Came for the Dough

Came for the Dough

Before leaving for Tulsa for my marathon and Thanksgiving, I wanted to pay my sister another visit in the good ol’ MV because I certainly needed the mini getaway.

I love how the Metrolink train offers a discounted day pass on weekends. One way tickets on the weekdays are pretty steep so getting a $10 day pass that works all day on a Saturday or Sunday was a relief for my wallet. 
 
So I left on a Saturday afternoon after a morning run and packing right after. When I arrived at the Tustin station around 3, my sister was ready to pick me up and from there we drove over to Dough & Arrow in Costa Mesa. 
 
It's not ice cream in there...
It’s not ice cream in there…
 
One of the latest food trends to hit So Cal is scoopable cookie dough, mimicking that of scoopable ice cream shops. Dough & Arrow was a cookie dough lover’s dream, and them some:
 
Dough & Arrow, Costa Mesa
Dough & Arrow, Costa Mesa

It was a small shop of course, but there was plenty of spacious seating and a giant plastic cookie statue in the center, perfect for Instagramming.

Instagram Cookie
Instagram Cookie

My sister and I took a while to figure out what exactly we wanted, but we were firm with our final decisions. She wasn’t quite feeling the whole straight-up cookie dough vibe, so she opted for two chewy unique-flavored cookies and a latte.

A PB-Cup filled cookie, S'mores Cookie, and my Chocolate fudge cookie dough that had white chocolate chips mixed in just cuz...
A PB-Cup filled cookie, S’mores Cookie, and my Chocolate fudge cookie dough that had white chocolate chips mixed in just cuz…

I went for a chocolate fudge-flavored cookie dough in their smallest size. Even at 8oz, the dessert was quite rich and mouthwatering.

Because we came a few hours before “proper” dinner time, we took our sweet time eating our sweet treats and catching up on two weeks worth of gossip.

When it was getting closer to five, we joined the traffic on the freeway heading south to get some dinner in Mission Viejo before heading home. My sis was cravin North Indian food, so we stopped by a local favorite that she tried before: Tikka Curry Wraps and Bowls.

Tikka Curry Bowls and Wraps
Tikka Curry Wraps & Bowls

Since it was now dark outside with a nice chill, I was definitely craving something warm. A chickpea daal curry bowl with basmati rice did the trick, while my sis feasted on a spicy paneer wrap.

Wrap and bowl
Wrap and bowl

My bowl was an aesthetic piece of art, haha!

Interesting bowl size and shape...
Interesting bowl size and shape…

For the rest of the evening, my sis was glued to her laptop lecture notes while I did some data analysis/procrastinated with the cats. They are my sister’s roomate’s cats, but they are two adorable little guys who come in a demanded to be petted and cuddled with.

The next morning, I managed to go out for a six mile run despite feeling sore all over, and managed not to feel too bogged down by the hills! My sister got ready as soon as I got back, and from there we drove towards Santa Ana to meet up with her lab partner at a cafe for a study session. I continued my lab data analysis while they discussed their class work. All of us got some form of latte coffee.

My order was a ginger snap cookie with a warm Spanish latte. It was also pretty chilly out so I also borrowed my sister’s cardigan since we were sitting outside.

Gingersnap cookie and Spanish latte
Gingersnap cookie and Spanish latte

We finished and left close to noon, and headed back home since my sis was working from 3-7pm at her job at one of the stores in the local mall. After taking a quick lunch break at home, we headed to the mall and I set up shop near the food court.

We actually didn’t leave until 8pm because they held my sis back to recover the store. It was frustrating, as I found myself pacing back and forth through the mall, but I recall how mind-numbing and annoying my retail jobs used to be, and I could only feel for my poor sis.

When she did get out, we had dinner at Native Foods in Aliso Viejo and I surely did not complain. By the end of our meal, we were both more than ready to fall asleep. She of course had to Skype with her BF though, so she ended up going to bed hours after I did, haha.

In the morning, she dropped me off at the train station and I made the long trek to lab on a Monday morning. We didn’t have time to pick up coffee, but I managed to get some of the new birthday cake-flavored Quest bars while at the mall the day before from GNC.

The bar itself was softer than the usual Quest bars, but I was in favor of the chewy consistency. Of course there was some of that slightly grainy protein bar flavor, but overall I liked it more than the original flavors.

Quest Bar - Birthday Cake
Quest Bar – Birthday Cake

The rest of the week was busy with work and prepping things so that I my stuff at work would be taken care of on all points while I was out. Once Friday rolled around, I was more than ready to be pampered at home…and I guess, for the Route 66 Marathon too πŸ˜‰

Tikka Wraps & Curry Bowls Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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 πŸ™‚

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:

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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!

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My Dad’s plate was no exception:

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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 πŸ˜‰ ?

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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

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 πŸ˜›

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 πŸ˜›

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

Brunch & Beach

Brunch & Beach

My sister needed me to check out a potential housing option in the OC, and so I thought it would be the perfect reason to head down to the area for a brunch & beach day. Lucky for me, one of my undergrad assistants was able to take care of some small things for me that Sunday, and so I did not have to step into lab. It feels great to delegate work sometimes, haha.

I picked up E from a nearby Expo line station after my morning run and shower. From there, we got on the freeway and it was pretty much an easy Sunday drive down to Aliso Viejo.

Bagels & Brew
Bagels & Brew

I suggested we eat out at Bagels & Brew, mostly because of their unicorn bagel, but they had other enticing options as well.

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We decided to eat inside at a booth, but ordered first at the counter. E got a sandwich of course, and a grande sized coffee. I went for the unicorn/rainbow bagel with jalapeΓ±o cheddar cream cheese, avocado, tomato, and lime juice…otherwise known as “Aliso Viejo” style.

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For my drink, the agave nectar latte sounded warm and sweet, so I had that to accompany my meal.

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Everything was piled on so high since it was served open face, so I needed the help of a fork to ensure no avocado slice or cream cheese drop was left behind.

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We sat for a good half hour at our booth after eating, and then got up and walked around the shopping plaza. This Bagels & Brew was actually near the Native Foods we went to for my birthday last year, so I was circling familiar territory.

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E and I had fun walking in and out of stores like Michael’s, Lowe’s, and B&N, joking about what we could get to decorate our lab office, picking up some Drain-O, and browsing through aisles of overpriced books. After killing some time at the shopping plaza, we headed out towards Aliso Beach. The temperature was starting to creep up without warning, so driving with the A/C on was much needed.

Walking to the beach
Walking to the beach

We parked on a slope in a residential area, about 10 minutes away by foot from the beach. The walk down was easy to navigate, and when we got to the sand, we took our socks and shoes off only to be burned by the sun-exposed sand.

At the beach
At the beach

The water had a truly beautiful blue hue though, and even though we didn’t bring a towel to sit down on, we managed and found a nice little spot to sit down at and enjoy the relaxing view.

After about an hour of sun-bathing and self-reflecting, we got up and made our ascent back to the car. Dusting the sand off our legs and feet was quite the task, but we did the best we could before getting in the car and driving off to Mission Viejo.

Several entrances on freeways and u-turns later, we stopped for a smoothie/acai bowl break. That helped cool off our beach-raised core body temperatures!

A PB acai bowl to help cool off...
A PB acai bowl to help cool off…

And finally, we made it to the house that could potentially house my sister. The current tenant seemed friendly, and E and I took a look around while I took some pictures for my sis. There were two cute fur babies (a black and a gray/white cat!!) who apparently took ownership of the domain. My sister had been wanting this place to work out, and when I sent her the pictures, she was definitely sold. I mean…I couldn’t argue about her decision. With a backyard looking the way this place’s does, how could anyone say no?

I thought she should say yes based on the view alone...
I thought she should say yes based on the view alone…

We immediately drove back to LA after, and after dropping E off, I surprisingly didn’t feel as exhausted as I did last weekend. In fact, I felt reenergized! Just comes to show how a full day off can work wonders! The pint of the weekend was So Delicious’ Soymilk Peanut Butter Zigzag, and to me it was yet another disappointment.

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I had my eye on this flavor for a while, but never thought about getting it because of my love for Snickerdoodle and Cookie Dough like I previously mentioned. It had a number of peanut butter chunks and chocolate pieces, but there just wasn’t enough PB to balance out the chocolate. In other words, a flavor worth missing out on in my opinion…

What do you think of the rainbow/unicorn foodie trend?

Bagels & Brew 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!

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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 β™₯
Whiskey Cream CroCream with mochi and strawberries β™₯

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.

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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

SoCal Veg Fest!

SoCal Veg Fest!

The last time I went to a vegan food festival, it was when I had recently moved to LA and had learned about the inaugural Vegan Oktoberfest. I enjoyed the experience overall, but I haven’t been back since the event was first held in 2014 (if I were “invited”, perhaps I would reconsider πŸ˜‰). So obviously, my attendance at a foodie festival was long overdue. I couldn’t have been more excited to attend So Cal Veg Fest!

The event was held at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Halloween weekend, but based on the food offerings and other activities planned, I had no reason to fear a thing. Except maybe transportation…

I originally thought about renting a Zipcar for the day, but then I thought about having to drive, rely on Google Maps and keeping my phone charged, crazy So Cal drivers, etc. I then estimated the cost of Uber/Lyft. It’s pretty much $50 one way from LA to Costa Mesa, and an all-day rental from Zipcar would have been around $82. In order to save just a little bit, I decided to take a bus to Downtown, and then from there take the 460 bus to Disneyland. From Disneyland, I got an Uber to Orange Coast College and that only cost me $19. Even though it would cost me a good chunk of money on my return trip, at least overall I would be spending less than if I had rented a Zipcar all day, which ultimately justifies my travel decisions πŸ˜‰

When I got to the venue, I saw a plethora of tents set up and things seemed to be rolling. Since I wanted to check-in formally with the person who had been contacting me about being an ambassador, I figured the sensible thing to do would be to walk over to the information tent and find her there.

So Cal Veg Fest 2016!
So Cal Veg Fest 2016!

Unfortunately, I realized communication among the volunteers, staff, and media people was very unorganized. I could see everyone was working hard, but not one of the volunteers I spoke to had a clue who my contact person was. One person got so impatient with me that she just handed me one of the goody bags they were selling and some food vouchers said “just take these, I have more important things to deal with right now”, which I found downright rude as I honestly just wanted to formally meet the person who invited me to come. I wasn’t making this up!

Eventually, I thought to call my mysterious contact person since I remembered that she had her phone number in her e-mail signature. I did meet her, and she even gave me some extra food vouchers! I now felt more relaxed and eager to begin exploring all the tents.

samples
Samples!

There were samples at pretty much every tent—vegan egg rolls, protein smoothies, vegan cheese, vegan chocolate, I could have eaten a day’s worth of food in samples alone, but I had a strong enough appetite for many entrees…

wings
I had my eyes on these since seeing them on Instagram…VEGAN BUFFALO WINGS from Clean South!
curry__plate
Strictly Jamaican’s Curry Plate with rice, quinoa, fried plantain, curried tofu, salad with avocado

I did watch part of a cooking demo while munching on my curry plate, but the idea of making second (and third) rounds at all the tents sounded more appealing.

more-samples
More samples!
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Vegan cheese sample on a bread piece.

As the day wore on, it definitely got warmer—a drastic change from the cool, breezy morning.

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Vegan Dots that I passed on πŸ™ // Sitting at the demo // Follow Your Heart vegan products

I wanted to spend a food voucher on some vegan Dippin’ Dots, but they didn’t take vouchers so I passed on that treat πŸ™ …

Since I couldn’t get the vegan dippin dots, I “settled” for some frozen mint lemonade from Scandylicious Desserts. A lot of people had the same idea since as I made my way to the seating area near the main stage, every their person I saw had a frozen lemonade or a similar cool treat in their hands.

mint_lemonades
Scandylicious Desserts FROZEN MINT LEMONADE ah!

I actually sat down mid-presentation of a representative of Farm Sanctuary (or maybe he was the founder lol ?). He made a lot of relevant points in a non-preachy way. One of the points that I was happy to hear he believed was that veganism isn’t perfect, but it’s a lifestyle to aspire to, and that when animals are raised in a kind environment (NOT slaughterhouses) they are able to express their personalities and are such beautiful, sweet creatures. Hearing him compare turkeys to puppies and speak so lovingly about his charming rescue pigs definitely put a smile on my face, and while I’m not a vegan at this point in time, it is something I certainly want to work towards…if only for the animals and environmental conservation πŸ˜‰

plushie_cupcakes
Adorable plushies!!! And extravagant cupcake entries in a cupcake contest!!

After the talk, I made yet another round of the tents, admiring plushies this time around, as well as using the last of my food vouchers on some vegan Hawaiian pizza. While the toppings and “cheese” were delicious, the dough was extremely chewy and it wouldn’t have hurt if it had spent more time in the oven. Oh well, I surprisingly still had an appetite (and room) for it since I engulfed it within minutes.

vegan_pizza
Two slices of vegan Hawaiian pizza πŸ™‚

I decided to leave around 4pm when I felt full and ready for a nap, haha! It was at this time I braced myself as I dialed for an Uber that I knew would cost me more than a pretty penny.

But I took the perspective of that I was paying for the experience (and saving time). I was home within an hour, and my Uber driver was pretty chill and not that talkative once we were on the highway, which allowed me to listen to music while staring out the window.

When I got back home, I laid out my goods, and then promptly spent the rest of the night relaxing in my room and going to bed early.

veg-fest
SoCal Vegfest goodies!

The next day, I had a morning run with my team and after the run, didn’t feel like going out. Instead, I did some grocery shopping and was back home at 12pm…a 2 hour nap ensued, and so this pint+brownie combo happened as well:

pint
Halloween-themed treat — Lenny and Larry’s Peanut Butter brownie atop of an Eatenlightened Pint πŸ™‚

Speaking of pints, I happened to have three more of the new Halo Top pint flavors. Not vegan, but very much vegetarian-friendly!

Top favorite from these three-

Trying out Halo Top flavor number 7️⃣ out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available---S'mores 🍫 πŸ”₯!!! Compared to Cookies and Cream, this one was MUCH better in regards to texture. The graham cracker pieces maintained a nice crunch even when immersed in the ice cream, and I think I found all the chocolate chips that should have been in my CCCD pint, in here πŸ˜‚ With seven down and only three remaining, my preferences are becoming clearer and clearer with each pint consumed 🍦 πŸ˜‰
Trying out Halo Top flavor number 7️⃣ out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available—S’mores 🍫 πŸ”₯!!! Compared to Cookies and Cream, this one was MUCH better in regards to texture. The graham cracker pieces maintained a nice crunch even when immersed in the ice cream, and I think I found all the chocolate chips that should have been in my CCCD pint, in here πŸ˜‚ With seven down and only three remaining, my preferences are becoming clearer and clearer with each pint consumed 🍦 πŸ˜‰

My second favorite –

Trying out Halo Top flavor number 9️⃣out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available---Black Cherry πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’ S/O to my local Ralph's for carrying everything so far except for Peanut Butter Crunch πŸ˜‚ I feel like this is what Strawberry would be like if it actually had strawberry pieces mixed in. There are real chewy dark cherry pieces in this pint, which adds texture to the fruity and creamy ice cream base. It's already an underrated flavor, I can tell by how many pints are still in stock compared to the other new ones, but I'm ranking this one higher up there πŸ‘†πŸ½
Trying out Halo Top flavor number 9️⃣out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available—Black Cherry πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’ S/O to my local Ralph’s for carrying everything so far except for Peanut Butter Crunch πŸ˜‚ I feel like this is what Strawberry would be like if it actually had strawberry pieces mixed in. There are real chewy dark cherry pieces in this pint, which adds texture to the fruity and creamy ice cream base. It’s already an underrated flavor, I can tell by how many pints are still in stock compared to the other new ones, but I’m ranking this one higher up there πŸ‘†πŸ½

Least favorite πŸ™ –

Trying out Halo Top flavor number 8️⃣ out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available---Chocolate Almond Crunch 🍫 🌰πŸ’₯ the color of the ice cream was a light pastel brown (lol does that even exist 😝) but upon opening the paper top, it had a weird medicine-like odor? Not sure how to explain it, but it reminded me of a menthol/cough syrup kind of odor that did go away after a few seconds. Overall, the almond slices were nothing special but the ice cream was soft and not overwhelming at all! I'd say get this when Vanilla Bean is too much to handle πŸ˜‚πŸ¦
Trying out Halo Top flavor number 8️⃣ out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available—Chocolate Almond Crunch 🍫 🌰πŸ’₯ the color of the ice cream was a light pastel brown (lol does that even exist 😝) but upon opening the paper top, it had a weird medicine-like odor? Not sure how to explain it, but it reminded me of a menthol/cough syrup kind of odor that did go away after a few seconds. Overall, the almond slices were nothing special but the ice cream was soft and not overwhelming at all! I’d say get this when Vanilla Bean is too much to handle πŸ˜‚πŸ¦

Are you a fan of food festivals?

P’s (Birth)day Off

P’s (Birth)day Off

After coming off a tumultuous and stressful week, I was more than ready for my birthday to come around! After meeting my sister and our friend at the hotel close to 10:00pm, we all went down to the hotel’s jacuzzi to soak our legs, relax, and spend some time together since we didn’t want to go to sleep just yet.

We soaked for ~20 min, and then went back upstairs to get some serious shut-eye. I still woke up early around 7am the next morning, but it was my birthday and I didn’t want to waste a minute of it πŸ˜‰ . The girls woke up a little while after, and we were all ready and out by 11am. We missed the hotel breakfast hours, so by the time we hit the road for Aliso Viejo/Laguna Beach, we were already discussing lunch options!

I knew right away that Native Foods was my #1 pick, since I’ve made it my personal mission to visit all of the Native Foods locations. I’ve pretty much accomplished that goal for their Cali locations (just need to somehow get to Palm Springs to officially do it), thanks to our stop in Aliso Viejo.

nativefoodsaliso
Native Foods in Aliso Viejo

I captured more photos of the restaurant and our food orders, but in the middle of transferring pics from my phone to laptop, I somehow managed to delete a bulk of them. Definitely made me irritated, but at least I was able to salvage a couple thanks to posting earlier on Instagram.

I didn’t feel like trying anything new or new-to-me, but I also didn’t feel the need to get my all-time favorite platter of vegan nachos. Instead, I stuck to another ol’ favorite of mine: the Soul Bowl.

Made me soulllllfullll
Made me soulllllfullll

I’ve seen this dish morph over the years. Back in 2012 when I first stepped foot into a Native Foods, the bowl was drenched in sauces and had two fried “chik’n” skewers pierced through the top and center. Now a little over four years later, the presentation is a little less extreme…it’s more elegantly-styled, but still full of flavor. It’s hard to see in this pic but the soulful-ness from this bowl comes from what’s underneath all those greens. The quinoa and beans at the bottom were just as satisfying and filling as I remembered them!

My sis and friend shared a Soul Bowl and a burger+fries kind of dish, while my Dad had a Thai “meat” ball salad (and after looking back at this post from last year, he basically ordered the same exact thing as last time!!). When we got our fill, we drove out west towards the coast, and pretty much hopped out of the car once we knew we were as close to the coast of Laguna Beach as we could get.

I mean, look. at. that.
I mean, look. at. that.

After being awestruck for a good 30 minutes, we finally asked a local how to get down to the sand where the real action was. When we made it, we spent a good portion of the afternoon appreciating the liveliness of our surroundings and the excitement of the ocean.

Ahhh so pretty...
Ahhh so pretty…

I didn’t bring my swimsuit so I couldn’t get more than knee-deep into the ocean, but it was fun enough to run to/from the waves every time they splashed onto the shore.

After soaking in enough sun, we took an ice cream break (sadly no pictures since I accidentally deleted them πŸ™ ), and made the long trip back to LA since we all had to get up early the next day. We had dinner once we got back, which consisted of chips+cheese dip and a large veggie pizza split amongst the four of us. Of course, we couldn’t fall into a deep slumber without a few minutes of jacuzzi time.

I did my best to fully take in every single minute of my birthday since I knew the next day would be a grueling one for me. I had to wake up at 4am in order to go into lab and begin a procedure that kept me up until 2am the following day…it was FAR from fun, but at least I did get my birthday off? Hmm…I’m just glad that I’m taking next week off to visit my family in Oklahoma. I see that as my ultimate birthday gift.

Native Foods Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pasta on Pizza

Pasta on Pizza

My sister and I spent the rest of our Saturday afternoon, after stuffing our faces with cookies and milk, being emotionally-moved by The Good Dinosaur. I was also touched by the short beforehand (Sanjay’s Super Team). My sis and I agreed that even though TGD was excellent, it wasn’t advertised as much as it should have been. I remember seeing promotional stuff about Inside Out months before it came out, but TGD came up by surprise. It really should have gotten more press…

After our movie, we didn’t want to travel too far for dinner. We thought we’d check out one of the more fancier places nearby (an Italian restaurant), but their vegetarian pizza selection was minimal.

So we opted for the other Italian place next door…

 Mobtown Pizza, Tustin
Mobtown Pizza, Tustin

It seemed less pretentious, had more pizza variety, and easy on the student wallet πŸ˜‰

mbpizza_icecrm_l&lcookie (3)

It was also brightly-lit inside, unlike the dimly-lit, fancy place we almost dined in.

 Comfy & casual atmosphere
Comfy & casual atmosphere

It also seemed like it was a pretty popular place to go—there was a birthday party going on, and lots of mom/daughter pairs having pizza after a long day of shopping.

 Saturday night pizza.
Saturday night pizza.

My sis and I initially wanted to get a deep dish pizza slice each, but they didn’t have any available that were vegetarian. So we decided to do the next best thing and order a full pizza, with half veggies and half pasta. While we waited for our pizza to be rolled out and baked (which actually took a while…but maybe it was because we were hungry…), we noticed the mobster/Godfather-themed dΓ©cor:

 Godfather-themed
Godfather-themed

The mobster phrases though!

 Common Mobsta Phrases
Common Mobsta Phrases

Before we got to the point of eating our arms off, our pizza arrived!

 Half-n-Half
Half-n-Half

I helped myself to two slices of the Don Veggie, which was topped with an assortment of veggies, including artichoke hearts.

 Don Veggie
Don Veggie

I tried the Fat Macaroni Pie slice, and it was incredible. It was literally like having pasta with marinara sauce on pizza crust.

 Fat Macaroni Pie!
Fat Macaroni Pie!

Pasta usually isn’t my entrΓ©e of choice, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be. Sometimes it’s okay to take a break from the comfortable falafel and quinoa πŸ˜‰

 Fat Macaroni Pie Pasta Slice
Fat Macaroni Pie Pasta Slice

Our OC Thanksgiving weekend was over on Sunday, when my sis and I parted ways at Union Station and I had to park myself in front of a computer for the next seven hours just to finish a proposal.

At least it was completed by a decent hour, and I was able to treat myself to this exclusive Wal-Mart B&J’s flavor. I was able to stop by the one close to Union Station before dropping my sis off!

 Ben & Jerry's Pumpkin Cheesecake
Ben & Jerry’s Pumpkin Cheesecake

Graham cracker swirl. That’s really all there is to it. Sorry to say the pumpkin was not that noticeable!

I also picked up the other Wal-Mart exclusive to try the next day, but I was not a fan. Too much (icy) strawberry and not enough shortbread :/

 Ben & Jerry's Strawberry Not So Shortcake Ice Cream
Ben & Jerry’s Strawberry Not So Shortcake Ice Cream

But at least L&L’s Birthday Cake Cookie was not a disappointment! I bought a box on Black Friday (most of my purchases that day was solely on food!!), and I had most of them over the weekend…

They taste like a regular, soft sugar cookie, but smell like birthday cake. Put some icing on these and you’ve got a protein-packed Lofthouse-style cookie.

 Lenny & Larry's Birthday Cake Cookie
Lenny & Larry’s Birthday Cake Cookie

Do you prefer pizza from a casual or fine dining place?

Mobtown Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Milk in Cookies

Milk in Cookies

We had our fill on Thanksgiving and Black Friday no doubt, but my sister had her heart set on venturing out to the one and only Dirty Cookie in Tustin for their trademark cookie shots.

 Ahh so many cookie shots!
Ahh so many cookie shots!

I hadn’t realized it before, but they happened to be in the same Tustin Ranch area as the Native Foods I visited over the summer. Unfortunately, the Native Foods closed, but I did not venture into the Union Market last time…

 Union Market
Union Market

Little did I know I was missing out on A LOT. Dirty Cookie was one of them. Thanks to my sis, I know I’ll have to be back so I can check out the other foodie stalls inside—everything from customizable s’mores to ice cream crepes!

Gorgeous digs
Gorgeous digs

There was one employee working at the time we visited, and she gleefully filled us in on the concept. We got to choose our flavor shot glass-shaped cookie, and pick chocolate milk, regular milk, or vanilla cream as our milk to go inside the cookie shot. Each cookie was also coated with belgian chocolate :9 !!

 The Dirty Cookie - Union Market, Tustin Ranch
The Dirty Cookie – Union Market, Tustin Ranch

I chose the pumpkin spice cookie, which was coated in white chocolate and topped with cinnamon spice. I had the vanilla cream as my milk.

Pumpkin Spice Cookie Shot with Vanilla Cream
Pumpkin Spice Cookie Shot with Vanilla Cream

My sis got the chocolate (of course) cookie, and filled it to the brim with regular ol’ milk (which surprised me—I thought she would choose the chocolate milk without fail πŸ˜› ).

Chocolate cookie shot + milk
Chocolate cookie shot + milk

We also got a chocomint cookiewich to share, which tasted like a soft peppermint whoopie pie. It actually ended up being my favorite, since I found the cookie shot too sweet. Even the vanilla cream tasted more like regular milk…I was expecting it to be thicker and well, creamier.

Chocomint cookie-wich!
Chocomint cookie-wich!

My sis absolutely adored her chocolate cookie shot, and her sweetness quota was maxed out for the day. I’m glad that it at least met her expectations πŸ˜‰

What’s you favorite cookies + milk combo?

The Dirty Cookie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

OC Thanksgiving

OC Thanksgiving

When I asked my sister what we should do for Thanksgiving this year, since we couldn’t hop on a flight to see our family in the middle of the country, she had the brilliant idea of doing something local with Airbnb.

With some careful planning and some luck (apparently the place we booked is pretty popular), we were able to score a clean, roomy 1-bedroom in Costa Mesa.

 Digs in Costa Mesa.
Digs in Costa Mesa.

The first thing we did was unpack and nap. It felt so good to be able to control the thermostat and crank it down to the lowest it could go (I try to take advantage of these situations since my current living arrangements with my roommate involve A/C wars -.- ).

After our little nap, my sister and I only had to walk about fifteen minutes to get to NATIVE FOODS at the Camp, where they were hosting a Thanksgiving dinner!

We couldn’t get dine-in reservations since they sold out, but we did find seats outside, since the other establishments in the Camp were closed for the holiday.

 The Native Wellington being rationed.
The Native Wellington being rationed.

The buffet line started off with the Native Wellington, which was a stuffed pastry filled with seitan and veggies and all that veggie good stuff. The line followed with a polenta-type dish, creamed asparagus, cornbread, waldorf salad, kale, and a breaded cranberry dish. We got to take out two trays, a drink, and dessert (pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake). My sister and I both got pumpkin cheesecakes which came with a nutty syrup topping.

 DA FOOD.
DA FOOD.

We enjoyed our meal outside, and while it was all filling and delicious, we both didn’t think it was worth the $30/person price,…at least for the amount of food we got. If we had dined in, we could have taken some to-go if we had wanted.

We spent the rest of our Thanksgiving curled up with our respective assignments (I had a proposal and presentation due the Monday right after the holiday weekend, yuck…), but then spent a few hours watching a few episodes from a Lisa Ling series on Netflix before going to bed.

On Friday, we woke up casually and headed out towards South Coast Mall for Black Friday…well, that wasn’t the main reason for our excursion. Rather, we headed further north towards the border of Santa Ana.

What made Santa Ana so magical and worth visiting was Cauldron Ice Cream—the home of the “puffle cone”.

 Black FRIDAY shopping requires proper ice cream fueling.
Black FRIDAY shopping requires proper ice cream fueling.

I had been wanting to come here since seeing the magical puffle rise in popularity on Instagram. I have to be honest and say that was partially the reason why I booked the place we ended up staying…since it was so close to Cauldron, haha!

At first I was overwhelemed by the menu, but after spotting Speculoos—BAM, my decision was done-decided. My sis took her time and ended up getting Smores, which came out much fancier than my simple scoop.

 Puffle cones for sisters.
Puffle cones for sisters.

I was expecting the cone to be crisp like a regular ice cream cone, but it was actually chewy and hot, just like a regular waffle fresh off the gridle. I’m not sure if I really liked how chewy it was, but I had a puffle cone in my hands so I was going to enjoy it regardless.

 Why, hello there puffle!
Why, hello there puffle!

After ice cream, it was then time for shopping. We literally waddled around the mall for hours, and to make matters worse, my legs felt like lead so walking felt unbearable. The crowds were insane, so I’m surprised we managed to stay for so long AND make it out of there with stuff!

 Shopping tree!
Shopping tree!

We even had the patience to walk around in the evening, admiring the holiday lights already on the trees.

For dinner, we were walking distance away from Halal Guys. Dinner wouldn’t be so easy to get though…just like in the mall, we had to bear through the crowds and wait in line.

 The Halal Guys // Cute wall painting when we were standing in line // watching people eat while we are waiting ;-;
The Halal Guys // Cute wall painting when we were standing in line // watching people eat while we are waiting ;-;

We made it inside within 20 minutes and I was beginning to feel ravenous and emotionally hangry. When my turn came up, I asked for the falafel plate, and the employees were slightly stunned since most people come for the chicken and gyro. There was even some discussion between the employees about whether or not the falafel was cooked enough!

 Inside the Halal Guys
Inside the Halal Guys

Everything was alright in the end though, and while my sister chose to wait to eat when we got back to the apartment, I could not wait to dig in. I needed the energy now just to walk back.

The plate itself was a beauty. Unlike other falafel plates I had in the past, the falafel were moderately-sized, topped with a mayo-based sauce, and a drizzle of HOT sauce.

 Falafel plate!
Falafel plate!

It took me about 20 minutes to finish the plate, and I felt stuffed. My sis even knew I was now satiated, and I had tamed the hunger beast. She has an incredible amount of patience I tell ya!

When we left, there was still a line out the door! Our routine that night was similar to Thursday’s. For our final day in Orange County, we planned to go to Tustin…this time to visit a place my sis had been dying to go to!

Did you eat out or have a home-cooked meal this Thanksgiving?

The Halal Guys Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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