Vacation 2017: Palm Springs – La Quinta Resort & Club

Hands down one of the best vacations in a long time, and that’s huge praise considering I usually only get euphoric after San Francisco or Seattle.  The desert area of Palm Springs is typically not the type of destination I gravitate toward, seeing as how it’s terribly hot and to be frank, a bit unfamiliar to me. But this year I’ve been dealing with a lot more stress than I’m used to and the usual eat-run-sightsee-circus I generally put myself through didn’t appeal to me. In the spirit of trying something new I decided to check out the quiet but refreshing La Quinta Resort & Club in the city of La Quinta, California.

Disclaimer: not a sponsored ad/comped stay etc. etc. just a nice discovery that I’d thought I’d share for those of you who might want to travel somewhere neat sometime, etc. (back to the post)

As far as I know there’s no real easy way to get here other than driving in–you may have to fly then drive about 2 hours to come into the Palm Springs area. I’ll spare the locals the boredom of me explaining how to get here. Suffice it to say, a car is needed if you’re a mere mortal like me and protip: load a bunch of water, Gatorade and maybe a snack or two because your road food options are all fast food. I’m not going to knock the McDonald’s stops though–they have $2 vanilla iced coffees and I like McGriddle breakfast sandwiches (oooh, such elevated brekkie.)

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Once a very popular getaway for Hollywood stars, now a destination for golf, tennis, and other outdoor recreation.
La Quinta Resort was established sometime in the early 20s-30s, with the original casitas and other structures well-preserved throughout the ages. Since then the resort has grown to include more facilities that include not only regular rooms but full quad-style units, some with private patios and hot tubs to others with full kitchens and living amenities. By luck the casita I was assigned was part of the original rooms built in 1926. Despite its proximity to the lobby and main restaurants, the open layout of the resort and the lack of high rise structures makes the entire area feel expansive and free.

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Can barely see the casitas but they’re there behind the trees. Each little grouping has about 3-4 rooms together, with a small shaded seating area per room.
I unfortunately can’t tell you how the golf or tennis is because I don’t play either but if you want to be outdoors–you’ll have all the choices in the world. I didn’t see many folks outside for too long because average temperatures were in the 100-110Fs (37C+) during most of the day. But here’s some pictures while I was exploring the grounds:

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Behind this is the Fitness Center which I didn’t get to, but it looked pretty rad. There are also cruiser bikes to rent if you want to ride around the property which I should have done at nightfall. Hopefully I can come back next time to do more. I pretty much spent most of my outdoor time at the Plunge Pool which is the adults 21+ pool:

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It was quiet here all day, but by 4 pm I practically had it all to myself. First come first serve cabana-loungers in the back.
It’s hot and harsh and the sun is a serious force to be reckoned with. My cheeks peeled on the first day just because it was way drier in the desert than the humidity we’ve been having back home. But after the second and third day you get used to it and it’s sort of pleasant to step outside and be enveloped in the encompassing warmth. Remember to drink/replenish fluids, don’t be like me and forget. Heat illness is a serious thing. And don’t even get me started on sun protection. Sunglasses, hat, a shirt, and sunscreen every time I’m at the water. Even on the short walk from the room to breakfast you can go zero to lobster if you don’t cover up.

I am admittedly a n00b at resort vacationing so please excuse my wonder, but I do appreciate that the Hilton/Waldorf-Astoria experience was as advertised. I like to answer the post-visit reviews because it’s a genuine chance to give feedback and appreciation for the staff. There was nothing lacking period, from arrival to the room to the restaurants or grounds and amenities. If you’re needing to get away from it all but want a pleasant, relaxing, efficient stay, here it is.

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Entrance to Morgan’s in the desert–named after Walter H. Morgan, the original builder of the resort in the 20s.

Penultimate dinner at Morgan’s. American steak and seafood house featuring CA wines and fresh ingredients.


On the left: a mix of Spanish influences in the architecture and decor of the grounds. Right: Lilly Pulitzer offerings in one of the several boutiques on-site.

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One of the larger conference halls/meeting rooms, and the Santa Rosa mountains in view on the top left.

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From the main entrance and shopping area (sunny area), through a passageway to the original casitas.
It was great to really slow down, decompress, rest (naps anyone??) and enjoy a mid-year break. I haven’t been writing as much for quite a few reasons–I’m trying to save money and so I’ve been acquiring less overall, but it now enables me to do things like this. And after I got back from the Philippines last year I’ve been mentally challenging myself to want less so I can divert funds to experiences I can share with others, like food, travel or music.

When the fun money fund is restored, I should like to come back.

Little Saigon Night Market

Little Saigon Night Market

One of my favorite things about Southern California (and I’m completely biased) is the sheer density of food choices in a small radius. The area has quite a few established ethnic enclaves, one of them being the largest Vietnamese community outside of that country, centered right here in Westminster, California. This weekend I went to check out the most underrated summer food festival in Orange County–the Little Saigon Night Market.

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The Little Saigon Night Market is hosted every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night at the Asian Garden Mall, on the corner of Bolsa Avenue and Magnolia Street. The 2016 series runs through the weekends of June 17 to September 4, from 7 pm to 11 pm. Vendors and food stalls cover the entire front parking lot of the mall, while an entertainment stage keeps the mood going with performances from featured guests. The mall’s food court also stays open during this time, which provides even more food choices for the hungry. From the main cross-streets, it’s hard to miss the market–the lights, sounds, and delicious smells of barbecued meats are enough to make a pedestrian (and sometimes quite a few drivers) pause and redirect into the parking lot.

Now that I’ve sufficiently conveyed the pertinent information, time to move on to the food:

The grills operate non-stop, constantly refreshed with choice cuts from land, sea, or air.

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Deep-fried quail

You will want to make a slow circuit of the food stalls to check out who’s offering what, or ask people milling about where they got their food items.

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The grilled squid stall is quite popular. Not seen to the right: the growing line of orders.

There’s also a stall that does modern market favorites. Below are some ramen “buns” being toasted for a ramen burger.

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Noodle bun?

But I think the strength of the market lies in the unique street food offerings from Vietnamese cuisine:

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Grilled snails! 3 for $5.

I really enjoyed the grilled snails and the somewhat controversial/exciting (?) chicken embryo (balut in Tagalog, trung vit lon or hot vit lon in Vietnamese.)

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The snails were served with a spicy green oil; the balut with salt and pepper. Both plates came with a sprig of rau ram, or Vietnamese mint. These snails required a fork or chopstick to dig them out, and I had fun trying to drink the sauce out of the shells. The eggs were quite good on their own. I had a lot of fun experiencing these foods; I’ve had balut before, but the snails are an exciting new dish that I’d like to return to very soon.

My friends also bought some other Vietnamese snacks that were very good:

Left: banh khot, savory mini-pancakes (rice cake) with shrimp. Top right: bot chien, fried rice flour cakes with scrambled eggs. Bottom right: spicy pork sung (shredded dried pork) banh mi

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I have to come back for the rest of these!

This stall alone sold: fried pig tail, grilled sticky rice, grilled bananas, deep fried quail, grilled intestine, and that’s just what I see/remember/can identify here on this shot.

Desserts ranged from fruit cups, frozen coconut milk/fruit cubes, and the standard milk teas, boba, and jelly drinks. Up above is a coconut pandan waffle, and some plain taiyaki fish to be filled with a choice of sweet paste or ice cream.

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Friendly face at 3-in-1 Food Truck.

Piece de resistance of the weekend is a taiyaki churro ice cream (mashed together by yours truly.)

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#EATINGFORTHEGRAM 2016

The Little Saigon Night Market runs for two more weekends until September 4 this year. Come and try something new, celebrate the last few late nights of the year, and eat well! #repOC

 

life.exe

life.exe

The last few weeks have been incredibly busy, hence the slowdown of posts here.

I think it’s probably easier to show you what I’ve been up to rather than to write about it, so here goes:

I’m still drinking a pile of coffee. Not much of a surprise there.

A macchiato at Hopper and Burr in Santa Ana.

Post-coffee wandering around downtown Santa Ana. Those cutoffs are getting some serious mileage.

Typical Kristina portrait. Poor friends get pressed into snapping my picture when out and about.

Still eating like a teenager, but with none of that youthful metabolism:

Loaded hot dogs, fresh tater tots and potato chips from Joe Schmoe’s.

Attempting to rectify said metabolism with bouts of exercise:

I sent my first V1 (equivalent 5.10 c-d) earlier this month!!! WOOOOOO

More bouts of exercise part 2: night bouldering in the San Bernardino National Forest with people from my climbing gym. Didn’t climb anything because we hit boulders with routes/problems beyond my grade (everything we hit waas V3+). Still had tons of fun shooting photos of the climbers and taking in the views during the hike out, which was probably the most strenuous I’ve ever been on. We got to the campsite at 5 pm and hiked/climbed until 2 am (hehe!)

Early part of the hike (6:30ish pm) so still pretty stoked about nature at this point. At midnight, we took a break to lay on the crash pads to look at the stars. It is something I’d like to see again soon.

Last week I attended the Workhorse Rye x Little Sparrow Cafe event featuring specialty cocktails made with bitters from WHR.

Took home the small bottle of India Pear bitters courtesy of WHR’s Rob Easter. This will be fun to bring to share at my friend’s house later this month.

I chose the “Arabikakozu”: India Pear Bitters, cold brew Four Barrel coffee, Takara Organic Nama Sake, Gran Classico. I would say sake and coffee is an interesting blend. Not something I would normally think would go together, but when done like this it reminded me of a very lime-forward, bitter-lemonade. As with much of my food explorations, these tastes are all very new to me still, so my observations will be disjointed at best.

Finally, my local craft bakery/coffee/beer/eatery Bakers and Baristas celebrated their grand opening last weekend. I went to have brunch at opening and ordered this gourmet twist on a classic Filipino breakfast: skirt steak tapsilog. Tapa is usually cured meat, typically a bit harder and drier, but the chefs decided to play with that interpretation and served up a juicy, tender, medium-rare steak.

skirt steak, garlic fried rice, pickled carrots, poached egg. I love that the chefs are incorporating heritage and experience into the rotating menu. Apparently congee (rice porridge) might be in the works for brunch.

With all this activity, I’ve almost reached my limit of functioning normally (usually, by this point I’d be sick.) Thankfully (or unfortunately) all I’ve had so far is a scratchy throat and a low-grade headache. I think I accepted every social invitation there was to accept, so now I’m craving some normalcy and quiet so I can regroup.

For those of you coming by and reading the blog at this juncture, it’s probably pretty weird to see all these food and coffee posts, isn’t it? (all three or four of you reading out there, haha.) I do have some odd thoughts here and there about fashion, specifically shoes; maybe I’ll write that later on its own.

Hope everyone is having an excellent end to their August! Let me know how you all are doing.

Sans titre

Sans titre

I’m in this place of waking up, working, coming home, running, eating, sleeping–the usual grind. Then the weekend happens. I don’t want to get into the habit of glorifying the weekend because I don’t want to be that person that hates routine or thinks it’s boring (it’s not.) Maybe eventually I’ll find a better balance between weekday obligations and weekend excess but for right now this is where I am; I use these two days to explore my passions, recharge, and collect scenes of pretty things to look at when I’m huddled in front of a screen.

Spent a pleasant afternoon in Downtown Santa Ana after my morning run:

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Red car, red brick, red flowers.

I went back to Hopper and Burr to take some pictures of the interior and also to enjoy some more coffee. It’s a pop-up coffee shop inside Little Sparrow Cafe and is open Mon-Sat 7 am to 3 pm.

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A fairly well-Instagrammed floor.
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House-made ganache in the mocha. Currently using Phil and Sebastian coffee from Calgary, Canada.

By the way for those of you in OC/LA, Hopper and Burr is having a Coffee Negroni Week all this week. 3 signature cocktails will be featured, ranging $8-12. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, ne?

Kept driving down to Costa Mesa’s South Coast Plaza to research some black sneakers. Didn’t find any, but am curious about these New Balance 580s. They’ve got a Back to the Future vibe that is amusing to me, but I’m not sure if that’s the direction I want to go toward. Ended up at TK Burgers for the “Mini-Bargain” meal which while diminutive packs a whole lot of flavor and value in each bite. Nothing beats freshly done french fries (hoho!) and a juicy cheeseburger.

I eat a lot of cheeseburgers.

On Sunday my brilliant friend B convinced me to go on a hike, so off we went to nearby Crystal Cove State Park to check out some new trails:

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The mostly sandy, low-brush “wilderness” we have in Orange County.

 The Crystal Cove area touches the water but if you go up into the hills it is possible to hike into nearby Irvine, Newport Beach, and Laguna Woods via the extensive trail system. I typically like to begin/end near the water, but there are other park access points in the aforementioned cities that are worth checking out (plus they usually are free parking as opposed to parking on the state property.) Overall as a hike location Crystal Cove is sandy and has little shade–so start early and wear good shoes. It’s big enough to have challenging routes but is also well-maintained and fairly clean. Bonus: Ruby’s Shake Shack hut along Pacific Coast Highway has good shakes and snacks post-hike and it’s kind of a cute drive-in off the road.

A piece of quartz, or so B says. Oh and I’d like to be a mountain goat some day so in the meantime I’ll practice on anything that resembles a rock.

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Sidecar serves Stumptown Cold Brew and their own roasted coffees in their brewed/espresso line up.

After the hike we rewarded ourselves with delicious treats from Sidecar Doughnuts and Coffee.

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Wild/foraged huckleberry donuts.

 

I liked the Colt’s Tooth macchiato I got–I don’t remember the tasting notes nor am I sophisticated enough (yet) to know what I’m drinking. But any coffee I don’t add sugar or cream to make palatable is good news, so we’ll go with that. 🙂 Let’s talk about these donuts though–oh my! Mine was a “Mexican hot chocolate” donut and the one with a bite on it is butter and salt. I enjoyed how fluffy my raised donut was–I was expecting more cinnamon flavor but it wasn’t too apparent in the donut–maybe it was toned down to make more accessible for others? My friend said her butter and salt donut was decadent. Either way, I will probably be back to buy these as presents/treats for friends and family; this definitely falls under special-occasion sweets at $3-5 per specialty flavor.

Well look at that; publishing a weekend recap post before the next one rolls around! Such motivation 🙂 Have a lovely week, folks! Never give up!

May days

May days

Looks like nowadays I do my living on the weekends. That’s not to say that important things don’t happen on weekdays; I do a lot of life maintenance then (exercise and what little chores I can’t keep putting off) but I dream up amusement for myself on weekends. Here’s this week’s installation in pictures:

After work on Thursday afternoon I treated myself to a cappuccino at Steelhead Coffee; a new neat place in California Heights / Long Beach that I am enthralled with. Prepare yourself for multiple social media posts from me at this shop because the light in here is amazing. Hoping one of my next return visits will be on a bright early morning so I can capture the shop better.

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Two different tonkotsu ramens (one shio, one traditional tonkotsu) and the biggest pieces of chicken karaage I’ve seen to date.

Last week’s cooler weather has been stirring up thoughts of hearty soups, so when one of my girlfriends suggested ramen I was quick to accept. Hakata Ikkousha opened up in Costa Mesa, which is becoming quite the ramen spot in Orange County. The city alone hosts seven ramen shops all within a mile of each other! Ikkousha’s standard tonkotsu is my favorite, and I have to give the fried chicken a thumbs up as well. That ketchup/chili pepper flakes combo is killer on the breaded chicken.

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Bacon cheeseburger from Paul’s Place.

On Friday a friend of mine was in town from Arizona. She really wanted a blue cheese burger, and I’m not one to stand in the way of a woman and her beef patty. We ended up at Paul’s Place for some oooey-gooey–I restrained myself from adding a fried egg this time, but I did go with some avocado. 😀

I also promised her a coffee so back it was to Long Beach for a vanilla latte (hers) and my beloved mocha, this time though at the Flea Espresso Bar on Fourth Street.

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My best submission to #coffeeandclothes yet. Though to really be exact I should be wearing Flyknit Lunar 3s, Roshe Runs, or Theas, not my dorky-notNikeiD-Lunarglides. #runislife oh. and shout out to that mocha. See the ganache on the cup rim? I ate that stuff off. YUM

That’s two coffee posts already and it’s only Friday. #noregrets

Saturday morning consisted of a run and a hastily-scarfed down lox bagel before coffee again at Makai. I generally am not so social, but everyone seems to be traveling/visiting this month so I’ve been putting my local food guide/ambassador skills to the test. Then later that night I went to downtown Santa Ana intent on having an Old-Fashioned but finding this instead:

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The West End Theater building hosts The Barrel Room and Cafe Calacas.

Santa Ana is the county seat of Orange County and has a courthouse, several museums, and is where a lot of local city/county government have their buildings. It’s a pretty big and busy city, and downtown especially gets a lot of traffic from county and city workers. There’s a decent art and nightlife scene in DTSA that I’m only coming to appreciate now as I’m much older. To that effect I’ve been trying out one or two places in the area when I get a chance; on Saturday we found The Barrel Room while wandering around looking at whatever caught our attention from the street.

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Moscato cause I’m basic!

I don’t really know what I’m doing with wine and spirits yet, so when I find a place with staff that is willing to explain things to me I get pretty excited. This Moscato from Tobin James Winery in Paso Robles, CA tasted like fun apple cider. Very very easy to drink especially for a n00b like me.

Sunday morning I woke up hungry like a wolf, so a breakfast burrito sounded great. Enter Ham n’ Scram, a cheekily-named breakfast joint that specializes in ham and egg burritos:

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Meet the “Reverend,” double portions of egg, ham, bacon, bell peppers, and cheese.

My friends have spoken about this place for ages but it wasn’t until this weekend that I and my hunger felt up to the challenge. A double meat burrito is no joke. I managed half easily, but only got through half of the second part before calling it quits. I also promptly fell asleep afterwards, but that’s OK. 😀 That’s what Sundays are for. Food comas and subsequent naps.

It also made me happy that they carry banana sauce (a mostly Filipino invention):

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I noticed that the Sriracha bottle was returned to this lineup after I put back the banana ketchup/banana sauce. 😀

Honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that I now engage in some kind of sport during the week, I’d probably weigh a lot. Food and the enjoyment of food is a prime motivator. My metabolism probably can’t sustain these weekend escapades for much longer, so my philosophy is to enjoy my relative youth and processing power. (eek)

Belmont Shore and Downtown Long Beach

Belmont Shore and Downtown Long Beach

Because life > clothes. Here’s some pictures from last weekend’s mini-escapades.

Had brunch at Urban Table in Belmont Shore, Long Beach. I’m trying to find a lox bagel that comes close to the Russ and Daughters one I had in New York.

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Urban Table’s big sesame bagel.

It was delicious, but there are other lox bagels in the area I’d rather eat. Nevertheless, it is still a good filling meal to start the day with.

High definition bagel.

I also met Lucy the Schnauzer. She had just spent the morning at Rosie’s Dog Beach and as you can see here, she’s a natural in front of the camera.

Do it for the social media. She’s far more experienced at this than I am.

After picking up some pupcakes for Lucy at Frosted Cupcakery we ducked into an interesting shoe store called O’ My Sole.

The red one reminds me of my Camper flats.

The store seemed to carry a lot of Spanish-made shoe brands. Admittedly, they are not the most stylish but a recent foot mishap has made me consider the insoles of most shoes–and how a lot come up lacking in terms of support. I may have to come back here to look at and try on more shoes to get a better understanding of fit.

After our short jaunt through Belmont Shore we made our way over to Fourth and Cherry to get some drinks at the Flea Espresso Bar. My friend got an iced lavender steamer that was really delicious [Yelp shot] and I got my litmus test drink, a standard mocha. I’m not really into flora in my drinks (yet?) so I was surprised when I ended up liking the lavender-vanilla mix. Apparently the owner grinds edible lavender into vanilla powder and mixes it all with milk.

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Uh oh. No mocha for you Lucy!

We walked along Fourth Street which has a lot of vintage shops and niche fashion boutiques. Here’s some of the neat gifts in Songbird Boutique:

IMG_7041I’ve gotten earrings from A Million City Lights before–I have this geometric pair (holy throwback selfie.) But I think those avocado ones on the bottom left, middle are so very Californian!

I said goodbye to Lucy at this point, who was pretty tired from all her adventuring earlier in the day.

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Lucy and the technicolor sidewalk.

My last stop for the day was at Salud Juice. I was able to try a sample of one of their seasonal juices called “The Strawberry One,” and this shot called the Sucker Punch–lemon, ginger, honey, and cayenne.

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They don’t mess around–the Sucker Punch will wake you up! They gave me a slice of an orange to chase it with.

I can’t wait to return to the shop to try the other juices. Perhaps with more people so we can all share!

And thus passed the weekend. In a few days will be Friday and then it will be time to go traipsing about Southern California! Hang in there everyone~ (even though that’s really mostly a mantra for me.) Until the next adventure.