A San Diegan Feast

Hope you all had a very happy Easter weekend!  I know I did.  Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays because it involves candy, pastel colors, and usually, a delicious brunch; what’s not to love?  However, as I’ve gotten older it has become less and less acceptable to participate in Easter egg hunts and eat entire bunnies made out of chocolate.  Luckily for me, I go to a Catholic university and classes are cancelled Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before Easter Sunday.  That means I get to go home to sunny San Diego, spend a long weekend with my parents and my dog, and enjoy a much-needed break in the thick of my graduation panic.  What do I do when I go home for the weekend?  I eat an unspeakable amount of food and spend quality time with my couch.  I only leave the house to shop or eat.  Embarrassing, but true.  This visit was no exception.

On Friday night, my parents and I went to our favorite neighborhood Italian place, Pizza Nova.  Pizza Nova has a great Happy Hour from 3-6PM on weekdays.  The appetizers are five dollars and all drafts, well drinks, and house wines are one dollar off.   Everyone knows that when you go to an Italian restaurant, you better be craving carbs.  Also, everyone knows that when you eat with my family, you will be peer-pressured into eating an uncomfortable amount of food (both a blessing and a curse).  Our marathon meal started with an order of Bruschetta Pomodori, a classic Italian “aperitivo” that gives you garlic breath, but it tastes so delicious that you don’t care.  Of course, it helps to have a cold beer to wash it down.  My dad told me to get a North Coast Scrimshaw because I’m a pretty picky beer drinker.  I guess my dad knows what he’s talking about (don’t tell him I said that) because I would definitely get it again.  The great thing about Pizza Nova is that they give each table a pile of garlic-y, olive oil-covered bread balls that are absolutely heavenly.  For my entrée, I ordered a Pear Gorgonzola pizza.  It might sound weird, but it was awesome.

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Food is a huge part of my family culture.  It’s the way that we come together, and it doesn’t hurt that my family is full of amazing cooks!  The best conversations and the most important stories are often told around the breakfast, lunch, or dinner table.  All of my life, my parents have been diligent about eating together as a family, even if we were eating microwaveable mac-n-cheese before soccer practice.  When I come home for these short visits, I am reminded of the importance of taking the time to sit down with your loved ones and enjoy each other’s company, whether it is around pizza and beer or a couple of Lean Cuisines. Until next time, San Diego!

Cheers!

Christine

We Got it from our Mamas

The weather has been incredible in LA. It’s starting to feel like summer, the palm trees are looking greener, and everything is better in the sunshine. I realize that the weather in LA is always nice in comparison to other parts of the world, but I’m a Southern California girl born and raised so I whimper when the temperature drops below 65 degrees and my “warm jacket” is a cardigan sweater that doesn’t have buttons. In addition to the great weather this weekend, I am fortunate enough to live close to the beautiful Pacific coast. On Sunday, my sorority hosted a mother-daughter cruise with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the Dream On yacht in Marina del Rey. Though the name of the boat was annoying and pretentious, the experience itself was awesome. All of my sorority sisters and their mothers piled onto the boat dressed in sweater sets and sandals and we set off on our nautical adventure.

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            My mother was unable to attend the event due to her intense motion sickness and fear of the Marina’s rough and unpredictable waters. However, her decision not to attend was probably for the best considering she would have been miserable and the food wasn’t even that good. Fortunately for the kitchen staff (or should I say the galley crew), everyone was far too interested in the mimosas and Bloody Mary’s to complain about the weird consistency of the chicken kabobs. Though I missed my mom (as always), I was happy I had decided to attend the event anyways. Not only was it a beautiful day, but the mimosas were cheap and I got to meet the amazing women that raised some of my best friends. I have an extremely close relationship with my mom, she has shaped so much of who I am, and I am thrilled when people say that we are similar. Now that I have gotten to chat with some of my friends’ mothers, I can tell that they share the same bond. I have always admired my friends for being kind, patient, hilarious, and accepting. Therefore, it was a pleasure to meet the women that have been their mentors and role models. What can I say? Moms are always right.

Cheers!

Christine

Drinking Beer from a Pink Flamingo

I have to confess that I did not attend any happy hours this week. In fact, I spent most of this week sitting on the floor of my living room painting a cooler that I bought at CVS. Every year, fraternity formals take place during the Spring semester. Each frat bro asks a date, then we all climb into busses and spend the weekend in an obscure destination at a cheap hotel where we dance, drink, and eat fast food until it’s time to return to real life. It’s like a weekend retreat, but you come back sleep-deprived, bloated, and significantly less attractive (some more than others). The men pay for their date’s attendance at the event, therefore, the ladies make “froolers” (frat coolers). Froolers are a simple cooler that one must custom paint for their date based on their interests and personality. Why? Some say it’s tradition, but others say it’s a sneaky (and kind of awesome) way for fraternity men to get an elaborate and artistic gift from sorority women. So we slave over these froolers, secretly competing with one another because nobody wants to be the date that shows up with an ugly frooler (you know who you are).  What results is a fratty masterpiece that you then fill with your date’s favorite alcohol. And that’s how a frooler is born.

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We pile onto the bus, each pair of formal-goers sporting a cooler full of beer and booze. Chaos ensues, and then we all come home. I’m not usually one for crazy parties and I am definitely not one to stay in old, weird hotels, but fraternity formal is the rare exception to my usually high standards. Call it mob mentality, but there is something stupidly exciting about being idiots in a random place with a bunch of good friends. We know we can ‘t act like this forever, but for now, it’s alright to hang out with people who can chug a beer out of a plastic flamingo and win a belly flop contest. What started as an annoying art project turned into a weekend of shenanigans with the guys and girls that make me laugh the hardest and roll my eyes the farthest. I can’t always count on them to be responsible, but who really cares.  We are another weekend closer to graduation, but I’m loving every minute.

 

Cheers!

Christine

For Heaven’s “Sake”

Everyone knows about the restaurants in Hollywood where it is almost impossible to reserve a table and equally as impossible to afford.  The food is so beautiful, you don’t want to eat it, but it tastes so amazing that you feel the need to order seconds.  These restaurants are the cream of the crop and exist in an imaginary world for broke college students like myself.  However, once in a blue moon when the stars align over Hollywood Blvd., one of these restaurants offers discounts that make it halfway affordable and all is right in the world.  I had this experience at Katsuya at the iconic intersection of Hollywood and Vine.  On Mondays, Katsuya has an offer called Sake Mondays where all bottles of wine and sake are 50% off.  My friend and roommate, Hannah, and I decided to venture out of our comfort zone and make our way to the Walk of Fame.  The restaurant is beautifully designed, private, and placed in one of the most iconic neighborhoods of Los Angeles…does it get any better?  Pair that with some spicy tuna on crispy rice and some outstanding sashimi, and I was falling in love with LA all over again.  Katsuya was a feast for the senses from the moment we were seated at our table to picking up our car from the valet.  The food, the art, the design, the sights, and the sounds made for an experience that you can receive in the City of Angels.

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Though it was a bit of a drive and our wallets were slightly abused, it was worth it.  Being in the heart of Hollywood, reminds me of the amazing city that I am now able to call my home.  For most of college, I would describe myself as living in San Diego, but going to school in Los Angeles.  In a matter of weeks, that will no longer be true.  I will be living in Los Angeles, just as I have been for the last four years.  Though I was only about 40 minutes away from my house, eating dinner in Hollywood opened my eyes and gave me a new perspective.  It’s so easy to get comfortable in your neighborhood with your friends because you know what to expect, what to order, and where to park.  But LA is a huge city, and it is so vibrant.  I’m disappointed that it took me this long to come to this realization, but that is why I started this blog in the first place.  I wanted to remind myself how to be adventurous and to nurture the moments, the tastes, and the relationships that I have come across in my 22 years on earth.  I am very happy to say that my plan is working!  Who knew that talking to computer once a week would lead to self discovery.  Moral of the story: explore, eat well, and bring your friends when you do so.

 

Cheers!

Christine

Found Love in a Tapas Place

One of the greatest surprises of my college experience was my involvement in my sorority.  I know, it’s very stereotypical Los Angeles college girl, but it has truly changed my last for years for the better.  Being a member of Kappa Alpha Theta has provided me with mentors, an amazing community, and someone to enjoy a new restaurant with me whenever I want.  Most recently, my friend, Adrienne heard of a place in West Hollywood that has created the Holy Grail for spicy tuna lovers: a Crispy Rice and Spicy Tuna Burger.  So we jumped in her black Hummer, grabbed two more sushi-loving sisters, Allie and Stephanie (photo credit), and high-tailed it to YATAI Asian Tapas Bar.  YATAI is so small that waiting for a table means standing over a table of people enjoying their food.  But people waited anyways.  If a 30-minute standing-room-only wait for a table in a cramped Japanese restaurant on Sunset Blvd. isn’t an indicator of great food, I don’t know what is.  

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Finally, we were seated and given the Happy Hour menu (Mon.-Thurs. 5:30-9pm) which was out of this world…great prices.  All beer and tapas were $3 and because we had waited so long to be seated I ordered four.  But we had made the trek to WeHo for one reason and one reason only…the spicy tuna burger, and it was glorious.  Spicy tuna and avocado is sandwiched between two patties of crispy rice and the rest is history.  Unfortunately, the burger is not part of the Happy Hour menu, but that hardly matters because the rest of your meal is so cheap.  What this food adventure made me realize was that I am obsessed with tapas.  As it is, I have a little bit of food ADD because if I could try one bite of everything on the menu, I would. Guilty pleasure: Souplantation.  So Happy Hour tapas is the answer to all of my prayers in more ways than one.  Also, tapas-style eating allows for sharing and tasting.  Sitting in a restaurant with three great friends and being able to reach across the table and grab a little of this and a lot of that, is my idea of a perfect meal.  There are seven weeks left of my senior year and time is flying by, but one thing is for sure…all of my hours have been happy.

 

Cheers!

Christine                 

Fiesta con Dirty Monkeys

I just finished my last college Spring Break and like any stereotypical Spring Break should be, I spent it in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur with about a million of my LMU peers.  It was by far the most cliché college experience I have had to date and it was everything I expected.  A lot happened in Cabo, but since the wireless connection in the hotel was barely strong enough to let your family know you were alive, most of those stories will never resurface (like my sunscreen that was confiscated in airport security).  So to make a long story short, let’s focus on the drinks because that was pretty much the focus of the trip anyways.      

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After dropping our bags off at the hotel, my friends and I made a trip to WalMart to grab the necessary items for a five-day stay in Cabo: tequila, tortilla chips, and salsa (listed in order of importance).  A very helpful/creepy store employee named Oscar Enrique showed us around the store, giving us input on what brands the locals like and what brands are for tourists.  After Oscar had proven his merit, we let him pick out our tequila…what an honor.  He chose Azul (different than the upscale tequila Clase Azul), a smooth middle-priced bottle that tasted pretty good when frozen because it’s not like we could afford much more.  In fact, we loved Oscar’s choice the first three days of the trip, but if you were to hand it to me now, I would probably run in the opposite direction.  But when we weren’t drinking tequila, we were drinking Dirty Monkeys; a blended rum cocktail with banana and a little bit of chocolate syrup.  I realize that drinking one of these is like wearing a sign on my forehead reading “I’M A TOURIST ON SPRING BREAK,” but I just couldn’t help myself.  Besides, they were 2 for $8 so it was basically a permanent Happy Hour on the beach and I’m not going to turn down a deal like that.  After five-days in Cabo, I got an uneven tan, too many Dirty Monkeys, and a camera-full of blurry pictures.  But it was also an opportunity to let loose with the crazy people I call my friends.  I spent my last Spring Break running around Cabo, eating street tacos, pretending to speak Spanish, and rationing bottled water, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. 

Cheers!

Christine 

Stop and Smell the Tacos

Here we are in the middle of February, and I am officially feeling the pressure of graduating in May and leaving the most beautiful campus on earth, LMU.   These days, it seems like every conversation somehow finds its way back to the dreaded topic that second-semester seniors hate to hear: plans after graduation and the big scary world of adulthood.  I’ve become surprisingly good at skirting the subject and blurting out a nondescript cliché like “I’ll go wherever the wind blows me!”  Instead, the wind blew me into yet another amazing Happy Hour with one of my best friends and roommates, Meghan.  When you’re feeling the weight of the world, sometimes the best solution is chatting with a good listener over tacos and margaritas.

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From growing up in San Diego, Mexican food is my comfort food.  In my opinion, even the worst days can be turned around with some refried beans and rolled tacos.    So Meghan and I went to La Sirena Grill & Cantina in El Segundo, a hip little “Mex-eco” restaurant that offers pretty good Happy Hour prices from 4-6pm on weekdays.  But the real star of the show is their Blackberry Margarita: a perfectly mixed margarita garnished with whole blackberries and served on the rocks.  In fact, our waiter shared with us that La Sirena “does not believe” in blended margaritas because it dilutes the flavor of the drink.  I’m assuming they know their stuff because the flavor was out of this world.  Let me tell you, this Happy Hour really changed my mood.  Thank goodness for friends like Meghan who let me blow off steam and relieve some stress because after our meal, I was feeling 10 pounds lighter (which is surprising considering the amount of guacamole I ate).  The future can be scary, but every once in a while, you have to stop and smell the tacos.

Cheers,

Christine

Feelin’ 22

Happy birthday to me! I turned 22 last Tuesday and it’s already looking like a great year.  This year, I was lucky enough to spend the entire day with my friends, family, and enough food to keep me full for a week.  My parents live in San Diego, the best little city on Earth, and the perfect distance away for me to live an independent life, while knowing that they are only a couple hours away (depending on traffic).  So naturally, I asked them to celebrate with me because they are the most incredible people I know and have great taste in food (runs in the family). ;)

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The three of us had an EXCEPTIONAL dinner at The Bazaar by Jose Andres in the SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills.  It was one of the most amazing culinary experiences I have ever had, so I’m going to give you the dirty details.  The Bazaar is a tapas-style restaurant that combines incredible flavors, outstanding service, and décor that made me weak in the knees.  For our table of three, we ordered 11 dishes, 3 desserts, and one Japanese Peach bellini for the birthday girl.  Drinking a bellini always makes me feel like a lady, but this bellini had me feeling like a queen.  Put me in a swanky restaurant, with a bubbly drink, in the middle of Beverly Hills and I’m feelin’ 22 (Taylor Swift can agree).  The highlights of the meal were jicama wrapped guacamole, seared scallops, bagel and lox cones, modern and traditional olives, eggplant tempura,  “philly cheesesteaks”, King crab steamed buns, and stuffed piquillo peppers.  For dessert, I had the Nitro Coconut Floating Island.  I can’t even begin to explain the magic that existed in this meal.  All I know is that I would eat and drink at The Bazaar everyday if I could.  Oh, the harsh realities of a college budget.  But all in all, this birthday was one for the books.  I am lucky to be surrounded by amazing people, whether they are wishing me a happy birthday on my Facebook wall, Instagram-ing a collage of embarrassing pictures (you know who you are), or buying me a peach bellini.  Being 21 was great, but I have a feeling this year is going to be even better.

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Christine

A Lonely Seahawk Fan

ImageWell, I know I CAN’T speak for all of my friends when I say I had an awesome Super Bowl Sunday!  YAY SEAHAWKS! I’m not a football fan, but I would root for Seattle any day.  My older sister Katie, who is my best friend and one of my greatest role models, graduated from UW and was on the UW pom squad for 3 years, enough time to turn me into a Husky fan (Go Dawgs!) and make me fall madly in love with the city of Seattle.  So when the Seahawks made it to the Super Bowl (and the Chargers were out of the running), I was ready to rock green and blue on Feb. 2!  And what goes better with football than beer, finger foods, and a great spot on the couch?!? Nothing.

Since the Seahawks took an early lead, I was able to enjoy my Super Bowl meal leisurely from kickoff until the confetti flew (unlike, the Broncos fans in the room who let their bowls of chili get cold while they were pulling out their hair).  There was hummus, guacamole, prosciutto, cheeses, flatbread, and Keystone light.  Let’s remember that I am a senior in college, so please excuse the choice of beer. 

Being a dancer all my life, I was never one to sit down and watch a sporting event, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized it’s an opportunity to hang out with friends, or in this case, to be teased and taunted by a room full sore losers;) While I wasn’t the most popular girl in the room, I had a great time.  All joking aside, it was a blessing to be able to crowd around a tv, drink cheap beer, and double dip in the guacamole with a group of great people.  I know that I promised myself more Happy Hours, and though these drinks weren’t order off of a menu or served at a bar, they were sipped among very joyous people and good sports (pun intended).    

Cheers!

Christine 

A Ginger Obsession

I’m not normally the first girl to jump on the healthy foods bandwagon, so I am just noticing the surge in ginger’s popularity.  Ginger is included in juice cleanses, desserts, and has always been a delicious compliment to sushi.  But the best way to enjoy ginger (in my opinion), is mixed up in a cool cocktail.  You’re talking to a girl whose drink of choice is a Moscow Mule, and not just because I like drinking out of cute copper cup.  Last week, I grabbed an early bite with my friend, Kaytlyn, at Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City.  Chef Ben Ford, the son of the great Harrison Ford, has created a laid back, but very trendy, environment in downtown Culver where you can find “fuel, no gas.”  But most importantly, you can find a delicious and very unique ginger cocktail.  It’s called Ginger All The Way, a name I couldn’t resist because who doesn’t love a good Christmas reference?

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The drink is a mix of Deep Eddy Ruby Red vodka, Ginger Liquer, sage, bitters, and a little bit of carbonation.  Swirled together, poured in a tall glass, and served with a cube of candied ginger, and I’m one happy camper.  The drink was delicious and sophisticated, staying true to the familiar and relaxed environment that Kaytlyn and I stayed in for hours.  I rarely get to hang out with Kaytlyn, but when I do, I am reminded of how genuine and absolutely hilarious she is.  There are few things I enjoy more than sipping a good drink with a great friend.  As I head into the last semester of my college career, I am promising myself to spend more hours being happy with the people that have made the past four years so incredible.

Cheers!

Christine