It's the end of the world and perhaps I have a regret or two in life. For one, I don't spend nearly enough time outdoors, despite the incredibly beautiful places in San Diego. I've also lived a pretty sensible life without a lot of risk or frivolity. If oblivion is the next stop, then to hell with sense. The perfect last day has to involve some great views, some ridiculousness and plenty of good food.
It starts with a pork fiesta at Carnitas Snack Shack (2632 University Ave.). Chef Hanis Cavin's North Park outpost features a pork-stravaganza, plus a few excellent pork-less dishes. The restaurant used to be a simple walk-up establishment with a patio, but Cavin and crew transformed the patio into a gorgeous wood-paneled dining area. The Triple Threat pork sandwich is a stack of bacon, pulled pork and schnitzel. Piled between fresh-baked buns, it's worthy of a place on the roster of last-day meals. Breakfast ends on a sweet-salty note with a bacon-brittle and vanilla ice-cream sandwich, made by local pastry chef Rachel Caygill.
Fueled by pork, it'll be time for a hike up Cowles Mountain. Leaving a fit corpse isn't high on my priority list, but the views from the top are some of the best in the county. It's not a long hike from the Golfcrest Drive trail-head, but the uphill climb will get the blood flowing and the view at the top is 360 degrees. If there's only one day to take in all of San Diego, the top of Cowles Mountain is a good place to start.
Putting sensibility aside means making a few crazy purchases and I love spending money on cooking gear. It's my shopping addiction, and the place to indulge it is Great News Cookware and Cooking School in Pacific Beach (1788 Garnet Ave.). Aisle after aisle of gleaming pans and colorful dishes wait to fill my overstocked kitchen, and I've always had to hold back whenever I've gone. This time, no more concerns about whether or not the kitchen has space. I may as well die with a full set of copper cookware and a uni-tasker like a giant paella pan. Too big to be used as a regular frying pan and too shallow for most other uses, the pan will come in handy later, so I'll stash it in the car and head north.
Following the theme of fabulous vistas, the Torrey Pines Gliderport (2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive) is a fabulous place to watch the sunset. For those averse to running off a cliff, it's a good place for watching other people do so. Tandem paragliding is available and there's never been a better time to strap myself to another person and take a running leap into a stunning view of the Pacific. If anything goes wrong, the world was going to end anyway, so why not?
Afterward, it would be time to head east to the centerpiece of a perfect day in San Diego. San Diego Safari Park (15500 San Pasqual Valley Road) is my favorite place in the county. Nestled in a remote area east of Escondido, Safari Park houses some of the world's most interesting animals. I wouldn't want to spend my last visit watching everything from the tram, so I'll hitch a ride on the Caravan Safari. The truck goes into the open fields of the park, allowing an up-close view of the animals.
Near the park are small ranches and farms selling everything from avocados to ostrich eggs. Supposedly, one ostrich egg is roughly the same amount as a dozen chicken eggs. I am, as Anthony Bourdain would say, an egg slut. I've already covered pork, so the next in my series of last meals would include egg. I've always wanted to try ostrich eggs, and today's a good day to tick off items on the must-try list. After picking up an egg, it'll be time for beer.
There's a plethora of breweries to drink away the end in style, but since I'll be in the area, there's the granddaddy of San Diego's microbreweries: Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens (1999 Citracado Parkway) in Escondido. I can't say I am a huge fan of the food at the brewery's restaurant, which has been inconsistent in my experience. On the other hand, the expansive gardens with scattered Adirondack chairs are amazing. One of my favorite places to drink beer is in those gardens, especially when Stone does their summer movie showings. Levitation Ale and Ruination IPA are two of my favorites on the extensive beer menu, but add a beautiful garden and the occasional showing of a RiffTrax'd movie and the beer tastes that much better.
After a beer and perhaps more morbid contemplation of the end, it's time to finish with a late night at the beach. I'd call up some friends and have everyone meet for a meal. As an undergrad at UCSD, one of my first initiations into San Diego was the ubiquitous bonfire. It's only fitting that I should ring in the end with one, and it can be anywhere, although my favorite site is the stretch of people-only beach next to the O.B.'s Dog Beach. On a perfect night, the tides are calm and the moonlight bounces over an enormous stretch of ocean.
That's when it'll be time to put the paella pan and ostrich egg to good use. We'll build a fire, make a gigantic frittata and serve it with growlers of beer. At the end, honoring the alcohol ban at the beach is the least of my worries. There are plenty of beautiful and fun places in San Diego to put on a bucket list. I'm sure I've barely scratched the surface, but as long as it ends with a view, beer and friends, I'm content. And a giant pan of eggs never hurts.