Five Reasons Why I love Valentines Day

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Valentine's Day used to be a day of mourning for "all the single ladies" (and fellas) but I say, no more. For some reason I've always loved Valentine's day even though I've never had a date on that day and I like that because it's non cheesy. Anyway, in case you do hate Valentine's Day and yeah, I've read/heard/seen so many "WHY VALENTINE'S DAY SUCKS" lists (see hearts, above), here is my personal...


(if you're single) list.

1. Valentine's is basically a holiday in of itself.
It's an occasion to go out and do that whole fancy shmancy romantic thing if you're coupled, or an occasion to go out with your besties and do your thang whatever it may be. It's basically like St. Patrick's day in red and pink, minus the booze (or not).

2. You know that movie "He's Just Not Into You?" How about, "I'm Just Not Into Him?" Yeah, take that, biatch.

3. While I don't have a handsome guy knocking on my door bearing flowers, I DO have a lot of friends, gals and guys, that make my life awesome and colorful, and I'm sure you do too. (And also that knocking on the door with the flowers thing is a tad bit unoriginal, no offense).

4. Valentines Day = cupcake day. Maybe it's the commercialism of red frosted cupcakes, Sweethearts and chocolate-dipped strawberries, but stuff like that has virtually been scientifically proven to make people happy. And Vday presents itself as a big opportunity to let loose your sweet tooth. Sounds good to me.

5. Finally there is no pressure to act romantic. When romanticism is forced it's pretty darn awful for both parties, so when you don't have to worry about a thing count that as a blessing.

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The Incredible Hulk

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Allow me this one moment of bragging. I saw the Incredible Hulk four nights and most likely you didn't.

Okay, I'm done bragging.

I had my doubts about this movie. And maybe that is the secret to a good movie. Low expectations. Reaaaallly low expectations. That may have been where it started, but by the end of the movie my applause was genuine and heartfelt.

Thank you Marvel. Thank you for not ruining this one. I saw Iron Man too. I think you may be onto something here - make good movies and people will come and watch them. Lots of people. What a novel idea.

Without giving too much away, let me just say this. From the great opening sequence to the last roar, the movie really doesn't let up. It's a serious action movie, with some great comedic moments. The fight sequences are well done, even if half of New York City was destroyed for the umpteenth time. That being said, our rubble still looks cooler than yours. Ed Norton is surprisingly good as Bruce Banner. My initial issue with Ed Norton was that he was too wimpy to play the Hulk, but you know what? It works just fine. Bruce is a scientist after all and the Hulk more than makes up for it in the muscle department. And, its Ed Norton. He's great...in most things. I'm also happy to report that Liv Tyler is back and better than ever. She looks amazing in this movie. There is nothing more heartbreaking than Liv Tyler emoting. And if you've seen Armageddon, you know what I'm talking about. Liv Tyler could make even Chuck Norris cry. And we all know what Chuck Norris' tears do...

Anyways. I won't say anymore. Just go see it already. I'm not kidding. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

Contributed by TheVillageIdiot
Post Date: June 13, 2008


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Wandering around the city, I found me a Treeson

Monday, May 12, 2008

Post date: 6/12/08

I just started getting into designer toy culture (yet another hobby, I should not be spending money on) and I have to admit it's pretty darn cool. I know it's been around for awhile, but while I was at Giant Robot's store in NYC, in the East Village, I couldn't help but snatch up these baby Treesons.

If the name didn't give it away, these guys are based off the story of Treeson and Ren. Basically Treeson is this character that's friends with the trees, who gets killed defending the trees. The story runs like a spinoff sixth sense, but the characters are cute and it's interesting at least and did I mention super adorable, already?!

Yes I know these are kind of a waste of money but they're so cute and fun! And if you've gotten into this hobby this is old news for you, but I love it anyway.

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New York, revisited.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Post Date: 06/05/08

As I had known, posting about NYC consistently while having fun there was going to be difficult. What would I say to my friends after a good meal and a few drinks? "Excuse me, I must rush home to blog." Yeah, didn't think that would fly so hot.

But anyway here I am and it's still not too late to share the coolest things to see and do on an almost-summer-yet- still-spring day in New York.

Brooklyn's Bedford Ave is the epitome of cool. It's the epicenter of all things hip, where everyone does the same things (artist, gallery owner, writer, musician), dresses the same and is generally the same age. I don't know how that makes things cool, but the place is a bit too cool for school.

The best part about that fact, however, is that it means there are good, specialized, hip places to eat at. Fabianes is one of them. The place serves the best baked eggs I have ever had, in particular with salmon and scallions as pictured above. Served with crusty bread and priced at $7.95 is isn't bad for the quality, uniqueness, and absolute deliciousness factor of the food.

My eating companion ordered a duck panini. But as I stole a bite, I announced, " I think this tastes like ham... oh my gosh it.." And indeed it was. Delicious still? yes.

Remember Fabaianes Cafe & Pastry Shop. It has outdoor seatings and best times to go are when it's not crowded, like an early Sunday evening, and make sure the waitress gets your order right.

Fabianes Cafe and Pastry Shop
42 N 5TH St
Brooklyn, NY 11211-3267
Phone: (718) 218-9632

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Travel Journals, New York City, Day 1

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Post date: MAY 15, 2008

The truth is, I love New York City. I love its so-called
grime. I love its character. I love that I can walk down the street and see both a businessman walking toward me, and a cross-dressing man with his partner walking behind me. I love the variety of clothes, cafes, people, and food the city offers.

What's my point? Well, lucky me, I get to spend two weeks in the city. Doing what? Having fun. So here it is, a travel journal of sorts, neatly packaged here on the BBQ.

Day 1: Highlights

SHOPPING: Lower East Side Boutiques

The best thing about shopping around LES is that you're bound to come across one of a kind items. There are streets lined with cute boutiques, like the one I visited today.

On 9th St. between 1st and A is my new favorite called LoveSong 422. I love it because unlike some stores where the girls look bored/tired and annoyed, I actually had a full-out conversation with the owner, who did not look bored/tired annoyed, and was actually a lot of fun. This made the shopping experience a whole heck of a lot more personal and enjoyable.

There I found this awesome necklace. In case you can't tell it's a water faucet and get this: most of the proceeds go to the YEW Foundation to support organizations with clean water initiatives. Meaning, this necklace and the purchase of, is a cool concept - the money goes to help bringing clean water to places that lack it. It's a hip public health act.

In addition to cool necklaces as such, this place sells lipbalm with artistic decorative lids, Paddywax candles that smell like rhubarb (SO good), lavender, chamomile and limoncello. At 4 bucks a pop for candles and 6 bucks for the balm, you can afford these.

I even heard that some hipster guys in the area drop in from time to time to stock up. Interesting. If you're in the area, come by and say hi to Rechelle, the owner!

LoveSong 422
441 East 9th St. btw 1st Ave & A
New York, 10009

For more info on Campaign for the Right to Water, go here.

To help it out by purchasing some cool gear, go here.

EAT: Momofuku

Ramen is a big thing here on the Lower East Side, and apparently Momofuku does it best. One of our writers (a native New Yorker) came here and wrote about this place, but I had to see it for myself, and I believe. For starters the menu is pretty simple -great for indecisive individuals. The ambiance is great though the long tables with benches, a throwback to my old childhood lunch days, did not provide a pleasant memory.

It's no matter because the ramen is, simply put, delicious. Who knew such a simple dish could be executed so well? I chose the chicken ramen. The meat was cooked to perfection with a slightly crispy touch to the outside but tender and moist on the inside. Served with scallions and a deep flavorful broth, the ramen noodles were springy and chewy, with just the right thickness. Ahhh. How I could have a bowl right now.

Drinks are a little pricey too, however, my friend and I tried this tamarind celery cider -his idea (it was a throwback to his Jewish culture), and I was pleasantly surprised. Actually, really surprised because I don't like celery. It pretty much tasted like a light, less sweet version of apple cider. A definite must if you like to try new things, but expect to pay three dollars for a teeny tiny little jug of it.

Lastly, for dessert, which I did not try, is soft serve ice cream. Momofuku has soft serve icecream in random flavors like tiramisu and cracker jack (yes, cracker jack). I don't know why, but a couple of these Japanese restaurants on the Lower East Side have random desserts, like cotton candy (there's one particular restaurant that has a cotton candy machine outside of it). Today's meal: excellent, Price: okay, $12 for a bowl of chicken ramen. But worth it.

171 1st Ave, between 10th and 11th St.
NYC 10009

*NY skyline pic courtesy of www.photos.somd.com

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Would you like milk with your coffee?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Post Date: 05/05/08

If you're tired of getting coffee from the same ole' Starbucks around the corner, it's time to shake things up. Check out Cafe con Leche, a mother-daughter owned Latin-infused cafe that's part Mexican bakery meets hip coffeehouse meets boutique. Located in downtown Fullerton, Cafe con Leche is a fusion of many of my favorite things. From the brightly painted yellow walls to the concrete counter tops to the hand painted Dia de Los Muertos candles, everything in this place has been thoughtfully placed to create a cozy, unique, and artistic atmosphere.

What I also love about the place is its communal vibe. The boutique items, like handmade bracelets, wallets, and my personal favorite, skull candles, are placed on open shelves inviting and encouraging cafe participants to look, explore and feel.

Another item on my "favorite things list": a unique take on food and coffee. So far, Cafe con Leche serves quick but delicious take-away items such Jalapeno bread (a roll stuffed with cream cheese and slices of Jalapeno, a local favorite), pan de leche (sweet bread), and my favorite because of its name, ojos del toro (literally eyes of the bull, if you get a chance to see it you'll know what I mean) which is a bread pastry, dipped in jam and rolled in coconut flakes.

Also, they serve tamales: red-sauce pork or green-sauce chicken which automatically makes me one happy camper because where else can I order a tamale that's really good, at a cafe? For dessert connoisseurs, chocoflan (flan atop chocolate cake), tres leches cake and flan are also available for glorious consumption.

The last but not least: flavorful coffee. The Mexi-Mocha, a blend of Mexican chocolate with spices and mocha is so delicious that within one sip I not only offered it to my friend, but also the girl sitting at the table next to us (she declined, quite obviously). Other unique favorites are the OC Blend (an orange juice and vanilla blend, that tastes like a 50/50 bar) and Ojo Rojo literally translated "red eyes" which is a shot of espresso with a shot of drip coffee designed to keep you wide-awake. They also offer two different types of unique coffee. One imported from Mexico as a regular drip coffee and the other, called Echo, which is incorporated in many of the flavored drinks.

All these elements, plus the inviting atmosphere that this mother-daughter team creates once you enter into the door has made this my new go-to coffee place. If you're in town or live around Fullerton, check this place out and make sure you eat something good and tell me.

Cafe con Leche
126 W. Wilshire #A
Fullerton, CA 92832

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The Counter Culture

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Awhile ago, I posted about burgers comparing some of the finest that I've tasted in my short twenty some odd years of life (see August 11, 2007 entry). However, the times, they are achanging, and there's a new place in town, called The Counter. While it has not completely won my heart over (mostly because burgers start at about $8.50)they have an interesting concept.

In short, it's burgers, done the way you like 'em, exactly how you like 'em. For indecisive people this is hell. For the pickiest people this is heaven.

Here's how the menu works: you receive a clipboard listing the types of patties: (beef, veggie, turkey, chicken), in the lb. amounts you want (1/3 lb., 2/3 lb, 1 lb). THEN here comes the fun part, you get to pick what cheese you want: (feta, gruyere, american, goat cheese spread, etc.) AND THEN four toppings, ranging from grilled onions, to hardboiled eggs, to sauteed mushrooms. My favorite thing is the sauce options: BBQ sauce, roasted garlic aoli (hello? yum) , peppercorn steak sauce, soy ginger glaze.

If you're totally confused, this is what I'm talking about.

I ended up getting a beef patty on a bed of lettuce, with gruyere, grilled onions, some other toppings and such and it came out to $9.50. Pretty pricey in my opinon. While it tasted pretty good it wasn't amazing enough for me to do this often. The sweet potato fries, however, were amazing, and had I been able to eat a bucketload of fries I would have eaten them all.

In short: great, interesting place to take friends (they also serve beer)
Catch: kinda pricey/nicer than just-a-grab-a-burger-joint like In-n-Out

The Counter (locations)
Locations in Santa Monica, Corona, Irvine, Palo Alto
Also Texas and Florida

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Crafty Okies!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I recently made the biggest move of my life. This big city girl moved to Oklahoma City, the dead of the bible belt. Having grown up in LA slash the OC I had big hopes for this town. I knew it had potential. So I have set out on a mission to prove OKC as hip as any other big town.

So that brings me to my first plug, Housewares. This is a local traveling show of D.I.Y crafters and artist out to make a buck. Headed up by Lindsay Wantland , who gathered 18 artist to set up shop on NW 16th st of Oklahoma City this past weekend. Items showcased included re-vamped vintage clothes, screened tees, jewelry, photography, baby clothes, hand-bound journals, knitted goods.....Heres a taste of my favs:

This Post was contributed by El-izzle.


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Hurry Up and Get Designing

Monday, March 24, 2008

For the moby LOVES Threadless T-shirt competition. Threadless, an online t-shirt community that makes bomb t-shirts designed by your ordinary-average-but-super-talented-joe, is holding a contest for a t-shirt design that best depicts the theme, "Last Night."And note: the prize is pretty awesome: $2000 in CASH, a $500 Threadless Gift Certificate, a full catalog of moby albums, a framed and autographed Last Night album artwork, and full Ableton DJ suite.

Last Night
is also the title of moby's newest album, released March 31st 2008. As you can guess, the album takes you on a tour of one long night, starting from early evening to well, early morning... you know how it is. In short, it's one heck of a dance album that's ready for you, relieving you from scrambling around to compile that last minute dance playlist.

Check out moby's Last Night sampler here.

Hurry Up because the contest ends May 1st!!

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Style Your Soles

Friday, March 14, 2008

For those of you who have experienced your parents' retelling of the "I used to walk three miles to school with no shoes" story, feel guilty no more, or at least, a little less.

Enter in TOMS Shoes, a company devoted to alleviating that problem- the problem of children having no shoes who are in desperate need of them... children who live in South America, Africa and the world over. What TOMS Shoes does is design a unique shoe based on a traditional Argentinian shoe (the founder was inspired by the children in Argentina who lacked shoes), that is available for purchase. For each pair purchased, the company donates a pair to a child in need.

Sound interesting? Check out some of the styles here, and if you live in Los Angeles or close by, come be a part of it! A TOMS "Style Your Sole" Party will be held in downtown Los Angeles this Sunday, April 20th from 2-5 pm. It's a place where you and your friends can get together, create your own designs and each have a unique pair of shoes, while also helping a child in need get a pair of their own. And for those who think they are artistically challenged, tattoo artists will be present to help design a pair you might like. It's a great way to have fun, express yourself and support a good cause. So next time dad and mom bust out the old, five-miles-in-the-snow-with-no-shoes story, bust out how you just saved a kid from that fate.

TOMS Style Your Sole Party
Date/Time: April 20, 2-5 pm
Location: 1038 South Hil St., Los Angeles, CA
* held in the parking lot next to The Mayan

*for more info visit www.mosaic.org
*can't make it? check out www.tomsshoes.com, and read up
*Interesting fact: TOMS shoes was awarded the People's Design Award, given by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
*post date: 4/14/08; photo courtesy of www.springwise.com

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Smile, Now Say Cheese

Monday, March 10, 2008

Until quite recently, I was a fondue virgin. Sure, I'd melted cheddar and chocolate chips over the stove at home, but that, as I now know, is the stuff of amateurs.

So, while in NYC over the holidays, I had my very first fondue restaurant experience at a cozy little place called The Bourgeois Pig in the East Village. I stumbled across it by the fortuitous combination of a stubborn cheese craving and the fact that the nearest Melting Pot was over the river and through the woods in Hoboken, NJ.

Lucky me, because the Bourgeois Pig was fantastic.

The prices were reasonable, the wait staff was friendly, and the fondues, which came with enough bread, fresh fruit, crudites, tangy gherkin pickles and rosemary-roasted potatoes for two, were nothing less than superb. I do feel obliged to mention to you carnivores out there that there was no meat to be found anywhere on the menu. But with the array of delectable fondues, appetizers and drinks, however, it's likely you won't even notice.

My favorite was the blue cheese fondue with honey, and I might point out that I don't normally care for blue cheese. But add honey, and the result is a delightful amalgam of flavors with just the right touch of sweetness. The other cheese fondues we tried were equally yummy, and the decadent dark chocolate one that topped off the meal left my taste buds happily dancing the cha-cha.

Verdict: If you won't miss the meat, you might think this place a dream. And bring a date--with the candlelit interior and plush, mismatched chairs, the ambience is perfect for an intimate rendezvous.

The Bourgeois Pig
111 E. 7th St. (between 1st Ave. & Ave. A)
New York, NY 10009

Posted by: PecanPieOhMy
Post Date: 4/10/08
*picture courtesy of New York magazine, Michelle Hom

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End the Week with Ice...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Actual post date: 4/03/08

Shaved ice.

If the image of a soggy, wet paper cone dripping with red and blue sticky syrup comes to mind, banish the thought.

Instead imagine a glass of fresh fruit: kiwi, mango, lychee, and watermelon on a bed of ice, topped with a scoop of rich green tea ice cream and graced with a sprinkling of perfectly chewy tapioca. This is shaved ice as it was meant to be: a harmony of light, refreshing delicate flavors with a natural aesthetic, and not an amalgam of clashing primary colors that tastes nauseatingly and artificially sweet.

This perfect balance of fruit, ice, cream and tapioca is better known as Korean shaved ice, and can be experienced at Cafe Java Bru in Buena Park. This place in particular serves one of the best made versions because of they use fresh fruit versus canned fruit cocktail, often the ingredient of choice at other places.

If you happen to be visiting this plaza and are craving something savory, check out Yoko, a Korean owned Japanese food restaurant that specializes in donkatsu- a traditional Japanese dish of delicately deep fried pork cutlet, and udon. Prices are decent for the amount of food that you get (12 dollars for donkatsu, soup, side dishes and udon or a cut roll).

I personally love a culturally influenced take on another culture's food. So, there are little tinges of Korean influences in dishes served at this Japanese restaurant, such as kimchi udon, or pickled turnip served as a side dish with the donkatsu. And as mentioned, the food is excellent, a perfect balance of heavy with light, such as minced cabbage paired with the heavier donkatsu. Not to mention that word on the street is that if you order to go, the food comes in adorable little bento boxes.

It's all about balance. For a something light to end the heavy work week head on over to Java Bru for some Korean shaved ice. And if you wish, pair it with a visit to Yoko. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Cafe Java Bru

4560 Beach Blvd
Buena Park, CA 90621
Phone: (714) 670-1571


4566 Beach Blvd
Buena Park, CA 90621
(714) 739-4353

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A long hiatus, food in Shanghai, and dumplings

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Actual post date: 3/27/08

First of all, I would like to apologize for the long hiatus. The necessary travails of everyday life, combined with traveling causes such delays, but not leaving me empty- handed. Thus I present to thee...

Shanghai: How to Eat Cheap and Well

The first thing that comes to my mind when someone says "Shanghai" is Shanghainese food. Well known for being oily, deep-fried, but oh-so-delicious, the region's food has a lot to offer, but it's most famous offering is the soup-filled, meat dumpling called Xiaolongbao ("shee-ow, loong bao").

Before leaving for Shanghai, I call my brother who tells me, "You have to get the xiaolongbao at the Temple. Even the locals wait in line for it."

Taking his advice to heart, I arrive, embark on this Temple visit, and take note of the the line for these notorious dumplings.

I think to myself this xiaolongbao must either be a) so damn good that the locals line up for it, or b) so damn cheap that the locals line up for it.

At 12 RMB for 16 dumplings, that's $1.70 for 16 dumplings. And for more math, that's eleven cents per dumpling. Economically a deal, but if time is money, this ain't no deal.

After one hour of waiting we arrive to the window. And at last, the reward for our wait.
These dumplings are made with a thicker flour skin - not my favorite because I prefer a more delicate, thin flour skin. When I bite into a dumpling, I want the skin to yield easily, allowing the juices and meat inside to fill my mouth and demand my complete attention.

So in short, the "temple xiaolongbao" resulted in an interesting one-time-experience, ideal for people who like deals and dumplings with thicker skin, but if there's a next time, we are paying extra to (actually) sit upstairs and order.

Shao long bao, redux.

The next place we hit up is Din Tai Fung. Perhaps better known in Taiwan, Din Tai Fung has a few locations in China with one in Los Angeles. The one we visit is located in Pudong, and it serves the xiaolongbao of the variety I prefer. The dumpling is petite, delicate and literally melts in your mouth. Paying a little more to be seated at a table with a view of the city is worth it to me. In addition to the dumplings, traditional Chinese dishes such as drunken chicken and soy sauce tofu with green beans, are made with quality ingredients and executed with finesse. Definitely a place to visit if you want good local food served with simple class.

Four RMB noodles.

Outside the Fabric Market is a little cluster of food carts. And the food is ridiculously cheap. The "noodle lady" lets you pick out a noodle of your choice: flat noodles (huh fun), thin noodles, or vermicelli to combine with green onions, chinese vegetables, egg, bean sprouts, soy sauce, chili sauce, and meat. This costs 4 RMB or, sixty cents.

I already skimmed the top of it in a ravenous fervor while at the bus stop. It was delicious AND I did not get sick.

Though Shanghai has a variety of restaurants such as Secret Garden which serves different types of foie gras, People Seven (with annoyingly frustrating bathrooms, lovely decor, but okay food), and Whisk - for when you are craving good, chocolate desserts, remember that when when you only have two bucks in your pocket to spare, the four RMB noodles and temple xiaolongbao are waiting for you.

*Temple xiaolongbao located at Yu Gardens.

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Valentine's Day, A Different Way

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I don't have to tell you that Valentine's Day is coming up. You know, it's that huge make believe holiday where suddenly nothing more than flowers and a box of chocolates will do to demonstrate your undying love for your sweetheart.

If only it was so easy during the other 364 days.

This year let's break free of that cliche.

Is a soon-to-be-dead plucked flower really the appropriate symbol of your love? Does listening to your sweetie complain about all the calories in her box of heart-shaped chocolate caramels really going to make you love her more?

No. This year, show your significant other you really care by sending a GOP Valentine's Day e-Card

With such slogans as...

(Hillary e-Card) "Roses are red, violets are blue, I'll raise your taxes and there is nothing you can do."


(Barack e-Card) :"Three years in the U.S. Senate qualifies me to wish you a Happy Valentine's Day."

...you can really tell your sweetie all the things you wanted to say, but never had the courage to. And lest the more Democratic folk out there feel left out, I encourage you to make your own DNC Valentine's Day e-Card. Allow me to get you started.

"Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, drown me in water and I'll sing too."


"You don't need an illegal wiretap to know I love you."

Now go and get lucky. Happy Valentine's Day.

Contributed by TheVillageIdiot

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Getting Lost Never Felt so Good

Monday, December 31, 2007

The thing I love about cold weather is an excuse to imbibe more warm, caffeinated drinks. My favorite coffee shop haunt in the meager town of Tustin, is The Lost Bean. Biodegradable cups made from corn, organic coffee, the best tasting lattes I have ever had, and community involvement, what is there NOT to love about this place?

Filling apps is a dreary process. Filling apps in a clean place, with nice clean tables (oh, a far cry from the dirty, wobbly tables at Cafe Roma at Berkeley) in a warm atmosphere (also a distant cry from the freezing nether regions of Strada at Berkeley) makes filling apps, well, less dreary.

So add free wi-fi to that list.

And as for the drinks, ain't nothing better than a banana latte. It's even better iced, which completely negates my previous excuse for buying coffee. Nevertheless, warm options like Mexican Spice Mocha or the Zebra Mocha (half traditional mocha, half white chocolate mocha) are awesome, though a tad sweet. Never get hot chocolate from here (it tastes nothing like hot chocolate), but do get the White Peach iced tea if iced tea is your thing. Lastly, I cannot emphasize how much BETTER the drinks taste here than at any other coffee joint I have visited. I don't know if it's the organic-ness of it, or the quality of the ingredients, or heck, even if there are drugs in it (i kid) but whatever it is, it is good and well worth the price.

So if you're in town, you know where to go.

The Lost Bean
13011 Newport Ave. #104
Tustin, CA 92780
Ph: 714-544-2586

check out the link to read more about their philosophies and values

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Feeling Blue and Loving It

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Contributed by TheVillageIdiot


They did it. The Giants really just won the Super Bowl.

If you could only be in the city right now. The energy outside is incredible. With the balmy high 40 temperatures outside, even Mother Nature seems to be smiling on New York City right now. Certainly nothing short of Godzilla climbing the Empire State Building could dampen the enthusiasm in the streets. Even then, there would be people outside celebrating. There are people on every corner, in various states of inebriation, just having a great time. Each honk, whether intentional or unintentional, is greeted by a giant roar and chants of "YEAHHHH!", "Go Big Blue!" or, the always popular, "Giants! Giants! Giants!" And why not? The Giants did the impossible. They took down Tom Brady and the Patriots.

This was a game for the ages. Who knew that Eli Manning had it in him? It's funny. If you read the articles up until now and listened to the sports pundits, Eli was a giant question mark (no pun intended). No one was sure if he had the killer instinct or the leadership skills to lead the Giants to victory. Whether or not he can continue is anybody's guess, but for tonight, the answer to that question has to be yes. That last drive was nothing short of amazing.

Tonight was fitting. Up yours Boston. Yeah, the Yankees suck and the Knicks suck worse, but for tonight and the next year, this is a giant middle finger to you. We won.

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Etsy Easy to Find Something New

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Have you ever wanted to buy something unique and special for your friend, girlfriend, mother and even boyfriend but was tired of the same staple items shown in DailyCandy, the Gap, etc.?

The answer to that question is Etsy. It's a site devoted to the buying and selling of unique hand-made, one-of-a-kind items such as jewelry, magnets, bags, paintings, etc. A friend of mine actually bought two incredibly cute-in-a-cool-way, figurines for her wedding cake. So understand, you really can buy most anything on this site.

Some of my favorites include cupcake magnets (absolutely useless, but totally cute), the mini turntables (which can be used as cupcake toppers), and the I write button. Ah such little joys.

The site features special sections like Showcase, featuring top selling items and also Under $15 items for everyday uses.

Another site that's a little similar and perhaps more unisexual is tanksandairpplanes but looks like they are still getting a little more organized. Keep this site on your radar, especially if you're looking for a new laptop case like me.

Happy shopping.

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No Reservations in Hell

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Contributed by TheVillageIdiot

Welcome back, Bourdain. We've missed you.

Last week, Anthony Bourdain returned for the fifth season of his show, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and let me tell you. It was about damn time. I thought I'd be in rerun hell for the duration of the writers' strike.

Bourdain's sometimes puzzling, never boring and always irreverent food/travel show is a welcome treat in today's nuclear wasteland of TV programming. As a subset of food TV (Not The Food Network), Bourdain's show is even more striking when compared to other so-called "food/travel shows." Let's face it, food TV has gone down the drain: "Giada’s Weekend Getaway?" – I can’t stop looking at her forehead; "Have Fork. Will Travel?" – give me a forking break.

Part of what makes No Reservations so fun is that for an hour a week, we can all be armchair tourists. It's not a substitute for actually traveling. There is no substitute for that, but if anything Bourdain makes me want to travel more than ever. Every week, it's a poignant reminder of why I put up with all this finance crap.

In light of the new year and all that resolutions setting, I think we can take a few lessons from Bourdain's examples.

1. Go Off the Beaten Path - In some remote village in Peru – high (buzzing mildly) on coca leaves for altitude sickness – I've seen Bourdain drink fermented corn liquor that gets its start in the fermentation process by being chewed and then spit out into a giant vat of other chewed up stuff. Even if the stuff sucks, it will still be a great story.

2. Eat Anything and Lots of It - In one night, Bourdain will visit at least four or five restaurants or food stands and eat anything they shove under his nose. Any cut of meat, any kind of entrail, it's all fair game and he loves it all. Sure, different strokes for different folks, but there is a reason why we eat the stuff we do and it usually has to do with how good it tastes. If you never try it, you'll never know.

3. Don't be Afraid of Cursing - Bourdain’s always bursting to use an expletive. "Take that you vegetarian f*ckwads!" Obscenities makes any language exciting.

P.S. Did I mention he hates vegetarians?

4. Drink Anything Alcoholic and Lots of it - He spends every episode being drunk or on his way to being drunk. After most nights of taping on the show, the last shot is usually of him noticeably staggering off to this hotel room. On more than a few occasions, the footage of him the next morning waking up hungover are hilarious as well. If he is wearing the sunglasses and his voice is ten octaves deeper and scratchier, you know he's feeling like crap, but for the sake of the viewers, he is going to fake feeling okay for work. Who hasn't spent the day in the office a little hungover/drunk?

5. Smoke - Everyone knows smoking makes you look cool and no one makes it looks better than Bourdain and the flagrant disregard for his health. He makes smoking two packs a day look cool. My excuse for not smoking two packs a day? I'm not cool.

6. The Party Don't Stop For Anyone - Bombs what? Show me the next party! That's exactly what Bourdain did in Beirut while the Israelis were bombing the city. His subsequent week long sequestering at a hotel due to the bombs and subsequent rescue by U.S. Marines were a small price to pay. After all, what is life other than a series of parties until you get to that big one in the sky?

7. Laugh at yourself and others, often - Bourdain will be the first one to laugh at Bourdain. A valuable lesson really. My feeling is, if I can't laugh at myself, then I shouldn't be allowed to laugh at anyone else. Now that would be a tragedy.

8. If its Unhealthy, Eat it and Ask for Seconds - Bourdain takes almost maniac glee in rubbing his fat-oozing, grease-dripping, oil-splattered street food in front of the camera, almost as if to say, "vegetarians and health freaks, you poor, sad, little fools." I’m not saying go out and lick the first chicken cart you see, but all this guilt over unhealthy eating is stupid. Stop dieting and start exercising.

Now you know why I watch this show and so should you.

Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
Mondays, 10PM
The Travel Channel

The Man Himself: http://www.anthonybourdain.com/copy.asp?g=1&id=7

Bourdain's TV Blog: http://anthony-bourdain-blog.travelchannel.com/

Bourdain in Beirut: http://travel.discovery.com/tv/bourdain/journals/beirut/beirut.html

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Fresh & Easy: It's the Good Kind of Invasion!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

You might notice these totally rad green infested stores called "Fresh & Easy" which I thought, at first glance, was some type of Bath & Body Works + Bed, Bath & Beyond ...or something like that...anyone else? Turns out it's a super neat grocery store that's heavily design + space conscious. They focus on fresher, healthier foods, smarter meal portions, comfortable-on-the-eyes packaging of their products, and an overall clean, relaxed shopping environment with low prices. My first impressions was that this place was going to be expensive in order to pay for the cutie-ness of the environment. I was wrongasaurus.

I guess UK based retailed Tesco is going to try to take the U.S. grocery chain market by storm...slow storm if Walmart has anything to say about it. While they are an underdog, I am rooting for them! They've propped their headquarters in El Segundo and they've got a huge distro in Inland Empire that boasts California's largest solar panel roofing system. The format was supposed to be small, but the store we went to today on La Palma and Valley View wasn't that small. It was rather spacious. I was really into all the packaging and display. It was just different and less cluttered. They have their own brand of tofu, soy milk, meats, you name it. I also dig what the company what the company does or is trying to do with opening and settting up shop near lower income areas. I am not sure if they have succeeded this goal quite yet but hopefully they will.

If you're into the "green" life...or just tired of cramped space at Trader Joe's, you oughta come down...it's a great alternative. And if you're going there anytime soon, take me. Here are the locations. Have Fun!

This is the one we went to today.
7880 E. Valley View St.
Buena Park, CA 90620
(714) 522-2672

Hours: Everyday 8am-10pm

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Say Hello, To The Sandwich Bar!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Today for lunch, we decided to try a place that was passed on to us by some young high schooler filling parking lots full of cars with flyers for a new place in town! We were lucky enough to find one on our windshield! The Sandwich Bar isn't an entirely new idea, but a fresh outlook of several others. Combine thoughts of slow-roasted, marinated herbed, homemade dressings, steamed and sauteed veggies, organic fresh baked breads and hickory smoked with a hip upscale decor using glass, metals, green & brown tones all done up by the owner, Jay, himself! That gets you pretty close but The Sandwich Bar also features Tully's Espressos, Teas, & Coffee (customizeable with sugar-free syrups and optional soy or organic milk) and Frappes & Smoothies. The delicious Strawberry Banana and Green Tea Mango were neck and neck which we tried when we walked in (free samples rule!).

I ordered a customized sandwich that was packed with overnight roasted BBQ Tri Tip, fresh Romaines, tomatoes, shredded Swiss, Shallot Aioli and honey mustard all on whole wheat. And of course it comes with their popular homemade potato chips, they taste like something inbetween a potato chip and a potato wedge which is a rad compliment to any sandwich. You could probably compare the meal to something at Panera Bread however there's something extra satisfying when you watch the workers pile on delicious meats, and all the ingredients anyway you want right then & there. Also I'd prefer these chips to bagged ones, hands down to that!

Other Offerings: Sides like Italian broccoli pasta salad, vegetarian chili, and garden salads. Also they open at 6am with the usual breakfast items like Oatmeals with cranberries, walnuts, almonds and brown sugar, and Yogurt parfaits with mixed granola and fresh berries. If you are a like me, you need a something more...they've got Steak & Egg which is a combo of tri-tip, swiss cheese and pepper, or Sausage Southwest containing pepperjack, onions, bell peppers, sausage and a Chipotle pepper Aioli...all on the menu for under $4! All the sandwiches are under $7 and sides are around $3. Decently & competitively priced ($2 for a chunky PB&J with carrots and celery..some places for some reason they are $4), great decor (thought out designed ambiance), friendly and hardworking staff, and of course food that hits the spot (I'm tellin' ya that BBQ tritip rules!).

They just had their grand opening today (1/15/08) so head on down to The Sandwich Bar. Also you hopefully can visit them online soon at http://www.thesandwichbar.com/. Say Hello to Jay, the Korean guy with glasses, and be sure to give him some props, he's doing it all! They also have a location in NY, which opened up first and I'm sure it's just as fun.

The Sandwich Bar
6242 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA map
P: (714) 523-8200

Hours: M-F, 6a-10p, Saturday 6am-10p, closed on Sundays.

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Food for Words

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I have to tell you that I have a secret love affair with words. For those of you who grew up reading stacks of books, was called a nerd, and aced the SAT verbal and SAT II Writing, then you will understand the delight that is contained in understanding and using words like triskeidokaphobia, jingoistic, conniption, avifauna, and chutzpah, in everyday language. However, finding a way to make this word obsession useful can be, well, difficult.

Enter in Free Rice, a website that donates 20 grains of rice to the United Nations for every word that you get correct. You play a little vocab quiz of sorts where a word is given and if you answer correctly, voila, 20 grains donated. Twenty grains may not be that much, but for word lovers, this game will have you obsessed, and soon you'll be finding yourself donating hundred to even thousands of grains of rice. Think of the empty tummies that will get filled.

It's also a great boost for your own vocabulary. You may learn valuable words like conniption (tantrum), philatelist(stamp collector), and whelp (pup). Wow your friends at cocktail parties and be called a nerd. What fun! And for a good cause too. Word.

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Everybody needs a culinary hero. Mine is Masaharu Morimoto.

It's a decidedly unoriginal choice, but it's hard being original all the time.

For those lovers of that legendarily campy and sexual innuendo-laden, Japanese cooking competition show, Iron Chef, Morimoto or "Iron Chef Japanese" is god. Back then, he was the Iron Chef Japanese. In the tradition of Iron Chef Michiba, his Iron Chef Japanese predecessor, Morimoto challenged the Japanese their own notions of Japanese cuisine. Back then you couldn’t not root for the guy. He had that intense Japanese look that said, "I’m going cook you the best thing you ever ate!" And why not? Even back then, it was clear. This guy was the real deal. At the time of the show's filming, Morimoto's day job was as the Executive Chef of Nobu (yes, that Nobu) in New York City. He shuttled back and forth between his day job in New York City and filming Iron Chef in Tokyo.

That he left Nobu in 1999 was no surprise. Clearly, this was a man who could easily have his own name on a restaurant. In 2001, he partnered with restaurateur Steven Starr to open Morimoto on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. Despite many a grandiose plan to visit friends in Philadelphia and save up enough to get the Omakase ($120), the chef’s tasting menu a.k.a. “whatever the chef feels like making you,” I never made it there. All excuses were set aside when Morimoto opened – what else – “Morimoto” on the fringes of the Meat Packing District in New York City. At long last, I could come (not very) close to
realizing my dreams of being a judge on Iron Chef. A very expensive dream, but a dream that could be made a reality rather easily.

Alright, I have say I was a little worried. Maybe, I had let this run a little too far in my mind. I can be a fatalist when it comes to these things. As with many things in life that have not lived up to my expectations, a small part of me girded against the inevitable let down. There’s no way this restaurant could live up to all my Iron Chef hopes and expectations. Could it?

In a word: Yes.

To save room (and attention span) to talk about food related matters, I will say these short words on the space:

(1) The décor is exactly what you would expect from a culinary shrine to Japanese-American Cuisine 2.0.
(2) Trust me. Go play with the bathroom stalls. The white porcelain American Standard throne that you have at home (like me) might as well be an outhouse after you experience the Morimoto throne.

Now the exciting part – the food. I’m glad to report, the appetizers did not disappoint. Some quick hits.

Pork Kakuni – A dish hailing from Okinawa, Pork Kakuni truly defines what it means to be in hog heaven. The hog is in heaven and so are you after you taste this. Who knew that pork belly having been braised for 10 hours and then placed on a bed of congee could taste this good? As expected, after 10 hours of hanging out in the oven simmering in its juices, the belly is so tender you can eat it with your chopsticks. Braised in a sweet, soy sauce base, the pork provided a great contrast with the savory congee beneath.

Oyster Foie Gras – This holy trinity of seafood is how I envision a seafood turducken. At the base, a broiled oyster sits with sea urchin roe. All of this is topped off with a slice of seared foie gras. I don’t care what they say. Foie gras is one of the best foods in the world. It’s indescribably buttery and savory and good. What’s the point of being of having an opposable thumb and being on top of the food chain, if I can’t fatten up a duck and eats its massive liver? I’ve seen the force feeding process in action, it’s really not bad. Foie activists listen up: Go eat some and stop whining.

Toro Tartare – What’s not to like about fresh ground tuna and a dashi broth dip? I will say this. I have no idea how I’m going to go back to eating that ubiquitous green-dyed powered wasabi that you get at every sushi joint. Fresh grated wasabi is where it’s at. There is no substitute for the floral undertones and massive kick of fresh wasabi.

My main dish was a little less esoteric, but it was exactly what I wanted. If you like Chirashi, get the Morimoto Chirashi. It’s
luxurious to say the least. To think of all fish and potential fish (roe) that died on the altar of my dinner – well, let’s just say, I’m glad I have that aforementioned opposable thumb. Better to use my chopsticks with. Morimoto’s chirashi features 10-12 different types of fish and vegetables – salmon, tuna, yellowtail, mackerel, marinated lotus root, nori, salmon roe, squid, etc. – sitting on a mound of sushi rice. It’s not a complicated dish, but do it right and the combination of really fresh fish and sticky vinegared sushi rice becomes something altogether.

No dessert for this guy, but I did have a taste of somebody's Earl Grey creme brulee. Make great sense from a Chinese perspective. Every Chinese kid loves sweet milk tea. Imagine that in a dessert, only ten times more tea like, ten times sweeter and, of course, ten times creamier. Should have planned a bit better; I could have had a full dessert.

So if find yourself wondering why you're working so hard, go to Morimoto. A great reminder of what money is for - Food, not fighting wars.

Verdict: Crazy expensive. Crazy good.

The Space: http://architourist.pbwiki.com/Morimoto+NYC

The Morimoto Menu: http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/morimoto/menus/dinner.html

The Review: http://nymag.com/restaurants/reviews/16435/

Contributed by TheVillageIdiot

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Food, Food, and Food, Oh My! or What to Eat in NYC: Four Easy Picks

Monday, November 05, 2007

New York City is notorious for many things: fashion, culture, and especially, food. After a week spent in a lavish affair of steak, french cuisine, korean fried chicken, and yet, another delicious burger, I decided to put together a little guide, or present, if you will, for anyone making an impromptu visit to the city, without any clue of what or where to eat. After many visits, including one wretched time where all we ate was diner food (oh naivete), I realized such a guide would have come in handy. I therefore, present to you a handpicked selection of delicious eats and treats for a cold wintry week, or any week for that mattter, in a place where there are almost too many food options, NYC.

1. Best Korean Fried Chicken: Bon Chon Chicken. The non-descript second story restaurant boasts some of the city's finest korean fried chicken, part of the recent craze talked about in Time Out New York's issue of Best Cheap Eats. Though the name would make you think of a KFC type of joint, the atmosphere of the restaurant is dark and lounge-like: surprisingly upscale for a place that serves fried chicken. Two choices of chicken flavors present themselves: soy-sauce garlic or chile. With its crispy skin and juicy, succulent sweetness, the soy-garlic chicken is to die for. The price, not so much, expect to pay $20 for nine drumsticks.
Location: Korea town, between 31st and 32nd.

2. Best 24 hour restaurant: French Roast. Craving pate with truffles and toast, at midnight on a Tuesday night? Yep they got it. As well as croque monsieurs (a traditional french sandwich of ham and cheese), grilled steak, salads of goat cheese and beets, and much more. Prices can be high, typical of french cuisine. However, hor d'oveurs are usually priced at ten dollars or less, a steal especially if ordering something like pate with truffles, and the atmosphere is cozy and warm, like a parisian cafe. For the picky insomniac/hung-over/late-night-munching eater, this place is a dream.
Upper west: 85th and Broadway
West Village: 11th St and 6th Ave

3. Best New Opening: Back Forty. Opened in November, this welcome addition to the East Village serves food made with quality ingredients. The grass-fed burger is probably the best option on the menu (and garnered a rave review in New York Magazine). The meat is delicate, flavorful and tender -what a good, quality burger should taste like. Also the fries are to die for: just the right consistency of crispiness and softness seasoned with garlic salt (see right). Lastly, drinks at the bar are great. Note to "girly-drink" patrons: stir well your Tequila Sunrise and don't drink on an empty stomach. This I learned the hard way.

Location: East Village, Ave B between 11th and 12th St.

4. Best Unique Dessert: Rice to Riches. Talk about a niche. Rice to Riches serves rice pudding exclusively, in about 40 different flavors with unique names like "Perfectly Legal Pecan Pie," "Gingerbread JoyRide," and my favorite "Sex, Drugs and Rocky Road." Everything about this place is appealing: the white walls and rounded design (tables are curvy, the bowls the rice pudding comes in is curvy, everything is round!) makes for a welcoming atmosphere, the names of the flavors are humorous, and you can taste test as many as you'd like. The best part is that the pudding comes in adorable, brightly colored plastic containers that double as tupperware! Cute tupperware that is. There really isn't a single thing to hate about this place.

My Rice to Riches experience involved "The Secret Life of Pumpkin," in homage to the passing of Thanksgiving , and of course "Sex, Drugs and Rocky Road," admittedly because of the name, but also for its rich chocolate flavor. This was probably my happiest flavor combination moment ever. The deep flavors of the dark chocolate tamed and tempered the cinnamon-sweet spicyness of the pumpkin. Yes, you can call the moment orgasmic. Sex, Drugs and Rock and Rocky Road can, indeed, be addicting. So is Rice to Riches.
Location: Soho, 37 Spring St. between Mott and Montgomery
* some photos courtesy of yelp.com, chungfood.blogspot.com, and npr.org
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p.s. the title of the post ended up being an inadvertent homage to Sufjan Stevens

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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Friday, October 19, 2007

Christmas is here, everywhere you look: giant tinsel-laden trees set up in shopping centers, faux icicles hanging in the entryway of your favorite store, scary fake Christmas trees (that also eerily play over-exuberant holiday music) on sale at Costco. Somehow in this menagerie of material holiday joy, Thanksgiving got lost on the way. I hate to say it but it's time to slow down, break bread and be thankful.

So while this is no informational post, I'd like to encourage everyone to make the ubiquitous, "Ten things I'm thankful for" list. Scratch that. How about, "Ten Things that Make My Life Rad" (a title more fitting for a pre-pubescent eighth grader).

Here's my rather random/generic list.

Ten Reasons That Make Me Glad I'm Alive, and/or Possibly Glad that I'm a girl.

I'm glad for...

1. The ability to create. Writing, singing, collages, painting, baking, these are my favorite things and I'm glad I get to do them. Check here for a unique perspective on creating.

2. Number one just took out about 5 items from my list.

3. Nail polish. It's like a mini-art form, and any girl will attest that somehow having polished nails just makes you feel better.

4. The five senses. Mouth toeat delicious sandwiches at Larchmont. Eyes to see art exhibits at Moma, or to witness life changing events, like a birth, a wedding, a tragedy (contrary to popular belief, a wedding does not equate to tragedy). Fingers to play the piano. Ears to hear my best friend's voice. And I forgot the fifth.

5. New challenges. A possible locational move, a new project to work on, introspective realizations. I'm always changing, and hopefully becoming a better person. And so are you.

6. Well the rest will just bore you. (Yes, that was a cop-out)
Also, in the spirit of giving and a general "do-good" feeling that hangs in the air this season, consider getting involved in something that interests you. Whatever it is, whether it's supporting global/national humanitarian work , sending an easy card of thanks to soldiers spending the holiday away from their families, or singing "O Holy Night" for senior citizens at the hospital, there are a dozen ways to get involved.
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Tree featured up top is a toothpick Christmas tree.

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Ra-Man, that's good

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I'd come prepared to dislike the Momofuku Noodle Bar (First Avenue, and 11th Street, New York City). With skepticism, I walked into Momofuku on Wednesday night to try their ramen. For the uninitiated, ramen is the traditional Japanese dish of noodles served in a meat-based broth (sans Styrofoam cup). While the description may sound very generic, the taste of a great bowl of ramen is anything but. Ramen - yellow noodles served in a hot, rich broth accompanied by various other goodies -is the quintessential Japanese comfort food and more recently the subject of the latest East Village food scuffle.

Over the years I've seen some pretty fierce battles. I recall the dumplings wars of 2005, when the already established Dumpling Man on St. Marks Street faced competition in the upstart Plump Dumpling. The competition was violent with charges of copyright infringement -Plump dumpling's logo suspiciously resembled a female version of Dumpling Man's logo. Insults were hurled, lawsuits were threatened and now both have settled down in an uneasy detente - perhaps united in their dislike of the newest dumpling competitor, Vanessa's Dumplings.

Now the food battle has shifted to ramen. In the span of a few short years, ramen competition has come fast and fierce. Aside from the numerous Japanese restaurants, all serving their versions of ramen, Japanese ramen chains have begun transplanting themselves to the streets of the East Village, spurred on by the already significant Japanese food presence and public's appetite for something more than just another spicy tuna roll.
I digress. Like, I said, I had come prepared to dislike Momofuku. It always seemed too trendy, too overpriced and way too overhyped. Besides, my heart belonged to Setagaya, one of the aforementioned Japanese ramen transplants. After having their Shio (salt) ramen, I was convinced that it was the be-all and end-all of ramen and loudly proclaimed it to all. Rightly or wrongly, in my head, there was no way Momofuku could ever be as good, but to cover my bases, I had to try it out before I started talking smack to the Momofuku fans out there.

Walking in with a friend on a Wednesday night, we were seated directly at the bar facing the kitchen. Even though I've spent most of my life in a kitchen, watching food being cooked never gets old. There is something about the smells, the sizzling sounds and the clatter of plates that sets me right at home. Enough context, let's talk about ramen. Quickly, two large bowls of Momofuku's signature ramen (named, appropriately enough, "Momofuku Ramen") are set down in front of us. Quashing my immediate visual comparison to Setagaya, I proceeded to dig in.

To anybody I've ever bad-mouthed Momofuku to, I'm sorry. I was wrong and I will gladly eat my crow- just as long as it's shredded in a bowl of Momofuku ramen. It's good. And by good, I mean very good.

Let's first start with the visuals. The first thing I noticed was the criss-crossed (makes you wanna jump?) sheets of nori (dried roasted seaweed) that stick out the backside of the bowl as if providing an artistic backdrop for the rest of the ingredients. Arranged around the bowl, small groups of fixins' await your mixing pleasure- large mound of scallions, shredded Berkshire pork neck and sliced pork belly, seaweed, bamboo shoots, Japanese fish cake- and in the center a single poached egg sits (It's actually a bit hard to see the noddles upon first glance). The noodles, coming out of a carefully regulated hot water bath, are flavorful and al dente. The broth is one of the best I've tasted. Flavorful and rich, it filled every spoonful with hot, porky goodness. In 15 short minutes it was over. That bowl of ramen never stood a chance.

Verdict: Expensive ($14) but you'd be hard pressed to find a more satisfying meal on a Fall day.

For more on the dumpling wars: http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/people/columns/intelligencer/11972/

Ramen in the East Village: http://events.nytimes.com/2007/07/22/nyregion/thecity/22rest.html

Contributed by The VillageIdiot

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Because it's never too cold...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

To eat icecream that is. As November brings about chilly days and pumpkin-flavored everything, the prospect of eating icecream seems unfitting for the launch of this year's biggest commercial holiday(s), (because Christmas is also right around the corner).

That said, say hello and welcome to two of my favorite ice cream places. Granted, they are on opposite coasts, one on the West where I reside and one on the East, where I call my second home. When you're ready to put down that pumpkin-flavored latte, get ready to say hello to my little friends...

1. IcePan. Consider it the revolutionary addendum to the Coldstone craze. At this Southern California joint, the ice cream is literally made to order. Depending on your preference, whole milk, lowfat milk, nonfat milk or soymilk is poured onto a "cold stone" slab, and mixed with your flavor of choice (mango, strawberry, green tea, banana, chocolate, you get the idea). The milk literally congeals and freezes onto the slab, where the flavor and toppings are mixed in to achieve your dream creation. Just beware, some flavor combinations end up tasting like breakfast rather than dessert (think: no- sugar banana soymilk with bananas, strawberries, and walnuts. It is practically breakfast minus the granola). However, the green tea with low-fat milk option is a safer bet. Click here to see how it's made.

2. Australian Homemade. Ever heard about the goats and cows in Australia? Yeah me neither, but apparently the dairy is fresh there and is here, in this NYC ice cream shop in the East Village. I had the good fortune to live next-door to this place for a month, where the ice cream is made fresh, with all natural ingredients, on a daily basis. Although flavors may be simple and uncomplicated, like strawberry, chocolate, banana, etc., they are perhaps the most wholesome, creamy flavors that the palate will experience when it comes to connoisseur ice cream tasting. (That really should be a hobby). That said if you live in NY and are craving a simple, fulfilling treat, visit this place.

Besides, everyone needs a little break from Pinkberry now and then.

Locations in West Hollywood, Santa Ana and Redondo Beach
(312) 381-3210

Australian Homemade
115 St. Marks Pl.
New York, NY 10009
(212) 228-5439
photo courtesy of gracenotesnyc.com

p.s. check out this awesome topic-related song. I dig it, I dig it a lot.

Muscles - Ice Cream

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Geisha House in Hollywood: A Do or Don't?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It is a truth universally acknowledged that trendy, asian-themed restaurants that boast equally trendy, gourmet dishes are presenting a fallacy. The food is neither gourmet, nor authentic, nor tasty. Japanese restaurant/lounges are particularly susceptible to this trend, boasting sushi rolls made with coarse rice, inexpertly seasoned meat or fish, and just downright giving Japanese food (albeit, Americanized) a bad name.

There are a few examples of these restaurant/lounges I could name off the bat: Maki Maki (where the waiter lost my order), and TentAsian.

However, Geisha House, in Hollywood, is a bit of an exception. Even though the food is lacking in originality and quality, what it lacks in this department it makes up for in ambience and overall dining experience.

First, I have to admit my initial misgivings about going into a place called "Geisha House". After all, I'm an asian female, and the word Geisha is chockfull of connotations since its inception as an art. However after stepping inside, all of that changed.

Unlike most lounges, Geisha House retains an easy-going vibe, none of this let-me-impress-you-by-looking-hot pretentiousness. At the same time it still maintains a sense of classiness with candlelit tables and fresh flower settings. With two floors, and a live DJ (he even played some Metric) the place has a chatty, lively energy that makes a great atmosphere for friends, and maybe even a blind date.

The drink menu is extensive with different sake, wine, and mixed drinks. The Geisha's Kiss is particularly delightful, a blend of lychee, sake, Chambord, and champagne.

When it comes to food here, expensive does not necessarily mean the best. A cut roll called the "Surf and Turf" consists of kobe beef and lobster. For six very cold, tough pieces of meat with rice wrapped around them and barely any lobster, $22 is much too high a price to pay (keeping in mind you are likely to order multiple rolls, the bill adds up). Other rolls, such as the eel roll or salmon roll with ornate names that I have already forgotten, are okay. In fact, it's hard to differentiate the taste between each roll. The saving grace of the meal was perhaps the Calamari. Glazed in Japanese mayonnaise and lightly fried, with a hint of sweetness it is my favorite version of the calamari appetizer.

Given the reputation that Japanese themed restaurant/lounges aren't exactly known for their food, I got what I deserved. Seventy dollars per person, including drinks, is just too expensive for the quality of food we received. However, for the whole experience of being in a lively, hip environment, the price was a little more justifiable.
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* trivia: A scene from Knocked Up was filmed here. Also you might run into some celeb or Ashton Kutcher who co-owns the place.
Geisha House
6633 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028
Reservations: 323.460.6300

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posted by wideeyedeggplant, 3:26 PM | Link It! | 4 comments |

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I'll be honest with you: I don't know a whole lot about Seattle. But, my big bro was a Husky, so that meant family trips. With every visit made to this lovely place, I added an extra item onto my ongoing "list of reasons why I like Seattle". Though this list was created years ago, and has not been renewed (meaning, I haven't been to Seattle in a while), here is my semi-dated, humble list.

1. Trees. Though I am no tree hugger, the site of Seattle's lush landscape captivated me. Having come from Southern California where rain is scarce and palm trees reign, I was extremely excited to see this dark, thick, green - in the enormous trees aligning the freeway, in the neighborhoods, everywhere! green!

2. Pike Place Market. Sure, it can be touristy, but it's also rich with community spirit. The fish sellers can be quite the exhibitionists- where, on busy days they'll holler and play toss with the fish, attracting and entertaining small crowds of gawkers.

In addition, Pike Place Market is also known for the flowers- brightly colored blooms arranged in gorgeous bouquets that create a kaleidoscopic display of colors. And, of course there are a plethora of produce stands, craft stands, and bakeries (The Three Girls' Bakery is my favorite).

3. The lower level of the public market. This is cheating because it's still may be considered part of Pike Place, but I'm talking the stores and coffeeshops on the lower street. You gotta appreciate a thriving culture of antique sellers, comic book sellers, family-owned restaurants, greek bakeries, and random coffee shops. Look to the other side of the street (and if it's actually a non-rainy day) you'll see art sellers, lounging in their chairs next to their wares, roller bladers and your regular weekend wanderers.

4. The Original Starbucks. Even though Starbucks is like the McDonald's of coffee, I still have to pay homage to the original. It's almost like a cheesy part of history, and I know when I say this, it's kind of sad. Even so, the first Starbucks, with it's old-school wooden floors and walls has kept well since it's 1971 inception.

5. Ben Gibbard- the sweet-little-boy voiced singer who amongst many things, penned the song that made lover's suicide romantic/poetic, hails from Seattle. Need I say more?

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posted by wideeyedeggplant, 8:10 PM | Link It! | 5 comments |

The junk in your trunk: recreating the mundane

Sunday, September 09, 2007

If you're like most packrats, you probably have a collection of empty water bottles and CD jewel cases collecting dust in your room somewhere. Too afraid to part with them, you don't know what to do, because the sight of these things is also disparaging and depressing since piles of junk, are quite frankly, very ugly to look at. But don't fret. It's time for some creativity. Berkeley-based, DIY-themed magazine Readymade willl help you make amazingly inventive, useful works of art from the junk in your room.

For example, a Fed-Ex mailing tube is tranformed into a CD case holder. Your old stash of CD jewel cases becomes an awesome wall mural. My personal favorite is the laquered-shopping bag rug. These are some of the ideas featured in Readymade 's book called "How to Make [Almost] Everything" along with a sprinkling of witty self-help tips (example: The Simple Life: How to Shrink Your World View in Six Easy Steps).

The book follows in the same vein of their regular print mag and web archive, where you can peruse project after project of creative ideas and be happily inspired to create a clock out of your old Altoid box, make an outdoor portable bar, or learn how to land the job of your dreams.

If you prefer to look but not touch, check out some of Readymade's projects on display at The Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, like the Vasa water bottle chandelier or seamless, parachute messenger bag. Trash will never look the same way again.

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posted by wideeyedeggplant, 10:39 AM | Link It! | 6 comments |

"Aliens in America" deserves a warm welcome

Monday, September 03, 2007

With a name like Aliens in America, it may come as a surprise that this new CW show has the makings of becoming a hit.

What the show focuses on is, alien, in the strictest sense of the word: outsider. Enter main character Justin Tolchuck, an adorable loser who is all skin and bones and curly hair. He gets beat up every year, and has never gotten any girl action. Expecting this year to be different with the removal of his braces, he finds, to his horror, his name at number 8 on his high school’s annual list of “Most Bangable Girls”.
In an attempt to cure him of eternal loserdom, his overprotective, overbearing mom gets an exchange student that she hopes will help Justin rise to popularity. What the Tolchucks expected was a strapping, tall handsome young man from Sweden. What the Toluchucks got was Raja, from Pakistan. Chaos ensues. Raja's first day at the American high school consists of comments such as “Abu, where’s my slurpee?” and then having his entire history class blaming him for the 9-11 events.

What makes this show inherently intersting is not only this awkward, randomly unsual situation but also the depth of the characters involved: there is dorky Justin, who is actually quite lovable and humorous in his own right, but trying incredibly hard to fit in. And then there is Raja, who is so outstandingly different from all the other kids at school, but doesn't give a rat's ass about trying to fit in.
My favorite scene is when Raja, after facing an onslaught at his first day of school comes home to a depressed Justin splayed out on the couch:

“Justin, do you pray?” Raja asks.

“Well, I usually eat a brownie or buy a CD or something,” says Justin.

“Justin, that entire pan of brownies is empty.”

“It was a rough week.”

The actors (Dan Byrd, and Adhir Kalyan) who plays these boys work well with each other, portraying humor, wit and sincerity in their characters. Dan Byrd, in particular, plays the loveable, humorous loser so well that you just want to keep watching him. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to seeing whatever social tortures he will face next week.
Aliens in America, CW 8:30 pm pacific time

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posted by wideeyedeggplant, 11:50 PM | Link It! | 1 comments |

B Is for Blueberries, Breakfast and Boston

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ahh, Boston, the city that inspires one-hit-wonder singles, pivotal moments in American History, and images of tombstones in the snow (or maybe a tea-colored body of water). These may be gross subjugations of the city. Regardless, I have a different take on Boston.

Boston means pancakes.

Located in Beacon Hill, The Paramount, has created that definition for me. A small, brunch-y nook, it serves up a variety of day, evening and brunch fare that feature simple and straightforward options executed with (an oxymoronic) simple sophistication.

Exhibit A: On a particular, bleary Friday morning, I stumbled upon their blueberry pancakes: fresh, sweet blueberries embedded in a sumptuous golden batter that had been lovingly carressed and cajoled to form that delicate, flat cake. With a light dusting of powdered sugar and light syrup the taste has been so permanently fixed in my memory that -this, this, is what makes me think fondly of Boston. I am sure at this point, native Bostonions are sighing and shaking their head sadly at me.

Priced at around 5 dollars, these quality pancakes are a steal. But beware the hot chocolate: it's made from mix.

So of all the things to love in Boston, let pancakes be one of them. I promise, they won't let you down.

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posted by wideeyedeggplant, 12:04 PM | Link It! | 6 comments |

Photography, Photography, Paint My Autobiography

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Lately I've been digging these company websites that feature the type of photography showcased in magazines or in ads. Thussfarrell is one of my favorite sites. They are a husband-wife duo that are pretty much a creative dream team, offering branding and identity design and all that jazz. Basically they inspire a lot of jealousy (imagine: creating beautiful things, and being darn succesful at it).

Check out the photography on this site. Many are design inspired and sometimes humorous, with lantern/cupcake combinations and a tiny plastic penguin strategically placed among rows of seashells (thussfarrell's book 5 of work). This understated, quirky sense of perspective is what makes their work unique and a little different from the rest.

Lastly if you're looking to get married or know someone who is, Aperatura does some great wedding photography too.
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*picture taken at Central Park

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posted by wideeyedeggplant, 3:32 PM | Link It! | 2 comments |

Tired of turkey? Meet the perfect sandwich

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gone are the bleak days of boring sandwiches, enter in a new era of sandwiches that will reawaken your tired tastebuds. Nestled in LA’s Larchmont Village is a nondescript wine and cheese shop that will do just that. It sells, quite obviously, wine and cheese, but it coincidentally also makes the tastiest sandwiches known to man.

With long lines extending from one end of the store to the other, the sandwiches that inspire such hype deserves this credit. The numbered menu presents a combination of ingredients such as Italian proscuitto, fresh mozzarella and basil (the #5), and other various ingredient combinations featuring chicken, or tuna. Of course there are delicious vegetarian options, as well, but all I care about is the meat.

I had the #3: salami, sundried tomato mayonnaise, vinaigrette, salad, and Spanish manchego cheese on a baguette (ciabatta bread is an option too). This flavor combination blew my mind. The cheese was thinly sliced to perfection, the salami was rich and flavorful, the tomato mayo gave a smooth richness to the sandwich while the vinaigrette provided enough tang to circumvent this richness from overpowering the sandwich.

Not only was this piece-of-heaven worth the boring wait in line, but it also restored my confidence that sandwiches would one day overcome and transcend the typical turkey-on-whole wheat standard that I have eaten countless number of times, like a lunch-starved automaton.

Outside seating is available, and when paired with lovely weather (and vitamin water), you just can't get a better day.

If your faith in tasty sandwiches needs a little revival, check out the eats at this store. It’s food to believe in.

Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits and Cheese
223 North Larchmont Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90004-3706
Casual, order-and-grab style, outside seating available. Call-in orders: 323 856 8699 Note: Larchmont Village (a small segment of Larchmont) has tons of little restaurant, cafés, and small stores, great to stroll around in.

*image from paxfood.net, sorry I didn't get pics of the food here, too busy eating!

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posted by wideeyedeggplant, 9:39 PM | Link It! | 7 comments |

Cure the early week blues with some therapy...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Art therapy that is. If you're already feeling that unmistakable, undeniable feeling of "blah" (which often accompanies Mondays) then it's time to bust out the paint, construction paper and markers.

One of the best things I ever did during stressful times was take out a blank canvas and paint whatever I was feeling. Though I am no art history scholar, I believe this was the idea behind the works of Expressionists artists such as Edvard Munch and played a bit part in the philosophy behind Vasily Kandinsky's paintings (my favorite artist of all time). My little rendition is pictured above. See, obviously I don't have very much technique, which means anyone can do this. And feel good about it!

Some graduate programs exist in the U.S., such as Pratt in NY, where students are taught art (and dance/movment) therapy skills. They in turn, can bring these techniques to different settings, helping people in geriatric homes, special ed programs, eating disorder clinics, etc. to express themselves in a way that is personally healing and fulfilling.

So who said abstract had to be weird? It's theurapeutic and good for you and for the world. So if you're feeling blue, paint it.

Note: If you have a clean table to use and don't mind it getting a little dirty, finger painting with chocolate pudding makes a great, tasty alternative.

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posted by wideeyedeggplant, 8:42 PM | Link It! | 5 comments |

Get Green Before the Weekend Ends

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

As summer slowly leaves us and fall approaches, the best thing to do during this interim period is to spend a day at the local farmer’s market. Hoping to enjoy today’s sun (although here in California it is perpetually sunny, yes, even during Christmas) I meandered about the small, unpretentious farmer’s market located across the street from UCI.

The first thing that greeted me was the beloved hummus stand. With a dozen or so different flavored hummus dips (my favorite is the roasted garlic), the Babba foods stand actually lets you try each hummus dip with pita bread samples. You can literally stand there and eat your way through the row of roasted tomato, pesto, and eggplant (plus more) hummus dips. Yum.

The other great thing about farmer’s markets is the appearance of local bakeries. There is nothing I love more than a bakery, and with items such as chocolate poundcake with a ganache center, chocolate almond brioche, and passionfruit marshmallows, I can barely restrain myself from 1) salivating all over the place, thereby ruining the goods and 2) buying enough pastries to feed a small brood of children. This is why the buddy system comes in handy when going to these places: your friend, boy/girl friend or whatever, can kindly and ever-so-gently smack some sense back into your head.

And lastly nothing beats homegrown fruits and vegetables. Pliots- (what you get when a plum and apricot mate) are a dream, possibly my favorite "fake" fruit, not to mention the non-wax cucumbers (I didn’t even know those existed) and bright red tomatoes. The added bonus is that you don’t have to be afraid of what you’re eating.

So go outside with your pasty self and enjoy the sun, fruits, veggies and the local community before the weekend ends. I’ll guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

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The best way to look farmers' market events in your area is through the local newspaper or word of mouth. The one near UCI is located along Campus in the In-N-Out plaza, held every Saturday, 8 am to noon.

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posted by wideeyedeggplant, 7:31 PM | Link It! | 5 comments |

Who's the most delicious of them all? A quick review of Shake Shack, Bongo Burger and In-N-Out

Saturday, August 11, 2007

To my dearest In-N-Out:

We've had a couple of great years together. Whenever I needed you, you were conveniently located. Whenever I was upset, you brought me solace in the form of a cheeseburger with grilled onions, not to mention animal-style French fries. You've filled my stomach with so many good things, but I can't do this anymore. I have to tell you the truth: I've started eating other burgers.
Let me tell you about them.

With only two locations in Berkeley, Bongo Burger is the best place to go for a mushroom burger: melted Swiss cheese, succulent sauteed mushrooms, a juicy beef patty. The crinkle-cut golden fries are delicious too, with just the right amount of potato, fried to the perfect texture of crispiness. Even though Bongo Burger doesn't have the best ambience, I learned that there is more to life than just consuming regular beef patties: Persian (lamb) burgers and black bean burgers are waiting to be eaten too.

But most recently and importantly, I had a brief fling with the Shake Shack in New York City. The memory of eating this gourmet burger still continues to haunt me to this day, teasing me to come back. The burgers are excellent, with an emphasis on quality not quantity (the burgers are petite). However, Shake Shack has something In-n-Out and Bongo Burger doesn't: custard. Or rather, very heavy frozen yogurt with the options of mix-ins like pie-crust, bananas, mint chocolate cookies and more. What I love about Shake Shack is the mere fact that it is located in Madison Square Park. Nothing beats eating a gourmet burger while lounging in the park on a sunny day.

So, my dear In-n-Out, please don't be upset with me. The world is full of different burgers and you and I couldn't last forever. We're better off if we just stayed, you know, friends.
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In all seriousness wideeyedeggplant would like to give this quick run-down of burger joints:

Best all-around (food, location, menu-options): Shake Shack, in NYC. It is open for a limited amount of time per year, including September. Expect long lines.
Best food (not atmosphere): Bongo Burger in Berkeley, CA
Best quick bite to eat: In-N-Out, all along CA. Still trumps all other chains.

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posted by wideeyedeggplant, 7:15 PM | Link It! | 7 comments |

Is this Vegas?: top things to do when you don't feel like gambling

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Few people grow up in families where their parents literally drag them to make the annual, nay, the tri-annual trip to Las Vegas. I am one of these few.

For this type of person, a visit to Vegas becomes a completely different kind of vacation.
Gone are the booze, the gambling, and other various vices. Without them, Vegas can be, well, actually pretty interesting. Here, from me to you, are my top picks. Cheers! clink.

1. The good thing about Vegas is that you can travel the world without having to.

The Paris hotel boasts a mini-rendition of the Eiffel tower, even complete with long lines of people clambering to ride the elevator up and down it. Also, there are fountains, which are fun, and scantily clad cabaret dancers who will at random perform the can-can within the casino lobby. If cabaret dancers aren't your thing, you can also run next door into The Venetian and climb into a gondola and listen to that Pavarotti-look-alike sing you excerpts from Puccini.

2. If Verdi or Puccini doesn't mean a thing to you, Jean Philippe had better.

Nestled in the corner of Bellagio hotel is Jean Philippe's patisserie, a high-end bakery of sorts with glistening desserts too pretty to eat.

And, oh yeah, the world's tallest chocolate fountain brimming with white, medium and dark chocolate. It is slightly reminiscent of a Kandinsky painting -one that makes you want to climb in and swim in it, but then of course you would get arrested.

3. Dorothy fell asleep in a field of poppies in Oz. You can find your own in the lobby of the Bellagio.
With 2,000 hand-blown glass poppies by artist Dale Chihuly. Marvel, then go outside and catch a musical water fountain show-which is literally water choreographed to tunes such
as Time to Say Goodbye, and New York, New York. It's worth watching at nighttime.
A last couple of honorable mentions: the buffet at Wynn hotel. Once you have the mouthwatering tri-tip and bite into the chocolate mousse brownie cakes you will be glad you are alive.

And lastly, Mandalay Bay's shark reef aquarium has sawfish. Enough said.

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posted by wideeyedeggplant, 7:02 PM | Link It! | 9 comments |

What Is The Stash! ?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Hey there!

You might be wondering what on-earth's-name is The Stash!? Is it something ilicit? Nooooo. Nice try though. Is it something hidden? Well, kinda, but not really...

Basically The Stash! is exactly that -a stash of favorite things from amazing food, to good reads, to new art, life-changing shows, and more. It's the lowdown on things you may not have considered, like restaurants serving $1 tuna handrolls, Pinkberry on a hot day, or whatever. The Stash! is a stockpile of awesome things like the cookies in grandma's cookie jar. But even better.

After having just been officially ordained as a part of the bbq team, I am super excited to join the likes of Tan Panda and BBQCHICKENROBOT, as WideEyedEggplant. If you want to know more about me, just check out a few of my fav things in the About section.

So without further adieu...

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posted by wideeyedeggplant, 8:00 PM | Link It! | 6 comments |

Pinkberry, How I Love Thee

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Yogurt can thank Pinkberry for resurrecting it out of its boring plastic containers and shiny foil lids (a lacksadaisical attempt for flair). But oh, the beauty of Pinkberry, a concoction of who-knows-what dairy product advertized as frozen yogurt, topped with fresh fix-ins like mango, kiwi, strawberry, blueberry or mochi-my personal fave.

Some tips for strategic eaters: mango and kiwi are the best fruits texture-wise because they don't harden and turn into little rock-hard icecubes as berries often do. Fruity pebbles are awesome (who doesn't love those colors?), but oreos make the yogurt taste tart.

Despite recent allegations for pinkberry not truly being yogurt, my novel reaction is that I couldn't give a crap. Powder mix, yogurt, white stuff, yummy deliciousness, whatever it is, Pinkberry lights up my world. It has made summer (or spring, or fall, or hell, even winter) once again a happier place to be.

It makes for great design inspiration too.

Get one, now.

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posted by wideeyedeggplant, 9:16 PM | Link It! | 0 comments |


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