Oct. 16 2012 04:57 PM

The perfect day: The Big Kitchen, Underwater Park, The Fish Market, Taylor Guitars, Cantina Mayahuel, Cal Coast Bicycles, Amarin Thai, Voz Alta, The Propagandist and the fishing cats

The Fish Market
Photo by Kelly Davis

When I was growing up, my mom had a quirky little needlepoint sign in the kitchen that read, “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” It wasn’t meant to be taken literally—this, after all, was a woman who used only whole-wheat flour for baking and wouldn’t buy breakfast cereal if sugar was one of the first three ingredients. No, it was simply a quaint carpe diem reminder, and when my mom passed away in 1996, we put the little sign on display at her service.

If my days were numbered, what would I do? I guess I’d, indeed, eat dessert first.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been to The Big Kitchen in South Park (3003 Grape St.), and that’s solely because if I go, I’m compelled to order the coffee cake. With its thick, crumbly topping and moist cake with a layer of cinnamon and sugar baked into the middle, it’s the best damn coffee cake on the planet but probably exceeds my breakfast calorie limit by a factor of three. Unlike previous visits, I won’t remove the big dollop of butter and instead let it melt over the top.

Next up, an outdoor activity. It’s been years since I’ve been snorkeling, which is a shame because it’s such a beautiful, foreign experience that reminds you there’s a whole other world besides the one you know. I’ve always wanted to try snorkeling in the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park, which stretches from La Jolla Cove up to Scripps Pier and includes a marine-life refuge and ecological reserve where you can see bright-orange Garibaldi, rockfish and maybe a (harmless) Leopard shark. Since it’s fall, the water will be a bit less crowded (and colder) than in the summertime. But I’ll skip the wetsuit; hell, maybe I’ll skip the bathing suit, too.

Nothing soothes an impending sense of doom like waterfront dining. At lunchtime, I’ll head to The Fish Market (750 N. Harbor Drive, Downtown) for a Fish Market Bloody Mary enjoyed on the outside patio (one of San Diego’s best-kept secrets), with views of the bay, Coronado, Point Loma and the Midway. Made with Absolut Peppar vodka and a house-made Bloody Mary mix and garnished with a chilled prawn, olives, celery and pickled green beans, the drink’s practically a meal in itself. To accompany it, I’ll order the sushi sampler with Japanese hamachi, ahi and two pieces each of the straightforward-yet-tasty California and spicy tuna rolls.

After lunch, I’ll jump in my car and head east to El Cajon to pick up my custom-made guitar from the Taylor Guitars factory. I designed it online using their SolidBody Configurator—a nifty feature that allows you to select a body shape, color, pick-guard material, pick-ups and bridge style. Mine is the classic-body guitar with a single cutaway in sage green. To that I’ve added a tremolo, aged-white pearl pick-guard and two vintage Alnico humbucker pick-ups. It’s almost too pretty to play, but I’ll take it home, plug in for a while and jam with my husband on drums. Screw the neighbors.

Dinner’s tough. I’m all about non-fussy dining, and my two fave spots are Cantina Mayahuel and Amarin Thai. In a feat never before  accomplished, I’ll hit up both. First up, Cantina Mayahuel in Normal Heights (2934 Adams Ave.) for the grilled-chicken taco with its magical topping of salsa, crema and spicy aioli. With an order of chips and salsa, you get a small bowl of chopped-up Serrano chilies, allowing you to customize the salsa’s spice level. They also make great house margaritas.

To work up an appetite for my second dinner, I’ll bike to Amarin Thai in Hillcrest (3843 Richmond St.) on the Amsterdam Classic from Vista-based Electra Bikes. Fortunately, Cal Coast Bicycles (3020 Adams Ave.) is an authorized Electra dealer. At Amarin, I’d order my three go-to dishes: the yellow curry with chicken, basil eggplant and the Amarin Crater—jasmine rice stir-fried with egg, shrimp, pineapple, chicken, raisins and cashews and served in a hollowed-out pineapple.

Next, I’ll hit up Voz Alta Project. In 2007, the gallery was kicked out of its East Village location —conveniently located next to Landlord Jim’s—when San Diego City College demolished the block to build new classrooms. Fortunately, Voz Alta found a small, charming space in Barrio Logan, at 1754 National Ave., and, since then, has consistently featured dynamic shows of works by upcoming and established urban artists. Though it’s a modest space, there’s something about it that’s always familiar and welcoming. There’s often a live-band or DJ, and you can grab a can of Tecate (for a small donation) while you hang out.

After Voz Alta, I’ll head Downtown to The Propagandist (835 Fifth Ave.), the underground bar that serves the Mango en Fuego—fresh-pressed mango and lime juices, Tito’s vodka and muddled habanero peppers and basil. Sure, there are lots of great places in town to get a cocktail, but there’s something I love about this cocktail in particular, with its balance of sweetness and bite.

Since the world’s ending and I don’t have to worry about the consequences of my actions, I’d wrap up my day by hopping the fence at the San Diego Zoo to visit my pals, the fishing cats. Yes. Fishing cats. Cats that fish. Webbed paws and fondness for water aside, they look like domestic spotted tabbies. They’re also coy little critters that tend to spend daytime hours sleeping out of public view. As anyone who’s been to the summer Nighttime Zoo knows, it’s prime for fishing-cat viewing.

On my bucket list: give the cats a good scratching under their chins.

Email kellyd@sdcitybeat.com or follow her on Twitter at @citybeatkelly.