about every stay in San Diego is spending time with Chuck’s cousin Karen Allsing and her husband Dick. Somehow food is always part of the equation.
“By reputation, San Diego has some of the country's best Mexican restaurants, with authentic recipes and ingredients. One of the finest is Casa de Pico, in La Mesa.
“For most of its history, Casa de Pico was one of Old Town's premiere restaurants in Bazaar del Mundo. But Diane Powers, the founder and developer of this major tourist attraction, lost her lease in a pitched battle with an eastern corporation. She may have been down, but she was not out! She exhausted all of her legal remedies. So, she did the next best thing. She regrouped, retrenched and rebuilt.
“Powers established the new Casa De Pico—named after an early governor of California—in La Mesa, bordering East County with its large Hispanic population.… With exquisite attention to detail, the new restaurant recreates the feel of elegant Mexican dining, whether on the roomy outdoor patios or in the beautifully decorated interior” (David Rottenberg at sddt.com). Case de Pico has been named one of the 50 Best Mexican Restaurants in the U.S. by Hispanic Magazine.
We have always eaten in one of the indoor and beautifully decorated dining rooms but the weather that day was almost perfect. Actually, it was perfect. And a great day to eat outdoors under one of the patios colorful umbrellas.
We hadn’t seen each other since meeting in New Orleans last December, so conversation took preference over my usual note-taking. But, as best as I can remember, both Dick and Karen ordered from what is titled the “Healthy Dining” section of the menu.
For Dick it would be the Fiesta Fajitas, a delicious and colorful mélange of vegetables sautéed with achiote sauce. The fajitas came with soft tortillas, black beans, and rice.
Karen ordered the Enchiladas Verdes de Pollo or seasoned chicken in two corn tortillas topped with tomatillo sauce, salsa quemada (roasted tomato salsa), and Mexican Chile Mexican cheese and accompanied by black beans.
I had initially thought that this was a Mexican-American dish (like Mongolian Beef is a Chinese-American dish), but have found numerous references to what is called coctel de camarones and was surprised to find that ketchup is an important ingredient. Now I know where the sweet taste undertone comes from. I always want to boost the heat (spice) level somewhat and thought about getting one of the bottles of hot sauce displayed on a front counter.
Chuck, being the hungry man that he is, ordered the combination plate with one beef taco, one cheese enchilada, and one bean burrito. The plate also came with rice and beans.
Chuck and I finished the meal with a couple of sopapillas and vanilla ice cream—so much for my eating healthy.
Just this week we had the chance to visit again over lunch and this time at a restaurant that we introduced them to—Red Lotus. Not only do Chuck and I really appreciate the Lin’s take on Chinese food, to us the Lins are the epitome of what politicians mean when they talk about “small business.”
We were lucky that day. The day’s soup that accompanied the lunch combo was hot and sour, and their version is one of my favorites.