Monday, December 28, 2015

Top 10 Stops on The Road to Hana (Maui, Hawaii)

The Road to Hana, as everyone knows, is the number one thing to do on the island of Maui. The drive is one of the most beautiful drives you'll ever do with plenty of great sights to stop at along the way. You can't make all the stops possible on the Road to Hana in one day, so you need to prioritize! Everyone has their own lists and favorites, but there are my top ten stops on The Road to Hana:

1. Twin Falls (mile marker 2)
When the water flow is too high, the upper part of the falls and trail may be closed, so be warned. Otherwise, a short and easy hike will lead you to a waterfall - the first among many on this road. There are also Porta Potties to the left of the hiking trail, and a fruit stand is ready to sell you juices and freshly cut pineapples near the entrance.

2. Huelo Lookout (between mile marker 4 and 5)
There's a nice ocean view from this lookout, but mainly because you can sit and enjoy the view while you're having your breakfast. There's another stand here serving acai bowls, smoothies, and sugar cane juice.

3. Rainbow Eucalyptus Grove (near mile marker 7)
To call it a "grove" is an overstatement, since the grove only has a few trees, but these rainbow eucalyptus trees are worth seeing (and snapping photos of!)
Rainbow Eucalyptus

4. Keanae Peninsula (mile 16.8)
To get to the Keanae peninsula, you have to turn onto the Keanae Peninsula Road around mile 16.8 - you wont' see if from the Hana Highway itself. I almost missed it but I backtracked to find the banana bread shop and so glad I did!

We even caught a beautiful rainbow from the peninsula.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Come for K BBQ, Stay for Uni and Bone Marrow at Hanjip (Culver City, CA)

There's a hot new Korean BBQ spot in town and it's in Culver City. Hanjip is the new restaurant from restaurateur Stephane Bombet and Chef Chris Oh (from Seoul Sausage).

While Chris Oh is mostly doing traditional Korean BBQ and other Korean dishes, he's elevating the soups and stews using bone marrow stock, perfecting side dishes with unusual ingredients, and using very high quality meats.

Most of the banchans are the traditional ones: kimchi, bean sprouts, fish cakes, and the like. There are pickled perilla leaves to eat with the grilled meat and some super fresh tomatoes, just lightly marinated.
I loved the dried squid probably the best.
You can get dishes a la carte or as a combo at Hanjip, and they use high quality ingredients that you can taste on your first bite of meat. For the pork dishes, you have to try the marinated pork shoulder ($26)

Roasted Cumin Spice Lamb ($22) - with spices similar to what you'll find at Xinjiang restaurants or at Feng Mao.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cute Gifts for Tea Lovers at David's Tea

Last minute shopping? If you still need gifts for the tea lover in your life, then check out the new David's Tea stores in LA and the tea and accessories they offer.

I first discovered David's Tea when I was in Banff and glad that this Canadian tea company has made its way to many cities in the US! They have many fun and festive flavored teas and nice packaging. A lot of their teas are blended with fruits and they have creative flavors like yerba mate with pumpkin and spices for the fall.

Davids Tea just opened two stores in the LA area: one at Village at Topanga in Woodland Hills and another in Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance!

I was sent one of their holiday gift packaging - the Tea for the Tree set, and a porcelain tea mug ($15) - the navy mug with gold berry branch design is festive and perfect for the holiday season.


Tea for the Tree set ($20) comes with four Christmas ornaments, each filled with a different holiday inspired tea like Banana Nut Bread and Snow Day. If you want smaller gifts for more people, each ornament comes with its own gift tag so you can gift them separately! They'd make for a great stocking stuffer as well.
Each ornament comes with enough tea to make 4-5 cups. I personally drink a lot of tea, but it's hard to gift tea at times since they often come in a plain bag. These ornament containers, on the other hand, are so adorable!

If you're shopping for a last minute gift tomorrow at in Woodland Hills or Torrance, be sure to check out these new tea stores!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Taste on Melrose (West Hollywood, CA)

by guest blogger @btsunoda

When the food and ambiance come together, a restaurant becomes a special place. Taste in West Hollywood is cute, hip, and not a pretentious place. Until recently, the only negative on the place was that it was small.

Taste on Melrose recently expanded their restaurant and added a courtyard and an Atrium. The  Zen-like courtyard was built in the rear of the original building which gives diners an al fresco option. 
Owners John Halter and Morten Kaag transformed a small dress shop into a romantic and stylish addition complete with a full bar and kitchen. The Atrium is attractively decorated and equipped with spot lighting which adds to the ambiance. A skylight offers daytime diners some nice indirect lighting.
The Atrium was built to serve different purposes. First, they needed more space added to the original restaurant and having the Atrium can address the overflow. With its own full bar and kitchen, It is also ideal for private parties; it even has a separate entrance.

I was recently hosted for dinner after the Atrium was opened. Our dinner started with the kale and persimmon caesar salad.
This salad was extremely colorful and I thought that the addition of persimmon and garlic married the ingredients nicely. Many chefs offer “seasonal” menus and it’s enjoyable for me to see the winter offerings.

Albacore tuna tataki included avocado, cucumbers, scallion, toasted sesame seeds, shallots with a Jalapeno Soy Citronette. This is a nice small bite starter that would pair with a white French (e.g., their Louis Latour, Montagny) or Pinot Gris wine.
The pear bruschetta with gorgonzola, caramelized onions and walnuts appetizer was very simple and I got addicted to it quickly. I went for seconds on this tasty starter.

One of their signature dishes, the White Truffle Mac and Cheese was served. What I particularly enjoyed about the dish was the inclusion of slivered crimini mushrooms. The buttery taste and the white truffle oil will delight your senses.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Barking Crab (Boston, MA)

Barking Crab is a tourist spot but it's also an institution in Boston's Fort Point. It's a casual seafood spot - in a tent with a view of the water and the city of Boston. With that New England clam shack-like setting and the faux grass in a heated tent, Barking Crab is a meeting place that feels like summer all year long.

Barking Crab
Just like a seafood shack would, drinks are served in plastic cups. Moscow mules, mojitos, and other refreshing drinks are available - they tend on the sweet and strong side.
Barking Crab

Obviously, I had to try the crab at Barking Crab. They offer three types and I chose the one I haven't had before: Bairdi crab ($31)
Barking Crab

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Kaki Lima Pop-Up at KO Pies at The Shipyard

I can't find any Indonesian restaurant in Boston. But at least, there is an Indonesian pop-up called Kaki Lima, put on by Chef Retno Pratiwi who is Indonesian and is serving authentic Indonesian food. Before, her pop-up only happen a couple nights here and there and consists of a prix-fixe menu, but she recently started serving her Indonesian cooking at KO Pies at The Shipyard in East Boston on Monday and Tuesday nights, with an a la carte menu.

That made it much easier for me to go and try her food! I dragged a friend of mine to The Shipyard, a rather suspicious drive to storage and warehouses ("did you bring me here to kill me?") but we finally saw KO Pies.

I started with some Siomay Bandung ($8). The steamed dumplings here are made with shrimp and served with the signature Indonesian peanut sauce and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)

Kaki Lima Boston
The dumplings are a bit small for $8 for 4 pieces but the flavors are spot on!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Gateways Inn and Restaurant in Lenox, MA. Relaxing in The Berkshires.

As part of my reviews of Select Registry, an association of bed and breakfasts, inns, and small hotels in the US, I stayed at Gateways Inn in Lenox, Massachusetts. Back in the Berkshires!

Gateways Inn
Gateways Inn is housed in a building that used to be the summer cottage of Harley Procter of Procter & Gamble and is now an 11-room inn.
Gateways Inn
I stayed in the Rosalind room, adorably decorated in light blue.
Gateways Inn

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Epic Foie Gras Heaven, Au Pied de Cochon (Montreal, Canada)

I had a great foodie trip to Montreal earlier this year, and of course, one of the highlights was the famed Au Pied de Cochon, also affectionately known as PDC. I went there for a foie gras-filled dinner that was unforgettable.

Au Pied de Cochon

To start, combining this rich and delicious favorite of mine with the quintessential Canadian dish was the Foie Gras Poutine ($24, Canadian dollars, obviously)
Au Pied de Cochon
The fries were duck fat fries - crispy and doused in house gravy. Chunks of amazing foie gras and cheese curds made this possibly the best poutine ever.

As if foie gras was not decadent enough, there's the breakfast dish of your dreams: Plogue a Champlain ($29)
Au Pied de Cochon
Buckwheat pancake, Canadian bacon, potato, egg, and foie gras in maple syrup reduction.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Hawaii Reviews

Alan Wong's Restaurant
Hiking Diamond Head
Kahala Resort (hotel review)
Tamura's Fine Wine & Liquor

Top 10 Stops on the Road to Hana
Top 7 Eats in Maui

Best Shaved Ice in Kauai
Guide to Cheap Eats in Kauai

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Mini Tasting Menu at Journeyman (Somerville, Boston, MA)

Journeyman is a small restaurant hidden in Somerville that only serves tasting menu. They're also one of the few (only?) spot in Boston that uses a ticketing system, and prices for the same menu vary depending on the time of your reservation. If you book a normal reservation, the 9-course tasting menu is $95. If you prepay by buying a ticket, the ticket is $85. But if you want to dine at a non-peak time - say, a Wednesday at 9pm, it's cheaper still at $75.

My friend and I wanted to go for cheaper still, and Journeyman also has a deal for diners who come on Wednesday, Thursday, or Sunday evenings after 8:30 pm. During this time, you can get a 4-course meal for $40! We sat at the counter and our meal started with a nice bread service.

Since it's next to Backbar, they also have a daily milk punch menu.

Our first course: Icelandic char, fennel puree, roasted sunchokes, chorizo oil, apricot gel, mizuna green

I'm partial to char ever since I went to Iceland and had a great arctic char at Blue Lagoon. I loved the crispy skin on this char. The flavors come together nicely in this dish and the chorizo oil added just the right amount of kick.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ticket Giveaway: LA Weekly Sips & Sweets

Are you the type to dread holiday shopping? Well, even if you're not, holiday shopping while eating desserts and drinking cocktails sounds way better, doesn't it?
That's where LA Weekly's Sips & Sweets event comes in.

On December 12, Sips & Sweets brings together over 20 bakeries and pastry chefs, over 20 mixologists, and 20 craft and artisan vendors for an evening of drinking, shopping, and eating.
Grab a light dinner and head over for some desserts from Craft, Cake Monkey Bakery, Choctal, Salt & Straw and many more. There will be cocktails prepared by bartenders from Terrine, Corazon y Miel, The Varnish, Sassafras, Faith & Flower, among others. The Vendor Village will have all kinds of gift options from the edible ones to jewelries and even dog beds.

The event starts at 8pm, and the advance pricing (before November 29) is $40 for general admission, or you can buy the VIP ticket for $60 and get early admission plus a special gift bag. You can buy the tickets here, or try your luck with the giveaway below!

I'm partnering up with LA Weekly to give away 2 general admission tickets. Just follow the directions below, and good luck! :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sidecar Doughnuts and Egg in a Donut, Now Open in Santa Monica

Sidecar Doughnuts in Costa Mesa was one of those places on my list for my few visits beyond the Orange Curtain, but now they opened another location in Santa Monica! The new location is certainly way easier for Angelenos to try Sidecar's beloved donuts.

Sidecar Donuts

What should you get at Sidecar? Well, I've gone to the Costa Mesa location and I've tried a few items there, from seasonal flavors to their popular Huckleberry (made with real Oregon huckleberry) or Butter and Salt donuts. These donuts are good, but they're cake doughnuts. Cake doughnuts are good, but my heart lies with raised donuts. On that note, meet my very favorite donut at Sidecar: Country Ham & Eggs
Sidecar Donuts

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Chef Dan Barber Tackles Food Waste with Delicious Fare

I don't often have guest bloggers that I don't assign a particular restaurant write for my blog, but food waste is a problem that I've always been interested in. America waste 70 billion pounds of food each year. Let that number sink in a bit. Ashley is also passionate about this issue, so I agreed to have her publish a post here to promote what she's trying to do in educating people on food waste!

This blog post originally appeared on Ending Food Waste ( and is written by Ashley Gelineau (, a food activist looking to educate people on food waste and its impact on the environment.

In many cultures, cooking with food remnants that we in the United States deem ‘waste food' is common, and often encouraged. Home and professional chefs around the world have been creating delicious meals from whatever they have for years; this isn’t anything new. That said, many of us in America simply haven’t experienced the marvels of making something tasty out of scraps when it comes to food. 

In a recent article by The Guardian A chef’s Manifesto: Let’s Tackle Food Waste with Good Fare (, Dan Barber’s philosophy on this exact matter is brought to light. The article states, "Waste is central to Dan Barber’s cooking, and yet, he’d rather you didn’t sense that when you eat it. In fact, if you’re experiencing anything other than sublime thoughts when you taste his food, he’ll consider it an unsuccessful dish.”

Dan Barber is the executive chef at the famous Bluehill Restaurant in Manhattan, as well as Stone Barns in upstate New York.  He recently released a book called The Third Plate, in which he writes about sustainable cuisine practices that explains his core belief; stop TELLING people to cut food waste and start using it to make irresistibly delicious dishes.  To attain this goal, he transformed his restaurant into a pop-up called wastED. The menu contained “fried-skate-wing-cartilage” , “pock-marked potatoes” and “carrot-top marmalade."

Many Cultures Use ‘Waste Food’, Why Not America?

Barber claims that America is an anomaly because we’re such a young country. “…When we came over here we had all these virgin soils. You’d put a seed in the ground and it became a garden of eden. We’ve never been forced into the kind of negotiation where we develop dishes that take full advantage of what the landscape can provide. In many other parts of the world the idea of a waste dinner wouldn’t be possible, or if it were possible it would be appealing to the very elite and wealthy [because ‘waste food’ doesn’t really exist].”  It’s in a chef’s DNA to turn something that is ugly or uncoveted into something that is delicious and desirable for the ‘eater.’ Cultures around the globe have been doing this since the dawn of time; it’s time for America to follow in their footsteps.

Back in September, Barber and Sam Kass (former senior advisor for nutrition policy at the White House), made headlines when they served waste food to world leaders in a meeting at the United Nations. The menu? A vegetable burger made of the pulp left over from juicing and fries created from the starchy corn that would typically go into animal feed. “It’s the prototypical American meal but turned on its head. Instead of the beef, we’re going to eat the corn that feeds the beef,” said Barber.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Hojoko, A New Izakaya in Boston, MA

When the owner of O Ya, Tim Cushman, opened up Hojoko, everyone was naturally excited about the new izakaya in the Fenway Kenmore neighborhood. The large restaurant is located inside the Verb Hotel and has a cool funky vibe. They also play anime movies on the back screen!

Food-wise, Hojoko is good, but the menu can be hit-or-miss, not for the flavors necessarily, but for the price.

One of the items I would recommend ordering is the Torched uni, soy, olive oil, shiso, parsley, nori butter, toast ($14)
They gave a good amount of the creamy uni, though the star of the dish is the umami-packed nori butter. You don't want to give that up even after you're done with the toast! This is definitely one of their more unique and creative dishes.

Funky chicken ramen (rich chicken broth, soy egg, menma, robata-grilled koji chicken). This used to be $9 which was a great deal but they've raised the price to $12 last time I returned.
It was still a lovely bowl of ramen, though, especially if you're looking for something lighter than the usual, rich tonkotsu broth. And I do love the grilled chicken that it came with.

Hojoko's cocktail list is a fun one, though. There are Asian inspired drinks like the Chiyoda G&T (Beefeater gin, ponzu, avocado oil, tonic, black sesame, $12)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Chinese Porridge at Lu's Garden (San Gabriel, CA)

As it's getting colder where I live (and a tiny bit in LA too), I'm missing one of my old favorite SGV spots: Lu's Garden. I love getting porridge here and ordering all kinds of side dishes.

They have all kinds of dishes displayed in deli cases, which you can order with rice or porridge (go with porridge). There's grounnd pork, tofu skin, pork intestine, braised pork and eggs, various vegetables, Chinese sausage, and just so many more. You can pay for each item or get a 3-item combo (the way to go if you ask me).

Lu's Garden

My favorite combo to eat with the porridge is some ground pork with tofu skin and pork intestines, but of course, there are a lot of options for everyone. After all, the best thing with Chinese porridge isn't just the porridge but all the things you're eating it with. It's not for everyone, of course, with the more adventurous items on the menu.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Happy Hour at Estate Restaurant and Bar (Santa Monica, CA)

by guest blogger @btsunoda

When the conversation at the next table is easier to hear than the person that I’m eating with, I’m generally not having a good time. This type of occurrence has been more frequent of late because many restaurants have adopted a bistro format with small tables and uncomfortable chairs. I recently had the opportunity to visit Estate Restaurant and Bar to experience their new happy hour menu, and luckily, Estate's layout provided plenty of space to diners to be comfortable.
The interior of the Estate Restaurant and Bar is a modern take on what restaurants used to be like. Estate Restaurant and Bar has different seating areas and plush booths and individual seats. Because they don’t attempt to use every square inch of the restaurant, there is a general feeling of spaciousness. Even the bar has cushioned comfortable chairs.

Their happy hour menu had plenty of discounted food and drinks. We started off with the Tuna Crispy Wonton Tacos  ($9)
Instead of frying taco shells, they use wonton shaped like a tortilla, just like classic tuna tartar. The contrasting colors and textures were both visually stunning and delicious. The tuna was fresh and the ginger nicely enhanced the tuna.

Char siu pizza with hoisin sauce? I had to see what that was all about.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Tasting at Clio (Boston, MA)

I read recently that Clio, one of Ken Oringer's restaurants in the Eliot Hotel in Back Bay will be closing while Uni (also his restaurant) will be expanding into its space. I was a bit bummed by it since I recently tried Clio and enjoyed it. So, I thought I would blog about my experience there before they close, in case you guys would be enticed to go try it out! Plus, it's one of the only photos I took with my new Sony a6000 before it was stolen when my house got broken into the second time ... sigh.

Anyway, I had grabbed a Gilt City deal for a tasting menu at Clio, which was a pretty good deal for this restaurant. Clio has had a number of great bartenders behind the bar and albeit some have moved on to new restaurants, they still had a nice cocktail menu when I went. Being a root beer lover (don't give me that Dr. Pepper nonsense), I obviously went with the Sarsaparilla Flip (sarsaparilla spice rum, root beer reduction, egg white, nutmeg brulee, $14)


Dinner starts with an amuse bouche of nori with white umami cream cheese, lemon cream cheese - a rich umami bomb.

The first course was a Chilled Courgette (zucchini, basically) Soup, marinated mussels, rose geranium, truffle vinaigrette

The soup is a local marrow squash with smoked salt foam.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Hotel Review: Brook Farm Inn (Lenox, MA)

Fall is a great time to visit Massachusetts, especially towards the mountains. I used the opportunity to visit The Berkshires for some leaf peeping, staying at a Select Registry property, Brook Farm Inn in Lenox. Time for some fall foliage!

Brook Farm Inn

Brook Farm Inn is a small, cute inn/bed and breakfast set in a cottage built in 1882.
Brook Farm Inn

I was staying on the 3rd floor, in The Poet's Room. It's a cozy and romantic room.
Brook Farm Inn

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

IONutrition: Ready to Eat Organic, Gluten Free Meals

As I get older, somehow I feel like I'm always busy. When I was in college, I was taking 5 classes and had 3 part time jobs and had no problem doing that. Now I have one job and one blog (OK, and doing random things here and there), but I always feel like I never have time for anything! Like cooking dinner.

I mean, cooking just takes a lot out of me! But as they say, if you want to eat healthy, you need to eat at home. Well, luckily, I got to do that for a few days thanks to IONutrition who sent me some samples of their meals. IONutrition delivers chef-prepared, organic, gluten-free meals to your door.

Catfish with lentils
The company is based in Chino Hills, CA, but they package everything up and ship nationwide. They deliver weekly and the meals are sealed and keep for a while.
IO Nutrition
It's easy to heat them up just with a microwave or oven.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Island Creek Oyster Bar (Boston, MA)

When out of town family or friends visit me in Boston, they (naturally) ask for seafood, so I end up at Island Creek Oyster Bar quite a few times. Really, the trio of restaurants/bars at Hotel Commonwealth is a trifecta of amazing spots dangerously easy for a food/drink crawl. Starting with dinner (and drinks) at Island Creek Oyster, you can move next door for cocktails at The Hawthorne, and then keep going for late night eats and more cocktails at Eastern Standard.

But back to Island Creek Oyster Bar first, a mecca of fine seafood in the Fenway Kenmore area. It's started by the people behind the Island Creek Oyster farm down in Duxbury, MA, so you know they're getting their Duxbury oysters super fresh directly from the farm.

They have a nice variety of the freshest oysters. A lot of them come from Duxbury, and naturally while the other varietals rotate, they always have Island Creek oysters.
Island Creek Oyster
A great place to sample some varietals you haven't tried before.
Bread with honey butter

Their most popular appetizer is perhaps the oyster slider ($4 each)
A crispy fried oyster is served between brioche bun with lime chile aioli.

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