Croissant: “However you choose to pronounce it at home, it is perhaps worth noting that outside of the United States, the closer you can come to saying “kwass-ohn,” the sooner you can expect to be presented with one.” Bill Bryson

Very seldom do I do something ‘on a whim.’ Going out on a limb for any reason is uncomfortable. That’s why I’m still not clear when I decided to go all in to learn a second language. Realizing I already knew many termes de cuisine française, why not pursue French, I decided. If I could cook it, I could speak it. While logic never was in play here, my enthusiasm was the only encouragement I needed. After checking out schools and heeding by advice from friends, I enrolled in a month-long immersion program on the French Riviera at the Institut de Français in Villefranche-sur-Mer. I attended each spring for four years.

Worth the 40-minute drive to downtown San Diego for warm croissants, knots and sourdough bread. (Top Two Photos by Permission, Jen Chen, Izola Bakery)

Besides my months of study in France, at home I took classes, on-line courses and sometimes had tutors. Many Wednesday nights, determined to bingewatch my way to fluency, it was soirée cinéma chez moi. The thing is, dear Reader, I never mastered conversational French. Vocabulary and grammar, tense, mood and voices, I’m very good. Understanding others, always improving. Mixing it up with french speakers around a dinner table. Dommage.

Seedy Multi-grain Sourdough Bread
Classic Croissants from IZOLA packed and ready to drop off to Emma and her Point Loma roommates .

I’ve always been an eager learner, studied and done well. My failing didn’t feel good. I was embarrassed. Still I returned year after year. Realizing that even while struggling, I was absorbing something, I persevered. After four years, combining immersion with other studies, I confidently believed I knew enough to survive safely in France by myself. That was the payoff. It’s when I began spending several months in Paris each winter. More importantly, that’s when I became a self-declared authority on croissants

In my kitchen. Sharing this Seedy Multi-Grain Sourdough with Barney and Jami who shared their Christmas dinner with me
Avocado Toast, breakfast at another good San Diego bakery, Con Pane Rustic Breads & Cafe, located in Liberty Station


While you and I may never bake a batch, I came to San Diego and discovered a croissant that stands tall with the many I tasted in Paris and Europe. Already winning awards and named the 2022 best bakery in US/Canada by Yelp, IZOLA is just 21 months old. Specializing in six different kinds of croissants, five flavors of sourdough breads, amazing Tahitian Vanilla Knots and more, it opened its ‘window’ for business soon after the Covid shutdown.

The I-Bar at the Naval Base in Coronado. This is the bar used for the scene in Top Gun: Maverick when Tom Cruise bought everyone a beer.
Susan Phillips and I are hanging at the I-Bar. Not open. No Tom Cruise.
To help with our disappointment, Steve, Susan’s husband, picked us up and took us to lunch.

Here’s IZOLA’S story. Business and life partners Jenny Chen, a retail merchandiser, and Jeffrey Brown, a well-considered photographer, were caught in Paris just as I was when the borders began closing in March 2020. After returning safely to a lockdown in San Diego, Jeff says he decided to ‘start that bakery that had always lingered in my mind.’

The USS Midway is an historic naval aircraft carrier floating museum located at San Diego’s Navy Pier. She is HUGE, 1,001 feet long, the length of 3 football fields. The Midway is as high as a 20-story building. She was the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century and named in honor of the important Battle of Midway in June 1942,
I spent most of the day at Navy Pier on this naval aircraft carrier. One of the many planes and heliocopters on the flight deck was a F-14 Tomcat which was the US Navy’s mainstay air superiority fighter from 1974 until 2006.
Nearby on the plaza there’s a statue of Bob Hope with 15 life-sized bronze statues, Each figure represents a serviceman/woman from a different conflict watching Hope’s show. There was also audio. His jokes are as funny now as they were then.

Never mind that Jeff had never baked bread nor realized the complexity of making croissants. Re-purposing his third-floor photography studio located in East Village into a bakery, he and Jen went to work experimenting with croissants and breads that could meet their expectations. On June 10, 2020, piling 12 croissants carefully in a basket, she opened their third-floor window. Using ropes from their personal rock climbing cache she lowered the basket down to eager customers. For the next 8 months, in what became a community event, they sold baked goods out of their window.
“It takes 4 days to create handcrafted croissants,” he explains. “Our team layers butter from Normandy with our croissant dough to finish with 96 individual layers of butter that when proofed, then baked, expand to create a honeycomb texture that is an architectural marvel in and of itself.”

Whether Fish Taco Friday or Taco Tuesday, in San Diego seafood and tacos play in the same sandbox. This is a Classic at Brigantine Seafood & Oyster Bar, a popular hangout just a block from my condo.

I attended “EXPERIENCE HAWK WATCH,” sponsored by the Widlife Research Institute and located at the 5,000-acre Ramona Grasslands Nature Preserve about an hour outside of San Diego. We spotted primarily ferruginous and red tails highlighted by a nesting pair of Bald Eagles nearby. Andrea Burgan of Critter Encounters also brought injured animals who can’t be returned to the wild.

This big guy, a Whimbel, is wintering in Solana Beach. He’s a presence on the beach most days, a solo traveler and seemingly quite content with our food supply here.
Melissa came for a long weekend to celebrate her birthday. I planned to take some three-generational photos. As you can see. didn’t happen! We spent a day at Balboa Park, San Diego’s 1,200-acre historic urban cultural park. Of the 18 museums located in the park, we explored both the Timken and San Diego Museums of Art.
Two photos equal three generations.

It’s been a wonderful winter. Heading home in one month. Missing my Gant family and friends. Mary