The Exchange Restaurant РNew Fushion Mediterranean Concept in DTLA 

When my friend said that he wanted to eat Mediterranean food at a new restaurant in DTLA I was skeptical about driving from the OC for falafels and hummus. Boy was I in for a big surprise. This restaurant is an upscale fusion Israeli cuisine that uses bright and fresh ingredients for their healthy dishes. I’m on a diet, so finding anything that’s both appetizing to look at and to eat ranks top of my list (at least for now – I can be fat for winter ūüôā ).

Restaurant Interior
Upon entering you’ll notice the high ceiling and wood decor. It’s very rustic in nature and the natural lighting made it perfect to snap photos of all the Instagram worthy food and let me tell you the food not only looks but tastes uh-maz-ing.

My favorite dishes were as followed:
1) Pate – oh my gawd, so creamy and light. It just melted in my mouth. It was so luxurious without being overly indulgent. It’s really out of this world and you would be a fool not to order this.
2) Exchange Chraime – Presented in a pan filled with seafood galore swimming in a sea of tomato sauce. The presentation was on pointe, and tasted flavorful as well.

(Left to Right – 1st Row to 2nd): Pate, Exchange Chraime, Sweet Potatoe, and Olive Oil Cake 
3) Sweet Potato – I would hardly think that a vegetable could be a star dish, but this one definitely held it’s own. It’s roasted so it really heightened the root vegetables flavor and made a unique statement in taste. Super delicious!
4) Olive Oil Cake – OMG! I rarely order dessert at a restaurant, but I would definitely order this again and again. The flavor profile of this treat is moist and sweet, but not overly so. The  dollop of cream or whatever was on top paired with the cake perfectly. I’m a believer in desserts now!

img_5288-1Overall, this is a fantastic addition to DTLA. The atmosphere is beautiful, food is delicious and the service was on friendly and accommodating. Whether you’re planning to impress a hot date, discussing business, or going with a group of friends this is an excellent destination to enjoy a great meal with good company.

Which of the dishes would you be most excited to try?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

Snacking at 2017 Eeeeeats Con in Santa Monica, CA 

Some people eat to live, but I certainly am one who eats to live, so when¬†my friend invited me to attend the 1st Annual Eeeeeats Con (yes there are 5 “e’s”) presented by The Infatuation I naturally could not say no.

For my readers who are tilting their heads wondering what “The Infatuation” is don’t worry, I didn’t either. I only learned about the organization AFTER attending the convention. It’s a nut-shell restaurant reviewing app, newsletter, and instagram account that highlights their favorite restaurants and after eight years the business developed their own festival – Eeeeeats Con. But enough history, lets get in on the action!

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Captivated audience listening to speakers 

The festival was a one day Saturday event from 12:00pm to 9:00pm at the Barkar Hangar, a local airport. It was a hot day and after battling some LA traffic from Orange County, we arrived around 4pm. The venue was quite an impressive one as guests walked past private jets before heading to the main building. At the back center of the Hangar, restauranteurs spoke on the stage about their career adventure and gave advice to audience members.

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Some shots from the event

Surrounding the stage were some bright and festive instagram-worthy backdrops for convention-goers to pose and take selfies. I will say that the event planners definitely took their time in designing the layout of the festival and each area had a quirkiness about it that made it fun and lighthearted.

Nested between some of the artwork and backdrops were both high end and hipster Los Angeles restaurants booths. In the lot there were also stands and some trucks that presented their offerings. Afters Ice Cream, The Nomad Truck, Ramen Hood, and Shake Shack were just some of the vendors present. Most items were priced from $8-$20 a plate.

Half portion of $8 Coffee-Rubbed Tri-Tip from Chi Spacca

Everything smelled great, and after careful consideration we shared a coffee-rubbed tri tip with cabbage slaw from Chi Spacca, a $$$$ Italian restaurant in Hancock Park. I didn’t want to spread my germs (because I was feeling a bit under the weather), so the vendor was kind enough to split the portion for two people.

I think all in all this festival has a lot of potential. The space, and vendor choices were excellent, and the idea of the convention including active (musicians and panels) and passive entertainment (the cool instagram worthy backdrops) can make it a well-rounded experience. Even the temporary bathrooms¬†were really nice. However, attending was a costly one. Parking was $20, and admission was $40 (Food purchases were additional). I think that if you went in with the expectation that you were attending an upscale food fair and budgeted for the additional costs then you’d¬†be extremely happy.

If you created your own food festival, which restaurants would you want there?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

World Famous Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues in Anaheim 

When I think of House of Blues, I think of a great spacious venue with¬†amazing rotating entertainment. I’ve gone a handful of times to the Anaheim location (there are 12 located in major cities across the US – click here to see where!), on Friday evenings usually rocking out to some of my favorite 80’s bands – any Berlin fans out there?! ūüėÄ Yet, the House of Blues is also home to the World Famous Gospel Brunch. Hosted every Sunday, guests from near and far go to enjoy comfort food and soulful worship music. Sounded like a winning combination to me, so I went¬†to get the scoop.

Theater space with tables and chairs prepared. Not a bad seat in the house. ūüôā

In the evening time the space is cleared out for audience to fist pump and dance along to music legends and other performances, but during the day chairs and tables are lined up for patrons to enjoy an all-you-can-eat southern buffet with complimentary orange juice. Mimosa were an additional charge. Nevertheless, the food options seemed endless. I pilled my plate high with a little bit of everything.

Beginning of the buffet line!

The buffet had a smorgasbord of options including a honey baked ham and prime rib carving station, and breakfast staples like bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, fruit, etc. They also had a ready to order omelette station, but I often went back to their¬†ready-to-peel shrimp station for some refreshing seafood as well as their southern offerings (ie. biscuits and gravy, collard greens, mac n’ cheese mhmm). There was quite a diversity of options for even the pickiest eater and don’t get me started on the banana bread pudding *drool* What a great dessert!

Live gospel music performance 

Once 11am hit, the lights dimmed and the curtains went up. The music performance was incredibly moving and before I knew it I was up on my feet with my arms in the air and singing along with the choir. The singers sang a couple of traditional Christian songs as well as some contemporary songs such as “Lean on Me” and “We are family.”
God is Good – Can I get a amen?

I was really impressed with the live entertainment and would love to go again to be feed physically and spiritually. You can get tickets through ticketmasters or on the House of Blues website. Adults are $45 + fees and $21 for children ages 3-11.

 

What songs get you up on your feet?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

New black tea flavors at 7 Leaves РDrink up!  

Whether you work at a school or attend college, staying awake and motivated to get through the last few weeks of the school-year¬†can be a challenge. ¬†Teachers have mounds of papers to grades, and students have to prepare for multiple finals, and unfortunately, we can’t increase the number of hours in a day to get everything done; however, we can always count on caffeine to give us a hand. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†There are many Asian coffee and boba shops located in Southern California; however, I love going to 7 Leaves Cafe because 1) there are multiple locations and 2) the beverages are consistently good. I recently had the opportunity to try their new black flavors¬† (Assam Milk Tea and Oolong Milk Tea) at their Costa Mesa location and can attest to the tasty and potent beverages.

If you’re looking for a lighter¬†floral taste the Assam Milk Tea would be a good contender. The Oolong on the other-hand is more robust and creamy. Either way, both drinks are ready for patrons to try! Come check them out!

7 Leaves Cafe, 2800 Harbor Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

 

What do you enjoy drinking?

XOXO,

Rockstar

The Ultimate Birthday FREEBIE List + Links + Photos (April 2017 Edition)

I know it’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here!!!! My popular annual Birthday Freebie post is finally complete! This year I was able to redeem over 20 birthday freebies in the month of April, and while this may seem overwhelming many freebies allow the patron to redeem the promotion either the day of, week of, or month of your birthday!

I’ve arranged them alphabetically for your convenience with a hyperlink to the retailer’s site for more information to sign up for their loyalty program. Personally, I created a junk email account for all these retailers to send me their promotions and then I check that email account during my birth month to print out the coupons, and collect all my goodies. Check out to see if your favorite retailer is here!

Souplantation (Free Lunch), Dennys (Free Breakfast), Togos (Free Sandwich), Churned Creamery (Free Ice Cream), Red Robins (Free Meal)

Baskin Robbins: (Free scoop of ice cream). I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! They’re really picky about printing out the coupons, so be sure to do that!

Black Angus (Free Steak Dinner with purchase of entree): Join the Prime Club and get a free steak dinner with a purchase of an entree of equal or greater value. Yee-ha! Good for the month of your birthday.

Boston Market (Free side): Join their VIP club and get a free dessert or an order of a regular side. I chose a side of creamed spinach. Yum! No purchase necessary. Expires a week after your birthday.

Brueggars Bagels (Free bagel!): Start your day with a free toasted bagel with cream cheese. You will get the email the week before your birthday and it will expire on your birthday.

Buca De Beppo (cake and meal discount): This year Buca De Beppo gave a $15 off with a minimum purchase of $30 and if you make a reservation with 4 or more they will also give you a cake for everyone to enjoy! Be sure to make your reservation through opentable to earn rewards points for your next restaurant gift certificate!

Corner Bakery (Free dessert), El Pollo Loco (Free meal), Del Taco (Free milk shake), Boston Market (Free side), Bruegger’s Bagels (Free bagel)

Charming Charlie ($5 gift card): Join the Charm club and earn a $5 gift card to purchase anything in the store! You can get jewelry, accessories, shoes etc

Churned Creamery (Free Scoop): Sign up on the “Five Stars” App on your smartphone and add Churned Creamery to your list. I believe the freebie is good for a week and expires on your birthday.

Corner Bakery: (Free Baked Good): Sign up for their eCafe list to redeem a free pastry treat. I chose a giant M&M cookie to take home. Expires a week after your birthday.

Cost Plus World Market (20% one item): Sign up to be a member and you’ll get a 20% off coupon

DSW ($5 gift card): You can get kicks, heels, or flip flops, but I always get a new pair of cool socks.

Del Taco (Free milkshake): Your choice of strawberry, vanilla, or chocolate! No purchase necessary. Expires a week after your birthday.

Denny’s: I worked till 9pm on my actual birthday, and most places are closed by the time I left the office. Luckily I just flashed my drivers license for a complimentary grand slam (I opted for a “choose your own”). Who else loves breakfast for dinner?

Godiva ($10 gift card), Mimi’s Cafe (Muffin Sundae), Buca De Bepo (Free cake and meal discount), Baskin Robbins (Free Ice Cream), Black Angus (B1G1 Free Steak)

El Pollo Loco¬†(Free meal!): Join the E-Club and enjoy your choice of “Original Chicken Tostada” or “2 piece fire-grilled chicken meal” within the month of your birthday.

Godiva (chocolate covered strawberries): Complimentary $10 gift certificate at the Godiva shop. I decide to purchase a cone of dark chocolate covered strawberries ($12.50) and paid the difference. The freshly dipped treat was a lux indulgence that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Kiehls (Free Lip Balm): Be a Loyalty member and get a free lip balm ($7 value) with a purchase of any item.

Mimi’s Cafe (muffin sundae): If you love the contrast of cold ice cream topped with fudge, strawberries and whip cream over a warm muffin, this offer is for you. Expires one week after your birthday and no purchase necessary.

Red Robin (Free meal!): I think this is the best deal meal deal. A free gourmet beef or chicken burger plus unlimited fries for free, and on my visit they also gave me a free birthday ice cream as well. Just show them your Red Robin’s Rewards Number. This is always one of my favorite places to visit during my birth month.

Sephora (Free Makeup): Love makeup? Be a beauty insider and you can get a deluxe sample of the latest products! No purchase necessary. This year I choose the Caldalie skincare items and so far it’s been very luxurious. Oh la la!

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Kiehls (Free Lip Balm w/ purhcase), Sephora (Free makeup!), Charming Charlie ($5 gift card), and DSW ($5 gift card)

Souplantation: Join Club Veg and you will receive coupon for a free lunch with drink or a to-go combo #2 which includes a salad plate, two small soup containers, and a bakery bag

Starbucks (Free drink Рany size!): This year they changed their promotion. You will get an email the day before your birthday and need to redeem it either on that day or on your birthday. Must have a Starbucks account.

Togos (Free Sandwich): Sign up to be part of the Togo Tribe on your phone and get a free birthday sandwich!

Veggie Grill¬†($5 gift card): This year Veggie Grill gave me a complimentary $5 gift card towards any menu item. I decided on a Grillin’ Chickin’ (fake meat) meal and enjoyed my healthy lunch. It’s a great healthy fast food option for people on the go. Offer good a week before and after your birthday.

Wienerschnitzel (Free Corn Dog): You get a coupon a week before your birthday to redeem an item and this time for me it was a free corn dog. Expires on your birthday.

 

Whats your favorite birthday freebie to redeem? Are there freebies that I missed? Comment below!

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

California Cookie Dough Grand Opening in Fountain Valley 

Growing up my brother and I always loved baking cookies with my mom, and I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes the cookie batter doesn’t always go on the tray in the oven. *halo over head* ¬†I’d often lick the left-over batter mix on the cake mixer as one of my guilty pleasures. Thankfully, I hadn’t been cursed with contaminated pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli.¬†Yet, there’s a new store in town where you can enjoy cookie batter without wondering if you’re at risk for food poisoning. ¬† ¬†¬†

Decor and Menu

I attended the Grand Opening for California Cookie Dough (18854 Brookhurst St)¬†in Fountain Valley to try out what could be the newest dessert craze to get the latest scoop. Upon entering the hole-in-a-wall, I was greeted by the friendly manager and allowed to sample their various creations. I was informed that after many attempts at perfecting the flavors before they’ve decided on ten unique combinations.

Double scoop of “Grey Matter” and “Coconut Delight”

After careful consideration I decided on their popular “Grey Matter” which has a potent oreo and chocolate chip cookie flavor as well as the “Coconut Delight”. It is quite rich and decadent¬†treat, but great for sharing. It’s fairly dense, so one scoop would certainly suffice. They also have milk on tap that comes in the vintage bottles as well as Nitro cold brew coffee for patrons who need an extra boost of energy.

The store hours are great as they’re open late (10pm on weekdays, and 11pm on Saturday; Closed on Tuesdays), so¬†I imagine that it’ll be a popular destination in the sleepy town.

 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

XOXO,

 

Rockstar

Poki Poki HB Grand Opening

Lately I’ve been trying to incorporate more vegetables into my lifestyle and with poke places poppin’ up left and right in Orange County it’s fairly easy to eat a wide selection of healthy ingredients in one bowl. Poki Poki HB is one the newest edition in Huntington Beach with a Buy 1 Get 1 Free promotion at their Grand Opening I decided to try them out.¬†At the store entrance guests were given the opportunity to “spin the wheel” and I landed on a “Free Poki Bowl” – Woohoo! With that coupon the manager said that I could redeem TWO free poki bowls since there was a BOGO day. My mom and I were extremely happy since we both got a free meal. ¬† ¬† ¬†Like many fast food poki places, guests pick a base, protein scoop, sauce, and toppings before checkout. I decided on a half-and-half base with spring mix and brown rice, salmon, octopus, tuna, and all toppings with the exception of jalape√Īos and avocados ($1 extra). Their sauce selection is straight-forward as patrons choose from not spicy, mild, and spicy. I ordered the not spicy and I think it’s a combination of ponzu and perhaps soy sauce. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†

While this meal was complimentary, I honestly did really¬†enjoyed it. The plate was colorful and the portions were extremely generous. I also loved the diverse fish selection: octopus, yellowtail, salmon, ahi tuna, spicy tuna, shrimp, albacore, scallop and for the non-fish patrons tofu, so there’s something for everyone. The assortment of toppings was also wide as I got to include both western (ie. corn, green onions) and eastern (ie. masago eggs, seaweed) additions.¬†They also have lemon infused self-serve water station which is a nice touch and makes my H2O beverage even more refreshing and hydrating.

The one area that I’d recommend to the owners is perhaps rethink about the vessel in which they prepare these entrees. We eat with our eyes and although the ingredients look and taste wonderful, the bowl cheapens the experience.

What kind of protein would you include in your poki bowl?

XOXO,

Rockstar

Miss Taiwanese World fundraised at NAAAP SoCal Officer Installation and Gala

The National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) held its Annual Officer Installation in old Hollywood glamour at the Brandview ballroom in Glendale, CA. Members of the San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange County chapter arrived in black tie apparel along with representatives from organizations such as the Taiwanese Junior Chamber, Asian American Professional Association, and Asian Youth Center to name a few. 

To kick off the evening the royal court greeted guests at the door and posed for photos. It was a great opportunity to meet Asian Americans from all different industries as well as reconnect with old friends. The event was packed one, and guests had the opportunity to socialize and pass out business cards before heading to the ballroom.

Taiwanese Royal Court and US Congressman Ted Lieu
Once 7pm hit, guests sat at their assigned tables and enjoyed a lavish 10 course Armenian meal, which included a healthy and a generous selection of appetizers and an enormous plate of kabobs. The royal court visited tables to sell raffle tickets and successfully raised funds to help support NAAAP’s future projects and expenses. US Congressman Ted Lieu swore in the newly elected Southern California officers as they committed themselves to a year of service, and the formal ceremony concluded with cultural performances, music, and dancing. It was a rockin’ party and one that I will remember.

What kind of events do you like to attend? Socials? Professional Development?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

 

California Roadtrip: Visit a Danish Village without leaving the US!

When I think California, I think of surfers and beaches. However, California’s vibrant immigrant community has formed some areas with distinctly European flair – one of them being Solvang, a quaint town that look as if it came straight out of a Disney movie.

An incredibly well-maintained and safe city in the Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang is just two hours outside of Los Angeles – though you would feel as if you’ve been transported across the world. Known  for their baked goods and pastries, it’s a favorite pitstop for many travelers.  Olsen’s Danish Village bakery  is one of the town’s most popular bakery shops and with four generations of family recipes people come from near and far to indulge in these award winning treats. Be sure to take home a bucket of butter cookies on your visit!

The city is also home to the Hans Christian Andersen Musuem, the author of “The Little Mermaid”, “The Ugly Duckling”, “Thumbelina”, and countless other fairytales. The musuem itself is modest and the displays are old fashioned; however, this FREE attraction is a nice place to reminisce your childhood, The musuem is located at the second floor of The Book Loft and next to the Solvang Coffee Shop. So after browsing through the classics you may be inspired to enjoy a cup of coffee with your nose in a book.

There are countless speciality shops and local restaurants in the area, but one of the best things to do eat are the fresh Aebleskivers at the Solvang Restaurant. These crispy pancake battered balls are doused with a gloop of raspberry jam and lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar. You can enjoy them at the restaurant, or order them at the outside take-out counter. There’s almost always a line, so you can be sure to grab a fresh trio of this treat. Yum!

What’s your favorite childhood fairytale?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

California Roadtrip: Wine and Dine in Paso Robles (The Napa Valley of Southern California)

Napa Valley is a well known popular travel destination for wine connoisseurs in the Bay Area. With acres of grapes and hundreds of vineyards to tour, it’s a wine-o’s dream vacation.  Yet, those in the know flock to another California favorite with equally picturesque rolling hills and less tourist traction than the former. Paso Robles is a Southern California hidden gem with spectacular food and wine.

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With over 200 wineries in the area it can be quite intimidating on deciding where to go. However, after extensive research we decided on Calcareous Vineyards in part because yelp offered a complimentary wine tasting upon check-in, and there were many positive reviews on the amazing view.  I think we scored he jackpot on that account. ūüôā

When we arrived we were given four samples (one white and three reds) and took home the 2014 Calcareous Chardonnay and the 2013 Devil’s Canyon Syrah. The Chardonnay is sweet with fruity notes whereas the later is more gritty and bitter with a heavier tobacco accent.

Good wine and food makes a winning combination and the Golden Oak Grill is a great establishment that serves fine dinning cuisine at an affordable price-point. We visited during lunch and ordered the Goat Cheese Salmon Salad ($13) and BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich ($12) with sweet potato upgrade. You can tell that the chef really takes pride in the food he prepares as the presentation of each dish is meticulously executed. And yes I can confirm with you that the food tastes just as good as it looks. I will definitely return here in a heartbeat and can’t wait to try other items on the menu.

Do you prefer Red or White wine?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar