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

President’s Day Weekend Fun

President’s Day Weekend Fun

The holiday weekend actually started off on Thursday night for me, when I met up with some of my girl classmates for a potluck/movie night. I brought these brownies, and helped my friend set-up before everyone else arrived.

 Chips on the table, but we had the rest of the food set up in the dining area.
Chips on the table, but we had the rest of the food set up in the dining area.

Our get-together went on until about 10:30pm, and after getting back to my apartment, I finished packing up for my trip back north to visit the fam! I had an early morning bus to catch, so I went to sleep immediately after getting everything ready.

My bus left a little after 6am on that Friday morning, and while I did plan to do some studying, I ended up sleeping (or trying to sleep), making use of the free Wi-Fi even though I had to do a lot of squinting (phone problems…), and eating whatever snacks I packed for the trip.

SAMSUNG
View from the bus as we approached SF.

I made it to SF around 2pm, and after figuring my way through other modes of transit, I finally met my Dad and sister (who also came up for the weekend) waiting for me at a BART station. From there, we had to drive our way through Friday-late-afternoon-end-of-the-work-day traffic, and so I literally did not get home until 5pm. But once I did get home, I was excited to finally have a home-cooked meal and for some bonding time with the sis. We both “studied” while playing Toy Story 3 in the background. Definitely a good way to spend a Friday night! 😉

Saturday morning was my half marathon, but we spent the rest of the day with my cousin since we were in her neck of the woods. We met up in Jack London Square, and had lunch at a spot of my choosing—Souley Vegan!

The small, homey restaurant was not hard to find, since the bright turquoise paint made it visible from a block or two away. We had to park that far away because, you know, that’s just one of the perks of city life 😛

SAMSUNG

All of the items were Southern-inspired, and most importantly, VEGAN!

souley_vegan

We found a table at the corner of an elevated floor, so we had a great view of our surroundings. We took some time looking over the menu before ordering at the cash register.

souley_vegan2

While we waited for our food, my cousin realized that they had a cup of samples with pieces of one of their featured desserts. It was peanut-ty appetizer—a piece of their Peanut Butter Brick!

SAMSUNG

While my family got combo plates with items like BBQ tofu (sooo good!), mac n cheesz, cornbread, and mashed potatoes, I had the Southern Fried Tofu Bowl as my main entree, and also had some of the spinach dip with fried tofu chips.

SAMSUNG

My bowl was comprised of battered and fried tofu (mimicking fried chicken), which sat atop a sea of salty gumbo and a warm bed of grits. I wasn’t a major fan of this dish, but I thought the fried tofu was pretty delicious. I feel like the gumbo + grits tasted somewhat bland, even though I could detect the salt. Perhaps if there had been a spicier and thicker sauce in this dish (like the BBQ sauce used for their tofu cubes), it would have been more palatable for me.

southernfried
BBQ Tofu cube poking out from underneath my fried tofu (thanks Dad) // close-up of gumbo + grits // piece of fried tofu chip with dip

We did a nice job of tackling everything…

SAMSUNG

As the afternoon rolled on, the weather continued to be clear, bright, sunny, and just overall perfect. It would have been wasteful to not take advantage of the beautiful weather conditions, so we decided to take an after-lunch stroll. We first stopped inside World Market, where I found this cute poster that reminded me of the periodic table, but the “elements” were major cities. We then walked over in the direction of a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, but ended up waiting across the street for a good ten minutes because a train was passing through!

It was quite a sight though 😉

At the scoop shop, I was able to try Phish Food for the first time. I opted for the kids’ scoop…and I was glad I did. I guess it was the little chocolate fish pieces that persuaded me to choose the flavor initially, but it was just waaay too much chocolate. I mean, I love chocolate, but this scoop and this flavor…it was just too much for me. I’m pretty sure my sister would have liked it though 🙂

highlights

We ended up feasting on our ice cream selections while looking over the water. There were a couple ferries going in and out, shuffling people too and from SF. Ah, let the pictures speak for themselves…

beautyinjacklondonsquare

After we finished dessert, we walked through a local crafts fair and took in all the sights and sounds. There were so many dogs out and about, and plenty of intriguing items from plushies with vampire teeth to figurines made out of scrap metal.

From the fair, we drove over to my cousin’s for a siesta (I think being out in the sun made me more sleepy rather than my morning half marathon!), and snacked on some apples/coffee/tea after waking up an hour later. My Dad and I left as it approached evening, and I was more than ready to get some more zzzz’s!

On Sunday, I was able to spend more quality time with my sis. Since she wasn’t able to spend the day with us on Saturday (the poor girl had to study for an upcoming exam…), my Dad and I wanted to be able to go out for lunch with her. So after stopping by the gym and running some errands in the morning, we picked her up and visited Noodles & Company for the first time.

n&co

As of right now, there are no Noodles & Company locations in the LA area (only Orange County and San Diego I believe…) so when I learned that they were opening this one in the Nor Cal area, I wanted to check it out during one of my family visits!

n&co2
Giant cookie or rice treat to accompany your bowl?

The inside layout of the restaurant reminded me a lot of the Boudin SF set-up (which was also nearby): an entrance has you line up single file all the way to the register, a large menu that spans the wall as you approach the register, and central/outdoor (crowded) seating.

After placing our orders, we were lucky to find a table during the lunchtime rush hour. Our bowls came to us in minutes despite the bustling activity.

I dug into my small-sized (it was indeed pretty small…) bowl of Japanese Pan Noodles with chopsticks

 Japanese Pan Noodles - Caramelized udon noodles in a sweet soy sauce, broccoli, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, Asian sprouts, black sesame seeds and cilantro
Japanese Pan Noodles – Caramelized udon noodles in a sweet soy sauce, broccoli, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, Asian sprouts, black sesame seeds and cilantro

I was definitely a fan of the caramelized noodles/soy sauce combination. Each noodle had a fair coating of sauce, and they were still easy to pick up with chopsticks!

My sister had the Penne Rosa, and my Dad the Thai Curry Soup:

SAMSUNG
Penne Rosa – Spicy tomato cream sauce, penne pasta, mushrooms, tomato, spinach, wine and parmesan
SAMSUNG
Thai Curry Soup – Yellow coconut curry broth, spinach, cabbage, mushrooms, tomato, red onion and rice noodles

Both dishes looked just as delicious as mine, but I was satisfied with my selection. Sure, it could have been spicier, but I guess wanting to try their spicy Indonesian Peanut Sautee gives me a reason to come back to another one of their other locations in the future.

After lunch, we returned home and did nothing productive in particular 😉 . After a glorious nap, I had dinner and then watched Boyhood with Dad and sis after doing a little homework. Monday was spent prepping for my return on Tuesday, as well as sending my sister off, and Tuesday was my tired travel day. Kind of wish I could redo this weekend all over again, because I don’t see myself doing anything but work for the next week or so…

How did you spend your holiday weekend (if you had one)?

Souley Vegan on Urbanspoon Noodles & Company on Urbanspoon

My Kind of Chocolate Bar

My Kind of Chocolate Bar

Disclaimer: I was not monetarily paid to write this review. This review is based on the products and information I received from Yes CaCao. All opinions are my own.

I can’t imagine ever saying “no” if someone were to ask me if I like chocolate, but I do have my preferences. Hershey’s—and even Cadbury’s—just don’t seem to cut it anymore, since there are so many “gourmet” options out there nowadays. I could spend hours strolling down the one aisle devoted to raw/fair trade/organic/vegan chocolate bars at Whole Foods—because if I’m going to indulge, might as well go all the way amIright?

I was definitely able to indulge when I got the chance to try three magical Yes CaCao bars. Yes CaCao is based out of the Bay Area (hometown pride!) and their ingredients include a plethora of super foods and items of botanical origin. The cacao in these bars is harvested in Ecuador via a direct trade relationship, and after months of experimentation, they were able to formulate the three flavors I was able to sample recently. You can read more about their story here.

 Loved the packaging!
Loved the packaging!

Marketed as botanical chocolate bars, I was able to try the Dirty Chocolate, Karma Mellowl, and Gaba Baba.

SAMSUNG

All of the bars are cold-processed, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, not roasted, and vary from 140-170 calories each.

I tried Gaba Baba first—a sheet of soothing dark chocolate. It aims to function as a chocolate bar that promotes relaxation, with prime ingredients like kava kava, blue lotus, and turmeric. It was the perfect nighttime snack, and I imagine it would have made a successful match with a glass of soymilk and atop a graham cracker and vegan marshmallow!

 "GABA BABA is MEDITATION in a bar, calming your mind and body, falling into your natural rhythm of pure confidence"
“GABA BABA is MEDITATION in a bar, calming your mind and body, falling into your natural rhythm of pure confidence”

Now Karma Mellowl though…this bar blew me away. Forget the “golden ticket”, this is a golden chocolate bar, with flavors and a texture combination that’s so magical, it’s indescribable. It’s the ‘brain food bar’ of the group, and boasts ingredients like coconut palm sugar, bacopa, and lion’s mane mushroom. Even if it was devoid of these mystical ingredients, I think I would still like this bar if it kept it’s golden color!

 KARMA MELLOWL is BRAIN FOOD in a bar, for short-term memory and vision, regenerating synaptic nerve patterns, and reprogramming your paradigm.
KARMA MELLOWL is BRAIN FOOD in a bar, for short-term memory and vision, regenerating synaptic nerve patterns, and reprogramming your paradigm.

And last but not least, was Dirty Chocolate. This bar is all about balance and adaptation, and is designed to be that one thing that gives you a jolt in the morning (besides an espresso). It contains shilajit and tulsi, which aid in toxin release and nerve relaxation respectively. The super mushroom reishi is also in this bar, which only adds to this bar’s energy-boosting attributes.

 DIRTY CHOCOLATE is GROUNDING in a bar, into your body, into the earth beneath your feet, and anchoring your intentions.
DIRTY CHOCOLATE is GROUNDING in a bar, into your body, into the earth beneath your feet, and anchoring your intentions.

I would definitely say that ‘fancy chocolate’ definitely has its perks. If you’re going to say “yes” to chocolate, make it worth something 🙂 !

What’s your favorite ‘fancy chocolate bar’?

Birthday = Crossing Places Off the Foodie Bucket List

Birthday = Crossing Places Off the Foodie Bucket List

What’s the best way to celebrate a {summer} birthday? A lot of bloggers definitely know how, since there have been many birthday recaps as of late 😉 , but for me, certainly three things are necessary: close friends, things to do, and tasty food. My birthdays in recent years had all of these “ingredients” and were successful as a result. Last year’s was memorable for sure, but I truly appreciated being able to celebrate my birthday this year with those closest to me and at places I’ve been wanting to visit for quite a while.

The day started with a run to the gym, and then after getting ready, my friends and I drove to SF. We first dropped off my friend’s brother at his friend’s house, and then made our way over to SoMa (after fighting traffic and keeping our eyes peeled for a parking spot…). I let the frustrations get to me, and let my Dad take over to look for a spot while my sis, friend, and I walked over to the restaurant. We found him waiting at the entrance…apparently, there was parking right in front of the restaurant.

SAMSUNG

After laughing at the irony, we perused the menu hanging on the window in front, then made our way to the cashwrap.

SAMSUNG

I insisted that lunch be on me, and took care of the bill. I also suggested we get four dishes to share family-style so we could all try different things. I was surprised by how empty the place was, even though it was lunchtime.

source inside

I took advantage of the opportunity however, and tried to discreetly take pictures of the space. Source was featured on an episode of Mystery Diners, and has been on my bucket list of places to eat after finding out it was a vegan restaurant in the Bay Area. They also have a smaller location, Source Mini, in Berkeley.

SOURCE

In their menu, they use fake meat, but refer to it as “cluck”, “oink”, or “moo” depending on what meat it is “supposed” to be. Our four dishes came out after ~15 minutes even though it seemed like longer. The first to come out was the Vegan Mousaka. I originally wanted to get the Jamaican Jerk Cluck (cluck <– fake chicken & veggies cooked in jerk sauce, with organic brown basmati rice, black beans & chutney), but they had unfortunately sold out 🙁 . Although it wasn’t meant to be an appetizer, it served its role as one, and worked as a great thick tomato dip for the pita bread pieces it was served with.

grilled layered eggplant with cinnamon, all spice, garbanzo, mushroom, tomato, topped with cashew “béchamel” sauce

A little while later, the waitress arrived with the “real” appetizer: Baked Vegan Spinach Artichoke Fondue. My sis and friend were enthusiatic about this particular dish, and so I let them have at it since I wanted to save room for the other two dishes that had yet to come to our table.

roasted peppers, spinach cashew cream, truffle oil & pita bread

We had to ask for some more pita bread to get all of the dip out of the bowl!

SAMSUNG

My absolute favorite was the Chile Cluck Pizza. It had a sweet and spicy flavor that was out of this world, and it was made on such a thin crust so it didn’t make me feel too stuffed to tackle the…

cluck, mozzarella, plum tomato sauce, sriracha sauce, parmesan, truffle oil & balsamic glaze

Country Shepherds Pie! My sis picked out this one and I thought she made a good choice. I wasn’t a fan of the mashed potato topping, but the filling was warm, satiating, and perfectly paired with the mini, sliced sourdough on the side.

moo (fake meat), mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, carrot, celery, onion, topped with roasted mashed potatoes

After our nice, quiet, and fulfilling lunch, I drove us over to the Golden Gate Bridge. My friend and I were talking about how she never could walk across the whole bridge because her family would always complain it’s too cold/long, so I wanted us to be able to finally do it together. It quickly turned from sunshine to fog, and I sort of regretted not bringing a jacket (you think I would remember after all these years…), but fortunately I was at least wearing longsleeves.

While we were able to stop for photos and take in the view, the walk was anything but pleasant. There was a strong wind, noise from passing cars, bikers who didn’t know how to bike politely, and it was very, very cold. I honestly felt like having a warm cup of coffee on the way back!

Golden Gate Bridge

After the walk, it was time for birthday cake vegan cinnamon rolls! Cinnaholic was another foodie-destination of mine, and I thought why not celebrate the b-day with a different kind of sweet? Leaving the city during rush hour was madness, but we still made it through to the other side—even if it was an hour and a half later than we would have liked.

SAMSUNG

I learned about Cinnaholic after the owners appeared on an episode of Shark Tank. At first, I thought they just shipped out orders of vegan cinnamon rolls, but when I learned they had an actual establishment (actually very near to Saturn Cafe!), I knew I had to make a visit.

SAMSUNG

The idea behind the custom roll is you pick your flavor of frosting followed by toppings. They also have recipes for their own combos (like S’mores), have other baked goods for sale (cookies, brownies), and have mini buns too!

inside cinnaholic!

We all decided to get two rolls and share. Our first roll was a rootbeer frosting + graham cracker topping combo, and our second was a pina colada frosting + raspberries combo.

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

To be frank, the rolls were not as amazing as I wanted them to be. While we attacked the rolls with excitment at the beginning, our initial excitment plummeted mid-rolls. The roll base itself tasted dry, wasn’t that sweet, and both frosting flavors didn’t have much flavor other than the taste of pure icing/sugar. At least I can now cross it off my list…

Despite nourishing myself with food I had my heart set on for months, I still felt hungry. Actually, I felt oddly ravenous all day. While the girls felt full (and spent some time in a book shop), my Dad and I thought it would be best to end the day with the frozen yogurt, this time his treat. The Yogurtland on the corner was the solution.

Mix of different flavors. Toppings include mochi, cookie dough pieces, mango poppers, white yogurt chips, mini caramel cups.

Despite the nuissance of city traffic and parking, it was a splendid day overall. I also had that “letdown” feeling that usually passes over me after a great and eventful day, so I knew that I had spent my time the best way possible. It’s hard to believe another year in my life has gone by though! Should I be scared or excited 😉 ?

Do you like the season that your birthday falls under? Summer birthdays are the best, period. Sorry to you spring/fall/winter babies 😉 !!

Source on Urbanspoon Cinnaholic on Urbanspoon

Cooking Cozy

Cooking Cozy

Disclaimer: I was not monetarily paid to write this post. This post is based on the information I received from Cozymeal. Pictures used in this post, and more information on the company can be found on their website. Any opinions expressed are my own.

I remember a while back when cooking classes and demos were an ubiquitious feature of health food markets and even many chain grocery stores, but in recent years, they have not been offered spotlight attention—at least in my neighborhood.

But there are still options for those who still want a live cooking experience, whether for entertainment or to add-on to one’s cooking repertoire. Cozymeal is one of those options, and I was recently contacted by Samad, CEO of the company, to share what Cozymeal is all about and to highlight some of its features.

Cozymeal is described as bringing a community of foodies together, where food lovers can book meals or classes hosted by other food lovers (chefs or home cooks) who have unique and flavorful recipes to share. The company likes to describe itself as the “Airbnb of dining”. 

Succinctly put, Cozymeal’s premise is explained in these three short paragraphs:

Cozymeal is a trusted community of people who share the same passion for food. Whether you love eating, cooking, or both, you’ve come to the right place. Together, we’re reimagining the whole social dining experience and concentrating on what’s most important.

No more getting bogged down by ridiculous wait times, noisy restaurants, or trouble splitting the bill. Just eating delicious, authentic food cooked by a fellow food lover in the comfort of home.

And if you are traveling and using Cozymeal, expect to get a truly local experience by enjoying authentic local food while dining with locals.

The site opens up to this homepage, where you can preview the different classes, hosts, dinners, and their prices:

cozymeal1

After clicking on your choice menu, you can book the date & time and learn more about the meal and host:

cozymeal2

Your host will then confirm the reservation, and you’ll receive a confirmation e-mail.  From there, it’s on you to go out for a food-filled adventure ;D ! 

Right now, Cozymeal features chefs in the Bay Area, but they are looking to add more chefs and home cooks as the site grows. What a great way for talented food bloggers who have oodles of recipes up their sleeves to make a little pocket change on the side—am I right 😉 ?

Have you ever hosted or attended a cooking class?

Post-Race Fueling, Ethiopian Style

Post-Race Fueling, Ethiopian Style

I plan to post a recap regarding my first half marathon soon, but I’m eager to share what my post-race fuelage was ;)!

Ethiopian cuisine is one of my favorites, and being a runner, it makes sense to replenish my glycogen stores with a wholesome Ethiopian meal. After all, the country is known for its abundance of elite runners…

(source)
(source)

And if their agility and endurance is all thanks to some stewed lentils and soft, pancake-like bread? Count me in, cause the stuff is delicious.

Since my race took place in the Bay Area, we were able to take a detour into Oakland where there are bunch of Ethiopian restaurants. So many in fact, that I don’t think the city would notice if we transplanted one of those establishments in my hometown (a place that, in comparison, can’t seem to think outside of the box cuisine-wise, besides Taco Bell :P!).

We ended up at the restaurant where we first tried Ethiopian food with my cousin a couple years ago, Addis Ethiopian Restaurant.

Addis Ethiopian Restaurant

My appetite was surprisingly not as raging as I thought it would be (I guess the samples I picked up at the post-race tents had to do with that…), but I went with a tried and true favorite nonetheless, the Vegetarian Combination Special.

Menu

The dish offers a sampling of gomen (collard greens), yemeser wot (spicy red lentils…my favorite!), ater kik (yellow split peas), and alicha denich (cooked carrot and potato chunks mixed with spices). It’s also usually made to feed one, but from prior experience, my Dad and I knew that it could keep two people full!

My Dad also ordered some lemon ginger tea, though it wasn’t anything extraordinary.

Ginger Lemon Tea, not yet stirred

We also came in just as they were opening up for the day, so the restaurant was completely empty—perfect for not-so-discreet phone pictures.

Empty Restaurant...

Including one of the table top…

The Table

There is even a hut in the corner! It would be perfect for evening dinner parties…

The Hut

Our order came out in about fifteen minutes, which was not a bad wait at all. I also like to think we got the freshest cut of injera, although I am not 100% sure about that…I’ll just assume that’s true ;).

Looks fresh to me!
Looks fresh to me!

I think I prefer cylindrical rolls of injera over these flatter square shapes, but the chewy consistency and sponginess were perfect for absorbing the yummy samplings on our platter.

Vegetarian Combination Plate

It may not look like a lot of food for two people, but trust me, it was. I think it’s because the lentils are so filling, and I definitely had my fill of yemeser wot.

Almost Finished It!

But we did pretty good, right?

I think I’ve had plenty of vegetarian combo plates, and while I can’t get enough of them, it would be nice to try some other vegetarian items. After perusing their online menu, I was intrigued by tofu tibs, veggie fir fir, and timatim fit fit. Even if you aren’t a fan of Ethiopian food, you gotta admit the names are fun ;)!

Have you tried Ethiopian food?

Addis Ethiopian on Urbanspoon

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...