Category Archives: cool neighborhoods

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.

crowded

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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)

 

eat this cafe in hollywood

My friends and I went for brunch earlier this month on a rainy Saturday. It’s hard to imagine rain when we’ve been getting 90+ degree weather just this past weekend. The weather has been so bipolar lately! Despite the weather, some friends and I checked out a brunch place in Hollywood, Eat This Cafe and enjoyed our experience.

inside

Here’s what we ordered (and shared):

Open-faced egg sandwich w/cranberry walnut bread ($11)

Open-faced egg sandwich w/cranberry walnut bread ($11)

french toast

Grand Marnier French Toast ($12)

Truffle cheese and egg panini ($12.50)

Truffle cheese and egg panini ($12.50)

I think we all agreed that the French toast and truffle cheese and egg panini were the best dishes (corned beef hash not pictured). They also have a popular crab eggs benedict but we didn’t try it this time. LA has plenty of weekend brunch spots but this is one of the memorable ones. Others underwhelmed or seemed overpriced. This one hit the spot and they had decent coffee. I also like that they have a self-serve flavored water.

Since it’s a small place, I would suggest coming w/a party no bigger than 4. I think we waited about 30 minutes but we came around 11:30am. Street parking on adjacent streets.

eat drink americano in the arts district

I hesitate to write about this place because I want to keep it ALL to myself (my true, possessive self shines through). This place feels intimate and the food is locally sourced, globally inspired. Gastropub w/a sophisticated, creative twist which I love. This is a great place to bring your sweetie or catch up w/a few friends. My friend and I were there on a Thursday night and it had a good number of people but not crowded. Btw, they have a special Vday menu if you’re still looking for a place. Reservations accepted on their website.

IMG_0055

IMG_0051

Please excuse this beam (beam, take a hike! you’re ruining my shot)

IMG_0050

I came during happy hour before my friend got off work to take advantage of the soft lighting on an overcast day. I tried the Pilgrim (appetizer), which is slow cooked turkey atop stuffing with corn foam and dots of cranberry sauce ($5) and a golden ale ($5). The corn form was something between a foam and puree. Whatever it was, it was light w/a touch of natural sweetness.

IMG_0059

My friend and I shared the oxtail sliders w/red cabbage slaw ($15) and popeye and olive oil flatbread ($9). The flatbread had a flavorful onion and spinach pesto that really popped on a chewy crust. The oxtail sliders look deceivingly small and cute but they’re packed w/meaty goodness. Mmm… getting hungry just thinking about it.

IMG_0068

IMG_0067

Mission Chinese Food in SF

I was in SF for a wedding last fall and tried Mission Chinese Food (MCF) in the Mission District. My friend was kind enough to treat me to a delicious lunch after church on a bright Sunday afternoon. The funny thing about SF is that summers are overcast/chilly and fall may actually have better weather.  You can tell who the tourists are because they’re usually wearing shorts and t-shirts (and freezing) and the locals are dressed in layers. Thankfully, it was a beautiful Sunday walk-the-dog kinda afternoon in October.

Cupid’s span in Embarcadero; has backdrop of the Ferry Building (my fave)

From the outside, MCF looks like a nondescript Chinese restaurant. Prior to MCF, it was a food cart called Mission Street Food and became so popular they hosted pop-ups at this location. Check out this article for the full backstory.

MCF fascade

MCF dragonWe came around 1:30pm or 2:00pm for lunch and were seated right away. My friend was telling me that dinner can be a bit of a wait. I recommend that you come during the day and avoid the waiting game. Also, there are so many good eateries in this area including Bi-Rite ice cream, Tartine bakery, and Mission Beach Cafe (great brunch spot).

MCF fried rice

salt cod fried rice ($12)

MCF fried wings

Chongqing chicken wings ($11)

MCF lamb dumplings

grandma’s spicy lamb dumplings ($9)

I enjoyed their funky, salty interpretation of Chinese food. Overall, I found the food to be on the salty side but their flavors were very addicting. I particularly enjoyed the chicken wings which were buried under a pile of Sichuan peppers which looked spicy but wasn’t overly spicy (like Southern Thai food). The seasonings were an intriguing blend of salty/sweet hint of brown sugar, spice from the peppers, and vinegar flavors that were dancing in my mouth. The fried tripe was also a nice surprise. The salt cod fried rice was also delicious and very addicting. The lamb dumplings I wouldn’t order again. They weren’t memorable and left me with an oily aftertaste and not much flavor. In the tradition of Chinese restaurants, I appreciated that they provide you with a pot of tea to help wash down the oily, salty food.

Given that I’m not a huge fan of Chinese food, I found this interpretation a good twist (although on the salty side). I would go back to try their pork belly and a few other dishes but it’s a bit on the heavy side.

Check out another blog post documenting my Bay Area visit where I talk about the Ferry Building and other good eats.

A local’s guide to LA

I hosted my friend/travel buddy from San Diego during the weekend between Christmas and New Years. As a fellow foodie, she was game for exploring some of my fave eats and ways to appreciate this city. Here’s where we ate/did over a weekend.

We enjoyed a late lunch (30 min wait) at Shin-Sen-Gumi in Little Tokyo for their delicious Hakata ramen ($6.95) which always hits the spot without leaving a dent in my wallet.

ramenPhoto credit: Ed K. (via yelp)

We headed over to Urth Caffe in the arts district just a couple miles away to indulge our sweet tooth cravings. We ordered Spanish lattes ($4.00) and split an Earl Grey tiramisu ($6.95) which was creamy and a little sweet. I hear what makes their Spanish lattes so wonderfully addicting is they use condensed milk (what doesn’t taste better with condensed milk?).

urth

After our cafe experience, we took a little break and enjoyed a rooftop view of the city at Perch near Pershing Square in downtown. It was challenging to find parking on a Friday night but after circling the area for about 20 minutes, I scored the last spot in a parking lot for $5 a block over. A staff member at Perch was telling us that Sunday and Thursday nights are pretty slow. On busy nights like Fridays, there’s a wait to access the rooftop lounge (but well worth it). Cocktails will run about $12-$15 which seems standard in downtown.

perchOverlooking Pershing Square and the ice skating rink

Although my friend hadn’t been to the LACMA, I had a feeling it would be a bit crowded given that it was a Saturday and between holidays. My favorite LA museum is actually the Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City. Their current exhibit are the best photographs from 125 years of National Geographic. Using various mediums of LCD screens, large screen video presentations, and printed shots, it’s an engaging experience across decades, genres, and styles. Photojournalists were sharing their motivation for at times risking their lives to capture images that reach a mass audience in order to bring awareness to issues whether it’s about war/conflict in Afghanistan or seeing the curious face of an endangered species. This is a must-see exhibit featured until April 27, 2014. Free admission and $1 validated parking (on weekends).

annen2

Although it was a bit out of the way, I wanted to take my friend to Venice since it’s a cool beach neighborhood and home to Gjelina and Gjelina Take Away GTA (to-go place next door). I had been to Gjelina last year and fell in love with their squash blossom pizza. Unfortunately, since squash blossoms aren’t in season, we shared the rustic and simple (yet satisfying) pomodoro burrata pizza ($15) and salami pizza ($15). They use the freshest ingredients and the woodfire oven results in a chewy crust. For $15, it’s a pricey pizza for a single serving but an occasional luxury. Given that it’s take-out, we sat in a makeshift alley adjacent to GTA to enjoy our oven-fresh pizzas. So good!

GTA2

What trip to LA would be complete without a taco run? We enjoyed some late night eats at El Flamin’ Taco in Ktown. This truck has a well-stocked salsa bar, juicy al pastor ($1.35) on handmade tortillas, what more could I ask for? It’s a cash only place (one minor inconvenience); closed on Mondays.

taco

Salty, sweet, tangy, and spicy.

Not pictured, a nutella cronut ($3.75) which is a croissant donut from SK Donuts. Deliciously rich and crispy. Recommend sharing with a friend or two.

All in all, we had a great time catching up over good eats and talking about our future travel destinations. I’m thankful for close friends to spend quality time and it gives me more reason to explore new places to take visitors to taste and experience the rich diversity that LA has to offer.

Until we meet again friend! Here’s a shot of my friend on one of our trips to Vegas.

IMG_5111

Kal’s Bistro in Pasadena

About a week ago, I enjoyed an ice cream tasting with two fellow bloggers at Kal’s Bistro in Old Towne Pasadena. The owner, Kal whose background is working in entertainment opened this restaurant about four months ago. He invited us to try his delectable homemade ice cream (by pastry chef Barbara) and even let us sample a few cocktails.

interiors

ice creamStarting clockwise, the flavors pictured are: mint orange blossom, strawberry habanero, white chocolate chocolate chips, cinnamon bun, and lavender cream cheese. My hands down faves were the lavender cream cheese and mint orange blossom. Maybe it was the warm summer weather but I was drawn to the light almost sorbet like qualities. The strawberry habanero was an experience. Initially, I tasted the fruit and then the spicy habanero coated the back of my throat. Funny thing about spicy food is it lures me back for more! Haha…  what can I say, I’ve been addicted to spicy food all my life, growing up with Korean food.

at the bar

rocketteI also sampled the Rockette, a cocktail made of agave, arugula (also called rocket in the UK), vermouth, and lime juice. This was so refreshing and a little zesty flavor of the arugula mixed with the tartness of the lime. Great balance of flavors. I would come back to order this one with a juicy burger 🙂 Many thanks to Kal and his staff; they were so hospitable and friendly.

My new blogger friend, Mary also blogged about her experience so check it out.

Just on an aside, hasn’t Old Towne Pasadena gone under a major renovation/redevelopment? There are so many new cafes, restaurants, shops that have opened up in the last few years. Crazy! About a month ago, I stumbled into a new cafe to get some change for the meter and later realized it was a brand new cafe, Copa Vida. Such beautiful interiors (and delicious kumquat pistachio croissant btw). The ceiling reminded me of waffles (haha, food is constantly on my mind…).

copa vida