Friday, June 28, 2013

A Little Bit of Cuba In My Life

Happy Friday! It's especially happy for me because I'm on vacation next week! Woo-hoo!

My sister came down to visit me today while her car was in the shop nearby. We ended up grabbing some lunch at Santouka where I ran into Emil. He commented that we keep running into each other and we do but only because he likes a lot of the same foods that I do and he runs all the races so I'm bound to run into him at a couple of them. Swear that I am not stalking you! ha ha. End of tangent.

After work, the husband and I went to get some dinner at Bella Cuba. I don't know why but I suddenly got a craving for paella today out of nowhere so I did a little web surfing and found Bella Cuba. Strange thing was that I didn't even end up ordering the paella. If you come here for paella, just know that it takes 45 minutes for them to cook it up. I'm sure it's worth the wait.

I was going to wait a couple of days before posting about this restaurant but I decided to just write about it today because I'm pretty sure I'm going to have some other stuff to write about come Monday. So without further ado, here is my first Cuban food experience.

The restaurant is very cozy inside. I didn't take a photo because I didn't want to be rude while people were trying to enjoy their dinner but trust me it is the kind of place that I would take friends to for a nice casual meal. As soon as I walk in, I see that almost everyone is drinking sangria. I hear that they have some pretty good sangria here. Thinking back I have regrets that I didn't just order some. I guess I'm going to have to go back. ;0)

As we were looking over the menu, the waiter brings us some bread. Not just any bread but buttery garlic toast. The husband commented that it tasted like the bread from a grilled cheese sandwich except without the cheese. He was right. Tasty!

We shared an order of chicken empanadas and they were amazing! An order is $5.50 and consist of two good sized empanadas. These are also available with spinach or beef filling. The filling was super flavorful and the crust was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. For me, the secret to a good empanada is the filling and this one is done right. Very good.

I decided to order the Arroz Amarillo Con Camarones (Shrimp w/ Yellow Rice) $16.95. It had all the amazing flavor of paella but in a more manageable size. The portion was still very generous with lots of fresh shrimp nestled in a bed of very savory and flavorful rice topped with peas and red pepper. I could not stop eating this. Good thing I have a pretty long run tomorrow.

So how was my first experience trying Cuban food? Que delicioso!

Bella Cuba
3930 South Bristol Street, #114
Santa Ana, CA 92704
(714) 545-5711

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The "S" stands for Hope

I went to the movies yesterday. I saw a display for the movie Turbo coming out on July 17. What I wouldn't do for some turbo injections.

I actually went to see Man of Steel. What can I say, I like me some superhero. Also, Henry Cavill is not exactly bad to look at for 2 hours.

I liked it more than I thought I would. Lots of foreshadowing for future DC character tie-ins. I'm actually not all that familiar with the whole DC Universe so it's interesting to pick up a couple of details here and there.

I've signed up for a short race on the Fourth of July! Anyone else? This will be my first July 4th race. Here's to hoping it won't be too hot.

Finally, for my foodie readers, I'm going to be at the LA Street Food Fest this weekend stuffing my face sampling the fine offerings from 100+ food trucks. You pay an entrance fee and the the food/drinks are inclusive. If you don't hear from me in a weeks time, just know that I probably died a happy delicious death.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Green Zone Restaurant - San Gabriel, CA

I've been doing a really bad job of keeping my restaurant review postings updated lately. Let's just say that I can't remember the last time I did a restaurant review.

Luckily over the weekend Sister K found the Green Zone Restaurant in San Gabriel, a neat little restaurant that was new to us to try. I'm going to take a stab at classifying this restaurant as an organic Chinese/Taiwanese/Japanese fusion restaurant just based on a casual scan of the items on the menu. They are known for their organic food and Hainan chicken. I actually don't know how we ended up on the topic of Hainan chicken. Maybe I said something like I wanted rice and chicken when the topic of dinner came up.

I've only ever had Hainan chicken one other time at Asian Tapas in Irvine. It was just okay. I knew there was better Hainan chicken out there and was confident that the San Gabriel Valley area would not disappoint.

When we walked into the restaurant, I noticed baskets of produce by the entrance. I guess they also sell organic produce here should you feel inclined to do some grocery shopping after your meal.


We sat right in front of this mural painted by artist Zack. I think my sisters commented on how detailed this mural was and that we don't normally see stuff like this in restaurants in this area.


We shared this Taster's Sampler. Pictured on this plate is 3 orders. You get one of each and 2 rolls with each order which is $3.50. Shrimp rolls, prawn wrapped in tofu skin and salmon triangles. It was piping hot and crispy. Overall it was good.

My sister and I shared 2 dishes. One of them being this clams sauteed with white wine in a garlic broth served over linguine dish. The clams were fresh but the broth and pasta tasted under seasoned or lack that certain something that would have made this dish better. My sister and I agreed that it could have had a richer flavor, more depth and more salt. I'm not a salt fiend but this could have used more. Maybe it was meant to be a healthier version of this dish.

We also shared this Hainan chicken dish which was pretty good. The chicken is poached and served with lemongrass flavored rice (the lemongrass flavor is very subtle, not over-powering at all). I really liked this dish because the chicken was cooked perfectly (thigh meat), was boneless and skinless (note: at some restaurants, the chicken is often served with the skin and bone intact). The garlic chili sauce that was served with this dish was very good. I even liked the ginger scallion sauce and I'm no fan of ginger. The ginger flavor was very subtle which I liked. I would definitely eat this again.

This restaurant is unique in that there are not too many organic restaurants in the SGV or ones that offers healthier options (i.e. being able to sub brown rice for white rice). I also saw some amazing sounding salads on the menu that I would like to try on some future visits and they even have sukiyaki.

This restaurant is not very large so make a reservation ahead of time to ensure a timely seating. Also, if you check-in on Yelp you get a free organic vanilla bean ice cream. Plus, unlimited passion fruit ice tea.

Green Zone Restaurant
534 East Valley Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 288-9300

Monday, June 17, 2013

2013 Pasadena Chalk Festival

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of going to see some amazing artists in action at the 2013 Pasadena Chalk Festival. I use to draw when I was younger but somewhere along the way I've really lost touch with art. My heart still skips a beat whenever I see an artist bring an image to life. The process of creation, from the heart/mind, through the arms/hands/fingertips, onto the paper, canvas and in this case...sidewalk. From the moment I arrived at the festival, I was mesmerized by the colors, the techniques, much to take in. I wanted to see it all. I definitely had a kid-in-a-candy-store moment there.

Here are some of my favorites.

This one was at the top of my list. Gorgeous!

I love watching the artists at work.

They were auctioning off a helicopter ride at the silent auction.

And we are clear for take-off...

Sensory overload in the best way possible!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

2013 Irvine Trail Half Marathon - Race Recap

Date: June 15, 2013
Location: Irvine Regional Park // Site #4
Start: 8:00am
Finish: 1:54:52

I randomly signed up for this race earlier in the week because I wanted to run some trails and I did not want to run know...because I didn't want to be coyote bait.

The Irvine Trail Half Marathon is one of a few races put on by My Own Race. This race boasts a small field, very easy logistics and a very casual feel. You do have to pay $5 to get into the Irvine Regional Park where this race is staged but parking is plentiful and the starting line is just steps from there. There is a 5K, 10K and a half marathon option. Something for everyone.

The race shirt is simple and looks like a cotton t-shirt, which I like. Feels like cotton too but is actually polyester.

I went to bed last night knowing that I didn't have any bread in the house to eat in the morning but for some reason, I thought that I would maybe drive to a bagel shop in the morning and pick something up. Yeah, that didn't end up happening. So I get to the race with nothing to eat. So I dig around in my purse because I always hide snacks in there. Lo and behold, I found these two bars from who knows when. They tasted like they've been sitting in my purse for way too long. Into the trash they went. So I'm still hungry but the race was about to start. Good thing I was snack-y last night so I wasn't really running on empty.

Final instructions from the race director...namely to yield to bikers and horses...else you get kicked in the the horses, not the bikers.

Here we are at the starting line. I don't have any photos of the course despite carrying my phone with me. I decided to just run. There was one point at the top of one of the climbs that I wanted to snap a photo because it was pretty but I was lazy so no photos. Sorry.

So how was the course? Well we were running around in loops. I think 2-3 different loops. No mile markers, just some orange tape tied to trees and posts to let you know that you were still going the right way. Definitely wear a Garmin for this race because honestly with all the looping I wouldn't have known when I was done. The course was comprised of sand, packed and loose dirt, asphalt, dried grass, gravel and some concrete. It was a mix bag. I've ran on  hillier trail courses before but this one was by no means easy but it was exactly what I wanted to run this weekend. I ran the first couple of loops too fast I think because the second half felt difficult. It was an overcast day but I was working hard because I looked at my arms at one point and noticed that I was covered in salt crystals. Then, around mile 8 or 9, I took a wrong turn and was off-course for a bit. Luckily, I somehow found my way back to rejoined the other runners. I don't know what my official time is but my Garmin says 1:54:52. It was fun, forgot how hard it is to run uphill on sand.

Wearing my new InkNBurn shirt from Becka that I won during one of her Lazarex Cancer Foundation fundraising drive. Don't I look official? Like I do this trail thing every weekend? Like Becka? Nah! The shirt is beautiful and colorful! It soaks up sweat like nobody's busy. Kept me so dry that I didn't even realize that I was sweating so much until I saw salt crystals on my limbs. Haha, gross right? Anyways, thanks Becka for the cool shirt! Love it!

Post race snacks!

Super dirty and dusty shoes.

My third trail race and second trail half marathon! It was a good little race. With the exception of the getting lost thing, it went pretty well. Pretty organized for a small race. Everyone was very nice and I was really tired at the end so I obviously had a lot of dirty fun out there.

Elevation profile from Strava.

Elevation from the race website:

Monday, June 10, 2013

I Don't Care If Monday's Blue

Over the weekend, I went out for a run...on trails. I don't know why but every summer I feel the need to run on softer grounds and climb some ridiculous elevations. That first run on trails after running on roads all Spring is always shocking. The shock is a mix of good and not so good. Good because my knees and joints can feel a difference right away. Not so good because I always forget that I can't run on trails the same way I run on paved roads. After a couple of runs and some adjustments I start to get the hang of it again. And when I say "get the hang of", I mean on beginner trails, not anything like the stuff experienced trail runners take on. For instance, I'm not ready for any sort of water crossing or elevations that require a running start to traverse.

There's a couple of trail races coming up that I've been eyeing for awhile but haven't committed to. Recently, I was digging around on Ultra Signup and noticed that they've reorganized and updated all the results and races into one neat little site. I haven't looked into trail races in many months so I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to find stuff on there now. Anyhow, long story short, I might be adding another trail race to my schedule soon.

One of the many perks of trail running is the scenery. Never gets old. There is just something about standing above it all. On this particular run, I ran into a coyote. Obviously, I was more afraid of him then he was of me, so I just turned around and went another way. There must be a lot of coyotes where I run or I just have the worst luck because I am always running into them.

And what's the point of all that running if not to 'eat all the things'. The husband and I met up with Pam and her hubby for dinner later that evening where we buried our heads in this bucket o' seafood! Good times!

And in case there was still any space left in my stomach after that, I made sure to take care of that with Sunday Brunch at Taps to celebrate my sister and b.i.l's anniversary. Have you ever been there? It's worth a visit.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Day For Running

Happy National Running Day! I'm not sure what makes the first Wednesday in June more run-worthy than say the first Tuesday or Thursday of June but here we are. I'll be celebrating by going for a lung-burning tempo run today.

Running has enriched my life in so many ways over the years. It's been an outlet for me when I am feeling happy, sad, stressed, angry, etc... It has connected me with some amazing people who also share in my love of this sport. It has taught me about the strength of a community and the will to endure. Running has not always been in my blood. I am not a natural runner and it does not come easy for me. But it has become a big part of my life and something that I can't imagine not doing.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

It is SO good!

Yoplait now makes frozen yogurt! Hazzah!! I saw a commercial last week and I had to have it. So today I'm dedicating an entire post to this frozen yogurt. I'm no stranger to Yoplait yogurt. I love the stuff. Especially the original strawberry yogurt. I know there are better-for-me yogurts out there but I just prefer this one. There is just something nostalgic about the taste.

It is creamy, tangy and this one had little chunks of strawberries! Everything I hoped it would be and more.

Here are the numbers for those who might be interested. Yoplait also makes a Greek style frozen yogurt as well as frozen yogurt bars in many different flavors. The supermarket that I purchased this from had a very limited selection but I'm looking forward to trying the other flavors. Also, please note that this is not a sponsored post. I'm just a happy yogurt fiend.