Shaken, stirred, or any way you like it…looks like this year’s CSF event will give us license to dance, drink, and dazzle! Sneaking into the Hotel Del on Saturday, October 14th, “Diamonds are Forever, a 007 Affair” will offer a view of the annual event like we’ve never seen it before—secret agent-style.
We caught up with Kelley Kiel Geiss, the Development Coordinator for the Coronado Schools Foundation (CSF) to find out more. Here’s what she had to say.
“Everything in the ballroom will be James Bond-esque,” said Kelley. “You’ll see shadow dancers, and we will serve specialty martinis served from a 007-themed ice bar, complete with an ice luge!”
Sold! I’m pulling on my Vesper Lynd dress right now….speaking of, what is the attire for this event?
“The dress code is ‘007-legend/black tie optional’” said Kelley, “from any era. I see ladies in slinky, sexy dresses and tuxedos for the gents.”
All secret agents will savor a lavish, chef-prepared meal in the ballroom, and will have a chance to roll the dice in a luxurious Casino Royale-style gaming room. Then stay tuned for an exciting live auction featuring Bond-worthy trips to London, Greece and Acapulco. Also up for grabs? A Hotel Del-hosted “Best of the Holidays” package and a one-year membership at the Del.
And what proper party would be complete without a live band and dancing? A live 7-piece band “Diamond Groove” will be performing some sweet music, worthy of the most discerning and skilled dancers in the ballroom.
“We’re also doing a new game this year called ‘Secret Agent Cocktail,’” said Kelley. “Each participant pays $100 and receives an etched martini glass, with a raffle ticket to win a prize, and bottomless specialty cocktails from the Ice Luge Bar.”
The best part? All proceeds benefit Coronado public schools.
It’s not every day that a new restaurant opens in Coronado. When we heard that a new Mexican restaurant was popping up in the old Gustatory space on the 100 block of Orange, we had to check it out!
The name: Fonda Don Diego. The spin: A menu brimming with south-of-the-border delights, featuring savory dishes created by Chef Alejandro Martinez from Chez Loma. The drink selection: Tasty, inventive craft cocktails, and solid beer and wine selections. The space: vibrant and warm, Tijuana street art-style, walls adorned with colorful murals. The prices: super reasonable.
Hmm…sounds enticing, doesn’t it? But would Fonda Don Diego really deliver? Or would it go the way of tenant ghosts Gustatory and Sapori? There was only one way to find out.
My first visit was last week. I came in around noon on a Friday, and the restaurant was already buzzing with chatty, happy locals, eager to talk about their meals. I was excited to see a few people that I knew.
“The chilaquiles are to die for!” said a friend, dining outside.
“I love the cochinita taco,” said someone else, eating indoors with her family.
“I ordered the egg dish with plantains…delicious!”
“The tacos are good…not revolutionary, but good…Yeah, I like them.”
Wow! A lot of warm feedback on the menu, I thought. I can’t wait to order!
But first, I had to check out the space.
The décor of Fonda Don Diego is warm, vibrant, and thoughtful with an urban, contemporary edge. Parts of the restaurant reminded me of Rosarito or Puerto Nuevo…inviting and cozy.
Fantastic, colorful murals adorn the walls. Turns out they are from award-winning Tijuana Street artist Alonso Delgadillo, who goes by the name El Norteno, or “Norte” for short. (He is even cool enough to have been a featured artist at Kaaboo 2017.)
You can’t miss the murals, and you shouldn’t. Here’s what El Norteno has to say about his art:
“Border life is a daily emotional stimulus that drives me to tell stories…Tijuana is aggressive and hospital at the same time; I like being in a city that forces me to reinvent myself again and again.”
I like it.
Okay, okay, enough with the art, and on to the most pressing issue of the hour…cocktails!
Fonda Don Diego advertises $5 mimosas, $5 draft beer and an impressive espresso bar. Don’t be swayed. The cocktail menu is where it’s at! If your server doesn’t offer a cocktail menu (which they didn’t both times we came in) be sure to ask for one.
Resident bartender/mixologist Ramon conjured up the cocktail selection and it is creative and impressive! On my first visit, I ordered the Kombucha Royale, touting “vibrant kombucha, sparkling wine and black walnut bitters.” Kombucha and wine? Yes, please! The kombucha would surely cancel out the negative health effects of the wine!
It’s as tasty as it looks. Refreshing, zingy, and delicious. (A waitress told me that Ramon got really good at making kombucha when he “went away” for a while.) The best part? It’s a reasonable $6.50.
When I brought my husband in a few days later, we couldn’t resist sampling a few more of the cocktail selections. (Only to be fair, and to give readers a good idea of the offerings. Not because we love to drink cocktails.)
For me, Ramon recommended the Guanavana Queen, which has soursop puree, fresh lime juice, Korean vodka, and agave syrup. It came with a sweet and spicy rimmed glass.
What is soursop, you say? So glad you asked. According to Ramon, soursop is a prickly alligator-like fruit that comes from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. It’s supposed to be super healthy, and according to the Internet, it can even fight cancer! (Once again, the benefits of the soursop trump the negative effects of the Korean vodka.)
This drink was the bomb, and it rivaled even the Kombucha Royale. (Between the Kombucha and soursop, this place could save my life!)
I also sampled the 3 layer Sangria which was a delicious with a hint of cinnamon. A perfect fall drink! I could see myself lounging in a flannel shirt and jeans, lazily sipping on my 3 layer Sangria, giggling at a funny comment a friend has made. (Because my friends are smart and witty.) It would be J. Crew kind-of-moment.
My husband ordered a mule, which was light and refreshing, and a Jalepano Margarita which was tasty and not too spicy, but I liked my drinks better. What can I say? I make great choices.
When it comes to the menu, the selections seemed vast! I was there for breakfast/lunch both times (they weren’t open yet for dinner), so I guess it was sort of a brunch menu. Omelets and tacos and enchiladas oh my!
For the fit and fabulous crowd, they also offer “Jars” of parfait-like combos, including Acai with berries, granola and almond milk and chia with dates and maple syrup.
I wasn’t feeling fit or fabulous. I was feeling downright hangry, so I asked for something filling and spicy.
The waitress recommended the Divorciados which I’ve heard is a popular dish in Mexico. It is a tortilla with refried beans, 3 fried eggs, ranchero sauce, and tomatillo sauce. (That’s red AND green sauce, bam!) I asked for a side of extra salsa because I am used to my food not being spicy enough for me.
It was awesome. Just spicy enough, tasty, and perfect. I ate it all and would definitely order it again. I’m actually craving it right now. I didn’t even need my extra side of salsa!
When I came with my husband, he ordered the enchiladas with chicken with swiss cheese. So good! It came with creamy tomatillo sauce, cheese and corn. My husband was really nice and let me eat a lot of this.
On this visit I ordered a quesadilla which sounds boring but was actually totally different because it comes out fried–hot-pocket style. (This is a good thing.) I got the chorizo with potato. It was crispy and yummy…the meat was perfectly spiced. I ordered an extra side of salsa which I did use this time, otherwise it may have been too dry for me. It was really good, but I found myself wishing it was bursting with more cheese.
Oh yeah…did I mention my quesadilla (which was enough for a meal for me) was like, $4?
Which brings me to an important point…the prices are very reasonable here! My husband and I ordered two dishes and four cocktails, and the bill was $47. Don’t believe me? Here’s the bill.
Ramon told me that they were opening for dinner (and happy hour) as of this week, with a completely different menu featuring ribs, carnitas, ceviche and seafood. You can bet we will be back. Stay tuned for the happy hour review! In the meantime, Beinvenido, Fonda Don Diego!
See below for pics of the brunch/lunch menu and cocktail menu. And for more details and descriptions of food offerings at Fonda Don Diego, please see the review from the lovely Coree Cornelius at eCoronado.com.
What does “Nuh Behavior” have in common with “Dutty Wine” and “Willie Bounce?” If you said they are all Caribbean Dance Hall moves, you would be right! And I can promise you, they are just as awesome as they sound.
If you dabble in dance and you love hip hop, but want to mix in something a little raw and earthy, check out the newest dance class in town. It’s “Adult Hip-Hop Fusion” and it’s at Coronado Academy of Dance. Dance pro Trevor Van Orden teaches the class Thursdays at 7:15pm and Mondays and at 10:15am.
This isn’t a Zumba class. (Although I do love me some Zumba.) And it’s not Hip Hop Cardio (which I also like.)
“I teach it like a real dance class,” says Trevor, who also dances professionally in addition to teaching classes. “We warm up and stretch, and we work out parts of the body that every dancer needs.”
That means a high-cardio warm-up “so you can make it through a routine without being out of breath,” says Trevor, some abs, some arms, and some serious stretching. Then you move to the side of the dance floor for some “across the floor.”
That’s where the traditional approach ends.
“I call it Hip Hop Fusion because we are mixing in modern, jazz, and Afro-Caribbean dance moves,” he says. “You’ll learn dance combinations and new styles, all while keeping fit.”
Last week we danced to some super-fun Caribbean music and a modern African hip-hop track. “These are moves you would do at a carnival,” says Trevor. “Possibly drunk!”
This, I can do!
But make no mistake…it’s not silly stuff. You’ll be expanding your dance I.Q. while you break a sweat.
“It’s not just a workout,” says Trevor. “You are learning the art form at the same time. You are learning who inspired each dance move, and where each move came from.”
I found myself totally digging the dance hall moves (see some examples above.) Not just because they have funny names like “Tek weh Yuself” and “NoLinga” but because they are seriously rad to do! The dancing feels entirely different from jazz or even hip hop classes I have taken before. And how can you NOT smile when you do the “Wacky Dip?” Exactly.
“You’ll see lots of this style in the Justin Bieber video ‘Sorry,’” says Trevor.
Finally, at the end of class, we went to the center of the floor and learned a hip-hop combo. Just challenging enough that I didn’t quite get it, but accessible enough that I didn’t leave in shame, crying uncontrollably. (But it did make me want to go home and practice.)
Trevor (who is 26) says he is mainly self taught—he taught himself to dance at home watching YouTube. But his interest in dance started in an unlikely place…at New York Bar Mitzvahs.
“I grew up in New York and I’m Jewish, so yeah, I went to A LOT of Bar Mitzvahs. And I just started dancing!” he said. “I remember I had a hurt leg one year, but I just HAD to go out there and dance to the Cotton Eye Joe.”
While his mom made him take Marital Arts classes, Trevor would watch videos on YouTube, studying the different choreographies. Eventually he found his way into the dance studio, and into a dance company that brought him to San Diego.
Trevor continues to dance and perform alongside his teaching gig, which he hopes his students find inspirational. (He teaches Jazz and Hip Hop to kids at Coronado Academy of Dance, in addition to the new adult class. My daughter Marley currently takes his intermediate Hip Hop class and loves it.)
“I’m a dance teacher who is still dancing and performing,” he says. “I tell my students when I go out on auditions, and I tell them if I got the part. If you apply yourself, this is what you can do!”
So why an adult class, why now? And at a studio that is really known for teaching kids?
“Well, I was teaching a class, and all the kids are down here dancing, having all the fun,” says Trevor. “And I’m thinking, wait! It’s time for the adults to have fun too! And I got my class.”
And if you are worried about trying a class because you think you might suck, don’t worry.
“I haven’t taken a dance class in 20 years,” said one dancer at the class Thursday night.
But by the end of the hour we were all throwing down the “Willie Bounce” like pros.
“And another thing is, I don’t just leave you out there,” said Trevor. “I’m dancing with you the entire time, sweating with the class. And it’s good because I make mistakes too. You don’t have to be perfect all the time to be a good dancer.”
So here’s the real question. Living in Coronado, we are used to seeing some amazing dance teachers come and go.
“Are you going to stick around in Coronado and teach?” I asked.
“Yes,” answered Trevor without hesitation. “People ask me, are you going to dance and teach for the rest of your life? The answer is yes! And I plan on staying here in Coronado.”
We’ll do a wacky dip for that.
For pricing and schedule, check out http://coronadodance.com. First class is free. And we are checking with the studio owner, Dawn, on a pay-by-the-class option! And please note that Trevor will be gone Thursday September 21 for the 7:15 pm class.