Before leaving for Tulsa for my marathon and Thanksgiving, I wanted to pay my sister another visit in the good ol’ MV because I certainly needed the mini getaway.
I love how the Metrolink train offers a discounted day pass on weekends. One way tickets on the weekdays are pretty steep so getting a $10 day pass that works all day on a Saturday or Sunday was a relief for my wallet.
So I left on a Saturday afternoon after a morning run and packing right after. When I arrived at the Tustin station around 3, my sister was ready to pick me up and from there we drove over to Dough & Arrow in Costa Mesa.
One of the latest food trends to hit So Cal is scoopable cookie dough, mimicking that of scoopable ice cream shops. Dough & Arrow was a cookie dough lover’s dream, and them some:
It was a small shop of course, but there was plenty of spacious seating and a giant plastic cookie statue in the center, perfect for Instagramming.
My sister and I took a while to figure out what exactly we wanted, but we were firm with our final decisions. She wasn’t quite feeling the whole straight-up cookie dough vibe, so she opted for two chewy unique-flavored cookies and a latte.
I went for a chocolate fudge-flavored cookie dough in their smallest size. Even at 8oz, the dessert was quite rich and mouthwatering.
Because we came a few hours before “proper” dinner time, we took our sweet time eating our sweet treats and catching up on two weeks worth of gossip.
When it was getting closer to five, we joined the traffic on the freeway heading south to get some dinner in Mission Viejo before heading home. My sis was cravin North Indian food, so we stopped by a local favorite that she tried before: Tikka Curry Wraps and Bowls.
Since it was now dark outside with a nice chill, I was definitely craving something warm. A chickpea daal curry bowl with basmati rice did the trick, while my sis feasted on a spicy paneer wrap.
My bowl was an aesthetic piece of art, haha!
For the rest of the evening, my sis was glued to her laptop lecture notes while I did some data analysis/procrastinated with the cats. They are my sister’s roomate’s cats, but they are two adorable little guys who come in a demanded to be petted and cuddled with.
The next morning, I managed to go out for a six mile run despite feeling sore all over, and managed not to feel too bogged down by the hills! My sister got ready as soon as I got back, and from there we drove towards Santa Ana to meet up with her lab partner at a cafe for a study session. I continued my lab data analysis while they discussed their class work. All of us got some form of latte coffee.
My order was a ginger snap cookie with a warm Spanish latte. It was also pretty chilly out so I also borrowed my sister’s cardigan since we were sitting outside.
We finished and left close to noon, and headed back home since my sis was working from 3-7pm at her job at one of the stores in the local mall. After taking a quick lunch break at home, we headed to the mall and I set up shop near the food court.
We actually didn’t leave until 8pm because they held my sis back to recover the store. It was frustrating, as I found myself pacing back and forth through the mall, but I recall how mind-numbing and annoying my retail jobs used to be, and I could only feel for my poor sis.
When she did get out, we had dinner at Native Foods in Aliso Viejo and I surely did not complain. By the end of our meal, we were both more than ready to fall asleep. She of course had to Skype with her BF though, so she ended up going to bed hours after I did, haha.
In the morning, she dropped me off at the train station and I made the long trek to lab on a Monday morning. We didn’t have time to pick up coffee, but I managed to get some of the new birthday cake-flavored Quest bars while at the mall the day before from GNC.
The bar itself was softer than the usual Quest bars, but I was in favor of the chewy consistency. Of course there was some of that slightly grainy protein bar flavor, but overall I liked it more than the original flavors.
The rest of the week was busy with work and prepping things so that I my stuff at work would be taken care of on all points while I was out. Once Friday rolled around, I was more than ready to be pampered at home…and I guess, for the Route 66 Marathon too 😉
When I lived near DTLA, it honestly sometimes felt like a chore to plan long runs on the weekends. When my marathon team was training, it was easier to run the long runs with them because of the company (safety in numbers!) and varied routes/locations each week. On my own however, I was restricted to a limited route in downtown that often included multiple loops, depending on if it was a 10 or 14 miler. I also had to be weary about the time I set out to go run, either due to weather or safety concerns.
While those urban runs have a soft spot in my heart, these circumstances have made me more grateful that I have the opportunity to live where I do now. Running to the beach, running alongside the beach, and just being in Santa Monica makes running so much more easier. Sometimes just running alongside the beach can get mundane, but the views are so humbling.
After I finished a 11 miler on Sunday, I had to stop and take in the moment atop some steps by the pier. Once I had my moment of gratitude, I continued on forward because a certain donut shop was calling my name 😉
Another thing I love about living in SaMo is the fact that there are so many amazing restaurants, cafes, and shops here that people from all over make their travel plans around. I was (and still am) that person who has a long list of all the foodie places I want to go to. When I first moved to LA, the majority of them were in Santa Monica/West LA, and since then, the list has grown to include even MORE places in the West side of the city…
One of those places was Sidecar Doughnuts. They recently opened shop in SaMo, expanding north from their roots in Costa Mesa. The line was already long when I came by a little before 10.
They had all sorts of fruity and seasonal flavors, but for some reason the chocolate flavor called out to me so loudly, haha. Maybe it was the glaze, glistening brightly through the glass.
Everyone around me was getting sampler trays and boxes. I have yet to purchase more than one doughnut from a doughnut shop, but maybe one of these days I’ll have a reason to.
This time around, it was just me and this Choc-A-Lot doughnut 🙂
The doughnut had a cake texture, and the chocolate glaze had solidified so that the cacao nibs on top stayed perfectly in place. It was photogenic and worthy of a food magazine cover shot.
I also had a latte on the side, but it was disgusting. Sidecar, just stick to doughnuts please…
I would not call myself a doughnut person, but I would rank this particular doughnut high, high up there. Plus, all the Cali hipsters were here that Sunday morning. That’s gotta count for something right 😉 ?
The last time I went to a vegan food festival, it was when I had recently moved to LA and had learned about the inaugural Vegan Oktoberfest. I enjoyed the experience overall, but I haven’t been back since the event was first held in 2014 (if I were “invited”, perhaps I would reconsider 😉). So obviously, my attendance at a foodie festival was long overdue. I couldn’t have been more excited to attend So Cal Veg Fest!
The event was held at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Halloween weekend, but based on the food offerings and other activities planned, I had no reason to fear a thing. Except maybe transportation…
I originally thought about renting a Zipcar for the day, but then I thought about having to drive, rely on Google Maps and keeping my phone charged, crazy So Cal drivers, etc. I then estimated the cost of Uber/Lyft. It’s pretty much $50 one way from LA to Costa Mesa, and an all-day rental from Zipcar would have been around $82. In order to save just a little bit, I decided to take a bus to Downtown, and then from there take the 460 bus to Disneyland. From Disneyland, I got an Uber to Orange Coast College and that only cost me $19. Even though it would cost me a good chunk of money on my return trip, at least overall I would be spending less than if I had rented a Zipcar all day, which ultimately justifies my travel decisions 😉
When I got to the venue, I saw a plethora of tents set up and things seemed to be rolling. Since I wanted to check-in formally with the person who had been contacting me about being an ambassador, I figured the sensible thing to do would be to walk over to the information tent and find her there.
Unfortunately, I realized communication among the volunteers, staff, and media people was very unorganized. I could see everyone was working hard, but not one of the volunteers I spoke to had a clue who my contact person was. One person got so impatient with me that she just handed me one of the goody bags they were selling and some food vouchers said “just take these, I have more important things to deal with right now”, which I found downright rude as I honestly just wanted to formally meet the person who invited me to come. I wasn’t making this up!
Eventually, I thought to call my mysterious contact person since I remembered that she had her phone number in her e-mail signature. I did meet her, and she even gave me some extra food vouchers! I now felt more relaxed and eager to begin exploring all the tents.
There were samples at pretty much every tent—vegan egg rolls, protein smoothies, vegan cheese, vegan chocolate, I could have eaten a day’s worth of food in samples alone, but I had a strong enough appetite for many entrees…
I did watch part of a cooking demo while munching on my curry plate, but the idea of making second (and third) rounds at all the tents sounded more appealing.
As the day wore on, it definitely got warmer—a drastic change from the cool, breezy morning.
I wanted to spend a food voucher on some vegan Dippin’ Dots, but they didn’t take vouchers so I passed on that treat 🙁 …
Since I couldn’t get the vegan dippin dots, I “settled” for some frozen mint lemonade from Scandylicious Desserts. A lot of people had the same idea since as I made my way to the seating area near the main stage, every their person I saw had a frozen lemonade or a similar cool treat in their hands.
I actually sat down mid-presentation of a representative of Farm Sanctuary (or maybe he was the founder lol ?). He made a lot of relevant points in a non-preachy way. One of the points that I was happy to hear he believed was that veganism isn’t perfect, but it’s a lifestyle to aspire to, and that when animals are raised in a kind environment (NOT slaughterhouses) they are able to express their personalities and are such beautiful, sweet creatures. Hearing him compare turkeys to puppies and speak so lovingly about his charming rescue pigs definitely put a smile on my face, and while I’m not a vegan at this point in time, it is something I certainly want to work towards…if only for the animals and environmental conservation 😉
After the talk, I made yet another round of the tents, admiring plushies this time around, as well as using the last of my food vouchers on some vegan Hawaiian pizza. While the toppings and “cheese” were delicious, the dough was extremely chewy and it wouldn’t have hurt if it had spent more time in the oven. Oh well, I surprisingly still had an appetite (and room) for it since I engulfed it within minutes.
I decided to leave around 4pm when I felt full and ready for a nap, haha! It was at this time I braced myself as I dialed for an Uber that I knew would cost me more than a pretty penny.
But I took the perspective of that I was paying for the experience (and saving time). I was home within an hour, and my Uber driver was pretty chill and not that talkative once we were on the highway, which allowed me to listen to music while staring out the window.
When I got back home, I laid out my goods, and then promptly spent the rest of the night relaxing in my room and going to bed early.
The next day, I had a morning run with my team and after the run, didn’t feel like going out. Instead, I did some grocery shopping and was back home at 12pm…a 2 hour nap ensued, and so this pint+brownie combo happened as well:
Speaking of pints, I happened to have three more of the new Halo Top pint flavors. Not vegan, but very much vegetarian-friendly!
When I asked my sister what we should do for Thanksgiving this year, since we couldn’t hop on a flight to see our family in the middle of the country, she had the brilliant idea of doing something local with Airbnb.
With some careful planning and some luck (apparently the place we booked is pretty popular), we were able to score a clean, roomy 1-bedroom in Costa Mesa.
The first thing we did was unpack and nap. It felt so good to be able to control the thermostat and crank it down to the lowest it could go (I try to take advantage of these situations since my current living arrangements with my roommate involve A/C wars -.- ).
After our little nap, my sister and I only had to walk about fifteen minutes to get to NATIVE FOODS at the Camp, where they were hosting a Thanksgiving dinner!
We couldn’t get dine-in reservations since they sold out, but we did find seats outside, since the other establishments in the Camp were closed for the holiday.
The buffet line started off with the Native Wellington, which was a stuffed pastry filled with seitan and veggies and all that veggie good stuff. The line followed with a polenta-type dish, creamed asparagus, cornbread, waldorf salad, kale, and a breaded cranberry dish. We got to take out two trays, a drink, and dessert (pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake). My sister and I both got pumpkin cheesecakes which came with a nutty syrup topping.
We enjoyed our meal outside, and while it was all filling and delicious, we both didn’t think it was worth the $30/person price,…at least for the amount of food we got. If we had dined in, we could have taken some to-go if we had wanted.
We spent the rest of our Thanksgiving curled up with our respective assignments (I had a proposal and presentation due the Monday right after the holiday weekend, yuck…), but then spent a few hours watching a few episodes from a Lisa Ling series on Netflix before going to bed.
On Friday, we woke up casually and headed out towards South Coast Mall for Black Friday…well, that wasn’t the main reason for our excursion. Rather, we headed further north towards the border of Santa Ana.
What made Santa Ana so magical and worth visiting was Cauldron Ice Cream—the home of the “puffle cone”.
I had been wanting to come here since seeing the magical puffle rise in popularity on Instagram. I have to be honest and say that was partially the reason why I booked the place we ended up staying…since it was so close to Cauldron, haha!
At first I was overwhelemed by the menu, but after spotting Speculoos—BAM, my decision was done-decided. My sis took her time and ended up getting Smores, which came out much fancier than my simple scoop.
I was expecting the cone to be crisp like a regular ice cream cone, but it was actually chewy and hot, just like a regular waffle fresh off the gridle. I’m not sure if I really liked how chewy it was, but I had a puffle cone in my hands so I was going to enjoy it regardless.
After ice cream, it was then time for shopping. We literally waddled around the mall for hours, and to make matters worse, my legs felt like lead so walking felt unbearable. The crowds were insane, so I’m surprised we managed to stay for so long AND make it out of there with stuff!
We even had the patience to walk around in the evening, admiring the holiday lights already on the trees.
For dinner, we were walking distance away from Halal Guys. Dinner wouldn’t be so easy to get though…just like in the mall, we had to bear through the crowds and wait in line.
We made it inside within 20 minutes and I was beginning to feel ravenous and emotionally hangry. When my turn came up, I asked for the falafel plate, and the employees were slightly stunned since most people come for the chicken and gyro. There was even some discussion between the employees about whether or not the falafel was cooked enough!
Everything was alright in the end though, and while my sister chose to wait to eat when we got back to the apartment, I could not wait to dig in. I needed the energy now just to walk back.
The plate itself was a beauty. Unlike other falafel plates I had in the past, the falafel were moderately-sized, topped with a mayo-based sauce, and a drizzle of HOT sauce.
It took me about 20 minutes to finish the plate, and I felt stuffed. My sis even knew I was now satiated, and I had tamed the hunger beast. She has an incredible amount of patience I tell ya!
When we left, there was still a line out the door! Our routine that night was similar to Thursday’s. For our final day in Orange County, we planned to go to Tustin…this time to visit a place my sis had been dying to go to!
Did you eat out or have a home-cooked meal this Thanksgiving?
I think I started to get frustrated with recent chilly weather LA has been having after the first two days of it. I’ve also started to feel jaded from school—since the semester is winding down and rotations are wrapping it up. It makes sense, but it can be difficult to shake-off when you know you need to study!!
Being able to spend a few days with my Dad when he was in town for business helped to break these mundane routine feelings as of late, and it was just what I needed to freshen my perspective. It was nice to see him even though I would be seeing him again the following week for Thanksgiving break 🙂
As in previous instances, we only got to get together around evening time since we both had our tasks to fulfill during the day. Since we were staying in the Pasadena area the first night, we decided to check out My Vegan for dinner—voted Pasadena’s best vegan restaurant.
For a weeknight, it had a fair amount of customers dining-in around 6pm. There was also someone waiting by the door for a take-out order. From the booth, it was easy to get some pictures of the surroundings.
To start off, we split a spring roll appetizer, and I knew what I wanted after a quick glance at the entrees and went for the P.E.T.
My dad ordered the Green Curry, which included eggplant, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, basil leaves, and of course all of which was swimming in a spicy green curry sauce. Even though he requested that his dish come out milder, it was still too spicy for him.
We finished off our meal with some greek yogurt cups from Trader Joe’s nearby, and I promptly went to sleep since I was feeling quite exhausted from my day as a whole.
The next day was one of my on-campus-for-pretty-much-the-whole-day days, but even though I got out of my late afternoon lecture as the sky was turning dark, we made the hour (and then some) trek to Costa Mesa to check out a restaurant that has been on my foodie bucket list since learning about its existence almost two, three years ago!
I was finally approaching Seabirds Kitchen!
Since it was prime time for dinner, we were lucky to find a seat in a corner booth.
The menu selection was current for Fall, and quite overwhelming. I ended up ordering first, while my dad took some time to decide what it is he wanted exactly…and to make sure it wasn’t too spicy!
For appetizers, he ordered a carrot ginger lemonade and we split the burnt brussels sprouts.
I couldn’t wait to dig into my Holy Smokes Bowl when it arrived—as it had the bbq jackfruit Seabirds is famous for!
My dad ended up ordering the Butternut Enchiladas, which sounded innocent at first, but then when I pointed out it had roasted pasillapepper sauce, the appeal of the dish was quickly lost. In my opinion, it looked beautiful in appearance!
So even though we had to make an hour-long trek back the next morning, I can’t deny that I felt nourished and content from my meal at Seabird’s. The next day was more of a low-key day anyways, so the return trip didn’t feel too rushed. Sure, it may have been out of the way—just for a restaurant—but it was absolutely worth it 🙂