About a month ago, we had a meal at Juniper & Ivy with a group of friends. Unfortunately for my friends, this was during the time Chef Blais was filming Hunger Games and Top Chef and was not in the kitchen that night. Most of the evening still went smoothly, but a few of his dishes did suffer, I think, in his absence.

Amuse Bouche

Since we sat at the chef’s counter, we were given some cheese gougères to whet our appetite.

Carlsbad Luna Oysters

Next came Chef Blais’ play on oysters and pearls. The oysters are served with horseradish pearls frozen with liquid nitrogen. This is usually one of my favorites. While it was still good, the pearls weren’t as frozen as our previous visits and so they melted pretty fast.

Cherry Bomb Poppers

This creamy mashed cauliflower is the perfect faux potato dish. It’s so flavorful and creamy that you won’t miss the potato at all.

Yes, I’m back to playing with cauliflower. And I’m happy to report, you can even use it as a substitute for mashed potatoes. I am so impressed with the texture of this mash. It looks and feels just like mashed potatoes and it tastes really, really similar. To me, it tastes like a lighter mashed potatoes because it’s not weighed down by all the starch.

Rita’s Italian Ice, the popular chain from the East Coast specializing in Italian ice and custards, has continued to open locations in San Diego.

I read about the opening in Mira Mesa a couple of weeks ago, but wanted to wait a few weeks before trying it out. It was so hot this weekend in San Diego–perfect weather for ice and custard.

The Mira Mesa Rita’s is located in the same plaza as Little Caesar’s Pizza and California Donuts. I’m sorry I don’t have a nice picture of the front. I thought I would have enough time to take a picture on our way out, but it got dark really fast.

The interior looked similar to the other Rita’s I’ve been to. Inside, the menu offers different flavors of ice, custard, and drinks. Rita’s is most famous for their gelati, which has a rich custard soft serve at the bottom, ice in the middle and then topped with more custard.

There were only four people ahead of us and it seemed relatively quiet, but for some reason it took a really long time before it was finally our turn. Twenty minutes later we had our ice orders, only to wait another 10 minutes at the cash register before someone can to ring up our order. I was afraid our ice and ice creams would be melted.

Gelati with mango ice and vanilla custard