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

SIX HOURS.

SIX HOURS.

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

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

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

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

A Brief Bar Break?

A Brief Bar Break?

I’ve made it clear on this blog time and time again that I am a self-proclaimed bar queen. But I’ve been thinking about cutting back on the bars, and exchanging them with breakfast meals I’ve been missing—like a hot piece of toast smothered with nut butter or oatmeal with nutella and granola. Every time I do think about going on a “bar break” though, I ended up learning about a new flavor of a bar or a new bar brand, and FOMO sets in. I immediately have the desire to try it!

That’s what happened this past week when Quest Labs released a new trial flavor that they restocked after first selling out—Mocha Chocolate Chip.

mocha_chocolate_chip

I got a box, and when I tried bar one out of twelve, I was actually very pleased with how it tasted and its chewy, soft texture. It has a subtle coffee smell, and crumbly chocolate chunks are mixed throughout. While it was appreciation at first bite, I grew bored of the bars as the week wore on. I felt “compelled” to eat them because I didn’t want them to go to waste, but I feel like it also got in the way of me being flexible with my morning foods.

Along with this MCC bar box order, I decided to get one bar of the waffle-flavored cereal bar since I missed out the first time Quest Labs released it.

protein-crunch-waffle

It smelled a lot like maple syrup and the cereal part of the bar did not cause my mouth to go dry like many cereal bars I have had in the past tend to do. Overall, I like the flavor and it was of a decent size, but I was relieved I didn’t have a box of them to worry about!

As much as I love bars, I think I’m going to take a break from my “box a week” pattern. There are some days I do honestly crave a protein bar, but I want to see if I can get away from being constrained to specific ones over the course of a week. I think it’ll be good to change things up like this, as it will be more of a mental relief than a physical one…though I don’t think my body would mind the change either. I’m not making promises though—I just want to try to see if I can relieve myself of this thing that has become routine.

When Saturday rolled around, bars were the last thing on my mind. I spent the majority of the day in downtown SaMo and was especially hungry for Mediterranean food at Hummus Bar Express.

hummus_bar_express_

Downtown SaMo surprisingly wasn’t packed. My guess was that everyone was heading in the direction of DTLA for tailgating and the football game. I took this golden opportunity to my advantage, and ordered myself a veggie plate that came with hummus, babaganoush, 8 falafel pieces, and a large slice of not pita, but laffa bread.

hummus_bar_express_2

All was good at this moment—the falafel was green and crispy, the hummus smooth and thick:

hummus_bar_express_1

And the bread…the bread I could eat for days

laffabread

It was a flat, pliable piece of bread that tasted good with everything. Even the falafel! If I ever come back to Hummus Bar Express, I don’t think I would object to ordering just the laffa bread with maybe some babaganoush on the side…it was that good!!

Have you ever felt the need to take a break from a food routine?

Hummus Bar Express Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fala Me to Fala Bar (Again)

Fala Me to Fala Bar (Again)

I’m wondering if I should rename this blog “Will Study for (Mediterranean) Food” because that pretty much seems to describe what I eat when I go out on the weekends…but I mean, what’s there to be defensive about? The cuisine speaks for itself—it’s balanced, wholesome, flavorful, and pretty much can be found anywhere you look in LA.

Fala Bar, Venice
Fala Bar, Venice

Moving to Santa Monica has made it much easier for me to check out all the places (by foot) that were inaccessible to me before, due to the long travel time of public transit or, in some cases, because public transit did not pass through those areas. The row of shops and restaurants on Abbot Kinney was one of those areas. When I had a sudden craving for Medi-food on Saturday, but I didn’t want to venture too far east of West LA, I decided to stop by this hidden gem of a neighborhood for a late lunch.

I first tried Fala Bar >back in April at their Melrose location. Since I was in the Fairfax/Grove area most weekends when I lived in DTLA (DTLA to Mid-City is easy to travel back-and-forth by bus), visiting this location was not a problem. Now that it’s a little out of the way and the Venice one isn’t anymore, I was eager to dig into some familiar food in a new locale.

food
Need help deciding what to get?

I have plans to explore Abbot Kinney more in the future, as there are so many cute shops and eateries lined up side-by-side. The area reminded me of a small district in Disneyland—the sidewalks were small, and the buildings were close together as if it was a movie set for a small town.

signz
Abbot (Kinney) that Fala Life 😛

I found Fala Bar nestled between Blue Star Donuts and a cafe serving up acai bowls. Last time I visited Fala Bar, I proposed to have one of their burgers if I ever visited again, but I truly wanted a hearty plate. I ended up getting the Baba Plate, which didn’t come with falafel but instead a fluffy, round piece of soft pita bread.

plate
Unpictured Tahini and Babaganoush -> Cucumber&Tomato Salad + Cabbage + Tabouli -> Pita Bread

I carefully carried my compostable tray outside, and sat at the counter positioned just in front. It was an awkward seating arrangement because it was literally on the sidewalk, and my back was facing those that were walking by. Funny thing was, people would slow down their stride to take a look at what I was eating. Some even went inside Fala Bar after seeing my plate of colorful cabbage and creamy tahini.

platee
Plate of beauty in full view!!

Everything was eaten until only drops of lemon juice colored purple were left on the tray. I could have spent the rest of my afternoon checking out the shops, but the heat/crowds got to me, so I chose to save that as an adventure for another day. I also wanted to get home and just completely relax since I didn’t have to make plans to go to lab (for once!) for the remainder of Labor Day Weekend! I needed to make time to plan my adventure on Monday…;)

What cuisine do you tend to mostly gravitate towards when eating out?

Fala Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Closed Door to Open Sesame

Closed Door to Open Sesame

After two fun half-days at Blogfest, and a full day of work in lab on a SATURDAY, I was more than ready to take back one day of the weekend for myself: Sunday!

Chocolate proyo with loads of granola crunchies :)
Chocolate proyo with loads of granola crunchies 🙂

After a long run of 13 miles, I made myself a proyo mug and filled it to the brim with granola, all of which were free to me thanks to my expo haul!

This was enough to help me refuel and make it though a few hours of lab in the morning. I was out by 1pm, and immediately got on a bus to head out for lunch.

I only had to walk about 10 minutes from the stop to the restaurant, but I felt like my skin was melting off. Fortunately, I found it before my muscles started to peel off…haha.

What's behind door #1?
What’s behind door #1?

Behind the house-like door, I stepped into the brightly-lit dining room of Open Sesame, and since no one else was dining at 3pm, it was only me face-fo-face with three servers. It was awkward at first since no one out of the three said anything at first, but eventually I was given a place to sit and a menu.

Open Sesame
Open Sesame

I knew that I wanted a platter (what else is new??), and the next task was finding something that fit the vegetarian description. The menu was bound in a red, leather-like cover and was pretty much a book full of entrees, apps, drinks, and desserts. I found the vegetarian platter under the “Entrees II” section. I ordered that as soon as one of the servers came by, and it came out within minutes.

The Vegetarian Platter!
The Vegetarian Platter!

The plate was a colorful piecing of babaganoush (all-time fav), hummus, pickled peppers, fresh tomato slices, two falafel, one grape leaf roll, tabouli, and tahini in a cup.

The cutest thing though was the Open Sesame tissue paper.
The cutest thing though was the Open Sesame tissue paper.

It was almost as if the server read my mind, because just as I thought about how I would be able to mop up the hummus and tahini sauce, she came by with a crispy flat piece of pita bread. I also downed several cups of water to combat the heat I would have to face after leaving the restaurant.

My plans to take a nap that afternoon didn’t make sense since I made it back home closer in the evening. After organizing my plans for the week, I hit the pillow around 9pm and it never felt so good…

Open Sesame Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Night Out with the Fam

Night Out with the Fam

Over the summer, my family made the move back to Oklahoma, leaving our Nor Cal abode behind. Even though Nor Cal was where I did most of my growing up—elementary through undergrad—my baby/early childhood all took place in the middle of the country…the humble heartland.

It was so nice being able to spend a week full of laughter, company, and of course great food, with my family and our close friends. Yeah, I felt like I had to leave too soon (#responsiblegradstudent), and even though I wasn’t able to spend NYE with them, I’m grateful I was able to spend the most important part of the holiday season with them.

I arrived on Monday evening, and after getting picked up at the airport by my Dad, I was introduced to our new home and had a home-cooked curry stir-fry for dinner. I caught up with my sister since last seeing her during our Thanksgiving break.

On Tuesday, I went for a 6 mile run, and ran some errands with my Dad. For dinner, we ate out as a family at something we all were able to agree upon—Mediterranean food!

leenas_mediterraneangrill
Leena’s Mediterranean Grill 🙂

The layout was similar to a place my sister and I ate at back in September.

menu
Menu

At the counter, there is a large menu on the wall, and everything starts out with a variety of hummus. 

hummusbar___
Starts out with the hummus bar.

When you order the veggie plate, you can pile on the plate with anything offered down the line. Start with hummus/babaganoush, add some of the salads, and then rice/grains or pita bread. By the time I reached the cash register, my plate was packed with babaganoush, spicy harissa hummus, fattoush salad, cabbage slaw, tabouli, italian squash, and roasted veggies…with falafel + tahini and pita on the side. 

One note about the pita though…they forgot to give it to us, and by the time we reminded them the second time, we were practically finished with our plates…meaning, what was there to dip the pita in? And the falafel was less than stellar. Even though it has a nice crisp texture, the inside was chewy, dry, and NOT green. When a falafel isn’t green on the inside, I doubt it’s gonna be a good one 😛 !

veggie__plate
Veggie plate with falafel and pita bread.

But I suppose the plate itself was good enough!

close-up
Veggie plate goodness!

After dinner, we drove by the Rhema Christmas Lights: a grand display of holiday lights that people from all over Oklahoma make the trip to see. We were too lazy to get out of the car, but we enjoyed what we were able to see from the car. 

rhemalights
Rhema Christmas Lights

When we finally got home, I introduced my sister to the beauty that is edible cookie dough, and we tore into the cookies and cream flavor that I found at a local grocery store while running errands earlier in the day.

thecookiedoughcafe_cookies&cream
Coming home to cookie dough!

The cookies were perfectly swirled into the cookie dough, and meshed with the dough quite well. This made up for the overwhelming, chunky chocolate chip flavor I had a few days earlier, and hopefully the other flavors left to try will be just as good 😉 . But when I think about it, this flavor may have tasted 10x as good only because I was sharing it with family, haha.

Leena's Mediterranean Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Memorial Day Weekend ’15

Memorial Day Weekend ’15

Memorial Day Weekend was such a blast!  Having company over twice this month has made time fly by so quickly, which is great since that means I’m almost done with the specific set of experiments that have been requiring so much time from me as of late…

My weekend started off with a productive Friday in lab, and before heading home, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some essentials so I wouldn’t have to worry about it when my friend arrived. I also “had” to get my pint for the night—Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Froyo! Can you believe that it was my first time trying this?!

ben and jerry's half baked froyo

The mix of chocolate and vanilla frozen yogurt was perfect, and how can you go wrong with moist, chewy bite-size pieces of brownies mixed with cookie dough?! I can see why it’s so popular. In fact, I witnessed a girl clean out a local Fresh & Easy of all the pints they had of this flavor one night, stating to her friends that it’s so hard for her to find, haha. 

On Saturday, my friend drove down to visit me for the weekend! Since she wasn’t expecting to arrive in the city before 2PM, that gave me plenty of time to take of my lab duties in the morning. The timing actually worked out quite precisely since I had enough time to finish, make it back to the apartment, change into some flip flops, and meet my friend to let her into the parking garage.

She was able to also stop by my parents’ house before driving down, so she brought plenty of goods from home for me to unpack (discount yogurts, oh yeah!).  We also spent an hour chatting it up and catching up, since the last time I saw her was back in December/January! 

Once we took care of unpacking, we decided to walk around DTLA and have dinner near Little Tokyo. The weather was overcast—not too cold, not too warm—and so it made so much sense to go out for some fresh air by going for a refreshing walk. 

We eventually made our way to the Little Tokyo Mall, and stopped in Daiso just to browse around. We spotted so many cute things, like miniature silverware, coffee mugs, and happy trashcans.

SAMSUNG

For dinner, we actually ended up eating at Shojin, the vegan sushi place I reviewed three years ago on an old blog of mine. 

shojin

And while there were some minor changes I noticed in this visit when compared to my intial one, the dim lighting was unfortunately not one of them…the menu was though!

the new shojin menu

It was now more sophisticated, simply printed on cardstock in a professional font. Long gone are the days of  anime-style animals and characters on the cover of a laminated folding menu. 

The bathroom was just as cute, pink, and adorable as before…

shojin_

Even though this place is known for their all-vegan sushi rolls, my friend and I chose to get non-roll menu items. Specifically, I went for the Marinated Seitan Steak while my friend feasted on the gluten-free Avocado Tempura Salad.

The marinated seitan steak was comprised of grilled seitan cutlets (with grill marks too!), topped with butter, and served with brown rice and three humble pieces of veggies on the side. The salad had tempura avocado, greens, almonds, wasabi mayo, and sweet tomato dressing.

shojin food

Even though our table was set with chopsticks, I was given a knife and fork to attack my seitan cutlets, haha.

silverware

We walked off dinner by taking a long walk home, and then spent the rest of the evening chillin’ in the apartment before going to sleep around 10PM.

On Sunday, I checked off my usual to-do items such as a long run, and lab duties, but was free once again in the afternoon. We stopped by a local grocery store so my friend could pick up an ice cream pint for our ‘ice cream party’ later in the evening.

Soon after that, we were off on the bus for a late, late lunch/early dinner at Urban Garden near the Grove.

urban-garden

It was an hour-long commute, so we were starving by the time we arrived. We spent a good amount of time staring at the menu. Even though the main offerings were predominantly plates and wraps, there was a wide variety of possible combinations—so it was hard to come to a final decision!

I eventually went with a vegetable hearty plate with spicy falafel, babaganoush, and golden cous cous. My friend also got a plate with hummus and cucumber salad as the ‘main stars’.

 The intricate mural on the wall was so beautiful, it was hard to peel your eyes away from it!
The intricate mural on the wall was so beautiful, it was hard to peel your eyes away from it!
 My hearty veggie plate with spicy falafel, rice, cous cous, sesame oil, babaganoush, sumac paste, and complimentary pita.
My hearty veggie plate with spicy falafel, rice, cous cous, sesame oil, babaganoush, sumac paste, and complimentary pita.

Apparently this establishment takes pride in having serving the best hummus in LA, and my friend was a sure fan. I wouldn’t say they made the best babaganoush I’ve ever tasted, but it was certainly up there, and quite nourishing.

Between the two of us, we did a pretty good job.

SAMSUNG

Needless to say, we left with full bellies and content hearts. We walked over to Vitamin Shoppe, and then stopped inside Sur La Table before continuing our walk down 3rd St. We walked through the park next to the Grove, and stopped to take a look at the Holocaust Memorial.

SAMSUNG

Our super long walk eventually got us to Wilshire, where we decided to call it a day and head back home—ice cream was waiting for us, after all!

We were able to take the train home, and after taking showers and changing into our jammies, we busted open our ice cream pints!

ben and jerry's peanut buttah cookie core

I found the Peanut Buttah Cookie Core the same day I found the Half Baked Froyo pint, and saved it just for this occasion. I was on cloud nine eating through this peanut butter ice cream mixed with crystallized peanut butter cookie bits and a cookie butter core. Swoon!

I couldn’t have asked for a better evening with my friend—eating our ice cream pints while watching 500 Questions may have been the most simplest thing to do, but it felt just right. Sometimes the most unappreciated things we do on a daily basis are much more meaningful when you have company to do them with 🙂

What was your Memorial Day Weekend like this year?

Shojin Organic & Natural on Urbanspoon Urban Garden on Urbanspoon

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