Edibles

American Riviera

Hubby and I decided to go on a short road trip to Monterey (which is about 400 miles from where we live) and on the way there, took a brunch break in Santa Barbara which is often referred to as American Riviera. It’s a beautiful, artsy city with numerous cute cafes and restaurants by the ocean.

황금같은 긴 주말을 맞아 샌프란시스코 가는 길에 있는 몬테레이에서 1박2일을 계획한 우리는 고픈 배를 채우기 위해 산타바바라에 들렸답니다. 맛있는 음식과 분위기있는 카페로 가득한 스테잇 스트릿에서 행복한 브런치를 즐겼죠~

A guy at a stoplight asked for my blog address. If you are here, Hi! :D

사진찍는데 어떤 남자가 차안에서 물어보더라구요, 블로그 주소가 뭐냐고. 깜놀래서 버벅대면서 말은 해줬는데 왔을라나 몰라요. ㅋㅋ

Vanilla Dipped French Toast at Tupelo Junction Cafe on State Street. Best I’ve had. The toast was extremely soft and flavorful, but most importantly, remained warm throughout. I’m not a fan of whipped cream but it was just heavenly paired with homemade berry sauce and warm sourdough bread.

먹어본 프렌치 토스트 중에 최고였어요. 좀 달았던게 흠이지만 사워도우 빵으로 만든게 굉장히 특이하더라구요.

Spinach & Smoked Bacon Omelet w/ Gouda Cheese (they call it “scramble” but it was essentially an omelet). Gouda Cheese definitely gives it a kick. Delicious.

구다 치즈가 특별함을 더해주었어요.

Wore my red wool tights to keep me warm from the chilly wind

아무래도 남부 캘리포니아보다는 바람이 거세고 추워서 껴입을 필요가 있었어여 ㅋㅋ

…and my poncho, of course. :)

아무래도 이런날씨엔 배트맨 망또가 최고

Coffee at French Press, supposedly the best coffee house in Santa Barbara

산타바바라에서 최고의 커피를 뽑는다는 이곳, 프렌치 프레스.

Since I’m only an occasional coffee drinker, decided to try their specialty called, “Magic Bowl” which turned out to be amazing! It’s basically a Chamomile tea with steamed soy milk and honey. Aww I miss it already!

저는 커피를 즐기는 편이 아니라 매직보울이라는 스페셜티를 마셨는데 완전 짱!이었더라는… 국화차에 두유와 꿀을 넣은건데 달콤하면서 살살 녹는 담백함이 아주 환상적이었답니다.

It’s a cute place with paintings and photographs displayed on the walls to keep visitors entertained. I just wished that we hadn’t sat in front of the restroom. :P

벽마다 미국 전역에서 찍은 사진들과 그림들이 전시되어 있어요. 심심한 눈을 즐겁게 해주었죠.

Cute doggies and their daddy

지나가는데 아저씨랑 아이들의 모습이 너무 예뻐서 찍었어요. 아저씨도 넘 친절하셨구요.

멀지 않은 곳에 산이 너무 아름다웠는데 같이 감상하지 못한게 아쉬워요.

More pictures/posts coming your way. Stay tuned!

White button down shirt, Red wool tights, and Grey leg warmers from H&M
Old leather skirt from Old Navy
Fringed poncho from a shop on Melrose

Hatfield’s: a Gastronomic Expedition

Situated on a quieter side of Melrose, Hatfield’s is one of the 10 best restaurants in America 2010 by Bon Appetit. Every dish is impeccably executed both presentation and taste wise- a must try!

Can’t remember the exact name but it had cous cous and crab meat. I liked.. not only because it was on the house but it was just so precious.

Croque Madame: Yellowtail sashimi, prosciutto, quail egg, grilled brioche. Perhaps my expectation was too high but I honestly wasn’t too impressed with this. I’m just not so sure about the sashimi+bread combo. I’ll stick with the traditional french toast.

Squid Ink Garganelle: Dungeness crab, English peas, Lobster butter- as strange as it looks, this dish was one of my favorites. The chewiness of the pasta was flawless and it was so flavorful I could almost smell the ocean.

Chocolate tarte with smoked vanilla bean ice cream in caramel sauce… omg… as an unofficial sweets expert, I can honestly say that this was the most amazing dessert I’ve ever had. I can eat ten of these in one sitting. Heaven.

I also had an octopus dish which unfortunately was served with something that wasn’t requested: a hair topping on top, which I find as very unusual, especially at a top notch restaurant like this one. While I appreciated the fact that it was exchanged, the manager’s reaction was definitely a turn off. He said to our waiter that I “claimed” that there was hair on the food when it was clearly visible and obvious. When a customer says there is a problem, you just apologize and take it back. To make the matter worse, he never stopped by our table again though he did pass by several times. What, so am I supposed to eat the hair too? Is that what he wants? I honestly hesitated whether to write about this but now that I think about it, people should know. As I said in a previous post, customer service is everything, especially in this kind of economy.

Though the food was undeniably extraordinary, if I were asked whether I would eat here again, I would have to say no, not because of my experience but there are just way too many great restaurants that I have yet to discover in the area. I also started to realize the void that comes with dining at fancy restaurants. I can’t help but deeply consider whether it really is necessary to spend big bucks on something that is so temporal and momentary. No matter what goes into my mouth, they all end up going down the toilet, right? So why should it matter whether it costs $30 or $3? What I should truly be concerned about is the nutritional benefits of the food, not the presentation or how much time and effort goes into making that special sauce. Of course, I will still be checking out popular dining spots but my focus will be on finding ones that simultaneously offer value and nutritional benefits, not solely on the presentation and popularity.

Tar Pit: a Gastronomic Expedition

a great late night drinks/tapas spot with delicious food and sleek decor. Be sure to check out their happy hour menu- if I recall correctly, everything was under $10!

Mac & Cheese- found it interesting that they used Penne instead of Macaroni

French Fries- they taste like pringles with fresh parsley! Highly addictive.

Butter Lettuce Salad w/ Lemon Vinaigrette- sort of wished that there wasn’t so much parsley on it but I liked how refreshing the dressing was.

Escargot & Gnocchi- while I loved how soft and chewy the gnocchi was, escargot was a big disappointment due to the scarcity.

Duck Sliders- phenomenal indeed. a Must try!

Fried Oysters: a great hors d’oeuvre, though I still prefer fresh ones.

Deviled Eggs- I was a bit skeptical at first but turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Attended an introductory iPad course accompanied by sweets overload at Susina Bakery located a block away

Mini sweets on the house. When in doubt, go with a cake, wasn’t too impressed with these.

Forget what this is called, but it was flipping delicious! Chocolate mouse cake with hazelnut and raspberry

The famous Berry Blossom cake

Tar Pit
609 W. La Brea
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Bazaar: a Dining Experience

Checked out the popular joint a few weeks ago.

Yes, that’s an egg shell. don’t ask me how they do it…

Paella-style Pasta. While it had the strong flavor that I was looking for, it was definitely too salty and strange for me. Well, I just had no idea that they would stir fry the pasta… :P

One of the best dishes we had: Japanese taco? very different. refreshing.

Looks like a taquito.. don’t remember what the filling consisted of but it was quite good.

Cotton Candy Foie Gras. I know.. what?! Now I’m not a fan of Foie Gras to start with but this actually wasn’t bad.. Hubby liked it so much he had two.

Bazaar’s interpretation of Philly Cheesesteak: Air bread with Wagyu beef layered on top with melted cheddar inside. Super yummy.

This was my favorite dish and I can’t remember what it was called! bummer. nuts and stuff! hahaha

The next time I’m there, I’m going with a group so we can order everything on the menu and share. :)

Bazaar at SLS by Jose Andres

Viva Las Vegas!

I know, I know… I’m behind schedule. I was finally able to drag my lazy butt (and broken foot) to the computer to write this overdue post on my Vegas trip. Sorry! I’m actually having some issues with my broken foot for which the doctor has ordered bed rest for a month. It’s hard for me to stay seated because the foot gets swollen so let’s see if I can keep this short and quick. :)

Brunch at Wynn Buffet. While the selections may seem limited compared to others, quality is definitely superior. They’ve got everything from Gorgonzola Pear Salad (my fav) to Quiche. It was interesting because by the time we were finished with our first plate, lunch hour was approaching and a completely new menu started to show up. My tip would be to get there around 10:30AM so that you have access to both breakfast AND lunch. :)

After a wonderful brunch, we hit the pool where we were pleasantly greeted by half naked women. LOL yeah you heard it, NAKED! I had heard that there were European pools in Vegas but weren’t planning on actually hitting one! Since I never got around to visiting one when I was in Europe, this was my first experience and I gotta say while it’s a pretty cool idea since it gives women that much more “freedom” and less tan lines, I couldn’t help but wonder where my eyes should rest. Also the fact that there were many more men (older) than women concerned me. Ehh, I’ll pass on that. But if you are ever in the area, do check out Encore’s Beach Club. It opens during the day until 7PM and got DJs bumping hot tracks. I really wanted to check it out but my foot refused. As for clubs, Encore’s XS seemed to be the place to be- I saw way too many super-modelisque women at the door, beauty overload, indeed. Sadly not sure about men, however. :P

Encore Beach Club (Photo Credit: Bing Images)

Before my cast started developing fungus due to the scorching heat, we decided to find a shelter and chilled Vegas style in the lobby at the Spa. Not only was the air conditioning working magic, it was so beautiful I just did not want to leave. Mr. Wynn sure knows luxury. :)

That evening, we were treated to awesome American cuisine at Venetian’s Timpano Tavern (steak was excellent but the shrimps were so salty they had to be returned) and a Cirque du Soleil show called “Love” at The Mirage. I honestly wasn’t expecting much as I hadn’t heard much about the show but to my surprise, it was just pure awesomeness. The show is based on hits by Beatles and I thought the production was flawlessly coordinated along with plenty of artistic touches and enough dancing to satiate my entertainment appetite. If you are into shows, definitely do check out LOVE! I recommended it to a friend who arrived the next day and she absolutely loved it.

The next morning, we had brunch at a famous French Bakery in Aria called Jean Philippe. They have another location at Bellagio but we decided on this one as we had yet to explore Aria and the shops at Crystals. Definitely try their Crepes and Paninis- they are absolutely heavenly! Compared to their pastries and cakes, they are relatively affordable as well at $10-12. Its being a bakery, you order at the counter and pick up the food yourself. I figure if they were to have wait service the food cost would probably double.

Don’t forget to try their homemade gelato as it’s their specialty.

We headed to Crystals for some shopping where we were awestruck by this beautiful “tree house”:

It turns out that it’s actually a restaurant: Mastro’s Ocean Club designed by a renowned architect, David Rockwell.

Spent a good hour at Tom Ford’s one of the few stores in the US. He sure knows exquisite suits. The hubs instantly fell in love.

Very unlikely of us, but we went off strip for dinner for some amazing authentic Japanese food.

Not your typical uni- fresh uni with salmon roe and udon: yeah, you heard me, udon in uni soup! omg. if you like uni, you’ve just met your soulmate.

Homemade Cheesecake- it’s definitely not your average cheesecake as it has an extremely silky/velvety texture with a minimal use of sugar. Apparently this is where the top-class chefs from the strip grab their late night snacks and dinner. It’s a tiny restaurant so be sure to make a reservation days in advance: Aburiya Raku

The day ended with another show, this time at the Wynn. Perhaps my expectation was too high, or I just liked Love too much, but I must say that I was quite disappointed. I felt like it was a bit of a waste of money (about $120/ticket)… While I was blown away by the stage set-up, the performance itself was nothing new… or is it that my eyes have been spoiled with Cirque du Soleil‘s awesomeness?! Well whatever the case, if you are going to spend $100 on a show, I recommend Cirque du Soleil over Le Reve.

After two entertaining nights at the Encore, we moved to Trump for relaxation. Although it’s only a block away from Encore, this five-star hotel gives off a very different aura as it’s actually off the strip (although only steps away) with no casinos nor clubs. The pool is small and conservative compared to those on the strip but you might actually like it better if you are annoyed by those drunken partygoers at typical Vegas pools. I like the rooms at the Encore better but it’s definitely nice to have free wifi and an option to cook in your room (for which you actually pay for as part of the resort fee yet the total’s still cheaper than Encore). Service is probably what sets Trump apart from others as they surprised us with these beautiful flowers in the room:

If I could say a few things however, they’ve got to improve their valet service. One time we had to wait 15 minutes just to get the car and was actually late for dinner, not to mention the heat (!!!) we had to endure. ugh. please, please do something about it! Also, the bathroom flooded every time I’d take a shower because the dam in the shower stall was too low, letting water flow into the rest of the bathroom. It’s a design problem that needs to be fixed! but they do have the BEST Shower Robes ever. I was extremely tempted to take them home. :P

The trip ended with delicious Thai cuisine at a place known for offering the “Best Thai Food in US” called Lotus of Siam, which is also off the strip. It was recommended by a number of my food aficionado friends so we had to check it out. Their Tom Yam Kung is best I’ve had. Be sure to order the drunken noodles. It was highly recommended by the waiter which turned out to be a favorite. Lotus of Siam

Healthy Alternative

Since when were the vegetables more expensive and fancier than the meat? It always boggles my mind to see these veggie cuisines priced higher than those made with meat. See, in my motherland Korea, meat is still uber expensive and when I lived there (which was roughly 20 yrs ago) it would cost us an arm and a leg to get Korean BBQ (think couple hundred bucks to feed a family of 4; consider two of us being tiny little girls). Bam, I arrive in the states and meat is literally everywhere! I don’t even know how often I got to eat it… like EVERYDAY(?!), which I think did me good at least appearance wise, because it helped me grow a few inches and some chest too. lol

vs.

So I got to have my very first Veggie Burger experience last night and I must say that I was quite impressed. It came complete with toasted wheat buns and a fresh salad with quinoa. While definitely mini compared to the regular burgers, it was a very fulfilling, delicious meal. Whoever came up with the veggie patty is a genius, I say. but my economical twin asks, why the ridiculous price?!? $10 for a burger made with vegetables that cost a fraction of the meat price? Someone please explain to me what is going on here…? In that case, I might start making veggie patties at home.

Veggie Grill

For My Sweet-toothed Friends

Since my cheat day is almost here (Saturday), I wanted to celebrate it by introducing a few of what I call “my favorite indulgences”:

Jesuit (Custard filled French puff pastry with meringue & almonds) from Champagne Bakery
So buttery and crunchy, just like the ones in Paris!

Bear Cake (chocolate cake w/ white chocolate mousse & Italian rum & milk chocolate chunks) from Susina Bakery
I ate the whole thing myself. No, I’m not kidding.

…and my newest favorite- Red Velvet Cake from Layer Cake- so moist and delicious, definitely better than Sprinkles’. Thanks to J for sharing the love! This place is a gem!

Fine Dining: Downtown LA

Bottega Louie- a hype?

I think not- everything from the ambiance to food was excellent except for the sewer smell which made me gag just a few times. :T

Liked the open kitchen- made me feel like I was watching the Food Channel. :D

Their Modena salad with goat cheese and walnuts is very rich & refreshing, btw.

I love lofts. I loved the huge open space with high ceilings. In fact, I want to live in one.

Didn’t get to try their sweets. next time fo sho.

Finished the leftover Margherita Pizza (my fav!) the next morning. Yikes!

Reminds me of Dean & Deluca in Soho, NYC

Gotta have my lemon soda~* <33

My type of restaurant- casual yet fancy; simple yet creative.

Bottega Louie
700 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 802-1470

Aloha!

To celebrate our anniversary, hubby surprised me with a dreamy dinner at Roy’s, a Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant. While I was not impressed by the lackluster interior, I became instantaneously excited the minute I became acquainted with their Golden Lobster Potstickers, which explains why the photo doesn’t even exist. :P I really liked their Thai Curried Shrimp Salad as well- dressing was definitely refreshing and tropical, just the way Hawaii should taste.

My favorite dish was Blackened Ahi. Now, I never order Seared Ahi because I just don’t find it tasty, but wow, was I impressed. I actually loved their Ahi! This is definitely something I’m going to be returning to Roy’s for. The sauce and ginger complement the fish so perfectly you just can’t help but keep saying, “omg this is sooo good!”

The night ended on a very romantic note with their signature Chocolate Souffle. It’s mouthwatering just to be looking at the picture. I made that hole as soon as the plate touched the table. As you can imagine, those 20 seconds my husband made me wait so he can take the photo was the most painful 20 seconds ever. Basically, it was in our tummies before we knew it. It’s so flipping good you just have to try it at least once in your life time, especially if you are one of us suffering from an incurable disease called sweet tooth. All in all, food was delicious and the service was great. They even gave us a free dessert and a framed photo. :D

Rediscovering LA Korea Town

Korea Town has a special place in my heart. As a Korean-American growing up in Southern California, Ktown was my playground, and a place where I was reunited with my cultural heritage.

Lately it’s been going through some major developments which is long overdue (it’s sort of embarrassing whenever visitors from Korea say that it looks like it’s still stuck in the 80′s.. :T). As a result, new cafes and restaurants are popping up left and right, some of them straight from Korea.

Presenting… School Food.

From what I understand, this is a US branch of the popular Korean chain. Being the self-proclaimed foodies that we are, we had to see ourselves what the hype was about.

It’s a Korean boon-shik joint in a new plaza called “Ma-Dang” or Wilshire Center (sorry, but don’t know what to call it in English. It’s a Korean restaurant but far from being formal or fancy… yet not fast food… menu is pretty much consistent across these Book-Shik places ranging from Rolls (Kim Bap), Dumplings,  Spicy Rice Cake, and Noodles).

Roll Combo #1: Fried Kimchi (very flavorful, just the way I like it!), Seasoned Anchovy (I know it sounds strange but you MUST try this… probably one of the best rolls or Kim Bap I’ve had in my life besides the one my mom makes, of course), & Tuna (my all-time fav!)

Street(?) Spicy Rice Cake w/ Mozzarella Cheese Combo w/ Boiled Eggs, Fried Dumplings, & the Black Stuff (Soon-Dae: you don’t want to know what it is.. just eat it lol): OMG! This is very very close to the Dduk Bok Ki (Spicy Rice Cake) sold on the streets in Korea as the name indicates. But be aware, major BTS warning. The hubs was sweating like he was in a sauna because its spiciness level was like 10 out of 10. I liked it a lot, however despite the ulcer-like symptoms that followed. :O

Liked the little details they were adding to the building. Korea Town has been in a need for something original that brings us back to our roots. Nice job… Now, finish building it already! :P

School Food
621 S Western Ave #301
Los Angeles, CA 90005

If you are craving some authentic Boon-Shik, or those dduk bok kis from the streets, this is as close as it will get for now. Check it out before the place becomes popular; because of its remoteness (it is indeed on a third floor of a building that’s still in construction) and the fact that there is nothing else open in the building at the moment, it seems like it’s not as crowded as it should be. Oh, and I forgot to mention how cute and clean the interior is- definitely reminds me of those cutesy cafes in Seoul.

As Korea town in Los Angeles continues to rebuild and improve itself, it adds another reason to the list of why one should consider living in LA especially if you are looking for a culturally diverse and dynamic place to live. I mean, we all know that LA is the place to be, thanks to the beautiful sunny weather, the beaches, even skiing during winter, and of course, the Lakers! It also helps that it’s got some of the best schools in the country in addition to all the cultural and culinary experiences it provides. West Coast all the way~ yayuh! :)

(If you are planning to move to LA or should you suddenly feel compelled to move to the City of Angels (because as someone who has moved 10+ times in a short period, trust me, I know how tiring and painful the moving process can be) to ameliorate the pain, consider hiring experienced movers Los Angeles.)