NYE in LV

NYE in LV

SD to LV? Two weekends in a row of road-tripping? Shocking, I know 😛

No, it’s been awesome! Being able to spend quality time with my closest friends has been amazing, and ringing in the new year with them in LV was quite the fun experience.

On the Friday evening of New Year’s weekend, my friend J and her aunt drove over from the San Bernardino area to pick me up. I was grateful she was able to drive all the way, but I felt so sorry for my friend driving all those miles!

It took forever to get out of SaMo on a Friday night (of course), but we made it out by 7pm. We stopped in Moreno Valley to pick up J’s BF, and then from there drove into mountain town. J’s aunt offered to buy us some pizza to bring back to the abode. We reached her place close to 10pm, chowed down on some pizza purchased from a place reminiscent of a 90’s pizza parlor, and cuddled with Missy & Sissy before going to bed.
 
Missy & Sissy were my friend's aunt's cats, BTW.
Missy & Sissy were J’s aunt’s cats, BTW.

I didn’t want to rush J the next morning since she was super exhausted from driving already. As a result, we were on the road closer to 11:30am. It also took us forever to get down the mountain, but we had just finished having breakfast/coffee so we were full up on our energy reserves 😛

We came across some interesting road signs.
We came across some interesting road signs.

It took us forever to get to Las Vegas—pretty much seven hours. At least we were able to see the sunset over the desert and watch the moon appear as we drove down back roads. 

Cozy 'bnb and moonlight
Cozy ‘bnb and moonlight
 
We were extremely hungry by the time we reached Henderson, a suburb of LV where our AirBnb was located. We had a little bit of difficulty figuring out how to check in, but we were soon able to put all three of our heads together and figure it out lol. The room was super cute, cozy, and keenly decorated. It was much better than I expected! 
 
After checking in, we immediately drove out for dinner. We found a local Greek food franchise that wasn’t too far, and we were able to unanimously agree to have dinner there. 
 
The Great Greek
The Great Greek
 
J’s BF never had Greek let alone Mediterranean cuisine at a restaurant before, so I was happy to help by explaining the menu. He and J got gyro-based meals, while I was glad to find a falafel wrap option on the menu. 
 
Falafel wrap with all the fixins
Falafel wrap with all the fixin’s
 
Our food came out lightning-fast, but we didn’t question the speed since we were ravenous. My falafel had the perfect texture of a soft filling with a crisp breaded exterior. And there was the perfect amount of tzatziki and hummus. The random pepper I can’t explain…
 
We retreated back to the BNB after dinner since the three of us were exhausted from sitting in a car all day (lol). C, my friend who had moved to Vegas over the summer, was busy that night picking up her cousin and taking care of errands so we agreed to meet with her the next day. 
 
 
The following morning, we met C and her cousin for brunch. She insisted that we go to Black Bear Diner, a Nor Cal staple that has slowly made its way to the desert over the years…
 
I definitely needed some coffee, some water to stay hydrated, and went for a veggie omelette with home fries and a toasted english muffin. Everything was delicious, but I could only stomach everything but the english muffin, to my dismay. 
 
Black Bear Brunch
Black Bear Brunch

After brunch, the six of us drove beside the 15 to make a pilgrimage to some candy-colored rocks in the middle of the desert. I’m not joking…

Seven Magic Mountains
Seven Magic Mountains

Apparently it was an art piece installed sometime in 2016, and I learned about it through its random appearances on my Insta feed. The doubt on my friends’ faces about “what” we were visiting immediately disappeared as we got closer. It was a gorgeous display up close as well as afar for panoramic shots.

Inspiring smaller structures.
Inspiring smaller structures.

I saw some idiot kick the smaller rock structure, but besides that random guy, everyone else seemed genuinely happy by the art piece, which was probably the intention of its installation all along.

After that little excursion, our group hopped back into the car and drove to the BNB. My friends and I got ready for the rest of the late afternoon/evening, and then went back to C’s house for finishing touches, haha.

We took J’s car to the Strip, and miraculously found parking in the parking garage of Planet Hollywood after driving around in circles for almost an hour. I didn’t care too much since we had all night. Haha!

The Strip
The Strip

J was DD and I don’t drink, so we made the perfect sober management team for our crew :P. C and her cousin immediately went for tequila shots. Her cousin was a mess about one hour in (as expected), but C managed her inebriation better. It was also my first time walking in four inch heels because I thought when am I ever going to have the chance to do that again? Lab? LOL no…I did quickly learn that packing some flip flops is a necessity if I dare put myself through the torture of heels ever again…

Soon enough, everyone was getting hungry and I had spotted Shake Shack across the street. We slowly made our way over there trying not to get lost in the crowds. The place was packed, and I was shocked because out of ALL the places on the Strip, this one restaurant had to be crowded?

Shake Shack NYE
Shake Shack NYE

Going by how my first experience at Shake Shack was, I got the Shroom Burger but instead of the fries, I opted for a cup of vanilla soft serve. The burger didn’t taste as crisp and warm as the one I had in LA back in the summer, but it was suitable for some quick fuel to help me stay up till midnight, haha!

Ironically, we didn’t do much walking after that. In fact, C and J gave in to the pain of their heels and bought some flip flops at a gift shop. I gritted through the pain, but did not protest against sitting down at a dining hall by one of the casinos. C’s cousin was pretty drunk by the time it was 8, and despite being the oldest from all of us, he was the most immature and held us back since C felt like she had to keep an eye on him. We made the best of it though, and had fun people-watching and making jokes.

Chillin' till midnight
Chillin’ till midnight in one of the dining areas // midnight fireworks

C’s BF planned to meet up with us later that night, and when he showed up around 11, our entire group migrated to the center of the Strip to get closer to the fireworks. At this time, my feet were getting to the point of numbness and so C laid down a plastic bag on the sidewalk so I could take off my shoes. Such true friendship, haha. J wanted to leave before the fireworks started since she wasn’t particularly a fan of fireworks, and I didn’t mind taking off either since it meant we would beat traffic. Even though we did leave early, we were able to see the fireworks as we drove back to Henderson.

 
The next morning, J, J’s BF, and I met C one last time to drop off some of her things and give her a hug goodbye. Before hitting the road, we had another desert-worthy diner breakfast at Our Families’ Country Cafe.
 
Our Families' Country Cafe
Our Families’ Country Cafe

Besides having Greek our first night, my time in Vegas had been marked by eggs and burgers…at least I was getting my protein in?

Inside
Inside – classic diner setting

There wasn’t much variety in terms of vegetarian-friendly cuisine, so I got a plate of sunny side eggs with home fries, and some slices of rye bread that happened to be lightly buttered.

Eggy breakfast
Eggy breakfast

Due to the previous evening’s events, I wasn’t surprised that I scarfed everything down so quickly. We even stopped for snacks at Albertson’s before really heading out on our way.

Our trip back was less harrowing than Friday’s trek, and I made it back to LA at a decent hour. I said my goodbyes to J and her BF, and then immediately unpacked so I could get back into my routine. I did have to go back to lab the next day, but my productivity levels were at an all-time high after a fun-filled weekend of celebration 🙂

How did you ring in 2018?

Shake Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

OC Night Market

OC Night Market

One of the things I’ve been meaning to do since moving to LA is go to at least one 626 Night Market—basically a food truck/food stall-heavy festival featuring vendors that sell unique foodie creations.

Many of the vendors also specialize in Asian-themed food items, and finding snacks with matcha or ube is a recurring theme.

Since my sister’s now officially living in the OC, I thought it would be a good idea to attend the OC Night Market (the OC spin-off of 626 Night Market) together.

OC Night Market
OC Night Market

It was taking the place the last weekend in August, and I used it as an opportunity to head down to the OC and spend the weekend with the sis. So after popping into lab on that Saturday morning, I took the Metrolink down to Irvine, where my sister met me mid-afternoon.

From there, we stopped for a tea break before heading to the venue. The festival was being held in Costa Mesa, just like how VegFest was last year.

We had no issues getting in, except we were bothered by the fact that we had to pay for parking AND entering the night market. We were also a part of the “early” crowd, entering closer to 5pm vs. 8pm, haha!

Walking around
Walking around

Before getting to the food stalls and trucks, we passed through a hangar-like structure that sheltered several art displays and items for sale by art vendors.

Vendors.
Vendors.

Since there were many food stalls to check out, we walked around the perimeter before deciding what to get. Our first choices were both savory, and could thwart any salt craving.

My sister picked up a jalapeno grilled cheese, with cream cheese.

Yum, grilled cheese!
Yum, grilled cheese!

I, on the other hand, was quite intrigued by the potato swirl. I noticed so many other patrons carrying the carb-wrapped stick, and then after devouring the edible portion, waving the stick around like a spear. My sis and I had to dart around these absent-minded potato consumers if we wanted to live,  haha!

Not afraid to stab you with dis carb.
Not afraid to stab you with dis carb.

I got my potato swirl seasoned with cajun, and could immediately see why it was so popular with the crowd. The potato discs were fun to peel, and there was just enough seasoning that no extra sauce was needed.

After some more walking around, and glancing at some of the art displays, we made a second round for dessert. I spotted the Blue Nova truck, and immediately noticed their Thai ice cream roll menu.

Blue Nova Truck
Blue Nova Truck

The line didn’t seem too long, but then again, I didn’t know how long it would take to make a spectacular-looking cup of Thai ice cream rolls.

I chose to get the Spectacular Speculoos flavor, and spent the next twenty minutes hovering near the side of the truck waiting for my ticket number to be called.

Was it worth the wait? According to appearances…maybe:

YUM!
YUM!

According to taste? Not too bad! The ice cream itself was bland and didn’t carry a lot of flavor (it was supposedly speculoos-flavored, but at least it was dusted with cinnamon, topped with mochi, and held two Biscoff cookies and a marshmallow I passed on because of gelatin).

Since we arrived early, we still had a ton of time to kill if we were planning on staying till 10pm. The entertainment acts weren’t even starting until 7, and it was barely 6 when we completed our two rounds of the venue!

We decided that we would probably have more fun back at my sister’s place—she suggested that we get some cupcakes-in-a-jar and savor them while watching the sun set. I couldn’t think of a more perfect idea!

Baked Dessert Bar
Baked Dessert Bar

Baked Dessert Bar had a wonderful assortment to choose from, and I chose the Cookie Monster while my sis chose the most chocolate-on-chocolate flavor she could find. Once we got back to her place in Mission Viejo, we settled ourselves in some seats in the backyard and watched the sun set in all its glory.

Mission Viejo Sunset
Mission Viejo Sunset

The cupcakes were not bad either—the cake wasn’t too dry, but of course I was a fan of the frosting, and the frosting-to-cake ratio was perfect.

My sis and I spent the rest of the evening chatting and laughing, and eventually we went inside to get some shut eye since she would be driving me back to LA the next morning.

Before heading back in the morning, I went out for a mid-distance run while my sis promised to make a quick breakfast for both of us. I was so awestruck by the beauty of Mission Viejo that I forgot that the beauty I was witnessing was 90% hills. Which meant my run was ready to kill me.

I survived, but not without feeling it in my calves. At least my sister’s scrambled eggs came to my grumbling stomach’s rescue.

We did stop for coffee, and then headed to my campus to take care of a number of things in lab. I had to stay overnight that night due to the next day being a time-sensitive experiment day, so having my sister help with preparations and other routine tasks was something I was grateful for!

We worked for four solid hours non-stop, and were hungry enough by the end of it to immediately head out for lunch. Burgers and fries sounded perfect, and after mentioning Shake Shack to the sis, we made a direct drive to the Century City location.

Century City Shake Shack
Century City Shake Shack

It was the first time trying SS out for the both of us, and our default vegetarian option for a burger was the Shroom Burger. We had no complaints though, since the mushroom patty was supposedly stuffed with warm cheese.

For my side, I got the cheese fries while my sis got a chocolate shake. We found seating outside, and didn’t have to wait too long for our food to arrive.

SHAKE SHACK ORDER!
SHAKE SHACK ORDER!

And everything tasted as good as it looked. The patty was crisp, bread buns soft, enough cheese to coat each fry…I was definitely forlorn when I finished my meal. It made me second guess the size of my fry order, haha!

Yum meal!
Yum meal!

My sis drove me back to campus so I could get ready for my overnight stay, while she headed back to Mission Viejo. Even though I was back to work hours before the rest of my collegues would be, at least I was happy with how well I spent the weekend!
 

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