Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Old Town & Bice

Saturday was our last full day in San Diego. We headed to Old Town, site of the first European settlement on the west coast. It's a state park. We parked in a free lot and walked around the historic area, going into the museums and shops.
I would love to re-visit Old Town, sometime when I am not sick. Thankfully, I was sick just this day in San Diego, but it was not fun coughing and using tissue after tissue after tissue. People were in shorts and tank tops and flip flops. I had on a long sleeve t-shirt, my sweater coat, jeans, and after a bit, I felt my head burning again, so I put on my Balboa Park baseball cap and tried to cover my ears with some of my hair to shield them from the chilly breeze.
I was a mess. Thank goodness we found this tea shop in one of the historic buildings. So much tea. It was wonderful. So many teas - green, black, herbal, flavored black, rooibos, all brands of tea. And you can buy cups of tea. Of course we did! Large, hot teas. I chose a cinnamon from Metropolitan Teas and SP got an oolong tea.
We walked through all the buildings and read all the historic information, but honestly, despite how interesting it all was, my brain could not even retain 1% of what I was reading. Our last stop was at a candle shop where you can purchase a plain wax candle in the shape of an animal and dip it yourself.
Of course I had to have an elephant. I made SP dip it. I had on a white sweater and I wasn't feeling especially coordinated! He dunked it several times in the green color, so the top third is a light green, middle third a medium green, and bottom third a dark green.

There are places to check out on the streets surrounding the official Old Town Park, but I felt awful so we headed back to the hotel. We hadn't walked around the entire Gaslamp Quarter, so on our drive back, we drove up and down every street just so we could we see all of it! Then we had a brief rest and a long debate about dinner. I didn't have much appetite, so I considered saying yes to sushi since I wouldn't be able to taste my food anyway, but then I wondered if that might make me feel sicker. We perused our Yelp app, hotel info, hemmed and hawed. Finally, we said dinner in Gaslamp so we wouldn't have to drive or walk much. Then I said dinner within a block to block and a half because I felt so sick. And we settled on Bice Ristorante.
It's an Italian restaurant. We didn't have a reservation. We just showed up around 5:30 pm. We were seated next to a window right away. I don't remember much about the interior decor other than tables were generously spaced apart. The hostess was very friendly and accommodating. Our server was also quite friendly and full of personality. I feel kind of bad because I wasn't my usual self and I was pretty... just wrapped up in trying to be as least sick & disgusting as possible in public, and our server was so outgoing and exuberant and truly excited about the foods and the restaurant and I was all... blah.

We didn't order any wine. I did order iced tea, which was a bottle of Republic of Tea peach iced tea.

I didn't know this, but Bice is known for their cheese bar. They have many, many cheeses. Our server was really excited about cheese, and SP was all over the cheese appetizer, but I got kind of grumpy with SP because I felt rushed and my brain was having a hard time processing things. In the end, we decided to have an appetizer of 3 cheeses for $17, cheeses selected by the cheese lady. She brought them over and explained them to us.
All I remember is that the top left one was soaked in some brine with garlic and something else and was the softest. The bottom/middle one was more firm and like a Brie, she said. And the one on the right on a sliver of crostini was the firmest. She said to start with the softest and work our way to the firmest.
They cheeses were served with crostini. All were delicious. I like cheese, I would likely have enjoyed any cheese she put in front of me. We did ask for her to not serve us any blue cheeses since SP doesn't like those.
SP ordered the Duck Prosciutto Salad, homemade cured duck prosciutto with pomegranate, foie gras, frisee, and mixed berry dressing. He loved it, calling it the best salad ever.
We received a nice bread bowl. The sheet of cracker was so thin and crispy and delicious. Our server said they make all their breads there. The bread was served with this:
Olive oil, balsamic, and I think he said it was a mix of mascarpone and I think truffle essence. It was cheese, and it was delicious.
SP chose Fresh Mediterranean Sea Bass cooked on a wooden plank and finished with grape tomatoes and a fresh herb truffle emulsion with a caponata. He loved it. He said it was very flavorful and maybe a tad salty but not too salty. He ate everything, every last bit of fish and caponata.
I chose Homemade Ravioli stuffed with braised beef, veal, and spinach in a mushroom-marsala wine sauce. There are several pasta choices on the menu that are marked as being homemade pasta, and this was one of them. I am so glad I could still taste food because these ravioli and the sauce were delicious. I ate everything. I mopped up the sauce with some bread. So good.
I rarely pass up Tiramisu, and that is what we shared for dessert. It was so cute. Look at the beautiful top:
I didn't want coffee, I didn't want hot tea because I still had a lot of my bottled iced tea to drink. In fact, I made SP help me finish the iced tea!

If I hadn't been sick, I am sure we would have enjoyed some wine or one of the yummy sounding cocktails, maybe another appetizer, maybe a side dish, but I just couldn't. The cheese, bread, ravioli, and tiramisu were enough for me.

For a spur of the moment selection, we were very pleasantly surprised. I can't say enough how fantastic our server was or how helpful and friendly the staff was. I just wish I had felt better and could have interacted more and enjoyed things more. The food was delicious, and if we return to San Diego, Bice would definitely be on our list of places to go.

After dinner, we stopped at CVS for more medicine. They must be wondering about SP! Early in the week he was there for sinus medicine for himself. Then he went back and bought me allergy medicine (prior to getting sick, my allergies were awful, San Diego was experiencing a very high pollen count when we were there), and then we went back for cold medicine!!! We spent $20-$25 on medicine when we were on vacation!

Sadly, our San Diego trip did not end well. Our hotel room neighbor was having what we called a 'frat party' Saturday night. I have no idea how many people were in that room, but they were definitely young men, whooping it up, drinking a lot, talking loudly, we could hear every word, and believe me, we do not enjoy being privy to frat boy conversations about whose girlfriend is better in the bedroom. We called security twice, but it never really quieted down, and after a brief respite when they actually left to go bar hopping, they returned to puke and we were treated to loud barf noises around 2 am.

Of course, I had my ear plugs, so I missed most of the noise. I went to bed at 8:30 pm. I woke up around midnight when SP was trying to feel my head. He said I was burning up and had a fever. I just ignored him and went back to sleep!

  Bice Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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