Friday, April 22, 2011

The Epic SD South Bay Crawl Post


Warning, this post is looong. Almost a short story. Want to thank Canine Cologne of the blog Pink Candles at Ridgemont High again for putting this crawl together. I was looking forward in meeting a few other SD food bloggers but scheduling and last minute cancellations meant it would just be CC and I.

["The Wing" - John J. Montgomery Monument, Otay Mesa]

Sharing the day today through my longer than usual ramblings. Been really busy and I've been able to only work incrementally on this off and on for the last three weeks. Apologies if it crashes your smart phones. I'm actually surprised Blogger is letting me put up this many photos at once which last I counted was 95. Anyway, also included links to CC's write ups which may have more info to each stop the generous guide that she was. So let's start!

First stop was Tita's Kitchenette. It was my one and only suggestion since I've heard a lot about them, and to my surprise CC not having visited herself, it made it on our day's agenda. I suppose when you can already make great Filipino Food at home visits to Turo Turo (or "point point") places like TK aren't that necessary. :)

CC wanted me to try the Dinuguan, a dish often called "Chocolate Meat," a type of Blood Stew. I was totally up for it but wanted to also try some Sisig (also never had) which we were told they were out of the day, but turned out there was some further down the isle. May have been for the better though since Kirk of Mmm-yoso had mentioned that TK's wasn't exactly the best in town.

Man,  this place was popular! There was already a small line when we got there at 11AM (which moved along a good pace) but by the time we left, the line went straight out the door. Clearly the food is good but the place is also known for very generous portions. A Two-Item typically means some starch (rice or noodles) in the bottom half of a styro box and your two choices filling the remaining top half man bra shaped squares. But at Tita's your first choice fills this remainder, and your second item comes in a separate good sized styro container. All for $7, and to also include soup, quite a feat.

Well, I really loved the Dinuguan. I expected it to be more iron-ey in flavor, like liver, or maybe even like the Vietnamese blood cubes you get in some noodle soup dishes, but in fact was more subtle. Unlike Mexican Mole you won't actually find chocolate in the recipe but the color and texture did really remind me of coarser ground melted coco butter. Some nice flavors imparted by bay leaves and a light vinegar acidity to balance out the richness with tons of chunky cubed pork that were on the fatty side but delicious. I imagine some will find this stew (which left many shiny grease rings on the table) heavy but for me makes it that great accompaniment to white rice that I so much love.

The red colored stew in the box was some Menudo which isn't to be confused with Mexican Menudo, the tripe soup. Filipino Menudo is a pork stew, here with potatoes and other hearty vegetables, and it was equally delicious.

I totally dug the ginger laced Tinola chicken soup as well. The vegetable shown is a Chayote which reminded me a lot of green papaya or certain squashes.
Great visit! We obviously didn't finish the meal with the full day in front of us, but packed it up and headed to the next stop, a little looksy in a Filipino grocery store... CC's post of the meal at TK here.

Tita's Kitchenette, 2720 E Plaza Blvd, National City, CA 91950

A quick visit to Seafood City where the bust statue of Dr. Jose Rizal resides, a Philippine national hero who advocated independence from Spanish rule during the late 1800's.

This chosen location had some controversy it being well, a supermarket, but supporters intentions were that it would get the most traffic and exposure. Link to CC's explanation and post here.

Some items found inside the market... Magnolia brand Ice Cream imported from the Philippines which I heard while there are others, Magnolia was the 'real good sh*t' and the one to get. A pack of seriously Bright Red hot dogs which had resemblance to regional ones you can find in parts of our North East. Then we have some Puto which is steamed rice cake. I heard is often eaten with the earlier Dinuguan. I also heard it's a bad word in Spanish?? My ignorance saves me here. Hooray for PUTO! Actually the Puto reminded me of Indian Idli but I believe that's made with lentils. Written about it on one of my breakfast posts.

Then we have lightly coagulated blood sold by weight, your choice of pig's or cow's. Below fresh fish and I further continued to run into cool finds in the frozen section. Box of Turon desserts, sometimes called 'banana lumpia,' ready to be fried.

Hopia pastry also ready to be defrosted, and a special type of lumpia wrappers that are meant to be eaten fresh and not fried. CC has a post on the Sariwang (fresh) Lumpia that her father made at a nephew's b'day here.

Where there is a Seafood City there also must be a ChowKing and a Red Ribbon Bakery. The purple Ube cake looked delicious! One day I may get to try them, as well as the infamous fertilized egg Balut.(?)

Seafood City Supermarket, 1420 E Plaza Blvd # E, National City, CA 91950

Next on our awesome itinerary was Menuderia Don Vicente.
MDV was actually one of those places I remember passing by and was curious of but never visited. I'm a real light weight when it comes to stronger offal tones of Mexican menudo. I enjoy Japanese motsu and also grilled horumon but they're usually impeccably prepped and often on top marinated which makes it a more textural enjoyment with only a hint of the funk, further masked by a great marinade. But anyway when we arrived the place was pretty busy.

You get a free appetizer of a beef stew and some delicious corn tortillas. Both fantastic. :)

I had to add the same photo moment above in CC's perspective below. I thought my Vanna White moment holding the tortilla warmer lid was funny...

According to CC, the stew is of rib meat, most parts tender and very flavorful.

The corn tortillas also moist and very fresh.

Today we'd be only tasting their flautas which also came recommended. Potato flautas to be exact, knowing that we'd be having a lot of meats the day. The plate came covered with shredded lettuce and some cotija cheese, as well a side of beef consomme. The thinner tortillas were corn and not flour which I thought made them a taquito but I've read up since that the differences are sometimes distinguished by the size of tortilla and not by type.

They were very good containing fluffy potatoes in with an extra crispy/crunchy thinner tortilla outer. I'd be back for them but also with their Pozole which both the red and green versions that looked great. Too bad there weren't more people that came along with us or we would've probably had the room for a tasting.

Menuderia Don Vicente's full menu here. And CC's post on the stop here.

Menuderia Don Vicente, 2637 Highland Ave, National City, CA 91950

Next is a quick visit to another newer Seafood City, this time in South Chula Vista.  Do you notice the Lotto banner (not space pirate Captain Harlock's ship Arcadia)?

Only a few weeks ago a winning ticket for a cool 19 Million was purchased right here. I later had to buy a ticket myself on the way out since I often hear of the same place selling multiple winning tickets. What the heck...

Some Lechon Kawali above, which is fried pork belly (my) goodness. The bag over to the right is fried fish (bones?), the label said "Jeproks" but I need to ask CC about them since google wasn't very helpful. Below, us checking out some different brands of Chicharon...

Some other instant food products. I was a kid in a candy store. I bought this Bulalo which is a type of bone marrow soup, which here packaged with some instant ramen noodles. I bet something even Mr. TonTanTin haven't tried! :)

Was able to purchase it along with my Lotto ticket, yess.

A few more shots of the squeaky new SFC. There's a food court in this one with your usual ChowKing but also a Jollibee. I had fun trying out a few meals at Jollibee before.

I was visually attracted to the pack of Nilupak, a starchy treat made with mashed cassava or equivalent with butter and sugar. Pan De Leche and Pan De Monay at Valerio's Bakeshop. Variations of Pandesal? CC's post on this stop here, and a separate one of the food court here.

Seafood City Supermarket, 285 E Orange Ave, Chula Vista, CA 91911

Time to put in a little more food in the belly and our next destination was El Ranchero Factory Taco Shop off 3rd and Palomar. According to CC there are three ERFTSs. This location may be a little hard to find being tucked in a rather narrow strip of shops but easy to remember in the sense that it's right behind Kanpai/Gunco.

After some perusing of menu we decided on some Cabeza it being something I like and it be CC's first time having.

Was relieved to hear CC enjoyed hers where I did mine a lot as well. These meats of random portions of roasted pig's head were minced extremely fine and I was glad to find them not too greasy where most of the moisture seemed were from stew liquids. The three cabeza tacos as much as I love them I feel are a heavy meal for one and was too bad they didn't mix and match as they also have beef barbacoa here (I only had lamb barbacoa).

ERFTS had a nice relaxed vibe and I loved that you had the option of sitting by the kitchen bar stools. Another great stop the day and CC's post can be found here. She recently mentioned that Bert and herself stopped by again and had both the Cabeza and Barbacoa tacos and that they were both winners.

If I'm back in the area I'm definitely trying the barbacoa, and it's also nice to know we have a new cabeza fan! A good first impression is key and you can find them here at El Ranchero Factory Taco Shop.

El Ranchero Factory Taco Shop, 1324 3rd Ave Ste 8, Chula Vista, CA 91911

We then headed over to Aqui es Texcoco for their Lamb Barbacoa and maybe even some Rabbit Mixiote. But by now which was peak lunch hour for a weekend we found them with a line out the door and decided to pass. May not seem that bad in the photo but basically the men are walking towards the end, right behind the pillar in front of the parked white car.

Maybe next time, and with more people...

Aqui es Texcoco, 1043 Broadway # 108, Chula Vista, CA 91911

Next was a visit to Otay Farms.

But before it, we walked down a few steps over to see what is known in the area as, "The Haunted Billboard." Supposedly people have claimed to see an apparition of a girl who was abducted and brutally murdered many years ago. The body was found near the area back in 1991. You can read more about the story on CC's post as well her visit to Otay Farms here.

I was glad to hear they did eventually catch the S.O.B. later with the advancement of DNA testing, but the detail of the story was still very gut wrenching for me. All I could really do is this quick doodle tribute in wishes that her soul rests in peace.

Otay Farms along this street is hard to miss, the place being a really cute green building and all.

The ceiling may feel a little low (especially compared to modern day mega-markets) but the coziness definitely all part of their wonderful charm. I loved how the produce were efficiently stacked in shopping carts...

And that fresh tortillas were being made in the back... Was a good line for them!

The butcher gave me a muscleman pose when he noticed me taking pictures! Totally awesome.

Otay Farms Market, 1716 Broadway, Chula Vista, CA 91911

We then headed over to a Taco Truck that CC hadn't been to but heard about. It's usually parked at a small lot on the corner of 3rd and Main across from the Strawberry Fields.

The Mariscos El Prieto had that great busy vibe and I knew that our next meal was again going to be a great one. :)

MEP is a Mariscos truck so their offerings would be mainly seafood based. Tons of stuff on the menu, unfortunately for me all written in Spanish, haha. Check out below this Jumbo Shrimp Coctel!!! It had to be served out the truck's door since it wouldn't pass through the standard pick-up window slot...

Maybe they should cut out a special vertical window for it, ha. ;) Here's CC taking a photo of our meal. She got the fish taco, and I the shrimp...

As with El Ranchero she also mentioned visiting here again with Bert and noticed that prices had gone up from $0.99 to $1.25 for the fish and $1.99 to $2.25 for the shrimp. Maybe they've gotten word of the good press from her and also Kirk's who coincidentally happened to post on the truck the day after our visit. So maybe expect some markup by the time you read this.

CC said she really enjoyed hers. It was the first for me having battered shrimp in a taco. According to CC's friend this is a style found in Ensenada. The shrimps were smaller but the batter lightly sweet and eggy in a good way. There were also enough of them to enjoy the full length of the taco. I'd definitely get these again with some additional fish tacos.

While CC was texting her friend of what "Prieto" meant, I swung around back to get some of the free seafood consomme. These with mariscos trucks tend to fluctuate day to day but was wonderfully flavorful with a little spicy pepper kick.

But if you wondered why we were curious of the name, it was because of the illustration on the back side of the truck!

El Prieto Taco Truck, 3rd and Main, near the Strawberry Fields

Judging by our itinerary the crawl was getting close to an end. One of the last visits was a spot called "The Wing" in Otay Mesa. A memorial for aviation pioneer John J. Montgomery who most may know of San Diego's airport being named after. According to wiki, in 1883 he made the first manned, controlled, heavier-than-air flights which the nuances hard to understand but he's up there (no pun intended) with the Wright Brothers.(!)

For a nerd-geek like me you can't imagine how cool it is to think our aviation forefathers had tested hand built prototypes of early planes from these very hills!! Total goosebumps status.


Here's CC pointing at (if I remember right) the bullfighting rink over on the Tijuana side of the border. Her post on the wing here.

Montgomery-Waller Park, 3020 Coronado Ave, San Diego, CA 92154

Next visit was another memorial, the unfortunate site of the 1984 San Ysidro McDonald's Massacre.

On July 18th of that year, some nut person with a few guns went nut job and shot up a bunch of people including a few younger kids and even a baby. The 21 granite pillars each represent a person that was killed the day and the different heights portrays roughly the individual's age.

The area now is also the satellite site of Southerwestern College Higher Education Center. It's nice and great symbolism to know the spot was replaced by a center dedicated to higher education. You can read more about CC's recollection of the day of the horrific event here.

Southwestern College Higher Education Center, 460 W. San Ysidro Blvd, San Ysidro, CA 92173

And the final stop, my patient readers... Oasis Ice Cream Parlor!

...But before, we stopped in a couple Filipino food shops as a last ditch effort to see if there were any Sisig. We didn't, but did see some Tsitsarong manok - fried chicken skin! A chicken skin variant of pork chicharon if you will of which I never knew existed but makes total delicious sense.

OICP is a tiny family run business with many unusual ice cream flavors, all made and fresh.

I got the pink Cantaloupe flavor you see to the left. Was lightly milky and more like a sherbet but full of natural cantaloupe flavor and super duper delicious. CC got the blueberry which looked great as well. I'm glad I didn't get a double scoop since the single is a good filling as the cups are packed all the way to the bottom.

They also have the Paletas, Mexican Popsicles which are mostly only around a buck-fifty each. CC got a few to take back to the fam.

Took my GF out for the first time the day to snap the shot below. It's easily one of my favorite photos this year. :)

The site of a few burly tattooed men enjoying ice cream outside the parlor gave me a good smile as well. CC's take on the visit is not to be missed and can be read on her blog Pink Candles at Ridgemont High here. I also remember Darlene of My Burning Kitchen had posted on Oasis in the past which can be found here.

Oasis Ice Cream Parlor, 1832 Coronado Ave, San Diego, CA 92154

I got to meet Bert and TC later which was really cool to finally put faces to names (though the names made up). It was really nice meeting you all and big thanks again to CC for organizing the day!!


caninecologne said...

holy effin' shitballz!

one hour later...

kidding, it didn't take me that long to read this post! but wow, it was worth the wait!

great write up and of course, great photos. I saw you snapping away and had been wondering to see your take of this day.

i still don't know what 'jeproks' is other than it is some sort of fish. also, my sis knows the winner of that 19 million; it's her friends' mom! i can't believe my dad went up to the daughter at my nephew's party and said, "so, where's my one million?" with his hand out! ha ha! Filipino dad humor.

puto = bad word in spanish but yummy rice cake in Filipino!

enjoyed your drawings and little additions to your photos (beatles! shrimp, nice calligraphy, etc).

what a great post! had such a blast with you and hope to do another one (not necessarily the south bay) soon with more folks. thanx for putting up with me!

i totally agree with you about more people = more food = more to blog about, ha ha!

caninecologne said...

me again - pan de monay is a bit heavier than regular pan de sal (which isn't really salty as the name would imply). pan de leche is lighter and fluffier and made with milk.

Dennis K. said...

Hi CC, haha. I'm not sure it's longer than Ed of mmm-yoso's post on Cretins, Yuma though.

Glad you noticed the beatles!

Thanks again, and yes let's think of something different for next time.

K and S said...

awesome foodie adventure!

OkiHwn said...

Great crawl post! Would love to go on one of your crawls. OK, let start thinking about a crawl here in Hawaii when you get a chance to come.

OkiHwn said...

Just noticed the chicken skiin thing - I'd be a regular!

Dennis K. said...

Hi Kat, it was a fun day!

Hi Nate, Omg, that'll be way cool! The last I visited Hawaii was too long ago and you'd be a perfect guide if you're up for it, at least for one day. Too bad we can't meet in Oki in November... Cheers

Carol said...

What a post and what a crawl! I love all the drawings as part of the pics.

I think we should all plan on a trip together for Nate's guided crawl. Okay, come on, who's in???

Dennis K. said...

Hi Carol, I'd be totally up for it!! Theoretically, haha. No, I've been meaning to go to Hawaii for a while now but can't seem to ever find the time. Anyway thanks for the compliments. I'm not sure where the 'drawing on my food' thing will go but I'm having a lot of fun. Cheers