Travels n Things: OC Bakery Crawl

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I’m not a morning person. But I found myself getting up super early, on a Saturday to boot to attend a bakery crawl with some foodies in Orange county.

The first stop was the Farmers Market in Irvine where we chatted with chef Rachel Klemek, owner of the Blackmarket Bakery. Fresh baked goods were numerous at this small stand.

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So many to choose from but I ended up with the Pain au Chocolat… or chocolate croissant if you will. Very tasty & I was glad I wore my sweats for this one!

Up next was 85 degrees, a Taiwanese bakery in Irvine. It had such long lines. So long that we were asked to wait outside. Also they had a strict no photography rule to the dismay of us foodies.

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Once the coast was clear, I snapped a pic of probably the most unusual bread I’ve seen to date, a calamari bread. Its dark color was undoubtedly from the squid ink. It was a bit intimidating to me but in the end I’m glad I picked it out. It just tasted like garlic bread with squid. Not bad at all! Also the prices were super cheap, it was ridiculous. It’s no wonder people had their trays filled sky high yet paid hardly anything for it.
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I also shared a creme brulee with my husband. The flavors were light and not overly sugary at all.

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Already feeling full, I opted for a lighter dessert, a fruit tart to be exact at Champagne Bakery in South Coast plaza. It was just what I needed. The bakery was nice and clean and reminded me of Porto’s without the chaos. The prices were also more standardized but it was still a shock coming from a place where we paid almost nothing!

The group continued to Thach Che Hien Khanh in Little Saigon. By this time I was super full but did get some Banh Mi and Vietnamese coffee that I’ll write about in my next installment of Tuesday’s Travels. I want to thank Sara of Our Private Kitchen for organizing this event. It’s always fun meeting new foodies & sharing the enthusiasm!

Hawaii Eats: Kihei Cafe

I can’t talk about Hawaii without mentioning Loco Moco. It’s simply a hamburger with gravy & a fried egg on top of a bed of rice. It’s just that easy to prepare that I’ve made them at home. Nonetheless being the little foodie that I am, I wanted to have it on the island where it came from.
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On one of our last days in Maui, we stopped once again at what turned out to be our catch all for restaurants, the town of Kihei that wasn’t too far away from our resort. The reviews I had seen about the Kihei Caffe said that the staff was super strict and nit picky about the ordering process. Stress is not what I have in mind when I just want something to eat and I’m glad I didn’t listen to the reviews because I had no problem. The staff was nice, mostly composed of teenagers, and college types. There was a small dining area right outside which fortunately wasn’t full. We took full advantage of that as it faces the beach.

Like many of the other dishes I had on my trip, the loco moco was served in such a generous portion that I had plenty for later. That fridge in our room got a lot of use!

The dish was very similar to the one I’ve made at home which let me know that I did it right at least. The only difference was that there was more gravy that seemed to be made from scratch, a plus. As easy as the dish was, it was nice to have it where it originated.

What are some of your favorite dishes you’ve had on vacations?

Kihei Caffe on Urbanspoon

Hawaii Eats: Sansei

As I mentioned before, I loved how we got a few tips for places to eat this time around. The first dinner we went to was at Sansei which was recommended by my friend Karen.

As we pulled up I could tell why she recommended it. The place was overloaded with a line of people out the door. Maybe it was just luck but when they found out it was only two of us that would be dining, we were seated right away.

I started off with a mango crab salad roll. The server warned us that the portions would be small and he was right! Nonetheless it was a good starter. The menu had  said the chili vinaigrette would be spicy but it was actually pretty sweet. The mangoes tasted as if they were picked from a tree right outside the place.

Up next was the familiar yet very filling, crispy spider roll. Everything about it screamed freshness. Now I knew why the place was packed. The service was very good despite the chaotic level of business that evening, the place was clean, and the food was fresh. My husband had ordered a salmon filet and it was also cooked well and just as fresh.

I wish they would bring a branch to Los Angeles, I know I’d enjoy it!
Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar (Kihei) on Urbanspoon

Beating the Heat

It’s been crazy hot these past 2 weeks here in LA. If you or someone you know live in the South Bay, you know that central air is rare. With that being said, the house can get pretty steamy and you want to find some way to cool off…

Before I start reviewing ice cream places out here, I thought I’d take you back to my Hawaii trip where I was introduced to two shaved ice places.

I never was a fan of shaved ice, Italian ice, or slurpees growing up. It was all high fructose syrup and ice to me… well, let me tell you, it was the complete opposite in Hawaii.

My first stop was local boys in Kihei, Hawaii. This right here was a small believe it or not. So you get a lot for your money! Underneath this sweet concoction was ice cream. On top was some sweet kauai cream. I ordered strawberry passionfruit and it really hit the spot. I didn’t get that weird feeling when I eat too much sweet stuff. Instead it really tasted like the actual fruit juices themselves melded with ice cream & cream.

My next stop was Ululani’s in Lahaina, HI. Lahaina means cruel sun so this is a perfect place for a cool treat! Again, this is a small serving pictured above. The difference here was they poked holes in the ice allowing more flavor to go through. The staff was also more friendly, talking to us as they prepared the shaved ice so that was pretty neat. This was a sunset beach which was made of guava, mango, and passion orange. Again I felt like I was drinking fruit juice, not artificial stuff. I had a hard time finishing this “small” portion but it was totally worth it too.

I thank SpamMusubi310 on Twitter for suggesting these two places to me. It’s always good to get a firsthand opinion than from a tour book. I would’ve missed these two gems.

A friend of mine just told me about a Hawaiian shaved ice place here in Torrance so I will no doubt be heading over soon to try some Hawaii right here in the South Bay.

Local Boys Shave Ice on Urbanspoon

Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice on Urbanspoon

Media Lunch: True Food Kitchen

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Santa Monica. So when I received an invite for a restaurant preview of the new True Food Kitchen at Santa Monica place, I was happy to attend.

I don’t know why, but the first thing that came to mind as I walked in was the Highline park in NYC. No we weren’t outside, no it’s not built over abandoned train tracks. Maybe because of the green meets city feel that it had to it.

I noticed not only did they have a bar, but a juice bar as well. Not very common unless of course you walked into a Jamba Juice. I knew I had to have a smoothie.

I started things off with the Morning Glory smoothie. Made with apple juice, coconut, strawberry and banana, it was a nice way to begin..

Our server told us “Everything is fresh, local and good for you” as we looked at the small menu that contained a good selection of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options. There were a good combination of things to choose from. We could either have brunch or go with a pizza, sandwich, or regular entree.

 

I had the Halibut tacos as my main course. It was a good size portion, but definitely not big enough if you were absolutely starving but for the average appetite, it was just enough. Everything was fresh and flavorful. The beans were a nice accompaniment

I had a latte made with organic non fat milk while waiting on dessert. To me, it just needed two more sugar cubes & we would’ve been golden.

Last but not least was the strawberry rhubarb crisp with non dairy ice cream. This was big enough to share, which we did. The presentation, minus the ice cream looked like a nice breakfast, but it was sweeter. It tasted like a strawberry granola bar.

The prices are moderate, but it is a healthy restaurant in Santa Monica so that’s to be expected. I liked that the staff was very helpful, the restaurant was clean, and most importantly, the food proved that healthy doesn’t mean tasting like a cardboard box. I’d like to thank Farial Awan and BWR PR for inviting me to this event. I really hope True Food sticks around a long time. True Food Kitchen’s grand opening is today, May 9th, so stop on by if you’re in the area.

True Food Kitchen

395 Santa Monica Place, Suite 172
Santa Monica, CA 90401
P: 310.593.8300
F: 310.593.8301
True Food Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Vegas Eats: Simon Restaurant

The Palms Place tower in my opinion is the Palms all grown up. The vibe here is definitely more chill than its counterpart on the other side of the long corridor.

Breakfast with a view

Going with that chill vibe is Simon Restaurant which overlooks the pool. Large windows let in the Vegas sun. With the pool being closed for the season, the atmosphere felt even more serene. When we walked in, there were only two other tables seated which made it seem even more peaceful. I’m sure it gets more lively as the day progresses but for right now, I was glad to have some quiet.

While sipping on some freshly brewed coffee & taking in the scenery, my breakfast had arrived all nice & colorful.

Not a bad way to start my morning in Vegas. This healthy breakfast definitely kept me going as I went through my day.

On Sundays, Simon does brunch and the wait staff dress in their PJs, it should be a sight to see, perhaps on the next trip out!

I’d also like to try their lunch & dinner menu too, from what I heard, it sounded really good. If the wait staff was as good with us on this trip, I hope it can be the same or even more on the next one.

Simon at Palms Place on Urbanspoon

Matzo Crack

Spring is in the air! It’s time for chocolate bunnies, peeps, Cadbury eggs, egg hunts, coloring eggs…and… Matzo Crack!

Yes, adding to the traditions of this season, we now can add matzo crack to it. If you’ve never had matzo, it’s unleavened bread. It tastes like table crackers, but even blander than that.

However, add some chocolate to said matzo, and it ain’t bad at all!

There are plenty of matzo crack recipes online. The one we used can be found here.

Vegas Eats: Nove, Italian with a View

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I went here based on a friend’s recommendation. Soaring high above the strip, in Palms’ Fantasy Tower, Nove offers a beautiful view. Now, if the food & service matched this exquisite ambiance, we’d be golden.
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We started off with a wonderful amuse buche of ahi tuna. It was free, it was good, it wins.

Not pictured was the baby octopus appetizer. I’ve always been a sucker for this ever since I was younger. Part of it is due to the fact that I like eating it & get a twisted satisfaction when people react with an “ew” when I devour the dish. I attacked it right away in this instance, the photo was an afterthought as you can see. You’ll have to trust me when I say it lived up to its expectations in terms of taste but the portion was way too small for the price.
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The main course was a tuna with eggplant. Unlike the skimpy appetizers, this course in itself was worth the money. The fish flaked very easily and the vegetables were cooked to perfection. A small starch would help complete the meal in my opinion but I suppose that’s why they give you the bread plate when you start your meal.

If you want a break from the cacophony of the casino floor and the craziness that Vegas can be as we all know, check out Nove. It has a beautiful view, the servers are very attentive, and the main courses are worth the cash. Plus it’s a great date restaurant before you hit the strip for the rest of the night.

Nove Italiano (Palms) on Urbanspoon

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good:

Took advantage of my ever present 3 day weekend to organize my wardrobe for the week. Cooked for the week. Skated very well & received compliments from other skaters & my coach.

Went to a party w/ some good friends, caught up & had some delicious desserts.

The Bad

Got pulled over en route to said party.

The Ugly

Got a speeding ticket from a not very nice police officer.

Be safe out there.

Vegas Eats: Le Burger Brasserie, Paris Casino

Walking the strip can make you hungry. If you’re like me, when you’re starving, you want your food pretty quickly. No wait, no fuss. In Vegas, I prefer a restaurant that’s not too crowded if I had the option. After walking shoulder to shoulder in a large crowd, the last thing I need is to feel like that in a restaurant.
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Fortunately we found this “French” themed sports bar in the promenade at the Paris casino. Only a few feet from the entrance to Bally’s casino floor to be exact. The atmosphere was cage chic but of course, all dolled up in a way that only Vegas can do.

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I call this soup the “OMG” chicken soup because that’s what I kept saying as I ate it. Soup is usually soothing to me but this one, I know that it wasn’t from a can. Not watery, not salty & not composed of fake chicken either. This was the real deal & I’m glad I ordered it.

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Yes, I attempted to be healthy in Las Vegas. A difficult feat. So I ordered a salmon burger which honestly sounded a bit weird. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was satisfied with the burger and all the fixings that came with it. I wish they’d have healthier choices in other burger joints.

However, the only thing I didn’t like out of my whole meal was the potato salad. Unlike the soup & burger that were assembled with care, the potato salad was as if the cook just gave up. Potatoes haplessly thrown into a concoction of mayo. It was just disappointing.

The service was average overall. Nothing above and beyond by any means, but at least it wasn’t slow either. I’d definitely recommend this place for a leisurely lunch amidst the hustle on the strip.

Le Burger Brasserie on Urbanspoon

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