Brunch & Beach

Brunch & Beach

My sister needed me to check out a potential housing option in the OC, and so I thought it would be the perfect reason to head down to the area for a brunch & beach day. Lucky for me, one of my undergrad assistants was able to take care of some small things for me that Sunday, and so I did not have to step into lab. It feels great to delegate work sometimes, haha.

I picked up E from a nearby Expo line station after my morning run and shower. From there, we got on the freeway and it was pretty much an easy Sunday drive down to Aliso Viejo.

Bagels & Brew
Bagels & Brew

I suggested we eat out at Bagels & Brew, mostly because of their unicorn bagel, but they had other enticing options as well.

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We decided to eat inside at a booth, but ordered first at the counter. E got a sandwich of course, and a grande sized coffee. I went for the unicorn/rainbow bagel with jalapeño cheddar cream cheese, avocado, tomato, and lime juice…otherwise known as “Aliso Viejo” style.

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

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Everything was piled on so high since it was served open face, so I needed the help of a fork to ensure no avocado slice or cream cheese drop was left behind.

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We sat for a good half hour at our booth after eating, and then got up and walked around the shopping plaza. This Bagels & Brew was actually near the Native Foods we went to for my birthday last year, so I was circling familiar territory.

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E and I had fun walking in and out of stores like Michael’s, Lowe’s, and B&N, joking about what we could get to decorate our lab office, picking up some Drain-O, and browsing through aisles of overpriced books. After killing some time at the shopping plaza, we headed out towards Aliso Beach. The temperature was starting to creep up without warning, so driving with the A/C on was much needed.

Walking to the beach
Walking to the beach

We parked on a slope in a residential area, about 10 minutes away by foot from the beach. The walk down was easy to navigate, and when we got to the sand, we took our socks and shoes off only to be burned by the sun-exposed sand.

At the beach
At the beach

The water had a truly beautiful blue hue though, and even though we didn’t bring a towel to sit down on, we managed and found a nice little spot to sit down at and enjoy the relaxing view.

After about an hour of sun-bathing and self-reflecting, we got up and made our ascent back to the car. Dusting the sand off our legs and feet was quite the task, but we did the best we could before getting in the car and driving off to Mission Viejo.

Several entrances on freeways and u-turns later, we stopped for a smoothie/acai bowl break. That helped cool off our beach-raised core body temperatures!

A PB acai bowl to help cool off...
A PB acai bowl to help cool off…

And finally, we made it to the house that could potentially house my sister. The current tenant seemed friendly, and E and I took a look around while I took some pictures for my sis. There were two cute fur babies (a black and a gray/white cat!!) who apparently took ownership of the domain. My sister had been wanting this place to work out, and when I sent her the pictures, she was definitely sold. I mean…I couldn’t argue about her decision. With a backyard looking the way this place’s does, how could anyone say no?

I thought she should say yes based on the view alone...
I thought she should say yes based on the view alone…

We immediately drove back to LA after, and after dropping E off, I surprisingly didn’t feel as exhausted as I did last weekend. In fact, I felt reenergized! Just comes to show how a full day off can work wonders! The pint of the weekend was So Delicious’ Soymilk Peanut Butter Zigzag, and to me it was yet another disappointment.

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I had my eye on this flavor for a while, but never thought about getting it because of my love for Snickerdoodle and Cookie Dough like I previously mentioned. It had a number of peanut butter chunks and chocolate pieces, but there just wasn’t enough PB to balance out the chocolate. In other words, a flavor worth missing out on in my opinion…

What do you think of the rainbow/unicorn foodie trend?

Bagels & Brew Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eggs & Taters

Eggs & Taters

Last Sunday, I ran my second-longest long run for LA marathon training: a 20 miler from Dockweiler to Palos Verdes and back. I was pleasantly surprised with the personal improvements I noticed with this run when compared to how I performed in the past. I used to hit the physical/mental wall between miles 17 and the end, but this time around I actually found myself feeling more refreshed and kicking up speed! I averaged an 8:48/mi pace at the end of the ordeal, and raced the last 0.5 miles back with two of the faster guys on my team. It felt great, and it’s exciting to notice this improvement now…if it’s any indication of how the marathon will go in March, I can only imagine how happy I’ll feel with a solid PR.

After the run, I was able to get dropped off home around 12:30, quickly shower, and then head to downtown SaMo for some late brunch eats at a new spot that opened—Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern (JFAT). I was given an invite to come out for a Sunday brunch, and certainly did not want to turn it down!

JFAT (4)
Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern

I met with the manager Chris, and he was eager to let me know about their mimosa and drink options, appetizers, and featured menu items. A lot of their stuff is intended to please the extreme appetites of bacon/waffle/egg/potato carb lovers, and the vegetarian options are slim, but I was able to find the Veggie Bennie on the menu, and chose to try that for my meal.

JFAT (2)
Time to brunch, hard.

In the meantime, I sipped on some cold water to get myself back on the hydration track, while enjoying the gorgeous sunny weather and view from my patio booth. The restaurant is at a prime location on Ocean Ave., minutes away from the Metro station, 3rd St. Promenade, and of course the Pier.

When my plate came, my eyes grew wide. Everything looks so colorful and the tater tots were a surprise too! When Chris asked if I’d like some hot sauce, I knew it would only enhance the flavors of everything on the plate. Once I added a drizzle of Tapatio’s, I was all set.

JFAT (7)
The glorious Veggie Bennie

The tater tots were the stand-out of this dish. They have an extra crispy exterior and are seasoned with a bunch of salt and thyme. I used hot sauce for dipping, but they tasted out-of-this-world when dipped in poached egg yolk!

JFAT (5)
Tater tots seasoned with sea salt & thyme

And the English muffin-poached egg creation—-man, this makes me wish I had some skills with cooking with eggs. The layering of egg, spinach, tomatoes, onions, and of course the chive hollandaise sauce was perfection. There was no doubt at all that my plate would be wiped clean by the end of it!

JFAT (1)
Perfectly poached

It was, and I actually was pretty full from that one plate. I had no room for dessert/trying other entrees, so I left soon after letting myself digest. I was thankful for the opportunity to have this meal, especially after a 20 mile long run! I can safetly assume that all those fats, carbs, and nutrients from the eggs/veggies were happily taken up by my muscles for post-workout recovery!

JFAT (6)
Tearing into perfection

Earlier in the week, I took advantage of Vitamin Shoppe’s BOGO 50% off D’s Naturals products by purchasing two of their fluffbutters: Vanilla Maple Frosting and White Choolate Mousse. Out of the two, I was infatuated with VMF.

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Vanilla Maple Frosting Fluffbutter

The oil-to-nut butter ratio was perfect. There was some separation at the top, but I was able to easily mix it up so that enough oil got to the bottom of the jar where it was drier. I topped it on yogurt bowls throughout the week.

foodz (2)
Perfect proyo topping

With the WCM flavor, the oil was mixed in more thoroughly. For both flavors, I was able to detect the respective scents, so despite there being no added toppings to make these distinct by appearance, these nut-based butters could be differentiated if placed side-by-side if only through scent/taste.

foodz (4)
White Chocolate Mousse Fluffbutter

I was most excited to try Zevia this week. I picked up a 6-pack of the Cream Soda flavor, and I was so enthusiastic about taking a picture of the can that I dropped my phone. I panicked/had a “can I go back in time?” moment, and basically now my phone looks like it has a permanent gray scale/rainbow stripes across the screen.

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The last picture I took BEFORE dropping my phone :'(

The phone is still functional in all other aspects, so I’m not sure I can justify a new phone purchase…at least not just yet…

Tater tots or French fries?

Have you ever dropped your phone and damaged it in some way? Did you repair it or replace it?

Jimmy's Famous American Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Seattle Adventures – Part 4

Seattle Adventures – Part 4

Our last full day in Seattle began with yet another bus ride to Ravenna, where we were the previous day drinking tea. This time though, we had brunch at a hipster cafe, and one of my favorite places we ate during the whole trip: Wayward Cafe!

Wayward Cafe
Wayward Cafe

The clientele, employees, and restaurant space all had a hipster vibe going on, so obviously my sis, friend, and I felt out of place but this did not chase us from getting our share of comforting vegan food!

Countertop eating
Countertop eating

We sat at the counter, so in a way, we were somewhat secluded from the rest of the diners. It didn’t matter though, because we were all quite hungry and didn’t mind so much that the view in front of us was a mix of kitchen gear and foggy windows showcasing a highway.

Coffee :)
Coffee 🙂

We each started off with coffee/tea, and you know I took those extra stevia packets for the road 😉

Country Bumpkin!
Country Bumpkin!

For my dish, I was all for the Country Bumpkin. I finally got my biscuits and gravy craving taken care of on this trip!

Friend's dishes
Friend’s dishes

My sis got the Dixie Fried with a circular scone look-alike biscuit, and my friend got a gorgeous enchilada (I think) type dish smothered in sauce and aligned next to seasoned cubed potatoes.

Our grand-in-flavor brunch was also easy on the wallet, and we were able to catch a bus to downtown feeling renewed. On the way there, we rode alongside not one, but TWO adorable animals! The first was a cat “with an eating disorder” headed to the vet. He was a golden, obese tabby who had the most precious meow. The next was this adorable groomed pomeranian who obediently sat on his/her owner’s lap all the way to downtown! I have yet to see an animal board a bus here in LA so I was probably a little too excited upon observing these animals boarding the bus, haha!

LOOK AT THAT ADORABLE POM OHHHH!
LOOK AT THAT ADORABLE POM OHHHH!

Once we were in downtown (yet again), we actually took the time to go inside Pike’s Place Market (just like many other tourists), walk around, get bored, and then walked further down, ending up at the gum wall!

The infamous gum wall!
The infamous gum wall!

After taking a couple pictures with the wall in the background, doing our best to not LEAN against the wall, we walked back towards our starting point, and then made our way towards the movies to watch the latest Alice movie, since we couldn’t watch it the day before due to my sister not feeling well, and my friend was dying to see it. I never was a fan of the Disney Alice movies (I guess I liked the animated one?), so I found myself getting restless at some parts, but I was glad that watching the movie made my friend happy 🙂

After the movies, we obviously had dinner 😛 . And how could we pass by a Veggie Grill and not go in?

Veggie Grill, Downtown Seattle
Veggie Grill, Downtown Seattle

We all ended up ordering hearty meals like burgers, mac and cheese, and even shared my sis’s favorite chocolate pudding from when she tried it the first time we visited a VG.

Friends eat right.
Friends eat right.
Oh man, that pudding.
Oh man, that pudding.

I got the Buffalo Bomber, oozing with spicy BBQ sauce and a side of coleslaw.

How did I not have this before?
How did I not have this before?

Having warm meals in a restaurant with an orange hue made us feel so cozy with the weather starting to get cold and rainy outside.

Even though it looks the same, this VG seemed cozier than the others.
Even though it looks the same, this VG seemed cozier than the others.

After dinner, we just wanted to get back to the Airbnb and relax for our last night in Seattle. I actually ended up staying up until midnight, which is something I rarely do, but I had the energy to do so, and I wanted to really enjoy the time I had with my sister and friend because those chances are so few nowadays.

After a long night’s rest, I woke up the next morning, and got everything packed. After getting my sis and friend to do the same, we headed out to the Fremont District for one last adventure before flying out of the glorious PNW.

Welcome to Theo's Chocolates!
Welcome to Theo’s Chocolates!

Our destination was a chocolate tour at Theo’s Chocolates!

Welcome to Theo's Chocolates!
Welcome to Theo’s Chocolates!

The cost of the tour was only $10, but there were samples galore and learning about the process of making fair-trade and organic chocolate was quite interesting.

Theo Chocolates Factory Tour - waiting room
Theo Chocolates Factory Tour – waiting room

After putting on hairnets, we were guided into a small green room with benches where our guide explained to us the story of how the cacao plant becomes what we know as chocolate.

Theo Chocolates Factory Tour - lecturin'
Theo Chocolates Factory Tour – lecturin’

During her talk, she passes around samples, and I fell in love with a flavor speckled with raspberry.

Hello, raspberry.
Hello, raspberry.

After the short lecture, we were taken inside the factory, where we saw the vats and got to sample some cacao nibs: the mild and bitter ones! My sis and friend ended up buying a bag of the mild cacao nibs from the gift shop after the tour.

Inside the factory
Inside the factory

Once we made a rotation through the actual factory, we were lead into the kitchen, a.k.a. the best room on the tour. In this room, we were given the opportunity to sample truffles, limited edition chocolate flavors, and other intriguing sweet (and savory!) chocolate items. And immediately after that, we were given coupons and directed straight into the gift shop…where there were even MORE samples.

Theo Chocolates Factory Tour - store!
Theo Chocolates Factory Tour – store!

I literally made laps around the store sampling all the chocolate, even finding myself at one point just pacing near the main wall where the samples for the original chocolate flavors were. When my friend and sis were done picking out their cacao nibs and truffles, I even took some store samples for the road! I guess I didn’t completely overdose on sugar, because I still had some room in me for a small lunch! Flying Apron was just along the way, so we decided to sit down there and munch on something savory.

Flying Apron
Flying Apron

I was able to hit it right with my order of red lentil soup with a slice of their bread of the day (which I believe was multigrain).

They have shirts?
They have shirts?

My friend and sis however, weren’t so lucky. They shared three dishes among the two of them, a pesto salad, mac and cheez (with lots of spinach apparently), and a BBQ tofu pocket, all of which were doughy, and lacked flavor to the point where it tasted completely bland. I had to taste them myself just to believe it, and my sis and friend were absolutely right.

Flying Apron - the good, bad, and ugly
Flying Apron – the good, bad, and ugly

If I wasn’t sweetened out by all the chocolate I had earlier, maybe I could have tried a sweet baked good and could have given the chance for Flying Apron to redeem itself. Oh well, I was happy with my humble bowl of soup.

Maybe it would have been different with the sweets...
Maybe it would have been different with the sweets…

We spent another hour strolling around the Fremont district, and then took the bus back to our Airbnb in order to get our luggage and call for an Uber. My sis and friend were sharing a second suitcase filled with books from their Amazon Books adventure, so it was necessary.

It was hard to bid goodbye to them at the airport, since I was flying back separately to LA and the both of them were flying back to Nor Cal together.

Bye, Seattle. It's been fun :)
Bye, Seattle. It’s been fun 🙂

Overall, I was so happy that the trip happened at the time that it did. Right now I’m already wrapped up again in my work but prior to my vacation, I was running on fumes and felt so burnt out from my work! There’s no doubt that I’ll probably need another week off (at least) by August rolls around, but until then, I think I feel refreshed enough to continue being my normal busy self. The fact that summer is just beginning kind of helps too 😉

Have you been on a food factory tour before?

Wayward Vegan Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Seattle Adventures – Part 3

Seattle Adventures – Part 3

Our second full day in Seattle was a busy, fulfilling, and even almost scary!

My friend is a huge Alice in Wonderland/Victorian period fan, and so when we were figuring out what we all wanted to do in Seattle, her day included all things tea and Alice.

So that morning, we got into our “fancier” clothes and took the bus out again to the University District area. It was a cloudy day outside and seemed like it would rain any minute.

We had reservations for 11am high tea at Queen Mary’s Tea Room, and we had twenty minutes to walk to the tea room from the bus stop where we got off. We were making a mad dash, but made in time for our reservation. At first we mistook the tea room’s emporium as our destination, but right across the street was the actual tea room.

tea__room
The arrows were in a bush…of course we’d look there *rolls eyes*

Inside, there were trinkets and tea EVERYWHERE. Not a space on the wall nor a bare floorboard could be seen. After checking in, we were seated at a table close to the window amongst teddy bears, a stuffed plush corgi, and a giant rabbit. Our hostess came by with a tea menu and asked us what we were celebrating. When we didn’t have an answer for her, she still asked us if wanted to wear tiaras! How could we decline 🙂 ?

QMtea__room
So much cute stuff ah!

I didn’t participate in high tea, but in order to have tea, I had to have a “food purchase”, so I got a large green tea macaroon with my pot of french vanilla tea.

frenchvanillatea
Our table // french vanilla tea

My sis and friend went ahead with the high tea, and were given sorbets to start off with to cleanse the palate. Then, the creams came, along with the long awaited tower tray of sweets and savories.

tea__room__macc
Sorbet // cream // macaroon

By the time the tray came out, I was already finished with my creamy macaroon. My sis and friend took their sweet time getting through the tower, took a bathroom break in between, and even then couldn’t finished! I helped out by eating some of the fruit, and one of the cucumber sandwiches since it wasn’t so appealing to my friend.

tea
Top tray: scones and biscuits, middle: fruit and pea soup (?), bottom: cucumber sandwiches 😮

After a filling and satisfying tea, we walked back to the bus stop, but not before checking out the tea emporium. There were so many cute items from teaspoons to shiny tea pots, but the fact that they were breakable and expensive was not a good mix for having to pack them up and bring them back to another state in one piece.

Instead, we passed on purchasing these items and headed back to downtown. I had a meet-up planned with Brittany in the afternoon, and the girls planned to hang out in the area at a cafe.

kindapretty
Downtown Seattle

Brittany was so thoughtful to bring her car (on board a ferry!) so we could easily drive over to lunch. She gave me a tour along the way, and once we were in Capitol Hill, we parked by a nearby cathedral and walked more into the district.

We had a late lunch at Plum Bistro, a fancy-looking vegan restaurant that had a special happy hour menu.

menu
I decided to get the Reuben & Chips because I just can’t get enough of carbs 😉

I was hoping to order one of the Jamaican-inspired dishes that was featured on their menu online, but during the hour of our visit, only the happy hour menu was available.

plumbistro
One side reminded me of a boat deck and the other a bohemian-themed room.

Still, Brittany and I had a fun conversation while I munched on my Reuben and Chips and she, some colorful tacos and purple taquitos.

whatbrittanygotlol
Hi Brittany’s food!!

My dish was pretty filling, since underneath the rye bread were seitan strip steaks and bright purple sauerkraut-like cabbage. I didn’t even finish my fries, but I’m pretty sure my stores were refueled enough.

reuben and chips
There was so much cabbage underneath, don’t be fooled!

After our late lunch, we walked around for a bit, including through a park and then in the direction of the Starbucks Roastery. We went inside, and Brittany gave me a quick tour around the first floor. She compared it to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, and I couldn’t agree more. Everything was so golden and warm…even a $1,000 bike positioned near the entrance 😮

Brittany dropped me off back in downtown so I could meet up with my sis and friend once again, but to my surprise, I didn’t find the girls at our planned meeting spot. After sending a nervous text, I found out that my sis was feeling nauseous and that she and my friend were closer to a restaurant close to the movie theater a couple blocks away, since we were planning on seeing the new Alice movie that night.

My sister didn’t actually throw up, but she felt extremely off that evening and we couldn’t figure out why. We decided to call it a day and were able to trade in our movie tickets for a Friday afternoon show. My sis felt better once we walked outside towards the bus stop to take us back to our Airbnb, but she still wanted to rest up so that she could be at her best for our last full day of the trip.

Thankfully she felt better the next morning, and we were able to continue the adventures without interruption 🙂

Plum Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sugar Fuel

Sugar Fuel

Wow, I am so glad May is over! For it being the “start of summer”, it was quite an exhausting one. This past week alone has been one of my most busiest yet, and so I inevitably had some strong sugar cravings by the time the weekend rolled around!

My featured pint for the weekend was this Ben & Jerry’s Hazed and Confused Core. Even after an exhausting Saturday morning in lab, I managed to walk over to the grocery store and pick this up. I intended to have it on Sunday evening, but my craving was so strong that I ended up having it on Saturday night. I mean, how can that be a bad choice when paired with a movie to watch on TV 😉 ?

hazed&confusedcore

The hazelnut ice cream won me over more so than the chocolate, but the chocolate side had a good deal of chocolate chip chunks. And of course, there was the irresistible fudge core!

On Sunday morning, I woke up to misty and foggy air while going out for my long run. In other words, it was the perfect time to run—the weather was just cool enough, and no traffic on the LA streets to contend with at such an early time either.

After my run, I made a mad dash to lab so I could start early/end early, and have enough time to head on over to a not-so-secret cafe in Hollywood.

griddle

When I first arrived on Sunset Boulevard, I saw hordes of people outside the humble cafe, and had doubts if I would get a seat. Fortunately since I was on my own, I was able to get a seat at the counter.

inside

I knew from looking at the menu beforehand that pancakes or french toast was what I wanted, but their selection was overwhelming! But, probably not as much as my sugar cravings 😛

I decided to go with an order of oreo-stuffed pancakes known by the name of ‘Black Magic’. Little did I know that it would be a BIG plate of magic…

It was somewhat awkward sitting on my own at the counter with a couple on one side and another lone diner on the other. At least they were finishing up, so it wouldn’t be too strange to whip out my phone and start taking pictures of my food 😛

I did notice that the couple next to me wasted this beautiful latte of sorts loaded with whipped cream…the poor beverage.

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But to be fair, I had a hard time demolishing this beastly beauty when it came to me.

 From menu -> "Black Magic disbelief will possess you as you’re pulled under the spell of our crushed oreo-filled flapjacks topped with whipped cream and oreo cookie pieces. (reality or illusion)"
From menu -> “Black Magic disbelief will possess you as you’re pulled under the spell of our crushed oreo-filled flapjacks topped with whipped cream and oreo cookie pieces. (reality or illusion)”

Don’t let the top view fool you—this had four thick layers of flapjacks mixed with chunks of oreo and generously topped with whipped cream.

close-up

It was hard to capture the quantity of oreo chunks this stack had, but trust me, it was a skewed ratio of oreo to pancake 😛

 Arrow pointing to an example of oreo chunk!
Arrow pointing to an example of oreo chunk!

The first couple bites were pure bliss, but then things shifted to feelings of  habituation and being stuffed. It got to the point where I felt like the sweetness was too much, and I couldn’t take in another bite without feeling sick—even with water by my side.

 At least I tried.
At least I tried.

What I did manage to consume though was phenomenal. Who would have thought oreos work well in a pancake stack? 🙂

Have you ever ordered a dish you enjoyed but just couldn’t finish?

Click to add a blog post for The Griddle Cafe on Zomato

Let’s Get Together

Let’s Get Together

I would definitely go as far as to count last weekend as being one of my more social weekends of the semester. It’s been hard to get together with a lot of my classmates since the beginning of this year—due to things getting busier in our respective labs, other commitments, etc.—but three of my girl friends and I were able to take time out of our busy schedules to meet up for brunch and see a musical at the Cupcake Theater in Hollywood. One of my friends found a Groupon deal about a month beforehand, and we were able to get tickets to see Avenue Q for $16!

So on Saturday morning, I woke up around 7AM (but I felt like I could sleep in, surprisingly!) and got ready. I hopped on board the Metro Expo, then onto the Metro Red, and got off at Hollywood/Vine. The Hollywood Half was underway, and I walked alongside the course as many half marathoners were finishing up. It was the first time I was witnessing a race I wasn’t part of (as a runner OR volunteer), and part of me wanted to jump in, snag a medal, and grab a couple freebies as well 😉

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BUT—I resisted the temptation, since I was hauling a heavy purse, and was wearing denim shorts & converse, which don’t exactly match the description of running gear all to well!!

My friends and I wanted to have brunch before heading over to the theater at 12pm, so we decided to meet up at Eat This Cafe. It opened at 10AM, and being the early bird that I am, I arrived way too early at 9:20AM. Good thing I packed some notes to review to keep me busy for the next 40 or so minutes. I even found a bench in front of the cafe to comfortably sit on while doing so.

eatthis

 Fun murals and paintings near the cafe.
Fun murals and paintings near the cafe.

When the restaurant did open up, I waited inside since I couldn’t get a table until our full party showed up. The interior space was quite small, but I love the cool shade of blue painted on the walls. There were plenty of tables (but not for long, as I would soon find out!), and even a more intimate, cozy corner booth.

inside_eatthis

My three friends came soon after, and we were all seated at a table by the window. All of us started off with waters, and one of my friends got orange juice while another got a mimosa to start off her day. When she was asked for ID, she gladly handed over her card to the waitress, loving the fact that she looked so young 😉

After looking over the menu, we placed orders for a truffle panini, french toast, corned beef hash, and vegan tofu scramble (can you guess which one was mine 😉 )? We had no problem getting into a conversation, but when one of my friends noticed a familiar face walking outside the window, we all stopped and tried to figure out who she was pointing at. And surprisingly, it happened to be one of the professors we knew from school—dressed in a simple t-shirt and jeans, just strolling around Hollywood like a regular ol’ person. He even stepped inside the cafe for a moment to make change!

Haha…yeah, we know that professors/teachers are like everyone else, but it’s still strange to see them out of context.

So after that happened, our brunch spread soon arrived. It was no problem getting pictures, because all four of us whipped out our phones at the same time to get pictures of our feast.

BRUNCHSPREAD

Mine was the prettiest though, I must say.

 My gorgeous, healthy, earthy, beautiful vegan scramble.
My gorgeous, healthy, earthy, beautiful vegan scramble.

My scramble was mix of light, chewy tofu pieces, diced peppers, and mostly roasted potatoes. Ketchup was served on the side, and I got full pretty quickly. There is just something so filling about potatoes!

We took out time getting through brunch, and left the cafe close to 11:30AM. Fortunately we were able to find parking, and quickly got in line to get our seats before the show started.

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Cupcake Theater is pretty much the size of a walk-in closet, and due to the bad lighting it was hard to get any pics, but the show itself was well-put together. One of my friends happened to see the show on Broadway, and thought the execution in this production was on par with the one she saw in NYC.

Now, the show itself…some of the themes of the show weren’t exactly PG, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the actors themselves were quite talented. The production/staging crew also did an excellent job with scene changes, lighting, props, etc. So, at least organization-wise, it was a great showing!

My friends and I split up when the show ended around 2PM, and I decided to head down to The Grove to get some grocery shopping done before calling it a day.

After doing some grocery shopping, I stopped to grab a cool dessert before catching the bus home. I’ve been meaning to try the Halo Top Creamery Pints. The store I was at offered all four flavors, but ‘lemon cake’ sounded the most unique and appealing…

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The nutritional stats also looked intriguing. The whole pint has 28 grams of protein and is only 280 calories.

lemon__cke

The texture and flavor were simply amazing. It seriously tasted like a cold and creamy iced lemon cake. There was just enough sweetness to balance out the lemon though, so it was far from being sour!

The rest of the evening was spent catching up on homework (oh statistics…), and getting to sleep early because a long run was in the plans for Sunday morning!

Yes, I’m still making it a priority to keep up with my long run maintenance goals! On Sunday, I got away from the usual DTLA loop I fall into, and instead ran from Culver City Station to Marina Del Rey and back. I had to take a bathroom break at a nearby Ralph’s around mile 8, but was also able to get a cup of water (with ice!!) from Starbucks before making my way back. Running with a plastic cup wasn’t that bad actually!

 Cool down walk after a 15 mile run. It always feels good to finish a long run!!
Cool down walk after a 15 mile run. It always feels good to finish a long run!!

I finished my 15 mile run close to the restaurant I was meeting a friend from my marathon training group at. The restaurant opened at 11AM, and so I patiently waited by the entrance.

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After letting the waitress know I was waiting for a friend, I was seated at a table near the cash register, and given the menu.

la_vegan__inside

LA Vegan may be a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, where most of the orders end up being take-out by the residents that live in apartments and houses nearby, but they had a variety of items to pick from their menu—everything from burgers to curry.

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When my friend joined me, we sipped on some waters and ended up talking about our marathon experience instead of looking at the menu. The waitress politely reminded us while refilling our waters, but we were quick to both order a curry dish.

I ordered the Spicy Pineapple “Shrimp” Curry, which came with a side of brown rice.

 Soy shrimp, fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, basil and pineapple in coconut milk red curry.
Soy shrimp, fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, basil and pineapple in coconut milk red curry.

I remember trying soy shrimp when I found it at a Grocery Outlet long ago…and being absolutely repulsed by it when I had it with a homemade salad. I didn’t think I could ever be a fan, but this curry helped to change my mind.

closeups

The pineapple chunks were a great addition as well, and added some pleasant sweetness to the already-spicy coconut milk-based red curry.

Since my friend had to run some errands soon after our early lunch, she was able to offer me a ride. I asked if I could be dropped off near a ice cream/cookie place that recently-opened, because I obviously couldn’t pass up my long run dessert 😉 !

C.R.E.A.M. {cookies rule everything around me 🙂 } was where I ended up concluding my lunch, and after all this time knowing of its existence in Nor Cal (and never having the chance to stop by one of those original locations), I had the chance to try out one of their newer franchises.

counter___

For a basic cookie ice cream sandwich (their specialty), you are able to pick two cookies, and a scoop of ice cream to get sandwiched in the middle. Oh, and of course there are toppings and sauces if you wish for that as well.

toppings&icecream

The girl behind the counter was ready and willing to help, and even though I felt somewhat rushed when reading through all of the cookie and ice cream choices, I was happy with my ice cream-cookie sandwich choice of snickerdoodle + carnival cookie(s), green tea ice cream, and confetti sprinkles.

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I was able to eat my cookie sandwich conveniently at a table facing the door.

 Just enjoying this beautiful day...
Just enjoying this beautiful day…

The cookies were crispier than I imagined them to be, but the ice cream helped remediate that. The cookies became much more softer, especially in the middle, once in contact with the ice cream.

cookie_closeup

Since there are plans to open up a few more C.R.E.A.M. locations, I think it would be difficult not pay these guys a visit a few more times. I think it would also be wise to keep my schedule more open when I make my visits to Nor Cal, and make time to visit the locations that started it all!

Eat This Cafe on Urbanspoon
Cream on Urbanspoon LA Vegan on Urbanspoon

Milo & Olive: Pizza for One Please

Milo & Olive: Pizza for One Please

Since I had plans on being in Santa Monica for my long run over the weekend, I thought it would be ideal to grab lunch nearby after my 12 mile taper run. I was in the mood for a personal pizza, and so I took a bus from Ocean Ave. that was headed in the east direction of Wilshire. I was set to dine at Milo & Olive for my post-workout lunch.

The small, gray establishment was not hard for me to miss, since I have paid a couple visits to the the Vitamin Shoppe nearby. There were already groups of folks waiting outside and inside the tiny cube of a restaurant.

busysundayyy
Waiting near the counter // Patrons at the bar.

I had my name added to the waitlist, but I don’t think I had to wait as long as some others. Since I was dining alone, I was able to get a table relatively quickly (within 15 minutes). I was taken behind the baked goods counter, and given a table by a large window. I also had a great view of the hustle & bustle of the restaurant in front of me.

interior

I love the way the paintings were arranged on the walls, but I was fixated on this one in particular:

 Old people---so cute!
Old people—so cute!

I also couldn’t help but admire the high ceiling paneled with wood.

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There were lots of pizzas to choose from, but after confirming if the Quattro Formaggi was suitable for vegetarians, I ordered that…

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…and sipped on some water from this fancy-looking jar while I waited for my warm pizza pie to arrive. The waiter “warned” me it would be at least fifteen minutes, but I understood…perfection can’t be rushed 😉

When the pizza did arrive, it garnered stares from the tables around me. It demanded attention, as made obvious by its bubbling cheese, glistening green kale, and aroma of calabrian chili oil.

Quattro Formaggi with sautéed kale and calabrian chili oil

The pizza looked bigger than a “normal” personal pizza at first, but it was actually just the crust that looked puffy and large. The center of the pizza was quite thin, and it was almost as if it was just a circle of melted cheese. The underlying crust was barely visible.

QUATTRO FORMAGGI

This meant that my ways of eating pizza with a fork would not be appropriate here, and I had to treat it as a handheld meal like a normal person would 😛

The pizza itself was quite filling, even though I didn’t demolish it entirely (I left a bulk of the crusts on my plate, mostly eating the slice up until the border where the cheese ended). I was contemplating a cupcake for dessert, but decided that it would be in my best interest to head back home and rest up study for an exam the next day. There would be next weekend after all, and I did have some gelatin-free gummies waiting for me in the meantime to get me though an afternoon and evening of studying!

Do you like eating the pizza crust? Plain or with a dip/sauce? I used to dip leftover pizza crust in ketchup when I was younger! Otherwise, it was just too dry for me.

Milo & Olive on Urbanspoon

Diner Fare

Diner Fare

Before my Dad had to leave for the airport, we were able to have dinner out together one more time. It involved some crazy driving in DTLA for the most part—taking 10 minutes just to turn at a corner 0.3 miles ahead—but we were able to push the driving-associated frustrations aside when we sat down at the Nickel Diner.

nickel1

Looking at the outside of the restaurant, it looked like the entrance to a quaint little bakery. Inside however, it seemed like a grand lounge from the 50’s or something, with high ceilings and seats all around.

nickel
Not a big fan of the dim lighting though.

I didn’t have to open the main menu at all when the placard with the day’s specials were handed to me.

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I was fixed on the Sloppy Veggie Jo, and asked for my side to be cooked spinach. Dad had the vegan chili.

sidespinachandveganchili

The Sloppy Jo was an interesting version: it was an open-faced sandwich, and the “meat” was actually cremini mushrooms (even though the menu said portabello?) chopped up into miniscule pieces that would have fooled anyone into thinking it was actually meat. I had to ask my server again just to make sure it really was meat-free!

sloppyveggiejo
So much cheese though—and so good!

While I was chowing down like a ravenous dog on my sandwich, my Dad was able to ask the server about the history of the diner. Apparently it was restored from an older restaurant from the 40’s, and the “this is the place” signage was originally part of that older restaurant. Gotta love tableside history lessons 😉 !

For the remainder of the week, I went back to out-of-my-apartment meals, but was still on a diner kick come Saturday. After a late start, I hopped on the Metro Rail and headed up to Hollywood to check out The Waffle. 

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Another busy Saturday at another popular restaurant, meaning the only available seats were at the counter.

 Awkward picture-taking, but I was successful ;)
Awkward picture-taking, but I was successful in the end 😉

I wasn’t to overwhelmed by the menu either, since they had neatly arranged the vegetarian-friendly selections under their own category!

menu

The Cobb Salad and Veg Reuben sounded tasty, but I decided to order the Vegetarian Philly, which ended up being vegan since I had it sans cheese. I also had a side salad that came with balsamic vinaigrette.

Soy beef strips, bell peppers, and onions sauteed in a sweet balsamic reduction, and served on a warm vegan French roll; side salad; pickle .
Vegetarian-turned-vegan Philly Cheesesteak – Soy beef strips, bell peppers, and onions sauteed in a sweet balsamic reduction, and served on a warm vegan French roll with a side salad and pickle .

I dug into the salad first, and then pulled and tugged at my sandwich with a fork since I didn’t want to get my hands messy.

Soy beef strips, bell peppers, and onions sauteed in a sweet balsamic reduction, and served on a warm vegan French roll; side salad; pickle

I found the bread to be too dry to my liking, but the soy strips had a nice, sweet taste to them. The sauteed onions and peppers were delicious too! In the end, despite my best efforts with the fork, I wound up picking up the bread and eating it like an open-faced sandwich.  

After my meal, my plans to pick up some groceries to hold me over until I leave for Thanksgiving slightly changed. Instead, my walk to the grocery store was cut short due to it getting dark out, and I needed to catch the bus before it got really dark. It’s all okay though…I have about six apples and some other close-to-expiration goods I need to get to before I leave 😛

Nickel Diner on Urbanspoon The Waffle on Urbanspoon

Chummy with Plum

Chummy with Plum

After running in my most recent half marathon, and setting a new PR for myself, I was ready to refuel with myself with some drool-inducing vegan food. So goes the eating pattern of my long run races—run for 2+ hours, snack on a sample or two of post-race freebies, then find a nearby vegan restaurant where I end up being the first lunch customer of the day. I have no shame whatsoever 😉

The Plum Cafe was the nearest vegan location to me, and after making a quick stop at Whole Foods to redeem my free runner’s recovery kit, they were open for lunch. 

front

The restaurant is more of a cafe housed in a cozy, old-style two-story building meant to be a home. Upon stepping inside, the place was also boasting a collection of assorted vegan and gluten-free cupcakes, so it quickly lived up to its reputation as a bakery.

 Blurry pics of cash register and baked goods case.
Blurry pics of cash register and baked goods case.
 Kombucha on tap. They even had a tumeric flavor?!?
Kombucha on tap. They even had a tumeric flavor?!?

My dad was there as company since he wasn’t that hungry, and I knew what I wanted. I just used the outdoor menu as an excuse to take more photos!

The Plum Cafe and Bakery (12)

The Plum Cafe and Bakery (13)

The Plum Cafe and Bakery (14)

I ordered a half-size chili cheez nachos plate, and the cashier had to do a double-take on the time since she expected more customers to be coming in for Sunday brunch, which they opened for around 10AM. Like I said, I’m used to being the first lunch customer of the day on race days like these…

While the kitchen went to work on my order, I took the time to take some more pictures of the cafe, in a semi-discrete manner. The quarters are quite tight and small, so it was difficult to not look somewhat awkward standing in the hall 😛

The Plum Cafe and Bakery (6)

 Brunch room. I just want my nachos :P
Brunch room. I just want my nachos 😛

In the back, there was more outdoor seating with nice furniture and music playing.

setting

They were actually playing Disclosure’s “Latch” by the time I got settled and put my orange “table number holder” down.

 The wedding magazine was already on the table---wasn't mine!
The wedding magazine was already on the table—wasn’t mine!

As I was waiting for my food, I noticed a pile of uncleaned dishes in the distance that still had food in them. Which had me question how people could waste food at a vegan restaurant?!

The Plum Cafe and Bakery (10)

Even though I ordered the chili cheez nachos, I realized that they had just given me the regular nachos since it had lime crema sauce instead of chili.

 Nachos, half-size: corn chips (rounds), nacho cheez, refried beans, fresh salsa (?), olives, avocado, lime crema.
Nachos, half-size: corn chips (rounds), nacho cheez, refried beans, fresh salsa, olives, avocado, lime crema. All for $7.

The sauces seemed more runny than expected, but the flavors were still there. The beans were mediocre and reminded me of regular canned vegetarian refried beans. I loved the huge chunks of avocado though. The chips were doused in so much topping, I pretty much had a salad to finish once the chips were all consumed 😛

My “half” plate was a good lunch portion, and kept me refueled and recharged. I passed on dessert, at least in the cafe. I decided to honor my cravings for one of the Luna protein chocolate coconut bars I still managed to save from the race instead.

What’s your favorite food/cuisine to treat yourself with after a long race?

Plum Cafe & Bakery on Urbanspoon

Recruitment Recap #3 – An Interview in NYC!

Recruitment Recap #3 – An Interview in NYC!

This post is the second in a series regarding interview recaps of PhD programs I applied to. The first post in this series can be read here, and the second here.

Having been a California girl for almost an eternity (okay, so I’m exaggerating), visiting New York for the first time was a phenomenal experience. And being able to visit the major metropolis of the nation world because I was interviewing for grad school? Best. Reason. Ever.

My “adventure” began earlier than the crack of dawn. Despite weather warnings and imminent delays, I woke up at 3:15 AM ready to go. My dad, being a trooper, dropped me off at the airport and I went through security with ease. Since I was flying to SFO first, I hopped on board a mini jet with legit propellars. I also had a single seat by the window, and was able to lean my head against the wall for some much needed shuteye:

Mini Jet

I already knew that I would have limited time to get to my gate at SFO, but considering what happened next, I probably wouldn’t have jog-walked across the airport. My flight from SFO to JFK was originally supposed to depart at 7:00am, but after settling in, our pilot let us know that our flight “wasn’t suitable for the trip”. An explanation would have been nice, but it wouldn’t have helped anyways since us passengers were irritated with the fact that we had to get up and move after stowing away luggage and ripping open plastic-sealed blankets—I know I was!

So we were shuffled across to a different gate, but fortunately we were able to depart 45 min later. Happy that it wasn’t anything more dramatic than that, I slept for most of the 5.5 hour flight, read magazines, and admired the city of NYC from above just before landing.

I arrived around 5:00pm, and found a place to organize myself and whip out my winter coat. The next step was to hail a “taxi”…well, it was more like a pushy guy with an Italian accent get in a car with three other foreign tourists. Okay, so it wasn’t as shady as it sounds, but I was a bit on edge until I got to my destination. Despite having suspicions about my so-called cab driver however, I let my eyes soak in the snow-covered brick buildings that flanked the highways of New York. With 80’s music blasting from the car radio, I couldn’t help but think about The Cosby Show.

My nerves calmed down once I reached the hotel. The school I was interviewing with booked our rooms in a Upper West Side trendy hotel with loft-style rooms.  I met my roommate who was already settled in, freshened up myself, and then headed out the door for my Crumbs quest.

Closet to hang clothes / so many floors! / cozy bed / fun "locker-style" shelves
Closet to hang clothes / so many floors! / cozy bed / fun “locker-style” shelves

Walking outside was not much fun to say the least, but I did my best to take advantage of walking on NYC streets—icy numb-feet-inducing puddles and all ;).

Night of Nasty Weather
Night of Nasty Weather

After consuming my delicious cannoli cupcake from Crumbs, I was ready to hit the hay since the next day was interviews!

The so-cozy-you-can-sink beds / unused Keurig and FREE water bottle / window seat / view from window seat
The so-cozy-you-can-sink beds / unused Keurig and FREE water bottle / window seat / view from window seat

The next morning, my roommate and I met four other applicants in the lobby. After realizing that the cars that were supposed to pick us up were not going to make it on time, we had to hail cabs (real ones this time) in order to drive over to the school.

The rest of the day consisted of meeting the program directors, interviews, lunch that was buffet-style with current grad students, a wine and cheese reception, and a tour of a current student’s studio apartment (her room had an amazing view of the NYC skyline).

Even though the day’s events left me depleted of energy, we still had to make our way to the subway in order to get to dinner in West Village.

Oh New Yorkers---always on the go!
Oh New Yorkers—always on the go!

Not exactly the most thrilling event of the trip, but at least now I can say I rode the subway, right? To be honest, it just reminded me of the BART.

Dinner was at an American restaurant (burger and fries fare) which one of the grad students booked in advance. We had a custom menu, and many in our group took advantage of the open bar…especially the current grad students. Our group took up tables for almost three hours, since each of us had to order an appetizer and meal. I opted for a plate of mediocre garlic fries (unpictured)  as my meal because I was still full from lunch, and didn’t have room for a veggie burger. I did have a bowl of well-seasoned brussel sprouts as my appetizer (sorry for the blurry photo—had to be sneaky!)

West 3rd Common (1)

The three hours went by slowly, but the time was spent chatting it up with grad students, from topics spanning running (on of the students I spoke to was a serious runner!) to lab rotations. They were a fun bunch, and the student organizer who planned the event was super sweet when she came around from time-to-time in order to check-in and see if everything was alright.

Around 10:30pm, our huge group parted, with one group heading out to another bar for drinks, and the other heading back to the hotel. Guess which one I joined? It was obviously past my bedtime ;), so back to the hotel I went, via subway.

The next morning, we had a late start. Our group met up with recruits from sister programs for brunch at a nearby diner. Again, dining options were made from a set menu, and again, considering how our groups was even larger now, it was pretty much time for linner by the time we left ;).

We split up into smaller groups to check out different museums and such. I went off with the Natural History group and enjoyed the view of New York City during the day.

New York is just as pretty during the day.
New York is just as pretty during the day.

Walking Around NYC to eventually get to NHM (3)

The NHM building was a beautiful one…

From the corner / closer / as we approached the side entryway
From the corner / closer / as we approached the side entryway

I spent around three hours in there, and at one point ended up with two other recruits from my program and a current grad student escort whom we “kidnapped” from another program. We decided to head back to the hotel, but we had a blizzard to face outside! By the time we stepped inside the lobby, we looked like snowmen! We chatted in the lounge until it was time to assemble for dinner.

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Hung out in the hotel lounge with two recruits and a “kidnapped” grad student from another program than my own :P!

Dinner on Saturday night was at a local Korean restaurant in Midtown. My group arrived from the hotel via subway, and the grad student organizer who planned out the previous day’s events was able to arrange a vegan friendly version of Korean BBQ for me and three other vegetarians/vegans.

Me and three other veggie people demolished three bowls of bibibamp, noodles, appetizers, and sauteed mushrooms.
Me and three other veggie people demolished three bowls of {vegetarian} bibibamp, buckwheat noodles with sesame seeds, appetizers, and sauteed mushrooms that was meant to be a meat replacement.

We seriously ripped out our chopsticks and went at it. The four of us went through three bowls of veggie bibibamp (no egg though since a vegan was present), and savored sauteed mushrooms as much as our meat-eating collegues were enjoying their meaty barbecue. After the meal, we all sat back and went back and forth about how delicious everything was!

It was around 9:30pm when a few students were escorted back to the hotel via cabs, and even though bowling (and drinks, for those who were still “thirsty”) was on the schedule, I wanted to spend some more time exploring the city at night—now that I knew to be more wary about slushy puddles.

So roaming around I did. The buildings look so beautiful at night, and I spotted 16 Handles from across the street. I would have gone in for some late night Saturday froyo, but I was (unfortunately) quite full from the Korean meal.

love
I love the tall brick buildings / snow shoveled to the side / 16 Handles! <— been wanting to go there since seeing it on ‘Giving You the Business’

I left around 8:00am the next morning, and after a six-hour flight and a lay-over in LAX, I was home in time for dinner and sleeping in at 8:00pm PST…which was totally okay since I was still on EST.

NYC left a wonderful impression on me, and I only wish I could have stayed longer and even had the chance to meet with some of my favorite NYC bloggers ;). Only time will tell if I have the chance to explore this amazing city again, so I am glad for just being able to visit at least once.

NYC—love or hate it?

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