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I don't know what it is about that little strip of Fifth Avenue by the trolley tracks that keeps me away -- perhaps it's the fact that whenever I'm visiting the area, I'm in a car and frustrated about the Downtown parking drama. Simply stated, it takes a lot to drag me downtown. Recently, I was given two good reasons to go to one place, located at the Palomar Hotel, which is right next door to the House of Blues on the impossible-to-find-parking strip. If I were a believer in supernatural shit, I'd say some force wanted me to be there that night, because I nabbed a spot on the street only half a block away.

I was there for an event and a meal. The event was Slow Food Urban San Diego's Holiday Mixer. There, I mingled with farmers, restauranteurs, and slow food advocates such as co-leader Candice Woo.

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The mixer was held on a welcoming patio by the pool. There were drink specials and pass-arounds. I avoided most of the food, because I wanted to stay hungry for dinner downstairs, at Saltbox. So I sipped a cocktail out and made the rounds, catching up with old friends and making new ones. One chef, Jenn, commented of the raspberry and cucumber cocktails, "I hate to say it, but as a foodie at a slow food mixer, your cocktails are so out of season."

Fortunately, the food was in line with what's going around at the farmers markets. For example, butternut squash ravioli with pomegranate and curried walnuts.

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Before David and I could get a table downstairs, we had to check out the restroom we'd been hearing so much about. It was a major gripe on online reviews, and even slow foodies at the mixer were trying to explain the difficulty and quirkiness of the mixed-sex bathroom. "The stalls are like light-cancelling vaults, and if you accidentally step on the one small, dim light in the floor, you'll be in complete darkness." David agreed that it was dark in his stall, but I had no trouble seeing what I needed to. And as I'm typing this, I realize just how gross it is to reference the restroom in a food blog, but you know what? I'm not taking it out. That bathroom is weird, and some people hate it, but I thought it was cool.

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Finally, seated in the quiet, dark dining room, I ordered a real cocktail in a real glass (they can only serve in plastic by the pool). I got the Old Fashioned, with Maker's Mark bourbon and Luxardo cherries. It was so good I got another one later in lieu of dessert.

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Because we wanted to try a few things and graze rather than gorge, we ordered three small plates to share. When David went for the bone marrow, I assumed I'd be having none of it -- I've got texture issues, and bone marrow seems slimy. I'd tried it a few times in the past, and each time I was not impressed. But David insisted I try this one, and I'm happy I did. I actually liked it. Kudos to Chef Simon Dolinky for helping me overcome my aversion. My world is that much bigger. The warm marrow was like salty, savory butter, spread on the lightly sweet grilled brown bread.

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I went a little outside of my usual comfort zone and ordered the bay scallop ceviche, which was served in a glass jar atop creamy blended avocado and beneath cucumber and jalapeno granita. It was refreshing, and I loved the textures and flavors at play with each spoonful.

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Finally, despite our server's attempts to steer us away from it because we'd said we didn't want anything too heavy, we ordered the "slow cooked brisket grilled cheese" rather than two additional items. The brisket and manchego with sauce piquant between slices of grilled bread was a comforting and satisfying way to end the evening. Well, that and my "dessert."

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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