Aug 182011
 

I can’t put it much better than the article, Marine reserve sets new standard for recovery:

No-fishing reserves can restore marine ecosystems better than previously thought and can turn a heavily degraded site into an international model for conservation, according to a decade-long study led by researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla. The report showed the amount of fish in an undersea wildlife park near the southern tip of Baja California soared 463 percent between 1999 and 2009.

May 272011
 

Stone Brewing’s Escondido location is one our favorite places to spend an afternoon.  Located in a business park wasteland, the gardens and open air bistro are unexpected and delightful.  However, the hour drive to Escondido keeps us from going too often.  West Coaster covered what looks to be a large south bound expansion by Stone.  First they are opening a tasting/growler room in South Park, near The Station in about 30 days.  Next they have some ambitious plans for Liberty Station in 2012:

Stone Liberty Station will be a 20,000 sq. ft., 400-seat brewery/restaurant complete with bocce courts and an outdoor movie area. The new brewery/restaurant will have a 10-barrel brewing system, provide 130 new jobs, and is expected to open in late spring 2012. 40 taps, emphasizing local brands, will complement a ~100 ct. bottle list.

Dec 052010
 

During our weekend in Brussels we missed out on some sites like Cantillon Brewery, but we managed to hit Bier Circus before it closed Saturday night. The food was pretty good, but it was the beer selection we came for. We poured through their beer menu and had some lovely selections over the course of the meal and evening. While their regular menu is impressive enough, we also paid a god awful sum to try an off menu choice, Westvleteren 12.

That name doesn’t mean much to most people. Westvleteren is one of only seven Trappist breweries in the world. The others you may recognize – Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, Achel, and Koningshoeven (aka La Trappe). All are well known for their excellent beer. The critical difference with Westvleteren is that unlike the other monasteries, it has no interest in producing commercial quantities of beer. Westvleteren only brews enough beer to cover monastery costs, no more, regardless of demand. People have to call in to the abbey in advance to make a reservation on a particular day to pickup a case of beer (and no more than a case). Given the rarity of the beer, it has produced a bit of an obsession in the beer world and has consistently ranked one of, if not the best, beer in the world.

The “best” just seems silly to me. Ranking is such a strange concept when applied to intangibles and variances. A prime example is travel. When someone asks me “what has been your favorite place to travel to”, I honestly don’t have an answer. I’ve love to return to any of them; each brought a difference experience to the table. I feel the same way about *the best* food or drink.

Is the Westvleteren 12 an excellent beer? Definitely. The best? It doesn’t matter. I’m just as happy with a St. Bernardus Abt 12 or Trappistes Rochefort 10. Perhaps that’s for the best. Scarcity and expense have an impact on our perception of how much we think we will like something. But research shows it doesn’t work out that way – we frequently like the cheaper stuff better.

Jun 142009
 

Anna and I were down near the border for some shopping and had a hankering for tacos. I used yelp on my phone to see what looked interesting near by. Surrounded by mall land I wasn’t optimistic. One taco shop with only three reviews sounded pretty good – Tacos Yaqui (111 W Olive Dr, San Ysidro, CA 92173). They are trying to emulate the places in Baja, and they do a pretty good job of it. These are bigger than street tacos, and a combo is very filling. Anna and I had the Tacos Perrones (carne asada) and Tacos Norteños (spicy shrimp). Both were excellent – some of the best tacos I’ve had in a while. If you are near the border but not crossing it, definitely look them up.

Tacos Yaqui

May 202009
 

I’m not much of a steak guy these days. In fact I am usually more likely to order veggie than meat. We spent the night in Chicago yesterday and decided to head out for a good steak in a city that knows steak and steakhouses. I had a 55 day aged beauty of a ribeye and truffle fries at David Burke’s Primehouse. It was the best steak I’ve ever had – buttery, interesting and savory. Aged, cooked, and seasoned perfectly. It was really interesting to see how many different flavors came through after the aging. I don’t plan to make steaks a regular part of my diet, but it was definitely worth doing it right.

Jan 282009
 

The UT has some positive words (in fact, it sounds a little like a press release) about a fish farm proposal from Hubbs-SeaWorld. The fish farm would be located off Mission Beach and would grow striped bass. This would be the first in the county, but not in the area. A 30 minute drive into Mexico or a trip to the Coronado Islands would yield a number of fish pen sightings – mostly tuna exports for Japan.

As Jay at the Linkery states, these fish farms would have a negative impact on our local environment:

Concentrated animal feedlot operations degrade their environment, propagate antibiotic-resistant disease, and ultimately provide second-rate nutrition, because the animals aren’t eating their natural food. Feedlots’ “positive economic effects” are simply that they exploit certain subsidies in our economy (commodity crops and unregulated environmental damages) to externalize most of their costs and thus make money for their operators.

He also states that this method of raising fish also ultimately impacts other areas of the country:

Just as in the movement of cattle to feedlots, they’re saying we can raise cheap fish by feeding them something that’s not their natural diet, but which is cheap. Of course, commodity corn is grown primarily through the use of fossil fuel, and is a big cause of the degradation of the soil and of rural communities in the Midwest, and the water in the Gulf of Mexico.

I agree with everything Jay wrote, his post is worth a read. Yet even believing all of the above, a part of me also believes the fish farms could have two positive effects. The first is California pollution controls. If we don’t farm the fish I believe some other country will. This country will probably have much lower standards for pollution controls and the health of local populations. We can probably do it cleaner here than China can and perhaps even set the bar higher.

The second reason is that we need more awareness of our food sourcing. The US is a net importer of sea food – most of the US population has no idea where our seafood comes from, or the damage that its harvest may have caused. The ocean stocks are on the brink of collapse, yet there is no problem walking into any seafood (or sushi) restaurant in the county and ordering whatever type of fish you want. Local production will force us to confront many of the ills that industrial farming produces. This will hopefully encourage people to think about where their food comes from and make better decisions.

Would the positive effects outweigh the negative effects? I’m not sure. I am probably being too optimistic, or naive about our ability to do it better or change peoples behavior. All the same, I think it is in everyone’s best interest to avoid NIMBY behavior.

Dec 082008
 

San Diego county will be home for more artificial reefs. We already have several – The ships to reefs projects (Yukon, Ruby E, etc), and others like the old Ingraham Bridge debris.

The newest reef (though technically in Orange County) is also one of the biggest – the Wheeler North Artificial Kelp Reef is made up of 175-acres of 120,000 tons of volcanic rock two miles south of San Clemente Pier. It was built by Edison as a way to repair the damage done to an existing reef by the warm water discharge of the San Onofre nuclear power plant. It is the first artificial reef to specifically host kelp, and special care had to be taken to make sure it would take:

“There have been many failed attempts to build a kelp forest,” House said. “We learned you just can’t pile high rocks and expect a successful reef. David Kay, Southern California Edison’s manager of environmental projects, said the rocks must be large enough to anchor the kelp, which are algae that can grow 1½ to 2 feet a day to a length of 120 feet… Some of the rocks have to be light enough so the ocean can toss them about, to shake off organisms that crowd out the kelp.

LA Times reports that the Coastal Commission also has Edison doing some other projects to help repair the damage:

“Edison is also creating a $90-million, 150-acre wetland in Del Mar as part of its environmental mitigation, and has built a white sea bass hatchery in Carlsbad. In spite of a complex elevator system to help fish sucked into the plant’s cooling system return to the ocean, the power plant kills an average of 600 tons of fish each year, Kay said.”

Chula Vista is is hoping to increase local fish stocks by placing 350 structures off the shoreline of Bayside Park in Chula Vista.

Called “a-jacks,” the structures are made from concrete and are two feet wide and weigh 78 pounds each… When the project is finished, the Port says there will be about 35 artificial reefs that measure three feet tall and four feet in diameter.

An interesting aspect of the reef is the low cost – just $30,000 for the project. I suspect that is a raw materials cost and that labor is all volunteer, but that is still pretty impressive.

Dec 052008
 

I popped into the newly opened Halcyon Tea in South Park yesterday evening. The shop is located just a couple doors up from what used to be Santos, and a short block from Grant’s Marketplace. They have done a nice job fixing the shop up and it looks great.

Their tea selection is pretty good, prices reasonable, and they are happy to let you stick your nose in the big metal jars to check out different teas. I picked up some of my staples and tried out a new oolong. So far, I’m a fan. I wish them the best – opening a tea shop in a recession is not for the faint of heart.