Alien's Day Out

Wrapping things up :(

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Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas yesterday!

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Well, as they say, all good things must come to an end, and unfortunately, so must my winter Cali vacation. Today is my final day here before I have to return to Korea! Me so sad. I feel like time went by waaaay too fast. I’m not ready to go back to Korea and have to work again. booooo~~ Ok, enough whining. At least I get to be reunited with Bunny Bunz. :)

Anyhoo, so this is what I’ve been doing the past few days:

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On Thursday, the weather finally decided to cooperate and grace us with some So-Cal sunshine. Now dis is what I’m talkin’ about. Since the sky was gorgeous and blue, we had to enjoy the outdoors! But first, we got lunch at Veggie Grill‘s newest location at Santa Monica. This was my second time eating at this all-vegan “fast food” joint, the first time being when I visited Cali last summer.

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My sister ordered the Grillin’ Chickin’ burger: “Grilled chillin’ chickin’, avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion, cilantro pesto, chipotle ranch on a wheat roll” with red cabbage slaw on the side.

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Look at how real the ‘chikin’ meat looks! It looked creepily authentic, but the texture was spongier. My sister didn’t enjoy the texture very much and ended up pulling half of it out. I’m also generally not a big fan of soy/wheat meats, but I actually thought this was pretty good. I probably wouldn’t order it for myself, but I can see how a other veg*ns might appreciate the familiarity. Everything else in the burger was really nice and flavorful.

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For my order of the Soup & Salad Combo, I picked that day’s Lentil Soup and the All Hail Kale salad. I was really happy with everything in my order! The lentil soup was so tasty and quite filling.

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I also couldn’t get enough of the salad. The miso dressing was sweet, creamy, and yum yum. I plan on recreating this plate at home.

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After lunch, we hit up Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade. I have so many memories here, it was nice to go back and see that it hasn’t changed too much.

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My favorite part of 3rd Street Promenade has always been the street performances, something you don’t see much of in Seoul.

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We also took a stroll along the pier. Such yummy weather!

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Friday was also another sunny one, so I knew I was gonna spend most of it outside. But first things first: lunch. Gotta have some lovin’ in my tummy before I can enjoy the outdoors, and this time we headed to LA’s Little Ethiopia!

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Believe it or not, I’ve never had Ethiopian cuisine before. Seoul used to have an Ethiopian restaurant, but then it closed down before I had a chance to check it out. I’ve always heard about how it’s such unique, veg-friendly cuisine, so it’s been at the top of my list of International eats to try. In LA, it seems that Nyala and Rahel are the most popular places for vegan Ethiopian eats, and they are almost directly across the street from each other. It was really tough trying to choose which one to go to, but in the end, we picked Nyala because their lunch buffet is $2 cheaper, and also, when we walked past Rahel, the restaurant was totally void of customers and the interior looked a bit too ‘sterile.’

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Nyala on the other hand actually had other customers (even though this photo doesn’t show them), and just looked more inviting. Superficial, I know~ Even though I’m sure that Rahel’s lunch buffet is delicious and probably has more variety, I’m glad we picked Nyala for my first Ethiopian food experience. It was a really nice, basic introduction to the cuisine, with some great flavors. And you really can’t beat an all-you-can-eat meal for only $8.

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I’ve heard so much about injira bread, I was reeeeally excited to finally taste it for myself. It was definitely sour and spongy, just like everyone says. I liked it a lot but wasn’t able to eat too much of it. Very filling stuff. As for the individual veggie dishes, I don’t know what the names are, but they were all fantastic, especially all the lentil dishes.

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The sauteed collard greens and the dark lentil stew thingy were my two favorite dishes and I got about 3 servings of each. These lentils were full of flavor and also had some nice heat! I would’ve gone back for a fourth helping if I wasn’t so stuffed to the brim. I think I can say I’m officially a fan of Ethiopian food. I only wish I could enjoy this cuisine in Korea….

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After that, we took advantage of the perfect weather by heading to the Griffith Observatory. Since it was the day before Christmas, there were quite a lot of people there and we ended up parking kinda far away. It worked out in the end though because hiking up the hill helped with digestion!

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We could see the Hollywood sign in the distance. :)

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I never even knew this Griffith Observatory existed until recently! It’s such a cool building.

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Cheezin’ it up for the camera

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While walking around the site, we actually ran into a friend and her family, so we ended up touring the Observatory together. :)

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Inside, there were a bunch of displays and educational exhibitions on astronomy. T’was time to get my geek-on!

Then at night, we went to LACMA to see the ‘Urban Light’ sculptural installation. Whenever we drove past it during the daytime, it didn’t look like much, but it was quite beautiful once everything was all lit up.
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My sister and I entertained ourselves by taking turns snapping pics:
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My sister jumps.

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I march.

Then yesterday for Christmas, my sister and I went down to OC for an extended-family gathering. Normally, our relatives living in So-Cal all get together at someone’s house and have a big Korean potluck dinner, but this time, we ended up going to Peking Gourmet, a Korean-owned Chinese restaurant in Garden Grove. It was one of the few restaurants open on Christmas day, and the place was totally packed! Our family took up two of the large round tables, the adults on one and the ‘kiddies’ on the other. We ordered a bunch of dishes to share and since I was the only veg-head, I made sure there were two vegan dishes in the mix:

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Mapo tofu (without meat)

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Black mushrooms & bok choi veggies

Both portions were ginormous and also totally scrumptious. I ate the majority of both dishes (along with rice) and was very satisfied with my Christmas lunch. :) It was also really wonderful to see my distant aunts, uncles, and cousins, many of whom I haven’t seen in years. Every time we reunite, I’m reminded of how precious family is, and how we should never take each other for granted. *aw~*

While our Christmas lunch was Chinese food, our dinner was totally Western and came courtesy of Whole Foods! My sister and I knew we weren’t gonna go all out and cook a crazy, full-on Christmas dinner for ourselves, so we went the lazy/practical route and bought our meal the day before at the Whole Foods deli section. My goodness, there were so many options to create the most extravagant vegan holiday meal.

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In the end, we picked out four items: butternut squash with caramelized onions, raw mushroom and kale salad, wild rice fig and cranberry roast en croute, and vegan mushroom gravy. The only thing that we cooked ourselves was the garlicky green beans with mushrooms. Doesn’t everything look delicious?

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My absolute favorite was the butternut squash. It was sweetened to dessert-like levels, but it was excellent, especially when eaten together with the gravy.

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Oh, and the ‘wild rice fig & cranberry roast en croute’ was also really nice, chewy, and ‘meaty.’ My omni sister said it was her favorite part of the meal!

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Oh, and we must not forget dessert. Some bomb-diggidy vegan pumpkin pie, again from Whole Foods. Have I mentioned that I love Whole Foods?

Well, now that Christmas has come and gone, it’s time to look ahead to 2011! Holy ddong, I can’t believe 2010 is coming to an end. I’m definitely a resolution kinda gal (just check my past 101 lists), so I gotta start thinking of what I wanna accomplish next year! But that will probably have to wait til after I get back to Korea and return to my normal life. Til then, I’m gonna enjoy my last day here in So-Cal with my sister. Things to do today: go to church, pick up something for my grandma, and eat my last bowl of vegan pho. :) Oh, and I gotta somehow figure out how to pack all the vegan goodies I bought into my bags without going over the weight limit! Wish me luck!

3 Comments

  1. just dropped you off at LAX:( safe travels and call me when you get home! love ya :)

  2. Aww, I feel bad for the sisters separated again (for the time being)! It looked like you had so much fun together and really got the most out of Vegan LA. Mipa, you should watch the movie "Rebel Without a Cause" after you get back to Seoul. The Griffith Park Observatory figures prominently in it. Plus, it's a great movie. :) Happy traveling!

  3. I love Santa Monica, your pictures brought back fun memories!

    I'd never heard of the Griffith Park Observatory (never saw "Rebel Without a Cause," either!) :-) It's a magnificent building – looks like it belongs in Greece! And what a view!

    You captured some great photos of that Urban Light display!

    I hope you and Angela get to see each other again soon. Looks like you have a lot of fun together!

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