President’s Day Weekend ’17 – Part 1

President’s Day Weekend ’17 – Part 1

The last time I saw my cousin and her wife was in the summer of 2015…just before my parents moved from Cali and before I began my second year of grad school.

I didn’t think it would be another year and a half before seeing them again, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that my sister and I had a chance to visit.

A little guide dog that boarded the train :)
A little guide dog that boarded the train 🙂

I left on a Thursday afternoon just so that I could spread out my travel time. I took the evening Amtrak bus/train, and my sister picked me up at the station. My bus arrived in Bakersfield an HOUR early, so waiting to board the train ended up being an uncontrollable waste of time. I did eventually get on and get to Fresno around 8:30pm. My sister and I immediately went to Sprouts to get snacks, chill, and got to sleep around midnight.

The next day, I woke up to go for a run, despite the intermittent showers. I ended up running a little under six miles, while my sister finished up her morning class. From there, we left for a late breakfast at her now all-time favorite brunch place Benediction. Seeing as it was my third time visiting the location, I didn’t think about taking pictures of my food. I left my phone in the car, and fully enjoyed some piping hot coffee, potatoes (still have a craving for the starchy goodness ever since my visit to JFAT), and my sister’s company.

From there, we left for Walnut Creek. It ended up being just about 3 hours of a drive and my sister was a trooper, driving through some horrid rain spots as we got closer to the bay. I offered to take over towards the end but she had it under control. We did have some bladder-related tasks to take care of, so when we finally got to my cousin’s apartment, we fled upstairs with the luggage still in our car. The first question we asked was “where is your bathroom?!”

Once we were settled in, we chatted for an hour our two while snacking on a slice of coffee-spiced cheese, apple slices, and oranges. I forgot how good the apple/cheese combo is!

We originally had plans to eat in for dinner, but then my cousin’s wife offered to pay for dinner since she got a bonus and wanted to treat all of us.

Welcome to Babalou's!
Welcome to Babalou’s!
Overview
Overview

Because of her sweet offer, we dined at Babalou’s for some fresh Mediterranean food.

Menu
Menu
Fun artwork!
Fun artwork!

I had the veggie plate, which came with two falafel, two dolmas (grape leaf rolls), a lentil salad, babaganoush, hummus, and tahini.

Veggie Plate
Veggie Plate

There was also of course some pita bread on the side to mop up any excess condiments.

Baba & Hummus
Baba & Hummus

After dinner, we made our way to the nearby theater to watch Lion. It was incredibly packed, more so than when I saw a movie out in LA on a Friday night.

Friday night at the movies!
Friday night at the movies!

All of us pretty much teared up or held our tears back by the time the movie was through. It was such a good story and the meaning of the title makes so much sense at the end.

We got home around 10:00 but we were all pretty tired to stay up and do anything. Dinner and a movie was all we could handle for the day!

Babalou's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fun in Fresno – Part 3

Fun in Fresno – Part 3

Saturday night was without-a-doubt the best part of the trip. We didn’t even need to change our outfits when we got back from our adventures during the day, since a visit to 1920 Tea Station Club was on our minds from the get-go.

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This was our answer for “goin’ clubbin'” alright. No alcohol here—just boba tea, fantastical desserts, and strobe lights. Obviously the latter was not from the 1920’s…

insidetheclub

Everyone inside was either on a date, or in a group with friends or family. This place was just as much a social club as it was a trendy place to grab some grub.

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We found a paper menu near the counter, and had more time to look through it after we got seated. One of their trademark delicacies was a brick toast dessert that was offered in several different ways. My sister was craving a boba milkshake, so she got that as an appetizer of sorts (chocolate of course), while our ‘main course’ would be a honey-flavored brick toast with an assortment of fruit.

We could. not. wait.

My sister’s boba shake was quite the knock-out, and it sort of kept us from thinking about the toast while it was being prepped.

 Hello, delicious.
Hello, delicious.

When our toast cube did arrive, it truly did hold our attention. It was as stunning as a birthday cake topped with scoops of various-flavored ice creams and sparklers—perhaps even more.

honey-toast-with fruit and ice cream

We were enamored by the outside of the brick itself—with a fanfare of fruits at the top and two scoops of ice cream in the back—all of which was drizzled with chocolate! But on the inside, we figured out why it was called brick toast. There were literally columns of toast lined tightly against each other!

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We also realized that despite the sweet, honey taste the toast had, it was still dry if eaten by itself. No wonder there was ice cream to help us out in this regard. The ice cream may have quickly melted, but none of it escaped from of us because the toast was able to absorb all of it. Nothing went to waste here!

We drove back to my sister’s apartment close to 10pm, and ‘recuperated’ from that exquisite experience! If you’re going to have a load of carbs before bedtime, make it worth something 😉

On Sunday morning, I traded in my usual long runs for another 6 miler. I needed to save time to pack up for LA, and so cutting the run short was necessary. Once my sister got up and ready, we were out of the dorm by 10AM.

Before grabbing lunch, I got my eyebrows waxed (after way too long, trust me!), and stopped by my long-distance love: Grocery Outlet ♥. I stocked up on some $0.50 Chobani (why can’t it be like this in LA?!) and some produce like onions and zucchini that could easily be tucked into my already over-stuffed rollerboard.

After those necessary but fun errands, we made our last foodie-related stop of my trip at Grilled Chz.

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I’ve heard of grilled cheese-focused restaurants popping up here and there, but the décor was over the top and right on theme inside this location!

inside_grilled_chz

Even though they had a make-your-own option with lots of toppings and cheeses to choose from, my sister and I kept it real and simple by going with one of the suggestions listed on the menu.

menu_grilled__chz

My sister ended up getting the Borderbob, which had pepper jack cheese, fritos, salsa, cilantro lime butter, all inside two slices of crusted white bread. It usually comes with chili, but since it had meat, she was able to get that taken out.

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I got the Veggie Chz, which ironically had no veggies whatsoever! It did have sharp cheddar cheese, pitted dates, walnuts, and raisins all mixed in between two slices of crispy and toasty multi-grain bread.

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This seriously had to be one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve had in a long time. I know that dried fruits and cheese tend to make a great food pairing, but I never actually thought of it in grilled cheese form! Thankfully these guys did, and I got to experience it!

veggiechz_closeup

After our cheesy lunch, we stopped by Kohl’s before driving over to the Amtrak station. I ended up leaving Fresno around 2PM and getting back to my apartment about five hours later—after a train, bus, and Metro Rail ride. Can’t complain, it comes with city life!

I still can’t believe that I saw my sister a week ago from today…this week went by crazy fast, and I have a feeling next week will go by at just the same rate. With classes finishing up and things in lab kicking in, I’m thankful for finding some time to spend with my best friend by blood 🙂

1920 Tea Station on Urbanspoon Grilled Chz on Urbanspoon

Fun in Fresno – Part 1

Fun in Fresno – Part 1

The highlight of last weekend was seeing my sister again after almost two months. After finding a convenient time that fit both of our schedules, I was able to squeeze in a short trip to her part of town.

The weekend started bright and early at 4AM, when I finished packing up some last minute items and made my way for Union Station. From there, I took an Amtrak Thruway Bus to Bakersfield, and boarded my very first Amtrak train around 10AM.

 View from inside the train (top level!)
View from inside the train (top level!)

I naively thought the ride would zip on by like that of a bullet train, but in reality, it was mostly a mundane trip with not much in terms of scenery. It was Central Valley country after all…

I arrived at the Fresno Amtrak around noon, and found my sister waiting for me. She was cutting it close to making it on time for class, but decided to skip since she could get notes later…plus, she had me to entertain 😉

Actually, once we got to her dorm and I settled in, I went for an afternoon run while she chilled in her room. I was able to (surprisingly) run at a speedy-for-me pace, despite the temperature high of almost 80 degrees! I also made it safely back to the sis’ campus, despite running during times of high traffic, and having a guy start “running” alongside me “as a joke”. At least now I knew which direction of Fresno to avoid 😛

When I got back to the dorm, my sister was eager to show off “her” tea place. A place she often goes to study, and grab a cozy cup of tea to sip on while doing so…

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Teazer World Tea Market, at River Park, had an exquisite set-up on the inside:

interior

The counter was hidden by a wall of tea, and the menu had so many choices—hot tea, iced tea, milk tea, black tea, seasonal specials…

somuchtea

My sister chose to get an iced cream tea, and I decided to get a ‘tortoise’ green tea latte. We lined up behind the register, and I admired the canisters of tea, vegan treats, and other novelty items that were decorated alongside the counter.

hiddentreats

When we got to the counter, we put in our orders and I also asked for some iced water to drink on the side since it was still pretty hot outside.

counterandpickup

There were a lot of seating options, but after seeing that all of the seats were taken up in the back (and cozier) part of the tea house, we found a table back near the counter.

 A cozy area in the back for reading and sipping tea.
A cozy area in the back for reading and sipping tea.

We picked up our drinks, laid down our notes for “studying”, and took a couple sips of our drinks before diving into a conversation. My sister’s Irish strawberry cream iced tea looked adorable with its light pink hue, and my green tea latte cup was decked out with an emerald-colored napkin.

drinks-irish-strawberry-cream

I was actually more surprised that my iced water was served in a mug vs. a regular plastic cup! It had a lovely pattern though.

 My tortoise green tea latte --- smooth, creamy, warm, and flavorful.
My tortoise green tea latte — smooth, creamy, warm, and flavorful.

I used to get the green tea lattes from Starbucks all the time, so it was nice ordering an old favorite from a new place. My sister really enjoyed her cream tea, as it was a new choice for her!

We stayed at Teazer’s until around 5pm, and then started to pack things up so that we could get dinner! When my sister (and friends) are together with me, food is pretty much what dominates the thoughts in our brains 😛

My sister and I wanted to try one of the vegan establishments in downtown Fresno—Loving Hut.

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Despite the “interesting” characters we came across on our drive through downtown, I wasn’t taken aback or fearful of our surroundings. It was still bright and sunny outside at 6PM, and I had to convince my sister that the car would be safe parked outside the restaurant 😛

There was patio-seating, but we stepped inside to take a look at the menu and order our meals. There was a strong smell of oil/soy sauce/spicy seasonings that hit our noses as soon as we stepped in.

lovinghutinside

The menu wasn’t that extensive, so we were able to place our orders pretty quickly. The menu items were pretty cheap as well, with meals costing no more than $10!

 Pastries to the side, and a cart of books for reading while waiting for your meal I guess?
Pastries to the side, and a cart of books for reading while waiting for your meal I guess?

There was no A/C (or electrical fan for that matter), so we were fanning ourselves and trying to keep cool while waiting for our food to come out. When it did, we dined in silence—for the first time since my arrival 😉 !

 Sis got the #8 BBQ special with BBQ seitan "drumsticks", steamed greens, and white rice.
Sis got the #8 BBQ special with BBQ seitan “drumsticks”, steamed greens, and white rice.

I got the Ocean of Love plate (and I accidentally deleted my picture of it—grrr), which came with steamed greens, and seitan shreds that were noodle-like, wrapped up in seaweed and pan-fried in black pepper sauce. I used the veggies to mop up any leftover black pepper sauce, and everything was undeniably so good.

After chowing down on dinner, we drove back to my sister’s dorm and hung out in her room for the rest of the night. We skyped one of our close friends, and filled the room with chatter and laughter. Good thing her suite mates weren’t around, because we were loud and proud of it 😉 . 

I went to sleep around 10pm (like usual…), and despite having to sleep in a sleeping bag on a hard (but carpeted) ground, I slept like a baby and woke up around 7AM on Saturday morning. 

Speaking of which…well, more of that in the next post!

Teazer World Tea Market -- River Park on Urbanspoon Loving Hut on Urbanspoon

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