LA (Revisited)

So I’m a little upset.

I was supposed to be on a plane right now flying to LA to visit my very best friend, Laurie.  Wahhhhhhhh!!

I made a very difficult but “big-girl” decision this week to cancel my trip.  We are trying to move out and into the city and taking a 5-Day vacation to the West Coast didn’t seem like a smart move financially right now.  

Although I know I made a good decision, I’m still soooooo wishing I was there right now!  

Laurie and I have been friends since she was born.  We grew up together and she is more like a sister to me than a friend.  I miss her now that she’s in LA, but we always make time to catch up or just chit chat on the phone.  Dave and I will be using my cancelled flight to go out and see her and her boyfriend, Shane later on in the year when we can afford to.  

I wanted to re-read and re-post my blog about our trip out to LA this past December.  We had SUCH a great time.  Here you go!

The oldest pic of Laurie and I that I could find on my computer! We were on vacation watching Halloween, all together in one bed… how cute?!

I know Jay-Z thinks that New York is the city where dreams are made of… but my dreams were made in L.A.!  In sixth grade, I visited Los Angeles with my camp.  It was then and there that I decided I was going to be a famous movie director!

I took those dreams all the way through college as a film/video major… but unfortunately, that’s where it stops!  I realized after graduating PennState that moving to L.A. or (let’s hear it for New Yooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrk) wasn’t going to happen for a while.  It only took me THREE whole years of convincing Dave to make a trip with me out to my CITY OF DREAMS!

I wasn’t the only person attempting to convince Dave to make the schlep out to the West Coast.  Dave’s Aunt Lauren has lived in Los Angeles for over 30 years and has been telling Dave to come visit her as long as he can remember.  Between the two of us, he finally gave in and we booked our flights.

Before I knew it, we were outside of Lauren’s office, which happens to be on Main Street inSanta Monica!!  I would not be able to work with the beach so close to me!  Dave and I were able to make it to the beach just in time for sunset- something we are not used to at the Jersey Shore.

Reminds me of the OC!

It was beautiful!  We took a nice walk on the beach and put our toes in thePacific Ocean.  I couldn’t believe we made it!  I thought there was no way we’d make it all the way out here and to the beach on our first day there… let me rewind.

We had HORRIBLE flight delays on the way out on Wednesday.  This year we have been stuck in the worst airports inAmerica… Philly leaving for Vegas for 5 hours (arriving there at 3am… oye), Vegas leaving for Philly for 4 hours (the old section of the airport… where there is nothing to do!), Pittsburgh for 4 hours (any Penn Stater from the Greater Philadelphia area will cringe at this just as much as we did)… and now to top it off, we were stuck in CINCINNATI (C-I-N-C-I-N-N-A-T-I,Cincinnati!) at 9am on our way out to the West Coast.  The worst part of this being that the airport had no wifi!!!  After getting off and on and off and on the plane, we were able to guilt the Delta Desk into switching our flights home from Saturday to Sunday.  Now that we were five hours delayed, we got back on the plane and safely took off.  In the end- it was great that this all happened since we now had the entire weekend to spend there!  (As excited as I was to switch our flight home, I couldn’t help but to notice our connection was in Detroit… another city I’d just LOVE to be stuck in!!!)

So now let me take you back to the Santa Monica Pier.  Beautiful!  We walked to the 3rd St.Promenade where we shopped around, looked at the X-Mas decorations, and sat to have a much deserved Peach Margarita.

Sunset at Santa Monica Pier

When Lauren was finished up at work, she and her friend Bee took us out to eat at a Southern Mexican restaurant called Tlapazola Grill.     We shared a delicious Salmon Vegetable Roll and the best Guacamole I’ve ever eaten in my life. We were also given homemade Chips & Salsa to munch on while we waited.

Fresh Guacamole!! MMM!

Salmon Veggie Roll with FOUR sauces

Lauren & Bee kept us entertained by drawing a map of L.A. on our paper tablecloth to help us learn our way around.  For our main courses, Dave and I split the Pollo en Mole Negro (Chicken in Mole Oaxaca Style) & the Sautéed Sand Dabs with Lime Caper Sauce (served with sautéed spinach and vegetable cheese enchilada).  I had never tried Mole before.  It is different than anything I’ve ever had, so complex and so many different interesting flavors are all mixed together.  The highlight of the meal for me (besides the guac) was the Lime Caper Sauce on the Sand Dabs.  The sauce was a little sour and tangy which went great with the taste of the fish.  Bee insisted on trying their Classic Flan which was perfectly creamy and really really good.

Pollo en Mole Negro (Chicken in Mole Oaxaca Style)

Sautéed Sand Dabs with Lime Caper Sauce (served with sautéed spinach and vegetable cheese enchilada)

Classic Flan with FOUR spoons, please!

 We were so tired from our long day of travel and after being up for over 20 hours, we passed out at Laurens right after dinner.

Thursday morning was like most of our mornings in L.A.  We woke up, showered, drove Lauren to work, and went somewhere fabulous for breakfast.  This morning, we decided to take a drive to Malibu-away from traffic and up the gorgeous Pacific Coast Highway.

Gorgeous view on our drive inland… you can still see the ocean!

We took a scenic drive inland to WestlakeVillageto eat our brunch at Marmalade Café.  I was immediately impressed as soon as they brought out Dave’s iced coffee… accompanied by an entire pitcher of extra coffee!  This is my kind of place!  Dave went with the Tortilla Scramble (Three farm fresh eggs scrambled with tortilla strips, turkey sausage, onions, jalapenos & tomatoes served with black beans, salsa, guacamole, sour cream & a side of corn tortilla) while I chose to create my own omelet (MY FAV!!!) including Honey Cured Ham, Cheddar Cheese, Avocado, Spinach, & Tomato.  I LOVE LA so far, if only because I’m in a place where it’s normal to order avocado in an omlet.  If you haven’t tried it yet, please do… it’s to die for.  My dish also came with marmalade potatoes and corn rye bread.  MMM!

MMM Avocado in my Omelet!!

Tortilla Scramble

Now that our bellies were full, we were ready to take a hike at the Malibu Creek State Park.  It was amazing to us how close the city is to nature and such an amazing hike.  We wanted to hike 2.4 miles to the MASH site, where the TV show was filmed.  After walking our asses off for what felt like 3 miles, it was time to realize we took a wrong turn and couldn’t find it!  We enjoyed the hike though and the peace and quiet we were surprised to get on a trip to such a major city.

My favorite picture of our hike in Malibu Creek State Park! I wish I could have a romantic picnic right here!!

Another view on the hike

Look at that sky… it was a beautiful day.

A little break to take a picture by the lake

Venice Beach was our next stop on our day.  Dave was so shocked to see what type of place the famous Venice Beach Boardwalk was.  For those of you who have never been,Venice is home to some hippies, smoking paraphernalia stores, people selling things, and a whole lot of people begging for money.  It took us about an hour before we had seen enough and headed back to the car.

Venice Beach

There was still some time to kill before we were due back in Santa Monicato pick up Lauren, so we walked down Abbot Kinney Blvdwhere there are plenty of little shops to spend our time.  We decided to settle down at a random Mexican restaurant for a late lunch.  Casa Linda and ended up being amazing!  One of the things I was looking forward to most coming to Cali was ordering some fish tacos, which is exactly what I did at Casa Linda!

Casa Linda!

I went with the Alaskan Halibut Soft Taco (3 tacos) while Dave did a burrito version which came with black beans, brown rice, and charred zucchini salsa.  Perhaps one of the best parts of this place was their salsa bar which included a spicy Toasted Chile Arbol Salsa and an even spicier Jalapeno-Avocado Salsa.

Fish Tacos, finally!

Dave is getting used to me making him wait to eat so I can take my pictures!!

I also ordered a watermelon drink which was bright pink but tasted exactly like a watermelon, not like candy… it was the perfect answer to my spicy dish.  I would definitely like to try to re-create the green salsa at home, it was spicy-hot but refreshing from the avocado at the same time.  We both loved it!  We still had some time to kill so per Lauren’s suggestion, we visited the Marina Del Ray at sunset.  This area reminded both of us of our favorite place in the world- Vancouver.

Marina Del Ray

Sunset in Cali is so gorgeous

After a nice walk on the pier, we picked up Lauren.  Lauren hopped in the driver’s seat and took us on a driving tour (in traffic, of course) of LA!  We saw Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, Century City, etc etc… unfortunately we didn’t get to see Hollywoodsince there was a movie shoot!  We also learned that LA is made up of areas of every nationality you can imagine- we drove through them all until we found ourselves at Lauren’s favorite Sushi bar, Hide Sushi.  Sitting at the bar, we got our very own sushi chef!  Each of us started with Yellowtail Sushi.

Salmon Roll… look how much salmon there is… wow!

Our Sushi Chef loved that I was taking pictures of his hard work for the blog! .. PS look how big that roll is in front of him! Not for us!

I cannot even begin to describe to you how fresh this sushi was… it was so amazing.  Lauren and Dave continued to order more sushi, but I was so full from lunch that I only ordered one more, a Spicy Tuna Roll.  We ate, drank green tea, and chatted and chatted.  After we were finished, Lauren took us to meet another one of her friends, Linda & her son Adam (another friend of ours’ EXACT Doppelganger… whose name is also Adam)… weird.  We hung out there and played with their puppies for about an hour then it was time to go home to BED!  This was of course yet another night we were too exhausted to go out after dinner!

Friday morning.  All I wanted to do was go see Hollywood.  We woke up, showered, dropped Lauren off, and headed to the Omelet Parlor  in Santa Monica for breakfast.  Obviously, we both got omelettes.  I chose the “Merlin” + Avocado (Spinach, Swiss, Mushrooms) and Dave chose “Bob’s BBQ Chicken” (White Chicken sautéed in BBQ sauce, Jack Cheese, Cilantro, & Green Onions) … yummy!!!

I love my omelettes!!

Both came with perfectly cooked potatoes and a wheat-nut English Muffin.  If you haven’t figured this out yet- I LOVE breakfast, and I LOVE omelettes.  This place was my heaven!  I even bought their t-shirt!

Instead of going to Hollywood like I wanted to, we spent the next few hours on a hike in Temescal Canyon. This hike, unlike the day before was pretty much all up a mountain!  It was pretty difficult, especially after being sore from our hike the day before.

We had no idea how many mountains there were right outside of LA

“are we there yet??”

If you look closely, you can see a little bit of water. This is supposed to be a waterfall!

I had to walk down the sides of the trail to get downhill on the rocks. Dave just stood there laughing!

We made it as high as we could but stopped since every time it seemed like we were reaching the top… it just kept on going.  We trekked back down, got in the car, and were stuck in traffic going to Hollywood for over an HOUR!

As we started getting closer to Hollywood & Vine, we realized a few blocks of Hollywood Blvd.were closed.  We parked and went closer to survey the scene.  It turns out just a few hours earlier (when we would have arrived there if I had my way), someone pulled out a gun and started shooting pedestrians and a man in a car.  If you’re interested, you can click here and read more about it. Thank DAVE for insisting on the hike which had us out of the area during the chaos!!  We were pretty creeped out, but not enough to keep me from my mecca!  Our first stop was to my first Cali Trader Joe’s.  It was huge, impressive, and I still can’t get over that they sell alcohol.  We grabbed two Vita-Cocos and were on our way down the Walk of Fame  to the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.  It was so fun looking down and getting excited when we saw a name we recognized.  I took a picture with some Transformers, measured my feet and hands against Tom Hanks, Shirley Temple, and my all-time favorite Jimmy Stewart.

L.O.L…. i know.

My favorite actor. This was so amazing!

Next on the agenda was a visit to the famous Pink’s Hot Dogs.  I was so so so excited!  I’ve seen Pink’s on more than one Food Network Special, and we were so hungry!  I went with the Nacho Cheese Chili Dog & a Spicy Polish Dog (which also had chili on it… jesus) while Dave choose a Chili Dog & the Pastrami Reuben Dog.

We were lucky and didn’t have to wait in the usual hour-long line.

We definitely didn’t need two each, but they were SO GOOD.

The Nacho Cheese Chili Dog was my fav! How ridiculous is this? Only on vacation!

I must really like Pink’s Dogs to allow this picture to be taken! MMM!

It was so disgustingly good, quite the guilty pleasure.  MMM!  We got stuck in another hour of traffic driving back to Lauren after Pinks.  For those of you counting, we are now approaching our 3rd hour of traffic for the day.

Lauren took us on another traffic-driving tour of LA, this time driving us through “downtown”.  We passed by the impressive Disney Concert Hall which was so interesting and beautiful.  In more and more traffic, we missed the closing time for Lauren’s favorite Thai restaurant for dinner.  The 4th hour of traffic mark has come and gone.

Lauren took us to a Korean supermarket for a much needed stretch of the legs.  Food shopping is my favorite thing to do so I loved it!  Looking at all of the different types of fruits, snacks, pastas, sauces, etc. was so much fun.  We tried a Korean yogurt drink and watched a lady pick out her hard shell crabs out of the center of the supermarket!  It was so cool.

Look at the size of that thing!

Since we were determined to eat Thai this night, we drove around until we found the next place after being in traffic for FIVE hours total for the day!! OYE!  Nariya Thai in Hollywood was the winner, where we sat down and ordered our dinners, immediately.  I couldn’t believe it was possible to be hungry after our Pink’s dogs… but we were!  Lauren tried the Spicy Mint Noodles (Rice noodles sautéed with sweet basil leaves, onions and chili, with chicken) while Dave and I couldn’t resist getting Thai Red Curry, my absolute favorite.  It was extra spicy and so so so so yummy.  After yet another exhausting day, Beth & Dave retire for the night immediately after dinner.  Lol.

Soupy, creamy, spicy Thai Red Curry. This is one of my new favorite dishes this year.

Finally weekend & DAVE’S BIRTHDAY!!  Did I forget to mention that one of my very BEST friends recently moved to LA?!  Laurie and her boyfriend Shane have been living in LA for about a year.  She and I grew up together, basically as sisters- and we still act like we are!  I was so f******* excited to see her!!!!!!  I may have been just as excited to meet their new puppy, Jaz… but that’s besides the point.

We said goodbye & a huge thank you to Lauren when Laurie & Shane picked us up Saturday morning.  After making a quick stop at the La Brea Tar Pits (like the Grand Canyon scene from National Lampoon’s Vacation) we went to – you guessed it- breakfast!  They took us to a West Hollywood café called Toast, where we had our best breakfast yet.  I ordered an omelet (duh) with Turkey Bacon, Avocado, Tomato, and Swiss Cheese.

Look how gorgeous that is!

Berry Wonderful is right!

Dave changed it up a bit and went with their Berry Wonderful French Toast.  Laur, Shane and I were jealous so we had to order a side of French Toast.  Their fresh fruit was awesome, it even had a little sliver of star fruit on top!

We then spent the day relaxing at their adorable apartment in the Jewish neighborhood (Holla… I mean Challah!!!!).  I finally got to meet Jaz who is a pitbull mix and such a sweetheart!  The four of us took Jaz to a dogpark where we played with her for a while until we tired her out.  She could hardly walk back to the car!  Not long after we got back to the apartment, we got ready and headed for our night out for DAVE’S BIRTHDAY!

Jaz was too excited she couldn’t sit down

Jaz waiting for her ball to be thrown

Laurie drove us to SilverLake, yet another area of LA.  We stopped at a little Mexican bar called the Gold Room.  The girls had unbelievable strong and spicy Bloody Marys and the boys drank some Scotch, Tequila… you name it!  We munched on peanuts and two entire bowls of olives… mmm!  I don’t think the bartender understood when we asked for olives to go with our bm’s.  Woops!

I love the Gold Room… who wouldn’t… Peanuts & a BOWL of Olives?!

Anyone who knows me … will know that TWO drinks for me is a lot! Yahoo!

Our next stop was our dinner at this little Italian place a block away called Masa.  We split some wine and beer, appetizers, and a deep dish pizza which is what they are famous for.  We chose the Mozzarella sticks, Artichoke Dip, Manchego Salad, and stuck with a Plain Cheese Deep Dish Pizza.  Everything was so delicious we ate and drank until we were stuffed.

Mozz Sticks

Artichoke Dip and a HUGE loaf of yummy bread

Wishing Dave a HAPPY BDAY!

Manchego is so delicious

Deep Dish Pizza!

Believe it or not, we still have not gotten to my favorite part of my trip to L.A.  All the food, all the hiking, sightseeing, etc… does not compare to what we did Saturday night for Dave’s birthday!  Laurie and Shane took us to see the 2011 Derby Dolls Championships!!!!!!  Apparently, going to the Rollerderby is the cool thing to do in LA (my very hero Anthony Bourdain did it when he was here!!)  We decided before going in that we were going to root for the “Swarm” to win over the “Sirens”.  Little did we know that the Swarm were from San Diego, huge underdogs and were playing the home team LA Sirens.  Woops!

On our “red carpet” … just like we always dreamed of!

The boys even got to take a quick pic with the Swarm before they started.

The boys bought fake mustaches because… why not! (even though they supported the police-themed “Sirens” team)

From the start of the game, we cheered, screamed, booed, and rooted for our team.  It only took about five minutes for us to get the hang of the game, with the exception of the point system- which I don’t think I’ll ever understand.  We were totally outnumbered which made it more fun, especially when the Swarm were winning throughout the first half of the game!  As the game went on though, the Sirens caught up and eventually won the Championship.  BOOOOOOO!  It was so much fun though, we all loved it.

At one point in the night, it was suggested by Laurie that we had to make Dave a birthday cake when the Derby Dolls were over.  It was also suggested by Dave that the cake should have “cookie dough icing”.  Hm… well of course I had to make this happen for my man on his birthday!  Laurie and I got to work when we arrived home, first baking a box of Vanilla Cake.  We took out the cake when it was just about cooked, smushed raw cookie dough, and placed it ontop.  The cake went back into the oven for about six minutes so it was still melty and gooey.  It was the perfect end to a birthday night and a ridiculously gluttonous vacation.

Birthday Cake with Cookie Dough Icing

And yes, it was as good as it looks.

We were so sad but the next morning, Laurie woke up with us at 5 am to take us to our 7 am flight at LAX.  I totally wasn’t ready to go home, I did NOT want to leave LA!  I love everything about this place!  Luckily, our flights home were smooth and effortless and we made it back to Philly to watch some Sunday night football and relax.

WHEW!  What an amazing vacation!  It was so much fun exploring anew city, eating all the food (my favorite part), seeing Lauren and spending time with Laurie and Shane.  Now, it’s time to get back to reality and back to the gym to burn off those Pink’s Hot Dogs!!!!

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