Monday, July 6, 2015

Zen Girl's Guide to La Jolla -- California's Jewel by the Sea

This month marks my 6th year anniversary of living in beautiful La Jolla, California. It didn't take much to lure me to this idyllically charming beach town nestled inside of the vibrant city of San Diego. While year after year, La Jolla maintains its status as one of the top food and luxury travel destinations in the world, it still retains its Old World charm. There's an air of 1960s surf culture that co-mingles gracefully with European sophistication. Having grown up in Italy, life now in La Jolla is warmly nostalgic of residing near the Amalfi Coast, where the days revolve around the sea and neighbors gather at sunset to marvel at the natural cinema occurring right before their eyes. Many a sunset gatherings end with a roaring applause. From Bird Rock to the Village to the Shores, the entire town is almost fully walk-able, from beginning to end. Unequivocally, my favorite part of La Jolla is the ability to be outdoors, highly active, and near the ocean, at all times, earning it the much-deserved nickname "The Jewel by the Sea".

Complimenting its natural beauty, La Jolla is abundant with some of the best dining experiences in the world. Farm to Table and Sea to Table are not simply buzz words here -- they are industry standard. In a town where most residents are very physically active and health conscious, restaurants respond and ensure that ingredients are locally and humanely sourced, with a consistent emphasis on seasonal pairings. From your morning coffee or green juice to a perfect date night out, here are my top picks for the best of the best in California's Jewel by the Sea:

  •  Morning Coffee -- BIRD ROCK COFFEE ROASTERS -- Arguably the best coffee in San Diego, BRCC serves up some of the most delicious brews that keep customers returning day after day. They source from all over Central America and Africa, bringing home the best coffee beans in the world to satisfy the picky palettes of La Jolla's residents. Their cozy coffee shop is a popular morning hangout, where seats get snatched up quickly, so come early, stay for a while and get to know the inner workings of this town in one of its cutest little local hideouts.
  • Green Juice -- FARM TO FORK JUICE -- 100% organic, cold-pressed juice bottled every morning, grab and go style. I personally know the owners and they have the highest standards for produce and select only the best, most nutrient-dense ingredients. With their recently opened 2nd location in the Village, you can get your healthy morning fix while cruising through town or at their headquarters in Bird Rock. Perfect for the yogi on the go!

  • Brunch -- MUSEUM CAFE -- My favorite Sunday brunch spot! This adorable cafe is located in the garden of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and is just a short stroll from the beach. Chef Giuseppe Ciuffa carefully curates a seasonal menu, which has a wide variety of options that is sure to please everyone at the table, from classic egg scrambles and huevos rancheros to bountiful summer salads and hearty burgers. My personal favorite is the butternut squash panini that makes an appearance on the menu every winter. In addition to the Museum Cafe, Chef Giuseppe also has another restaurant in La Jolla Shores called Caroline's Seaside Cafe, with possibly the best view in town! (pictured below)

  • Lunch -- PUESTO -- located at 1026 Wall Street, in the heart of the Village, Puesto serves up the best vegetarian tacos I've ever eaten in my life! Inspired by the indigenous cuisine of Oaxaca, deep in the south west of  Mexico, it features a mix of cactus, zucchini, roasted corn and avocado topped with crispy melted cheese -- to die for! In fact, I'm going to take a break from writing this article and go grab one right now! Back soon . . . .

  • Casual Dinner -- EL PESCADOR FISH MARKET -- The sun just set and you're in the mood for something on the lighter side, Pescador is the way to go! From their famous fish tacos, to their fish sandwiches (get the yellowtail, add avocado) to their classic house salad topped with the grilled-up fish of your choice, there is no bad option on the menu. Everything is extremely fresh and sustainably sourced. Pescador is without question my #1 spot to take our out-of-town guests when they pass through La Jolla.

  • Fine Dining -- CATANIA -- The newest, most highly anticipated addition to the La Jolla luxury dining scene, Catania is the latest brain child of the Whisknladle Hospitality Group, who brought Whisknladle and Prepkitchen to town a few years ago. Featuring "coastal Italian cuisine", one can expect lots of fresh seafood, handmade pastas and pizzas made over their in-house wood fire oven. My personal favorite is the Black Squid Ink and Octopus Spaghetti paired with a glass of their homemade Limoncello on the rocks.

    photo by San Diego Magazine 

  • Dinner & Dancing -- Manhattan of La Jolla -- This is my absolute favorite local date night spot! Located inside of the Empress Hotel on Fay Avenue in the Village, it's pretty tucked away and definitely not a tourist trap. Stepping into the Manhattan, you feel as if you just time-traveled back to the 1960s Rat Pack era of old-school class and charisma. The pianist channels his inner Frank Sinatra and serenades the crowd with all the classics, as well as mixes in a few pop cultures favorites here and there. Put on a slinky dress and heels and be prepared to dance the night away!
Aside from food and drinks, La Jolla has some other amazing things to offer too! 
  • Best Beach -- Windansea Beach
  • Best Yoga Studio -- Prana Yoga Center La Jolla
    full disclosure: I teach there Monday nights, come join me for a class! :)
  • Best Wedding Ceremony Venue -- under 50 people: The Wedding Bowl
    Over 50 people: Ellen Browning Scripps Park
  • Best Wedding Reception Venue -- La Valencia Hotel
  • Best View -- walk to the top of Mount Soledad, 360 degrees of all of the Jewel
I'll leave you with this -- a classic La Jolla Cove sunset, no reservation needed.

Hope to see you here soon!

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