Chocolate Chip Day in LA

In the spirit of National Chocolate Chip Day, this Thursday May 15th we are comparing the classic chocolate chunk Pizookie at BJ’s to one of Los Angeles’ most recent talked about chocolate chip dispensaries – Sycamore Kitchen. The Pizookie is a signature dessert at BJ’s. It is brought to your table in aluminum tin with which it was cooked and a scoop of vanilla ice cream right on top.  The cookie is so warm that the chocolate chunks are oozing out of the cookie crust surrounding it. The chocolate chunk combined with the doughiness of the inside making you makes this soft pastry melt right in your mouth. This sweet sensation is the perfect chocolate chip dessert.

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Another chocolate chip cookie that has been getting a lot of buzz in the LA area is at Sycamore Kitchen in Hollywood California. This cookie experience was a sweet sensation! On first bite, I was taken aback by the dark chocolate chips that had an undertone of bittersweet coffee. With each bite I could taste the complex flavors of the chips and a hint of sea salt on the top crust. This was such a great compliment to the multifaceted and dense flavors presented in this cookie. Salty and sweet are a classic and always amazing combination in food. The part of the cookie I loved the most was the core of it. The center was made up of melted chocolate chips that eventually hardened in the cooling process. It was so dense in chocolate that the actual inside of the cookie was a dark brown, almost resembling the color of black licorice. This never tasted before blend of chocolate flavor was incredible – I loved it!

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Written By Sarah Liss:  A current undergraduate at the University of California Riverside, majoring in Ethnic Studies, this food lover knows her way around a menu. Her background as a biracial woman has not only made her interested in her own cultures, but also the cultural experiences of others around her. She is very perceptive, analytical and compassionate. These core characteristics helped her to see how food isn’t just nourishment, but a threshold into others’ lives.

 

Sqirl

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Sqirl is a breakfast and brunch restaurant south of Silverlake on Virgil Ave that embodies everything a woman could ask for. It’s a cornerstone establishment that has health conscious food, a tastebud friendly menu, peanut free facility (which made me feel relieved since I am extremely allergic to peanuts), and who gets their produce from sustainable and local LA farms. I was sort of in awe when I walked into this place. The restaurant was consistent in ambiance, from the interior design to even the customers who were eating there. Everyone had a style and smile on their face.

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Ordering at the counter I decided to try all I could afford to get my mouth on. I first ordered the Kokuho Rose Brown Rice Bowl, which consisted of Sorrel Pesto (nut free), Preserved Meyer Lemon, Lacto Fermented Hot Sauce, Black Radish, French Sheep Feta, and a Poached Egg placed on top. For 7.50 this bowl of sheer goodness was layered with bright flavor. The rice itself was floral tasting, hence the name rose, and it had sorrel pesto mixed within it, with a distinct taste of cilantro base. The French sheep feta was light and fluffy but still had a mass to it that could melt in your mouth with a salty effect. The poached egg was perfectly runny and once it was mixed in with the other components of this dish I was blown away. It was refreshing and light and did not lack any flavor, seasoning or savoriness to it. It was truly made to perfection.

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Next I had a brioche with ricotta and the daily special jam – already this sounds amazing. The brioche was not oily from butter but instead was flaky and almost airy from its fluffy inside. The layer of deliciousness put on top of the toast was the ricotta, which I could say was equivalent to arroz con leche (rice with milk). That is a classic south of the border dish, which is basically a sweet and creamy rice pudding. The ricotta mirrored this and gave a sort of ice cream effect on top of bread. Next was the daily jam, which was blackberry for that day. From my experience blackberries are usually tart, but this jam was able to have those bits of berry and not resemble any of that flavor. It instead it had the wonderful effect that chocolate syrup has on a sundae. This jam was overflowing the brioche, which then was soaking up all of its juices. This mixture of butter and sugar; savory and sweet left me wanting to eat in silence and not have to explain how much I enjoyed my food.

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To wash down this beautiful meal I had a blood orange pressed juice, which they also make in house. It not only was thirst quenching, but had a citrus tang to it that cleared my palette and left me feeling energized and ready for my day!

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If you happen to be in LA, Sqirl is a must eat at. Guarantee, it will become your new spot to take your dog, read a book, get some work done, meet a friend for coffee, or even enjoy a filling meal with a loved one.

Sqirl’s address is 720 N. Virgil Ave #4, Los Angeles, California 90029. If you are interested in following the company or even checking out their menu online at their website. Every Angelino and visitor should enjoy this delicious neighborhood spot!

Written By Sarah Liss:  A current undergraduate at the University of California Riverside, majoring in Ethnic Studies, this food lover knows her way around a menu. Her background as a biracial woman has not only made her interested in her own cultures, but also the cultural experiences of others around her. She is very perceptive, analytical and compassionate. These core characteristics helped her to see how food isn’t just nourishment, but a threshold into others’ lives.

Caballero Canyon

Hiking spots are something local Angelinos are in constant search of. When we aren’t talking about what’s the best omakase sushi spot or where can one get the illest collectable Nikes, we are talking about where the next best place is to hike. And it has to be the perfect match. This is our criteria for what makes a worthwhile hike:

  1. Fat/calorie burning trail
  2. A gorgeous view
  3. Plants/vegetation
  4. Dog friendly
  5. Butt lifting inclines
  6. More than 2 miles
  7. A loop is always a plus

The hidden gem in the heart of the San Fernando Valley is located in the the hills of Tarzana – a hiking trail called Caballero Canyon. In order to get there you must go south on Reseda and once you start passing gated communities, and country clubs you know you are on the right path. But don’t let your way up fool you about what the trail is like. The spoils of modern life are not present here, other than the houses below you! This is the valley’s best kept secret, which I guess I just let out.

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The actual trail takes about two to three miles to get to the top of the mountain. You know you’ve made it once you hit the electrical poles. You have the option of going even further, but the main trail is exhausting enough. It is all uphill! You are literally hiking up a mountain with trees and shrubbery hugging a dirt trail.  There will be points in this hike up where you will want to turn back, most likely around the halfway mark, but that is when you need to pull through. Nothing is more satisfying than making it to the mountain top as the breeze hits your skin and you take in the amazing view. You are able to see the vast sky looking down on the valley, hearing nothing, but the wind passing through your ears. It is a view that is completely worth the heart wrenching, butt lifting and quadriceps tightening work out that you put in to make it there.

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After you absorb the view and its beauty you have the option to go down the exact way you came, which means it is now going to be a very steep downhill trail. If you do choose this route, don’t be afraid to fall or get dirty. Most likely your tush will hit the ground at some point no matter how cautious you are so just get back up and keep moving. If you choose the other route to get down it is a 5 mile flat trail back. Some people like to take the longer trail because it leads to other mountain areas, such as Topanga state park. You can also take time to catch your breath and converse with your walking partner. Because the terrain is flat, it also makes for a good run!

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The mountain is bike and dog friendly, though our furry friends must be on a leash. Many people enjoy riding their bikes on these trails because they stretch far and there are many inclines to overcome.  Caballero Canyon is not only one of the most tranquil places to hike but it’s no walk in the park which makes it a great workout. It is challenging, centering, and gorgeous – all in one!

Written By Sarah Liss:  A current undergraduate at the University of California Riverside, majoring in Ethnic Studies, this food lover knows her way around a menu. Her background as a biracial woman has not only made her interested in her own cultures, but also the cultural experiences of others around her. She is very perceptive, analytical and compassionate. These core characteristics helped her to see how food isn’t just nourishment, but a threshold into others’ lives.

Joshua Tree for Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day should be one that allows you to reconnect and create new memories with your loved one. It should be an escape from the everyday routine and everyday worries; a positive foreshadow to the rest of your romantic year. The perfect place this type of experience is nearby Los Angeles – Joshua Tree. It is one of the few places on earth where you ask people how their trip was after visiting and usually they give you little, to no description. Now don’t be afraid when someone shares vague details about Joshua Tree. In fact most would probably just tell you that you have to experience it yourself, making a trip for yourself even more enticing.

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In Joshua Tree the clear and vibrant blue skies, accentuate the contrast of the coffee colored sand, all setting up a beautiful scene for the vegetation to really stand out.  Joshua Tree has a national park that has the most peculiar and mind blowing landscape. It is a space that really triggers out of the box perceptions. With all that in mind this is how a romantic day in Joshua Tree could play out.

First, as you are driving up the 29 Palms Highway, stop at Ma Rouge Coffeehouse in Yucca Valley. Get the homemade quiche and on-site roasted turkey that they nestle in a sandwich, and finish your meal off with a house-brewed coffee. You will be energized after this meal for the rest of your active day.

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Second, go to the vintage designer boutique called The End, literally at the end of the Yucca Valley line on the same highway. Here you can get hard to find designer vintage and desert chic jewelry.

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Now when you finally arrive to the national park get ready to see rock formations that will defy physics. Every rock will be placed in the perfect nook and cranny in order to hold up a massive mountainous structure. Keep in mind these are all made purely by nature and no human hands have ever altered them.  When you drive through the Joshua Tree national park, you will experience a sense of tranquility because it will be so quiet.  Here you will experience true silence. I would suggest taking this time to journal your sites and thoughts and share those reflective moments with your partner.

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After these moments of spiritual and mental centering you will enter an arena of activity. You can rock climb, hike, bike ride, and just leisurely walk to enjoy the scenery. You and your lover even have the option to camp out at night. This is one of the few places near Los Angeles where you can actually see all the stars above you. Underneath these stars, you can cozy up by a campfire and even make s’mores.

Joshua Tree allows everyone involved to live in the moment, and to be fully present with those you care about the most. This type of privacy and moments of introspection that will be enhanced are something you can’t get in the city. Joshua Tree will leave you with a sense of sacredness. You honestly leave a part of yourself there where it will stay ready for you upon your return, right back where you left it. As a spiritual place and very transcendental area, it encourages fluid and radical thought. Never can one forget the experience of Joshua Tree because this kind of adventure is timeless.

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Written By Sarah Liss:  A current undergraduate at the University of California Riverside, majoring in Ethnic Studies, this food lover knows her way around a menu. Her background as a biracial woman has not only made her interested in her own cultures, but also the cultural experiences of others around her. She is very perceptive, analytical and compassionate. These core characteristics helped her to see how food isn’t just nourishment, but a threshold into others’ lives.

Follow Your Heart

So it is the New Year. That means another year of resolutions. Thinking of going vegetarian? Vegan? Gluten free?  Or just yearning to have a healthier diet? Well then Follow Your Heart, a market with an attached cafe, in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, is your go to place for food in the New Year.

Follow Your Heart was originally established in 1970 as a seven-seat vegetarian food concession bar in the back of a health foods store. Now it has grown to be a market and café with indoor and outdoor seating. What makes this place so great for our readers is the fact that what you eat in the café is all ingredients that can be found in the market attached to it. So if a customer feels energetic and light after the meal they can acquire the unique ingredients that made their dishes right in the store. Some of these unusual ingredients are cashew cheese, tofu burgers also known as “wheatmeat”, reverse osmosis water, gluten and wheat free products, and eggless omelets! This is food I never grew up eating, so reviewing this café was a brand new culinary adventure.

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I started off my meal with a refreshing pressed apple and ginger juice. This drink is no joke! It is sweet and tart because of the apple, but has that strong zing that goes up your nose from the ginger. If you need a wake up call or something to clear sinuses this is a quick fix.

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For the appetizer I wanted to try their Mediterranean plate. This consisted of tabouleh, falafel, tahini sauce, hummus, and pita bread. This plate tasted like classic Mediterranean food. The hummus was creamy and its texture was not grainy. The tabouleh was diced and finely chopped (just the way I like it) and  it had just enough citric acid. The falafel and toasted pita tasted very traditional, but what I enjoyed the most was my bite into the falafel. Reasons were that it was not greasy and had a moist and dense filling. Sometimes falafel filling is overpowered by the grease on the outside, to cover up the dryness of the inside, but this was not the case with these. It was a very well executed Mediterranean plate.IMG_2453

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For my main I had a Portobello mushroom Panini with macaroni salad. I first tried the macaroni salad and I honestly wasn’t impressed. It tasted bland and really didn’t need to be there. But the Panini on the other hand was really delicious. It was savory to say the least. The outside bread was pressed to a golden crisp and the inside was packed with flavor. Imagine, sautéed mushrooms, tomatoes, red onions and bell peppers, melting into vegan mozzarella and a pesto aioli. A sandwich with ingredients that usually aren’t incorporated with one another, but ended up being extremely cohesive and allowed my tongue to be challenged.

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My sweet treat at the end was my avocado and kale stuffed sweet potato. For me I made a resolution to lose ten more pounds this year and taking out dessert is my first step to getting there. Replacing cake, or brownies and ice cream with a sweet potato was recommended to me, in order to get that sweet tooth fix. This dessert shocked me at how good it was! The yam was perfectly cooked where the skin didn’t burst of juice, but the inside was moist and mashed. The kale placed on top was only seasoned with salt allowing me the sugar of the yam to really pop out. But what sealed the deal for this to be my favorite part of the meal was the avocado. The creamy aspect of the diced avocado allowed my mouth to be tricked as if it was having salted caramel ice cream.  I detected sweetness, saltiness, and creaminess, which is what makes, salted caramel ice cream so addicting, but it was the furthest thing from that. A perfect alternative dessert to start off my new year.

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Follow Your Heart is not only a business that encourages a healthy lifestyle, but has made sure to offer food you just can’t feel guilty about. If your resolution is to be vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, or to even have a healthier diet, the market and café of Follow Your Heart will make this become a reality for your 2014 year.

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Follow Your Heart:

21825 Canoga Ave

Canoga Park, CA 91303

Written By Sarah Liss:  A current undergraduate at the University of California Riverside, majoring in Ethnic Studies, this food lover knows her way around a menu. Her background as a biracial woman has not only made her interested in her own cultures, but also the cultural experiences of others around her. She is very perceptive, analytical and compassionate. These core characteristics helped her to see how food isn’t just nourishment, but a threshold into others’ lives.

 

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