Mission Viejo Escape

Mission Viejo Escape

Two weekends ago, I was gifted with the chance to spend a weekend with my sister in her Mission Viejo digs, as well as spend some time with Dad since he was going to be in town soon after for business.

I managed to have two of my undergrad assistants come in to take care of something for me over the weekend, so I would be able to make my visit an overnight one. I left on a Saturday afternoon, and arrived just as my sister was getting off work.

She picked me up from the Metrolink station, and from there, we hunted down dinner at Burger Boss.

Burger Boss, Mission Viejo
Burger Boss, Mission Viejo

My sister had been wanting to check it out, and we got the chance to do so since the location was close by. They actually have a number of locations around the OC. It also happened to be right next to a Creamistry, so you could guess what we had for dessert…

Putting our orders in was harder than it looked...
Putting our orders in was harder than it looked…

When we entered BB, we saw some LCD screens on the wall, as well as an order/paying counter wayyyy up at the front.  We decided to give the LCD screens a shot despite making a fool out of our orders—because the buttons were so hard to press, my sis ended up with four different kinds of cheeses on her veg burger and I ended up with two sauces in my burger bowl, haha!

Everything was aesthetically on point, no doubt about that.
Everything was aesthetically on point, no doubt about that.

I made sure put ALL THE VEGGIES AND FRUIT (pineapple, lol) in my burger bowl, on a bed of spinach. My sis’ burger was definitely not lacking in cheese.

Grilled pineapple and mushrooms <3
Grilled pineapple and mushrooms <3

Like I alluded to earlier in the post, we walked right next door to Creamistry after getting our fill of veggies and protein.

Saturday night at Creamistry, Mission Viejo
Saturday night at Creamistry, Mission Viejo

I was leaning towards ordering a nutella or speculoos flavored liquid nitrogen-based ice cream (per usual), but then my sister pointed out their Halloween special: black ice cream with cookie pieces. I was sold.

Of course, I had to top it off with mochi
Of course, I had to top it off with mochi

My sis, of course, had her beloved chocolate. We had our frozen treats inside instead of taking them to go. It was not surprising that we felt cold afterwards, haha.

My sister was adamant about making the next day a “study day”, since she had some exams coming up. I didn’t mind, since I had data to analyze anyways. The next morning, I met her at a Starbucks after a morning run. I had her bring my laptop and things over in the car, so it worked out perfectly 😛

We spent the morning working on our respective items, and when my sister suggested we get lunch, she didn’t have to tell me twice. To make things simple and local, we drove over to the Veggie Grill in Laguna Niguel.

Veggie Grill, Laguna Niguel
Veggie Grill, Laguna Niguel

I love how VG has seasonal menus—its makes my multiple visits to their various locations all the more worth it 😛

Fall '17 Menu
Fall ’17 Menu

This season’s menu seemed to offer a number of delicious-sounding options. I finally chose to get the Rustic Farm Bowl. My sis stuck to her fave chik’n ranch burger.

Rustic Farm Bowl -
Rustic Farm Bowl – farro, grilled mushrooms, roasted yams, braised cannellini beans, broccoli pesto, roasted tomatoes, red pepper sauce

The angles of the picture make it look like the bowl was a large one, but the contents were petite to my dismay. Still, it was quite filling! Just fibrous veggies doing their job I suppose…

Nature's protein-rich, starch-filled goods.
Nature’s protein-rich, starch-filled goods.

After lunch, we took a long afternoon nap and went out later in the evening to pick up some snacks to have at home so my sis could continue studying. Despite staying within my sister’s home turf and spending most of our time together at our laptops, it was a great weekend getaway for me. Mission Viejo is literally eye candy with its rolling hills and sunshine (although I will say it’s a runner’s nightmare—at least this runner’s nightmare, with all those hills!!)

Veggie Grill 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?

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 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 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

Never Enough Froyo

Never Enough Froyo

Sunday was a peaceful day for me. After a pleasant long run in downtown (because of the overcast skies and lack of people due to it being early in the morning on a non-working day), I was able to fit in a shopping trip to Sprouts. They were having a BOGO deal on Arctic Zero (!!), so that honestly was my main reason for the trip 😛

I had to get all of this done in the morning since I had to go into lab for an hour in the afternoon (ugh), but it was also a refreshing change to do “my weekend things” in the morning vs. afternoon.

Since I traveled to the Sprouts in Westwood, and I FINALLY had cash on hand, I decided to stop by The Bigg Chill for some morning froyo.

tbc (1)
The Bigg Chill

Having cash on hand was a major moment for me, since I always use cards. Inside the small establishment within a strip mall, the ambiance was very much like a classic ice cream parlor (at least at the counter, the tables and chairs seemed to be more modern. 

tbc (2)
Classy counterspace.

After ordering at the counter, I sat across from the glowing neon sign on the far left wall, next to all the Quest bars on a rack, haha. It’s actually a trend I’ve been seeing at many froyo places that offer low-carb options.

tbc (3)
So shiny!

The counter was packed with so many edible (and non-edible) items, but behind the counter I was able to see the variety of toppings I could choose from, and at first wasn’t sure what size I wanted either. I ended up going with the 8oz macaron flavor that was dairy-free, topped with vegan chocolate chip cookie dough, mochi (all-time fav), and strawberries.

So much stuff & lotsa toppings.

The macaron flavor was very smooth and had a milky taste to it, and mixed with the mochi, it was perfection. The strawberries were just for show, and while I had high hopes for the VCCCD, it wasn’t that great, and rather than having a fudgy consistency was somewhat oilier than it should have been.

But if we’re talking about appearances, it was certainly one beauty of a cup.

That swirl, and the cookie dough!

What are your go-to froyo toppings?

The Bigg Chill Frozen Yogurt Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Green Temple

The Green Temple

Sunday was the first day in forever (well, since my visit to Tulsa) that I did NOT have to go in to lab.

Yup, I did not have to set one foot on campus the entire day, which was entirely shocking but so refreshing!

I slept in (till 8am, haha), and got ready at my own pace to head down to Redondo Beach. The sun was out, and the temperature was warm enough for eating, grocery shopping, and walking by the beach.

I was meaning to visit the Green Temple restaurant the next time I was in RB, and Sunday happened to be the perfect day just for that. The bus ride(s) took almost two hours one-way, but at least it gave me enough time to form a large enough appetite!

The restaurant was picturesque—enveloped by green shrubbery, fountains, and statues. There was indoor, outdoor, and patio seating, but the patio seating looked to be the best option.


I was given a menu, and honestly did not know where to begin. I finally chose to get nachos, even though there were lots more creative entrees to choose from. But I had to go with my gut and cravings, and they were simply happy with having a plate of crisp chips with melted cheese, black beans, and salsa.


Since it wasn’t an appetizer, I ordered the full-size plate. The chips were actually freshly-cut tortillas in the shape of triangles. They still had a slight chewiness to them, so that’s how I knew 😉


The entire dish was quite filling, and even though it wasn’t something that’s usually thought of as a naturally vegetarian dish, it was certainly nourishing enough to be so.

After my meal, I window-shopped while I made my way to the Trader Joe’s nearby. I was able to purchase everything necessary for the upcoming week grocery-wise, and thought about stopping by the Yogurtland next door before heading home.


Obviously by the looks of it, my froyo-positive thoughts won me over, and I packed a cup with four different flavors, plus some of my favorite toppings (mochi, cheesecake bites, poppers).

I was still out as the Super Bowl started, and as I walked to the bus stop, I could hear the opening ceremonies blaring from TVs at a local pub and restaurant. I was in no rush to get home, but I managed to get back while there was still daylight…at 5pm. It’s February, and it already feels like summer!

Green Temple Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chilly Pepperminty

Chilly Pepperminty

It’s almost November, and it’s still hot here in Los Angeles. How is this possible? Was it really this hot last year around this time? I guess I’ve been too busy to notice lately!

I did have some time (surprisingly) last Friday to stop by the grocery store before heading home and spending a good night in. The week wasn’t as exhausting compared to the two weeks prior, but I always welcome a good break, no matter how small!

My Friday night in obviously also meant time to try a new ice cream—and Talenti Peppermint Bark fit the bill.

 Talenti Peppermint Bark
Talenti Peppermint Bark

Unfortunately, it seems like Talenti tends to melt pretty quickly compared to B&J’s. It took me about 40 minutes to walk home from the grocery store, and even after putting the gelato away in the freezer for less than a half hour, still turned out to be more like a peppermint-y milkshake pint. Which isn’t bad if you think about it, but when you plan an ice cream night, you expect ice cream 😛

I woke up on Saturday feeling refreshed at 7AM. I was in and out of lab before 1pm, and decided to head out to Westwood to get myself some shave ice to cool off from such a hot October day.

 Front of Chilly Ribbons.
Front of Chilly Ribbons.

Chilly Ribbons was my destination, and to my surprise, it was pretty empty for a late summer-esque afternoon.

 Pick your size, pick your toppings.
Pick your size, pick your toppings.

The guy behind the counter was very helpful, and explained that you pick your shave ice flavors and size, go to the topping bar for toppings, and then come back for the weigh-in and to pay for the frozen treat.

 What is shaved snow? Possibly the best thing to have on a too-hot day!
What is shaved snow? Possibly the best thing to have on a too-hot day!

I ended up going with a 7oz. medium cup with green tea and cake batter flavors. For my toppings, I added in strawberries, rainbow sprinkles for fun, cookie dough pieces, a random piece of grass jelly (that black thing), strawberry poppers, and mochi.

 Everything all mixed in and so good!!!
Everything all mixed in and so good!!!

I ate this inside, and tried to compare it to my shave ice experiences from long ago. Haha, neither were too long ago, but it was nice to once again get a hold of some shave ice!

 So much goodness packed in seven ounces!
So much goodness packed in seven ounces!

After cooling off, I attempted to go shopping but did not find anything worthy of bringing home to closet, haha. I left soon after since I had dinner and concert plans with a friend later that evening, and I wanted to have plenty of time to freshen up for that!

Chilly Ribbons Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

After 20 Miles

After 20 Miles

I knew from the instant my Garmin reported I had hit the 20 mile mark during my long run on Sunday that it was time to celebrate! The two guys I had carpooled with had just finished by the time I arrived, and since the driver of the two had to leave immediately, I would say it was pretty good timing 😉

I had just enough time to grab two Nature Valley bars from my team’s food stash to tide me over until I got back to my apartment. I put on the easiest thing to wear after an intense workout (what dresses are made for 🙂 !), and made my north up to Echo Park once again.

 Finding myself in Echo Park again, for another vegan place...
Finding myself in Echo Park again, for another vegan place…

Only to try out a vegan gastropub by the name of Mohawk Bend.

Mohawk Bend in the distance

Even though it was all sunshine and clear skies outside, I wanted to sit inside and take in the environment around me—poor lighting and all.


In addition to the outdoor seating near the entrance, there were tables and booths immediately following, bar seating, and then outside/patio-style seating near the back of the restaurant.

Since it was just me, myself, and I, the waitress took me to an open booth seat and handed me the one-page brunch menu, and my eyes immediately moved towards the pizza offerings.


One cool thing about this place was how the side note that “all menu items are vegan unless marked (NV)” was positioned at the very top of the menu. The note also went on to add that they took the necessary steps to prepare vegan and non-vegan menu items in separate areas! When a place puts that much care into food preparation—in favor of the veggie-eater—you know they’re a keeper 😉

After quizzing my waitress about the size of the pizza and the kind of the crust it was made with (though I don’t think her answers would have altered my 99.9% probability I was going to get a pizza), I ordered the Able Farmin’—topped with roasted pepper, fennel, cashew cheese, and vegan sausage.

Able Farmin' Pizza

The pizza, despite the waitress saying it was a little larger than a “personal” pizza and made with a medium-thickness crust, actually fit the description of a personal-sized pizza, and I would say the crust was on the thinner side more than anything else. I also wish they had given me utensils, because the toppings were literally falling off each slice and landing on the pizza board!

Able Farmin'

I had the patience to take one last picture of what remained of my pizza before finally chomping it away…

Able Farmin' Slice

It took a while for me to get my check (just like last week!), and after paying, I used the restroom upstairs before heading out for dessert! The restrooms were nice—wood all-around!

bathroom stall

My next stop was Whipp’d LA—a small frozen treats shop selling ice cream, low-carb yogurt, and the Dole Whips they are specifically known for! I remember having a Dole Whip with my friends in Disneyland a few years back, but was craving for it again as of late…

Was it worth the extra hour of riding public transport all the way to West Hollywood? I think so…


It was a small space, but even though I thought I would get a Dole Whip in some fruity flavor, I ended up choosing the ‘white chocolate mousse’ Carbolite froyo, because chocolate (obviously) overrules 😛


At least I got toppings, and only the best: mocha pieces, carob chips, and white yogurt chips.


I enjoyed my small frozen treat inside, and was a genuine fan of the white chocolate flavor. It didn’t have an icy/sno-cone taste, and even though it’s supposed to be a froyo, it truly tasted like a creamy cup of ice cream!

I will definitely be paying Whipp’d OC a visit someday, and maybe then I’ll try the Dole Whip 😉

Mohawk Bend on Urbanspoon Whipp'd LA on Urbanspoon

Cool Down Walk

Cool Down Walk

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.

Empty streets on Super Bowl Sunday, while I’m celebrating long-run Sunday…

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!

 shaved ice dessert with sweet toppings such as chopped fruit, condensed milk, fruit syrup, and red bean paste
This bowl had shaved ice mixed with condensed milk, chopped fruit (I believe melon), red bean paste, and topped with green tea ice cream, mochi, and peanut powder!

The female owner also came by with some complimentary tea cookies, and hot tea.

It was fun dipping the cookies into the ice cream!!


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! 😉

 My second bowl looked identical to the first...looks like their is a little more fruit though  :)
My second bowl looked identical to the first…looks like their is a little more fruit though 🙂

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!

Have you ever had pat bing soo?

Hwa Sun Ji Tea & Coffee on Urbanspoon

Crash & Indulge

Crash & Indulge

I made sure to spend the weekend after my last set of exams for the semester the way I wanted to, and I believe my expected plans meshed with how things really turned out most perfectly.

After running 5 miles in my new running shoes on Saturday, I took the bus to La Brea to drop off my old pair of Brooks before heading down Melrose towards the direction of the third Real Food Daily I had yet to visit. My first visit in Pasadena was so enjoyable that I literally forced my Dad and sis to try the Santa Monica location with me when they were here back in October. I fell in love with the almond “tuna” during that second visit, and immediately had a craving for it when I was studying for my final set of exams.

Real Food Daily in West Hollywood.

The set-up was similar to that of Pasadena’s (they seriously need to make a bigger sign though—that small rectangle is easy to miss!), with an outdoor seating area and the cashwrap close to the entrance. I could tell it was a busy Saturday afternoon, and I was given a seat at a corner booth.

rfd - weho

It was at this time I had my first unintentional celebrity sighting! I recognized the face of Sara Gilbert, but it took me a while to match up the name to her face. I also do not get starstruck very easily, so I didn’t do anything awkward like ask for an autograph or “ask her to take a selfie with me” like my Dad suggested via text 😛


I went ahead and ordered The Great Cardini salad, and when the waiter asked if I wanted blackened seitan, I made my move and requested the almond “tuna” instead. The request was accepted, and I excitedly waited for my dream bowl to arrive.

The Great Cardini with almond "tuna" instead of seitan. Also:  tuscan kale, romaine, garbanzo beans, red quinoa, roasted yam croutons, creamy almond shallot dressing, spiced pumpkin seeds, macadamia parmesan, avocado.
The Great Cardini with almond “tuna” instead of seitan. Also: tuscan kale, romaine, garbanzo beans, red quinoa, roasted yam croutons, creamy almond shallot dressing, spiced pumpkin seeds, macadamia parmesan, avocado.

Perfection, no? And the almond “tuna”, just for kicks:


Even though it was “just a salad”, I felt quite full, and wasn’t sure if I would have room for the dessert I planned to have that day. I decided that I would wait a couple hours and gauge my fullness then. In the meantime, I killed time by checking out the Beverly Connection a couple blocks down. I figured it would be a good time to also do some holiday gift shopping!

 Nothing appealing on the racks at Nordstrom Rack. Trying to figure out if my Dad would wear these sunglasses!
Nothing appealing on the racks at Nordstrom Rack. Trying to figure out if my Dad would wear these sunglasses!

I did get carried away with the shopping, but at least I was able to find something for one of my good friends before heading towards Beverly Hills. It was starting to get chillier around 4pm, and I wondered if I should keep on trekking. It was originally sunny enough for shorts, but I started to doubt my outfit choice for the day…

I did trek on though, and enjoyed the sights around me on my quiet walk to the Hills.

 LegLOGwarmers!! Haha...
LegLOGwarmers!! Haha…

Once the shops started getting fancier, I knew I was in the right location to try and spot…Ice Cream Lab!


Again, it was in an easy-to-miss location, and I probably would have kept walking by it if I had not glanced up for a minute.


The inside of the shop was small, with the left side designated for seating and conversation, and the right where the ice cream was ordered and made. The ice cream is made using liquid nitrogen, and so everything is frozen on the spot!


For my ice cream flavor, I chose to go with one of their rotating flavors—the Beary Cinnful Horchata. I don’t think I’ve ever had a real horchata, but ice cream with cinnamon teddy bear graham crackers, cinnamon sugar, and cinnamon powder topping did sound warm and toasty—even though the resulting product would be freezing cold!


I had my ice cream in a medium cup (their medium is a small for some interesting reason), and I found it to be thick and flavorful, with chunks of cinnamon evenly mixed in. I snacked on this while walking over to the bus stop, and got frequent stares from people who were wondering why this girl in shorts was having ice cream when it was obviously getting colder outside? Or maybe they were thinking, “where can I get myself some liquid nitrogen ice cream?!”

My Beary Cinnful Horchata.

Despite shivering at the bus stop as the sun was setting, I enjoyed my small cup of warmth (at least in flavor…)

Just as Saturday’s plans for fun rolled out with ease, Sunday stepped up to the “friendly challenge” as well. We had our last team long run for the semester, and had a run through downtown LA short of 10 miles. I then was able to make plans with one of my teammates to meet up for lunch in Culver City. Sage Vegan Bistro was our meeting point:


The entrance was confusing, since the only way to enter was through the gorgeous and green outdoor patio area:


I finally met up with my friend, and we were given a table inside. 


Everything on the menu sounded delicious—I’m surprised we were both able to agree on an appetizer and entree to share. I definitely wanted our entree to be a pizza, since they are only available at the Culver City location. While waiting for our rolls and pizza, we chatted about running and other things…but mostly running 😀

Soon, it was time to dig into the TexMex Chimichanga Egg Rolls and BLTA Pizza:

TexMex Chimichanga Egg Rolls and BLTA Pizza
Rolls –  mixed bell pepper, onion, black beans, cilantro, corn and daiya cheese served with mango chutney sauce // Pizza – pizza crust with tempeh bacon, follow your heart™ mozzarella, hemp seed pesto and piled with chopped romaine lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, avocado, and finished with housemade ranch

My favorite part of the rolls were their extra crispiness. But the mango chutney sauce? It was the perfect sauce to top on the pizza crust!


Speaking of pizza—this was so good. It had a hint of sweetness that I’m going to guess is from the ranch sauce or pesto!

Between the two of us, the pizza and rolls were the right portions for a Sunday lunch. We agreed that we should meet up for lunch sometime again soon, and I added that it would be fun to do something like this especially after the long runs! 

So then we parted ways, and I went for a long walk up Sepulveda, so that I would eventually get to Sawtelle for dessert—another cold treat, this time at Blockheads:


My hour plus walk (that was somewhat uphill) got me hungry again, and waiting in line for more crowds…ah, it’s something that I just had to get through!


The walls had some cute penguin-themed art:


And who would not want to take this little cube guy home? 


When I finally got up to the counter and figured out the exact combination of shave ice + toppings I wanted, I was glad to be handed this after everything was pushed to completion:

 For my shave ice/froyo mix, I went with the peppermint mocha flavor. Mochi (of course!) and honey boba were my toppings---with coconut puree sauce glazed all over!
For my shave ice/froyo mix, I went with the peppermint mocha flavor. Mochi (of course!) and honey boba were my toppings—with coconut puree sauce glazed all over!


It had an interesting texture—creamy like fro yo, but had the shredded appearance of shave ice. No wonder this place was so popular…

The rest of the day was spent finding (and purchasing!) a gift for my other friend, and then taking two buses and the rail to get home. I guess I underestimated how much walking (and running!) I did that day because by the time I got home, my legs felt like they had been on one demanding adventure…and not even a food-related one 😉 !

How do you treat yourself after making it through a challenging week?

Real Food Daily on Urbanspoon Ice Cream Lab on Urbanspoon

Sage - a Plant Based Bistro on Urbanspoon Blockheads Shavery Co on Urbanspoon

Recruitment Recap #1 – Interview in the Big Easy

Recruitment Recap #1 – Interview in the Big Easy

This post is the first in a series regarding interview recaps of PhD programs I applied to. The series will only cover a select amount of interviews (only the ones I have enough pictures for a post!), and I will leave out the school names for privacy reasons. Although, given the location, you may be able to guess ;).

My first interview for grad school (Ph.D. programs) took place in New Orleans, Louisiana—fondly referred to as NOLA.

I woke up around 4am on a Thursday morning in order to catch a 6:40am flight. I had a flight that stopped in Houston, and then made its way to New Orleans soon after. I had window seats on both flights, and despite unavoidable neck cramps from sleeping against the wall next to my seat, I managed to catch up on the sleep I forwent earlier in the day.

I arrived around 2:30pm CST, and had decided prior to the trip I would save money by taking public transit (via the bus!) from the airport to the hotel. It only cost me $2 for a 35 min trip from the airport to downtown New Orleans. Fortunately, my stop was a main stop for the route, so I didn’t have to worry about pulling on the wire and getting off in the middle of nowhere.

After checking in to my room, I admired the furniture and fun décor.

NOLA Hotel Room.

As well as the view. Not exactly sparkling beaches or heavy on sunshine, but the city boasts its own version of beauty.

View of NOLA from Hotel

I decided to go for a walk before the sun set, mainly to know where to go for my interview the next day. I originally had plans to find a vegan restaurant (yes, there is one to my knowledge that currently exists in NOLA!) or a place serving vegetarian gumbo, but since I was on my own and wasn’t sure how safe the area was once dark set in, I settled on a veggie Subway and vending machine snacks. Somewhat disappointing, but at least I got to enjoy my mini feast in my room while spending the rest of the night watching Cupcake Wars/Chopped, until I turned in at 10.

Veggie Delite Subway Sandwich (purchased in NOLA)

I woke up the next morning at 7am in order to have enough time to get ready. I wore a pair of skinny khaki pants, a peplum top, a pair of black modest-height heels with comfort soles, and a blazer—because blazers raise any outfit to a professional level ;).

The walk was less than 10 minutes, but longer for me because my shoes kept slipping (the problems of breaking in a shoe…). When I got to the room that applicants were to report to, I was able to sit down and munch on some fruit while chatting with two of the other applicants. We were the only ones interviewing that day, since I guess the others opted for a later interview date.

Soon after I arrived, we got the chance to meet with one of the deans of the program, two graduate students, and the program coordinators. We got a general overview of the program, and an overall feel of what it’s like at the school from the graduate student’s perspective.

Each of us interviewed with three faculty members who shared similar research interests to ours, and the interview was more like a conversation than a grilling of questions.

After our interviews, we were treated to a catered lunch of pita bread and hummus, salad, and freshly-prepared sandwiches. I helped myself to some pita bread and hummus, as well as a portabello sandwich on foccacia bread. Along with discussing more about the school, program, and New Orleans life with the dean and current grad students, our conversation could not help but drift to the topic of food. Apparently there was a previous grad student who lived on free food from seminars, and ended up buying a Ford Mustang at the end of his graduate school career from the money he saved on groceries. A most comical and inspirational anecdote, for sure ;)!

And that was the end of our interview day! We had the rest of the afternoon/evening to explore New Orleans, but since the three of us applicants didn’t want to venture out alone, we decided to meet up later in the evening to explore the French Quarter.

I spent the rest of the afternoon taking a cat nap, making phone calls to my Dad and sis, reading magazines, and counting down the minutes till evening. Around 5pm, we met in the lobby and headed over to the French Quarter.

Magazines to Read When You're Bored...

Now even though I am of legal drinking age, I’m not a drinker nor do I ever plan to be—out of personal and cultural reasons. The two other people I was with did drink, but they did not pressure me at all and there was a mutual understanding with each other which was nice.

All I can say is, though, is that French Quarter is crazy, to say the least. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to whoever you ask. Since we were approaching dinner time, and since nothing obviously vegetarian was in sight (even the rice and beans had sausage!), we all agreed on a Mediterranean place. Most people come to NOLA for the seafood, and by default, I come for Subway (cause not even the Po’ Boys are veg. friendly, apparently) and Mediterranean food. I can’t complain though, since I did get to have babaganoush for dinner!

After dinner, my companions kept their cups full with drinks while we looked for places to check out some music. We stopped at The Spotted Cat first, and listened to some fun rock’n’roll/blues played by a band that showcased a washboard and harmonica. Fun times! The second stop was d.b.a., where I got carded for the first time ever even though I didn’t drink. Actually, I was kind of happy I was asked for my ID, since it is validation for how young you look, right ;)?

After checking out the indoor music scene, we noticed a street corner brass band that really shook up the air. The members were probably not older than 21, and as young as 16, but they were playing like well-seasoned professionals. They had to be my most favorite music group of the night.

I was ready to call it a night at 8pm, but my companions had other plans. They were able to keep the conversation going until 9:30pm, when we finally decided to head back to the hotel. I had to get up early the next morning to catch my flight, so that’s why I wanted to head back sooner.

Walking through French Quarter after 9pm on a Friday night is certainly an adventure! Within two blocks, my leg got kicked (on accident, but I felt a sting), a girl in my face yelled, “put on a Texas smile” (??), and a float come by throwing out beads like crazy. Only in New Orleans…

I got back to the hotel around 10:30pm, and opted for some rest while the other two decided to have another drink at the hotel bar. Since I had to wake up at 4:30am the next morning, I was yearning for all the minutes of sleep I could get!

Getting home was a rather mundane experience, but a highlight was coming back through Salt Lake City and exiting out of a gate that happened to be right across from Pinkberry! You know I stopped for some coconut froyo with mochi and strawberry topping! It was the perfect brunch—depending on what time zone you’re in 😉

Coconut Pinkberry with Mochi Pieces and Strawberry

I arrived at the airport around 12pm PST, and home around 2pm. I surprisingly had enough energy for a run, but not surprisingly, fell asleep soon after dinner because I was exhausted!

This trip brought with it a lot of firsts for me: my first interview for grad school, my first solo plane trip, and my first time exploring French Quarter with two people I barely knew (other than the fact that they were applying to grad school!). The school was welcoming and the students/faculty were caring as a whole—it was the most wonderful way to kick-off my interview season!

Have you visited NOLA?

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