Cupcake Caught My Eye

Cupcake Caught My Eye

After getting my fill of Mediterranean food for lunch on Saturday, I couldn’t help but make a pit stop…for cupcakes!

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Big Man Bakes

Big Man Bakes is a cupcake store I used to pass on some Sunday long runs when I lived near DTLA. I would sometimes run past it before turning right, back to Figueroa. This time however, I was walking straight towards it.

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Just FYI…

Once I got to the small storefront, I gazed into the display case of perfectly frosted cupcakes, and didn’t even know what to pay attention to first.

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Cupcakes and gear

The young lady behind the counter was eager to share a bit about Big Man Bakes, and some of their classic and seasonal flavors that were currently available. I was thinking I’d go for the Red Velvet or Oreo…

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Utensils and things

…but in the end, I went with a seasonal flavor—strawberry!

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Ready to eat!

It was called an “XL” cupcake, but it really wasn’t that big. To me, it seemed like a standard-sized cupcake.

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The Strawberry XL Cupcake

The cake itself was moist, but it didn’t stand out in regards to flavor. I was also hoping for a generous serving of cream filling on the inside, but sadly, that wasn’t the case.

At least it was pretty photogenic:

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Views of a cupcake…

Are you picky when it comes to cupcakes?

Big Man Bakes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Spring is Here?

Spring is Here?

I don’t think I ever got the memo that Spring was coming fast this year. I literally woke up on Saturday morning wondering how on earth it was so bright at 6am all of a sudden??

I cam across this sticker on Friday, and while it was a truthful statement, I couldn't help but add that "we can get over them" when I snapchatted it to my sister and friends.
I cam across this sticker on Friday, and while it was a truthful statement, I couldn’t help but add that “we can get over them” when I snapchatted it to my sister and friends.

After getting my blood flowing with a morning run, I proceeded to make the most of my Saturday by showering, putting on a summer-worthy outfit (shorts + a breezy knit tee!), and heading out the door well before 9am. I had to make a stop in lab before heading out for the afternoon.

I had a desire to venture out into DTLA for once, since it’s been a while I had it as a set lunch destination. I ended up taking the train/subway to Pershing Square, a little east of 7th St/Metro, closer to old downtown.

Old DTLA
Old DTLA

A lot of the places I’ve bookmarked in my foodie bucket list were actually lined up along Main St….as if they all knew I’d arrive one day ready to embark on a culinary tour through downtown! My focus that day, however, was set on having lunch at Spread Mediterranean Kitchen.

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Spread Mediterranean Kitchen

There was barely anyone inside when I arrived, and I was shocked. Inside, it was cool, calming, and the decor just brought about a very chill vibe.

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Inside Spread Mediterranean Kitchen.

The menu is very simple, and build-your-own style entrees take center-stage. The base can be a flatbread wrap, rice salad greens, or hummus with flatbread. I picked hummus with flatbread.

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Pickled things

To top your base, there is everything from falafel to meatballs to chicken to braise to mushrooms. I picked the roasted mushroom medley with garlic, herbs, and sumac.

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Roasted mushroom medley with garlic, herbs, and sumac on top of hummus.

Finally, all of this is prepared in a certain style. There’s more of the hummus route, cooling tzatziki, cheesy za’atar, or spicy harissa yogurt. I went with the ‘cheesey & spicy’ style that contained feta lebneh & jalapeno spread, spicy slaw, pickled red onion, and harissa spiked yogurt.

This whole combination ended up with a plate like below:

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Everything mixed together.

And of course, my flatbread came seasoned and freshly-folded in a printed paper sheet.

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Flatbread, yay!

The mushrooms were roasted in a dark, orange-colored oil that carried so much flavor. This mixed well with the hummus, refreshing dollop of lebneh, and crunchy slaw. The flatbread was just an accessory—if I still had half a plate of hummus left after eating all of the flatbread, I would have had no issue at all!

I had wiped the bowl clean in no time at all, and I would have spent more time mourning over how quickly I feasted on this scrumptious meal, but the gorgeous spring weather outside was beckoning me. I found myself again on Main St., with an interest in keeping this “foodie tour” going. My next stop was going to fulfill a “sudden” cupcake craving I had developed…

Were you expecting spring to come so soon this year?

Spread Mediterranean Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Roundabout Ways

Roundabout Ways

Two Sundays ago, I realized that if I plan to move out of the DTLA area by the end of the summer, I probably should devote more time to exploring my as-of-right-now urban backyard. One area in particular that I haven’t really spent much time exploring is the Arts District, besides the occasional visits to hidden-gem restaurants (I’m talkin’ about The Springs and Urth Caffe 😉 ).

It also doesn’t help that getting to the Arts District via public transit is a very roundabout process. I had to go all the way to Union Station, just to hop on the Gold Line to get to Little Tokyo, and walk a little southeast…Google Maps also gave me a couple other ideas, but all of them required at least one transfer even though the trip shouldn’t take THAT long.

Anyways, when I did get into the heart of the Arts District, I knew right away by the enveloping murals and vibrant paint colors on the buildings.

Art!
Art!

My destination was Café Gratitude, so even though I was among a variety of restaurants (many of which I have on my foodie bucket list and have yet to visit…) and shops, I still had a ten minute walk to get there.

Located on Santa Fe Ave and within the One Santa Fe apartments complex, Café Gratitude was disguised fairly well. But those lucky ones living in the One apartments…they had Café Gratitude at their disposal! Too bad the rent for a STUDIO ≈ my monthly paycheck.

Cafe Gratitude, DTLA
Cafe Gratitude, DTLA


At least Café Gratitude was open to the public, and this visit would be my fourth time visiting CG (my first was in Venice almost a year and a half ago…followed by Larchmont, and the happenchance meeting with the SD location that opened over the summer).

So fresh and clean inside.
So fresh and clean inside.

My eyes immediately went towards the “bowls” section. I guess I still has sushirito on the brain, because the Accepting bowl sounded quite appetizing.

Sounds good...
Sounds good…

My bowl came within minutes, and at first glance it seemed small but it was perfectly-sized for a late lunch. Underneath all those sea-based greens was “sprouted probiotic” brown rice, mixed with wasabi dressing, and greens like kale, avocado, cucumber, and other greens for flavor. Because the blackened tempeh cubes were obviously the best part of the meal, I was successful in saving them to savor for last.

So much goodness in here, I accept!
So much goodness in here, I accept!

I could have added kimchi to this already delightful bowl, but it would have cost another $4…how much kimchi did they plan on adding for that price??

Accepting!
Accepting!

I didn’t want to leave after eating only because it felt cold outside, and I had to make my roundabout trip back just to get home. At least the gold line train I hopped on to get back to Union Station was one of the new ones, as it still had that “fresh train” smell (is that even a thing?).

It would have been 100% clean if someone had NOT made a crumbly mess...
It would have been 100% clean if someone had NOT made a crumbly mess…

In addition to my nutrient-packed meal on Sunday, I enjoyed some weekend pints of course! On a grocery trip to Ralph’s over the weekend, I came across another B&J core that I have yet to try, and the last new-to-me flavor Arctic Zero from their recent new flavor release.

My sister gave me the heads-up review about this flavor, saying that it wasn’t her favorite, but she thought I would like it since the chocolate flavor was mild and the core was creamy and frosting-like. I took her word for it, and even though I didn’t want to gag after eating the chocolate side of the pint, I was not blown away. This flavor was mediocre, despite the cookie chunks and creamy core. Actually, the core was pretty disappointing. It didn’t seem to have any substance to me…just a bland insertion of what tasted like vanilla frosting. Boring.

No too outstanding...
No too outstanding…

The fruity Arctic Zero that I took home was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t think it would stand a chance to some of the sweeter flavors like Cake Batter or Sea Salt Caramel, but it held its own. I truly liked the mild tartness of this flavor, and I may have enjoyed this more if I had not eaten it that Sunday (since it was unusually cold on Sunday). Needless to say, I was shivering by the end of this pint!

Fruity and tart!
Fruity and tart!

What area (near where you live) do you wish you visited more often?

Cafe Gratitude Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Race Recap – 31st Skechers Performance LA Marathon

Race Recap – 31st Skechers Performance LA Marathon

On February 14, 2016, I ran my second marathon.

Caught at the right moment
Caught at the right moment

It has been less than a year since I ran my first marathon, and SO many things have happened since then. Even with all that has transpired, I am grateful that I was even able to run this insane distance once again!

My day began at 3am on Valentine’s Day. Once I stuffed all of my race day essentials into my gear check bag, I was off with my carpool crew. After picking up a few more people, we drove off to Santa Monica to park the car and load the shuttle buses to Dodger’s Stadium.

As we sat on the bus, some of my marathon teammates came up with running pick-up lines since it was Valentine’s Day. One guy had us all laughing with “I may be running 26.2, but I want 26.YOU”. It was definitely a light-hearted ride to the the starting line that would otherwise be an anxiety-ridden one!

Everyone in front of me was all quiet and thinking to themselves...everyone behind me was all laughs!
Everyone in front of me was all quiet and thinking to themselves…everyone behind me was all laughs!

Once we got to Dodger’s Stadium, we had about a half an hour to check in our bags and ready ourselves. We didn’t have time for a all-member team pic, so I immediately got into my assigned corral.

After the wheelchair runners and elite women, the elite men and the rest of us were off! I was feeling anxious about my right foot, but once things got moving I didn’t feel much in terms of pain.

The course was pretty much identical to last year’s, and I was able to keep a 9:30-10:00 pace for the first several miles. I was carrying my handheld water bottle as well, so I didn’t feel the need to stop for water until after mile 6 or so.

It was relatively easy for me to zone out all the way through Chinatown, Downtown, Echo Park, Silverlake, Hollywood…all the way through Beverly Hills even! As expected, I felt myself slow down in pace as we reached Century City and Westwood. We thankfully did not have to climb that tortous hill near the VA like last year, but miles 22 and onward only made me feel slower and wishing I didn’t have 4.2 miles left.

I refueled with the same gummies and shot bloks as last year, but didn’t start chewing until ~mile 11-13. I went through all of my chewables by mile 22, hoping I would be able to snag a packet from a spectator like last year.

Unfortunately, no one was handing out unwrapped shot bloks past mile 22, but I found myself immensely hungry at mile 23! Two pieces of licorice happened to do the trick surprisingly.

Unlike the 90+F degree weather of last year, we were greeted with fog once we hit Brentwood. As we ran downhill on San Vicente, we could feel the cool, misty ocean as we approached the finish.

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Everyone looks so sad!

Making it to the finish line this year was not as grueling, but once I hit the stop button on my Garmin at 26.4 miles and slowed to a walk, I began to feel the achiness of my hip and foot tendons.

Just keep walking and standing...
Just keep walking and standing…

After grabbing some post-race snacks, a heat sheet, and my medal, I proceeded to the bag check trucks. Bag check was horribly organized this year, since I found all of the bags tossed on the ground.

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Dude, where’s my bag?

Honestly, anybody could have just grabbed a bag and left! There was also no organization such as alphabetizing the bags, so it took me a good fifteen minutes just to find my bag.

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No man! Don’t sit!

Once that was all done, I proceeded to find my teammates. Everyone who had completed the distance was sitting cross-legged with their heat sheets drapped over their shoulders, munching on mini Clif bars or animal crackers. I continued to stand because if I had sat, it would have been PAINFUL to get up!!

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Race patrol keeping the roads clear!

I was there for another hour and a half until everyone from my car was back. We hobbled back to the parking lot around 2pm, and got back into the city an hour later (just like last year).

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Someone got one of my teammates roses…oooooohooohooo

I actually had to go into lab that afternoon (!!) and so I took my sweet time with that. I normally stand for one particular experiment I have to do but on this day, I had to find a seat because my legs were begging me, haha!

I also reflected on my experience, my capabilities, and my newfound strength on Instagram, leaving this picture with a caption about how I ran this race in a much healthier state than probably any other race I have run before!

♥♥♥
♥♥♥

I’ve been thinking a lot about where I want to go with this running thing, and getting faster is one of my top goals. My time was slower by six minutes this year, but that can be due to so many factors. I am just so incredibly grateful that I was even able to run this race, and I hope that there will be many more marathons in my future, reminding me that all is possible when you work with and trust your body.

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Two sides to THIS medal!!

Have you ever run a marathon? Would you want to?

Burger Close to Home

Burger Close to Home

After a relaxing Thanksgiving getaway, I thought I would have enough energy to take on the rest of December. But  a brain-draining proposal presentation got in the way of that, and so the first weekend of December was spent close to home since I was feeling so exhausted.

I was too exhausted to even plan out where to eat lunch on Saturday, which is odd for me, the girl who plans her free time around food 😛

At least there are still many places I haven’t visited in DTLA that are worth the trip. Cabbage Patch happened to be one of them!

 Cabbage Patch, DTLA
Cabbage Patch, DTLA

The front of the restaurant looks like what you’d expect for a cafe, but inside it was massive in space and size. There were two stories, but it looked like only the first floor was open for seating.

 Menu
Menu

There was a large menu near the front of the restaurant, and I had a hard time choosing at first. Should I go for yet another falafel-based dish, or something else even if I wasn’t truly craving it?

In the end, I decided to change things up and get a veggie burger with peanut slaw…which also happened to be 20% off based on one of the promotions going on!

 This BURGER. and THE SLAW.
This BURGER. and THE SLAW.

The burger came out with avocado, greens, tomato, a single slice of melted cheese on top of a beans-and-rice-based patty, all of which was closed tight between oiled brioche buns. Ketchup and mayo were portioned out into tin cups, and the slaw was heavenly—mixed with spices, peanut dressing, and actual peanuts.

I may have eaten the burger in an unorthodox way (fork!), but it was the best way to mix slaw, patty, and bread. Actually, leaving the bread for last to mop up the condiments is the way to go.

Sunday ended up being a physically exhausting day, and even though I had this Combat Crunch cookies and cream bar prior to my marathon team’s 16 mile long run, it wasn’t enough to combat the soreness I felt during the entire run.

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Not my favorite flavor. Tasted grainy, too much like a generic protein bar, and leaves a sour aftertaste…

I could almost go as far to say that this run was probably my worst…I just felt like a jiggly bag of bundled nerves and every 0.1 mile felt like it was much longer.

Needless to say, I’m glad it was over, and even worked up an appetite to grab two Lenny & Larry’s cookies after finishing the run, and before heading into lab for a bit.

 White Chocolate Macadamia & Peanut Butter
White Chocolate Macadamia & Peanut Butter

I’ve actually had both of these flavors a couple times already, and they tend to be my go-to choices! I love how simple they are in texture, yet are both true to their respective flavors. Even though they’re packed in protein, they’re chewy and easy to digest…perfect for the tender piece of meat I felt like after the grueling run I put myself through 😛

Cabbage Patch Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

In the Weekend Before Thanksgiving

In the Weekend Before Thanksgiving

After my weekend in Las Vegas and running one of my best half marathons to-date, I was not surprised by the fact I felt extremely exhausted. I tried to run my usual weekday runs, but each run left me feeling sore and fatigued. It was then that I decided that a full week off from running was just what I needed, and scheduling it to coincide with Thanksgiving week didn’t sound like such a bad idea!

The weekend before Thanksgiving, I tried to keep things easy and stayed close to DTLA that Saturday. I ventured out to LA Cafe in the east side of downtown.

LA Cafe (1)
LA Cafe

Like many downtown eateries, the space was small, and the only seating was outside. There was so much bread decorating the walls!

LA Cafe (2)
Loads of bread, lolz

Lots of to-go items were close by as well, but I felt like sitting down and nourishing my sore muscles with a hearty entree of some sort.

LA Cafe (3)
Stuff to-go? Nah…

Of course, I chose to get their version of a falafel plate, and found a table outside.

LA Cafe (4)
Sitting at the table outside.

The sun was out and the sky was as bright as ever. It was too beautiful to be a day in November…

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People enjoying the weather and food!

My plate was just as beautiful, stacked high with falafel, hummus, pita chips, pita bread, tahini, and feta crumbles.

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Seems like I have falafel once a week nowadays…

The falafel was the best part, and green on the inside. I have a theory that green falafel >>> brown falafel…at least based on my countless encounters with falafel 😛

LA Cafe (9)
Close-up of a fantastic plate!

Later on in the week, before Wednesday night and the start of Thanksgiving festivities, I treated myself to two new-to-me snacks.

I tried Lenny & Larry’s cookies for the first time, and they have been taking place of my weekly Quest bar purchases. Chocolate chip is such a classic flavor, and while I like how filling these cookies are, this flavor was too chunky for my liking. Maybe I would have appreciated them more if I had microwaved them?

lenny & larry's chocolate chip (1)
Lenny & Larry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie!!

I also decided it was time to try the B&J flavor Everything But The…

everything but the.. (1)
Surprisingly liked this one!

I was hesitant to try it at first because I thought it would be like the disappointing New York Super Fudge Chunk, but I surprisingly found it to be a pint full of creamy deliciousness! There was a fair mix of PB cups, toffee pieces, almonds, and my favorite rectangular white chocolate chunks 🙂

By the time Wednesday rolled around, I was getting used to the whole “rest and relaxation” thing. My sister had arrived, and we were ready to have a fun few days away in the OC together—more on that in the posts to follow 😉 !

L.A. Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vegan on the Hill

Vegan on the Hill

There is a DTLA route that I like to run that includes a very steep hill, and I first came across it on a group run with my marathon training team last year. I felt like my heart was going to burst the first time I “ran” it, but since that run, I can’t help but include that hill whenever I run DTLA.

au_lac (1)

If you make it to the top of the hill, there is both a feast for your eyes (Walt Disney Concert Hall) and a feast for your hungry, runner belly. There is a tiny strip mall right across from WDCH, and it includes the elegant Âu Lac Restaurant, specializing in plant-based cuisine.

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It has such a humble storefront, but inside, the vibe is so trendy.

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The hostess allowed me to sit anywhere, and immediately brought over an classy water pitcher, which apparently held water purified by reverse osmosis.

au_lac (3)

I had to take my time with this menu since everything sounded so good. I chose to have the Sweet & Spicy Tempeh, which was described as a veggie dish with potato and tempeh, all covered with sweet chilli sauce and decorated with melinjo crackers. Melinjo what though?

I would soon learn that melinjo crackers are to die for. My plate took a while to arrive, but when it was all ready, my mouth was watering.

au_lac (5)

The hostess even came by and suggested that I use the crackers to “scoop” the veggies into, kind of like those Tostitos scoops chips!

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I used the chips to scoop up the veggies as she suggested, but I savored the tempeh pieces individually, since they deserved my full attention 😛

au_lac (7)

It took me a while to finish since I was using chopsticks, but knowing that my dish was one of the spicier ones on their menu, the hostess came by with a glass of blueberry kombucha (on the house!!) to aid with the digestion process. Could this place be anymore amazing?

au_lac (8)

After many long runs on that DTLA hill, I finally took the time to stop up at the top, and enjoy what was available there. Maybe next time I’ll step inside WDCH, or even The Broad which just opened up!

Are you a fan of running hills?

Have you tried kombucha?

Âu Lac Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday Night Pizza!

Friday Night Pizza!

Last Friday, I was bit by the social bug yet again! Instead of a thrilling blogger meet-up though, I ended up going out for some gourmet pizza with some marathon teammates. 

But before stuffing my face with all the pizza (you could say quite literally, after seeing the pics!), I stuffed my face with two, new-to-me bars. I ended up paying bookstore prices for these bars (in other words, much more than what I would pay at GNC) by Oh Yeah!

I was finally able to try two of their new “One” bars—Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cookies & Creme. 

Oh Yeah! One - Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Oh Yeah! One – Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

I like how the bars are fully coated, but since I have become used to associating cookie dough-flavored protein bars to actually looking like molded cookie dough, I was thrown off by the chocolate coating at first. 

Oh Yeah! One - Cookies & Creme
Oh Yeah! One – Cookies & Creme

I grew to like the bar as I continued eating. Cookies & Creme on the other hand, could have tasted so much better. Nice try though Oh Yeah! folks? 

Fridays tend to be slow days in lab since everyone is exhausted by the end of the week/anxious to find an excuse to leave early, but I held on until ~6pm, when I headed out to meet my running mates for our pizza dinner! Apparently we had 20 people RSVP, but including me, there was only six of us total! Bring on the pizza now!!

racing_for_pizza
Racing for pizza.

We carpooled to DTLA, and reserved the top floor of Pitfire Pizza…

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Inside Pitfire Pizza

…even though we really didn’t need that much space after all…

knightstable
All this space…what to do??

To start of the meal, we were given full-size pitchers of lemonade, coke, water, and tea. Among the six of us, we literally could have sipped out of our own personal pitcher if we really wanted, haha.

 Want a pitcher?
Want a pitcher?

Before there was pizza, we helped ourselves to plentiful servings of salad. It was hard to resist having more than one plate because the salad was actually pretty good—dressing, onions, shaved parmesan, and all!

the_salad
Salad.

We were also able to cut down the order from the original EIGHT pizzas to just four, which included two vegetarian and two meat-eater pizzas. They took a while to make it up the stairs to our “knight’s table”, but when they did arrive, we dove right at them as if we had just finished a Sunday long run 😛

PIZZA.
That pizza tho.

The veggie-friendly pizzas included a simple marinara & mozzarella pizza which was mostly sauce. I ended up having more slices of this pizza because it was right next to me, easy to pull apart, and simply delicious. The second veggie-friendly pizza was covered in greens, but underneath it all was swirls of creamy red and white sauces. It was definitely the more “gourmet” of the two.

After stuffing ourselves silly (we demolished the food pretty well for six people!!), we thought it would be great to finish off our carb-o-licious Friday night with a cookies-and-ice-cream dessert. We split chocolate chip cookie ice cream sundaes with chocolate or caramel sauce with the person across from us.

cookie_and_icecream
Spoons ready!

I ended up sharing one of the chocolate sauce sundaes 🙂

Our dinner ended around 9pm, and I was more than ready to go to sleep! We had an exhilarating time getting home (driving home clown-car-style, trying to avoid any tickets!!), but we certainly made it home safely. Even though I was content enough to fall into a deep sleep, I was also content with the fact that I would have plenty of energy for my next day’s impromptu 10k race!

What’s your favorite Friday night pizza stop?

Pitfire Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Salad Dream

Salad Dream

Sunday was just as hot as Saturday, and so after my group run in the morning (with a new team for a race I’ll be running in November—details to come soon!), I came back to my apartment around mid-morning to freshen up before heading out again for lab-related work.

I finished up with my duties around 2pm, and decided to head downtown since I knew the skyscraper-like buildings would make things feel 10 degrees cooler 😉

It still took me at least an hour to get from Point A to Point B, but at least Point B was the Arts District.

 Arts District murals.
Arts District murals.

And Point B-1 was none other than The Springs.

 The Springs
The Springs

The Springs is more than a simple eatery. Food is just a part of the space that includes a shop of natural, wellness-inspired home goods & clothing, a juice bar, and a yoga center. I obviously came for the food though…

 View of the juice bar.
View of the juice bar.

The seating arrangements were also quite relaxing as well. I sat on a booth-like bench covered in pillows, and my table had a mini candle. My hostess also brought over a small shot glass and matching jug for water. I also didn’t need time to order since I had done my research beforehand, yet again 😉 . One whole-sized falafel salad, please.

 Come to eat, stay to nap.
Come to eat, stay to nap.

I think the staff began to feel an aura of impatience slowly surround me as time went on, since they stopped by to let me know the “status” of my salad. I thought this was thoughtful of them, but when my hostess brought my bowl out, she looked just as happy as I was! She said that I was about to feast on one of the most gorgeous salads ever made—or something along those lines 😉

How could I disagree with her? Just look at that falafel…and the way the hummus was artistically “painted” along the side of the bowl. It’s something only a vegan artist in DTLA could think of, haha.

 Falafel Salad - romaine, mized greens, tahini dressing, harissa, falafel, quinoa tabouli, zatar crackers.
Falafel Salad – romaine, mized greens, tahini dressing, harissa, falafel, quinoa tabouli, zatar crackers.

I took my time savoring this salad, and saved my favorites (the falafel, crackers, and hummus) for last. I did love the dressed mixed greens too though, and the harissa was definitely not missed by my palate!

 Fawning over falafel---and hummus and zatar crackers!
Fawning over falafel—and hummus and zatar crackers!

I left The Springs feeling reenergized, but I needed to conclude the day (and weekend) with another pint of ice cream. I had another B&J’s Target exclusive—Brewed to Matter.

 Two words: COFFEE. FUDGE.
Two words: BROWNIE. BATTER.

It turned into more of a frozen yogurt rather than remain its ice cream consistency by the time I ate it. Even though I wasn’t a fan of the Coffee-Buzz flavor, I was able to tolerate the coffee ice cream this time around. Perhaps it was because of the decadent brownie batter swirl (how do the folks at B&J’s even come up with things like batter swirls and what not?!). 

Salad, ice cream…I’d say this Sunday was complete in my book 🙂

Click to add a blog post for The Springs on Zomato

Summer Solstice Eats & Treats

Summer Solstice Eats & Treats

Last weekend finally felt like summer here in LA! Prior to this weekend, it had been surprisingly overcast and cloudy, but I can’t complain since it made for great running conditions 😉

I woke up on Saturday around 7AM, and made some coffee for the first time in what seems like forever! I usually grab a free cup courtesy of my apartment complex each morning to save time, so being able to have coffee in a real mug while watching the Saturday morning news was a nice change.

After stopping by the lab later in the day, I bused over to the Grove to grab my Q-Bars for the week, and then spent another hour darting in and out of stores. Nothing really caught my eye, even though I’ve been on the look-out for some cute summer clothes to replenish and refresh my wardrobe. But I have to admit…I’ve been a “lazy” shopper and have resorted to the world of online shopping. Oh well, I’ve always believed the deals
are better online anyways.

Later in the afternoon, I headed towards downtown and managed to get off at the right transfer stop despite feeling my eyes start to droop during the middle of the bus ride. I ended up missing the bus I had to transfer to, and caught a bus that was heading in the same direction, but stopped halfway from where my destination was.

I ended up walking a block down 6th St. before being able to board the bus I was originally supposed to take, and it was quite a change in landscape when compared to the heart of downtown. The roads were dry, and tents were pitched up side-by-side for what seemed like miles. The LA Mission is the biggest establishment in this area, and it was here to serve the incredible amount of homeless people that lined the streets. It reminded me of the race I ran back in April, and it made me connect the purpose of that run, and what the proceeds from it were going towards.

When the bus arrived towards Mateo St., I got off, and immediately saw the difference in landscape once again.

 Before going over the bridge.
Before going over the bridge.

As the bus kept going straight over the bridge in the distance, I made my way towards Zinc Cafe.

 Zinc Cafe exterior
Zinc Cafe exterior

Valet parking? Hah. One thing I always remind myself on days I feel frustrated with public transit is no car = no $$-guzzling hassles…parking, gas, insurance, etc. 😉

I had about 15 minutes until the scheduled meeting with my fellow diner, so I waited outside the cafe until she arrived.

 Zinc Cafe interior.
Zinc Cafe interior.

It was a little after 5 when Jeannie arrived, and when I met her, I immediately knew that our meeting would be a great one.

Jeannie had reached out to me a few weeks back regarding the aquisition of Urbanspoon by Zomato. I’ve used Urbanspoon many times to link back my restraunt review posts, so when I learned that some new, exciting changes were coming up and in the works, and that Jeannie wanted to fill me in about these details over a cup of coffee and snacks, I couldn’t say no to the opportunity 🙂 !

When offered a choice on where to sit, we elected to sit outside in the patio area since it was was still so sunny and gorgeous outside.

zinc cafe patio

There was quite a selection to choose from—drinks, snacks, meals—but we kept things simple with water and an order of crispy, puffed chips with fresh guacamole.

zinc cafe chips and guacamole

While we munched, Jeannie filled me in on the Zomato app, as well as information about upcoming events, and features that would be adopted and upgraded from Urbanspoon. I also told her how I ended up in blogging, when I fell into the world of running, and my current life as a student! She was super sweet and easy-going, so there was no problem keeping the conversation going. In a way, it was my first “blogger” meet-up, in the sense that I was meeting someone for the first time “in real life” because of my blog.

She graciously picked up the tab, and before leaving, gave me a hug. After saying our good-byes, I took the bus back to downtown, but got off pre-maturely just to walk for a few blocks while the sun was still out.

DTLA is mighty gorgeous on a summery Saturday evening!

downtown is pretty on a saturday sunset evening

When I got home, I quickly got into my PJs and treated myself to a Saturday night pint! Cinnamon Buns was the featured flavor…

cinnamon buns

100% Caramel ice cream, with cinnamon streusal swirls and cinnamon bun dough pieces…what was not to love? It was the sweetest nightcap, and as soon as I finished it, I immediately felt like hitting the pillow and resting up for my half marathon the next day!

 I always get impatient when I take these pictures---I just want to dive in and eat right away, haha!
I always get impatient when I take these pictures—I just want to dive in and eat right away, haha!

On Sunday morning, I woke up bright and early at 4:30AM so that I would have ample time to get to the race location all the way north in the San Fernando Valley. More on this in an upcoming race recap post, but I will say that being able to have a long run in a different location from DTLA was exciting 🙂

Since I was in the valley and close to Encino, I was in the mood for some Mediterranean cuisine, and so I took advantage of the opportunity to sample Aroma’s second location. I was such a fan of the Sabich plate I had a while back at their Sunset location.

aroma cafe encino

It was packed at 11AM, but surprisingly the crowds died down around noon, when you’d think that would be any restaurant’s busiest hour!

aroma interior

I was able to get a table inside after signaling a waitress’ attention, and took a quick look at the menu I was already familiar with.

ordering eggplant baladi, served olive bread

I decided to get the Eggplant Baladi, which was described as being a whole braised eggplant covered in tahini sauce. As an appetizer, I was brought some olive bread, which I lightly munched on until my real meal arrived.

Eggplant Baladi

I used the bread to mop up any excess sauce, as well as top it with the eggplant itself. The side salad was fresh and in a way, served as a “palate-cleanser”.

close up of meal

I certainly had no problem finishing this wholesome and flavorful meal 😉

I made it back to my apartment a little after 2PM, and the exhaustion from the day’s events began to kick in. Before indulging in a Sunday nap however, I indulged in a pint of B&J’s that I picked up from Target on the way home—the limited edition Save Our Swirled flavor!

save our swirled

By the time I was ready to dig in, the ice cream had softened to the right texture, and upon opening the pint, I couldn’t wait to taste the flavors of raspberry and chewy marshmallow mixed together! (Technically speaking, this pint didn’t really have marshmallows, but rather pectin—meaning it was gelatin-free, and suitable for vegetarians)!

sos close-up

At first I thought the “white and dark chocolate ice cream cones” was referring to broken cone pieces mixed into the ice cream, but it literally was ice cream cone-shaped chocolate pieces. Even though it didn’t match up with what I was thinking, they were still cute and delicious!

I soon fell into a glorious nap after eating (part running-exhaustion, part sugar coma), and when I woke up, did some cleaning around the apartment/watching TV before calling it a night.

It definitely was another weekend well-spent, and overall, a wonderful way to celebrate Summer Solstice!

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