More Things From October

More Things From October

After spending a Saturday together in Hollywood exploring the history of broken relationships, I didn’t get a chance to see my sister for another two weeks. She soon got busy with work, classes, and…a boy?

Also finally tried some new-to-me flavors of Square Bar, as it's been a long time since I had them! Not a big fan of the dark chocolate coating though...the cherry filling was alright, but overall just wasn't to my liking.
Also finally tried some new-to-me flavors of Square Bar, as it’s been a long time since I had them! Not a big fan of the dark chocolate coating though…the cherry filling was alright, but overall just wasn’t to my liking.

Haha, yes. She’s yet another one of my once-single friends to get herself a BF lol. I briefly met him the night of her graduation when they were just friends, but since it was 11pm and I was suffering from deep exhaustion after the day’s celebrations, I fell asleep under my sister’s dorm bed soon after he arrived. No shame—I needed my beauty sleep!

I also got my hands on this new Halo Top flavor: Mochi Green Tea! It had a smooth green tea flavor ice cream base that was quite mild, and actual Mochi pieces that held their own. Most of them sunk to bottom, but it was good overall!
I also got my hands on this new Halo Top flavor: Mochi Green Tea! It had a smooth green tea flavor ice cream base that was quite mild, and actual Mochi pieces that held their own. Most of them sunk to bottom, but it was good overall!

I met them for brunch on a Saturday, soon after getting my morning long run in. He had come into LA to drop off a friend at the airport, and my sis picked him up on her way from the OC. They picked me up from my place, and we had our brunch at a local favorite—Truxton’s American Bistro.

Menu
Menu

My sis and I were crazy for their monkey bread when we visited their Westchester location two summers ago, but this time around, we were looking for something that wasn’t 100% carb.

The poor BF had to spend the night in the airport so he was literally falling asleep at the table. I used the time to catch up with the sis, and also figure out which brunch item to get.

Truxton's American Bistro
Truxton’s American Bistro

I ended up going for a squash and Brussels sprouts hash topped with a fried egg. The other two got sandwiches.

Oh my hash...
Oh my hash…

I think the pictures can speak for themselves, but it was definitely a mouth-watering dish. The crostini on the side wasn’t super necessary (actually, it was hard to bite into and didn’t help with mopping up any leftover sauce), but it helped somewhat.

Sister's Berkley Burger and my side crostini
Sister’s Berkley Burger and my side crostini

They were both pretty tired after that, so my sis dropped me off after taking me to Sprouts for a quick grocery trip. I invited them to check it Cold Rolled with me, but apparently her BF doesn’t like sweets (I was personally in shock), so I let it be and let them head back to get some rest 🙂

The following day, I made plans to check out the Body Worlds exhibit with E.

Body Worlds
Body Worlds

It was actually an intriguing display…actually, everything looked so cleaned, polished, waxed, fixed, etc. to appear “real”, but they did have a video explanation of how everything is preserved and that, in fact, all of the displays were donated human bodies…

Nervous system // scoliosis
Nervous system // scoliosis

It was also a really hot day for October in LA (felt more like July…), so retreating inside the California Science Center where it was cool and air-conditioned was a smart idea.

Have you seen a Body Worlds exhibit?

Truxton's American Bistro 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 😛

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 🙂

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!

♥

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

unnamed

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.

~
~

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 😛

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 “N” CHEESE ~ purple, yellow, white florets with golden panko crust
SKILLET CAULIFLOWER “N” 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

Iceland, Day 2

Iceland, Day 2

Once we were well rested, we were ready to head out for dinner. We had to stop by another store, similar to Target or Wal-Mart, but the name started with a “H” and now I can’t remember it. Of course, it was hard to find anything under 10,000 Kroner ($10 USD), and even essentials like travel size shampoo, milk, and eggs seemed like pricey purchases. When in Iceland I suppose…

Before coming to Iceland, I didn’t think there would be too many vegetarian/vegan options around, but to my surprise, there were quite a number! Kaffi Vinyl got a lot of rave reviews, and I thought we should check it out sometime during our visit, and avoid any chance of missing out.

kaffi
Kaffi Vinyl

The cafe had a hipster vibe for sure. Everyone working and sitting down looked like they came straight outta Berkeley, haha.

kv
A hipster vibe here…

Even though the decor and ambience made me feel like I was back in Nor Cal, the food (and price tag) did not. The burger, noodle dish, and quinoa salad we ordered were familiar in name but with an Icelandic twist.

noodlesquin_Oa
Pad Thai and Quinoa Salad of some sort. Packed with veggie-based protein!

My burger was full in size and rich in flavor. It also came with a side of generously salted sweet potato fries.

kaffi__
“Dinner in Iceland was just as good too. Pricey, but oh so delicious! My meal was a black bean/quinoa burger topped with pickles, grilled pineapple, blueberry jam, and spicy kimchi sauce. Vegan in Iceland is definitely doable 👌🏽 🍔🌱”

After dinner, we walked around the city center again, going by souvenir shops before closing, and checking out the Hallgrímskirkja church, apparently the tallest building (or it was?) in Iceland. It got chilly really quickly, so we immediately chose to head back to the BNB to get warm and get some shut eye.

Our second day in Iceland started bright, but not too early. We struggled to make the room dark once 10pm the previous night hit. The sun didn’t set until 11pm and rose again around 3am…poor Icelandic people and their circadian rhythms!

I wanted to stay cozy under some blankets while sipping on Senseo coffee, but I decided to go out for a 5 mile run to get a feel for the landscape, and to shake out my legs from the previous tow days of exhausting travel. That morning, we also learned about the horrible attack in Manchester, and were a little bit concerned since we were flying to London the next day. Getting out for some fresh air certainly helped ease the anxiety.

We were lucky to have picked out an Airbnb that was so close to lush green hills and a walking/horse riding/running path that surrounded a clear body of water. My legs felt super heavy, but I pushed through and was able to do some intervals in Iceland, haha!

When I got back, my Dad and sis were ready to hit the road and I quickly got ready. Our first stop for the day was exploring Grotta. We were hoping to stumble across a hot spring during our trip, and according to the map this location was closest to the city.

Grotta was an expansive green and brown grassland, with a rocky path towards the lighthouse. There was a sign that prohibited walkers from crossing, but we went anyway. We saw some rebellious tourists climb over the rope, and we followed suit.

iceland1
Rocky in Grotta

We were successful in pinning down the lighthouse, but there was no hot spring in sight. It was a bummer, but we were hungry enough to move on from our disappointment.

iceland2
Lush, windy pastures

We ended up back at the Reykjavik city center for lunch. Honestly, it’s the most happening place in the city so it was no surprise we were back here again. We found a cheaper eatery in Noodle Station.

iceland4
Noodle Station

18 Kroner for two veggie pho bowls. Nice!

iceland3
Veggie Pho!

We were quickly warmed up and ready to head back outside. My sis and Dad accompanied me to a fish spa so I could check that off my list, haha! I’ve read so many reviews and articles about fish spas, and knowing that they are illegal in the US, I knew I’d only get the chance to go to one when traveling internationally.

This spa was owned by a gentleman who took extra care in making sure conditions were absolutely sanitary—especially for the fish! The walls were painted a deep purple and tranquil music was playing in the background.

I first had to wash my feet, then add some disinfectant to my skin before stepping into a tank. I then sat back while the fish got to work. And since it was my first time, the owner recommended I spend my 20 minutes with the baby fish.

fishs pa
Get to work fishies!

It was ticklish at first, but then I got used to it. I read about how some people had uncontrollable laughter the whole time because of how sensitive they are—I just held it in by smiling the whole time. Finally, my callouses runner’s feet were getting some RNR 😛

The three of us still wanted to see a hot spring before leaving, and so after my session with the fishes, we thought we’d head to see The Geysir, a part of the Golden Circle. It was an hour drive from Reykjavik, and we left around 3pm. I knew we were going to be tired as soon as we got there, but that comes with the territory of traveling! We tried to also keep on the lookout for sheep, since Iceland is famous for livestock roaming around the hills and trotting along countryside roads. We saw some in the distance, and the sheep stayed put.

We parked in front of the visitor’s center and upon stepping out so wanted to go back in the car and turn the heater on full blast. I was too sensitized by Cali weather—40 degrees Fahrenheit was just too much! I was able to get a warm cup of cappuccino and hold onto that to “trick” myself into thinking I was warm. Then we were able to walk towards the Geysir.

geysir
Geysers along the way…

There were smaller springs along the way, but we knew the one of interest was blocked off by rope and had a group of tourists anxiously waiting for it to erupt. We were waiting for at least twenty minutes, and literally after I said “this is getting ridiculous”, it erupted and splashed in our direction, causing the three of us to flee in different directions. It was a funny sight for sure.

statue
Funny/weird statue at a gas station on the way back to Reykjavik.

We called it quits after that and from there, drove an hour back to Reykjavik. I would intermittently fall asleep during the ride, but immediately perked up when we got to the city. For dinner, I gave a list of places for my sister to decide and she picked Kaffihaus Vesturbaejar.

kaffihaus
Getting cozy at Kaffihaus Vesturbaejar

When we parked outside, my Dad was like, “not another hipster place” and I was like, “Dad, I can’t control how these vegan-food serving places run their business!” But we were all pretty hungry so our restaurant style preferences took a backseat to what food was offered/what we could eat there!

burger
“After a day of trekking to the Grotta lighthouse, a fish spa treatment for my calloused runner’s feet (can finally check that one off the list 😁🐟), and a long drive to visit The Geysir, the fam and I were able to relax at Kaffihus Vesturbaejar, and split two “Veganbogaris” 🍔🌱 and fries 🍟 among the three of us. This was honestly my favorite meal of the Icelandic leg of our trip so far—just enough food and a pretty presentation 💕”

We pretty much had one option—the Veganbogari. We got two and split them between the three of us. The portions were as perfect as the crispy exterior of the potato wedges that were served alongside the burgers. The creamy green aioli sauce was also perfection.

We drove back with full bellies and content with that we explored of Iceland. It was by no means an epic outdoor adventure, camping in the arctic tundra for days on end, but I feel it was a good introductory visit to one of the Scandinavian lands.

I won’t deny however that I was more than ready for London!

Have you ever visited Iceland (or Greenland)?

Pre-Friendsgiving 2016

Pre-Friendsgiving 2016

Thanksgiving this year ended up being a Friendsgiving celebration. I am so grateful for the fact that I didn’t have to schedule my travel plans around time sensitive experiments, and that I could just enjoy being in the company of my sister and our close friend in Santa Cruz.

bollywood-popcorn
I had this the night before my trip, so spicy! —> Next time you have a movie night, get like 5 bags of THIS. Bollywood Popcorn from Trader Joe’s is bound to bring the party…IN YOUR MOUTH

My weekend began Tuesday afternoon (lol, earliest weekend ever), and I left from lab in order to catch the Amtrak to Fresno. It was a painstakingly long ride, due to the fact that the train had a late start by one hour. Pairing that with a rowdy family that would not shut up for the next two hours, it was no surprise my head was throbbing beyond its limits.

I finally arrived around 9:30pm and insisted that my sister drive me to Sprouts before it closed at 10pm. I was hungry at this point and needed some food to make up for dinner time I lost.

The both of us went to sleep immediately after eating some ice cream and watching SNL (it was not boring at all watching Kristen Wiig’s skits over again with my sis, we were cracking up)!

The next morning, I went for a run around my sister’s campus before heading into the car for our 3 hour drive to Santa Cruz. The last time I visited Santa Cruz was ages ago…I’m thinking like fourth or third grade? I barely remember it though since we passed by it briefly, only making it down to the boardwalk. Since I have yet to visit my friend during a time when she is on campus, Thanksgiving presented itself as the perfect opportunity to pay her a visit.

The drive was scenic once we made it past Madera and headed west. As we got further and further into the woods, and closer to the coast, we knew we had arrived. There was also a chill in the air so we knew we were in Santa Cruz country.

My friend, who is a Resident Advisor, had to stay on campus from Wednesday evening through Friday evening, so we used the afternoon hours as soon as we arrived to get some lunch off campus.

saturn-cafe
Saturn Cafe, Santa Cruz

We knew we had to hit up Saturn Cafe, a vegan staple that I visited two and a half years ago (!!!) in Berkeley. My friend made a comment about how she took her parents to this place so much that they got tired of it, but who on Earth gets tired of vegan food?!

interior
So cosmic!

There are those that don’t like it to begin with, but vegan food is just one of those things where there is a magical little substitute for everything in the meat and dairy world…how can you tire of that?

peanut-royale
Got my eye on the Peanut Royale

But I digress. The three of us were pretty hungry by the time we entered. Unfortunately, we had a wait time that was longer than it should have been. The cafe wasn’t packed at all, yet it took the wait staff 15 minutes or so to just get us seated! The waitress looked like she’d rather be anywhere but in a pink vegan diner, and this poor attitude showcased itself when she came around to ask for our orders.

I remember the portion sizes being huge from my Berkeley visit, but I just felt like having something manageable for lunch and warm…definitely warm!

peanut__royale
It shimmers with orange and sparkles with tofu!

I ended up going with the Peanut Royale, while my sister got a delectable-looking sandwich and our friend, her favorite Mexican-inspired bowl. We also split some onion strings with a ranch-like dressing for dipping!

onion_strings
Onion strings and sister’s sandwich with chips 🙂

My sister also got an overflowing chocolate shake that thy actually brought over BEFORE her entree. After eating we waited another eon before getting our checks. They at least were able to split our checks, but didn’t take Discover credit cards (who doesn’t take Discover anymore??).

We were finally able to leave and made a stop into Safeway before heading back to campus. My friend had an allowance for food since she had to be on “lockdown” so we got our Friendsgiving meal staples and snacks. We had to make a special stop to get a lil Tofurky ball at a co-op, but at least we were in Santa Cruz and could count on some place having it ready the day before the holiday!

When we got back, we unpacked a bit more and rested up from our morning drive and afternoon errands. I tried to get some work done but our friend’s wi-fi was only picked up by our phones and not our computers.

window____
Friend’s cute window wall.

After some downtime, our friend whipped up her latest specialty—Gordon Ramsey eggs!

gordon-ramsey-eggs
Gordon Ramsey eggs!

They were scrambled eggs whipped with butter and olive oil, all piled high on crisp sourdough toast. I think this is something we are going to be asking our friend to make every time we see her now 😉

We tried to all watch something on Netflix later that night, but I was so tired that I dozed off right when we picked out something! Haha, I certainly had great sleep that night 🙂

Have you tried Bollywood Popcorn or Gordon Ramsey eggs?

Saturn Cafe 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

Balboa & Burgers

Balboa & Burgers

My sister and I took our time getting ready on Sunday morning. We had such a good night’s rest (at least I did…), and so we didn’t feel rushed when it came time to leave. We stopped by the breakfast buffet to see if there was anything good, but the crowds and the mess already created was a turn-off, so we decided to just leave and save our appetites for lunch. 

Our first stop that morning was Balboa Park, and we found a place to park at the Veteran’s Memorial Museum. From there, we walked north to where a cluster of other museums were, and took in the beautiful building sights before checking out one of the history museums. 

 Lovely architecture.
Lovely architecture.

We were intrigued by the Dr. Seuss exhibit at the museum. Apparently San Diego was his home for many years, and the exhibit displayed works that differed from his kid’s author/illustrator reputation. It was interesting, to say the least!

 Dr. Seuss exhibit.
Dr. Seuss exhibit.

The walrus in the above picture was a part of a taxidermy piece! Taxidermy of Dr. Seuss-esque characters, that is!

After about an hour in the museum, we walked back to where we parked, but not before taking a pit stop near some worldly murals.

 We also spotted a shady-looking shack and a lost moccasin?
We also spotted a shady-looking shack and a lost moccasin?

Once in the car, we only had to drive a short while to get to lunch at Evolution Fast Food.

 The small shack of Evolution Fast Food---all-vegan!
The small shack of Evolution Fast Food—all-vegan!

The eatery itself was quite small, and parking, while available, was a tight squeeze! There was a small room with a counter/kitchen in the back, and a large board menu hung from the ceiling.

 To-go items, daily specials, and desserts!
To-go items, daily specials, and desserts!

I was incredibly thirsty, so after placing my order, I requested a small cup of water. I was also given ice, and had to document these ice cubes since I had never seen anything like it before!

 That ice looks pretty interesting, amiright?
That ice looks pretty interesting, amiright?

Even though the ordering area was in a tight space, there was ample seating in the patio area.

 The nice and quiet patio area.
The nice and quiet patio area.

Since I found a table for us, my sister stayed back and eventually came with two brown bags containing our orders. She got the fish filet sandwich with a chocolate shake in the side.

 Fish filet sandwich - crispy battered fish with tartar sauce, shredded cabbage, tomato
Fish filet sandwich – crispy battered fish with tartar sauce, shredded cabbage, tomato

I got the chimichurri “carne” sandwich, which was full on flavor and zero on meat.

 Chimichurri carne sandwich - argentine marinated "steak" strips, lettuce, tomato, onion
Chimichurri carne sandwich – argentine marinated “steak” strips, lettuce, tomato, onion

The strips were marinated in spices and packed with flavor, but one of the buns was lathered with a spicy pesto sauce that only added to that flavor!

 So green, and so flavorful!
So green, and so flavorful!

It was just enough food to get us through the afternoon and drive home to LA. We did plan one more food-related stop before truly heading home though…

Click to add a blog post for Evolution on Zomato

LA (+ Friends) Part 2

LA (+ Friends) Part 2

On day 2 of my friends’ visit to LA, I went out for a short 3 miler while I took Friend #2 and Friend #1’s brother over to my apartment complex’s fitness room. My legs felt somewhat sore since I was running in some old shoes (whether I am breaking in new shoes, or wearing out old ones, my legs seem to be sore after either situation…).

We left for Union Station to take the Gold Line out to Pasadena, and made our way over to Intelligentsia Cafe for some pretentious coffee 😉

SAMSUNG

Thanks to Google Maps, I led my friends through an alley and so we ended up entering the coffee shop from the back. The entrance already made it seem like we were entering an elite-only club 😛

SAMSUNG

Once inside, we were amazed by how big the coffee shop actually was.

intelinterior

One side was an alcoholic side (which was unstationed at the the time we came in, around noon), and of course, the busy coffee/tea/chocolates side which was closer to the actual front entrance.

lightsandpretty

We were all scrambling around, and making the frequent customers just looking to get their usual cup for the day feel antsy. My sister, Friend #1, and her brother found seats for us at an empty counter while Friend #2 and I contemplated over what kind of coffee blend we should each order.

 Cute mugs, but a tiny menu!
Cute mugs, but a tiny menu!

I decided on an Ethiopian black coffee with hints of honeysuckle, apricot, and almond butter, while Friend #2 got the Rwandan blend (I forgot what hints of flavor it had…). Our coffees were “supposedly” 12 oz., but they had to put the overflow into containers that looked like they were maple syrup jars! The rest of the gang got a cheeseboard to split.

 I had some of those plump craisins---soooo good :) !
I had some of those plump craisins—soooo good 🙂 !
ethiopian_and__rwanda
My Ethiopian coffee at the top, and my friend’s Rwandan coffee at the bottom with milk.

I finished all of the coffee in my mug, and part of the “maple syrup jar” coffee, but wasn’t able to drink it all. I could detect the smooth, buttery taste of my blend, but I could only handle so much of the bitterness—perhaps I should have added some more sweetener? They had their own Intelligensia-packaged sweetener (Natvia brand) , and you better believed I took some “for the road” 😉 

After our coffee break, we headed east on Colorado towards Vroman’s Bookstore since my sister and Friend #1 are major book fanatics. Apparently, it is the oldest bookstore in Southern California…

 The kitty collection at the bookstore!
The kitty collection at the bookstore!

We left the bookstore after a good amount of time had passed. To kill some more time, we went back down the road towards where the majority of the stores were. We made our way (window shopping) through Urban Outfitters, Paper Source, and Madewell before heading over to our dinner stop at Green Earth Vegan Cuisine.

SAMSUNG

We were the only group of people at the restaurant around 5pm on a weeknight, but that didn’t bother us. We were hungry, so no shame, haha. 

 Inside Green Earth Vegan Cuisine
Inside Green Earth Vegan Cuisine

For an appetizer, Friend #1 ordered the wontons.

SAMSUNG

For her meal, she got one of the burgers—which was so hefty on the lettuce, that I couldn’t tell what the actual burger was.

SAMSUNG

I got the Roast Beet Salad, but my favorite part of the dish was the grilled tofu. That, and the beets were the only redeeming qualities of the entire salad. Everything else seemed like it could have been poured in from a bulk bag of salad mix…which I wouldn’t doubt if it was.

Roasted garden beets, organic spring mix, carrots, cucumber, avocado, organic bean sprouts and sunflower shoots, and grilled tofu
Roasted garden beets, organic spring mix, carrots, cucumber, avocado, organic bean sprouts and sunflower shoots, and grilled tofu

Friend #2 got the Three Flavors, particularly for the eggplant. I remember getting a similar dish called the P.E.T. at another vegan restaurant in Pasadena. She wouldn’t stop raving about the eggplant, since she herself has not had success cooking with eggplant…yet 😉 

Pumpkin, eggplant, tofu, onion, sweet basil, red and green bell pepper, and king oyster mushroom with chef’s sauce 
Pumpkin, eggplant, tofu, onion, sweet basil, red and green bell pepper, and king oyster mushroom with chef’s sauce 

My sister got the Lasagne Di Vendure, which sounded pretty fancy but appeared to be a simple, homestyle-but-healthy kind of plate. She also had a whole bowl of toasted bread on the side. 

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Lasagna with eggplant, zucchini, onion, broccoli, green and red bell pepper served with mashed potatoes and toasted bread (she got a whole bowl, unpictured)

Once dinner was eaten, my crew and I headed back to Memorial Park Station, but along the way, stopped for gelato. We joked about the guy behind the counter who kept insisting on not to get the green tea flavor (for some reason, he kept questioning my friends about their green tea choice!), were entertained by the brass band street performers, and had fun taking selfies on the train. Back at my apartment, we all got cozy in our PJs and watched a movie before falling asleep. Looks like Day 2 was another success, and a memorable one!

Have you ever had “pretentious” coffee? 

Intelligentsia Cafe on Urbanspoon Green Earth Vegan Cuisine on Urbanspoon

A Freebielicious Day

A Freebielicious Day

A sunny day in Santana Row, four girls eager to shop, and free item coupons to redeem—these are the makings of a fantastic birthday weekend day trip, particularly mine ;).

We arrived at Santana Row around midday, and admired the classic, old downtown-esque style of the buildings and how the shops were so close together.

Santana Row Walk

It’s such a fancy-schmancy place, you could dish out the big bucks and drive out with a Tesla car if you wanted to :P! I could imagine the conversation a rich couple living in Silicon Valley would have…

“Hey honey, what did you buy at the mall today?”

“Oh the usual, it’s out on the driveway.”

We soon arrived at the place that was the whole reason for making the trip down to Santana Row. I have been dying to visit ever since learning about their Northern California existence…

Veggie Grill!!!
Veggie Grill!!!

My friends are non-vegetarians, but they appreciate good vegetarian/vegan food as much as the “whole earth/plant-obsessed” vegan ;). My sister and I appreciate, and like to support, restaurants that are veg-friendly since we’ve been vegetarians since birth.

I didn’t need a menu since I already knew what I was going to order. My friends debated dishes from burgers to appetizers, but once we all knew what we wanted, we made our way to the counter to pay. I came prepared with a free dessert and free entree coupon, since I had joined their e-mail club program and their birthday perk is an entree on the house. We were able to wipe off $13 from our bill—not bad considering we were four hungry young ladies :P!

We found a booth near the cooking action. Perfect for taking “discreet” phone images.

Veggie Grill in Santana R.

Even though we were close to the kitchen and our stomachs were growling, we didn’t have to wait long. We got to sample the dessert we had already ordered. I never had an in-restaurant sample before, so that was new to me!

Sample

Within 10 minutes of sitting down, our food came to the table—fresh and pippin’ hot. Before fully digging into our own meals, we were slicing up samples for eachother, taking bites out of eachother’s burgers, and reaching over the table…it probably looked odd, but hilarious to all the other patrons!

I had come with a plan, and went with my growling gut on the decision to order a Crispy Chickin’ Plate.

Fried Chickin’, cauli-mashed potatoes, porcini mushroom gravy with fresh rosemary, steamin' kale
Fried Chickin’, cauli-mashed potatoes, porcini mushroom gravy with fresh rosemary, steamin’ kale.

What was great…

  • Breaded chickin’—enough said.
  • The gravy sauce was perfect with the chickin’.
  • It was an all-around favorite with the girls.

And not so great…

  • The kale could have been seasoned more, even though there was dressing on top.
  • I’m not a mashed potato fan, so the cauli-mashed potatoes were a bit of a bore to me.
  • Would have preferred more chickin’ over the potato or kale :P!

One of my friends ordered the Bali Bliss Burger.

“Too-Good” Tempeh, lettuce, tomato, red onion, chipotle ranch.
“Too-Good” Tempeh, lettuce, tomato, red onion, chipotle ranch.

What was great…

  • The adorably-shaped tempeh “patty”. Square beats circle when it comes to patties!
  • The cute, fluffy wheat bun.
  • Chipotle ranch….mmm!

And not so great…

  • Avocado cost extra ($1.50!!).
  • The side slaw was poorly seasoned and very mediocre.
  • The tempeh could have had more flavor.

My sister went for the Chickin’ Tacos.

Sauteed Chickin’, Mexican spices, cabbage, roasted corn salsa, white corn tortillas, with mashed avocado and tomato salad.
Sauteed Chickin’, Mexican spices, cabbage, roasted corn salsa, white corn tortillas, with mashed avocado and tomato salad.

What was great…

  • Perfect ratio of inner ingredients to tortilla.
  • The jalapeno slices on the side.
  • Watching my sister’s taco face while devouring this :P!!

And not so great…

  • Vegan cheese could have taken this to the next level
  • The tacos were a tad too small.
  • The cabbage didn’t taste bad, but the bright white color of it didn’t work well appearance-wise with the other ingredients.

My other friend feasted on the “Crab” Cake Burger.

Crispy “crab” cake, spiced tartar sauce, pickles, tomato, lettuce, red onion.
Crispy “crab” cake, spiced tartar sauce, pickles, tomato, lettuce, red onion.

What was great…

  • The sweet potato fries with their “special” seasoning.
  • Dipping said fries into spiced tartar sauce.
  • Just this burger!

And not so great…

  • Not much to say except maybe I should have asked my friend if she wanted to swap dishes with me in the middle? While everyone loved my plate the best, I was a fan of this whole plate. 

After all of that vegetarian bliss, we wrapped up lunch with the Chocolate Pudding Parfait.

Made-from-scratch pudding, topped with chocolate sauce, crushed cookies, walnuts, VG Crema.
Made-from-scratch pudding, topped with chocolate sauce, crushed cookies, walnuts, VG Crema.

What was great…

  • The cookie crumbles.
  • The presentation: perfectly centered cream, cookie crumbles on top AND at the bottom.
  • Perfect for sharing.

And not so great…

  • Served at the same time as our other meals. It would have been nice to have been served this after we finished our main meals. <—This is a minor issue though :P!
  • The pudding tasted fine, but it would have been awesome if it came in other flavors like vanilla, strawberry, or caramel.
  • Should have had more cream…or maybe we should have ordered a glass of just cream :P!

After our vegan-friendly feast, we left with full bellies and decided to walk around. After some browsing and window shopping, we found this hilarious blackboard beckoning us.

Hey Girl.

We went inside the store, Paper Source, and found some interesting, cute, and “I-wish-I-had-those” items.

These would make fun gifts.
These would make fun gifts.
Books, paper, things organized by color...my kind of store!!
Books, paper, things organized by color…my kind of store!!

One of my friends really wanted to step into Lululemon, so we did since it was close by. I know so many bloggers are practically in love with Lulu, but can someone please justify a $44 sports bra? Until then, my humble earnings are staying in the bank…

Even though Santana Row is known for its pricey and upscale shopping, that didn’t stop us from making any purchases at all. We were just very picky. My sister was on cloud nine when she found…

The Container Store

Yup, The Container Store.

I’m not lying when I say we spent a full hour here, and I’m surprised we weren’t there for even longer. I like IKEA and stores like The Container Store, but since I wasn’t on the hunt for dorm or apartment things, I wasn’t in the mood to stay there longer than 15 minutes.

Good thing I found this ergonomic $99.00 stool thing.

ergoErgo

I sat here while the girls took their time browsing the lower level.

When I collected enough energy, I made my way to the second level. Some pretty cool stuff was there:

Container Store Cool Finds

 

Where else can you find a aisle of TRASH CANS?! Like, seriously…

Trash Aisle

My favorites include these cool kitchen finds:

Kitchen KutiesAnd I love the office supplies and cool wall magnet storage tiles:

For the Office and Organization

 

We took a look at the clearance items, and I was particularly intrigued by the Kapoosh knife storage.

Kapoosh

I finally managed to push my sister to check-out, and even though she bought some things, I didn’t have to tell her to “contain herself”…

I was tempted to buy this...
I was tempted to buy this…

After leaving the store, we walked across the street to Westfield Valley Fair Mall. What’s funny is that this mall is considered to be in Santa Clara, so we literally walked from city to city :P!

The first thing we did was look for Cako, since I had a coupon for a free birthday cupcake. We found the little mall booth in the center of one of the mall walkways.

Cako

There were some sweet-looking cupcakes (and macaroons of every pastel color of the rainbow!), but I chose to keep it simple and fun with the first cupcake I saw that had colorful sprinkles.

The Back to Basics Vanilla Sprinkles Cupcake
The Back to Basics Vanilla Sprinkles Cupcake

We split the cupcake into fourths since we didn’t want to shell out $3.50 x 3 more for three more cupcakes for each of us. In the end, we made the right decision since the frosting-to-cake ratio was less than extraordinary (not much frosting compared to the amount of cake we had), and the cake was very crumbly.

After our cake break, we did some more browsing and shopping. To continue the running theme of the day, we stopped by Victoria’s Secret since I had a coupon for free underwear from their PINK brand. This happened to be a coupon that I received in the mail by coincidence, but it was a great time to redeem it since I normally don’t shop at VS.

The only time it feels good to see zeroes!
The only time it feels good to see zeroes!

My friends went slightly crazy at Forever 21 while I gave my feet a break. At around that time, I noticed an acupressure booth highlighting which parts of the foot, when applied pressure to, affect other parts of the body.

My Feet Needed This...

Hmm, I’ll have to think about this next time I do some golf ball rolling with my feet after a long run :P!

We were shopped out by 7:30pm, and it took us about two hours to get home with the traffic. I was surprised that a lot of stuff I did that day was “free”, but I was happy mainly because it was a great day out with my most favorite girls, and nothing beats a smiles-and-laughter-filled girls day out!

The Veggie Grill on Urbanspoon

What are your favorite birthday freebies? Not included in this post, but I always love getting a free birthday scoop coupon from Baskin-Robbins!

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