Cafecito Organico (Silver Lake)

Cafecito Organico has four locations throughout L.A., but I’ve only visited the Hoover St. location. The inside is quite compact, but seating is available outside. The menu is small, which to me is a key ingredient to a good coffee shop. Perfecting the basics is always respectable!

The owners of Cafecito Organico get their coffee from Central America and roast it here in L.A. and focus on forming direct relationships with the producers to “ensure fair and sustainable practices and exceptional quality coffee.”

I ordered a regular coffee and my guest ordered an iced mocha. The mocha, made with dark chocolate, had a robust, full flavor. I appreciated the heavy coffee/subtle chocolate flavor combination. Most mochas tend to be sweet, but Cafecito Organico’s is in between dark and lightly sweet.

The regular coffee was refreshing, not acidic like Intelligentsia and Lamill often taste. The roast was medium and smooth, smooth, smooth. Probably the best coffee I’ve had in L.A.
Cafecito Orgánico on Urbanspoon

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Polish off the look

I am in love with Vera Bradley’s new fall colors. The nail polish and pattern pairs are adorable!

Inside Stitch: The Official Vera Bradley Blog

Nail polish is one of our favorite ways to accessorize your accessories. Whether you’re painting on polka dots, dealing with decals or just sporting the standard fresh coat of color, a mod manicure is certainly a great way to punch up the personality of your look.

We took the liberty of assembling a few suggestions for shades that pair perfectly with our new Fall colors, all vibrant members of the Essie family.

Provencal in essie nail polishes: Russian Roulette, Go Overboard, Bazooka

Canyon in Essie nail polishes: Mink Muffs, Orange, It's Obvious, Lapiz of Luxury

Portobello Road in Essie nail polishes: Playdate, Yogaga, Neo Whimsical

Does your manicure match your Vera Bradley? We would love to see it! Instagram or tweet a picture of your decorated digits with #vbstyleshare.

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Current Obsession: Knotted Hair Ties

If you’re bored with regular hair ties, these adorable knotted hair ties can add a little bit of flavor to your up-do.

After I noticed this trend, I had trouble finding the hair ties in stores. Finally, I came across these assorted hair ties at Anthropologie, but other colors can also be found online for much cheaper at Etsy. I love the design assortment, which goes well with my wardrobe made up of mostly browns, grey and black. Fall can’t come any sooner! I’m ready for dark colors, skinny jeans and boots!

Dinner Challenge: Leave Your Phone at the Door

Just as a friend and I sat down in a restaurant, he took my cell phone out of my hand and placed it in the middle of the table along with his. He proposed that we keep the cell phones screen facing down and out of our hands the entire meal.

I’m thinking: You mean I can’t answer that text? I can’t Instagram this delicious food? I can’t check us into Foursquare?

Okay, I’m exaggerating, but on some level all of us are guilty. It seems as if every time I go to a restaurant people are texting, taking pictures and posting to Facebook and Twitter. We have an urge to tell people where we are and to prove we have perfect, robust social lives.

With this constant need to show and tell, could we “hold the phone” and just put the technology away for a couple of hours?

Eva Restaurant, a Los Angeles dining destination located in the Fairfax District, recently introduced an incentive to get people away from their mobile devices. The rules are simple: check your cell phone at the door and get five percent off of your entire meal. According to the owner, around 40 percent of patrons accept the offer.

Food brings people together. It’s no wonder our social plans revolve around food – we have coffee, lunch or dinner with someone. Dining together involves trying new cuisines, telling stories and connecting, you know, the old fashion way. Take away the technology and all of a sudden we are fully released to the present moment and truly appreciate our company (and food).

Unfortunately, cell phones are not only an issue at the table. People check their phones incessantly for new calls, texts, @mentions, likes and tags. I attended a concert at the Shrine Auditorium last year and some patrons in front of me were texting and checking Facebook throughout the entire performance. Is technology really so important that we can’t stop to appreciate the music?

If you’re reluctant about decreasing your cell phone usage, just think about life before technology. Before cell phones, iPads and social networking sites we were just fine, maybe even better off. Next time you go to a restaurant, exchange the technology for a wonderful dining experience and the opportunity to connect face to face with someone.

Are you up for the challenge? Can you leave your phone at the door, in your pocket or even switched off?

Hanging Paper Lanterns

World Market is my destination for unique household decorations. I found these dainty hanging paper lanterns and hung them using a plastic hook by Command. The lights add some flavor to my college room, which is otherwise challenging to spice up due to the no painting/nailing into the wall rule of my building.

Do any of you have paper lanterns? How do you add character to your college dorm?

Fleming’s Happy Hour (the best happy hour in town)

Calling all people who love gourmet food at dirt cheap prices!

Where: Fleming’s

When: 4pm-6pm… SEVEN DAYS A WEEK

My parents got me hooked on Fleming’s happy hour and I’m happy to share the tradition with friends here in L.A. The happy hour menu consists of 5 cocktails, 5 wines, 5 appetizers and the Prime Burger all for $6.00 each.

The Prime Burger is the best deal in town – a thick, moist burger with lettuce and tomato between two golden, fluffy buns. On the side, you’ll enjoy two crispy onion rings along with ketchup and a chipotle dipping sauce. The portion size + low price makes this my favorite happy hour destination EVER. Oh, and the drinks are a deal too but I tend to just get the burger at this happy hour.

To close off my birthday weekend, I ended the meal with cheesecake topped with a blueberry sauce and white chocolate shavings. I would have loved more graham cracker crust, but the other flavors stood well on their own. The cake was light, creamy and just sweet enough.


Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Embellished Manicure

I first discovered the embellished manicure trend from Zooey Deschanel’s twitter. She posts pictures of the elaborate, adorable manicures she gets from CHI nail bar in Beverly Hills. I thought, wow, I’ve got to try this place out. Then I saw the prices… $60 starting price for a manicure!

Why not do this at home for crazy cheap? If you’re like me, you’ll want to skip the lines and the money – doing your own manicure at home is easy.

First stop by Sally Beauty Supply and find the perfect nail decal. I chose these subtle, pretty flowers to accompany a light pink nail polish. You will also need to purchase a nail art top coat sealer, pictured below.

First apply a coat of the cina sealer. Follow with two coats of your favorite nail polish. Let dry.

Next, following the instructions from the nail decs, place one on each of your ring fingers (for the subtle and understated look… but use all of the decs if you want!).

Finally, apply another coat of cina to all nails. Done!

Lazy Sunday Lunch

I love making homemade chicken salad – it gives me control over the freshness of the ingredients and the amount of mayo. My main complaint about store-bought chicken salad is that it is (1) drenched in mayo and (2) tastes like it’s been sitting out for days.

Chicken salad is easy to make. Since I like to thrown in ingredients, I do not have proper measurements. However, to make four sandwiches, I do know you will need two chicken breasts.

Start by boiling two chicken breasts in a pot of hot water.

While the chicken cooks, cut two strands of celery into small pieces. Next, pulse 10-12 almonds in a food processor and throw them in a bowl along with the celery pieces, a handful of dried cranberries, salt, pepper and a few drops of lemon juice.

Once the chicken is done, let it cool. Then pulse it through a food processor until the chicken is shredded the way you desire. Personally, I like chunks of chicken the size of a quarter.

Add the chicken to the bowl of other ingredients. Finally, add about two heaping spoonfuls of mayo and mix it all together. Serve on toasted bread.

The Belmont (West Hollywood)

I really wanted to like the Belmont.

To start, the happy hour prices were reasonable and I loved the covered outdoor seating space with a view of the bustling La Cienega Boulevard. But unfortunately the good prices and chipper LA view didn’t make up for the service and food.

First of all, our waitress was unenthusiastic and unhelpful. My friend (who had just started experimenting with the paleo diet) asked to have the pork sliders lettuce wrapped and the server reacted as if it was an unreasonable request. Then when my friend asked to just have the meat on the plate with no buns, the server said they wouldn’t do that. Huh?

By this point, I had a bad taste in my mouth about this place. We ordered the pork sliders and spinach artichoke dip from the happy hour menu. While the pork was tender and nicely soaked in a sweet barbeque sauce, the buns were about 70 percent dry… I like my bread light and fluffy! The spinach artichoke dip was creamy and rich, but only half the cheese adorning the top was melted. For some reason the texture of the not melted cheese didn’t mix well with the consistency of the rest of the dip.

 

 

I only got a glimpse of the Belmont by going during happy hour and I doubt I will ever return to see the full menu. Perhaps I went on the wrong day at the wrong time… so have any of you been to the Belmont? What was your experience?

 

 

Belmont on Urbanspoon

Sooji Halwa Recipe

I was first introduced to the dessert halwa at Good Karma Cafe, located on the University of Southern California campus. The chef made several different flavors of the textured pudding dessert, such as peanut butter chocolate, blueberry and cinnamon rasin. The warm, lightly sweet and grainy dessert is a great option when you’re looking to have something light and not too sweet.

Before you make sooji halwa, you’ll need to take a trip to the nearest Indian food store. There you’ll find the ghee and sooji. Ghee is a clarified butter made from cow’s milk and sooji is semolina flour. Here are pictures to give you a better idea of what I’m talking about:

I pulled a recipe from Manjula’s Kitchen, which a makes a perfect serving for 4 people.
Ingredients:
1/2 cup sooji (rava, semolina flour)
1/4 cup ghee (clear butter)
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2cup water
Pinch of cardamom powder

Instructions:
Boil the water with sugar, and cardamom powder in a pan over low medium heat. Bring to a boil and Set aside.
Melt the butter in a frying pan on medium heat.
Add sooji and roast to golden brown color; stirring constantly this will take about 5 to 8 minutes. Sooji will be golden brown in color and will have a light sweet aroma.


Add the syrup slowly, as you add the syrup to sooji water will splatter.
Turn down the heat to medium low and let it cook for about 2-3 minutes.


Let the sooji absorb the water. Once it is fully absorbed, let the halwa cool.
(recipe courtesy of Manjula’s kitchen)