Family Reunion

Family Reunion

Even though I spent a blissful weekend in south OC with the sis, I could NOT avoid returning only a few days later, because Dad was in town.

I immediately got myself over to Union Station on a Tuesday evening when I was able to leave lab for the day. I was not looking forward to the long weeknight train ride (daily commuters, I feel ya…), but I was able to get off at an earlier stop in Irvine, where my Dad was waiting for me.

After a big hug, we drove for a short while to Mission Viejo to have dinner with my sis. She was coming off a long day of classes so we picked a local, veggie-friendly place so she wouldn’t have to drive too far.

Barbonzai, Mission Viejo
Barbonzai, Mission Viejo

We got to Barbonzai earlier than she did, but she came a few minutes after us, after figuring out the strip mall parking lot.

Thought this poster was adorable <3
Thought this poster was adorable <3

Barbonzai had a small staff, but one of the employees had a really bubbly personality and was super helpful in explaining the menu to us. At the end, we decided to get some tabouli (Dad’s fave) as a starter. My sis and Dad got wraps, and I got a falafel bowl with their yellow falafel.

Tabouli // sister's spicy red falafel
Tabouli // sister’s spicy red falafel

My sis and I were pretty exhausted from each of our long days, and so we had to get some food in us first before we could have a nice conversation with Dad. Once I took a couple bites of my yellow falafel bowl, I felt a little bit more chatty šŸ™‚

Yellow Falafel ~ made with the delicious flavors of curry and coconut! Served with tomatoes, parsley, radish, pickles and our unique turmeric tahini sauce.
Yellow Falafel ~ made with the delicious flavors of curry and coconut! Served with tomatoes, parsley, radish, pickles and our unique turmeric tahini sauce.

Barbonzai closes at 8pm on weekdays, and while we didn’t want to hold up the staff with accommodating us, we tried to get as much time in all-together with the three of us before having to leave. We ended up stopping by Albertson’s which was across the way, and got some night snacks/morning munchables. My sis and I spotted the new Breyer’s low cal pints, and since they didn’t have Halo Top (I got my sister hooked, lol), I persuaded her to try the Breyer’s chocolate version while I got cookies and cream.

She took hers to go, and after saying goodbye to my Dad and I, drove back home since she had another long day the next day. I left with my Dad, and was able to stay with him that night and the following night, just like old times. We stayed in a hotel in Mission Viejo, and as soon as we checked in I crashed. I did not want to leave—just chill, eat ice cream, and sleep.

This: nah. Don't waste your money on it.
This: nah. Don’t waste your money on it.

This “ice cream” though—a HUGE disappointment. It was literally ice, chalky, and a chore to get through. Much like the Ralph’s version of Halo Top I had a while back…

The next morning, I went for a short (but painful—oooh those hills!) run, and when I came back, my Dad prepped some coffee from me from the hotel. He was driving up to LA for the day, and so we were able to spend a good hour together in the car since he dropped me off in lab. He picked me up later in the day, and we spent another good hour and a half driving back to the OC. We may have spent most of the time we had together in the car, but at least it was time spent together.

My sister had a closing shift that day, so it was just the two of us having dinner. We decided on Lemonade in Irvine since my Dad liked their cafeteria-like set-up based on our visit to the Pasadena location a while ago.

Lemonade, Irvine
Lemonade, Irvine

It’s a bit frustrating that they have yet to introduce any veggie-friendly proteins, but their veggie sides are pretty flavorful…so it’s not like we had absolutely nothing to choose from when making a plate of five different sides.

Mouth-watering veggie sides
Mouth-watering veggie sides

There was a colorful array to choose from, but I think I did well with my plate:

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It had curried (crunchy!) cauliflower, soba noodles, a sweet potato and corn succotash, and cheese-sprinkled broccoli florets. Despite the extra layer of salt and whatever else added to make this taste so heavenly, it was a quite a nutrient-dense meal especially for its size!

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My Dad’s plate was no exception:

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His plate differed from mine with the slaw, tortellini and tomatoes, and gorgeous beet red salad.

Needless to say, our dinners hit the spot, and after eating, we were both pretty full and tired to do much else. The hotel had a working pool and jacuzzi, so I was able to put my legs in and just relax. It reminded me of the times when I used to live at home, and my Dad and I would end our gym sessions with some time spent relaxing in the jacuzzi. It’s now only a few years ago since then, but so much has changed…

I took the 7am train back to LA the next morning, with it being my final day being a “nomad” carrying things to-and-from the OC over a few consecutive days. I didn’t mind though—if going the extra mile meant extra time with family and being in a city I truly love, it’s all worth it right šŸ˜‰ ?

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Do you prefer to save your relaxation time for the weekend, or try to have it spread out throughout the week?

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

Birthday and The Rockwell

Birthday and The Rockwell

In the days leading up to my birthday last year, I was under what seemed like insurmountable stress, and getting away from everything was more than necessary on my birthday. My 24th was a fun one thanks to the thoughtfulness of my Dad, sister, and friend who went out of their way to give me company when I felt so lonely and was running on fumes…

This year was the first time I celebrated my actual birthday with no close family nearby. But I didn’t mind, because the day felt like any other day, other than the fact I turned a quarter of a century years old šŸ˜›

It started with a short run, specifically a speed workout, and from there, I was off to lab.

In lab, E surprised me with a gift (a Turkish tea set!) and after getting some work done in the morning, she and another one of my lab mates joined me for lunch. They had cake ready and thawed when we came back to the office, and we spent some more time chatting over cake.

I managed to get some more work done in the afternoon, but things slowed down around 5. I asked E if she wanted to join me for dinner at The Rockwell in Los Feliz, since I had been asked if I could come review their summer menu. Being able to set up the visit on my birthday was definitely a plus šŸ™‚

We took the metro over to Los Feliz since leaving to get the car and then driving through traffic didn’t seem like the best idea. When we got off at Vermont and Sunset however, we were greeted by extremely humid weather and…rain?! LA was acting crazy!

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

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Luckily, we had the sense to walk around the building and find the restaurant entrance.

The Rockwell, Los Feliz
The Rockwell, Los Feliz

We were greeted by some wait staff who at first didn’t know about the review visit, but we were able to grab some seats near the back, in a cozy little booth with a earthy-looking theme.

Getting cozy!
Getting cozy!

We were given the menu and took some time to figure out what sounded best. The skillet cauliflower ‘n’ cheese initially caught my eye, but E was eyeing it too, so I thought I’d get something different so we could share and try a variety of items.

E also got the RW Quinoa Burger (After figuring out that RW stands for Rockwell, haha), and I ended up choosing one of their wood stone flatbreads, the forest mushroom to be exact.

We were able to put in our order, and we didn’t have to wait too long for our food to arrive. In the meantime, we met The Rockwell’s owner/manager, and sipped on some cold glasses of water.

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We were amazed by how big the portions were when everything came out. And despite the muggy weather outside, we welcomed the warmth radiating from the food and couldn’t wait to dig in.

RW QUINOA BURGER ~ black bean, onion, sun-dried tomato, vegan mango chutney aioli
RW QUINOA BURGER ~ black bean, onion, sun-dried tomato, vegan mango chutney aioli

E wasn’t able to finish her burger, but she was ecstatic to find such a generous portion of avocado laid out so finely on her crisp quinoa patty.

My woostone flatbread was composed of wild mushrooms, leeks, white sauce, and truffle oil. It actually reminded me of the pizza I had at Pizza Studio a couple months ago, but the flatbread crust of this pizza had an intriguing texture. It was perfectly crisp on the outside, and pliable and chewy on the inside. Birthday calories obviously don’t count, and I had no problem getting through all of it šŸ˜›

FOREST MUSHROOM WOODSTONE FLATBREAD ~ WILD MUSHROOMS, LEEK, WHITE SAUCE & TRUFFLE OIL
FOREST MUSHROOM WOODSTONE FLATBREAD ~ WILD MUSHROOMS, LEEK, WHITE SAUCE & TRUFFLE OIL

I had some of E’s cauliflower ‘n’ cheese, which was described as a dish of multi-colored florets coated with golden panko crust and covered in cheese. It definitely wasn’t skimping on the cheese, and even though it’s an item under their “shareables”, it could easily be a rich entree if you so choose!

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

For the amount of food we got, and the quality, the cost was understandable and not too expensive. We had our meal covered, but the price range is certainly not out of reach if you are looking for a cozy, patio-style restaurant with shareable, bar food appetizers and classic entrees with a fresh, Californian (more like Hollywood-inspired) twist. They also hold shows throughout the month, the tickets to which are sold separately from dining in at the restaurant.

E and I took the train back, and I made it home close to 10pm. It was a busy, long birthday, but for what I did and who I surrounded myself with, I think I welcomed my 25th year the happiest way I could.

Rockwell Table & Stage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cookie Dough & Fries

Cookie Dough & Fries

With the one and only sit-down final I had to complete out of the way after Monday, the weekend that followed was devoted to some much needed ME time. I spent the rest of the time that week organizing myself in lab, getting myself ready for some upcoming projects I was planning to do after Christmas and seeing my family.

The Saturday of that weekend was a busy one. I was able to make it out to Santa Monica for the first time in months (not counting running-related events), and seek out a new vegan establishment—eLOVate kitchen.

eLOVatemenu
eLOVate menu

The menu was pricier than what I expected, but looking at their decor, and seeing that their prime estate was located near Ocean Ave., I could understand the fact that they had a lot of costs to cover…

eLOVate
eLOVate inside

At least what I wanted to order was under the appetizer menu (and as a result, cheaper). I was more-than-excited about digging into a plate of vegan poutine topped with mushroom gravy and almond cheese curds. 

poutine__fries
Yes it it vegan poutine!!!!!

The fries were shoestring Kennebec fries, and took to holding the gravy with such poise, haha.

curry_fries
Vegan Poutine with mushroom gravy and almond cheese curds.

It was truly a simple enough dish that gave me just enough energy to get some gift shopping done for some family friends at Penzey’s Spices. Along the way, I redeemed a coupon I had for a free pair of running shoes that I had won a few months ago. Even though I was thinking about cashing it in for some Vibrams, the sales lady who was helping me insisted I redeem it for some Newtons…ah well, at least this pair was made and styled for women. I can share more about this pair in a future post šŸ˜‰

I originally planned on stopping for some late afternoon dessert at one of Santa Monica’s finest cookie/cupcake/donut establishments, but when it started to pour rain and all I had was a small umbrella shielding me from the downpour, I opted to hop on the next bus and hunt for a different kind of treat known to be found at Bristol Farms.

When I saw an array of Edoughble Cookie Dough flavors lined up in the refrigerated aisle, my eyes immediately pounced on the birthday cake flavor. I also bought another cookie dough brand/flavor that I originally came for, as well as a flavor of B&J’s I have a hard time finding in stores closer to me. 

After my purchase, I sat down and dug into the birthday cake flavor, since it was still raining outside. While others around me were munching on warm sandwiches and sipping on soothing soup, my tastebuds were beyond happy with the taste of chewy sugar cookie dough mixed with vanilla frosting and confetti sprinkles. 

edoughble_birthdaycake
Edoughble – Birthday Cake

When I had enough courage, I ventured out into the damp, cold, and turning-dark environment. I was home as soon as it turned pitch black, and found myself hungrier an hour or so later. I used it as an opportunity to try the other edible cookie dough purchase of the day.

thecookiedoughcafe_chocolatechip
The Cookie Dough Cafe – EDIBLE chocolate chip cookie dough :9

Compared to Edoughble’s Birthday Cake, I found the dough to be just as rich, chewy, and sweet, but the chocolate chips were too chunky and overwhelming in my opinion. I found myself scooping them out and placing them to the side after awhile, since they got in the way of having a smooth-consistency dough.

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I started off Sunday on a semi-rough note. I was able to go out for a long run in the morning, but didn’t feel too well afterwards. I had a throbbing headache as I worked in lab for a few hours, but fortunately, it faded away by the time I left mid-afternoon. It was a weird feeling and I was worried that it would be similar to what I went through a week earlier, so I’m glad it went away on its own!

Plus, I was looking forward to having a delicious meal that I could appreciate at Cowboys & Turbans (previously Sprouted Garden Cafe) in Silver Lake. 

front
Cowboys & Turbans (previously Sprouted Garden Cafe)

Only outdoor seating is available at this restaurant, and even though it was slightly chilly, there was a fire going and the seating arrangements were beautiful. 

outdoorestaurant
Outdoor seating!

I sat a table in the middle of the area, so that I could get a great view from all angles.

cowboys&turbansmenu
Cowboys and Turbans menu

The menu supposedly has a mix of Mexican and Indian dishes, hence the restaurant name Cowboys and Turbans. I chose to go with an old favorite of mine (Aloo Gobi) with a side of masala fries.

c&t
Aloo gobi, masala fries, curry sauce

Everything came out fresh and piping hot—temperature and flavor-wise! Instead of ketchup, I was given a cup of creamy curry sauce for dipping the aloo gobi and fries into. The side of fries may look small in the pic, but that bowl was anything but! I was quite full at the end of this meal, and even though I had some bloat to deal with, I made it to the bus stop in one piece šŸ˜‰

smores_b&j
Ben & Jerry’s S’mores Ice Cream ~ Chocolate ice cream with fudge chunks, toasted “marshmallow”, and graham cracker swirls.

Dessert that night was the B&J’s S’mores pint, which was not a winning flavor for me. Too much chocolate, underwhelming marshmallow (actually, it was pectin and not gelatin, so this flavor is okay for veggies šŸ˜‰ ), and an indistinguishable graham cracker swirl made this flavor far from appetizing. 

How do you like your fries (seasoned with spices, just salt…) and what condiment(s) do you like pairing them with? 

Cowboys & Turbans Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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