Monday, January 30, 2012

Cucina Enoteca - Irvine, CA (Spectrum)

I stumbled upon Cucina Enoteca by accident. It was a happy accident don't get me wrong but I had originally planned to have dinner at Javier's next door. It was date night and my date and I both really like Javier's but the wait time was 2 hours. So the thing is, they do not take reservations on the weekends. Friday night is considered the start of the weekend to them. My date had called up Javier's after work to check on the wait time and they informed us that there was no wait currently and we were only 10 minutes away so we decided to chance it. We got there 15 minutes after we hung up the phone only to find out that the "no wait" had turned into a 2 hour wait. How does that even happen in the span of 15 minutes. Only in Irvine!

I hate waiting! I only wait when I absolutely have too. I very rarely wait to get into a restaurant. If I cannot get into a place, I will just leave and find another place. There are just too many places around here to wait for food. I'm just not going to do it. Luckily, on this particular night as we peeped into the newly opened Cucina Enoteca, there was no waiting. I'm only assuming it was perfect timing on our part that we got a table right away because this place looks like it should be filled to the brim with people.

We were seated at this really nice table at the center of the restaurant at this table with these really comfortable chairs and romantic chandelier lighting. It was really cozy. I could tell right away that this was my kind of place.

Farmer's Chopped Salad - I've been on the outs with salads lately but this one...well this one pulled me back in. It may very well be the best salad I've ever had. It is simple with a very simple tangy vinaigrette but it is amazing! Oh it is also topped with crumbled blue cheese but we left that off because know...lactose intolerant me.

Short Rib Pappardelle - this rich wide ribbon pasta dish was really flavorful and the short rib was tender. If you are looking for a hearty stick to your ribs kind of meal, order this dish!

Pepperoni and Fennel Sausage Pizza - their pizzas have a nice crust on them. 

You don't need to ask me Mr./Mrs. Server, I ALWAYS save room for dessert. 

Zeppole - Italian donut holes in a caramel like sauce. Nirvana on a plate!

So we fell so hard for Cucina Enoteca that we came back the next night. It was a Saturday night and it was really busy. We didn't make a reservation and decided to try our luck again at getting seated right away. No dice. There was a 1.5 hour wait! I didn't know if I should wait or not. I put my name down since my date was still trying to find a parking space. By some amazing luck, my reservation buzzer went off just as my date came walking up. We were seated on a really busy night. So lucky. I find out later that they had mixed up the reservations and we accidentally got seated earlier than planned. Food service was slow today since it was so busy. They gave us complimentary bread. You normally have to order bread at this place.

CE 'brandt farms'  Burger w/ truffle fries...

Yes I said TRUFFLE fries...

Shrimp Puttanesca Angel Hair - another very simple dish with giant perfectly cooked shrimps accented with capers and chopped green olives. It is a runner's carbo-loading dream come true. Well for this runner anyways. :)

This place has great food, a cozy atmosphere, some great wines if you are into that. Plus, it is right across the way from the Edward's theater if you want to catch a movie after dinner. I like this place a lot and will be back to sample their other dishes in the near future. My goal is to try everything on their menu! It's hard work but someone has to do it.

February 3, 2012

One Friday afternoon I decided that I wanted to go to Cucina Enoteca for dinner so I went online to make a reservation. I almost could not believe it when I saw that they were totally booked up for the entire evening. So I took to Twitter to express my sadness...

Next thing I knew Cucina Enoteca contacted me directly to let me know that they had a last minute cancellation and that I could have the table if I wanted it. Score!

We get there and was promptly seated. I sent the restaurant a tweet to thank them for accommodating my procrastinating self. They replied and said buon appetito!

I decided to order the Farmer's Chopped Salad...

...and this Cotechino Sausage Stuffed Squid! This dish was an explosion of flavors. The sausage was sweet while the spicy tomato brodo was savory with a little kick. A really unique and interesting dish!

I don't know if they had seen my tweets but the chef sent out this complimentary Beet and Ricotta Salad...

...and this Yellowtail Crudo! The yellowtail was so fresh and just look at how beautiful it looks. Like a work of art. M commented that he really liked this dish and he is not a big fish fan. I was surprised when he told me that this was the best raw fish dish he has ever had. He doesn't like seafood so this was saying a lot. The beets in the Beet Salad was so tender and sweet. I wasn't planning on eating so much salad but I couldn't help myself. So good! I had wanted to save room for dessert but the two amazing dishes the chef sent out took up all the real estate in my stomach. But I was full and happy! Another amazing meal in the books.

Cucina Enoteca (Irvine Spectrum)
31 Fortune Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 861-2222

Friday, January 27, 2012

2012 Tinker Bell Half Marathon - Race Recap

Date: January 29, 2012
Location: Disneyland, Anaheim CA
Start: 5:45am <-- sleep running
Finish: 1:59:09
Elevation: Mostly flat!

This is the inaugural running of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon and my second Disney race. Sure Disney races are expensive as all heck but you get pixie dust, a huge medal at the finish line and a well organized race. Sometimes that is all it takes to suck me in. 

I got up this morning at 3am! I can't tell you how not normal this feels to me. I am not a morning person and I really dislike when races start so early that I have to get up at 3 am! I'm Asian and all but I was so sleepy that my eyes look "squint-ier" than usual. So here's my costume. I decided at the last minute to wear that black jacket. I was going to go with black arm sleeves but I was cold like I always am so I decided to wear the jacket.

This was taken at the starting line in corral A just minutes before GO time! There were ALOT of people there. Mostly women. Dressed in pretty costumes. It was like one giant pixie dust cloud.

So I didn't stop to take too many photos this time around. I skipped a lot of character photo ops because the lines were insanely long for some of them and mostly I was just trying to survive the race but this was taken around mile 3 or 4 on Main Street USA. The course was a little bit different from the Disneyland Half. Just different routing but pretty similar. I like this course better than the Disneyland Half. Just a personal preference.

The castle!

This was towards the end of the race. I decided to stop to take one photo with the cast of Toy Story when I realized how sucky my time already was. No use beating a dead horse. Mile splits are below. I negative split this race. Strange. I'm starting to feel a little bit better and hope that my upcoming race times will reflect this. One thing is for sure, I need to start running a whole lot more in the next upcoming weeks/month to regain my running endurance. I've lost a lot of fitness lately and racing is less fun when you are wheezing and huffing and puffing and not being able to enjoy the race.

My sweetie took this photo of me about half a mile away from the finish line.

Ah, I really like this medal! It is huge!

January 28, 2012: Expo

I decided to go get my bib today at the Disneyland Hotel since I am going to be busy tomorrow. Luckily I had just ran the Disneyland Half a couple of months ago so all the logistics were basically the same. I was able to get in and out of there in 30 minutes. The parking people only give you a 30 minute "grace" parking allotment if you decide to park in the hotel lot. So you need to be quick about things. If you loiter around too long they will charge you extra. You don't want to be charge extra because you know everything at Disney is expensive. So I did what I had to do and this included walking the entire expo floor in about 30 minutes. Yeah I'm skilled like that. Don't mess with me, I'm small and can slip in and out of places quick-style. Like a ninja.

There were tons of fairy accessories on display and even a booth with Disney hair stylists to turn you into a princess! For $39.95 of course. 

Team Sparkle booth and all their cute accessories. $10 wings people! If you need wings and who doesn't need wings, go and get them there!

I'm all set for race day! See you at the starting line!


Mile 1 - 9:37 <-- Very crowded in the beginning
Mile 2 - 11:05 <-- Potty break
Mile 3 - 9:57 <-- Struggling with shin splints for the next 2-3 miles
Mile 4 - 9:07
Mile 5 - 8:40
Mile 6 - 8:39
Mile 7 - 8:43
Mile 8 - 8:31 <-- Things starting to turn around for the better
Mile 9 - 8:23
Mile 10 - 8:24
Mile 11 - 8:15
Mile 12 - 7:07 <-- Went nuts
Mile 13 - 8:28

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Track and Fail

Today's post will be in list format because I am short on time but not on talking about useless info.  

1) Thank you for the nice comments despite my lackluster performance at Carlsbad last weekend.

2) Track workout! Haven't done any in a really long time. Felt like an overgrown slug out there. In an effort to resurrect ORF (Operation Run Faster), I tagged along for some 800s with Sarah and Margot this morning. Let me just say that getting up at the butt crack of dawn to do track work is not my idea of a good time but it helps to have other people there to suffer with. It was all very casual and they did not make me feel bad that I was a giant slug. I did a couple of warm-up laps before Sarah and Margot showed up and then did a couple more with them. We did 6 sets of 800s. Well I did them at my own pace. I've gotten slower since the last time I did track work (even my best lap was about 10 seconds slower than my previous time) but this is a good start to build from. The important thing is that I am looking forward to going back to improve on these.

1) 3:39
2) 3:35
3) 3:43
4) 3:50
5) 3:47
6) 3:40

I guess eating this buffalo burger from Whole Foods last night was a good call. Ok, maybe not. It wasn't very good either.

3) I spent some time last night working on my Tinkerbell Half costume. I am a big arts and craft nerd so this sort of thing is right up my alley. It is almost complete!

4) Finally, if you happen to be looking for some compression wear, head on over to Aspaeris because they are having a 50% off sale this week. Use code "cooleronline" at checkout! 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

2012 Carlsbad Half Marathon - Race Recap

Date: January 22, 2012
Location: Carlsbad, CA
Start: 7:30am
Finish: 2:08:01

Mile 1 - 8:42
Mile 2 - 9:48 <-- slowed down a bit, realized I needed to conserve energy
Mile 3 - 9:12
Mile 4 - 9:12
Mile 5 - 9:48 <-- not feeling well, wanted to quit
Mile 6 - 10:16 <-- bathroom break
Mile 7 - 9:19
Mile 8 - 9:11
Mile 9 - 9:11
Mile 10 - 11:08 <-- running around looking for a porta potty with tp on opposite side of the course
Mile 11 - 12:16 <-- took 2 miles to finally find a potty with tp, what a day!
Mile 12 - 8:54 <-- feeling a bit better but too late in the game to do anything about it
Mile 13 - 8:40

This race was the second time I've ran Carlsbad. Back in 2008, I ran the half in a time of 1:53:24, it was a PR for me at the time. No recap for that race that year because that was prior to when I started blogging regularly. That year I signed up for Carlsbad in an attempt to get the Triple Crown medal for finishing Carlsbad, La Jolla and America's Finest City Half. I haven't ran it again since as Carlsbad isn't exactly in my backyard. It is a good forty minute haul down the 5 South. This year I decided to go back and run the course again. I can't remember why I signed up but I did. I signed up way in advance and could not have foreseen that I would be "ill" around this time. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

And here I am standing at the start line this morning just minutes before the gun went off. I overslept. Again. I accidentally rolled over this morning to turn off my alarm and fell back asleep until about 6:30am. Things were a blur after that but somehow I made it to the start line.

In case you are wondering, this is a good course in my book. A couple of rolling hills to make things interesting but not so difficult as to make a PR impossible. Plus, you get to run along the beach for a couple of the middle miles. It was a gorgeous day with perfect running temperatures. Rain had been predicted for race morning earlier in the week. I was so worried but it turned out to be a beautiful day. Sadly I was not having a good racing day despite the perfect conditions. In fact it was around the time when I took this photo that I first considered dropping out of the race. This was around mile 5.

But I kept going because I'm a lot of things but I've never DNF a race before.

It helped that I was in good company. I thought about throwing in the towel again at around mile 10 but decided that I was so close to the end that I should just tough it out.

Me - 1, Colitis - 0

So the day before the race, I drove down to Carlsbad to pick up my bib. It was raining. Ugh! I seriously hate rain. The carpeting inside the expo was sopping wet. The rain was coming down sideways almost and got my clothes damp from walking from my car to the expo tent. Hate.the.rain.

I made a beeline for the bib table then to the t-shirt table and then high tailed it out of there. I think it took me all of 10 minutes. Maybe 5.

I love that the women's shirt is fitted! Plus, on the back of the bib was a coupon for a free burrito from Chipotle. Yum!

Race #2 is coming up next weekend with race #3 following close behind the weekend after that. It's going to be a long month.

Friday, January 20, 2012

My First Race of 2012

I seriously cannot believe that I have a race this weekend. Felt like I had so much time to train for it but the day has come and I feel unprepared. In my defense, I've been ill. [TMI stuff coming up.]

I have an auto-immune condition called Ulcerative Colitis that affects my colon that makes it next to impossible to run/train on certain days. I cannot site exact numbers but many people are afflicted by Colitis in varying degrees from mild to severe. There are also different types of Colitis, with Ulcerative being just one variety. I've been living with this condition for eight years now but it never gets easier. There is currently no cure, only pain and symptom management. I never know when it will decide to show up or for how long. Sounds like an uninvited house guest and in a way it is. If you look at my running history, you can sort of tell when UC takes over my life as I usually log very low weekly mileages and struggle to finish races. That is the risk I often take when I decide to sign up for races a year in advance. Sure I could probably find another activity to do but I love to run. At one point in my life a couple of years ago during a bad flare-up I thought about quitting running. That thought lasted about a week before I decided that I was not going to let this thing get the best of me. So for the most part, I train hard when I am healthy and symptom free and dial it back when I am not able to give it my all. It's worked for me so far and I am grateful that I am still able to enjoy one of my favorite activities.


With that said, I'm curious to see how I will fair at this weekend's Carlsbad Half Marathon. It is my first race of 2012 and I am very nervous because I haven't ran over 10 miles in a couple of weeks and my running has been slow and all the miles have been logged at the gym on a treadmill. I've trained as hard as I could considering my symptoms and you can bet that I am going to go out there and give it everything I have. I have a couple of back-to-back weekend races in the next couple of weeks so I need to pace myself and try to enjoy it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The First One Hundred Days

Photo credit to Sister K

Today marks the 100th day since my beautiful niece was born into this world. Traditional Chinese households still celebrate this milestone but we had already celebrated her one-month celebration a couple of months ago. Happy 100th Day E! I got a text from my brother-in-law the other night letting me know that she laughed her first real laugh. I cannot wait to hear it! She has grown so much.

I'm embarrassed to say that I don't know too much about traditional Chinese rituals and ceremonies but I love my culture and am fascinated by everything that I find out along the way. Yesterday I did some online research on the meaning of a child's first 100 days on earth and found this little write-up that is both fascinating and curious at the same time. I don't know if anyone still follow these steps outside of China but a lot of it is based on symbolic significance as well as superstitions. 

And because I live for food references...see the highlighted text below. Yu Char Kuei is a fried dough pastry that is a little bit sweet and salty at the same time. Often eaten with coffee and used for dipping or eaten with congee. It says in the text below that you would give this to a child on his/her 100th days so that he/she can learn to walk. Like a mini walking stick?


Red (colored) eggs!

"In the first 100 days of a child's life there are at least five events celebrating her life. On the morning of the third day, a Chinese baby gets her first bath. The midwife officiates this ceremony which is attended by female friends and relatives. The midwife sits with the mother on her bed surrounded by a straw sieve, a mirror, a padlock, an onion, a comb and a weight. An offering of incense to the god and goddess of the bed burns nearby. The baby is bathed in hot water boiled with locust branches and artemis plants. There is red silk and a string of cash fastened around the tub. Guests place a piece of fruit or colored egg into the water. Each guest places a spoonful of cool water in the basin and gives a small gift of silver to the baby. The baby's biggest celebration is at one month when the mother's allowed out of her room. Family and friends dine and celebrate all night. Money is given in bright red envelopes and the baby wears a silver or gold padlock around his neck locking the child to this world. On the hundredth day some Chinese families host another celebration. Friends and family bring fish and chicken to the child's home. When the chicken is cooked, the tongue is rubbed on the baby's lips to make the child a good talker. And the baby's paternal grandfather may present the baby with a rocking chair. Traditionally, the child's first birthday is also celebrated with a large feast and offerings to the gods and goddesses. Parents also place a variety of objects in a basket -- a pen, silver, official seal, needlework and some toys -- and offer the basket to the child. The object the baby grabs signifies the child's future. The traditional first-birthday gift is a gold ring meant to protect the baby during harsh times. A long bread, yu char kuei, is given to the child for the first time. It is believed it will help him learn how to walk. The day he walks, a relative walks behind him with a knife drawing three lines on the ground. The Chinese believe there are invisible bindings around a child's ankles binding him to a previous life. With the bindings cut, the child walks freely forever." (Source)

Friday, January 13, 2012


I was at jury duty yesterday. I know it is one of my duties as a citizen but boy I just don't have time to sit around watching TV, nervously waiting for my name to be called. On the other hand, I got a break from work so it wasn't all bad. The best part was that we got dismissed early so it turned out to be a good day after all.

I grabbed a late lunch at a sandwich shop near my place. Tuna sandwich on wheat. It was overpriced and mediocre. I don't know why I keep coming to this place. Can someone please tell me where I can get a good tuna sandwich in the OC?

So I may have wandered into the bakery section of a market down the ways from the sandwich place. I was weak from doing my civic duty, eating a mediocre sandwich, I was just weak.