A few months ago, during a particularly challenging time in my life, my Mom & I took a walk on the beach in Cardiff after having lunch at a restaurant nearby. With my bare feet in the sand & sad eyes gazing at the ocean, I tearfully looked at my Mom & said, “I need to channel Tristan.”
San Diego based singer/songwriter Tristan Prettyman is one of my absolute favorite musicians. Over the years I’ve been to countless shows at the Belly Up, sung along with her laid-back Cali style music, & have simply admired her beachy bohemian spirit. Cedar & Gold, Tristan’s comeback album after the end of her engagement to musician Jason Mraz, has gently carried me through many dark nights of heartache. She has a penchant for writing songs that are totally relatable, whether giddy in love, or healing a broken heart. “Take all the words you’ve spoken, all the promises you’ve broken, & throw them all into the ocean, & let it be,” she sings in the heartfelt ballad “I Was Gonna Marry You.” Those lyrics, so reflective of my situation then that I felt I could’ve written them myself, were the lyrics I spoke as we walked along the beach that day. Not more than 20 minutes later, there she was ~ a pregnant Tristan, her darling husband Bill, & their adorable Frenchie “Bacon,” walking towards us. We both follow her (& her dog) on Instagram, & have joyfully watched the many ways in which her life has blossomed over the past few years. “Mom, Mom, Mom…” I whispered, “It’s Tristan & Bill!” “Who?” she questioned. “Tristan & Bill!” I whispered again, a bit louder & through gritted teeth, “What?” she questioned, “TRISTAN PRETTYMAN!!!” I gasped, nearly blowing our cover. “Oh! OH!” And just like that, with no holds barred, Mom veered up the beach, “Excuse me, sorry to bother you, but we are such big fans, we had to say hello…” I was half mortified, half grateful for my Mom’s cojones in that moment. She just went for it. That wasn’t the first time I’d seen Tristan & Bill out in the world. A year prior they sat a few seats down from me at Station Tavern in South Park. Too shy to say hello, I Instagram commented instead a few hours later. “You should’ve said hello!” she replied, & I should’ve, as I learned that day on the beach, she is the kindest, loveliest soul. She & her husband were so gracious & not at all bothered by two silly starstruck fans interrupting their afternoon family stroll. We spoke for a few minutes & then let them be on their way. Later that night, I commented on her Instagram how wonderful it was to meet her & she replied, “Hey, Vegenista, I totally know your handle!” Holy smokes! I was amazed, delighted, & honored that she was familiar with my blog.
Fast forward a few months later, my heart is on the mend, & I now channel her more upbeat songs. We’ve become “Insta-Friends” & I’m tickled every time she “likes” or comments on a photo. One fateful evening, a direct message popped up on my account. To my surprise, it’s Tristan, personally inviting me to the launch party for the new plant-based menu she is collaborating on with Puesto. I felt like one of the luckiest girls in the world. Of course, Mom was jealous, but lucky for Mom, I was able to bring a guest! So on July 22nd, me & Mom, along with a handful of fans who had entered an Instagram contest for a spot at the dinner, dined alongside Tristan in Puesto’s intimate & sunny open-air loft.
Before I get to all the scrumptious foodie details about the event, allow me to introduce you to Puesto! This award winning San Diego based restaurant is known for their outstanding tacos & Mexican street food, with an emphasis on fresh, sustainably grown, all natural & organic ingredients whenever possible. Puesto’s salsas are made in-house, as well as their tortillas which are made with fresh Non-GMO, gluten-free maiz. They do their best to partner with local farms to source the freshest veggies & greens. On the menu you’ll find beautiful market salads, antojitos (Mexican tapas), ceviches, moles, tostadas & other authentic Mexican favorites dreamed up by Chef Luisteen. Puesto serves up a refreshing craft bar program & mixes up scratch Margaritas, Palomas, & seasonal Aguas Frescas. Currently, there are two locations ~ La Jolla & downtown at The Headquarters (where the event was held). While most of their menu items are meat or seafood based, they’ve always had a couple of vegetarian options to choose from, but as of August 5th there will be an exclusive 100% vegan taco on the menu! But wait, there is talk of adding a few more dishes from our party to the everyday menu. Woohoo!
The Headquarter’s location combines their traditional taco line with a a full-service bar & stunning dining room designed by world renowned Thomas Schoos & features floor to ceiling mural art by San Diego native Chor Boogie.
So how did this event even come to be? Story has it that a fan reached out to Tristan on social media & asked about where to have tacos in San Diego. She’s the perfect person to ask, she is THE ultimate taco enthusiast. I mean, she even has a taco shaped phone case…for reals tho, looksie! She tagged & recommended Puesto. Honored by her recommendation, Puesto invited her in & they got to talking about, well tacos, of course, & decided to collaborate on new plant-based menu options & throw an awesome party to celebrate. And awesome it was, so let’s get to it!
First things first…the cocktail…
I’d had a long day at work, traffic was a nightmare & trying to park in downtown San Diego on a bustling evening is enough to drive anyone to drink, so I was pleased as spiked punch when the kind server handed me a fresh margarita. We had two to choose from ~ The popular “La Verdad” or the fruity “Strawberry Margarita.” I spent my evening sipping on, maybe a few too many, of the La Verdad. Made with a refreshing mix of agua fresca de nopales, tequila reposado, & lemon, it went down just a bit too easy!
Our meal took a delicious & colorful start with the “Guacamole Nogada” featuring avocado, pomegranate, tomato, mango verde, chile de arbol, candied walnuts, cilantro, onion, fresh squeezed lime & orange, & chile habanero.
Yummmm! Who doesn’t love guacamole, right? And guacamole doctored up with a melange of unique ingredients is where it’s at. Pomegranate seeds & candied walnuts in guac? You bet your life! Totally next level in the flavor department. Lucky for all of us, this item is part of Puesto’s everyday menu, so order up & enjoy!
Next up, the “Queso Dip.” ¡Hola Amante! This delightful concoction of almond chile crema & jalapeño pico practically stole the show for the evening.
We literally almost slapped the hand of the server when he tried to take this away! It was perfect served with chips for dipping, but would also be delicious on tacos as a sour cream substitute. Sadly, this is not a regular menu item, however, it’s being considered & I have highly advised my inside Puesto connection that they should put in on the menu – STAT! Local vegan friends, I need you to back me up here! Let Puesto know that you’d like to see it on the menu & if they test it out, we must go in frequently & order it!
The third course was a delicious, fresh, & colorful vegan twist on “Aguachile.”
As a lifelong vegetarian, I’ve never tried a traditional Aguachile so I didn’t know what to expect when I read the description on the menu. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it is basically Mexican ceviche. The most classic version is made with fresh raw shrimp, cucumber, red onion, lime juice, & chiles that have been pulverized with some water—hence the name. It’s usually served with avocado & tostadas, & is a popular snack with beer & tequila. This vegan version, “Root Vegetable Aguachile,” consisted of raw root veggies, avocado, cucumber, & a serrano citrus aguachile. The fresh & vibrant flavors totally matched up to the beautiful visual presentation of the dish. It was cool & refreshing but also had a very nice kick to it which I loved. This is not currently on the menu, but when asked by Puesto staff what my favorites were for the night that they should consider for the menu, I highly recommended this. It’s something that anyone would enjoy, vegan or otherwise. Love, love, love!
Gotta get your daily greens in so luckily the 4th course was a crisp green salad…
The “Mercado Salad” was a simple salad filled with local summer greens, farm stand veggies, grapefruit & pomegranate seeds & dressed with olive oil & citrus. The most unexpected discovery were the “Mexican Sour Gerkins” peaking out from under the lettuce ~ they have a cucumber taste with a hint of lemon. We called them “cute-cumbers.” So fun!
Now for the “main event,” & the reason we all gathered that evening, the “Coliflor Asada Taco.”
Absolute deliciousness ~ charred cauliflower trio, pickled carrot, chile almond crema, atop a hand-crafted maiz azul tortilla. Now, I never used to be a cauliflower lover. Ick, white trees that taste like musty gym socks, no thanks. But ever since my chef friend Katie put a plate of coconut oil roasted cauliflower smothered in her tahini “crack sauce” in front of me I’ve been a changed woman. I can’t get enough of the stuff! I’d never thought to put it in a taco, but it’s totally legit. Come to think of it though, roast any veggie, cover it with almond queso, wrap it in a tortilla & you’re gonna get a delicious vegan taco! You just can’t go wrong. Now, this, my dear friends, will definitely become a permanent fixture on the menu at both locations, & will be the first 100% vegan option beginning August 5th! To add to it’s appeal, part of the proceeds of this taco will benefit Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center, one of my favorite local organizations & where I taught my “seva” classes during my Deep Yoga Teacher Training. Tacos for a cause? I’m right there!
And last, but certainly not least, this extraordinary meal ended with dreamy, chocolatey goodness…
I am a firm believer that all good meals should end in chocolate! This “Mexican Chocolate & Coconut Tart,” topped with mezcal cherry compote, was delightful. Rich & creamy with the warmth of cinnamon & hint of coconut…need I say more? Also served with dessert was a fruity, chilled “Peach Horchata” that was absolutely perfect on that warm summer evening. Ooooh, the good news is, the horchata is on the menu! Perhaps the tart will make it too!
So, there you have it. As you can see, it was a pretty spectacular night! From the service to the food to the company shared, it was an awesome experience! Thank you so much to Lisa, Carmelle, Chef Luisteen & the entire Puesto staff for your incredible hospitality & this delicious plant-powered meal. And, of course, a very special thank you to my girl Tristan for inviting me, inspiring me, & being an all around amazing soul! Oh, ok, & thanks to Mom as well, for having the courage to say hello that day on the beach. You just never know who you might meet out there in the world & what wonderful things may come of it!
So…local friends…mark your calendars for vegan taco goodness at Puesto beginning August 5th! Get down there & show your support! The more we support & encourage restaurants that create vegan options, the more options there will be for us to enjoy.
Taco flavored kisses! xoxo