SD with the Bestie

SD with the Bestie

E has now left the country, and while I’m going to miss her company so much, I definitely wanted to spend some stress-free time with her before she left. Hence, a weekend trip to San Diego was in order.

She’d been wanting to go there for a while, so I was glad we were able to make it happen. Since I had my sister’s car until the 26th, I was able to drive us down without having to worry about public transit.

It was about a 2.5 hour drive, and we made it into the area around noon. We tried setting our sights for the Point Loma Lighthouse, but ended up just north at a veterans’ memorial.

Views from the memorial // an old-school ship with sails in the disance
Views from the memorial // an old-school ship with sails in the distance

A local who was walking around told us that the lighthouse was actually a little bit west of our current location, so we decided to get back in the car and drive closer. We ended up the entrance to the Cabrillo National Monument, but had to turn around since their credit card machiene wasn’t working and we didn’t have cash in $5, $10, or $20 denominations. The sign outside stated they accepted cash and credit so we thought it was unfair, but we moved on.

Old Townj, San Diego
Old Town, San Diego

Instead, we drove into town from the coast, and found ourselves in Old Town SD, a huge market that housed a collection of street vendors, gift shops, and restaurants. E did some souvenir and gift shopping, but eventually we both were hungry enough to sit down to a late lunch.

Old Town SD Shopping
Old Town SD Shopping

Many of the restaurants featured Mexican cuisine, so we hopped on over to Miguel’s Cocina which was at the corner of a block we were approaching.

Miguel's
Miguel’s Cocina

After informing the waitress we were vegetarians, we were advised not to have their queso dip since it was cooked with chicken broth. As a result, we munched on complimentary chips and salsa. We even got complimentary guacamole since we couldn’t have the queso…score! Haha.

Lunch Spread
Lunch Spread

Between the two of us, we had fresh fajita veggies, veggie enchiladas, beans, and rice. It was all flavorful and delicious, but also quite filling. To-go boxes were pretty much mandatory for us.

After lunch, I asked E where to next. Most of the museums and exhibits were closing soon, so maybe something in nature (and that was free) made the most sense.

We drove back to the coast, this time to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.

Sunset Cliffs
Sunset Cliffs

Our timing was impeccable, and the views were perfect as the sun was setting.

Gorgeous views
Gorgeous views

E mentioned out loud that it would be the perfect place for a guy to propose. Someone overheard this and couldn’t help but speak out in agreement.

Rocky Shores
Rocky Shores

I was feeling super tired, so we decided to call it a day after walking around and checked in at our hotel. After getting settled in, E went to town with getting my make-up done (for fun) and we tried to watch a movie without falling asleep in the middle of it. Then we talked until we were completely exhausted and fell asleep, like the typical twelve-year-olds at a sleepover we were, haha 😉

Cozy
Cozy

We took our time getting ready the next morning, and beat the crowd to the free breakfast downstairs.

At around 10am, we took off for downtown.

Downtown SD
Downtown SD

Honestly, there’s not much to see in downtown…or in SD in general. I’ll admit that I probably wouldn’t be the best person to hire to advocate for SD, as I find it a pretty boring city to begin with. It’s like a beautiful and sunny San Francisco, and yeah, maybe a good place to work, raise a family, or retire, but to me? It’s just too boring, haha 😛 !

E did some more shopping, picked up some gift bags at CVS. and then we were off to our next location—the San Diego Botanic Garden, that was actually located in Encinitas.

San Diego Botanic Garden
San Diego Botanic Garden

Again if I’m being honest, the visit was a waste for us So Cal residents. Many of the plants featured in the garden could be seen all over the southern region of Cali, and I even recognized some from our campus! Still, it was an entertaining walk, and we found intriguing items like this Alphabet Garden:

'Stop and Smell' Alphabet Garden
‘Stop and Smell’ Alphabet Garden

P was for Pomegranate and E was for Elephant’s Foot, LOL!

After that little trek, we slowly headed back north to LA. We did make a stop in Newport Beach, I guess because we didn’t have our fill of ocean views??

Newport Beach
Newport Beach

These piers start to look the same after awhile, but the ocean views never get old. We walked for a bit and then made our way back to the car. It literally felt like a warm summer day and I had to turn on the A/C when we got back in the car…and it was Christmas Eve, what even is this weather?

After I dropped E off, all I wanted to do was sleep! I was still in active recovery mode so no runs were on the schedule. I was able to turn in early for the night, and sleep for most of Christmas Day after a long morning walk. It was definitely a sweet weekend with one of my dearest friends, and—I’ll make sure of it—many more adventures to come.

What was your Christmas weekend like?

Miguel's Cocina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Race Recap – Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Halloween Half Marathon

Race Recap – Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Halloween Half Marathon

The last time I ran the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in LA was three years ago, when I had just moved to LA. I was excited to have it be my first run in my new home, and a half marathon at that. It was before my marathon racing days…my how time flies, haha.

Making my rounds at the expo like a pro :P
Making my rounds at the expo like a pro 😛

But with time, I’ve also become more jaded with the whole expo/lead-up to race day. It’s like everything is such a routine, with nothing new to expect…to be honest, going to expos for packet pick-up seems more like a chore for me now than an exciting thing to do. I even got in a long run before stepping into this expo because of my marathon training schedule. This race was just another opportunity to run and get some miles in while continuing on my Route 66 Marathon journey—which happens to be in less than two days upon publishing this post!!

Needless to say, I was in and out of the convention center within a half hour. I made plans to spend the rest of the day with E back in my neighborhood. We met up near Venice and Figueroa, and hopped on a bus to take us to Abbot Kinney.

The Tasting Kitchen, Venice
The Tasting Kitchen, Venice

We made our way through the crowds of tourists and Lululemon-wearing locals to get to The Tasting Kitchen, where we came across even more crowds of pretentious folk socializing over brunch. Would our grad student salaries get us much here? LOL!

We were eventually seated near the back, in the middle of two other groups: one couple and to our left, another pair of friends.

The menu was tricky to figure out. When our waiter came by, I just ended up asking what were the vegetarian options on their menu, since I couldn’t figure it out. He recommended the burrata dish, so I just agreed to get that, along with a plain biscuit. E got a sandwich that had a really long description and name, as well as a cream cheese and chive biscuit.

Our waiter walked away in a jiffy as soon as he got our orders, but came back pretty quickly to notify E of some unfortunate news: they had run out of cream cheese and chive biscuits. E was just like…”uhh, can I just get a plain biscuit?” and the “problem” was solved? Haha, at least the waiter offered to comp her biscuit.

Burrata with butternut squash, chopped hazelnuts, balsamic sauce
Burrata with butternut squash, chopped hazelnuts, balsamic sauce

When our orders came, I justified the price I was paying for the meal with the fact that the presentation was perfectly on point. Roasted butternut squash slices topped with bubbly burrata and chopped hazelnuts, coated with a balsamic sauce. Was I really in Venice, or some upscale restaurant in New York owned by a chef fresh from taping a series of Top Chef?

The biscuit was super flaky and he flavor was quite enhanced by the butter and salt. A great vehicle for mopping up the leftover balsamic sauce.

Buttery, flaky biscuit
Buttery, flaky biscuit

After lunch, we tried to forget how much money E and I spent on a mid-day meal and walked into a few shops along Abbot Kinney. We then walked towards the Venice Canals, and then ended up at the beach. We ended up walking a TON but the walk was made eventful with a bunch of gossiping and laughing. My legs were shot, but I was able to get home by 4 and spent the rest of the evening rolling out my legs and resting as much as possible before race day.

Fun day by the water <3
Fun day by the water <3

The next morning, I woke up around 4am. I had a couple minutes to roll out my muscles more, and wore some knee-highs to help with some form of compression (even if it was a placebo effect, it seemed to work, haha). I also remembered to take some ibuprofen the night before, and that seemed to help attenuate the soreness from yesterday’s events.

Got a free KT Taping at the expo which seemed to help! Also rolled out my calves and wore some knee high socks to the race :)
Got a free KT Taping at the expo which seemed to help! Also rolled out my calves and wore some knee high socks to the race 🙂

I didn’t have to spend money on a ride share service (yes!) since the Metro conveniently had trains running early Sunday morning with a stop close to the race start. I soon learned that other runners had the same idea when I saw them begin to board as we got closer and closer to DTLA.

As soon as I got to the start, I walked straight over to bag check, and luckily found some free snack bars to munch on as pre-race fuel. I also tried to keep warm by one of the heat lamps that a local restaurant in LA Live had set out, and waited until it was time to find my place at the start.

Morning, pre-race
Morning, pre-race

13.1 miles. It’s PR time…let’s do this!

When we were set to take off, I was able to gauge my pace so that I didn’t start off too fast unlike how I paced myself in the beginning at the Dodger’s 10k. I think I was a little ahead of the 1:45 pacer, but the pack eventually caught up to me at around mile 2.5. I stuck close to him, even though O felt like I was putting in a slightly harder effort for so early in the race.

Still, I felt good, my legs still felt fresh, and my shins were fine. Unfortunately, I began to lag at around mile 6, when we hit a steep hill in downtown approaching Koreatown. At that point, I was like, okay, I’ll just be a few minutes off, but maybe I can still PR.

I was able to keep my pace within 8:15-8:20/mi, even with water breaks. There were a ton of rolling hills between DTLA and Koreatown, all along Wilshire. At first, the hills seemed intimidating and never-ending—even though I was well-accustomed to the area and they weren’t really a surprise—but I felt strong overall and I was able to attack the upcoming hills with a newfound energy.

Race Finish!
Race Finish!

I was able to speed up towards the finish, and it seemed like my fatigue happily vanished. I finished the (technically) 13.3 mi course at a pace of 8:18/mi. Even though this course seemed less painful than the one I ran three years ago, I wouldn’t call this year’s course a fantastic change. I still prefer it to the one I ran in the past though.

The weather conditions were perfect: not too hot, not too cold. Transportation was easy to manage, the race loot was decent, and the medal had a snazzy design.

Race medal and shirt
Race medal and shirt

I didn’t PR, but I was happy with my outcome given the shin and calf soreness I was feeling leading up to the race. I also saw it as a great warm-up/race condition-simulating run for marathon prep. We’ll see how much it functioned as the latter come marathon race day this Sunday!

The Tasting Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Brief Bar Break?

A Brief Bar Break?

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

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

mocha_chocolate_chip

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

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

protein-crunch-waffle

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

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

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

hummus_bar_express_

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

hummus_bar_express_2

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

hummus_bar_express_1

And the bread…the bread I could eat for days

laffabread

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

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

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

P’s (Birth)day Off

P’s (Birth)day Off

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

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

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

nativefoodsaliso
Native Foods in Aliso Viejo

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

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

Made me soulllllfullll
Made me soulllllfullll

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

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

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

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

Ahhh so pretty...
Ahhh so pretty…

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

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

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

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

Milk in Cookies

Milk in Cookies

We had our fill on Thanksgiving and Black Friday no doubt, but my sister had her heart set on venturing out to the one and only Dirty Cookie in Tustin for their trademark cookie shots.

 Ahh so many cookie shots!
Ahh so many cookie shots!

I hadn’t realized it before, but they happened to be in the same Tustin Ranch area as the Native Foods I visited over the summer. Unfortunately, the Native Foods closed, but I did not venture into the Union Market last time…

 Union Market
Union Market

Little did I know I was missing out on A LOT. Dirty Cookie was one of them. Thanks to my sis, I know I’ll have to be back so I can check out the other foodie stalls inside—everything from customizable s’mores to ice cream crepes!

Gorgeous digs
Gorgeous digs

There was one employee working at the time we visited, and she gleefully filled us in on the concept. We got to choose our flavor shot glass-shaped cookie, and pick chocolate milk, regular milk, or vanilla cream as our milk to go inside the cookie shot. Each cookie was also coated with belgian chocolate :9 !!

 The Dirty Cookie - Union Market, Tustin Ranch
The Dirty Cookie – Union Market, Tustin Ranch

I chose the pumpkin spice cookie, which was coated in white chocolate and topped with cinnamon spice. I had the vanilla cream as my milk.

Pumpkin Spice Cookie Shot with Vanilla Cream
Pumpkin Spice Cookie Shot with Vanilla Cream

My sis got the chocolate (of course) cookie, and filled it to the brim with regular ol’ milk (which surprised me—I thought she would choose the chocolate milk without fail 😛 ).

Chocolate cookie shot + milk
Chocolate cookie shot + milk

We also got a chocomint cookiewich to share, which tasted like a soft peppermint whoopie pie. It actually ended up being my favorite, since I found the cookie shot too sweet. Even the vanilla cream tasted more like regular milk…I was expecting it to be thicker and well, creamier.

Chocomint cookie-wich!
Chocomint cookie-wich!

My sis absolutely adored her chocolate cookie shot, and her sweetness quota was maxed out for the day. I’m glad that it at least met her expectations 😉

What’s you favorite cookies + milk combo?

The Dirty Cookie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ice Cream, Cookies, Donuts, Coffee

Ice Cream, Cookies, Donuts, Coffee

Who wouldn’t want a bowl containing all of the above 😉 ?

I knew that after “dining” on some sub-par salad, dessert had to be beyond exceptional.

Good thing icdc was only a half an hour walk away.

 icdc front --- stands for ice cream, cookies, donuts & coffee
icdc front — stands for ice cream, cookies, donuts & coffee

Apparently this colorful little hole-in-the-wall has been around for quite a while. I recently learned of its existence while surfing through Instagram one day, and bookmarked it for later travels.

 Colorful interior!
Colorful interior!

But the time had come for me to feast on my first ever donut sundae. Trust me, icdc made it a good one.

 Coffee shop essentials.
Coffee shop essentials.

I first picked my donut, then ice cream, which was all topped with whipped cream and my choice of caramel or fudge sauce. I picked caramel to “lighten” things up.

 Ice cream selection and cups/cones.
Ice cream selection and cups/cones.

The employee behind the counter took her time making the masterpiece, carefully scooping a generously-sized portion of mint chip ice cream and balancing it at the center of a vanilla donut with rainbow sprinkles. She then moved towards the cash wrap area, where she topped everything off with whipped cream and a giant swirl of caramel.

Indeed, it was a beauty.

 View from the top!
View from the top!

There was no seating inside, so I carefully carried my sundae outside and enjoyed it while people-watching/grateful for the fact I wasn’t one of the poor drivers stuck in traffic.

 My customized donut sundae ~ vanilla donut with sprinkles + mint chip ice cream + caramel sauce + whipped cream
My customized donut sundae ~ vanilla donut with sprinkles + mint chip ice cream + caramel sauce + whipped cream

I ate the whipped cream first, and then was met with a pleasant surprise by the flavor of the ice cream. It didn’t taste like that sweet, artificial mint stuff you usually find—it had the flavor of mint leaf infused in it or something, because it tasted refreshing and truly minty!

 Mint chip ice cream, actually infused with mint leaf!
Mint chip ice cream, actually infused with mint leaf!

When I finally got to the donut, the outside of it had taken in all of the ice cream meltiness, but it was resistant to the cutting of my knife. After peeling away at it, I found the donut to be quite tasty, and definitely falling under the cake donut category versus the light/fluffy kind I usually come across.

 Hard to cut through with a plastic knife, but so good to eat!
Hard to cut through with a plastic knife, but so good to eat!

icdc—secret code for dreams in a cup 

icdc Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gelato in a Cup

Gelato in a Cup

It was only about a fifteen minute walk to Amorino from Beverliz Cafe, and so even before all of that rice-veggie-hummus goodness had time to digest, I was ready to inhale allthegelato.

1
Amorino storefront.

I say that like I haven’t had gelato in ages, and truth is, I haven’t! Ice cream, yes, but real gelato? It’s been some time…

2
Flower gelato!

Amorino is a global gelateria chain, with only two locations in California—Beverly Hills and SF. Inside is just as extravagant as the gelato flavors offered!

3
Inside.
5
Lines on a Saturday.

And on a early Saturday evening that feels just as hot as mid-day in July, it was no surprise there was a long line.

4
THE GELATO. And ice cream macaroons!

There were so many flavors to choose from, and even though I could have gotten as many flavors as I wanted to fit a cone and molded into a shape of a flowering rose, I went for a cup as I always do. I only needed three flavors to make me happy, as long as it included speculoos, tiramisu, and salted caramel 😛

7
My precious cup. And I love the baby cone it came with 🙂

I found a table near the window, grabbed a napkin, and tried each flavor in its own first.

6
Elegant wall decor & logo napkins.

I ended up mixing everything together as time went on, but I was reminded of the identity of each flavor through the occasional uncovering of caramel sprinkles and chocolate-fudge-cake-like chunks.

8
There’s some flavor peeking through!

The portion size (the classic cup) was just enough, and I left with another happy gelato memory. True, it may have been a more unique experience if I had sampled all three flavors (plus some) in the shape of a rose, but I was glad I didn’t feel “rushed” in having to eat the ice cream before it melted!

Speaking of rushed, the following day was a crazy one—a blazing hot long run with my marathon team in the morning, followed by five straight hours in lab on my feet, and a grocery haul before coming home. There was no time to go out for more weekend foodie adventures, so I used it as an opportunity to get back to trying ice cream pints.

I’m giving B&J’s a break though, and ventured out into the Talenti section of the dairy desserts aisle. I guess I was still on a gelato kick?

9
Talenti Caramel Cookie Crunch

I’ve only tried three Talenti flavors to-date, and even that was almost three (!!) years ago!

10
Such a nice swirl—and cookie pieces!!

At least caramel cookie crunch did not disappoint. It was like eating crushed Oreo ice cream with a soft caramel layer swirled in. I consumed this pint while watching SNL, and then hit the books before getting to bed early. Whatever exhaustion I couldn’t get rid of with my sweet treats, I hoped to get rid of through quality sleep!

Amorino Beverly Hills Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Milky Buns

Milky Buns

We left San Diego in the early afternoon on Sunday, but when I learned Grocery Outlet did indeed have several So Cal locations (they just happened to only be in the San Diego area…) we couldn’t leave without stopping by the Oceanside location.

 Only I would take a picture of Grocery Outlet in admiration ;)
Only I would take a picture of Grocery Outlet in admiration 😉

It was certainly a worthy pit stop since I made it out with produce, eight yogurts, and low carb bread (what??) for less than $14. 

After picking up groceries, we were off towards our next destination. About an hour later (after figuring out what weird directions the GPS was navigating us through), we made it to a strip mall parking lot in Fountain Valley, where Afters Ice Cream was located. 

 Yeah...who would be able to see a small sign saying "ice cream" from so far away? This cost us two loops on the freeway, and wasted minutes circling the parking lot.
Yeah…who would be able to see a small sign saying “ice cream” from so far away? This cost us two loops on the freeway, and wasted minutes circling the parking lot.

As we got close to the storefront, we noticed there was a line out the door…even though it was almost dinnertime on a Sunday evening.

 At least we knew what the top flavors were before entering inside.
At least we knew what the top flavors were before entering inside.

We also got to check our eye health…you know, just in case we couldn’t believe we were about to dive into ice cream sandwich decadence…

 Eat more ice cream...eat less homework??
Eat more ice cream…eat less homework??

All of these people ahead of us were hungry for some ice cream too!!

 Such a long line.
Such a long line.

Despite the length line and large crowds, we were served our ice cream sandwiches pretty quickly. This shop’s specialty is the milky bun ice cream sandwich, which is basically a scoop of ice cream (with toppings!) sandwiched in between a sliced donut-like bun.

 Buns ready to go!!
Buns ready to go!!

I knew I wanted to get the cookie monster ice cream (a blue ice cream with crushed cookie swirl), and topped with cookie crisp cereal. Funny thing is, despite all of the ice cream flavors available…

 Including Vietnamese Coffee and S'mores.
Including Vietnamese Coffee and S’mores.

And toppings…

 Fruit loops, Cap'n Crunch included.
Fruit loops, Cap’n Crunch included.

My sister got the exact same thing. Great girls think alike I suppose 😛

We found a table to sit at outside, and I had to be quick with my picture-taking since my ice cream was melting quickly.

 Top of milky bun.
Top of milky bun.

The ice cream wasn’t able to keep a thick, creamy texture because of its tendency to melt quickly, but at least most of it stayed within the confines of the bun 😛

 Looks so good, but melts so fast!!!
Looks so good, but melts so fast!!!

I also underestimated its size. The sandwich was quite small, and it only took a few standard-sized bites to get through. Still, it was an excellent dessert to conclude our weekend trip with.

 Cookie crisp peek-a-boo.
Cookie crisp peek-a-boo.

I think next time (there are still the Tustin and Chino Hills locations left to visit!), I’ll request more toppings 😉

Click to add a blog post for Afters Handcrafted Ice Cream on Zomato

The Beach Day We Wanted

The Beach Day We Wanted

A little power nap was all we needed, but my sis and I ended up taking a long 45 minute afternoon nap when we checked in to our hotel room for the night in San Diego.

 Rest!
Rest!

But when we woke up around 3, it was still bright and gorgeous outside! We still had time for a beach adventure 🙂

 Hello, downtown San Diego!
Hello, downtown San Diego!

We had trouble getting out of the parking garage (a Zipcar Honda vs. a bunch of SUVs/Hummers/Trucks is not exactly an easy battle to win…), but fortunately we made it out without a scratch.

Our destination was Coronado Beach—which also took a while to get to due to traffic, ending up at the wrong side of the beach due to GPS issues, and having to park in a far off residential area once we found the beach. But, when we found it, it was about relaxation!

 To the beach!
To the beach!

Once at the beach, my sis and I laid out our towels and proceeded to sun bathe for the next hour and a half…only because our 45 minute nap wasn’t enough 😉

 Time to relax...
Time to relax…

It was so peaceful though. Sure, there were crowds, but it was a beautiful California summer day, and we were finally able to say we were experiencing a real beach day.

Before heading back for dinner, we took pictures by the water and took our time getting to the car. The crowds had died down by then, and there was no traffic on our drive back to the hotel.

Before leaving for our weekend trip, I learned that Cafe Gratitude had opened a new location in San Diego—and it coincidentally happened to be in Little Italy, within walking distance from our hotel! Obviously this was our prime choice for dinner 🙂

 Sunny skies and lofts in SD.
Sunny skies and lofts in SD.

Our stroll through downtown was a fun preamble to dinner, but when we saw the swanky CG location, we were more than ready to eat!

 My third time visiting Cafe Gratitude :)
My third time visiting Cafe Gratitude 🙂

Since it was brand new, I wasn’t surprised by all the eager, vegan-loving San Diegans that were present that night.

 Soooo busy.
Soooo busy.

Because it was so busy, we almost had to sit outside, even though I had called in beforehand to make a reservation.

 Kind of cozy actually...
Kind of cozy actually…

The set-up reminded me of both their Venice and Larchmont locations, so I felt like I was in familiar territory. I was excited for my sister to experience CG for herself!

After staring long and hard at the menu, we both ended up deciding against a sandwich-based entree since we had our fill of that earlier in the day, and so we both ended up ordering the exact same thing. We both got the ‘Resolved’ entree, described as being a southern soul food sampler containing red beans and quinoa, seared tempeh, smashed maple garnet yams, spiced collards, coleslaw, and a gluten-free jalapeno biscuit.

Oh, and we couldn’t forget adding BBQ sauce on the side…even if it cost $2 (!!) extra.

It took almost half an hour, but at least our plates came full and ready for us to dig in.

 Vegan southern food platter.
Vegan southern food platter.

My favorite parts of this plate were the sweet mashed yams, the tempeh when dipped into the BBQ sauce, and the jalapeno biscuit (when dipped into the BBQ sauce as well). My sis didn’t like the yams so much, but was a fan of the coleslaw.

 Top: jalapeno biscuit (gluten-free!) // bite of tempeh // a bed of quinoa
Top: jalapeno biscuit (gluten-free!) // bite of tempeh // a bed of quinoa

It was a meal that we both agreed as being satisfying and sleep-inducing. I’ll admit it now—we are grandmas, but at least we eat well 😉

When we got back to the hotel, we quickly changed into our jammies and watched TV until our eyes started to droop. It was certainly a summer Saturday well spent.

What do you like to do at the beach?

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Wide Summer Skies & Open Roads

Wide Summer Skies & Open Roads

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Palm trees & sunshine.
Palm trees & sunshine.

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

nftustin
Native Foods is LOVE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

hello
That mango-lime chili sauce though…

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

sat--afternoon
Cali life.

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

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

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