Monday, October 31, 2011

Boy, Was I Wrong!!!

We were introducing Chuck’s cousin Karen Allsing and her husband Dick (photo #5 below) to Blue Water Seafood, a Guy Fieri/Diners, Drive-ins and Dives restaurant we had visited and enjoyed during our San Diego visit last November. Just as the fresh fish was memorable, so were the l-o-n-g line and the small space.

“We should go later.” I said to Chuck. “By around 1:30 the lunch rush will be over.” The joke’s on me.

“Yes, it’s a ‘dive’, and that’s fine with fans of this India Street eatery/market, whose ‘fabulous fish tacos’ and other ‘no-frills seafood’ are judged among the
‘freshest in San Diego’ (check out the counter to see the catch of the day--they might be filleting it that very moment); ‘excellent-value’ prices ensure locals swim here in schools, so expect super-crowded conditions--go off-hours or be prepared to wait” (

As flyngourmet at said: “There is only one way to judge a fish place and that is, does it smell like fish? If the place smells of fish, run away to Blue Water Seafood and Grill. The fish here is fresh and the restaurant smells of an ocean breeze…. Wonderful! If you like fresh tasty seafood that hasn't been battered and deep fried this place is for you. Go early as there is always a line.”

When we arrived, the line was past the fresh fish counter and every table was occupied. And signs warn you not to think about taking a seat until your order has been placed. I don’t know how they do it, but magically a table seems to open at the precise moment a customer walks away from the order counter. Of course, the wait gives you the chance to review the simple looking, but deceptively complicated, menu.

First, you have to decide whether you want to order from the grill with such choices (not all available every day) as red snapper, yellowtail, shark-thresher or mako, calamari steak, swordfish, seared ahi, Alaskan halibut, Norwegian salmon, Hawaiian albacore, mahi mahi, or grilled shrimp. Or you can chose to go “Off the Grill” with chilled seafood like shrimp, Dungeness crab, or mixed cold seafood.

If you have chosen grilled fish or seafood, next you pick your seasoning from lemon butter, garlic butter, lemon and garlic butter, teriyaki, blackened, and chipotle.

And finally, how do you want it served? As a “Blue Water Plate” with salad and seasoned steamed rice? As a sandwich served on a soft boleo roll with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and tartar sauce? Or as a salad with mixed greens, purple cabbage, cucumbers, red onion, carrots, and tomatoes? House dressings: blue cheese, ranch, thousand, and vinaigrette.

Of course, you could order their famous Grilled Fish Tacos, their clam chowder, their cioppino, fish and chips, ceviche, crab and artichoke dip, and fried calamari. Too many choices.

Finally, our turn to order. For Dick it was the local halibut sandwich on the boleo roll. (“Boleo/Bolillos are sold throughout Mexico, in bakeries and supermarkets. They are basically a small French roll/ baguette that was believed to have been introduced into the country by The Boleo Mining Company, a French company which operated in Santa Rosalia, Mexico in the 1800's. The mine is now closed, but the original bakery still flourishes” [].)

Karen chose the red snapper plate with rice and salad. Her dressing selection--blue cheese--had the largest chunks of blue cheese that I have ever seen in a dressing.

Chuck also ordered a “Blue Water Plate” and chose the blackened Alaskan halibut. Wow. This was a perfect example of blackening fish. Just enough seasoning was used to create a thin crust, but not so much that it masked the sweet fresh taste of the flakey halibut. Somehow, I neglected to taste his rice. But four days later he is still remarking on wonderful this rice was. All he can tell me is that there was some kind of sauce on the rice. But that’s all.

Seeing ahi tuna in the case and after being assured that it would be served rare, I couldn’t resist and ordered the tuna as a salad. Feeling that I was in a rut, I decided to ask for the chipotle seasoning instead of the usual teriyaki. While the tuna was indeed beautifully rare, I did miss the Asian flavors that I associate with seared ahi.

I also couldn’t resist trying Blue Water’s ceviche which bore a strong resemblance to gazpacho with bay shrimp and contained chopped cucumber, onion, and tomato along with the shrimp and had been seasoned with some type of chili. Not traditional but still delicious. And no, I didn’t finish my meal and took enough home with me for two additional light meals.

Blue Water is our kind of place—great fresh food, reasonable prices, no frills—and earns our 5.0 Addie rating.

And now for a little dessert....

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Little Pictures

(continuing from yesterday)

"Do you have any applications? I'd be willing to start as a porter," I inquired of one of the "engineers" from my position on one of the raised viewpoints in the Balboa Park (San Diego) Model Railroad Museum.

"We can always use more people," came the response.

After offering compliments on the display and asking a few questions, I received this wonderful invitation: "Would you like to come back here?"

So armed with a wide grin and the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning seeing a model train under the tree, I entered the magical world of Mike's (and the San Diego Model Railroad Club).

Standing in front of the controls and a half dozen monitors drove home just how complex the operation is. My first question was: "So, if a train is de-railed in a tunnel, how do you know that and how do you get to the accident?"

The answer to that question--"You need to be watching the monitors, the speed of all the trains, and timing of the trains around their routes; then you carefully make your way under the layout to the scene of the accident"--told me that, unlike most people who would probably prefer to be the engineer at the controls, I would rather be in the village,

at the depot,

or along the road watching the trains go by wondering what the train would pass and what the destination would be.

Being at the controls involves knowing what will happen; being the observer involves imagining what could happen.

I think the club was formed in 1938 or 1939, and Mike noted that work on this display has been going on at this location for nearly 30 years. He pointed out some of the details of the layout by, for example, removing the roof of the depot to reveal the wiring for the lighting of the interior.

Mike also noted the attention to detail in researching the topography of Goat Canyon and in the construction of the trestle here (see yesterday's entry). He also pointed out some of the details in the small scenes around the layout.

And it was the imagination and creativity in these little scenes placed around the layout that grabbed me.

Mike said he will ask groups of school children how many chickens they can find running around after the truck they were in overturned.

Almost all come close in their guesses, missing the total by 1 or 2. They almost always miss the one that the coyote (lower right corner in the photo) ran off with.

I found it interesting that in front of this abandoned building in the middle of nowhere--14 miles from the next gasoline--is a hitchhiker.

When we came upon the Drive-in, the shows must have just begun. Cartoons were being shown, and it seemed that one of the cars may have had some guys hidden in the trunk (photo below).

And while it may have been early, some of the cars already had the windows fogged over.

Seeing these next two photos reminded me of the times we have been stopped at a railroad crossing watching cars go by with various styles of graffiti on them.

I think the artist who painted these two cars did an excellent job with this art form.

And in a hidden area down by the tracks, a small group is gathered to watch a race between the two cars. The woman starter has her hands raised ready to signal the start of the race.

Here a two-man crew is putting up a new bilboard display.

I missed most of these scenes on my first walk around the display. On the second trip, I tipped my hat to the designers of these little glimpses into the activities of everyday life.

While the primary activity here has to do with helping a truck and its cargo negotiate a turn, I was also interested in learning why the police officer is talking to the woman.

On my first walk past this truck, all I focused on was the steep grade it had to climb. Only on the second pass did I notice the barrel bouncing down the hill and the bag on the verge of falling off the back.

This vehicle just hit a telephone pole and rolled down the hill. The pole got caught in the underbody of the car, and the car lost two tires that are rolling down the hill.

And lastly, the days of the gas station attendants pumping gas and washing windshields are long gone, but the women in this car certainly received a lot of attention.

Creativity and imagination.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Our walk through a portion of San Diego's Balboa Park took us to the Casa de Balboa building. Housed in this building are the Museum of Photographic Arts, the San Diego History Center, and our destination for the day, the Model Railroad Museum.

"The mission of the Model Railroad Museum is to preserve the heritage of railroading through a series of miniature representa-tions of California railroads, research and preserve the history of model railroading, and educate the public in the many different aspects of railroading.

"At 27,000 sq. ft., the museum is one of the largest indoor model railroad displays in the world and the only accredited railroad-themed museum in the USA.

"The Museum has four Principal Exhibitors: the San Diego Model Railroad Club, the La Mesa Railroad Club, the San Diego Society of N-Scale, and the San Diego 3-Railers" (sdmrm. org).

In my eagerness to see the display, we probably passed informa-tional brochures at the entrance and descriptions of the layout posted around the display, but the history of the location of the route covered by the San Diego and Arizona Eastern (SD&AE) Railway and the efforts of the San Diego Model Railroad Club (SDMRC) took second place to the visual experience.

The Cabrillo & Southwes-tern is the O scale (1/48th actual size) model railroad being built by the San Diego Model Railroad Club. It is a freelance model of an imaginary prototype running between San Diego and Sac-ramento. The layout features a electric trolley line which actually receives power from the overhead catenary system.

I soon lost track of time.

I was caught up in the life of the display.

The photos that follow show scenes from the route of the SD&AE railroad in 1949.

The San Diego & Arizona Eastern is the HO scale, 4500 sq. ft. layout of the San Diego Model Railroad Club. The SD&AE models the prototype railroad of the same name connecting San Diego with El Cajon and El Centro.

This layout features an impressive 10-feet high model of the Carriso Gorge (north of Jacumba in eastern San Diego County) and the Goat Canyon trestle. The actual trestle was the largest timber railroad trestle in the world at the time of its construction in 1932.

Because of the rough terrain, the SD&AE has been coined "The Impossible Railroad."

But the reflections on the glass made it difficult to get a photo of the full layout and especially difficult to get close-ups of the small details in the layout.

If only I could get into the display....

Friday, October 28, 2011

Built to Last -- For 18 Months

San Diego's Balboa Park began as 1400 acres of land set aside in 1868 by San Diego civic leaders and was known then as “City Park.”

The first steps in Park beautification were made in 1892, largely due to the con-tributions of Kate Sessions. She offered to plant 100 trees a year within the Park as well as donate trees and shrubs around San Diego in exchange for 32 acres of land within the Park boundaries to be used for her commercial nursery. Several popular species, including the birds of paradise, queen palm and poinsettia were introduced into the Park’s horticulture because of Sessions’ early efforts. She earned the title “The Mother of Balboa Park.”

The 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition commemorated the opening of the Panama Canal and provided a major impetus for the creation of the Park as it appears today. Most of the arts organizations along Balboa Park's famous El Prado pedestrian walkway (shown on the right with the California Tower in the far left of the photo) are housed in Spanish-Renaissance style buildings constructed for the Exposition. It was one of the first times that this highly ornamented, flamboyant architectural style had ever been used in the United States.

The California Tower and dome were intended to be two of the few permanent structures designed for the fair. Other buildings (such as the Casa del Prado, right) along the El Prado Walkway, the wide tree-lined central avenue, were designed to be "temporary buildings."

The architecture of the "temporary buildings" was recognized, in the words of New York architect Bertram Goodhue, as "being essentially of the fabric of a dream--not to endure but to produce a merely temporary effect. It should provide, after the fashion that stage scenery provides — illusion rather than reality."

The Prado was intended to become the central path of a great and formally designed public garden. The fair's pathways, pools, and watercourses would remain while the cleared building sites would become garden. Goodhue emphasized that "only by thus razing all of the Temporary Buildings will San Diego enter upon the heritage that is rightfully hers" (Winslow, Carleton Monroe. The Architecture and the Gardens of the San Diego Exposition, 1916.)

(If we heard some historical references correctly, the temporary buildings were meant to last about 18 months beyond the Exposition's closing. As a host in the Visitors Center described these buildings, "they were held together by wire and newspapers.")

Goodhue and Carleton Winslow advocated a design that turned away from the more modest, indigenous, horizontally-oriented Pueblo Revival and Mission Revival, towards a more ornate and urban Spanish Baroque. Contrasting with bare walls, rich Mexican and Spanish Churrigueresque decoration would be used, with influences from the Islamic and Persian styles in Moorish Revival architecture.

For American world's fairs, this was a novelty. The design was intentionally in contrast to most previous Eastern U.S. and European expositions, which had been done in Neoclassical and Beaux-Arts styles, with large formal buildings around large symmetric spaces. Even the si-multaneous Panama–Pacific Inter-national Exposition in San Francisco was largely, though not exclusively, in Beaux-Arts style.

This mix of influences at San Diego proved popular enough to earn its own name: Spanish Colonial Revival and become California's "indigenous historical vernacular style."

After the Exposition, the original plan to remove the temporary buildings was met with considerable opposition. The decision to reinforce these buildings in order to save them was a popular one then and one which has provided much enjoyment to visitors over the decades since then.

Our walk around the Park took us past the Spanish Village Art Center where 37 working artist studios/galleries house over two hundred independently juried local artists including painters, sculptors, metal-smiths, and jewelry designers.

The Zoro Garden looked like a very peaceful place to just sit and listen to the sounds of birds--and silence.

This short walk only presented a glimpse of the Park's buildings.

It was time to stop and visit one of the museums. One in which we could take photographs.