copa vida in pasadena

I spent part of last Monday at this charming cafe, Copa Vida in Old Town Pasadena. I originally stumbled upon it about a year ago when they had just opened, looking to get some change for the meter, and enjoyed pistachio kumquat croissant. It was so great to see the cafe thriving having just celebrated their one year anniversary and being embraced by locals and visitors alike. With almost 400 yelp reviews (average 4 stars), this cafe is here to stay (yay!).

I definitely need to revisit for brunch (read their croque madame sandwich and kale salad are popular). I was impressed to learn that they bake/make their breads, pastries, and desserts in-house.

What I noticed about this place on both my visits is the airy and spacious feeling. Great place to catch up with a friend or to inspire creativity (I noticed one guest painting watercolors).

CV window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

espresso

CV mod inter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sister ordered the shakerato, an iced espresso drink sweetened with raw sugar and mixed with milk. I had a cappuccino which was incredibly smooth, no sugar needed.

CV capp

 

 

 

 

 

 

dessert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: my sister knows one of the staff members (Hi Sam!) and he was so gracious to treat us to a dessert on-the-house. It was a light ‘tres chocolate’ mousse that had a couple layers of crackly bits. Couldn’t put my finger on it, whether it was spun sugar or some other confection. Whatever it was, I had to refrain from licking the bowl clean. Would be perfect with a cup of tea.

This inviting space has plenty of seating with the back room serving as an informal study area during my recent visit but I’ve read that it’s used for hosting special events as well.

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The coffee shop was also featured on a blog, Steamed Not Fried so check out their review. They also feature upcoming classes and events like live music on the weekends on their instagram, @copa_vida and facebook page, so check them out.

Copa Vida | 70 S Raymond Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91105

steamed mussels in white wine sauce

As another birthday draws near, I was thinking about what I would tell my decade-younger self. One big piece of advice I would give myself is not to be afraid to fail by taking more risks. I wish I would have studied abroad and taught English in Asia before heading to graduate school. Why was I in such a rush to have my life figured out? I often tell my students that they’ll be working for the next 25+ years and delaying grad school or a ‘real job’ for a year or two won’t make significant impact in the long run. Funny how I’ve gained that perspective many years later having been in their shoes.

I can’t rewind myself back to my early 20’s, but having this food blog has challenged me to take more risks in cooking things I’m not familiar with like mussels. I was wondering the aisles of Whole Foods and came across some live mussels and thought about Chef Julie Yoon’s recipe for mussels in white wine. I was able to experiment on my lovely roommate and college friend for dinner as we were celebrating my friend’s birthday. Serve this simple, light, and satisfying dish with a toasted bagette slices or over spaghetti. Btw, Chef Julie’s how-to video was helpful in walking me through the process.

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Steamed Mussels in White Wine Sauce
adapted from Chef Julie Yoon’s blog
serves 4

2.5 lbs live mussels (see notes below on storing these)
3 TB unsalted butter, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion or 1/2 large onion diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 lemon
3 roma tomatoes or 2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

1. Clean the mussels under cold running water in the sink. Remove beards by slicing them with a paring knife. For ones that are slightly open, gently tap the hinge of the mussel on your cutting board so they close. If it doesn’t, discard. Should take about 15 minutes.
2. In a large pot on medium heat, add 1 TB of butter. Once melted, add your onions and garlic until cooked through (about 2 minutes). Add chicken broth and wine; bring mixture to a boil and add mussels. Cover with a lid.
3. Let the mussels simmer for about 5 minutes (set a timer) and shake in the middle for even cooking. At the end of 5 minutes, check to see that the mussels have opened. Turn off the heat and add parsley, tomatoes, and remaining 2 TB of butter. Gently toss to make sure the butter melts.
4. Toss any mussels that didn’t open. Squeeze half the lemon over the mussels and serve over pasta or with crusty bread.

Note: I bought my mussels 2 days before cooking them. To keep them fresh, I kept them in the mesh bags they came in and placed them in a colander in the fridge with bags of ice. Make sure to place a Pyrex or some kind of plate to catch the melting ice. I also covered the colander with a wet paper towel and re-wet it each morning. I know it sounds complicated but I had to keep them alive before serving for optimal flavor =) I wouldn’t recommend freezing them. 

kimchi making class

Last weekend I took a kimchi making class at the LA home of a Hae Jung Cho, professional chef and master preserver. I had a blast learning how to make 3 types of kimchi: poggi (whole napa cabbage), kkakdugi (diced radish), and oi muchim (cucumber salad). Learning how to make poggi kimchi gave me a newfound respect for the generations of Korean women that make it.

sok for kkak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

kkakdugi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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kimchi grp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although it was a lot of work, I enjoyed the experience and getting my hands dirty with Korean red chili powder, garlic, ginger, and learning the names of the herbs that go into the sok (or ‘filling’ of the poggi kimchi). I always see them at the Korean supermarket produce section but never know what dishes they’re used in.

4 days later, fermented kimchi :)

4 days later, fermented kimchi :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I definitely plan on making the oi muchim and kkakdugi as both were very easy and not labor intensive. Not sure if I’ll make the poggi kimchi again, at least until I live in a home with storage space for ginormous size mixing bowls (that I can easily fit in). I told my mom about the experience and she said, Don’t make poggi kimchi, it’s too much work. Just buy it!. For reals, mom.

If you’re in the LA area and interested in taking a kimchi making class or Korean market tour, check out this interview with Hae Jung Cho where it also lists her contact info. The beauty of the internet, that’s how I learned about her kimchi making class.

mornings at republique

My roommate and I enjoy coming to Republique (in Hancock Park/LA) for Saturday breakfast pastries. It’s airy, has unique interiors, freshly baked pastries, and their drinks have me coming back for more. I haven’t been for lunch or dinner (made LATimes’ restaurant critic Jonathan Gold’s top eateries 101 in LA), as it’s on the pricey end ($$$) but breakfast is an affordable luxury. My roommate tried a hazelnut croissant and highly recommends it.

One of my favorite bloggers, Joy Cho features Republique in a recent post w/more pastry case pics! Check it out here. She recommends their Hong Kong milk tea latte.

exteriorinterior

 

 

pastry2

almond and carrot cake next to a strawberry-filled cream puff

marketpastry

market fruit crostata (flaky sweet crust)

 

banish boring summers

It’s no secret that Los Angeles is a highly sought out vacation destination by out-of-state and overseas visitors. Whether you’re looking for staycation ideas (local NPR has a list) or entertaining out-of-town guests, I’ve listed some free or wallet-friendly activities/events.

Hollywood Bowl
This outdoor concert venue is so unique to LA. I love picnicking on the benches and enjoying the music and warm summer nights. Tickets start as low as $12 and there are multiple parking and park+ride shuttle options. I was there last week and we parked at Hollywood and Highland for $13 (versus $20 or $25 for stacked parking at the Bowl). Check out their calendar here for upcoming performances.

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Malibu Wines (website)
Located 25 miles north of Santa Monica, this outdoor space is perfect for celebrating birthdays, showers, or simply enjoying good company. I visited for the first time a few months back and spotted celebrity chef, Susan Feniger (of Border Grill/Top Chef Masters). They have live music during the weekends and you can bring food and non-alcoholic beverages to enjoy with wine available for purchase.

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The Getty Center (located in Westwood)
Boasting an impressive private collection of art, the architecture is what woos me for repeat visits. I recently went on a docent led architecture tour where we learned about renown architect, Richard Meier’s inspiration behind this iconic cultural landmark. I highly recommend their free tours offered daily. Admission is free and parking is $15 which is also good for the Getty Villa in Malibu (same day visit only). The Getty Center also hosts summer evening events; check out their website for details.

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Dance in Downtown
The Music Center in downtown Los Angeles (connected to the Dorothy Chandler pavilion) hosts free outdoor dance lessons and live music/DJ on select Friday nights. This is one of my FAVORITE things to do in the summer (especially the Bollywood and 60’s nights). So what are you waiting for? Grab a friend or 2 and shake a tail feather. All levels and ages are encouraged to participate (comfy shoes recommended). You can view the calendar here.

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For my OC friends (didn’t forget you guys), here are a few cool things to do~

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa has an annual summer movies series where they show classics, musicals, animation films in a family friendly environment for free! Check out their calendar for upcoming dates. Tip: park at South Coast Plaza and walk over to avoid a parking fee.

segerstrom movie

Photo credit: shared from Segerstrom’s facebook page.

Anaheim, home of Disneyland, The Honda Center, Angels stadium and the newly remodeled Anaheim Packing House, is home to 20-plus gourmet eateries. This is still on my list of places to visit. Check out this article for details on this new culinary destination (open daily, free parking). See their website for details.

Hope you enjoy long summer days with these suggestions. Don’t be shy, what are your favorite summer activities/events?

chicken and veggie soup

It’s been a tough few weeks as I’m getting over the stomach flu. I’ve had the stomach flu twice in less than 2 weeks! My doctor recommended that I stick to soups and get lots of rest, which is what I’ve been doing (aside from the ahi tuna watermelon radish salad I had yesterday at work).  The funny thing is I start making a mental list of what I want to eat (a lot of junk food). Once the nurse said to avoid hamburgers, that’s what I started craving. Haha… I guess that’s how it is, I crave what I can’t have. In the meantime, I’m enjoying homemade soups like this one.

This is not an exact recipe but pretty close. I’ve been making chicken soup since college and it’s one of the easiest ones to make, especially if you have a rotisserie chicken. I would recommend using homemade chicken broth (recipe here) but store bought works too. It’s amazing that Costco still sells their rotisserie chicken for 4.99 after all these years.

chicken soup pic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

chicken and veggie soup (serves 4 hearty portions)
6 cups of chicken broth
2 small carrots, sliced
1 celery rib, sliced
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 russet potato, diced
handful of mushrooms, sliced
add other veggies (added broccoli)
2 handfuls of dried pasta or rice (used orzo)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp of sea salt (adjust the amount accordingly)
black pepper to taste

1. In a stock pot, pour in the chicken broth, add carrots, potatoes, onions, celery, herbs, and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, bring it down to a simmer for about 20 minutes or until carrots are fork tender.
2. Add your pasta or rice and other softer veggies (don’t need as much cooking time) and let it simmer for another 10 minutes or so or until the pasta/rice is cooked.
3. Taste and season with salt and pepper accordingly.

The amount of salt you want to add is up to you. I opt for the low-sodium chicken broth to control the amount of sodium in my soup. I like adding it at the end for that reason. Hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do. Sure beats a brown bag sandwich any day.

anima pizza & pasta

inside anima

Anima Pizza & Pasta is a new (opened December 2013) authentic Italian restaurant in the heart of Koreatown (Vermont and 7th). My friend, Julie of LA eats introduced me to this gem in early March and went back with a group of friends a few weeks later.

flora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bruschette miste (ham, salami, veggies) 8.00

bruschette miste (ham, salami, veggies) 8.00

insalata nicoise 8.50

insalata nicoise 8.50

lobster ravioli 9.00 (daily special, off menu item)

lobster ravioli 9.00 (daily special, off menu item)

capriccoisa pizza (olives, ham, mushrooms, bell peppers) 14.50

capriccoisa pizza (olives, ham, mushrooms, bell peppers) 14.50

gnocchi with ragu

gnocchi with ragu 8.50

spaghetti e polpettine (meatballs) 8.00

spaghetti e polpettine (meatballs) 8.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The food is as delicious as it looks and wonderfully affordable. Where else can you get homemade pasta in LA for under $10 for dinner? Each time, I think I spent about $15 for dinner. The portions are not ginormous so you can share a couple dishes and leave feeling satisfied. They’ve applied for an beer and wine alcohol license so until then, no BYOB but they offer complimentary cucumber water and have non-alcoholic drink options on the menu.

The only challenge about this location is the parking. It’s in the same plaza as Kobawoo and a handful of other eateries. Valet parking (I think it was $2) is available if there’s space, otherwise, street parking is the other option.

If you’re as crazy about Italian food as I am, check out my reviews for Maccheroni Republic and Eatalian Cafe.