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.


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 jalapeño cheddar cream cheese, avocado, tomato, and lime juice…otherwise known as “Aliso Viejo” style.


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


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.


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.


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.


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

Weekend One with the Sis

Weekend One with the Sis

The first weekend my sister stayed over was spent apartment scoping, food tasting, and shopping (for her, while I anxiously tried to plan my upcoming week in lab/submit a very important email…). It’s funny how this was a weekend in early June, and this post is only going live in mid-July… #PhDStudentLife

We drove down to Irvine after we went to lab. She was able to help me finish faster and with lab experience of her own, I could tell her to do something without worrying if she knew how to do it accurately, haha. We were on the road before noon, and had enough time to stop for lunch before her apartment viewing appointment. So Veggie Grill at the Irvine Spectrum it was!


Because my visits to Veggie Grill have encompassed many of their locations, I like to visit when they have seasonal specials just so I can make sure I am trying something completely new. Their summer menu was featured this time around, and the Super Rica burger was calling my name…


My sister went with her favorite Southern Fried Chik’n plate, as usual, but I did not regret my choice.

The Super Rica Burger, made with Beyond burger, chorizo queso, fire-roasted poblanos, cherry pepper, charred onions, lettuce, tomato, house made "corn nuts" + crispy fries
The Super Rica Burger, made with Beyond burger, chorizo queso, fire-roasted poblanos, cherry pepper, charred onions, lettuce, tomato, house made “corn nuts” + crispy fries

It had the perfect blend of spicy, creamy, and crunchy. I didn’t have fries on the side, but the coleslaw was not some poorly made side dish—it brought it’s out flavorful punch too!


I guess I was hungrier than I thought, because I finished my plate entirely and helped my sister out with hers.

It was soon approaching 1pm so we made our way back to the car and drove towards the apartment complex she booked a tour at. The visit was alright, but the cons definitely outweighed the pros. Finding a place in the OC that was decently priced and clean was surprisingly not too easy a task, and I could tell my sister was feeling frustrated. I was able to propose a solution for her that didn’t solve the housing problem, but at least it took her mind off the issue for a little bit.

Churned Creamery, Cypress
Churned Creamery, Cypress

We were able to stop by Churned Creamery in Cypress for a tasting of their constantly-churning ice cream (the ice cream is in huge vats that are consistently being mixed through). They had number of options, including their unique CroCream: a croissant stuffed with ice cream and toppings.


The servers were all super sweet ladies enthusiastic about ice cream. After sampling a few flavors, I went with one of their recommendations—Whiskey cream ice cream stuffed in a warm, crispy croissant and topped with Mochi cubes.


The croissant was a flaky, golden brown on the outside and edges, but perfectly soft on the inside.

Whiskey Cream Crocone with mochi and strawberries ♥
Whiskey Cream CroCream with mochi and strawberries ♥

My sister of course got her chocolate fix with an ice cold, thick chocolate milkshake mixed with a scoop of Oreo ice cream. She could not deny that it was quite a dense and thick shake indeed.


Looking at all the flavors of ice cream they offered, the possibilities seemed endless! It just so happened that we could have gone by their Irvine location (their grand opening was that day…), but the Cypress staff accommodated us on short-notice without a doubt.

We were back on the road and headed home soon after. Our plans the following day turned out to be similar—woke up, long run before going to lab, getting out and feeling crazy ravenous, and driving up to NoHo only to find out the restaurant we were planning to have lunch at was closed on Sundays…

We ended up getting veggie burgers at a chain restaurant, and then driving to the Glendale Galleria to find a graduation gift for our friend who graduated at the end of June. While at the mall, I made a stop at GNC and picked up the new Quest Hero bars.

Blueberry Cobbler was my favorite, with a vanilla yogurt coating and a fruity, chewy filling.

Blueberry Cobbler
Blueberry Cobbler

Vanilla Caramel was decent, but I thought the texture of the filling was pretty dry.

Vanilla Caramel

I could go without having another of the Chocolate Caramel Pecan flavor, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a chocolate lover (such as my sister) found this to be their favorite of the three.

Chocolate Caramel Pecan

Even though apartment hunting was a bust on this particular weekend, at least we made the most of our dining out choices. And just having my sister for company made the weekend all the more enjoyable.

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

Beach Magnet

Beach Magnet

The second day of apartment hunting had a set itinerary, except things took a strange turn (literally) in the morning. My Dad wanted me to navigate to some apartments near the school from the hotel via the Metro Rail. I mapped out my route and transportation times through Google Maps the night before since I can only access wi-fi through my phone when it is available for free or at home.

Things started off alright, but now looking back at the situation, I realized I made a wrong turn on a main road, which caused me to walk for almost three hours in the wrong direction.

When I ended up at the beach, I knew I was no where near the train station 😉 .

beachmagnet (7)

This was the first time I ever messed up with directions, since usually I am the one making fun of my sister and friends for not finding their way out of a cardboard box.

 I'm such a nomad, haha! Hilly sidewalks and seagulls chilling in the parking lot of Sprouts were some of the sights on my "long walk".
I’m such a nomad, haha! Hilly sidewalks and seagulls chilling in the parking lot of Sprouts were some of the sights on my “long walk”.

But it was all part of the experience, and it really gave me the opportunity to explore by foot which I love to do—even though I didn’t get to my “real” destination.

 The beach  is not  a bad place to end up though!
The beach is not a bad place to end up though!

After learning about my “adventure”, my Dad found the whole situation to be amusing, and I guess that sort of helped in convincing him to have a mid-afternoon pick-me-up cupcake with me from Crumbs Bake Shop in Larchmont Village.  

I recently learned that the other two SoCal Crumbs locations had closed this year, leaving only the Larchmont doors open. While the unfortunate news was a bummer, I am grateful that I will have at least one Crumbs location to frequent when I move, even if it is 40 minutes away by bus (beats having them all be across the country though, am I right?).

But I am not too disappointed about the lack of Crumbs Bake Shops in the area…there was a Babycakes NYC a few doors down and a Magnolia Bakery was nearby as well. I can definitely see myself making some weekend visits up to Larchmont Village…you know, when I’m not busy studying 😉 .

“OMG- Crumbnuts are here!” sign // 99 cents coffee // beautiful cupcakes display case…I want them all!

There were two female employees working at the time who greeted me pleasantly when I walked in, despite it being completely empty inside. I would have thought the bake shops would have been busy in the late afternoon, especially in the summer, but then again it was pretty hot outside…perhaps everyone was craving ice cream?

cupcake utensil necessities // cashwrap // only one table and two chairs—it was pretty small compared to NYC Upper West Side

This time around, I chose to try the Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookie cupcake (what is with my mint craving lately?)

Girl Scout Thin Mint Crumbs Cupcake

The cupcake was layered with mint-colored frosting and topped with a single Thin Mint cookie. I was also glad to see that this cupcake actually had a cream filling, even if it was just chocolate. I have to be honest though and say I did get bored with it after all the frosting was gone. The chocolate cake itself was sub-par.

My Dad had half of a muffin and some coffee before leaving for a meeting. After departing the bake shop, I was able to take the Metro to the destination I intended to reach in the morning—better late than never, right? 

I was able to get a look at another spacious studio in the area before meeting with my Dad again. At this point in time, I now had three legitimate options to choose from in regards to my future apartment! And on top of that, I had to act quickly since the managers from each property were saying there was high demand and inquiry from other students…

My Dad and I had an hour to kill before getting dinner, and while we talked more about the apartment options I had before me, we somehow decided to check out the Santa Monica Pier. I guess it’s a fact—I just can’t resist beaches!


Seeing the sights made me excited about the months and years ahead, thinking about bringing friends and family down here when they visit. I mean, how can you not feel happy when you’re in the vicinity of a beach, boardwalk, and lots of sunshine 😀 ?


After soaking in the ocean air and sunny sights, we worked up large enough appetites to hear our tummies grumble. Dinner was at Native Foods Cafe, since our first choice for dinner ended up being the location for a particular restaurant’s food truck that wasn’t present that day! I wasn’t complaining though 😉

We were able to find parking a street over, and were able to avoid feeding the meter since it was after 6pm. Yes!

The storefront was difficult to see from afar, but once I saw the iconic lettering, I didn’t hesitate in my steps.

nativefoodssantam (1)

 Inside of NFC in Santa Monica
Inside of NFC in Santa Monica.

Like we did at Veggie Grill the previous night, we spent quite a bit of time figuring out what to order. While my Dad was still making his decision about what to order, I noticed this adorable “heart beet” on the wall .

heart beet

I ended up getting the Sesame Kale Macro Bowl. I loved how the tempeh looked like warmly toasted flatbread triangles, but unfortunately they weren’t marinated or anything, so the tempeh itself tasted quite bland. At least the ginger sauce mixed in the bowl and with the kale helped in that aspect.

 Sesame Kale Macro Bowl - Grilled Native Tempeh atop steamed kale, brown rice, creamy ginger sesame sauce, tangy sauerkraut, gomasio and toasted sesame seeds
Sesame Kale Macro Bowl – Grilled Native Tempeh atop steamed kale, brown rice, creamy ginger sesame sauce, tangy sauerkraut, gomasio and toasted sesame seeds

It came with a side cucumber salad, which I ended up eating after getting through my bowl even though it’s meant as an appetizer.

Green onion garnish and crunchy cucumber seaweed salad on the side.

Dad got the Bangkok Curry Bowl, but was frustrated by how uncooked the vegetables were. He felt like a panda bear chewing at bamboo all day because of how much chewing he had to do. But at least his bowl had a  bright orange curry sauce, and the tofu steak looked more flavorful than my bland tempeh.

 Bangkok Curry Bowl - Seared tofu steak on top of steamed veggies, greens and brown rice with a lemongrass and ginger-infused coconut milk curry. Topped with sesame seeds and cilantro.
Bangkok Curry Bowl – Seared tofu steak on top of steamed veggies, greens and brown rice with a lemongrass and ginger-infused coconut milk curry. Topped with sesame seeds and cilantro.

He was also disappointed with the Native Fries because of how “limp and soggy” they were. Native Foods may not have the best french fries, but their sweet potato fries can’t be beat! Maybe we should have ordered that instead…

 Native Fries – thinly-cut, cooked in pure vegetable oil and seasoned just right.
Native Fries – thinly-cut, cooked in pure vegetable oil and seasoned just right.

After dinner, froyo was in order. Good thing Menchie’s was right across the way.

 Menchies froyo -  in the mix is carob chips, rainbow mochi, strawberry poppers with cake batter, honey graham, and hazelnut flavors.
Menchies froyo – in the mix is carob chips, rainbow mochi, strawberry poppers with cake batter, honey graham, and hazelnut flavors.

At the end of my visit, I was able to come to a decision and signed my lease immediately. Even though it wasn’t exactly what I planned or pictured as being my first apartment, I can only keep telling myself that I made a logical, practical, and the right choice.

 Sunny skies, palm trees---see you soon LA ;)
Sunny skies, palm trees—see you soon LA 😉

Crumbs Bake Shop on Urbanspoon

Native Foods Cafe on Urbanspoon

Have you ever had to make a major moving decision? How was the process for you?

Apartment Hunting Makes Me Hungry…

Apartment Hunting Makes Me Hungry…

In two months, I will be taking the next step in my [academic] career…and, you could say, my life. I’m looking forward to my move in a few months to this amazing city…


Last month, I had to make a quick trip down to Los Angeles in order to make my final decision on apartments. My first choice was trying to find a studio or 1-bedroom through university housing, but those units quickly filled up and so I had to look at some privately-owned properties.

In the first day of my visit, I was able to tour the apartments of two different companies, and both each had their pros and cons. It made making my decision a lot harder than I expected, and I was going back and forth with reasons why/why I should not pick one apartment over the other.

All of this apartment talk was making me hungry, and I made myself treat dinner as my “break”. I knew I wanted dinner to be at a Veggie Grill that night, since SoCal has quite a few in the area. My visit to the one in Santana Row last year clearly wasn’t enough. The closest one to me at the time was in El Segundo, so that’s where I trekked to around 6pm. 

The El Segundo location was hidden away in a shopping plaza—I almost missed the sign too!


Like it’s discrete sign on the shopping plaza pillar, the restaurant was tucked away in the far corner of the plaza. At least there was plenty of parking on the side, and the front sign was bigger.


There was outdoor seating, but since a breeze was picking up in addition to the already cloudy weather, sitting inside was the better option.

 The 'Veggie Grill orange' dining set.
The ‘Veggie Grill orange’ dining set.

Deciding what to get at VG that night felt just as difficult as choosing which apartment to rent! I finally decided on going with one of their newer, intriguing items: the Bombay Bowl. My Dad chose to go with the Papa Portabello burger with a side of sweet potato fries, as well as some tortilla soup.

deciding  menuboard

It was a 15-20 minute wait, and that time was spent discussing apartments. Yup, I couldn’t resist not using that time to continue weighing my options, even though dinner was supposedly my “break time” from apartment talk…

 drinks // ambiance // indoor seating
drinks // ambiance // indoor seating

But like I said, apartment talk makes me hungry. When the soup came out first, I helped myself to some of the side crackers.

Tortilla soup with crispy crackers.

The server also let me know that they had run out of roasted veggies that were supposed to be a part of the Bombay Bowl. Actually, they were pretty much the starring role of the dish. At first I thought how could a place like Veggie Grill run out of roasted veggies? But when she said they could sub in kale, I said that was fine.

I didn’t even notice the roasted veggies’ absence when my bowl arrived. I was more focused on the super grains buried at the bottom of the bowl, and the coconut-milk curry sauce!

Bombay Bowl – Herb-roasted veggies -> they ran out so they just added more kale, haha, super grains, steamed kale, cannellini beans, cilantro/green curry sauce with coconut milk, almonds, hemp seeds

Dad’s burger looked appetizing also…

Papa’s Portobello – Grilled mushroom, chopped tomato, basil and garlic pomodoro, caramelized onions, cilantro pesto, lettuce, red onion, chipotle ranch

Overall, I found the Bombay Bowl to be top-notch in how it was crafted and presented, especially the addition of the almonds as a garnish. My Dad thought the portabello burger was pretty decent, but he found the soup to be more of his favorite.

After dinner, I researched more apartments to look into in the area. I found an extra large studio that I planned on looking at the next day, and also thought it would be a good idea to practice using the Metro since I will be without a car once I move. So even though I went to bed with a full belly, I still had a major decision to make, and a busy schedule planned for the next day.

Veggie Grill on Urbanspoon

Do you like making decisions, or find the process frustrating?

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