Accounts of an L.A. native's favorite places to shop, eat, live and just wander in the town where anything's possible. ;)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

New Year's Regimens

I always have the goal to lose X amount of weight each year, but this year, I gave up on lofty goals. My goal as I approach 30 (eep!) is to be healthier. That means consciously eating healthier and taking better care of my body -- not just with exercise, but by having a stable skincare routine and taking my vitamins. These are pretty big feats for me, considering I am constantly traveling and spend a lot of time in my car. I always forget to take my vitamins, but I am making a conscious effort to do better.

A couple of years ago, when my hair suffered most from my stress, I began taking vitamins for my hair. I did a lot of research and consulted a hair specialist dermatologist who recommended none other than this Whole Foods Hair, Skin and Nails herbal vitamin. When I take it regularly, I get great compliments on my hair and skin. Biotin is also great for your hair, so I get obsessive and take that in addition to the Whole Foods vitamin. Calcium is extremely important for women and time and time again, I fail at keeping my calcium routine up, so I decided to get these Viactiv chews to get me started. I plan on getting Citracal petites next, because the Citracal was recommended by my doctor and because the Petites makes them easier to swallow. And finally, the One a Day, because as you can probably tell from my diet (which also needs work), I don't really get all my food groups in.

My ammo for being healthy

Other goals for a healthier me in 2010:

1. Sleep more -- really! I don't seem to ever get enough.
2. Eat better -- less fried foods, more raw veggies.
3. Live simply and stress less. Don't sweat the small stuff :)

What are your New Year's Resolutions?

The End of an Era

I wandered into the Borders on La Cienega today, planning to do some work before meeting up with a friend nearby. I haven't been in LA for quite some time (hence my absence), so it's been awhile since I've been around that area. Upon arrival, I realize that it's closing down! I remember coming here in between work and dinner to browse books and magazines. I remember being so engrossed in Can You Keep a Secret? that I found a copy while running an errand here, and sat down and read two chapters in the store. I recall having to run to this Borders to pick up a copy of a Def Leppard CD for work. Yes, for work.

As sad as I was, this also meant that everything in the store was on sale. And here, my finds:

Can you tell I'm really into Korea right now? ;)

While I was really excited to pick up Korean phrasebooks and a Korea guide book (for my *fingers crossed* trip to Korea one day), I really wanted a Pimsleur Korean language CD kit, a new copy of The World Is Flat, Dan Brown's new book (only available in Spanish -- that would've been a good language exercise), and a few memoirs and social science books that had already been swept off the shelves.

But my favorite find from all this is a collection of essays from famous women writers about another influential author, Judy Blume. One of my favorite young adult authors while growing up was Judy Blume. While being so controversial for her time for the topics in her books, the characters in her books helped me get through those awkward years. The issues were real. I remember writing a letter to her as a high school student, and years later, sending an email to her while taking a children's lit class, to thank her for her contributions. Reading Everything I Need to Know About Being a Girl I learned from Judy Blume is a bit bittersweet, as I remember how I felt when I read those books and how much life was easier back then, but it's nice to know that professional writers have also been touched by Blume's work.

So if you're in LA, stop by the Borders on La Cienega Blvd as they have their liquidation sale for 7 more days. Everything is at least 40% off!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Most Important Meal of the Day

If there's one thing "very L.A." about me, it's that I love to go to brunch and I love breakfast foods. Not actually the idea of waking up to breakfast itself (because I am by no means a morning person), but foods that one would have for breakfast. I have different go-to places for the different moods I'm in. Fred 62, if the night before was VERY long and I wake up hungover, needing a greasy breakfast sandwich. Toast, if my desire for their food (and banana pudding) is overwhelming enough to endure the long lines and scene. BLD, if I want a really great cup of French press coffee to go with an exquisite breakfast.

But this isn't the type of brunch I'm referring to. This is the type of brunch my parents would actually join me for. One that has been a timeless tradition for my family, as well as many Asian families -- Dim Sum.

Dim Sum is essentially Chinese tapas, if you will. Small portions of steamed and fried foods, served in carts pushed around by ladies yelling out what they have to offer. Traditional dim sum foods include barbeque pork buns, har-gaow (a shrimp dumpling), Shu Mai (a shrimp or pork wonton skin dumpling), and steamed and stewed animal parts -- duck feet, chicken feet, tripe, spare ribs. Other goodies, such as sticky rice wrapped in taro leaves, steamed stuffed tofu skin, steamed and stir fried vegetables, are also offered.

Los Angeles and its surrounding areas house a great number of Dim Sum restaurants, the best bustling with people pouring out from every corner of the restaurant, waiting for a table. Sea Harbour is slowly becoming one of my favorite places for Dim Sum. Located in Rosemead, it's not too far from the Alhambra-Monterey Park area, where we also find great Dim Sum and other Chinese foods. Before, we'd go to Empress Pavilion in Chinatown for a quick fix, but the quality has since dropped drastically. I'd rather make the trek for something I know will be good.

They do things differently here. The wait is still the same -- long and a bit painful when you're ravenous with hunger. But at Sea Harbour, you order your Dim Sum off a menu. There's still ladies walking around with trays of food that you can choose at will, but once seated, you're given a menu to write down your order (albeit all in Chinese), and a menu with photos and explanations in English and Chinese. I find this process to be much more efficient. Not only are you not trying to ask the ladies what they're offering (cuz they're usually yelling in Chinese), but you can also see what's in each dish. The service is faster, and unlike other places I've seen that offer this ordering method for Dim Sum, it's actually really good.

One of the best things they make here are these pork buns. The filling is a mixture of minced pork and vegetables, and the bread is so soft and glazed with honey. Sticky goodness that I can never get enough of.

Coming in at a close second are these salted egg cream buns that literally ooze goodness. It's neither too sweet or too salty and there is the perfect amount of egg in the bun. The outside is steamed soft, with a hint of sweetness.

A staple dish in Dim Sum restaurants is the Shu Mai. Usually filled with either Shrimp or Pork (or both!), Sea Harbour's version also offers a garnish of shrimp roe.

Another favorite of mine is offered on the dinner menu of this restaurant -- pigeon. Yes, I loathe them when they're alive, but when deep fried (and what isn't good deep fried??), they're delicious. Come in a large group and order a few of them and the heads, considered the most delicious part, are served on their own plate.

Sea Harbour Restaurant - 3939 Rosemead Blvd. in Rosemead (on the corner of Valley and Rosemead)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Time to hang up the spurs?

Two foods I love -- Mexican food and Indian food, converge on one glorious plate in a joint connected to the El Rey dubbed Cowboys and Indians. Sounds great, right? I've heard about this place for quite some time from former co-workers, since it's in the Miracle Mile area, blocks away from my old office. Tonight, I decided to give it a try for myself.

The menu -- and the concept -- looked interesting enough. You take the most well-known dishes from each country's cuisine and pair them together -- quesadillas filled with chicken tikka masala, basmati rice in a burrito filled with more masala items, fries. Indian street food, they call it. But perhaps it was the rowdy concert-going crowd that made this place lack its taste tonight. Or maybe it's the fact that it's fusion (and I'm not a big fan of fusion to begin with) that makes neither of the flavors I love in both Mexican and Indian cuisine pop in the foods I've tasted.

My friend got a chicken tikka masala naanwich (a sandwich made with Indian naan bread), with options of wheat, regular or garlic naan. I got some masala cheese fries for us to share, along with chicken tikka masala tacos. When asked what type of cheese was being put on the fries, I was told it was a monterey jack blend. I was hoping it'd be some interesting homemade Indian cheese they'd top with the tangy masala. While waiting for my food, I saw samosas and masalas being reheated in the microwave. Big turn off for me, but I guess I get it, as this place really defines "hole in the wall."

Chicken tikka masala taco, topped with some sour cream and tamarind sauce.

The naanwich was spicy, according to my friend, but I found my dishes to be quite bland for Indian food. I kept dipping the fries and my taco in the tamarind sauce from the makeshift sauce bar (located in the drink cooler). Oh, and did I mention there was one of those metal/plastic baggie ties in my fries, pretending to be a sliver of cheese? Right. Coming from a country where street food is literally consumed from hawker stands on the sidewalk, I picked it out and continued with my meal, but found it a bit off-putting.

Masala cheese fries, sans baggie tie

I'll give them the benefit of a doubt -- it was super busy because there was a concert tonight, and you make do with what you can for such a small place. But the prices were a bit astronomical for being street food. And to discover that the online menu has lower prices than the menu I ordered from today. $10 for their special -- chicken nuggets and fries. $10 for a quesadilla (when it says $7 on the online menu) and the same for a naanwich (when it says less AND with fries online). Is this because there was an event going on tonight? That's almost what I call airport/amusement park/movie theatre robbery.

If there wasn't a huge scrambling crowd, if no baggie tie were in my fries, if they offered a bigger selection of drinks (like maybe non-bottled water gratis) would I try it again? Perhaps....

Cowboys & Turbans - 5515 Wilshire Blvd., next to the El Rey

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Holidays = more stationery!!

One thing I love about the holidays, and post-holiday is buying holiday cards and thinking of fun and creative things to send to friends who I haven't seen in a long time. E-mail is great, but who doesn't love a hand-written note in the mail, even if it's only a few short, sweet lines. And if you know me, you know I am obsessed with stationery. ;)

Last year, I raided the Paper Source in Santana Row (San Jose, CA) and stocked up on great holiday cards for this year. I'm so excited to go through my stash and pick out which one best fits each friend/ family member on my card list. This is great because since they're not boxed, I 1) won't have leftovers for the next year (so I can buy more cards!) and 2) I won't have to try to remember which card I sent to who. Even an organization system can confuse me once I haven't looked at those cards for almost a year.

Paper Source is one of the few chain stationery stores I truly love. They have a massive selection of loose papers for wrapping, including beautiful Japanese papers and mulberry paper. They also have a great collection of do-it-yourself items, from place cards to invitations and thank you cards. It allows you to be creative, even when you don't really have the skills. What I really like about Paper Source, though, is their own collection of cards that are letterpressed. To me, the feel of letterpress stationery = quality and simplicity without being too frilly. I'd take a simple letterpress card with three words on it over a Hallmark card any day.
Best of all, the staff at every Paper Source store I've been to is superbly friendly and helpful (I've been to three - San Jose, Berkeley and Beverly Hills. Yes, I'm obsessed.)

ANYWAY, I went to Paper Source recently, searching for these Kolo paper albums, only to realize that they are being discontinued (sad face!)

Vineyard Original Paper Album

I was planning on making one of these scrapbooks in lieu of a birthday card -- I like to make them from time to time (when I've compiled enough photos and my creative bug actually kicks in). Sad to see that they are being discontinued -- I was hoping for a more masculine color, but the pink ones are on sale on the Kolo site if anyone's interested. In the meantime, does anyone know where I can get a scrapbook of this size (and not too many pages) that I could make as a birthday card? :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Stay Tuned....

Just organizing my life a little....I will be back shortly, with more regular posts :)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Last long weekend of the summer...

Labor Day marks the quintessential end of summer, and the beginning of fall. No more wearing white (not that I did much of that to begin with...). This summer has been anything but breezy, but I must say, I've had some great food adventures that I can't wait to share. Spent this weekend in the Bay area, a great place to be when LA is a scorching 100+ degrees, depending where in the area you are.

Finally going to try the Alibi Room this week with a new friend (thank you, Elliot for the tip! :)

And if you are in LA this weekend, check out the Contemporary Korean art exhibit tomorrow at LACMA. It's the last free holiday Monday, so don't miss it! :)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

So Bad It's Good

MALO is muy bueno...

No really. It's so good it's bad, it's so bad it's good. I was introduced to Malo by co-workers who were Silverlake habitants. I love the mix of quality, fresh ingredients, a giant tequila and drink list (that's actually more pages than the actual food menu), and the vibe that makes the place. Actually, that's the feel of Silverlake in general. The street vibe of art and culture is more reminiscent of parts of San Francisco than LA, and maybe that's why I dig it.

Most recently, the restaurant has added 2 excellent specials: Monday taco night and brunch on the weekends. Why is Monday taco night so exciting? Because one of my favorite dishes here is the ground beef and pickle taco. Yes, you read correctly. It's a crunchy deep fried taco, filled with ground beef, cheddar cheese, and pickles. The antithesis of Taco Bell - a hamburger in your taco.

And whoever thought chewy chips could be so delicious and addictive? Pair them with fiery habanero and creme dip sacue and you're set. And make sure you cool it down with their famous organic margarita. Or if you want to kick up the heat, order a shrimp diablo for your entree. It's more than a kick of heat - it's diabolically spicy!

Another reason I look forward to Malo is for its side dishes. My favorite, the Mexican corn on the cob is sprinkled with cheese and pico de gallo and creme for an excellent blend of sweetness of the corn, saltiness from the cheese and a mild tap of heat.

My love: ground beef and pickle tacos from Malo

Malo Restaurant - 4326 W. Sunset Blvd. in Silverlake

Friday, July 03, 2009


Happy Fourth of July Weekend!

Hope everyone is enjoying the fun and festivities of the holiday :) I've escaped Los Angeles for the weekend to the Bay Area - update on that next week. In the meantime, I am so excited about the opening of Mozza 2 Go!!! Good-bye, Dominoes. Hello, yummy deliciousness :)

I can't wait to go sample it myself, but you can read about it in today's Daily Candy Los Angeles.

Have a great weekend!! :)