Experience | New York, New York: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway + Toloache NYC

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Monday, April 29, 2019

"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."- Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter

Last year, Dayv became obsessed with getting tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway. Since tickets were being released in a lottery, it was very difficult to get a pair of tickets. He was even looking at resellers, who were selling tickets for 5+ times the amount of the original price. Luckily, after continually checking the the online box office, he was able to score tickets for a year in advance. Funny enough, the date of the show was the Sunday before our nine year anniversary, so it was a built-in celebratory occasion!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | Dayv and I were extremely curious about how this show would translate onto the stage, due to its innovative concept. The story is split into two plays: part one a matinee and part two in the evening; both plays are seen on the same day; both plays have two acts. We had no idea what to expect! However, this story/shows are incredible and executed with the utmost perfection. I've seen a lot of shows, and the production of this one far exceeded any other theater experience I've ever had. There were certain "magical" events that occurred on stage right in front of the audience, and Dayv and I both were astonished. As a Harry Potter fan, I'd see these shows again in a heartbeat and I'm so grateful we were able to share this experience together.


Toloache 50 | Since Dayv and I had limited time to eat dinner between part one and two of Harry Potter, we made reservations at the this nearby Mexican restaurant, which was recommended on the Harry Potter website. The restaurant has a vegetarian menu upon request, with many different options.

As a gluten-free vegan, I was told I could only get the quinoa paella main course and the spicy kale side. I was expecting to be able to get tacos with gluten-free corn tortillas, so I was slightly disappointed by my meager options. I was also told I could get the black beans, but not the rice. Luckily, the quinoa paella and spicy kale were absolutely delicious. The quinoa included generous amounts of asparagus, carrots, baby corn, mushrooms, and cauliflower, and was topped with shaved truffle. The combination of flavors and textures was delicious. The spicy kale was in a super spicy light broth that I found scrumptious. I also got a side of guacamole, which was was creamy yet still had avocado chunks in it (which is my favorite texture of guacamole). I savored every bite of my meal and fully enjoyed it.

Dayv opted for the cheese quesadilla, which was more of a tostada, because it was so small. The two women sitting next to us also got quesadillas and their entire conversation consisted of them discussing the tiny portion and what a real quesadilla should look like. (The tables are very close together and we could hear every word.) Dayv enjoyed it, but could not get over how tiny it was. His side of avocado fries, which were crusted with panko bread crumbs, were very generous in size, though. I always find it hilarious in restaurants when the sizes are bigger than the entrees.

I definitely recommend Tolache if you are ever in need of a good veg-friendly restaurant in the Broadway district. If you are vegetarian, rather than vegan and gluten-free, the vegetarian menu is quite generous.


Travel | Anaheim, CA: Eats

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"Cultivate the habit of being grateful."- Ralph Waldo Emerson

This trip was my third time in Anaheim. The first time, I was extremely out of my comfort zone due to the fact that it was my very first time traveling for work and my coworker and I were still finding our groove working together. After not attending the second year, and attending alone last year, my coworker and I attended together again this past year. I was curious to see how it would compare to our first Anaheim trip and it could not have been more different. We had so much fun together, both at the event, as well as during the in-between times, and I look back on this experience with utmost gratitude and positivity.

True Seasons Organic Kitchen | Restaurants in strip malls can be a little dicey. I found this restaurant, per usual, via Yelp, and was curious what to expect. When my coworker and I arrived, we were quite intrigued. The ambiance of the restaurant is very interesting, with the majority of the diners eating around the central "bar" area.

Even though it is not a vegetarian restaurant, the menu has so many amazing options to choose from. After debating quite a bit between the several options, my coworker and I placed our order. As an appetizer, we both ordered spicy steamed edamame. It is next level with such a great kick and is perfectly seasoned. For my main course, I ordered the vegan curry bowl, which came with brown rice, miso soup, and edamame. I never had miso soup before (except maybe once 20 years ago) and could have drank a gallon of it; it was so good. The curry had a nice, subtle sweetness, and hit the spot after a long day. 

For her entree, my coworker ordered the vegan hot pot. The vegan hot pot is a true dining experience where you are given a pot of broth of your choosing and a plate full of farm fresh vegetables. You are also given rice noodles, brown rice, and four dipping sauces. Essentially, you control your entire meal and make it to your liking. She was so engrossed in the process and loved her meal so much.

In addition, the staff is so super friendly and helpful. I loved that their menu is incredibly vegan and gluten-free friendly, and everything is so delicious. There aren't very many vegan friendly options in Anaheim and we can't wait to go back!


Taqueria by Tortilla Jo's | I'm a huge fan of Tortilla Jos restaurant and have always been hesitant to try the to-go taquiera. Since I'm vegan and gluten-free, I was worried that it wouldn't be as accommodating and would have lots of cross contamination. However, on Friday night after a long day of work, I was starving and needed to eat dinner as quickly as possible. My coworker ordered dinner via GrubHub, while I decided to run down to Tortilla Jo's. The line at the restaurant was super long, so I decided to try out the taquiera. I am officially now a convert!

I ordered two items (like I said, I was so hungry!), tacos and a bowl. Luckily, the gluten-free tortillas are also available at the taquiera. The preparers even change their gloves and place paper on the tortilla press to reduce the risk of cross contamination. I love how vegan and gluten-free friendly the taquiera is, along with the same high quality dishes as the restaurant. The portions are super generous and I definitely felt satisfied. 

The staff is super friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating about food allergies, and the food preparation line is super clean. I'm so happy I finally gave this place a shot. It's the perfect way to get your Tortilla Jos fix in on the go!


Experience | Los Angeles, CA: Elton John's Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour at The Staples Center

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"Sweet freedom whispered in my ear. You're a butterfly and butterflies are free to fly. So fly away."-Elton John

After my coworker and I booked our work trip, I checked the Staples Center schedule. Our hotel, The Luxe, is located directly across the street and I was curious to see if there were going to be  any worthwhile events while we were in town. I saw that Elton John would be there several of the nights for his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour. In my mind, I thought how fun and random it would be to go to the concert, but that it was pretty unlikely due to the fact that A. We would only be able to see him one of the nights due to our schedule, B. That day was going to be jam packed with a visit to a company's headquarters, being a guest on and recording a podcast, having "linner", and attending a work event in the evening, C. The Staples Center website said the concert was sold out, and D. Tickets for these types of concerts are usually extremely expensive (I was well aware of this fact because I attempted to get my dad tickets to see The Rolling Stones for a Birthday/Christmas present a couple of months before and tickets cost upwards of $400 a ticket). However, I kept the concert in the back of my mind and never took it out of the realm of possibility.

On Wednesday evening, as my coworker and I were Lyfting it back to our hotel around 7:30, I suggested walking across the street to The Staples Center "just to say we at least asked" about tickets. She laughed and agreed. Once we were dropped off, we walked through the huge crowd of people and passed a billboard-sized sign that said "Elton John: Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour: SOLD OUT." However, we were surprised to then see two box office windows open with no one waiting in line. We strolled up to the box office and my coworker asked if there were any tickets still available, all the while laughing at the absurdity of the question since the concert was supposedly sold out. Shockingly, we were met with the question, "Yes, there are tickets. Where do you want to sit?" We were flabbergasted because we honestly did not even talk about what we would do if we could attend. We both had tote bags filled to the brim with products from our work event and water bottles. Since there was such little time before the concert started, maybe 15 minutes, there was no way we would have even had time to go back to the hotel to drop off our belongings. Would we be allowed to bring all of this stuff into the concert? The answer was yes.

After going back and forth between $50 tickets in the nosebleed section and $150 tickets that were nine rows back from the stage (I was leaning towards the inexpensive seats with the mindset of gaining the experience over getting the best tickets), my coworker said, "If we are going to do this, we should do it the right way and get the best seats possible," and I agreed. 

Once we got to our seats, we were completely blown away by our amazing view and proximity to the stage. We sat next to an older gentleman, who is a lifelong Elton John fan, and has seen him on many occasions throughout his career. He had driven down from Northern California and bought tickets that night for the concert. We talked to him briefly before the show started and he compared Elton John to his younger years by saying, "He's old and fat now, but still puts on a great show." He had looked up the set list from the tour and was visibly excited for the show to start. He kept asking us if we were big fans and excited. My answer, "YES!" As a child of parents who were teenagers in the 70's, I grew up listening to Elton John and am extremely confident in my "singing along with his lyrics" ability. My colleague, who is a fan of Elton John, but doesn't know his song lyrics by heart, asked, "Do you think he'll play anything from The Lion King?" to which he responded, "No."

Words cannot express how much I enjoyed the concert. Elton John played the piano and sang for three hours and played all of my favorites: Rocketman, Leroy, Daniel, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Your Song, and Tiny Dancer; I sang my heart out. After every song, he stood up and turned to each section and waved, so everyone in attendance had ample photo opportunities. He's full of energy, and played and sang his heart into every song. He had two outfit changes, complete with glasses and giant platform shoes. The man has still got it. 

This experience is a great reminder of my life motto, "If you want something, you have to ask for it." We went up to the box office a half hour before the show started and ask if there were tickets still available, even though all the signs said "Sold Out," and we got amazing seats! I am so grateful.


Travel | Los Angeles, CA: Eats

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Monday, April 22, 2019

"Did I tell you how divinely and utterly happy I am?"- Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany's

Holly may have been lying to herself while saying this line to Paul/Fred, but this quote rings super true to how I am choosing to live my life in 2019. 

This work trip was my first of the year and I approached it with a bit of trepidation. My coworker and I decided to stay for an extra day in order to take advantage of professional opportunities, but my mind needed a couple of days before solidifying our plans. She pointed out that whenever I push myself out of my comfort zone, I always look back on those experiences as being my most favorite. This statement could not have rung more true for this trip. 

In addition to eating at the wonderful restaurants below, we visited the company headquarters of one of my favorite cult beauty brands, was a guest on a well-known cruelty-free beauty podcast, saw a living legend in concert (post to come), and attended Indie Beauty Expo LA for the third year in a row.

This trip was the perfect way to kick start my year and I am so grateful. I truly felt like these three days were a YOLO experience, with so many more to come.

Au Lac | I have been wanting to eat at this restaurant for years as it has quite the reputation for being one of the go-to Los Angeles vegan restaurants. However, after dining at Au Lac, I have lukewarm feelings about it. It has a wonderful ambiance and very friendly staff. I also love that it is completely vegan with a ton of gluten-free options. 

That being said, I think this restaurant is a hit or miss depending on what you order. For instance, I ordered the pesto mushrooms and Cali roll and was not impressed by either one. The mushrooms were room temperature with a very light filling that wasn't very flavorful. The Cali roll, which I was told was very substantial and "for sharing," was a pretty small portion size for a main course. I found the nut cheese inside very rubbery and flavorless. The best part of the dish was the dipping sauce. Since I was still hungry, I ordered the Yucca fries and they were phenomenal. They were super crispy, but light, and had a wonderful bite to them. The dipping sauce was like a watery ketchup, but I liked it.

Overall, I would come back to Au Lac for the Yucca fries and try other menu items, hoping for a more satiating experience.


Cafe Gratitude | I had eaten at another Cafe Gratitude location when I was in LA a few years ago, so I knew it was going to be a great experience. My colleague and I had a late lunch/early dinner here before attending a work event. We both took advantage of the lunch special where you order an appetizer and main dish from a handful of selections for a discounted price. Since lunch specials are often smaller portion sizes, I asked the waitress and she confirmed that the appetizer was single serving, but the main dish was full size. My colleague and I both chose the Brussels sprouts appetizer (Ecstatic) and forbidden rice bowl with butternut squash and beets (Devoted) as our main dishes. I also ordered a roobois tea and my colleague ordered a lemonade. 

Our appetizers arrived quickly and we both blown away. I savored every bite, they were so good, and my colleague enjoyed them so much, she ate them in record time. Next, our main courses arrived. They were so flavorful, with a satiating taste and texture. I ate so slowly and intentionally, enjoying every morsel. I think the only thing that could have made the dish better would be some nuts on top. We both left the restaurant feeling fed, but not overly full, and our bellies were very happy. We also appreciated the attentiveness of our waitress and that she consistently refilled my tea cup with more hot water and provided my colleague with free refills of lemonade. We can't wait to go back next time we're in town.


Wild Living Foods | It can be so tricky finding a place to eat lunch when attending an Expo all day. Luckily, Wild Living Foods was right around the corner from our location (The California Market Center). My colleague and I popped in to this little grab and go place for lunch. We were hoping to order and have our meal prepared fresh and sit at one of the tables. However, due to construction going on that day, we had to take our meal to go. 

Rather than have the kitchen prepare our meal (which was offered), we took salads from the to go case. To be honest, we were not super confident that we'd enjoy our meals. However, we were blown away. My Ojai salad was so satiating. I loved every element; the kale tasted fresh and crispy, the avocado was not mushy, the almond croutons added a complex texture and flavor, I loved the Brasil nut cheese, and the ranch dressing was out of this world. I savored every bite. My colleague got a quinoa Mexican inspired bowl and loved hers, as well. She appreciated that there were several dipping sauces/dressings. 

The staff was super friendly, the store super clean, and I appreciated their accommodating nature and the fact that they have pre-made items for sale in their refrigerated section. We cannot wait to go back next time we are in town.


Takami Sushi | My colleague and I had dined at this restaurant two years ago and were so excited to go back. One of our unofficial travel rules is that we eat sushi at least one night. We made 5pm reservations before taking a red eye back to the east coast. We were seated immediately and, while looking over the menu, received our beverage orders (club soda and green tea). I let the server know that I am both vegan and gluten-free, and was provided with a special gluten-free menu. We both decided on edamame for an appetizer. I had the steamed edamame, which was perfected steamed and salted. My colleague got the butter garlic edamame and was in heaven. Our server even told her how to make it at home! 

Next, we each ordered three of the veggie rolls, which are vegan and gluten-free by default (most of the sushi is by default not gluten-free). The texture and vegetable combo of these rolls is next level. My colleague and I have our favorite sushi restaurants in the different cities to which we travel, and we both agreed that this sushi is our favorite so far. Additionally, when I told my server that I love wasabi, he was super generous with providing extra. 

Everyone at the restaurant is super friendly, our drinks were refilled often, and we were able to finish dinner quickly before the dinner rush and to get back to our hotel in plenty of time to get to the airport. In addition to loving our meals, the ambiance of this restaurant is incredible, as it provides a wonderful view of LA, with dim lighting and comfortable booth seating. We cannot wait to visit again next time we are in town.


Experience | New York, New York: Blossom at Columbus + My Fair Lady

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Monday, October 29, 2018

"The woman who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet."- Mohadesa Najumi

One of my most favorite things I look forward to all year is when my mom and I go on the Sisterhood's bus trip to New York. We leave the synagogue around 8:30am, get up to New York around 10:45, and then walk around the city and get lunch. At 2pm, we see a Broadway show matinee. Afterwards, we board the bus and make our way back home. 

This trip was particularly wonderful, as both the restaurant at which we dined and the show we saw were both outstanding. Check out what we ate and watched below!

Blossom on Columbus | Per my usual way of researching restaurants, I discovered Blossom on Columbus on Yelp. Both the menu and location from the theater was appealing and therefore we made the decision to check it out. I must say, we were both blown away!

We arrived a little after noon and the narrow, yet deep, restaurant was close to empty. We were able to get a cozy booth and receive immediate attention from our waiter. After perusing the menu for several minutes, my mom and I chose the kale salad, quinoa burger, and you-pick-four small tastes of roasted brussels sprouts, broccolini, mesclun salad, and truffle mashed potatoes. I also ordered a green tea and our waters were refilled consistently. As a gluten-free vegan, I really appreciated the all gluten-free items on the menu are clearly denoted, of which, there are many.

Our meals arrived very quickly, which was appreciated since we were both really hungry. The kale salad was substantial and topped with almonds, shittake bacon, and dressed with avocado-lime dressing. As a kale lover, I really enjoyed this salad. I will say, however, that the shiitake "bacon" really just tasted like burnt, crispy mushrooms. Luckily, I love the taste of slightly burnt food!

My mom's quinoa burger was quite a show stopper. It was large and very substantial, and came with sweet potato fries. We also asked it to be made on a gluten-free bun so I could also have some. The burger was super filling and slightly spicy. My mom ate the burger, but left a majority of the bun since it was so much food. We both enjoyed the sweet potato fries, although they were a bit on the soggy side.

The you-pick-five small tastes was a complete hit for both of us. Our favorite was by far the brussels sprouts, which were perfectly roasted and crispy. I also really liked the broccolini, which had a bit of kick to it with red pepper flakes, and the mesclun salad, which had a nice pear dressing. My mom really liked the mashed potatoes. 

We both left the restaurant feeling very satisfied but not overly full and gross. We walked back to the theater plotting our next trip to the restaurant and how we'll order two sides of the brussels sprouts.


My Fair Lady | My Fair Lady was performed at the Lincoln Center Theater. By far, it was the fanciest and largest Broadway Theater I ever attended. It was clean and provided ample space for the large audience. I had never seen My Fair Lady before and was not sure how much I'd enjoy it. But, I thought it was terrific!

The first thing I realized when the show started was that Lauren Ambrose played Eliza Doolittle. I noticed her red hair and recognized her voice immediately. Not only is she a wonderful actor but she has an absolutely incredible voice. She definitely took the show to the next level.

My Fair Lady is a longer show; the first act alone is almost two hours! The show ended around 5:15. However, I was not bored or falling asleep at all. The music was spectacular; I had no idea so many well known songs are from My Fair Lady! The ending was a bit vague and different from the movie's ending. However, my mom and I appreciated the feminist undertone.

We both loved My Fair Lady and highly recommend it! Lauren Ambrose is so wonderful and worth the trip alone.

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