolate, but I was too lazy to melt chocolate and instead I cut a little slit and stuck a brown colored sprinkled inside for each eye. I am pretty happy with the end result.
I am submitting this post to Yeastspotting.
Turtle Soft Pretzels (adapted from Alton Brown)
Yields: approx 16 small pretzels
1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg
1. Combine the warm water, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. Add the flour and butter and using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl. Remove the dough from the bowl, and place the dough in a glass bowl oiled with vegetable oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
2. Divide the dough into 16 pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 12 inch rope. Wrap the dough into a spiral shape. Pinch a large piece of the dough in the front to shape a head. Pinch little pieces where the feet and hands should be to form feet and hands and a small piece at the end for the tail.
3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
4. Using a large sauce pan, fill with water and bring and the baking soda to a rolling boil.
5. Place the pretzels into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Place pretzels on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat mat.
6. Beat one large egg. Brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 6-7 minutes. After pretzels have cooled, add eyes to turtles. You can put drops of chocolate. Or you can stick sprinkles in for eyes. I cut a small slit and stuck sprinkles inside.