One of my favorite parts of traveling is eating. I love exploring other parts of the world and country, and I feel like eating the local cuisine is an important part of that. It’s fun (most important), and a way to learn about a new place and its culture, and to get inspired to make something new at home. For me, it’s not only about the food and drink. It’s also about the entire experience – the atmosphere, the service, everything.
At this point in my career, I am doing a few different things, and one of them is working as a part-time RDN/communication specialist for the National Peanut Board — we are the marketing team for America’s peanut farmers. Basically, I work for peanuts! And one of the perks is that I get to travel, and oftentimes, to really beautiful and inspiring places. Sometimes, I work it out so that I extend my trip a few days to explore.
So, when I learned I would be working at a conference in San Diego, it was pretty much a no-brainer that I would be staying a little longer. While I love San Diego, I am not going to talk about it much here, since the focus of my post will be about La Jolla, a BEAUTIFUL beach town just minutes away from the bustling (yet pretty mellow), eccentric city of San Diego.
Sunset view from Air B ‘n B
I stayed in a modest yet clean and centrally-located air b n’ b that had the most beautiful view of the Pacific, and a very helpful and kind host Jason.
This trip, I was committed to being on vacation and acting like it. In the past, I have had the tendency to make plans and get all wadded up in them, and worry that the plan wouldn’t be followed. Dear Lord, that just sounds so un-relaxing to me now, and just so NOT fun. I have found that at times in my life where I don’t really have a plan, especially in new places, I enjoy it so much better. Letting things unfold naturally and intuitively has been a challenge for me, but the more I do it, the better it feels.
While we hiked in Torrey Pines and the Elfin Forrest, and went sea kayaking in caves with sea lions with La Jolla Kayak (which was so fun!!), there was a good balance of stillness, too — Something that I am finding to be so important at this point in my life (not just on vacation). I was deliberately slow each morning we were there and enjoyed my coffee and breakfast with a view of the ocean, along with my journal and plethora of books that I cart around with me whenever I uproot myself.
And, I didn’t look at one restaurant website or review prior to arriving in La Jolla, which turned out to be ideal, as we stumbled upon one delicious meal to the next.
So, the rest of this post is a list of types of meals and restaurants to try if you’re ever in the area (put it on your bucket list if you haven’t been yet!). These came up on quick google searches for the best local cuisine, or were recommended by our host or other locals. Then, I share a simple dish I was inspired to create during one of our lunch meals in La Jolla.
For solid Mexican Food: Lena Craft Mexican
Southern California has some of the best Mexican food I have ever tasted. After being kind of let-down at a place in San Diego, dinner at Lena’s made up for it, for sure. It’s farm-to-table Mexican. On their menu, you’ll find interesting tacos, fresh guac, lots of veggies and delicious drinks. I went for a local beer, fresh-caught fish tacos and this beautiful salad of veggies with a cilantro-avocado sauce. Sit on the porch for a view of the little town of La Jolla and the ocean.
For breakfast or snack: Juice Crafters
This is one of those trendy-lookin’ juice bars that has a lot more than just juice, which I love, because I’m not really into juice, at all actually. I also am not into the whole juicing/cleansing thing, because it’s not good for us and they don’t work. We have livers, so we don’t need to “cleanse.” BUT I do love a good smoothie or acai bowl, and I have learned to block out the annoying messages (I suggest you try doing the same ;).
We visited this place at two different locations – on in Coronado Island – and then again in La Jolla. First, we got smoothies, and it was one of the best, unique smoothies I’ve had — mixture of berries and walnuts. It was perfect for an afternoon snack to hold me over between lunch and dinner. Then, I had an acai bowl for breakfast, loaded with fruit (bananas and strawberries), coconut and a big glob of almond butter (would have been even better if they had PB!). They also have little salads and energy bites, aside from their smoothies, bowls and juice. It’s a fun spot with cute little tables and chairs outside — a good casual spot for refreshing, energizing food.
For coffee: Brick & Bell Cafe
I grabbed a cup of coffee here but wish there was another day to go back for breakfast because their bagels and scones looked amazing! Great atmosphere, friendly staff and wonderful coffee.
For a special dinner: Herringbone
This was by far the best meal in La Jolla. They are known for their seafood and there are actual trees in the middle of the restaurant (inside) — two reasons why I loved it. Our server was pleasant and incredibly knowledgable of the menu, which is loaded with amazing wine, fresh fish, veggies, flatbreads, etc. We tried many dishes but the winners were the Bronzino (which was cooked with thyme and lemon), the spinach ricotta flatbread (that was actually more pizza-ish) and the homemade cookies and milk (below) — they were the softest, warmest, gooiest cookies ever. Go here if you want a leisurely, special meal.
For a casual lunch: Lotus Cafe
We went here on our way back from a hike around 3 pm– kind of a weird time for lunch, but we were hungry after our hike and definitely needed something before dinner that night. It’s actually in Encinitas, a town next to La Jolla (between Carlsbad and La Jolla), and is the kind of place that makes me want to order everything on the menu. From the Ganesh (remover of obstacles) statue when you walk in, to the seemingly infinite menu of fresh food that includes avocado on almost everything, I was in heaven. I went with a peach smoothie and a bowl with quinoa, veggies and avo. Go here for a healthy yet satisfying, feel-good meal.
For a beautiful ocean view: Duke’s
We went here on the fourth of July and had a view of the Pacific and some mountains — pretty incredible. They have a good drink selection, and pretty fabulous calamari. For a main, I went with a seabass and rice dish, in a blackberry sauce (I was skeptical at first but it turned out to be a unique and yummy combination.) Oh, and the Keylime pie is also fabulous (it was one of a few other pies that looked great on the menu). Go here if you want a great view, fresh fish and some good pie.
For a drink: La Valencia Hotel
We just had drinks here but I wouldn’t mind going back for a meal. It’s the type of place that makes you feel like you’re in Spain, or somewhere in the Mediterranean. It also has beautiful ocean views, live music and amazing interior decor (Spanish tiles!). Go here if you want to enjoy some outdoor live music and a cocktail, beer or glass of wine.
For an outdoor lunch: Farmer & the Sea Horse
This place is interesting — it’s in the middle of a corporate-y tech village and has become a place where the “techies” go during their lunch breaks and happy hours. Doesn’t sound too appealing when I describe it like that, but believe me, this place is totally a must for lunch. It has a large open-air patio, beautiful and friendly staff, and an interesting yet comforting menu. From salads to sandwiches and seafood entrees, they have something for everyone. I went with a Caprese and eggplant sandwich on delicious honey wheat bread, and a side of curried carrots in a yogurt sauce.
While I loved my sandwich, I fell in love with the carrot dish – I found it so different yet knew it would be easy to re-create at home (and share on here below!). It’s full of flavor and also has the refreshing flavor of mint. While this is definitely not a meal in itself, it’s a great side, and packs protein and good fats from the yogurt. To make it a complete meal, pair it with a sandwich like my lunch meal, or have it as your veggie side with your meat/fish/protein of choice and a grain (like rice, bread – it’s really good on top of warm pita, quinoa, etc.). Find curry powder at any grocery store, and make sure you go for the full-fat yogurt, which science now shows is better for us (plus it taste a hell of a lot better and is way satisfying).
Thanks for reading!
With love and light,
Curried Carrots in Yogurt-Mint Sauce
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8-10 Large roasting carrots
1-2 Tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp Curry powder
Salt & Pepper
1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt
3 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
Salt & Pepper
Preheat oven to 400.
Chop carrots into coins, or rounds.
Spread carrots onto a foil-lined baking sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.
Add a few turns of salt & pepper each, and the curry powder.
Toss to coat seasoning evenly.
Roast in oven for 15-20 minutes or until carrots are softening, and starting to crisp and brown.
While carrots are cooking, make the yogurt.
In a small bowl, mix the mint and yogurt together.
Squeeze the lemon juice, and add salt & pepper to taste.
Spoon sauce onto a plate and spread out.
Serve carrots on top of the yogurt sauce.
Whole Self Nutrition http://www.thewholeyogird.com/