[L.A.] FOOD SNAPS IN LOS ANGELES

Tribute to all the food-snaps I take that go un-posted as soon as the physical item gets devoured / forgotten. Here’s a post to say, you’ll always be remembered. Tralala.

I love you, Los Angeles.

▷ Breakfast @ Denny’s for the first time and I liked it! Western portions are way too generous. With a selection like this it won’t be anytime soon for us to taste it all. A tad bit greasy on the side of mashed/fried potatoes but all else’s good.

All American Slam, French Toast Slam, Peanut Butter Cup Pancake Breakfasts
Breakfastception

▷ Late post-shopping lunch with the elder folks was Seafood Port Chinese Restaurant on Hawthorne Blvd Torrance

As much a visual feast as it was physical! Curry crabs and the works, totally Chinese through and through
Highlight of the evening
Managed to get my fortune told

▷ Sneaked in a pizza at Sbarro, Del Amo @ Torrance Bay. Nothing like salad, carbs and mozzarella to complete your trip to the States.

▷ Dining in near pitch-black darkness at Santa Monica Pier Restaurant, whilst chilling to the strong sea breeze at the restaurant’s namesake. Food’s amazing. Mojitos were cray.            

▷ Santa Monica Pier in all its midnight glory. America is gorgeous.  

▷ Too much to eat, too little time and space.

 

 

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[NEW YORK] EAT. SHOP. REPEAT

“I love New York. You can pop out of the Underworld in Central Park, hail a taxi, head down Fifth Avenue with a giant hellhound loping behind you, and nobody even looks at you funny.”
Rick Riordan

Eat, shop, dream, repeat! was all we did in New York during the winter. In early February, 0°C felt like much less, thanks to bone-chilling winds and an insufficient wardrobe. We had 3 days to spend right smack in the city, where you could literally shop all day and stay up at Times Square without realising it’s already midnight, and not even subzero temperatures could deter them creatures of the night.

Rick Riordan’s quote rang true when I realised literally anybody could dress up in anything and sell their crafts/ideas on Times Square. I forgot how many Big Birds, Cookie Monsters, Madagascar Penguins, Mickey Mouses and Eeyores I’ve seen accosting strangers in the streets, handing out pamphlets or just attempting to sell you something. Nobody found it weird and the reverse is true. The ones wearing them don’t feel judged at all.

Checking into The Paramount Hotel at Times Square felt like entering a club – dim lights, velvet couches, a DJ spinning on the console and bar drinks in the corner.

Straight off our flight, we headed for Koreatown in search of piping hot and spicy Korean food! Decided on New Wonjo because it looked spanking clean and boasts a really strong heater (we felt the emanating warmth just by walking past). Not once during our entire meal did we regret our choice. We had an amazing meal: Bean paste stew (된장찌개), Spicy Tofu Stew (순두부찌개), Short Rib Soup (갈비탕), Beef Glass Noodles (잡채), Rice Cakes (떡볶이), and Seafood Pancake (해물파전 ). Daresay this was one of the best Korean restaurants I’ve been to outside of Seoul.
    

During the trip I had one of the best Thai dishes in NYC too! New York’s melting pot of culture gives rise to an international array of good cuisines within the city centre. Yay me, who’s not a big fan of fast food. This was Thai green curry chicken from Pongsri Thai, a hip diner tucked between Broadway & 8th Ave, bringing you awesome Thai food since 1972.

The sweet-tooth in me jumped for joy at MAGNOLIA BAKERY, NYC’s very own vintage cupcakes store! This is one patisserie that I would seriously cry with happiness if it ever makes its way to Singapore…and guess what!! I just read this on their webpage:
In addition to our current locations, Magnolia Bakery is continuing to franchise internationally and will soon open in Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Singapore.”

OH LORD I’LL SHED REAL TEARS OF JOY. Let me show you why:

Day One: Red Velvet Cupcake and Banana Pudding.
I’ve always been a huge fan of red velvet, but this is a whole new level of velvety goodness. It was so soft and creamy, that there was nothing cake-y about it at all. Just melt-in-your-mouth smooth satiny velvet, made red with cocoa, vanilla and “a little southern mystery”, topped with  special whipped vanilla icing and chocolate chips.
  

I’ve never eaten a banana pudding, and my first was pure orgasmic. I totally get why this is Sex-and-The-City-approved! Layers and layers of banana and melted vanilla wafers in a cup blended in rich vanilla mousse… this is helluva showstopper. Omg, so good I swear!

Banana-pudding-and-kindle kinda night

Day Two: Lemon Cheesecake and Magic Cookie Bars
Lemon cheesecake was my breakfast, and it was so totally amazing, I wanted to trudge back to the store in freezing winter just to get another. I love how moist their cupcakes are in the grand scheme of how cupcakes tend to be, and it’s sweet without being sinfully so (or at least they don’t taste sinfully sweet like a pure bar of sugar)
Curious about Magic Cookie Bars and just how magic they were, I tried one, and went to cookie heaven. Still wasn’t sure what was in them until I went over to their page:”Graham cracker crust with chocolate chips, walnuts and coconut topped with sweetened condensed milk then baked.  

Enough talk about food, moving on to the shopping part of my whirlwind stay. For me shopping is the main activity in the States. Without driving to outlet stores, NYC has a convenient selection around our hotel and down the streets. Big names are all listed on city maps designed with easy-to-navigate grids. Sephora awarded me their VI(B) thanks to my patronage every time I’m in the States.

We went into the Lego Store! – always such an innocently happy place. Larger than life-sized figurines such as the Statue of Liberty and Lego Movie characters were made of lego blocks only. I applaud the makers’ patience and their eye for details. This was where we took most of our shameless selfies that must have prompted many to judge us overenthusiastic Asian girls.

In the day, Times Square is incredibly, vividly lit. In the night, it’s not so different. Shopping from late evening on, I didn’t even notice that daylight was gone because the billboards were so intensely bright that they lit up almost the entire sky if you were to stand right in the middle of the streets. I’m reminded again of why NYC is the City that Truly Never Sleeps.

When it was time to go, I was just incredibly sad ): But knowing that I’ll be back someday makes me incredibly excited to explore new parts of the state and venture beyond the city centre!

Of course my bag suffered the brunt of my shopping.

 

Till next time,

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Biking the Golden Gate Bridge | Part (IV)

This is the part we say goodbye to an awesome biking expedition:
from stopping at various landmarks at San Francisco bay, to biking till the foot of the bridge, and then across the bridgeto exploring the city of Sausalito, I had so much fun that I forgot to feel tired.

20140307-164645.jpg

From the pier at Sausalito, we booked ferry tickets bound for Embarcadero at 10USD each (inclusive of our bikes). The ferry arrives and leaves the pier at frequent designated timings, making it uber convenient to come and go from the island. As we wheeled onto the ferry, I found myself comparing Sausalito’s residential houses to Cinque Terre. So beautiful in the sunset it was!

20140307-164659.jpg

20140307-164708.jpg

Saying goodbye to the Golden Gate! Looking at you from afar once again. The sky was such a lovely addition to this landscape.20140307-164727.jpg

20140307-164718.jpg

Ladies and gentlemen, the island behind yours truly is the Alcatraz. This is the closest I’ve ever come to snapping a shot with the prisoner island; I will come back to set foot on it!20140307-164738.jpg

A kind gentlemen took this for us. Alcatraz, here you go.20140307-164747.jpg

A beautiful shot of San Francisco bay – I’m still mesmerised.20140307-164758.jpg

20140307-164831.jpg

20140307-164815.jpg

20140307-164848.jpg

So we bid farewell to the iconic structure, and to this crazy road trip which was a reckless idea borne from wanting some adventure. We spent a total of 6 hours and in this span of time, covered 8.5miles/13.5km of land on our bikes. I was so tired on the flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong, and my butt/calves/thighs/toes were hurting so bad. Still, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything ^^ and I strongly urge everyone to go for this bike trail if you’re in San Francisco. You have to, at least once in your life.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Sausalito – Biking the Golden Gate Bridge | Part (III)

Took a snapshot at this lovely residential estate cum diner by the bay! Loving how the baby blues of the house were in perfect pastel harmony with the cloud-streaked blues of the skies and crystal clear turquoise of the sea. We were finally in Sausalito, after biking from the pier, then across the Golden Gate Bridge!

20140307-164053.jpg

Insanely steep downhills, narrow roads and strange sudden curves were characteristic of bike paths on Sausalito. The whole wind-whipping-in-face and look-ma-no-hands! as we careened (at times uncontrollably) down the slopes into Sausalito’s town center, felt sooo good! I had my fingers curled around the brakes, all ready to slam it, but we never stopped at the downhills which were the best parts!

This statue of a Marines soldier stands at the gateway into Sausalito, just before the bike trail hits the endlessly steep highways downtown. If you see him, you’re on the right way!

20140307-163908.jpg

20140307-163919.jpg

20140307-163929.jpg

Sausalito took my breath away, not just from the sheer exertion of biking!! This San Francisco Bay Area city in California stands at an elevation of 13 feet. With a small population of slightly more than 7000, it was once was home to an indigenous settlement known as Liwanelowa before the site was invaded by the Europeans.

20140307-163943.jpg

20140307-163957.jpg

Basking in the afternoon sunshine! That said, the temptation of taking a dip in (the shallow end of) the ocean had to be greatly resisted.

20140307-164021.jpg

20140307-164031.jpg

20140307-164043.jpg

The whole town was really quiet, except for us biking stragglers who, having reached our intended destination, had our vehicles docked in the bike-parking lots as we settled down for celebratory lunch. At Sausalito, there were a couple of novelty stores and vintage souvenir houses which looked pretty amazing.

20140307-164103.jpg

20140307-164114.jpg

20140307-164126.jpg

20140307-164135.jpg

20140307-164143.jpg

20140307-164203.jpg

20140307-164213.jpg

20140307-164223.jpg

Early dinner at Le Garage Bistro Sausalito, overlooking the bay! We dined to the sounds of lapping waves and seagulls flapping above our heads.

20140307-164155.jpg

20140307-164234.jpg

20140307-164243.jpg

20140307-164255.jpg

Some pasta and smoked salmon crepes, anybody? I guess cycling left me famished, I ate in record time.

20140307-164310.jpg

20140307-164319.jpg

20140307-164340.jpg

20140307-164349.jpg

20140307-164413.jpg

20140307-164426.jpg

Though it’s a tiny town, Sausalito has a myriad of public attractions: the Cazneau Playground, Cloud View Park, Martin Luther King Park Langendorf Park and so many more, as well as  Schoonmaker Beach, Swede’s Beach and Tiffany Beach.

FYI Sausalito is currently home to Darren Hayes (singer-songwriter, and former lead of the awesome band Savage Garden), Amy Tan (novelist who brought us The Joy Luck Club and The Bonesetter’s Daughter), as well as Ken Pontac ( author of the sadistic internet series Happy Tree Friends).

After a really short, yet very refreshing and memorable afternoon at Sausalito, we booked a ferry ticket to take us, along with our bikes, across the bay to San Francisco. Was glad for the biking journey to be over, but sad, as that meant we were about to leave Sausalito and San Francisco behind.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Biking the Golden Gate Bridge | Part (II)

Part 1 saw us through the journey from Pier 39, and in Part Deux we finally peddled past the threshold and across 1.7 miles of galvanized steel!

20140307-163431.jpg

We did it – was my first thought, taking the first step onto the gate. The 2 of us only just saw the gate from the start-point miles away and then in the span of 2 hours…  Armed with only a map and scattered bike trails, I can’t help feeling this tremendous sense of accomplishment. Cheers to taking a step into the unknown!

Strength in numbers – migration of feathered flock in an orderly formation, with absolute faith in their leader’s ability to lead them to a place where they can call home. As photographed from the bridge where we were standing, there were many many many flocks of birds flying across the bay ocean in similar fashion.20140307-163441.jpg

20140307-163448.jpg

20140307-163458.jpg

20140307-163509.jpg

20140307-163520.jpg

20140307-163530.jpg

The view of San Francisco and Oakland from Golden Gate Bridge is spectacular. You have to be there to feel the grandeur.

20140307-163541.jpg

20140307-163601.jpg

20140307-163549.jpg

20140307-163639.jpg

20140307-164506.jpg

20140307-164520.jpg

20140307-164530.jpg

The wind-in-your-hair, sun-in-your-cheeks (and hair-all-over-my-face) sense of liberation cannot be captured in words. At downhill points, the speed is at once within your control and also out of your control. You decide how much control you render to the elements and how much grip you retain. Mostly, I let myself careen downhill and almost threw up both my hands and shouted HURRAY!! It was so amazing.

In the next part, we cross over from San Francisco to Sausalito, with bike trails that were insanely steep yet at the same time liberating ^^ you just let the roads take you where they go.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

P.S. I’m glad to have given up my sleep for this biking trip. Post-biking muscle cramps and fatigue was worth it!

Biking the Golden Gate Bridge | Part (I)

Viktoria Jean Li San Francisco

In life sometimes it pays to be a little wild and adventurous. On check-out day, we took an early tram to Fishermen’s Wharf @ Pier 39, rented a pair of bikes and helmets, then peddled for a good half-day from San Francisco to Sausalito via the Golden Gate!

This is where Part 1 begins, from the pier to the foot of the famed San Francisco bridge.

20140307-133158.jpg

Step 1: Begin with the end in mind. So we took photos with our final destination!

20140307-133205.jpg

This is also where the negative self-doubts kick in…can we reach Sausalito and still make it back by evening to catch the flight to Hong Kong?

20140307-133223.jpg

Okay who am I kidding. I was too excited for any of those worries. Golden Gate here we come!

20140307-133229.jpg

The terrain from Pier 39 was straightforward and easy for bikers, even for amateurs who haven’t touched a bike for more than a year (me). Right after the photo above was taken, we met with our first terrible uphill climb (there are only two along this bike trail). I can still feel the strain of the burn in my calves and thighs!

We took a couple of scenic detours (including a long stop at the Palace of Fine Arts) and a hell lot of photographs along the way, which I will eventually come around writing about, and progressively we also took shots with the looming Golden Gate as we inched closer and closer…

20140307-133246.jpg

20140307-133254.jpg

20140307-133301.jpg

Viktoria Jean victory jump at Golden gate Bridge

… and before you know it, you reach this jetty! Beautiful place to put your feet up and watch the seagulls circle overhead whilst waves hit the shores and you get to sip a latte from the cafe by the bay in full view of the San Francisco bridge. We took a short break and grabbed a hot drink. Although sunny, the biting wind sometimes numbed our faces; as I recall it was 3-5 degrees Celcius.

20140307-133316.jpg

A semi-victory shot: we’re getting close! If only we could pull the bridge to us.

Viktoria Jean in San Francisco.jpg

20140307-133332.jpg

20140307-133339.jpg

20140307-133345.jpg

Still on the jetty, and guess whose familiar face we saw!?…

20140307-133358.jpg

20140307-133405.jpg

Yep… none other than the urp-urp-urping sealions! This one’s way more active than the lazybums tanning their asses at Pier 39’s Sealion Center. I swear he has a slimmer butt.

20140307-133411.jpg

Interesting find: there are so many of these ship anchors along the shores leading to the Golden Gate. In the early days, warships, cargo fleets and passenger boats were tied and docked at these parking area.20140307-133418.jpg

And according to these people, fishing is lucrative along the bay. Perhaps they sell their catch to the restaurants at the wharf? I doubt any of them fish for personal consumption.20140307-133424.jpg

I SEE YOU NOW.
Viktoria Jean in San Francisco golden gate.jpg

You ain’t far away no more!20140307-133437.jpg

One last detour: we wanted to enter Fort Point at the foot of the bridge, but all visitors are banned from its premises. Built to protect the San Francisco Bay, the United States Army completed the fort just before the American Civil War, as defence against hostile warships.
20140307-133445.jpg

20140307-133452.jpg

Oh well. At this point, we met the second uphill climb. I gave up and pushed my bike instead. What a loser, I know. Everything was good again when we reached the top, and look what we saw!

20140307-133500.jpg

Hi there, so much closer now!20140307-133510.jpg

Before you hit the actual bridge path, an exhibit shows you the entire history of who, how and why the iconic structure came about. This fascinating board shows you the timeline of San Francisco bay: you just need to walk from left to right, and TA-DA – watch the Bridge appear!!

20140307-133524.jpg

20140307-133532.jpg

20140307-133540.jpg

20140307-133552.jpg

If you’re wondering whose smart idea it was to build this bridge, in 1872, a self-proclaimed Emperor Norton (highly eccentric citizen of San Francisco) decreed that a suspension bridge was to be constructed connecting Oakland to San Francisco. On July 9, 1933 – construction began on the longest bridge in the world at that time. It took three years and five months to complete the Bay Bridge. The final bridge cost was approximately $77 million, $6 million under the estimated cost.

20140307-133602.jpg

Time for a little fun hands-on! You get to experiment why the bridge is of this length and height – everything was engineered and calculated to maximise efficiency of construction, stability and the ease of raising the columns to its desired positions.

20140307-133629.jpg

20140307-133620.jpg

The Bay Bridge opened to traffic on November 12, 1936 at 12:30 p.m. A chain cutting ceremony took place where former San Francisco Mayor Angelo Rossi, former President Herbert Hoover and Chief Engineer C. H. Purcell looked on while former California Governor Frank Merriam opened the Bay Bridge. When the ceremonies were completed, President Roosevelt telephoned workers on two sides of the bridge to flash a green light to signal the bridge was officially open. Everything you wish to know can be found on the information boards.

20140307-133644.jpg

20140307-133658.jpg

WE MADE IT!! I’ve always pictured the Golden Gate enshrouded in fog , and as it was a clear day, nothing was hiddenViktoria Jean in San Francisco travels.jpg

20140307-133732.jpg

20140307-133748.jpg

Two hours and we made it from Pier 39 to the beginning of the bridge! Honestly, it wasn’t tiring because I had great company and an awesome view of the sea. It was a good 2 hours and a few hundred calories well-burnt.

20140307-133758.jpg

I’ll let Part (II) show you the next part of our biking journey…across the Golden Gate!!!

20140307-133814.jpg

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

P.S. A full day rental of the bike costs around USD30, inclusive of helmets, without a safety insurance which you have to pay an extra 4 dollars for. There’re many bike rental places along Pier 39: Blazing Saddles, Bay City Bike Trails etc.

Food for Not-Skinny People

Found myself a new love: Kahlua Cocoa Coffee Cheesecake!
20140224-080317.jpg

Whenever I find myself in the States, cheesecake factory is the ultimate go-to for comfort food. We also shared the Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake and the classic Red Velvet.

20140224-080308.jpg

20140224-080342.jpg

20140224-080334.jpg

20140224-080326.jpg

20140224-080732.jpg

20140224-080741.jpg

20140224-080747.jpg

20140224-080755.jpg

Satisfaction is eating good food in the company of people you’re happy to share a meal with.
What in hell’s name is a diet?

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Lori’s Diner, San Francisco

Breakfast at Lori’s Diner on Mason Street, a ’50s-style rock’n’roll American bistro. For the all-American oldies experience, this is the place to be! Love their classic red booths, checkered tiles and memorabilia of Coca-Cola, Elvis Presley and various cars of the era. 20140223-040311.jpg

All of Lori’s Diners are open 24 hours daily; the Lori’s on Powell Street used to house pre-war airplanes, a Chevy Bel Air, a Chrysler, a vintage Indian motorcycle and a pinball arcade. The place was packed and the 9 of us had to wait for seats.
20140223-040543.jpg

20140223-064202.jpg

What the 3 of us shared so we could try everything: The Heart Breaker Sandwich (barbecued chicken breast with sautéed mushrooms on wheat bun), Strawberry Buttermilk Pancakes, and the classic Eggs Benedict.

20140223-040324.jpg

20140223-040334.jpg

20140223-040416.jpg

20140223-040424.jpg

20140223-040507.jpg

Famished from lack of sleep and jet lag, I was so excited for breakfast that I’d even googled Lori’s menu and decided on what to eat way before we met to have a meal. The food, and the atmosphere, met my expectations of an American breakfast joint, and I was pretty satisfied!

20140223-040517.jpg

20140223-040524.jpg

20140223-040535.jpg

20140223-040557.jpg

20140223-040255.jpg

I’m always saying ‘I need to come back again’ for good food at decent locations, but I have no real desire to return for another meal at Lori’s Diner. Not for the food, though the portion was huge it wasn’t that fantastic. Plus I hate bland and diluted coffee! This is one of those interesting places to have a meal at whereby once is enough (for me).

20140223-040605.jpg

Lori’s Diner
336 Mason St
San Francisco, CA, United States
+1 415-392-8646

President’s Day at Pier 39, San Francisco

Day after we touched down on San Francisco was the United States’ President’s Day on February 17th. We took a tram from Parc 55 Wyndham Hotel to Pier 39 aka Fishermen’s Wharf, which was mad crowded. That island on the other side in the picture below, by the way, is Alcatraz!

20140223-022655.jpg

20140223-022635.jpg

We were just in time to catch Tulipmania! PIER 39 is in full bloom with thousands of tulips in all possible shades, and seasonal garden favorites decking the walkways on both levels of the pier.

20140223-022705.jpg

20140223-022712.jpg

20140223-022722.jpg

20140223-022744.jpg

20140223-022734.jpg

20140223-022757.jpg

Taking a shot with the pier! Although it’s my second time at Fishermen’s Wharf, previously it was late evening when I arrived. Sunny afternoons really bring out the vibrance of the wharf.

20140223-022808.jpg

Some of my travel buddies this trip: Sam and Brown! Thanks for the great company, the heart-to-heart talks and the spontaneity.20140223-022825.jpg

The pier is double-decked, so from the upper deck this is basically what the lower deck looks like. It’s pretty much the same everywhere around the pier, except with different shops or diners. And if you’re a shopaholic there’s soooo many shopping to do: a crazy variety of gift shops, Candy Baron, Zip It, Sunglass Hut, Shirtique, SF Underground and so much more.

20140223-022842.jpg

20140223-022849.jpg

20140223-022858.jpg

20140223-022905.jpg

Fulfilling our fascination with carousels. The pier’s central carousel is one of their main photographic attractions and kids line up for it everyday.

20140223-022917.jpg

20140223-022924.jpg

Giving the teddy a HIGH FIVE ^^ he’s like a club bouncer outside the souvenir shop. Sad teddy needed some lovin’.

20140223-022932.jpg

A cupcake patisserie along the second deck. Cannot resist pretty cupcakes! They smelt so good too.20140223-022940.jpg

20140223-022947.jpg

A senior colleague who brought us here was telling us something about this building…not with the sharp pointed head but that one on the left. I cannot remember now!! Something about its resemblance to something…can somebody refresh my memory?
20140223-023000.jpg

20140223-023017.jpg

Will be posting up more snapshots in a while. There are too many food pictures!! This place is known for crabs, clam chowders, and seafood in general. I’m not entirely a fan of seafood but I had some crabs and fish & chips anyway. You have to, it’s Fishermen’s Wharf!

20140223-023040.jpg

Coming to San Francisco for work purposes isn’t the same as travelling on holiday, but I’m glad for friends who brave through jet lags and fatigue with me!! Despite the worsening eyebags, I had a helluva great time. Can’t imagine lazing around in my hotel room all day!! I’ll be like these fat ass sea lions on the wharf. They stink, so bad.

20140223-023055.jpg

Beach Street & The Embarcadero,
San Francisco, CA 94133, United States

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean