Birthday Weekend, Day 1

Birthday Weekend, Day 1

After my birthday, my work week continued on as usual—long days filled with experiments, coffee breaks, and moments of eye droopiness at the computer, haha!

When Friday night rolled around, I was so excited for my friend’s arrival! She’s the one my sister and I visited during Thanksgiving,  and she came around 10pm. We stayed up till midnight just catching up and talking. We planned to stay local on Saturday, and then venture out to the OC on Sunday.

She woke up leisurely, while I got up a little earlier to get a morning run in. I also had to go by lab, so we did that, and then drove back to Santa Monica for lunch…at Bondi Harvest.

Bondi Harvest
Bondi Harvest

It’s a relatively new establishment, with the inside and exterior decor carrying themes of the Australian coast. Many of the menu items were small, brunch-like items with unique ingredient combinations of fresh quality.

Friend's eggs, tomato, and toast.
Friend’s eggs, tomato, and toast.

My friend got a simple plate of toast with a poached egg and roasted tomato. She was an immediate fan of the tomato, because of how proportionately seasoned it was.

I chose to get something that had a prominent feature in their menu: Whirley’s Bowl.

Whirley's Bowl
Whirley’s Bowl

It was a bowl containing chimichurri, dressed cauliflower rice, slaw, avocado, yogurt tartar and salsa…I said no thank you to the fish!

An interesting combo of flavors and textures...
An interesting combo of flavors and textures…

The slaw was a fruity, citrus slaw, and definitely elevated the flavor profile of the bowl. The large half of avocado also seemed like an overwhelming addition. I’m not sure I’d order this again if I ever came back to BH, but I didn’t regret my decision too much. Though I did doubt my decision NOT to get eggs and toast (and tomato).

After lunch, we tried to figure out what else to do in SaMo besides shop and go to the beach. I did want to see what the Santa Monica Stairs was all about (thinking it featured a colorful, painted outdoor staircase), but when we made the drive up to north of Brentwood, it was literally just a steep, wooden staircase with a bunch of buff guys and gals running reps up and down in Lululemon and Nike.

Santa Monica Stairs
Santa Monica Stairs

We climbed on flight just to say “we did it”, and then drove off to Brentwood.

We didn’t do much in Brentwood either, just walk up and down San Vicente. Because of the heat, heading back home to rest up and figure out dinner plans seemed like such a reasonable idea.

Once at home, we turned on the fan (because my room was like a sauna, ughhh), and made the executive decision to get coffee (after 4pm, haha) and read/do work at a coffee shop before having dinner.

This wasn’t a bad idea at all, since it was the perfect opportunity to try Phillz Coffee, and get caught up on some data analysis.

Phillz Coffee, 3rd St. Promenade
Phillz Coffee, 3rd St. Promenade

I was surprised that there was such a demand for Phillz Coffee after 4pm, on a Saturday, but this was the case as we soon figured from the long line trailing towards the front entrance.

Honestly, it was just for the iced coffee topped with mint leaves…another capture for the ‘gram…because based on my experience, the coffee was too bitter and nothing special.

Agh, couldn't finish this...
Agh, couldn’t finish this…

I couldn’t stomach the whole cup. Perhaps if I had had the barista pour some milk or cream, it could have made a difference, but Phillz was so not worth the hype.

But I did get some data analysis done, so there’s that!

And to conclude our eating adventures for the day, we stumbled upon CAVA, a fast-growing, Chipotle-for-Mediteranean-food kind of place. I first came across it in Culver City, but was ecstatic to try it for the first time with the company of my friend.

CAVA, Santa Monica
CAVA, Santa Monica

She got a bowl for her base, but I wanted some bready carbs, so I chose to get a pita stuffed with falafel, veggies, and apricot sriracha…yesssss.

That. Sauce. Though.
That. Sauce. Though.

We were able to enjoy our meal outside since it was finally starting to cool down, and after gobbling down everything to the last morsel, we headed back home and relaxed for the rest of the night with a movie on Netflix.

Another shot from CAVA
Another shot from CAVA

I probably would have died of boredom if I had stayed local the entire day (since I practically run the same roads everyday, the scenery had become too familiar, haha!), but having my friend by my side certainly made it a fantastic day πŸ™‚

Philz Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Birthday and The Rockwell

Birthday and The Rockwell

In the days leading up to my birthday last year, I was under what seemed like insurmountable stress, and getting away from everything was more than necessary on my birthday. My 24th was a fun one thanks to the thoughtfulness of my Dad, sister, and friend who went out of their way to give me company when I felt so lonely and was running on fumes…

This year was the first time I celebrated my actual birthday with no close family nearby. But I didn’t mind, because the day felt like any other day, other than the fact I turned a quarter of a century years old πŸ˜›

It started with a short run, specifically a speed workout, and from there, I was off to lab.

In lab, E surprised me with a gift (a Turkish tea set!) and after getting some work done in the morning, she and another one of my lab mates joined me for lunch. They had cake ready and thawed when we came back to the office, and we spent some more time chatting over cake.

I managed to get some more work done in the afternoon, but things slowed down around 5. I asked E if she wanted to join me for dinner at The Rockwell in Los Feliz, since I had been asked if I could come review their summer menu. Being able to set up the visit on my birthday was definitely a plus πŸ™‚

We took the metro over to Los Feliz since leaving to get the car and then driving through traffic didn’t seem like the best idea. When we got off at Vermont and Sunset however, we were greeted by extremely humid weather and…rain?! LA was acting crazy!

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We entered through the stage/club side first, and thought it was strange that a restaurant could be so dark. 

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Luckily, we had the sense to walk around the building and find the restaurant entrance.

The Rockwell, Los Feliz
The Rockwell, Los Feliz

We were greeted by some wait staff who at first didn’t know about the review visit, but we were able to grab some seats near the back, in a cozy little booth with a earthy-looking theme.

Getting cozy!
Getting cozy!

We were given the menu and took some time to figure out what sounded best. The skillet cauliflower ‘n’ cheese initially caught my eye, but E was eyeing it too, so I thought I’d get something different so we could share and try a variety of items.

E also got the RW Quinoa Burger (After figuring out that RW stands for Rockwell, haha), and I ended up choosing one of their wood stone flatbreads, the forest mushroom to be exact.

We were able to put in our order, and we didn’t have to wait too long for our food to arrive. In the meantime, we met The Rockwell’s owner/manager, and sipped on some cold glasses of water.

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We were amazed by how big the portions were when everything came out. And despite the muggy weather outside, we welcomed the warmth radiating from the food and couldn’t wait to dig in.

RW QUINOA BURGER ~ black bean, onion, sun-dried tomato, vegan mango chutney aioli
RW QUINOA BURGER ~ black bean, onion, sun-dried tomato, vegan mango chutney aioli

E wasn’t able to finish her burger, but she was ecstatic to find such a generous portion of avocado laid out so finely on her crisp quinoa patty.

My woostone flatbread was composed of wild mushrooms, leeks, white sauce, and truffle oil. It actually reminded me of the pizza I had at Pizza Studio a couple months ago, but the flatbread crust of this pizza had an intriguing texture. It was perfectly crisp on the outside, and pliable and chewy on the inside. Birthday calories obviously don’t count, and I had no problem getting through all of it πŸ˜›

FOREST MUSHROOM WOODSTONE FLATBREAD ~ WILD MUSHROOMS, LEEK, WHITE SAUCE & TRUFFLE OIL
FOREST MUSHROOM WOODSTONE FLATBREAD ~ WILD MUSHROOMS, LEEK, WHITE SAUCE & TRUFFLE OIL

I had some of E’s cauliflower ‘n’ cheese, which was described as a dish of multi-colored florets coated with golden panko crust and covered in cheese. It definitely wasn’t skimping on the cheese, and even though it’s an item under their “shareables”, it could easily be a rich entree if you so choose!

SKILLET CAULIFLOWER β€œN” CHEESE ~ purple, yellow, white florets with golden panko crust
SKILLET CAULIFLOWER β€œN” CHEESE ~ purple, yellow, white florets with golden panko crust

For the amount of food we got, and the quality, the cost was understandable and not too expensive. We had our meal covered, but the price range is certainly not out of reach if you are looking for a cozy, patio-style restaurant with shareable, bar food appetizers and classic entrees with a fresh, Californian (more like Hollywood-inspired) twist. They also hold shows throughout the month, the tickets to which are sold separately from dining in at the restaurant.

E and I took the train back, and I made it home close to 10pm. It was a busy, long birthday, but for what I did and who I surrounded myself with, I think I welcomed my 25th year the happiest way I could.

Rockwell Table & Stage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Days Like These

Days Like These

After a day to myself, I was eager to spend the Saturday catching up with E. I stopped by lab first to bid adieu to my undergrad, from there E and I left for Manhattan Beach.

I took the car out, and the drive out was a slightly crazy one since we were bracing ourselves on I-110 Southbound. We did make it one piece, and stopped for lunch at Cafe Rio since we were starving.

Standing in line
Standing in line

I’ve heard good things about Cafe Rio, which is a Chipotle-style restaurant, but in my opinion, everything looked more fresh.

Cafe Rio, Manhattan Beach
Cafe Rio, Manhattan Beach

I got a tostada bowl, while E got a quesadilla. My tostada was topped with cilantro rice, lettuce, guac, sour cream, tomatoes, black beans, tortilla strips, and refreshing spring of parsley.

Tostada Bowl
Tostada Bowl

I guess it wasn’t super outstanding, but since my appetite was raging, I devoured everything. E had to wait a while for me to finish since my bowl seemed to never end, and I was insistent on eating everything (including the tostada shell) with a fork, haha!

Clossssssse-up
Clossssssse-up

After getting our fill of fresh mex food, we stopped inside Barnes & Noble that was nearby before heading to the beach. We found parking in a hilly neighborhood, and only had to walk a block or two down to the shopping area right by the beach.

Once we made it past the shops, we found a spot to sit in the sand, and watch everything around us. It was more crowded than when we visited Aliso Beach, but we had fun taking in the surroundings and gossiping about our own stuff (like we don’t do that enough, haha).

Beach bummin'
Beach bummin’

We decided to head back a little before 5, and stopped for some smoothies at Jamba Juice since the weather was still warm. The drive back to LA was just as bracing as the drive we took in the morning, but I was able to drop off E and get home safely.

It was another pleasant Sunday, but I’m certainly not taking it for granted! I was looking at some past posts from around this time last year, and I was in a totally different mindset at the time, and going through some struggles that I’m glad I was able to get over! Having friends in the workplace like E has helped, and just feeling in more control of my surroundings. So yes, I’ll continue to greet and be grateful for days that pass like these β™₯.

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

Finally!

Finally!

I had no trouble getting back into my routine after returning from Las Vegas, but one piece of news threw me for a loop.

Freebies from the IDEA/BlogFest Expo! An RX Bar in Chocolate Chip flavor! Too much nuts IMO, but not too shabby of a flavor.
Freebies from the IDEA/BlogFest Expo! An RX Bar in Chocolate Chip flavor! Too much nuts IMO, but not too shabby of a flavor.

One of my undergraduate assistants informed me that the week would be his last, even though he originally had plans to stay and help me out for a longer period of time.

A new-to-me Trader Joe's find I picked up that week---
A new-to-me Trader Joe’s find I picked up that week—Greek Whole Milk Yogurt (Avocado Citrus) mixed with peanut powder. It fueled me through a 12hr day x-x

Even though his change of plans was a disappointment, he still came in over the weekend, and so at least I had one solid weekend free from the constraints of lab. I definitely took advantage of this.

Another cool freebie! La Colombe Coconut and Vanilla coffee...the coconut flavor was pleasantly surprising in taste, like a splash of coconut water was added to some iced cream coffee!!
Another cool freebie! La Colombe Coconut and Vanilla coffee…the coconut flavor was pleasantly surprising in taste, like a splash of coconut water was added to some iced cream coffee!!
 
I was able to take the car out to Encino, and from Santa Monica it was an (almost) easy drive up the 405. I was also able to avoid paying for street parking by finding a neighborhood to park at and from there walk over. 
 
Veggie Grill, Encino
Veggie Grill, Encino
 
Veggie Grill was my destination since they sent me a $5 off birthday coupon that I couldn’t resist… 
 
Mondo Nachos, Veggie Grill (Encino)
Mondo Nachos, Veggie Grill (Encino)
 
…and the dish I couldn’t avoid ordering, despite having it before AND the fact that their summer menu had a mouth-watering array of options. A plate of Mondo Nachos sounded just perfect at the time. 
 
Compared to the plate I had at the WeHo location more than a year ago, I felt like it lacked a lot of guac and soy crumbles (they replaced it with grilled chik’n this time around). This was more of an observation than a complaint, however. I also brought my laptop and did some work at the restaurant for a few hours after eating. I guess it’s more “normal” to set up shop like that at a Starbucks or a cafe,but Veggie Grill had a jammin’ playlist so I wasn’t too pressured to get up and leave! 
 
I headed out a little after 1 and my next stop was in Grocery Outlet in Burbank. I inevitably had to face traffic, and it took me almost thirty minutes to get from Encino to Burbank. 
 
Burbank Grocery Outlet
Burbank Grocery Outlet
 
When I did arrive however, I was ecstatic to finally be stepping into one of GO’s newer So Cal locations. Ah, it had been too long! 
 
I made out with a week’s worth of food with plenty of change to spare, so it only made sense to drive by Glendale and finally get me some Yoga-Urt! They had been on my radar for quite some time now, and I’ve actually been following them on Instagram since their opening two years ago in 2015! Getting there by public transit always posed a challenge, but with a car handy it’s really not that impossible to get to. 
 
__yoga-urt__
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The shop is very small, with a few patio chairs and tables in the front. There’s also a huge blackboard wall near the entrance, the contents of which are frequently changing. 
 
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They offered a lot on their menu, but their flavors of soft serve were limited for the day.

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A turmeric/gold rose flavor sounded unique, and was listed as one of their offered flavors, but unfortunately not on the day I visited.

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A small cup of froyo with one topping proved to be pricey (~$6!), but since it was vegan-friendly and a hand-crafted kind of place, I thought it was a worthy treat to splurge on. I ended up going for the Peanut Butter Prana topped with dried mulberries.

PBP & Dried Mulberries
PBP & Dried Mulberries

I enjoyed my cup outside, and marveled at how thick the soft serve was. It was like those So Delicious ice creams I rave about, except smoother and creamier. The mulberries added some varied crunch, but to be honest they weren’t a vital component.

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After spending the day driving and eating through North LA, I made the drive back home, and spent the remainder of the evening napping and catching up on some work. I was squeezing every minute out of this “free” weekend, because who know when my next one will be!

A new Nuts 'n More flavor for me to try. I picked it up from the Vitamin Shoppe near the Veggie Grill in Encino. Definitely found it more blanaced in the oil-to-butter ratio. The vanilla flavor was mixed throughout, and it didn't have those crystalized sugar pieces at the bottom like I observed with Cookie Butter.
A new Nuts ‘n More flavor for me to try. I picked it up from the Vitamin Shoppe near the Veggie Grill in Encino. Definitely found it more balanced in the oil-to-butter ratio. The white chocolate flavor was mixed throughout, and it didn’t have those crystallized sugar pieces at the bottom like I observed with Cookie Butter.
 
 Is there something you finally got done recently?

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

A Weekend in LV, Part II

A Weekend in LV, Part II

My second full day in Vegas started off at a steamy 95 degrees. I kept waking up throughout the night due to the heat/constant shuffling in and out of the bathroom of the other guests, and so I decided to actually wake up at 6, since sleeping in just wasn’t going to work out.

View from the convention center
View from the convention center

I told my friend to pick me up from the convention center at 9, and so to kill time, I tried to find a session or two to join in. I didn’t find anything too remarkable, so I just participated in a yoga class that was going on. It made me quickly realize that as a runner—I need to stretch more.

When my friend arrived, she looked tired due to her long working day on Friday, but we still followed through with our plans and headed out to Red Rock Canyon.

Driving to Red Rock Canyon
Driving to Red Rock Canyon

But just soon as we stepped out of the car, we stepped back in. The heat was unbelievably unbearable, but we couldn’t leave without a selfie, haha.

Red Rock Canyon...so hot!
Red Rock Canyon…so hot!

She was hungry and had a craving for eggs, especially after hearing about a chain of brunch-type restaurants called Egg Works. We stopped by one of them on her way to work.

Eggworks in Summerlin
Eggworks in Summerlin

It definitely had a mom-and-pop vibe, and even though we were offered seats at the bar, we were able to snag a cozy booth and enjoy our meals without background kitchen noise.

Their menu was extensive, with not only egg dishes, but the sweet breakfast stuff too. But since it was practically noon, I was all about something savory and eager to get some protein in me.

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The Veggie Benny was mine, while my friend ordered a Benedict as well, with extra bacon on the side.

Veggie Benny β™₯
Veggie Benny β™₯

 

A working girl's plate...
A working girl’s plate…

I pretty much wiped my plate clean, except for the tomato slices I had on the side. Maybe I should have been like my friend and gotten some cubed potatoes for my side…

After finishing up brunch, we drove around for a bit on the way back to Town Square since my friend had a shift a work starting at 2pm. I found a spot in Whole Foods to work on some things via laptop to pass the time. I grew restless about two hours in, and decided to spend the rest of the time doing some window (and real) shopping.

Haha, of course this statue would catch my eye. There are a variety of these around Town Square, painted for different themes.
Haha, of course this statue would catch my eye. There are a variety of these around Town Square, painted for different themes.

I met up with my friend again after 6pm, and from there we drove our tired selves over to The Strip. It was still blazing hot outside, but we managed to find free parking at Planet Hollywood, and after going down five flights, walked inside the hotel casino before stepping out and walking in the southern direction of The Strip.

For dinner, we agreed on burgers and Bobby’s Burger Palace was on the way.

BBP
BBP

Of course it was packed, like any other restaurant on The Strip on Saturday night. Everything was also very meat heavy, except for two veggie options: a Veggie Burger and a Grilled Cheese.

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I went for the veggie burger, and even though my friend and I ordered back-to-back, her plate came out a good fifteen minutes before mine did. We blame it on the party of ten who ordered at the register next to us…we think their orders got mixed in with ours and caused the delay, haha.

My Veggie burger was alright thought! I mean, even Bobby is looking adoringly at it on that napkin holder. There was a good ratio of sauce to burger, so it didn’t taste too dry or soggy. It also came with a huge pickle on the side, all of the burgers did actually.

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After getting food in our systems, we were in a chattier mood. The sun also went down so it was a bit cooler than an hour before. Our next destination was Sambalatte, right outside Monte Carlo.

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It was a cozy little coffee shop, and while it didn’t make much sense to get coffee at night, I had my reasons…

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I would drink coffee at midnight if it meant having a mug of this Unicorn Latte. For the ‘gram, if nothing else.

Unicorn Latte β™₯
Unicorn Latte β™₯

TBH, it’s taste didn’t match it looks. While it looked like it was a coffee made out of rainbow rays, it needed the help of some sweetener. My friend and I took turns sipping at the mug, and then walked into the casino next door. We quickly turned around when her BF texted her to come home since the were meeting family for a late night get together. The abrupt change in plans was a slight disappointment, since I didn’t know the next time I’d be able to see my friend again, but she offered to drop me off at my BNB before heading out.

The next day was nothing momentous. I was glad to finally leave that weird BNB and head back to LA. Of course I wish I could have spent another day or two with my friend, but she also looked like she needed some rest. I guess as long as she’s there, I’ll have a reason to come back to LV.

Bobby's Burger Palace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

July Degustabox Review

July Degustabox Review

How is July already almost over?! But to be honest, I’m usually excited for August’s arrival because it means birthday month!

In a way, I guess I was able to celebrate my last month of being 24 with this month’s Degustabox that I was sent to review.

stuff
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There were a lot more ready-to-eat snacks this month in comparison to the past few months, which is something I prefer since I’m always on the go, and rarely in the kitchen taking the time to cook something elaborate (even though that would be nice…)

cookiethins_browniebatter
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Mrs. Thinster’s Brownie Batter Cookie Thins were an obvious favorite of mine. Not only did they have a crisp texture, but there were enough chocolate chips to fit within the small cookies to give it a melty vibe. They reminded me overall of a flattened version of Famous Amos cookies.

brownie-thins
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The snack bag sizes of the products in this month’s box were convenient for on-the-go travel. I took the bag of Kala Beautiful Beans to lab one day and had them throughout the morning, chomping on them between incubation periods and washing steps for an experiment I was doing!

beans
When it’s mid-July and the summer heat still isn’t enough, maybe some Tropical Curry Kala fava beans will do the trick. Spicy lime at your service πŸ‘ŒπŸ½πŸŒΆ πŸ‹ @degustabox

The tropical curry flavor was an intense spicy, lime flavor—and it does stick to your breath, so you have been warned!

kala_tropical
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One item I was excited about wasn’t physically in the box, but redeemable with a coupon. RX Bar provided a “free bar” coupon that could be redeemable on any RX Bar! I think the company was feeling generous this month because I also saw them table a booth at the IDEA World/Blogfest conference last weekend. Both my coupon and samples at the conference allowed me to sample some of the new flavors, including Peanut Butter Chocolate!

pbchocolate_rx
Not my favorite @rxbar , but Chocolate Peanut Butter sounds like a safe enough flavor to add to your line-up of bars. I love the Peanut Butter flavor by itself, but for me, the addition of chocolate chunks was a bit much in terms of the texture and flavor. It does look pretty in the light though β˜€οΈ

The mini buttery vanilla Waffle Waffle waffle was a pleasantly surprising snack. I expected it be a dry and bland, but it had pieces of pearl sugar mixed in, as well as coated on top, so it had enough sweetness to balance out any dry dough.

waffle_
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It definitely had a buttery taste and a vanilla aroma, a nice crunch from the pearl sugar, and like the wrapper exclaimed it didn’t need syrup, but it wouldn’t hurt to add a topping or two to it!

waffle__
“How does a nice buttery, vanilla waffle made from a batter mixed with crunchy pearls of sugar sound for breakfast today? πŸžβ˜•οΈπŸ΄Apparently #nosyrupneeded πŸ˜…”

This Mutti Tomato Sauce was a pure delight for mixing my crockpot vegetables in.

mutti_tomato_sauce_
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I was so hungry the night(s) I used this, so I’m lacking dinner pics of veggies-piled-high crockpot bowls with a generous serving of thin, flavorful tomato sauce on top. I usually like a thicker consistency for sauces and liquids meant to function as meals, but the thin consistency of this sauce seemed to work well.

The bottle of Karma Wellness Water I must say was the one product this month that fascinated me the most. The featured flavor was acai pomegranate, and it is boasted as an “immunity booster”, with contents such as vitamin C4, zinc, berry extracts, and tea extracts.

karma_h20
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The vitamins are supposed to be infused only when you are ready to drink. The cap on top contains the mix that you push down on in order to release everything into the plain water that is actually inside the bottle. Shake well, and you’re good to go!

I thought I had deja vu when I saw these…

seasalt
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And when I did take a look back at my previous posts, I did indeed notice that I had tried these popcorn snacks before! Just about a year ago in fact, when I first started working with Degustabox…

What I thought then…

The Wise popcorn bags I received came in lightly salted and Cinnabon flavors. I made my usual weeknight after-dinner snack of protein powder mixed with yogurt (proyo), and topped the bowl with popcorn. In this bowl, I topped it with the Cinnabon flavor and snacked on the lightly salted flavor on the side. The Cinnabon flavor was not very strong to my disappointment, and the popcorn of both flavors tasted somewhat stale (as in they didn’t have a robust crunch to them).

cinnabon
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…and I don’t think my opinion has changed to much since a year ago. I still thought the Cinnabon popcorn didn’t have a strong flavor, but both were decent-sized, palatable snacks.

The King Arthur Flour for Everyone’s Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix was an interesting addition. I like the graphic design of the packaging for some reason…makes me think of making something from scratch…

cookiedough
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…I guess that’s the point! The mix definitely has the fresh aroma of a semi-sweet chocolate chip cookie ready to be baked, and there were plenty of medium-sized chocolate chips in the mix. Haven’t had a chance to completely bake with the mix yet, but I don’t think it will disappoint!

The Goya Olive Oil is another item I have yet to (but am eager to try!) and since the jerky sticks were obviously a meat product, I had to hand them over to the six-foot-something post-doc in my lab— since he’ll eat anything that’s on our common table, haha!

Which of these items would you snack on while pondering over where your summer has gone?!

A Weekend in LV, Part 1

A Weekend in LV, Part 1

My weekend trip to Vegas was planned on a whim, mostly due to the fact my bestie from Nor Cal moved there recently. BlogFest was also occurring the weekend I planned to visit, and there wasn’t any time-sensitive experiment holding me back in lab, so everything seemed to work out in my favor.

I worked some long days earlier in the week (including a 12hr stint the day before I left), but once Thursday arrived I was ready to for the desert country.

My MegaBus wasn’t leaving LA until 12:45, so I took it easy in the morning. I decided to take the weekend off from running since I knew the 90-110 temperatures in the Vegas heat would be unbearable to run in. After getting some coffee, I packed up the remainder of my stuff at home and then made my way to Union Station.

It was pretty hot in LA as well, so I was antsy until the bus came and we could finally sit down in an A/C regulated area. The bus ride was pretty uneventful, but I was able to fall in and out of sleep pretty easily. My body had been wanting to catch up I suppose!

Protein House, Las Vegas
Protein House, Las Vegas

I arrived in LA around 6, and my friend had just gotten off work so she was able to swing by and pick me up. I was expecting myself to experience a weather shock but the 105 degree temperature difference felt insane. She also looked pretty exhausted, so finding some place to eat for dinner was an immediate priority.

Menu
Menu

I had been wanting to check out The Protein House ever since it was featured on the Food Network in one of those undercover, we-fix-your-restaurant shows.

Pick-Up Counter and Protein Cookies
Pick-Up Counter and Protein Cookies

Many years later, I was standing in one of their locations with my friend, deciding which plant-based protein entree to get and a smoothie to complement it.

Counter and Shaker Bottle Rack
Counter and Shaker Bottle Rack

I ended up getting their Plant Power Bowl and the Chocolate PB Crush crush shake while my friend got a Spicy Thai Chicken Wrap and a Peanut Butter Dream smoothie. With her purchase, she was able to score a free shaker cup—something she said she probably will not use, haha.

My smoothie, her wrap
My smoothie, her wrap

Our food came out relatively quickly, and while our smoothies were flavorful and thick, both of our entrees were pretty dry. A little mix of some sauce and everything would have been dandy…

Plant Power Bowl ~ Organic Tofu, Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Quinoa, Chopped Garlic, Sweet Potato, Squash, Red onion, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Black beans, Chickpeas, Siriacha, Pinch Pepper & SeaSalt, Red Pepper Flakes
Plant Power Bowl ~
Organic Tofu, Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Quinoa, Chopped Garlic, Sweet Potato, Squash, Red onion, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Black beans, Chickpeas, Siriacha, Pinch Pepper & SeaSalt, Red Pepper Flakes

My friend was still pretty tired after we ate, so we just walked around the Town Square shopping mall a few miles off the strip since she works there. We spent an hour or so walking through Sephora and some of the other boutiques. Around 9pm, she dropped me off at my AirBnB which…was quite an experience.

The listing forgot to mention a few things…like the apartments were in a semi-sketch area (doubt that anyone would say that but…), the private room I was renting was opposite another private room housing two male guests and that there was a shared bathroom for both rooms, and that some rando would be sleeping on a pull-out couch in the living room my entire stay without a shirt on. Welcome to Las Vegas πŸ‘ŒπŸ½

But my room was clean and everything else seemed okay. It was a weird situation, but I could tolerate it for the weekend.

The next day was the second day of BlogFest and since my friend had to work all day, I spent most of the day at the convention center. I woke up at the crack of dawn, and was ready by 7:30. I decided to walk over, and despite the weirdness of the surrounding area, it was a safe walk over. Even though it was early in the morning, it was already hitting the 90s, and I couldn’t avoid sweating despite my attempts at walking slowly and under shade patches.

I was able to make it to the day’s earliest event which was the networking breakfast with a yogurt bar sponsored by Bell Institute.

Wecolme to Blogfest 2017!
Wecolme to Blogfest 2017!

I made sure to get a bowl of Good Culture cottage cheese topped with berries and a large mug of hot coffee with creamer.

Yogurt bar!
Yogurt bar!

I stayed for the keynote speech and the morning sessions, and around noon stopped by the expo to, ya know…pick up as many freebies as I can!

So many booths, gotta catch 'em all!
So many booths, gotta catch ’em all!

I grabbed enough protein bars, protein powders, kale chips, and other random items to fill one large reusable bag and my backpack. I was (mentally) tired to stay any longer, so I made the decision to walk back to my room in the 105 degree heat around 3:30pm. I wanted to rip off my skin and dunk my organs in an ice bath by the time I got back, but I survived. Opening the door and finding a half naked guy sleeping on a pull-out bed in the living room was awkward, but I retreated to my room and counted the hours until I could hang out with my bestie the next day…

Have you ever had an awkward hotel/lodging experience?

Protein House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Brunch & Beach

Brunch & Beach

My sister needed me to check out a potential housing option in the OC, and so I thought it would be the perfect reason to head down to the area for a brunch & beach day. Lucky for me, one of my undergrad assistants was able to take care of some small things for me that Sunday, and so I did not have to step into lab. It feels great to delegate work sometimes, haha.

I picked up E from a nearby Expo line station after my morning run and shower. From there, we got on the freeway and it was pretty much an easy Sunday drive down to Aliso Viejo.

Bagels & Brew
Bagels & Brew

I suggested we eat out at Bagels & Brew, mostly because of their unicorn bagel, but they had other enticing options as well.

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We decided to eat inside at a booth, but ordered first at the counter. E got a sandwich of course, and a grande sized coffee. I went for the unicorn/rainbow bagel with jalapeΓ±o cheddar cream cheese, avocado, tomato, and lime juice…otherwise known as “Aliso Viejo” style.

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For my drink, the agave nectar latte sounded warm and sweet, so I had that to accompany my meal.

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Everything was piled on so high since it was served open face, so I needed the help of a fork to ensure no avocado slice or cream cheese drop was left behind.

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We sat for a good half hour at our booth after eating, and then got up and walked around the shopping plaza. This Bagels & Brew was actually near the Native Foods we went to for my birthday last year, so I was circling familiar territory.

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E and I had fun walking in and out of stores like Michael’s, Lowe’s, and B&N, joking about what we could get to decorate our lab office, picking up some Drain-O, and browsing through aisles of overpriced books. After killing some time at the shopping plaza, we headed out towards Aliso Beach. The temperature was starting to creep up without warning, so driving with the A/C on was much needed.

Walking to the beach
Walking to the beach

We parked on a slope in a residential area, about 10 minutes away by foot from the beach. The walk down was easy to navigate, and when we got to the sand, we took our socks and shoes off only to be burned by the sun-exposed sand.

At the beach
At the beach

The water had a truly beautiful blue hue though, and even though we didn’t bring a towel to sit down on, we managed and found a nice little spot to sit down at and enjoy the relaxing view.

After about an hour of sun-bathing and self-reflecting, we got up and made our ascent back to the car. Dusting the sand off our legs and feet was quite the task, but we did the best we could before getting in the car and driving off to Mission Viejo.

Several entrances on freeways and u-turns later, we stopped for a smoothie/acai bowl break. That helped cool off our beach-raised core body temperatures!

A PB acai bowl to help cool off...
A PB acai bowl to help cool off…

And finally, we made it to the house that could potentially house my sister. The current tenant seemed friendly, and E and I took a look around while I took some pictures for my sis. There were two cute fur babies (a black and a gray/white cat!!) who apparently took ownership of the domain. My sister had been wanting this place to work out, and when I sent her the pictures, she was definitely sold. I mean…I couldn’t argue about her decision. With a backyard looking the way this place’s does, how could anyone say no?

I thought she should say yes based on the view alone...
I thought she should say yes based on the view alone…

We immediately drove back to LA after, and after dropping E off, I surprisingly didn’t feel as exhausted as I did last weekend. In fact, I felt reenergized! Just comes to show how a full day off can work wonders! The pint of the weekend was So Delicious’ Soymilk Peanut Butter Zigzag, and to me it was yet another disappointment.

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I had my eye on this flavor for a while, but never thought about getting it because of my love for Snickerdoodle and Cookie Dough like I previously mentioned. It had a number of peanut butter chunks and chocolate pieces, but there just wasn’t enough PB to balance out the chocolate. In other words, a flavor worth missing out on in my opinion…

What do you think of the rainbow/unicorn foodie trend?

Bagels & Brew Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

4th of July What?

4th of July What?

For me, 4th of July weekend was non-existent. I was in lab every single day that weekend, two of which were spent as over-nighters due to the nature of the experiments I was running. It was exhausting, but I felt so productive and accomplished by the end of it…and when I saw co-workers walking in on July 5th looking super depressed, haha!

The weekend after, I still had to go into lab but lunch in downtown with E was a given. I had an eye appointment I had to attend to first, but after that, E and I walked into the depths of downtown—under the hot LA sub—looking for Two Boots Pizza. We were covered in sweat by the time we saw the small stand by an old-style theater and Urban Outfitters.

Two Boots, DTLA
Two Boots, DTLA

One thing that intrigued me about this place is how they have a lengthy line-up of some veggie/vegan pizza options! The green-bordered menu had E and I excited to dig into a late lunch.

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Despite the long list of pizza options, the guy behind the counter disappointed us by saying the only flavors available that day were displayed through the front window.

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In that case, we both ordered a slice of the Night Tripper. She got another spicy slice while I got the veggie-topped V for Vegan.

β™₯ Night Tripper & V for Vegan β™₯
β™₯ Night Tripper & V for Vegan β™₯

We sat at some stools next to the little stall and munched on our slices. The Night Tripper was indeed a spicy one with a soft layer of cheese and basil drizzle. V for Vegan was milder in comparison, but put artichoke hearts on anything and it just takes it to the next level.

After talking for a bit, we headed back to catch the train and from there I headed home. I stopped by Ralph’s to get a pint for the night—this time a new So Delicious flavor to try: Dark Chocolate Truffle.

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And…despite wanting to love it, the DCT cashew milk ice cream just wasn’t those flavors I fell in love with. Snickerdoodle, Salted Caramel Cluster, and Cookie Dough had me feeling differently, but I guess this flavor is perhaps best suited for a vegan who loves her chocolate!

On Sunday, I went out for a 14 mile run before heading to lab. Since San Diego, I’ve just been trying to maintain my weekly mileage, since I plan to start fall marathon training (back with a coach) in August. July seems to be the perfect month to be a little lax with training…since “slow” times and “sluggish efforts” can always be blamed on the heat πŸ˜‰

After the run, I hurried to lab just to get my errands out of the way. With my sister out of the state for the next couple weeks, I’m car-sitting her automobile and so I was able to conveniently drive over to lab that morning. I finished up by early afternoon, and so E and I took the car out to Melrose to dine at Fratelli Cafe. Of course, we parked too soon at La Brea since E thought she knew where the restaurant was. We were off by a couple blocks, and so we literally ended up having a warm-up walk before eating, haha!

Fratelli on Melrose
Fratelli on Melrose

When we entered the restaurant, we could tell the place was a local favorite based on the crowds, but getting the attention of the wait staff proved to be difficult. We weren’t sure if we had to wait to be seated, or seat ourselves, but we eventually figured out that we order first and then find a place to sit. There weren’t enough menus at the front where we had to order, and so E and I waited awkwardly behind a group of three who had all three menus…

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When we did get our chance to order, I ordered the Huevos Rancheros off the breakfast menu while E went for a veggie sandwich and chips. There was no difference sitting inside versus outside since there was no evidence of an A/C, so we found a table outside.

It took a while for our food to arrive, and the dishes that passed us in the meantime were a real tease for our exhausted, overheated bodies. When our plates did come though, I took a moment to admire the layers of my brunch plate.

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I had a well-balanced, hearty plate in front of me, if I do say so myself…

"I've been craving eggs 🍳 like crazy lately, so I wasn't surprised that I ended up getting Huevos Rancheros for a late lunch on Sunday at Fratelli Cafe with the lab bestie. Besides getting food in our systems, it didn't make sense to do anything else because of the heat wave πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ and after dropping her off at home, I was knocked out 😴 by 7:30pm. The next thing I know, I wake up and it's pitch black at 9pm πŸ˜±πŸ˜‚. I guess I must have been really tired in addition to being really hungry πŸ˜…. Working through the Fourth of July holiday weekend does that to you I guess πŸ€·πŸ½β€β™€οΈ πŸ˜‰ #PhDStudentLife"
“I’ve been craving eggs 🍳 like crazy lately, so I wasn’t surprised that I ended up getting Huevos Rancheros for a late lunch on Sunday at Fratelli Cafe with the lab bestie. Besides getting food in our systems, it didn’t make sense to do anything else because of the heat wave πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ and after dropping her off at home, I was knocked out 😴 by 7:30pm. The next thing I know, I wake up and it’s pitch black at 9pm πŸ˜±πŸ˜‚. I guess I must have been really tired in addition to being really hungry πŸ˜…. Working through the Fourth of July holiday weekend does that to you I guess πŸ€·πŸ½β€β™€οΈ πŸ˜‰ #PhDStudentLife”

We finished our late lunch by 4pm, and while the sun was still high in the sky and we could have easily done something else thanks to the convenience of a car, we decided to call it a day since it was too hot. I dropped E off at home before doing some grocery shopping, and on the way, finally picked up a jar of Nuts’n More to try.

Nuts'n More Cookie Butter High Protein Spread
Nuts’n More Cookie Butter High Protein Spread

In comparison to D’s Naturals, I found that the oils mix much more evenly throughout the jar so that the bottom isn’t a flaky, dry paste. There were some tiny, crystallized sugar pieces in the mix too, but the cookie butter flavor was still detectable.

My 4th of July “holiday weekend” was something I missed out on, but I’d say I do a pretty decent job of finding the time to give myself a break, even if it doesn’t coincide with the rest of the world’s! It also helps to have a colleague/friend who pretty much lives at work just as much as you do. At this rate, with all of the places I drag her out to eat at, E will probably become just as much of a foodie as I am!

Did you have a long 4th of July holiday weekend, or just a day or two off?

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

Before Her Mid-Summer Departure

Before Her Mid-Summer Departure

In the second week my sister stayed with me, we ate out for dinner on most nights since my landlords were back. On that Monday night, we went out to dinner with my lab bestie E, at Tocaya in downtown SaMo.

Tocaya, Downtown Santa Monica
Tocaya, Downtown Santa Monica

E and I both had long, exhausting days, and were pretty much falling asleep on the train when on our way to meet my sister. My sister was waiting for us in her car, and from there it was an easy drive.

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For a Monday night, the restaurant had a large crowd. We didn’t have to wait too long to order though. We all got bowls, with mine being the Venice Beach Bowl. I just went with the “chef’s suggestion” as listed on the menu, and had the bowl with roasted cauliflower, sweet potato, lentils, garbanzo beans, pickled onions, cilantro-curry salsa, vegan picadillo (pea-based protein) & vegan chipotle jack.

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We found a table by the wall, and sat there pretty quiet until our food came. Once we had food in our bellies, we were able to keep a conversation going! It was a fun evening out, and since going out to eat on weeknights is a rare occurrence for me, I found it to be especially enjoyable. We went back towards DTLA to drop E off at home, and then returned back to my place.

The rest of the week was spent getting back into the work grind, with my sister leaving that Thursday morning to have enough time to see our friend who was graduating. She was gone for two weeks, but came back for one night at the end of the month since she was leaving for Oklahoma to spend some time with my parents.

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For that night, we ate at Tender Greens, and after hearing me talk about the exquisite Falafel Plate I had at the Culver City location a few months back, she was excited to try it for herself. Although, her plate didn’t exactly match what I had.

Oddball cartoons
Oddball cartoons

This time around, I had the Falafel Salad. But it was honestly nothing to be over the moon about. The falafel was too dry, and the tahini sauce was more of a decoration than something to dip into.

Falafel Salad
Falafel Salad

My sister liked her plate though. She didn’t’ have the dollop of green hummus I had previously, but she had her mashed potatoes so she was perfectly content.

Falafel Plate
Falafel Plate

I drove her to the airport early the next morning, and then drove back home to park the car and head to lab. The following weeks were crazy work-wise, but now as I write this, it’s a little less hectic now.

Words to remember...
Words to remember…

 

I’ve still got tons to do (when is that going to change haha), but that doesn’t mean the weekends are completely non-existent πŸ˜‰

Tender Greens Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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