Welp! It’s now the end of September and time for another round of my monthly favorites! Check them out below!
Almond Cookies (Phoenix Bakery): Situated in the heart of Chinatown LA, CA is Phoenix Bakery, which is home to their delicious Almond Cookies. I’ve purchased a double dozen box ($6.95) twice in the same month, which should be saying something! Read all about it here.
Museum (Chinese American Museum): This three story hub offers complimentary admission for all visitors. I thought it was a great exhibit to learn about the Chinese immigrants and their contributions to New Chinatown ironically located in Chinatown LA, CA. Read more here
Mini Taiyaki (Costco): I’m usually pretty good about my purchases from Costco in terms of moderation for a particular purchase – that was not the case with Suji’s Taiyaki. I bought four boxes in one week *gasp* But only because it’s not regularly stocked at my Costco (For some odd reason).This 30 count fish shaped dessert found in the freezer section has been in my regular snack rotation since I’ve started using an air fryer. For $10.54 a box I now can experience a taste of Japan in the comfort of my home. If you like crispy dough and cream custard you would love this!
Vegan Burger (Burgerlords): I’m open to trying new food and I really enjoyed my “cheeseburger” here. At $9 a pop, this fast food joint does a good job creating a meat-free option. Read about my experience here.
Oogie Boogie Bash (Disney’s California Adventure): Trick or Treating with villains and dressing up in costume to Disney? Yes please! While this event in Anaheim, California is sold out I enjoyed the character meet-n-greets and definitely stocked up on candy/health snacks from the Trick-or-Treat Trails. Also the lines for rides in DCA were very short! See more photos of the rare character encounters here here.
So Fall is just around the corner, which means lots of pumpkin flavors. Are you a fan or prefer other seasonal flavors?
I love bread, but it all goes to my hips, so, I seldom eat carbs now in days. However, on my recent Fresno trip I stumbled upon a little bakery called The Brioche Lady – the name alone perked up my ears and I was eager to try her baked goods. When I entered, to my right were two racks of fresh Brioche with little colored stickers indicating their flavors. They have a lot of traditional, as well as asian inspired fillings, so my parents and I bought a couple of loaves: strawberry cream cheese, taro, and red bean.
We also tried the chocolate chip croissant warmed up and a Croque Madame (brioche, ham, egg, sandwich). The appearance of the Croque Madame wasn’t as elegant as I imagined in my head, but it tasted good, and the chocolate chip croissant was buttery and flakey. Definitely worthy of the calories.
I gifted one of the loaves to my uncle who loves bread and even though we were going to have lunch, he dug in and wanted to try some. Little did I know his little piece turned out to be 1/4 of the loaf (!!!) but I can’t blame him, since I myself also kept eating my leftovers.
If you’re in the Fresno area this little bakery is definitely a wonderful charming place to indulge in carbs – especially if you’re not baking sourdough at home. Did I mention that they’re award winning too? (2017 People’s Choice Award – Fresno Food Expo)
Colorado is known for it’s picture perfect scenery, but when its came to food, I hadn’t the slightest clue as to what to expect. It was my first time visiting this state, so when my coworkers (who were based out in Colorado) made reservations to their favorite German restaurant I figured I’d be in for a treat! And right I was! Upon entering I noticed several awards and accolades and crossed my fingers that Edelweiss Restaurant would be all that and more.
Our party of 20 entered the restaurant and it was truly decked out in an old world fashion. It seemed as if we were were transported to a German square and I had major Pinocchio vibes. There were many wooden furnishings and while the restaurant was spacious it had a cozy warm feel to it. We were seated quite promptly in a long table and menu had many traditional offerings. A singer came by and serenaded to use with his accordion, as we were deciding on what to order.
After thoughtful consideration I ordered the Rahmschnitzel, a breaded boneless pork cutlet sautéed and topped with a mushroom cream sauce, house spatzle, and fresh vegetables, as it came highly recommend. Boy! let me tell you this is definitely not diet food, but considering I almost died on the Manitou Incline (Post here) I felt this dinner was worthy of the calories.I essentially polished off the plate and looking at my coworkers entrees it seemed that everyone enjoyed their meal as well.
Do you have a go-to entree when you eat German food? Schnitzel? Bratwurst? Something else?
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.
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.
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)?
I didn’t really know much about Grand Rapids and as such I did not have high expectations on the food scene. However, to my surprise there were several restaurants that came on my radar. One of them was Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop, a small mom n’ pop restaurant specializing in homemade soups! They rotates twelve made from scratch batches and patrons can choose to enjoy alone or pair them one of their with gourmet sandwiches creations – yum!
The store is certainly eclectic and because the menu changes frequently all soups are written on a chalk board. The descriptions all looked incredible and as a first timer I didn’t know where to start. Luckily everyone is allowed to sample before making a purchase which is awesome since the flavor profiles of each were so different!
I eventually decided to grab a cup of the Reuben (stand alone) and Tomato Saffron to pair it with The Old Goat Sandwich (White Cheddar, pulled Mozzarella, and Rosemary Goat Cheese Spread). It was comfort food, but not super dense that I couldn’t move for the rest of the afternoon. They also have a sister store called The Electric Cheetah, which is more of a traditional sit-down dinning experience with a larger menu (beyond soups and sandwiches), if you were interested and just down the street, but this meal was perfect for what I needed.
While I was trying to stay away from carbs, I felt that my calories were well spent at Uncle Cheetahs.
What would be your cheat meal?
Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop 1133 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
Salmon is my all time favorite fish (See Best Sashimi in LA Post) so when I found, Durhams Tracklements & Smokery, a highly rated smoked salmon shop I immediately added it to my Midwest Roadtrip list. The days of operation were limited (only open three days!) so I didn’t know if I’d be able to check them out, but lord and behold the route dates were set so that I’d be in Ann Arbor on a day they’d be open!! Woo!
On the outside there were two large rainbow fish flags that flew in the wind against the dusty red and white brick and mortar. While the location was in Kerrytown, a prominent neighborhood in Ann Arbor, the storefront was very discrete and had I not intentionally added this as a destination to the GPS I would have easily missed out on this hidden gem.
When you enter inside the interior resembled the back of a warehouse than an actual store. There was an open kitchen with various appliances, and an exposed fridge with fish and cheese products. But if you looked on the left side of the room, one wall was plastered with various accolades and publication mentions. I had a feeling it was going to be good, but I wasn’t prepared for what was in store for me.
The owner came greeted us at the front and gave us an overview on his products. He informed us that the Atlantic salmon was sustainably farmed and flown directly to Tracklements from Norway. They are then smoked by hand in small batches and packed in hand-trimmed pieces in vacuum sealed packages. Afterwards he asked if we’d like to sample a few and we happily obliged. I found the hot smoked salmon tasty, but once I put the cold smoked salmon slice in my mouth I felt like time stopped. The fish just melted in my mouth. It was so creamy and velvety. What was going on?! It was so indulgent without feeling heavy. My friend and I looked at each other and without words we knew that we needed to buy at least several packets.
A few minutes later a (what looked like a regular customer) came by and dropped $200 (!!!) for 4 packets of his Solstice (a seasonal variety) and some smoked meats. He commented on how the Solstice (aka “The Peat”) was only prepared during certain times of year, so my friend and I decided to pick up one (afraid that had we not the next customer would buy all of them!). We also selected the original cold smoked salmon (The Highland), the Ras el Hanout, and a Smoked Duck (yes, random, but why not?!). It’s not a wonder why Tracklement’s was recognized as a top mail ordered item from the New York Times “Best Holiday Foods By Mail” 1995, 1997, 2002 etc. Another customer commented that she often shipped this to her children when they were in college and after trying the samples, I would be ecstatic if my family sent me this!
This was easily my favorite food/meal on the trip and would praise hallelujah if I received a package from Tracklemsents. If you received a mail-order package, what would you be most excited to see?
Tracklements – 212 E. Kingsley St. Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Wed 10am-3pm; Fri 10am-5pm; Sat 8am-3pm
212 E. Kingsley St. Ann Arbor, MI 48104
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.
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!
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?
Sashimi is one of my favorite foods. It’s both healthy and tasty, but often comes with a premium price tag. However, my good friend recommended this uh-mazing fish market – Yama Seafood (Yelp), which serves high quality tuna, salmon, yellowtail etc at a very affordable pricepoint making it the holy trinity meal (Cheap, Healthy, Tasty). As such Yama’s is on my regular circuit of places to eat at when I’m visiting the area.
There’s usually a long line at all peck meal hours (think lunch and dinner time rush) most of the week for Mr. Yama to cut the fish. He’s well known in the Japanese community as being an amazing fishmonger as he takes his time to carefully craft each cut and it’s definitely worth it. I think the two plates of food above was around $60 and super filling for two people.
The quality is very comparable to a $$$ Japanese sushi restaurant, but for a fraction of the cost since you’re not paying for a traditional dinning experience. Personally, I value quality food over a scenic environment, so my friend and I often take the styrofoam plate back to her place to enjoy at home.
911 W Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending one of the fanciest ceremonies to date – The Academy of Magical Arts (AMA) Award Show. This black tie event was hosted by the Magic Castle and recognized the contributions of magicians from far and wide. For my readers who are hearing about the Magic Castle for the first time, the Magic Castle is a private club housing magic performances from both local and international guests. Invites are restricted to members, associate members, and their guests; however, tickets for the AMA Awards were sold to the public around February (about two – three weeks before the event) if this black tie event is something you’re interested in attending in the future.
Guests were dressed to the nines and started checking in at 5pm. We were all greeted with the evening’s program book and escorted down the property to the event. Hor D’oeuvres were passed around and guests were welcomed to the self-serve buffet table which featured steak, salmon, roasted veggies, butternut squash ravioli, among other things. The ceremony began around 7pm and announced nominees and winners for various categories. Some of the guests in attendance included and Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman) and actress Bai Ling (The Crow).
The ceremony concluded at 9pm and guests were invited to enjoy the after party inside the Magic Castle. There were special performances in the various showrooms, a photo-booth, and complimentary desserts passed around. It was dare I say a magical evening and one for the books!
April is one of my favorite months because it’s my Birth month!! and to top it off many restaurants and businesses offer awesome freebies to celebrate. For two weeks and a half week I redeemed and compiled THE BEST freebies for you to enjoy! Listed in alphabetical order (with hyperlinks!) here are the best 35! Let’s get ready to rumble!!! 😀
AMC (Free Popcorn): AMC Stubs is free to join and you’ll get a free large popcorn. If you’re an AMC A-List or Premiere Member (both are subscription based) you’ll get both a large popcorn ($9.09) and a bonus large drink ($6.29)! Redeemable anytime during your birth month (est. value $15.38)
Arby’s (Free Sandwich with drink purchase): Join Arby’s Insider Program to get a free signature sandwich with a drink purchase. I choose the corned beef reuben ($4.99) and ordered a small fountain drink to qualify. For $2.25 the complete meal was a steal! Must be redeemed within the week of your birthday.
Burntzilla (Free Meal): On the Five Star App Burntzilla (in Irvine) gives patrons a free gold combo which includes a fountain drink, two sliders or mini hot dogs, and a choice of tater tots or french fries. This $10 value must be used a week before your birthday.
Churned Creamery (Ice Cream): Redeem 1 Free Scoop (through 5 stars) the week before your birthday. I think it expires on your birthday.
Creamistry (Ice Cream): I believe I signed up at their store for their loyalty program. You get a free Regular Size Ice Cream and it expires within the week of your birthday. (Est value $5.50)
Corner Bakery: (Free Baked Good): This staple never disappoints. Sign up for their eCafe list and the week of your bday you’ll get an email with a special code. I always chose their giant M&M cookie to take home. It expires a week after your birthday. (est. value $1.29?)
Daphnes($5 off one item): If you sign up for Pita Points loyalty you’ll get $5 to spend on your meal. I picked the Falafel appetizer and paid the difference ($1.07). Expires a month after your birthday
Del Taco (Free Milkshake): Join the Raving Fan Club and the day before you birthday and they’ll send you QR code to redeem a free shake! The coupon expires with 1.5 weeks of your bday. I usually get the strawberry milkshake. Yum! (est. value $3.29)
Denny’s (Free Breakfast Meal): Flash your drivers license the day of your bday to redeem a complimentary grand slam. For my breakfast I picked hash brown, sunny-side up eggs, sausage, and a biscuit. Just be sure to tip! (est. value $9.99)
El Pollo Loco (Free meal!): Join the E-Club and enjoy your choice of “Original Chicken Tostada” or “2 piece fire-grilled chicken meal.” They’ll send you the email on your birthday and ask you to show the code on the El Pollo Loco App.
Flame Broiler (Metro Point): Through the 5 star app, the Flame Broiler in Costa Mesa will give you a bowl of terriyaki beef, chicken or tofu for free. Must be redeemed within 7 days before your birthday, although they may not participate in the future.
Godiva ($10 off purchase): Complimentary $10 for chocolate though they did change their policy and you are no longer able to combine it with other promotions. You can buy three bars of chocolate and pay the difference to use the entire $10 credit.
Habit Grill (Free Burger): Join the CharClub and redeem a free cheeseburger! Expires 3.5 weeks after your birthday (value est. $4.29)
Hot Topic ($5 Birthday Credit): Sign up for Hot Topic’s “Guest List” and earn a $5 Birthday Credit to use within a month of your birthday. I signed up during my birth month I was also awarded a $5 anniversary credit. During my shopping spree I was able to combine both rewards towards a clearance sale and purchased two Riverdale sport bras for $4.31! Score!! Just be sure to ask the sales associate if there are restrictions during your birth month.
Jamba Juice (Small Smoothie): As a Jamba Insider you can redeem a small smoothie of your choosing. Expires 3.5 weeks from your birthday.
Juice It Up (BOGO Drink): In the Smooth EClub you can choose any drink for this great BOGO. I opted for the Bital Protein Blue Smoothie which tasted awesome and was so photogenic!
Kroft (BOGO Poutine or sandwich): On the 5 star app, you can share two very generously sized poutines. Cheese kurds and french fries? Yes please!
Luna Grill Free Dessert: Sign up for rewards and pick up a free dessert (no purchase necessary!). Expires 10 days after your birthday.
Meet Fresh (Free Mochi): Through the 5 star app you’ll be able to get a sweet treat with toothpicks to share. (est. value $5 )
Makeup Shack ($10 off any Makeup Shack Product): This is a new one that I discovered this year. I absolutely love their fake eyelashes and curated makeup selection. They carry many hard to find brands that I see at the tradeshows as well as their own products. I purchased a new contouring brush and paid the difference. I think about $1.50 or so, and it’s a great brush! You’ll sign up at the store with your phone number!
Magnolia Car Wash (Free Car Wash): Valid on your birthday (and I think the day before and after?) and must show id. Be sure to tip! (est value $16.99)
Mimi’s Cafe (Muffin Sundae): Grab a sweet treat at Mimi’s! Expires one week after your birthday and no purchase necessary, although this year I did have some problems with management accepting the email offer because there wasn’t a promo code associated with the email. Tread with caution!
Nothing Bundt Cake (Free Bundlet): Join the E-Club and get a free single serving bundt cake. There are many flavors to choose from and I decided to get the strawberries and cream – yum!
Paderia Bakery (Free Cookie): You may think that redeeming a cookie is no big deal; but this cookie is gigantic and reminds me of Levain Bakery in New York. So ooey and gooey
Pizza Rev (Free Pizza or salad) Sign up for Rev Rewards and you can choose any base including cauliflower (!!!) and add unlimited toppings. It expires a week after your birthday (est value $8.25).
Red Robin (Free Meal): I think this is the best deal of them all. A free gourmet beef or chicken burger plus unlimited fries free FREE! No string attached. Just show them your Red Robin’s Rewards Number (est. value $12.19).
Sephora (Makeup): Sign up to be a Beauty Insider and redeem a free beauty of skincare deluxe sample. For the month of April I picked up a jelly cleanser and cream from Drunk Elephant which will be perfect for my upcoming travels!
Souplantation (Free Meal): Join Club Veg and you will receive coupon for a free lunch with drink or a to-go combo #2 which includes a salad plate, two small soup containers, and a bakery bag (est. value $9.99).
Starbucks (Free Drink): On the app you will get a notification your birthday and a beverage must be redeemed on your birthday. You can get anything and any size. I picked a Venti Strawberry Acai Refresher with coconut milk.
Stonefire Grill (Free Dessert): Sign up for the Loyalty Card in person (the website was weird). Provide the phone number you registered with and you get a free dessert with no purchase necessary. You can select from their heavenly cheesecake or incredible carrot cake. I picked the carrot cake which was moist and absolutely delicious! (est. value $3.69)
Togo (Free Sandwich): This a great lunch option that you can take “to-go” Sorry I had to lol. Expires 10 days after your birthday (est value $9.24).
Ulta (Makeup): Sign up for a free makeup sample during your birth month. For my birth month they were giving out Tarte Lip Stains.
Veggie Grill ($5 Credit): They changed it this year to $5 off an item. I bought _________
Victoria’s Secret (Free Panty w/ purchase): When you create an account they’ll send you a code for free panty with purchase. During my visit I was able to utilize their $10 sports bra deal and pick up a pair of panties.
Wienerschnitzel (Free chili dog): Score a wiener dog. Expires a week after your birthday (est value $1.99).
If your birthday coming up? Did I miss a birthday freebie? What’s the best freebie out there? Comment below!