Dune Kitchen

Dune Kitchen

Since Sunday was the last day of summer— the last day before the semester began again—I made it a priority to go out for a late lunch, even if it meant a boring, hour-long mid-day bus ride to Atwater Village in Glendale. When classes start, work multiplies by a bajillion, so I was anxious to squeeze in as much relaxation/carefree time within 24 hours…

I don’t count my lab work as real work (since working on a project has more structure and meaning than reading countless papers for class…), even on the weekends 😉

So after lab and the bus ride, I had to walk through a residential area to finally get onto Glendale Ave.

Interesting house architecture and colors in the distance...
Interesting house architecture and colors in the distance…

As I continued forth on the road, I passed by local boutiques, a dance studio, and finally found Dune Kitchen…the place I hoped would have something to appease the sudden Mediterranean food craving I developed in the days leading up to the weekend.

Glendale Ave.
Glendale Ave.

Dune Kitchen would have been so difficult to find if I had not seen a picture for its exterior prior to my visit. Inside, the gray, unassuming theme continued onwards. The only inside seating was bar-style, but there were tables outside right in front.

interior 2
Not much lighting even though it is bright outside!

I made my order for a hummus + falafel plate at the cash register, and as soon as I found a seat, my plate came out in all of its glory. Not a minute was wasted, and that’s just how I like it 😉

interior
The interior of kitchen!

There were some condiments and hot sauce at the counter, but unadulterated hummus is the way to go if you ask me.

4
Condiments at the counter.

It was hard not to take countless pictures from different angles of this beauty of a plate.

plate
Hummus and falafel plate = love

There were three spinach-flavored falafels, with sauce drizzled over them…

flf
Falafel love

…spicy cabbage and onions (<—the onions were my favorite!!)

cabbageonions
Cabbage with a BUNCH of spices.

The star of the plate at the center: hummus with chickpeas in sauce:

chickpeas
Hummus with chickpeas

And a fun assortment of diced pickles :)

insidefala
Pickles, falafel close-up, and sauce!!!

I even found a miniature flower in the middle of my greens!

flower
Flower in my food :3

The pita bread was soft, pliable, and just so perfect with the hummus, which honestly was hard to split among my three falafel and veggies in the plate! I made it all work in the end though…maybe too perfectly since by the time I demolished my plate, I realized how insane my hummus craving was. 😛

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Weekend Therapy

Weekend Therapy

This past weekend marked the final weekend of summer, in academic year terms that is. The semester officially begins this week, but since I’ve been in working in the lab all summer, I feel like my routine will pretty much stay the same (other than having class/seminar thrown in).

I did face some highs/lows in the week leading up to the weekend (grad student admin & apartment issues…what else is new?), so my weekend kick-off pint was well-deserved for an assortment of reasons—Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy, it couldn’t have been more fitting! Funny thing was I actually bought this in the morning while out for my run. I didn’t have to worry about it losing its “ice cream integrity” since it was able to sit in my freezer all day while I was out at work 😉

 Ice cream to melt the stress of the week away!
Ice cream to melt the stress of the week away!

It says there was chocolate pudding ice cream mixed in here, but it honestly just tasted like chocolate ice cream + chocolate cookie bits + chocolate brownies. I mean, that’s not at all bad, but perhaps if there was a pudding swirl, this flavor would be right on up there with the other flavor elites 😛 . Swirl or no swirl, I enjoyed this pint while watching the finale of The Astronaut Wives Club.

I had originally planned to run a 9 miler the next morning, but when I woke up on Saturday, I felt like making a cup of tea and just relaxing before heading out for morning lab work. Sometimes you’ve just got to listen to your body when it comes to these things 😉

Unlike the blazing hot weekend before, this Saturday was cooler and cloudier, and so by the time I finished up my work mid-afternoon, I was’t dragging my feet to the train station. I did want to head out to Santa Monica though, so I was prepared to come home dog-tired after this half-day “adventure”.

I hopped off at Main St. about an hour later, and walked for another 10 minutes before I reached my late lunch destination for the day: {Euphoria Loves} Rawvolution.

 Painted blue walls and a juice bar.
Painted blue walls and a juice bar.

The interior was had a cozy feel with some lounge areas with pillows, similar to The Springs. There was a kitchen in the far back, and a juice bar right in front of it that mimicked an alcoholic bar set-up.

It was a pick-your-own-seat kind of place, and I of course found a spot that would allow me to take as many restaurant/food pictures as I felt like taking (duh). When the hostess came by, I asked for some water as she handed me the menu. She came back with this mason jar, filled with lemon-infused water. I guess this eco-friendly trend has been picked up by the restaurant world lately 😉

 Trendy water drinkin'
Trendy water drinkin’

I was immediately intrigued by the Nachos Grande option on the menu, even though I thought about getting a full entree plate (like a scramble or enchillada), but when nachos are ever on the menu at a vegan establishment, there is a 95% chance I’m gonna get them 😛

Though the portion was small, the presentation was grand.

 Nachos!
Nachos!

After cutting through the colorful mash at the center of the plate, I found that the walnut taco meat formed the base layer, with a pile of salsa and a whole lotta guac on top. The swirly drizzle on top of the guac was cashew mayo, and all of this was decorated with blue corn chips.

 Walnut taco meat, salsa, and guacamole!!! And chips for dippin'
Walnut taco meat, salsa, and guacamole!!! And chips for dippin’

The chips themselves were not light and crispy, but tasted more like flatbread chips. Somewhat chewy and bland, they were not something I’d package and sell on their own, but they served their purpose as a vehicle for the better-tasting stuff on the plate.

Other than the plate being watery towards the end due to the salsa, the dish as a whole was filling and delicious. It was awkward asking for the check at the end, since I was given the check at my table, but had to go up to the cash register to pay. No one told me this though, so I ended up sitting at my table for an embarrasing length of time until I realized everyone was getting up to pay!

Before heading home, I picked up some groceries from Haggen, as well as the Banana Split Ben & Jerry’s pint.

 Banana Split -
Banana Split – Banana & Strawberry ice creams with walnuts, fudge chunks, and fudge swirl. 

It says on the pint carton that strawberry ice cream is in here, but I found that it was actually a banana ice cream base with frozen strawberries mixed in, with walnuts and fudge chunks of course. The fudge swirl was not as thick as it could have been, but it there was a plentiful amount of it. It was more like chocolate sauce/syrup, which is more associated with traditional banana splits anyway.

Ice cream therapy on Friday and Saturday, along with a nourishing plate of raw vegan nachos helped me sleep for a solid 8.5 hours that night (only if my weeknights could match up!!), and I had plenty of fuel for my long run the next morning :)

What does your weekend therapy look like?

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Salad Dream

Salad Dream

Sunday was just as hot as Saturday, and so after my group run in the morning (with a new team for a race I’ll be running in November—details to come soon!), I came back to my apartment around mid-morning to freshen up before heading out again for lab-related work.

I finished up with my duties around 2pm, and decided to head downtown since I knew the skyscraper-like buildings would make things feel 10 degrees cooler 😉

It still took me at least an hour to get from Point A to Point B, but at least Point B was the Arts District.

 Arts District murals.
Arts District murals.

And Point B-1 was none other than The Springs.

 The Springs
The Springs

The Springs is more than a simple eatery. Food is just a part of the space that includes a shop of natural, wellness-inspired home goods & clothing, a juice bar, and a yoga center. I obviously came for the food though…

 View of the juice bar.
View of the juice bar.

The seating arrangements were also quite relaxing as well. I sat on a booth-like bench covered in pillows, and my table had a mini candle. My hostess also brought over a small shot glass and matching jug for water. I also didn’t need time to order since I had done my research beforehand, yet again 😉 . One whole-sized falafel salad, please.

 Come to eat, stay to nap.
Come to eat, stay to nap.

I think the staff began to feel an aura of impatience slowly surround me as time went on, since they stopped by to let me know the “status” of my salad. I thought this was thoughtful of them, but when my hostess brought my bowl out, she looked just as happy as I was! She said that I was about to feast on one of the most gorgeous salads ever made—or something along those lines 😉

How could I disagree with her? Just look at that falafel…and the way the hummus was artistically “painted” along the side of the bowl. It’s something only a vegan artist in DTLA could think of, haha.

 Falafel Salad - romaine, mized greens, tahini dressing, harissa, falafel, quinoa tabouli, zatar crackers.
Falafel Salad – romaine, mized greens, tahini dressing, harissa, falafel, quinoa tabouli, zatar crackers.

I took my time savoring this salad, and saved my favorites (the falafel, crackers, and hummus) for last. I did love the dressed mixed greens too though, and the harissa was definitely not missed by my palate!

 Fawning over falafel---and hummus and zatar crackers!
Fawning over falafel—and hummus and zatar crackers!

I left The Springs feeling reenergized, but I needed to conclude the day (and weekend) with another pint of ice cream. I had another B&J’s Target exclusive—Brewed to Matter.

 Two words: COFFEE. FUDGE.
Two words: BROWNIE. BATTER.

It turned into more of a frozen yogurt rather than remain its ice cream consistency by the time I ate it. Even though I wasn’t a fan of the Coffee-Buzz flavor, I was able to tolerate the coffee ice cream this time around. Perhaps it was because of the decadent brownie batter swirl (how do the folks at B&J’s even come up with things like batter swirls and what not?!). 

Salad, ice cream…I’d say this Sunday was complete in my book :)

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Eat the Rainbow

Eat the Rainbow

We had a massive heat wave pass through LA this past weekend, so without hesitation, I was all about ice cream and salad consumption for three days straight!

It all started Friday night with a B&J’s pint—Half Baked to be precise!

 Half Baked
Half Baked

This pint was much more creamier than its froyo version (although both are quite good!), and had a plethora of cookie dough gobs and brownie pieces.

 Friday night ice cream = the best.
Friday night ice cream = the best.

I was a little sad when the pint was fully demolished, but I knew I still had Saturday and Sunday left for ice cream revelry!

Speaking of Saturday…after stopping by lab in the morning, I made my way over to Mid-Wilshire (slowly, but surely through the heat wave and via public transit). At least what awaited me inside of Powerplant Superfood Cafe was a salad I thought I could only dream about.

 Powerplant Superfood Cafe
Powerplant Superfood Cafe

Once inside, I pretended to take my time making a decision by looking up at the menu, but I already knew what I was going to get.

 The menu up above.
The menu up above.

I found a table by the wall, where I could people watch while waiting for my colorful salad to arrive.

 The guy and his phone, haha :P
The guy and his phone, haha 😛

For salad prep, you’d think it would be pretty quick but I ended up waiting for what seemed like forever. I couldn’t complain when I finally chowed down on it though. But first—I had to let my eyes take it in.

 BBQ Cauliflower Salad.
BBQ Cauliflower Salad.

I’m really not sure why this BBQ Cauliflower Salad is not called the Rainbow Salad. It has blue tortilla chips with black beans, slices of green avocado, orange carrots, red & spicy cauliflower, and charred yellow corn on top of even more greens

 And the sauce...
And the sauce…

I also can’t forget the creamy BBQ sauce dressing, and sliced cherry tomatoes!

The one thing I love about salads—good ones that is—are that because of their complexity in texture, flavor, and ingredients, they take a long time to eat. I was digging through this rainbow salad for at least twenty minutes, and I didn’t get tired of it at all. I cleaned my bowl like a good cafe patron, and continued on with my day feeling refreshed and ready to take on the heat of the 3pm sun!!

After a late afternoon of grocery shopping and errands, I came home close to 6pm, and managed to snag a B&J’s Target exclusive to treat myself to for Saturday night. ‘A Swirled of Difference’ made a difference to how my Saturday night turned out!

 YESS
YESSSSS

Peanut butter ice cream with a peanut butter AND raspberry swirl…it was like PB&J in ice cream form, people!

 PB&J in ice cream form, sans bread.
PB&J in ice cream form, sans bread.

I went to sleep earlier that evening since I had a morning group run scheduled the next day, but even though the heat raged on during the night, I had had enough cooling foods during the day to get an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

Do you crave salads when it’s hot outside?

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Golden Mean Evening

Golden Mean Evening

My sister and I had a splendid weekend in San Diego last weekend, but the fun didn’t stop on Sunday night. My friend was also in the LA area with her family, but we unfortunately couldn’t meet up until Monday, which was also her last day in town :(

Nevertheless, we still made time to see eachother. I was free only in the afternoon, but since she was traveling with her aunt and brother, transportation wasn’t an issue and we were all able to travel by car.

We ended up going to 3rd St. Promenade in Santa Monica, and walked around for a few hours under the hot sun. We had arrived when it happened to be the hottest time of the day—even though we were by the water!

 Santa Monica as busy as ever...even on a Monday evening!
Santa Monica as busy as ever…even on a Monday evening!

We were all too tired to do some real shopping, and honestly, we were all just counting down the minutes until we could sit down for dinner 😛

My friend was eager to check out yet another one of my vegan finds 😉 . So Golden Mean Cafe for dinner it was!

 Building art on Wilshire.
Building art on Wilshire.

Even though we were dragging our feet all the way there, our walk on Wilshire was still a fun one. Despite the small storefront, we I spotted it right away and alerted my friend and sis.

 Golden Mean Cafe.
Golden Mean Cafe.

My friend, sis, and I were able to hold a table by the door, while we waited for my friend’s aunt and brother to park the car nearby. The time spent waiting for them was efficiently used to figure out what we should chow down on.

 Glimpse of the menu!
Glimpse of the menu!

I knew right away that I was in a rice roll kind of mood, so I decided to get the spicy “tuna” dragon roll. Of course, my sis and friend think identical to me, and decided to get that as well…along with hummus, falafel, and a curry bowl. For their last night in LA, they were going to go all out 😉

 Inside of Golden Mean. There's even upstairs seating!
Inside of Golden Mean. There’s even upstairs seating!

My friend’s aunt and brother eventually joined us, and her brother also got a dragon roll (it’s really that popular)! Her aunt ended up getting a curry bowl after learning that they ran out of vegan pizza.

We had to wait a long time for our food to come out because 1) we were waiting until everyone was present before making our orders and 2) the kitchen was extremely small, way in the back, and had to make enough food for five people. We kept ourselves as alert as possible with copious cups of water that our hostess continually refilled.

But finally, our feast was ready! And all of the dishes that came out at the same time were presented so beautifully.

 Dragon roll, hummus, falafel on the other side of the table.
Dragon roll, hummus, falafel on the other side of the table.

I was glad with my decision to get the dragon roll…

 sunflower seed tuna in a brown rice nori roll topped with avocado and sesame seeds with mixed green salad.
sunflower seed tuna in a brown rice nori roll topped with avocado and sesame seeds with mixed green salad.

Not only was it beautiful, but it was packed with flavor, and even more so with the wasabi. One of the rolls even had two pieces of carrot strings sticking out (to mimic a dragon I suppose)?

Close-up of roll, wasabi, and inside of roll
Close-up of roll, wasabi, and inside of roll

Everyone fully enjoyed their meals, and I demolished the roll (wasabi included) with just the chopsticks I was given. Yes, this is a talent 😉 .

Before leaving, my sister, friend, and brother shared a slice of carrot cake while my friend’s aunt got a slice for the all-nighter on the road. Her aunt also graciously covered the cost of dinner for all of us :)

 Vegan carrot cake.
Vegan carrot cake.

After dinner, we had to face traffic before I was dropped off back in my apartment, but I had a fun time chatting it up with my two besties. It was sad having to say goodbye, knowing that all of our summers were winding down and our respective school lives would take over again (even though for me I’ve been on campus pretty much everyday this summer…), but having the chance to spend a couple of hours with two of my favorite people ever is always worth it .

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Milky Buns

Milky Buns

We left San Diego in the early afternoon on Sunday, but when I learned Grocery Outlet did indeed have several So Cal locations (they just happened to only be in the San Diego area…) we couldn’t leave without stopping by the Oceanside location.

 Only I would take a picture of Grocery Outlet in admiration ;)
Only I would take a picture of Grocery Outlet in admiration 😉

It was certainly a worthy pit stop since I made it out with produce, eight yogurts, and low carb bread (what??) for less than $14. 

After picking up groceries, we were off towards our next destination. About an hour later (after figuring out what weird directions the GPS was navigating us through), we made it to a strip mall parking lot in Fountain Valley, where Afters Ice Cream was located. 

 Yeah...who would be able to see a small sign saying "ice cream" from so far away? This cost us two loops on the freeway, and wasted minutes circling the parking lot.
Yeah…who would be able to see a small sign saying “ice cream” from so far away? This cost us two loops on the freeway, and wasted minutes circling the parking lot.

As we got close to the storefront, we noticed there was a line out the door…even though it was almost dinnertime on a Sunday evening.

 At least we knew what the top flavors were before entering inside.
At least we knew what the top flavors were before entering inside.

We also got to check our eye health…you know, just in case we couldn’t believe we were about to dive into ice cream sandwich decadence…

 Eat more ice cream...eat less homework??
Eat more ice cream…eat less homework??

All of these people ahead of us were hungry for some ice cream too!!

 Such a long line.
Such a long line.

Despite the length line and large crowds, we were served our ice cream sandwiches pretty quickly. This shop’s specialty is the milky bun ice cream sandwich, which is basically a scoop of ice cream (with toppings!) sandwiched in between a sliced donut-like bun.

 Buns ready to go!!
Buns ready to go!!

I knew I wanted to get the cookie monster ice cream (a blue ice cream with crushed cookie swirl), and topped with cookie crisp cereal. Funny thing is, despite all of the ice cream flavors available…

 Including Vietnamese Coffee and S'mores.
Including Vietnamese Coffee and S’mores.

And toppings…

 Fruit loops, Cap'n Crunch included.
Fruit loops, Cap’n Crunch included.

My sister got the exact same thing. Great girls think alike I suppose 😛

We found a table to sit at outside, and I had to be quick with my picture-taking since my ice cream was melting quickly.

 Top of milky bun.
Top of milky bun.

The ice cream wasn’t able to keep a thick, creamy texture because of its tendency to melt quickly, but at least most of it stayed within the confines of the bun 😛

 Looks so good, but melts so fast!!!
Looks so good, but melts so fast!!!

I also underestimated its size. The sandwich was quite small, and it only took a few standard-sized bites to get through. Still, it was an excellent dessert to conclude our weekend trip with.

 Cookie crisp peek-a-boo.
Cookie crisp peek-a-boo.

I think next time (there are still the Tustin and Chino Hills locations left to visit!), I’ll request more toppings 😉

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Balboa & Burgers

Balboa & Burgers

My sister and I took our time getting ready on Sunday morning. We had such a good night’s rest (at least I did…), and so we didn’t feel rushed when it came time to leave. We stopped by the breakfast buffet to see if there was anything good, but the crowds and the mess already created was a turn-off, so we decided to just leave and save our appetites for lunch. 

Our first stop that morning was Balboa Park, and we found a place to park at the Veteran’s Memorial Museum. From there, we walked north to where a cluster of other museums were, and took in the beautiful building sights before checking out one of the history museums. 

 Lovely architecture.
Lovely architecture.

We were intrigued by the Dr. Seuss exhibit at the museum. Apparently San Diego was his home for many years, and the exhibit displayed works that differed from his kid’s author/illustrator reputation. It was interesting, to say the least!

 Dr. Seuss exhibit.
Dr. Seuss exhibit.

The walrus in the above picture was a part of a taxidermy piece! Taxidermy of Dr. Seuss-esque characters, that is!

After about an hour in the museum, we walked back to where we parked, but not before taking a pit stop near some worldly murals.

 We also spotted a shady-looking shack and a lost moccasin?
We also spotted a shady-looking shack and a lost moccasin?

Once in the car, we only had to drive a short while to get to lunch at Evolution Fast Food.

 The small shack of Evolution Fast Food---all-vegan!
The small shack of Evolution Fast Food—all-vegan!

The eatery itself was quite small, and parking, while available, was a tight squeeze! There was a small room with a counter/kitchen in the back, and a large board menu hung from the ceiling.

 To-go items, daily specials, and desserts!
To-go items, daily specials, and desserts!

I was incredibly thirsty, so after placing my order, I requested a small cup of water. I was also given ice, and had to document these ice cubes since I had never seen anything like it before!

 That ice looks pretty interesting, amiright?
That ice looks pretty interesting, amiright?

Even though the ordering area was in a tight space, there was ample seating in the patio area.

 The nice and quiet patio area.
The nice and quiet patio area.

Since I found a table for us, my sister stayed back and eventually came with two brown bags containing our orders. She got the fish filet sandwich with a chocolate shake in the side.

 Fish filet sandwich - crispy battered fish with tartar sauce, shredded cabbage, tomato
Fish filet sandwich – crispy battered fish with tartar sauce, shredded cabbage, tomato

I got the chimichurri “carne” sandwich, which was full on flavor and zero on meat.

 Chimichurri carne sandwich - argentine marinated "steak" strips, lettuce, tomato, onion
Chimichurri carne sandwich – argentine marinated “steak” strips, lettuce, tomato, onion

The strips were marinated in spices and packed with flavor, but one of the buns was lathered with a spicy pesto sauce that only added to that flavor!

 So green, and so flavorful!
So green, and so flavorful!

It was just enough food to get us through the afternoon and drive home to LA. We did plan one more food-related stop before truly heading home though…

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The Beach Day We Wanted

The Beach Day We Wanted

A little power nap was all we needed, but my sis and I ended up taking a long 45 minute afternoon nap when we checked in to our hotel room for the night in San Diego.

 Rest!
Rest!

But when we woke up around 3, it was still bright and gorgeous outside! We still had time for a beach adventure :)

 Hello, downtown San Diego!
Hello, downtown San Diego!

We had trouble getting out of the parking garage (a Zipcar Honda vs. a bunch of SUVs/Hummers/Trucks is not exactly an easy battle to win…), but fortunately we made it out without a scratch.

Our destination was Coronado Beach—which also took a while to get to due to traffic, ending up at the wrong side of the beach due to GPS issues, and having to park in a far off residential area once we found the beach. But, when we found it, it was about relaxation!

 To the beach!
To the beach!

Once at the beach, my sis and I laid out our towels and proceeded to sun bathe for the next hour and a half…only because our 45 minute nap wasn’t enough 😉

 Time to relax...
Time to relax…

It was so peaceful though. Sure, there were crowds, but it was a beautiful California summer day, and we were finally able to say we were experiencing a real beach day.

Before heading back for dinner, we took pictures by the water and took our time getting to the car. The crowds had died down by then, and there was no traffic on our drive back to the hotel.

Before leaving for our weekend trip, I learned that Cafe Gratitude had opened a new location in San Diego—and it coincidentally happened to be in Little Italy, within walking distance from our hotel! Obviously this was our prime choice for dinner :)

 Sunny skies and lofts in SD.
Sunny skies and lofts in SD.

Our stroll through downtown was a fun preamble to dinner, but when we saw the swanky CG location, we were more than ready to eat!

 My third time visiting Cafe Gratitude :)
My third time visiting Cafe Gratitude :)

Since it was brand new, I wasn’t surprised by all the eager, vegan-loving San Diegans that were present that night.

 Soooo busy.
Soooo busy.

Because it was so busy, we almost had to sit outside, even though I had called in beforehand to make a reservation.

 Kind of cozy actually...
Kind of cozy actually…

The set-up reminded me of both their Venice and Larchmont locations, so I felt like I was in familiar territory. I was excited for my sister to experience CG for herself!

After staring long and hard at the menu, we both ended up deciding against a sandwich-based entree since we had our fill of that earlier in the day, and so we both ended up ordering the exact same thing. We both got the ‘Resolved’ entree, described as being a southern soul food sampler containing red beans and quinoa, seared tempeh, smashed maple garnet yams, spiced collards, coleslaw, and a gluten-free jalapeno biscuit.

Oh, and we couldn’t forget adding BBQ sauce on the side…even if it cost $2 (!!) extra.

It took almost half an hour, but at least our plates came full and ready for us to dig in.

 Vegan southern food platter.
Vegan southern food platter.

My favorite parts of this plate were the sweet mashed yams, the tempeh when dipped into the BBQ sauce, and the jalapeno biscuit (when dipped into the BBQ sauce as well). My sis didn’t like the yams so much, but was a fan of the coleslaw.

 Top: jalapeno biscuit (gluten-free!) // bite of tempeh // a bed of quinoa
Top: jalapeno biscuit (gluten-free!) // bite of tempeh // a bed of quinoa

It was a meal that we both agreed as being satisfying and sleep-inducing. I’ll admit it now—we are grandmas, but at least we eat well 😉

When we got back to the hotel, we quickly changed into our jammies and watched TV until our eyes started to droop. It was certainly a summer Saturday well spent.

What do you like to do at the beach?

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Vacation in a Sandwich

Vacation in a Sandwich

With the summer winding down (slowly, but it is…), I was beyond ecstatic when my sister was able to find the time to visit me for a few days. She has to go back to school in a few weeks, after helping my parents with their move out-of-state, and so even though I needed a weekend getaway, she surely needed one too!

After spending Friday night at my apartment, we left around 9AM the next morning for San Diego! It was my first time driving for more than an hour since moving to LA, and my first time in a Zipcar! The ride took us a total of 3 hours (traaaaafiiiiic…), but we were able to keep ourselves occupied and in a road trippin’ mood by playing music all the way there. 

We got into San Diego around 12pm, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Both my sister and I had one thing on our minds: torpasta

 Devine Pastabilities (best sandwich shop) in San Diego.
Devine Pastabilities in San Diego.

The restaurant is actually Devine Pastabilities, but they are extremely well-known for their unique pasta-stuffed sandwiches. I actually learned about their miraculous existence while watching Mystery Diners once.

 Can't wait to order!
Can’t wait to order!

And now, my sister and I were here, sitting in a booth and beyond belief that we were starting off our mini-vacation right with a carb-o-licious lunch. Our surroundings only helped to set the mood 😛

 The fun pizza-parlor style interior.
The fun pizza-parlor style interior.

The employees wore this shirt, and photographs like these were hung all over the walls.

 We were among like-minded individuals...
We were among like-minded individuals…

My sis and I are usually quick to order, but we had to take our time when it came to picking up the right torpasta. I eventually ended up getting Dayna’s Vegan Special, and my sister got the Creamy Pesto and Sundried Tomato. We surprisingly didn’t have to wait too long for our 6″ subs to arrive at our table in vertical stands. 

Dayna's Vegan Special - meatless meatballs, sauteed garlic, spinach, bell peppers, and onions with marinara penne pasta.
Dayna’s Vegan Special – meatless meatballs, sauteed garlic, spinach, bell peppers, and onions with marinara penne pasta.

But my sister’s was a sight to behold. All that creamy goodness made me second guess my choice…

....
Pesto and sundried tomato in alfredo over bow-tie…

Compared to the pasta overflow of my sister’s torpasta, mine was perfectly stuffed. It had just enough pasta and veggies, and I counted four total meatless meatballs.

After scooping through all the pasta, eating the hollowed-out bread was the treasured final step.

 Hollowed-out bread roll.
Hollowed-out bread roll.

It was surprisingly soft and chewy, perhaps from holding in all that warm, saucy pasta.

My sister and I left with bellies full, and immediately fell into a sleepy spell from the combining effect of the long drive and carb-loaded meal! As soon as we got to our hotel for the night, we crashed for an afternoon nap before heading out to the BEACH! :)

Have you ever experienced the glory that is a pasta-filled sandwich?

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Stax of Sweetness

Stax of Sweetness

I knew that a fun-filled week of free food, beaches, and vegan favorites would eventually come to an end, but at least it ended on a sweet note.

Our trip to Tustin eventually became a trip to Irvine. The day was still gorgeous, bright, and sunny when we pulled up to the parking lot at University Town Center, right across from the UC Irvine campus.

 University Town Center!
University Town Center!

The little shopping and dining area very much gave off a college town vibe, and it reminded me of my undergrad days…

 Beautiful arches...one of which decorates my dessert destination!
Beautiful arches…one of which decorates my dessert destination!

My purpose for the visit that afternoon was to get my cookie-and-ice-cream fix at Stax Cookie Bar, a custom ice cream sandwich shop that also serves up other sweet specialties. I was fortunate to try some of those as well 😉

 Welcome to Stax Cookie Bar!
Welcome to Stax Cookie Bar!

I first met Marina, who had reached out to me about coming in for a tasting. She greeted me with a smile and an overview of all their goods—cookies, ice cream, shave ice galore!

cookies!!!!
Stuffed cookies (smookies!) and a wide variety of other cookies!

I was then greeted by another staff member who encouraged me to try whatever I wanted and to make sure I left feeling “full”. How could I argue against that 😀 ?

 Fun wallpaper to stare at while munching on cookies & ice cream.
Fun wallpaper to stare at while munching on cookies & ice cream.

I first learned about the Smookie, which is really a warm, shapened piece of cookie dough that can be topped with any flavor ice cream and fudge, caramel, or whipped cream.

 So many ice cream flavors...which to choose??
So many ice cream flavors…which to choose??

I chose to have the Nutella-stuffed Smookie as my base, topped with a scoop of green tea ice cream and whipped cream. Best decision ever.

 The perfect Smookie.
The perfect Smookie.

The Nutella filling was obviously the best part 😉 ! It was also at the right temperature, coming out of the oven after just 3 minutes of warming up.

 The undeniably good filling with melted green tea ice cream (:
The undeniably good filling with melted green tea ice cream (:

For my other ice cream-related dessert, I was able to customize a ice cream cookie sandwich so that I had birthday cake ice cream (how convenient 😉 ) in between a mocha and snickerdoodle cookie. I had all flavor and color profiles represented here!

 The masterpiece.
The masterpiece.

My Dad liked the birthday ice cream the best, and I could certainly see why. The ice cream was perfectly creamy, and the added swirls of color tasted just like icing. It wasn’t just for show.

 Who needs birthday cake when you can have it in ice cream form...and sandwiched in between two cookies?!
Who needs birthday cake when you can have it in ice cream form…and sandwiched in between two cookies?!

To add to all the sweet excitment, we were given another dessert to try—a generous portion of green tea shave ice! Topped with syrup and freshly cut fruit.

 The presentation itself was beautiful!
The presentation itself was beautiful!

It tended to melt pretty quickly, so being the resourceful person that I am (haha), I used to top off the leftover cookie pieces from my ice cream sandwich. We weren’t able to completely finish it, but if our stomachs had been large enough, there’s no question we would have annihilated the cup and then some 😛 .

I asked Marina about their vegan options, and she pointed to two of their specially-vegan flavors. I was urged to take one for the road, so I chose to try their vegan (and gluten-free!) coconut chocolate chip cookie. I was also gifted with a beautiful stack of cookies!

 My stack of Stax cookies // one of the two vegan cookies offered
My stack of Stax cookies // one of the two vegan cookies offered

The vegan coconut chocolate chip cookie was more fragile compared to the regular cookies, but its flavors were just as great, if not better than a standard cookie. It tasted just like a sweet oatmeal bar with gooey chocolate mixed in and rich coconut oil gleaming on the surface.

Stax has plans to open more locations in the future, and I surely hope they do, since I can’t have this be my only visit 😉 . Ice cream sandwich and cookie bars may have started out as a trendy thing, but based on my experience, Stax has taken it to the next level!

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