Post-Friendsgiving 2016

Post-Friendsgiving 2016

On our last morning in Santa Cruz, I got up a little bit earlier than everyone else. I made myself some instant coconut coffee, sat by the window, and enjoyed the view outside (baby deer)!

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Baby deer // instant coconut coffee for relaxin’

We waited until my friend was up before actually leaving. I was taking a bus from San Jose in order to get to LA, but it wasn’t hitting the road until a little after 1pm. My sister and I were able to use the time in the morning, though limited, to stop by for lunch at the Westgate location of Veggie Grill.

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“You MUST order me” — Sandwich Advertisement

Our intentions for coming to Veggie Grill were to specifically try the vegan holiday specials, which included a holiday sandwich and a southern fried plate.

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Warm-looking interior—to keep sheltered from the rain!

We each ordered seperately, but we split our entrees between the both of us. My sister got the holiday sandwich, and I ordered the southern spicy fried “chicken” plate.

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Zucchini Soup and featured Pumpkin Spice Cake.

There was a mess-up with the order first. The cashier thought I wanted the Santa Fe “Chicken” sandwich, and so asked what side I wanted. Thinking that a side came with the plate, I asked for the zucchini soup. Since they messed up the order, I got to keep the soup while they made my actual order.

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Holiday Sandwich – Roasted “turkey”, cauli-mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, side of mashed yams.

The sandwich came out first, and we split the roll down the middle. The plate was more complicated to split up, only because here was so much variety.

veggieplateandportion
Southern Spicy Fried Chickin’ – Fried Chickin’, corn cake, collard greens, cauli-mashed potatoes, porcini mushroom gravy.

Ultimately, my portion looked like this—definitely looks like a Thanksgiving plate!

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My plate in order.

My sister liked the sandwich, but I thought the bread was too soft, and the filling was cold even though it was advertised as a hot sandwich. Overall, it appeared unappetizing, and unfortunately the taste wasn’t opposite.

The “chicken” plate however was off the charts! The breading on the soy protein was crispy, spicy, and much like what you’d see on those “popcorn chicken” type meals. No pickles were forgotten here (anyone get the Spongebob reference πŸ˜‰ ??).

After lunch, my sister drove me to the bus stop and I begrudgingly got out in order to get to LA. Even though we left at 1pm, I did not get back to Santa Monica until 10:30pm ?!??! UGH, it was the most horrible, painstakingly long trip. Well, I guess it wasn’t as bad as it could have been if I left on Sunday!

Are you a fan of Thanksgiving leftovers?

Veggie Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friendsgiving 2016

Friendsgiving 2016

I woke up Thanksgiving morning feeling refreshed, despite sleeping on a hard floor in a sleeping bag. My sister got up an hour later after I did, and we talked for a bit until our friend got up. Today was officially Day 1 of our lock down, and I spent the majority of the morning working on my proposal. My friend also had some homework that needed to get done, so we all agreed to start making our Friendsgiving meal around 3pm.

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We saw turkey in my friend’s yard!

My friend also had to attend to some humorous RA calls. There were two incidents where parents couldn’t find their children because their college-age kids overslept and didn’t pick up their phones…it’s like, did they really forget their parents were coming to pick them up for Thanksgiving? There was also a girl that got locked out and called for my friend to unlock her dorm room door for her, but then she asked my friend is she could watch the sunset first. #SantaCruzKids I tell ya!

My sister did the majority of the work when it came to cooking. I was glued to my seat at the kitchen table for the entire day (except for an afternoon run break that killed my quads because Santa Cruz = death by hills), so I have to be honest and say I didn’t contribute cooking-wise, haha.

We didn’t have much to do anyways, just thaw and cook the Tofurky ball, mix and cook the mashed potatoes on the stovetop, warm up the gravy, nuke a single yam in the microwave (lol), and our friend already had buttermilk pie prepared.

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Wine I did not have, Plate #1 featuring toasted sourdough, tofurky, yam slice with vegetarian gravy, plate set-up.

Our friend also invited one of her campus friends to join us. He was a pretty chill guy who also happens to run, so at least I had a good ice breaker topic, haha.

After our dinner, we did some more work/procrastination online, until we decided to play online versions of Catchphrase and Cards Against Humanity. Some of us had some politically incorrect phrases, but they were so on POINT.

We called it a night around 11pm and after our friend’s friend left, the three of us promptly went to bed. Thus, our Friendsgiving 2016 concluded πŸ˜‰

β™₯

The next morning, I helped myself to some of my friend’s instant coconut coffee (so good!) and settled myself in at the kitchen table because my 12 page proposal still needed major work. My friend and sister could afford to take a break though, and for them there was nothing standing between them and the Gilmore Girls revival. Even if I could have afforded the time, I don’t think it would have interested me much since I never watched the original series in full.

They started around 10am, which was around the time I seriously got to work. My brain was fried by 2pm, and I desperately needed a break. I went out for a run again, but to try to mix up the route and prevent having to climb a steep cliff back to campus, I ran for a longer time than usual, and ended up tacking an hour-long walk to the end of an 8 mile run just to get back. The temperature was dropping significantly at this time, and part of me felt a little nervous getting back as the sun was setting, but I made it back safely! Needless to say, I was glued to my friend’s heater until we left for dinner πŸ˜›

We decided to have dinner at Cafe Gratitude in Downtown Santa Cruz. My sis and friend could not stop talking about the ending of the Gilmore Girls revival as we drove, and I just sat there totally clueless still trying to warm up my body.

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Downtown Santa Cruz

It was absolutely freezing when we got out and walked, but thankfully my friend let me borrow her heavy jacket. Even with that I tried to think warm thoughts. I was so happy Cafe Gratitude wasn’t too far from where we parked.

It’s kind of unusual because this Cafe Gratitude isn’t listed on their website with all of their So Cal locations, so I’m not sure what the deal is. I’m pretty sure they are owned by the same people because the menu looked similar, if not smaller…

cafe-g
Pretty small inside, and while it was bright inside, it wasn’t exactly warm!

I got the Grateful bowl, which was just as warm as any bowl of soup would have been.

grateful-bowl
This bowl had brown rice, fresh baby kale, black beans, steamed veggies, and green tahini sauce.

My sis got a sandwich and I believe my friend got a bowl that had sushi rice in it.

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Sister’s sandwich πŸ™‚

After eating, we braced out into the cold. My sis wanted to get drinks at a bar, so we checked out one bar, but promptly left. It wasn’t our scene so we got out of their quickly! Instead we made a pit stop for ice cream at Penny Ice Creamery.

penny-ice-creamery

It was just a small, local shop with rotating flavors. Very Santa Cruz-ian.

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I got a scoop of the Apple Crisp with date, my sis got chocolate of course, and my friend a mint chip scoop on a cone. I could detect the bits of apple but overall I found it to be a bland flavor profile.

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My sis still wanted to check out a bar before we left, and I didn’t really care as long as it was warm! We found a place called the Red Room and it was literally all red. I was surprised I didn’t doze off once I sat in the lounge. My friend and sis ordered at the bar, and then brought their drinks back to our table. We stayed until they were finished, and then I was given the car keys to take us all back home. Designated driver at your service πŸ˜‰ !

We were all pretty tired by the time we got back…just before 9pm! We are total party animals, I know πŸ˜› . My sis and I had to leave in the morning anyway, so we were okay with sleeping in early and getting as many hours of rest in as possible.

How was your Thanksgiving?

Are you a Gilmore Girls fan?

Cafe Gratitude Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pre-Friendsgiving 2016

Pre-Friendsgiving 2016

Thanksgiving this year ended up being a Friendsgiving celebration. I am so grateful for the fact that I didn’t have to schedule my travel plans around time sensitive experiments, and that I could just enjoy being in the company of my sister and our close friend in Santa Cruz.

bollywood-popcorn
I had this the night before my trip, so spicy! —> Next time you have a movie night, get like 5 bags of THIS. Bollywood Popcorn from Trader Joe’s is bound to bring the party…IN YOUR MOUTH

My weekend began Tuesday afternoon (lol, earliest weekend ever), and I left from lab in order to catch the Amtrak to Fresno. It was a painstakingly long ride, due to the fact that the train had a late start by one hour. Pairing that with a rowdy family that would not shut up for the next two hours, it was no surprise my head was throbbing beyond its limits.

I finally arrived around 9:30pm and insisted that my sister drive me to Sprouts before it closed at 10pm. I was hungry at this point and needed some food to make up for dinner time I lost.

The both of us went to sleep immediately after eating some ice cream and watching SNL (it was not boring at all watching Kristen Wiig’s skits over again with my sis, we were cracking up)!

The next morning, I went for a run around my sister’s campus before heading into the car for our 3 hour drive to Santa Cruz. The last time I visited Santa Cruz was ages ago…I’m thinking like fourth or third grade? I barely remember it though since we passed by it briefly, only making it down to the boardwalk. Since I have yet to visit my friend during a time when she is on campus, Thanksgiving presented itself as the perfect opportunity to pay her a visit.

The drive was scenic once we made it past Madera and headed west. As we got further and further into the woods, and closer to the coast, we knew we had arrived. There was also a chill in the air so we knew we were in Santa Cruz country.

My friend, who is a Resident Advisor, had to stay on campus from Wednesday evening through Friday evening, so we used the afternoon hours as soon as we arrived to get some lunch off campus.

saturn-cafe
Saturn Cafe, Santa Cruz

We knew we had to hit up Saturn Cafe, a vegan staple that I visited two and a half years ago (!!!) in Berkeley. My friend made a comment about how she took her parents to this place so much that they got tired of it, but who on Earth gets tired of vegan food?!

interior
So cosmic!

There are those that don’t like it to begin with, but vegan food is just one of those things where there is a magical little substitute for everything in the meat and dairy world…how can you tire of that?

peanut-royale
Got my eye on the Peanut Royale

But I digress. The three of us were pretty hungry by the time we entered. Unfortunately, we had a wait time that was longer than it should have been. The cafe wasn’t packed at all, yet it took the wait staff 15 minutes or so to just get us seated! The waitress looked like she’d rather be anywhere but in a pink vegan diner, and this poor attitude showcased itself when she came around to ask for our orders.

I remember the portion sizes being huge from my Berkeley visit, but I just felt like having something manageable for lunch and warm…definitely warm!

peanut__royale
It shimmers with orange and sparkles with tofu!

I ended up going with the Peanut Royale, while my sister got a delectable-looking sandwich and our friend, her favorite Mexican-inspired bowl. We also split some onion strings with a ranch-like dressing for dipping!

onion_strings
Onion strings and sister’s sandwich with chips πŸ™‚

My sister also got an overflowing chocolate shake that thy actually brought over BEFORE her entree. After eating we waited another eon before getting our checks. They at least were able to split our checks, but didn’t take Discover credit cards (who doesn’t take Discover anymore??).

We were finally able to leave and made a stop into Safeway before heading back to campus. My friend had an allowance for food since she had to be on “lockdown” so we got our Friendsgiving meal staples and snacks. We had to make a special stop to get a lil Tofurky ball at a co-op, but at least we were in Santa Cruz and could count on some place having it ready the day before the holiday!

When we got back, we unpacked a bit more and rested up from our morning drive and afternoon errands. I tried to get some work done but our friend’s wi-fi was only picked up by our phones and not our computers.

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Friend’s cute window wall.

After some downtime, our friend whipped up her latest specialty—Gordon Ramsey eggs!

gordon-ramsey-eggs
Gordon Ramsey eggs!

They were scrambled eggs whipped with butter and olive oil, all piled high on crisp sourdough toast. I think this is something we are going to be asking our friend to make every time we see her now πŸ˜‰

We tried to all watch something on Netflix later that night, but I was so tired that I dozed off right when we picked out something! Haha, I certainly had great sleep that night πŸ™‚

Have you tried Bollywood Popcorn or Gordon Ramsey eggs?

Saturn Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Visit to Novel Cafe (Before Writing My Own Novel…)

A Visit to Novel Cafe (Before Writing My Own Novel…)

I have a huge 12 page proposal due soon, and with this on my mind the weekend before Thanksgiving, I was anxiously-driven to put in some concrete hours working on it.

picmonkey-collage
Tried a new RX Bar flavor from Trader Joe’s—Maple Sea Salt! I love how it has salt speckles that sparkle like diamonds!

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go into lab that weekend, so it also gave me plenty of time to sleep in for a bit, and then set up shop at a local library.

apple-caramel-yogurt
Tried this interesting new seasonal greek yogurt flavor —> Apple Caramel Greek Yogurt? Tastes more like cream cheese with apple pieces…uh, I guess that could be appetizing but when you expect yogurt and taste cream cheese, it’s quite a surprise πŸ€” .

I also had a hankering for pizza, so I made it my first priority to get myself a warm, hearty tomato-based pie before working. This meant waking up around 8 (because that’s my definition of sleeping in) and then heading over to Novel Cafe because I heard they had pretty good pizza, among other things.

vegan-pizza
Novel Cafe

The outside was covered in calligraphy and murals, while the inside had an interesting layout. There were one (or two?) shops within the restaurant selling what I assume was jewelry, but they also didn’t seem to be affiliated with the restaurant.

teninthemorning
Casual seating area

I sat at a table in the center, and in my view was an empty juice bar, and bakery cases full of pastries and bread. I was handed a long, laminated menu and my eyes immediately gravitated to the pizza section. I had to go for the organic vegan topped with zen buddha cheese…

vegan-pizza
VEGAN PIZZA,COME TO ME!

…it also came with other goodies like rich tomato sauce, zucchini, and mushrooms!

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That melty “cheese”

My pizza was a medium, but it was the perfectly-sized personal pizza. It took me a while to finish, but that’s because each bread-y bite took some work to chew. Each slice was thin enough to fold NY style.

I left with a full tummy and gathered enough energy to get to work on my paper for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. I spent a good three hours at the library, hard at work, before I decided to venture home and crash into a carb-induced coma of a nap.

The next day, I continued to put those carbs to use when I ventured out for a fourteen miler with my marathon team. My running buddy and I kept a consistent pace the entire time, making us enthusiastic about our marathon prospects. If all goes well, I may be significantly PR’ing come March πŸ˜‰

veggie-wrap
Trader Joe’s Veggie Wrap w/ Hummus – The wrap itself is so soft…and each bite is chock full of hummus!

I did some grocery shopping after the run and before heading home, all on now-tight quads! I picked up a new-to-me wrap from Trader Joe’s for lunch while watching the latest SNL episode.

hummus-wrap
What I had to say about this wrap —-> Is it actually raining in So Cal today 😱?? I thought it was pretty good timing on my part getting back home after a 14mi run JUST before the downpour. I wanted to get a lot of my written proposal done, but a lot of napping, SNL watching, and veggie wrap with hummus eating happened instead πŸ˜› But at least I did catch up in the sleep department πŸ‘

I had my fair share of hard work and relaxation in the weekend immediately preceding Thanksgiving, but I am more excited to type out my Thanksgiving recaps! That is…if I ever finish this proposal πŸ˜›

Novel CafΓ© Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

November DegustaBox!

November DegustaBox!

November’s DegustaBox arrived on my doorstep the afternoon I returned from So Cal VegFest, and this month’s goods was a good mix of cooking ingredients, snacks, and drinks. I had to forgo the jerky and Haribo gummies, but everything else I dove right into.

degusta
November’s DegustaBox

There were two flavors of Beanitos white bean chips included in this month’s box.

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Beanitos – Nacho Cheese

Of the two flavors, I liked nacho cheese the best. The chips reminded me of the Doritos of my childhood class parties and picnics, but had a much smoother texture (in other words, no risk of mouth abrasions except for if the corners hit the gums!)

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Beanitos – Hint of Lime

Another fun savory snack a part of this collection was a small packet of oLOVEs

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Oloves ~ Basil & Garlic

I thought the packaging was adorable (the olive in the bottom corner is saying “kids & adults love ’em”), and the olives themselves come without pits and coated with flavor. These were lathered in basil and garlic.

The Honees Drops were one of the first things I tried when I began my DegustaBox partnership.

honees
Honees – Honey Lemon

I liked them then, and I certainly like this honey flavor now. If you feel a cold-weather induced itch in your throat, pop one of these in your mouth and let the menthol take over!

sharwood
Sharwood’s Tikka Masala – Creamy Tomato

I was also excited to incorporate another cooking sauce into my meals. Sharwood’s creamy tomato tikki masala sauce honestly could have been eaten on its own, but it made my vegetable dinner bowl taste that much better. I do recommend that it’s used to flavor drier vegetables, since I had some watery vegetables in this bowl and the sauce became slightly watery as well.

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Nib Mor – Cherry

To compliment the savory, I also received two sweet snacks. Nib Mor’s superfruit chocolates in cherry and blueberry flavors had a good mix of dried fruit on the inside.

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Nib Mor – Blueberry

I noticed this especially with the blueberry flavor. I wasn’t too keen on the dark chocolate, but I can’t argue that this chocolate is highly heart-friendly.

As for drinks, I received two cans of his beverage…

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Bruce Cost GingerBeer

This Bruce Cost Ginger Beer tasted so refreshing after spending a few hours in our lab office refridgerator. It had a spicy ginger kick, and I actually enjoyed it despite not being a fan of ginger ale in the past.

The Ponti Balsamic Vinegar sauce was a pleasantly surprising addition.

ponti
Ponti Balsamic Vinegar Sauce

I knew right away that I would be using it to coat crockpot veggies, but I had no idea how THICK the consistency was! I was practically in awe, and two servings coated my veggies generously. Obviously one of my prettier crockpot bowls to date πŸ˜‰

toriani
Toriani Salted Caramel Medium Roast Coffee

I was the happiest to find K-Cups for coffee in this month’s box! I’ve been spending more than I’d like from outside coffee shops lately, and seeing that my lab office has a Keurig, I knew that these Toriani Salted Caramel Coffee K-Cups would save my wallet as well as make use of our little coffee machine πŸ™‚

*As a side note, DegustaBox subscribers will receive either coffee or vinegar in their box, based on their preferences!

They taste a whole lot better with creamer and some stevia, but in it’s black form, it has a strong caramel scent that tends to waft through the entire office and has everyone wondering where the smell is coming from, haha.

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Brianna’s Poppyseed Dressing

I did not get to a chance to try Brianna’s Poppyseed Dressing just yet, but part of me feels like I can only do it justice if I get some peaches to pour this on…apparently it tastes good on peaches? I think I’ll pack it with me to take on my Friendsgiving trip this week!

Would you incorporate any of these products into a Thanksgiving recipe? I’m thinking I’m going to use the poppyseed dressing to top some mashed potatoes or sweet potato rings!

Make Out Everyday

Make Out Everyday

Last week was a shocker and after Tuesday, it seemed like there was a cloud of sadness everywhere that just would not dissipate. I am glad that people are still talking about politics, since I honestly believe that despite the strong emotions it can bring up, it is extremely important to bring awareness and question things that have a huge impact on how we live our lives.

cccd
Something that picked me up during this somber week ~ I seriously had a loss of appetite after Tuesday’s events, so I’m glad its back and roared up again, haha. Despite the sadness that creeped up over me yesterday, I had to be happy about one small thing…finding the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Eatenlightened pint! I’ve been complaining about how it’s been hard to locate anywhere in LA, but I happened to find these stocked on the shelves at a Bristol Farms in Santa Monica (on Wilshire, right across from Petco, for those who are local and have been trying to find this elusive flavor yourself)! Sometimes it helps to eat your sorrows away, if it involves cookie dough chunks and a smooth, creamy ice cream πŸ˜‰

I also was feeling from physical exhaustion that prevented me from running higher mileage that week. My body craved extra rest, and I obliged. I’ve been pulling long hours in lab as well, so the extra rest was welcomed on all fronts.

mexican-hot-chocolate
Also was happy to find this ~ What could be more thrilling than walking into your local Trader Joe’s and finding that they have the new seasonal Clif Bar, Mexican Hot Chocolate, in stock πŸ˜„ πŸ‡²πŸ‡½ β˜•οΈ 🍫?!? It didn’t have the extreme chocolate profile that is more evident in their other chocolate flavors, but it did have a spicy kick 🌢 to it which I felt about five seconds after the first bite! And with all the overpriced energy bars out there, purchasing this for only $0.99 was such a steal πŸ˜…. I also love how a portion of the sales from this flavor go towards an organization that is working to protect our winters and fight climate change πŸ‘ŠπŸ½πŸ—»

Saturday ended up being a rest day, and a day that my running team and I scheduled as a day for volunteering. We helped organize maternal and baby goods for a non-profit that distributes these items to low income expecting and first-time moms. It was a Saturday morning well spent, and obviously I had worked long enough to build up a strong appetite for lunch.

make_out_everyday
Make Out Everyday, Culver City

Since I did want to go home as soon as I could, and face plant into a pillow for nap time, I decided to stop by a plant-based foods cafe in Culver City since it was on the way. I originally came by Make Out Everyday over Labor Day Weekend, but they were unfortunately closed at that time.

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Mexican Brown Rice πŸ™‚

I was in luck this time however. I used my ninja photography skills (haha) to capture the elegant interior decor, but the cashier had noticed a man outside who was going out of his way to get the perfect picture capturing the cafe’s logo from outside! I’m so glad that wasn’t me, haha!

every-day
Interior of Make Out Everyday

It took a while for me to decide what I wanted to get, as there were all sorts of smoothies, latte “potions”, wraps, salads, sandwiches, small bites, bowls…I went with a bowl (no surprise) even though I was debating between that and one of the wraps.

My bowl of choice was the Mexican bowl, which had chopped lettuce, quinoa and rice mixed with chipotle crema, sunflower chorizo, and a dollop of mashed avocado. The garnish was fabulous too…I’m not sure what that watermelon-colored root vegetable is called, but it certainly looked pretty!

mexican-bowl
Mexican Brown Rice bowl with guacamole, sunflower chorizo, rice with chipotle crema, salad

The portion sizes are small, so I wouldn’t recommend coming in with a voracious appetite. If you do, you may have to order multiple plates which doesn’t sound bad, but this place isn’t McDonald’s cheap either…

rice
It’s all in the details…

Sunday was a long run day in Santa Monica so I didn’t have to worry about waking up super early to carpool with my running team. After the run, I immediately went home and crashed. I planned to get some work done, but that didn’t happen to the extent that I had wished to. Oh well, I don’t think the time went to waste since I slept so soundly throughout the day and was sleepy enough to go to bed (for real) around 8:30pm.

I’m not surprised one bit that I craved so much sleep this week. I don’t see how anyone could have issue with that πŸ˜‰

Make Out Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

SIX HOURS.

SIX HOURS.

After running a 10k race in Hollywood on Saturday morning, I figured I would head a little up north to NoHo to get voting out of the way. 

Waiting for what I eventually realize will be SIX HOURS.
Waiting for what I eventually realize will be SIX HOURS.
 
You’d think that for a place like LA, the second most-populated city/county in the US just after New York, there would be multiple opportunities to vote before Election Day to accommodate the schedules of so many. Well…not exactly. There’s one location (in Norwalk) that was pretty much open everyday, but that didn’t do much for people who live/work in the city.  The weekend of the 29th-30th and November 5th-6th were proclaimed early voting weekends, but only four locations were open on both weekend dates: polling places in NoHo, West LA, West Covina, and Lancaster. 
 
I arrived at the Amelia Earhart Library around 9am, but after I saw the line that wrapped multiple times around the library AND giant park next door, I was not to enthusiastic about my prospects to be in and out in an hour… You’d think that there would have been plenty of rooms set up with booths, knowing that crowds of people would show up, but nope. Planning ahead is too much work so it seems :/
 
I was literally in line for SIX HOURS, from 9am to 3pm. There were no free refreshments, and there were only a few rows of foldable chairs near the entrance of the library. At one point I honestly thought about giving up and just making out to my local polling place on Election Day, but then I figured I already spent enough time waiting and might as well get it all done! 
 
After filling out a form and waiting inside a community room in the library, in seats arranged as if we were at the DMV, all of us that finally made it into the room now just had to wait for our number to be called to get our ballots. My number was called about a half an hour after arriving into that room, and I couldn’t have been more relieved! I had read about the propositions beforehand, so I was done with voting within 10 minutes. As soon as I left, I was on the hunt for food! 
 
rodini
Rodini Park, North Hollywood
 
Fortunately, Rodini Park was a few blocks away from the library so I could count on getting a good meal in me to refuel from all that stress. The set-up was like a Chipotle for Greek food, and you could make a bowl, sandwich, or wrap with added proteins and veggies. 
 
Chipotle for Greek food!
Chipotle for Greek food!
 
I chose to get a bowl (of course) and had fries (yes fries!) as my base instead of rice. On top of that I had all the veggies, alongside half a slice of white pita bread cut into four triangles. I skipped out on the falafel since the fries would be filling enough , and had babaganoush topped on everything. 
 
Is it bad that I wanted to climb over the plexi glass and stuff that pita bread in my mouth in 5 seconds flat?! #PostVotingFeelz
Is it bad that I wanted to climb over the plexi glass and stuff that pita bread in my mouth in 5 seconds flat?! #PostVotingFeelz
 
I literally scarfed down everything so fast that one of the fries poked my gums! Haha. The fries had a special seasoning on them, and I even had some extra crispy gems thrown in. The babaganoush was ok, nothing spectacular, but having it serve as a substitute for ketchup was hardly a poor choice. 
 
bowl
Literally wanted to plant my face in this bowl!
 
It took me about an hour and a half to get home, and despite feeling frustrated that my day was wasted waiting in a serpentine line, voting for a candidate who faced a depressing loss, it felt good to exercise my civic rights. 
 
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Fries and feta and all sorts of goodness
 
The next day, I was running 10 miles with my marathon team as our weekly long run, so I was understandably exhausted when I got home Sunday afternoon. A nap was absolutely necessary, and I spent the rest of the day napping/unwinding from my overactive Saturday (and week for that matter) along with diving into a jar of YouFresh Naturals Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Muscle Frosting. I wasn’t too fond of it after the first couple spoonfuls. The ghee had solidified at the top (hence the dark, pale chocolate-looking layer at the surface), and the rest of the “frosting” tasted like grainy cashew butter. It wasn’t reminicent of frosting at all, so I doubt I will buy this again in the future. 
 
muscle-frosting-cookie-dough
YouFresh Naturals Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Muscle Frosting
 
Going back to the voting/politics portion of this post, I honestly am not sure how the world is going to be after Tuesday night’s debacle. I do sincerely hope that it makes us all more active, aware, and attentive individuals when it comes to protecting our natural born rights from anyone threatening to take them away from us. We may have to face a larger obstacle now to eventually get to a world worth living in, but I think these recent events will make us stronger to do that…if they have not done so already…
 
Are you involved in politics beyond Election Day?

What kind of cuisine would you like a restaurant to “Chipotle-fy”?

Rodini Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Race Recap – Hard Rock Cafe 10k 2016

Race Recap – Hard Rock Cafe 10k 2016

Last Saturday, I ran the Hard Rock Cafe 10k once again. I paired it with a weekend voting adventure that ended up being more memorable than I thought it would. The turmoil I faced in the afternoon did not make me regret the race though!

halo-top-peanut-butter-cup
Over the weekend, I also tried the last Halo Top flavor I needed to try out of the ten new flavors! Caption from Insta —> The day has finally arrived! I tried out the last of the new Halo Top flavors—Peanut Butter Cup! Honestly I was expecting for there to be peanut butter CUP CHUNKS, but there was a hardened peanut butter swirl. In my pint, it was mostly at the bottom, and surprisingly didn’t have much flavor even though it looked like PB. While I did expect this pint to be more fantastic than it actually was, it was not too bad. If you were at the store and this and Oatmeal Cookie were your options, get THIS first!! Haha. πŸ‘‰πŸ½ Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough > Pistachio & Black Cherry & S’mores > Sea Salt Caramel >> Red Velvet & Peanut Butter Cup >> Chocolate Almond Crunch > Cookies and Cream & Oatmeal Cookie. 🍦 And there you have it, my opinion on all the new Halo Top! Now please excuse me while I stock up on all the Cookie Dough pints 😏 .

I woke up incredibly early in order to catch a 5AM train. Ugh it was far from what I wanted to do in regards to getting to the race start, but I did make it to Hollywood and Highland, fortunately all in one piece!

walk
Early morning start!

I picked up my race shirt and bib, and seeing as there was no packet pick-up YET AGAIN, I had to wear the shirt over my current shirt. I also got a cappuccino from Starbucks in the meantime, before assembling with the other runners at the race start.

shirt
Race shirt and walking around the start/finish

The race began at 7AM, and the path was pretty much a 3 mile out and back in regards to the 10k. It was a run down Hollywood Boulevard, and we turned around at the border of Los Feliz. I honestly felt so light and free for the first three miles. My pace was sub 8:00 for a while and then slowly crept up after mile 3.

My breath and legs were catching up to me, but I didn’t feel so exhausted to the point that I had to slow down. I had a major dip at mile 5, but then had enough energy to kick it to the finish.

I ended up with a pace of 8:12/mi ! My current 10K Race PR!

Like last year, there wasn’t much in terms of goodies.

shorts
Bai and Nesquik were here this time…but something new were the Turkey Trot LA 2015 shorts!!

They had the Nesquik truck again, but they also at least had Bai and this guy giving out LA Turkey Trot 2015 shorts! Obviously I thought the shorts were the best of all the race goodies being given out, even if they were more like bloomers, haha!

medal
Ohh shiny medal!

I left for North Hollywood soon after since I wanted to get voting out of the way (lol) but overall I was glad with how the race ended up. My last race experience in Hollywood was terrible so Saturday’s race definitely made up for that ordeal!

What would be a cool post-race freebie for a company to hand out?

SoCal Veg Fest!

SoCal Veg Fest!

The last time I went to a vegan food festival, it was when I had recently moved to LA and had learned about the inaugural Vegan Oktoberfest. I enjoyed the experience overall, but I haven’t been back since the event was first held in 2014 (if I were “invited”, perhaps I would reconsider πŸ˜‰). So obviously, my attendance at a foodie festival was long overdue. I couldn’t have been more excited to attend So Cal Veg Fest!

The event was held at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Halloween weekend, but based on the food offerings and other activities planned, I had no reason to fear a thing. Except maybe transportation…

I originally thought about renting a Zipcar for the day, but then I thought about having to drive, rely on Google Maps and keeping my phone charged, crazy So Cal drivers, etc. I then estimated the cost of Uber/Lyft. It’s pretty much $50 one way from LA to Costa Mesa, and an all-day rental from Zipcar would have been around $82. In order to save just a little bit, I decided to take a bus to Downtown, and then from there take the 460 bus to Disneyland. From Disneyland, I got an Uber to Orange Coast College and that only cost me $19. Even though it would cost me a good chunk of money on my return trip, at least overall I would be spending less than if I had rented a Zipcar all day, which ultimately justifies my travel decisions πŸ˜‰

When I got to the venue, I saw a plethora of tents set up and things seemed to be rolling. Since I wanted to check-in formally with the person who had been contacting me about being an ambassador, I figured the sensible thing to do would be to walk over to the information tent and find her there.

So Cal Veg Fest 2016!
So Cal Veg Fest 2016!

Unfortunately, I realized communication among the volunteers, staff, and media people was very unorganized. I could see everyone was working hard, but not one of the volunteers I spoke to had a clue who my contact person was. One person got so impatient with me that she just handed me one of the goody bags they were selling and some food vouchers said “just take these, I have more important things to deal with right now”, which I found downright rude as I honestly just wanted to formally meet the person who invited me to come. I wasn’t making this up!

Eventually, I thought to call my mysterious contact person since I remembered that she had her phone number in her e-mail signature. I did meet her, and she even gave me some extra food vouchers! I now felt more relaxed and eager to begin exploring all the tents.

samples
Samples!

There were samples at pretty much every tent—vegan egg rolls, protein smoothies, vegan cheese, vegan chocolate, I could have eaten a day’s worth of food in samples alone, but I had a strong enough appetite for many entrees…

wings
I had my eyes on these since seeing them on Instagram…VEGAN BUFFALO WINGS from Clean South!
curry__plate
Strictly Jamaican’s Curry Plate with rice, quinoa, fried plantain, curried tofu, salad with avocado

I did watch part of a cooking demo while munching on my curry plate, but the idea of making second (and third) rounds at all the tents sounded more appealing.

more-samples
More samples!
picmonkey-collage
Vegan cheese sample on a bread piece.

As the day wore on, it definitely got warmer—a drastic change from the cool, breezy morning.

wish-i-got-some-icecream
Vegan Dots that I passed on πŸ™ // Sitting at the demo // Follow Your Heart vegan products

I wanted to spend a food voucher on some vegan Dippin’ Dots, but they didn’t take vouchers so I passed on that treat πŸ™ …

Since I couldn’t get the vegan dippin dots, I “settled” for some frozen mint lemonade from Scandylicious Desserts. A lot of people had the same idea since as I made my way to the seating area near the main stage, every their person I saw had a frozen lemonade or a similar cool treat in their hands.

mint_lemonades
Scandylicious Desserts FROZEN MINT LEMONADE ah!

I actually sat down mid-presentation of a representative of Farm Sanctuary (or maybe he was the founder lol ?). He made a lot of relevant points in a non-preachy way. One of the points that I was happy to hear he believed was that veganism isn’t perfect, but it’s a lifestyle to aspire to, and that when animals are raised in a kind environment (NOT slaughterhouses) they are able to express their personalities and are such beautiful, sweet creatures. Hearing him compare turkeys to puppies and speak so lovingly about his charming rescue pigs definitely put a smile on my face, and while I’m not a vegan at this point in time, it is something I certainly want to work towards…if only for the animals and environmental conservation πŸ˜‰

plushie_cupcakes
Adorable plushies!!! And extravagant cupcake entries in a cupcake contest!!

After the talk, I made yet another round of the tents, admiring plushies this time around, as well as using the last of my food vouchers on some vegan Hawaiian pizza. While the toppings and “cheese” were delicious, the dough was extremely chewy and it wouldn’t have hurt if it had spent more time in the oven. Oh well, I surprisingly still had an appetite (and room) for it since I engulfed it within minutes.

vegan_pizza
Two slices of vegan Hawaiian pizza πŸ™‚

I decided to leave around 4pm when I felt full and ready for a nap, haha! It was at this time I braced myself as I dialed for an Uber that I knew would cost me more than a pretty penny.

But I took the perspective of that I was paying for the experience (and saving time). I was home within an hour, and my Uber driver was pretty chill and not that talkative once we were on the highway, which allowed me to listen to music while staring out the window.

When I got back home, I laid out my goods, and then promptly spent the rest of the night relaxing in my room and going to bed early.

veg-fest
SoCal Vegfest goodies!

The next day, I had a morning run with my team and after the run, didn’t feel like going out. Instead, I did some grocery shopping and was back home at 12pm…a 2 hour nap ensued, and so this pint+brownie combo happened as well:

pint
Halloween-themed treat — Lenny and Larry’s Peanut Butter brownie atop of an Eatenlightened Pint πŸ™‚

Speaking of pints, I happened to have three more of the new Halo Top pint flavors. Not vegan, but very much vegetarian-friendly!

Top favorite from these three-

Trying out Halo Top flavor number 7️⃣ out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available---S'mores 🍫 πŸ”₯!!! Compared to Cookies and Cream, this one was MUCH better in regards to texture. The graham cracker pieces maintained a nice crunch even when immersed in the ice cream, and I think I found all the chocolate chips that should have been in my CCCD pint, in here πŸ˜‚ With seven down and only three remaining, my preferences are becoming clearer and clearer with each pint consumed 🍦 πŸ˜‰
Trying out Halo Top flavor number 7️⃣ out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available—S’mores 🍫 πŸ”₯!!! Compared to Cookies and Cream, this one was MUCH better in regards to texture. The graham cracker pieces maintained a nice crunch even when immersed in the ice cream, and I think I found all the chocolate chips that should have been in my CCCD pint, in here πŸ˜‚ With seven down and only three remaining, my preferences are becoming clearer and clearer with each pint consumed 🍦 πŸ˜‰

My second favorite –

Trying out Halo Top flavor number 9️⃣out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available---Black Cherry πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’ S/O to my local Ralph's for carrying everything so far except for Peanut Butter Crunch πŸ˜‚ I feel like this is what Strawberry would be like if it actually had strawberry pieces mixed in. There are real chewy dark cherry pieces in this pint, which adds texture to the fruity and creamy ice cream base. It's already an underrated flavor, I can tell by how many pints are still in stock compared to the other new ones, but I'm ranking this one higher up there πŸ‘†πŸ½
Trying out Halo Top flavor number 9️⃣out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available—Black Cherry πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’ S/O to my local Ralph’s for carrying everything so far except for Peanut Butter Crunch πŸ˜‚ I feel like this is what Strawberry would be like if it actually had strawberry pieces mixed in. There are real chewy dark cherry pieces in this pint, which adds texture to the fruity and creamy ice cream base. It’s already an underrated flavor, I can tell by how many pints are still in stock compared to the other new ones, but I’m ranking this one higher up there πŸ‘†πŸ½

Least favorite πŸ™ –

Trying out Halo Top flavor number 8️⃣ out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available---Chocolate Almond Crunch 🍫 🌰πŸ’₯ the color of the ice cream was a light pastel brown (lol does that even exist 😝) but upon opening the paper top, it had a weird medicine-like odor? Not sure how to explain it, but it reminded me of a menthol/cough syrup kind of odor that did go away after a few seconds. Overall, the almond slices were nothing special but the ice cream was soft and not overwhelming at all! I'd say get this when Vanilla Bean is too much to handle πŸ˜‚πŸ¦
Trying out Halo Top flavor number 8️⃣ out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available—Chocolate Almond Crunch 🍫 🌰πŸ’₯ the color of the ice cream was a light pastel brown (lol does that even exist 😝) but upon opening the paper top, it had a weird medicine-like odor? Not sure how to explain it, but it reminded me of a menthol/cough syrup kind of odor that did go away after a few seconds. Overall, the almond slices were nothing special but the ice cream was soft and not overwhelming at all! I’d say get this when Vanilla Bean is too much to handle πŸ˜‚πŸ¦

Are you a fan of food festivals?

This is Vegan? Oh Yeah!

This is Vegan? Oh Yeah!

When I lived near DTLA, everything was pretty much an hour away by public transit. Hollywood, Pasadena, Santa Monica…it made choosing where to go on the weekends very, very hard.

My default place to go would be the Grove because all of my favorite food stores were pretty much in the same area, and there was always some new cool restaurant to check out.

Since moving to Santa Monica however, my inclination to go out has gotten smaller. Venturing out to anything past the SaMo seems so arduous! Haha. But, I don’t think I’m missing out at all…since I’ll be living in my current place until at least next summer, I might as well take in all of Santa Monica I can get!

It’s also incredibly easier to explore more of the city without time constraints, now that the Metro Expo line has expanded. I think I’ve stepped foot onto 3rd St. Promenade at least once every weekend this month, and when I lived in DTLA, this area was a destination. Now, it’s a landmark point for me to find other gems in the city. Mostly foodie-related ones, like Erven.

Walking down this classy-looking sidewalk towards Erven.
Walking down this classy-looking sidewalk towards Erven.

I think Erven took the place of RFD’s location in Santa Monica, because The interior was strangely familiar. It seemed to be a matching replacement though, since Erven is a restaurant serving vegan, plant-based cuisine.

For the lunch hours, they had their cold spread of foods like salads, cold sandwiches, and dessert goods at the front with the cashier. You also could order to dine in at the same counter.

foooooood
Cold foods and hot foods on menu.

For my meal, I decided to go with a hot sandwich and get the beer-battered tofu with a side of slaw. I found a table in the next room by a large window, perfect for people watching.

view
A tangy side slaw with root veggies ; window view

At the tables in front of me and in my view, there were groups of women having Saturday brunch. Actually there was a 20-30 year old group and a 30-50 year old group (if I were to guess the age ranges) and not a man in sight…except for the interesting painting on the wall, haha!

whatttt
Um…the painting was…interesting?

When my sandwich came, I was speechless…was this really beer-battered tofu, or a filet-o-fish sandwich?!

toffffu
This is vegan?! Oh yeah!!

Literally looked too beautiful to eat.

sandwich-yeaaaa
Good stuff in this sandwich.

The bottoms of each bun had a spicy tomato-like spread, and above the beer-battered tofu, there was more of the slaw that I originally has as a side. The tofu itself had a perfectly golden crust (as evident by the full picture of the sandwich) and overall I would describe it as tangy, crispy, warm, and hearty sandwich. Definitely hit the spot, and my plate was pretty much clean by the end of it!

I also made away with THREE new Halo Top flavors this weekend. I happened to stop by a Ralph’s in downtown just to see if they had any in stock. Lo and behold they did! They also happened to be the three with the largest amount of crushes on social media, haha.

I reviewed them on Instagram and here’s what I thought:

cookiedough
This pint literally had the texture of butter, as the ice cream was THAT soft…like a McD’s soft serve. It also had cookie dough chunks for dayzzzzz and like, three chocolate chips in the entire pint πŸ˜‚ πŸ˜‚ πŸ˜‚ haha, #balanced ?
oatmeal-cookie
This pint had a mild scent of cinnamon but that didn’t seem to permeate into the actual ice cream. The flavor itself was pretty bland, and I thought I was about to choke on the oat flakes. Those things are sharper than they look LOL. Not sure how this flavor has been making people swoon…hmmm
 I didn't fall in love with it so hard like others may have, perhaps due to the off-red color that makes it look fruity even though the ice cream base tastes bland. I did like the cubed brownie bites though, and there was a generous amount mixed in! These brownie pieces are what add flavor to this pint. I have to say, even though Red Velvet wasnt' my absolute fav, it's up there πŸ‘†πŸ½
I didn’t fall in love with it so hard like others may have, perhaps due to the off-red color that makes it look fruity even though the ice cream base tastes bland. I did like the cubed brownie bites though, and there was a generous amount mixed in! These brownie pieces are what add flavor to this pint. I have to say, even though Red Velvet wasnt’ my absolute fav, it’s up there πŸ‘†πŸ½

So even though I’ve been spending a lot more time close to home instead of venturing out, at least I have places to go that make staying close worth it πŸ˜‰ !

Erven Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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