La Casita Mexicana, Bell

Mexican brunch was what we were feeling so I put the fam onto La Casita Mexicana, located in Bell. I had been to the restaurant a few times prior but going with a larger group finally allowed me the opportunity to sample a variety of dishes offered. Like any Mexican sitdown with our gang, our meal started with Queso Fundido con Choirzo. Melted Mexican cheeses, generously sprinkled with fatty pork and paired with fresh corn tortillas – this is what dreams are made of. Take note, this is a must order on their menu!

I consider myself a lover of beverages and at La Casita they’re killing the game with their Lemonade with Chia Seeds and Melon Agua Fresca. Both refreshing and perfectly sweet, it’s too difficult to choose which one is my favorite. Thankfully my sister came with, so we got to have a taste of both. Hands down the star of the table was the Three Mole Flautas with Chicken, smothered in mole poblano, red pepián and green pepián. The moles were rich, vibrant, and awakened the taste buds with each bite. Believe it or not, this Mexican-American girl did not grow up with mole in her home, so I love having the opportunity to taste the incredible flavors when I’m out discovering my city. If you are looking for something bold, go with one of their mole dishes.

People really love the chilaquiles at La Casita so I opted for the Divorciados, which combines both red and green chilaquiles. Red being made with special red tomato and Cascabel sauce and Green with a tomatillo and chile Serrano sauce. I have come to realize that I’m not crazy about chilaquiles. Not to say these weren’t good, but I just found myself dreaming about the moles the whole time I was eating them. I must not forget to mention some of the BEST churros I have had in L.A. are found here. Filled with cajeta (caramel), these crunchy babies are so delicious you cannot help but eat them while pipping hot. You might even find yourself fighting for the last one!

La Casita Mexicana, 4030 Gage Avenue, Bell, CA 90201

La Casita Mexicana Queso Fundido

La Casita Mexicana, Bell

La Casita Mexicana, Bell

La Casita Mexicana

La Casitas Mexicana

La Casitas Mexicana Churros

Jeremih at The Fonda

Jeremih at The Fonda

Jeremih is one of the most underrated musicians in R&B. I recently heard someone on a podcast call him a one-hit-wonder, and although this would be accurate in regards to radio play + sales, he has many hits in my own personal universe. When he released the mixtape “Late Nights with Jeremih” last year, I literally morphed into a puddle by track three and I had it on repeat for months. If you’ve listened, I am sure you know what I am talking about.

I have been a fan for awhile, so much that at one point I was checking his site + twitter on the daily, eagerly anticipating an L.A. show announcement. When I heard about Jeremih at The Fonda, in support of DJ Shlomo, I literally squealed with delight and immediately bought my ticket. This show was definitely one of my most anticipated and Jeremih succeeded at making me feel like a bowl full of jello. Although his performance was knee-weakening, I must admit I was rather disappointed that he only delivered 5 tracks. I waited until 11:45pm for this short set? For shame. Might I suggest that if you are trying to really make something pop off career wise, give the people what they have been so patiently waiting for.

Ippudo, New York City

Ippudo Kamo Sukiyaki

On my agenda for NYC  →  “eat a bowl of ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar.” Upon sharing these plans with the lovely shop people + fellow gourmands at MM6 Maison Martin Margiela in the West Village, I was advised to venture to Ippudo instead. I was really feeling the food vibe Song and Amy of MM6 brought, so I took their advice and set up a dinner date at this East Village ramen noodle brasserie. I never made it to the other noodle bar, but that’s what return visits are for.

The stars aligned which allowed my pal Ibra and I to meet up for a lovely stroll to Ippudo. We arrived 20 minutues before the restaurant opened and found ourselves ten deep in line – we were fortunate to arrive when we did because by the time the doors opened there were at least fifty more people behind us. What’s crucial when eating with NJ is that you must be open to trying anything off the menu. True success is found only in your desire to be adventurous and bonus points if you can hold a conversation. Ibra went above and beyond – he even ordered what turned out to be the best thing we ate, Kamo Sukiyaki (above photo) and for the first time, I found someone who could talk just as much as me.

So what did we order? We started off with drinks, Ibra kept it classic with some Sake and I went with a Samurai, made with sake, gin, lime, + apple juice. I was on vacation, so any chance I had, I ordered a cocktail. Much to my delight (I love the pressure), my dinner companion gave me the reigns for our meal and said he was down for anything, but made sure to suggest we order the aforementioned Kamo Suikiyaki first, made with thin slices of duck breast simmered in a shallow clay pot with yaki tofu, shiitake & enoki mushrooms, tokyo leeks, poached egg, and ramen noodles in traditional sukiyaki sauce. HOLY SHIT, right? It was an incredible dish, one that I have not stopped thinking about. A definite highlight for me.

Ippudo New York CityI spy Ibra

Ippudo New York City

Ippudo New York City

Ippudo New York City

To rev up our palettes we began with the Tori-Dango with Sweet Chili Sauce, which was lightly fried chicken tsukune with glazed Ippudo sweet chili sauce. Those chicken balls were gone in the blink of an eye but we weren’t worried because a plate of Ika Tatsuta-Age, delicately coated and fried Mongo squid was on its way out. We noshed on these small plates, talked Kewpie mayonaise and enjoyed the company of our hilarious server who I kept riffing with.

Ippudo New York City Appetizers

Ippudo New York City Appetizer

Ippudo Ramen

Ippudo NY is known for their ramen and considering that it is one of my favorite dishes, I was super psyched to indulge in a large bowl of fragrant broth with noodles. We both had the Shiromaru Hakata Classic, noodles topped with pork loin chashu, sesame kikurage mushrooms, memma, red pickled ginger, + scallion. I added a poached egg to my bowl while Ibra threw some pork belly to his mix. The piping hot bowl of soup was quite the treat after coming in from the NY cold and really hit the spot. Having a poached egg unlike the typical hard-boiled egg was a nice change of pace and though I enjoyed every bite of my ramen, I couldn’t help but to compare it to better bowls I’ve had here in L.A. That’s what happens when you become a rameniac.

A great meal was had. Come for the ramen but stay for their specials and appetizers. If you don’t want to wait in a line that seems to be endless, show up before they open!

Ippudo New York City

Ippudo Ramen

Ippudo New York City
65 4th Ave
New York, 10003
(212) 388-0088

Russ and Daughters, New York City

Russ and Daughters Bagel Sandwich

Russ and Daughters, located in the Lower East Side, was at the top of my must eat list while in NYC. My love for smoked fish has grown exponentially over the years and I was ready to experience the spot which is considered one of the best in the city. Maybe it was my Jewish ancestry talking to me?

Upon some research I discovered why “appetizers” is in the name of the shop. “Appetizing,” as a noun, is a Jewish food tradition that is most typical among American Jews, and it is particularly local to New York and New Yorkers. Stores selling cured and pickled meats became known as delicatessens, while shops that sold fish and dairy products became appetizing stores. I love the history of food! Russ and Daughters opened in 1914 and it still going strong with a regular clientele of locals and tourists alike. While inside waiting to order, some out-of-towners turned to me and said “you seem like an expert, what should we get?” This happens every time I’m in NYC, I ain’t mad at it.

So what did I get? I showed up for breakfast and knew a bagel sandwich was in order. I chose a toasted sesame bagel with caviar creme cheese, organic smoked Irish salmon, capers and tomato. There aren’t seats inside so I took my tasty treat to the corner cafe and ate it with a cup of tea. It was everything I hoped for, the salmon being some of the tastiest to have graced my mouth. My meal was worth the wait and left me feeling bittersweet because now I had wanted to throw a party with all the incredible offerings of this delish institution. Peep the photos to know exactly what I mean. Barrels of pickles? ENOUGH SAID!

Russ and Daughters NYC

Russ and Daughters Fish

Russ and Daughters NYC

Russ and Daughters NYC

Russ and Daughters NYC

Russ and Daughters NYC

Russ and Daughters NYC

Russ and Daughters
179 E Houston St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 475-4880

Death to Dishonesty

Tullamore Dew

When Vice UK reached out to introduce Tullamore Dew’s new campaign, Death to DishonestyI couldn’t think of a better phrase that encapsulated my attitude these days. It has always been my mission to be honest with myself and others, despite the fact that I have been accused of being brash at times, and as I get older (+ wiser) I have been shown that living without lies has allowed me to obtain the things I want in life.

Tullamore Dew, which is an Irish whiskey if you didn’t already know, embodies the authentic Irish spirit, making way for the genuine things in life. Finding positives to cancel out society’s fakery is a key element in this brand’s identity. I have been asked to share what I think is fake and how it could be resolved to get to the truth. You too can participate for a chance to win a unique trip to Ireland! Here are my qualms, social media edition!

(-) LAGGING ON TEXT MESSAGES
I know you just read my text message, so why did it take you 20 mins to respond? Surely you’re not that busy. If someone who is on a national rap tour can message me back in 30 seconds, surely someone with a part time job can get back to me in a reasonable amout of time.

(+) GETTING TO THE TRUTH
This one is on me. It is obvious when someone wants you in their life vs. wanting you right that second. Ladies, listen up. Put those phones away and live your life without wondering if he is going to text, it really isn’t worth it. You could be out there building an empire with all that time you sit sulking over your iphone. Get focused!

(-) NOT LIKING MY INSTAGRAM PHOTOS
Traveling to NYC, eating delish food and hanging out with beautiful men. Quality Instagram photos if you ask me, yet you didn’t like a single one. That’s what you call a stage 5 hater. I see hilarious graphics on the daily that talk about people who follow you on Instagram but rarely “like” – they’re called lurkers. But your friends shouldn’t be one of them.

(+) GETTING TO THE TRUTH
If your friend has been taking mad gulps of the haterade, it is better you found out now than later, right? The resolve is simple and is going to work to your benefit in the long run. Scale back. Not with your Insta, but with that “friend.” Don’t let their passive aggression get you down. If they cannot roll with your new positive successful life, then you don’t want that kind of shade in your atmosphere anyways.

(-) BEING SAD ON TWITTER
We’re all entitled to a weepy social media moment here and there, with Twitter being the best outlet to unravel at a second to second basis. But if most your tweets are hashtagged with #FML or a claim about being bi-polar, then there is a much more serious problem at hand.

(+) GETTING TO THE TRUTH
Don’t get sucked into sad Twitter accounts, I promise they’re only going to pull your energy down. The people sending out these messages need to get it together and as soon as possible. To the tweeters: If you hate your life so much, why not take at least one step in a positive direction to try and change it? Or at least don’t complain about it on Twitter.

Beck at Sonos Studio

Beck at Sonos Studio

I had the pleasure of being invited to an intimate evening with Beck at Sonos Studio last week in celebration of his latest project, Song Reader, which is his an album in sheet music form. Though the forever cute Mr. Hansen did not perform (much to the crowd’s sadness) it was a delight to be in his presence while he spoke about his imaginative work and the music he’s created over the past 20+ years.

Song Reader’s songs were released exclusively as sheet music by McSweeney’s and are encased in a beautifully designed folder. As Beck discussed in his Q+A, he’s fallen in love with the many renditions his work has inspired, many of which he’s watched via Youtube. Sonos has created a space that is “specifically tailored to allow visitors to both engage with these audience interpretations and to create them.” Stop by the Sonos until March 24 to experience this beautifully curated show and even record your own jam from Song Reader!

Beck at Sonos Studio

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Beck Sonos Studio

Beck Self Playing Piano

Beck Hansen Art Show

Sonos Studio
145 N. La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA. 90036

Tortilla Republic, West Hollywood

Tortilla Republic Churros

My meal ended with desert but this blog post begins with it, because when churros shine bright like a diamond, they obviously have to be the jump off on this culinary excursion. Last weekend I was invited to enjoy brunch at Tortilla Republic, located on Robertson Boulevard in West Hollywood. My previous self would have given major side-eye when I read “modern Mexican” but I’ve been given a few reasons to change my ways and I’m definitely open to giving things a chance. You don’t know if you like something until you try it, right?

Now back to those bomb churros! I am putting these hot crispy pieces of dough of my list of favorites in L.A., added bonus was the cajeta (caramel) and chocolate dipping sauces served along side it. If you venture to WeHo for any reason, please put these sweet treats on your list of things to eat.

Tortilla Republic Menu

Tortilla Republic

Tortilla Republic Cocktails

The older I get, the more I seem to be eating brunch. Do you find this is happening to you as well? Does this mean that any day now, I’ll be shopping at J.Crew? (#help) Aging aside, one of the elements I seek in a successful brunch is my proximity to fresh air and the sun; this girl needs some vitamin D if you know what I mean. An added bonus to brunch, which these days seems crucial, is access to a strong cocktail. Tortilla Republic most definitely met my above requirements in spades. My brunch friend Robert and I took a seat outside, with a view of everything that was popping on Robertson and let me tell you, there were many sites to see.

I took one look at the Margarita Bar Cocktail Menu and without hesitation chose a Mezcal creation made with Passion Fruit Purée, Triple Sec, and Agave Fresh Lime Sweet. To say I got crunk off this one drink would be an understatement. Just ask Robert, he’ll tell you I couldn’t stop laughing and going on about whatever came to mind.

The perfect accompaniment to any stiff drink is a basket full of warm tortilla chips and salsa. It’s almost a match made in heaven, am I right? We were both feeling the chips and 2 out of the 3 salsas. The green (tomatillo) was lacking in proper salsa flavor, but the habnero (orange) made up for the other’s flaw. Now queue a bowl of guacamole with two giant chips, which you might think were totally unnecessary, but sometimes goofy food decorations can go a long way in the conversation.

Tortilla Republic West Hollywood

Tortilla Republic

Did someone say Eggs Benedict? If you’ve been following me for sometime, it should come as no surprise that I ordered the Hollandaise lathered dish. But this time, this brunch favorite was made with  poached eggs atop a manchego scone with chopped bacon, arugula, and classic hollandaise, served with a side of cheddar breakfast potatoes. The scone was stellar and my eggs tasty, but there was something missing in the sauce that I’m still trying to put my finger on. I wasn’t totally in love but I enjoyed myself enough that I wasn’t mad – the added bacon definitely made things better, but that’s a no brainer.

If you find yourself near Robertson and need some delish churros and to get a little tipsy, I say this West Hollywood establishment has you covered.

Tortilla Republic Eggs Benedict

Tortilla Republic

Tortilla Republic
616 N Robertson Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 657-9888

HTC Colors

HTC Phone

HTC Phone

New HTC Phone

I was recently gifted the sleek new Windows Phone 8X by HTC and I’ve been having a blast playing with it. Despite the fact that I wasn’t given a phone number to accompany my device, I have been using it to download various apps and to take photos galore.

As someone who went from being addicted to her Blackberry to finally embracing the iPhone, I must admit there have been countless times that I have pondered about what other telephonic contraptions could be making my life easier. Being given the chance to experiment with another kind of device has been quite the eye-opening experience. The first thing I appreciated about my new toy was the size of the screen as I prefer viewing my media on a larger scale. The interface of the Windows phone is simple to use and it really turns me on how quickly I can swipe everything. I find that on my iPhone the navigation always lags so this was a pleasant change. The only thing that has been bumming me out are the colors on the main screen but maybe I can change them and I haven’t even realized how to yet? That’s what I’m hoping, because purple and orange are not the cutest looks.

In addition to offering a Beats by Dre audio system (hell yeah dude), the HTC phone is offering a killer camera in which I used to take the above photos of my workout steeze. These images are unedited and exude the kind of color quality I need in my life. I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can do with the Windows Phone 8X by HTC. #Troop8X #HTC8

P.S. I now have purple hair!

Homeroom, Oakland

Homeroom Oakland

“Your macaroni and cheese is amazing, but I have to tell you, this is the best I’ve ever had” were the first words that came out of my father’s mouth the moment he took a bite of his bowl of cheesy goodness. Never had truer words been spoken. Homeroom had long been on my list of places to eat, ever since peeping it over on one of my favorite food blogs, Gastronomy. I was near the Bay area over the holidays and made it very clear to my family that we weren’t going home without a drive up to Oakland to eat at this cozy spot. Spoiler alert, I was high fived by every James family member at the end of this meal.

The holidays were taking a toll on my mental well-being (jk, not really) so the first thing I ordered was a mason jar of hard apple cider. Never could alcohol hit my tongue fast enough! As a family who have experienced countless culinary adventures together, no one had to be told that there could not be any repeat orders at our table; thankfully the four us all have very different tastes as well.

Homeroom

Homeroom Oakland Menu

Homeroom Oakland Soupd

My Dad is that man who always wants a bowl of soup, if he could have it with every meal, I’m sure he’d say “sign me up!” He ordered up a pipping hot bowl of butternut squash soup and we were all quick to say yes to his offering. I wouldn’t mind having some of that soup right now, it was that hearty and delicious. I rarely opt for starters or appetizers because I want to devote all of my focus on the entree but that soup had me briefly re-thinking my dining approach.

Here are the macs the James Gang ordered at Homeroom: 1. Top Photo (me) Spring Mac, aged asi­­­­­­ago, fresh herbs, peas and lemon zest. 2. Below (Dad) Mexican Mac, Niman Ranch chorizo, chipotle peppers, jack cheese, and cilantro, served with a wedge of lime. 3. (Mom) Vermont White Cheddar with sauteed mushrooms, velvety white cheddar from Grafton Village cheese in Vermont. 4. (sis) Ivy Leaguer: Truffle Mac, creamy black truffle gouda melted over sauteed mushrooms and fresh thyme.

I tried every single bowl of mac here, as did the rest of the gang, and we all decided that the one we had in front of us was the best. It was hilarious! What can I say? Hit up Homeroom with your friends and family, order a variety of plates off the menu and be confident in knowing that you’ll be eating some of the best macaroni and cheese in America.

Homeroom Oakland

Homeroom Oakland

Homeroom ChalkboardOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Homeroom Oakland Dessert

Last but certainly not least was this mason jar filled with a glorious Banana Crème Pie, made with layers of bananas, pudding, caramel and vanilla wafers. My dad, the ultimate sweet tooth, had to order one of homemade sweet treats and none of us were mad that he did. I limit my sugar intake because it makes me feel nuts so one spoonful of this did me just right. It was a perfect last bite to an already stellar meal.

Homeroom
400 40th Street
Oakland, CA 94609
(510) 597-0400

Alii Kula Lavender Farm, Maui

No trip of mine would go without some adeventures to a botanical garden or lush forest. You about that life? I was psyched when my sister announced we’d be taking a journey up the glorious Haleakala mountain to visit the stunning Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm in Kula. It was my first official day on the island and it was great to start of my journey overlooking so much of the beautiful land. I took in some deep breathes, had the mist of the rain on my face and embarked on a stroll around the lavender farm.

The farm was created by agricultural artist and horticultural master, Ali’i Chang. The land stretches across 13.5-acres at an elevation of roughly 4000 ft. You’re surrounded my plants at every turn as there are approximately 55,000 lavender plants and 45 different varieties of lavender found on the farm, each one of them lending to the beauty of the landscape. “Built on a value-centered philosophy of Aloha which means love, friendship and responsibility, AKL’s founding principle speaks to the quality of our relationships with the land, the community and each other.”

If you’re looking for total relaxation or a great place to meditate in Maui, I highly recommend that you take a journey up to this beautiful lavender farm. When you’re done tapping into your inner peace, don’t forget to stop by the gift shop for freshly made lavender scones and tea.

Alii Kula Lavender Farm
1100 Waipoli Road Kula, HI 96790
(808) 878-3004