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!
Since starting my health journey I’ve been more intentional on finding restaurants that promoted clean unprocessed ingredients. I found a great breakfast (Blue Bowl Post) as well as a low carb choice (Silvas Fresh Eatery & Churrascaria), and most recently an inexpensive grab and go option! The Good Fish (1957 N Placentia Ave, Fullerton, CA 92831) is a fast casual chiptole-style restaurant where you can customized your healthy bowl to your hearts content, but unlike poke places you get slices of sashimi instead of bits and chunks of fish! Yum!
Once you enter the restaurant you’ll see a table with pencils and a sheet to customize your meal. I practically checked marked everything on the list as the toppings were unlimited and avocado was not an additional surcharge (unlike many other poke places). They also allowed customers to do half-and-half which included brown rice!
I ordered a regular bowl which entitled me to three choices of fish and unlimited toppings. So I chose two portions of salmon sashimi and yellowtail, a ton of toppings, and ponzu sauce. At $11.83 this is a steal! and was perfect to take to go.
When you’re in a rush what heathy food do you go for?
Some of you know that I am a Knott’s Berry Farm Season Pass Holder (Knott’s Celebration Post) and one of the prime reasons for this year’s membership was to check-out the Annual Boysenberry Festival! Photos usually surface during this time of year and the vibrant purple hue paired with unique park food and wine always makes a bold statement, so I took the plunge and wanted to see for myself what the festival was all about. So strap your boots, we’re going for a ride! Yee-ha!
Held in the Spring for a little over a month the Boysenberry Festival features a wide array of seasonal goodies splashed with boysenberry. They have everything from Alligator Fries with Boysenberry Aioli, to Boysenberry Wine, and everything in between. The majority of the seasonal items could be found in Ghost Town, but virtually every part of the park featured some type of Boysenberry treat. I had heard some great things about the Jerk Chicken Wings with Boysenberry BBQ sauce and holy cow that Boysenberry Sauce is MONEY!! I kept dousing my chicken in the sauce and licked my fingers clean. You can buy the sauce in a bottle to take home or check out the Jerk Chicken Stand located Ghostrider. (Pro Tip: Yes the Season Pass Discounts applied for food & drinks – Cha Ching!)
While walking around the park I noticed a few people with mason jars of purple liquid. Initially I thought it was the boysenberry lemonade with basil, but later found that it was the Calico Soda found in the Calico Theater. It’s a Cream Soda with Boysenberry syrup. I don’t typically drink soda, but enjoyed the beverage and would recommend that over the boysenberry lemonade. And! it comes in a reusable container 😀
The festival is coming to an end on April 28 and there’s still so many things to try! Boysenberry Coffee?! Boysenberry Funnel Cake? What would you try?
I recently came back from a work trip to Michigan and while the food scene consisted of lots of hearty American cuisine, I came back to California wanting something more light and natural. I found this Ethiopian place near LAX called Emma Habesha Restaurant and I was eager to try a beautiful platter of food filled with herbs and spices. On the outside the restaurant blends in with the building surrounding it and my friend and I actually drove past it (and it’s pretty easy to miss); however, once you enter the building you’ll realize that you’ve stepped into an African oasis.
The interior of the restaurant had bright colors and while cozy and warm, the intimate setting was great for friends to chow down. The menu consisted of nine main entrees all served with injera – a sourdough spongy flat bread. After thoughtful consideration and seeing another patron enjoy a colorful vegan platter my friend and I were intrigued and decided to order that in addition to a lamb stew that was recommended by the waitress. Neither of us are vegan, but we were excited to eat with our hands and sample many different lentil, beans and vegetable flavor profiles.
We knew the entrees were made fresh and enjoyed conversing with one another as we waited for our healthy meal. Since it was our first time I think they combined the two into one large platter. The Vegan Agelgil Fitfit (vegeterian plate $12) and Ye Beg Alicha (Lamb stew $13) were both wonderful, though the vegetables were definitely the stars! If you’re looking to incorporate more greens and non-red meat items into your diet the price-point is very reasonable and the flavors are incredible here.
After a long flight, what kind of food do you crave?
Ever since Chinese New Year there’s been some a ton of buzz about the Wanderlust Creamery‘s White Rabbit flavored Ice Cream. The Foodbeast and Wanderlust collaboration (Primary Article) essentially broke the internet as nostalgia filled the minds of Chinese and Chinese Americans and curiosity peaked for Asians and non-Asians alike. Originally intended as a special edition flavor for the month of February, this highly coveted flavor may have a permanent home with the Los Angeles based ice cream shop and I got a chance to taste it on Sunday at their Smorgasburg LA pop-up shop in Los Angeles, CA.
When this flavor first came out the lines resembled that of lines at San Diego Comic Con, yet people were willing to wait for a taste of their childhood. Thankfully, that was not the case for me as I stood behind 5 or so people and was able to lick my artisan scoop in no-time. The flavor is light and resembles that of an Asian inspired Vanilla profile. It definitely brought me back to my childhood.
At $5 a scoop and $2 extra for a cone, this tasty treat is definitely a splurge, but it’s always fun to see exotic flavors incorporated into ice cream form.
How long would you be willing to wait to try this delectable flavor?