Cherry Almond Muffin

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How awesome do these all natural, vegan, and mostly organic muffins from Ridiculous Baking Co. look? I found this small little stand at a farmer’s market by Echo Park Lake manned by the humble baker himself. He was extremely nice and recommended the cherry almond muffin.

I bought one home to try, and even refrigerated and eaten the day after, the muffin was just as soft and moist as when I had tried it at the farmer’s market. I loved the care that was taken to mix the almonds and cherry into the batter so that the muffin was loaded throughout with nuts and fruit.

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Cherry Almond Muffin

Cherry Almond Muffin

The Ridiculous Baking Co.
148 W. 132nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90061
310.910.5899

Throwback McDonald’s Fried Apple Pies

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I was too young to remember this, but my older cousin tells me that back in the day, McDonald’s used to have fried apple pies. However, in 1992, McD’s stopped selling their fried pies in the U.S. and started baking them instead. These days, the much-coveted fried apple pie can only be found in Canada and other places outside the States.

However, my cousin found a place in Los Angeles that started selling these pies again recently and recommended that I try. The owner of Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese apparently has an “in” with someone who knows the distributor of McD’s fried pies and started frying them up himself.

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These “throwback apple pies” were amazing! Obviously, I can’t compare it to the original fried McDonald’s pies, but if they were anything like these, I don’t understand why McDonald’s stopped selling them. They came out of the oven hot and fresh.

Even the act of setting the pie down and unwrapping it caused the delicate pastry to break apart. There was a nice, sweet layer of sugar on top of the flaky soft crust, and it was filled with crispy apple chunks and flavored with a hint of cinnamon.

Throwback Apple Pies

Throwback Apple Pies

Even my very picky boyfriend declared it the best apple pies he had ever had. If nothing else, these unique, throwback creations are a reason to take a trip to Melrose.

Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese
7461 Melrose Ave.
Beverly Grove, CA 90036
323.591.0177

Lobster Mac N’ Cheese with Scottish Beer

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Even if you don’t actually go into the theme park, Downtown Disneyland is chock full of interesting stores, restaurants, and bars geared towards the adult crowd. It’s hard to think of Disneyland as a great place to go for clubbing, but when the sun sets and the kids are passed out in strollers, that’s when the 21+ crowd emerge in club dresses and night out attire.

For dinner we chose the House of Blues mainly because my boyfriend got the steak he has been craving, and I got to try lobster mac n’ cheese for the first time.

Lobster mac n' cheese

Lobster mac n’ cheese

It was an interesting concept: add lobster chunks as a gourmet version of what is usually a kid’s snack. I loved the giant macaroni shells and the creamy cheese with bread crumbs baked on top. The lobster may have been a tad overcooked, but at least I can say that I have tasted lobster macaroni and cheese!

Perhaps the most memorable part of the meal was the Cocoa Psycho Russian imperial stout that I had ordered. It was a little pricey at $15 a bottle, but it did come highly recommended by the waiter. The beer comes from BrewDog, a craft brewery based on Scotland. Honestly, I couldn’t resist ordering it solely based on it’s exotic origins, but it was completely worth it! I loved the intense chocolate flavors with hint of vanilla thrown in.

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Cocoa Psycho Imperial Stout

Cocoa Psycho Russian Imperial Stout

Although I didn’t stay for much of the nightlife at Downtown Disney, that is definitely on my list for the next time. How awesome would it be to go clubbing with Mickey and Goofy? It is great that Disneyland offers a little something for everyone: an innocent theme park for kids by day, and a place to party for the adults at night.

House of Blues
Downtown Disneyland District
1530 Disneyland Dr.
Anaheim, CA 92802
714.778.2583

A Food Tour of the Anaheim Packing District

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Lately I’ve been extremely healthy–salads and all that–but no one really wants to read about how much spinach I’ve eaten, so the food posts have been lacking recently. However, over the Labor Day weekend I went down to visit my boyfriend in Los Angeles, and it was a whole “cheat week” full of delicious food!

I have been hearing alot about the Anaheim Packing District, so I couldn’t pass up a chance to try it out. The district consists of the Packing House (a warehouse sized gathering of food stores that just opened up earlier this year), the Farmer’s Park (with conveniently placed lawn chairs for napping in the sun), and the Packard Building (an old auto dealership converted into a burger shop and the Anaheim Brewery).

For lunch, my boyfriend was really hankering for good ole fashioned barbecue, so we went to Georgia’s Restaurant for some amazing Southern-style soul food.

Georgia's Restaurant

Georgia’s Restaurant

It was packed to the gills, and although the restaurant is no more than a couple booths big, we managed to find a seat by the window. We had some cornbread while we waiting for the rest of the food. When it did come about 20 minutes later, the barbecue definitely did not disappoint. I had the BBQ short ribs with a side of mac n’ cheese and French fries.

Georgia's cornbread

Georgia’s cornbread

BBQ short ribs with a side of macaroni and cheese and fries

BBQ short ribs with a side of mac n’ cheese and fries

The short ribs were absolutely amazing, with fall-off-the-bone meat and drenched in a sweet BBQ sauce. I traded half my ribs for half of my boyfriend’s tri-tip and immediately regretted not keeping the whole rack for myself. Don’t get me wrong, the tri-tip was good, but in my mind, it didn’t hold a candle to the short ribs.

The macaroni and cheese was delicious as well with creamy cheese and laden with spices–a departure from the normal mac n’ cheese. If you ever go, I highly recommend this side order (skip on the fries though, it was nothing special).

For dessert, we knew we had to try the highly popular Popbar, a unique handcrafted gelato-on-a-stick ice cream bar. The line stretched around the corner, out the door, and people lined up along the side of the Packing House in 80-degree heat for a chance at these high-end popsicles. Call me crazy, but I lined up right along with those people. After about 40 minutes, I finally got to the front of the line.

Rows and rows of popGelatos and popSorbettos

Rows and rows of popGelatos and popSorbettos

I was a little rushed when deciding my flavors, and ended up with a mandarin popSorbetto half-dipped in milk chocolate, covered in pistachios and drizzled with mint chocolate. My boyfriend went with a more traditional vanilla popGelato dipped in milk chocolate and covered in almonds and waffle cone crumbs. Although my creation was a little odd, the mandarin popSorbetto was wonderfully refreshing in the summer heat and I really liked the pistachio and mint chocolate flavor combination.

Handcrafted Popbar gelato and real fruit sorbet on a stick.

Handcrafted Popbar gelato and real fruit sorbet on a stick.

After the dessert, we walked around and relaxed for a while in Farmer’s Park before heading across the plaza to the Anaheim Brewery. A little out of order, I know–beer after sweets? But as my boyfriend knows, I can’t pass up a chance to try a great new brew–especially when you’re enjoying it in the tasting room right where it is made.

The Anaheim Brewery is situated in the Packard Building, an auto dealership back in the 1920s. Since then the building has been repurposed: the showroom is now an Umami Burger next door, and the car repair shop now houses shiny metal tanks of beer.

We each had a flight of their six beers: the Anaheim Gold, Red, Hefenweizen, 1888, the Coast to Coast IPA, and the Oatmeal Stout. If I wasn’t a little drunk by the end of it all and if only I had taken pictures, I would go into more detail. The only thing I can definitively say is that they were delicious and the IPA was very strong.

I do remember the bartender telling us a little bit about their flagship beer: the Anaheim 1888. It is based on a style of beer that was brewed during the California Gold Rush era. Anaheim 1888 actually won silver place this year in the Amber Lager Category at the California State Fair Commercial Craft Brewing Competition, but I think the coolest part was knowing I was drinking a bit of my state’s history.

By the end of the day, I was full of good food, a little drunk, and even got a history lesson thrown in.

There were giant *ahem* roosters at every entrance.

There were giant *ahem* roosters at every entrance to the Packing House.

Georgia’s Restaurant
440 South Anaheim Blvd. #209A
Anaheim, CA 92805
714.906.1900

Popbar
440 South Anaheim Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92805
714.215.4679

Anaheim Brewery
336 South Anaheim Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92805
714.780.1888

Oui Oui Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches

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Nestled into a tiny corner that used to be Burger King in the Serramonte Mall in Daly City is now a little shop counter full of macarons. I happened upon this hidden gem as I was trying to kill some time while waiting for my car’s maintenance to finish.

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The macaron craze has been going on for some time now, but I never really got into it. Until now: they had macaron ice cream sandwiches!

I couldn’t pass up this opportunity for a giant macaron cookie, and ordered a mocha almond fudge ice cream sandwich.

Mocha almond fudge macaron ice cream sandwich

Mocha almond fudge macaron ice cream sandwich

The ice cream sandwich definitely satisfied my sweet tooth for the day. The macaron cookies were chewy and sweet, with a hint of caramel flavoring. I loved the crunch of the almonds in the ice cream and the slight coffee flavor in the ice cream. I don’t suppose it would’ve been too forward of me to ask for another giant macaron cookie, right? Ice cream is good anytime, but the giant macarons were amazing!

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Oui Oui! Macaron
345 Serramonte Ctr
Daly City, CA 94105
415.684.5487

Scootering Through San Francisco

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My friends and I found a great scootering deal online and although all three of us grew up in San Francisco, we decided to play “tourist” for the day. Scoot was currently having a summer promotion ($10 for 3 rides) and since neither my friends nor I have ever ridden in a scooter, we thought it would be a fun thing to try.

We signed up for a quick introductory lesson on Sunday. Never having ridden a Vespa or a motorcycle, I was definitely a little wobbly in the beginning and even at the end, I wasn’t quite sure I had gotten the hang of it yet. There were a couple signs that told me I should probably not invest in a scooter anytime soon: given that they were electric scooters, it was hard to tell when they were on or off; there was no speedometer so I had no idea how fast I was going; I kept forgetting to turn off my turn signals (I’m sure cars behind me loved that); and most importantly, I kept forgetting where my throttle was and it would take me a second to remind myself where my brakes were. By the end, I had determined that I was much too clumsy for this.

We rode in formation like the Harley Davidsons that roared beside us–and with our matching red rides, we quickly dubbed ourselves “San Francisco’s first electric scooter gang”.

Our badass rides.

Our badass rides.

We rode through Fisherman’s Wharf, down to the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building, then looped around to Crissy Fields and the foot of Golden Gate Bridge before swinging by the Palace of Fine Arts. Although I have been to these places numerous times, it was exciting to see it on the back of a scooter, zipping through the streets of downtown San Francisco. The wind blew through our hair and stung our eyes as we rode along, but there was no window or metal frame between us and the City: it felt more real, we could see things in a different light, notice things that would have otherwise been missed if we were simply in a car. It was thrilling and scary at the same time.

The Golden Gate Bridge by scooter

The Golden Gate Bridge by scooter

When we reached an empty local street by Crissy Fields, we raced down the gently curving road and pushed our scooters to the limit (which was probably no more than 20 miles per hour).

If given the chance, I would probably do it again, I’d just have to make sure I have bandaids at the ready. Next time though, I’d like to ride along the beach and take in the ocean air.

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Din Tai Fung and Their Chinese Soup Dumplings

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Din Tai Fung is arguably the most famous steamed dumpling restaurant in the West Coast, and they specialize in the bite-sized delicious buns of meat known as xiao long bao. Although there are many different kinds of dumplings in Chinese cuisine, xiao long bao originate from the Shanghai region of China. They are traditionally soup-filled dumplings with pork and wrapped in a thin, delicate flour skin.

To eat them, simply gently rest these delicate pillows of meat on your soup spoon. Pinch the tip of the dumpling with your chopsticks and bite it, creating a hole at the top. Suck out the flavorful pork soup inside, then eat the dumpling. Easy, delicious. I could eat a whole tray of these in one sitting.

Pork xiao long bao

Pork xiao long bao

The Din Tai Fung in Bellevue has a window where you can watch them make each little dumpling by hand. Somehow, the dumplings all come out uniform: same size, shape, and perfectly cooked inside.

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Din Tai Fung Dumpling House
700 Bellevue Way NE #280
Bellevue, WA 98004
425.698.1095

Pike Place Market

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What trip to Seattle is complete without visiting the Pike Place Market? The last time I went I was pretty young, so this time I couldn’t resist walking around taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of Pike Place. It is crowded and very touristy, but hey, sometimes you just have to give in and follow the herd. There are a couple places that I especially liked.

1. The Flower Market
I love walking through the florist section of Pike Place–rows and rows of freshly cut flowers in a multitude of colors.

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2. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese
Walking by, they have a huge window where you can watch them make cheese in a vat the size of a room. The cheese making process is posted up along the walls–very interesting. Since they did have advertised “World’s Best Macaroni and Cheese”, how could I pass up a chance to try it? It was deliciously creamy and cheesy (as expected), but as a bonus, there is a bit of spice added so that it is not just pasta and milk curds. The taste is definitely a little different than the usual macaroni and cheese, but was it the “World’s Best” as their title claimed? I’ll leave it to the mac ‘n’ cheese connoisseurs to decide.

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World's Best Mac and Cheese. Sorry, I ate half of it before I remembered to take a picture...

World’s Best Mac and Cheese. Sorry, I ate half of it before I remembered to take a picture…

3. The Original Starbucks Café
This might possibly be the most crowded Starbucks in the world, given this is where the lucrative coffee chain originated. There were too many people and I was too short to see over everyone’s heads, so I can’t tell if the menu is the same as other Starbucks, but I have heard that this original café stays true to it’s roots and only serves coffee and espresso. The really cool thing is that this is the only Starbucks that sells mugs and souvenirs with the original mermaid logo.

4. Pike Place Fish Company
Last but not least, I ended my day watching the seafood vendors toss salmon at each other. For $5, you can stand next to the cashier, hold out your arms and catch a fish yourself! It’s usually accompanied by lots of shouting and laughter, because although those guys make it look so easy, fish are very slippery and I saw more than one bystander let a trout slip through her hands.

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Pike Place Market
85 Pike St.
Seattle, WA 98101

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The Crab Pot

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I was in Seattle for a couple days before I left on my cruise, and one of the best–and most fun–restaurants I have been to is the Crab Pot, a seafood chain based in Washington and California. It is messy and brutal, and after the feast of crab and seafood, your table will look like a murder scene, but it was oh-so-good!

The weapons of destruction

The weapons of destruction

The Crab Pot is one of those restaurants that seat you down around a big table and hand you plastic bibs. There is nary a utensil on the table save for a board, a lobster cracker, and a big wooden mallet. We ordered the Westport, and received a heaping bowl of dungeness crab, snow crab, shrimp, steamed clams, Pacific mussels, andouille sausage, corn on the cob, and red potatoes. The mountain of seafood was dumped unceremoniously on the table, and armed with our mallets, we dove in.

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The Westport Seafeast

The Westport Seafeast

It was a battlefield: bits of shell flew everywhere as I pounded angrily on the damn snow crab legs before finally resorting to ripping it apart with with my hands. But oh was it worth it! The seafood was delicious, and although I may have chipped a tooth on a mussel and wound up with shrimp in my hair, it was extremely fun and somehow tasted even better knowing I had to work for it.

The Crab Pot
1301 Alaskan Way
Pier 57, Seattle, WA
206.624.1890

Dog-sledding in the Yukon

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On my Alaska trip, I was able to cross off something on my bucket list that I have been dreaming about for some time–dog sledding. Although it wasn’t through the snow and it was only a quick ride, I am extremely grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The ship docked in Skagway, Alaska–a minuscule town of 800 people–and we joined a tour for $99 per person to take us across the border into the Yukon Territory in Canada. The scenery and wildlife in the Yukon is unparalleled (that’s where I encountered the bear), but our final destination was the community of Carcross (formerly known as Caribou Crossing).

Yukon Territory

Yukon Territory

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During the winter, Michelle Phillips and her team of dogs race the Iditarod Trail–a 1,000 mile sled dog race across the Alaskan tundra. Spring and summer is training time, and that is precisely what Michelle and her winning team of dogs are at Carcross to do. Summer training for the dogs consist of building up their muscles by having them pull tourists (i.e. me) around in a 4-wheeled cart. Each cart seats about 8-9 people, with a team of 9 dogs to pull–which is pretty incredible if you consider the enormous amount of weight that these dogs can manage. So we get to help participate in their summer training, and in the winter, they are off to the races.

We were lucky enough to be paired with Michelle and her winning team of Alaskan huskies. We got in the cart, and the dogs were just as excited as we were to begin the journey. The team that was lined up at the sidelines jumped and pulled at their leashes, barking and howling as trainers clipped them to the harness. Once all nine dogs had been harnessed to the cart, Michelle signaled and the dogs leapt high into the air, starting the cart with a jolt–we were off. We rattled, bounced, and swerved along a snaking trail through the trees–the dogs received commands from their master when the road forked, but otherwise they knew exactly where to go.

All harnessed and ready to go!

All harnessed and ready to go!

As we were riding, she was more than happy to talk to us about dog sledding and her wonderful team. The Alaskan husky is noticeably smaller than the Siberian husky. These dogs are actually mutts: they are a mix of Siberian husky, malamute, greyhound, and various other breeds–all designed to give them the advantage when it comes to speed, strength, and survivability in the frozen environment.

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The two lead dogs are the smartest, they guide the whole team through the trails. The unpaired dog in the second row actually helps turn the cart, and moves from the right and left depending on which way the sled needs to go. The dogs at the very rear are the brute strength–large and strong beasts that keep the heavy sled moving. Each dog can run 8 to 10 hours a day, burning thousands of calories–thus requiring a protein intense, high calorie diet.

After a quick water break, they were ready to finish the trail.

After a quick water break, they were ready to finish the trail.

At the end of the ride, we got to meet these incredible dogs. They were so friendly and loved the attention! I admit, I had a hard time tearing myself away from these pups, especially the very friendly blonde lead dog.

The lead dog of our team

The lead dog of our team

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They also had puppies and off-duty dogs on the farm, and we were welcome to walk around and play with them as well. This was an unforgettable experience–perhaps when winter rolls around again, I’ll be watching and cheering for my team on the Iditarod Trail.

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