Meet and Greet with Chef DJ Tangalin of JRDN Restaurant, Pacific Beach

Lysabeth Luansing-Garcia, who I happen to think is an amazing blogger, approached me about doing a guest post on her blog www.GarciaMemories.com. I’m new to this blogging world and wanted to get my feet wet. . . So, I asked what the assignment was. She said the venue was JRDN Restaurant at the Tower 23 Hotel in Pacific Beach. Chef DJ Tangalin was hosting a tasting event to introduce Filipino fusion cuisine. He had members of the San Diego Filipino Blogger Network (and some friends) to come out and try some inspired dishes.
Pacific Beach to me is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get! What I appreciate about this city, is all the up and coming as well as established joints that offer great nightlife, good food and drinks! There’s something for everybody and you know a good spot when you see lines out the door! I swear it’s a never ending smorgasbord of delectable treats to fit every taste and budget. My friend Mike from Creative Cruz and I made our way Tower 23 Hotel. This place is a chic and contemporary beachfront hotel. The glass walls offer a spectacular view of the ocean and when the sun sets, it is absolutely gorgeous! Our party of six met at the lobby and they promptly escorted us to the outside patio overlooking the ocean. Brennan, the manager and his staff were AMAZING and very attentive. Our main waiter Johnny started us off with an apéritif of Poema Brut Cava. The sparkling wine gave our little event a celebratory vibe. We toasted to good food and new friends and eagerly awaited the courses to begin. 

Opening Cava - Copy - CopyChef DJ Tangalin came out with his army of servers. He took the time to give us a mouthwatering description of the first course. He answered some of our questions then left us to enjoy our meal. The first course was a play on Coconut Shrimp. Forget the fried stuff! This dish was fresh and light. The poached jumbo shrimp, melon, and avocado were tossed in a lime dressing and presented in a young coconut topped with a refreshing granita. The flesh of the coconut was so tender and flavorful. All the components together made our mouths sing! What a spectacular way to begin our culinary journey!

coconutshrimpOur next course was fresh lumpia. The lobster, bean sprouts, watercress, and herbs, were lovingly wrapped in a turmeric rice wrapper. The sauces added a fresh and tangy element.

lumpia - CopyThe next dish was probably the most unique and definitely a favorite. . . Short Rib Siopao with Blueberry Gastrique. The presentation was so pretty and camera ready! I like how this wasn’t your usual pork filled steamed bun. The filling made of braised short ribs was incredibly tender and flavorful. The bun was baked then topped with the loveliest blueberry gastrique and garnished with fragrant microbasil. I was worried about the blueberry sauce because it looked like a dessert to me. I have an aversion to sweet glazes with meat but this actually worked. The blueberry gastrique was lightly sweetened.  When I took a bite, it reminded me of pulled BBQ brisket- DEVINE!

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This is the time we got to see a PB celebrity- Slow Mo! He slow mo’ed past us as we were talking to Chef DJ! This night just keeps getting better and better!  Chef DJ came out to check on us. We genuinely raved about what we just ate. It was unlike anything we’ve tried before. This is coming from a bunch of foodies mind you! While we still had light from the setting sun to take footage (and to give us a chance to rest before moving on to more dishes) we had a chance to get to know the chef by springing a Q&A session on him. It was so interesting to hear about his culinary background and roots. His experiences helped shape the vision for his inspired cuisine and he pays homage to his cultural heritage in his creations. Chef DJ’s passion and love for food comes through in his cooking!

After our Q&A session, Chef DJ presented our fourth course for the evening- Octopus Adobo. The dish was a fusion of Italian, French and Filipino. The octopus was so tender. It wasn’t rubbery in texture or chewy. It was like BUTTAH! The octopus was cooked with garbanzo beans and baby corn in a sofrito sauce. It was tangy and savory with a hint of sweetness to it. The adobo was accompanied by a squid ink polenta that was finished with mascarpone cheese and lime juice. Melt in your mouth deliciousness!

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Oh no. . . let’s not stop here! Let’s introduce some libations that made our meal even more enjoyable. On top of our Poema Brut Cava, we ordered the Chili Mango Margarita (chili infused tequila, mango, house mix), Basil+ Gin+ Lemonade (Hendrick’s gin, basil, lemonade), and the Pimm’s Cup (Pimm’s No.1, lemon, simple syrup, ginger ale). Hey, it was Sunday and it was past 5 o’clock everywhere!
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Our fifth course was a play on a filipino favorite- Fried Rice and Tocino! Chef DJ explained that for many Filipinos this is comfort food. This is your quintessential breakfast, lunch or dinner. The fried rice had foie gras, green onions, bacon, garlic, and scrambled eggs. The tocino was made of prime sirloin steak with rosemary and a dijon and tamarind glaze. Karen exclaimed that it tasted like her mom’s fried rice!  When flavors make you reminisce and make you think of your momma, that is an ultimate compliment!
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As our flatware was cleared and a spoon made an appearance, I KNEW dessert was the next course! Before our sweet ending, Chef DJ introduced us to his wonderful sous chefs: John Dolan and Eugene Guerrero.
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We gave them a round of applause for contributing their talents in making our dining experience so special and memorable. Chef DJ cued the army of servers and they made their way to our table with big square plates. He referred to the dish as a dessert tour of Filipino inspired dishes. In front of us, we had ube cupcakes, coconut panna cotta with jackfruit, tapioca tossed in some macapuno, passion fruit and blueberry sauce, and sesame crumbles. I’m a baker and cupcakes are my thing so I’m highly critical. The ube cupcake had a nice, fluffy texture and it wasn’t overly sweet. It had a creamy frosting that accented the cake part well. Now, let’s move on to the next delectable item. . . let’s just take a moment of silence and think about coconut panna cotta-shhh. . . I LOVED IT! The panna cotta was silky and creamy. It had the right amount of sweetness.  The sesame crumbles provided a crunchy texture to the smooth panna cotta and the passion fruit and blueberry sauces added a fresh and tangy element. There was a flavor party in my mouth! We savored our dessert with some Joe’s Coffee and the evening came to an end.
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 I love how Chef DJ never forgot his mission statement behind his inspired cuisine. Keep it fresh, local, innovative, and comforting. It was a pleasure and an honor to try his cuisine. Chef DJ demonstrated his love for food and culture with the dishes he created for this particular occasion. I appreciated the fact that he prepared each of the dishes with critical attention to detail and presentation which added to and elevated our dining experience.
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I encourage everyone to go out to Pacific Beach and visit the JRDN Restaurant at Tower 23 Hotel. Since Chef DJ took helm, he changed the restaurant’s entire menu twice to keep it innovative. He wanted to highlight the fresh local ingredients to give diners an amazing experience. When asked where he visits to eat down home filipino food, he said that he loves Tita’s, Manila Sunset, Chow King and Jollibee.
On Fridays, you can find him walking through the North Park Farmers’ Market to check out the produce.  On Saturday, he likes to hang out at the Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market. He spoke about the importance of using the freshest ingredients. He even has a private fisherman that catches the seafood for the restaurant.  Talk about from the ocean straight to the table!  He also works with a local fresh produce supplier that gives him dibs on seasonal goods!  On his off days, he hones his craft by traveling to different cities to be a stagiaire or an apprentice that works for free to learn/refine techniques. When we asked Chef DJ if he follows or draws inspiration from other chefs, he said there were two in particular: Jason McLeod and Jonathan Bautista. Outside of work, family life is important to Chef DJ. He loves to spend time with his loved ones especially his two year old daughter. They love to swim, travel, visit and experience all of what America’s Finest City has to offer!
A special THANK YOU to Tower 23 Hotel and JRDN Restaurant for your amazing hospitality!  It was a pleasure to meet Chef DJ Tangalin and the members of the San Diego Filipino Blogger Network!  Please check out the blogs of these talented individuals Lysabeth Luansing GarciaFerchil Ramos, Jennifer Humora, Mike Cruz, Lora Bumatay, and Karen Martin!

The Lee Sisters’ Road Trip 2015: Day 2 UT, ID, MT

**Thank you Gottfredson’s for your amazing hospitality!  Even though you were packing up a storm, you were so nice to let us stay with you! Have a safe trip moving back to San Diego!  See you soon!

Good morning!!  We hugged Doro goodbye and loaded the Hyundai for the next leg of our trip. We stopped to take a picture of the beautiful scenery as we were leaving.

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Today, our plan was to make it to Big Sky, Montana.  It was going to take us approximately 6 hours to get there.  Before we set off, we stopped at the IHOP for breakfast. 

With our tummies full, we made our way through Utah and Idaho… 😪 

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Chae made sure she had a supply of coffee.  I made sure she had snacks on hand whenever she felt peckish.  I was bummed because I couldn’t Periscope due to the horrible reception while on the road.  Whatever Verizon!  Two pit stops later, we made it to Montana.

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Before I go on…again with the public restrooms…UT, ID AND MT…no toilet seat covers…why??? sigh…

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Montana is beautiful.   It’s so freaking lush and green!!!

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Chae and I stopped to take pictures by the river. 

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After a quick detour, we headed to Big Sky, MT.  We’ll be staying at the Big Sky Resort for next three nights. 

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Upon entering our room, I approved.  Everything was modern and rustic at the same time.  It was like an upscale hunting cabin-LoL.  There was a kitchenette complete with microwave, small fridge and a dishwasher.  It had all the things we would need to be comfy for the next three days. 

After unloading everything, we went to check out the grounds.  During winter, this place gets packed for the winter sports.  It had a ropes course, bungee trampolines, (ski) lift to take you to the top of the mountain, and a lasso station.  There are also a bunch of shops and eateries around too.  Things shut down pretty early around here.  Aside from the restaurants, the activities stop at 5:30PM.

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Since we were on the road for a while, we decided to eat an early dinner and call it an evening.  We went to an Italian restaurant called Andiamo for dinner and drinks.  Chae had something with locally grown blueberries and whiskey and I had a Venitian Spritz (Aperol, prosecco, soda).  The fill-in bartender felt like she didn’t do a good job on Chae’s drink so she didn’t even charge us.  She topped us off too! Yaaaaaaaaaas!! After drinks and appetizers, we had a nice filling dinner.

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Before we went back to the room, we stopped by the little market to pick up a few things.  We’re so tired and looking forward to a good night’s rest.  So what if it’s still light out?!  Tomorrow is our big Yellowstone adventure!  GOOD NIGHT!

The Lee Sisters’ Road Trip 2015: Day 1 NV, AZ, UT

Today is the day.  The day Chae and I go on our sister road trip. 

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We got up around 7AM and was out the door by 8AM.  We stopped at the Albertson’s along the way to grab a few bags of ice for the cooler.  Then, we were off!  Our plan was to haul ass to Utah and get there at a reasonable hour.  We were staying the night with the Gottfredsons-shout out! 

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With my sister behind the wheel, we stopped in Baker to fill the tank and grab a bite at the Mad Greek.  After that short stop, like a bat out of hell, we sped through Vegas and the rest of Nevada .  Just in time too because it started to rain like crazy!  Before we knew it, we hit Arizona and was well on our way to Sandy, Utah. 

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Let me just say…the vista of the southern end of Utah is never ending… we had to bump up the music to stay awake!  I Periscoped while I had reception and it kept me busy!

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We got to the Gottfredson’s a little before 8PM.  Doro and Taylor gave us a tour of the house.  It was huge and it was a wonder the kids didn’t get lost- I’m serious!  Even though they were moving back to San Diego in the coming days, they marked our height on the wall as they did with all their guests. Looks like Chae and I are the same height! :o😒

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It was still light out considering it was past 8PM.  We stayed in the backyard chatting and enjoying the beautiful evening.  Soon, we were off to bed because we were leaving at early the next morning for Montana. 

FYI…Utah does not have toilet seat covers in their public restrooms!!!!

On the Road: Day One- Approx. 11 hours

Lee Sisters’ Road Trip 2015-The Preparation

As my sister and I have gotten older, we started making the time to reconnect with one another and strengthen our bond of sisterhood.  Last time, we had our Pacific Northwest Adventure and had a blast!  We had to skip the two following years due to my back issues and the selling of our family home. 

This year, there was no excuse not to travel!  One thing on both of our bucket lists include traveling to all the 50 states.  Hitting any of the U.S. territories is a bonus.  After some chitchat, we decided to do an epic road trip.  Doing some research on Google maps and puttering on the internet, we decided to hit Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.  People thought we were crazy, but we had a plan! 

My sister was able to take off work for about 2 weeks while I finished up teaching summer school and was officially on vacation.  We looked on Kayak for the best deals for lodging but due to the heavy tourist season, we ended up looking outside our point of interest.  It didn’t matter because that just meant there were more places to visit and we were going to cram in as many states and activities possible.  I hit up some friends in Utah for a one night stay.  Then, we ended up finding a place to stay for a reasonable price in Big Sky, Montana for our Yellowstone adventure.  It was only an hour away from the West Entrance of Yellowstone so that was great!  South Dakota was a bit tougher…I had no idea the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was happening the week we were planning on visiting Mount Rushmore-grr!!! I swear I searched 8 cities for condo, house, and  cabin rentals on top of hotels.  They were actually charging $400-$500 for 2 star hotels…HELL TO THE NOOOOO!!  Then, out of the blue…I saw it… The Super 8 was available.  I looked it up on trip advisor and other reviews and it had decent reviews.  Then, I saw a commercial for it and it didn’t look bad…I said a prayer, in the case my sister went crazy sauce on me, and booked it.  I broke the news to her and I was a afraid she would break me, BUT I HAD NO CHOICE CHAE LEE!!! 

I went up to Irvine on the 31st and we got our rental car from Enterprise.  A red Hyundai Sonata.  Two Koreans in a Korean car-haaaaay!  To prepare for the trip, I headed to the Wal-Mart and bought a 28qt. cooler to store food and drinks.  We wanted to make as little stops as possible so this is what I prepared:

1. Cooler filled with mostly healthy snacks: Boom Chicka Pop Popcorn snack bags, grapes, apples, bananas, organic dried mangoes, organic dried figs, cheese, gum, sparkling water, reg.bottled water, Diet 7Up, almonds, 180 bars, gum aaaaaaand Flaming Hot Cheetos

2.  Bag with a roll of paper towel, disinfectant wipes, baby wipes, anti-bacterial pump, an air freshener from Bath and Body Works, and recycled grocery store bags to hold our trash.

3. Selfie stick (don’t judge me!!)

4.  Extra battery for my phone, car chargers

5.  A buttload of sunscreen SPF 100 and bug spray

6.  If the dried mangoes and figs were any indication, I was worried about our gastrointestinal health during this trip.  I also brought my vitamins and fiber advance gummies to keep us regular.  Hey!  You don’t want to bloat up in high elevation…so gross.

7.  Travel pillow

We are ready to GO, GO, GO!!

San Diego Comic-Con Art Gallery

Like a moth to a flame, San Diego’s Comic-Con attracts the nerd herd from all over the globe.  People watching is a sport and the odds of getting trampled on the sidewalk to get from point A to point B is a likelihood for those who take their lolly jolly time… If that tickles your pickle, you might be one of the lucky ones to have snagged your ticket early on and secured a spot for yourself amongst avid screen buffs, anime lovers, comic enthusiasts, cult followers, etc.  I, for one, do not exactly identify with any one group, BUT I do enjoy walking around people watching and getting some swag as well as a few limited edition items.  While Comic Con doesn’t start until July 9th, there’s a pre-event to get fans ready for the big day!

Some friends and I visited the San Diego Central Library in downtown.  There was a neat exhibit on the 9th floor showcasing the incredible artistry of more than 60 talented artists over the past 45 years!  The displays included a progression of art from start to finish by various artists.  My favorite and largest piece in the gallery was an amazing mural by Sergio Aragonés.

While the venue was small and at first glance, sparsely adorned with art work, it was actually spread out and each striking in their own way.  Don’t waltz through the exhibit!  Take the time to look and admire each piece.  It’s worth it!

The exhibit runs through July 7th and again from July 13-August 30th.   Admission and 2 hours parking w/ validation are FREE!  Enjoy YOselves!

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Hello world!

Given the name INNERLOTUS, you would think you stumbled upon a yoga site but SuRpRiSe!!! it’s a blog by yours truly!  The purpose of starting this blogging journey is to alleviate my crazy work stress, put myself out there, break the monotony of daily life, learn new things, and connect with people.  In my tiny corner of cyberspace, I’ll share my loves, discoveries, projects, reviews and musings to entertain and maybe even help you!  Life can get stressful and finding happiness in every day may be a little challenging, but embrace your INNERLOTUS and join me in celebrating life one day at a time!

photo credit: Lotus (Ueno Zoo, Tokyo, Japan) via photopin (license)