First Trip to Japan

There was a lot of walking in Japan. My legs were sore for days. I had a huge blister on the back of my right foot (thank you Puma, you suck), which later popped (bursted?) during my hike at Fushimi Inari Taisha. No worries. I bought a box a band-aids and a new pair of shoes.

If you haven’t already noticed, I like to eat my way through almost every city I visit, especially the ones in Asia. So naturally, the first thing that my friend and I did after we landed in Tokyo and checked in (AirBnB) was eat. Our first meal was at Kimukatsu (there is actually one on Sawtelle) in the Ebisu district. Layers of layers of thinly sliced pork, deep fried and served on a wire rack. It was kinda delicious.


Do you know what else was delicious? The tub of steamed rice that the waiter brought over. If I lived in Japan, I could eat a bowl every day. Isn’t it pretty? Just nod.


We had every intention of making it to the tuna auction at Tsujiki the next morning. Well we arrived at 4:30am and still missed it. But you know what? I can’t say that I’m particularly disappointed. I think I was too tired to feel any emotions. Since we were already out, we decided to spend the morning waiting in line for some sushi breakfast at 壽司大和 (Sushi Daiwa), apparently it’s the 2nd most popular.


Had to add a filter to cover up the lack of make up and puffy eyes.


The following morning we had breakfast at another sushi restaurant, 市場** (Ichiba Sushi). This joint wasn’t listed anywhere, but the sushi was just as fresh. We agreed the experience was actually a lot more enjoyable. The sushi chef was more friendly and didn’t insist that we do omakase. Ichiba is located a few alleys down from Sushi Daiwa.


Betty’s Uni Bowl. I like uni (sea urchin) and all but I don’t think I can eat this much uni. Go Betty!


Where was I? Oh yes. Let’s go back to the first morning after breakfast at Sushi Daiwa. We had a second breakfast at 井上, which was located somewhere in the outer market area. I don’t think they have a website, but I’m sure they are listed on someone’s top ramen list. There was one thing on the menu and one thing only. Ramen. See below. A huge bowl for approximately $5.83, and it taste so much better than the $8.50 spicy chicken quesadilla I had for lunch today.


Had I not stuffed my face with two breakfasts (all before 7:00am), I would’ve had room to eat these rice balls (I love rice) and grilled clams.



There are a lot of shrines and temples in Japan. We visited so many that I think we’re both shrined and templed out for the next few years. The first one we visited was 明治神宮 (Meiji Jingu), which was located in the middle of Yoyogi Park. I’m not really sure which gate we entered from, but the path we took was…very green. It’s quite lovely, no?


Before you enter any shrine or temple in Japan, you must to cleanse your hands and mouth.


The divination stick I picked out at the Meiji Temple said:

One who is spiritually pure feels no shame before the invisible but all-seeing gods (kami). Hence, such true-heartedness is the source of peace and happiness.

Someone please translate that into real speak.

A lot of people, including me, like to write their wishes down on a piece of paper or tablet and hang them somewhere in the shrine/temple. Can you find mine? I did a very Miss Universe thing and asked for world peace.


We bumped into a cute little girl wearing a kimono at the temple. She was attending someone’s wedding, but was also taking pictures with tourists upon request.


One of the top things listed for Tokyo was Shibuya Crossing. Apparently, this intersection is the busiest in the world. Per the recommendations of many travel guides (and my cousin), we ordered some drinks at Starbucks and waited on the second floor to watch the madness. Damn that’s a lot of people. Actually crossing it wasn’t too bad though.


One of the parks that we visited was 新宿御苑 (Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden). I think it was supposed to be beautiful but it was just…gloomy and green?  We should go back during Cherry Blossom season.

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Another temple that we visited was 淺草寺 Sensoji. It’s touristy, but totally worth fighting the crowd for. At the temple, I prayed and drew a “吉“ divination stick. My fortune read “all your request and desire will get through and change for the better”, “you can do everything in a hurry and be safe” and “you can meet with so many happiness”. Um…the English wasn’t really that good. I also got “the person you wait for will come but late”. $hit. I got the same fortune at Tokyo Daijingu, “THE PERSON YOU AWAIT: If he comes, will be late”. WTF?


There was a big market in front of the temple with lots of souvenirs and treats. Below was the fried mochi filled with red bean that I ate. One of the few sweet snack that I had that didn’t taste like I had swallowed a jar of sugar.


Before our train ride to Osaka, we had breakfast at Tsujiki again. I can’t get enough of this market. This time we didn’t have sushi, we had curry. I ordered beef curry (not shown below). I think I may have ate two tiny pieces of beef. It’s ok though because that just means I have more room for the rice. I did not touch that big glob of shredded cabbage.


We took the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka, and stayed at an apartment (AirBnB) in Temma. There were several covered streets with lots of restaurants and shops. One in particular looked like a snack shop threw up on itself. Look at all those treats. There were so many to choose from that I left empty handed. Yep. I didn’t buy a thing. I don’t do well with multiple choice.


One of our best meals in Japan was at a yakiniku restaurant in some random alley. The staff spoke minimal English, the menu was in Japanese and there were no pictures. Thank you Google translate. The only character I recognized on the menu was “牛“ for beef. I think the restaurant was called 天滿燒肉 + a couple of Japanese characters. It was dark so I didn’t get any good pictures. Sorry.

The next day, we ventured out to 金閣寺 (Kinaku-ji). If you can squeeze your way through all the tour groups, you get to see this:


The view was so breath taking you can almost forget there are swarms of people around, totally invading your personal space. Almost.


I ate more rice after Kinkaku-ji. You can really work up an appetite fighting the crowds.  Yes that light brown stringy stuff on top were dried fish. Those silver dots were eye balls. I ate them all. Don’t let me hear or see you cringe. I will judge you. What’s the word for people that don’t venture out of their comfort zone? I’m thinking “boring” but that’s not it.


Our next destination was Fushimi Inari Taisha. Photo Tip: if you want to get a good picture without all those tour group photo bombers, you need to keep climbing those stairs. The tour groups only get to stay here for maybe an hour at most, so they all hover at the bottom of the hill.


After our hike to the top, I tried a black sesame ice cream made with silken tofu. It was one of the few times that I devoured all the ice cream and cone. My friends know that I don’t often finish my drinks or desserts.


In the afternoon, we ventured into the city of Gion in hopes of catching a glimpse of a real geisha. We saw three, but my camera wasn’t ready for any of them. My camera was ready for the okonomiyaki and grilled mochi balls though.

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Betty (the one in the black sweater and pony tail) loves walking through the alleys of Gion.


Betty’s mom bought these sweet rice things filled with red beans. Oh my god they were awful. Again, it tasted like I swallowed a jar of sugar. They are pretty though.


We tried to go to Nara, but it just wasn’t meant to be. We’re still not sure how we got lost on the train for three hours. Anyways, after we gave up we decided to go to Dotonbori in Minami a little early to have lunch. We had tofu and dumplings (not gyoza) at 大板王將. It was surprisingly satisfying. The sauce for the tofu had a tiny bit of spice to it. The dumplings were perfectly pan fried on the outside with a juicy meat filling on the inside. What more can you ask for?

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Kani Doraku, the restaurant with the big giant crab on the store front is apparently the most popular place to have dinner. Their specialty is crab. We dropped by the restaurant around 2:30pm to make a reservation for a 4:10pm dinner. I quite enjoyed my grilled crab legs and it wasn’t expensive at all.


At some point during our trip, I got tired of taking pictures. All the temples and shrines were starting to blend together and I could barely tell which is which. The last temple that we visited was 清水寺 (Kiyomizu-dera). Again, there were many tourists.  You do have to hike a bit to get up here though.



We spent our last 1 1/2 days back in Tokyo, doing some last minute shopping and sightseeing. My friend Akko took us to Imahan for real sukiyaki on our last night. We left our shoes at the door and went around the whole entire restaurant bare foot. I learned that I’ve been eating sukiyaki all wrong. The meat and vegetables should be cooked in a shallow pan of broth, not in a pot. Thank you Akko for making the reservation.

That basically summarizes my first trip to Japan. I’m already trying to figure out when I can go again. I miss the food, my daily bowl of rice, the fish market, and public transportation. I wished I had more time to explore, shop and try some of the bento boxes. Next time I want to go the Alice in Wonderland restaurant and visit SkyTree at night.

Hip Hot

My sister and I had dinner at Hip Hot, a new restaurant that serves Sichuan cuisine. I love the decor. Red bricks, floor to ceiling windows, and hanging snowball lights. It looks like something you see in one of those Chinese idol dramas. Some of the tables have these little furnitures sets under the table top glass. The friendly hostess seated us at one of these tables.



We ordered a lot of food. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach. Personally, I think that is one of my finer qualities. Just think how lucky my friends and family are when I order food. Everyone leaves the table satisfied. We had a lot of leftovers.

Dongzhikou Style Green Bean Jelly(洞子口旋子涼粉)


Boiled Fish (水煮魚). Oh my god. Just look at those chilis. Love it!


Spicy King Crab (香辣帝王蟹). Please note, it’s not cheap.


Garlic Roasted Oysters (2 for each us). One was plenty.


Black Sugar Rice Cake (黑糖糍粑)


Do not be fooled by all the red chili peppers, chili oil, etc, the food really isn’t that spicy.

Hip Hot 

500 N. Atlantic Blvd. Ste. 149

Monterey Park, CA 91754

Boulette’s Larder

The Ferry Building is one of my favorite places to eat at when I visit San Francisco. In addition to the usual coffee from Blue Bottle and the meat platter from Boccolone, I had lunch at Boulletes Larder during my visit in January. My cousin and I ordered the seafood salad, the lola sempre pizza (tomato, burrata, mozzarella, marjoram, wild oregano), and the beignets. All three dishes were pretty good. I wish I could say that the service was good too, but that would be a lie. Let’s just say I don’t appreciate being charged for beverages that never made it to the table, beignets that come after we paid the bill, or having to ask three times before our glasses were refilled with water. Oh and how about no apologies whatsoever for any of the above? *sigh*

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Boullettes Larder

1 Ferry Building, Ste 48

San Franciso, CA 94111

England 2014

My trip to England was plenty awesome this year, so much  that I may take a trip there annually.  Ok, maybe just every other year? The weather (one must always talk about the weather) was in the comfortably low 70s and sunny almost everyday. Did you know that according to one of the Virgin Atlantic pilot, clear skies with scatter clouds = overcast? I didn’t either until I stepped out of the plane at Heathrow and looked out the window. Seriously, WTF? Luckily that was the only day with gloomy weather.

Prior to our fabulous extended weekend trip to Pickwell Manor, Sara and I spent a evening in London. We were taking the train from Paddington station the following morning, so we decided to stay at the Park Grand Lancaster Gate a few blocks down the street. We were greeted by…well… a lot of people. Someone was there to help with the suitcases, someone handed us warm towels, then out pops a tray with glasses of apple juice, there was the gal that checked us in and then another gal gave me a very good map of London. Now that deserved some kind of service excellence award. I have to admit I was sold when they handed me the apple juice, not cider, juice.

Look how pretty this hotel is. It’s also within walking distance to Notting Hill.

1 - Park Grand Lancaster Gate

Oh and just look at all the cute houses around the hotel. I wonder if they have elevators.

1 - Park Grand Neighborhood

Now as for the room, it was small. So very very small. It was nice and clean, but we didn’t have much room to walk around. I’ll stay here again though. I mean I really liked the apple juice.

Hotel Room

After dropping off our stuff, we ventured out toward Notting Hill. On the way, we decided to stop at The Black Lion for our first dinner of bangers and mash. There will be no photographic evidence that I ever had bangers and mash here because we sat outside, it was dark, and the picture I took is too ugly to post. The bartender messed up our order so we had to have a second dinner at Halepi on our way back to the hotel. I do have evidence of the lamb kebab I had there though. See below.

2 - Lamb

Do you know what I love about London, there seem to be flowers everywhere. We don’t have enough flowers in LA.

3 - Leinster Arms

Now let’s fast forward a few days to when I got back from Pickwell. My original plan for the rest of the week was just going to be me, myself and I exploring the wonders of England, with London as my home base. So of course I had to book myself into a nice (but still affordable) hotel in an affluent part of the city. Plus I had to make sure I was in a safe neighborhood. I had no intention of being mugged in a foreign land. Just think about how upset my parents would be. Who will troubleshoot their iPhone/iPad issues? Who will they cook for on Monday evenings? Anyhoo, after many clicks on and Trip Advisor, I settled on The Kensington Hotel. My room was perfect and I had space to walk around. They didn’t give me any apple juice, but they did give me chocolate truffles and a print out of the weather report every day. Oh and the mirror above the sink in the bathroom is fog resistant.

Mine. All mine.

4 - The Kensington Hotel

A friend I met at Pearl and Tom’s wedding was kind enough to accompany me to Downton Abbey aka Highclere Castle. The train ride to Newbury was only about an hour from Paddington station. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to get a ticket for the Castle (it’s actually a house) because the website said that they only have a limited amount of walk up tickets. We didn’t have any problems. If you ever decide to visit, be prepared to be move through the Castle at glacial speed. GLACIAL. The place is filled with non-English people ooh-ing and ah-ing at every room that was featured in the show. It is still pretty cool to be able to say that I went to Downton though. Ooh we were also told at the Earl and Countess actually lives on the property.

Downton Abbey aka Highclere Castle (house/manor)

5 - Downton Abbey

Somewhere under a tree outside of the house.

6 - Through the leaves

Looks like a path to a secret garden or something. Actually it was just grass at the end, lots and lots of grass. England obviously doesn’t have a drought problem.

7 - Secret Estate

Looking at the top of the house while crouch down in fields full of dried something….

8 - House from afar

It’s the end of summer. The garden was…lacking.

9 - secret garden

The following day I booked myself on a tour to Stratford-upon-Avon, Cotswold, Bath and Stonehenge. It was a long day and I picked up a lot of random trivia. Did you know that in London  you can cross the street anywhere anytime within reason? I have witnessed the driving in London and I think I’ll be ok crossing at a cross walk when the light is green. Did you know that  the best wool in Europe comes from England, and the best wool in England comes from Costwold? I care about that just a little.  There are a lot of sheep everywhere. William Shakespeare came up with the words “bloody” and “assassinate”. I haven’t researched that and probably never will.

After two hours of the driving, the bus made its first stop at Stratford-upon-Avon, the birth place of William Shakespeare, where we were served scones and champagne (or orange juice). They didn’t give me a knife so that I could evenly spread the cream on top. *sigh*

10 - Scones

Shakespeare was born in this house. No comment.

11 - Shakespeare's House

My people are everywhere. Seriously, EVERYWHERE.

12 - Chinese Restaurant

Leaving Stratford-upon-Avon.

13 - Stratford

After Stratford, we spent another two hours driving through Cotswold. I love the pub names in England. The Snooty Fox.

14 - Snooty Fox

I quite like the city of Bath and wouldn’t have mind spending another few hours here, but I was on a tour, so I only got about 1 1/2 hours of sightseeing time. My first,basically only, stop was the Roman Baths.

16 - Roman Baths

They actually let you touch that water. It looks green. I think it is questionable.

17 - More Bath

18 - More Bath

19 - More Bath

After my visit to the Roman Baths, I roamed around the city square for a bit. I people watched, snapped random pictures and listened to a guy play the piano.

15 - Real People

20 - Dude on bike

Per our tour guide’s recommendation, I got ice cream at Marshfield’s. Caramel clotted cream ice cream. Can it get anymore fattening? Probably.

21 - Marshfield

Leaving Bath. 22 - Bath River

The last stop on the tour was Stonehenge. Those are some very impressive pile of rocks. At least I think they would’ve been a impressive if I could get a little closer. Look at my one selfie below. I was that far away guys. The rocks actually looks average from that distance.

22 - My one selfie

Zooming in.

23 - Stonehenge

I slept in the following day. I didn’t make it out of the hotel until a little before noon. My first stop was the Victoria & Albert Museum, which was a just a few blocks from my hotel. It was huge and there was so much to see. It’s no wonder their cafe is so well stocked. I can spend hours here roaming around, grab a bite, and roam around some more. My favorite were the Horst and Wedding Dress exhibitions.. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed in the exhibits. I wished I had rebelled and snapped some pictures anyways. I did take pictures of other stuff though.

Check out that ceiling. Ooh that guy in the sweatshirt looks cute. He’s tall too.

24 - A & V


Is that a Chihuly? Looks like it.

25 - Chihuly

After the V & A, I made my way to Covent Garden to check out the London Transport Museum.

26 - London Transport Museum

27 - LTM

28 - LTM

Guess what else can be found in Covent Garden? A Shake Shack and Laduree. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to either. I did get a chance to check out the Moomin store though. So cute.

29 - Moomin

So that pretty much concludes my trip to England this year. I feel like I did so much and not enough at the same time. *sigh* Is it weird that I already missed the friends that I made there? I hope they plan their LA trips soon.

This was my last meal in England. Burger from Rhubarb in Terminal 2 at Heathrow. Terminal 2 needs an LV store.

30 - Last meal

Pearl & Tom’s Wedding

     Once in a blue moon, you get invited to a wedding at a beautiful manor house that dates back to the 10th century. Last weekend, I went to one of those at Pickwell Manor for Pearl and Tom. Although there wasn’t a blue moon, just a normal full one, I’m pretty sure this will be the one and only time I get to attend a wedding at a venue with so much history. After all, I do live in California. The oldest building in the state is probably what…300 years old?

The fun started with a 3 hour train ride from Paddington station to Barnstaple. Ok so that part wasn’t fun, but it didn’t suck either thanks to my travel buddy Sara. All train stations should look like Paddington, food everywhere!

We arrived just in time for Pearl’s bridal shower.

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A bottle that holds one of many pearls of wisdom.

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Sara and I stayed in Constance. It was bigger than my apartment and it had a patio. This is the living room.


After we settled into our apartment, we walked to The Rock for dinner. I was too hungry and forgot to take pictures of the food.

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The weather was perfect on the day of the wedding. I swear I commented on the great weather every single day while I was in England.

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The future Burberry models of England greeted everyone before the ceremony.

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Some beautiful ladies put these floral decorations together.

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Mr. Sun and Pearl. The bride designed her own dress. Our Pearl is very talented.

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We didn’t throw rice, we threw flower petals.

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Is that the standard English post wedding ceremony pose? I’m having mixed feelings about it.

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I didn’t get any pictures of the food that were served during cocktail hour either. *sigh* I did snap some photos of the bride with Sara and Sophie though.

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Ooh that bouquet was pretty. Oh and yes, lychee martinis were served.

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The reception was ten courses. TEN COURSES. Those ten didn’t even include the appetizers, and there were sliders and fries served during cocktail hour. I think I gained a very happy ten pounds that evening. I need to go to more Chinese/English weddings.

Smoked & poached salmon and chicken & avocado bruschetta.

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Brie, tomato & pepper compote and prosciutto, rocket & parmesan bruschetta.

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Langoustines with garlic butter & herbs. I think this was my first langoustine experience.

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Black bream with lemon & ginger salad.

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Duck with savoy cabbage, bacon, carrots & dauphinoise potatoes. My favorite.

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Sirloin, chips & bearnaise.


Meringue, strawberries and homemade vanilla ice cream. I went upstairs for a minute and almost missed this.

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I found the one jar of flowers that I put together. Not too shabby eh?

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Pearl and Tom’s first dance.

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Seriously? I can really cook with this? I should’ve grabbed two.

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Post wedding festivities included a day at Putsborough beach. A few of us decided it was a good idea to walk through a field full of sheep (and sheep poo) to get there. I had the proper beach footwear on for the beach, but not for dodging poo. Sorry no pictures. I was a little preoccupied.

I had my first breakfast bap at the beach. Note to self – share with a friend next time.

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It’s so much prettier than California beaches, and a lot cleaner.

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Later on in the evening, we barbecued and had a bonfire. Pearl introduced the English to the s’mores experience. Apparently there are no graham crackers in England. Sadly, their marshmallows just doesn’t roast the same way the American ones do either. No pictures.

Post wedding festivities also included some more food, crazy golf aka miniature golf and cream team. Okay seriously now…can that chunk of cheese be any bigger? How do you expect one person to eat that whole chunk of cheese?

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Thank you Pearl and Tom for introducing us to the cream tea experience. Butter + jam + clotted cream = a very happy Rennie. I should be eating this everyday.

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Finally got a good shot of the sheeps. No poo was stepped on while taking this picture.

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The gorgeous English countryside.

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It’s important to order bangers and mash everywhere you go.

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Congratulations Pearl and Tom! You two are awesome. Thank you for including me on your special day. I enjoyed my stay at Pickwell, met a lot of really great people and ate lots of delicious food.

Virginia 2014

A friend recently reminded me that I once said I was never ever going to visit Virginia again. I vaguely remember saying such a thing. Actually I’m pretty sure I did since the last time I was there it was hot and extremely humid. Gosh, even thinking about that combo agitates me. Well… I had to travel to nowheresville upstate New York for training, so I decided to take a side trip afterwards to visit one of my favorite people, Evey, in Virginia. She fed me gluten free bread, fruit smoothies, drove around all weekend and help me make some cute cards. Her craft room was amazing and she had so many tools (gadgets?). It was like a mini Michael’s, but with more natural light.

I like it when people feed me. I like it even more when I don’t have to do the dishes afterwards.


We had lunch at The Black Sheep in Richmond. I ordered the CSS Virginia, which was fried chicken liver, cabbage, granny smith apples and remoulade sauce in a French baguette. I quite enjoyed the sandwich. The water? Not so much. I would tell you why, but that would be gross.


Geese. I remember encountering them last time I was in Virginia too.


We did a tour of the Maymont Mansion. I love the pink room.


This is a swim suit. Women used to wear this at the beach. That’s a lot of fabric. No need for sunblock.


Sallie Dooley loved swans, so she put together a swan room.


That’s a Louis. A very old Louis. I like Louis too.


She is so silly sometimes.

Maymont Evey

We had dinner at Four Sisters in Merrifield and she introduced me to this dish. It was fried and had mung beans in it. I have no idea what it’s called, but I liked it.

WPFourSisters Food

I had fried oysters and Hank’s Oyster Bar in Alexandria. I like fried oysters a lot.

WPHank's Oysters

I wanted to buy a lot of sweets at Society Fair, but I didn’t. I exercised a lot of self restraint.


We enjoyed some frozen custard at the Dairy Godmother. I had the Mint Oreo.


It was a nice getaway weekend. I’m missing my Evey and this little guy too. Hi Domo!



Tina took me out for a belated birthday dinner this weekend at Mar’sel at Terranea. She really is like the older sister I never had, always directing me to many a delicious meals. I missed those days when she would pack me lunch. No more beef noodle soup or Asian sandwiches anymore at work. Anyhoo…

We chose to sit outside for dinner, hoping the clouds would clear and we would be able to see the sunset. No such luck.



I don’t drink much, so when our server asked us about bubblies and such, I politely declined. Then she offered us mocktails. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone actually offer to make me a mocktail. I liked her.



Mar’sel, they do good bread. Really good bread. I like a good bread.


Santa Barbara spot prawns? Umm…if you say so. I don’t like having to peel the shells myself at a nice restaurant.


Dungeness crab toast. BRIOCHE!


Bone marrow may not be for everyone, but I love it.


Roasted duck confit. CONFIT!


Hangar steak :)


We were going to skip dessert, but our server brought us salted caramel pudding and cookies. How could we say no?


Thank you Tina for a wonderful birthday dinner!


100 Terranea Way

Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275