Birthday Weekend, Day 1

Birthday Weekend, Day 1

After my birthday, my work week continued on as usual—long days filled with experiments, coffee breaks, and moments of eye droopiness at the computer, haha!

When Friday night rolled around, I was so excited for my friend’s arrival! She’s the one my sister and I visited during Thanksgiving,  and she came around 10pm. We stayed up till midnight just catching up and talking. We planned to stay local on Saturday, and then venture out to the OC on Sunday.

She woke up leisurely, while I got up a little earlier to get a morning run in. I also had to go by lab, so we did that, and then drove back to Santa Monica for lunch…at Bondi Harvest.

Bondi Harvest
Bondi Harvest

It’s a relatively new establishment, with the inside and exterior decor carrying themes of the Australian coast. Many of the menu items were small, brunch-like items with unique ingredient combinations of fresh quality.

Friend's eggs, tomato, and toast.
Friend’s eggs, tomato, and toast.

My friend got a simple plate of toast with a poached egg and roasted tomato. She was an immediate fan of the tomato, because of how proportionately seasoned it was.

I chose to get something that had a prominent feature in their menu: Whirley’s Bowl.

Whirley's Bowl
Whirley’s Bowl

It was a bowl containing chimichurri, dressed cauliflower rice, slaw, avocado, yogurt tartar and salsa…I said no thank you to the fish!

An interesting combo of flavors and textures...
An interesting combo of flavors and textures…

The slaw was a fruity, citrus slaw, and definitely elevated the flavor profile of the bowl. The large half of avocado also seemed like an overwhelming addition. I’m not sure I’d order this again if I ever came back to BH, but I didn’t regret my decision too much. Though I did doubt my decision NOT to get eggs and toast (and tomato).

After lunch, we tried to figure out what else to do in SaMo besides shop and go to the beach. I did want to see what the Santa Monica Stairs was all about (thinking it featured a colorful, painted outdoor staircase), but when we made the drive up to north of Brentwood, it was literally just a steep, wooden staircase with a bunch of buff guys and gals running reps up and down in Lululemon and Nike.

Santa Monica Stairs
Santa Monica Stairs

We climbed on flight just to say “we did it”, and then drove off to Brentwood.

We didn’t do much in Brentwood either, just walk up and down San Vicente. Because of the heat, heading back home to rest up and figure out dinner plans seemed like such a reasonable idea.

Once at home, we turned on the fan (because my room was like a sauna, ughhh), and made the executive decision to get coffee (after 4pm, haha) and read/do work at a coffee shop before having dinner.

This wasn’t a bad idea at all, since it was the perfect opportunity to try Phillz Coffee, and get caught up on some data analysis.

Phillz Coffee, 3rd St. Promenade
Phillz Coffee, 3rd St. Promenade

I was surprised that there was such a demand for Phillz Coffee after 4pm, on a Saturday, but this was the case as we soon figured from the long line trailing towards the front entrance.

Honestly, it was just for the iced coffee topped with mint leaves…another capture for the ‘gram…because based on my experience, the coffee was too bitter and nothing special.

Agh, couldn't finish this...
Agh, couldn’t finish this…

I couldn’t stomach the whole cup. Perhaps if I had had the barista pour some milk or cream, it could have made a difference, but Phillz was so not worth the hype.

But I did get some data analysis done, so there’s that!

And to conclude our eating adventures for the day, we stumbled upon CAVA, a fast-growing, Chipotle-for-Mediteranean-food kind of place. I first came across it in Culver City, but was ecstatic to try it for the first time with the company of my friend.

CAVA, Santa Monica
CAVA, Santa Monica

She got a bowl for her base, but I wanted some bready carbs, so I chose to get a pita stuffed with falafel, veggies, and apricot sriracha…yesssss.

That. Sauce. Though.
That. Sauce. Though.

We were able to enjoy our meal outside since it was finally starting to cool down, and after gobbling down everything to the last morsel, we headed back home and relaxed for the rest of the night with a movie on Netflix.

Another shot from CAVA
Another shot from CAVA

I probably would have died of boredom if I had stayed local the entire day (since I practically run the same roads everyday, the scenery had become too familiar, haha!), but having my friend by my side certainly made it a fantastic day 🙂

Philz Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Weekend in LV, Part 1

A Weekend in LV, Part 1

My weekend trip to Vegas was planned on a whim, mostly due to the fact my bestie from Nor Cal moved there recently. BlogFest was also occurring the weekend I planned to visit, and there wasn’t any time-sensitive experiment holding me back in lab, so everything seemed to work out in my favor.

I worked some long days earlier in the week (including a 12hr stint the day before I left), but once Thursday arrived I was ready to for the desert country.

My MegaBus wasn’t leaving LA until 12:45, so I took it easy in the morning. I decided to take the weekend off from running since I knew the 90-110 temperatures in the Vegas heat would be unbearable to run in. After getting some coffee, I packed up the remainder of my stuff at home and then made my way to Union Station.

It was pretty hot in LA as well, so I was antsy until the bus came and we could finally sit down in an A/C regulated area. The bus ride was pretty uneventful, but I was able to fall in and out of sleep pretty easily. My body had been wanting to catch up I suppose!

Protein House, Las Vegas
Protein House, Las Vegas

I arrived in LA around 6, and my friend had just gotten off work so she was able to swing by and pick me up. I was expecting myself to experience a weather shock but the 105 degree temperature difference felt insane. She also looked pretty exhausted, so finding some place to eat for dinner was an immediate priority.

Menu
Menu

I had been wanting to check out The Protein House ever since it was featured on the Food Network in one of those undercover, we-fix-your-restaurant shows.

Pick-Up Counter and Protein Cookies
Pick-Up Counter and Protein Cookies

Many years later, I was standing in one of their locations with my friend, deciding which plant-based protein entree to get and a smoothie to complement it.

Counter and Shaker Bottle Rack
Counter and Shaker Bottle Rack

I ended up getting their Plant Power Bowl and the Chocolate PB Crush crush shake while my friend got a Spicy Thai Chicken Wrap and a Peanut Butter Dream smoothie. With her purchase, she was able to score a free shaker cup—something she said she probably will not use, haha.

My smoothie, her wrap
My smoothie, her wrap

Our food came out relatively quickly, and while our smoothies were flavorful and thick, both of our entrees were pretty dry. A little mix of some sauce and everything would have been dandy…

Plant Power Bowl ~ Organic Tofu, Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Quinoa, Chopped Garlic, Sweet Potato, Squash, Red onion, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Black beans, Chickpeas, Siriacha, Pinch Pepper & SeaSalt, Red Pepper Flakes
Plant Power Bowl ~
Organic Tofu, Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Quinoa, Chopped Garlic, Sweet Potato, Squash, Red onion, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Black beans, Chickpeas, Siriacha, Pinch Pepper & SeaSalt, Red Pepper Flakes

My friend was still pretty tired after we ate, so we just walked around the Town Square shopping mall a few miles off the strip since she works there. We spent an hour or so walking through Sephora and some of the other boutiques. Around 9pm, she dropped me off at my AirBnB which…was quite an experience.

The listing forgot to mention a few things…like the apartments were in a semi-sketch area (doubt that anyone would say that but…), the private room I was renting was opposite another private room housing two male guests and that there was a shared bathroom for both rooms, and that some rando would be sleeping on a pull-out couch in the living room my entire stay without a shirt on. Welcome to Las Vegas 👌🏽

But my room was clean and everything else seemed okay. It was a weird situation, but I could tolerate it for the weekend.

The next day was the second day of BlogFest and since my friend had to work all day, I spent most of the day at the convention center. I woke up at the crack of dawn, and was ready by 7:30. I decided to walk over, and despite the weirdness of the surrounding area, it was a safe walk over. Even though it was early in the morning, it was already hitting the 90s, and I couldn’t avoid sweating despite my attempts at walking slowly and under shade patches.

I was able to make it to the day’s earliest event which was the networking breakfast with a yogurt bar sponsored by Bell Institute.

Wecolme to Blogfest 2017!
Wecolme to Blogfest 2017!

I made sure to get a bowl of Good Culture cottage cheese topped with berries and a large mug of hot coffee with creamer.

Yogurt bar!
Yogurt bar!

I stayed for the keynote speech and the morning sessions, and around noon stopped by the expo to, ya know…pick up as many freebies as I can!

So many booths, gotta catch 'em all!
So many booths, gotta catch ’em all!

I grabbed enough protein bars, protein powders, kale chips, and other random items to fill one large reusable bag and my backpack. I was (mentally) tired to stay any longer, so I made the decision to walk back to my room in the 105 degree heat around 3:30pm. I wanted to rip off my skin and dunk my organs in an ice bath by the time I got back, but I survived. Opening the door and finding a half naked guy sleeping on a pull-out bed in the living room was awkward, but I retreated to my room and counted the hours until I could hang out with my bestie the next day…

Have you ever had an awkward hotel/lodging experience?

Protein House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Weekend One with the Sis

Weekend One with the Sis

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.

The Super Rica Burger, made with Beyond burger, chorizo queso, fire-roasted poblanos, cherry pepper, charred onions, lettuce, tomato, house made "corn nuts" + crispy fries
The Super Rica Burger, made with Beyond burger, chorizo queso, fire-roasted poblanos, cherry pepper, charred onions, lettuce, tomato, house made “corn nuts” + crispy fries

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.

Churned Creamery, Cypress
Churned Creamery, Cypress

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.

Whiskey Cream Crocone with mochi and strawberries ♥
Whiskey Cream CroCream with mochi and strawberries ♥

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.

Blueberry Cobbler
Blueberry Cobbler

Vanilla Caramel was decent, but I thought the texture of the filling was pretty dry.

Vanilla
Vanilla Caramel

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.

Chocolate
Chocolate Caramel Pecan

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.

Veggie Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This is Vegan? Oh Yeah!

This is Vegan? Oh Yeah!

When I lived near DTLA, everything was pretty much an hour away by public transit. Hollywood, Pasadena, Santa Monica…it made choosing where to go on the weekends very, very hard.

My default place to go would be the Grove because all of my favorite food stores were pretty much in the same area, and there was always some new cool restaurant to check out.

Since moving to Santa Monica however, my inclination to go out has gotten smaller. Venturing out to anything past the SaMo seems so arduous! Haha. But, I don’t think I’m missing out at all…since I’ll be living in my current place until at least next summer, I might as well take in all of Santa Monica I can get!

It’s also incredibly easier to explore more of the city without time constraints, now that the Metro Expo line has expanded. I think I’ve stepped foot onto 3rd St. Promenade at least once every weekend this month, and when I lived in DTLA, this area was a destination. Now, it’s a landmark point for me to find other gems in the city. Mostly foodie-related ones, like Erven.

Walking down this classy-looking sidewalk towards Erven.
Walking down this classy-looking sidewalk towards Erven.

I think Erven took the place of RFD’s location in Santa Monica, because The interior was strangely familiar. It seemed to be a matching replacement though, since Erven is a restaurant serving vegan, plant-based cuisine.

For the lunch hours, they had their cold spread of foods like salads, cold sandwiches, and dessert goods at the front with the cashier. You also could order to dine in at the same counter.

foooooood
Cold foods and hot foods on menu.

For my meal, I decided to go with a hot sandwich and get the beer-battered tofu with a side of slaw. I found a table in the next room by a large window, perfect for people watching.

view
A tangy side slaw with root veggies ; window view

At the tables in front of me and in my view, there were groups of women having Saturday brunch. Actually there was a 20-30 year old group and a 30-50 year old group (if I were to guess the age ranges) and not a man in sight…except for the interesting painting on the wall, haha!

whatttt
Um…the painting was…interesting?

When my sandwich came, I was speechless…was this really beer-battered tofu, or a filet-o-fish sandwich?!

toffffu
This is vegan?! Oh yeah!!

Literally looked too beautiful to eat.

sandwich-yeaaaa
Good stuff in this sandwich.

The bottoms of each bun had a spicy tomato-like spread, and above the beer-battered tofu, there was more of the slaw that I originally has as a side. The tofu itself had a perfectly golden crust (as evident by the full picture of the sandwich) and overall I would describe it as tangy, crispy, warm, and hearty sandwich. Definitely hit the spot, and my plate was pretty much clean by the end of it!

I also made away with THREE new Halo Top flavors this weekend. I happened to stop by a Ralph’s in downtown just to see if they had any in stock. Lo and behold they did! They also happened to be the three with the largest amount of crushes on social media, haha.

I reviewed them on Instagram and here’s what I thought:

cookiedough
This pint literally had the texture of butter, as the ice cream was THAT soft…like a McD’s soft serve. It also had cookie dough chunks for dayzzzzz and like, three chocolate chips in the entire pint 😂 😂 😂 haha, #balanced ?
oatmeal-cookie
This pint had a mild scent of cinnamon but that didn’t seem to permeate into the actual ice cream. The flavor itself was pretty bland, and I thought I was about to choke on the oat flakes. Those things are sharper than they look LOL. Not sure how this flavor has been making people swoon…hmmm
 I didn't fall in love with it so hard like others may have, perhaps due to the off-red color that makes it look fruity even though the ice cream base tastes bland. I did like the cubed brownie bites though, and there was a generous amount mixed in! These brownie pieces are what add flavor to this pint. I have to say, even though Red Velvet wasnt' my absolute fav, it's up there 👆🏽
I didn’t fall in love with it so hard like others may have, perhaps due to the off-red color that makes it look fruity even though the ice cream base tastes bland. I did like the cubed brownie bites though, and there was a generous amount mixed in! These brownie pieces are what add flavor to this pint. I have to say, even though Red Velvet wasnt’ my absolute fav, it’s up there 👆🏽

So even though I’ve been spending a lot more time close to home instead of venturing out, at least I have places to go that make staying close worth it 😉 !

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

Sunday Salad & Sundae

Sunday Salad & Sundae

One 12 mile run, a little over two hours in lab, and sometime around the hour of 3pm later, I was able to give my feet a break and nourish myself with something from Momed in Beverly Hills.

 Momed Beverly Hills
Momed Beverly Hills

I was once again in south Beverly Hills, even though my last visit took place relatively recently.

 Inside Momed.
Inside Momed.

At Momed, I didn’t need that long to decide what to order. Even though the flatbread options sounded delicious, I was craving the fattoush salad, with a falafel substitution instead of chicken.

 ddd
Fattoush salad – Four falafel, lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber, tahini sauce was spread on the bottom and all was dressed in sumac dressing

I whipped out a journal paper I was in the middle of highlighting for class while I waited for my order. Other diners that were currently in the restaurant were already finishing up, while I was waiting for my food just to arrive…

 Baked goods counter and seating.
Baked goods counter and seating.

When my salad did arrive, I was disappointed that no pita was served on the side, even though it was described to be a part of the dish on the menu.

 Fattoush salad - sub-in falafel, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, red onion, tahini and sumac dressing. No pita!
Fattoush salad – sub-in falafel, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, red onion, tahini and sumac dressing. No pita!

The tahini was carefully spread very thin on the plate of the salad, and the falafel tasted dry on its own. At least the salad was nicely dressed and flavorful.

 Close up time!
Close up time!

And while it was a decent salad overall, the price I ended up paying for it was severely overpriced for what it was truly worth.

Oh well, nothing a good Sunday sundae can’t fix! Since Creamistry recently opened up a new location just a few doors down, I thought why not pay them a visit?

 Creamistry
Creamistry

All of the grand opening fanfare must have died down, because there was barely anyone inside when I paid a visit. The sweet smell of ice cream, cool temperature, and pop music however, made the ice cream shop still feel comfortable and exciting.

 All those machines, ready to whip up something cold and sweet.
All those machines, ready to whip up something cold and sweet.

I felt like ordering one of the Creations since I was in a sundae mood. Each Creation includes layers of fresh frozen ice cream, toppings, and sauces served in a large (12 oz.) cup.

 Creations menu.
Creations menu.

I chose to get Elemint, which includes mint ice cream, oreo cookies, small chocolate chips and a fudge drizzle.

 Elemint-al beauty
Elemint-al beauty

My Elemint Creation had two organic mint liquid nitrogen ice cream scoops separated by a chunky layer of small chocolate chips, all of which was topped with fudge.

 ICCCCCE CREEEAM
ICCCCCE CREEEAM

And the occasional layer of oreo cookie crumbles.

 Hey there oreo...
Hey there oreo…

There is a reason why nitrogen exists, and it is for making crazy good sundaes.

 Nitrogen has its place in the world.
Nitrogen has its place in the world.

Do you like liquid nitrogen ice cream?

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

Sweet Tooth Central

Sweet Tooth Central

Sometimes, it can be hard to resist even the smallest of sweet cravings. Saturday was just one of those days I felt like having dessert as my main meal, and even if it was past the “normal” breakfast time frame, pancakes were just calling my name…

1
Just a glance at Bea Bea’s menu.

It may have been a length journey traveling to Burbank via public transit (almost two hours!), but when I made it to Bea Bea’s, all seemed right with the world 🙂

2
Inside the restaurant.

I made it in an hour before closing at 4pm, and was able to get a table and plenty of time to look at the menu. They had daily specials that sounded appetizing, but I was definitely here for the one and only Matcha Green Tea Monster.

3
There’s no room for specials when green tea pancakes are involved!

These green-tea infused pancakes with marscapone, white chocolate chips, and whipped cream were almost too beautiful to eat. I’m not even sure why syrup was given on the side—totally unnecessary, and such a distraction 😉

4
How gorgeous is this?!

I tried the marscapone/whipped cream first on its own, and then lathered that all over the pancakes anyway because it was rapidly melting. I doubted the fact that there were white chocolate chips mixed in, but I soon spotted the familiar shape poking through.

5
Marscapone, whipped cream, chocolate chips!

Unlike the gargantuan (but delicious up to a certain point) stack of oreo pancakes I had a couple months back, I was able to demolish this stack of pancakes and still have room for another sweet treat. Like a cupcake. A Sprinkles cupcake, yes.

6
The pet store next to Bea Bea’s. Couldn’t resist fawning over this adorable cat 🙂

So I was back on the bus, this time off to Glendale to check out the Sprinkles location at Americana at Brand.

7
Americana in Glendale

It was 5pm by the time I got there, but it felt like mid-summer, especially with the crowds.

8
Right in front of the bus stop!

Unlike the Beverly Hills location, this Sprinkles was styled like a kiosk, with the only seating some outdoor tables close by.

9
Ahhofcourse…there is a line -.-

The cupcakes were prominently displayed behind a curved window that followed alongside the queue.

10
Lots of choices!

But with a menu in hand with the daily cupcake and ice cream flavors, I knew exactly what my cupcake sundae would consist of.

11
Pumpkin cake + caramel ice cream…I think it’s a very good choice indeed 🙂

On a late-September day that felt like mid-July, the only way to bring back the autumn mood was with a pumpkin cupcake and caramel ice cream.

12
Side view!

My favorite part of these cupcake sundaes is obviously the top with the frosting and all. Frosting > cake in my opinion 😉

13
Happiness in a cup 🙂

I enjoyed my autumn-inducing dessert near the main fountain, since all of the Sprinkles-designated seats were taken. A security officer even took notice of my sweet treat, and paid her compliments 😛 .

14
Enjoying the view and outdoors.

Surprisingly, my sugar cravings commenced as I finished the last morsel of my cupcake sundae. I guess I had my fill, and was ready to head back home knowing I was able to successfully appease my sugar cravings.

15
Heading home.

No shame in a little sugar indulgence now and then—especially if it’s a Saturday, and if the word cake is involved 🙂 !

Bea Bea's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

So That’s What It’s Called!

So That’s What It’s Called!

The one thing I like about being independent in lab is being able to coordinate my lab schedule with my life schedule—at least for the most part. For the current experiments I’m doing, I had to plan weeks in advance to make sure everything I needed to accomplish was covered, but with a little maneuvering and careful planning, I was able to make myself free sometime within the time frame of my sister’s birthday. It also happened to be a weekend after some of the more time-intensive experiments, and so this “mini break” was much, much needed.

I left LA around 7:30AM by bus, and then transferred on to the train to head up to Fresno. Like my first trip a couple months ago, this train ride was far from anything you’d expect from an amusement park, but at least it got me to my sister 🙂

After picking me up from the station, my sister dropped me off at the dorms while she dashed to class. I took my time settling in and soothing my sore head from a lingering headache.

When she came back, we were both ready for an afternoon tea-esque snack, so we headed out thinking a place called La Boulangerie would be able to satsify us.

After some driving around with a confused GPS, we realized that even though La Boulangerie existed and served French pastries and snacks, it wasn’t the Parisien dessert shop my sister had previously visited and had told me about. She then realized that it was Le Parisien she wanted to go to 😛

1
Le Parisen front.

We found the right cafe among other establishments in a strip mall, and my eyes immediately latched onto the sugary collection in the display case.

2
So many sweets to choose from!!

My sister and I had been talking macaroons on the way over, but some of these other beauties were making me change my mind…they even had discount, day old pastries that still looked appealing.

3
These day-old sweet hearts still look good!

I wasn’t in a jelly-filled, powder-sugared donut mood though…I saw an incredibly looking chocolate tart, and I was sold. My sister got three small pastries, and a vegetarian crepe.

4
All for ourselves!

We were the only ones in the cafe at the time, so we found a table right in the middle that wasn’t too close to the window or the sun rays coming through them.

6
A chocolate tart with chocolate ganache to DEVOUR.

My chocolate tart had a swirl of mousse, and a thin layer of chocolate ganache. The crust was hard to cut through, but if I had eaten it as a handhold rather than from top-to-bottom with my fork, I may have appreciated the crust layer more.

5
Orange, mint chocolate macaroons, and lemon meringue

My sister lover her orange macaroon, but wasn’t much of a fan of her lemon meringue or mint chocolate macaroon. She decided that fruit macaroons > non-fruit macaroons, but I can’t take her word for it until I try a non-fruit macaroon, since I’ve only tried lemon and blueberry flavors so far…

7
Vegetarian crepe

She did love her vegetarian crepe though, filled with an assortment of colorful vegetables and cheese, all wrapped up in a rectangular thin crepe. I even helped myself to a few bites.

We got back to her dorm a little before five, and though it would be smart to get some homework/reading done before dinner. When we did get in the car again, we blasted the radio and drove off into the sunset…sort of 😉

8
Friday sunset

We were both craving Mediterranean, and we found out that a new Mediterranean grill had opened up in Clovis just a few weeks ago that was worth checking out.

9
Ark Mediterranean Grill

The shopping area Ark Mediterannean Grill was housed in was busy for a Friday night, but the restaurant only had a few other patrons besides ourselves. There was a long table with at least a dozen people near the back of the restaurant, I’m assuming all family, and enjoying an evening out together.

There wasn’t much in options for vegetarians other than the falafel plate or a falafel sandwich, so my sister and I both got the plate. We avoided twinning when I chose to have bulgar instead of rice.

10
The vegetarian-friendly falafel plate

Along with a well-balanced plate of falafel, bulgar, hummus, and cucumber salad, we also got four thin triangles of pita bread and a cup of tahini sauce.

11
Pita bread and tahini

The inside of the falafel reminded me of a pretty amazing falafel plate I had a few weeks ago in Glendale, but these falafels were on level with the ones of So Cal. And of course, the hummus was exceptional. To be honest, I don’t think you can ever have “bad” hummus unless the chickpeas have spoiled or something 😛

12
Just like the one I had in Dune…

While picking through the bulgar, I noticed what looked like short, thin noodles mixed in, and I was reminded of what my friend used to eat when were kids. Her mom used to prepare something similar, and I was always fascinated by what it was called. Apparently, after simply Googling the phrase ‘noodles mixed with rice Mediterranean’, I found out it’s called Riz Bil Sh’arieh (or more casually, Lebanese Rice). The key is broken vermicelli noodles 😉

13
Riz Bil Sh’arieh! So that’s what it’s called!

After this nourishing meal, I felt pumped for the race I was planning to run the next day. Once we got back, I managed to also have some energy to read a few papers before heading to bed, but my sister and I did make some time to laugh out loud during our countless study breaks 😀

Have you ever had Riz Bil Sh’arieh?

Le Parisien Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Balboa & Burgers

Balboa & Burgers

My sister and I took our time getting ready on Sunday morning. We had such a good night’s rest (at least I did…), and so we didn’t feel rushed when it came time to leave. We stopped by the breakfast buffet to see if there was anything good, but the crowds and the mess already created was a turn-off, so we decided to just leave and save our appetites for lunch. 

Our first stop that morning was Balboa Park, and we found a place to park at the Veteran’s Memorial Museum. From there, we walked north to where a cluster of other museums were, and took in the beautiful building sights before checking out one of the history museums. 

 Lovely architecture.
Lovely architecture.

We were intrigued by the Dr. Seuss exhibit at the museum. Apparently San Diego was his home for many years, and the exhibit displayed works that differed from his kid’s author/illustrator reputation. It was interesting, to say the least!

 Dr. Seuss exhibit.
Dr. Seuss exhibit.

The walrus in the above picture was a part of a taxidermy piece! Taxidermy of Dr. Seuss-esque characters, that is!

After about an hour in the museum, we walked back to where we parked, but not before taking a pit stop near some worldly murals.

 We also spotted a shady-looking shack and a lost moccasin?
We also spotted a shady-looking shack and a lost moccasin?

Once in the car, we only had to drive a short while to get to lunch at Evolution Fast Food.

 The small shack of Evolution Fast Food---all-vegan!
The small shack of Evolution Fast Food—all-vegan!

The eatery itself was quite small, and parking, while available, was a tight squeeze! There was a small room with a counter/kitchen in the back, and a large board menu hung from the ceiling.

 To-go items, daily specials, and desserts!
To-go items, daily specials, and desserts!

I was incredibly thirsty, so after placing my order, I requested a small cup of water. I was also given ice, and had to document these ice cubes since I had never seen anything like it before!

 That ice looks pretty interesting, amiright?
That ice looks pretty interesting, amiright?

Even though the ordering area was in a tight space, there was ample seating in the patio area.

 The nice and quiet patio area.
The nice and quiet patio area.

Since I found a table for us, my sister stayed back and eventually came with two brown bags containing our orders. She got the fish filet sandwich with a chocolate shake in the side.

 Fish filet sandwich - crispy battered fish with tartar sauce, shredded cabbage, tomato
Fish filet sandwich – crispy battered fish with tartar sauce, shredded cabbage, tomato

I got the chimichurri “carne” sandwich, which was full on flavor and zero on meat.

 Chimichurri carne sandwich - argentine marinated "steak" strips, lettuce, tomato, onion
Chimichurri carne sandwich – argentine marinated “steak” strips, lettuce, tomato, onion

The strips were marinated in spices and packed with flavor, but one of the buns was lathered with a spicy pesto sauce that only added to that flavor!

 So green, and so flavorful!
So green, and so flavorful!

It was just enough food to get us through the afternoon and drive home to LA. We did plan one more food-related stop before truly heading home though…

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Wide Summer Skies & Open Roads

Wide Summer Skies & Open Roads

Once you get out of the city of LA, it’s amazing how much larger everything looks. On every occasion I’ve visited the OC, everything looks so HUGE compared to what I’m accustomed to in LA.

 But you can't deny the fact that these skies are beautiful over OC...
But you can’t deny the fact that these skies are beautiful over OC…

We left for the OC in the late morning, and surprisingly didn’t run into too much traffic. This made it a tolerable 50 minute drive, even though my Dad and I were growing hungrier by the minute!

I didn’t have a birthday freebie from Native Foods unfortunately, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to check out their Irvine location. It was quite a drive over to The District where they are located, since we spotted these spooky looking hangars circa WWII alongside the road…

 Don't let the picture fool you...these were incredibly huge in person!
Don’t let the picture fool you…these were incredibly huge in person!

The GPS made us drive around in circles before we finally reached the parking lot, but we did, found a spot to park in, and walked into the bright outdoor mall. 

 Palm trees & sunshine.
Palm trees & sunshine.

Native Foods was immediately to our right as we were walking in, and we didn’t hesitate at all as we walked inside.

nftustin
Native Foods is LOVE.

Since there was a line, we had plenty of time to figure out exactly what our grumbling tummies wanted.

 Inside the NF Tustin location.
Inside the NF Tustin location.

I decided to get something new and not the nuevo nachos that I always have to have 😛 . I guess I was still on a burger kick from my latest visit to Veggie Grill because I got the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger with a side of sweet potato fries (knowing fully well that my Dad loves them and that I would not be eating them all myself 😛 )

My Dad ordered the, Thai Meatball Earth Bowl, something new since my last visit, and the daily soup which was tortilla soup. We found some seats outside, and we didn’t have to wait long for our food to arrive.

oklahoma seitan cheeseburger
Sliced seitan, melted cheddar, caramelized onions and tofu bacon with BBQ sauce, ranch dressing, carrots, tomato and romaine. // Sweet potato fries because how can you NOT?
thaimeatballtortillasoup
Seitan meatballs tossed with mango-lime chili sauce, roasted red peppers and lemongrass broccoli on a bed of quinoa with our super slaw. // Tortilla soup.

I liked the burger, but I was expecting a stack of onion rings to be skewered on top based on previous pictures I had seen of the dish. But despite not seeing fried onion discs decorating my burger, I still thoroughly enjoyed the dish. I also had a meatball sample and spoonfuls of the soup. 

hello
That mango-lime chili sauce though…

As we were eating, there was an outdoor concert taking place by the water fountain in front of the AMC movie theaters. A folk singer was singing some of her original pieces, and it appropriately matched the vibe of our surroundings—summer in the California country.

sat--afternoon
Cali life.

After walking around for a bit, we decided to kill some time at Target (apartment supplies = birthday gift 😛 ) before heading over to our dessert stop for the day. It was quite an experience, and best saved for the next post!

Do you live in a “wide open spaces” kind of place, or in a compact and confined city?

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Summer Solstice Eats & Treats

Summer Solstice Eats & Treats

Last weekend finally felt like summer here in LA! Prior to this weekend, it had been surprisingly overcast and cloudy, but I can’t complain since it made for great running conditions 😉

I woke up on Saturday around 7AM, and made some coffee for the first time in what seems like forever! I usually grab a free cup courtesy of my apartment complex each morning to save time, so being able to have coffee in a real mug while watching the Saturday morning news was a nice change.

After stopping by the lab later in the day, I bused over to the Grove to grab my Q-Bars for the week, and then spent another hour darting in and out of stores. Nothing really caught my eye, even though I’ve been on the look-out for some cute summer clothes to replenish and refresh my wardrobe. But I have to admit…I’ve been a “lazy” shopper and have resorted to the world of online shopping. Oh well, I’ve always believed the deals
are better online anyways.

Later in the afternoon, I headed towards downtown and managed to get off at the right transfer stop despite feeling my eyes start to droop during the middle of the bus ride. I ended up missing the bus I had to transfer to, and caught a bus that was heading in the same direction, but stopped halfway from where my destination was.

I ended up walking a block down 6th St. before being able to board the bus I was originally supposed to take, and it was quite a change in landscape when compared to the heart of downtown. The roads were dry, and tents were pitched up side-by-side for what seemed like miles. The LA Mission is the biggest establishment in this area, and it was here to serve the incredible amount of homeless people that lined the streets. It reminded me of the race I ran back in April, and it made me connect the purpose of that run, and what the proceeds from it were going towards.

When the bus arrived towards Mateo St., I got off, and immediately saw the difference in landscape once again.

 Before going over the bridge.
Before going over the bridge.

As the bus kept going straight over the bridge in the distance, I made my way towards Zinc Cafe.

 Zinc Cafe exterior
Zinc Cafe exterior

Valet parking? Hah. One thing I always remind myself on days I feel frustrated with public transit is no car = no $$-guzzling hassles…parking, gas, insurance, etc. 😉

I had about 15 minutes until the scheduled meeting with my fellow diner, so I waited outside the cafe until she arrived.

 Zinc Cafe interior.
Zinc Cafe interior.

It was a little after 5 when Jeannie arrived, and when I met her, I immediately knew that our meeting would be a great one.

Jeannie had reached out to me a few weeks back regarding the aquisition of Urbanspoon by Zomato. I’ve used Urbanspoon many times to link back my restraunt review posts, so when I learned that some new, exciting changes were coming up and in the works, and that Jeannie wanted to fill me in about these details over a cup of coffee and snacks, I couldn’t say no to the opportunity 🙂 !

When offered a choice on where to sit, we elected to sit outside in the patio area since it was was still so sunny and gorgeous outside.

zinc cafe patio

There was quite a selection to choose from—drinks, snacks, meals—but we kept things simple with water and an order of crispy, puffed chips with fresh guacamole.

zinc cafe chips and guacamole

While we munched, Jeannie filled me in on the Zomato app, as well as information about upcoming events, and features that would be adopted and upgraded from Urbanspoon. I also told her how I ended up in blogging, when I fell into the world of running, and my current life as a student! She was super sweet and easy-going, so there was no problem keeping the conversation going. In a way, it was my first “blogger” meet-up, in the sense that I was meeting someone for the first time “in real life” because of my blog.

She graciously picked up the tab, and before leaving, gave me a hug. After saying our good-byes, I took the bus back to downtown, but got off pre-maturely just to walk for a few blocks while the sun was still out.

DTLA is mighty gorgeous on a summery Saturday evening!

downtown is pretty on a saturday sunset evening

When I got home, I quickly got into my PJs and treated myself to a Saturday night pint! Cinnamon Buns was the featured flavor…

cinnamon buns

100% Caramel ice cream, with cinnamon streusal swirls and cinnamon bun dough pieces…what was not to love? It was the sweetest nightcap, and as soon as I finished it, I immediately felt like hitting the pillow and resting up for my half marathon the next day!

 I always get impatient when I take these pictures---I just want to dive in and eat right away, haha!
I always get impatient when I take these pictures—I just want to dive in and eat right away, haha!

On Sunday morning, I woke up bright and early at 4:30AM so that I would have ample time to get to the race location all the way north in the San Fernando Valley. More on this in an upcoming race recap post, but I will say that being able to have a long run in a different location from DTLA was exciting 🙂

Since I was in the valley and close to Encino, I was in the mood for some Mediterranean cuisine, and so I took advantage of the opportunity to sample Aroma’s second location. I was such a fan of the Sabich plate I had a while back at their Sunset location.

aroma cafe encino

It was packed at 11AM, but surprisingly the crowds died down around noon, when you’d think that would be any restaurant’s busiest hour!

aroma interior

I was able to get a table inside after signaling a waitress’ attention, and took a quick look at the menu I was already familiar with.

ordering eggplant baladi, served olive bread

I decided to get the Eggplant Baladi, which was described as being a whole braised eggplant covered in tahini sauce. As an appetizer, I was brought some olive bread, which I lightly munched on until my real meal arrived.

Eggplant Baladi

I used the bread to mop up any excess sauce, as well as top it with the eggplant itself. The side salad was fresh and in a way, served as a “palate-cleanser”.

close up of meal

I certainly had no problem finishing this wholesome and flavorful meal 😉

I made it back to my apartment a little after 2PM, and the exhaustion from the day’s events began to kick in. Before indulging in a Sunday nap however, I indulged in a pint of B&J’s that I picked up from Target on the way home—the limited edition Save Our Swirled flavor!

save our swirled

By the time I was ready to dig in, the ice cream had softened to the right texture, and upon opening the pint, I couldn’t wait to taste the flavors of raspberry and chewy marshmallow mixed together! (Technically speaking, this pint didn’t really have marshmallows, but rather pectin—meaning it was gelatin-free, and suitable for vegetarians)!

sos close-up

At first I thought the “white and dark chocolate ice cream cones” was referring to broken cone pieces mixed into the ice cream, but it literally was ice cream cone-shaped chocolate pieces. Even though it didn’t match up with what I was thinking, they were still cute and delicious!

I soon fell into a glorious nap after eating (part running-exhaustion, part sugar coma), and when I woke up, did some cleaning around the apartment/watching TV before calling it a night.

It definitely was another weekend well-spent, and overall, a wonderful way to celebrate Summer Solstice!

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