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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016


North Park Beer Co., North Park
West Coaster Magazine’s
2016 Recap: San Diego’s Best New Breweries
GUEST BLOG / By Brandon Hernandez, West Coaster Magazine Contributing Writer.
It’s the final days of the year, and time to reflect on the year nearly gone-by. That means assessing San Diego County’s brewery landscape starting with a look at the plethora of new brewing operations that opened in 2016.
More breweries opened this year than any in history. And it’s important to note that more good breweries opened in 2016 than in the past several years. Many tout the double-digit number of rookie fermentation operations added to San Diego’s brewery-count each year, but I’ll be honest and say that the past half-decade has seen too many average-to-subpar businesses join the fold.
Sure, some duds opened in 2016, but the same can be said of any food-and-beverage business. The bottom-line is, aspiring entrants into the local suds-scene seem to understand, now more than ever, that they better have good beer if they’re going to compete, and that’s leading to better breweries, from conception to birth and beyond.
The following are (in order) 2016’s best new breweries.

Burning Beard Brewing Company in El Cajon
Burning Beard Brewing Co., El Cajon: Rockin’ beers and rock-and-roll make for amenities worth an East County excursion at this small but well-run spot featuring a variety of beers ranging from Belgians to San Diego-style hop-elixirs to deep, dark stouts and, eventually, fouder-aged ales. Throw in employee exuberance that ranges from the brew-crew to the bar staff, and it’s sort of a holy-grail situation.

North Park Beer Co., North Park: One of the most anticipated new brewery project of the past four years, the brainchild of its namesake community’s proud denizen Kelsey McNair finally came to life. Its former MMA gym home has been transformed into a beautiful, two-story, wood-paneled den of communal enjoyment of beers that are largely sessionable and rely on impressive balance versus belligerent brawn.

Downtown’s Resident Brewing Company
Resident Brewing Co., Downtown: Urban bar and eatery, The Local, is a long-time supporter of the craft-beer movement, but when it added on-site fermentation to its equation, the resulting product was something special. An award-winning homebrewer-turned-pro is pumping out some of the bolder, ideally hopped West Coast-style beers of the rookie-class while bringing flavor with myriad other styles.

Pure Project Brewing, Miramar
Pure Project Brewing, Miramar: If a wide array of easy-drinking beers—crisp to full-bodied, clear to hazy, fruited to (GABF medal-garnering) barrel-aged—weren’t enough reason to become enamored with this, the first brewery to test out the Brewery Igniter ready-to-brew model, the fact it’s a generous One Percent for the Planet business is enough to pull the wishy-washy off the fence.

Bear Roots Brewing in Vista
Bear Roots BrewingVista: A small homebrew-supply store opening a three-barrel nano-brewery with a bar that takes up half its shop…sounds risky if not ill-advised, but a husband-wife duo have not only made it work, but amassed such a cult-following behind a varied beer line-up that includes a tasty cookie-inspired dessert beer that they’re looking at growing their baby to papa-bear status in 2017.
Bitter Brothers Brewing, Bay Ho.
Bitter Brothers Brewing Co., Bay Ho: The first brewery to open in 2016 has done well for itself, producing a solid line-up of hoppy beers offset by a number of English-style malt-driven styles and “candy-bar” beers. Further refinement of its wares in the coming year should keep this operation on its upward trajectory, as should fun, well-done quarterly beer dinners in its tasting room.
It’s important to note that, in previous years, a half-dozen picks for best new brewery would have been excessive. This year, I could have added another two or three rather easily. The following are those that missed the cut, but never before has the division between the best and the rest been so slim. Cheers to that!

2016 Contenders: Culver Beer Co. (Carlsbad), Guadalupe Brewery (Carlsbad), Kensington Brewing Co. (Mission Valley), Little Miss Brewing Co. (Miramar), Longship Brewery (Mira Mesa), Mason Ale Works (Oceanside), Midnight Jack Brewing Co. (Oceanside), Mikkeller Brewing San Diego (Miramar), Oceanside Brewing Co. (Oceanside),

Maybe Next Year: Burgeon Beer Co. (Carlsbad), Eppig Brewing Co. (North Park), Knotty Brewing (East Village), OB Brewery (Ocean Beach), Thunderhawk Alements (Miramar)

Previous Top-Ranked Breweries
2015: Fall Brewing Co. (North Park), Second Chance Beer Co. (Carmel Mountain), South Park Brewing Co. (South Park), Bay City Brewing Co. (Point Loma), Abnormal Beer Co. (Rancho Bernardo), Duck Foot Brewing Co. (Miramar)
2014: Bagby Beer Co. (Oceanside), Nickel Beer Co. (Julian), Council Brewing Co. (Kearny Mesa), URBN St. Brewing Co. (El Cajon), Toolbox Brewing Co. (Vista)
2013: Rip Current Brewing Co. (San Marcos), Benchmark Brewing Co. (Grantville), Amplified Ale Works (Pacific Beach), Belching Beaver Brewery (Vista), Modern Times Beer (Point Loma)
2012: Societe Brewing Co. (Kearny Mesa), Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery (East Village), Latitude 33 Brewing Co. (Vista)

Thursday, December 29, 2016


MORRO BAY as seen from Dutchman Restaurant. original photo by Phyllis Shess.
Business often takes us to the central California coast, where there’s always a wide range of places to stay, visit and dine.  This trip (3 days) we booked lodgings at the Blue Sail Inn, a block from Morro Bay’s (Pop. 10,000) popular Embarcadero.  The hillside location of the inn, plus we were on the top floor, gave us a expansive view of Morro Bay’s dockside attractions and that iconic volcanic rock that juts out from the natural harbor to a height of 575 feet.  The rock is an ancient plug of hardened lava that capped a now extinct volcano some 23 million years ago—give or take a million.
The rock over the years has been chipped away to provide rocks for jetties that protect the small harbor (sail and small fishing boats only).  It is still climbed by native Americans to celebrate indigenous holy days, but for the rest of us climbing it is banned.

The Rock from the terrace of the Blue Sail Inn
The local gendarmes hint that most arrests in Morro Bay are rock climbers, who ignore or missed seeing the ever watchful Coast Guard station nearby before making an illegal trek up the mini-Gibraltar.
Rock climbing is not on my bucket list, but taking in harborside restaurants with spectacular sunset views is au rigueur.
Each evening during our stay we dined in three fine restaurants.  Each choice was made after consulting with “the locals” like Dane, who was our Sea Sub harbor tour captain.  He suggested Dockside Restaurant that is located between the water and the trio of 450-foot tall smoke stacks that fell victim to California’s strict no-smoking ordinances. 
We tease.  The stacks are part of a shutdown power plant that left town without taking the stacks with them.
Dane pointed out management of the Dockside has its own fishing boat and the “ocean” caught fish are among the freshest.  He also pointed out no fishing is allowed in the harbor because of the endangered sea otter, who number less than 3,000 worldwide. The otter find Morro Bay to their liking and the locals reserve all seafood inside the calm waters for the furry cuteness.  We digress.  Back to the human food.
The Dockside is right in the middle of a working fishing pier making the view more rigging than righteous harbor action, but it also has family atmosphere, chatty staff and a seafood market across the planks from the main dining room.  As much as we liked the dinner, we will save the Dockside for lunch on later visits.
What we missed at the Dockside was a view of the sun slowly sinking into the Pacific from our dining table.  Yes, Morro Bay spoiled us when it comes to scenic dining.
The views from the Dutchman Restaurant on the piers and Dorn’s on the hillside provided us with fabulous menus and crimson sunsets galore.
Dorn’s culinary home run was the Petrale Sole, a North Pacific mild white fish that the chef aced! 

Dutchman Restaurant won us over with the lightest (fried) white fish and chips I’ve ever tasted, but it came in second to the flavorful Sand Dabs entrée.

Tasty restaurants in Morro Bay don’t have to begin with the letter D as there are quite a few in this simple seaside town with that big rock.

DORN’S—801 Market Street, 805.772.4415.

DOCKSIDE—1245 Embarcadero, 805. 772.8120

DUTCHMAN—701 Embarcadeo, 805.772.2269

FISH & CHIPS at the Dutchman Restaurant
facebook image by Linda Hood
DOCKSIDE fishing, seafood market, smokehouse and restaurant
Image: Google Maps

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Supermodel Jessica Hart doesn't mind her gap
A photographer friend of this blog has detailed how to be outrageously successful as a supermodel in today’s media circus.

Simple really.

Be six feet tall.
Hang out in NYC, London, Hollywood, Paris or Milan.
Facial freckles don’t hurt.
Lean genes.
Develop a serious pout.
Land a top model agency.
Buy Pirelli tires.
And, what really is working (see images below) is to mind the gap between two top front teeth.

Uber Super Model Lara Stone
Kat Denning
Euro Super Model Vanessa Paradis
Hottest of the current supermodels Georgia Jagger youngest daughter of Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger
Jessica Hart, encore
Abbey Lee Kershaw
Gap original Lauren Hutton
Millennial Gap Lindsey Wixson

Agencies can't get enough of gappers like Ashley Smith
Did Ruth Crilly's parents ever consider braces?

Film actress, who appeared in dozens of Italian movies during the '70s and '80s.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Jemaa el Finaa, a UNESCO site main square located in the heart of Marrakech's medina.

National Geographic picks ten great winter getaways and your favorite online magazine Pillar to Post picks a great foodie, wine, beer or coffee locations in the same destinations.

Aarhus, Denmark
Coffee House: La Cabra Coffee (above) is currently the Nordic spot to find retails Costa Rican coffee in a low key yet sophisticated coffee house setting.  CR coffees include Honey Nery (hints of apple, brown sugar and hazelnut; La Roca (mandarin, vanilla and toffee); and Altos (blueberry, cream and chocolate).

Bansko, Bulgaria
Restaurant: House Dedo Pene ( has been operating since 1820 in this ski region in the south of Bulgaria.
It’s a B&B as well as a traditional restaurant serving local regional specialties like Kapama (pot cooked combo of meats, spices, rice and sauerkraut): Chomlek (spiced beef shank stewed in wine with new potatoes); Kavarma (meat stew in white wine with leeks, onions, peppers and mushrooms).

Bocas del Toro, Panama
Private Island Hotel: Five sea cabins to choose from on Urraca Private Islands: www. in the Bocas del Toro archipelago.  Intimate private isle among a collection of small islands each boasting wonderful out of the way accommodations.  This destination is worth exploring.

Galle, Sri Lanka
Yoga Spa: A short distance from Galle is Sri Yoga Shala, a Yoga studio along Unawatuna Beach, Sri Lanka.  The spa (above) is first rate and priced right and nearby are a surprising number of tourist activities, including a must visit to the Saturday Good Market for organic produce and local made goods; pedal biking is popular as is a walk on the ramparts of the Galle Fort at sunset.

Marrakech, Morocco
Shopping: Before we send you to the souk in the media, an organized yet very chaotic network of stalls that sell God’s plenty from cooked snails to exquisite rugs in one bazaar, visit Café France.  From the terrace of this wonderful restaurant you’ll view Jemaa el Finaa, a UNESCO site main square located in the heart of the medina.  It will put you in the mood for the souk and the most amazing shopping experience this side of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.

Quebec City, Canada
Winter Carnival: The annual Quebec Winter Carnival in Old Quebec City is one of the most attended events of its kind in the world. Events include parades, snow slides, snow sculptures, ice canoe races, sleigh rides, skating, snow sculptures combined with the charm of this remarkable Canadian heritage city.  Set for January 27 thru Feb 12, 2017, the theme of the hugely popular snow sculpture contest is Canada’s 150th anniversary.

Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), Vietnam
Bar: One of the best views in this ancient Asian capital is the Chill SkyBar, 25 stories tall in the AB Tower, downtown. Drinks are a bit expensive but no charge to come see the view.

St. Petersburg, Russia
Museum: Hermitage State Museum (above) is a museum of art and culture in Saint Petersburg, Russia. One of the largest and oldest museums in the world, it was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been open to the public since 1852.

Tonga, South Pacific
Botanical Garden: Eneio Botanical Garden and Beach Café is in the Kingdom of Tonga on the island of Vava’u along Ene’io Beach. This 22 acre garden paradise is home to 550 different plant varieties.  The restaurant boasts the best fish and chips (above) in the South Pacific and is open every day.  The Botanical Garden offers three tour packages and is also a center for snorkeling and swimming. The gardens are located on Vava’u island, which is 260 kilometers north of the main island of Tongatapu, which is the site of Fu’amotu International Airport.  Get air and sea connections in advance to and from all the Tongan islands.

Tucson, Arizona
Craft Beer: Go to 220 East Broadway Boulevard in Tucson, Arizona and discover Thunder Canyon Brewery & Distillery (above), one of the newest craft beer food and beer making emporium’s in this dry and dusty college town. Located downtown it’s as good a place as any to start thinking about signing up for the annual craft beer crawl, February 18, 2017.