Labor Day Weekend ’17

Labor Day Weekend ’17

I can’t believe Labor Day weekend was only a few weeks ago…it feels like it’s been ages! This year’s holiday weekend was another one spent in lab for me (meaning no day trip to Malibu like last year…), but I did make the most of the snippets of free time I could gather.

My friend J from lab was given a handful of “1  free Perfect Bar” coupons, and gave them to me before checking out for the holiday weekend. He wasn’t a fan, and asked if I’d make use of them. Obviously, yes!

Free bars, woooo!
Free bars, woooo!

It was convenient for me to redeem them at Trader Joe’s as a on-the-go breakfast, since it’s on my way to campus.

Almond Butter is a classic, and it’s crumbly texture with sesame seeds on top reminded me of an Indian powder sweet (Sathu Maavu). I commented on Instagram on how it truly was a “Perfect Bar”!

"This really is perfection āœØ"
“This really is perfection āœØ”

Dark Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter had a softer, more compact texture, and enough mini chocolate chips on the top to add a cute touch. And given that these bars can cost up to $3-4 retail, I was very grateful to J for those handful of coupons!

"Another perfect flavor šŸ«šŸ„œšŸŖ"
“Another perfect flavor šŸ«šŸ„œšŸŖ”

On Friday evening of Labor Day weekend, E and I were invited to attend our friend’s birthday. She’s the sweetest undergraduate who works in a neighboring lab, and we were excited to celebrate the special day with her.

Dockweiler Beach Sunset
Dockweiler Beach Sunset

We carpooled with her and her roommates to Dockweiler, and found a spot on the beach to set up camp and lay out some food.  She’s a fan of this local African taco place, and so we had that catered along with other party food fare (chips, cake, cookies, etc).

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Setting up a bonfire at Dockweiler Beach—another must-do for anyone living in LA!

More of her friends showed up, and as the sun set turned into night, we eventually were able to claim a fire pit and get a bonfire going! It definitely was a fun and memorable night.

Since I was spending Sunday night in lab, I did my best to finish up with my daily tasks on Saturday as quickly as possible. I was super hungry when I left, and didn’t want to venture out too far from my normal route home. Mod Pizza in Culver City was close enough, and pizza sounded appetizing, so that immediately became my destination.

Mod Pizza
Mod Pizza

The Art Lover is my go-to at Blaze, and at Mod Pizza, the closest thing I could find to that was Lucy Sunshine.

"First time trying Mod Pizza, and I was happy with my "Lucy Sunshine" choice šŸ‘šŸ½ šŸ•. Red sauce dollops and artichoke hearts on a flat, crispy piece of CARB is really all you need šŸ˜œ"
“First time trying Mod Pizza, and I was happy with my “Lucy Sunshine” choice šŸ‘šŸ½ šŸ•. Red sauce dollops and artichoke hearts on a flat, crispy piece of CARB is really all you need šŸ˜œ”

It was a smaller pie, but it did not lack in toppings. The mozzarella, parmesan, artichokes, garlic, and dollops of red sauce were all there.

The Culver City location was small and awkwardly placed facing the busy, traffic-packed Venice Rd., but it served its purpose as a clean dining area to sit down and finish off a pizza to fuel the rest of my Saturday.

Sunday was the day I was ready to dread, and since I would not be sleeping in the comforts of my bed that night, I took my time getting ready in the morning, before heading to campus.

I spent more time than I wanted to preparing for Monday’s early morning experiments, but I did give E a heads up on when I would be done, so she could meet me for an afternoon snack (and give me some company before I locked myself up in lab for the night!)

Cafe Amadine
Cafe Amadine

We found a cozy little spot called Cafe Amadine, and while they did have warm, savoy sandwiches, we opted for some frappucinos and split a banana cream cake slice. Wasn’t a fan of the cake (ugh, bananas!), but my green tea frapp was able to cover up the gross banana flavor, haha!

Sunday snackin'
Sunday snackin’

 After accompanying me back to lab, I said bye to E and settled in for my overnight stay. Funny how my Labor Day was definitely going to be packed with labor šŸ˜‰

Summer Winding Down

Summer Winding Down

The weekend my sister arrived to settle in the OC was also the weekend one of my lab mates was hosting a potluck at his house. It’s been years since anyone in our lab has gone out of their way to organize a lab get-together outside of lab, and so I have to give credit to my friend for taking on the challenge, haha!

Since my sister had the car now, she was invited so she could give us a ride ;).  Nah, she was welcome too. 

We carpooled with E and another lab mate and drove to West Covina east of LA. It took us an hour in headache-inducing traffic, and we were the last group to arrive. My friend who was hosting (let’s call him J) and his wife greeted us, and led us out to the backyard where the pool and food spread was. 
 
We got settled in with some plates of food, and sat by the pool while we ate. Everyone except E, my sister, and I made it to the pool sometime during our stay, but I was too lazy to even dip my feet in. 
 
We left around 4 in order to avoid traffic, and still faced stopped cars on all sides. By the time we dropped off my lab mate and E, it was almost 6! My sis wanted to get dinner since she wasn’t able to properly eat over the week due to stress from moving and settling in, and I was eager to oblige. I knew how much she liked Tocaya, so we paid their Venice location a visit. 
 
Tocaya, Venice
Tocaya, Venice
 
We found free street parking a few blocks away, and didn’t hesitate to park and power walk. Our hunger had caught up to us at that point, and we couldn’t afford to look at the menu for too long. 
 
A much cozier vibe.
A much cozier vibe.
 
I ended up getting a Shredded Kale and Quinoa salad, while my sis ordered the bowl she fell in love with during our last visit
 
Shredded Kale and Quinoa
Shredded Kale and Quinoa – quinoa & shredded kale tossed with white beans, avocado, chipotle-dusted almonds, chile lime pepitas seeds, pico de gallo & red-wine vinaigrette with chipotle-dusted tofu & vegan chipotle jack

My salad bowl was decent, but if it had not been for the dressing, it would have fallen flat. Even the tofu was slightly rubbery (and I prefer chewy tofu over the soft white kind!).

After dinner, we walked home with the humid beach air clinging over us, and despite there being no cooling beach breeze that night, we were able to sleep pretty soundly just from pure exhaustion.

The next morning, the weather was too great to pass up the opportunity to do something, so my sis and I hurried to lab soon after my long run. I had a ton of work to do, but she was willing to help me out and we were done in the afternoon. 

Destination O.T. Pasadena!
Destination O.T. Pasadena!
 
I let her pick where we should go for lunch, and after reading my “foodie bucket list” excel sheet (yes I have one, lol), Slater’s 50/50 in Pasadena sounded the most appetizing.
 
She drove, and while we did hit traffic passing by downtown, it was an easy, sunny drive to Pasadena once we got past all that. We found parking in Old Town on a side street, and walked over to the restaurant which was already packed with Sunday afternoon lunch-goers. 
 
Odd decor!
Odd decor!
 
We were able to get booth seating, and started off with Vampire Dip as an appetizer, and then decided to split the Veggie Burger because we predicted it would be a lot of food. Annnnd, we were right, haha!
 
Menu
Menu
 
The Vampire Dip was a cheesy, garlic concoction that was super thick, and its consistency was more like a melted cheese ball than a smooth bowl of dip. It came served in a bread bowl, with some flatbread crisps and veggies for dipping. 
 
Vampire Dip!
Vampire Dip!
 
I think the crew at Slater’s 50/50 knows how big their portions are, because our burger came to us already cut in half! 
 
Eat Your Veggies ~ veggie patty, red peppers, avocado mash, cucumbers, sage & garlic aioli, honey wheat bun
Eat Your Veggies ~ veggie patty, red peppers, avocado mash, cucumbers, sage & garlic aioli, honey wheat bun

My sis also felt like getting a shake, but finishing it was a whole other issue šŸ˜›

Half a burger was enough, not sure what my sis was thinking when she thought she could finish the shake!
Half a burger was enough, not sure what my sis was thinking when she thought she could finish the shake!

After getting our fill, it was mid-afternoon and I wanted my sis to have enough time to drive back down to the OC.

GOYO
So much yes.

Of course, I asked if we could stop by a nearby Grocery Outlet (this time the one in Rosemead), so I could get my cheap groceries for the week! My sis didn’t argue, seeing that she could benefit from the trip as well. Cheap food to off-set gas costs, haha!

Slater's 50/50 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back in August…

Back in August…

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

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

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

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

CAVA, USC Village
CAVA, USC Village

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

CAVA Menu
CAVA Menu

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

Grain Bowl!
Grain Bowl!

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

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

GoMacro Everlasting Joy
GoMacro Everlasting Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TURKISH BREAKFAST
TURKISH BREAKFAST

And of course we had some warm tea…

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

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

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

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

That Snickerdoodle Dough
That Snickerdoodle Dough

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

What your current food obsession?

Have you ever had a Turkish breakfast?

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

Birthday and The Rockwell

Birthday and The Rockwell

In the days leading up to my birthday last year, I was under what seemed like insurmountable stress, and getting away from everything was more than necessary on my birthday. My 24th was a fun one thanks to the thoughtfulness of my Dad, sister, and friend who went out of their way to give me company when I felt so lonely and was running on fumes…

This year was the first time I celebrated my actual birthday with no close family nearby. But I didn’t mind, because the day felt like any other day, other than the fact I turned a quarter of a century years old šŸ˜›

It started with a short run, specifically a speed workout, and from there, I was off to lab.

In lab, E surprised me with a gift (a Turkish tea set!) and after getting some work done in the morning, she and another one of my lab mates joined me for lunch. They had cake ready and thawed when we came back to the office, and we spent some more time chatting over cake.

I managed to get some more work done in the afternoon, but things slowed down around 5. I asked E if she wanted to join me for dinner at The Rockwell in Los Feliz, since I had been asked if I could come review their summer menu. Being able to set up the visit on my birthday was definitely a plus šŸ™‚

We took the metro over to Los Feliz since leaving to get the car and then driving through traffic didn’t seem like the best idea. When we got off at Vermont and Sunset however, we were greeted by extremely humid weather and…rain?! LA was acting crazy!

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We entered through the stage/club side first, and thought it was strange that a restaurant could be so dark. 

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Luckily, we had the sense to walk around the building and find the restaurant entrance.

The Rockwell, Los Feliz
The Rockwell, Los Feliz

We were greeted by some wait staff who at first didn’t know about the review visit, but we were able to grab some seats near the back, in a cozy little booth with a earthy-looking theme.

Getting cozy!
Getting cozy!

We were given the menu and took some time to figure out what sounded best. The skillet cauliflower ‘n’ cheese initially caught my eye, but E was eyeing it too, so I thought I’d get something different so we could share and try a variety of items.

E also got the RW Quinoa Burger (After figuring out that RW stands for Rockwell, haha), and I ended up choosing one of their wood stone flatbreads, the forest mushroom to be exact.

We were able to put in our order, and we didn’t have to wait too long for our food to arrive. In the meantime, we met The Rockwell’s owner/manager, and sipped on some cold glasses of water.

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We were amazed by how big the portions were when everything came out. And despite the muggy weather outside, we welcomed the warmth radiating from the food and couldn’t wait to dig in.

RW QUINOA BURGER ~ black bean, onion, sun-dried tomato, vegan mango chutney aioli
RW QUINOA BURGER ~ black bean, onion, sun-dried tomato, vegan mango chutney aioli

E wasn’t able to finish her burger, but she was ecstatic to find such a generous portion of avocado laid out so finely on her crisp quinoa patty.

My woostone flatbread was composed of wild mushrooms, leeks, white sauce, and truffle oil. It actually reminded me of the pizza I had at Pizza Studio a couple months ago, but the flatbread crust of this pizza had an intriguing texture. It was perfectly crisp on the outside, and pliable and chewy on the inside. Birthday calories obviously don’t count, and I had no problem getting through all of it šŸ˜›

FOREST MUSHROOM WOODSTONE FLATBREAD ~ WILD MUSHROOMS, LEEK, WHITE SAUCE & TRUFFLE OIL
FOREST MUSHROOM WOODSTONE FLATBREAD ~ WILD MUSHROOMS, LEEK, WHITE SAUCE & TRUFFLE OIL

I had some of E’s cauliflower ‘n’ cheese, which was described as a dish of multi-colored florets coated with golden panko crust and covered in cheese. It definitely wasn’t skimping on the cheese, and even though it’s an item under their “shareables”, it could easily be a rich entree if you so choose!

SKILLET CAULIFLOWER ā€œNā€ CHEESE ~ purple, yellow, white florets with golden panko crust
SKILLET CAULIFLOWER ā€œNā€ CHEESE ~ purple, yellow, white florets with golden panko crust

For the amount of food we got, and the quality, the cost was understandable and not too expensive. We had our meal covered, but the price range is certainly not out of reach if you are looking for a cozy, patio-style restaurant with shareable, bar food appetizers and classic entrees with a fresh, Californian (more like Hollywood-inspired) twist. They also hold shows throughout the month, the tickets to which are sold separately from dining in at the restaurant.

E and I took the train back, and I made it home close to 10pm. It was a busy, long birthday, but for what I did and who I surrounded myself with, I think I welcomed my 25th year the happiest way I could.

Rockwell Table & Stage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Days Like These

Days Like These

After a day to myself, I was eager to spend the Saturday catching up with E. I stopped by lab first to bid adieu to my undergrad, from there E and I left for Manhattan Beach.

I took the car out, and the drive out was a slightly crazy one since we were bracing ourselves on I-110 Southbound. We did make it one piece, and stopped for lunch at Cafe Rio since we were starving.

Standing in line
Standing in line

I’ve heard good things about Cafe Rio, which is a Chipotle-style restaurant, but in my opinion, everything looked more fresh.

Cafe Rio, Manhattan Beach
Cafe Rio, Manhattan Beach

I got a tostada bowl, while E got a quesadilla. My tostada was topped with cilantro rice, lettuce, guac, sour cream, tomatoes, black beans, tortilla strips, and refreshing spring of parsley.

Tostada Bowl
Tostada Bowl

I guess it wasn’t super outstanding, but since my appetite was raging, I devoured everything. E had to wait a while for me to finish since my bowl seemed to never end, and I was insistent on eating everything (including the tostada shell) with a fork, haha!

Clossssssse-up
Clossssssse-up

After getting our fill of fresh mex food, we stopped inside Barnes & Noble that was nearby before heading to the beach. We found parking in a hilly neighborhood, and only had to walk a block or two down to the shopping area right by the beach.

Once we made it past the shops, we found a spot to sit in the sand, and watch everything around us. It was more crowded than when we visited Aliso Beach, but we had fun taking in the surroundings and gossiping about our own stuff (like we don’t do that enough, haha).

Beach bummin'
Beach bummin’

We decided to head back a little before 5, and stopped for some smoothies at Jamba Juice since the weather was still warm. The drive back to LA was just as bracing as the drive we took in the morning, but I was able to drop off E and get home safely.

It was another pleasant Sunday, but I’m certainly not taking it for granted! I was looking at some past posts from around this time last year, and I was in a totally different mindset at the time, and going through some struggles that I’m glad I was able to get over! Having friends in the workplace like E has helped, and just feeling in more control of my surroundings. So yes, I’ll continue to greet and be grateful for days that pass like these ā™„.

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

4th of July What?

4th of July What?

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

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

Two Boots, DTLA
Two Boots, DTLA

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

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

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

ā™„ Night Tripper & V for Vegan ā™„
ā™„ Night Tripper & V for Vegan ā™„

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

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

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

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

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

Fratelli on Melrose
Fratelli on Melrose

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

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

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

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

"I've been craving eggs šŸ³ like crazy lately, so I wasn't surprised that I ended up getting Huevos Rancheros for a late lunch on Sunday at Fratelli Cafe with the lab bestie. Besides getting food in our systems, it didn't make sense to do anything else because of the heat wave šŸ”„šŸ”„šŸ”„ and after dropping her off at home, I was knocked out šŸ˜“ by 7:30pm. The next thing I know, I wake up and it's pitch black at 9pm šŸ˜±šŸ˜‚. I guess I must have been really tired in addition to being really hungry šŸ˜…. Working through the Fourth of July holiday weekend does that to you I guess šŸ¤·šŸ½ā€ā™€ļø šŸ˜‰ #PhDStudentLife"
“I’ve been craving eggs šŸ³ like crazy lately, so I wasn’t surprised that I ended up getting Huevos Rancheros for a late lunch on Sunday at Fratelli Cafe with the lab bestie. Besides getting food in our systems, it didn’t make sense to do anything else because of the heat wave šŸ”„šŸ”„šŸ”„ and after dropping her off at home, I was knocked out šŸ˜“ by 7:30pm. The next thing I know, I wake up and it’s pitch black at 9pm šŸ˜±šŸ˜‚. I guess I must have been really tired in addition to being really hungry šŸ˜…. Working through the Fourth of July holiday weekend does that to you I guess šŸ¤·šŸ½ā€ā™€ļø šŸ˜‰ #PhDStudentLife”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before Her Mid-Summer Departure

Before Her Mid-Summer Departure

In the second week my sister stayed with me, we ate out for dinner on most nights since my landlords were back. On that Monday night, we went out to dinner with my lab bestie E, at Tocaya in downtown SaMo.

Tocaya, Downtown Santa Monica
Tocaya, Downtown Santa Monica

E and I both had long, exhausting days, and were pretty much falling asleep on the train when on our way to meet my sister. My sister was waiting for us in her car, and from there it was an easy drive.

<3
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For a Monday night, the restaurant had a large crowd. We didn’t have to wait too long to order though. We all got bowls, with mine being the Venice Beach Bowl. I just went with the “chef’s suggestion” as listed on the menu, and had the bowl with roasted cauliflower, sweet potato, lentils, garbanzo beans, pickled onions, cilantro-curry salsa, vegan picadillo (pea-based protein) & vegan chipotle jack.

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We found a table by the wall, and sat there pretty quiet until our food came. Once we had food in our bellies, we were able to keep a conversation going! It was a fun evening out, and since going out to eat on weeknights is a rare occurrence for me, I found it to be especially enjoyable. We went back towards DTLA to drop E off at home, and then returned back to my place.

The rest of the week was spent getting back into the work grind, with my sister leaving that Thursday morning to have enough time to see our friend who was graduating. She was gone for two weeks, but came back for one night at the end of the month since she was leaving for Oklahoma to spend some time with my parents.

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For that night, we ate at Tender Greens, and after hearing me talk about the exquisite Falafel Plate I had at the Culver City location a few months back, she was excited to try it for herself. Although, her plate didn’t exactly match what I had.

Oddball cartoons
Oddball cartoons

This time around, I had the Falafel Salad. But it was honestly nothing to be over the moon about. The falafel was too dry, and the tahini sauce was more of a decoration than something to dip into.

Falafel Salad
Falafel Salad

My sister liked her plate though. She didn’t’ have the dollop of green hummus I had previously, but she had her mashed potatoes so she was perfectly content.

Falafel Plate
Falafel Plate

I drove her to the airport early the next morning, and then drove back home to park the car and head to lab. The following weeks were crazy work-wise, but now as I write this, it’s a little less hectic now.

Words to remember...
Words to remember…

 

I’ve still got tons to do (when is that going to change haha), but that doesn’t mean the weekends are completely non-existent šŸ˜‰

Tender Greens Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Off to Graduation!

Off to Graduation!

The first of my long series of travel posts—starting off with the days of my sister’s graduation weekend, and then the good stuff from Europe šŸ™‚ ! Enjoy!!

Graduation weekend came upon me so quickly! I still have at least two years to go for my PhD, but my sister is finally done with undergrad!

I was working till the last minute on Thursday afternoon before leaving for my two weeks off. My dad picked me up from campus, and the plan was for both of us to drive up to Fresno to see my sister and possibly help her with packing.

Everytable
Everytable

Before hitting the road, I introduced E to my Dad and we had lunch at a small but convenient place called a Everytable. I had been wanting to check it out for a while, and since we were running short on time trying to drive up to Fresno, it seemed like a good choice.

l
Grab a bowl,
sit down, and eat!

I was expecting more than salad bowls to be offered, and was slightly disappointed not to see some noodle or rice salads in the display. But for what I did choose (Kale Caesar Salad), the taste and texture wasn’t too bad! My salad came with Parmesan crisps to be used as a topping, and the additional crunch was a perfect touch.

Pretty good salad...
Pretty good salad…

We left around 2pm after dropping E back in lab. The three hour drive up wasn’t too hectic. We were battling LA traffic of course, at least until Santa Clarita, but once we were on the road time seemed to fly by. We stopped for coffee midway, and made it to Fresno by 6. My Dad and I were staying in an Airbnb for the night and checked in there first.

Before heading out to dinner, we thought to check in on my sister. She had plans with some friends that night but we were able to meet with her briefly and helped with some clean-up amidst her packing “mess”.

For dinner, we headed out to a place called Tofas Grill, since it was conveniently right next to a Wal-Mart. We planned to stop there to pick up some gift and greeting cards.

Tofas in Fresno
Tofas in Fresno

They offered a ton on their menu, but the only decent vegetarian option was a ginormous vegetarian plate.

Lots written down but not really much to offer...
Lots written down but not really much to offer…
They did have ample seating though!
They did have ample seating though!

The falafel was too dry for my liking though…

Falafel, salads, hummus, pita...the usual.
Falafel, salads, hummus, pita…the usual.
Looks good and appetizing, but the falafel was too dry...
Looks good and appetizing, but the falafel was too dry…

At least the pita was soft and made up for it? Can’t deny that it was a filling dish though!

After stopping by Wal-Mart for some gift cards and greeting cards, my Dad and I came back to our Airbnb and I went to sleep right away. I had to get in my last long run before my marathon in San Diego on June 4th, and it was all about fitting it in into this time of excitement and change!

Do you feel mostly excited or nervous before “good” change is about to happen?

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

Turkish Delight!

Turkish Delight!

The semester is coming to a close for most, but I technically don’t become a “fourth year” until after this summer. And this summer is gonna be a doozy with all the work I have planned and have to get done, oh boy.

There’s so many things to do for trip prep and managing work here, I’m proud of myself for not going absolutely crazy and still finding the time to go about my usual daily tasks without worrying too much.

Lab was a necessary task that needed to be addressed on both Saturday and Sunday. E had to come by Saturday morning to help me get into the building since I forgot my set of keys in my desk (lol), but after I finished up, we made plans to have lunch.

She had been mentioning that we check out this Turkish restaurant in Beverly Hills sometime, and I thought it would be perfect to finally do so.

The bus we took that was supposed to drop us off at Beverly Blvd cut its route down by Fairfax near Little Ethiopia, so we ended up walking for another 45 minutes due to construction and having to take the most roundabout way to our destination.

Needless to say, we had rallied up a strong enough appetite to chow down on some mouthwatering Turkish food. Our appetites would be appeased at Cafe Istanbul.

inside
Cafe Istanbul

It’s hard to believe I passed by this joint without much thought. I used to frequent this street a year and a half ago, visiting the likes of Panera Bread, Creamistry, Momed, and Beverliz Cafe. I had been meaning to come back, but time flew by!

chips
Pita bread chips and sauce.

Now I was here with E, and I was making the most of this experience. E is Turkish-German, and so she volunteered herself to order in Turkish for the both of us. The servers spoke English, but E wasn’t going to miss out on an opportunity to show off, haha!

pita rolls
Pita bread and grape leaf rolls

We were served some crisped flat bread with a tomato-based dipping sauce as an appetizer. We also got vegetable dolmas, and for our entree, the Imam Bayildi.

imam_bayidli
IMAM BAYILDI ~ Fried whole eggplant, stuffed with onion, tomato, garlic and slowly baked in the oven, served with tzatziki sauce and with pita bread.

Our entree featured three eggplant strips topped with tomato, onion, and pepper. We were able to cut through the soft, chewy boats, and top them on some pita bread after adding some tzatziki.

I thought we were done after this meal, but E insisted that we finish off the right way—with Turkish tea and Kunefe.

tea-kunefe
Tea and Kunefe

The tea was a dark crimson liquid served with sugar cubes. It paired well with the soft, sticky dough pastry that is Kunefe. It was like a sticky bun rolled in pistachio grounds. The small, rich dessert was the perfect way to complete the feast. I’m glad I trusted E, haha!

We walked around for a bit, and then departed to commute home. I made a stop at Sprouts for groceries, and decided to pick up a pint of Nada Moo to try later as a night snack.

nadamoo
Birthday Cake Cookie Dough

I picked out Birthday Cake Cookie Dough, and for my first time trying Nada Moo, I was mad at myself for not trying this fluffy goodness packed in a pint much sooner! Birthday Cake Cookie Dough has a bright white base of fluffy coconut milk-based ice cream, mixed in with thick chocolate chips and sizable pieces of cookie dough. If you are looking for a pint-sized cloud with a varied texture of mix-ins, look no further!

Earlier in the week, I tried some new items I picked up from Trader Joe’s. One of which was one of the three new RX Bar flavors—Mixed Berry!

mixed_berry
RX Bar Mixed Berry

The eye-catching bright pink wrapper was what caught my eyes first, but the taste of the bar was quite interesting. It had the usual density of an RX Bar, but the flavor reminded me of fruity pop rocks, and it really hit the back of the mouth in regards to flavor intensity. Not sure if it’s my favorite, but the bright pink color made it seem like it would match well with a cute pink dress!

The second item was the Birthday Cake Bar from Trader Joe’s! I first saw it on Instagram, and was ecstatic to find it sitting on the shelf with the other chocolate bars šŸ™‚ !

birthday-cake
Birthday Cake Bar

Sprinkles and cookie crumbs gave the bar its full textured appearance, and the chocolate had a smooth flavor profile. It’s definitely a treat that can’t be missed out on!

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

On the Horizon

On the Horizon

It’s hard to believe that in about two weeks, I’ll be walking, running, and skipping (maybe? haha!) across Europe. The plan is to start in Iceland, fly across the pond to the UK, and then end the journey in Paris. It’ll be quite a way to celebrate my sister’s upcoming graduation from her undergraduate university!

pizza-studio
Hello Pizza Studio!

But what I’m most excited for is her move this fall to Irvine. Yes, she’ll be about 60 min away from me by car, and I could not be more excited. We may not be moving in together right away, but I foresee a bunch of weekend adventures with her, and hopefully we’ll be able to find a place to live together when she gets more settled in!

interior
Pizza Studio, South Los Angeles

In the meantime, work has been keeping me busy, and weekends in lab have become commonplace again. Obviously all that work stirs up an appetite, and pizza has been my carb craving as of late.

I’ve finally been getting on board with the popularity behind the whole make-your-own-pizza trend. First it was Blaze, and now I got around to trying out Pizza Studio.

I could have gotten creative and really asked to make up my own combo—perhaps even have it all on a spicy pizza crust—but one of the ready-made combos, Truffled Mushroom, seemed to sound quite appetizing.

truffled-mushroom
The Truffled Mushroom

This magical combo was composed of a rosemary herb crust, garlic alfredo, freshly grated mozzarella, truffle roasted mushrooms, fresh parmesan, and baby spinach. It came out soooo warm and with the cheese all melty, I had to be incredibly careful when picking up the slices because it was hot to the touch.

mushroompool
All those mushrooms and that cheezzzzzz…

But the taste was all worth it. I’m thinking with all the things planned and events coming up, my carb cravings are only going to get stronger…and I think more pizza places are going to be crossed off my list in the process šŸ˜‰

What do you crave the most when you are super busy and get super hungry?

The Pizza Studio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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