southern california

Fiore Market Cafe

I thought I had explored all over Pasadena but I lied to myself. There are actually some hidden gems out in South Pasadena! When I found Fiore Market Cafe, I pretty much fell in love with it immediately. This place currently has 300+ reviews with 4.5 stars on Yelp.

Sarah, Hannah, Catherine and I gathered here for lunch. It’s a quaint little restaurant. You order inside where it has this homey feel to it and they bring the food over to your table. Make sure to get there early to reserve seats as they are very much limited.

I ordered their popular Short Rib Sandwich for $9.25 and it was beautiful!

Beautiful in so many ways. Presentation was beautiful. Of course, the taste was beautiful. The mixed vegetables that gave a refreshing taste perfectly complimented the tender and moist short ribs.

The sandwich was a little messy because of the juice from the dressing but it was worth the mess. It was a beautiful mess.

I definitely would like to come back here for the Short Rib Sandwich again.The ambiance of the restaurant was so relaxing and peaceful especially with the perfect sunny SoCal weather. Thank you to my beautiful friends, Sarah, Hannah and Catherine, for the endless encouraging conversations we had over some good food!

Valentine’s Celebration

On Valentine’s Day, I went to LA with Linda to meet up with Sarah and her husband. Don’t worry, Linda and I didn’t crash their Valentine’s night! We met up at School Food Blooming Roll in Koreatown. They’re known for traditional Korean comfort food with some modernized twist to it.

We first ordered their kimchi fried rice. Don’t let the spicy look of this fried rice deceive you! It was actually nowhere close to being spicy. Even if you don’t like spicy food, this will not burn your tongue. The kimchi fried rice hit the spot really well because it had that homey taste to it just like how all kimchi fried rice should be. It reminded me of my mom’s cooking.

Now what was actually spicy was the labokki (lah-boh-kee). It’s ramen, rice cake, and fish cake with egg all mixed in some awesome spicy Korean sauce. The labokki was good but could’ve have been a lot better for a few reasons. One. The consistency of the spicy soup seemed a little off. It may have been a little too liquid-y but not bad enough to lose its taste. Two. There weren’t enough noodles in my labokki! Next time, I’m bringing my own pack of ramen to throw into the bowl. Three. The texture of the noodles were too soft for my liking. I think a lot of us who eat ramen like the noodles right before they’re fully cooked.

We ordered three different kinds of kim-bop which is Korean’s version of sushi. We got the spam roll. It’s a simple roll of spam wrapped around with egg. Nothing too special but having spam in anything always makes thing better!

We also ordered one of the Special Rolls and it wasn’t too special. For the most part, it was just like eating your ordinary kim-bop.

Lastly, the most unique one of all was the Squid Ink Roll. Though the color of the roll is pretty black, you can barely taste the ink itself. You can definitely taste and feel the squid as there are some pieces of it wrapped up in the roll. Eating the Squid Ink Roll wasn’t as exciting as the name sounded.

Out of the three rolls, my favorite would have to be the Spam Roll. I’m telling you, spam always brings justice to whatever you eat. Thank you, spam.

Overall, everything I tried was good. There wasn’t anything too exciting that made me want more. In general, it was pretty overpriced especially since they were all simple meals that you can easily make at home for a cheaper deal. Would I come back here again? Eh, most likely not. I’m just thankful that Linda and I were able to meet up with Sarah and Howard for dinner!

For dessert, we went over to Loft Cafe that was about 10 minutes away from School Food. As I entered into Loft Cafe, I really felt like I was in a Korean drama. I’ve never seen so many young and hip Korean couples in one setting before. I know it was Valentine’s Day, but still. The ambiance of the cafe and the people in there just brought the K-drama feel to it.

We sat outside in the patio where it was decorated with Christmas lights. They gave us blankets to stay warm since it was a tad bit chilly even with the heat lamps.

We ordered a waffle with scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream that were surrounded by strawberries and banana. It was all drizzled in chocolate and covered in sugar powder. That waffle was something. It was fresh and sweet! It wasn’t your ordinary Eggo Waffles where it’s bland but there was a light buttery sweetness to it.

Sweet potato is one valuable vegetable in the Korean culture. Actually, I’m not sure how valuable it is, but it is to me and my belly. We eat it with pizza, as dessert, and in lattes! Yup, lattes. So I got myself a $6 sweet potato latte. This latte is a little thicker than your normal latte from Starbucks. It’s a pretty heavy latte that can fill you up easily which it did for me. But I loved it! It’s best to drink it when it’s warm because once it gets cold, it almost seems like you’re drinking a sweet potato soup instead. When my latte got cold and I was down to the last several sips of it, it just didn’t taste as good as when I first got it warm.

After feasting for hours in good company, it was time to head back home. Thank you Sarah and Howard for treating us out to dinner on Valentine’s Day. It was a lot of fun just laughing at some old stories! Also, thank you Linda for dessert and spending some quality time with me! Can’t believe other people were in the way of our friendship! It was such a blessing to have hung out with you all!

Miho Korean Restaurant

I went on an afternoon date with my mom in Garden Grove. We actually did a few errands together and grabbed lunch at Miho Korean Restaurant. It’s a hole in the wall Korean restaurant in the Korean Town of Garden Grove. My mom likes to come here because they use more natural ingredients rather than adding MSG to make things more flavorful.

We ordered one of my mom’s favorite which is Kalguksu (kahl-gook-sooh). You can say that it’s the Korean version of chicken noodle soup. The difference is that the soup base is a little thicker and there’s different kinds of vegetables in it. It has a few different onions, squash, and potato pieces. Of course, there’s chicken and the noodles itself. It’s a simple meal.

We also ordered Gamjatang(gahm-jah-tahng). It’s a spicy soup with pork ribs topped with a handful of green onions and sesame seeds. Eating spicy Korean food like gamjatang is a love-hate relationship. You hate it because you have to pace yourself when you’re eating it because it’s so hot from being fresh. It’s also spicy hot so it’s hard to eat. But as you’re eating it, you love it because it’s good so you want more of it. The love-hate relationship for it then repeats. It’s a good battle to fight when you’re eating gamjatang.

My mom and I shared the kalguksu and gamjatang. We probably should have ordered just one or the other. Not both! I was more than stuffed after that. I don’t think I ate anything else for the rest of that day.

Thanks Umma (aka mom in Korean) for the date!

Ballerina Diana Vishneva

Cindy and I spontaneously attended the World Premiere Diana Vishneva on The Edge at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, formerly known as Orange County Performing Arts Center, on Wednesday night. Before the show, I saw brief clips of her previous performances and I was in awe of her technique. So I was more than excited to see her performance live.

Diana Vishneva's Show at Segestrom
The first performance of the show was called “Switch”. Cindy and I were actually pretty confused about it. Unfortunately, we didn’t read the storyline in the program ahead of time. So as we were watching, we were completely lost in the choreography and the emotions involved. I thought there was a love triangle in a Matrix themed choreography but Cindy thought it was about a family drama between a mother, father, and a daughter. We were both completely wrong.

Diana, the main character, was trying to live in such freedom as she watched a couple enjoy life. She tried to find enjoyment within art and life, but she struggled to find a balance within both. At the end, you could tell she felt defeated for not being able to live in solitude within art and life as she took off her pointe shoes.

There were heavy emotions involved of frustration and restlessness within Diana. After reading the storyline, everything all made sense!

Her second performance “Woman in a Room” was totally a different story with more confusion for me and Cindy even though we read the story behind it. Both performances were almost like looking at a canvas that only has a splat of paint on it. You stand in front of it with a pensive look on your face wondering what does this splat of paint mean? You come to a conclusion that you have no idea how this became an artwork. Well, that’s basically how Cindy and I felt about the whole show. We had no idea what was going on.

We weren’t the only ones who felt like this about the show. We overheard some other audience members leave the show with a question mark and an unsatisfying performance. Perhaps that is what Diana wanted to leave us with. The whole show was more philosophical than I expected it to be. I was hoping there to be more classical ballet with traditional techniques involved, but it was mainly contemporary ballet. It was an experience watching today’s classical ballerinas go for modern day ballet choreography.

Thanks Cindy for watching this performance with me! I know it wasn’t what we expected it to be but I hope it broadened your understanding of what ballet or in general dance in mean. It can mean anything!

I’m sure you wanted to watch Diana Vishneva perform more of a classical ballet like this:

Urth Cafe & The Halls of LA

I was sensing a hipster night in LA, so my friends and I decided to hit up Urth Cafe for a late dinner. This was officially my first time ever trying Urth Cafe! I had to try out one of their most popular drinks which is the Spanish Latte. I wanted to stick with my usual vanilla latte but I was highly encouraged by my peers to get the hot Spanish Latte. Hot because you want to get the latte art in there.

My friend Apoorva and I both got the Spanish Latte with hipster latte art. There was a unique taste to this Spanish Latte where it’s a sweet in a different way compared to any general vanilla latte. This Spanish Latte has a sweet kicker to it.
Spanish Latte

We also shared a Panini Caprese that had mozarella, roasted peppers, sun dried tomatoes, pesto and olive spread. It was a simple yet filling panini.
Panini Caprese

Derek got a Moroccan Mint Tea Latte with a Hello Kitty foam work. Derek looked pretty happy with his latte art.
Derek & his Hello Kitty latte.

Victoria got a vegetarian Sprout Sandwich that is filled with a lot of good veggies.
Victoria and veggie sandwich.

We were probably there past 9:30PM and it was still packed! After sipping on some hipster drinks and eating hipster food, we decided to just walk around some concert halls. We checked out the Ahmanson Theater. You can just stand there for awhile and simply be entertained by the water show.
Ahmanson Theater

We went over to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Oh man, that venue has a bunch of hidden spots of beauty. The garden reminds me of the forest scenes in Snow White. Perhaps the landscape is designed in relations to the Disney’s movies. Though it was quite dark when we were exploring the outside of the concert hall, it was still beautiful. I’d definitely like to see it in sunlight. (Sorry for the poor quality of the picture below. I forgot to bring my fancy camera! This was taken with my iPhone.)
Walt Disney Concert Hall Garden

After much exploration, we headed back home. Thanks Apoorva for joining me last minute to hang out in Los Angeles with Derek and Victoria. Thanks Derek for driving us around!

Diabetes Hang Out

After work, my plan was to go to UCLA to see an old friend perform his cello solo. Due to heavy traffic, I never made it sadly. To turn that sadness around, I decided to explore Little Tokyo. For a small little area, there’s quite a lot of places to eat! My friends and I started out at Weiland Brewery which is across the street literally from Little Tokyo’s main plaza. It’s an American food kind of restaurant where you can customize your burger. So there, I made my own cheeseburger. Well the only main special thing about it was that I added egg to it!
Cheeseburger with egg.

Nope, it was not a breakfast burger. It was a cheeseburger with egg for dinner! Adding egg to a burger brought a homey feel to it. I think egg with anything is good. Kind of like spam. Spam solves so many problems. The burger was so big that I got lost. Lost as in, I didn’t know where I had taken my first bite. So I ended up eating on the opposite end of my first bite. I almost thought I was going crazy since I couldn’t find that first bite.
Two bites on opposite ends.

I was so hungry that I was able to finish the whole cheeseburger! I mean, it took awhile though to finish. Slow and steady wins the race!

Because I have a major sweet tooth, we had to get dessert. Also, it was a Friday night and we were in Little Tokyo! So it was basically gave us many good good reasons to get some kind of dessert. We first went to Cafe Dulce, a little coffee and bakery shop that is mainly known for their green tea donut. We got the green tea donut, blueberry roti bun, and a bacon donut.
Three donuts.

The green tea donut was good as always. The green tea flavor is actually pretty light that you can barely taste it. The filling in the donut had a vanilla pudding flavor that wasn’t too strong. The green tea donut itself has a subtle taste to it.
Green tea donut.

I want to say that Roti Buns were originated from Northern California. I only say that because it was in San Jose area several years ago that my friends who live there introduced them to me. My experience with Roti Buns has never disappointed me ever! When they’re fresh, oh man. It’s game over. The warm crispy edges of the bread but the softness inside, and the slight sweetness of it makes you easily addicted to them Roti Buns. Ever since my last visit to San Jose, I was never able to find them here in Southern California for some odd reason.
Blueberry roti bun.

When I found out that Cafe Dulce had Roti Buns, I got extremely ecstatic. But. I was a little hesitant about the blueberry roti bun because I was afraid the blueberry was going to be overpowering. It was actually nowhere close to overpowering. It wasn’t too sweet or too sour. It was right in the middle. Cafe Dulce does a great job of keeping the flavor of the pastries well balanced out.

Now, the bacon donut. It was my first time ever trying a bacon donut. It really threw off my taste buds because it was sweet and salty. It’s a combination that does and doesn’t work. Would I recommend it to you? Eh, most likely not. I’d stick with the green tea donut and the blueberry roti bun.
Bacon donut.

After trying Cafe Dulce, I wanted to get some milk tea of course. Wherever I go, I’m always on the lookout to try milk tea at different places. We found Four Leaf. There we ordered honey green milk tea and Going Banana crepe that has vanilla ice cream, nutella, and banana.
Four Leaf.

Service there was unfortunately not the best, only because they forgot about making our order. It’s ok, the kids behind the counter were young. The honey green milk tea was flavorless. It was barely sweet. Probably more on the plain end. The crepe was messy but sweet. I think the sweetness from the crepe made up the lack of sweetness from the milk tea.

Since we tried 2 dessert places, we said to ourselves, “Hey, it’s Friday. Let’s try one more dessert place.” So we went over to Mikawaya and tried a mochi. With this Orange Gyuhi Mochi, I was hesitant again to try it because I was afraid it was going to be too tangy. Luckily, it wasn’t tangy at all. The mochi had a good balance of sweetness to it like the pastries from Cafe Dulce.

After dinner and trying 3 plates of dessert, we had to stop ourselves from getting one step closer to diabetes. So we called it quits after two to three hours of eating continuously. After so many intakes of sugar, we all had a sugar crash.

But it was all worth every bite because it was Friday!

Thanks Derek, John, and Irwan for the fun filled diabetes tour in Little Tokyo! Let’s not do it again… Special thanks to John for putting this fun video together!