Best of 2022 – Bargains and Splurges List!

After months of exploring locally and across the pond I’ve compiled my absolute favorite finds from 2022! Be sure to bookmark these spots for 2023!

$ Bargain

Thrift (Cats Protection – Newcastle upon Tyne Charity Shop): I’ve been to my fair share of thrift shops and among the many shops I visited in the UK, Cats Protection had the best selection of ready to wear apparel at very reasonable prices. I bought my new favorite black wool coat (£10), 2 dresses (1 for £4 and the other £8), a necklace (I think £4), and a Pusheen bag (£2.5). All proceeds benefit cat rescue, education, and protection. Read more here.

Thrift (Veteran’s Thrift): I was looking for a few basic items for an upcoming costume and found several very fair priced items at the Veteran’s Thrift Shop in Chula Vista, CA (San Diego). You’ll need to dig, but there were gems to be found! Read more here.  

Dragonfruit lemonade (Healthy Juice): I’ve walked past this fruit cart several times when I visited LA Chinatown and thought to try them out. They allow guests to sample their beverages and mix them up! I decided on a dragon fruit and lemonade/chia seed concoction and it was so refreshing! I think regular was $4 and large was $5 – which is a steal considering they use all fresh fruit! You can check out their IG here.

Mochi (Shuei-Do Manju Shop): Authentic Japanese confectionary treats are always a fav of mine and the Butter Mochi at Shuei-Do Manju Shop in San Jose, CA was a star treat! A piece is $2 and most people will get a tray of at least 4, 6, 8 (or more). Check out my full review here.

$$ Moderate

Thrift (Save The Children Charity Shop): One of the nicest looking thrift shops I’ve ever visited is this mid-sized store in Clifton Village (Bristol), UK. They carry many designer and mid-high range items and honestly, you’d never know that you were at a charity shop. All proceeds benefits Save The Children, which is a cause I can stand behind. I bought this fuchsia pink dress for £20 and I absolutely love it! Read more here.

Baked Catfish Springrolls (Nam Giao Restaurant): Everyone inside this Garden Grove, CA restaurant was Vietnamese so I figured this was a local favorite. My friend and I shared a Medium Catfish (which I think was $40ish), though we probably could have gotten away with a Small, carved the flesh and plopped it into our Vietnamese burrito. Read full review here.

Harry Potter Backstage Tour (Warner Brothers Studio Tour London): Tickets for the WB Studio Tour London were a nightmare to get (and I’m not sure if it’s because they limited the number of timed tickets or if everyone just wants to go on vacation – probably a combination of both), but it was worth it (!!!) since it was my favorite memory on my entire London trip. There were a couple of interactive experiences, and I just loved reading about the details about the sets and seeing props/costumes etc. On my visit they opened up a new Mandrakes Greenhouse Exhibit which had great photo/video opportunities. Tickets were £49.50 (Roughly 60ish USD with tax for a single adult) If you’re a Potterhead you HAVE to come visit – but I recommend if you’re able to making those reservations at least 6 months out. See full review here.

Falafel Bowl (Sababa Falafel Shop): Anaheim, CA is known for Mediterranean food and Sababa Falafel Shop was a fantastic find. $10.99 bowl of misc veggies, seasoned rice, and sauces, (hummus + $1) plus falafel was a perfect way to end the day. Read my entire review here.

Duck Banh Mi (Cafe Bunn Mi): I’ve eaten a lot of banh mi’s in my lifetime, but the Duck Banh Mi at Cafe Bunn Mi definitely wins for elevated comfort food. Located in the heart of San Francisco, this hipster joint serves up made to order banh mi’s. For $13.04 it’s pricey, but the duck meat is just so incredibly juicy and succulent, and paired with the fluffy baguette and tangy slaw it was a masterpiece. *Chefs Kiss* Read more yelp reviews here.

$$$ Splurge

Sashimi (Sushi Ota): This San Diego, CA sushi bar has been on my bookmarks for a long time and finally I got to cross it off! I did a omakase ($130), and while everything was tasty, the sashimi was to die for! The raw seafood is definitely worth a visit. Read about my entire experience here and tips here!

Theater Performance (Harry Potter & The Cursed Child): Watching Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was a huge splurge as tickets were £199 (roughly 241.75 USD) for Orchestra 12 rows back; however, you must know that you’re watching two shows (so it’s an all day event). The special effects and the way they utilized the stage was really cool, and I enjoyed the storyline. Read all my tips here.

Tea Time (The Ritz London): If you want to experience the glitz and glamor of high society book yourself a tea time at the Ritz London. It’s hard to convey into words how regal and exquisite the experience is but I definitely think it’s worth checking out. Tea time was £67 per person (roughly 95 USD). Read full review here.

Michelin Star Dinner (Da Terra): My friend and I decided that we were going to treat ourselves to a really extravagant meal in London to celebrate our survival of the school year. After extensive research I picked Da Terra and this restaurant gave me the best meal of my life. At £189 per person, this omakase experience is not cheap; however, considering the four hour experience and over 30 unique items presented (all of which I loved) and the fact that I did not leave hungry makes this a more than worthy awardee for my June favorites. I wrote more extensively about my experience here on yelp and posted many photos (Part 1Part 2Part 3) on IG. Maybe one day I’ll do a dedicated post on the dishes Chef Rafael presented in a future post.

Until Next Time,

Irene

December Favorites 2022

These are a few of my favorite things… Enjoy!

$ Bargain

Free Nativity Scene Exhibit (The Creche): I believe this is an annual event, but I was made aware of this free exhibit in Fountain Valley, CA. It’s free to enter and in the auditorium they have a 100 or so nativity scenes as expressed by different countries in the world (including a galaxy far far away). I really enjoyed seeing all the different materials used and the creativity at work. They also have local high schools and organizations perform as well. This year it was held during the first weekend of December. Check out their instagram page for more info.

$$ Moderate

Thai Food (Ruen Pair):  Great inexpensive and authentic Thai food in the heart of Thai town (Los Angeles, CA) is a winner in my book. The portions are generous so come in a small group (four is ideal) so that you can try many different dishes. The papaya salad, Tom Yum soup, and pineapple fried rice are bomb and roughly $15 a plate. Pad See Ew is also a solid choice! Read more here!

Comic Convention (Los Angeles Comic Con): If you’re looking to experience a San Diego Comic Con kind of convention but haven’t successfully secured your tickets through their lottery system, Los Angeles Comic Con (in Los Angeles, CA) is a great alternative and you don’t have to fight over tickets. They always a great range of celebrity guests on year they got Amy Jo Johnson (Pink Ranger from MMPR), Simu Liu (Shang Chi), and many more. Additionally, they have a lot of cool panels, vendors, artists, and exhibitors. This convention had historically been in October, but it looks like moving forward it’ll be a December convention. Single day starts at $35 + fees for adults and $95 +fees for a three day.  

Pop Person (Funko Hollywood): I’m lucky enough to get to attend premieres and sometimes get autographs from the celebrities in that feature. One of my favorite ways to commemorate the meeting is by purchasing a Funko Pop of that actor’s character and getting his/her signature. Well now we also can customize ourselves and get our very own Funko Pop with our own qualities. For roughly $25 I designed myself at the Funko Store in Hollywood, CA and thought it was so meta. Read about my entire experience here.

$$$ Splurge

Boodle Fight (Lola’s by MFK): Curious about eating with your hands? In traditional Filipino culture a Kamayan feast (or a boodle fight) is where an assortment of food is spread across banana leaves. This communal gathering does not allow for utensils and Lola’s by MFK in Anaheim, CA has a lot of protein options. On my visit our party of 10 paid about $55 each (including tip), which does lean on the more expensive side, but it’s a fun experience to try at least once. Read more here.

Hotel Stay (Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel): I came here with my family for my mom’s birthday. At $500 a night this was definitely a splurge, but the shower and bath robes felt very luxurious. Read more here.

I do want to note that while I did/am traveling to Barcelona, Spain this month I will hold those favorites in January so that I can get a better grasp on which of those are indeed the best finds. Happy holidays!

Until Next Time,

Irene

November Favorites 2022

Here are my November favorites!

$ Bargain

Kimbap (Sodam): If you’re looking for an inexpensive, light snack the Fishcake Kimbap at Sodam in Dublin, CA will fit the bill. A tray of the homemade rolls go for around $7.50. Read about my entire experience here.

$$ Moderate

Baked Catfish Springrolls (Nam Giao Restaurant): Everyone inside this Garden Grove, CA restaurant was Vietnamese so I figured this was a local favorite. My friend and I shared a Medium Catfish (which I think was $40ish), though we probably could have gotten away with a Small, carved the flesh and plopped it into our Vietnamese burrito. Read full review here.

Fried Fish & Clam Chowder (The Codfather): My favorite find during my last minute Vegas trip is The Codfather in Henderson, NV. I ordered the Haddock for $12.50 and it was probably the best fried fish I’ve ever had. The meat was so buttery and the fried exterior has a nice crisp taste to it. Chowder was awesome as well. Read all about it here.

$$$ Splurge

Mediterranean Food (Desert Moon Grill): If you want truly authentic Middle Eastern Food, Desert Moon Grill in Anaheim is some of socal’s best. I ordered a Mix plate which has a little bit of everything for $29.99 and it was devine. Read my full review here.

Blossam (Jangmo): If you want authentic and tasty Korean food, that’s not bbq and tofu, Jangmo in La Palma has some really great traditional comfort dishes. My favorite was the Blossam, which is pork belly and veggies. You eat them like a korean burrito. They’re meant to be an appetizer and shared, but I ate that as my meal lol. I think it’s around $30 for the plate. My full writeup is here.

Hotel (Madonna Inn): I’ve driven by the Madonna Inn sign several times on past roadtrips and decided to spend a night there to check it out. I picked the Wilhelm Tell Room, which has an apple motif and a rock waterfall shower (very very cool). It was $407.47 a night including all the fees. Read all about my experience here.

Smoked Tea Duck (Z & Y Restaurant): Located in SF Chinatown this Michielin recognized Szechuan restaurant has a fabulous duck that you have to try. The bird itself was $28.95 plus an extra $10 for the wrap and condiments. So worth it. See what other things I tried there as well here!

Strawberry Shortcake (Bakery 101): $55 for a 8 inch cake is on the high side for me, but if you’re looking for that not too sweet classy dessert to serve your Asian family and/or friends this will not disappoint. Located in Santa Ana (it’s very closer to South Coast Plaza actually), this Japanese French style bakery has some amazing cake! See my full writeup here.

Until Next Time,

Irene

October Favorites 2022

Hi everyone!

To be honest October wasn’t a great month for discoveries. I’ve been swamped with personal and work responsibilites, so going has been rather limited. The couple of hole-in-the-wall shops that I did visit were very mediocre or bad, and I had a couple of problems with commissions, so this month will highlight my tried and true go-tos!

Top Row: Brodard; Bottom Row: Meal Prep Sunday

$$ Moderate

Spring Rolls (Brodard): When I feel like eating something light and consistently good I always resort to Brodards. I think I’ve been here three times just this month. Based in Fountain Valley, CA this mom n’ pop shop is a local favorite among the Vietnamese community. They did increase their price slightly to 4 pork spring rolls are $10, but it’s well worth the price.

Ready to go meals (Meal Prep Sunday): I’ve been working a lot of long hours in the office since this month is peak college application season and unfortunately, I haven’t been able to meal prep regularly. Regardless, this San Diego, CA delivery service makes healthy organic meals and delivers them to the Southern California area on Sunday morning. Each meal is roughly $12 and I’ve been doing either 5 (lunch) or 10 (lunch & dinner) depending on the week. The flavors are good and I’m glad that I get to eat something different for each meal (versus when I cook I’m eating the same thing for several days). You can check them out here.

The month of November should be much better and I should be able to highlight some amazing hidden gems as I have Norcal roadtrip planned and several spots bookmarked. So stay tuned!

Until Next Time,

Irene

July Favorites 2022

Wow! We are more than halfway done with 2022 and I got to experience many firsts in the month of July! I traveled quite extensively that month and my favorites will include gems from London, and Southern California (San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange County)! Please enjoy!

$: British Museum, OC Fair, Harry Potter Statue

$ Bargain

Harry Potter Statue (Harry Potter Statute): Come see the boy who lived immortalized! Located in Leicester Square, London, guests can see a young Harry Potter flying on a broomstick. It’s in a park that’s accessible for everyone and is a cool photo opt! See more here.

Museum (The British Museum): The British Museum in London, UK is enormous and has a very robust collection from all over the world. Entrance is free, and guests can easily spend hours here. Read more here.

Shopping (OC Fair): The OC Fair is one of my favorite things to do in the summer. Entrance fee is $12 and must be done online through Ticketmaster. You can go shopping, look at contest winners and watch shoes (The Alaskan Pig Race is my favorite).

$$: D23 Afternoon Mixer (Top, Middle), Ethopian Food (Left two photos), Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour

$$ Moderate

Indian Dinner (Tayyabs): I ate at quite a few Indian restaurants in London, but Tayyabs was my favorite. Their dry meat was so extremely succulent and tender, but everything there was fragrant and delicious. Read more here.

Harry Potter Backstage Tour (Warner Brothers Studio Tour London): Tickets for the WB Studio Tour London were a nightmare to get (and I’m not sure if it’s because they limited the number of timed tickets or if everyone just wants to go on vacation – probably a combination of both), but it was worth it (!!!) since it was my favorite memory on my entire London trip. There were a couple of interactive experiences, and I just loved reading about the details about the sets and seeing props/costumes etc. On my visit they opened up a new Mandrakes Greenhouse Exhibit which had great photo/video opportunities. Tickets were £49.50 (Roughly 60ish USD with tax for a single adult) If you’re a Potterhead you HAVE to come visit – but I recommend if you’re able to making those reservations at least 6 months out. See full review here.

Disney themed party (D23 Afternoon Mixer): The D23 Afternoon Mixer at the Punchbowl Social in San Diego was so much fun! It’s an annual two hour event held during San Diego Comic Con (with different themes each year). Attendees enjoy games, food, and character meet n greets. Admission was $30 per person, but you must be a D23 Gold Member to attend. Watch TikTok Video here and see more IG photos here.

Ethiopian Food (Fresh Ethiopian Food): Inglewood, CA has really great ethnic food and Fresh Ethiopian Food was no exception. The Veggie Platter is $17 for one, $34 for two and Lamb Tibs $18.99 (one portion). Really delicious and aromatic food for a reasonable price. Click here for more info.

$$$: Ritz London Afternoon Tea (Left Photos), Fortnum & Mason Shopping (Middle Two), Cursed Child Play (Right Photos)

$$$ Splurge

Theater Performance (Harry Potter & The Cursed Child): Watching Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was a huge splurge as tickets were £199 (roughly 241.75 USD) for Orchestra 12 rows back; however, you must know that you’re watching two shows (so it’s an all day event). The special effects and the way they utilized the stage was really cool, and I enjoyed the storyline. Read all my tips here.

Tea Time (The Ritz London): If you want to experience the glitz and glamor of high society book yourself a tea time at the Ritz London. It’s hard to convey into words how regal and exquisite the experience is but I definitely think it’s worth checking out. Tea time was £67 per person (roughly 95 USD). Read full review here.

Tea & Souvenirs (Fortnum & Mason):No trip to the UK would be complete without buying tea fit for a queen. Fortnum & Mason has been serving her royal highness and the royal family for quite some time so picking up a few cannisters is a must. There are two locations, and I’ve gone to both twice each actually and definitely spent money there. Read more here.

The month of August will likely have more local OC, LA favorites as I’ll be returning to work.

Until Next Time,

Irene

June Favorites 2022

I know this is long past overdue but I promise you this post is well worth the wait! In the month of June I travelled across the pond and visited five different cities around the United Kingdom. This post took me so long in part because 1) I visited a ton of restaurants, shops, and sites and was trying to remember where I went AND pick my favorites and 2) I was still jetlagged lol

Nevertheless, I’ve come up with my favorites for this month. There’s ONE London favorites and the rest really are the best of the best in the UK. My July Favorites will include many MANY more London favorites, but without further adu please enjoy!

$: Harry Potter Scenes (Durham Cathedral),Thrift (Cats Protection – Newcastle upon Tyne Charity Shop

$ Bargain

Thrift (Cats Protection – Newcastle upon Tyne Charity Shop): I’ve been to my fair share of thrift shops and among the many shops I visited in the UK, Cats Protection had the best selection of ready to wear apparel at very reasonable prices. I bought my new favorite black wool coat (£10), 2 dresses (1 for £4 and the other £8), a necklace (I think £4), and a Pusheen bag (£2.5). All proceeds benefit cat rescue, education, and protection. Read more here.

Harry Potter Scenes (Durham Cathedral): If you consider yourself a Potterhead this is a MUST visit Durham Cathedral! They filmed several courtyard scenes from the early movies and you truly will feel like you’re a student at Hogwarts. Admission is free, but guests may donate £5. Read more here.

$$ Thrift (Save The Children Charity Shop), Indian Food (Nutmeg Bristol), Sight Seeing (Stonehenge)

$$ Moderate

Thrift (Save The Children Charity Shop): One of the nicest looking thrift shops I’ve ever visited is this mid-sized store in Clifton Village (Bristol), UK. They carry many designer and mid-high range items and honestly, you’d never know that you were at a charity shop. All proceeds benefits Save The Children, which is a cause I can stand behind. I bought this fuchsia pink dress for £20 and I absolutely love it! Read more here.

Sight Seeing (Stonehenge): I’m pretty sure no one can argue Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England taking a coveted spot in this month’s favorites. Admission is £24, and definitely worth every penny. I mean this is a piece of history that dates back to 3000 BC to 2000 BC. Get more info here.

Indian Food (Nutmeg Bristol): Fantastic curry with bold dynamic flavors and fluffy naan bread. The atmosphere at Nutmeg is equally as vibrant. The Sharabi Jhinga (Shrimp Curry) was £22 and Garlic Naan was £3.50. Click here for more.

$$$ Splurge

$$$ 2 Michelin Star Dinner (Da Terra), Dinner (Six)

Dinner (Six): To be fair work treated me here, but I loved everything about this restaurant. Located in New Castle, UK, Six is a fine dining establishment that rests at the top of a building. It has glass windows everywhere which gives you the most magnificent view of the river and city. The food was also beautifully presented and delicious. You can read more about my experience here.

2 Michelin Star Dinner (Da Terra): My friend and I decided that we were going to treat ourselves to a really extravagant meal in London to celebrate our survival of the school year. After extensive research I picked Da Terra and this restaurant gave me the best meal of my life. At £189 per person, this omakase experience is not cheap; however, considering the four hour experience and over 30 unique items presented (all of which I loved) and the fact that I did not leave hungry makes this a more than worthy awardee for my June favorites. I wrote more extensively about my experience here on yelp and posted many photos (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) on IG. Maybe one day I’ll do a dedicated post on the dishes Chef Rafael presented in a future post.

July will most likely be late as well, but I can tell you that that post will be crammed with favorites!

Until Next Time,

Irene

May Favorites 2022

Late again? Good riddance!

May has been extremely busy in terms of work (with wrapping up the school year) and play, but there were many highlights. Enjoy this month’s favorites!

$ Bargain

Convention (Comic Con Revolution): Comic Con Revolution is nice mid-sized convention with a good number of fee-based celebrity meet-n-greets and nerd shopping. They usually have their convention during this time of year based on their celebrity guest appearances I usually attend. Tickets are usually $30 a day (adult), but I was able to find it for a little less than $20 on Goldstar.

$ Convention (Comic Con Revolution)

$$ Moderate

BBQ (Calhoun’s Texas Barbeque): BBQ for two for $30, yes ma’am! Calhoun’s Texas Barbeque is a small hole in the wall in Murietta, CA with a loyal fanbase. The baked beans with brisket is money as is the baby back ribs. See my full review here.

Midori Matcha (L’Moon Creamery): Strawberry Matcha drinks are now one of my fav combinations, and L’moon Creamery in Upland, CA does a great job in crafting this beautiful and tasty drink. For about $6 you’ll instantly cool down. Read more here.

Falafel Bowl (Sababa Falafel Shop): I wanted something healthy after a long day at the convention. Anaheim, CA is known for Mediterranean food and Sababa Falafel Shop was a fantastic find. $10.99 bowl of misc veggies, seasoned rice, and sauces, (hummus + $1) plus falafel was a perfect way to end the day. Read my entire review here.

$$ BBQ (Calhoun’s Texas Barbeque), Midori Match (L’Moon Creamery), Falafel Bowl (Sababa Falafel Shop)

$$$ Splurge

Roasted Duck (Ji Rong Peking Duck): If you’re treating extended family or clients to an authentic dinner that’s more presentable than many Chinese restaurants Ji Rong is a good choice. For $85 you’ll need to preorder (at least the week of) you’ll get a beautifully carved duck, all the accouterments, and tortillas to wrap it up. Delish! Located in Rosemead, CA this small mom and pop shop certainly has a showstopper entree.

Convention (Star Wars Celebration): I’ve gone to my fair share of Socal conventions for the past several years and back in 2020 I was slated to attend a new one (or at least new to me) in Anaheim – but alas Covid happened so we all had to wait. Regardless, Star Wars Celebration is a four day event with special announcements, celebrity meet-n-greets, fan panels, some of the best cosplays I’ve ever seen, and TONS of merch! I bought a 4 day badge for $199 (1 day $75) for the event (May 26-29, 2022), and boy there’s definitely a ton to see and do! Getting to see the Mandalorian Costume/Set Exhibit was by far my favorite followed by the Obi-Wan Kenobi Premiere and meeting Anthony Daniels (C-3PO Actor). It’ll be in London, UK in 2023, but if you love this Space Western this is a convention that shouldn’t be missed! I unfortunately, can’t go next year but if it returns to LA, OC or SD I’d be open to attend again!

$$$: Convention (Star Wars Celebration), Roasted Duck (Ji Rong Peking Duck)

Hope you all enjoyed my May favorites! I will be traveling to various cities in the United Kingdom so I can’t wait to share my finds. *Note: I can 100% guarantee you that my June favorites will be late, ha! But they’ll be worth it I promise!!

Until Next Time,

Irene

April Favorites 2022

I know, I know… I am beyond late for last month’s Favorites, but April was crazy and I’ll just leave it at that. Here are my favorite discoveries last month – enjoy!

$ Mochissant & Goat Cheese Croissant (Rolling Out)

$ Bargain

Mochissant & Goat Cheese Croissant (Rolling Out): Rolling Out is a one man shop in San Francisco that’s most known for their Mochi- Croissants! The owner invented this concepted and was granted a trademark for his creation. It’s really an interesting concept and for $2.75 a piece, I think it’s a worthwhile try. He also sells other baked goods including the Goat Cheese Croissant $3.75 which was delicious. Read about my full experience here.

$$: Hat & Boots (Goodwill – San Francisco); Duck Banh Mi (Cafe Bunn Mi); Mochi Donuts (Mochill Mochi Donut)

$$ Moderate

Mochi Donuts (Mochill Mochi Donut): The Cherry Blossom Festival was happening during my visit to SF’s Japantown and Mochill was selling a box of 6 mochi donuts for $15. Patrons could choose whatever glaze flavor, but we decided to do one of each to try them all. My favorites were the matcha and fruity pebble. I really like the bouncy texture and these all tasted really fresh. Two thumbs up! Read more about my experience here.

Duck Banh Mi (Cafe Bunn Mi): I’ve eaten a lot of banh mi’s in my lifetime, but the Duck Banh Mi at Cafe Bunn Mi definitely wins for elevated comfort food. Located in the heart of San Francisco, this hipster joint serves up made to order banh mi’s. For $13.04 it’s pricey, but the duck meat is just so incredibly juicy and succulent, and paired with the fluffy baguette and tangy slaw it was a masterpiece. *Chefs Kiss* Read more yelp reviews here.

Thrift Shop (Goodwill – San Francisco): It’s always a hit of miss when you go thrift shopping, but this particular Goodwill in San Francisco has a LOT of really cool things. At least at the time of my visit they had a good number of vintage and maybe items that might have been used as costumes or theater performances. Prices are more moderate/high range for thrift shopping, but I will definitely be back since their inventory looked pretty unique.

$$$: Tapas (La Mar Cebicheria Peruana)

$$$ Splurge

Tapas (La Mar Cebicheria Peruana): Wow! The setting at La Mar is very impressive as it has a beautiful view of the bay. Thankfully, my friend and I got reservations at this San Francisco establishment as it was a poppin’ place! We tried their San Francisco Restaurant Week Menu ($75 Dinner) and we got to try a little bit of everything. The Roquitas (Rock Shrimp wrapped with crisp squid ink tempura) was my absolute favorite (which is on their regular menu for $26) followed by the peruvian chocolate mousse. If you’re looking to impress clients or a date, this place will definitely help you up your game!

April Favorites were mostly in the Bay Area but stay tuned for May and June! May will have some gems in the Riverside/SD area and June hopefully will have many London discoveries (eeee!!)

Until Next Time,

Irene

February Favorites 2022

Wow! This is the latest I’ve ever been with a monthly favorite – so sorry for the delay! February just flew by. Nevertheless, I got to experience some delish eats so I’m happy to share them! Enjoy !

$ Bargain

Mochi (Shuei-Do Manju Shop): Authentic Japanese confectionary treats are always a fav of mine and the Butter Mochi at Shuei-Do Manju Shop in San Jose, CA was a star treat! A piece is $2 and most people will get a tray of at least 4, 6, 8 (or more). Check out my full review here.

Mochi (Sheui-Do Manju Shop)

$$ Moderately Priced

Fusion Breads (Bake Sum): Carbs are my weakness and the baked creations from Bake Sum, in Oakland, CA fed into my gluttony. They sell both sweet and savory breads, which individual servings in the $5 range. There was already a line, before the bakery opened so you know they’re good. See which breads were my favorites here.

Mini Cheesecake Poppers (Charlie’s Cheesecake Works): Honestly, I’m not a huge cheesecake person as they’re often super dense and sugary – not these! The dessert from Charlie’s Cheesecakes Works, in San Jose, CA are super light, fluffy and it has that “not too sweet” flavor to it. He’s got tons of flavors and a sampler pack ($15.50) which has a dozen 1oz bites is pretty much perfect. Read more here.

Pork Katsu Curry (Champion’s Curry): I pretty much eat ramen exclusively when I go to LA Little Tokyo, CA; however, on this occasion I visited Champion’s Curry and was actually really impressed. The Pork Katsu was moist and the curry has a little bit of a kick (more like spices that enhance the flavor, not burn your mouth spicy). It’s definitely a great place to bring large group. Read more here.

Pork Katsu Curry (Champion’s Curry), Fusion Bread (Bake Sume), Mini Cheesecake Poppers (Charlie’s Cheesecake Works)

$$$ Splurge

Pickled Veggies & Rice Bowl (Cultured Pickle Shop): I don’t know too much about pickled veggies other than it’s good for your gut health, but if you’re up for an educational and unique experience come visit Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley, CA on the weekends. For $22 they put together an assortment of pickled veggies over rice for patrons to try their different products. Very healthy and it was a great way to try food prepared in this fashion! Read about my entire experience here.

Native American Food (Wahpepah’s Kitchen): If you want to be a part of a movement that supports tribal traditions and empowers women Wahpepah’s Kitchen, in Oakland, CA needs to be on your list. It was really awesome to hear everyone share stories about where the food comes from and the food was very earthly. Appetizers and entrees ranged from $5-$20, but I guarantee you you’ll probably want to try multiple items. Read my extensive review here.

First Three photos on the Left: Native American Food (Wahpepah’s Kitchen); Two photos on the right: Pickled Veggies & Rice Bowl (Cultured Pickle Shop)

Which of these look the most interesting to you?

Until Next Time,

Irene

Best of 2021 – Bargains and Splurges List!

It’s that time of year! Judgement day – lol. But in all honesty I traveled up and down California and visited various part of Arizona all of last year to find the best of the best! Come checkout my absolute favorites from 2021!

$ Bargain

Papaya Salad & Coconut Cakes (Mae Ting’s Coconut Cakes): Hands down the best papaya salad ($9)! This little stall in a LA Chinatown parking lot may not look like much but their food really packs a punch. Read more here. It was so good that I went back and had it again and successfully tried their coconut cakes ($6) for a dozen!

Sushi (Sakae Sushi): Authentic, sushi, and take-out aren’t usually words you see together often, but Sakae Sushi in Gardena, CA does just that and for a very reasonable price. They offer 6 different types of sushi for $1.05 – $1.25 a piece (though each piece is double the size of a normal sushi piece) and they packaged your order in the most endearing and convenient manner. It’s been a staple in the community since the 60s and I would love to go back and support this small mom n’ pop shop. Read my tips here.

Roast Pork Entree (New Lun Ting Cafe): The mysterious orange gravy may look off-putting to some, but boy that sauce slathered over a thick cut of roasted pork and rice is beyond amazing. See full review here. For $9.25 you can feed two people with that popular entree. I will DEFINITELY be back for this on my next visit to SF Chinatown.

Thrifted Goods (Society of St Vincent De Paul- Scottsdale): Hands down best thrift shop in Scottsdale, AZ. Everything is very reasonably priced and they have a cool bridal section if you’re in the market. If I come back to Phoenix I will definitely want to make a trip here. Read my complete review here.

$: Papaya Salad & Coconut Cakes (Mae Ting’s Coconut Cakes), Roast Pork Entree (New Lun Ting Cafe), Thrift Shopping (Society of St. Vincent De Paul – Scottsdale), & Sushi (Sakae Sushi)

$$ Moderate

Boba Drink (True Dan): This small 3 chain boba shop serves Taiwanese drinks with a twist. I visited the Burlingame, CA location and tried the “Fresh Milk With Brown Sugar, Crema, and Oreos” with Oat Milk Substitution (+$.50) = $6.50 and wow it was amazing! Honestly, it beat out my 2020 favorite boba drink (see list here), and that’s saying a lot! See my full review of my True Dan experience here.

Salad (Flower Child – Gilbert): I make salad for lunch regularly, but I aspire to make salad like this! The butternut squash and organic pear salad has loads of delicious ingredients including candied pecan, cranberries, ricotta salata and more. The salad by itself is $10.95, but patrons can add a protein for an additional fee. Salmon would be my choice. There are multiple locations and this location is at Gilbert, AZ; read the full review here.

Chicken Soup (Lourdes): I doubt most people would go out of their way for soup, but the chicken soup here at Escondido, CA is definitely worth the drive! For a 32oz bowl ($9.65) you get fresh flour or corn tortilla, slices of avocado, a well seasoned soup that’s perfect for a cold day. Read the full review here.

$$: Chicken Soup (Lourdes), Salad (Flower Child – Gilbert), Boba Drink (True Dan)

$$$ Splurge

Salmon Spinach Cream Udon (Udon Mugizo Mountain View): Among the different types of noodles Udon is probably my favorite. I usually have it with broth however, the Salmon Spinach Cream Udon at Udon Mugizo was definitely a highlight of this month. There are two locations for this restaurant – one in Japantown, CA and one in Mountain View, CA and while It is a bit of splurge for noodles ($18ish a bowl) it’s delicious! See my full review here to see why.

iphone 13 Pro (Apple Store): I’m not a huge tech nerd, but I have been eyeing the 13 pro (1TB) for a while and finally made the splurge ($1499+). To be fair I currently have a 7+ and I was desperately due for an upgrade.

Cream Puffs (@Puffs_SD): Honestly, these are some of the most beautiful cream puffs I’ve ever seen. I think a traditional flavor of that size costs roughly $2.50 and these are more at $4.33 each (but you need to buy in half dozen or full dozen increments). Nevertheless, the flavors are very unique and I would absolutely buy them again on my next San Diego, CA visit. Learn about the ordering process here.

$$$: Salmon Spinach Cream Udon (Udon Mugizo Mountain View), Cream Puff (@Puffs_SD), iphone13 pro (Apple Store)

These were my absolute favorites last year and I hope you’ll check them out in 2022!! What businesses did you discover and want everyone to know about? Comment below!

Until next time!

Irene