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Stories by Barbarella Fokos

Cruise loos

The salty-dog bowel-and-bladder conundrum

David is the guy who, upon hearing a fart joke at a party, rolls his eyes and repeats the adage that, given enough time, all conversations seem to devolve into discussions of bodily functions.

Taste of the familiar

A sampling of standbys

While I enjoy trying new places, I still tend to gravitate toward the familiar. I don’t want to have to guess whether a restaurant will have friendly service, a comfortable space, and satisfying food — ...

Death of a darling

Oh, creative types!

David dropped his head, and, with the faintest hint of a smile, whispered, “I hate you.” This phrase has become the swan song for each of his arguments in their moment of death.

Queen Mother

Her helping me was really me helping her

When Mom “joked” about working for me, I called her bluff. “Don’t say it if you don’t mean it, because I could use some help,” I said. Instead of the “gotcha” laugh I expected, Mom’s face lit up.

Inner Fire Dragon

“Thirty-five to 40 is really the golden age for women.”

When I asked Dad what he thought happens to women after 40, he laughed and said, “They turn,” a term that, moments before, he’d joked was akin to milk spoiling.

A neighborhood eatery in which the neighborhood had a say

Cucina Sorella comes to Kensington

Cucina Sorella (which means “sister” in Italian) offers the same warm and welcoming atmosphere we’ve come to expect from the other cucinas of the Urban Kitchen Group (Cucina Urbana, Cucina Enoteca), all overseen by owner ...

Shut up already

Thoughts and pulse race in Trader Joe’s parking lot

“See how this part is orange? That’s supposed to be red. I’m looking to find a guy who paints cars, with airbrushes, because I want to get these airbrushed back to the red that they were when I bought them.”

The happy intersection of cheap and good

Sushi Bar Kazumi, hiding in plain sight

The words “cheap” and “high quality” are rarely found in the same sentence when referring to sushi joints. The cost of quality ingredients and the many years of training it takes to get the nigiri ...

Et Voilà arrives in University Heights

And be sure to pronounce it correctly

Ever since we first saw the sign announcing a new French bistro named Et Voilà would soon be opening, David and I found ourselves forgoing the freeway to take the longer route down Adams Avenue ...

An aunting expedition to SeaWorld

"We’re not just going to look at the penguins. We’re going to meet a penguin."

My sister Jane was along to spend time with me and properly watch after her progeny, lest I drop one of them into the shark-petting pool or something.

Abstract works by NASA science illustrator on display in North Park Gallery

A New Stellar Order shows through June 18

There’s a an artistic universe squeezed into a little gallery space tucked between a residential home and a tattoo parlor on the eastern edge of North Park. The space is called Teros Gallery, the same ...

Trying Trust again

Does it fare better the second time?

[Note: Ian Pike gave Trust a try on March 31.] When I first saw the sign for Trust restaurant, I rolled my eyes a little. Was this yet another one of those hippie-dippy joints where ...

Pickled on a pickle

In the distance we could see our ride, a giant dirigible designed to look like a cucumber.

A path of rose petals led us to the waiting area. Fresh croissants and an assortment of pastries and colorful cookies, along with porcelain teapots, cucumbers, and red roses were spread out on tiny wooden ...

A taco for every mood

From casual to fancy, from familiar to foreign.

Sometimes I crave the comfort of familiarity, and other times I’m eager to embark on an adventure with exciting flavor combinations. On busy days, I search for food that is fast and inexpensive, but now ...

Resurrect the bird

The Crack Shack is all things chicken and egg

For decades, chicken has gotten a bad rap. Looked down upon by sophisticated palates, this lean and mild meat is routinely dismissed as the vodka of proteins. Growing up, all of the chicken that I ...

We shared this bond

The mourning is never going to go away completely.

As Mother’s Day approaches, most of us are faced with the usual Hallmark-holiday–related concerns — which flowers go best with this year’s card and how soon in advance do we need to make brunch reservations? ...

The Brain Trust book club

I like raccoons

I felt my face flush with heat when across the table I heard these names pronounced correctly, with perfect French accents: “Al-bare Kam-oo” and “Mare-so.”

Umbrellas and a Vieux from Above

Another take on Madison

I’m always on the hunt for a spot to enjoy cocktails and shareables with friends. A handful of restaurants have opened within the past year that hit the bull’s-eye, and one of them is Madison. ...

Perfect “sapid” pizza

A new go-to at Pizzeria Bruno

Pizzeria Bruno is among my top three go-to places for pizza in San Diego (the others being Isola Pizza Bar in Little Italy and Buona Forchetta in South Park). I think I’m just a sucker ...

Two Harbors to ... you know

The side of the island where the only store closes at 6 pm.

At first, David was dejected, and I wasn’t much help. “If we were going to go for fun, I probably would have opted to stay on the fun side of the island,” I said.

Spanish cravings

Tapas at Costa Brava in Pacific Beach

Despite the surfeit of marvelous Mexican cuisine, San Diego suffers a dearth of attractive Spanish food options. There was Iberico Spanish Bistro in La Jolla, which was good, but outrageously priced, and is now closed. ...

Dinner party two-step

The old implications of “not owning a TV” are as obsolete as VHS tapes

The guy with the beard further demonstrated his grace: “So, tell us about you,” he said to the girl, politely indicating it would be nice if she talked about what she did, rather than what she did not.

Palomar picnic

There’re no electrical outlets in the woods

While driving, there is absolutely no expectation in any corner of my mind that I should or could be doing anything else but enjoying the ride. And there are no electrical outlets in the woods.

You should keep driving

Chinese-takeout fail at Mr. Spicy’s

There’s a downside to trying to appeal to the masses, and Mr. Spicy is a good example. It’s quick, easy, cheap, and the customer service and space are pleasant enough, but the food has the ...

Where's that horse going to be dumped?

You don’t discard Grandma and Grandpa, so...

Gunilla Pratt has become accustomed to waking up at her house in Temecula only to discover yet another abandoned animal in her yard. “People will just leave them,” she says. “I’ll get up and be, ...

Judgerella

"My business card is a book."

Judgment gets a bad rap. This is understandable, seeing as the term sounds so much like the closely related “judgmental,” which is used to describe someone who is overly critical, even disapproving.

Mr. Cheese

Disgusted with Richard Cheese’s audience

David decided to dress in the lounge spirit, in an ensemble I referred to as “the afterparty” look: a tuxedo with the bowtie untied and hanging from his neck.

From “meh” to “yay”

Troy’s Greek is better the second time around

The first time David and I had lunch at Troy’s Greek Restaurant, we didn’t love it. We didn’t hate it either. The lunch specials were reasonable. I got a plentiful plate of chicken souvlaki (chicken ...

Pocket butler

Laptop charger fouls the bed — what to do?

Katie works full-time at an office job and prefers to spend her weekends hiking, building motorcycles, or simply chilling at home, sans pants.

The “duck” was “disappointing”

Go with the tofu at Purple Mint

I’m a meat-eater, but I don’t eat meat all the time and I love Thai food. So when I learned of Purple Mint Vegetarian Bistro, I was ready to check it out. David and I ...

Art spaces that cultivate communities

In my home, art is personal. Each piece is a quiet reminder for me to smile to myself or contemplate the world. Sometimes both. Outside of my home, art is community. We gather around it ...

Crab for the kids

Joe’s, home of the giant bucket

My 11-year-old nephew Brian is the only adventurous eater among my six niephlings. For months he’s been eager to try crab — real crab, straight from the shell. My brother-in-law developed an allergy to shellfish ...

Food porn at Broken Yolk

The image leads the way at this café

Picture menus get a bad rap, but more and more I’m finding them invaluable. For example, had there not been a giant, colorful, foodporn-y image of the Border Benedict on the glossy menu at the ...

SYM-phony No. 3

Try to say “symphony” with a straight face

The lights dimmed, and the orchestra began to play. The music was much softer than I remembered from my past experiences. If it were a stereo, I would have turned it up.

Spider lady

Caring for the creepy-crawlies that populate our nightmares

She probably likes snakes too.

Stick with the sushi

Chicken-free is the way to be at Jump Tokyo

One thing the Kensington area is missing is a great sushi restaurant. As lovers of Japanese food, David and I are always on the lookout for a go-to sushi joint. Alas, we’ve yet to find ...

Cocktail caviar

Bust out the eyedropper and stir up some cocktails

“I’m going to put the tonic, Aperol, and sodium alginate in that container, and then you need to emotion-blend it while I’m over here mixing the calcium lactate and water in this container.”

The fabled rolls of Kawaii Sushi

But, oh, that so-fried fish

In Japan, the concept of kawaii, or “cuteness,” is pervasive. Even traditionally “uncute” entities such as the military or the fire department have a cute mascot, such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s Pipo-kun, a ...

That’s not a Thai salad

You get what you get at Poseidon

We inlanders (who are at least a 15-minute drive to the coastline) can get caught up in our day to day and forget the sparkling majesty that lies just beyond the concrete horizon. Every once ...

Certain pleasures are best enjoyed infrequently

Los Panchos has their ratios down

Every San Diegan knows the value of a kick-ass breakfast burrito and the wretchedness of a disappointing one. I only have one or two breakfast burritos a year, so it’s imperative I know where to ...

Public mastication

Stop moralizing everyone's food choices

At some point, we became accustomed to framing our discussion around food choices in moral terms. It’s stupid, and we need to stop.

The ultimate hangover cure

Beef pho, 24 ways

I don’t often suffer from hangovers — as a pro, I know how to pace myself. But every once in a while a night gets away from me, and I imbibe more booze than water, ...

All about that shawarma

Lunch (and leftovers) at Aladdin's

I’m not sure why I never made it into Aladdin before now. I walk by it at least once a week on my way to Trader Joe’s in Hillcrest, so it’s not like I didn’t ...

This bot sucks

At home with Buster, Alexa, and Siri

“If you think you’re done, Buster, think again,” he said to the machine as if it could understand him. “I’m just going to keep running you until that floor is clean.”

A room with a clue

The gang gets locked up

“I have a confession to make. The four of us tried the escape room downtown.” I didn’t understand why it was a big deal until she finished her confession: “We didn’t make it out.”

It’s like being in France

La Bonne Table brings Provence (and great cheese) to Hillcrest

When I think of France, I think of food: real food, fresh food, quality food. Freshly baked baguettes, perfectly ripened cheeses, savory charcuterie, and of course the Mother sauces: béchamel, espagnole, hollandaise, and allemande. Even ...

What the heck is “linner”?

You can do it at Stella Public House

“Linner” (a relaxed, late-afternoon feast that covers both lunch and dinner) is one of my favorite meals. Since David and I both work from home, our days have little structure. Sometimes we’ll wake early and ...

Maine lobster in North Park

Pete’s Seafood and Sandwich brings the crustacean

My Boston-bred man loves a good New England style lobster roll. So much so that during our biannual visit to Martha’s Vineyard for the past few years we’ve combed the island to find what David ...

Four sisters + four husbands

Cacophonous din at the Barrel Room

Because I have two sisters who live in North County (one in Poway, the other in San Marcos), David and I occasionally trek north for dinner. The Barrel Room in Rancho Bernardo has proven itself ...

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