Halcyon, Stella Public House, plus bonus ~ San Marcos

So, I recently went to check out the new Halcyon Coffee + Bar + Lounge and their sister establishment Stella Public House located in the new mixed use enclave that is called “Block C” North City in San Marcos.  North City is set to be, once finished, an urban living utopia or dystopia, depending on your point of view. My friend Beau said it best. “High rise upscale apartments with cacti and bicycles on the balconies and hipster coffee houses and restaurants on the street level.” Pretty dead on actually. Luckily I like hipster coffee places and restaurants, good ones anyway.

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Block C ( Why does that name conjure up images of Judge Dread and Mega City One for me?)

Halcyon, and Stella Public House, are part of a small chain with two locations in Texas. The new San Marcos location is actually a relocation of their East Village spot in San Diego.

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Halcyon Coffee + Bar + Lounge

Open 7am till 2am Halcyon is a coffee bar during the day serving up breakfast items, salads, and sandwiches. At night it turns into a lounge with wine, beer and cocktail service.

It has a bright, laid back atmosphere with lots of large open roll up windows. The space flows across a couch filled lounge area into their sister establishment Stella Public house.

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Iced Tea and a daisy:)

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Stella Public House calls itself a “Farm to Pizza” establishment. I can see that. Its menu is designed around shared plates and wood fired pizzas. Plus, to be a Gastropub I think it’s law you must have a $14 burger, pork belly, and ceviche on the menu ( though technically I think you can sub the ceviche for poke and the burger for sliders.).  I do not recognize the farms they are sourcing from listed on their website but the food we had used top quality, fresh product. Plus, to be honest, I only know like six farms by name anyway.

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A beautiful open kitchen and bar area run along the North wall. Flowing and / or seamless would be good adjectives to describe the space.

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The large roll up windows / doors continue the indoor out-door theme from Halcyon. Justin ( beer contributor for NCF ) stuck with water, as due to being in soft opening mode they were not serving beer yet. They open officially 10/6. Justin lived, we went to a brewery right after this:)

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Burrata Plate ~ Burrata, prosciutto, and accompaniments.

Delicious, fresh burrata with great prosciutto. We both loved this. Easily enough for two as a starter.

Stella pizza (1 of 1)

Texas Bee Sting Pizza ~ house mozzarella, serrano, sopressata, parmigiano, with local honey drizzle and cilantro.

I was not that hungry but still devoured 3 slices of the pizza. It had a nice balance of saltiness from the cheese playing off the right amount of sweetness from the honey and a little bit of spice from the serranos. A really nice pizza, I would order it again.

Also shout out to the staff for being friendly and dealing with the slight chaos that comes with a new establishment opening perfectly.

Halcyon & Stella Public House

250 North City Drive Suite #3 | San Marcos, CA

BattleMage Brewing….

As I mentioned in the title, a little bonus. After Eating at Stella we headed over to check out Battle Mage Brewing Company. Justin will do a full article on them and their beers, but I just wanted to mention them.

BattleMage started up about five months ago and is a fantasy themed brewery ( Dungeons & Dragons, Magic The Gathering, Game of Thrones ). Their beers have names like Goblin King, Chaotic Evil, and Hooded Assassin. They have D&D nights every Tuesday, Magic the Gathering Wednesdays, and board games available to play anytime. Basically, I love them:) Here are a few pics till Justin writes them up. Good beer in a variety of styles. I highly recommend checking them out.

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Wall of Magic The Gathering Cards.

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Beer list and kick ass mascot art work. Really good prices, flights of 4 tasters are $5, pints $5, and growlers $15. Yes, I bought a T-Shirt, wearing it right now:)

BattleMage Brewing Company

2870 Scott St, Vista, CA

#food #foodporn #foodie #pizza #coffee #beer #brewery #craftbrewery #sanmarcos #northcounty #D&D #games #vista

 

 

 

 

Panda Garden ~ San Marcos

So, one of the things I have been striving to find here in North County is a good Chinese restaurant. I have tried quite a few. The reason you do not see posts about them is that they did not meet the same level of quality as most of the restaurants featured on this site. Opinions, like most things, are subjective but I found nothing in the Chinese food category  I would feel comfortable sending someone to on a recommendation.  That has now changed, I can honestly recommend Panda Garden in San Marcos. It’s not on the level of Bay Area Chinese restaurants, but it is quite good.

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Standard strip mall location. I have never been to a great “fancy” Chinese restaurant.

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Nice clean interior. I liked the calmness of the bamboo green accents.

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Lunch specials come with the Chinese version of chips and salsa, fried won-ton chips with sweet and sour sauce and hot mustard. I’m convinced good Chinese hot mustard is on par with Wasabi for sinus clearing ability. Also included with the specials are a bowl of egg drop soup and an egg roll.

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Yu-Shang-Chicken ~ water chestnuts, tree ear, white onions, green onions, bamboo shoots, celery, and carrots in a spicy garlic sauce.

Perfectly cooked vegetables and chicken in a spicy garlic sauce (not that spicy). The dish came out piping hot straight out of the wok and was very tasty. The egg roll was pretty standard.

One order? Ha, amateur hour with your “one order”.

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Noodles in Black Bean Sauce ~ Shrimp, beef, and vegetables in black bean sauce.

This is under their soup section on the menu, but it does not resemble a soup. The black bean sauce has more of a gravy like consistency. It is hearty, a little earthy and very delicious. I also loved the noodles, thick, and slightly chewy similar to Udon style noodles.

This is one of the most popular noodle dishes in Korea, even though it actually originated in China, you can find it being served in almost every Chinese restaurant there.

So, I would reiterate that I think Panda Garden is the best option for Chinese food in North County ATM. As a caveat, I do have to revisit Spicy King in Vista for a second try as I think I just ordered wrong due to my lack of understanding the Chinese language when I was there.

As for Korean and Italian. I have a review of the new Manu Korean BBQ hitting later this week and an Italian place in my sites that looks promising. Right now my recommendation for Italian is Trattoria Itrulli in Encinitas we will see how Vista fares.

 

Panda Garden

742 S Rancho Santa Fe Rd, San Marcos

#food #foodporn #chinesefood #sanmarcos #foodie

The T House: Open House, Bring Something / Take Something ~ Oceanside

Sunday was an open house / welcoming event at The T House in Oceanside. The T House is a social and community based venture helmed by Chef Beau Bonham and his partner Stacey Westbrook. To best understand it I would read the interview I did with Beau Here or check out their Facebook page  and Website.

The T House is located at their house / homestead in the Loma Alta district in Oceanside.

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Many things going on…..

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I arrived early and started helping out by slicing fresh Cyclops Farms strawberries for the jam we were going to make.

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Ready to start the jam making process.

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Organic strawberries, calcium, water, Pectin (natural plant-based thickener), and organic sugar. That is about as non processed a jam as you are going to get.

It would not set till the next day, but I ate some with a bagel and it was delicious. The next time I would add a little lemon for more acidity, but it tasted like fresh strawberries.

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Beau gave everyone who attended a tour of the garden. This is Stacey’s friend Michelle who was then tasked with cultivating all the greens and flowers for the salad that was going to be served.

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Some of the fresh Vegetables and herbs.

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Beau went over natural teas and extracts as well as a Korean version of Kombucha called Jun he had made.

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There was also a seed exchange. Want Heirloom Tomato seeds? Bring some seeds by to swap, or some fruit from your tree. You could also take them and when the ripen bring some buy or a tomato tort you made with them. Get the Idea?

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An Amazing Jackfruit that Tom Chongruk and Lora Chow from Travel 4 Food Fun brought by. Jackfruit is amazing. The entire inside including the seeds can be utilized. A lot of Vegans use the inside flesh like pulled pork. You shred it and then roast it with a BBQ sauce.

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Tom is from Thailand and brought an amazing curry he had made.

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A salad from the garden vegetables and flowers harvested earlier, plus some fresh jackfruit.

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A little lobster soup from Chef Daniel of LTH and fresh ciabatta bread from Chef Beau.

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Stacey made strawberry cupcakes. Little bundles of strawberry flavored love.

I t was a fun day. I met a lot of cool local people and had some good food. It started at noon and ended up running later than planed till about 8pm. I would say about 35 people came by through out the day. Hope to be involved more.

Be aware that because of my background I am going to gravitate towards the food aspects of the T House but that would be selling it short. It really is a lot more and something that needs to be experienced. It’s about participation and education. You can attend a class on extracts or you can teach one on a subject you know or want to know better. Again check out the links and get involved.

The T House

Join the mailing list at chefbeaub@gmail.com

#food #foodporn #urbanfarming #seedtrade #extracts #community #strawberries

Caffeine Crawl ~ Oceanside / Carlsbad

This last Friday, January 20th marked the 4th annual San Diego Caffeine Crawl, the 57th crawl overall, and most importantly, the 1st featuring North County craft coffee and tea purveyors from Oceanside and Carlsbad.

One of my favorite things about North County’s culinary scene is the camaraderie and support the Chefs and Owners show to one another. This is also true for the craft beverage scene up here as well. Everyone involved was excited to be a part of the event and happy to see the Coffee and Tea Scene getting its just deserves.  Trust me this is not true everywhere, even San Diego has its fair share of cut throat competition (though events like the one I just attended at Biga and the chefs involved show that there are exceptions). With the momentum of this years success, hopefully next year will expand to include more participants and probably a 3rd route.

Our guide Pia talking about Caffeine Crawl.

The North County crawl consisted of two routes, starting in Oceanside and Carlsbad and crossing over. Each route had 5 stops and was about 3 miles in length. North County Food covered the Oceanside to Carlsbad route and I enlisted BeersNBytes  (a Carlsbad based food website) to cover the Carlsbad route.

*I will include another link at the bottom of the post to check out their coverage and their great website.

The crawl started at Banana Dang! In Oceanside. In addition to being a sponsor and catalyst for bringing the Caffeine crawl to North County, it was Banana Dang’s! 2 year anniversary.

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Owners Mario and Thanh-Thanh with Chef Beau Bonham goofing off while I tried to get a serious picture 🙂

Prior to the Crawl Banana Dang! thanked their loyal customers for 2 years of support with free bananas, frozen bananas, Vietnamese Coffee Jell-O Shots, and $2 cappuccino.

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Vietnamese Jell-O Shots

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Banana art by Maitu and yours truly.

Banana Dang! gave a presentation on their origin and experience in Puerto Rico as an “at origin” coffee shop

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Thanh-Thanh talking with the Crawl attendees.

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They served 2 different coffees. One from Puerto Rico (Sandra Farms) and another from Nicaragua (Don Isidro) to contrast the mild nature of an “island coffee” versus a high elevation more robust bean. They were both roasted by Manzanita Roasting Company out of Rancho Bernardo.

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To complete the Puerto Rican experience, local Chef Beau Bonham made a classic accompaniment of freshly baked Pan De Agua served with Queso Blanco, and Dulce De Lechosa (Papaya cooked in its own syrup with cinnamon and vanilla)

The Second stop was around the corner at Loose Leaf Tea Bar.

Shane explaining what he would be featuring …

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Loose Leaf Tea’s Mango Ceylon Tea on nitro.

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The group enjoying the offerings and the great mural artwork at Loose Leaf Tea.

Next up was South Oceanside’s Revolution Roasters.

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Revolution demonstrated the same coffee made with 3 different water sources. The first was made using distilled water, the second Oceanside tap water, and the third using Revolution’s reverse osmosis water.

The coffee using the tap and distilled were really close in character but you could definitely tell the one made using the reverse osmosis method.

Afterward we headed down to Carlsbad to Steady State Roasting. Steady State Roasting has been around for about 8 months (I believe). This was my first time there and I loved the small space tucked away off State St. in Carlsbad, which it shares with other artist’s workshops.

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The funky space that is State Street Roasting.

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State Street is entering a roasting competition in Austin later this year and served the Kenyan provided to the roasters. They served the coffee using a 15 min roast and a shorter roast more like the one they would be doing for the competition. The shorter roast definitely had more balance and interesting notes.

The Crawl showed, through the various demos, that so much from what water is used, roasting times, and of course the origin of the bean each have a huge impact on the finished product. That was without even touching on temperature, machines, execution, storage, and on and on.

Final stop on the crawl was Carlsbad’s Baba Coffee.

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My pics did not come out so I used one from my previous visit.

While Baba Coffee does not roast, they make a conceded effort to source from the best local purveyors. Their coffee is roasted by Pannikin who also provides them with scratch made baked goods. They served a delicious mint tea with honey from Tea Gallery out of San Diego.

So, happy to be a part of the event, helping out, and experiencing North County’s first Caffeine Crawl. I cannot wait to see what next year brings. We should be able to expand the number of stops and offerings. If you did not get to attend conduct one of your own. You do not have to do it in one day. Introduce yourself to one of the local craft coffee purveyors and ask questions, trust me they love to talk about this stuff.

Banana Dang!

115 S Coast Highway, Oceanside

The Loose Leaf Tea Bar

408 Mission Ave, Oceanside

Revolution Roasters

1863 S Coast Highway, Oceanside

Steady State Roasting

2680 State Street, Carlsbad

Baba Coffee

2727 State Street, Carlsbad

Caffeine Crawl

BeersNBytes

Sitaram ~ Encinitas

“Then there are those places”….Let me explain that phrase, I live a pretty blessed life when it comes to food. I get to eat a lot of great food, meet a lot of insanely talented people in the industry, go to and put on great events, and get somewhat paid for it. Truly paid for it if you consider, the friendships I have developed, the experiences I have had, and the fact I get to spend most of my time surrounded by the things and people I am passionate about. Standing in the corner of a busy kitchen during a rush, taking pictures, watching, and listening is the only “Food Reality Show” I need.

I guess my point is, and linking back to the phrase at the beginning, that even with being immersed in all this, it is so exciting to go into a small family place and have your legs swept out from under you in amazement, and that is precisely what happened today at Sitaram in Encinitas.

I was originally intending to visit one of two other restaurants and changed my mind three times before remembering about the little Indian place on I street in Encinitas I had wanted to check out a while back. I had tried to have lunch there with Chef Willy from 608 but they were closed. I will list their hours at the end of the post as they are closed three days out of the week.

I am so glad my whim paid off by allowing me to discover, what I consider, the best Indian food I have had in San Diego.

sitaram

Sitaram is a small, 38 seat restaurant located at 120 West I Street, Encinitas. It is next door to the Potato Shack, off the 101.

A few things about Sitaram. First, it is vegetarian. Second, there is no food menu. The menu is a set menu of three authentically prepared Indian dishes, served with Sona Masuri rice, and Papadum flat bread.  The meal is served in a Nepalese style Thali or round metal segmented plate.

They do have a drink menu featuring traditional Indian drinks and teas. I ordered the Mango Lassi .

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Mango Lassi ~ yogurt, water, and mango pulp. I also believe Cardamom.

Think smoothie minus the ice. I was also offered a sample of their limeade, nothing like the American version of limeade, fresh lime juice, mint and other ingredients. Bright and slightly tart.

My lunch…… I will list as many ingredients as I can, Curries made from scratch have a notoriously large amount of spices and the owner was rattling them off faster than my note taking could keep up.

Sataram food

From back to front.

1. Sweet Potatoes and Beets ~ Onion seed, brown mustard seed, Cardamum, fenugreek leaves, fennel seeds, and more.

2. Split Lentil Dal.

3. Forgot what it was called I was too busy eating. Onion, Tomato, cauliflower, black mustard seed, and again more spices. This was my favorite the cauliflower was to die for. You know how you see cauliflower at every gastropub cooked various ways? This    made every Cauliflower dish I have had laughable. The exception would be the    Privateer’s, it still holds up pretty well against this.

Even with the complexity and number of ingredients, you could taste all of them. Everything was rich, spicy, with just the right amount of back heat. The best thing I could say is, I felt like I was in someone’s home and they cooked me a traditional Indian lunch like it would be served in their homeland. The food is obviously prepared by someone who loves and understands the cuisine.

A few additional things.

First, if you like authentic Indian food, Sitaram is a must. This place is head and shoulders above the more Uk style Indian fast casual food places we have around serving Butter Chicken, Lamb Vindaloo, and the like.

Second, I read a few Yelp comments about small portions. BS, the portions are fine, especially with such rich food. My lunch was $15 and came to $20 with drink and tax. A deal for the quality of the food. This is the kind of place Chefs love to eat at , and I plan on dragging some here.

If not having a menu and trusting the Chef bothers you, suck it up. Do you want great food prepared by someone who understands and knows the cuisine? Then trust them.

 

Sitaram

120 West I Street, Encinitas

Closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Open 11:30 to 8:30 Wednesday thru Friday, Saturday 5 to 8:30

 

Neoteric Chefs Dinner ~ Dessert

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Dessert for the Chefs Dinner will be prepared by Sous Chef Felipe Orozco of 608.

Felipe will be working with Loose Leaf Tea Company of Oceanside and incorporating their herbal coffee tea into the dessert. He plans on doing a “Forest Floor” dessert and they will be serving hot and cold versions of the tea as an accompaniment.

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Coffee tea crumble, tea ice cream, edible moss, cake. Still being tweaked.

Chef Promotion @ Petite Madeline

So, Marc Santos who has been holding down the Sous Chef position at Petite Madeline Bakery & Bistro for the last 4 or 5 months, has officially been promoted to Chef De Cuisine. AKA Executive Chef.

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This is well deserved. Christine has let Chef Marc run the weekly and weekend brunch specials for a while now and his talented shows. I have had a lot of these and this promotion came as no surprise to me.

Here are some of his specials that I had…

port melt

Portobello Mushroom w / herb beading, Provolone cheese, baby spinach, and bang bang sauce on a rustic bread bun. Side Kumquat and mint salad.

Smoked Turkey Omelet

 

Smoked turkey, spinach, caramelized onion, and mozzarella omelette

blue plate special

Blue Plate Special, seared tuna, quinoa salad, cooked apples, fresh local strawberries, sun dried tomatoes, poached egg.

Chef Marc will also be part of the 608 / North County Food Chefs dinner at 608 Tuesday August 9th.Tickets available by calling  608.

Chefs dinner mock

Petite Madeline Bakery & Bistro

223 North Coast Highway, Oceanside

 

The Loose Leaf Tea Bar ~ Oceanside

After much delay The Loose Leaf Tea Bar has opened in downtown Oceanside. Though the company has been selling their products through Farmer’s Markets across the county and online, this is their first brick and mortar location.

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“Thanks for choosing Oceanside and welcome.”

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The small store front is located at 408 mission Ave. in Oceanside across from the Regal Cinema plaza.

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The interior is stylish and cute (yes I said cute).

I love the details like the mural by Tierney Moses…

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and the drum kit and guitar..

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Here is a look at the menu. Though they can make tea from any of their assortment, which numbers over 50 styles of tea. They also of course sell packaged retail tea to go.

menu

I love iced tea, it is my go to drink. I had the Gunpowder Green Tea which had slight peppery taste IMO. I brought that and the Lemon Lavender Black Tea back to a highly knowledgeable friend and we loved everything. Also very nice and trained staff.

I’m glad they are here, the more boutique small businesses and restaurants that come downtown the better.

I will be back, actually probably make it a regular stop while downtown…which is a lot.

The Loose Leaf Tea Bar

408 mission Ave. Oceanside