Monday, August 31, 2009

Quail Botanical Gardens - Encinitas, Ca

Over 35 years ago I visited a newly opened Botanical Garden in north San diego County, Quail Gardens which was formed from land owned by Ruth Baird Larabee, an avid plant collector and naturalist. Now known as the Quail Botanical Gardens it boasts 27 themed garden areas with plants from all over the world. In the 35 years since I last visited, the Garden has grown in area, height, and complexity.

There is a delightful series of trails and walks that wind through bamboo and sub tropical fruit gardens, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, herb and bird/butterfly gardens, and more. The bromeliads are everywhere (make sure you look up) and the cork trees are amazing! There is a small gift shop and refreshment stand and the old Larabee House and Library.

We loved the subtropical fruit gardens and were envious of their black sapote tree that has fruit that supposedly tastes like chocolate!!!! We saw a male Anna's Hummingbird working the vines around the base of a kumquat bush/tree. It was sunny and not too hot.

The garden is located just a short way off Interstate 405 (San Diego Freeway) in Encinitas. Take the Encinitas Blvd exit, turn inland, and turn left on Quail Gardens Drive. Check their website for operating hours and special events:

A few photos from a delightful afternoon walk:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Diner 437, St Pete, Florida

August in St Pete? Hot, humid, thunderstorms a daily occurrence, did I say hot? But its also kind of empty without the winter snowbirds and visitors. Which means getting into restaurants isn't a major event. Which means that getting into my very favorite restaurant Diner 437 is still possible. But I guarantee you that this new and deliciously happening restaurant on Central Ave in downtown St. Pete will have a line out the door once "the season'"starts. Because they should have a line, they are that good.

With the kitchen helmed by Domenica Macchia (@dmacchia for you twitterphiles) this is "diner food with a twist" and " not your mama's meatloaf". Domenica thinks a lot about her food, her specials, and makes delicious comfort food. Her food is anchored to the traditions of her upbringing in the boroughs of New York and the precision of her culinary training. And it won't cost you an arm and a leg.

Today's special was roast lamb, tuscan bean soup, and rice pudding. Can't wait until Saturday when the special will once again be the best prime rib. Her salads are great (Jerry loves the spinach) and I can't wait to try the grilled cheese (if I can ever get past the specials). Domenica has an eye for detail, a dedication to the right way to cook something (like her simple and delicious spinach NOT cooked within an inch of its life), and a wonderful whimsical approach to food.

Oh, and did I mention that Domenica, who operates from an open kitchen lined with a long counter has a warm, welcoming personality as big as her heart? Stop by, grab a stool, eat a little, gab a little, enjoy!

Diner 437 is open for lunch Monday - Saturday and for dinner Wednesday through Saturday. Closed Sundays. It is located at 437 Central Ave in downtown St. Pete.