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 jalapeño 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 ♥
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.

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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 😉). 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 😉

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!
picmonkey-collage
Vegan cheese sample on a bread piece.

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

wish-i-got-some-icecream
Vegan Dots that I passed on 🙁 // 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 🙁 …

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 😉

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🔟 new ones available---S'mores 🍫 🔥!!! 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 😂 With seven down and only three remaining, my preferences are becoming clearer and clearer with each pint consumed 🍦 😉
Trying out Halo Top flavor number 7️⃣ out of the 🔟 new ones available—S’mores 🍫 🔥!!! 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 😂 With seven down and only three remaining, my preferences are becoming clearer and clearer with each pint consumed 🍦 😉

My second favorite –

Trying out Halo Top flavor number 9️⃣out of the 🔟 new ones available---Black Cherry 🍒🍒🍒 S/O to my local Ralph's for carrying everything so far except for Peanut Butter Crunch 😂 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 👆🏽
Trying out Halo Top flavor number 9️⃣out of the 🔟 new ones available—Black Cherry 🍒🍒🍒 S/O to my local Ralph’s for carrying everything so far except for Peanut Butter Crunch 😂 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 👆🏽

Least favorite 🙁 –

Trying out Halo Top flavor number 8️⃣ out of the 🔟 new ones available---Chocolate Almond Crunch 🍫 🌰💥 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 😂🍦
Trying out Halo Top flavor number 8️⃣ out of the 🔟 new ones available—Chocolate Almond Crunch 🍫 🌰💥 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 😂🍦

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 😉 . 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 🙁 ), 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 😉

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 décor:

 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 entrée 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 😉

 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 😛 ).

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 😉

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

Milky Buns

Milky Buns

We left San Diego in the early afternoon on Sunday, but when I learned Grocery Outlet did indeed have several So Cal locations (they just happened to only be in the San Diego area…) we couldn’t leave without stopping by the Oceanside location.

 Only I would take a picture of Grocery Outlet in admiration ;)
Only I would take a picture of Grocery Outlet in admiration 😉

It was certainly a worthy pit stop since I made it out with produce, eight yogurts, and low carb bread (what??) for less than $14. 

After picking up groceries, we were off towards our next destination. About an hour later (after figuring out what weird directions the GPS was navigating us through), we made it to a strip mall parking lot in Fountain Valley, where Afters Ice Cream was located. 

 Yeah...who would be able to see a small sign saying "ice cream" from so far away? This cost us two loops on the freeway, and wasted minutes circling the parking lot.
Yeah…who would be able to see a small sign saying “ice cream” from so far away? This cost us two loops on the freeway, and wasted minutes circling the parking lot.

As we got close to the storefront, we noticed there was a line out the door…even though it was almost dinnertime on a Sunday evening.

 At least we knew what the top flavors were before entering inside.
At least we knew what the top flavors were before entering inside.

We also got to check our eye health…you know, just in case we couldn’t believe we were about to dive into ice cream sandwich decadence…

 Eat more ice cream...eat less homework??
Eat more ice cream…eat less homework??

All of these people ahead of us were hungry for some ice cream too!!

 Such a long line.
Such a long line.

Despite the length line and large crowds, we were served our ice cream sandwiches pretty quickly. This shop’s specialty is the milky bun ice cream sandwich, which is basically a scoop of ice cream (with toppings!) sandwiched in between a sliced donut-like bun.

 Buns ready to go!!
Buns ready to go!!

I knew I wanted to get the cookie monster ice cream (a blue ice cream with crushed cookie swirl), and topped with cookie crisp cereal. Funny thing is, despite all of the ice cream flavors available…

 Including Vietnamese Coffee and S'mores.
Including Vietnamese Coffee and S’mores.

And toppings…

 Fruit loops, Cap'n Crunch included.
Fruit loops, Cap’n Crunch included.

My sister got the exact same thing. Great girls think alike I suppose 😛

We found a table to sit at outside, and I had to be quick with my picture-taking since my ice cream was melting quickly.

 Top of milky bun.
Top of milky bun.

The ice cream wasn’t able to keep a thick, creamy texture because of its tendency to melt quickly, but at least most of it stayed within the confines of the bun 😛

 Looks so good, but melts so fast!!!
Looks so good, but melts so fast!!!

I also underestimated its size. The sandwich was quite small, and it only took a few standard-sized bites to get through. Still, it was an excellent dessert to conclude our weekend trip with.

 Cookie crisp peek-a-boo.
Cookie crisp peek-a-boo.

I think next time (there are still the Tustin and Chino Hills locations left to visit!), I’ll request more toppings 😉

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Stax of Sweetness

Stax of Sweetness

I knew that a fun-filled week of free food, beaches, and vegan favorites would eventually come to an end, but at least it ended on a sweet note.

Our trip to Tustin eventually became a trip to Irvine. The day was still gorgeous, bright, and sunny when we pulled up to the parking lot at University Town Center, right across from the UC Irvine campus.

 University Town Center!
University Town Center!

The little shopping and dining area very much gave off a college town vibe, and it reminded me of my undergrad days…

 Beautiful arches...one of which decorates my dessert destination!
Beautiful arches…one of which decorates my dessert destination!

My purpose for the visit that afternoon was to get my cookie-and-ice-cream fix at Stax Cookie Bar, a custom ice cream sandwich shop that also serves up other sweet specialties. I was fortunate to try some of those as well 😉

 Welcome to Stax Cookie Bar!
Welcome to Stax Cookie Bar!

I first met Marina, who had reached out to me about coming in for a tasting. She greeted me with a smile and an overview of all their goods—cookies, ice cream, shave ice galore!

cookies!!!!
Stuffed cookies (smookies!) and a wide variety of other cookies!

I was then greeted by another staff member who encouraged me to try whatever I wanted and to make sure I left feeling “full”. How could I argue against that 😀 ?

 Fun wallpaper to stare at while munching on cookies & ice cream.
Fun wallpaper to stare at while munching on cookies & ice cream.

I first learned about the Smookie, which is really a warm, shapened piece of cookie dough that can be topped with any flavor ice cream and fudge, caramel, or whipped cream.

 So many ice cream flavors...which to choose??
So many ice cream flavors…which to choose??

I chose to have the Nutella-stuffed Smookie as my base, topped with a scoop of green tea ice cream and whipped cream. Best decision ever.

 The perfect Smookie.
The perfect Smookie.

The Nutella filling was obviously the best part 😉 ! It was also at the right temperature, coming out of the oven after just 3 minutes of warming up.

 The undeniably good filling with melted green tea ice cream (:
The undeniably good filling with melted green tea ice cream (:

For my other ice cream-related dessert, I was able to customize a ice cream cookie sandwich so that I had birthday cake ice cream (how convenient 😉 ) in between a mocha and snickerdoodle cookie. I had all flavor and color profiles represented here!

 The masterpiece.
The masterpiece.

My Dad liked the birthday ice cream the best, and I could certainly see why. The ice cream was perfectly creamy, and the added swirls of color tasted just like icing. It wasn’t just for show.

 Who needs birthday cake when you can have it in ice cream form...and sandwiched in between two cookies?!
Who needs birthday cake when you can have it in ice cream form…and sandwiched in between two cookies?!

To add to all the sweet excitment, we were given another dessert to try—a generous portion of green tea shave ice! Topped with syrup and freshly cut fruit.

 The presentation itself was beautiful!
The presentation itself was beautiful!

It tended to melt pretty quickly, so being the resourceful person that I am (haha), I used to top off the leftover cookie pieces from my ice cream sandwich. We weren’t able to completely finish it, but if our stomachs had been large enough, there’s no question we would have annihilated the cup and then some 😛 .

I asked Marina about their vegan options, and she pointed to two of their specially-vegan flavors. I was urged to take one for the road, so I chose to try their vegan (and gluten-free!) coconut chocolate chip cookie. I was also gifted with a beautiful stack of cookies!

 My stack of Stax cookies // one of the two vegan cookies offered
My stack of Stax cookies // one of the two vegan cookies offered

The vegan coconut chocolate chip cookie was more fragile compared to the regular cookies, but its flavors were just as great, if not better than a standard cookie. It tasted just like a sweet oatmeal bar with gooey chocolate mixed in and rich coconut oil gleaming on the surface.

Stax has plans to open more locations in the future, and I surely hope they do, since I can’t have this be my only visit 😉 . Ice cream sandwich and cookie bars may have started out as a trendy thing, but based on my experience, Stax has taken it to the next level!

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Wide Summer Skies & Open Roads

Wide Summer Skies & Open Roads

Once you get out of the city of LA, it’s amazing how much larger everything looks. On every occasion I’ve visited the OC, everything looks so HUGE compared to what I’m accustomed to in LA.

 But you can't deny the fact that these skies are beautiful over OC...
But you can’t deny the fact that these skies are beautiful over OC…

We left for the OC in the late morning, and surprisingly didn’t run into too much traffic. This made it a tolerable 50 minute drive, even though my Dad and I were growing hungrier by the minute!

I didn’t have a birthday freebie from Native Foods unfortunately, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to check out their Irvine location. It was quite a drive over to The District where they are located, since we spotted these spooky looking hangars circa WWII alongside the road…

 Don't let the picture fool you...these were incredibly huge in person!
Don’t let the picture fool you…these were incredibly huge in person!

The GPS made us drive around in circles before we finally reached the parking lot, but we did, found a spot to park in, and walked into the bright outdoor mall. 

 Palm trees & sunshine.
Palm trees & sunshine.

Native Foods was immediately to our right as we were walking in, and we didn’t hesitate at all as we walked inside.

nftustin
Native Foods is LOVE.

Since there was a line, we had plenty of time to figure out exactly what our grumbling tummies wanted.

 Inside the NF Tustin location.
Inside the NF Tustin location.

I decided to get something new and not the nuevo nachos that I always have to have 😛 . I guess I was still on a burger kick from my latest visit to Veggie Grill because I got the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger with a side of sweet potato fries (knowing fully well that my Dad loves them and that I would not be eating them all myself 😛 )

My Dad ordered the, Thai Meatball Earth Bowl, something new since my last visit, and the daily soup which was tortilla soup. We found some seats outside, and we didn’t have to wait long for our food to arrive.

oklahoma seitan cheeseburger
Sliced seitan, melted cheddar, caramelized onions and tofu bacon with BBQ sauce, ranch dressing, carrots, tomato and romaine. // Sweet potato fries because how can you NOT?
thaimeatballtortillasoup
Seitan meatballs tossed with mango-lime chili sauce, roasted red peppers and lemongrass broccoli on a bed of quinoa with our super slaw. // Tortilla soup.

I liked the burger, but I was expecting a stack of onion rings to be skewered on top based on previous pictures I had seen of the dish. But despite not seeing fried onion discs decorating my burger, I still thoroughly enjoyed the dish. I also had a meatball sample and spoonfuls of the soup. 

hello
That mango-lime chili sauce though…

As we were eating, there was an outdoor concert taking place by the water fountain in front of the AMC movie theaters. A folk singer was singing some of her original pieces, and it appropriately matched the vibe of our surroundings—summer in the California country.

sat--afternoon
Cali life.

After walking around for a bit, we decided to kill some time at Target (apartment supplies = birthday gift 😛 ) before heading over to our dessert stop for the day. It was quite an experience, and best saved for the next post!

Do you live in a “wide open spaces” kind of place, or in a compact and confined city?

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