January Favorites 2021

Kickin’ off the new year with my January favorites. Lets roll!

$: Thin Mints, Organic Crispy Coconut Rolls

$ Bargain Find

Carne Asada Burrito (Tacos Los Reyes): I’m sure they use lard, but gosh darn it! it tastes so good! If you want authentic Mexican food, Tacos Los Reyes (Yelp Review) in Orange, CA will not disappoint. For $6, I got a carne asada burrito (which I ate for 1.5 meals), chips, and salsa. It’s a steal if you ask me.

Thin Mints (Girl Scout Cookies): I’m confident the vast majority of the internet knows about Girl Scout cookies, but you may not remember when you can get these seasonal munchies! The 2021 Cookie Program ($5 a box) is scheduled to run from January 22 – March 21 and you can get them online here if you don’t have a go-to Girl Scout already.

Organic Crispy Coconut Rolls (Costco): I must be late to the game for these, but these are delicious. They’re sweet, but light and flaky and the price tag doesn’t break the bank. They retail for $7.99 at Costco, but during this month’s January promotion they were $2.50 off for a total of $5.49.

$$ Curry (Marugame), TMS Lip Gloss (The Makeup Shack)

$$ Moderately Priced

Curry Nikutama Udon (Marugame Udon): Japan is a country I’ve been longing to visit and while I likely won’t do international travel this year, Marugame Udon is probably the closest experience I will probably have in experiencing that country. They are an international business with branches all over the world, and six locations in California. I visited the South Coast Plaza branch in Costa Mesa, CA and this cafeteria style foodie spot is a great affordable option. I ordered a large Nikutama $15 and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Lip Gloss (The Makeup Shack): I’ve been a big fan of the curated makeup from The Makeup Shack (IG) in Orange, CA since I started cosplaying. I’ve always loved TMS eyelashes (Review Here) and recently tried some of their other makeup items. Honestly, I’m super impressed with their line of lip glosses. For $8.99, you can add rich colors to your lips that also gives you shine. They work perfectly with my Disney Princess cosplays.

$$$ Corn Garlic Cheese Bread (Calic Bread)

$$$ Splurge

Corn Garlic Cheese Bread (Calic Bread): This Korean Garlic Cream Cheese Bread is not for the faint of heart. It’s ooey-gooey and I’m sure it accounted for my calories for the week. Nevertheless it was worth it. It is a bit of a process to find way to get this, but I outlined some options here. The sourdough loaf itself it $25, but the shipping varies based on where you live.

January’s list definitely has some top contenders for my 2021 Best of List; however, February is going to have an EPIC list, as I’ve already pre-ordered a TON of stuff online. I can’t wait for them to come and share with you. Did you try something amazing this month? Share below!

Until Next Time,

Irene

Best of 2020 – Bargains and Splurges List!

With a new name I figure I should have new content too, and after thoughtful consideration I plan to blog at least once a month to highlight my favorites of that month! But before I jump right into my January Favorites I thought I’d share a few of my BEST 2020 finds. 2020 was a rough year for everyone, and while I think these businesses are the bomb, I want to do my part so that they can stay in business for years to come! So, without future adu here are 2020 Favs!

$ Bargain Finds

Brioche Bread (The Brioche Lady): One of the few entries I did in 2020 was about this amazing little bakery called The Brioche Lady in Fresno, CA. See my entry here and lets just say that I got one of my foodie friends hooked and now her freezer is stuffed with loaves of these breads (and we live about 5 hours away lol). I believe a loaf is $5.50 or $6.50 depending on which flavors you pick.

Hot Chocolate (Timothy Adams): I drank a lot of hot chocolate in 2020, but the BEST Hot Chocolate ever is from Timothy Adams Chocolates in Palo Alto, CA. Read all about it here. For $7.50 you can indulge in the finer things without breaking the bank.

Matcha Toffee Drink (Urban Ritual): The most unique and tasty dessert drink you will probably ever have. I went to Urban Ritual twice in a week which is saying a LOT! But this was worth it. Read my full yelp review and order here. $6.50 for a decadent drink is pretty sweet (pun intended lol)

$$ favorites: Burrito (Taqueria San Bruno), Chimi-Churri Skirt Steak Pizza (Cambalache Grill), Student Noodle & others (Phnom Penh Noodle Shack), Garlic Chicken Pizza (Kech Cafe)

$$ Moderately Priced

Burrito (Taqueria San Bruno): The best burrito I found in 2020 was a surf and turf in San Bruno, CA (Northern California). You can read my full yelp review here, and for about $14, you can enjoy two meals and feel like a king/queen.

Cambodian Noodles (Phnom Penh Noodle Shack): I visited Phnom Penh Noodle Shack in Long Beach, CA pre-pandemic, but it’s been on my bookmarks for a LOOOOONG time. Read my full yelp review here. In short the Student Noodles (roughly $10) were the bomb!

Chimi-Churri Skirt Steak Pizza (Cambalache Grill): Wednesdays have officially become Pizza Night at Casa de Irene, because it’s BOGO Pizza from Cambalache in Fountain Valley, CA. For about $15 you can get 2 pies and please lots of happy family members. They have other types of pies, but the Chimi-Churri Skirt steak is definitely a family favorite and always devoured promptly.

Garlic Chicken Pizza (Kech Cafe): Kech Cafe truly defines the “never judge a book by it’s cover” slogan. Located in a gas station in Fountain Valley, CA, you’ll have a counter with everything made to order. $15 for a pie that will surely scare away all the vampires. Read my full yelp review here, along with other recommendations.

$$$ favorites: Secret Honey Dresses (Mary Poppins, Library Belle, Snow White)

$$$ Splurge:

Cosplay (Secret Honey, Hana Castle): I’ve often wondered where some cosplayers get their Disney Princess outfits and was introduced to this Japanese company called Secret Honey (IG Account) This brand sells cute fashionable outfits, but what makes them special is that they do annual Halloween collaborations with Disney to replicate outfits of popular Disney characters – honestly, their stuff could easily be mistaken as official Disney Parks outfits!

Unfortunately, Secret Honey only sells official licensed items in Japan and a small number of other countries. The US is not among them *cries* However, I was introduced to other company called HanaCastle (IG Account) and they are a third party site that sells untagged versions of those outfits. They also ship nationwide! Untagged means that the product didn’t meet the final inspection for official sale, but I’ve bought a couple Untagged outfits and did not notice any flaws. They’re also usually sold at a discount, but they still cost a pretty penny (Avg. Price $300 – $500 an outfit). I loooooove these outfits, and they photograph beautifully! In 2021 I’m sure I’ll have more professional photos taken, but if you want to see more be sure to follow my Cosplay IG account to see them! Suffice to say I’ve found a new guilty pleasure, and I can’t wait to see what new additions they’ll have this year!

$$$ favorites: Adorkabow custom bows

Adult Bows (Adorkabow): I’m a nerd and dork at the core, and bleed Sailor Moon – so when I found out about this independent shop that does Sailor Moon (and other franchises) inspired hairbows I was super interested. Adorkabow (FB Account) primarily sells Sailor Moon inspired enamel pins; however, Sarah, the founder and artist’s passion is making custom one-of-a-kind bows. I’ve ordered 5 already from her, which should say something! My small bows were around $40 a piece and the large one $60, although she can make extremely elaborate ones for more.

What business did you discover in 2020 that you want everyone to know about? Comment below!

Until next time!

Irene

Finally! The Best Fruit Tart Cake found!

Growing up my dad always bought an asian fruit cake for my birthday. Unfortunately, the cakes were tasteless and less than memorable. However, upon some research a few of my foodie friends raved about the fruit cake at Long Phung Bakery. Could there be a delicious asian fruit cake?

My grandma recently turned 92, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to bring a traditional and familiar sweet, but not too sweet, treat to celebrate. Upon further research I found out that the 1/4 sheet fruit cake (which feeds 20 people) did not need to be ordered ahead of time as that size is readily available and for $30 (a very VERY reasonable price-point), the stars could not have aligned more perfectly.

When you arrive at the shopping plaza, the bakery is nested behind several outdoor plants and tucked away in a corner. I certainly would not have known about this place if I wasn’t looking for it – it truly is a hidden gem. The shop itself is pretty small with a single case of ready-made cakes and many orchids for sale. I would have never thought a bakery and florist to reside in the same space, but it makes perfect sense for any celebration.

The shop keeper hand pipped “Happy Birthday Grandma” on our cake and we were on our way. I paid in cash, as many asian owned restaurants prefer this form of payment, but I’m not sure if they accept credit card, etc. Regardless, I would gladly go to the bank to make a withdrawal because this cake was uh-mazing. The spongy cake at the bottom was light and fluffy, and the puff pastry crunch in the middle gave a really nice texture with the fresh fruit on top. I really enjoyed it as did the rest of my family. Two thumbs up and I definitely will be back to pick up another!

 

XOXO,

 

Rockstar

 

 

Long Phung Bakery

8926 Westminster Blvd

Westminster, CA 92683

Stuffing my face with the BEST chicken pot pie ever!

When most people think of the Ontario area they don’t think of it as a hot foodie destination, but I beg to differ! A couple of my FAVORITE restaurants are located out in the Inland Empire including Marisco Jalisco in Pomona, and Ashiwad The Blessing and Daddy O’s in Upland. Over the weekend, I visited the area again to attend Anime Los Angeles and found another epic spot! Home Pie Bakery & Cafe in Ontario, CA is certainly a place worthy of a visit!

img_2696
Chicken Pot Pie $5.95

This small mom n’ pop shop is located in an unassuming business complex and seems to cater to local businesses for lunch. Their hours are limited as they’re only open from 9am-4pm Monday-Friday. Thankfully, I scheduled a visit for Friday lunch and boy am I glad I did! My friend and I each ordered a savory pie – Roasted Chicken and Leek for me, and Chicken and Mushroom Pie for him. We also shared one hand-held savory pie. Lets just say that we licked the plate clean and are planning to come back here for our next Anime Los Angeles visit.

img_2697Personally, I loved the chicken and leek better than the mushroom. In my opinion the mushroom overpowered the compact dish, whereas the leek and chicken have a much milder flavor. Yet it still made you feel comforted like a warm hug.  It’s such a simple dish, yet the crust was flaky and the chicken was incredibly moist and tender. I’m trying to cut down on my carbs, but I feel this dish was a worthy guilty pleasure.

What dish is your kryptonite?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

 

Home Pie Bakery

1960 S Archibald Ave

Ontario, CA 91761

Devouring Authentic Cheap Tacos in Santa Ana, CA

Over the weekend I was craving for some authentic street tacos and Taqueria Tapatia (Yelp) in Santa Ana, CA was highly recommended by two of my Mexican friends. Located near Santa Ana College this hole-in-the-wall was a poppin’ place at 9pm. Additionally, it was a cash only establishment and 95% of the clientele looked Hispanic so based on my initial observation it was a good sign for it being a legit experience.

Counter

After looking through the menu my friend and I decided to try all their tacos since they were only $1.35 so we grabbed one of each! We did the Al Pastor, Asada (+$.27), Lengua (+$.27), Chorizo (+$.27), Carnitas, Pollo Adobado, Buche, Cabeza, and Birria. After waiting 10 minutes or so the hostess called out our order and the three plates looked so incredibly drool-worthy!

Tacos

I tried a bite of every taco and suffice to say they tasted very authentic. The meats were juicy and the flavors were distinct. I sincerely enjoyed them although I unfortunately had no idea which taco I tried. LOL  However, I do know that I didn’t care for the lengua (beef tongue). I wasn’t a fan of the texture, but all the other tacos were definitely on point and would order again.

What type of taco would you order? Asada? Carnitas? Something else?

 

 

XOXO,

Irene

A Dozen Delicious Tamales Demolished From The Tamale Lady in Chicago, IL

I live in Southern California so I have very high expectations of Mexican food so when I learned that Chicago has a thriving tamale scene I had to see it for myself. After extensive research many reviewers gave high marks to “The Tamale Lady” in Pilsen and raved about her hand-made pockets of joy especially the ones with spicy green sauce. A few even stated that there would be long lines bright and early in the morning and that they were worth the wait.    

Green Chicken (Spicy) and Red Pork (Mild) Tamales

The weather forecasted rain, but since I saw photos of her standing in the snow during the winter months I had no doubt she’d sell her goods in case it poured cats and dogs – and I was right! There was no line at 9am (probably because of the rain and humidity) and she had everything available. I decided to grab a dozen of the tamales with green chicken (spicy) and a half dozen with red pork (mild) to bring back home for my family and friends to enjoy a piece of Chicago. But before packing them up, I took it upon myself to be a guinea pig and taste test one of the red ones. Oh-Em-Gee, it was delicious!! The corn to meat ratio was perfect and the flavor brought everything together cohesively.

Tamale Cart

I recently went to a “must eat” tamale shop in LA recently, and I would rather have the tamales from THIS lady. For $15 a dozen or $1.25 for a single, I would definitely come back and buy more!

Between the two tamales – if you could only have one which would you pick? Red Pork (mild) or Green Chicken (spicy)?

 

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

The Tamale Lady
21ST Pl, Chicago, IL 60608

Hours
Sun – Sat: 7am until they sell out

Thrifting Like a Boss and Scoring Major Deals with Only “$20 in my pocket” in Chicago, IL

It was muggy and moist on the last day of my Midwest Roadtrip and my friend and I didn’t want to go into Chicago proper to explore. Additionally we were scheduled to fly out of O’Hare Airport in the late afternoon so we decided to checkout Little Italy, Pison and other neighborhoods instead. I typed in “thrift” in a couple of search engines as another activity since we had already visited three food destinations and found Village Discount Outlet as a spot to spend some time before eating again. lol

A handy beach bag I bought and will hopefully monogram in the future!

Wow! This chain thrift shop is uh-mazing, and had I known sooner that they had multiple locations and how massive it was I would have probably dedicated entire DAYS to just thrifting. Holy Cow! This warehouse location was massive and there were TWO FLOORS with aisles upon aisles of clothes, household goods, shoes, toys – you name it! and the prices were very VERY reasonable. On top of that if your item had a tag of a particular color there were additional discounts – SCORE!!! I had about 45 minutes to shop, but considering the size of the store I had to speed through my usual sections. I found a several cute dresses, but were slightly big on me including a Calvin Klein, Betsey Johnson, and BCBG brand. I settled on a black Batgirl dress that I planned to wear during a Batman Afterparty at SDCC (I got a LOT of compliments on it). There were some minor alterations that needed to be done, but for $3.50 I was willing to do some hand-sewing! I also bought the pink and white summer bag in the photo above for $5. Not bad considering the time constraint as well as luggage space. lol

Dresses and bags are always things I look for when thrifting. What kind of gems do you love finding?

 

 

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

Village Discount Outlet
2032 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
(866) 545-3836

Hours
Sun: 10am – 6pm 
Mon – Sat: 9am – 9pm

Eating Homemade El Savadorian Food in South Bend, IN

The global culinary adventures continue on my Midwest Trip! Before heading to Chicago, my friend and I wanted to grab a bite before driving to our next destination. We looked through yelp and found this highly rated mom and pop shop. We’ve tried African in Cleveland, Ohio (Post here) and Lebanese in Detroit, Michigan (Post here), so why not try El Savadorian in South Bend, Indiana? Suffice to say, the food was prepared fresh and cost was dirt cheap!

$7 Special: 3 pupusa’s and a drink

When we plugged in the address into the GPS we were very confused by the address since we were driving by multiple residential areas and there wasn’t a shopping plaza or some type of communal area for people to gather. Finally, we pulled up at what we thought was someone’s house (there was a small sign) and entered.     

The establishment was very bare, but on the far side of the wall there was a beautiful painting of women hand-making some pupusa’s. An elder woman (whom I suspected was the chef, host, and cashier) greeted us at the counter. We each ordered the “Special” and soon we were noming on her freshly made creations. There were three flavors, pork/cheese, bean/cheese, and cheese so we decided to do one of each. These pupusa’s had simple ingredients, but because they were freshly made I thoroughly enjoyed them and for just $7 I’d gladly come back for these cheap eats.

Among the flavors which would you try?

 

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

Girasol
525 N Eddy St., South Bend, IN 46617
(574) 251-0073

Hours
Sun: 12pm – 5pm
Mon: Closed
Tues- Fri: 11am – 7pm
Sat: 11:30am – 6pm 

Trying one of Granada Hill’s Best Kept Secret

It’s not often that I travel to this part of Los Angeles, but when my friend bragged about this place in great detail I decided to see what it was all about. On Yelp FurnSaj Bakery and Restaurant is one of a few restaurants with a perfect 5 star rating and with over 700 reviews I figure it was certainly worth a trip to see for myself.

Lamb Gyro Plate ($12.99)

The restaurant is situated in a strip mall and while on the outside it looks like any typical shop this casual bakery has a great selection of Lebanese food for all to enjoy. My friend and I shared a lamb gyro plate ($12.99), which included succulent slices of lamb, two sides and saj bread. we could barely finish half and I ordered another cheese bread with honey ($3.99) because I was curious to test it out. There was way too much food, but everything was prepared on the spot so it was all delicious!

Cheese Labneh Honey ($3.99?)

For less than $20 and two people can enjoy an affordable and tasty meal with ample leftovers. I can’t wait to come back and try some of the other labneh combinations.

 

FurnSaj Bakery and Restaurant

11146 Balboa Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 91344

 

Have you tried Lebanese food? What’s your favorite item?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

Munching at the best Cuban Bakery in Southern California

Carbs are one of my biggest guilty pleasures, so you can imagine when you go on a keto diet and limiting refined carbs has been an enormous struggles. Nevertheless, I do allow myself to indulge in one of my favorite Cuban spots, Portos Bakery every once in a while especially if I work out extra hard. For the past couple of months if I completed 15k- 20k steps at Knotts Berry Farm (Walking off 12lbs post) I would use Portos as a reward for completing the arduous task.

Enjoying the Portos Steak Torta with a side of Plantains

Everything is baked fresh and no matter which location you visit (there’s five) there’s always a massive line of people waiting to select their items. I’ve gotten everything from pastries to sandwiches, to breakfast items to cakes and thoroughly enjoyed them, although my all time favorite item is their fried potato balls! I can never make a visit without eating at least one ball.

Famous Potato Balls

Southern California is super blessed with this bakery and the story behind their success truly is a testament to the American Dream. Rosa, the mastermind, immigrated to the United States from Cuba and used her baking skills to support herself and her family. Fast forward a few years and now there are 5 locations spread across Southern California

 

Portos Locations

7640 Beach Blvd | Buena Park CA 90620

8233 Firestone Blvd | Downey CA 90241

315 North Brand Blvd | Glendale CA 91203

3614 West Magnolia Blvd | Burbank CA 91505

584 S. Sunset Ave | West Covina CA 91790

 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar