Cookies and Cream Frappe From Ryan Bros Coffee

San Diego Sugar | Cookies and Creme Frappe from Ryan Bros Coffee

Black coffee isn’t my thing. When it comes to my morning joe, I need a serious splash of milk, and ideally some sort of flavoring. Until I visited Ryan Bros Coffee in Barrio Logan, I thought I’d exhausted all of my options for flavored coffee (aka “baby coffee”), until I noticed the Cookies and Creme Frappe. For about the same price as my usual place ($5), I scored a huge cup of creamy goodness, made with two fresh-pulled shots of espresso, milk, ice cubes, and powdered oreo cookies, topped with real whipped cream.

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Cupcakes made with Beer at Pubcakes

San Diego Sugar | Collection of Cupcakes from Pubcakes

San Diego’s vibrant beer culture is so pervasive that it seems like a perfectly natural place for a bakery like Pubcakes — where you can get cupcakes made with beer. The combination may at first seem strange, but after sampling several different flavors, I can confidently say that not only does the combination of beer and cake work, it’s magical.

The five flavors we sampled were Irish Carbomb (a deep chocolate cupcake frosted with Guinness and chocolate whiskey ganache), Stone Portzilla (made with Stone Smoked Porter, a coffee ganache, and caramelized coconut), Top Ten Cake (with Karl Strauss IPA and sweet and spicy cherry frosting), Cup ‘O Hefen (with Ballast Point Wahoo Wheat and a citrusy icing), and one of the newest cupcake creations, a ManzaNeed It! (with Manzanita’s Gillespie Brown Ale, black pepper, and Nutella buttercream).

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Mocha Latte from Cafe Bassam

San Diego Sugar | Mocha Latte from Cafe Bassam

It’s pretty tough to really mess up a mocha. When you’ve got three ingredients (espresso, milk, and chocolate) — all of which are good on their own and even better together, generally you’re either going to create a great drink, or a really great one.

Cafe Bassam, an artsy cafe in Banker’s Hill, makes a great mocha. The cup of creamy steamed milk and espresso was covered in froth and bubbles, and topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a surprise — a drizzle of buttery caramel syrup.

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Acai Bowl from Rubicon Deli

San Diego Sugar - Acai Bowl from Rubicon Deli

There’s something magical about acai bowls. Maybe it’s the antioxidants, maybe it’s the fresh fruit and berries on top, or maybe it’s just because they’re sweet, but every time I eat one, it makes me feel like I have a tummy full of sunshine.

Rubicon Deli makes one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever tasted (and I do mean ever) and their acai bowl ($6.25) is also no slouch. Made with a big scoop of frozen acai and topped with fresh, seasonal fruit, granola, and honey, it’s a great way to cool off your mouth after polishing off a sandwich on their homemade spicy jalapeno jack bread.

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Chocolate Croissant from Darshan’s Bakery and Cafe

San Diego Sugar - Chocolate Croissant from Darshan's Bakery in Encinitas

Croissants are an exercise in simplicity. Comprised of only a handful of ingredients, the difference between a good croissant and an average one comes down to the quality of the ingredients and the preparation. There is an expansive world of difference between the crescent-shaped bread puffs masquerading as croissants in grocery stores and a truly excellent, authentic French croissant — and the chocolate croissant at Darshan’s ($2.95) is most definitely the latter.

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Hidden Treasure: Peanut Butter Mochi from Mitsuwa Marketplace

San Diego Sugar - Peanut Butter Mochi from Mitsuwa Marketplace

When it comes to mochis, you generally have two options: red bean mochis and ice cream mochis. To be honest, neither option would make my Top 10 Dessert List, but the peanut butter mochis at Mitsuwa Marketplace in Kearny Mesa are a whole other story.

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Horchata Latte from Joes on the Nose

San Diego Sugar - Closeup of Horchata Latte from Joes on the Nose

Sunday morning at the Hillcrest Farmers’ Market inevitably means a visit to Joes on the Nose — a roving coffee truck that is one of the many food and beverage vendors at the market. The orange truck offers a variety of beverages, several of which are heavy on sugar and caffeine (a good thing for anyone with a sweet tooth, especially in the early morning!)

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Key Lime Cheesecake in a Cup from Vonda Lee’s California Cheesecake

San Diego Sugar - Key Lime Cheesecake in a Cup from Vonda Lee’s California Cheesecake

Cheesecake is the ultimate “save it for a special occasion” dessert. It’s often too heavy, making it land like an anvil in my stomach. Knowing the caloric content of one tiny slice makes it easy to pass on this most-delicious dessert, and relegate it to a once in awhile indulgence. Except when it comes to Vonda Lee’s California Cheesecake — the treat with all the goodness of a 5-inch tall slice of NYC-style slice in a downright dainty single-serving cup.

Vonda’s uncooked cheesecakes are made without eggs and are much lighter than traditional cheesecakes, but just as satisfying. At the Hillcrest Farmers’ Market, several flavors were available, including Chocolate Fudge, Caramel, English Toffee, Cookies and Cream, plus fruit flavors like Strawberry, Blueberry, and Key Lime. After sampling the Chocolate Fudge and the Cookies and Cream (both excellent!), I settled on the most refreshing flavor of all: Key Lime.

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Ghirardelli’s Massive Chocolate Chip Cookie

San Diego Sugar - Huge chocolate chip cookie from Ghiardelli

I’ve been on a cookie kick lately — both at home (experimenting with new recipes) and by testing store-bought cookies. After raving about the 33 cent cookies from Albertsons, I thought it was only right to sample a gourmet cookie on the opposite side of the spectrum — in this case, a massive chocolate chip cookie from Ghirardelli.

$4 is a lot to spend on one cookie, but since we’d just run out of cookie dough at home, it seemed reasonable to splurge a cookie big enough for two people to split.

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Cheap Thrills: Cookies from Albertsons

San Diego Sugar - Three cookies from Albertsons

I have no problem admitting that I love a good cookie as much as I love a good deal, and that’s why one of my favorite cheap thrills (ie: treat under $2) is Albertsons cookies. Part of me feels like I should be keeping this my secret, because I’ve already found that by noon, the best flavor (double chocolate chip) is often sold out. But ultimately, these cookies are too delicious to keep to myself. Especially because you can get three of them for under $1.

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San Diego Sugar is a site devoted to discovering the best sweet eats that San Diego has to offer. We take photos of sweet things, eat them, and write about them. Learn more →