Food Friday: Santiagos

I can’t believe it’s Friday already! But here we are and I’m continuing highlighting some of my favorite spots from traveling during the last week of June and first week of July. My last two posts focused on restaurants in Southern California and today I’m shifting gears to Washington. We went up to visit my husband’s family as well as see our nephew play in a tournament for his summer team. While we were mostly in western Washington, we went to Yakima, central Washington, for the baseball tournament. (Spoiler: the nephew’s team totally won the tournament and he did some amazing pitching!!) So my first of two Washington restaurants is in Yakima. (Fun fact: Yakima claims to be the Palm Springs of Washington, I feel like they might want to aim a little higher!)

Outside porch of Santiago's (photo cred their FB page)

Outside porch of Santiago’s (photo cred their FB page)

Santiago’s is in downtown Yakima (very cute stretch of town) and claims to have the largest tequila selection north of the border (I assume they mean the Oregon/Washington border as there are a LOT of California spots with tons of tequila options). I was a little weary of eating Mexican food in Washington as I have found the further I get from Mexico, the less good Mexican food is. However, I was pleasantly surprised. This was not the same type of Mexican food I might enjoy in So Cal but it was still very good. However, be warned, their portions are HUGE! I can eat a lot, but there was no way I could even come close to finishing my enchiladas. Everyone got something different to eat and not one complaint. (And yes, I tried some tequila! And not just in the margaritas that the hubs and I had with dinner.)

Enchiladas!

Enchiladas!

One of the really great things we discovered in Washington, and Santiago’s was no exception, is that they provide really excellent service. Not only were servers attentive(but did not hover) and followed through with our requests, they even checked in with the kids’ mom when they ordered more soda. I have never seen this happen in California.

Live music (photo cred: Santiago's FB page)

Live music (photo cred: Santiago’s FB page)

Another great aspect of Santiago’s is that they have live music. We really enjoyed the band playing but it was not too loud, so you could still enjoy conversation. I saw on their Facebook page that they post the bands who will be playing there. Seems like a great way to plan out a trip to Yakima (which if you are not going for a baseball tournament is a great place for wineries too).

Have you been to Yakima? What was your favorite dining spot there?

Doing the Tourist Thing in Santa Cruz

On Monday, my best friend and Maid of Honor in my wedding, drove down with her family to spend a few days visiting us in the Cruz. I have known Monica since I was 14 years old and even though we only live 2 1/2 hours apart, it had been forever since we had last hung out and this was the first time she and her fam had made it to Santa Cruz. And we had jam-packed activities, including things I rarely do in my town.

On Monday we took the Santa Cruz Trolley from downtown to the Boardwalk. (Have you ridden it yet? It’s only a quarter and takes you from downtown to the Boardwalk and vice versa. It runs every 15 minutes on the weekends and 20 minutes on weekdays. Four year old Andrew said it was his favorite ride!)

Selfie on the Trolley with the Davis fam

Selfie on the Trolley with the Davis fam

After we got to the Boardwalk, we alternated adult riding duties for a variety of rides including the Giant Dipper, the Looff Carousel, Undertow, the ferris wheel and some kiddie rides (including the super weird Cave Train Adventure…). The kids had some good Boardwalk food and ice cream. The Boardwalk has lots of $1 options on Mondays and Tuesdays, so you can be pretty frugal even with 3 kids in tow. Then we dragged some super tired kids back downtown to meet my hubs for dinner at Betty’s.

Selfie on the Cave Train ... before entering the Cave

Selfie on the Cave Train … before entering the Cave

Tuesday we had another full day. This time we drove down to the Boardwalk to hop on the Roaring Camp Railroad. Even though I live along the train route and have been in Santa Cruz for nearly 5 years, this was the first time I had ridden the train. It takes about an hour to get from the beach to Roaring Camp (just outside Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park). And the hubs even came out with the pups to wave as we passed our house. That was pretty awesome of him to do! At the Camp, we got some lunch and toured the shop, blacksmith spot, the printing press (with some questionable “history” given to the kids…), and then walked across the tracks to take the small redwoods loop in Henry Cowells. I thought this was way more fun than the actual Camp since the kids could run around a bit more and it’s just so pretty.

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 9.15.23 AM

Looking up at the redwoods

Looking up at the redwoods

After we rode the train back, we changed into our swimsuits and headed to the beach. Sadly, I think this was the first time I’d actually hung out at the beach this year (except for taking the pups down for a walk). It was great weather and we hung out for a few hours to wear out the kiddos and catch up with each other. Then it was back to the house.

Last week, my parents surprised the hubs and I by getting us an early anniversary gift: a Weber grill! And it was perfect timing since Monica was coming up and we got to grill up some salmon and burgers. Monica made some good sides and it was a perfect dinner. Add in some good beers and it was a perfect end to the day.

Grilling up!

Grilling up!

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing is always a good choice!

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing is always a good choice!

Wednesday morning Monica’s family packed up and headed out. I was sad to see them go, but I think they’ll be back in Santa Cruz again soon!

This weekend I’ll be missing out on another Santa Cruz local treasure: the annual Wharf to Wharf race. (I’m running the San Francisco Marathon, which sadly falls on the same day). But you can keep up with the race and get a great recap from my friend’s brand new blog: laps.lunges.leather.  (I’m so excited for Leslie to be joining the blogging community!) Check out her first post on her expectations and history with Wharf to Wharf.

What’s your favorite “tourist” activity in your town? Are you racing Wharf to Wharf or SFM this weekend?

Food Friday: Gourmet Italia (and some wineries)

The blog is a little quiet this time in summer as I have been busy trying to catch up with research and plan for the summer school course I’m teaching in just over a week (very excited to teach the Civil War Era!). But I still have yummy food places to share with you and I’m continuing my trend from last week of sharing some of my favorite places I ate at while traveling.

The last weekend of June I was still in Southern California and spent the weekend at my friend Tara’s bachelorette party. In addition to seeing some ladies who I haven’t seen since I worked at the Center, I also met some really great women. But I was pretty excited just to hang out with Tara. Over the weekend we spent time at the spa and drinking lots of wine at the Temecula wineries. I’m not sure which winery was my favorite but the last stop had Pinot Noir and that made me happy. :)

Our first stop at Danza del Sol Winery

Our first stop at Danza del Sol Winery

I loved the big glasses at Robert Renzoni - I loved even more that I got to keep the glass!

I loved the big glasses at Robert Renzoni – I loved even more that I got to keep the glass!

Longshadow Ranch was the best environment: very relaxing and cute animals too.

Longshadow Ranch was the best environment: very relaxing and cute animals too.

Lorimar was our last stop - I ended up trading in my 6 tastings for a full glass of Pinot. Best decision ever!

Lorimar was our last stop – I ended up trading in my 6 tastings for a full glass of Pinot. Best decision ever!

For dinner, we ate at Gourmet Italia.There are lots of reasons I want to include this in my Food Friday.  Of course, if I share it here it’s because the food was delicious. I had the pesto gnocchi and some of the calamari appetizers. The gnocchi and pesto were both homemade (let’s be honest, homemade pesto isn’t that hard – all Italian restaurants should be making their own!). But I also had a bite of a friend’s salmon, so good!

The pretty bride-to-be and me at Gourmet Italia

The pretty bride-to-be and me at Gourmet Italia

The other reason I have to include this restaurant in my Food Friday series is its service. We were a fairly large party and they sat us quickly. I know that I probably shouldn’t be surprised that with a reservation, a restaurant will seat you promptly – but I am! I have many experiences waiting to be seated despite a reservation (and I don’t mean 5-10 minutes, but 30 minutes and more). The worst experience was an engagement party 4-ish years ago in San Francisco; the wait was so bad we ended up leaving and going to a taqueria around the corner! But I digress… the service at Gourmet Italia was quick and friendly. Our server, who had an Italian accent, was very helpful in making our selections and checked in just the right amount (we all know that checking in too many times can be just as bad as ignoring a table completely).

They even put up with our silly bachelorette party antics.

Tara made a veil with her napkin for the scavenger hunt game.

Tara made a veil with her napkin for the scavenger hunt game.

Have you been to Temecula? What was your favorite winery and restaurant?

Food Friday: Beach Break

After a few week’s off, the blog is back! I have been traveling the last couple weeks and couldn’t find the time to write a post, but Food Friday is a perfect post to come back. This is especially true because I plan on focusing the next couple weeks on some of my favorite restaurants from my travels :) The last week of June I was in So Cal visiting my parents, so my first restaurant choice comes from there. It’s one of my all time favorite breakfast spots and I’m guessing most readers from So Cal already know about it because it’s ALWAYS packed!

All images courtesy the Beach Break website

All images courtesy the Beach Break website

Beach Break (located on the 101 in Oceanside and a smaller restaurant with a limited menu is also at the Oceanside Harbor) is a breakfast and lunch spot that’s been in North San Diego County for years (since 1988). It always has the regular breakfast fare (eggs, omelets, scrambles, pancakes, French toast, etc.) and lunch goodies (burgers, sandwiches, fish tacos) but they always also have fun specials everyday and usually have eggs benedict on the weekends. I tend to go simple with eggs over easy, squaw bread toast, and their super yummy hashbrowns with some coffee. They have regular and vanilla coffee and when in season, fresh squeezed tangerine juice. But I always save room to share their coffee cake with someone (or eat my dad’s coffee cake like I did last time I was there!). They poke holes through the top of the cake so the frosting goes all the way through and makes it so moist and delicious (and surely bad for you!).

One of their French Toast specials

One of their French Toast specials

Coffee cake!

Coffee cake! YUM!

Part of the charm of Beach Break is their beachy vibe. A couple years back they moved from a small space to a much larger one. All of the Beach Break regulars and fans were worried that the previous hole-in-the-wall breakfast stop would lose some of its character in the move (I was definitely one of these worriers). But the owners know that this was an important part of the restaurant and made all efforts to keep all the character, complete with vintage photos, surfboards, and skateboards.

5a2e2e0dce4b287abdf20ae3b43f0e26The final reason to recommend Beach Break is that they have AMAZING service. I am always shocked how quickly they are at your table after being seated to make sure you have what you need. Usually I’m pretty taken care of by the time I sit down because like many breakfast places, they keep coffee available for customers waiting for a table. Once you have ordered, the food comes out quick. They get your bill quickly too, but continue to refill drinks and check in on you until your ready to go.

Have you eaten at Beach Break? What’s your favorite dish?

 

Food Friday: Soif

This week I have been making a very long and protracted goodbye to a solid running buddy, close friend, and neighbor who is moving soon (due to various travel plans between both of us this is really the last week I will see her). I’m super sad she’s leaving and made it my plan to see her every day of the week. Luckily, this also meant several delicious dinners (that I basically crashed, thanks to our other friends for letting me jump in!). On Monday we went to one of my favorite places to eat in Santa Cruz: Soif!

From Soif's facebook page

From Soif’s facebook page

My first two Food Fridays focused on a little more casual dining fair (Discretion and Picnic Basket). But Soif is a little more fine dining with plates ranging from about $19 to $25 (depending on the nightly menu). And Soif has a huge wine selection. This time I had a roasted beet gnocchi (so good!) and a glass of a Pinot Rose (since its summer and all). My dining friends had pan roasted scallops with chicories salad with strawberries, radishes, hazelnuts, and shallot-wine vinaigrette and lamb cannelloni. Each time I eat here I always love my meal and am very pleased with great service. The serving sizes are perfect, you feel full but not stuffed (and I’ve never had leftovers… have to eat it all!).

Another Soif FB photo, this time of one of their entrees.

Another Soif FB photo, this time of one of their entrees.

If you aren’t looking for more expensive dining, I still recommend Soif for a good glass of wine. It’s located on Walnut, so you can enjoy a walk downtown with window (or regular) shopping and then a glass of wine (and maybe a delicious appetizer too!)

Loved the sign Soif had out front on Monday!

Loved the sign Soif had out front on Monday!

What’s your favorite downtown restaurant? How do you say goodbye when a good friend moves?

 

*At some point, I’ll remember to not scarf down my food and take a photo first to share on the blog!