Her 21st

Her 21st

Last weekend’s events were spectacular. I am so grateful for being able to visit my sister on a milestone occasion—her 21st birthday!

cakkkkke
Slice of chocolate birthday cake. Can’t pass up a slice in celebration!

I wanted to maximize the time I spent with her so much that I took a night MegaBus so that I could get to Oakland by 7am that Friday morning. From there, one of our besties who also didn’t want to miss out picked me up, and after getting coffee we drove 3 hours to Fresno!

My sister couldn’t contain her excitement when she knew we were close. She skipped class (haha) so that we could all have lunch together at Taqueria Don Pepe.

don_pepe
Taqueria Don Pepe

It was incredibly hot outside (pushing 100s!!) but they had a small, shaded patio where we could sit down and enjoy our lunch. My sister and I both got vegetarian tortes while our friend got enchiladas (despite talking nonstop about her taco craving for the 3 hours I drove with her, lol).

don_pepe
Pickle bar, small interior

The torta was made with a soft but toasted hoagie roll and filled with refried beans, good ol’ avocado, tomato slices, onion, and shredded cheese. My friend seemed to like her enchiladas, but she actually got bored mid-plate and started talking about splitting fries with my sister from Dog House Grill next door!

veg_torta
Veg torta anyone?

We went shopping for a bit afterwards at Target, and then came back to my sister’a dorm for some rest before heading out to dinner.

filling
Everythannnng in here

My sis and friend spent forever doing their makeup, and opened a bottle of wine to drink before we left. I was “designated mommy” since I don’t drink, so I let my sis enjoy her new-found freedom with alcohol. She’s actually probably the smartest person I know when it comes to drinking safety…she did her research and did not go crazy at all. She told me she stayed hydrated and drank only after eating something substantial the night she had her first drink, on her actual birthday. Obviously I’m bragging now because I’m such a proud older sis.

After they had their fun, I drove us all to The Cheesecake Factory because my sister had a giftcard she wanted to use, and because I had never been to TCH!!

lol
The Cheesecake Factory on a Friday…so busy!!

We had to wait about 45 minutes before we could get a table, and when we were taken to our seats we came across a server who was scrambling to set up our table. It was the most awkward thing ever, as it looked like he was literally playing musical chairs with silverware. We stood there in polite silence, but were all actually thinking what the…

drinks_chips
Sis and friend’s drinks…I helped myself to chips and guac.

We ordered A TON, and I ended up reprimanding both ladies for it afterwards because we needed up taking four boxes home. We devoured a whole bread basket, shared chips and guacamole, and my sis and friend ordered huge plates of burgers with sides. My sis got a side salad that she didn’t even touch because she got the kale salad appetizer. I tried the mozzarella flatbread, and while it was crisp and creamy from the cheese, it was not the most stellar thing to cross paths with my tastebuds.

pizza
A sub-par flatbread pizza

After dinner, we walked through the mall for a bit and then drove back. We finished the night with the Bratz movie (just to make fun of it, and it was unsurprisingly the only thing we could all agree upon) and I was the first one to fall asleep.

I woke up the next morning to squeeze in a 6 miler, but as soon as the ladies woke up, we for ourselves ready for an eggy brunch—Fresno style!

Do you drink?

What was your first alcoholic drink ?

Taqueria Don Pepe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Seattle Adventures – Part 4

Seattle Adventures – Part 4

Our last full day in Seattle began with yet another bus ride to Ravenna, where we were the previous day drinking tea. This time though, we had brunch at a hipster cafe, and one of my favorite places we ate during the whole trip: Wayward Cafe!

Wayward Cafe
Wayward Cafe

The clientele, employees, and restaurant space all had a hipster vibe going on, so obviously my sis, friend, and I felt out of place but this did not chase us from getting our share of comforting vegan food!

Countertop eating
Countertop eating

We sat at the counter, so in a way, we were somewhat secluded from the rest of the diners. It didn’t matter though, because we were all quite hungry and didn’t mind so much that the view in front of us was a mix of kitchen gear and foggy windows showcasing a highway.

Coffee :)
Coffee 🙂

We each started off with coffee/tea, and you know I took those extra stevia packets for the road 😉

Country Bumpkin!
Country Bumpkin!

For my dish, I was all for the Country Bumpkin. I finally got my biscuits and gravy craving taken care of on this trip!

Friend's dishes
Friend’s dishes

My sis got the Dixie Fried with a circular scone look-alike biscuit, and my friend got a gorgeous enchilada (I think) type dish smothered in sauce and aligned next to seasoned cubed potatoes.

Our grand-in-flavor brunch was also easy on the wallet, and we were able to catch a bus to downtown feeling renewed. On the way there, we rode alongside not one, but TWO adorable animals! The first was a cat “with an eating disorder” headed to the vet. He was a golden, obese tabby who had the most precious meow. The next was this adorable groomed pomeranian who obediently sat on his/her owner’s lap all the way to downtown! I have yet to see an animal board a bus here in LA so I was probably a little too excited upon observing these animals boarding the bus, haha!

LOOK AT THAT ADORABLE POM OHHHH!
LOOK AT THAT ADORABLE POM OHHHH!

Once we were in downtown (yet again), we actually took the time to go inside Pike’s Place Market (just like many other tourists), walk around, get bored, and then walked further down, ending up at the gum wall!

The infamous gum wall!
The infamous gum wall!

After taking a couple pictures with the wall in the background, doing our best to not LEAN against the wall, we walked back towards our starting point, and then made our way towards the movies to watch the latest Alice movie, since we couldn’t watch it the day before due to my sister not feeling well, and my friend was dying to see it. I never was a fan of the Disney Alice movies (I guess I liked the animated one?), so I found myself getting restless at some parts, but I was glad that watching the movie made my friend happy 🙂

After the movies, we obviously had dinner 😛 . And how could we pass by a Veggie Grill and not go in?

Veggie Grill, Downtown Seattle
Veggie Grill, Downtown Seattle

We all ended up ordering hearty meals like burgers, mac and cheese, and even shared my sis’s favorite chocolate pudding from when she tried it the first time we visited a VG.

Friends eat right.
Friends eat right.
Oh man, that pudding.
Oh man, that pudding.

I got the Buffalo Bomber, oozing with spicy BBQ sauce and a side of coleslaw.

How did I not have this before?
How did I not have this before?

Having warm meals in a restaurant with an orange hue made us feel so cozy with the weather starting to get cold and rainy outside.

Even though it looks the same, this VG seemed cozier than the others.
Even though it looks the same, this VG seemed cozier than the others.

After dinner, we just wanted to get back to the Airbnb and relax for our last night in Seattle. I actually ended up staying up until midnight, which is something I rarely do, but I had the energy to do so, and I wanted to really enjoy the time I had with my sister and friend because those chances are so few nowadays.

After a long night’s rest, I woke up the next morning, and got everything packed. After getting my sis and friend to do the same, we headed out to the Fremont District for one last adventure before flying out of the glorious PNW.

Welcome to Theo's Chocolates!
Welcome to Theo’s Chocolates!

Our destination was a chocolate tour at Theo’s Chocolates!

Welcome to Theo's Chocolates!
Welcome to Theo’s Chocolates!

The cost of the tour was only $10, but there were samples galore and learning about the process of making fair-trade and organic chocolate was quite interesting.

Theo Chocolates Factory Tour - waiting room
Theo Chocolates Factory Tour – waiting room

After putting on hairnets, we were guided into a small green room with benches where our guide explained to us the story of how the cacao plant becomes what we know as chocolate.

Theo Chocolates Factory Tour - lecturin'
Theo Chocolates Factory Tour – lecturin’

During her talk, she passes around samples, and I fell in love with a flavor speckled with raspberry.

Hello, raspberry.
Hello, raspberry.

After the short lecture, we were taken inside the factory, where we saw the vats and got to sample some cacao nibs: the mild and bitter ones! My sis and friend ended up buying a bag of the mild cacao nibs from the gift shop after the tour.

Inside the factory
Inside the factory

Once we made a rotation through the actual factory, we were lead into the kitchen, a.k.a. the best room on the tour. In this room, we were given the opportunity to sample truffles, limited edition chocolate flavors, and other intriguing sweet (and savory!) chocolate items. And immediately after that, we were given coupons and directed straight into the gift shop…where there were even MORE samples.

Theo Chocolates Factory Tour - store!
Theo Chocolates Factory Tour – store!

I literally made laps around the store sampling all the chocolate, even finding myself at one point just pacing near the main wall where the samples for the original chocolate flavors were. When my friend and sis were done picking out their cacao nibs and truffles, I even took some store samples for the road! I guess I didn’t completely overdose on sugar, because I still had some room in me for a small lunch! Flying Apron was just along the way, so we decided to sit down there and munch on something savory.

Flying Apron
Flying Apron

I was able to hit it right with my order of red lentil soup with a slice of their bread of the day (which I believe was multigrain).

They have shirts?
They have shirts?

My friend and sis however, weren’t so lucky. They shared three dishes among the two of them, a pesto salad, mac and cheez (with lots of spinach apparently), and a BBQ tofu pocket, all of which were doughy, and lacked flavor to the point where it tasted completely bland. I had to taste them myself just to believe it, and my sis and friend were absolutely right.

Flying Apron - the good, bad, and ugly
Flying Apron – the good, bad, and ugly

If I wasn’t sweetened out by all the chocolate I had earlier, maybe I could have tried a sweet baked good and could have given the chance for Flying Apron to redeem itself. Oh well, I was happy with my humble bowl of soup.

Maybe it would have been different with the sweets...
Maybe it would have been different with the sweets…

We spent another hour strolling around the Fremont district, and then took the bus back to our Airbnb in order to get our luggage and call for an Uber. My sis and friend were sharing a second suitcase filled with books from their Amazon Books adventure, so it was necessary.

It was hard to bid goodbye to them at the airport, since I was flying back separately to LA and the both of them were flying back to Nor Cal together.

Bye, Seattle. It's been fun :)
Bye, Seattle. It’s been fun 🙂

Overall, I was so happy that the trip happened at the time that it did. Right now I’m already wrapped up again in my work but prior to my vacation, I was running on fumes and felt so burnt out from my work! There’s no doubt that I’ll probably need another week off (at least) by August rolls around, but until then, I think I feel refreshed enough to continue being my normal busy self. The fact that summer is just beginning kind of helps too 😉

Have you been on a food factory tour before?

Wayward Vegan Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Seattle Adventures – Part 3

Seattle Adventures – Part 3

Our second full day in Seattle was a busy, fulfilling, and even almost scary!

My friend is a huge Alice in Wonderland/Victorian period fan, and so when we were figuring out what we all wanted to do in Seattle, her day included all things tea and Alice.

So that morning, we got into our “fancier” clothes and took the bus out again to the University District area. It was a cloudy day outside and seemed like it would rain any minute.

We had reservations for 11am high tea at Queen Mary’s Tea Room, and we had twenty minutes to walk to the tea room from the bus stop where we got off. We were making a mad dash, but made in time for our reservation. At first we mistook the tea room’s emporium as our destination, but right across the street was the actual tea room.

tea__room
The arrows were in a bush…of course we’d look there *rolls eyes*

Inside, there were trinkets and tea EVERYWHERE. Not a space on the wall nor a bare floorboard could be seen. After checking in, we were seated at a table close to the window amongst teddy bears, a stuffed plush corgi, and a giant rabbit. Our hostess came by with a tea menu and asked us what we were celebrating. When we didn’t have an answer for her, she still asked us if wanted to wear tiaras! How could we decline 🙂 ?

QMtea__room
So much cute stuff ah!

I didn’t participate in high tea, but in order to have tea, I had to have a “food purchase”, so I got a large green tea macaroon with my pot of french vanilla tea.

frenchvanillatea
Our table // french vanilla tea

My sis and friend went ahead with the high tea, and were given sorbets to start off with to cleanse the palate. Then, the creams came, along with the long awaited tower tray of sweets and savories.

tea__room__macc
Sorbet // cream // macaroon

By the time the tray came out, I was already finished with my creamy macaroon. My sis and friend took their sweet time getting through the tower, took a bathroom break in between, and even then couldn’t finished! I helped out by eating some of the fruit, and one of the cucumber sandwiches since it wasn’t so appealing to my friend.

tea
Top tray: scones and biscuits, middle: fruit and pea soup (?), bottom: cucumber sandwiches 😮

After a filling and satisfying tea, we walked back to the bus stop, but not before checking out the tea emporium. There were so many cute items from teaspoons to shiny tea pots, but the fact that they were breakable and expensive was not a good mix for having to pack them up and bring them back to another state in one piece.

Instead, we passed on purchasing these items and headed back to downtown. I had a meet-up planned with Brittany in the afternoon, and the girls planned to hang out in the area at a cafe.

kindapretty
Downtown Seattle

Brittany was so thoughtful to bring her car (on board a ferry!) so we could easily drive over to lunch. She gave me a tour along the way, and once we were in Capitol Hill, we parked by a nearby cathedral and walked more into the district.

We had a late lunch at Plum Bistro, a fancy-looking vegan restaurant that had a special happy hour menu.

menu
I decided to get the Reuben & Chips because I just can’t get enough of carbs 😉

I was hoping to order one of the Jamaican-inspired dishes that was featured on their menu online, but during the hour of our visit, only the happy hour menu was available.

plumbistro
One side reminded me of a boat deck and the other a bohemian-themed room.

Still, Brittany and I had a fun conversation while I munched on my Reuben and Chips and she, some colorful tacos and purple taquitos.

whatbrittanygotlol
Hi Brittany’s food!!

My dish was pretty filling, since underneath the rye bread were seitan strip steaks and bright purple sauerkraut-like cabbage. I didn’t even finish my fries, but I’m pretty sure my stores were refueled enough.

reuben and chips
There was so much cabbage underneath, don’t be fooled!

After our late lunch, we walked around for a bit, including through a park and then in the direction of the Starbucks Roastery. We went inside, and Brittany gave me a quick tour around the first floor. She compared it to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, and I couldn’t agree more. Everything was so golden and warm…even a $1,000 bike positioned near the entrance 😮

Brittany dropped me off back in downtown so I could meet up with my sis and friend once again, but to my surprise, I didn’t find the girls at our planned meeting spot. After sending a nervous text, I found out that my sis was feeling nauseous and that she and my friend were closer to a restaurant close to the movie theater a couple blocks away, since we were planning on seeing the new Alice movie that night.

My sister didn’t actually throw up, but she felt extremely off that evening and we couldn’t figure out why. We decided to call it a day and were able to trade in our movie tickets for a Friday afternoon show. My sis felt better once we walked outside towards the bus stop to take us back to our Airbnb, but she still wanted to rest up so that she could be at her best for our last full day of the trip.

Thankfully she felt better the next morning, and we were able to continue the adventures without interruption 🙂

Plum Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Seattle Adventures – Part 2

Seattle Adventures – Part 2

After filling up at SHN for brunch, we popped into a bookstore that was in the Fremont District before heading out and onwards. My sis and friend found some books, but didn’t go too crazy since they didn’t have too much room in their bags 😉

Since we had to pass Troll Ave., we got to take a look at the troll statue under the highway! We didn’t get too up close and personal, but we could see the eerie details from far away. He definitely did not look like this familiar face…

“I’m the grumpy ol’ troll, who lives under the bridge!”

More like this…

Bookstore // Fremont Troll
Bookstore // Fremont Troll

We then stopped at a QFC to refill our Orca cards, grab some water, and use the restroom before walking further north to Green Lake.

So blue and pretty
So blue and pretty

My sis and friends are certainly not the walking type. So when I said it was only “a 1-2 mile walk to the lake” from the QFC, they weren’t exactly excited since we already had to walk from the Fremont District to QFC. I was so relieved when we did make it to the lake though, and that we didn’t take a wrong turn along the way. I would have faced an unbearable wrath if things had happened differently, that’s for sure 😉

duckssss
Ducky duck ducks.

I do think that watching ducks take group naps and feast on seeds soaked in peanut butter being tossed out by a local made the walk much more worthwhile.

Once we had our share of nature, we took a bus westward towards University of Washington. We ended up getting off farther out than we expected, since the bus got super crowded at one point, and the three of us got separated from each other on the bus.

When we were able to reconvene at a new bus stop, we re-navigated ourselves and eventually ended up at University Village where we wanted to be.

We…well, I…was in need of a coffee, so the first thing we did was stop at a Starbucks Reserve within the shopping complex.

Recharge & refuel!
Recharge & refuel!

While our phones recharged, I recharged with a cinnamon dolce latte with a (surprising) topping of whipped cream (the baristas seem to be really artistic here, haha). My friend got a frapp, and my sis an iced tea. We also ended up sharing stuffed Bantam Bagels…so warm, chewy, creamy, and messy!

Oozy bagel!
Oozy bagel!

After our afternoon coffee/tea/snack, we walked around for a bit until we found ourselves right in front of Amazon Books. I knew from that point on, I had lost my sis and friend…they were eager to pounce on in and when I told them I was leaving them to find another store that was on my radar, they were already steps into the store with baskets in their hand ready to tackle all the books they could!

This gave me plenty of time to find Oiselle, a women’s running apparel store based in Seattle. I had read about the brand in Runner’s World and how they sponsor elite women runners. Since I was in the area, I thought it would be a fun idea to pop in and see what they had to offer.

wazel
Oiselle in University Village

The store itself was small in size, but they had all different sizes of shorts, running tanks to longsleeves, and a small clearance rack in the back. I took a couple things to try on, and found a pair of running shorts that I deemed as a worthy investment. Anything that works as an incentive to keep running, right?

oisellefitting
Cute fitting room!

I returned to Amazon Books, and spent another half an hour within the store waiting for the girls to finish up. Once they were all good and ready, I announced that dinner—Pizza Pi Vegan Pizzaeia—would be a good walk away, but they weren’t too bummed by that since they were both in their happy place.

The walk did pose a challenge though. We had to climb three flights of stairs through what seemed like the woods over the course of the walk! My sister’s bag tore, and I gave her my oversized brown bag which held my shorts.

At least all of this trekking was worth it when we came upon graffiti pizza.

veganpizzapi
Vegan Pizza Pi

Before ordering at the counter, we took the menu to a table and pondered over the options.

yahthemenu
Menu

After much debate (it is vegan pizza after all), we decided to go with a large pizza, half “Aloha” and half “Buffalo Chicken”. The employees seemed to be super accommodating and were able to fulfill our half pizza request!

pizzainterior
Inside

Once the pizza arrived, I helped myself to an Aloha slice since that’s what I wanted. My sis and friend each took a Buffalo Chicken slice, and when I helped myself to a slice after finding my first slice of Aloha disappointing, I new that my choice could have been better.

pizzzzzza
1/2 Aloha, 1/2 Buffalo Chicken

The Aloha, which was pineapple, tofurky slices, tomatoes, and mushrooms on top of red sauce, ended up being a subpar combination. I thought the tofurky would actually be cubed in form to represent Canadian bacon, but that was not the case.

pizza
Slice Slice Slicin’!!!

The Buffalo Chicken had a kick of spice, a tangy ranch-like sauce, and seasoned soy chicken and celery bits. Overall this was obviously the winner.

But for ~$9 per person, and the option to have a large pizza split into two combinations, it was a great deal!

After pizza, we were more than ready to get back since it was starting to get colder. Even though we were having issues with our Airbnb (inconsistent wifi, no TV, no mirrors…), we did have a pretty fantastic view that added to the comfort vibe.

View from our Airbnb
View from our Airbnb

What are your favorite toppings and sauces for pizza?

Pizza Pi Vegan Pizzaeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Seattle Adventures – Part I

Seattle Adventures – Part I

I can’t believe it’s been a week since I returned from Seattle! The trip was a blast…and man do I have so many photos! It’s going to be exhausting writing up posts, but I guess it’ll give me some consistent content for the blog while I think of some other “creative” things, haha.

I flew from LA into Seattle early in the morning on the Tuesday before Memorial Day Weekend. My sis and friend were arriving four hours after I landed, so I set up a standing work station where I worked and snacked on vegetarian sushi until their arrival.

Once my girls arrived, we figured out how to work the public transit, and got ourselves some Orca passes (the transit card used for the Metro system there).

It took us about an hour and a half to get to our Airbnb, and after dropping off our things, we caught a bus headed towards downtown to walk around Pike St. for a bit.

Pike's Place!
Pike’s Place!

We were all getting to the point of hanger since it was past six and pushing 7pm. Our original destination was El Borracho on 1st and Pike, since they had some tasty-sounding vegan nachos, but we were “kicked out” because my sis was underage, and they apparently don’t serve minors—not even food (!!!)—after 6pm. Um…okay, we’ll take our $$$ somewhere else??

The phrase that is on repeat through the minds of three hangry girls roam around Pike's Place...
The phrase that is on repeat through the minds of three hangry girls roaming around Pike’s Place…

A lot of the places were already closed surprisingly, but we did find Virginia Inn too be open, and while they were far from being a vegan-friendly restaurant, they did have some vegetarian options and it seemed to be something all three of us hangry girls could agree on.

They did have this though...lentils?!
They did have this though…lentils?!

The inside of the restaurant reminded me of a bar from the 1980s…like straight out of Cheers or something, haha.

virginia_INN
West Coast Cheers set?

My friend got a beer while my sis and I had waters (she is of age, haha). With her order of salmon, she got a plate of fries that came with ketchup and a flavor-less white sauce…as well as a side of complimentary bread because, carbs. My sis was able to get a vegetarian sandwich that they normally only serve at lunch.

food
Friend’s fries, sis’s sammie, and extra buuurrrrreaaaddd.

My dish was the curried lentils, which I did take a photo of, but must have accidentally deleted through the transfer and uploading of things! It wasn’t anything spectacular though, as it was sooooo small and definitely not worth the $16 price 🙁 . Obviously this meant I needed to pick off my friend’s fry plate for added nourishment 😉

But I did take a picture of the back of their coaster because it was an odd thing...
But I did take a picture of the back of their coaster because it was an odd thing…

After dinner, we had enough in our replenished stores to walk around Pike’s Market (literally, we didn’t go inside until later in the trip).

Walking around Public Market.
Walking around Public Market.

We took the bus back and rested at our Airbnb for the remainder of the evening. I brought my running things just in case I’d feel like running Seattle in the mornings, but I ended up taking those days I was on vacation “off”. And man did it feel good to sleep in!!

The next morning, we took our time getting ready, and headed into Fremont District for some brunch at Silence-Heart-Nest.

SHN
The chick paintings reminded me of marshmallow Peeps.

I read beforehand they had a delicious-sounding sweet potato biscuits with mushroom gravy…and that the owners are part of a cult (??). Maybe that’s just a local rumor 😛

SHN_2
Outside of SHN // Menu

Unfortunately, they only serve the sweet potato biscuit dish on weekends, so I had to get something else. I was initially thinking I’d get an eggs benedict dish as my back-up, but the vegan tofu scramble seemed to catch my eyes on the menu.

They truly caught my attention once they landed at the table.

tofuscramble!
Vegan Tofu Scramble

My sis and friend both got egg dishes that were absolutely drool-inducing. And my friend being the total random that she is, got a side of fruit that my sis and I ended up eating 😛

ohwowzathoseeggggggs
Eggs, potaaytoooes, and strawbs (friend’s dish)

After brunch, we continued our Seattle adventures from the evening before onwards toward Green Lake! More on that in the next post 🙂

Have you ever visited Seattle?

Silence-Heart-Nest Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Keeping Warm in the Snow

Keeping Warm in the Snow

My final few days left in Tulsa were spent staying close to home, mostly due to the weather, but also due to the fact that I probably wouldn’t see my family for quite some time. On Sunday, the rain got so bad, that we ended up having dinner in. My dad made chapatis and all the side fixings.

sunday_dinner
Plate 1 of home-cooked family dinner

After dinner, we ended up watching a movie that ended up being super boring by the middle, but we were to invested to quit watching. We made it through the end, and promptly went to bed!

On Monday, we woke up to find some fluffy white stuff everywhere…

monday_snow
What is this white fluffy stuff? Snow you say?

The last time I saw snow was in Chicago, so it definitely has been a while for this Cali girl 😉

For my last meal with the fam before leaving for the airport, we chose to go to Ri-Le, a Vietnamese restaurant with vegetarian and vegan options.

Ri-Le___Restaurant
Ri-Le Restaurant

The menu was abundant with choices, but my Dad insisted we have their vegan soup special as an appetizer. My sis picked the sweet and sour dish, and I picked the soy ginger chicken, for all of us to share.

ri-le_2
Menu and interior.

The absolute star was our appetizer soup though. So warm and flavorful…basically the perfect bowl to combat the cold, frosty weather outside.

ri-le__3
A warm bowl of pho for all of us to share!!

When our entrees came, I helped myself to many plates.

ri-le__4
Servings from lunch.

The sweet and sour dish was served with sauced veggies and fried soy balls of some sort. I wasn’t a fan, so I let my sis finish off that one :P. I did enjoy my pick though 🙂

ri-le_1
Sweet n Sour + Ginger

The best part of the meal was getting fortune cookies afterwards (even though they aren’t Vietnamese, let alone Chinese!)

fortune
Hmm…pretty accurate after all?

My fortune ended up being accurate since my second flight from Phoenix to LA that night was delayed by almost an hour!!

At least it gave me plenty of time to enjoy this $13 airport pizza?

airportpizza__13dollars
Margherita pizza at the airport.

I ended up getting home at 11pm California time, and had just enough energy to put this jar of edible cookie dough away in the fridge (my Dad knew how much I was enjoying this during my trip, so he encouraged me to grab one to take home since they’re hard to find 🙂 ).

cookie_dough__pb
Peanut Butter edible cookie dough 🙂

I felt sad about the fact that my time with family was kept to one week only, but since I had plenty to do in lab the following week and a time-sensitive experiment to fulfill, I had to cut my “vacation” short. Funny thing was, I was literally the only person working since this week was “officially” break for everyone else. It wasn’t too big of a deal though… after all, I had me, myself, my experiments, and this PB cookie dough to keep me busy 😉

Vegas!

Vegas!

My weekend in Vegas was much needed, and much fun, but I didn’t go for the usual reasons people go. There were food, drinks (if you exclude alcohol and include water), and much revelry, and I was 100% sober throughout it all. 😉

After about a year and a half of fundraising with a local organization in Nor Cal near where I used to live, I was able to raise enough funds to run the Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half with Team Challenge, a group that fundraises for Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA).

In the days leading up to my weekend “off” (every single weekend since visiting my sister in September involved a trip to lab…), I enjoyed some new-to-me snacks that fueled my weekday morning runs.

 This Combat Crunch Cinnamon Twist bar tasted like it was filled with cinnamon sugar! Protein bar churro?
This Combat Crunch Cinnamon Twist bar tasted like it was filled with cinnamon sugar! Protein bar churro?
 I only got these since they were free (Ralph's Friday Freebies!), but they were useful as running fuel.
I only got these since they were free (Ralph’s Friday Freebies!), but they were useful as running fuel.

I managed to stay alert in school and work-related things, just so that nothing would seem amiss 😉

 Proyo bowls at night, salads and sandwiches by day!
Proyo bowls at night, salads and sandwiches by day!

It helped that we had two talks that week, meaning free lunch 😛

On Friday of that weekend though, I was OUT—but not without stopping by lab an hour before I had to catch my MegaBus. #lifeofagradstudent

The ride took about six hours, but with naps and a footlong Subway sandwich, the time passed by relatively quickly. I made it to the RTC (regional transit center) around 5pm, where I met my Dad, whom I haven’t seen since August…

We caught a bus that took us to the least exciting part of Vegas, where we would stay for Friday night since Team Challenge only covers hotel rooms for Saturday and Sunday. Our hotel was not luxurious, but it did have a kitchen?! So we ended up going to the Albertson’s next door and having a humble supper 😛

 A humble meal, featuring Gardein-stuffed buns.
A humble meal, featuring Gardein-stuffed buns.

I was feeling extremely exhausted and went to bed about an hour later.

The next morning, we got ready as soon as possible, and caught a bus that was headed straight to the Strip. We even got off right near the LINQ, where Team Challenge was gathering its members.

 The LINQ is that little LEGO-looking cube nestled in between those buidlings...
The LINQ is that little LEGO-looking cube nestled in between those buidlings…

We couldn’t check-in until noon, so we left our stuff at the bell hop and then headed over to the convention center for the race expo. It was ~2 mile walk, and more walking was to be done once we got inside…

 LV Convention Center.
LV Convention Center.

After getting my bib, confirming my corral change, and receiving my (ugly yellow neon) race-themed shirt, we made our way past the pop-up shop in order to access the sponsor booths and to collect as many freebies as possible!

 Yes, I am a big deal.
Yes, I am a big deal.
 RUN away from the pop-up shop and TOWARDS the samplesssss
RUN away from the pop-up shop and TOWARDS the samplesssss

During this exploratory time, I even walked past Meb, who was signing copies of his latest book!

 Meb!
Meb!

We spent about an hour and a half at the expo, and soon it was time for lunch!

 Of course, I went searching for the food samples.
Of course, I went searching for the food samples.

I wasn’t in the mood to navigate the Strip just yet, and actually, I wanted to visit at least one vegan-themed restaurant during this visit. Fortunately, Vegenation was nearby and close to downtown/Fremont St.

Once again, we hopped on the bus, which dropped us off in front of the downtown casinos (including the Golden Nugget, haha). From there, we walked towards glorious food.

 Vegenation.
Vegenation.

Vegenation reminded me of Native Foods, and I guess it was because of the font.

 Such a cute restaurant inside!
Such a cute restaurant inside!

Their menu had an extensive selection, but I wanted something warm to counteract with the cool Las Vegas chill (at least it was cold…LA needs to take a hint 😉 ).

 Cute menu!
Cute menu!

My Dad and I shared the vegetable potstickers, which were far from stellar, but at least the Out of Africa Stew made up for it.

 Boring potstickers.
Boring potstickers.

It was an entire bowl of quinoa topped with spiced veggies from okra to sweet potato.

 Out of Africa stew!
Out of Africa stew!

Dad got a “meatball” parm sandwich which he didn’t like in the end, but it was satisfactory for lunch.

 It looked good, but Dad didn't think so :/
It looked good, but Dad didn’t think so :/

After getting our fill, we made our way to Fremont St. and stopped to watch people flying from the sky.

 SLOTZILLA! Shooting people out, flying through the air!
SLOTZILLA! Shooting people out, flying through the air!

We also played some slots at one of the casinos, but I soon got fed up with the bright lights/cough-inducing cigarette smoke (and the occasional cigar, ick), so we didn’t stick around too long. Plus, we weren’t too lucky 😛

On our way back to the bus stop, I realized why this area was also known as the Arts District.

 Art in LV!
Art in LV!

By the time we got back to the hotel, we were able to check-in. The first thing I did was use the bathroom (duh), lay out all my freebies, and then take a short nap until the Team Challenge Pasta Party that was being held at 7pm.

 Bars galore, and a super comfy bed with squishy pillows.
Bars galore, and a super comfy bed with squishy pillows.

Even though I was on my feet all day the day before my race, it was all in good fun. And it didn’t stop, as evidenced by the next morning/early afternoon before the famous night race!

Have you ever been to Vegas?

Are you a fan of slots/casino games?

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

Fun in Fresno – Part 3

Fun in Fresno – Part 3

Saturday night was without-a-doubt the best part of the trip. We didn’t even need to change our outfits when we got back from our adventures during the day, since a visit to 1920 Tea Station Club was on our minds from the get-go.

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This was our answer for “goin’ clubbin'” alright. No alcohol here—just boba tea, fantastical desserts, and strobe lights. Obviously the latter was not from the 1920’s…

insidetheclub

Everyone inside was either on a date, or in a group with friends or family. This place was just as much a social club as it was a trendy place to grab some grub.

1920tearoomcountertop

We found a paper menu near the counter, and had more time to look through it after we got seated. One of their trademark delicacies was a brick toast dessert that was offered in several different ways. My sister was craving a boba milkshake, so she got that as an appetizer of sorts (chocolate of course), while our ‘main course’ would be a honey-flavored brick toast with an assortment of fruit.

We could. not. wait.

My sister’s boba shake was quite the knock-out, and it sort of kept us from thinking about the toast while it was being prepped.

 Hello, delicious.
Hello, delicious.

When our toast cube did arrive, it truly did hold our attention. It was as stunning as a birthday cake topped with scoops of various-flavored ice creams and sparklers—perhaps even more.

honey-toast-with fruit and ice cream

We were enamored by the outside of the brick itself—with a fanfare of fruits at the top and two scoops of ice cream in the back—all of which was drizzled with chocolate! But on the inside, we figured out why it was called brick toast. There were literally columns of toast lined tightly against each other!

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We also realized that despite the sweet, honey taste the toast had, it was still dry if eaten by itself. No wonder there was ice cream to help us out in this regard. The ice cream may have quickly melted, but none of it escaped from of us because the toast was able to absorb all of it. Nothing went to waste here!

We drove back to my sister’s apartment close to 10pm, and ‘recuperated’ from that exquisite experience! If you’re going to have a load of carbs before bedtime, make it worth something 😉

On Sunday morning, I traded in my usual long runs for another 6 miler. I needed to save time to pack up for LA, and so cutting the run short was necessary. Once my sister got up and ready, we were out of the dorm by 10AM.

Before grabbing lunch, I got my eyebrows waxed (after way too long, trust me!), and stopped by my long-distance love: Grocery Outlet ♥. I stocked up on some $0.50 Chobani (why can’t it be like this in LA?!) and some produce like onions and zucchini that could easily be tucked into my already over-stuffed rollerboard.

After those necessary but fun errands, we made our last foodie-related stop of my trip at Grilled Chz.

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I’ve heard of grilled cheese-focused restaurants popping up here and there, but the décor was over the top and right on theme inside this location!

inside_grilled_chz

Even though they had a make-your-own option with lots of toppings and cheeses to choose from, my sister and I kept it real and simple by going with one of the suggestions listed on the menu.

menu_grilled__chz

My sister ended up getting the Borderbob, which had pepper jack cheese, fritos, salsa, cilantro lime butter, all inside two slices of crusted white bread. It usually comes with chili, but since it had meat, she was able to get that taken out.

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I got the Veggie Chz, which ironically had no veggies whatsoever! It did have sharp cheddar cheese, pitted dates, walnuts, and raisins all mixed in between two slices of crispy and toasty multi-grain bread.

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This seriously had to be one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve had in a long time. I know that dried fruits and cheese tend to make a great food pairing, but I never actually thought of it in grilled cheese form! Thankfully these guys did, and I got to experience it!

veggiechz_closeup

After our cheesy lunch, we stopped by Kohl’s before driving over to the Amtrak station. I ended up leaving Fresno around 2PM and getting back to my apartment about five hours later—after a train, bus, and Metro Rail ride. Can’t complain, it comes with city life!

I still can’t believe that I saw my sister a week ago from today…this week went by crazy fast, and I have a feeling next week will go by at just the same rate. With classes finishing up and things in lab kicking in, I’m thankful for finding some time to spend with my best friend by blood 🙂

1920 Tea Station on Urbanspoon Grilled Chz on Urbanspoon

Fun in Fresno – Part 2

Fun in Fresno – Part 2

Day 2 of my visit to Fresno to see the darling sis started off great. I woke up at 7AM from a pleasant rest, and went out for a 6 mile run around the perimeter of her campus and nearby residential areas. It was certainly nice to have a change of scenery from my urban street runs to something more rural…even if there really wasn’t much to look at.

I got back from my run, and my sister and I got ready for a full day of eating, shopping, and (maybe) some studying. First thing on the agenda was lunch at Dusty Buns Bistro.

 A gorgeous, sunny Saturday morning. Perfect for taking pictures which was what we did before lunch!
A gorgeous, sunny Saturday morning. Perfect for taking pictures which was what we did before lunch!

The neighborhood that Dusty Buns was located in seemed quiet and peaceful (at least at 11AM in the morning), and we were the first customers of the day to enter.

insidebistro

There was a creative menu display on the wall of the left side of the register, but when I learned about the special of the day—the tofu chili—I decided to go with that. My sister chose to get an apple+brie combo (without bacon).

menuitems on wall

We were excited to put in our orders and try our sandwiches. My sister had the opportunity to try their trademark dusty buns when the food truck stopped by her campus a couple months ago. She had been looking for a chance to visit their brick-and-mortar Fresno location, and obviously I made for the perfect ‘foodie friend’ to go with 😉

But, our visit did come with some complications when our food arrived initially. First, they made the mistake of adding bacon to my sister’s sandwich, and adding chicken to my sandwich which already had tofu. This was slightly frustrating, but our server was able to have the kitchen remake our sandwiches the correct way, so things were A-OK in the end 🙂

 My sister's Le Grilled Cheese - Aged White Cheddar, (no) Applewood Smoked Bacon, and Sliced Apple. Second time's a charm.
My sister’s Le Grilled Cheese – Aged White Cheddar, (no) Applewood Smoked Bacon, and Sliced Apple. Second time’s a charm.
 My Tofu Chili Dusty Bun sandwich!
My Tofu Chili Dusty Bun sandwich!

When we got our correctly-made sandwiches, we truly enjoyed them. The buns were dusty due to the extra coating of flour on top. Toasting the buns made them more crisp, but they still kept a light, soft texture.

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There I go again eating my sandwich with a fork, from the inside out!

After our warm and satisfying lunch, we spent the remainder of the morning into the afternoon clothes shopping at Plato’s Closet, Ross, and stores at a nearby mall. It had been a while since I bought any new “regular”/street clothes, and I was able to find some good deals on two pairs of cute pants and a pair of jeans.

We made our way towards dinner around 5PM, again going into downtown to find the elusive Flaco’s—a well-known vegan Mexican food place in Berkeley that was now available in Fresno.

What we weren’t expecting however, was that Flaco’s didn’t have its own building per say…

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But rather it was the featured menu inside of a bar called Strummer’s! It was still the real deal, menu and all, it just (oddly) didn’t have its own physical location.

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At first we weren’t sure what the deal was, but after confirming that Flaco’s did indeed exist, we made our way inside Strummer’s.

looksshadybutwewereok!

Despite the off-putting dim lighting of the bar (and cigarette smoke coming from the area where happy hour was occurring…), we had a friendly waitress help us with our orders. Her friendly disposition certainly put us at ease.

My sister and I wanted to try the taquitos, so we made it into a plate that included black beans, Spanish rice, green salsa, and chopped salad. We also got nachos to split. We also confirmed with the waitress that yes, everything was vegan meaning it was vegetarian, so that we wouldn’t have another mess-up to deal with similar to what occurred that morning.

Between the time we ordered our food and its arrival to our table, I had enough time to use the restroom and learn the life story of an ex-con/drug dealer who had four kids in his 20s…fun times in Fresno for sure 😛

When our food was ready to eat, we each sample a taquito. The outside shell was certainly fried and crispy, and the soy protein on the inside was quite dry, so having the green salsa to dip it into was a necessity.

taquito-plate

The nacho chips were small, but seasoned similar to that of a Doritos chip!

da-nachos

The chips themselves were covered with refried beans and tons of the usual nacho veggies (lettuce, onion, tomato, etc.) + vegan cheese shreds.

Both meals split between two people was just enough to feel satiated but not stuffed. The quality of food—especially from what you’d think would come through the doors of a bar kitchen—was at level with many of the vegan restaurants I’ve visited in LA.

We thanked our waitress many times (and tipped her well) after finishing up. For the rest of the evening, we took a break back at my sister’s dorm, and rested/got some work done before heading out for the real event of the day night…

Dusty Buns Bistro on Urbanspoon

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…

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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.

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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

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