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Appetizer Upgrade at Gastropub Haven

6 Jun

You might just gain about five pounds after reading this post. Either way, I did. After a long, hot Saturday, I was ready for a big meal and a cold drink. The Haven Gastropub in Old Town Pasadena was the chosen spot because “we’ve walked by it before and it looked pretty cool”.

craft beer in pasadena

Just a front away from the ever-crowded Colorado street

We walked into a low-lit dining area with a rustic feel. I was looking forward to a good ‘ol meal like mashed taters and meatloaf or some refried beans, Spanish rice and chicken enchiladas.  Well the Haven Gastropub provided none of that. What they did provide was a lavish selection of cocktail drinks and craft beers, as well as appetizer items I could  not even pronunciate and ingredients I was skeptical about (roulade of hog’s head???).

Anywho. I ordered myself of flight of four varied craft beers (all over 8% alcohol, just saying) and decided to ask the waiter a number of questions about the appetizers. And this is what we ended with:

Mac ‘n Cheese


haven gastropub food

black truffles, gruyere, fontina, parmesan


I just wanted something I was familiar with…and cheesy of course.

And black truffles always prompts me in! Don’t worry, I shared.

However, I did save the last bit for…myself.





Ok are you ready for this?! I don’t think you are! I seriously doubt you are. Because I kinda wasn’t. I heard shredded duck and then fries.

Duck Confit Poutine

duck confit poutine pasadena

port salut, pommes frites


It does look…ummm different. According to the waiter, it was like “chili cheese fries” and I LOVE chili chez fries! So we placed an order and carefully dove in. They were…..pretty tasty I may add. And very filling.



Haven Gastropub offered a few other basics, like a burger or flat bread. Their ingredients are exquisite and they offer a unique variety of foods you may never encounter anywhere else near Old Town Pasadena. According to their web site, they also use local or organic produce, sustainable seafood, and humanely raised meat and poultry as often as possible. I guess it’s true what they say, “What won’t hurt you, won’t kill you”—- is that what they say?


The Original Pantry Cafe- Downtown L.A.

20 May
original pantry cafe breakfast

Greetings from The Original Pantry Cafe!

There’s usually a line out to Timbucktooroni just to take a part of the breakfast experience at The Original Pantry Cafe in downtown L.A. If it wasn’t for Saturday classes, I would have never learned about this place. The first thing I had heard about The Original Pantry was that the portions were huge, it was kinda pricey but “you get your money’s worth”. Well that was all fine and dandy but I’m not such a huge fan of waiting in line for 2o years for some ham ‘n eggs.

This past week, I had a day off and right away I thought of The Original Pantry Cafe. Perhaps I wouldn’t have to stand in line, and just in case I did, I had a back-up plan. So the BF and I made our way to downtown and yes! NO LINE! we went right into this locale that was nothing different than any other mom and pop shop in our neighborhood. However, The Original Pantry Cafe had history. Since 1924, this cafe had offered millions a good ‘ol fashioned, simple breakfast. No salmon or California omeletts, no brown sugar french toast or sparkling mimosas – just eggs, meat, potatoes and pancakes.

original pantry menu

saving your change is encouraged

The location is opened 24/7 and with “tradition” only CASH is accepted. Say wuhh? In this fast day in age where we can now use our cell phones to pay, The Original Pantry Cafe has remained simple and original offering meals that are deliciously comforting. I ordered me some ham ‘n eggs with potatoes that are full of flavor. Again, no bell peppers or onions – just pah-tay-tas! The BF had a side of pancakes that I ignored at first but oh boy! NO SYRUP needed! How did these place master soft and sweet pancakes???

Obviously a downtown landmark, The Original Pantry Cafe offers a genuine atmosphere without the “fluff”.

original pantry cafe food

did someone say breakfast??

Missing Mom’s Comfort Food – Baja Playa Mexican Restaurant

7 May

When you first move out, you automatically want to throw a party and celebrate your freedom. Having a fridge stocked with alcoholic beverages and perhaps boxes of microwaved goods may be a weekly ritual because you are living life through your own rules. But after a few days of independent living, you may find yourself craving mom’s good ‘ole food.

Growing up with Mexican parents, refried beans were a weekly side item. And once you move out and attempt to make them on your own, you realize just how special this staple is because no matter where you go, they will never EVER taste likes mom’s.

Every time I visit mom or step-dad’s place, the first question I have is: “Do you have any beans?”. Some of you are confused, others disgusted and a few know exactly what I mean (whether it be refried beans or whatever signature item your mom always made). So this Sunday I woke up to an instant craving of mom’s refried beans. Unfortunately, mom was at church. So I Yelped “refried beans” into my smartphone and a few options came up. I decided to try a nearby hole-in-the-wall which proved to become my new “it” spot for Mexican food.

Baja Playa Mexican Restaurant has two locations – in very close proximity of each other in the city of Montebello, Calif. The one I visited was Baja Playa #1 and while the decor was not upscale in any way whatsoever, it was the simple goodness of the food and the variety of choices that made my heart melt. Of course, their beans were still not up to par with mom’s but it sure made for a nearby escape to indulge in some home-made replicas.

Chilaquiles Breakfast Platter w/ Asada —- the works!


The Fried PB&J at 320 Main – Seal Beach, Calif.

17 Apr
fried pb and j

peanut butter, strawberry jelly and marshmallow fluff on brioche, deep-fried with a panko crumb crust

Holy (insert curse word here)!!!!

This is just about the fanshiest dessert I’ve ever had that has taken me back to my childhood days without the psychological trauma.

320 Main Restaurant in Seal Beach sure kept this a secret.

The intimate, upscale bar/restaurant is popular for their Moscow Mule, a bar specialty, as well as their steaks and exquisite menu entrees.

But NOBODY tells you about their dessert selections.

As a matter of fact, desserts are not even listed on their main menu.

You will find their fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the table pamphlet showcasing their happy hour specials.

Two other delicious desserts are indicated (which I have not had but its sugar so I’ll assume delicious) but the pb and j is what gets my attention.

It could be the deep fried or the fluff on brioche terminology that makes one forget it’s a pb and j sandwich. I mean they make this dessert sound high-class and it is.

There is no guilt while eating it and because of the ambiance in 320 Main, it just feels absolutely luxurious to be a part of this dining experience.

HOME Restuarant – Silverlake, Ca.

11 Apr

The first time I met Home Restaurant in Silverlake, he gave me red velvet pancakes. Well actually, it was the BF that gave me red velvet pancakes because he took me.

Oh yeah! I did say red velvet pancakes:

red velvet pancake

And ever since then, this place has been a breakfast staple in my book!

I love how the ambiance at Home Restuarant is comfy and chill – gee, just like home.

The food is prepared with fresh and some healthy ingredients (soyrizo anyone?).

Even their chilaquiles, a Mexican staple, was delicious and having tried mostly everything on their breakfast menu, I stay very happy after a meal from Home.

breakfast quesadilla

Breakfast Quesadilla














What is more amazing is that one of their locations is really close to Griffith Park, so this makes a GREAT food spot after a good hike at the park.

Almost an exit away, you can fuel up on breakfast (as it is served all day) or have some of their popular sandwiches or burgers:

crispy onion burger home los angeles

Crispy Onion Burger (side salad)

chicken pomodoro sandwich

Chicken Pomodoro Sandwich (sweet potato fries side)



Home Good Home

La Casita Mexican Restaurant – Bell, Calif.

23 Mar

It has been a hectic past few days and so I have decided to leave to Mexico for a few days in hopes of rejuvenation and sleep! But before I head out to the city of tacos and tasty, bottled Coca Colas, I decided to eat Mexican food here in the states, go figure!

Alas, La Casita, a tiny Mexican restaurant located in Bell – nothing fancy, not too far, kinda hood area but this locale has captured the simple Mexican details with the look of gourmet. Dishes common to Mexican culture, this restaurant focuses on their mole delicacy, smothering it over enchiladas, flautas and tortilla chips.

Every table gets their signature mole smothered chips, a different and DE’licious alternative to the usual chips and salsa. They have three different moles, green, traditional red and yellow. My fave was the green.

chips with mole

Signature chips with mole

Every meal comes with the soup of the day. The BF and I were trying to guess what soup this orange goodness was. I swore I was a master chef trying to decode every ingredient, saying it was carrot with tomatoes and onions, when it turned out to be spanish rice soup.

spanish rice soup la casita

Spanish Rice Soup sans rice

I ordered the cochinita pibil platter because I was craving some pork. This was served with your usual sides, rice and black beans but paired with homemade tortillas!

cochinita pibil from mi casita

cochinita pibil, the star attraction, cuz we all know what white rice looks like!

The cochinita pibil also came with a tiny serving of this red onion and habanero chile mix. Don´t let the size fool you now! I added a spoonful of this onto half a tortilla taco and oh boy! it was spicy but full of flavor. The spicy trauma lasted about a minute before it went away. And I was daring enough to try it again.


say hello to my little friend!

The BF loves enchiladas. If I were to make them for him every day, he would have abSHAlutely no problem eating them and would perhaps buy me whatever my little heart desired. In conclusion, I do not make them for him everyday thus, he ordered them here. Traditional red enchiladas with potatoes and chicken.

enchildas red la casita

the traditional red enchiladas

For dessert, we ended with the popular La Casita caramel-filled churros:


sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon

caramel filled churros

oozing with sweetness

On, there are a lot of negative reviews about bad service or a long wait. The locale is small which of course counts for the maybe bad service. But if you go on a weekday, there is not much of a wait and you, too, can experience, some good Mexican food for a low price. This meal was less than $40, which is a bargain for a popular, gourmet-ésque location. In addition, you also get a 10% off coupon for their shop next door offering Mexican detailed decor or food ingredients to prepare at home.

In the mean time, I will be enjoying some time off from school, work and California life. Make sure to try this or other places I´ve been randomly reviewing or drop me a line of other cool spots to check out!

Hasta Luego Amigos! 

Fresh in the Box – Marina Del Rey, Calif.

11 Mar

fresh in the box marina del rey

Some days, you need a little peace and goodness in your life. And this week, was one of those days. Yes I am always on the lookout for great places to engorge in but I just wanted some good for me food. So I took a lunch break at Fresh in the Box in Marina Del Rey. I was first introduced to this place during the holidays last year and was impressed with their ramen soup that needed NO OTHER condiments! It was perfect as is! Crazy for a Mexican that is used to adding lemon and bloody amounts of chile to everything. All of their ingredients are organic and they serve their sushi rolls with brown rice y’all! They also offer fresh coconut water. I mean:




When you are done with the water, they kindly chop it up for you so you could eat the FRESH coconut! How cool is that!

The first time I went, I ordered the ramen soup and a shrimp roll. This time, since I’ve been on a cream cheese high, I ordered their fresh roll made with salmon, cucumber and avocado. Wow. I could definitely tell this was organic. The salmon tasted like…fish! I also ordered the ramen soup and went back to work with a healthy and happy belly.

organic sushi roll salmon

as fresh as it gets

organic ramen fresh marina del rey

the almighty ramen soup!

Besides the goodness being fed to you, the staff is super friendly and the ambiance is all Zen-like! I say perfect place to unwind during a work day.