Conquering the Manitou Incline in Colorado Springs, CO

If there’s two thing that my friends all know it’s 1) that I’m not a morning person and 2) I definitely do not like hiking; however, on a recent work trip in Colorado Springs, CO I did the unthinkable. I woke up at 4am (Colorado time, so it’s in essence 3am California time) to go (you guessed it) hiking *Gasp* But hear me out… It’s not everyday I get to visit a new state, so when some coworkers volunteered to lead a group up the Manitou Incline before our professional development training it seemed opportune to experience one of Colorado Springs most popular (and fatal) attractions.

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Sunrise on the way up

At the beginning of the the hike I was very optimistic, but with each step I felt increasingly more light-headed and fatigued. If I’m being brutally honest, I felt like I was going to die. The top was 9000 feet above sea level and we were starting at 7000 feet and for someone who lives at sea level this drastic change in elevation was really hard on my body. It became increasingly more difficult to breath with each step and the stairs were extremely steep.

The Incline

There were so many moments when I wanted to quit and go back down although it might have been more dangerous had I done that. I eventually made it to the halfway point where hikers can take a safer and much more even way down and while I am slightly disappointed that I didn’t make it to the top, I am proud that I at least did the halfway since I remember wanting to quit 1/4 of that!

Would you do this incline? I didn’t notice the sign until I looked more closely, but people have died from this hike!

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

Best Thing I Ever Ate – Buttery Soft Smoked Salmon in Ann Arbor, MI

Salmon is my all time favorite fish (See Best Sashimi in LA Post) so when I found, Durhams Tracklements & Smokery, a highly rated smoked salmon shop I immediately added it to my Midwest Roadtrip list. The days of operation were limited (only open three days!) so I didn’t know if I’d be able to check them out, but lord and behold the route dates were set so that I’d be in Ann Arbor on a day they’d be open!! Woo!

Storefront

On the outside there were two large rainbow fish flags that flew in the wind against the dusty red and white brick and mortar. While the location was in Kerrytown, a prominent neighborhood in Ann Arbor, the storefront was very discrete and had I not intentionally added this as a destination to the GPS I would have easily missed out on this hidden gem.

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Menu for the day

When you enter inside the interior resembled the back of a warehouse than an actual store. There was an open kitchen with various appliances, and an exposed fridge with fish and cheese products. But if you looked on the left side of the room, one wall was plastered with various accolades and publication mentions.  I had a feeling it was going to be good, but I wasn’t prepared for what was in store for me.

Owner preparing some samples

The owner came greeted us at the front and gave us an overview on his products. He informed us that the Atlantic salmon was sustainably farmed and flown directly to Tracklements from Norway. They are then smoked by hand in small batches and packed in hand-trimmed pieces in vacuum sealed packages. Afterwards he asked if we’d like to sample a few and we happily obliged. I found the hot smoked salmon tasty, but once I put the cold smoked salmon slice in my mouth I felt like time stopped. The fish just melted in my mouth. It was so creamy and velvety. What was going on?! It was so indulgent without feeling heavy. My friend and I looked at each other and without words we knew that we needed to buy at least several packets.

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salmon purchases

A few minutes later a (what looked like a regular customer) came by and dropped $200 (!!!) for 4 packets of his Solstice (a seasonal variety) and some smoked meats. He commented on how the Solstice (aka “The Peat”) was only prepared during certain times of year, so my friend and I decided to pick up one (afraid that had we not the next customer would buy all of them!). We also selected the original cold smoked salmon (The Highland), the Ras el Hanout, and a Smoked Duck (yes, random, but why not?!). It’s not a wonder why Tracklement’s was recognized as a top mail ordered item from the New York Times  “Best Holiday Foods By Mail” 1995, 1997, 2002 etc. Another customer commented that she often shipped this to her children when they were in college and after trying the samples, I would be ecstatic if my family sent me this!

This was easily my favorite food/meal on the trip and would praise hallelujah if I received a package from Tracklemsents. If you received a mail-order package, what would you be most excited to see?

 

 

Tracklements – 212 E. Kingsley St. Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Wed 10am-3pm; Fri 10am-5pm; Sat 8am-3pm

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

Tracklements
212 E. Kingsley St. Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 930-6642

Hours
Sun – Tues: Closed
Wed: 10am – 3pm
Thurs: Closed
Fri: 10am- 5pm
Sat: 8am – 3pm

Starting the day with a Healthy Lebanese’s Breakfast in Garden City, MI

As my friend and I continued our Midwest Travels and headed North from our next stop was Detroit, Michigan. Unfortunately it was raining cats and dogs on our visit so we decided to head towards Dearborun, home to Motor Citie’s very own Henry Ford (yes, of the Ford Car Company). Along the way we decided to check out Al Tayeb Restaurant (Yelp), a Lebanese breakfast shop, and fill our tummies with some warm food. Upon entering we saw a mostly middle eastern clientele and were excited to start our day with an authentic breakfast.

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We started the meal with some complimentary tea and glanced around the room to see what other tables ordered. It looked like a family style meal with members ordering a few items to share and while my friend and I were only two people we ordered four items to share. It was way too much food, but the colors and taste were worth it!

Our Spread!!

We were recommended the fool ($7.99) as it was a crowd favorite, along with the Fatteh, cooked chick peas with garlic yogurt and pan fried nuts ($8.99), Hummus ($7.99), and Spicy Potatoes ($5.99). I wasn’t a fan of the fool, but loved making mini pita sandwiches with their fatteh, hummus, and assortment of veggies. It felt light and you could mix and match for different textures and tastes.

What kind of meal would warm you up on a cold rainy day?

 

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

 

Al Tayeb Restaurant
873 Inkster Rd, Garden City, MI 48135
(734) 237-4606

Hours
Sun – Sat: 8am – 4pm

 

 

 

Nomming on my favorite healthy, keto, low carb and affordable food in San Gabriel, CA

Sashimi is one of my favorite foods. It’s both healthy and tasty, but often comes with a premium price tag. However, my good friend recommended this uh-mazing fish market – Yama Seafood (Yelp), which serves high quality tuna, salmon, yellowtail etc at a very affordable pricepoint making it the holy trinity meal (Cheap, Healthy, Tasty). As such Yama’s is on my regular circuit of places to eat at when I’m visiting the area.

Salmon, two types of Tuna, and Yellowtail

There’s usually a long line at all peck meal hours (think lunch and dinner time rush) most of the week for Mr. Yama to cut the fish. He’s well known in the Japanese community as being an amazing fishmonger as he takes his time to carefully craft each cut and it’s definitely worth it. I think the two plates of food above was around $60 and super filling for two people.

The quality is very comparable to a $$$ Japanese sushi restaurant, but for a fraction of the cost since you’re not paying for a traditional dinning experience. Personally, I value quality food over a scenic environment, so my friend and I often take the styrofoam plate back to her place to enjoy at home.

Yama Seafood
911 W Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776

 

Do you enjoy sashimi? What’s your fish of choice?

 

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

Venturing Beyond LAX and Trying Homemade Vegan Food in Inglewood, CA

I recently came back from a work trip to Michigan and while the food scene consisted of  lots of hearty American cuisine, I came back to California wanting something more light and natural. I found this Ethiopian place near LAX called Emma Habesha Restaurant and I was eager to try a beautiful platter of food filled with herbs and spices. On the outside the restaurant blends in with the building surrounding it and my friend and I actually drove past it (and it’s pretty easy to miss); however, once you enter the building you’ll realize that you’ve stepped into an African oasis.

Decor near the front

The interior of the restaurant had bright colors and while cozy and warm, the intimate setting was great for friends to chow down. The menu consisted of nine main entrees all served with injera – a sourdough spongy flat bread. After thoughtful consideration and seeing another patron enjoy a colorful vegan platter my friend and I were intrigued and decided to order that in addition to a lamb stew that was recommended by the waitress. Neither of us are vegan, but we were excited to eat with our hands and sample many different lentil, beans and vegetable flavor profiles.

Combined entrees

We knew the entrees were made fresh and enjoyed conversing with one another as we waited for our healthy meal. Since it was our first time I think they combined the two into one large platter. The Vegan Agelgil Fitfit (vegeterian plate $12) and Ye Beg Alicha (Lamb stew $13) were both wonderful, though the vegetables were definitely the stars! If you’re looking to incorporate more greens and non-red meat items into your diet the price-point is very reasonable and the flavors are incredible here.

After a long flight, what kind of food do you crave?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

Getting up close and personal with the Hollywood Sign – check!

I’ll be honest I hate hiking with a passion. I had a really traumatic experience back when I lived in the East Coast and since then I forbade the “H” word into my vocabulary. Fast forward 8 years – a  group of friends wanted to make a trek up to the Hollywood sign and because I was A) planning to be in the Hollywood area that day B) I needed to differentiate my exercise regime and C) seeing the Hollywood Sign up close and personal was a bucket-list item – it seemed that all the stars aligned for me go for it.

Horses on the trail

Bright and early in the morning the group of us tied our tennis shoes and wore layers of clothes before heading up. While most people hiked on foot, there were a handful who were on horseback which was pretty cool to see.

Made it to the Hollywood Sign!

The 6.5 mile hike (round-trip) is a moderate hike for sedentary folks like myself, and while I probably won’t jump to do this hike again anytime soon I am glad that I did it and can share some cool photos! If you’re planning to hike to the sign – plug in this address (2927 Canyon Drive, Los Angeles, CA). There are two small parking lots, but they do get crowded so I did street parking before you enter the gate.

What’s on your bucket list?

XOXO

Rockstar

Enjoying Keto Diet Friendly Food at Silva’s Fresh Eatery and Churrascaria in Santa Ana, CA

One of my goals for 2019 was to limit my refined carbs intake and focus on protein and veggies; however it’s been a challenge to find a restaurant that fits a more keto-friendly diet and is also both affordable and tasty. Yet, located less than a mile away from South Coast Plaza, Silva’s Fresh Eatery & Churrascaria (3672 S Bristol St, Santa Ana CA 92704) meets all the criteria and for a very reasonable price!

Cocktails and Salad Bar

Nested in a strip mall Silva’s is a casual, but trendy buffet with authentic Brazilian faire and traditional and fusion cocktails. My friend and I ordered a caipirinha – a rum based beverage with lime and fruit and it was very refreshing. We then headed towards the salad bar to check-out their offerings. I loved that they use locally sourced organic veggies and how brightly colored everything was. The turmeric cauliflower and roasted broccoli were very simply prepared, but acted as perfect accompaniments to the protein offerings. I also tried some freshly fried Pao De Queijo (Cheese rolls) and while they weren’t on my “approved” keto-diet list, they were uh-mazing and I have no regrets poppin’ two – they were so, so good!

Chef cutting meat and our plates

For meats Silva’s had beef, lamb, sausage, chicken, and salmon – so something for everyone, although I loved how moist and juicy the gaucho style sausage was and the leg of lamb was super tender. My friend and I came for dinner and at $26.95 a person seven days a week, the price is a steal for the variety! If you can come during lunch Monday-Friday the price is $22.95! Many other comparable places charge $50 easily!

What’s something you’d never give up eating?

 

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

Breakfast? Snack? Dessert? Nutritious and Delicious Bowls in Huntington Beach, CA

I’ve been on a search to find other healthy options to incorporate into my diet and as of today I’ve found an incredibly fresh ceviche at Mariscos Jalisco and super flavorful vegetarian food at Ashiwad The Blessing.  Unfortunately, both options are more than an hour away from me so when I found Blue Bowl, a nutritious assembly-style bowl joint, minutes away from home I knew I had to check it out.

Small Bowl ($7)

I was picking up some food across the way and noticed the new shop. It was almost closing time and there were a ton of people inside so I decided to check it out – so glad that I did. The set-up is very similar to an assembly-line where you pick your base and your cup is handed off to other people in the line.

Assembly Line Set-up

On this trip I decided to go for a small with a pitaya (aka. Dragon Fruit) base with blue chia and freshly ground almond butter. Toppings are unlimited so I loaded up and was super happy with the result. It’s extremely colorful and tasty! Highly recommended and there are two locations.

ORANGE STORE
417 S. Main Street
Orange, CA 92868

Monday-Friday 7:00am-7:00pm
Saturday 7:00am-6:00pm
[ Closed Sunday ]

 

HUNTINGTON BEACH STORE
18051 Beach Blvd.
Huntington Beach, CA 92648

*Soft Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday 10:00am-7:00pm
Saturday 10:00am-6:00pm
[Closed Sunday]

 

What kind of toppings would you put in your bowl? nuts? fruit? honey?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

Where to a Buy Magical Jar to Help Weight Loss, Bower Blood Pressure and More in Garden Grove, CA

It’s no secret that I love to eat, yet it can often be a challenge to find inexpensive healthy food without comprising taste. I’ve already devised a plan to increase my steps for 2019 (exercise post) and plan to cook more regularly to control the quality of ingredients that I’ll consume. One item that I plan to buy once a month is kimchi as it’s been linked with many health benefits.

Store Front

You can purchase kimchi at any Zion Market or H-Mart, but I found this local specialty shop called Seoul Do Soon Yi Kimchi Co (9972 Garden Grove Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92844) that uses a homemade recipe. Open daily (Mon-Sat 9am-7pm; Sun 9am-6pm), this small mom n’ pop shop sells various styles of kimchi – napa, bok choy, cucumber, and radish in two sizes (Small $11 ; Large $16). I purchased a small half gallon bok choy.

Fridge of Large Napa Cabbage Kimchi Jars

You can eat the kimchi by itself or include it tofu soup or make kimchi fried rice. When I went home I sampled a small bowl-ful and it definitely has a kick to it! Much more flavorful than what you get at the grocery store. I also love supporting small businesses and plan to come back to grab a small napa cabbage kimchi. They ran out on my visit, but now that it’s on my radar I’ll definitely be back.

What kind of healthy food are you incorporating into your diet this year?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

Devouring Ugly Delicious Seafood Endorsed by Jonathan Gold in Pomona, CA

Mexican food and Socal are synonymous with one another, and some of the best are found in dingy hole-in-the-wall restaurants. During my Anime Los Angeles Trip (ALA Cosplay Post, ALA Ribbon Trading, ALA My Hero Academia Panel), I had the opportunity to try a variety of restaurants including amazing Indian food at Ashirwad the Blessings and one of the best burgers at Daddy O’s Rockin Cafe, but my favorite restaurant on that trip was Mariscos Jalisco in Pomona, CA. If you love seafood you’re in for a real treat!

Botana ($21) and Taco ($2.25)

With a 5 star review average on Yelp and listed on Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurant, I wanted to see if it’s as amazing as the reviews. With a shabby exterior, you would most certainly drive by and not think twice about going in; however, my motto in “Never Judge a Book By it’s Cover” is one that I always stand by. So, My friend and I shared the Botana ($21) a box of ceviche that included abalone, squid, fish, shrimp, and avocado with chips on the side as well as their famous deep fried tacos. The ceviche ingredients were very simple, but tasted very fresh and I devoured that taco instantly.

Tostado Menu

The Botana has the most variety of seafood, but if you’re dining here alone they offer personal size tostada’s with different combinations of seafood. This hole-in-the-wall restaurant truly is a gem and with 2 trucks and 2 brick and mortar stores.

  1. Mariscos Jalisco  – 3040 E Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023 (Boyle Heights)
  2. Mariscos Jalisco  – 753 E Holt Ave, Pomona, 91767
  3. Mariscos Jalisco (truck) – E 10th St and Towne Ave, Los Angeles CA 90021
  4. Mariscos Jalisco (truck ) – S Figueroa St and 140th Street, Los Angeles CA

I’d totally make this my go-to taco shop if I lived closer, where do you go to curb your Mexican cravings?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar