Labor Day Weekend ’17

Labor Day Weekend ’17

I can’t believe Labor Day weekend was only a few weeks ago…it feels like it’s been ages! This year’s holiday weekend was another one spent in lab for me (meaning no day trip to Malibu like last year…), but I did make the most of the snippets of free time I could gather.

My friend J from lab was given a handful of “1  free Perfect Bar” coupons, and gave them to me before checking out for the holiday weekend. He wasn’t a fan, and asked if I’d make use of them. Obviously, yes!

Free bars, woooo!
Free bars, woooo!

It was convenient for me to redeem them at Trader Joe’s as a on-the-go breakfast, since it’s on my way to campus.

Almond Butter is a classic, and it’s crumbly texture with sesame seeds on top reminded me of an Indian powder sweet (Sathu Maavu). I commented on Instagram on how it truly was a “Perfect Bar”!

"This really is perfection āœØ"
“This really is perfection āœØ”

Dark Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter had a softer, more compact texture, and enough mini chocolate chips on the top to add a cute touch. And given that these bars can cost up to $3-4 retail, I was very grateful to J for those handful of coupons!

"Another perfect flavor šŸ«šŸ„œšŸŖ"
“Another perfect flavor šŸ«šŸ„œšŸŖ”

On Friday evening of Labor Day weekend, E and I were invited to attend our friend’s birthday. She’s the sweetest undergraduate who works in a neighboring lab, and we were excited to celebrate the special day with her.

Dockweiler Beach Sunset
Dockweiler Beach Sunset

We carpooled with her and her roommates to Dockweiler, and found a spot on the beach to set up camp and lay out some food.  She’s a fan of this local African taco place, and so we had that catered along with other party food fare (chips, cake, cookies, etc).

..
Setting up a bonfire at Dockweiler Beach—another must-do for anyone living in LA!

More of her friends showed up, and as the sun set turned into night, we eventually were able to claim a fire pit and get a bonfire going! It definitely was a fun and memorable night.

Since I was spending Sunday night in lab, I did my best to finish up with my daily tasks on Saturday as quickly as possible. I was super hungry when I left, and didn’t want to venture out too far from my normal route home. Mod Pizza in Culver City was close enough, and pizza sounded appetizing, so that immediately became my destination.

Mod Pizza
Mod Pizza

The Art Lover is my go-to at Blaze, and at Mod Pizza, the closest thing I could find to that was Lucy Sunshine.

"First time trying Mod Pizza, and I was happy with my "Lucy Sunshine" choice šŸ‘šŸ½ šŸ•. Red sauce dollops and artichoke hearts on a flat, crispy piece of CARB is really all you need šŸ˜œ"
“First time trying Mod Pizza, and I was happy with my “Lucy Sunshine” choice šŸ‘šŸ½ šŸ•. Red sauce dollops and artichoke hearts on a flat, crispy piece of CARB is really all you need šŸ˜œ”

It was a smaller pie, but it did not lack in toppings. The mozzarella, parmesan, artichokes, garlic, and dollops of red sauce were all there.

The Culver City location was small and awkwardly placed facing the busy, traffic-packed Venice Rd., but it served its purpose as a clean dining area to sit down and finish off a pizza to fuel the rest of my Saturday.

Sunday was the day I was ready to dread, and since I would not be sleeping in the comforts of my bed that night, I took my time getting ready in the morning, before heading to campus.

I spent more time than I wanted to preparing for Monday’s early morning experiments, but I did give E a heads up on when I would be done, so she could meet me for an afternoon snack (and give me some company before I locked myself up in lab for the night!)

Cafe Amadine
Cafe Amadine

We found a cozy little spot called Cafe Amadine, and while they did have warm, savoy sandwiches, we opted for some frappucinos and split a banana cream cake slice. Wasn’t a fan of the cake (ugh, bananas!), but my green tea frapp was able to cover up the gross banana flavor, haha!

Sunday snackin'
Sunday snackin’

 After accompanying me back to lab, I said bye to E and settled in for my overnight stay. Funny how my Labor Day was definitely going to be packed with labor šŸ˜‰

Birthday Weekend, Day 2

Birthday Weekend, Day 2

My friend stayed Saturday night, and since she planned to leave on Monday morning, we had another full day we could put to use for our enjoyment.

I let her sleep in while I completed a long run. The coach I’m working with had me transition to a forefoot form style of running, and I was definitely feeling it in my calves! My legs were wrecked for the rest of the day, but since we had a beach visit planned, I knew relaxation was part of the agenda for the day and my legs would get some much needed R&R.

We were off to Huntington Beach around noon, and with traffic, surprisingly managed to arrive around 2pm. Before heading the the beach, we decided to get a late lunch at Vegan Nirvana because we were super hungry.

Vegan Nirvana
Vegan Nirvana

From the outside, VN looked like an unassuming strip mall restaurant…

Stepped into the blue zone...
Stepped into the blue zone…

…but on the inside, the walls were painted a deep blue and had a strong cooling effect. There wasn’t too much seating and the walkways were narrow, and I think the management was confused on whether they wanted the interior to give off a oceanic or cosmic vibe.

Spaceships…or sharks…or both?

We had to wait for about fifteen minutes before getting a table, but my friend and I were able to look at the menu beforehand and decide on what we wanted. I knew from the get-go that their Ultimate Liberation dish was their star entree. It was a vegan fish tacos dish that was described to be an entree of fish-free fillet tacos topped with cabbage, pico de gallo, cilantro, and Chipotle sauce in corn tortillas.

Menu
Menu

My friend went for the chik’n tenders and that crispy dish sounded like a good choice to me.

They were super crispy!
They were super crispy!

We shared our entrees with each other, and agreed that our veggie meats overall were top notch quality. My friend even commented that the vegan fish tacos actually tasted like fish.

These fish-free tacos were delicious..
These fish-free tacos were delicious…

After lunch, we drove a short way to Huntington Beach. Several loops around a residential area later, we found parking. We were also fully prepared with some beach towels, but the closest we got to the water that day was a foot dip. Instead, we lounged on the sand and read/napped for about an hour.

Relaxation at its finest…

Huntington Beach!
Huntington Beach!

When it was approaching early evening, we decided to head back to the car and make our was more inland towards Fountain Valley: the Mecca of all those quirky dessert foodie trends you see on Instagram.

Birthdae Cake
Birthdae Cake

Birthdae Cake was our destination, and it was nestled unassumingly in a strip mall across from Albertsons.

It was a small establishment, and while there weren’t any lines out the door during our visit, the people that were there knew what they wanted and were content with what they got.

The wallpaper :P
The wallpaper šŸ˜›

I knew I had to get one of their iconic creations featured multiple times on the ‘gram. Their cookie dough ice cream sandwich was something I could not avoid getting.

COOKIE DOUGH ICE CREAM SANDWICH YES IT EXISTS.
COOKIE DOUGH ICE CREAM SANDWICH YES IT EXISTS.

My ice cream sandwich was birthday ice cream in-between two slabs of Cookie Monster cookie dough. The cookie dough slabs were sense, thick, and though they weren’t as flavorful as I imagined, they held up and didn’t fall apart/melt.

My friend got a simple ice cream cone, but we were both delighted by our choices. After our dessert for the day, we drove back to LA and spent the rest of the evening relaxing at home.

My friend dropped me off in lab the next morning before heading back on her way to Santa Cruz. Her visit only emphasized how fun and social this summer has been so far for me!

Did Summer 2017 fare well for you?

Vegan Nirvana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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 šŸ™‚

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 šŸ˜›

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 šŸ™‚

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!

ā™„
ā™„

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

unnamed
ā™„

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 šŸ˜›

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 ā€œNā€ CHEESE ~ purple, yellow, white florets with golden panko crust
SKILLET CAULIFLOWER ā€œNā€ 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

Her 21st

Her 21st

Last weekend’s events were spectacular. I am so grateful for being able to visit my sister on a milestone occasion—her 21st birthday!

cakkkkke
Slice of chocolate birthday cake. Can’t pass up a slice in celebration!

I wanted to maximize the time I spent with her so much that I took a night MegaBus so that I could get to Oakland by 7am that Friday morning. From there, one of our besties who also didn’t want to miss out picked me up, and after getting coffee we drove 3 hours to Fresno!

My sister couldn’t contain her excitement when she knew we were close. She skipped class (haha) so that we could all have lunch together at Taqueria Don Pepe.

don_pepe
Taqueria Don Pepe

It was incredibly hot outside (pushing 100s!!) but they had a small, shaded patio where we could sit down and enjoy our lunch. My sister and I both got vegetarian tortes while our friend got enchiladas (despite talking nonstop about her taco craving for the 3 hours I drove with her, lol).

don_pepe
Pickle bar, small interior

The torta was made with a soft but toasted hoagie roll and filled with refried beans, good ol’ avocado, tomato slices, onion, and shredded cheese. My friend seemed to like her enchiladas, but she actually got bored mid-plate and started talking about splitting fries with my sister from Dog House Grill next door!

veg_torta
Veg torta anyone?

We went shopping for a bit afterwards at Target, and then came back to my sister’a dorm for some rest before heading out to dinner.

filling
Everythannnng in here

My sis and friend spent forever doing their makeup, and opened a bottle of wine to drink before we left. I was “designated mommy” since I don’t drink, so I let my sis enjoy her new-found freedom with alcohol. She’s actually probably the smartest person I know when it comes to drinking safety…she did her research and did not go crazy at all. She told me she stayed hydrated and drank only after eating something substantial the night she had her first drink, on her actual birthday. Obviously I’m bragging now because I’m such a proud older sis.

After they had their fun, I drove us all to The Cheesecake Factory because my sister had a giftcard she wanted to use, and because I had never been to TCH!!

lol
The Cheesecake Factory on a Friday…so busy!!

We had to wait about 45 minutes before we could get a table, and when we were taken to our seats we came across a server who was scrambling to set up our table. It was the most awkward thing ever, as it looked like he was literally playing musical chairs with silverware. We stood there in polite silence, but were all actually thinking what the…

drinks_chips
Sis and friend’s drinks…I helped myself to chips and guac.

We ordered A TON, and I ended up reprimanding both ladies for it afterwards because we needed up taking four boxes home. We devoured a whole bread basket, shared chips and guacamole, and my sis and friend ordered huge plates of burgers with sides. My sis got a side salad that she didn’t even touch because she got the kale salad appetizer. I tried the mozzarella flatbread, and while it was crisp and creamy from the cheese, it was not the most stellar thing to cross paths with my tastebuds.

pizza
A sub-par flatbread pizza

After dinner, we walked through the mall for a bit and then drove back. We finished the night with the Bratz movie (just to make fun of it, and it was unsurprisingly the only thing we could all agree upon) and I was the first one to fall asleep.

I woke up the next morning to squeeze in a 6 miler, but as soon as the ladies woke up, we for ourselves ready for an eggy brunch—Fresno style!

Do you drink?

What was your first alcoholic drink ?

Taqueria Don Pepe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

P’s (Birth)day Off

P’s (Birth)day Off

After coming off a tumultuous and stressful week, I was more than ready for my birthday to come around! After meeting my sister and our friend at the hotel close to 10:00pm, we all went down to the hotel’s jacuzzi to soak our legs, relax, and spend some time together since we didn’t want to go to sleep just yet.

We soaked for ~20 min, and then went back upstairs to get some serious shut-eye. I still woke up early around 7am the next morning, but it was my birthday and I didn’t want to waste a minute of it šŸ˜‰ . The girls woke up a little while after, and we were all ready and out by 11am. We missed the hotel breakfast hours, so by the time we hit the road for Aliso Viejo/Laguna Beach, we were already discussing lunch options!

I knew right away that Native Foods was my #1 pick, since I’ve made it my personal mission to visit all of the Native Foods locations. I’ve pretty much accomplished that goal for their Cali locations (just need to somehow get to Palm Springs to officially do it), thanks to our stop in Aliso Viejo.

nativefoodsaliso
Native Foods in Aliso Viejo

I captured more photos of the restaurant and our food orders, but in the middle of transferring pics from my phone to laptop, I somehow managed to delete a bulk of them. Definitely made me irritated, but at least I was able to salvage a couple thanks to posting earlier on Instagram.

I didn’t feel like trying anything new or new-to-me, but I also didn’t feel the need to get my all-time favorite platter of vegan nachos. Instead, I stuck to another ol’ favorite of mine: the Soul Bowl.

Made me soulllllfullll
Made me soulllllfullll

I’ve seen this dish morph over the years. Back in 2012 when I first stepped foot into a Native Foods, the bowl was drenched in sauces and had two fried “chik’n” skewers pierced through the top and center. Now a little over four years later, the presentation is a little less extreme…it’s more elegantly-styled, but still full of flavor. It’s hard to see in this pic but the soulful-ness from this bowl comes from what’s underneath all those greens. The quinoa and beans at the bottom were just as satisfying and filling as I remembered them!

My sis and friend shared a Soul Bowl and a burger+fries kind of dish, while my Dad had a Thai “meat” ball salad (and after looking back at this post from last year, he basically ordered the same exact thing as last time!!). When we got our fill, we drove out west towards the coast, and pretty much hopped out of the car once we knew we were as close to the coast of Laguna Beach as we could get.

I mean, look. at. that.
I mean, look. at. that.

After being awestruck for a good 30 minutes, we finally asked a local how to get down to the sand where the real action was. When we made it, we spent a good portion of the afternoon appreciating the liveliness of our surroundings and the excitement of the ocean.

Ahhh so pretty...
Ahhh so pretty…

I didn’t bring my swimsuit so I couldn’t get more than knee-deep into the ocean, but it was fun enough to run to/from the waves every time they splashed onto the shore.

After soaking in enough sun, we took an ice cream break (sadly no pictures since I accidentally deleted them šŸ™ ), and made the long trip back to LA since we all had to get up early the next day. We had dinner once we got back, which consisted of chips+cheese dip and a large veggie pizza split amongst the four of us. Of course, we couldn’t fall into a deep slumber without a few minutes of jacuzzi time.

I did my best to fully take in every single minute of my birthday since I knew the next day would be a grueling one for me. I had to wake up at 4am in order to go into lab and begin a procedure that kept me up until 2am the following day…it was FAR from fun, but at least I did get my birthday off? Hmm…I’m just glad that I’m taking next week off to visit my family in Oklahoma. I see that as my ultimate birthday gift.

Native Foods Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Original (Salted Caramel) Yummy Cupcake

The Original (Salted Caramel) Yummy Cupcake

After getting my fill of Korean food for lunch on Saturday, I continued my way down Magnolia until I reached The Original Yummy Cupcakes. Actually, I passed by it at first, and realized that I had gone to far after I realized I had passed by a room of screaming six-year-old girls celebrating a birthday. Obviously that meant cupcakes were in the vicinity!

Yummy Cupcakes
Yummy Cupcakes

Besides the room reserved for birthday parties and events, there are no seating areas in this bakery. Instead, you walk in, and come face-to-face with shiny, shimmering cupcakes waiting to be devoured.

Small store, lotsa cupcakes!
Small store, lotsa cupcakes!

I wasn’t too overwhelmed by the flavor choices, but I knew just one cupcake would do. But which? Should I go with a chocolate, vanilla, or fruity variety?

While I pondered over this, one customer was able to resist any temptations for a cupcake for himself, and focus solely on ordering cupcakes for a Superbowl party he was hosting the next day. When it was my turn, I chose to purchase a salted caramel chocolate cupcake.

Salted caramel cupcake
Salted caramel cupcake

I enjoyed my cupcake on a bench right outside the bakery, and took my time admiring the caramel drizzle and sprinkling of salt.

So good...
So good…

The cake was moist, and the frosting was the perfect complement. Overall, it was indeed a yummy cupcake. Apparently, I learned that they were in existence even before Sprinkles (2004 vs. 2005)!

As I watched the birthday girl and her party crew happily dance down Magnolia, I told myself I was witnessing the magic power of cupcakes unleashing happiness. While those youngins’ chose to let it all out in sugar-fueled glee, I chose to let that happiness simmer in my soul šŸ™‚

What’s your favorite cupcake flavor?

Yummy Cupcakes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

So That’s What It’s Called!

So That’s What It’s Called!

The one thing I like about being independent in lab is being able to coordinate my lab schedule with my life schedule—at least for the most part. For the current experiments I’m doing, I had to plan weeks in advance to make sure everything I needed to accomplish was covered, but with a little maneuvering and careful planning, I was able to make myself free sometime within the time frame of my sister’s birthday. It also happened to be a weekend after some of the more time-intensive experiments, and so this “mini break” was much, much needed.

I left LA around 7:30AM by bus, and then transferred on to the train to head up to Fresno. Like my first trip a couple months ago, this train ride was far from anything you’d expect from an amusement park, but at least it got me to my sister šŸ™‚

After picking me up from the station, my sister dropped me off at the dorms while she dashed to class. I took my time settling in and soothing my sore head from a lingering headache.

When she came back, we were both ready for an afternoon tea-esque snack, so we headed out thinking a place called La Boulangerie would be able to satsify us.

After some driving around with a confused GPS, we realized that even though La Boulangerie existed and served French pastries and snacks, it wasn’t the Parisien dessert shop my sister had previously visited and had told me about. She then realized that it was Le Parisien she wanted to go to šŸ˜›

1
Le Parisen front.

We found the right cafe among other establishments in a strip mall, and my eyes immediately latched onto the sugary collection in the display case.

2
So many sweets to choose from!!

My sister and I had been talking macaroons on the way over, but some of these other beauties were making me change my mind…they even had discount, day old pastries that still looked appealing.

3
These day-old sweet hearts still look good!

I wasn’t in a jelly-filled, powder-sugared donut mood though…I saw an incredibly looking chocolate tart, and I was sold. My sister got three small pastries, and a vegetarian crepe.

4
All for ourselves!

We were the only ones in the cafe at the time, so we found a table right in the middle that wasn’t too close to the window or the sun rays coming through them.

6
A chocolate tart with chocolate ganache to DEVOUR.

My chocolate tart had a swirl of mousse, and a thin layer of chocolate ganache. The crust was hard to cut through, but if I had eaten it as a handhold rather than from top-to-bottom with my fork, I may have appreciated the crust layer more.

5
Orange, mint chocolate macaroons, and lemon meringue

My sister lover her orange macaroon, but wasn’t much of a fan of her lemon meringue or mint chocolate macaroon. She decided that fruit macaroons > non-fruit macaroons, but I can’t take her word for it until I try a non-fruit macaroon, since I’ve only tried lemon and blueberry flavors so far…

7
Vegetarian crepe

She did love her vegetarian crepe though, filled with an assortment of colorful vegetables and cheese, all wrapped up in a rectangular thin crepe. I even helped myself to a few bites.

We got back to her dorm a little before five, and though it would be smart to get some homework/reading done before dinner. When we did get in the car again, we blasted the radio and drove off into the sunset…sort of šŸ˜‰

8
Friday sunset

We were both craving Mediterranean, and we found out that a new Mediterranean grill had opened up in Clovis just a few weeks ago that was worth checking out.

9
Ark Mediterranean Grill

The shopping area Ark Mediterannean Grill was housed in was busy for a Friday night, but the restaurant only had a few other patrons besides ourselves. There was a long table with at least a dozen people near the back of the restaurant, I’m assuming all family, and enjoying an evening out together.

There wasn’t much in options for vegetarians other than the falafel plate or a falafel sandwich, so my sister and I both got the plate. We avoided twinning when I chose to have bulgar instead of rice.

10
The vegetarian-friendly falafel plate

Along with a well-balanced plate of falafel, bulgar, hummus, and cucumber salad, we also got four thin triangles of pita bread and a cup of tahini sauce.

11
Pita bread and tahini

The inside of the falafel reminded me of a pretty amazing falafel plate I had a few weeks ago in Glendale, but these falafels were on level with the ones of So Cal. And of course, the hummus was exceptional. To be honest, I don’t think you can ever have “bad” hummus unless the chickpeas have spoiled or something šŸ˜›

12
Just like the one I had in Dune…

While picking through the bulgar, I noticed what looked like short, thin noodles mixed in, and I was reminded of what my friend used to eat when were kids. Her mom used to prepare something similar, and I was always fascinated by what it was called. Apparently, after simply Googling the phrase ‘noodles mixed with rice Mediterranean’, I found out it’s called Riz Bil Sh’arieh (or more casually, Lebanese Rice). The key is broken vermicelli noodles šŸ˜‰

13
Riz Bil Sh’arieh! So that’s what it’s called!

After this nourishing meal, I felt pumped for the race I was planning to run the next day. Once we got back, I managed to also have some energy to read a few papers before heading to bed, but my sister and I did make some time to laugh out loud during our countless study breaks šŸ˜€

Have you ever had Riz Bil Sh’arieh?

Le Parisien Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wide Summer Skies & Open Roads

Wide Summer Skies & Open Roads

Once you get out of the city of LA, it’s amazing how much larger everything looks. On every occasion I’ve visited the OC, everything looks so HUGE compared to what I’m accustomed to in LA.

 But you can't deny the fact that these skies are beautiful over OC...
But you can’t deny the fact that these skies are beautiful over OC…

We left for the OC in the late morning, and surprisingly didn’t run into too much traffic. This made it a tolerable 50 minute drive, even though my Dad and I were growing hungrier by the minute!

I didn’t have a birthday freebie from Native Foods unfortunately, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to check out their Irvine location. It was quite a drive over to The District where they are located, since we spotted these spooky looking hangars circa WWII alongside the road…

 Don't let the picture fool you...these were incredibly huge in person!
Don’t let the picture fool you…these were incredibly huge in person!

The GPS made us drive around in circles before we finally reached the parking lot, but we did, found a spot to park in, and walked into the bright outdoor mall. 

 Palm trees & sunshine.
Palm trees & sunshine.

Native Foods was immediately to our right as we were walking in, and we didn’t hesitate at all as we walked inside.

nftustin
Native Foods is LOVE.

Since there was a line, we had plenty of time to figure out exactly what our grumbling tummies wanted.

 Inside the NF Tustin location.
Inside the NF Tustin location.

I decided to get something new and not the nuevo nachos that I always have to have šŸ˜› . I guess I was still on a burger kick from my latest visit to Veggie Grill because I got the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger with a side of sweet potato fries (knowing fully well that my Dad loves them and that I would not be eating them all myself šŸ˜› )

My Dad ordered the, Thai Meatball Earth Bowl, something new since my last visit, and the daily soup which was tortilla soup. We found some seats outside, and we didn’t have to wait long for our food to arrive.

oklahoma seitan cheeseburger
Sliced seitan, melted cheddar, caramelized onions and tofu bacon with BBQ sauce, ranch dressing, carrots, tomato and romaine. // Sweet potato fries because how can you NOT?
thaimeatballtortillasoup
Seitan meatballs tossed with mango-lime chili sauce, roasted red peppers and lemongrass broccoli on a bed of quinoa with our super slaw. // Tortilla soup.

I liked the burger, but I was expecting a stack of onion rings to be skewered on top based on previous pictures I had seen of the dish. But despite not seeing fried onion discs decorating my burger, I still thoroughly enjoyed the dish. I also had a meatball sample and spoonfuls of the soup. 

hello
That mango-lime chili sauce though…

As we were eating, there was an outdoor concert taking place by the water fountain in front of the AMC movie theaters. A folk singer was singing some of her original pieces, and it appropriately matched the vibe of our surroundings—summer in the California country.

sat--afternoon
Cali life.

After walking around for a bit, we decided to kill some time at Target (apartment supplies = birthday gift šŸ˜› ) before heading over to our dessert stop for the day. It was quite an experience, and best saved for the next post!

Do you live in a “wide open spaces” kind of place, or in a compact and confined city?

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June’s Jumpin’ Start

June’s Jumpin’ Start

This past weekend was one of those weekends that went from being unplanned to booked! I was already looking forward to being able to wake up when I wanted to on Saturday—without having to worry about rushing to lab—but other than that, I didn’t have much planned other than checking out a cafe in the area I was grocery shopping, and then just relaxing at home.

But when one of my friends texted me Friday morning about her birthday celebrations the next day, and how she would be glad if I could make it, I couldn’t deny the opportunity to connect with my class friends over some birthday dinner. After all, it had been a month since we last met up at our professor’s end-of-the-year gathering!

I continued on with my Friday doing some low-key data analysis in lab. Before heading home, I stopped by Ralph’s and happened to stumble across the Arctic Zero flavor I thought I would never come across…

artic zero key lime pie

The Key Lime Pie Chunky Pint! Though, to be honest, this flavor didn’t meet my high-to-the-sky expectations. I found the lime flavor to be a bit too tangy, and the graham cracker pieces to not have much flavor. I guess after sampling all of those Ben & Jerry’s Core Pints as of late, my standards for the perfect pint of ice cream have risen to a higher standard. But to be fair, Arctic Zero is technically a “frozen dessert”, and for being only 300 calories, it’s certainly not something to brush off..

On Saturday morning, I tried another new-to-me product that I’ve been waiting ages to try—Chobani’s Salted Caramel Crunch flip yogurt!

chobani salted caramel crunch

I actually sort of liked this flavor, though it was mostly due to the candied pecans more than anything else. Promptly after having this snack, I went back to sleep for two more hours. It was glorious…

After waking up again, I got ready quite slowly, and left the apartment in the late morning to buy my friend a gift for her birthday. I then hopped on the train to Pasadena to grab my Quest bars for the week from Vitamin Shoppe before heading over to Alhambra. At first I thought I would have to walk an extra half an hour from Vitamin Shopped to downtown Pasadena in the hot sun (and was not looking forward to that…), but since a music festival was happening in the heart of Old Pasadena, the local bus system was offering a free shuttle for the day! I took advantage of this, and used it to get to the bus stop that would take me straight to downtown Alhambra.

The bus ride was about an hour long, and I could feel myself drift in and out of sleep. Fortunately I did not sleep through my stop, and got off on Main St.

on main st.

I had half an hour to spare once I arrived at the restaurant.

gen K

I used that time to quickly freshen up in the restroom, and then rested in the front waiting area until my friends and the birthday girl arrived.

inner decor

Once the gang was all together, we were taken to booth seats near the back center of the restaurant, and divided ourselves so there was 5 people for each of the two grills. I wasn’t the only vegetarian fortunately, and I was able to share some of the grilled veggie goodness with another girl. I also didn’t feel too guilty about having the carnivores wait when they changed out our grill to cook the veggies šŸ˜‰

 Starting out with oils, seasoning salt, chopstick, and a too-empty plate!
Starting out with oils, seasoning salt, chopstick, and a too-empty plate!

To start off, we were able to help ourselves to different kinds of kimchi, potato salad that looked like vanilla ice cream scoops, and salad dressed in a sweet-n-spicy type vinaigrette. Then the meats came and my friends got to work. My veggie pal and I sat patiently, using our chopsticks to pick at the little pieces of kimchi left until our veggie plates arrived.

Once our veggie plates did arrive, our server switched out the grill, got us some new tongs, and we were free to pack on as many peppers, onions, pineapples, and mushrooms our veggie-lovin’ hearts desired. We also helped ourselves to some glass noodles and rice cakes shaped like cylinders and topped with hot sauce.

 Some of the samplings from dinner -
Some of the samplings from dinner – Kimchi and dollop of potao salad -> more kimchi and salad -> raw mushrooms and rice cakes -> spread of grilled veggies and some glass noodles

Despite “only having vegetables”, I got full pretty quickly. Fibrous, spicy food can do that to ya, and it’s a lesson I’ll never learn! But I can’t imagine how STUFFED my carnivorous friends were feeling…we had a 2-hour limit, but we were all had our fill before the first hour struck! And despite feeling full, most of the party was still up for bar hopping…

I however, was ready to head back home. It would take me another hour after all, and drinking away the night isn’t exactly “my thing”. Ironically, the birthday girl was feeling tired herself, but she had to keep on going for the sake of her guests šŸ˜‰

After giving my friend her gift, she waited with me at the bus stop until my bus arrived. It was nice catching up with her since we’ve both been busy with lab and other things…it’s hard to believe that just a little over six months ago, we were rotating in labs that shared lab meetings, and that we used to take a little too many coffee breaks over those eight weeks šŸ˜› !

Once I got back to the apartment, my sweet tooth kicked in, and I decided to have my B&J’s pint that evening as a nightcap/pre-long run fuel šŸ˜‰

ben and jerry's salted caramel core

Oh yes…I managed to include another core sampling in this “unplanned” weekend. Two things won me over with this pint: A) 100% of the ice cream was one flavor (sweet cream), and while I do love variety, I don’t find myself a fan of B&J’s chocolate, and have found that flavor to be somewhat of a “nuissance” when paired with another flavor in a pint & B) the caramel core that surprisingly kept its sticky consistency. How this core filling manages to avoid getting frozen/damp is a mystery to me, but whatever it is eems to work!

āˆ—

The next morning, I woke up and went out for a 12 mile long run an hour later than usual! While I enjoyed getting up leisurely, I realized that the benefit of running at 6AM on a Sunday—not having to stop for traffic while running on city streets—should not be taken for granted! I ended up finishing close to 10AM due to my later start, and the inevitable stop lights I had to take heed to :/

After my run, I cleaned up around the apartment before heading out for a late lunch. I initially thought about checking out a donut shop near Eagle Rock in honor of (late) National Donut Day, but decided that the trip out and back wasn’t worth the voracious hunger I was starting to feel…I needed a substantial meal!

So that’s how I ended up walking alongside the railroad tracks in sunny Glendale.

walking rail road

The bus ride was another sleep-inducing, hour-long one, so taking a walk to the restaurant from the bus stop was quite refreshing—especially with the sun out!

My destination that day was Golden Road Brew, a pub/restaurant that was nestled close to the railroad tracks, and off the beaten path.

the bright outside

I didn’t come for the alcohol like some though…

LA beer hop lol

I came for the vegan food. It took me a while to find a seat though, since the restaurant was packed both indoors and outdoors! I ended up sitting in the middle of a long table outside, and surprisingly was able to garner the attention of a waitress as soon as I sat down.

soaking in that sun

I wasn’t sure what to order first–whether to go with a vegan appetizer and hearty salad, or bet it all on a carb-o-licious sandwich and fries—but I chose to try the Fried ALT to start off with, since fried avocado sandwiched between a baguette lathered with sun-dried tomato aioli sounded appetizing enough!

fried altttt

Um, yeah. The appearance surely made an impression.

fried ALT

BUUUUT…it just wasn’t enough for this runner girl. I was craving more carbs, and so when the waitress came around to me again and asked if I needed anything else, I replied with, “Can I get the pub pretzel?” and did not feel an ounce of guilt/embarrassment for placing an order just after having my “meal” šŸ˜› .

When the pretzel arrived, I knew there was no question about this being enough to fill me up…

oh yeah pretzzzzzel

It was a grand vegan pretzel, with the perfect outside crunch and soft, chewy texture on the inside. The saltiness was spot on, and came with two small cups of vegan pimento-cheese-like sauce and a solo cup of spicy Dijon mustard.

Even though it was meant to be an appetizer item, it worked as great way to complete my meal. I had a renewed sense of energy, and enjoyed soaking in the sun’s June rays while walking back to bus stop. I made it home close to 7pm, and went to sleep soundly that night. 

Just one weekend seems to have done the trick—I’m ready to take on the rest of June, and the start of summer!

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