Family Reunion

Family Reunion

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

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

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

Barbonzai, Mission Viejo
Barbonzai, Mission Viejo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lemonade, Irvine
Lemonade, Irvine

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

Mouth-watering veggie sides
Mouth-watering veggie sides

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

❣

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

❣

My Dad’s plate was no exception:

❣

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

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

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

❣

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

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

Back Into the Swing of Things

Back Into the Swing of Things

I came back from Spain on a Thursday, but was heavily jet-lagged for a week. My mood and emotions were all over the place, and my sleep schedule definitely took a beating. I remember wanting to take a nap at 5pm on the following Sunday, only to wake up in my pitch dark room and glancing at my phone to see that it was midnight…needless to say, getting back to my routine was a challenge, but I was able to succeed and feel somewhat like myself by the time the next weekend rolled around.

Friday Night Cat-Stalking. That's one way to get used to being back in SaMo lol
Friday Night Cat-Stalking. That’s one way to get used to being back in SaMo lol

My sister was free to meet me on a Saturday, and so we made plans to head to Hollywood and check out the Museum of Broken Relationships. A good excuse to get out of my West LA bubble, and make it to the north central part of the city for once!

Since we were in the area on a Saturday afternoon, it was impossible to escape tourist traffic. We soon found the museum unassumingly positioned at the corner of Hollywood and McCadden. It was actually much smaller than we expected…

Museum of BR
Museum of BR

It was cute though. And surprisingly, there were a ton of couples walking about…weird, haha!

The “Wedding Dress in a Jar” and the minuscule “pay attention to me” note caught my eye…

Wedding Dress in a Jar // "pay attention to me"
Wedding Dress in a Jar // “pay attention to me”

There were also some zany and crazy displays of random objects, paired with some heart-breaking stories as well. Each item was paired with a description of who donated it, when the relationship ended, and the meaning of the item.

The mini love notes were bittersweet. Not sure about that pinata tho...
The mini love notes were bittersweet. Not sure about that pinata tho…

There was a second story to the museum, where we saw this weird sculpture (?), but other than that, the displays were limited:

Not sure about the meaning of this...
Not sure about the meaning of this…

So we were out in about an hour. Our next stop was a late lunch/early dinner at Pink Taco on Sunset. After raving to my sister about it (at least based on the experience I had at Century City years ago before that location closed), she was dying to check it out too.

Finding parking was a nightmare, but we found a street parking in a nearby neighborhood and walked over.

We made it just in time for happy hour, and made ourselves comfy among the already-settled crowds of “basic” folk, haha.

Pink Taco
Pink Taco

We devoured the complimentary chips and salsa as soon as the waiter brought them over.

Lesss eat!
Lesss eat!

I already knew I wanted nachos, especially since they were cheap off the Happy Hour menu. The sis went for the tacos, and was not disappointed.

The nachos were just as magical as I remember them being. The cheese wasn’t queso-like, but there was so much guac and jalapeno peppers so it balanced out in the end.

OMG NACHOS. "Pink Taco "Mini" Nachos. Only way this happy hour $8 plate could have been better is if the cheese had been vegan 😍 but considering my voracious appetite yesterday afternoon, this did just fine 😊👌🏽"
OMG NACHOS. “Pink Taco “Mini” Nachos. Only way this happy hour $8 plate could have been better is if the cheese had been vegan 😍 but considering my voracious appetite yesterday afternoon, this did just fine 😊👌🏽

Our portions were just right, but when my sis suggested we get dessert close to my place before she headed home, I agreed!

So after getting through traffic, we drove down Santa Monica Blvd. until we got to Downtown SaMo. I suggested we check out Creams & Dreams.

Creams & Dreams
Creams & Dreams

I’m not sure why C&D was on my foodie list to begin with, since after stepping inside, nothing struck me as it being unique in any way. There are a number of liquid nitrogen ice cream shops now in So Cal, so I’m not sure why I had bookmarked this place…

Regardless, they had Speculoos and Nutella ice cream, so I caved and went for that (despite their offering of avocado or creamed corn)!

"Yes, there were unique-sounding liquid nitrogen ice cream flavors like avocado 🥑 and creamed corn 🌽, but my mind is pretty much made up whenever Speculoos or Nutella is concerned!"
Yes, there were unique-sounding liquid nitrogen ice cream flavors like avocado 🥑 and creamed corn 🌽, but my mind is pretty much made up whenever Speculoos or Nutella is concerned!

My sis stayed to true to her main love of chocolate, and topped it with fruity pebbles.

No surprise with her, always getting chocolate :P
No surprise with her, always getting chocolate 😛

We walked back to the car with ice cream in hand, feeling sticky from the ocean breeze. This particular weekend helped me get back into the swing of things, and ready to take on October!

Pink Taco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Cold Rolled Concoction

A Cold Rolled Concoction

When I first saw images of Thai ice cream rolls pop up on the ‘gram, I was mesmerized—how on earth could ice cream be molded into such compact rolls, pressed together, and then decorated to a point that they looked too ornate to eat? 

Seriously. Mouth-watering.
Seriously. Mouth-watering.
 
I had been dying to try the creation, but at the time, all of the ice cream locations that made this exquisite treat were located in the OC, and I wasn’t heading down there as frequently as I do now that my sister’s in the area. 
 
I did get a chance to try a cookie-butter themed cup of the stuff at the OC Night Market a few months ago, thanks to the Blue Nova food truck. And while I complained in my recap post of the event that it took forever and a day for the cup to be prepared, I realized how much effort is actually required when I paid a visit to a new,  local-to-me ice cream shop that is crafting up this frozen treat for the denizens of LA. 
 
Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co.
Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co.
 
Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co. has only been open for a handful of weeks, but by the way their shop on Melrose looks, you’d think they’ve been in the business for ages. 
 
At work whipping up hand-crafted frozen creations!
At work whipping up hand-crafted frozen creations!
 
I stopped by on a slightly cool Saturday afternoon for LA, and was able to meet with one of the four shop owners, Tim. He was eager to share the history of Cold Rolled, and it was obvious to me that he had a passion and the expertise for all things ice cream. 
 
Some highlights of the shop included:
 
~ A variety of ice cream base options, including all-organic, vegan and non-dairy choices.
~ A number of opportunities to mix and match ice cream flavors and toppings, since Cold Rolled offers 20 flavors and 50+ toppings. 
~The emphasis on making the ice cream-making process an interactive one with the customer: each order is made fresh, and the customer’s name is even spelled on the ice cream before rolling.
~The mural walls decorating the interior of the shop, painted by local street artist Jonathan Cirlin
 
After speaking with Tim outside the shop, he asked if I’d like to try some ice cream and I was quick to respond absolutely! 
 
There were separate rolling stations positioned behind a glass counter, with staff members rolling out tailored creations for customers right before their eyes. 
 
I decided to go with the Matcha Green Tea Premium Creation, which combined a matcha green tea base, red bean paste, and toppings like mochi and green tea Pocky. 
 
The Premium Creations portion of the menu
The Premium Creations portion of the menu

When one of the staff members assigned to making my cup was ready, he motioned for me to come close to the counter so I could watch ice cream magic happen right before my eyes.

It started off with a mash of green ice cream, which was then pummeled back and forth. The clashing of stainless steel tools is a common sound around these parts, haha!

Step 1
Step 1

Next, the ice cream “puree” was smoothed out , and allowed to freeze flat on the circular metal tray.

Step 2
Step 2

Before rolling out the frozen rectangle into mini rolls, my name was spelled out with condensed milk, making it a more interactive experience.

Step 3
Step 3

Each roll was placed tightly in a circular arrangement inside a cup, and topped with condensed milk and toppings.

TOPpin' it off
TOPpin’ it off

I then allowed my cup a few minutes in the spotlight before devouring its contents in mere seconds.

Before it was all gone...
Before it was all gone…

The rolls were frozen firm, and had a mild green tea flavor. I have to be honest and say I was focused on getting to all the mochi pieces first, but after that was taken care of, I was able to devote my attention to the part of the frozen creation that required the most effort. Overall, it was the perfect treat for a slightly cool but sunny Saturday afternoon in LA.

Cold Rolled is definitely a sweet addition to Melrose Ave., and I’m certainly glad I don’t have to make the trek down to OC (at least) every time I have a craving for ice cream rolls!

Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co.
Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co.


Have you ever tried Thai ice cream rolls?

Before Barcelona

Before Barcelona

I’ve been dying to write about my (short) stay in Spain, but I have the need to document the days leading up to it, since it was a couple of days of trying new restaurants with loved ones and a number of new-to-me ice cream flavors (hello, Halo Top!) 

The weekend before I left, I was in lab (of course) taking care of some last minute things for my trip since I was going for a conference. E also came by, and we ended up going to DTLA since it was close. We walked around for a bit semi-aimlessly, just enjoying eachother’s company and the weather, but I was getting hungry. 
 
We found Le Pain Quotidien, and I suggested we go inside since I had never been. E showed her super sweet side when we came across a homeless young woman asking if we had any spare change. Neither of us did, but E offered to get her a coffee and a croissant. 
 
Le Pain Quotidien
Le Pain Quotidien
 
The woman was really happy with the gesture, and even though she seemed hesitant, she did come inside to get the coffee and food. 
 
E and I then ordered for ourselves at the counter. I ended up getting their seasonal dragonfruit bowl, while she got some avocado toast. 
 
To be honest, the amount I got for the price I paid was disproportionate. The bowl was a measly size, barely filling the size of my palm…
 
Dragonfruit Acai Bowl
Dragonfruit Acai Bowl
 
E’s toast was given to her in a paper box, and looked much more filling than my excuse for a bowl…
 
The next day, I was able to meet up with my sister who was heading back down from a week and a half long trip in Fresno catching up with friends. She picked me up from lab, poster in tow, and we drove to Santa Monica for some early dinner. 
 
Bareburger has been on my list of places I’ve been meaning to visit, and so it was the perfect opportunity to go for a happy hour dinner. 
 
Bareburger, Santa Monica
Bareburger, Santa Monica
 
The inside was super cozy and definitely had a Santa Monica beachy vibe. The bar was not crowded but the after-work crowd was definitely starting to show up. 
 
Having dinner at happy hour meant being able to snag dinner-sized food at happy hour prices! My sis and I unanimously agreed on a cup of fried pickles with dipping ranch, and we got a handhold for each of us. 
 
Fried pickles
Fried pickles
 
Mine was the Farmstead. I didn’t read the description carefully, so I thought my wrap was going to be a bread-based handhold. To my surprise, A green-layered wrap came out with chunks of sweet potato, hummus, and a wild rice patty nicely tucked inside. I was thrown off at first, but after the first bite, I was in love, haha. 
 
Farmstead Wrap
Farmstead Wrap
 
My sis dropped me off after a quick run to the grocery store, and I immediately got to packing…okay, not exactly, but I made a list 😉 
 
The week leading up to my trip was an excuse to finally taste some of the new Halo Top flavors. I remember last year around this time when I did an extensive series of Instagram reviews on their ten new flavors release. Now, I’m excited to see that even more flavors are out and worth trying, but I’m not racing to Ralph’s with the intention to hoard every new flavor I see. But as far as the flavors I tried so far…
 
Halo Top Cinnamon Roll:
 
This pint was chock full of cinnamon dough pieces all swirled into a vanilla base. Smooth and creamy through and through, but definitely was spicier than expected.
This pint was chock full of cinnamon dough pieces all swirled into a vanilla base. Smooth and creamy through and through, but definitely was spicier than expected.

Halo Top Candy Bar:

This pint had a coffee/mild chocolate flavor with a subtle chocolate swirl and peanut pieces. It was like a cold, underwhelming Snickers bar!
This pint had a coffee/mild chocolate flavor with a subtle chocolate swirl and peanut pieces. It was like a cold, underwhelming Snickers bar!

Halo Top Caramel Macchiato:

This flavor had a sharp coffee caramel taste. Another pint with a subtle swirl, though caramel.
This flavor had a sharp coffee caramel taste. Another pint with a subtle swirl, though caramel.

Halo Top Pancakes & Waffles:

Found this to be such a unique-sounding flavor! The cone pieces were mushy, but the ice cream had a nice blend of honey and caramel. But the aftertaste did pack a punch!
Found this to be such a unique-sounding flavor! The cone pieces were mushy, but the ice cream had a nice blend of honey and caramel. But the aftertaste did pack a punch!

I also had two flavors that were NOT Halo Top, and one fared to be just as good as the offerings from HT and the other…not so much.

Sprouts Organic Cinnamon Pumpkin Ice Cream:

...
For some reason the pumpkin flavor was calling out to me that day…the texture was like soft serve, and had ice cream itself was a mix between pumpkin and cinnamon. It became a new favorite of mine, that I immediately shared on Instagram.

Simple Truth Low Cow Lite Ice Cream – Birthday Cake:

I rarely ever use harsh language on this blog, but this flavor just plain sucked. I mean, this is a disgrace to all things birthday cake-flavored.
I rarely ever use harsh language on this blog, but this flavor just plain sucked. I mean, this is a disgrace to all things birthday cake-flavored. The ice cream was bland, gross, and dry, sticking to the sides of the pint. The candy pieces had no flavor, and while it was a cheap price at Ralph’s it just was not worth it…

Now that I’ve got some major work items out of the way (for now), I can get caught up on my Spain posts (even though that was work-related too, haha). Stay-tuned!

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

OC Night Market

OC Night Market

One of the things I’ve been meaning to do since moving to LA is go to at least one 626 Night Market—basically a food truck/food stall-heavy festival featuring vendors that sell unique foodie creations.

Many of the vendors also specialize in Asian-themed food items, and finding snacks with matcha or ube is a recurring theme.

Since my sister’s now officially living in the OC, I thought it would be a good idea to attend the OC Night Market (the OC spin-off of 626 Night Market) together.

OC Night Market
OC Night Market

It was taking the place the last weekend in August, and I used it as an opportunity to head down to the OC and spend the weekend with the sis. So after popping into lab on that Saturday morning, I took the Metrolink down to Irvine, where my sister met me mid-afternoon.

From there, we stopped for a tea break before heading to the venue. The festival was being held in Costa Mesa, just like how VegFest was last year.

We had no issues getting in, except we were bothered by the fact that we had to pay for parking AND entering the night market. We were also a part of the “early” crowd, entering closer to 5pm vs. 8pm, haha!

Walking around
Walking around

Before getting to the food stalls and trucks, we passed through a hangar-like structure that sheltered several art displays and items for sale by art vendors.

Vendors.
Vendors.

Since there were many food stalls to check out, we walked around the perimeter before deciding what to get. Our first choices were both savory, and could thwart any salt craving.

My sister picked up a jalapeno grilled cheese, with cream cheese.

Yum, grilled cheese!
Yum, grilled cheese!

I, on the other hand, was quite intrigued by the potato swirl. I noticed so many other patrons carrying the carb-wrapped stick, and then after devouring the edible portion, waving the stick around like a spear. My sis and I had to dart around these absent-minded potato consumers if we wanted to live,  haha!

Not afraid to stab you with dis carb.
Not afraid to stab you with dis carb.

I got my potato swirl seasoned with cajun, and could immediately see why it was so popular with the crowd. The potato discs were fun to peel, and there was just enough seasoning that no extra sauce was needed.

After some more walking around, and glancing at some of the art displays, we made a second round for dessert. I spotted the Blue Nova truck, and immediately noticed their Thai ice cream roll menu.

Blue Nova Truck
Blue Nova Truck

The line didn’t seem too long, but then again, I didn’t know how long it would take to make a spectacular-looking cup of Thai ice cream rolls.

I chose to get the Spectacular Speculoos flavor, and spent the next twenty minutes hovering near the side of the truck waiting for my ticket number to be called.

Was it worth the wait? According to appearances…maybe:

YUM!
YUM!

According to taste? Not too bad! The ice cream itself was bland and didn’t carry a lot of flavor (it was supposedly speculoos-flavored, but at least it was dusted with cinnamon, topped with mochi, and held two Biscoff cookies and a marshmallow I passed on because of gelatin).

Since we arrived early, we still had a ton of time to kill if we were planning on staying till 10pm. The entertainment acts weren’t even starting until 7, and it was barely 6 when we completed our two rounds of the venue!

We decided that we would probably have more fun back at my sister’s place—she suggested that we get some cupcakes-in-a-jar and savor them while watching the sun set. I couldn’t think of a more perfect idea!

Baked Dessert Bar
Baked Dessert Bar

Baked Dessert Bar had a wonderful assortment to choose from, and I chose the Cookie Monster while my sis chose the most chocolate-on-chocolate flavor she could find. Once we got back to her place in Mission Viejo, we settled ourselves in some seats in the backyard and watched the sun set in all its glory.

Mission Viejo Sunset
Mission Viejo Sunset

The cupcakes were not bad either—the cake wasn’t too dry, but of course I was a fan of the frosting, and the frosting-to-cake ratio was perfect.

My sis and I spent the rest of the evening chatting and laughing, and eventually we went inside to get some shut eye since she would be driving me back to LA the next morning.

Before heading back in the morning, I went out for a mid-distance run while my sis promised to make a quick breakfast for both of us. I was so awestruck by the beauty of Mission Viejo that I forgot that the beauty I was witnessing was 90% hills. Which meant my run was ready to kill me.

I survived, but not without feeling it in my calves. At least my sister’s scrambled eggs came to my grumbling stomach’s rescue.

We did stop for coffee, and then headed to my campus to take care of a number of things in lab. I had to stay overnight that night due to the next day being a time-sensitive experiment day, so having my sister help with preparations and other routine tasks was something I was grateful for!

We worked for four solid hours non-stop, and were hungry enough by the end of it to immediately head out for lunch. Burgers and fries sounded perfect, and after mentioning Shake Shack to the sis, we made a direct drive to the Century City location.

Century City Shake Shack
Century City Shake Shack

It was the first time trying SS out for the both of us, and our default vegetarian option for a burger was the Shroom Burger. We had no complaints though, since the mushroom patty was supposedly stuffed with warm cheese.

For my side, I got the cheese fries while my sis got a chocolate shake. We found seating outside, and didn’t have to wait too long for our food to arrive.

SHAKE SHACK ORDER!
SHAKE SHACK ORDER!

And everything tasted as good as it looked. The patty was crisp, bread buns soft, enough cheese to coat each fry…I was definitely forlorn when I finished my meal. It made me second guess the size of my fry order, haha!

Yum meal!
Yum meal!

My sis drove me back to campus so I could get ready for my overnight stay, while she headed back to Mission Viejo. Even though I was back to work hours before the rest of my collegues would be, at least I was happy with how well I spent the weekend!
 

Back in August…

Back in August…

Man, I have a TON of posts to catch up on! But if I procrastinate any longer, I proably won’t even remember enough about the pictures I have to write about them…better late than ever.

Also goes to show that being busy enough not to blog means that life things are picking up, and have me occupied in a good way. I have some big travel plans coming up in a few weeks (work-related, but still exciting!), and I’m looking forward to what that experience will bring.

In the meantime, I’ll reflect back on what I was doing in early August, right after my b-day celebrations and my sister’s arrival back in Cali. It was my last weekend with the car in my possession, but I didn’t have the desire to drive out too far…

Actually, there was a lot going on locally. The USC Village was something that was under construction for a long time now, near the downtown area. Since it’s grand opening was scheduled for mid-August to coincide with move-in day, some of the stores and restaurants had soft openings a week prior. One of the restaurants was CAVA…funny how I visited the Santa Monica location only days before!

CAVA, USC Village
CAVA, USC Village

For their soft opening, the CAVA at USC Village was giving away free food from 12-2pm! I stood in line with some of my labmates for almost 1.5 hours, but since I knew the kind of food we would be getting wasn’t some cheap meal, I had to begrudgingly admit that it was worth it.

CAVA Menu
CAVA Menu

Although…by the time we got inside and were able to place our orders, they had run out of flatbread. We all opted for grain bowls, and I had mine based with lentils, the spicy veggies and all of the other crisp veggie toppings. I think I opted for some lemon dressing this time around instead of the apricot sriracha, but it fit well with what ended up being a warm salad bowl.

Grain Bowl!
Grain Bowl!

I ate my late lunch with E before we continued on with our work day.

When Saturday rolled around, I first drove to Sprouts after a morning run to pick up a snack. I’ve been on a GoMacro bar kick lately (my latest bar obsession), and Sprouts carries their Everlasting Joy flavor, the proceeds of which go to help the homeless.

GoMacro Everlasting Joy
GoMacro Everlasting Joy

I love their chocolate chip/nut butter flavors, so this was an instant favorite of mine. I mean, coconut flakes added to either of those types of flavors can only make it better.

I worked in lab for some of the morning, and since E was also finishing up some stuff, we finished around noon and walked over to where I parked the car to drive off to lunch.

She suggested earlier in the week that we both share a Turkish Breakfast at Mama’s Secret, a cozy, Turkish establishment very close to Beverly Connection.

Anyone got $1,000 for breakfast??
Anyone got $1,000 for breakfast??

Maybe if we combined a good chunk of our monthly income, we could have split the $1,000 pancakes…but we weren’t feeling too rich that day, haha!

What we could afford vs. what we couldn't
What we could afford vs. what we couldn’t

Nah, the Turkish Breakfast and cheese-stuffed flatbread not only sounded affordable, but well-rounded and filling for two people.

The Turkish breakfast was served with an assortment of cheeses, veggies, turkey slices (that we left alone), and flatbread. The sauces/dips were filled in cups and included hummus, tahini, honey, jam, nutella, and a ricotta-looking cheese curd.

TURKISH BREAKFAST
TURKISH BREAKFAST

And of course we had some warm tea…

The cheese-stuffed flatbread was my favorite, even though it wasn’t part of the breakfast platter. It came out already cut out in small portions so it was easy to split.

One of the cheese-stuffed flatbreads they offered. I believe ours was spiced with parsley and basil.
One of the cheese-stuffed flatbreads they offered. I believe ours was spiced with parsley and basil.

I had no idea that these cheese-filled flatbreads were a staple of Turkish cuisine, but my friend confirmed this foodie fact. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of my new favorite dishes now!

E was meeting some other friends for a movie-in-the-park event (one that I actually went to myself for a friend’s birthday last year…) so I dropped her off before heading home. I felt tired enough to go to sleep early, but I did have a night dessert before turning in.

That Snickerdoodle Dough
That Snickerdoodle Dough

Nada Moo’s Snickerdoodle is cream was soft and creamy, but the lack of dough pieces was a huge disappointment and sub-par in comparison to So Delicious’ offering. Ah well, they tried…

What your current food obsession?

Have you ever had a Turkish breakfast?

Mama's Secret Bakery & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Finally!

Finally!

I had no trouble getting back into my routine after returning from Las Vegas, but one piece of news threw me for a loop.

Freebies from the IDEA/BlogFest Expo! An RX Bar in Chocolate Chip flavor! Too much nuts IMO, but not too shabby of a flavor.
Freebies from the IDEA/BlogFest Expo! An RX Bar in Chocolate Chip flavor! Too much nuts IMO, but not too shabby of a flavor.

One of my undergraduate assistants informed me that the week would be his last, even though he originally had plans to stay and help me out for a longer period of time.

A new-to-me Trader Joe's find I picked up that week---
A new-to-me Trader Joe’s find I picked up that week—Greek Whole Milk Yogurt (Avocado Citrus) mixed with peanut powder. It fueled me through a 12hr day x-x

Even though his change of plans was a disappointment, he still came in over the weekend, and so at least I had one solid weekend free from the constraints of lab. I definitely took advantage of this.

Another cool freebie! La Colombe Coconut and Vanilla coffee...the coconut flavor was pleasantly surprising in taste, like a splash of coconut water was added to some iced cream coffee!!
Another cool freebie! La Colombe Coconut and Vanilla coffee…the coconut flavor was pleasantly surprising in taste, like a splash of coconut water was added to some iced cream coffee!!
 
I was able to take the car out to Encino, and from Santa Monica it was an (almost) easy drive up the 405. I was also able to avoid paying for street parking by finding a neighborhood to park at and from there walk over. 
 
Veggie Grill, Encino
Veggie Grill, Encino
 
Veggie Grill was my destination since they sent me a $5 off birthday coupon that I couldn’t resist… 
 
Mondo Nachos, Veggie Grill (Encino)
Mondo Nachos, Veggie Grill (Encino)
 
…and the dish I couldn’t avoid ordering, despite having it before AND the fact that their summer menu had a mouth-watering array of options. A plate of Mondo Nachos sounded just perfect at the time. 
 
Compared to the plate I had at the WeHo location more than a year ago, I felt like it lacked a lot of guac and soy crumbles (they replaced it with grilled chik’n this time around). This was more of an observation than a complaint, however. I also brought my laptop and did some work at the restaurant for a few hours after eating. I guess it’s more “normal” to set up shop like that at a Starbucks or a cafe,but Veggie Grill had a jammin’ playlist so I wasn’t too pressured to get up and leave! 
 
I headed out a little after 1 and my next stop was in Grocery Outlet in Burbank. I inevitably had to face traffic, and it took me almost thirty minutes to get from Encino to Burbank. 
 
Burbank Grocery Outlet
Burbank Grocery Outlet
 
When I did arrive however, I was ecstatic to finally be stepping into one of GO’s newer So Cal locations. Ah, it had been too long! 
 
I made out with a week’s worth of food with plenty of change to spare, so it only made sense to drive by Glendale and finally get me some Yoga-Urt! They had been on my radar for quite some time now, and I’ve actually been following them on Instagram since their opening two years ago in 2015! Getting there by public transit always posed a challenge, but with a car handy it’s really not that impossible to get to. 
 
__yoga-urt__
 
The shop is very small, with a few patio chairs and tables in the front. There’s also a huge blackboard wall near the entrance, the contents of which are frequently changing. 
 
 ♥

They offered a lot on their menu, but their flavors of soft serve were limited for the day.

 ♥

A turmeric/gold rose flavor sounded unique, and was listed as one of their offered flavors, but unfortunately not on the day I visited.

♥

A small cup of froyo with one topping proved to be pricey (~$6!), but since it was vegan-friendly and a hand-crafted kind of place, I thought it was a worthy treat to splurge on. I ended up going for the Peanut Butter Prana topped with dried mulberries.

PBP & Dried Mulberries
PBP & Dried Mulberries

I enjoyed my cup outside, and marveled at how thick the soft serve was. It was like those So Delicious ice creams I rave about, except smoother and creamier. The mulberries added some varied crunch, but to be honest they weren’t a vital component.

 ♥

After spending the day driving and eating through North LA, I made the drive back home, and spent the remainder of the evening napping and catching up on some work. I was squeezing every minute out of this “free” weekend, because who know when my next one will be!

A new Nuts 'n More flavor for me to try. I picked it up from the Vitamin Shoppe near the Veggie Grill in Encino. Definitely found it more blanaced in the oil-to-butter ratio. The vanilla flavor was mixed throughout, and it didn't have those crystalized sugar pieces at the bottom like I observed with Cookie Butter.
A new Nuts ‘n More flavor for me to try. I picked it up from the Vitamin Shoppe near the Veggie Grill in Encino. Definitely found it more balanced in the oil-to-butter ratio. The white chocolate flavor was mixed throughout, and it didn’t have those crystallized sugar pieces at the bottom like I observed with Cookie Butter.
 
 Is there something you finally got done recently?

Veggie Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

4th of July What?

4th of July What?

For me, 4th of July weekend was non-existent. I was in lab every single day that weekend, two of which were spent as over-nighters due to the nature of the experiments I was running. It was exhausting, but I felt so productive and accomplished by the end of it…and when I saw co-workers walking in on July 5th looking super depressed, haha!

The weekend after, I still had to go into lab but lunch in downtown with E was a given. I had an eye appointment I had to attend to first, but after that, E and I walked into the depths of downtown—under the hot LA sub—looking for Two Boots Pizza. We were covered in sweat by the time we saw the small stand by an old-style theater and Urban Outfitters.

Two Boots, DTLA
Two Boots, DTLA

One thing that intrigued me about this place is how they have a lengthy line-up of some veggie/vegan pizza options! The green-bordered menu had E and I excited to dig into a late lunch.

♥

Despite the long list of pizza options, the guy behind the counter disappointed us by saying the only flavors available that day were displayed through the front window.

♥

In that case, we both ordered a slice of the Night Tripper. She got another spicy slice while I got the veggie-topped V for Vegan.

♥ Night Tripper & V for Vegan ♥
♥ Night Tripper & V for Vegan ♥

We sat at some stools next to the little stall and munched on our slices. The Night Tripper was indeed a spicy one with a soft layer of cheese and basil drizzle. V for Vegan was milder in comparison, but put artichoke hearts on anything and it just takes it to the next level.

After talking for a bit, we headed back to catch the train and from there I headed home. I stopped by Ralph’s to get a pint for the night—this time a new So Delicious flavor to try: Dark Chocolate Truffle.

♥

And…despite wanting to love it, the DCT cashew milk ice cream just wasn’t those flavors I fell in love with. Snickerdoodle, Salted Caramel Cluster, and Cookie Dough had me feeling differently, but I guess this flavor is perhaps best suited for a vegan who loves her chocolate!

On Sunday, I went out for a 14 mile run before heading to lab. Since San Diego, I’ve just been trying to maintain my weekly mileage, since I plan to start fall marathon training (back with a coach) in August. July seems to be the perfect month to be a little lax with training…since “slow” times and “sluggish efforts” can always be blamed on the heat 😉

After the run, I hurried to lab just to get my errands out of the way. With my sister out of the state for the next couple weeks, I’m car-sitting her automobile and so I was able to conveniently drive over to lab that morning. I finished up by early afternoon, and so E and I took the car out to Melrose to dine at Fratelli Cafe. Of course, we parked too soon at La Brea since E thought she knew where the restaurant was. We were off by a couple blocks, and so we literally ended up having a warm-up walk before eating, haha!

Fratelli on Melrose
Fratelli on Melrose

When we entered the restaurant, we could tell the place was a local favorite based on the crowds, but getting the attention of the wait staff proved to be difficult. We weren’t sure if we had to wait to be seated, or seat ourselves, but we eventually figured out that we order first and then find a place to sit. There weren’t enough menus at the front where we had to order, and so E and I waited awkwardly behind a group of three who had all three menus…

♥

When we did get our chance to order, I ordered the Huevos Rancheros off the breakfast menu while E went for a veggie sandwich and chips. There was no difference sitting inside versus outside since there was no evidence of an A/C, so we found a table outside.

It took a while for our food to arrive, and the dishes that passed us in the meantime were a real tease for our exhausted, overheated bodies. When our plates did come though, I took a moment to admire the layers of my brunch plate.

♥

I had a well-balanced, hearty plate in front of me, if I do say so myself…

"I've been craving eggs 🍳 like crazy lately, so I wasn't surprised that I ended up getting Huevos Rancheros for a late lunch on Sunday at Fratelli Cafe with the lab bestie. Besides getting food in our systems, it didn't make sense to do anything else because of the heat wave 🔥🔥🔥 and after dropping her off at home, I was knocked out 😴 by 7:30pm. The next thing I know, I wake up and it's pitch black at 9pm 😱😂. I guess I must have been really tired in addition to being really hungry 😅. Working through the Fourth of July holiday weekend does that to you I guess 🤷🏽‍♀️ 😉 #PhDStudentLife"
“I’ve been craving eggs 🍳 like crazy lately, so I wasn’t surprised that I ended up getting Huevos Rancheros for a late lunch on Sunday at Fratelli Cafe with the lab bestie. Besides getting food in our systems, it didn’t make sense to do anything else because of the heat wave 🔥🔥🔥 and after dropping her off at home, I was knocked out 😴 by 7:30pm. The next thing I know, I wake up and it’s pitch black at 9pm 😱😂. I guess I must have been really tired in addition to being really hungry 😅. Working through the Fourth of July holiday weekend does that to you I guess 🤷🏽‍♀️ 😉 #PhDStudentLife”

We finished our late lunch by 4pm, and while the sun was still high in the sky and we could have easily done something else thanks to the convenience of a car, we decided to call it a day since it was too hot. I dropped E off at home before doing some grocery shopping, and on the way, finally picked up a jar of Nuts’n More to try.

Nuts'n More Cookie Butter High Protein Spread
Nuts’n More Cookie Butter High Protein Spread

In comparison to D’s Naturals, I found that the oils mix much more evenly throughout the jar so that the bottom isn’t a flaky, dry paste. There were some tiny, crystallized sugar pieces in the mix too, but the cookie butter flavor was still detectable.

My 4th of July “holiday weekend” was something I missed out on, but I’d say I do a pretty decent job of finding the time to give myself a break, even if it doesn’t coincide with the rest of the world’s! It also helps to have a colleague/friend who pretty much lives at work just as much as you do. At this rate, with all of the places I drag her out to eat at, E will probably become just as much of a foodie as I am!

Did you have a long 4th of July holiday weekend, or just a day or two off?

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

Weekend One with the Sis

Weekend One with the Sis

The first weekend my sister stayed over was spent apartment scoping, food tasting, and shopping (for her, while I anxiously tried to plan my upcoming week in lab/submit a very important email…). It’s funny how this was a weekend in early June, and this post is only going live in mid-July… #PhDStudentLife

We drove down to Irvine after we went to lab. She was able to help me finish faster and with lab experience of her own, I could tell her to do something without worrying if she knew how to do it accurately, haha. We were on the road before noon, and had enough time to stop for lunch before her apartment viewing appointment. So Veggie Grill at the Irvine Spectrum it was!

♥

Because my visits to Veggie Grill have encompassed many of their locations, I like to visit when they have seasonal specials just so I can make sure I am trying something completely new. Their summer menu was featured this time around, and the Super Rica burger was calling my name…

♥

My sister went with her favorite Southern Fried Chik’n plate, as usual, but I did not regret my choice.

The Super Rica Burger, made with Beyond burger, chorizo queso, fire-roasted poblanos, cherry pepper, charred onions, lettuce, tomato, house made "corn nuts" + crispy fries
The Super Rica Burger, made with Beyond burger, chorizo queso, fire-roasted poblanos, cherry pepper, charred onions, lettuce, tomato, house made “corn nuts” + crispy fries

It had the perfect blend of spicy, creamy, and crunchy. I didn’t have fries on the side, but the coleslaw was not some poorly made side dish—it brought it’s out flavorful punch too!

♥

I guess I was hungrier than I thought, because I finished my plate entirely and helped my sister out with hers.

It was soon approaching 1pm so we made our way back to the car and drove towards the apartment complex she booked a tour at. The visit was alright, but the cons definitely outweighed the pros. Finding a place in the OC that was decently priced and clean was surprisingly not too easy a task, and I could tell my sister was feeling frustrated. I was able to propose a solution for her that didn’t solve the housing problem, but at least it took her mind off the issue for a little bit.

Churned Creamery, Cypress
Churned Creamery, Cypress

We were able to stop by Churned Creamery in Cypress for a tasting of their constantly-churning ice cream (the ice cream is in huge vats that are consistently being mixed through). They had number of options, including their unique CroCream: a croissant stuffed with ice cream and toppings.

.

The servers were all super sweet ladies enthusiastic about ice cream. After sampling a few flavors, I went with one of their recommendations—Whiskey cream ice cream stuffed in a warm, crispy croissant and topped with Mochi cubes.

♥

The croissant was a flaky, golden brown on the outside and edges, but perfectly soft on the inside.

Whiskey Cream Crocone with mochi and strawberries ♥
Whiskey Cream CroCream with mochi and strawberries ♥

My sister of course got her chocolate fix with an ice cold, thick chocolate milkshake mixed with a scoop of Oreo ice cream. She could not deny that it was quite a dense and thick shake indeed.

♥

Looking at all the flavors of ice cream they offered, the possibilities seemed endless! It just so happened that we could have gone by their Irvine location (their grand opening was that day…), but the Cypress staff accommodated us on short-notice without a doubt.

We were back on the road and headed home soon after. Our plans the following day turned out to be similar—woke up, long run before going to lab, getting out and feeling crazy ravenous, and driving up to NoHo only to find out the restaurant we were planning to have lunch at was closed on Sundays…

We ended up getting veggie burgers at a chain restaurant, and then driving to the Glendale Galleria to find a graduation gift for our friend who graduated at the end of June. While at the mall, I made a stop at GNC and picked up the new Quest Hero bars.

Blueberry Cobbler was my favorite, with a vanilla yogurt coating and a fruity, chewy filling.

Blueberry Cobbler
Blueberry Cobbler

Vanilla Caramel was decent, but I thought the texture of the filling was pretty dry.

Vanilla
Vanilla Caramel

I could go without having another of the Chocolate Caramel Pecan flavor, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a chocolate lover (such as my sister) found this to be their favorite of the three.

Chocolate
Chocolate Caramel Pecan

Even though apartment hunting was a bust on this particular weekend, at least we made the most of our dining out choices. And just having my sister for company made the weekend all the more enjoyable.

Veggie Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pending Travel

Pending Travel

This post was written weeks ago, but with all the traveling I’ve been doing and no time to sit down and post, here it finally is with no edits to verb tense, haha!

These past two weeks have been on hyperdrive! Even my efforts in running seemed to be sub-par in comparison to my performance in previous weeks. Stress has been subconsciously hitting me I guess!

I’ve been scrambling putting together stuff at work, as well as prepping for two weeks of international travel. I haven’t packed yet (no surprise) but I do have a list going. Things are going to be coming back-to-back with no pause in between—sister’s graduation, traveling in Europe, my marathon in San Diego—this time off seems to be like it’s a lot more work than intended.

Salted Caramel Cluster...it blew me away in a good way. A mild, creamy base with a super salty caramel swirl, rich chocolate chunks and CASHEW pieces. So many more @so_delicious flavors to try 😩 it may take me forever but it should be a fun quest to complete 😋 #WhereIsMySponsorship #JkJk #Sorta 😉
Salted Caramel Cluster…it blew me away in a good way. A mild, creamy base with a super salty caramel swirl, rich chocolate chunks and CASHEW pieces. So many more @so_delicious flavors to try 😩 it may take me forever but it should be a fun quest to complete 😋 #WhereIsMySponsorship #JkJk #Sorta 😉

But hopefully the payoff is good. I’m anxious-excited about seeing my cousin, whom I haven’t seen in 17 years, and her 13 and 9 year old daughters I haven’t met yet, at all!

I went to the Westfield mall in Culver City last weekend with E to shop for said daughters. My cousin enlightened me on what they would really like as gifts and I was ready to have fun with it. I bought the younger one two cute dresses from Old Navy and The Children’s Place. I remember my wardrobe was literally all TCP from ages 7-10, and I was taller-than-average for my age lol.

Gifts!
I come with gifts!

For the older daughter, I got two pieces from Hollister…hard to believe (or is it?) that the brand is still popular among teens. Man, I remember feeling SO much unspoken peer pressure to wear Hollister and Abercrombie, haha.

After buying some chocolates from Target, and a cookie butter jar from Trader Joe’s (which I’m hoping they’ll love since Trader Joe’s isn’t available in Wales!), E and I decided to take a lunch break at the happening food court.

I spotted Bibigo down the walkway, and headed towards it while E went next door to Burger King.

Bibigo, Westfield Culver City
Bibigo, Westfield Culver City

A nice, warm veggie bowl with cool toppings sounded so appetizing at the time. So for my base, I had a bowl with salad greens. On top of that went pickled veggies like onions and slaw, and of course kimchi.

Side of wontons, warm tofu, and fres, cold veggies!
Side of wontons, warm tofu, and fres, cold veggies!

To finish it off, warm tofu cubes added a nice touch along with seaweed flakes. Even a guy who was behind me in line commented on how good it looked, haha.

A fantastic creation.
A fantastic creation.

The bowl was just filling enough to get my energy spent from shopping back up, and to power me to get back home. E and I had a fun bus ride back to the train station, and from there I traveled my usual commute home.

Couldn't resist snapping this pic of my city <3
Couldn’t resist snapping this pic of my city <3

It was too late to take a nap when I got home, but I tried to turn in early enough so that I could catch up on some sleep. At least it was a productive day overall though!

Do you like planning for trips?

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