I LOST MY HEAD IN SAN FRANCISCO

“I’ve been in love with love and the idea of something binding us together. You know that love is strong enough…”

I couldn’t think of a title so I decided to use lyrics from the Mowgli’s San Francisco. Sorry if the above photo is out of chronological order, wanted to start the post with an “iconic” photo. I’m actually not a huge fan of the Bay but my best friend and boyfriend are from there so… what’s a girl to do? These photos are from Halloween 2016 in San Francisco… yes, you read that correctly. These photos are from last year but I’m going to go ahead and share them anyway.

First stop in the morning was Tartine Manufactory in the Mission District. I am extremely bad with directions so I took Lyft/Uber the entire time I was in San Francisco. You can find their yelp page here.

Strolled around pretty aimlessly after breakfast since I had no set itinerary for the day. I will admit that San Francisco is way more walkable than Los Angeles.

This was actually when I had first gotten my iPhone 7 so I was testing out the portrait mode. Not too shabby huh? I actually barely use this feature because it requires so much light. Nonetheless, all the photos from this post are taken on my iPhone.

Finally got to try The Rebel Within from Craftsman and Wolves. I would highly recommend the panna cotta dessert pictured above (forgot the name, sorry). The Rebel was also delicious and consists of a half-boiled egg inside a muffin. They tend to sell out earlier in the day so I would call ahead just in case.

If you love the arts (which I do), I highly recommend going to the Minnesota Street Project. This was basically a huge warehouse building with multiple galleries inside. There were a ton of things to look at and I definitely spent more time here than expected. Pictures to follow…

I believe I spent at least 3 hours here, but 2 hours should be enough time to get through all the galleries. The shirt above looks really small but it was actually several feet tall. Downside to traveling alone is not having a model to use for scale.

Every Saturday morning there is a Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building. Not sure of the exact time, but come hungry since there are quite a few things to eat here. There was also a lovely stand that sells fresh pasta/ravioli that my friend and I purchased and made for dinner.

I just noticed the guy in the back and gave myself a scare… Wanted to include this and share that Craftsman and Wolves has a stand at the Farmer’s Market.

This is by far the best crab roll that I have ever had and can be found at Woodhouse Fish. If you only have time for one meal in San Francisco, I would highly recommend getting this. I crave this all the time, but unfortunately there is nothing like this in Los Angeles.

Best way to end the trip was a visit to SF MOMA. Didn’t want to overload you guys with photos of art so I just picked a few favorites to include in the post. There are a ton of other things to do in San Francisco that are not included here, but this trip was by far my favorite.

Last but not least, I did mention this trip was for Halloween…

I didn’t get the chance to dress up for Halloween this year because I got super sick (Steven and I had costumes picked out and everything). So here are my costumes from last year. First one is obviously not very exciting and is my go to costume if I am feeling lazy. Second was supposed to be the Snapchat deer filter but I went for a more subtle deer look.

Sorry for the long post! I’ll be back soon with more adventures.

STAYING HOME

Sometimes the best kind of vacation is the one in your own backyard. I am always super busy with school, so a nice staycation is always welcome. Back in March (yes I realize it’s now November), Steven and I had the pleasure of staying at the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood. The photo above was actually our view from the room. The photo turned out a bit gloomy, but it was actually quite a pleasant site to wake up to.

Rule #1 of any vacation for me is sleeping in (if time permits). I usually like to try and get a good nights rest if possible. In complete honesty I break rule #1 all the time. It’s so hard to sleep in when traveling to new cities because there is always so much to do! However, since we were just staying in Los Angeles, we decided to sleep in a little.

Another perk of staying at a hotel is ordering room service. Steven and I usually always stick to Airbnb so this was definitely a treat. Breakfast in bed brought to you by Ivory on Sunset. The food was unfortunately a bit underwhelming and pricey. We did however go downstairs to eat at Ivory on Sunset later on and found their late night menu to be quite tasty. Not sure why there was such a huge contrast from breakfast to dinner, but if you do stay at the Mondrian, I highly recommend going downstairs to the restaurant to eat.

We decided to have a more low-key dinner and walked over to Fig & Olive (it was less than a mile away). This is one of my go to restaurants because the food is always amazing. I would also highly recommend this restaurant for brunch/lunch as well (they are very hassle free with large parties which is a huge plus). There are huge windows that allow for a ton of natural lighting during the day making it a perfect spot for brunch. For dinner, all the lights are brought down, but not to the point where you are sitting in the dark wondering what you are eating. Ambience is key, and Fig & Olive has that down to a T.

You absolutely must order some crostini when dining at Fig & Olive. If you are having any doubts, don’t because they are amazing. There are so many to choose from and I love getting a variety for the table.

My go to entree is the Truffle Risotto. I have had a few other entrees at Fig & Olive but nothing tops this risotto for me. I opted to not get shrimp this time but it pairs perfectly if you are in need of a bit more protein.

After dinner, we headed back to our hotel to check out Sky Bar. We heard a lot of good things about Sky Bar, but was pretty disappointed. The decor is lovely but the bar/pool is actually on the main floor (I expected it to be a rooftop bar). It was also pretty dead for a Friday night since only hotel guests are allowed entry. (Not sure if this exclusivity is working in their favor…)

At the end of the day, Steven and I had a lovely little staycation. This was actually the calm before the storm so to say since we headed straight to Cancun after our stay at the Mondrian. Not sure if I would recommend staying at this hotel since it was quite pricey, but I’m glad I got to discover something new in Los Angeles.

More adventures to come soon! As always, thank you for reading.

WOLVESMOUTH AT THE WOLVESDEN

So I ended up taking a very long (unintentional) hiatus from blogging. How did this happen? School… I have been rather busy running around this semester (though that does not excuse my December absence). Classes have finally quieted down a bit, so I thought I would do a quick blog post.

Back in January (when I still had a life), I had the opportunity of attending Wolvesmouth at the Wolvesden with a close friend of mine. The experience itself is actually quite secretive and you have to do a bit of research to get invitations. I don’t want to give too much of the surprise away so I’ll describe it as a secret society for food lovers.

The dinner consisted of 9 courses (including dessert) and is made with fresh local ingredients. Multiple chefs work together in creating the menu, so it was fun to see them all rushing about in the open kitchen. This first dish is actually short rib… The black mass that looks like dessert in the back is actually a glazed short rib! Really tasty and a great first course to the meal.


The second dish was an albacore gazpacho verde which contrasted the main dish quite nicely. I can’t personally say this was amazing since gazpacho is pretty standard.

I was surprised by this next dish since the main is actually rabbit meat. I definitely do not come across rabbit very often so my opinion on this is a little torn. This main actually turned out to be a lot sweeter than expected. There are actually bits of apple all over this dish and it made the dish a bit too sweet for me.


So this was the first introduction of the “covering”… It definitely was the trend of the night because this circular overlay was used multiple times. I personally believe this made the dishes not as aesthetically pleasing. It unfortunately felt like they were rushed and were just trying to hide the food. This dish (believe it or not) is a duck gyoza with purple yam and squash puree. The veil itself was also made out of squash (just in case you were wondering).


This little duck taco was an addition to the dish above and was actually a lot better than the main. But then again, what doesn’t taste good when drenched in hoisin sauce?! I would definitely say this dish was a twist on Peking duck.


This dish was definitely the beginning of the end for me… Just a simple halibut with mushrooms in creme fraiche. Nothing spectacular about this particular dish either, but it definitely was a play on Japanese cuisine. (The ingredients also listed dashi stock which is the base for tons of Japanese dishes!)


I told you this was going to be a trend… Here you have a rather unspectacular crab cake with some shrimp hiding under a potato covering. What is it topped off with? Squid ink… I’m personally not a huge fan of crab cakes so I’m likely very biased. But then again, this is my blog.


And in continuing with the circular overlay, I present to you pork belly covered in jicama. This dish has a pork al pastor jus which indicates that this was a play on Mexican food… Still not super appetizing and was a little on the sweet side for me. (They used a pineapple reduction!) This rather unspectacular main concludes dinner.

Dessert didn’t want to be left out, so they covered this as well haha… You must think I am the most bitter person ever if I’ve somehow still kept your attention. When it comes to food, I’m generally quite picky so always expect an honest review (full of complaints) if it didn’t live up to expectation. And to be quite frank, I went into this completely blind.

So back to the point! This mysterious dessert hiding under a dark purple blanket is actually a crepe. (Another trend was fusion foods!) Here we have butterscotch with pears topped with a blueberry crepe.


Our final dessert for the night was a pâte sablée (shortbread) with cherries and mascarpone. Not the most visually stunning piece but definitely my preferred dessert of the night. 

All in all, I want to say that I wasn’t too impressed by this particular menu at Wolvesmouth at the Wolvesden. At the end of the day, the meal was too sweet for my liking since I prefer savory dishes. Paying for dinner is also quite anxiety inducing. Rather than charging you a set price, each guest is handed a red envelope. So ultimately the guest gets to decide how much dinner is worth… You have been warned!

Nonetheless, the menu does change every so often, so I might consider giving it another chance. Thanks for reading and I promise to be back soon!

FINDING FALL IN CALIFORNIA

I absolutely adore living in Los Angeles, but this definitely comes at a price (both figuratively and literally). Though “endless summer” is quite pleasant, I sometimes find myself longing for fall. So this past month (back in October), I decided to pack by bags and find fall in California.

The Muir Wilderness sits east north of Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park and is vastly underrated. For this trip, I travelled to the Inyo National Forest for the Big Pines Lakes North Fork Trail. This is actually a pretty intense 16 mile hike that includes about 3,000 ft of elevation gain. I unfortunately ended up only doing the first 2 lakes (which is about 12 miles) and was forced to make the trek back down due to snow. I look forward to coming back here in the warmer months for all 7 lakes!

Processed with VSCO with c2 preset

Found fall at the start of our trail, this counts right? The base of the trail was beautiful, but it definitely got better as we climbed. I believe the weather at the base of the mountain was 75°F, so we made the unfortunate choice of dressing lightly… 

bigpine2

The hike takes up a good 6-8 hours depending on how quickly you are able to climb/adjust to the elevation. We overpacked food and water so our backs were breaking by the end of the trip.

bigpine1

The start of the hike is quite desert-y (yes I realize that is not a real word), and you will notice a change in terrain as you make your way up. The photo on the right is actually quite deceiving. The landscape appears fairly flat in photos, but the first mile or so consists of extremely steep switchbacks.

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

The “halfway” point is supposedly this abandoned ranger’s station. This cabin originally belonged to actor Lon Chaney and was then converted into a ranger station. Not sure why it’s abandoned now, but it makes for a perfect rest stop!

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Unfortunately all the windows and doors are boarded up, but the porch is fair game! The cabin also overlooks a stream so I highly recommend stoping here to enjoy the scene.

bigpine3

I have tons of shots of Connie in front of me with her massive backpacking bag. Her bag was completely full of snacks, drinks and extra clothes. (I carried my own very full backpack as well!) We unfortunately didn’t plan this to be a backpacking trip (too cold), but you can definitely camp along this trail! Just be sure to do some research and to get a wilderness pass. There are also no fires allowed anywhere along this trail so nights can be quite chilly.

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

Not sure if anyone will believe that this was candid, but it genuinely was. Thanks Connie for taking 100+ breaks with me! I was constantly out of breath and was worried about elevation sickness. I would recommend hitting the gym before this particular hike if you’re out of shape like I am.

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

There was snow about 15-20 minutes away from the first lake! I found out later that this was the first snow of the year. This trip was towards the end of October, so plan accordingly and check the weather forecast for the top of the mountain. It was actually 30°F by the time we reached the top! I had a few friends who went at the beginning of the month and they said the weather was comfortable all the way through.

img_5716

Finally reached the first lake! You can’t tell, but I’m secretly freezing to death while taking this selfie…

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

I present to you Lake 1! They’re actually just named in chronological order… So creative right?! The lake is this really beautiful turquoise blue due to glacier run off. Some scientists will argue that this is not true, so don’t quote me on that! There are plenty of places to rest along the lake, but we were too cold to sit still.

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

Made our way up to Lake 2 which is about a 10 minute walk from Lake 1. The water is just as blue, but this lake has a fantastic view of Temple Crag (the large “rock” in the center of the photo). It got really windy and started to snow at this point, so we only stayed for a little while.

bigpine5

Busted out all the layers we had! Definitely a drastic change from the beginning of our trip. Glad we ended up lugging extra clothes with us. We were warm enough, but we could have been better prepared. My excuse is: “I’m from LA and I don’t know any better!”

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

Only got a few shots in on the way down. I was too cold at that point and we wanted to make it to the base before sundown. The hike took us around 6 hours in total, so be sure to start early. I believe we started closer to 11am so we were definitely pressed for time.

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

I apologize for posting this nearly a month later! I realize fall is nearly over and this is not an ideal day hike in the colder months. I was actually very surprised to find such a hidden gem in California. Beaches are fun, but this beautiful state has way more to offer! I hope this motivates you guys to drive out to our national parks/forests! As stated by John Muir:

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness”

As always, thanks for reading! I’ll be back soon with more adventures!

LEARNING TO LET GO

Learning to let go has been a goal of mine in the recent years. Going through hell and back has not only shaped me, but has taught me to grow as a person. During this time I learned to never let someone else take control of my life. I have seen that tomorrow will always bring change, whether it be good or bad. The ultimate lesson though came in the shape of letting go of people (or situations) that were toxic to my well being.

The RiSE Lantern Festival actually took place this past weekend in the Mojave Dessert. The location was rather unspecific but sits about 30 miles outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. This trip was actually a spur of the moment decision for a friend and I. Nonetheless, fueled by our desire to let go (and the chance to wish upon a star), we made the drive out from Los Angeles with no plan and no where to stay.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Since we had a long 5-6 hour drive ahead of us, we quickly fueled up with some avocado toast from Blacktop Coffee. It definitely feels as though avocado toast is synonymous for Californians. You can find a variant of it at almost every brunch location in DTLA.

rise1

Ran into very little traffic on the 10 freeway since we left in the morning. Made a mad dash to a hotel in Las Vegas to where our tickets were being will-called. I thought it was a little strange that the tickets were at a separate location, but things always seem to have a way of working itself out. Thankfully we stopped for the hard copy or else we likely would have been turned away! (You need the bottom tab to collect your two lanterns, mat and pen!)

rise2

Read some reviews from the previous year that stated parking would be a nightmare. The event started around 4pm and we arrived around 5pm. Getting there early actually worked out to our advantage since we were sent back to the car to put our blankets away. (You can basically bring yourself, a camera/phone, a jacket and some water!) The festival grounds are actually a good 15-20 minute walk from the parking lot so come prepared.

Processed with VSCO with k2 preset

After what seemed like an eternity of walking back and forth, we finally reached our destination. It was a relief to see this sign inviting us in. From this point we found something to eat (which took forever), collected our materials and got to writing. I will say that laying on a small mat in the desert is not ideal. I definitely inhaled/rolled in enough dirt for a lifetime. The ground also gets really cold as the sun sets so come prepared with warm clothing.

rise3

The excitement didn’t actually hit me until the first release of lanterns took place. For a lack of better words it was surreal. It looked exactly like the scene from Disney’s Tangled. Though I almost caught fire a few times to low flying lanterns and nearly burned my “dreams,” I realized once more that nothing beats the power of positive vibes. As cliche as it sounds, it was impossible to be in foul mood surrounded by such happiness.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

At the end of the night, we decided to just drive home rather than looking for a place to stay. We left the event around 9:30pm (ends at 10pm) and was surprised to find ourselves out of the lot in less than 30 minutes. Was 12 hours of driving worth it? Definitely! All in all this experience is one for the books and I hope to return in the years to come. Sometimes all we need is a little reminder that magic still exists. Thank you RiSE.

KIJITEI HOEISO RYOKAN

Sometimes I find myself needing a vacation while I’m on vacation. Uhh… Bear with me on that thought before you brush me off as insane. Japan is such an amazing country, and there’s honestly never a dull moment. You are literally always on the go because there is so much to do and see. So what better way to unwind, then to stay at a ryokan and relax in some hot springs.

A ryokan is a traditional Japanese Inn and can be found all over Japan. They’re not as common in the city, but there are tons of ryokans just a short train ride away. Japan also has an amazing public transportation system, so most places are very accessible.

Here’s a quick shout out to the shinkansen (bullet train) for getting me from one place to another so quickly. The shinkansen travels at about 160 mph (257 km/h) so I got to Hakone from Kyoto in under 3 hours. (It would have taken 6 hours by car!)

IMG_3159

Nonetheless, a 3 hour train ride is still quite a bit of time so it’s important to stock up on some food/snacks for the trip. My choice for the day? This amazing bento box that I purchased in Kyoto Station. There’s actually a ton of different bentos you can choose from. I’m super indecisive so I spent at least half hour trying to decide.

IMG_3165

Dozed off on the train and woke up at my destination. Hello Hakone, you were everything I imagined and more! The area does feel extremely rural in comparison to Kyoto and Tokyo. But fear not, because Hakone is a very popular tourist destination. They are quite famous for their onsens (hot springs) so you will see visitors from all over the world.

IMG_3170

There seems to be an ice cream stand around every corner in Japan. Every day is a cheat day when you’re on vacation right? So I absolutely must eat ice cream every chance I get! Okay fine… I didn’t eat ice cream every day, but I definitely ate my weights worth in mentaiko onigiri (rice ball).

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

There’s actually a bus that will take you to your designated ryokan. The buses are located right outside of Hakone Station, so no need to worry about transportation. Finally arrived at Kijitei Hoeiso after a series of never-ending winding roads. I am also happy to report that I did not throw up on anyone due to motion sickness.

The view from the ryokan was truly something else! Most ryokans in Hakone have onsens for guest use. It’s actually customary in Japan to enter an onsen fully nude (there are separate hot springs for men and women). The water is supposed to cleanse you, so you don’t want to contaminate it by bringing “foreign” objects in. The lush backdrop may be aesthetically pleasing, but it also serves as a form of privacy since onsens are outdoors.

Still not comfortable getting naked with strangers? Well fear not, because Kijitei Hoeiso lets you book their onsens for private use. I definitely took advantage of this and spent an amazing 30 minutes just relaxing in the hot spring.

IMG_3176

Ryokans take pride in tradition, so I was immediately served some matcha (green tea) with azuki (red bean) snacks upon arrival. Let me start by saying the rooms at Kijitei Hoeiso are huge! The room in the photo houses your dining table and is later partitioned off to create the bedroom. Keeping true to Japanese tradition, the beds are actually kakebutons (floor futon) which are surprisingly comfortable.

Next to the main room was a small living room with couches, a coffee table and a mini fridge. There was also a very nice balcony, a private entryway, and a huge bathroom with a giant tub.

IMG_3180

In the evening, a traditional kaiseki (multi-course) dinner is served in your room. To say I was spoiled during my stay is an understatement. Each of the dishes were super detail oriented and delicate. This surprisingly turned out to be my favorite meal of the trip!

IMG_3194

IMG_3197

IMG_3201

The meal is compromised of small courses that included sashimi, seafood, mozuku (seaweed), pork, vegetables, eggs and so much more…You definitely get your moneys worth when staying at a ryokan since breakfast and dinner are usually included.

IMG_3219

Dinner even came with this cute little bowl of udon that had a little flame under it to keep it warm. This particular dish is quite simple, and yet I can safely say that this is probably my favorite udon. Can someone please teach me how to make the noodles and broth?

IMG_3222

IMG_3223

The meal also includes yakiniku (grilled meat) for those of you who can’t live without meat. Your server will bring out a small personal stone grill for you to cook on. They’ve pretty much thought of everything to put it simply.

IMG_3228

There’s always room for dessert right? Answer is definitely yes since this is probably the sweetest cantaloupe I have ever had. Oh and next to it is another little surprise wrapped up in a bamboo leaf.

IMG_3231

Low and behold the mysterious looking surprise! Turned out to be clear mochi filled with a sweet paste (possibly vanilla). I’ve had tons of mochi in my life, but clear mochi was definitely a first for me. The overall meal was spectacular and included foods not commonly served in modern restaurants.

I would definitely recommend Kijitei Hoeiso or any ryokan if you are looking to time travel. Photos of breakfast at Kijitei and Hakone to come soon!

Thanks for reliving Japan with me!