Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Puesto, La Jolla - Upscale Mexican Street Food

Never tiring of Mexican food, my dear husband could eat Mexican every day and be a very happy man.  Spicy, robust and flavorful, a tasty Mexican meal sprinkled with cilantro has long topped his list of favorite foods.  As such, we are always on the lookout for restaurants to meet his high expectations, but unfortunately are often disappointed.  Puesto, however, is a far different story!

Expecting a good lunch at the recently opened La Jolla, CA, location, Puesto not only met his high expectations, but exceeded them with a fantastic meal that we can't wait to repeat.  It's not often that I walk away from a restaurant with the perfectly satisfied feeling that I've had not only a good, tasty meal, but a healthy one to boot.  Puesto left me wanting more.

Corn tortillas made just for me!
Boasting "Mexican Street Food", Puesto met all of my criteria for a healthy meal.  Grass fed beef, local and sustainable produce and fish, as well as hand cut and blended foods, have Mexican-native, Chef Luis Gonzalez, relying upon fresh ingredients and pure flavor rather than the usual "top it with an avocado and it's Mexican" fare.

Innovative tacos, Guisado Bowls and salads make up the majority of the menu items with guests orchestrating creations of their own by checking the desired ingredients on their laminated order form.  Next, we place the order form in front of the vast griddle and the chefs begin preparing our meats, fish and shrimp.  As my salmon was grilling a smiling lady was hand pressing and cooking fresh corn tortillas just for me (at least she made me feel that way).

My husband took owner Alan Adler's recommendation of his favorite tacos, and in no time three freshly-made tacos topped with various salsas were ready and waiting.  The grass-fed Carne Asada taco with crispy melted cheese, Nopales (cactus), and toasted jalapeño topped with pistache salsa immediately brought a grin to his face.  Taking him up on his offer to taste, I have to agree that this taco ranks up there as one of the best ever.  With the Fish al Pastor taco, we both enjoyed the tinga de flor de jicama topped with a tomatillo roja salsa, and rounding out the triple taco crown was my favorite, the Shrimp taco topped with grilled pineapple, more of the tinga de flor de jicama and a sedately spicy mango salsa.

After tasting all of my husband's tacos, I did feel it necessary to share my Salmon Guisado Bowl.  Again, following Alan's suggestions for some of his favorites, the topping of grilled zucchini flowers, Nopales (cactus), grilled pineapple and more of the mango salsa enhanced my brown rice and black beans.  A topping of grilled salmon perfectly complemented the sweetness and spiciness of the salsas and the large bowl was more than adequate for lunch.  My husband happily set out to polish off the remainder of the bowl after I was finished.

Mango Salsa topped my Grilled Salmon Guisado Bowl
Feeling it would be inappropriate to leave a Mexican restaurant without a taste of the frozen margarita, I begged a small sample (simply for review purposes, of course...) and am happy to say that the margarita too passed muster.  Not as sweet as other Mexican restaurants, this margarita actually had flavors of my beloved lime and I can imagine a nice frosty mug on a warm La Jolla afternoon.

Family owned and operated by La Jolla High School Grads Alan and Eric Adler, Puesto leaves me with only one request.  How about opening restaurant in Carlsbad??

Lunch with a view

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Taormina, Sicily... History and The Etna Pasticceria

With views of the Ionian Sea, a heritage rich in Greek, Byzantinian, and Roman history, medieval quarters as well as fashionably modern shopping and restaurants, Taromina holds a popular position in Sicily's tourism.  Perched on the side of Mt. Tauro, this quaint hillside village offers stunning views of Mt. Etna and the beautiful Sicilian coastline.

Taormina's Pedestrian Corso Umberto
As my husband and I put together a last minute vacation on the Seabourn Legend last fall, Taormina was somewhat of an unknown stop for us on the cruise itinerary.  However, only a few hours after walking through the town entrance we knew our time in Taormina held magic.

Wandering along the pedestrian Corso Umberto, shop after shop caught my eye with a number of delicatessen type shops featuring local wines and gourmet food items.  Mixed amongst the fashion stores highlighting Italian and French designers, little cafés with inviting outdoor ceramic inlaid tables beckoned invitingly.

If only I had a larger suitcase...
With a tip to stop at the Etna Pasticceria tucked in my pocket, I gazed at the content locals as well as tourist enjoying a morning espresso with what had been described as "the best cannoli ever".  Noting the location, we saved our treat for later in the afternoon, and continued down the way.

Towards the end of town and past the tourist vendors, we arrived at our intended destination,  The Teatro Greco.  The second largest theatre in Sicily is estimated to have been constructed somewhere around third century B. C. by the Greeks with the Romans enlarging the theatre years later.

Said to have once held some 5,400 spectators, performers from local drama groups to Gladiators to current pop legends (Paul Simon and Elton John are recent performers) have graced the stage.  Though some controversy exists as to the exact time and the actual origin (Greek or Roman) of construction, what remains today is a beautiful theatre with stunning views and a wide history.  Entrance fee of 8€.

Even our thundering and rainy day couldn't diminish the beauty of the Teatro Greco

Wending our way back up the Corso Umberto, I couldn't help myself but to stop at a few shops as well as the Corvaja Palace.  Built in the 10th century by the Arabs who ruled Taormina at the time, the Palace boasts a Romeo & Juliet-like balcony that I couldn't resist climbing for a photo.

The Arabian Corvaja Palace
Back on the street we passed the beautiful Chiesa Santa Caterina, a church dating back to the 1600's, as well as numerous shops also requiring quick stops simply to know what was inside.  Souvenirs included a bottle of Acqua di Taormina, a perfume that to this day brings me back to the quaint Sicilian hillside town and one that is also frequently "borrowed" by my teenage daughter.

The Etna Pasticceria... a must stop in Taormina
Finally seated at one of the colorful tiled tables at the esteemed and highly recommended Etna Pasticceria (Corso Umberto 112), my much anticipated cannoli and cappuccino finally made their appearance.  My husband, somewhat skeptical with his first ever cannoli said, "You can have mine.", at which point I insisted he at least try.  I'll secretly admit to hoping he didn't like the crunchy, creamy confection, but alas... within seconds I knew if I wanted a second helping I was going to have to buy another.

Taormina, with its lovely Corso Umberto, beautiful Sicilian coastal vistas, historical ruins and the world's best cannoli, did indeed give us a magical day and will be forever in my heart.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Strawberry Ebelskivers for Old Doug in BC

Life is made up of a series of paths taking us from one place to another.  As we meander through this life, these paths sometimes join others and others sometimes join ours.  Some people remain on our path for a lifetime while different people pop in and pop out, and still others may join for a while and then leave all together.

Along the way certain people who cross your path become special, and such is the case with my friend Doug.  Old Doug from BC, he calls himself.  Some of you may remember a post we wrote for his wife, Miss Marie, when she was in the hospital last October struggling with some heart issues.  Doug and her family nursed her through, and though it was a long haul she made it home and returned to the kitchen.

Doug's path is one that has touched mine on occasion, and though we've never actually met in person, I know the world is a better place for having him in it.

Shortly after starting Liv Life, Doug emailed me with a glowing review of a recipe I had posted and sent along some recipes that he thought I might enjoy.  Over the months he's emailed numerous times updating me on his and Marie's latest cooking ventures and occasionally sending photos of their finished products.  Marie is quite the bread baker.

I've heard about new births, grand children's dance competitions (he has 9 great grand children!) and birthdays.  In addition I've enjoyed reading about Doug's days in the Royal Canadian Air Force where he spent some time as a photographer as well as some of his travels which have taken him around the world.  Through our email exchanges his love for his Marie is abundantly evident, and I take joy in reading the love that comes from his heart.  I'm thankful that Doug's path has crossed mine even if it has only been by email.  He has brought a smile to my face time and again and has encouraged me to "Liv Life".

Continuing on our paths of life, we all eventually find an end.  Hopefully we have lived full lives when we reach that point, but I'm certain that coming upon that point is never easy.  My friend Old Doug is facing that point.

Earlier this year he wrote to tell me that he and Miss Marie had spent their last Christmas together (they spent it alone, refusing all invitations and enjoyed a beautiful roast chicken together).  He was now living with an air machine to help him breathe and the doctors had delivered that never welcome news that they could not cure him.  Miss Marie had taken over all of the cooking, though Doug mentioned that he did still make suggestions and he confided that Miss Marie "usually" followed them.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Doug's daughter letting me know that my friend was in the hospital and would most likely not return home.  But last night I received an email from Doug himself!  He's hanging in there, but says he's not in good shape and he wanted to send me his best wishes.

My dear Doug... we are sending our best wishes back to you along with hugs from Liv and me.  Thank you for crossing my path.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Almond Creme Brulee for Liv Life's Eggs-pect the Best Brunch and an Eggland's Best Giveaway

For some 5 years I volunteered every other week as Liv's Girl Scout Leader.  Planning the meetings and creating memories for my 16 Girl Scouts gave me more pleasure than I can convey, but as my girls grew up, Girl Scouts became less important as busy schedules demanded more and more time in different areas.  Part of me still misses those meetings and watching the girls grow.

Today Liv spends her days at the dance studio where she competes with her team, and as such, she doesn't really have much time to coordinate with friends outside of school.  This does leave, however, a group of girls who have become some of her best friends with exactly the same schedule.

When Eggland's Best offered to sponsor Liv Life for a Brunch featuring our beloved eggs, turning to Liv and her friends was a no brainer.  Stopping by the dance studio I was immediately pelted with ideas for our menu and had 5 excited girls creating and planning in no time.

With demanding rehearsals and technique classes reaching up to 20+ hours per week after a full day at school, eating healthy is vitally important to these hard working girls, and protein-rich eggs have become a big part of their diets.  Always watching out for health, the Eggland's Best Eggs are easy for me to recommend.

A little research shows Eggland's Best using a superior chicken feed which not only boosts Vitamins E, D and B12, but also Omega-3's and Lutein.  Personally, I served up just a little extra knowing that these EB marked eggs contain 25% less saturated fat than other eggs and are also lower in cholesterol.

Arriving early in the morning on the day of our Eggs-pect the Best Brunch the girls set right to work and showed me that my hovering during my Girl Scout days are over.  These girls not only created the whole meal themselves, but they set the table, cleared the table and made a good start on the dishes.

Clockwise:  Vanners, Jilly, Devi, Liv, Vanners, Ryn
Do you remember Vanners from our Sleepover Special?  Her suggested Breakfast Burritos became our main course while Devi worked with me on creating Cheese Cups.   Ryn worked out her arms whipping up a fabulous Angel Food Cake, Jilly put together a zesty platter of Tex Mex Guacamole Deviled Eggs and Liv outdid herself with Scrumptions Strawberry Ebelskivers.

Extra Strong Shirley Temples (the grenadine flowed freely), sides of Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins and desserts of French Macarons and Almond Creme Brulee had our heads were swimming with eggs and my sink was soon swimming with dishes.

Scrambled eggs, avocado and scallions served in a cheese cup
Working without machines, I quickly set the girls to whipping the eggs for our Angel Food Cake the old fashioned way... with a whisk.  They caught on quickly and learned how to whip the eggs to incorporate the air and soon we had beautiful peaks and burning arms.  So excited to whip the eggs, I gave Ryn the incorrect order to add the ingredients and after her "eggs-treme" whipping and sifting, we ended up with a not-so-lofty cake due to my lack of following directions.  Still tasty though, my teenage son only received one small piece as he scrounged after the brunch and wondered why I hadn't saved him more.

Coming out a surprise winner of the day, the Guacamole Deviled Eggs brought thoughts of summer all around.  Eggland's Best supplied the pre-hardboiled eggs which I have to admit to being skeptical of when I first saw them.  The ease of prep though, as well as the perfection of hard cooking, has these little bags of hard cooked eggs a winner in my by book and I won't hesitate to pick them up again next time I'm in need.

Cut in half, the yolks are mashed in a bowl with avocado, cilantro, onion and garlic for a zesty and pretty guacamole alternative that will be a welcome addition to any summer event you attend.

Clockwise from upper left:  Chocolate Espresso Macaron's, Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Bread, Vanilla Bean Almond Creme Brulee, Creme Brulee, Shirley Temples
Rounding out our dessert we served up a spectacular Almond Creme Brulee.  Adapting a recipe we found on A Farm Girl Dabbles, this creation drew "oohs and ahhh's" from the girls.  Better made with a kitchen torch, we used the oven broiler this time with satisfactory, though not perfect results.  Creating less than beautiful brulees, the looks didn't matter a wink once we had our first tastes and this recipe is going into the "definitely don't lose it" file.  See recipe below.

The girls and I would like to extend our thanks to the Eggland's Best Company for suggesting our Liv Life Eggs-pect the Best Brunch.  Our morning filled with creating in the kitchen was indeed followed by one of the best brunches I've attended in years.  Listening to the girls chatter as they baked, stirred, whipped and even cleaned, I know why time with friends is so special.  As I cleaned up the final dishes I expected the girls to relax in the sun, but was not really to surprised when they ended up migrating to the living room to do what they love most... dance.

Strawberry filled Ebelskivers... recipe to follow in a few days!
Eggland's Best Eggs-pect the Best Giveaway
Eggland's Best sent us a fabulous box of goodies to enhance our brunch and they have kindly offered to give one away to one of our lucky readers in celebration of National Egg Month.  As we wrap up May, one winner will receive:

Leave a comment telling us your favorite egg dish (links welcome and encouraged!) to enter to win this Eggland's Best gift including :  Apron, spatula, whisk, cutting board, mixing bowl, bowl scraper, coffee mug, tote bag and plush egg.  Might I just say that this plush egg was extremely popular at our brunch!
All you need to do to enter is leave us a comment below telling us what your favorite egg recipe is (links welcome and encouraged!).

Check out Eggland's Best Facebook page or Eggland's Best website for nutrition info and recipes.  The Guacamole Deviled Eggs came from their site, and while searching for egg recipes I printed myself a good 15 pages of recipes to ponder for future brunches.

Fine Print:
Eggland's Best Giveaway is available ONLY to US addresses.
Giveaway closes on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 6 PM PST.
Eggland's Best provided Liv Life with a gift of the above giveaway as well as coupons for eggs and a remittance to cover food costs for our brunch.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Egg Cheese Muffin - Breakfast Sandwich with Homemade English Muffins and Kraft Singles

Raise your hand if you've ever taken a bite out of the middle of a Kraft American Single slice of cheese and peeked through the hole.  (Insert picture of me raising my hand here).  Raise your hand if you've ever torn your single slice into strips and worn it as a beard.  (Insert that same picture of me here...).  Raise your hand if you remember opening the wrapper of the single cheese and thinking it was fun.  (Ok... am I the only one raising my had here?).

If you are less than 63 years old, then you have grown up with the Kraft American Singles existing in your world whether you indulged in them or not.  Growing up in the late 60's and early 70's, a real grilled cheese for me included a slice or two (or perhaps 3) of American Cheese which melted into the perfect cheesy consistency.

My son, following in my footsteps, grew up with these cheese slices being one of the few foods he would always eat.  Trying to teach him to eat a rainbow of food colors in his monotone world (bread, pasta, chicken, bananas, yogurt and pancakes), he considered Kraft American Cheese Singles his color.  Folded into a quesadilla, grilled into a grilled cheese sandwich or simply eaten out of the super fun to open plastic wrapper (I won't go into the time he opened all the wrappers in the cheese drawer just because it was so fun), I could always count on a slice of cheese to go down.

As such, when Foodbuzz's Tastemaker Program in combination with Kraft offered to sponsor me to write about our Kraft Singles memories, I jumped at the opportunity as this is an ingredient I can wholeheartedly support.  With a decent dose of calcium, 25% of the RDA, and 4 grams of protein, this cheese helped get nutrition into that picky boy.

Now 16 years old and lactose intolerant, my son has gone dairy free.  Well, mostly.  It is the occasional Egg Cheese Muffin Breakfast Sandwich that spurs him to re-enter the world of dairy.  Taking additional lactose pills, the smile on his face still shows sheer pleasure in every bite.

A simple recipe, he prefers his version unadorned and with only the three ingredients... the egg, the cheese and the muffin.  We've tried to add extras like bacon, avocado, and tomato, but all have been vetoed in favor of the original version he has enjoyed for some 15 years.

Stepping up my game a little, today's version included not only the original recipe, but homemade English Muffins which turned out to be fairly easy, though a bit lengthy, to make.  The bread machine makes easy work of processing the dough and a large drinking glass filled in for my missing muffin cutter.  Semolina flour dusted my board and within minutes of rolling out the dough I had muffins working on their second rise and nearly ready to be cooked on the stove top.

Placed on a griddle over medium heat, the muffins puffed as they cooked and were ready to be toasted and turned into Egg Cheese Muffins in a little more than 10 minutes.

Kids everywhere, and every age, still love Kraft Singles and I didn't have to ask twice to have my neighbor kids Maggie and Jack volunteer to be our photo shoot models.  My suggestion was, "Play with your cheese.", and I smiled to myself as Miss Maggie's first suggestion was to bite a hole in the middle of the cheese so she could look through it.  Some things never change.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Grilled Greek Chicken and Zucchini Skewers

I feel loved.  While my Mother's Day was beautiful indeed, it was the next day, my own personal Mommy's Mother's Day, that was even more special.

Our actual Mother's Day was extraordinarily busy as usual... up early with the pups, prepping dinner, heading out to visit Liv Life's MIL in assisted living who was unable to join us at our house for the first time this year, then heading home to spend the evening with my family, my parents and my FIL.  Dinner had to be cooked, the salad prepped, table set and drinks poured.  Mom eased the evening by bringing dessert, but we did have dishes, and lots of 'em to clean.  Soon though, we were settled into a rousing gave of UNO which had us all in stitches as my FIL continually passed a "draw 4" wild card to my dad whose hand was filled to the brim with cards.

Laughing, the evening passed all too quickly, but was enjoyed by all.  One of those spectacularly fun times that won't ever be forgotten.  But by the end of the day I was tired and fell quickly into bed.

My own special day!
Monday morning came in the blink of an eye and had me back out the door driving my son to school and making a quick stop at the gym.  Liv, home with her dad on an infrequent day off of her school, called me at the gym wondering when I was going to be home.  I didn't think much of the call, and told her 8:25.

As summer is approaching at the pace of a supersonic fighter jet, I pushed myself through a few extra sets while finishing up my workout and hit the road just a bit late.  Little did I know, my extra 10 minutes had Liv worrying up a storm as she had planned a special morning for me.

Walking in the door I was greeted first my the squealing with excitement pups, then by a smiling girl holding a sign proclaiming this day as "Mommy's Mother's Day".  My own special day, she explained, as I had had somewhat of a busy Mother's Day the day before.

Fresh from Dad's garden!
Greeted with a bone crushing hug, I was then led to the table where she had prepared a protein-rich breakfast of an egg white omelette with sauteed veggies and a scoop of my favorite Greek Quinoa Salad (she knows I'm trying to get back into some sort of swim suit shape).  A frosty glass of OJ waited right alongside my perfect temperature coffee (I like it cooled), and a sprig of the sweet pea bouquet my dad had thoughtfully brought me the night before garnished the side of my place mat.

Feeling loved indeed, I settled down to my breakfast, and we all reminisced about the prior evening... how fun it had been, how much we missed having my husband's mom with us, how good those Greek Chicken Skewers had been, and how thankful we were that we had some left over for lunch.

Inspired by Cooking Light, the Greek Chicken Skewers infused with lemon, did indeed transport us to the balmy shores of Greece.  Flavored with oregano and garlic and served with our new favorite Greek Quinoa Salad, the skewers cooked quickly on the grill and made for a tasty and fairly easy dinner for this mom to whip together on her busy Mother's Day.

Friday, May 11, 2012

California Quinoa Greek Salad

Adding the word "California" to a recipe title somehow brings avocado to my mind, and after my recent visit to the California Avocado Country, just about all of my recipes are being California-ized.

Take, for example, the simple Greek Salad.  Last year while in Italy, Greek Salads seemed to be on nearly every Roman menu.  Hence, lunches and dinners frequently included varying versions of the lemony goodness as my fondness grew with each variation.  However, none of these traditional salads  included avocado.  None of the traditional salads included quinoa either, another somewhat California addition.

With both ingredients, avocado and quinoa, on hand this afternoon, they soon combined with a lemon from my tree, a can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), red onion and a splash of olive oil for a delightful light lunch.  Protein-rich, the lunch is helping me work on my swimsuit figure which will need to be ready in about a month and a half as we head to Liv's National Competitions in sultry Las Vegas.

Flavorful and healthy, I found myself heartily enjoying my new creation as I contemplated heading to the gym before school pickup.  I was however, able to convince myself that I enjoyed my meal just long enough to not allow enough time for the gym too.  I guess I'll work on that area tomorrow...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

San Diego Strawberry Muffins

San Diego Strawberry Muffins

Everyone needs a vacation, right?  I know I'm ready, but I'm still a few months out (more on that to come... let's just say it's looking like a gondola ride is in my future and it's not at the Venitian in Vegas!).

In any case, my friend Roxanna, of A Little Bit of Everything, is taking a meander down the East Coast while spending some valued time her family.  Today we have the honor of filling in for Roxanna with a Guest Post.

If you haven't visited A Little Bit of Everything, you really are missing out.  Roxanna consistently delights me with her fabulous baked goods that have you throwing all cares of calories out the window.  My personal favorite, though I have yet to make it (mostly because I know I will eat the whole thing!) is the Ricotta Olive Oil Bread.  Take a peek here.  Have you ever seen anything so beautiful??
For today though... come join us in sunny San Diego as we enjoy peak strawberry season with a muffin that has become a favorite in our dance rehearsal car pool.  I've had requests for "those awesome strawberry muffins" time and again since we first made them.

Sweet strawberries are chopped into a low fat, whole grain batter and topped with Liv's favorite sprinkle of raw sugar.  Served regular size or mini, these little beauties don't last long.

Head on over to A Little Bit of Everything and see our Guest Post, and be sure give Roxana a big hello while you are there.

don't forget to enter our giveaway for a Customizable Shutterfly iPhone Photo Case!  Below is a sample of mine... what will yours be?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

iPhone Photo Case Shutterfly Giveaway and a Review of Blue Ribbon Pizza (Encinitas, CA)

iPhone shots from Blue Ribbon Pizzeria - Encinitas, CA
It's not often that I'm the really cool girl in the room, however, last weekend I was all that and more.  Decked out in my dance mom best, my iPhone was thrust into my front hip pocket with just a portion of the back visible.  Less than five minutes after entering the dressing room, one of the girls pointed and said, "Wow!  What's on your phone?".

I had forgotten about my new Shutterfly iPhone Case featuring none other than myself... well, myself and my family.  Pulling my phone out of my pocket it was immediately grabbed and I didn't see it back for nearly half an hour as it was passed around the room filled with nearly 40 dance girls all donning makeup and costumes for their weekend competition.  Smiling, I have to admit I did enjoy the "Wow!  That is totally cool!",  "Whose phone is that?", and  "I've never seen anything like that!"  comments that were exclaimed over and over from the girls and moms alike.  I heard at least a dozen, "Mom... you HAVE to get me one of these!", and also had numerous queries from the moms as to where I had purchased my ultra cool cover.

Once again, Shutterfly (my favorite online photo spot - love the photo books and gifts) is on the cutting edge of coolness (just like me...) with this new iPhone Photo Case.  Customizable to feature up to three photos, background designs, words or a mixture of all of the above, you can have a case that is all you.  Literally... it can be all you on the back of your iPhone.

While I designed numerous cases before choosing my favorite family version, I'd really love to have different cases for different occasions.  Dance Mom mode?  I would need a cover filled with Liv's leaps and kicks.  Liv Life blog event?  I'd definitely need a case featuring photos from some of my best posts.  Vacation?  That one would be ideal to feature shots from my last trip.  And last but not least, I'd need a Maltese case to feature my spoiled little white fluffs when walking them along the beach.

Edited 12/10/12 - while we love the look of our iPhone case, I don't think I can vouch for iPhone protection.  The case is a hard shell and does indeed protect from scratches, however the first time our phone was dropped the glass shattered.  Great looking, but perhaps not the most protective in the case of durability...

As we are all positively attached to our phones and toting said phones to our each and every event, the improved quality of the iPhone photos has grown to be acceptable enough to catch what we would have missed without planning ahead to bring a camera.

The Blue Ribbon... Mozzarella, tomato sauce & Basil
For example... stopping in at Blue Ribbon Pizzaeria, in Encinitas, CA, just a few weeks ago I knew at first taste that this was a restaurant I needed share.  Unfortunately my camera was home, but my husband suggested using my phone.  Whipping it out I began shooting our food and low and behold the shots turned out darn well, especially considering my light was fairly low.

Located in coastal Encinitas, California, this small establishment makes pizza the way it should be made.  Featuring organic ingredients and supporting local farms, breweries and businesses, the restaurant not only serves fabulous fresh food, but does it in a way that they can be proud of.

With dough that undergoes a 3 day fermentation process, the pizza crust is thin and crisp, especially after baking in a true wood burning oven.  The mozzarella is hand stretched daily in house, and the sausage is house-made from sustainable Berkshire Pork.

Bruschetta... just like Italy!
A special treat, the Heirloom Seeded Black Seed Popcorn with Truffle Salt and Parmigiano Romano is absolutely irresistible.  My other favorite, the Rustic Bread Bruschetta with Marinated Cherry Tomatoes and Saba, reminds me of my days in Rome while dining below the Colosseum, and the BLT - Butter Lettuce Salad with Artisan Bacon, Bread Crumbs and Cherry Tomatoes has me craving my greens.

And then there is the pizza.  Whether your taste is plain cheese, all meat, or purely vegetarian, Blue Ribbon will make you happy.  While my favorite is simple cheese with cherry tomatoes, basil and a few sprigs of arugula, my father in law is partial to the "My Father" (Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Fennel Sausage, Pepperoni and Red Onion).  Looking for something a little different from the norm?  How about the Signature - EVOO, Fresh Mozzarella, Ricotta, Lemon Zest, Red Onion and Basil?

Eel River Porter
Which brings us to the beverage portion of the menu.  My dad always says, "You can't have good pizza without good beer", and at Blue Ribbon your choices are excellent.  Featuring local Southern California brewers such as Ballast Point, Stone Brewing and Eel River, your tastes are covered.   In addition, a wine list covering California as well as Italy, France and Argentinia is sure to pleasure your palate.

Last but not least, Blue Ribbon offers only one dessert, a decadent Butterscotch Pudding with a Caramel Sauce that is worth each and every calorie.  The Blue Ribbon staff has kindly posted the recipe on their web site and thankfully I've so far resisted making this heavenly concoction at home as I'm fairly certain I'd eat nearly the whole thing.

If you happen to find yourself in our coastal San Diego, make time for a stop at Blue Ribbon.  The ideal finale after a long day at Legoland or Sea World, Blue Ribbon will be the perfect finish to your day.

Butterscotch Pudding.  Yes, I ate the whole thing...
Shutterfly iPhone Case Giveaway
(Giveaway is closed....)

Liv Life is thrilled to be sponsored by Shutterfly to give two lucky winners customizable iPhone Photo Cases of their own (we have one more case to giveaway and will run another giveaway in a few weeks!).

Chosen at random from the responses below, you just might be the lucky winner who gets to choose what photos you will put on your case.  Will it be food?  Family?  Pets? or all of the above?

To Enter:

Up to 5 entries possible (Please leave an email address if you do not link to a blog) AND please leave a separate comment for EACH entry.
  1.  Leave a comment telling us what photos you would feature on your Shutterfly iPhone Case.
  2. Like Liv Life on Facebook and make a post about this giveaway.
  3. Life Shutterfly on Facebook
  4. Like Liv Life on Twitter (@livlifetoo) and tweet about this giveaway.
  5. Pin any photo from this post to Pinterest (You can like us there too if you like!).
This Giveaway closes at 2 PM (PST) on Sunday, May 13, 2012.  The winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond.  If we do not receive a response to our email within 48 hours another winner will be chosen.

After confirmation, Shutterly will credit your Shutterfly account with one iPhone Photo Case, the creation is up to you!  We will have two winners.

Thanks to Shutterfly for sponsoring our giveaway, and "May the odds ever be in your favor!"

Note... our winners are numbers 19 and 36!!