Category Archives: foodventures

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?

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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.

boston: part 1 (good eats)

I was in Boston for about a week earlier this month for a work conference and came the weekend prior to explore/play. My friends (and talented colleagues) and I hung out and had some amazing food. I have so many pictures to share that I’ll devote another post to the sights of Boston. It was actually my second time here but first time really experiencing it on foot. Here are some food highlights:

Our first night in Boston, we took a short bus ride to this Asian fusion restaurant, Myers+Chang. I’m a bit weary when I hear fusion but it was a much needed pick-me-up after a 5+ hour plane ride. Our favorites were the papaya salad, Indonesian fried rice (below, top right, bottom left), and their dan dan cold noodles in a peanut sauce. Despite being a busy Friday night for the restaurant, we had ice waters (noticeably sweating from the humidity we’re not accustomed to) and seated at the window within 10 minutes.

The highlight was meeting Chef Joanne Chang as she came by and asked us how the food was!!! She even liked MY Instagram pic! I’ve been a big fan ever since she beat Bobby Flay on the Food Network’s  Throwdown with her signature sticky buns (keep reading).

We went to Cafe Luna for Saturday brunch in Cambridge (top left, bottom right). I ordered their lemon ricotta stuffed mascarpone pancakes with lemon curd. Probably one of the best brunch dishes I’ve ever had. These were so light and fluffy, perfect for the hot day with my iced chai latte. Julie had the lobster eggs benedict (bottom right). Doesn’t it look savory and decadent? She was saying how fresh the lobster was in her dish. We were very impressed by this small sidewalk cafe (which was packed on a Saturday morning, as good ones should be). The owner was so friendly and kind to us as we learned he’s originally from OC.

brunch and meyers

Day 2 continued: Flour Bakery in Cambridge. A few blocks from Cafe Luna is one of 3 Flour Bakery locations. The first one opened in 2000 and has become an integral part of the city. Chef Joanne Chang has not only the bakeries, her restaurant, and also 2 cookbooks to her empire :). Despite our stuffed bellies, we HAD to sample their desserts. They’re famous for their sticky sticky buns (below). OMG! Very gooey and a generous amount of pecans. I also had a chunky lola cookie (choco chip oatmeal cookie w/coconut and pecans), which was even better! I found the cookie recipe online and baked them last weekend (foolproof!).

I bought home some goodies from this bakery including coffee beans and their signature granola, both taste so good I wish I bought more. My parents really liked their coffee beans for a smooth taste (says a hint of chocolate, but I can’t tell). What’s interesting about Chef Joanne’s background is she graduated from Harvard w/a dual Bachelors in economics and mathematics to work as a management consultant only to realize her true passion was becoming pastry chef. If you’ve ever baked, you understand the art and science of baking. How cool is that?

flour bakery

We also explored the South Boston as our conference was a short walking distance to this up-and-coming area (NPR just did a story on this area). We found this gem of a restaurant, Sportello, one of Chef Barbara Lynch’s restaurants (she has 8 or 9 eateries and mentored the last Top Chef winner). The concept of the eatery is casual Italian diner with countertops covering most the restaurant and an open kitchen + bakery. It’s so cute and inviting. Most notable was their handmade gnocchi and tagliatelle with bolognese sauce. The simplest dishes are the hardest to pull off and they make it look effortless. Shout out to our server Ethan who was amazing.

sportello

I love exploring new cities because you stumble upon places that locals frequent like Barrington Coffee Roasting Company, a few doors down from Sportello. A simple cafe with high quality coffee. Their iced coffee hit the spot on those hot summer days. We also made room for cannolis at Mike’s Pastry in the North End after a full meal. $3.50 for a pistachio cannoli in a small, always crowded Italian pastry shop (cash only).

mike's pastry

Hope this gives you a little taste (no pun intended) of good eats in Boston. Stay tuned for Boston part 2 later this week. Too much good content to cram into one post.

Iron Chef, challenge pork tenderloin

Over the weekend, our church’s young adult ministry had an Iron Chef competition where 4 teams of 2-3 people had just one hour to cook a winning dish using the following ingredients:

– pork tenderloin

– strawberries

– brussel sprouts

– spicy brown mustard

– frozen tater tots

Here’s what the teams made:

collage of foodAnd the judges that critiqued us

judges

Doesn’t one judge look particularly intense? 🙂

Team Sandra and Min came out the winners (bottom right plate) as their food was the best. I loved their brussel sprout slaw with green apple and Parmesan cheese.. addicting. Their mustard apricot sauce for the pork was beautiful and tasty. Their dessert was not only beautiful but light and flavorful with the addition of vanilla bean seeds.. seriously gourmet stuff.

Winning 2nd place, our food (top left) left an impression with the way we mashed up the tater tots like a hash brown to make it nice and crisp. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to make a dessert but nonetheless, stood by our food.

Team Fred and Owen won the kids’ votes (bottom left) with their tonkatsu and bacon fried rice (mmm..bacon). We were all impressed with their homemade katsu sauce!

Team Jack and Dave’s signature item was their 2 kinds of chimichurri to go with the pork. Pastor Joel was so funny. He didn’t know how to spell it and wrote it out in Korean on his comment form.

Overall, it was a fun experience despite slicing part of a fingernail off with 2 minutes left in the competition (thanks GL for being the medic). I’m proud of our team! It was funny seeing everyone looking exhausted (and relieved it was over) at church the next day.

team pic

i resolve to…

2012 was a busy year! Between traveling for work(mostly) and fun, changing jobs, and connecting w/new and old faces, it’s been a fun ride. I’m looking forward to 2013 as I hope to expand my culinary chops, meet other bloggers, and to post more often. You may have noticed from recent posts that I’m blogging about a wider range of interests and will even include giveaways (check back next week!).

Thanks for coming along for the ride. I really appreciate that you take a few minutes out of your day to check my blog and even more appreciate comments and encouragement when you try out the recipes!

More memories from last year that I didn’t get around to blogging (isn’t the iphone camera pretty awesome?!).

collage 2012

Top row (left to right): meeting blogger, Joy Cho, with Christine of Feed My Sole; experiencing the miracle berry (and a mini lecture from Prof. Diana C.); trying Hawker Fare in Oakland.

Middle row: chicken wings from the Ludo truck; visiting the Atlanta aquarium; baking class at the Cordon Bleu in Hollywood.

Bottom row: hiking in Laguna Beach; piano concerto at the Segerstrom in Costa Mesa, wine tasting and discovery an amazing winery in Santa Barbara County.

Seattle

Last November, I booked a flight to Seattle after seeing a great deal on JetBlue ($49 each way from LBC to SEA/TAC) and easily convinced my sister since it was MLK weekend that we both wanted an excuse to see the Emerald City. I hadn’t been to Seattle in a decade and she had never been, what the heck, let’s go! Check out some highlights from our trip.

The Seattle Public Library. Sigh. If only all public libraries were this cool. No wonder they’re voted one of the most book loving cities. I wasn’t thrilled with the exterior but the interior was so modern and inviting. Interestingly, an entire floor is completely painted in red. We also found this cool used bookstore in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Imagine a B&N-like bookstore where all the book are half off (and in great condition).

Seattle Public Library (the red floor)

We enjoyed some wine at Purple Cafe and Wine Bar in walking distance from the library. A beautiful, hip, yet intimate restaurant. Check out that winding staircase wine rack!

Purple Wine Bar and Cafe (loved their wine and spiral wine case)

fish market

What Seattle trip would be complete without a visit to Pike Place Market? So cool! I love the fish throwing dudes and the street performers but what I love most is the food! Hands down my favorite was Le Panier’s almond croissant and coffee (Seattle knows good coffee). Ah… the simple joys in life. It was so good, we went back the next day. I also really enjoyed Russian meat pastries and creamy mac & cheese at this place. I’m warning you; this place is carb heaven. We didn’t even have room for the donuts or other foods on a stick. I wanted to try fresh oysters but it was way too cold for this SoCal girl! I even bought wool hiking socks, yeah that cold.

honey

mac and cheese seattle

Beecher’s mac and cheese (taken by alice)

Seattle coffee is bar none! Latte from Panier.

$4 croissant was worth every penny.

We also enjoyed brunch at Portage Bay Cafe with their delicious whole wheat pancakes and toppings bar. What a cool idea!!!

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During brunch, it started snowing! I felt like a little kid mesmerized by snow in the city! For real!!! We just happened to be in Seattle during the first snowstorm of the winter. NICE 🙂 Except that all the buses, taxis were out of commission. We were standing out in the street, waiting for a bus to arrive as it’s snowing. Only 30 minutes later did we realize that the buses had stopped. Seattle is a bit hilly and so they fear driving in snowing conditions (and they take issue with using salt; well, at least prior due to environmental reasons).

snow!

We also enjoyed pizzas at Serious Pie and sushi at Umi Sake House in downtown. These folks know how to eat!!! Next time, I’ll visit Bainbridge island and tour the Theo Chocolate Factory. The Pacific Northwest is without a doubt breathtakingly beautiful and has some of the nicest people. Seriously, even the bus drivers were super nice and hospitable.

Adieu Seattle! Until we meet again.