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!!!!

Vic’s Sushi

While I’m on the topic of Sushi, I wanted to rave over Vic’s Sushi in the Rittenhouse area of Philly.

Dave and I went out to eat last week with my friend Ricki who suggested Vic’s.  I can start off the story by telling you that Ricki ate at Vic’s the night before, and she was still excited to go there with us.  It’s that good.

Here’s why:

1.  They have 2 pages of “special” rolls.  I studied it for the entire 20 minutes we waited.

2.  Their sushi was so fresh with a great ratio of fish to rice… big chunks of fish with very little rice.  That’s a good sign.

3.  It’s BYO.  Nice.

4.  They have a sushi roll special, all of the usual suspects 3 for $11.  Can’t beat that!

We ordered a plethora of food, since we were all starving.  Starting with edamame and seaweed salad, we then each ordered the 3 rolls – for $11 special, plus one special roll, and the Spicy Tuna Tartare.  Um WOW!

Seaweed Salad

Spicy Tuna Tartare: TONS of spicy tuna with caviar and “crunch” over avocado.

Tada!

I know, I know… we ordered enough sushi to feed an army three of us….

Ricki:  Sweet Potato Tempura, Spicy Tuna, and Asparagus Roll

Beth & Dave:  Spicy Salmon, Spicy Tuna, and Yellowtail-Scallion

I actually liked the Spicy Salmon better than the Tuna…

Tons and tons of sushi!

We also ordered Yellowtail Sashimi & picked the “Protein” Roll:  Spicy Tuna, White Tuna, Crab, Avocado & Apple wrapped in Soy Paper.

Protein Roll, WOW!

All of the sushi we ordered was awesome.  I really enjoyed it.

My only complaint about this place is that there is only one table and a few seats at the sushi bar.  We were lucky enough to get there just in time to grab the table.  I’d definitely recommend take-out there because of this.  YUM!

Yama, Ventnor City NJ

Back in JUNE for my birthday, we had dinner at Yama, a Sushi Restaurant in Ventnor City, NJ (next to Atlantic City, where we stay “down the shore“).

While Yama is certainly not my favorite sushi place ever, it is pretty decent, especially for the shore.  I thought all of the sushi was really tasty and fresh.  My only complaints were that it was a little on the expensive side (I mean, for sushi, that’s like $1 or $2 more per roll… but it adds up), and the service was god awful.

The highlight of Yama, besides their amazing Tuna-Avocado Roll?  It’s BYO!  The boys bought some Sake and had a lot of fun!!

We were really excited about the BYO!

SAKE BOMB! I was too chicken to try it…

Pat (Patrice) and Regan getting ready for their Sake Bombs!

WOW, I always like to order a special roll and this one was really tasty. I love the avocado ontop!

Matt trying sushi for the FIRST TIME EVER! … he didn’t like it.

A nice assortment! Like I mentioned, amazing Tuna-Avocado roll! Look how fresh that tuna is 🙂

Spamps, Apps & Sushi

I didn’t even realize that yesterday was my 100th Blog Post, making today 101! Thank you for reading, re-posting, pinning, commenting, and all of that good stuff.  This has been fun so far and I look forward to the blog continuing to grow with the next 101 posts 🙂  

You know me and my Groupons.  I love them!  This deal took Dave and our friends Andrew & Colleen to a “Steak, Seafood, & Sushi” restaurant called Spamps.  The place is pretty interesting and we had quite a unique experience there.  Their main room was taken over by a private party, so after having a drink at the bar, we were taken to a separate but connected Italian Restaurant to eat our dinner.  


We decided to order a bunch of appetizers and one sushi roll because they definitely seemed more interesting than the entrees.  I love going out with Andrew and Colleen becuaes they are just like us:  they love food!  We all agreed on ordering:

I'm not sure how these are "wontons" but they were yummy. The sauce was really good.

Island Wontons 
jerk pork/bananas/honey glazed almonds/papaya coulis

Couldn't decide which was better, the Buff Chix Wonton itself or the salad that we ate with it!

Buffalo Chicken Wonton
napa cabbage/celery/blue cheese/bacon

I believe I've said this before, but Short Rib ANYTHING is just the best.

Beef Short Rib Sliders
brioche roll/smoked gouda/pickled ginger/soy mirinreduction

These babies were SPI-CYYYYY!!! MMM!

Firecracker Calamari
buffalo sauce/blue cheese/pineapple

Cheesteak Egg Rolls are a staple in any creative Philly Menu... and always delicious. I mean really, what could be bad?

Cheese Steak Spring Rolls
american cheese/shaved rib-eye/siracha ketchup

Just another stop on Dave's Grand Mussel tour... he's obsessed! We're ordering them everywhere we go. These were really big but the broth was missing some flavor.

Mussels
ginger/black bean sauce/red chili flake

This sushi roll was pretty! And tasty.

Spamps Sushi Roll
black pepper crusted tuna and asparagus topped with king crab meat and tobiko, topped with wasabi sauce
Overall, the food was really very good.  Sitting in the Italian section of the restaurant with no music was pretty strange, especially when we were the only people in there!  My only other complaint was that our bread came at the VERY end of our meal… which included a BOWL of olive oil.

WTF, bowl 'o oil?

I’ve never seen anything like this before and both Andrew and I couldn’t stop laughing over how awkward it was to dip the bread in.  Oh well!
I’d go back but definitely stick with the apps… they were delish!

Pod on Valentine’s Day

For Valentine’s Day this year, I asked to go to a fun, romantic dinner, just the two of us.  Dave and I decided on POD, a Stephen Starr classic, featuring Dim Sum, Sushi, Pan-Asian dishes, and something I had never heard of:  Robata…but more on that later.

 

There is one thing I have to order EVERY time I go to ANY Stephen Starr restaurant:  Calamari Salad.  This salad happens to have been featured on Best Thing I Ever Ate, and let me tell you, it’s so true

 

Delish Calamari Salad

The Calamari Salad at POD differs from some of the other restaurants because it is served tossed in a Lemongrass Dressing.  It’s very light but flavorful and the spicy/citrus tang of the lemongrass pairs perfectly with the lightly breaded calamari. 

 

Unsure of what else to order besides a sushi roll, I asked our server what he recommended.  He told me about the Robata menu.  Robata, for those of you who don’t know (we didn’t!) is a Japanese grill that reaches up to 1000 degrees, double that of a normal charcoal grill.  The meat or veggies are grilled on skewers, lightly charring the outside but keeping the inside juicy and tender.  He also let me know that POD is the only restaurant in Philly that has a Robata grill.  Ding ding ding!  The alarm immediately went off in my head, we HAD to get this! 

 

We changed our order around (which ended up saving some money too!) and selected the Short Rib Robata served on two skewers with Truffle Miso sauce.  O-M-G.  I would go back to POD any day and order just this dish.  It was perfect, I can’t even find the right words to describe it.  YUM!

 

One of the best beef dishes I've ever eaten!

Dave and I agreed on ordering the Spicy Crunchy Yellowtail Roll, since it was one of the smaller ones.  And- if you know anything about us you will understand why it just wasn’t an option when you hear that there was jalapeno and mango inside!  MMM!  The sushi was very fresh and thankfully didn’t have very much spicy sauce or crunchy on it. 

 

You can even see the fresh mango!

Since we were ordering the Robata AND the sushi roll, we decided to order a side dish and a veggie instead of two entrees, saving us almost $50!  We ordered the Crab Fried Rice (Jasmine Rice and Jumbo Lump Crabmeat) & Wok Roasted Baby Bok Choy served with Garlic Sauce. 

 

Dave almost couldn't wait to dig in!

The rice was amazing.  Crabmeat was mixed throughout and every bite had crab in it.  Using the jasmine rice makes it have a unique taste and it also lightened it up a little. 

 

I was surprised to see the Bok Choy arrive at our table, I couldn’t believe how much was in one $6 serving!  They were so yummy and we were happy this was all the food we ordered, because we were STUFFED!

 

gorgeous color green baby bok choy

Of course not too stuffed to order an unbelievable, creative dessert!  We chose the Fluffernutter Spring Rolls.  Just the name of the dessert is enough to swoon over.  These spring rolls are stuffed with marshmallow fluff and peanut butter, served with a dark chocolate dipping sauce described by our server as “mandatory, not optional”.  These rolls were heavenly as expected, and we were both REALLY stuffed afterwards. 

 

PB&Fluff Spring Rolls

Take a peek inside! MMM!

I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect Valentine’s Day with Dahv! 

 

Tomatoe’s in Margate, NJ

Just a few weekends ago, my Mom and my friend Genna and her Mom- Penny, went “down the shore” for a weekend away.  The best thing about going to theJerseyShorein the off season (besides being able to take Stella to the beach) is that you can get “in” at any restaurant you normally can’t during the summer season.

Tomatoe’s in Margate, NJ is the hot spot we chose this time around.  Tomatoe’s is a hoppin’ bar and “Exquisite California Cuisine” restaurant, which also happens to have the best sushi in town.

the restaurant was so pretty and huge

We were first served warm, crusty bread with a side of olive oil dipping sauce complete with whole hunks of roasted garlic.

Check out all of that roasted garlic... mmm!

Most of us ordered the salad special for the night, and it was amazing.  Set atop a heaping pile of spring mix was fig-balsamic dressing covered roasted butternut squash, apple slices, crispy bacon, and Manchego cheese.

Genna and Penny must have been cravin’ crab, because they split both the Crab Pasta (Spaghettini tossed with jumbo lump crab in a marinara sauce) and the Crab Cakes (Jumbo Lump, baked golden with a chipotle aioli sauce).  The crab pasta was loaded with huge pieces of crabmeat, it was very impressive!

This dish had so much crab meat you could hardly see the pasta...

Humongous crab cakes!

Mom and I had to take a chance on the sushi menu, since we had heard such good things in the past.  The sushi came out on a huge platter, and it was all so fresh and delicious.  We thought the menu had a bunch of different, very creative rolls.  We ordered:  a classic Yellowtail Roll, the Naruto Roll (Tuna, Salmon, Crab, wrapped in Cucumber), the Atlantic City Roll (Spicy California Roll topped with Shrimp), the Autumn Roll (Crab, Peppercorn Salmon, Avocado, topped w/ Spicy Tuna), and finally… the most interesting of them all, the Margate Roll (Salmon, Crab, Shrimp with Roasted Peppers, Mozzarella and Spicy Sauce… tempura-ed)!  The sushi was fantastic.  I’ll definitely try it again!

What a gorgeous spread of sushi.

A close peek at the Margate Roll

Dessert was spectacular.  OMG.  We ordered the Smores dessert, not really knowing what to expect.  The dessert came layered in a cocktail glass.  Starting with graham crackers, then peanut butter mousse, light chocolate ganache, vanilla ice cream, and topped with marshmallow fluff… lightly burned on top, just like crème brulee.  WOW.  This version of the campfire treat is for sure one of my favorite desserts, ever.

Layers of Smores making for the perfect dessert

Gooey melted marshmallow made it difficult to eat without getting a little messy... but it was so worth it!

We also spent the afternoon at the movies, seeing My Week With Marilyn.  I was blown away by this movie.  The story of Marilyn Monroe is so compelling, and Michelle Williams could not have played Marilyn any better.  Sometimes, I had to think about it to remember that it wasn’t Marilyn herself.  I highly recommend this one!

Los Angeles – My City of Dreams!

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!!!!