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 🙂 !

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

Carbs, but No Loading

Carbs, but No Loading

I didn’t go out of my way to carbo-load the day before the marathon, but I did eat throughout the day, kept hydrated, and stuck to foods I knew wouldn’t throw me off.

I was sent two vouchers for a free bread item and a drink to use at one of 85C Bakery’s newest locations—in Glendale. Since E and I have been hanging outside of lab together more frequently now, I asked if she wanted to make a day out of it, and she happily agreed.

We met in downtown and then took a bus that stops close to the Galleria. From there, it was a short walk to the bakery.

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85c Bakery – Glendale

The inside of the bakery was clean, and the baked goods were organized in a similar way to that of a bakery I visited a while back in Koreatown.

bakery
Ah, what to choose??

E and I both got trays and walked through the aisles, seeing what lovely little bread creations we’d come across.

85c
Baked goods

I decided to get a cranberry cream cheese yudane roll, while E got a wild mushroom cheese bread loaf.

cranberry
Cranberry Cream Cheese Yudane Roll

For my drink, I opted for a hot green milky tea. E ended up going for a cold lemonade. We found seats by the window, and as soon as we had our food and drinks, we settled in.

hotmilktea
Hot green milky tea (or rather, water)

My cranberry cream cheese yudane roll had a rough texture on the outside, but this was completely opposite of its interior texture. The roll had a sufficient amount of cream cheese and cranberries (though both of these ingredients tended to separate from one another) and was quite chewy. The milky green tea on the other hand was watered down in my opinion. There was a faint taste of tea, but overall, it just tasted (?) like warm water.

bread
E’s mushroom bread

After our bread/tea break, we walked over to the Galleria and made a round inside the mall. Both of us did end up buying something to add to our wardrobes, but we didn’t spend too much time shopping.

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Taking a break before heading back.

We soon walked over to the Americana at Brand right next door, and stopped to sit down and hydrate with some water. As it approached 4pm, I felt like it would be wise to head back and rest up for my race the next day, so we made our way to the bus stop for the ride home.

Do you prefer sweet bread items (danishes, sweet rolls) or just go for the 100% sweet stuff (cakes, pies) ?

85°C Bakery Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Getting into the Fall Spirit: Help from Pumpkin & Ube

Getting into the Fall Spirit: Help from Pumpkin & Ube

Despite it STILL feeling like summer in LA, I have made my best attempt to make it seem more like fall…at least with the foods I eat!

Trader Joe’s makes this easy to do, since almost all of their featured new items right now are pumpkin/cinnamon/orange color-themed. During last weekend’s grocery trip, I left with a jar of Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter, and two cups of Peanut Butter and Jelly Greek Yogurt.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
Trader Joe's Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfate Greek Yogurt
Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfate Greek Yogurt

The latter isn’t really “fall-themed”, but the color of the packaging reminded me of autumn leaves. Plus, when I mixed it as part of a weeknight proyo bowl and topped it with the pumpkin spice cookie butter, it could have easily been mistaken for a pumpkin or cinnamon-flavored greek yogurt!

 Proyo Bowl Left: Trader Joe's Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfate Greek Yogurt, protein powder, and TONS of coconut almond butter // Proyo Bowl Right: Blueberry soygurt, protein powder, and a generous portion of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
Proyo Bowl Left: Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfat Greek Yogurt, protein powder, and TONS of coconut almond butter // Proyo Bowl Right: Blueberry soygurt, protein powder, and a generous portion of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter

But the true pumpkin favorite find as of late was the limited edition Quest bar flavor I was able to get a hold of. Honestly—the best purchase I’ve made from my campus bookstore, ever 😛

 I found it!
I found it!

After a suuuuper long day in lab (and an incredibly long week if we want to be specific!), finding the pumpkin pie Quest bar flavor on Friday night was just the treat I was looking for.

 So orange, so crispy, so beautiful!
So orange, so crispy, so beautiful!

I’ve seen lots of mixed reviews for this flavor, but I would say I am a proponent of this flavor. I personally liked the crunchy bits on the top, and the overall orange/pumpkin coating. It may have been too crumbly (I was spilling crumbs everywhere as I was walking :P), but I thought the bar stayed true to the Quest bar reputation of not tasting dry or chalky like most other protein bar brands. The bar also is 220 calories, which is higher than the usual flavors, but there’s gotta be a little wiggle room when designing a creative flavor 😉

Over the weekend, I decided that I wanted—no, needed—to head over to any Sprouts for my grocery shopping this week, and since I had not paid a visit to Pasadena in a while, I decided to head over there for a bite to eat after my morning lab duties.

It still felt like a hot summer day, but I did my best to keep things cool as I made the ~1 hour trek over to Old Town Pasadena. UCLA had a home game that day I assume, because I was seeing Bruin t-shirts, and blue & gold all around me as I was walking to my tea time destination 😛

 Cafe 86's newest location in Old Town Pas.
Cafe 86’s newest location in Old Town Pas.

I learned about Cafe 86 a couple weeks back, but added it to my ever-growing foodie bucket list as a “someday” kind of item, since their only location at the time was in Chino. However, they recently opened a location slightly more west in Pasadena to my delight. So recent in fact, that I had to put in the location of the poke restaurant they are right behind because they aren’t recognized by Google Maps yet!

After being awkward with my camera phone outside the cafe, I continued my awkward-ness inside. It was hard being subtle…I had to pretend I was “looking at the menu” while I took some of the interior pics 😛

 Front counter area.
Front counter area.

Their baked goods selection rotate daily, and Saturday’s offering included Ube Dulche de Leche Flan cupcakes and Ube truffles. I was sort of hoping they would be offering their crumbled chip cookie, but only the cupcake and truffle were available. It was warm enough to also splurge on a boba milkshake or iced tea, but I wanted to balance out the sweetness so cold water sufficed.

 Baked goods with a key ingredient---UBE!
Baked goods with a key ingredient—UBE!

I found a seat in the corner, and marveled at the cozy atmosphere around me. Cafe 86 also offers free Wi-fi, so obviously this would be a good study spot for those who are able to concentrate in coffee shop/cafe settings.

 Cozy atmosphere here.
Cozy atmosphere here.

I tried the Ube Dulche de Leche Flan cupcake first, eating the flan on top separately.

 Ube Dulche de Leche Flan cupcake
Ube Dulche de Leche Flan cupcake

The flan layer was soft and creamy, and the texture reminded me of sliced mozzarella. The cake itself was a dark shade of purple, a reflection of the purple yam that made up a large percentage of it.

 Creamy flan layer, but dry ube cake :(
Creamy flan layer, but dry ube cake 🙁

The cake itself was quite dry, and I suppose if eaten with the flan there would have been a balance, but there wasn’t much flan to go around in my opinion. The bottom of the cake was unusually sticky too.

Next was the Ube Truffle!

 Ube Truffle.
Ube Truffle.

I couldn’t tell if it was dusted in chocolate or crystallized sugar, but it seemed like the latter after I had to cut through it with a (plastic) knife.

 Shiny rock of a truffle!!
Shiny rock of a truffle!!

Again, the ube sparkled through, and its appearance reminded me of a purple crystal (amherst or something like that?)

So the truffle trumped the cupcake, and neither were overly sweet. Still, I sipped on several cups of water to tone down the sweetness that was there.

Even though October has just started, I feel like my goal to “make Fall happen” in a forever-sunny city is off to a great start. Speaking of which, my Sprouts trip led me to find some more fun, pumpkin-themed items! Operation: Pumpkin Everythang is a go 😉 !

Have you been able to easily get into the Fall spirit?

Cafe 86 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fun in Fresno – Part 1

Fun in Fresno – Part 1

The highlight of last weekend was seeing my sister again after almost two months. After finding a convenient time that fit both of our schedules, I was able to squeeze in a short trip to her part of town.

The weekend started bright and early at 4AM, when I finished packing up some last minute items and made my way for Union Station. From there, I took an Amtrak Thruway Bus to Bakersfield, and boarded my very first Amtrak train around 10AM.

 View from inside the train (top level!)
View from inside the train (top level!)

I naively thought the ride would zip on by like that of a bullet train, but in reality, it was mostly a mundane trip with not much in terms of scenery. It was Central Valley country after all…

I arrived at the Fresno Amtrak around noon, and found my sister waiting for me. She was cutting it close to making it on time for class, but decided to skip since she could get notes later…plus, she had me to entertain 😉

Actually, once we got to her dorm and I settled in, I went for an afternoon run while she chilled in her room. I was able to (surprisingly) run at a speedy-for-me pace, despite the temperature high of almost 80 degrees! I also made it safely back to the sis’ campus, despite running during times of high traffic, and having a guy start “running” alongside me “as a joke”. At least now I knew which direction of Fresno to avoid 😛

When I got back to the dorm, my sister was eager to show off “her” tea place. A place she often goes to study, and grab a cozy cup of tea to sip on while doing so…

SAMSUNG

Teazer World Tea Market, at River Park, had an exquisite set-up on the inside:

interior

The counter was hidden by a wall of tea, and the menu had so many choices—hot tea, iced tea, milk tea, black tea, seasonal specials…

somuchtea

My sister chose to get an iced cream tea, and I decided to get a ‘tortoise’ green tea latte. We lined up behind the register, and I admired the canisters of tea, vegan treats, and other novelty items that were decorated alongside the counter.

hiddentreats

When we got to the counter, we put in our orders and I also asked for some iced water to drink on the side since it was still pretty hot outside.

counterandpickup

There were a lot of seating options, but after seeing that all of the seats were taken up in the back (and cozier) part of the tea house, we found a table back near the counter.

 A cozy area in the back for reading and sipping tea.
A cozy area in the back for reading and sipping tea.

We picked up our drinks, laid down our notes for “studying”, and took a couple sips of our drinks before diving into a conversation. My sister’s Irish strawberry cream iced tea looked adorable with its light pink hue, and my green tea latte cup was decked out with an emerald-colored napkin.

drinks-irish-strawberry-cream

I was actually more surprised that my iced water was served in a mug vs. a regular plastic cup! It had a lovely pattern though.

 My tortoise green tea latte --- smooth, creamy, warm, and flavorful.
My tortoise green tea latte — smooth, creamy, warm, and flavorful.

I used to get the green tea lattes from Starbucks all the time, so it was nice ordering an old favorite from a new place. My sister really enjoyed her cream tea, as it was a new choice for her!

We stayed at Teazer’s until around 5pm, and then started to pack things up so that we could get dinner! When my sister (and friends) are together with me, food is pretty much what dominates the thoughts in our brains 😛

My sister and I wanted to try one of the vegan establishments in downtown Fresno—Loving Hut.

SAMSUNG

Despite the “interesting” characters we came across on our drive through downtown, I wasn’t taken aback or fearful of our surroundings. It was still bright and sunny outside at 6PM, and I had to convince my sister that the car would be safe parked outside the restaurant 😛

There was patio-seating, but we stepped inside to take a look at the menu and order our meals. There was a strong smell of oil/soy sauce/spicy seasonings that hit our noses as soon as we stepped in.

lovinghutinside

The menu wasn’t that extensive, so we were able to place our orders pretty quickly. The menu items were pretty cheap as well, with meals costing no more than $10!

 Pastries to the side, and a cart of books for reading while waiting for your meal I guess?
Pastries to the side, and a cart of books for reading while waiting for your meal I guess?

There was no A/C (or electrical fan for that matter), so we were fanning ourselves and trying to keep cool while waiting for our food to come out. When it did, we dined in silence—for the first time since my arrival 😉 !

 Sis got the #8 BBQ special with BBQ seitan "drumsticks", steamed greens, and white rice.
Sis got the #8 BBQ special with BBQ seitan “drumsticks”, steamed greens, and white rice.

I got the Ocean of Love plate (and I accidentally deleted my picture of it—grrr), which came with steamed greens, and seitan shreds that were noodle-like, wrapped up in seaweed and pan-fried in black pepper sauce. I used the veggies to mop up any leftover black pepper sauce, and everything was undeniably so good.

After chowing down on dinner, we drove back to my sister’s dorm and hung out in her room for the rest of the night. We skyped one of our close friends, and filled the room with chatter and laughter. Good thing her suite mates weren’t around, because we were loud and proud of it 😉 . 

I went to sleep around 10pm (like usual…), and despite having to sleep in a sleeping bag on a hard (but carpeted) ground, I slept like a baby and woke up around 7AM on Saturday morning. 

Speaking of which…well, more of that in the next post!

Teazer World Tea Market -- River Park on Urbanspoon Loving Hut on Urbanspoon

Cool Down Walk

Cool Down Walk

I thought running 18 miles would leave my legs dead and useless for the rest of the day on Sunday, but they actually felt less sore when I walked back to my apartment than when I got up from sitting down in the car I carpooled in from the run site.

I also thought I would be back later in the day, but ended up home two hours earlier than I had planned! This meant I could take my sweet time getting ready (not leaving until I was 100% sweat-free!) before going out and celebrating my latest personal distance record.

The past two long runs both started off chilly, but I was a sweaty & sticky mess by the end of each. It was no wonder I was craving something cold to eat sometime during each run, and I knew I had to resolve this matter immediately by heading to Koreatown and checking out the closest establishment to Wilshire and Western serving pat bing soo, or Korean shaved ice.

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

A quick search on Yelp in the days prior to long-run Sunday helped me locate Hwa Sun Ji Tea & Coffee, which was carefully tucked away at the corner of a block. I wasn’t even sure if they were open since it was so dark inside, at least through the windows!

When I did enter the café, there was what looked like to be a group meeting of elderly Korean women at one corner of the café, and I wasn’t sure if I was interrupting a private event. The owners, who I assumed were a husband-and-wife team, approached me and asked if I had a computer. My first thought was, huh? But then I realized that many people visit the café not only for the tea, coffee, and pat bing soo, but for the free wi-fi and the quiet, elaborate study space.

hjs_interior

I let the owners know that I was there just to eat, and asked for a menu even though I knew exactly what I wanted to get. I “pretended” to look at the menu with great concentration, but asked for a bowl of pat bing soo without hesitation after a couple of seconds of acting like I had no idea of what to order.

I seated myself at a table close to the window, and took in the calm environment that mimicked the emptiness of the streets outside.

SAMSUNG

I could hear the shave ice machine whirring in the background, and couldn’t wait for the bowl to arrive to my table. I was glad I wasn’t the only one dining when I saw two other groups come in as my bowl was being prepared.

The group meeting that I thought I was interrupting when I first came into the café had all of a sudden become a birthday party, since I heard the group clapping in unison and quietly joining in song, singing “Happy Birthday” in Korean. Since they were all elderly Korean women, it was an adorable sight to see. I almost wanted to walk over and join the party—but that definitely would have been awkward!

I don’t think I was missing out though, because I was celebrating my own accomplishment with my very own bowl of pat bing soo. Party for one, don’t mind me!

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

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

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

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The only other awkward moment I had while dining was follow-up service. I usually prefer not to have waitstaff check in on me every five minutes when I’m eating out, but I found it odd that despite being one out of three customer groups in the café at the time (with the exception of the meeting-turned-birthday-party group), the owners didn’t come by until it had been at least twenty minutes after I had finished eating.

I guess it gave me the time I needed to contemplate over whether or not I should order another bowl. The first and previous time I had pat bing soo, I split it with my sister and friend when we were visiting LA 2 ½ years ago, and I remember it being a giant-sundae-sized kind of deal with all the mochi in the world and three different kinds of ice cream! This bowl was a baby in comparison, and even though I was hesitant to ask the owner for another, I went ahead with my decision to do so because hey, I ran 18 miles and one bowl was not going to cut it! 😉

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

I ate the second bowl in similar fashion as with the first: eating through the ice while also mixing in spoonfuls of bean paste/melon, and saving the scoop of ice cream for last with the tea cookies.

I almost waited half an hour after finishing my second bowl before receiving the check. I suppose the owners don’t mind giving their customers time to ponder over life while sipping on tea. Needless to say, they were very lenient with offering their space. Perhaps I should return on a day when it’s much busier outside, to see if the calm atmosphere is really an everyday thing here!

Have you ever had pat bing soo?

Hwa Sun Ji Tea & Coffee on Urbanspoon

Post-Race Fueling, Ethiopian Style

Post-Race Fueling, Ethiopian Style

I plan to post a recap regarding my first half marathon soon, but I’m eager to share what my post-race fuelage was ;)!

Ethiopian cuisine is one of my favorites, and being a runner, it makes sense to replenish my glycogen stores with a wholesome Ethiopian meal. After all, the country is known for its abundance of elite runners…

(source)
(source)

And if their agility and endurance is all thanks to some stewed lentils and soft, pancake-like bread? Count me in, cause the stuff is delicious.

Since my race took place in the Bay Area, we were able to take a detour into Oakland where there are bunch of Ethiopian restaurants. So many in fact, that I don’t think the city would notice if we transplanted one of those establishments in my hometown (a place that, in comparison, can’t seem to think outside of the box cuisine-wise, besides Taco Bell :P!).

We ended up at the restaurant where we first tried Ethiopian food with my cousin a couple years ago, Addis Ethiopian Restaurant.

Addis Ethiopian Restaurant

My appetite was surprisingly not as raging as I thought it would be (I guess the samples I picked up at the post-race tents had to do with that…), but I went with a tried and true favorite nonetheless, the Vegetarian Combination Special.

Menu

The dish offers a sampling of gomen (collard greens), yemeser wot (spicy red lentils…my favorite!), ater kik (yellow split peas), and alicha denich (cooked carrot and potato chunks mixed with spices). It’s also usually made to feed one, but from prior experience, my Dad and I knew that it could keep two people full!

My Dad also ordered some lemon ginger tea, though it wasn’t anything extraordinary.

Ginger Lemon Tea, not yet stirred

We also came in just as they were opening up for the day, so the restaurant was completely empty—perfect for not-so-discreet phone pictures.

Empty Restaurant...

Including one of the table top…

The Table

There is even a hut in the corner! It would be perfect for evening dinner parties…

The Hut

Our order came out in about fifteen minutes, which was not a bad wait at all. I also like to think we got the freshest cut of injera, although I am not 100% sure about that…I’ll just assume that’s true ;).

Looks fresh to me!
Looks fresh to me!

I think I prefer cylindrical rolls of injera over these flatter square shapes, but the chewy consistency and sponginess were perfect for absorbing the yummy samplings on our platter.

Vegetarian Combination Plate

It may not look like a lot of food for two people, but trust me, it was. I think it’s because the lentils are so filling, and I definitely had my fill of yemeser wot.

Almost Finished It!

But we did pretty good, right?

I think I’ve had plenty of vegetarian combo plates, and while I can’t get enough of them, it would be nice to try some other vegetarian items. After perusing their online menu, I was intrigued by tofu tibs, veggie fir fir, and timatim fit fit. Even if you aren’t a fan of Ethiopian food, you gotta admit the names are fun ;)!

Have you tried Ethiopian food?

Addis Ethiopian on Urbanspoon

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