Two weekends ago, I was gifted with the chance to spend a weekend with my sister in her Mission Viejo digs, as well as spend some time with Dad since he was going to be in town soon after for business.
I managed to have two of my undergrad assistants come in to take care of something for me over the weekend, so I would be able to make my visit an overnight one. I left on a Saturday afternoon, and arrived just as my sister was getting off work.
She picked me up from the Metrolink station, and from there, we hunted down dinner at Burger Boss.
My sister had been wanting to check it out, and we got the chance to do so since the location was close by. They actually have a number of locations around the OC. It also happened to be right next to a Creamistry, so you could guess what we had for dessert…
When we entered BB, we saw some LCD screens on the wall, as well as an order/paying counter wayyyy up at the front. We decided to give the LCD screens a shot despite making a fool out of our orders—because the buttons were so hard to press, my sis ended up with four different kinds of cheeses on her veg burger and I ended up with two sauces in my burger bowl, haha!
I made sure put ALL THE VEGGIES AND FRUIT (pineapple, lol) in my burger bowl, on a bed of spinach. My sis’ burger was definitely not lacking in cheese.
Like I alluded to earlier in the post, we walked right next door to Creamistry after getting our fill of veggies and protein.
I was leaning towards ordering a nutella or speculoos flavored liquid nitrogen-based ice cream (per usual), but then my sister pointed out their Halloween special: black ice cream with cookie pieces. I was sold.
My sis, of course, had her beloved chocolate. We had our frozen treats inside instead of taking them to go. It was not surprising that we felt cold afterwards, haha.
My sister was adamant about making the next day a “study day”, since she had some exams coming up. I didn’t mind, since I had data to analyze anyways. The next morning, I met her at a Starbucks after a morning run. I had her bring my laptop and things over in the car, so it worked out perfectly 😛
We spent the morning working on our respective items, and when my sister suggested we get lunch, she didn’t have to tell me twice. To make things simple and local, we drove over to the Veggie Grill in Laguna Niguel.
I love how VG has seasonal menus—its makes my multiple visits to their various locations all the more worth it 😛
This season’s menu seemed to offer a number of delicious-sounding options. I finally chose to get the Rustic Farm Bowl. My sis stuck to her fave chik’n ranch burger.
The angles of the picture make it look like the bowl was a large one, but the contents were petite to my dismay. Still, it was quite filling! Just fibrous veggies doing their job I suppose…
After lunch, we took a long afternoon nap and went out later in the evening to pick up some snacks to have at home so my sis could continue studying. Despite staying within my sister’s home turf and spending most of our time together at our laptops, it was a great weekend getaway for me. Mission Viejo is literally eye candy with its rolling hills and sunshine (although I will say it’s a runner’s nightmare—at least this runner’s nightmare, with all those hills!!)
I had no trouble getting back into my routine after returning from Las Vegas, but one piece of news threw me for a loop.
One of my undergraduate assistants informed me that the week would be his last, even though he originally had plans to stay and help me out for a longer period of time.
Even though his change of plans was a disappointment, he still came in over the weekend, and so at least I had one solid weekend free from the constraints of lab. I definitely took advantage of this.
I was able to take the car out to Encino, and from Santa Monica it was an (almost) easy drive up the 405. I was also able to avoid paying for street parking by finding a neighborhood to park at and from there walk over.
Veggie Grill was my destination since they sent me a $5 off birthday coupon that I couldn’t resist…
…and the dish I couldn’t avoid ordering, despite having it before AND the fact that their summer menu had a mouth-watering array of options. A plate of Mondo Nachos sounded just perfect at the time.
Compared to the plate I had at the WeHo location more than a year ago, I felt like it lacked a lot of guac and soy crumbles (they replaced it with grilled chik’n this time around). This was more of an observation than a complaint, however. I also brought my laptop and did some work at the restaurant for a few hours after eating. I guess it’s more “normal” to set up shop like that at a Starbucks or a cafe,but Veggie Grill had a jammin’ playlist so I wasn’t too pressured to get up and leave!
I headed out a little after 1 and my next stop was in Grocery Outlet in Burbank. I inevitably had to face traffic, and it took me almost thirty minutes to get from Encino to Burbank.
When I did arrive however, I was ecstatic to finally be stepping into one of GO’s newer So Cal locations. Ah, it had been too long!
I made out with a week’s worth of food with plenty of change to spare, so it only made sense to drive by Glendale and finally get me some Yoga-Urt! They had been on my radar for quite some time now, and I’ve actually been following them on Instagram since their opening two years ago in 2015! Getting there by public transit always posed a challenge, but with a car handy it’s really not that impossible to get to.
The shop is very small, with a few patio chairs and tables in the front. There’s also a huge blackboard wall near the entrance, the contents of which are frequently changing.
They offered a lot on their menu, but their flavors of soft serve were limited for the day.
A turmeric/gold rose flavor sounded unique, and was listed as one of their offered flavors, but unfortunately not on the day I visited.
A small cup of froyo with one topping proved to be pricey (~$6!), but since it was vegan-friendly and a hand-crafted kind of place, I thought it was a worthy treat to splurge on. I ended up going for the Peanut Butter Prana topped with dried mulberries.
I enjoyed my cup outside, and marveled at how thick the soft serve was. It was like those So Delicious ice creams I rave about, except smoother and creamier. The mulberries added some varied crunch, but to be honest they weren’t a vital component.
After spending the day driving and eating through North LA, I made the drive back home, and spent the remainder of the evening napping and catching up on some work. I was squeezing every minute out of this “free” weekend, because who know when my next one will be!
The first weekend my sister stayed over was spent apartment scoping, food tasting, and shopping (for her, while I anxiously tried to plan my upcoming week in lab/submit a very important email…). It’s funny how this was a weekend in early June, and this post is only going live in mid-July…#PhDStudentLife
We drove down to Irvine after we went to lab. She was able to help me finish faster and with lab experience of her own, I could tell her to do something without worrying if she knew how to do it accurately, haha. We were on the road before noon, and had enough time to stop for lunch before her apartment viewing appointment. So Veggie Grill at the Irvine Spectrum it was!
Because my visits to Veggie Grill have encompassed many of their locations, I like to visit when they have seasonal specials just so I can make sure I am trying something completely new. Their summer menu was featured this time around, and the Super Rica burger was calling my name…
My sister went with her favorite Southern Fried Chik’n plate, as usual, but I did not regret my choice.
It had the perfect blend of spicy, creamy, and crunchy. I didn’t have fries on the side, but the coleslaw was not some poorly made side dish—it brought it’s out flavorful punch too!
I guess I was hungrier than I thought, because I finished my plate entirely and helped my sister out with hers.
It was soon approaching 1pm so we made our way back to the car and drove towards the apartment complex she booked a tour at. The visit was alright, but the cons definitely outweighed the pros. Finding a place in the OC that was decently priced and clean was surprisingly not too easy a task, and I could tell my sister was feeling frustrated. I was able to propose a solution for her that didn’t solve the housing problem, but at least it took her mind off the issue for a little bit.
We were able to stop by Churned Creamery in Cypress for a tasting of their constantly-churning ice cream (the ice cream is in huge vats that are consistently being mixed through). They had number of options, including their unique CroCream: a croissant stuffed with ice cream and toppings.
The servers were all super sweet ladies enthusiastic about ice cream. After sampling a few flavors, I went with one of their recommendations—Whiskey cream ice cream stuffed in a warm, crispy croissant and topped with Mochi cubes.
The croissant was a flaky, golden brown on the outside and edges, but perfectly soft on the inside.
My sister of course got her chocolate fix with an ice cold, thick chocolate milkshake mixed with a scoop of Oreo ice cream. She could not deny that it was quite a dense and thick shake indeed.
Looking at all the flavors of ice cream they offered, the possibilities seemed endless! It just so happened that we could have gone by their Irvine location (their grand opening was that day…), but the Cypress staff accommodated us on short-notice without a doubt.
We were back on the road and headed home soon after. Our plans the following day turned out to be similar—woke up, long run before going to lab, getting out and feeling crazy ravenous, and driving up to NoHo only to find out the restaurant we were planning to have lunch at was closed on Sundays…
We ended up getting veggie burgers at a chain restaurant, and then driving to the Glendale Galleria to find a graduation gift for our friend who graduated at the end of June. While at the mall, I made a stop at GNC and picked up the new Quest Hero bars.
Blueberry Cobbler was my favorite, with a vanilla yogurt coating and a fruity, chewy filling.
Vanilla Caramel was decent, but I thought the texture of the filling was pretty dry.
I could go without having another of the Chocolate Caramel Pecan flavor, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a chocolate lover (such as my sister) found this to be their favorite of the three.
Even though apartment hunting was a bust on this particular weekend, at least we made the most of our dining out choices. And just having my sister for company made the weekend all the more enjoyable.
My sister’s graduation fell on a Friday and we felt like there was so much to do in so little time! While I went out for a long run at Woodward Park, my Dad drove over to my sister’s dorm to help her finish up with packing. Our close friend also came down for the weekend, and helped out.
After my run, I showered and got ready to meet everyone for brunch. My sister wanted it to be at Benaddiction since that has been her all-time favorite place in Fresno since we both discovered it during one of my earlier visits. We caught up quickly and laughed a lot. The restaurant was already pretty loud so it was no big deal. My friend and sis got their usual favorites while I got a simple potato plate. I also had some of mint chocolate chip pancakes they just had to order…
After brunch, I left with my Dad and the both of us went back to the Airbnb while my sister got ready for the ceremony. We met her and my friend again about an hour before, and my sister left us all to join her class.
After looking at the program though, we were dreading how long everything was going to take…My sister’s major was one of the first ones to step up though, so we didn’t have to wait too long for her to get her spotlight 🙂
After the ceremony, it was blazing hot outside (still…) and I wanted to just head back and cool off but of course we had to take pictures. I headed back with my sister and friend since I was staying in the dorm for the night.
We rested for a bit before making plans to head out to The Cheesecake Factory. It was going to be a late dinner, but surprisingly, not as packed as you’d think it would be on a graduation day.
We met up with another one of my sister’s friends who graduated with a degree in Communications. After dinner (and drinks for some, haha), we were back at the dorm around 10:30. My sister’s friend from lab came over with some friends, and by the time it was 11:30, there were seven people packed into a tiny dorm room. It was a hilarious sight…something I probably would have found humorous at the time if my eyes weren’t so droopy. I retired for the night earlier than everyone else and slept like a baby!
The next day was a day full of packing and driving. We left Fresno mid-morning and got to Irvine around 5pm, and had to quickly catch the sales clerk at the public storage facility my sister was keeping her things for the summer. We had to climb a flight of stairs to unload her stuff into, and by the time we were done, we were all ready to eat before heading back to my place to rest for the night.
Veggie Grill sounded perfect, and we were able to head to the one at The Market Place…a HUGE outdoor mall/shopping complex in Irvine.
I wanted to try a seasonal menu item, and the Tofu Poke Bowl seemed like it would be nourishing and flavorful.
It looked small at first glance, but the flavors were anything but. The rice was sticky and filling (sushi rice!), and along with the pickled cucumbers, avocado, edamame, and tofu cubes, this dish certainly was satisfying.
After eating, we had another 40 minutes on the road before arriving in Santa Monica. The drive back wasn’t too hectic, as we weren’t in a race against the clock to see if we could beat the closing time of a storage place. Once we got back to my place, the three of us started arranging our things and emotionally preparing ourselves for our Trans-Atlantic journey the next day—we were hours away from adopting the title of “Tourists” for the next two weeks!
On our last morning in Santa Cruz, I got up a little bit earlier than everyone else. I made myself some instant coconut coffee, sat by the window, and enjoyed the view outside (baby deer)!
We waited until my friend was up before actually leaving. I was taking a bus from San Jose in order to get to LA, but it wasn’t hitting the road until a little after 1pm. My sister and I were able to use the time in the morning, though limited, to stop by for lunch at the Westgate location of Veggie Grill.
Our intentions for coming to Veggie Grill were to specifically try the vegan holiday specials, which included a holiday sandwich and a southern fried plate.
We each ordered seperately, but we split our entrees between the both of us. My sister got the holiday sandwich, and I ordered the southern spicy fried “chicken” plate.
There was a mess-up with the order first. The cashier thought I wanted the Santa Fe “Chicken” sandwich, and so asked what side I wanted. Thinking that a side came with the plate, I asked for the zucchini soup. Since they messed up the order, I got to keep the soup while they made my actual order.
The sandwich came out first, and we split the roll down the middle. The plate was more complicated to split up, only because here was so much variety.
Ultimately, my portion looked like this—definitely looks like a Thanksgiving plate!
My sister liked the sandwich, but I thought the bread was too soft, and the filling was cold even though it was advertised as a hot sandwich. Overall, it appeared unappetizing, and unfortunately the taste wasn’t opposite.
The “chicken” plate however was off the charts! The breading on the soy protein was crispy, spicy, and much like what you’d see on those “popcorn chicken” type meals. No pickles were forgotten here (anyone get the Spongebob reference 😉 ??).
After lunch, my sister drove me to the bus stop and I begrudgingly got out in order to get to LA. Even though we left at 1pm, I did not get back to Santa Monica until 10:30pm ?!??! UGH, it was the most horrible, painstakingly long trip. Well, I guess it wasn’t as bad as it could have been if I left on Sunday!
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!
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!
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.
We each started off with coffee/tea, and you know I took those extra stevia packets for the road 😉
For my dish, I was all for the Country Bumpkin. I finally got my biscuits and gravy craving taken care of on this trip!
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!
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!
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?
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.
I got the Buffalo Bomber, oozing with spicy BBQ sauce and a side of coleslaw.
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.
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.
Our destination was a chocolate tour at 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.
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.
During her talk, she passes around samples, and I fell in love with a flavor speckled with 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 😉
The past two and a half weeks or so have been a whirlwind! Each day has been non-stop busy for me, and while I’ve always preferred being busy over being bored, it can get pretty overwhelming when your list of things to-do never seems to end…
BUT, the food side of things have been pleasant (especially the pints!), and over the past two weekends, I got my fair share of vegan eats.
Might be easier to go into detail if I break it down…
New Snack Attack:
I first tried Buff Bake spreads a couple months ago (their cookie flavor), and thought I’d give the white chocolate flavor a go. I spread it generously on a birthday cake cookie (♥♥♥♥) and it served as the perfect pre-run fuel. It definitely had a milder, sweeter taste than the cookie flavor I tried before, which had a thicker, drier protein aftertaste. This flavor still had a dryness to it if the oils weren’t mixed fully, but I would say it is the protein spread version of PB&Co’s WCW.
I’ve seen so many rave reviews for the Oh Yeah! One Almond Bliss bar, and when I saw it fully-stocked at my campus bookstore, I had to try it during one of my breaks from lab 😛 . Upon the first bite, I could have mistaken it for an Almond Joy. I do find it funny how it has exactly three almonds at the surface though 😛
I loved it so much that I paired it with a macadamia cookie for a Thursday night snack plate. I melted both for about 20 seconds, and the bar came out warm and melty, while the cookie stayed put in its consistency. It was still a knock-out snack plate though 😉
Pint Party till Infinity:
I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad trip to Sprouts, but I have had stellar ones. Trips that included deep discounts on soy yogurts, salad boxes, crockpot staples, and even Arctic Zero! Speaking of which, I was enlightened by my Dad that they are having a BOGO deal on them this week…
…and speaking of Enlightened…
I just had to grab and try both the Mint Chocolate Chip and Sea Salt Caramel when I saw them on the freezer shelf during my last grocery trip. I did enjoy the earthy mint flavor of this pint:
But Sea Salt Caramel absolutely took my breath away. Some would argue that the caramel swirls might be too sweet, but it was all too perfect for me…ahh, if they weren’t almost $6 a pint, I would have stocked up for sure.
For now, they are just weekend treats…maybe Sprouts should have a sale on these in the near future!
That same weekend, I cam across another Mint Chip, but this time it was Halo Top’s version.
It wasn’t as bright blue/green as Enlightened’s, nor was it as minty, but Halo Top’s texture has always seemed to be just as creamy as the real ice cream guys’, and this flavor was no exception.
Now I just need to hunt down the Birthday Cake flavor…where are you?!
If you aren’t getting tired of my ice cream samplings just yet, my final share from these past two weeks was THIS amazing thing:
When I stopped by the grocery store last Friday to pick up my pint for the night and to kick off the weekend, my favorite Snickerdoodle was not in stock. What was the next best thing with dough chunks mixed in? Obviously this guy.
As I make my way through So Delicious’ other dairy free pints, this Soymilk Cookie Dough flavor is occupying the #2 spot for now, and rightfully so!
My weekend adventures were nothing out of the ordinary, but I was proud of myself for being able to allocate enough time for myself, even while still having to follow through with my other responsibilities.
On the same weekend I went to Sprouts, I stopped for lunch at One Veg World in Pasadena for a nutritious & delicious JACKFRUIT carnitas burrito.
It was apparently one of their newest menu additions, and while the size was small, the filling was juicy and flavorful. Brown rice + jackfruit + that mysteriously tasty vegan-friendly cream sauce was just a combination that can’t be beat! Oh, and the avocado made it even more refreshing 😉
Last weekend, I felt like I was in a tighter time crunch so I didn’t get too adventurous…I went to a tried-and-true favorite, just at a new-to-me location.
Nestled in a shopping complex in WeHo, I found another Veggie Grill I have yet to visit.
I used this visit as an opportunity to get the Mondo Nachos…something I’ve always had my eyes on, but was slightly fearful about getting because of the calorie content.. Something that I struggled with when I had an active eating disorder/was in limbo about recovery because I always wanted to “make it fit” but it never did when my “calorie rules” were strict.
But I made up for that suffering this time around, and I actually, to my pleasant surprise, did not have second doubts when I placed my order. The nachos were soon at my table, and after taking the first bite and hearing that crunch, I couldn’t believe I held back from ordering this for so long…
The cheese, the soy bits, the guac,the crema…it was all so, so perfect. Maybe it was meant to be that I waited this long to have them? To stand as another moment of progress and accomplishment in my recovery journey?
Haha, I’m getting emotional over nachos —> typical food blogger right here 😛
Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you don’t blog for a while and feel like you have to “catch up”?
It’s that time of year again—birthday week! We all know one day isn’t enough to celebrate the best event of the year, and so obviously having a week devoted to the occasion makes absolute sense 😉
The week was filled with freebies…including a first-time freebie! I began the celebrations with a visit to Which Wich, a rival to Subway, and known for their unique sandwich toppings like crispy onion strings and dried cranberries!
It was my first time visiting a Which Wich location, and I probably would not have visited any time sooner if it had not been for my free ‘wich coupon!
Even though I stopped by around 5PM, the place was pretty empty. Even though it was located under a collection of lofts right above it, there didn’t seem to be that much of a demand for custom sandwiches on a weekday evening I suppose…
I needed some help getting started since it was my first visit after all. A friendly employee stepped out from the back to find me staring at the wall, and gave me some guidance on how to order. I first had to pick out a bag, which displayed a theme for what the sandwich would be based on, and then I had to color in the bubbles for what fill-ins I wanted in the sandwich.
I then handed the bag over to the employee who had helped me, and he assembled the sandwich while I waited at the end of the counter.
I grabbed a plastic bag since I was taking this birthday ‘wich to go, and couldn’t wait to try it at home for dinner!
I could have eaten it by holding onto the foil and paper wrapping, but since I was at home, I thought it would feel more like a dinner when unwrapped and placed on a clean plate.
It was cut perfectly through the middle, diagonally of course.
My base was artichoke hearts, with the other fill-ins just for show. The BBQ sauce tasted more like ketchup, but apparently it was vegan!
I think for my first complimentary Which Wich, I did pretty good 😉
The freebies continued that week with a free scoop from Baskin-Robbins. I ended up getting the Oreo Cake Batter flavor (this month’s featured flavor!), and had the patience to save it for after dinner. It made the perfect topping for my dessert proyo bowl that evening.
Even though the ice cream scoop was melting at record-speed where the ice cream met the proyo, the flavors paired well together and I certainly felt a little melancholy when it was all gone. I was scraping at the sides of the bowl with my spoon!
But my favorite birthday freebie of the week was my free entree from Veggie Grill! I used it as an excuse to check out the latest location in Pasadena, one I had not paid a visit to until now!
Dad was in town for the weekend, and so I had a great time sharing the meal with him. We did have to take some time to glance over the menu of course, as usual.
There was a good turnout that evening, but despite it being busy, our food came out very quickly. I decided to finally try the VG-Cheeseburger, which was a good ol’ veggie burger with a beautifully melted slice of cheese on top of the patty. Three pickle slices were carefully placed on top, so I couldn’t pull a Bubble Bass and complain that they “forgot the pickles!!!” (<—Spongebob, anyone?)
My Dad got one of the bowls, along with crispy cauliflower for us to share. I remember first trying it back when it was a promo item, but this time the sauce is served alongside the cauliflower, and now it’s up to you whether you want it glazed or not.
So I definitely got my birthday’s worth in freebies, and once the weekend rolled around, I had a blast visiting even more new places and trying new foods with my Dad while he was here—more details to come!
And while the next item wasn’t exactly a freebie, I didn’t care because I thought I would never find it in the first place…
I found this limited edition guy in Haggen of all places! Along with other elusive flavors I thought I would not be able to find in my neck of the woods…it must have been that extra dose of birthday luck sticking around 🙂
This flavor was amazing, and was a birthday surprise itself! There were so many peanut butter gobs, but not enough cookie dough pieces. In fact, I’m not sure if I even found any in the end 😛 !
What are your favorite restaurant/store birthday freebies?
So even though I almost fell into a sugar coma on Sunday, I survived and managed to eat a little bit more “wholesome” in the days following (but I do think treating yourself to oreo pancakes once in a while is indeed part of a balanced and wholesome lifestyle 😉 ).
After spending a few days with my Dad early last month, I didn’t think I’d see him again until my upcoming weekend trip to Nor Cal, but his job changed things up so that he was able to be in town again sooner—even if only for two days!
I met him after I was finished with my data analysis for the day in lab, and we were both feeling pretty beat from the day’s events. It was a mostly silent car ride due to us being so tired, but since we were on our way to dinner, we knew we’d both be in better, more energetic moods once out of traffic and when food was in our bellies.
Not having truly explored South Pasadena to its extent, I suggested we check out Charm Vegan there since our hotel was close by.
We came in around 6PM, and were greeted by a friendly hostess who immediately handed us menus.
I was used to seeing the similar asian/vegan-fusion options, and worked harder to find the “unique” dish from the many choices listed.
To start off with, we had two avocado rolls wrapped with rice paper and stuffed with guac, green leaves, lettuce, and carrots.
My Dad ended up sticking with something tried and true (even though he was the one who suggested I find “something different” off the menu). ‘Pumpkin, Eggplant and Tofu’ is a trusty choice for a reason—-when you’ve got sauteed eggplant, pumpkin, and tofu smothered in garlic chili sauce, paired with some rice on the side, how can you go wrong 😉 ?
I did end up picking something different as my entree choice, looking at the Chef’s Specials for some guidance. I got the Sizzling Spare Ribs, made with soy protein and sauteed in a black bean sauce with onion, bell peppers, and carrots.
Since we ate family-style, my portions were quite the mix:
We were able to have a better conversation during dinner (when we weren’t stuffing our faces) and our energy levels were soon back up again. When we were about to leave after receiving our check, the hostess asked how we found out about their restaurant. My Dad just pointed to me, and I ended up saying “oh, online…”. The awkward moments of a foodie blogger 😛
At the hotel, we found more time to relax and recharge, and with my Dad’s help, I finally got my new phone to work! I “celebrated” with a pint of cookie dough Arctic Zero, and after showering, called it a day and went to sleep knowing that the next day would be another productive and exhausting one.
The next day was a bit rushed all-around—I ended up starting in lab an hour later than usual, and didn’t finish my duties until late afternoon. I met my Dad again near campus, and we made our way to Sprouts so that I could pick up some produce for the rest of my week. We then parked at a Pavillions parking lot, where my Dad took a nap and I found a new-to-me pint to try and hold me over until dinner.
I couldn’t wait to dig in, and so since I was eating it in the parking lot, an older guy who was parked next to us and unloading groceries noticed my frozen treat and commented with a “that looks good!”. At least I wasn’t in the middle of taking a picture, but still…so awkward 😛 !
But to be fair, the guy was right because this Vanilla Bean flavor of Halo Top Creamery’s ice cream pints was insanely delicious. And with 24 grams of protein in the entire pint, I’d say it was an appropriate dessert snack to consume before dinner.
For dinner, we headed over to Veggie Grill since it was the last day to try their spring specials (at least according to an email I received). The one in Westwood was close by, but not in terms of traffic…
Even though it was only six miles away at the time, that doesn’t mean anything in LA during rush hour. We still went through with our dinner plans though, even though my Dad was now in a time crunch to make his flight!
The inside looked relatively smaller compared to other Veggie Grills I’ve visited, but it made sense since it was nestled in a college-busy villa.
I knew what to order right away, and asked for the banh mi salad at the counter. My Dad was pre-occupied with trying to figure out how to get to the airport on time, but his quick decision to get the bombay bowl was still a good one.
The wait seemed longer than usual due to the anxiety my Dad was feeling, but our dishes came within a time frame that allowed us to still dine in.
My banh mi salad was a beautiful mix of vegetables that included chargrilled eggplants, carrots, cabbage, jalapenos, and kale—topped with crispy cubes of organic tofu.
I am a veggie lover for life, but the tofu pieces truly won me over this time around.
The Bombay Bowl my Dad took anxious bites out of was chock full of colorful herb-roasted veggies—something they left out when I first tried it a year ago. It was a shame that he couldn’t finish it due to time 🙁
In the end, he made his flight, and I didn’t have to take public transit home in order for him to do so. We also didn’t have to part with a goodbye since we would be seeing each other again soon enough—within days as a matter of fact 😉
Do you find it hard to eat when you’re anxious/stressed, or does it make you hungrier?
On the third day I had company, I made plans for us to visit the Santa Monica Pier together, as well as stop by the Hammer Museum. The museum plans never came to fruition, since everyone got up late (with the exception of me, miss early bird!), but we did make it out to the pier…after the bus ride that seemed to take longer than usual!
It was warmer during the day compared to the previous few days of my friends’ stay. We took pictures on the boardwalk, and sat down for a coffee break while Friend #1 and brother got burgers and fries for lunch. I got an iced Americano from The Coffee Bean nearby, and after taking one sip, immediately poured in some sweetner to mask the bitterness!
We chatted and people-watched: both of which are fun activities to do with friends 😉 . Confident seagulls stood on guard on top of umbrellas, while pigeons did much of their “ruling” on the boardwalk floor.
We decided to leave soon after our short break since it was actually getting hotter, and taking a ride on the ferris wheel didn’t seem like such a fun idea after learning about the $6/person price.
Instead, we walked over to the Promenade (which I have come to know well…), so that Friend #2 could finally finish her list of christmas shopping for others.
Time seemed to be going by so slowly though, and we were all counting down the hours until we could finally have dinner at Veggie Grill! I promised everyone we would go there for the day, and so we now had to find ways to kill time 😉 . The museum idea was scrapped after we spent a little too much time than planned at the mall, and so once 2pm struck, we decided to just stick around until it was a more decent time to head on out to dinner. This meant more walking, sitting, standing, and selfie-taking 😛
Around 4:30pm, we took a bus to get closer to Veggie Grill on Wilshire. This saved us some time, and also gave us a chance to rest our feet from walking for another 30-40 minutes. At the stop we were dropped off at, we only had to walk one block to reach the restaurant.
I let everyone know that dinner was on me 😀 . The free entree with the purchase of a $30 giftcard promo helped me in that regard 😉
Friend #2 and I got the all-new Sonoran Winter Bowl. I was excited to try the myriad of textures and flavors in this dish—especially the fire-roasted carrots. We both agreed that the spiciness from the sauce and jalapenos cleared our sinuses!
The rest of the group got the burger/sandwich and fries kind of fare, which were nothing short of tasty!
Once our meals were eaten, we had another adventure getting back home courtesy of public transit. We were supposed to transfer over to a bus that stops at the corner of my apartment, but when that bus completely passed our stop—right in front of us—we actually had to transfer back to the first bus, and then use the rail to get home! So even though getting home took longer than planned, we still made a fun time out of it. There was a guy on the rail jammin’ it out (and then soliciting tips afterwards, haha), and then when my sister learned that she got straight A’s for the semester (after she deliberately avoided checking her grades online for days…), we made a huge scene congratulating her for it.
The next day mainly involved packing, cleaning up the apartment (Swifer time!), and making the drive back up north to spend some time with our respective families. We got back around 6pm, and even though I had a great time with my best friends in the city, I was glad to be able tofullyrelax in my childhood home and completely de-stress…if only for a week and a half!!