Monday, July 22, 2013

dineLA Restaurant Week: Bouchon Bistro

I was in Beverly Hills over the weekend! Good ol' 90210.

It was such a beautiful day! My little point-and-shoot camera loves this overcast lighting. I do too! I don't come to these parts very often mainly because it is a haul to get up here from the OC but I made an exception today.

Why? Well, if you don't already know, it's Restaurant Week in LA (July 15-26). Two glorious weeks to sample food from restaurants all over LA. Almost all of them are offering a deal of some sort or prix fixe meal to entice you in. It worked because here I am.

I've wanted to eat at Bouchon for a couple of years now. Awhile back, Sister K and I had this crazy plan of trying to get a reservation at Thomas Keller's French Laundry in Napa. Those plans didn't work out but it is still on both of our bucket lists. One day.

When we were not able to float "Project French Laundry", Sister K did some reading and researching and one day she told me about one of Thomas Keller's other restaurant, Bouchon in Beverly Hills. So this was much closer to us than Napa and much more affordable so perhaps we can start here.

When LA Restaurant Week rolled around this year, I was so excited when I saw that Bouchon was on the list. Let's go in shall we?

Bouchon's dineLA 2013 prix fixe menu.

After we were seated, the waiter takes our order and then brings us this warm and crusty little loaf of french bread. No basket required!

For the appetizer course or "Entree" course as they call it I selected the Salade de Melon. It had cubes of watermelon and compressed cucumber, pickled kohlrabi, in a pickled watermelon vinaigrette. Really light and refreshing. I'm one of those people that like a little salt on my fruit so I thought this was tasty and visually stimulating.

For the second course or "Plats Principaux" I selected the Cavatelli pasta. The pasta is hand-rolled! The cheese sauce had a very nice flavor...imagine a "kicked-up" mac n' cheese. So creamy!

And for dessert...Lychee Sorbet on a coconut cookie floating on a summer fruit consomme. The consomme tasted like watermelon and strawberries among other summer flavors. Those little green leaves are mint. This was so refreshing. I never thought that a little scoop of sorbet could satisfy my sweet tooth after a meal but it did.

This Peach and Almond Tart is another dessert option on the prix fixe menu.

Here are a couple of other items that I got to try a la cart.

They have a great bakery onsite and this Chocolate Croissant was one of the best that I've ever had. It was extremely flaky with very defined layers. You need to eat this.

Until next time!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Me Like Free Yogurt!!!

I randomly found myself at Yogurtland last night...okay that's not true. I purposefully wanted dessert and begged my husband to drive me to get some frozen yogurt because I was too lazy to drive myself. This was around bed time too. Plus, I went in my pajamas. Not one of my proud moments.

But then I walked in and I see this poster hanging in the window.

This summer's theme is Looney Tunes.

Yeah, I'm one of those weird-o people that will go to Yogurtland just for the character spoons. This week they are handing out the Bugs Bunny and Daffy spoons.

Plus, you can now earn free yogurt by downloading the Yogurtland App and scanning the flavor cards located right next to the dispensing area. Download the app before you go so that you can just scan as you're making your way down the yogurt pump line.

Also, I noticed that the Yogurtland I went to had a fresh whip cream dispenser near the chocolate syrup and caramel sauce pumps, so basically right before you get to the cashier. As if you needed more reasons to go to Yogurtland.

Happy Friday! I celebrated last night with a most delicious sangria from Bella Cuba since I have a long run tomorrow morning. This week is a "pull-back" week so I "only" have 11 miles on the schedule. I know, it is never "only" xx miles because any double digit run is long but a couple of weeks from now I'm going to look back at this week and remember how nice it was to "only" have to run 11 miles.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

TBT: Copley Square and Boston Common

I decided to do a 'throw-back Thursday' post today because I was looking through some of my photos from earlier in the year and came across these photos of Copley Square and the Boston Common which is just lovely during the spring when I was there. I have such amazing memories of how I was feeling on that day and looking at these photos just takes me back there.

This is Trinity Church nestled amongst modern buildings and tall skyscrapers at Copley Square. Just beautiful!

I took a nice stroll through the Boston Common which is like a teeny tiny version of Central Park in New York. It was a beautiful crisp Spring day and you could feel the excitement in the air.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Running in Unfamiliar Places

I've been blogging from my parents' home the last couple of days since I'm visiting them for the long holiday weekend. It's been quite some time since I've spent more than a day here so it's been nice to hang out with them. They love to feed me and you know me...I can't say no to delicious food. I think I mentioned this before but my parents are amazing cooks. That's why I'm such a good little eater.

During the summer, I can eat snow ice everyday! If you've never had snow ice, it's like the love-child of froyo and shaved ice. So good!

With all the eating I've been doing these past couple of days I knew it would be a bad idea to blow off my long run this weekend. Believe me, I wanted to. It's so hot outside! But I didn't. I went to bed early last night and managed to get up before sunrise to beat the heat. I was only 75% successful because now I'm a few shades darker than when left my parents' house this morning.

I have to say that living in the OC has spoiled me when it comes to having access to nicely maintained running paths with very minimal traffic lights or stops required. The cities surrounding my parents' place is not exactly runner friendly. You are basically running on concrete sidewalks the whole time along busy streets that require waiting at traffic lights to cross every ten minutes or so. Can you imagine how fun that can get over a two to three hour run? Not! I thought about driving to Long Beach or Santa Monica to run on the bike path but decided that was just a waste of gas. There is a bike path nearby (the Rio Hondo Bike Path) that runs all the way to Seal Beach but I question the safety of said path so I decided to be safe than sorry and skip it.

So this is what I had to do yesterday to ensure that I got my long run in today or as I like to call to plan a long ass run in the middle of a busy ass city. I know, I'm so eloquent.

1) Google the area for trails and paths that other runners have already scoped out, no need to create anything new if something is already there. Then Google a couple of different sources/forums to see if the path is safe and if there are lots of other runners on it. If this fails, go to the next step.

2) Go to MapMyRun and map out a course according to the desire distance you want to run. Then, use the street-view feature at a couple of different points along the course on the map to check out what it will look like when you actually get there.

3) If you have the time or opportunity, drive the route the night before. This is extremely helpful. If there are sections that looks unsafe, questionable or if there is construction, make a mental note to reroute to another street. Also, it is helpful to note which side of the street you want to run on because one side may be flatter or have smoother pavement than the other side.

4) If you are unfamiliar with the area, having someone to run or bike with you is priceless. If not, be mindful of your surroundings and run without music. Just leave your iPod at home. I ran the whole time without mine today because I was busy looking out for cars, cyclists and people popping out onto the sidewalk out of nowhere.

5) Be safe! I guess this applies to running anywhere but I felt more aware of it today because I was running in unfamiliar territories. Wear lots of sunscreen, carry a cellphone, ID bracelet, pepper spray, fuel belt/handheld bottle/hydration vest and money to purchase more liquid when you run out because there may or may not be any water fountains on your route. I saw one water fountain on my run this morning and it was not working. Boo. Remember to mention to a family member or friend about your run and course info so someone knows where you are and may be able to come and get you if something happens.

I ran by Cal Tech today!

I was thankful that my little sister agreed to bike along with me today to keep me company during the early morning hours. We made this into a little adventure and it was one of the more interesting long runs I've done in a long time. I'm super impressed that she was able to bike that far since she has not biked in years and I think she told me that the furthest she has rode was 5 miles. On top of that, the first half of the run was all uphill with over 500 ft of elevation gain. She is such a trooper! Quitters need not apply. :0) We got lost a couple of times and it was hot as heck out there but we managed to complete 17 miles running through five different cities. What a day!

Friday, July 5, 2013

2013 YMCA Run In The Parks - Race Recap

Date: July 4, 2013
Location: Laguna Niguel Family YMCA
Start: 7:30am
Finish: 10K // 00:46:47 (10th F OA // 2nd AG)

This was another race I signed up for on a whim with not a whole lot of arm twisting from friend Darren. We were supposed to sign up for the 5K but while I was filling out my registration form I decided to click the box that said 10K instead. This last minute change was due to the fact that I've already ran a couple of 5Ks this past year and I don't seem to be getting any faster at that distance. So I decided to try something new. Well not technically new because I've ran many 10Ks before but I think it's been something like 5 years since I've officially signed up for one. To think of it, I don't think I've ran a 10K since I started running marathons. Needless to say I don't think I have to leap very high to get over my previous PR bar. Low hanging fruit...that's what I'm all about these days.

Anyhow, I was not able to find an elevation profile for this course so I duplicated the course with MapMyRun (shown below at the end of post). Doesn't look too bad.

Friend Darren and I carpooled to the race which was held at the Laguna Niguel YMCA. We got there pretty early so we got a chance to walk around a bit and use the YMCA restrooms a couple of times before the start of the race. Real restrooms are always appreciated. Bib pickup was located in the indoor basketball court building. We got a cotton race shirt and some nice goodies in a drawstring bag.

The post race festivities was held on the soccer field which they were setting up when we got there. The start line was decorated with red, white and blue balloons and they provided trays of bagels and cut fruit and lots of bottled waters. There was even more food provided after the finish. I was not hungry but I saw large chocolate chip cookies, some nice looking sandwiches, bagels with cream cheese and fruit. I really love small local races. This race had about maybe ~900 participants and is currently in it's 35th year.

This event is very family friendly. They even have a contest for the most patriotic pup. Plus lots of fun things for kids.

There was also a kids' race with age specific heats...even a diaper dash.

I wasn't feeling very confident when I arrived at the race that morning and even though I managed to place in my age group for the 10K I felt like I had not given it my all. I might run another 10K in a couple of weeks to try to shave off a couple more minutes because I feel like I have it in me to do so if I focus a bit more.

Congrats to Darren for placing third in his age group for the 5K! His training lately has really picked up speed. :0)

I really liked this race because it is organized and there is something for everyone. There is even a pancake breakfast with all the fixings which is included in the price of registration. The course is nice and as the name suggests it is a run in the park. It is mostly flat but with enough ups and downs to make it interesting. I would definitely do this race again.


I hope everyone had a wonderful Independence Day! I spent mine surrounded by friends and family and of course BBQ.

...and cake!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Stir-fry Shrimp and Pork Rice Noodles

Stir-fry Shrimp and Pork Rice Noodles (Serves 4-6)

16 oz package of dry flat rice noodle
2 cups bean sprouts, washed w/ tails removed
Small bunch of leek sprouts, washed
3 stalks scallions, washed
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 lb small shrimp, remove shell and de-veined
1/4 lb pork
1 large egg, beaten
Chicken bouillon powder
Ground pepper
Vegetable oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1-2 tsp water

1) Soak the rice noodle in water for 1 hour to soften.

2) Cut leek sprouts into 2 inch segments.

3) Cut scallions into 2 inch segments. Then turn the thicker parts of the scallion lengthwise and julienne.

4) Julienne pork into 2-3 inch slivers.

5) To make the egg omelette topping, start by heating 2-3 tsp of oil in a pan on medium to high heat. Before pouring the beaten egg mixture into the pan, add a couple of dashes of chicken bouillon powder and mix in. Then pour egg mixture into the heated pan and cook 1 minute. Then flip to the other side and cook for another minute. Make sure egg is not runny (completely cooked) before removing from heat and set aside. Julienne the omelette when cooled.

6) Finally we can start to make the actually dish. If you do not have a large wok, make this is two batches to avoid overcrowding in the pan. Start by heating 2 tsp of oil in a wok or large pan on medium to high heat. When oil is hot throw in the minced garlic and stir around for 5-10 seconds until slightly brown. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add pork into the pan and stir around until it is brown (about a minute), then add the shrimp and stir around until the shrimp is pink.

7) Add the rice noodles, followed by the oyster sauce, soy sauce, scallions, 1/2 tsp of chicken bouillon powder and 1/2 tsp pepper. At this point, you may want to use a pair of tongs to integrate all the ingredients with the noodles in the pan. Make sure you keep moving the noodles around to avoid burning the noodles or having it stick to the pan. Do this for a minute or so.

8) Add leeks and bean sprouts to the pan last and continue to move the noodles around with the tongs for another minute or so. If you prefer your noodles less al dente, add 1-2 tbsp of water to create a steaming action to soften the noodles. Stir around for another minute and then plate. Top with the julienne egg pieces.

9) Serve with fish sauce (recipe below) and enjoy!

Fish Sauce Recipe (Nuoc Mam Cham)

4-5 tbsp sugar
4-5 tbsp fish sauce
3 medium or large cloves of garlic, minced
1 lime
1 cup water. room temperature
chili garlic sauce (if desired)

This recipe is not an exact science. Everyone makes it a little bit different based on their own taste buds. Some people like it sweeter while others may like it more tart. Start conservatively with each ingredient and add as needed.

Tip: this is not a necessary step but if you want to make sure that all the sugar granules are dissolved, you can add 2-3 tbsp of hot water to the sugar to dissolve it before adding the other ingredients.

This is the color and look you want. If you like it spicy, you can add some chili garlic paste in here. That's the sauce with chili seeds in it or you can add fresh minced red/green chili if you have that on hand.