I got a good dose of endorphins and happy hormones last Saturday. Actually, the happiness rush began last Thursday evening, when I received a care package from my Dad! He says it’s for passing my quals, but I think he would have been kind enough to send me a little something regardless 😉 . It absolutely made my week and I thanked him for it!
On Saturday, my friend from lab (let’s call her “E”) and I were able to hang out outside of lab again. We had not spent some free time together since our movie outing to see Hidden Figures last month, so a girl’s day was overdue!
We both met in lab (duh) Saturday morning to take care of some things for our experiments. From there, we bused to Koreatown, laptops in hand and with coffee on the mind.
She used to frequent a little, hole-in-the-wall place known as Document Cafe. Based on her previous ventures, she has been insisting that we both go together sometime to have coffee and get some work done, since they have a good environment for working and strong wi-fi.
We finally did so on Saturday, and I was able to prevent her from buying for me ;). She got a simple cappucino (with barista foam art) and I felt adventurous and bought their affogato.
We found seats by the wall, set-up our workspaces, and waited for our caffeinated creations to be completed.
My affogato immediately reminded me of a mini root beer float. It had a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream at the bottom, chicory root coffee throughout the cup, and then another generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream at the top.
I will say that it doesn’t taste good unless you completely immerse the coffee with some of the ice cream, the melted parts. Otherwise the drink tastes too bitter…
We spent about 2 hours at the cafe enjoying our afternoon treats and working on lab-related data analysis/readings. We also chatted while doing so, just so that we made the whole experience a little bit more fun.
After getting our fill of caffeine, we had enough energy to walk to Wilshire/Vermont. It was approaching 4pm, and we figured why not have some froyo before calling it a day?
Yogurtland was just down the way, and I went to town with three different flavors of froyo, poppers, mochi, maraschino cherries, and Whoppers chocolate malt balls.
We gossiped about lab and the crazy antics of our colleagues. It felt so good to be able to vent and laugh with E outside of lab!!
I left for home around 5, and got back around 6. Since our “last” team long run before the marathon was the next morning, I went to sleep early to ensure I’d be rested enough to put in a good effort into the taper 😉 . Sure enough, it worked since I ran the 12 miles at an average pace of 8:07/mi! Really, really hoping that I can pull off a sub-4:00 come next Sunday!
I definitely do think that having days much like Saturday have been helpful in keeping my mood up, and feeling validated by my running improvements has also helped a lot. I know that it’s normal to have an ebb and flow with moods and feelings (it’s HEALTHY to feel sad sometimes), but if I can find ways to keep my happiness up the majority of the time, why not 🙂 ?
This past week started off a bit stressing, but then ended on a surprisingly pleasant note. Our boss in lab decided to drop by the lab unbeknownst to us (he’s on sabbatical right now), which caused some anxiety among everyone as far as putting together reports just in case he asked for them. Turns out he was busy with other things, and even though I did end up having a meeting with him, it turned out better than I thought!
This left me feeling more relaxed going into the weekend, and actually feeling more motivated with my current projects as well. I did get home late though, and had a late (though delicious) dinner. I also had some Halo Top, and went to bed with a stomach that still needed time to digest. It was a frustrating situation: I wanted to sleep, and catch up on all the hours I missed this week, but I couldn’t fall into a deep sleep because of all the food that needed to be digested.
I even almost thought about missing the 10k I signed up for only because I wanted to sleep in. Fortunately I didn’t, otherwise I wouldn’t even be writing this post!
I missed getting up at the time I set originally on my alarm, but I still had enough time to assemble my things and get out the door. I caught a bus that’s final destination was my destination: Wilshire/Western. The location of Saturday’s 5/10k run was in Koreatown, and benefiting a Korean organization I believe. I wasn’t actually sure because I signed up for what I thought was “The 6th Childhood Obesity Awareness Month 5K/10K”, but there was no word of childhood obesity or the Let’s Move campaign. The race was benefiting some charitable Korean organization…I just didn’t know what it was 😛 ?
I spent some time warming up, but not as much as some other runners. There was a father-son duo, and they were stretching/warming-up so much that they were sweating by the time it was time to start the race!
We were supposed to be off by 8am, but of course things got delayed, and we didn’t get the signal to go until at least a half an hour later. The race course was a straight out and back, but done twice to account for the 10k distance vs. the 5k distance.
Unlike running in Santa Monica, running in the more urban areas of Los Angeles can definitely feel much warmer. I was running at a comfortable 8:20-8:30/mi pace, but my pace dipped into the 8:40-8:50/mi pace from miles 4-5. My legs felt heavier at this point, but at least my pace didn’t dip too much!
When I reached the finish, I was handed the medal which looked pretty cool, and I think helped me figure out what this event was exactly…
There was lots of water, ginseng drink, and Yakult/probiotic drinks to go around.
And several tables serving up watermelon, popsicles…and compression socks?? I’m talking about those leg mannequins, haha.
After the race, I walked over to a small courtyard mall that was right across from the Wilshire/Western Station. It was there that I found Paris Baguette Cafe, the perfect place to replenish my glycogen stores!
When I stepped inside, I was immediately overwhelmed by the selection! There were fresh savory baked goods stuffed with cheese, cold sandwiches, beautiful cakes, and cute confections (the array of macaroons though)!
After much pondering and wandering up and down the aisles, I grabbed a wooden tray, a thin sheet of paper along with some metal tongs that they had near the entrance, and placed a cheese pretzel on top. One thing to note about this pretzel—one of the main ingredients is white chocolate! The bread has white chocolate added into it, so the bread part of the pretzel was actually sweeter than what you would expect of a cheese pretzel.
The cheese wasn’t off-putting at all, and overall was a unique savory confection. Even though I refueled, I felt very tried and physically drained, so much so that I took a two-hour long nap the minute I got home. Guess I needed some catching up from waking up early every day this week? Whatever the reason, it felt amazing putting in so much effort into my runs this week, and the completely crashing for the rest of the weekend!
Have you ever had a savory food item that was changed to taste sweeter?
Last week was a crazy one…after an interesting turn of events, I ended up having to see the doctor, and also ended up feeling a loss of appetite for a couple of days, including during the weekend. I feel much better now, but having a major loss of appetite was quite frustrating to deal with…I felt nauseated with the foods that were currently in my apartment, and I could only stomach things that were cheesy, crispy, or chewy. It made figuring out where to eat on Saturday much more difficult than it should have been.
I also had one final to study for that was on Monday. Even so, I truly felt like getting out of the heart of the city in order to get my vegan fix up north in Studio City.
I have been wanting to visit Vegetable for months now, and was disappointed in myself for not having such a raging appetite.
At least the interior was calming, homey, and not nauseating…
To be honest, the menu items were too small for what they were priced at. Still, the herbed focaccia and gravy sounded tasty…well, as tasty as anything would be when you DON’T feel hungry :/
My plate was indeed small and snack-sized: a triangular, scone-like piece of focaccia topped with mushroom & sweet onion cashew cream ragu as well as fresh herbs. The big plate it was served on only added to the irony.
But I guess it was just enough, since I wasn’t feeling too hungry in the first place!
I still felt like dessert was necessary though…I was already out, so why rush back home after an appetizer-sized meal?
I took my time catching the Metro Red Line to give my missing appetite a chance to make an appearance. It still did not show up when I reached Koreatown however…but that didn’t stop me from venturing into Cottonhi!
Much like it’s elder rival Cremebee in Alhambra, this novelty dessert shop served soft-serve topped with cotton candy! They also have classic creations that include mango, pop rocks, coffee, or red velvet cake.
I ended up choosing their tiramisu best-seller topped with salted caramel cotton candy.
It came equipped with a dropper filled with liquid coffee, a crunchy ladyfinger, chocolate shavings, and marscapone cheese swirl.
Again, this fine little dessert was small enough to appease my tastebuds and not interfere with my troubled stomach.
While this weekend wasn’t the most enjoyable in terms of eating and dining out, even though the establishments I trekked to offered unqiue and delicious dishes, at least they were small enough to digest…and keep down!
Have you ever experienced a sudden loss of appetite?
Last weekend was unlike any other that I’ve experienced so far in LA, and one word sums it all up: humidity.
I had to go into lab on Saturday morning, but not until later in the morning. The sky was cloudy and gray like it had been the few days prior, but the Saturday morning news alerted me about thunderstorms that would occur later in the day. Still, I left my apartment in shorts and a t-shirt since it felt warm outside, and made the mistake of “forgetting” my umbrella.
Fortunately, I was able to take cover during the intermittent moments of downpour/thunder, but it certainly slowed me down schedule-wise. It even caused a mini power outtage in my lab building, but I was able to resume my experiments without there being any major crisis!
I finished up mid-afternoon, and made the swift decision to walk over to the grocery store before another predicted downpour. I managed to make it back to the apartment just before thunder was heard again, and saved myself from an unwanted shower.
I spent the rest of the day/evening inputing data and working on an document with a Monday deadline (Saturday nights of a grad student…what can I say?), but at least I was able to include a celebratory pint in all of this. The featured flavor of this weekend was B&J’s Strawberry Cheesecake:
I’m normally not a die-hard cheesecake fan, but the graham-cracker swirl intrigued me and pulled me in to buy this flavor. I guess I could tolerate some cheesecake if it means there’s a sweet and crunchy swirl!
The cheesecake ice cream actually wasn’t that bad, and tasted more like vanilla. There were some frozen strawberries mixed in, and of course the graham cracker swirl is what brought this flavor to the top…managing to keep its crunchy texture and sweet flavor.
Sunday morning was when I experienced the aftermath humidity from Saturday’s tropical rainshowers. While it was nice to listen to the rainfall in the evening, the humidity was such a pain to deal with on my long run the next morning! After mile 6, I was pushing through with all my might to just keep going and not stop. I did make a stop at a nearby Starbucks though, to get some ice water which I held onto for dear life from mile 9 to the finish!
I was a sticky mess when I came back to the apartment, but had to get ready quickly in order to move on and get my lab work done for the day. I had exciting plans that evening, and I wasn’t going to let the humidity stop me from following through with them!
Fortunately, after getting onto the train a little after 3:30PM, I was able to keep cool in air-conditioned spaces as I made my way to Wilshire and Western. This is a stop that I have made frequent visits to, but I had never paid attention to the dark teal building right across the street—the Wiltern.
That is, until now!
The event I was attending was the cocktail hour of LA Grow!, sponsored by Whole Foods and benefiting RootDown LA, a youth-run non-profit organization that focuses on promoting healthy food and nutrition education in South LA.
Inside the theater, I picked up my drink tickets from will call (even though I didn’t use them that night since I don’t drink…), and then proceeded to the actual fest set-up in a hallway, ballroom-like area.
Exhibitors were lined up along the sides of the hallway, and the first food-related booth I noticed was being run by the main sponsor, Whole Foods.
The table featured mashed avocados, which we could top on thick, cracker round toasts. Additional toppings included sea salt, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sundried pesto. I loved the sea salt and pesto + avo combination, and made frequent visits to this table over the course of the evening.
For those of us attending who don’t drink alcohol, there were several non-alcoholic drink samples for us to taste. Harmless Harvest was giving out pink coconut water (!!) and Rebbl Tonic had a massive spread of elixirs and tonics spread out. The exotic tonics included Maca Mocha, Reishi Chocolate, and Ashwagandha Chai…all of which I tried multiple times, and found myself to be a fan of the chocolate one the most.
I only tried the Ginger Citrus tonic, even though Hibsicus Mint and Forest Berry were also available. I attribute it to the fact that the citrus drink was literally glowing with a bright yellow hue, and that made it difficult to walk away from it 😉
I also passed by the Casamor Farm table, and it looked like the chef was plating small dishes featuring edible flowers! I didn’t get up close to see what exactly was going on since the area was too popular, but it looked quite intriguing from what I could tell.
Another popular table was Kye’s, a to-go food shop that sells unique nori wrap burritos…rather “Kyeritos”! They had both non-veg and vegan flavors available, and you know I definitely got the vegan one to try!
To keep on with the vegan theme, I drifted over to the Cafe Gratitude table, and helped myself to these yam/cauliflower filled savory fold-overs. There was also a green chutney and fruit jam available to coat over as a topping!
I also took some time to check out the pop-up garden/RootDown LA exhibit in the patio area. I was pleased to learn that a program that is invested in the overall health and wellness of urban neighborhoods exists in an area so close to where I live. Kids living in these neighborhoods, and who are involved in this program, are trained to eat and grow their own produce. They are also encouraged to get other members of their community to follow suit. It truly is change happening at the ground level, and based on the display, RootDown LA seems to be meeting their goals!
I also visited the tables of Slow Food Los Angeles, Farm Fresh to You, and Lasan (from who I grabbed a free reusable shopping bag to add to my growing collection)! Rustic Canyon’s table was another favorite of mine.
Marcona almonds coated with lavendar sugar-–need I say more??
I ended up going to many of the tables more than once, trying to avoid awkwardly bumping into others as I was eating. A communal dinner was planned to follow the cocktail hour for those who purchased tickets. It was around 6PM when the announcement to head over to dinner was heard, and that was my signal to head on home.
The air still felt warm outside, but at least now there was a cooler breeze.
As I headed home, my weekend ended just like it had started—I fell asleep to the sound of rain tapping at my window that night 🙂
Are there local youth-driven food and nutrition training programs for kids in your area?
I thought running 18 miles would leave my legs dead and useless for the rest of the day on Sunday, but they actually felt less sore when I walked back to my apartment than when I got up from sitting down in the car I carpooled in from the run site.
I also thought I would be back later in the day, but ended up home two hours earlier than I had planned! This meant I could take my sweet time getting ready (not leaving until I was 100% sweat-free!) before going out and celebrating my latest personal distance record.
The past two long runs both started off chilly, but I was a sweaty & sticky mess by the end of each. It was no wonder I was craving something cold to eat sometime during each run, and I knew I had to resolve this matter immediately by heading to Koreatown and checking out the closest establishment to Wilshire and Western serving pat bing soo, or Korean shaved ice.
A quick search on Yelp in the days prior to long-run Sunday helped me locate Hwa Sun Ji Tea & Coffee, which was carefully tucked away at the corner of a block. I wasn’t even sure if they were open since it was so dark inside, at least through the windows!
When I did enter the café, there was what looked like to be a group meeting of elderly Korean women at one corner of the café, and I wasn’t sure if I was interrupting a private event. The owners, who I assumed were a husband-and-wife team, approached me and asked if I had a computer. My first thought was, huh? But then I realized that many people visit the café not only for the tea, coffee, and pat bing soo, but for the free wi-fi and the quiet, elaborate study space.
I let the owners know that I was there just to eat, and asked for a menu even though I knew exactly what I wanted to get. I “pretended” to look at the menu with great concentration, but asked for a bowl of pat bing soo without hesitation after a couple of seconds of acting like I had no idea of what to order.
I seated myself at a table close to the window, and took in the calm environment that mimicked the emptiness of the streets outside.
I could hear the shave ice machine whirring in the background, and couldn’t wait for the bowl to arrive to my table. I was glad I wasn’t the only one dining when I saw two other groups come in as my bowl was being prepared.
The group meeting that I thought I was interrupting when I first came into the café had all of a sudden become a birthday party, since I heard the group clapping in unison and quietly joining in song, singing “Happy Birthday” in Korean. Since they were all elderly Korean women, it was an adorable sight to see. I almost wanted to walk over and join the party—but that definitely would have been awkward!
I don’t think I was missing out though, because I was celebrating my own accomplishment with my very own bowl of pat bing soo. Party for one, don’t mind me!
The female owner also came by with some complimentary tea cookies, and hot tea.
The only other awkward moment I had while dining was follow-up service. I usually prefer not to have waitstaff check in on me every five minutes when I’m eating out, but I found it odd that despite being one out of three customer groups in the café at the time (with the exception of the meeting-turned-birthday-party group), the owners didn’t come by until it had been at least twenty minutes after I had finished eating.
I guess it gave me the time I needed to contemplate over whether or not I should order another bowl. The first and previous time I had pat bing soo, I split it with my sister and friend when we were visiting LA 2 ½ years ago, and I remember it being a giant-sundae-sized kind of deal with all the mochi in the world and three different kinds of ice cream! This bowl was a baby in comparison, and even though I was hesitant to ask the owner for another, I went ahead with my decision to do so because hey, I ran 18 miles and one bowl was not going to cut it! 😉
I ate the second bowl in similar fashion as with the first: eating through the ice while also mixing in spoonfuls of bean paste/melon, and saving the scoop of ice cream for last with the tea cookies.
I almost waited half an hour after finishing my second bowl before receiving the check. I suppose the owners don’t mind giving their customers time to ponder over life while sipping on tea. Needless to say, they were very lenient with offering their space. Perhaps I should return on a day when it’s much busier outside, to see if the calm atmosphere is really an everyday thing here!
I recently got to play hostess to my visiting Dad and sister, and we certainly had a blast. At least I’m pretty sure they did, with all the eating out/exploring/napping we did 😉
Since traffic is always so insane, I didn’t get to see both of them until around 8pm on Friday night. We were all pretty hungry, so I immediately met them downstairs when they arrived at my apartment. There was no time to unload and unpack when three ravenous tummies were concerned!
Despite being only two miles away from the heart of Downtown, I haven’t explored it as much as I should have to-date. I guess I consider it an adventure if it takes a long time for me to get to my destination, and two miles doesn’t seem to fit the criteria. Even so, I will have to make more time to explore Downtown—especially since Koreatown and Little Tokyo are nearby.
At least I was able to convince everyone that we should have dinner in Koreatown that night. It wasn’t too hard to convince them though, since we were heading towards Mr. Pizza: Korea’s #1 pizza chain!
It wasn’t too crowded for a Friday night, and as soon as we stepped in through the doors, we were greeted by three employees. One of them handed us menus and the other led us to our table. The third employee was poised like a bouncer at the staircase, haha.
We sat in a booth near the window, and I was able to get a good view of curious passersby wondering what in the world Korean pizza was.
I heard about how they make a special “gold” crust with sweet potato filling or something like that, but we ended up ordering a large thin crust vegetarian pizza to split among the three of us.
My sister, feeling super hungry since she was in the car pretty much all day, attacked the crispy garlic bread crisps that came out as an appetizer.
I attacked the pizza once it landed on our table.
Even though we didn’t get the special gold crust, our pizza crust still had a distinct, freshly-baked bread taste and texture to it that we all liked.
I have to admit that I ate my first two slices with a fork, but then gave up when the toppings kept sliding all over my plate. I still prefer eating with pizza with a fork though, haha!
After dinner, we drove back and my sis and Dad were finally able to unpack and rest up. I wanted to get some laundry and cleaning done, so I did that while they made themselves at home on the couch. I ended up going to sleep close to midnight, and despite having to wake up at 5am the next day for this race, I’d say the pizza was a great way to fuel up!