Birthday Weekend, Day 2

Birthday Weekend, Day 2

My friend stayed Saturday night, and since she planned to leave on Monday morning, we had another full day we could put to use for our enjoyment.

I let her sleep in while I completed a long run. The coach I’m working with had me transition to a forefoot form style of running, and I was definitely feeling it in my calves! My legs were wrecked for the rest of the day, but since we had a beach visit planned, I knew relaxation was part of the agenda for the day and my legs would get some much needed R&R.

We were off to Huntington Beach around noon, and with traffic, surprisingly managed to arrive around 2pm. Before heading the the beach, we decided to get a late lunch at Vegan Nirvana because we were super hungry.

Vegan Nirvana
Vegan Nirvana

From the outside, VN looked like an unassuming strip mall restaurant…

Stepped into the blue zone...
Stepped into the blue zone…

…but on the inside, the walls were painted a deep blue and had a strong cooling effect. There wasn’t too much seating and the walkways were narrow, and I think the management was confused on whether they wanted the interior to give off a oceanic or cosmic vibe.

Spaceships…or sharks…or both?

We had to wait for about fifteen minutes before getting a table, but my friend and I were able to look at the menu beforehand and decide on what we wanted. I knew from the get-go that their Ultimate Liberation dish was their star entree. It was a vegan fish tacos dish that was described to be an entree of fish-free fillet tacos topped with cabbage, pico de gallo, cilantro, and Chipotle sauce in corn tortillas.

Menu
Menu

My friend went for the chik’n tenders and that crispy dish sounded like a good choice to me.

They were super crispy!
They were super crispy!

We shared our entrees with each other, and agreed that our veggie meats overall were top notch quality. My friend even commented that the vegan fish tacos actually tasted like fish.

These fish-free tacos were delicious..
These fish-free tacos were delicious…

After lunch, we drove a short way to Huntington Beach. Several loops around a residential area later, we found parking. We were also fully prepared with some beach towels, but the closest we got to the water that day was a foot dip. Instead, we lounged on the sand and read/napped for about an hour.

Relaxation at its finest…

Huntington Beach!
Huntington Beach!

When it was approaching early evening, we decided to head back to the car and make our was more inland towards Fountain Valley: the Mecca of all those quirky dessert foodie trends you see on Instagram.

Birthdae Cake
Birthdae Cake

Birthdae Cake was our destination, and it was nestled unassumingly in a strip mall across from Albertsons.

It was a small establishment, and while there weren’t any lines out the door during our visit, the people that were there knew what they wanted and were content with what they got.

The wallpaper :P
The wallpaper 😛

I knew I had to get one of their iconic creations featured multiple times on the ‘gram. Their cookie dough ice cream sandwich was something I could not avoid getting.

COOKIE DOUGH ICE CREAM SANDWICH YES IT EXISTS.
COOKIE DOUGH ICE CREAM SANDWICH YES IT EXISTS.

My ice cream sandwich was birthday ice cream in-between two slabs of Cookie Monster cookie dough. The cookie dough slabs were sense, thick, and though they weren’t as flavorful as I imagined, they held up and didn’t fall apart/melt.

My friend got a simple ice cream cone, but we were both delighted by our choices. After our dessert for the day, we drove back to LA and spent the rest of the evening relaxing at home.

My friend dropped me off in lab the next morning before heading back on her way to Santa Cruz. Her visit only emphasized how fun and social this summer has been so far for me!

Did Summer 2017 fare well for you?

Vegan Nirvana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Delighted by Donuts

Delighted by Donuts

My sister and I went out of our way to make 4th of July a memorable one this year. Being the true foodies we are, our day was centered around making it out to a little donut shop all the way up in Northeast LA.

 But first, coffee. Actually, a vanilla latte.
But first, coffee. Actually, a vanilla latte.

I had to stop by lab yet again (yes, even on a holiday, but it was for a shorter time), and then my sister and I boarded the next bus towards Highland Park. It was a good thing the bus was air-conditioned, but we still had to walk another 1.5 miles under the hot sun…and the roads we took were through hilly neighborhoods. I guess we were getting an extra workout before donut chow-down time, but it was supposed to be a rest day weekend for me 😛 ?!

 Even after an hour long bus ride, we had to walk another 30 minutes at high noon!
Even after an hour long bus ride, we had to walk another 30 minutes at high noon!

I stopped whining when we got to York Blvd, and found the shop’s sign in the far off distance.

 Yay...we made it!
Yay…we made it!

Donut Friend, a hole-in-the-wall-but-incredibly-famous donut shop that offers an extensive amount of vegan donuts, was our prime destination for the day. Fortunately, they were open on the 4th of July holiday, and the first thing we did when we entered was stare in awe at the donut case…

 Um, what should we get?
Um, what should we get?

We also had a hard time peeling our eyes away from the mural.

 Very artsy and cute---our friend would appreciate this!
Very artsy and cute—our friend would appreciate this!

Looking at the size of the donuts, we figured one wouldn’t be enough for each of us. So we each picked two, and agreed to split each in half so we both could try four different flavors!

 We ended up getting, from left to right: Smorissey, Angry Samoa, Fudgegazi, and White Chocolate Stripes.
We ended up getting, from left to right: Smorissey, Angry Samoa, Fudgegazi, and White Chocolate Stripes.

I tried Smorissey first, which had a chocolate cake-texture, and was topped with marshmallows, chocolate glaze, and graham cracker crumbs. This donut was apparently vegan though, so the marshmallows must have been gelatin-free!!

 Looks more like a cake than a donut in this picture!
Looks more like a cake than a donut in this picture!

Even though my sister picked Fudgegazi for us to try, I ended up liking it more than she did! This guy was a true glazed donut (chocolate glazed, that is) and had a whipped chocolate cream filling with chocolate shavings on top.

 So fun to chew!
So fun to chew!

After cleansing our palates with water, we tried the other two donuts. I thought I would like Black & White Stripes, since it was a traditional glazed donut with a berry flair, but was disappointed with the lack of berry filling. The single blackberry added some pizzazz, but just not enough to woo me.

 The glaze looks decadent though...
The glaze looks decadent though…

My sister’s second pick was the Angry Samoa, and surprisingly it turned out to be my most favorite from our four selections.

 This one looks more chaotic than angry, but it certainly made me happy!  :)
This one looks more chaotic than angry, but it certainly made me happy! 🙂

It was another cake donut (vanilla-flavored) that was topped with a crazy amount of toasted coconut over layers of chocolate and caramel. Um, no wonder I was in love.

We took our time savoring our sweet treats, since we knew the journey onwards would be a lengthy one. We had plans to head to the beach for the fireworks later on in the day, but things ended up happening differently…

Do you prefer cake donuts or glazed?

Click to add a blog post for Donut Friend on Zomato

Fast Food, South Indian Style

Fast Food, South Indian Style

Fast food has never been my go-to dining choice when eating out, but there is something intriguing about the concept at the international level. That’s why I did my research prior to my trip—in addition to the traditional home-cooked meals I would be served by well-meaning family and friends, I also wanted to be a patron of the Indian versions of Subway, McDonald’s, and KFC.

You know, for the experience.

When I first discovered Subway had franchises in India during a previous visit, I was fascinated by the menu offering—sandwiches to please the vegetarian palate were not just restricted to the classic ‘Veggie Delite’. In fact, there was a menu catered for vegetarians specifically, and it included toppings like falafel patties, aloo patties, and paneer cheese blocks. The sauces were guaranteed to be vegetarian-friendly as well.

Since this Subway discovery occurred in my pre-blogging days, I knew I had to stake it out again for the purposes of this blog…and of course since I had a craving for it!

We found a Subway kiosk at the Express Avenue Mall food court. The mall itself is a feast for the eyes!

Express Avenue Mall, est. 2010
Express Avenue Mall, est. 2010

The Subway:

Subway, Indi style!
Subway, Indi style!

Even though I had more than the Veggie Delite to choose from, I knew right away that I wanted the Veg Shammi.

veg shamis // aloo patties // flier for subs
veg shamis // aloo patties // flyer for subs

After purchasing the stout sandwich, I found a seat by a window, and waited for my Dad who decided to buy some watermelon juice since it was in season.

seating area // view from my seat // classic Subway napkin
seating area // view from my seat // classic Subway napkin

Even though the guy only put ~3 shammis in my 6-inch sandwich, it appeared to be very filling:

Veg Shammi Sandwich Subway

This is how the shammi in my sandwich looked like. How does it compare to the staged photo?

Veg Shammi Real vs. Ideal

My heart was set on Subway this time around, but maybe next time I’ll try an Indian-version of Quizno’s? I found it ironic that it was right across from the Subway stall!!

Quizno's in India!

I was able to make it to a McDonald’s the next day for a late lunch. It was in a three-level establishment at Citi Centre, and the actual meal orders took place on the 3rd/rooftop levels. If you wanted to have a soft-serve cone or McFlurry for dessert first though, stay on the first floor!

McDonald's on the 1st (Dessert) Level.
McDonald’s on the 1st (Dessert) Level.

McDonald’s was right next to the escalator, so I didn’t have to walk around the crowded food court in an awkward fashion. Phew…

display case // ordering // ad for paneer mcroyale sandwich // mcd's bag
display case // ordering // ad for paneer mcroyale sandwich // mcd’s bag

Like all other standard food establishments in India, there was a good vegetarian selection to choose from. I stayed with a classic, but unique option—the McAloo Tikki Burger.

the menu // orders come in a bag down a u-shaped conveyor belt
the menu // orders come in a bag down a u-shaped conveyor belt

My order came down from the sky the upper-floor in a bag ready to go. It came out like so:

McAloo Tikki Burger Real vs. Ideal

...
The McAloo Tikki is comprised of a patty made of potato, peas, and indian spices all coated in breadcrumbs. In addition, it comes with a sweet tomato mayo sauce, sliced onions, and tomato.

It was a small burger, slightly bigger than my palm. The breaded patty itself was warm & crispy, and the sauce did indeed have a spicy tang which I liked.

The bill was not as expensive as it looks…

25 INR rupees = $0.50
30 INR rupees = $0.49

After eating, we climbed up the stairs to the rooftop just to see what that looked like. Apparently there was rooftop dining! It was too hot too eat up there though. It would make for a good dining option in say…November or December when the weather isn’t in the mid-90s?

...
another ordering counter at rooftop level // view from top // an ad // view from top // “meck-thaa-nls” <– if you want to literally translate it!

As for KFC, I almost didn’t have a chance to eat there since time was running out for my trip.

caption
KFC Storefront // KFC @ Citi Centre -> “So Veg, So Good”

I had plans to have something different for lunch one day, but when plans didn’t work out, and I happened to notice a KFC nearby, I had my chance! One thing to note, I find it ironic that the slogan for KFC India is “So Veg, So Good”…just comes to show how important it is to please the vegetarian population here 😉 !!

I visited an actual KFC restaurant vs. a kiosk found at a mall. There was one counter for orders/pick-up.

caption
Waiting in line to make order.

Notice the “So Veg, So Good” shirts?

caption
Clearer shots of the menu and back.

The Paneer Zinger looked interesting, but I played it safe and went for the Veg Rockin’ burger. Would be a match for the McAloo Tikki??

caption
Veg Rockin’ Burger on front menu // receipt // stairs for upstairs eating…I think?

When I finally had the burger, I deemed it to be a step down from the McAloo Tikki. The spicy mayo was dabbed on the patty rather than spread, and the excuse for chopped lettuce was nothing compared to the humble onion rings/tomato slice that was in my McAloo Tikki.

caption
the bag // wrapped burger with ketchup // inside

More like a not-so-rockin’ burger to me, unfortunately.

Even though the menu items were unique, and even with the slightly altered branding of these well-established US fast food chains in order to appeal to the demographics of a different nation, the nutritional quality of the food was still not the best. Like I said earlier, my reason for even visiting these establishments was for the experience/novelty factor. I found none of these menu items, except for the Veg Shammi from Subway, to rank nowhere near the nutritious, fresh food that I had been eating in my relatives’ homes.

Have you eaten at a US fast food restaurant in another country?

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