A Weekend in LV, Part 1

A Weekend in LV, Part 1

My weekend trip to Vegas was planned on a whim, mostly due to the fact my bestie from Nor Cal moved there recently. BlogFest was also occurring the weekend I planned to visit, and there wasn’t any time-sensitive experiment holding me back in lab, so everything seemed to work out in my favor.

I worked some long days earlier in the week (including a 12hr stint the day before I left), but once Thursday arrived I was ready to for the desert country.

My MegaBus wasn’t leaving LA until 12:45, so I took it easy in the morning. I decided to take the weekend off from running since I knew the 90-110 temperatures in the Vegas heat would be unbearable to run in. After getting some coffee, I packed up the remainder of my stuff at home and then made my way to Union Station.

It was pretty hot in LA as well, so I was antsy until the bus came and we could finally sit down in an A/C regulated area. The bus ride was pretty uneventful, but I was able to fall in and out of sleep pretty easily. My body had been wanting to catch up I suppose!

Protein House, Las Vegas
Protein House, Las Vegas

I arrived in LA around 6, and my friend had just gotten off work so she was able to swing by and pick me up. I was expecting myself to experience a weather shock but the 105 degree temperature difference felt insane. She also looked pretty exhausted, so finding some place to eat for dinner was an immediate priority.

Menu
Menu

I had been wanting to check out The Protein House ever since it was featured on the Food Network in one of those undercover, we-fix-your-restaurant shows.

Pick-Up Counter and Protein Cookies
Pick-Up Counter and Protein Cookies

Many years later, I was standing in one of their locations with my friend, deciding which plant-based protein entree to get and a smoothie to complement it.

Counter and Shaker Bottle Rack
Counter and Shaker Bottle Rack

I ended up getting their Plant Power Bowl and the Chocolate PB Crush crush shake while my friend got a Spicy Thai Chicken Wrap and a Peanut Butter Dream smoothie. With her purchase, she was able to score a free shaker cup—something she said she probably will not use, haha.

My smoothie, her wrap
My smoothie, her wrap

Our food came out relatively quickly, and while our smoothies were flavorful and thick, both of our entrees were pretty dry. A little mix of some sauce and everything would have been dandy…

Plant Power Bowl ~ Organic Tofu, Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Quinoa, Chopped Garlic, Sweet Potato, Squash, Red onion, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Black beans, Chickpeas, Siriacha, Pinch Pepper & SeaSalt, Red Pepper Flakes
Plant Power Bowl ~
Organic Tofu, Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Quinoa, Chopped Garlic, Sweet Potato, Squash, Red onion, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Black beans, Chickpeas, Siriacha, Pinch Pepper & SeaSalt, Red Pepper Flakes

My friend was still pretty tired after we ate, so we just walked around the Town Square shopping mall a few miles off the strip since she works there. We spent an hour or so walking through Sephora and some of the other boutiques. Around 9pm, she dropped me off at my AirBnB which…was quite an experience.

The listing forgot to mention a few things…like the apartments were in a semi-sketch area (doubt that anyone would say that but…), the private room I was renting was opposite another private room housing two male guests and that there was a shared bathroom for both rooms, and that some rando would be sleeping on a pull-out couch in the living room my entire stay without a shirt on. Welcome to Las Vegas πŸ‘ŒπŸ½

But my room was clean and everything else seemed okay. It was a weird situation, but I could tolerate it for the weekend.

The next day was the second day of BlogFest and since my friend had to work all day, I spent most of the day at the convention center. I woke up at the crack of dawn, and was ready by 7:30. I decided to walk over, and despite the weirdness of the surrounding area, it was a safe walk over. Even though it was early in the morning, it was already hitting the 90s, and I couldn’t avoid sweating despite my attempts at walking slowly and under shade patches.

I was able to make it to the day’s earliest event which was the networking breakfast with a yogurt bar sponsored by Bell Institute.

Wecolme to Blogfest 2017!
Wecolme to Blogfest 2017!

I made sure to get a bowl of Good Culture cottage cheese topped with berries and a large mug of hot coffee with creamer.

Yogurt bar!
Yogurt bar!

I stayed for the keynote speech and the morning sessions, and around noon stopped by the expo to, ya know…pick up as many freebies as I can!

So many booths, gotta catch 'em all!
So many booths, gotta catch ’em all!

I grabbed enough protein bars, protein powders, kale chips, and other random items to fill one large reusable bag and my backpack. I was (mentally) tired to stay any longer, so I made the decision to walk back to my room in the 105 degree heat around 3:30pm. I wanted to rip off my skin and dunk my organs in an ice bath by the time I got back, but I survived. Opening the door and finding a half naked guy sleeping on a pull-out bed in the living room was awkward, but I retreated to my room and counted the hours until I could hang out with my bestie the next day…

Have you ever had an awkward hotel/lodging experience?

Protein House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Race Recap: Brazen Almost New Year’s Race

Race Recap: Brazen Almost New Year’s Race

I was hesitant to make my last run of 2014 a trail run, but given my options, I had little choice. Despite having numb hands at the end of the run (even with running gloves on!!), it turned out to be an okay run…but certainly not one I would consider running again if given the choice.

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The race start in Lake Chabot—fuh-ree-zing temps!!

I woke up around 6AM, and assembled my cold gear essentials together while sipping on some coffee before heading out the door. At least the freezing temperature gave me the opportunity to try on a new pair of Mizuno gloves and some new socks (definitely was in need of some new socks πŸ˜‰ )!

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It took us about an hour to get to Lake Chabot in Alameda County, where the race was held. By the time I got to the tents, the half marathoners were already on foot. I was desperately trying to keep warm, so I could only imagine what they were feeling like!

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Even the SKY looks frozen!!

The 10k didn’t start until it was close to 9AM. My legs were feeling sore from running in my old gym shoes from previous days’ workouts, since I didn’t pack my Hoka One Ones, but I didn’t have any other choice but to run in my flatly-padded shoes. Oh well, I just had to suck it up and brace myself for the steep climbs ahead. 

The first 2 miles were manageable. I was running at a consistent 9:20/mi pace and it was mostly flat up until we crossed a single-file bridge. At that point, there were hills to run up climb. It got to a point where the hills were so steep that running seemed impossible, and it literally turned into a hike. There were so many defeated looks plastered on the faces of runners around me, but I tried to put the obstacle into perspective: this was a hill that had to be conquered, and after reaching the top, I told myself that I could get back to running business.

We had a turn-around a little after mile 3, and it was all downhill from there—literally. The steep climbs turned into precarious slopes, and having good balance and control of your legs was more than necessary…it was mandatory for survival. Needless to say, I was relieved when I saw the single-file bridge again in the distance, since I knew flat grounds were near. From that point on, it was smooth running to the finish. Of course, my legs felt beat up (mostly from the shoes I was running in, plus the added intensity of the hills), but I guess the heavy finisher’s medal made up for it…

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There wasn’t much in post-race festivities and freebies, but there was a huge buffet lined up with sweets and savories:

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Nothing on the table struck my fancy, and instead, I made my way over to the Naked Smoothie truck parked near the entryway to the park.

nakedsmoothies_truck!

Along with giving out samples…

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…they were giving out free t-shirts with four decals of our choosing! Gotta love free t-shirts—especially ones that can be used as PJs πŸ˜€ 

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It took about 3-5 minutes to prepare a t-shirt and get it pressed with the decals, so I was in line for a good forty minutes. It was worth it though, and with my Dad standing in line as well, we were able to pick up one for my sister. 

By the time we left the race grounds, it was nearing noon and we had agreed to meet my cousin at Bacheesos in Oakland for lunch. With my sis and I away at school for the past couple months, we had not seen her since summer, and so I was looking forward to the opportunity to meet up with her again!

The restaurant was on a street corner, and even though the sign(s) were tiny, we were able to spot out its location before finding parking. 

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Parking was (surprisingly) free, and so we proceeded to walk towards the restaurant without having to pause and sift for spare change. 

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We met my cousin inside, and found some seats near the wall. The interior was spacious, and a lunch buffet was already line up. 

bacheesos interior

The lunch buffet offered a grand selection…

bacheeso's buffet

For the first pass, I got a variety of veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, beets, bell peppers, eggplant discs), pita bread, hummus, a yogurt-based dip, and a generous dollop of moussaka. At first I confused the potato-laden dish for babaganoush based on appearance, but when I actually tried it on my plate, I found it too bland for my liking, and didn’t go back for seconds of that. 

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Speaking of seconds though, I did go back for more of the veggies and eggplant discs. I also had some scrambled eggs with the hummus, and what a combo that was πŸ˜€

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Once we had our fill at lunch, we went back to my cousin’s place and hung out for a while. Along with catching up, we played a cards and had some coffee before leaving in the early evening. To round out the day, we stopped for some froyo before heading home.

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Ending the day with a fun cup of frozen yogurt! Flavors here are: original tart, peppermint stick, and fancy french vanilla! πŸ˜›

What was your last race of the year?

Bacheesos on Urbanspoon

Events Taking Place Pre-Race

Events Taking Place Pre-Race

There is something about October that (almost) makes it my favorite month. I guess I can go far as to say it’s my second favorite month, perhaps because there is so much going on and my time has been occupied by things that keep me busy, but in a good way. 

Besides studying/lab rotations, spending my weekends exploring the city, eating, and sleeping, running has been a major part of my schedule. I signed up for the Rock n Roll LA Half back in June, excited about the prospect that my fifth half, and my second fall half would take place in the heart of my new home!

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It was also my first RNR race altogether, and I have to admit that I was majorly influenced by the constant stream of ads for the race series when I picked up and read issues of Competitor from my old gym. More about my experience with the race to come, but for now, let’s get back to expo day

I originally would have liked to make it out to the expo for packet pick-up on Friday afternoon, but I was occupied in lab until about an hour and a half before the expo closing time. I decided to just make it out to pick-up right when they opened at the LA Convention Center at 9:30am the next morning. 

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I expected it to be crowded, crazy, and take too long, but it was actually the opposite. In fact, I probably was only there for about an hour total for packet pick-up and booth browsing.

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Not taking the time to browse over-priced expo merch.

There were plenty of vendors, mostly pushing/selling their products at “expo prices”, but there was a good share of freebies being handed out as well. I got (waytoomuch!) reusable tote bags, pens, and other random non-food goods. A lot of the food/beverage samples were being portioned out unfortunately, for me. I did sip on a sample of a vanilla protein shake while checking out the Geico booth, but my favorite booth from the expo was Mahatma Rice’s.

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Yeah, so I may have gotten a lousy paper fan as my “spin-the-wheel-prize”, but the booth guy was like “hold up!” as I was about to leave, and handed me two sample packs of rice! Um, thank you very much! πŸ˜€

Since the expo bored me pretty quickly after I made my way around to all of the booths, I left the Convention Center with one of my reusable totes filled with the freebies I happened to pick up, and boarded the Metro to Venice. I was looking forward to getting off at an earlier stop on the Santa Monica route and not only saving time, but gathering more freebies at Vitamin Shoppe’s health “fair” and getting lunch for the first time at Cafe Gratitude.

My first stop was Vitamin Shoppe for Quest Bars (of course…), but since they were having health fairs in their stores nationwide, I ended up getting yet another reusable bag full of samples! I looked like a super bag lady walking out of the store πŸ˜‰ !

With my bags in tow, I walked 2 miles coast-wards, and ended up on Lincoln and Rose for part of the walk. I noticed that the area took the name to heart.

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When two cross-streets have a logo, you know you’re in a pretty savvy place B)

My destination was in housed in a brick building, and I would have absentmindedly passed by it had I not looked up at the right moment.

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When I walked in, I could tell that it was lunch time—the place was packed!

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I was able to get a table for one right up against the wall at the back of the restaurant. Great for picture-taking and out-the-window gazing…

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I love how the menu items start with β€œI am…” and then finish with some sort of adjective. I ended up getting the Humble bowl, which, when you think about the ingredients, really does sound humbling!

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 HUMBLE indian curry bowl  14 Red lentil dal, roasted heirloom tomatoes, sautΓ©ed spinach, fresh corn, spicy mint chutney, sweet tamarind sauce, chopped scallions, choice of local brown rice or quinoa
The Humble Indian Curry Bowl ~ Red lentil dal, roasted heirloom tomatoes, sautΓ©ed spinach, fresh corn, spicy mint chutney, sweet tamarind sauce, chopped scallions, local brown rice or quinoa

It was humble in flavor too (in other words, it was lacking in spice & seasoning!!)

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But if were just keeping score based on looks? 10/10.

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I had a hard time picking up the small bits of quinoa though. Perhaps a side order of bread would have been helpful in this case…

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What am I grateful for?

Free stuff. And good food. πŸ˜€

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What are your experiences with race expo(s)?

What are you grateful for?

Cafe Gratitude on Urbanspoon

Vegan Oktoberfest

Vegan Oktoberfest

When I took German in high school, my teacher would always recount his favorite Oktoberfest stories around October-time. Since I was in high school during the whole health- food-reform-in-schools situation, we weren’t really “allowed” to have potlucks or parties unless they were “approved”—but my teacher was the kind of guy who always put a spin on things to make things seem educational. I mean, celebrating Oktoberfest in a high school German class makes absolute sense if you think about it (minus the beer). 

Unfortunately, my food options were quite limited being a vegetarian and all. My plate consisted of German cookies, Black Forest cake, and the one thing that had potatoes, and no meat. Based on my plate, you could say I may have not truly celebrated Oktoberfest for what it is, but things do change for the better as time goes on. Options like Vegan Oktoberfest  provide a solution for us plant-based eaters who want to partake in the fun of their meat-eating chums.

It was a bright, sunny day in Santa Monica on the day of the event.

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My legs were already pretty burned out by mid-afternoon. I had run a 10 mile long run in the morning, taken the bus, and bought my weekly stash of Quest bars before heading over to Barnard Way. In other words, my morning was pretty active with all the running and walking I had done. At least I had a legitimate excuse to chow down at the fest πŸ˜‰ .

When I saw the tents and heard the Bavarian tunes, I knew I was in the right place.

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I just didn’t expect to wait in this incredibly long line.

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When I finally made it to the back of the line, I was hoping it wouldn’t take too long to get inside.

 Back of the line.
Back of the line.

And fortunately it didn’t, even though we were being teased by the fence.

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Getting a sneak peak…

We were first asked for IDs since it was an alcoholic event (but I purchased the non-drinker’s admission ticket), and then we had to give up our tickets for entry. Beer drinkers got to wear a cool yellow band, but I just got a Chuck E. Cheese-style, puny-looking stamp.

 Welcome to Vegan Oktoberfest...
Welcome to Vegan Oktoberfest…

Once inside, I headed straight toward’s the Sage Vegan Truck. Since I have not visited their brick-and-mortar in Culver City yet, I treated this order as a “preview” of what to expect from their real menu. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t excited to get my hands on vegan fish ‘n’ chips! Fried jackfruit is the secret…

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$13.14 after tax is a bit pricey for this tray if you ask me, but it wasn’t bad at all. The garlic fries were not that stellar, but the jackfruit made up for it. When you think about it, it does make sense to use it as a substitute for fish, given its flaky, peel-y texture. 

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Vegan fish’n’chips with garlic fries, a mayo-type sauce and a sweet tomato sauce.

I sat at a long table, joining other folks who were feasting on other forms of vegan fare (and drinks!).

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After wiping my tray clean, I was on the look-out for my next food to sample. I ended up avoiding the Southern Fried Vegan Truck line, only because the line never died down!

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Before buying anything else, I scoured for freebies, and managed to get a can of this alcohol-free & natural energy drink.

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I gulped this mango ginger drink down since I felt incredibly thirsty. While it didn’t help the parched feeling in my throat, it was satisfying taste-wise. It was like I was drinking “fake soda” due to the carbonation as well πŸ˜›

Beyond Meat had a booth, and along with $1.00 off coupon, gave out vegan Bierocks made with their beef-less crumbles.

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Tofurky also had a booth set-up, and had their freebies of buttons and coupon books spread out on a table. A lady from behind a curtain was handing out vegan sausage samples.

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After finding my share of free things, I decided that perhaps I could finally allow myself to shell out some more bucks for dessert. One of the dessert trucks had some pretty cool (literally) vegan treats, but they only took cash so that was out. I decided to head back to the Sage truck area, and get myself a scoop of KindKreme in mixed berry.

kindkremeberry

When I handed the cashier my card, he tried swiping it against one of those card readers you attach to an iPhone, but for some reason, it wouldn’t pass through. In the end, he said it was on the house because they were having trouble on their end.

After indulging in my small (but free!) refreshing treat, I was tempted by the vegan baked goods that were displayed and being sold. Babycakes NYC was also present at the fest, but they were selling a limited amount of goods, and you had to purchase them in packs. I ended up visiting their booth neighbor, Life is Sweet Bakeshop, and getting a pumpkin velvet cupcake.

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It was supposed to cost $4, but again, I was allowed to have it for free since they too were having issues with reading credit cards. While I did feel a little guilty about snagging another “on the house” item, I took it as a lucky gift and took the time to truly enjoy it. The cake was indeed moist, and fit the description of red velvet’s autumn cousin πŸ˜‰ .

It was around 4:00pm when I decided that I had enough revelry for one day…never mind the fact that I was attending a party later that night. Overall, I found the festivities to be superb even though it was the first time the event was held! It would have been nice if there were more food vendors (and samples!), but I certainly cannot complain about my outcome πŸ˜‰ 

Would you attend an event like Vegan Oktoberfest?

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