san diego

thirty eight from california by Amanda Liew

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  For years we made the trek. Nine hours plus however many bathroom breaks it took to reach San Francisco from San Diego. It was to see my grandparents which was great, but it meant being thrown in the car at the wee hours of the morning where your only activity options were sleeping or eating or staring out the window. So when my dear friend Victoria and I were planning our much needed vacations, the concept of a road trip, much less a road trip in California, seemed less than enticing to me. Nevertheless, a few scheduling coincidences and a chance to reclaim the California coast in the make of adventure finally swayed my vote.

Thus, just as fall was quickly ushering Manhattan into its arms, we skipped backwards into the eternal summer of San Diego. Right before we left, I made the spontaneous decision to purchase a Fujifilm Instax instant camera and a boatload of film to document our adventures. What came out of it was thirty eight prints - some posed, some candids, some given away as gifts, and many that will be treasured for a lifetime.

On my turf, Victoria was shown all my favorite spots and some of my favorite people - Marine St Beach with Maegan, the Cove, Don Carlos with Ruth, Extraordinary Desserts with Drew, Balboa Park and Coronado with my family, and so much more.

We then began the first part of our journey and headed up North to Santa Barbara where we spent time leisurely walking along boardwalks, destressing for the first time in too long, and of course basking in the sun on both the beach and our rooftop pool.

After Santa Barbara, we faced the ambitious task of conquering the Pacific Coast Highway in one day. Unfortunately, our giant stacks of Swedish pancakes at our first stop in Solvang put us off to a delayed start (and a dangerous food coma while driving), but we made it to Morro Bay without w hitch. We then tackled Big Sur which was hands down my favorite part of the trip. It's gorgeous driving along the coast no matter what, but to have these enormous cliffs alongside you and breathtaking beach inlets below you was just something else. We managed to find Pfeiffer Beach which you cam literally only identify by sign that says "No RVs." You them drive about 2 miles down to the beach itself where the powerful waves have created a hole in an enormous rock formation and the sand runs purple from erosion. Not wanting to say goodbye, we pressed on to do the 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach. It's a fascinating neighborhood with ridiculous coastal views that even managed to make a La Jollan jealous.

Finally, finally we made it to our last destination of Sam Francisco where my amazing Big, Lauren, hosted us in her oh-my-god-is-that-the-golden-gate-bridge-from-your-window?! apartment. We had the chance to see Brad and Laura for some phenomenal views of The Golden Gate Bridge and oysters out on the deck of The Ferry Building. The food was such a highlight of San Francisco: Dinner with Nate and Alex at Delarosa's was phenomenal, salami sandwiches at Molinari's, chocolate at XOX truffles, and of course pizza at Tony's (with no wait!).

It was the perfect nine days. Pure bliss, wonderful rest, and the sun on our faces.

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Measured by the broth: Ramen at Tajima by Amanda Liew

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While back in San Diego over Christmas, my family decided to warm ourselves up on a chilly day (aka dropping below 60 degrees) with some delicious bowls of ramen! We went to Tajima 2 and ordered 4 bowls of the Kakuni Ramen (pork belly & egg) with thin cut noodles and the original Tonkotsu broth along with a squid appetizer and scallop croquettes. Personally, the scallop croquettes were my favorite - I'm amazed at how the outside can maintain a perfect crispyness without getting soggy, yet the inside breaks open into a tasty scallop mix. As for the ramen, the pork belly and egg were so tender and flavorful and the noodles were absolutely divine. One issue we had, though, was that the broth was a little bit on the blander side. Ramen is often measured by the quality of the broth and I would have much preferred a richer taste. Nevertheless, it was still a solid bowl of ramen and I would definitely return!_DSC0342_Christmas 2013 _DSC0343_Christmas 2013 Photography Comments / Critiques:

One thing that I wanted to test out in this restaurant was shooting in low light - even with the low aperture, I had to turn up the ISO pretty high. The croquettes photograph turned out the best (also due to the amount of depth I could get) and was shot at f/2.2 1/50 ISO3200. For both the ramen and the squid I had to up the ISO to 12800 in order to accommodate an f/4.5 aperture which makes the photo so much grainier than I had anticipated - it's hard to tell when you're quick shooting and just looking at your screen!

Also, I recently discovered that for my Nikon D3100, the autofocus assist light that goes off when you press halfway down on your shot can be turned off! There have been way too many times I look obnoxious in a dimly lit restaurant and wish I had known that.

Reflections and hidden spaces by Amanda Liew

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One of the things I love about La Jolla is how diverse the different beaches are - La Jolla Shores has wide open sand and relatively calm waters, Marine Street's sand is soft but there's that crazy dip where you plunge into the ocean, Windansea has a crazy rock terrain and incredible scenery when you turn left and right, and the Cove has all these different inlets with their own mini beaches too. For the longest time, I've loved the tide pools at Marine Street and the Cove - for those of you unfamiliar, tide pools form when high tide or waves fill the crevices in rock formations with seawater. When the water pulls back, these little separate habitats live the hidden spaces. I have fond memories of poking my fingers into anemones (Finding Nemo, anyone?) and having it close onto your finger. It was really amazing getting the chance to venture out (terrified I was going to drop my camera in one of the puddles) and photograph the area for the first time on my own. At first I tried to photograph into the water, attempting to capture the life in the puddles. I became far more interested in the strong contrasts, geometrical repetitions, and reflections in the water and shifted gears partway through. The image above came out as my favorite - similar to my light, form & abstraction project in school, I loved how when the context is removed, the photograph can take on such a different meaning. In reality, it's just one of the smaller and shallower tide pools - but to the eye, it could be a lake at a distance, or a shot in a forest. The lights and darks evoke a sense of emotion - it's fleeting because of the light, yet tranquil and calm due to the water. _DSC0426_Christmas 2013 _DSC0440_Christmas 2013 _DSC0484_Christmas 2013

I just can't seem to stay away: Brockton Villa at the Cove by Amanda Liew

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Returning to the Cove yet again, my childhood best friend Ruth & I decided to try out a new brunch spot: Brockton Villa! The restaurant is actually located at the street level of the Cove, almost directly underneath George's. Nevertheless, the view was still as beautiful as ever, and we were lucky enough to snag one of the tables closest to the water. I ordered the Puerto Huevos Steamer (above) and Ruth ordered the House Made Beer Brined Corned Beef Hash (below). As a huge lover of chorizo and soy chorizo, I wasn't mightily impressed with my dish. I thought it would have worked better separating the eggs and chorizo separated - the way that it was mixed together made the flavors hide in each other. I also should have anticipated that the eggs would be wetter since they are steamed, but I thought that detracted as well. Ruth enjoyed her dish, but I think wasn't overly blown away by it either. We both agreed that it was quite a heavy dish for brunch - I'm wondering if they could have found a way to balance the strong flavors yet make it lighter. Perhaps a different "vehicle" for the hash? The service was wonderful and the view was great as well. I regret not ordering the Coast Toast which they are supposedly famous for (I'll forever be torn with the savory-or-sweet question at brunch!) I'm not sure I'll be returning here since I think there are other fabulous brunch options in La Jolla and the beach is always an easy post-meal walk away._DSC0349_Christmas 2013 _DSC0356_Christmas 2013 _DSC0360_Christmas 2013 _DSC0364_Christmas 2013 _DSC0374_Christmas 2013