Lupicia Tea

I first learned about Lupicia tea through my friend Kelsey. She insisted I try the Cookie tea, saying it would change my life. And well, it did, because to this day I am a loyal customer and avid fan of Lupicia.

The closest store to me is in the Westfield Century City mall. The store smells warm and inviting, with all different tea notes filling the space. The employees are always willing to brew different kinds of tea for you to sample. Also, tins filled with tea leaves are on display for you to open and have a free smell. The selection of teas is vast, and if you’re a tea lover like me, you could spend a good hour in this place. My mom and I recently went and bought several packets of loose leaf tea for my family.

My favorite Lupicia teas are Cookie, Banana Chocolate and Strawberry Chocolate. I prepare the teas with a dab of honey and a dollop of whipped cream. This makes the perfect afternoon treat without having to eat something terribly sweet.

Unlike other teas whose tastes don’t match the flavor name, Lupicia teas are true to their title. The Cookie tea tastes like a sugar cookie with notes of caramel, the banana chocolate has a light, non-artificial tasting banana flavor with chocolate undertones and the chocolate strawberry is true to flavor name as well.

If you sign up for the Lupicia monthly newsletter, you’ll receive a free sample every month. I love receiving the free samples and always anticipate what flavor is coming next. Try out Lupicia tea, you’ll be glad you did.

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DeLuscious Goes Vegan!

DeLuscious Cookies, an LA-based bakery that serves up some of the best cookies in the city, recently released a brand new line of vegan cookies. Ask any dessert fan (that pretty much includes everyone!) in Los Angeles, and they’ll tell you DeLuscious bakes the most delicious, decadent desserts in town.
I couldn’t help but feel giddy when a cute box of DeLuscious cookies arrived at my door. The packaging was simple yet sophisticated, with a playful ribbon to polish it off. Pink wrapping tissue surrounded the cookies, which are individually wrapped and sealed with a brand sticker.
I’ve tried various gluten free and vegan baked good options around Los Angeles, but they always fail in some respect – too dry or too artificial tasting. DeLuscious, though, has put in the time and hard work to craft the perfect vegan and gluten free variations on classic treats. The DeLuscious vegan and gluten free creations are hard to distinguish from their regular cookies that contain flour and animal products. Those who, whether by necessity or choice, are vegan or gluten-free will rejoice at the amazing flavors that are compatible with their dietary restrictions!
The box of cookies included three products from the new DeLuscious line: vegan gluten-free chocolate chip, vegan chocolate chip and vegan oatmeal raisin. DeLuscious also included the regular chocolate chip for comparison to the vegan/gluten-free options.
The regular chocolate chip was thin, chewy and not too sweet. The rich dark chocolate chips were evenly allocated throughout the cookie, and the dough portion was lightly sweet, balancing the rich chocolate flavor.
Vegan chocolate chip, like the other cookies, is moist and chewy. I had a hard time distinguishing between the regular chocolate chip and the vegan chocolate chip flavors, which is definitely a good sign for those of you who have specific dietary needs!
The gluten free vegan chocolate chip is much thicker than the original chocolate chip cookie. The cookie crumbles easier than the vegan chocolate chip and the regular, but is not dry. The gluten free vegan cookie is slightly sweeter and buttery tasting than the vegan chocolate chip. DeLuscious has created this cookie that retains all of the buttery, sweet goodness of a regular chocolate chip cookie, but without the flour and animal products… I don’t know how they did it! 
The last vegan option, the vegan oatmeal raisin reminded me of the cinnamon and spice flavors of fall and winter desserts. The cookie is dense and includes plenty of sweet raisins, creating a perfect texture. DeLuscious also offers vegan cookie options in cinnamon sugar, peanut butter and chocolate decadence. I’m sure these options are just as delicious as the flavors I sampled!
The representatives at DeLuscious also included some of their most popular flavors, cinnamon sugar, chocolate decadence, the red velvet white chocolate brownie and the limited edition kimchee sriracha peanut butter cookie!
The cinnamon sugar cookie contains a thin, crunchy layer of cinnamon atop a chewy, buttery cookie. You can smell the cookie the moment it comes out of the packaging. The cookie itself is not too sweet, a result mainly of the thinness.
Chocolate decadence is a brownie-cookie hybrid that will quickly satisfy any chocolate cravings. The gooey, moist center will have you thinking that these popped right out of the oven. A thin, crispy sugar glaze covers the entire cookie from top to bottom, providing a pleasant initial crunch at first bite. The balance of texture gives the dessert a nice dose of both cookie and brownie qualities. Chocolate decadence was by far the richest cookie in the bunch.
Kimchee sriracha Peanut butter, which is a limited edition cookie, has a unique fluffy consistency that sets it apart from the others in the bunch. At first chew, the peanut butter flavor sets in, but after a few bites you’ll discover the spicy aftertaste. The combination was unlike any I have ever tasted. Peanut bits provide a subtle crunch that nicely balanced the fluffiness of the cookie.
The red velvet white chocolate brownie has a half-baked consistency that is completely decadent. White chocolate chips pack on the sweetness, which is a perfect supplement to the light chocolate flavor of the red velvet brownie. This one would be overwhelming to eat in one sitting – I recommend splitting this treat with a friend.

Along with these amazing treats, DeLuscious bakes monthly “Couture Dozens” that include a variety of cool, unique flavors. The August dozen includes cranberry white chocolate walnut, red velvet white chocolate brownie, a gooey butter cookie with dulce de leche and chocolate chip.

DeLuscious cookies are so decadent and packed with flavor that you will want to enjoy them slowly and savor every last bite. The cookies are perfect, regardless of whether they’re meant for satisfying your own sweet tooth or for brightening someone else’s day. If you’re looking for a creative, delicious gift to give a friend or loved one, consider sending them a box of DeLuscious cookies. Ordering from their website is simple and quick- check out their order page here. My experience with DeLuscious from first email to first bite of the amazing cookies was impeccable. The employees are warm, responsive and made sure that my experience was positive! Thanks DeLuscious!

Quick & Easy Cooking with Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

Last Friday I attended a food event at Traveler’s Bookcase, a precious, whimsical bookstore full of globes and literature about every place you could imagine. Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee, author of Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking, talked about her cooking and travel experiences.

Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee writes about food, travel, arts and culture. Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Cecelia was raised in Los Angeles and graduated from UC San Diego. After college, she lived in Mexico where she learned about the regional cooking. She even wrote the Frommer’s Guide to South Korea, during which she visited every single place she wrote about during her seven month adventure. After hearing about her traveling experiences and opportunities, I’m convinced she has one of the coolest jobs ever.

Besides exploring the world, Cecilia also develops simple, easy to follow recipes. During this event, she featured her latest book – Quick and Easy Mexican Cooking. Oftentimes I find recipes that claim to be simple and easy only to discover that they involve 15 ingredients and time I just don’t have. Thankfully, Cecelia’s book doesn’t deceive, the recipes are actually very quick and easy. She even timed herself when cooking the food – if it took her over 30 minutes, then she revised the recipe to fit the time limit.

I walked away from the event with some interesting food facts:

1. To determine the heat level of a chile, simply cut the top portion off, swipe your finger along the inside and touch it to your tongue. The heat level of that quick taste will tell you the heat of the overall chile.

2. Korean and Mexican food are similar in that both are regional and seasonal. The ingredients are based on the spices, vegetables and other ingredients available to the region. Also, both have bold flavors. The main difference is that Korean cooking does not involve baking and the food, because it is eaten with chopsticks, must be bite sized.

3. Casita Mexicana, is indeed the best Mexican food in Los Angeles. Everyone at the event seemed to agree!

After the event, I drank wine and ate several light and subtly sweet Mexican wedding cookies… and to add to the food bliss, the store owners served up a dish from Cecelia’s book – vegetable quesadillas with a cilantro sour cream sauce. The food and good conversations were a wonderful way to end the evening.

I can’t wait to attend more events at Traveler’s Bookcase!

Traveler’s Bookcase | 8375 West Third Street | Los Angeles

Facebook: Travelers-Bookcase

Twitter: @travelersbooks

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

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

It’s Thanksgiving every day at simplethings

simplethings, an adorable little sandwich and pie shop, is located at 8310 W. 3rd Street in Beverly Hills. With casual outdoor and indoor seating, simplethings is a great place to meet for lunch. The pies range from traditional flavors such as peach and pumpkin to the eclectic, banana/coffee and french silk. Since I typically don’t have dessert at lunch, I did not get a chance to try one of the pies, but they looked delicious.

simplethings will always be my favorite sandwich shop in LA. I was first introduced to this place when I interned at a public relations firm just a few blocks away. One day I was sent to pick up the office lunch order from simplethings and order something for myself… don’t mind if I do! The Thanksgiving sandwich caught my eye and I’ve loved the little shop since.

There’s simply no sandwich like this anywhere else. The flavors bring back all the memories and tastes of Thanksgiving I experience at home with my mother’s cooking. In my family, our after Thanksgiving tradition is to combine leftovers on a plate or in a sandwich. The simplethings sandwich is just that – a combination of roast turkey, cranberry chutney, jalapeno cornbread stuffing and sage gravy all on a michetti roll. The sweet and fresh cranberry chutney works magically with the mild spice of the jalapeno cornbread stuffing. The tender turkey and sage gravy make the sandwich comfort food. The sandwich is well worth the price – just over $10.00

For Thanksgiving all year round, try simplethings.

Simplethings Sandwich & Pie Shop on Urbanspoon

Cha Cha Chicken

Cha Cha Chicken is located at 1906 Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica,  just a stones throw from the beach. You’ll order your meal at a counter (the staff is super friendly and ready to answer your questions), then choose a seat. The atmosphere is casual with an outdoor and indoor seating space. The decorations are colorful and eclectic, and the restaurant has an overall relaxed feel. I would imagine this place is an excellent space to hang out after a long day at the beach.
Some friends, Andrew and Aditya, accompanied me on this food adventure and in the end, they were totally in love with this place, as was I. First, we made sure to try the juices. We ordered each type of juice: Mango-Guava, Watermelon, Cantaloupe and fresh squeezed Lemonade. All were crisp and fresh with no taste of artificial sweeteners. The juices are also textured but not too pulpy.

In order to have a well-rounded dining experience, we split various plates. Each entree comes with two side orders, so we made sure to order a variety. The sweet potatoes complemented the meal nicely, but we hit the jackpot with the fried plantains, which had a perfect texture (not too firm, not overcooked) and added the perfect amount of sweet to the multitude of other flavors in the meal.

The coconut fried chicken ($11.50 for 1/2 lb) was tender and moist. The combination of coconut flavored batter and sweet mango dipping sauce gave a tropical twist to the fried chicken.

The jerk chicken enchiladas were covered lightly with a sweet spicy mango pineapple jerk sauce. The shredded chicken was tender and infused with the flavor of the sauce.

The ropa vieja consisted of smoky, spicy shredded steak with vegetables in a red garlic onion sauce. I was glad to have the other plates to accompany the ropa vieja, because the flavor is spicy, bold and overwhelming on its own.

Considering the generous portion size and quality of the food, the prices at Cha Cha Chicken are a complete steal. The bold, colorful flavors and dining experience makes the drive out to Santa Monica totally worth it. I will definitely return.
Cha Cha Chicken on Urbanspoon

Cafe Corsa

Hello! As something different, this is a guest post by a friend, Abe, a physics student at USC. Enjoy.


Ceci n’est pas une blog post.

As a burgeoning physicist and writer, I’ve come to appreciate coffee quite a bit – not so much as a biological stimulant, but as an indispensable part of engaging conversations, a precursor to “writerly” urges, and an essential component of solving problems.

A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems

– Paul Erdos

And since working in the same apartment every day becomes drab pretty quickly, finding places which offer good coffee and aren’t incredibly noisy helps the creative process. This is, regrettably, not an easy combination to find around USC or even Downtown Los Angeles for that matter.  Most places with decent coffee tend to get quite crowded and aren’t conducive to any form of productive work or pleasant conversations.

Café Corsa, however, is precisely the kind of place that made coffee houses popular with scholars and artists in the early 18th century. Devoid of any unnecessary embellishments, it eschews the spirit of pretension that seems to have crept into the “coffee culture.”

It is a small, barely noticeable establishment tucked away at the far end of a strip mall on Figueroa and this lack of visibility is its only flaw. The decor is simple and focused around a marvelous not-so-little coffee machine sitting on a counter top – the Clover Coffee Machine. (Here’s a nice video demonstrating why this contraption is helping the case of brewed coffee over espresso –

We ordered the El Salvadorian (Intelligentsia) and the Panama (a local roaster in Palos Verdes), which were $3 each for 12 oz cups.
The coffee was served in whimsical red and white cups with a Ducati logo and we enjoyed it thoroughly in the comfortable wooden chairs.

The El Salvadorian was a nice medium roast and wouldn’t have required any cream or sugar but for its acidity. The Panama, while also a medium roast, was stronger, smoother, and had been brewed perfectly to avoid the burnt flavour that is usually associated with strong coffee. As my first cup of the day I would have rather had a darker roast, but either of these would be good with some cinnamon biscuits in the afternoon.

The Barista is friendly and knows his coffee. He enjoys trying different origins and blends and though he primarily serves Intelligentsia coffee, he is not averse to experimenting and playing with the Clover’s multiple settings. The place is quiet and even has a little nook with just a chair and a table for those who wish to work or enjoy their coffee in private.

It’s definitely one of the better coffee shops in Los Angeles – probably since it focuses on getting the coffee right and doesn’t try to accessorize it.

Cafe Corsa on Urbanspoon

Room Service (NYC)

Words that come to mind when I think of Room Service? hip, sparkly, sassy and delicious.

Room Service provided one of the most pleasant dining experiences I’ve had. The restaurant, located in Hell’s Kitchen, is beautifully decorated with a modern Victorian theme complete with a huge, glistening chandelier propped in the center as the focus of the restaurant. Our waiter was extremely nice and, despite the restaurant being in complete rush hour, constantly checked on our table.

The first thing that excited me about the Room Service menu were the sheer number of mojito flavors! Some that I can remember include coconut, basil/ginger and mango. My sister and I split the pomegranate mojito, which was plenty for two ladies! There’s no way I could have tackled it by myself. The pomegranate flavoring wasn’t too sweet and the alcohol wasn’t too strong. The healthy amount of mint made the drink crisp and fresh tasting. It wasn’t one of those drinks that makes you cringe after the first sip.
The coconut milk soup was colorful, creamy and fresh. The chicken wasn’t as tender as I’d hoped, but the tangy and spicy chili and lime juice enforced a flavor pop! The broth had a distinct chicken flavor, while the Pongsri coconut milk soup’s coconut flavor overrode the chicken flavor (the combination I enjoyed the most).

My sister Marie ordered the Pad Thai, which had the perfect amount of sauce and just the right amount of sweet. To be perfectly honest, I only had one bite! However, Marie and all Yelp users agree… it’s the best Pad Thai in NYC!

I was a little disappointed that Room Service did not offer a yellow curry, but I was happy to try the red curry which was SPICY… man was that chili paste loud and proud. The vegetables were full of fresh flavor and hadn’t fully surrendered their crispiness to the wet soup. The chicken was tender and the sauce was creamy and spicy.

To conclude, I have a strange suggestion. Make sure to take a trip to the restrooms at Room Service because they are exquisite. A huge mirror leans against the wall, the lighting is low and sexy and it’s just really a sight to behold. Props, Room Service. I’ll return to you next time I’m in NYC.
Room Service on Urbanspoon

Pongsri (NYC)

Just like Los Angeles, I love that NYC has endless options when it comes to ethnic food. I love seeing restaurants scattered about, but it’s always an enriching experience to go to an ethnic food “hub” – such as LA’s Little Ethiopia, Little India, Koreatown and many others. I wanted to find a random restaurant in New York’s Chinatown, so I searched yelp for Thai food because I was in the mood for yellow curry. At random, I chose Pongsri near Columbus Park.
The atmosphere was quiet and simplistic, with a pleasant waitstaff. You’ll have no shortage of options, as their menu is extensive. The must-have at Pongsri is the coconut milk soup, listed under soups as Tom Kha Gai. Especially on a cold or rainy day, this soup is to die for. The sweet coconut flavor mixed with the fresh vegetables and tender chicken was simply delicious. Also, the hint of lime juice added a faint sour to the sweet… an excellent flavor combination.

The fried spring rolls were not overly greasy, which I appreciated. The appetizer was good, but no different than any traditional egg roll or fried spring roll.

Pongsri’s yellow curry was tasty, but not memorable. No complaints on the vegetables and chicken, but I like curry sauces a bit creamier. Normally I am pretty tolerant of spice, but with this curry I had to take sips of water between each bite.

For the coconut milk soup, I am glad to have stumbled upon Pongsri. I have since tried coconut soup and nothing has compared to Pongsri’s recipe!
Pongsri Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon