Last days of summer and this week’s grocery cart

Last days of summer and this week's grocery cart

Here in Hipville, it’s the little things that are highly anticipated and become a big talking point. Like the season change, for instance. Last Thursday was the first day of fall and to make her point, Mother Nature dropped the temps to 75C from 99C the previous day. I guess she was just pranking us ‘cos the temps have since shot back up.

While I don’t like the blazing heat, I’m a little sad that the days are getting shorter. I feel like I can get so much more done when the days are longer. In summer, when I get up in the morning just before 6, the sun is already up and it’s bright outside. Somehow that makes me happy. And even after dinner, there’s still over an hour of sunlight left, and that too makes me feel like hey, I still have time to do the laundry or hang out at my computer. Anyhoo…

Foodwise, this week’s highlight was the big ol’ pot of seafood tomyam I cooked for dinner Friday night. Of late, our meals have been fairly lackluster. It’s basically too hot to cook or eat (although we did make a big batch of Korean roast chicken wings that lasted us 2 meals). I figured this appetizing one-pot meal would be perfect.

Last days of summer and this week's grocery cart

Admittedly, I cheated by using a tomyam mix, not that I’d be so inclined to concoct this from scratch, and frozen shrimp that came all cleaned and deveined. So basically all I did was cut up the carrots, red bell pepper, onion and eggplant, throw in the mix and finish off by adding 4 tilapia fillets and 12 shrimps. We ate half and froze the rest for next week.

Grocery day is a highly anticipated weekly event around here. To me, the best thing is not having to rush out of the house to beat the traffic and be at the mall promptly at 10:00 am to snag a parking spot. No traffic jams and no parking stress in Hipville.

This week, we didn’t buy much. Strawberries are still the same price as last week. Gotta grab a box.

Last days of summer and this week's grocery cart

We grabbed two bags of bagels, cinnamon and onion which we’ve never tried before but it’s really tasty. To add some music to our pasta, we got a bottle of sun-dried tomatoes. I hope they’ll make our pasta get up and dance. We also got some party wings, and omg, that pop-in-the-oven tempura that’s so crispy and delicious it beats even the eat-out version.

And yup, you see ’em, don’t you? Those two humongous bags of… junk food!! Ouch, you caught us red-handed!!! Imagine how many times we have to run around Planet Earth to rid ourselves of the guilt and calories yo!

Last days of summer and this week's grocery cart

Nah, don’t be silly, there’s no guilt in eating something you love once in a while. And that nonsense about exercising extra hard the next day to take off the guilt and calories you piled on today, surely you don’t believe that. We-ell, it’d be nice if we could put everything on our fat suit today, peel it off and be miraculously slim again tomorrow lol – but that’s not how it works. So stay calm while we eat ’em amazing potato chips!!!

Last days of summer and this week's grocery cart

We ate one whole bag of these chips last week and they were crazy tasty! We notice Costco sells these ‘limited edition goodies’ for a short while and then they’re gone. We would be sad, very sad if we never saw these again. So those two bags we just bought, we’ll be squirreling them away into deep winter storage and we won’t be touching them till we run out of almonds and walnuts. Promise! *chuckles*

Very Strawberry Week

Very Strawberry Week

Who cares if Brangelina is breaking up? We’re having a Very Strawberry Week here! We saw strawberries at irresistible prices last weekend so we hogged two 2lb boxes of these babies at $2.99 per box. Ya, I had nothing better to do got curious and decided to count how many strawberries there are. There’s around 48 in each box Wooo!

Very Strawberry Week

So what does one do with like 100 strawberries? First off, we started chomping them. That’s obvious! But it was too much to eat since we have a lot of other fruits on the agenda.

These strawberries were sweet and firm but after a couple of days, I noticed a few, mostly the ones at the bottom, were getting a bit soft. Those are the sweetest ones, don’t throw them away! You can juice them like I did.

Very Strawberry Week

Then Hip2bDaughter1 had a brainwave and suggested baking a couple of batches of strawberry crumble muffins. Yeah, why not? After all, we have enough flour in the house to start a mini bakery. They were on sale for $1 per 2lb bag so yes sir, yes sir, Baa Baa Black Sheep hogged 3 bagfuls.

Very Strawberry Week

I won’t lie. I like seeing seasonal price changes where prices actually do come down every so often, so you won’t feel like your wallet got ripped and now there’s a huge hole in it. I mean, who doesn’t love a bargain? Well, I can’t speak for everyone but from the perspective of a mom with kids, I’m in for sure!

In-N-Out replay

In-N-Out replay

The next morning, we were back at the stores at opening time. Right on the dot. There’s no time to waste now! Needless to say, we spent the entire morning doing what we do best.

Just for the heck of it, we decided to have lunch at the same outlet where we had our first taste of In-N-Out. From experience, we know this (and many other) In-N-Out’s are perpetually swarming with people, practically any time of day. There was just no way we could get a table inside, and even if we could get a table outside, we wouldn’t have wanted to sit in the sun.

So we took the drive-thru which if you’re thinking is much faster, it’s not. The line is like miles long but at least we get to karaoke and dance to k-pop in a/c comfort. On the way out of the drive-thru, we noticed a family having an In-and-Out picnic under their SUV hood out back.

So you see In-N-Out lovers can get pretty creative. We ate ours in the car too right there in the parking lot the first time we were here. Except this time, the parking lot was full, and so with our cheeseburgers, fries and free water…

In-N-Out replay

… we drove straight back to the stores, parked in the only spot we could find which happened to be in the semi-shade of a very skinny tree, wound down the windows (the sun may be blazing outside but the air is still pretty cool at 11:00am) and had a picnic in the car.

In-N-Out replay

Mmm mmm mmm! Tell me, how can a $2.35 cheeseburger taste this good? Oh man! I may not eat burgers very often but when I do, this is it! The only burger I’ll eat, no matter which side of the planet I’m on. ’nuff said.

In-N-Out replay

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

In the early evening, we took a break from an afternoon’s ‘hard work’ and headed out for dinner at Saigon 2 Siam, an Indochinese restaurant we’d discovered on our previous trip to Gilroy. Back then, we’d gone back there two nights in a row to savor their tasty fare, and this time, we’d been so looking forward to eating there again.

What we hadn’t anticipated though was how popular this place had become. It was the only restaurant on the strip with a crowd waiting outside. Bah humbug! and we thought WE were early! Man, it wasn’t even officially dinner time yet!

We asked the staff how long the wait time would be (because we needed to get back to ‘work” and didn’t want to waste any time lol) but he couldn’t tell us because there was no actual line. At any rate, we left our name and phone number for him to call us when a table became available.

Which obviously wasn’t gonna to happen since the staff were all so ultra busy no one was keeping track of who got there first. Usually people would be honest and not cut the line but since the crowd looked hungry and touristy, well, who knows?!!

A half hour later, we went back to check. Thankfully a family was slowly, ve-ry ve-r-ry slowly gathering up their reluctant kids to leave. And when they finally did leave, they left a table strewn with mountains of tissues and the floor littered with rice! And we had to wait some more for the staff to clean up their mess.

Outside the crowd was growing. The poor staff were trying hard to stay calm and serve while we were trying hard to tell our tummies to keep the noise down with tiny sips of the cucumber-infused water they’d served us. Yes, water is free and free flow, and it being cucumber-infused is a definite bonus.

We fell in love with their Drunken Noodles on our last visit. It was crazy delicious. So naturally we had to order it again. Sadly though, it didn’t taste quite the same. I’m guessing they’ve tuned it down. It’s now milder, much sweeter, and not fiery enough for us (should’ve asked them to up the fire index, darn!).

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

Speaking of sweet, the Pad Thai was way sweet and not quite the expected tangy, savory taste. The color too was somewhat unexpected. We were fairly stuffed by the time we got to this plate and had to box the leftovers and find a way to finish it later.

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

Now after our recent Vermicelli Bowl discovery back at Hipville, we were thrilled to see it here on their menu and ordered it immediately. So glad we did. It was simply delicious. Love the presentation too.

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

So with dinner out of the way, we sped back to the stores to continue our good work. Yes!

Labor Day shopping expedition

Labor Day shopping expedition

After lunch in Carmel, the only thing we could think of was shopping. Yes, the Labor Day sales in Gilroy were calling and we couldn’t wait to get started. We’ve been holding off all retail therapy for months waiting for this!

We did go a little crazy though. Wait, a lot crazy especially when we burst in and saw this…

Labor Day shopping expedition

… and this *rubs hands together with glee*.

Labor Day shopping expedition

We were dashing in and out of the outlet stores scooping up armfuls of clothing and making a beeline for the fitting rooms. Disgraceful, isn’t it? But there was no time to waste. The monsters (no, not those monsters! I have a brood of non-conformists) have been unleashed. We spent the entire afternoon hard at work, stopping only for the occasional bathroom break and dinner, of course (more on that in my next post).

You know, the thing about this trip is that we didn’t have our guys tagging along which kinda meant we could take our time and not have to feel bad for keeping them waiting. Guys don’t shop like us. They rush into the store, glance around, spot something they like, briefly throw it on, it fits? okay, they grab all the available colors and vrooom, they’re right up there at checkout! And they’re done and wondering why the heck we’re taking so long!! Can you relate? Tell me you can.

Ya so we were at liberty to be fickle-minded and make a second round to the same stores to have another look around in case we missed anything the first time. I know, and this is exactly what we call shopping. A girl can’t be expected to make up her mind instantly. She has to run stuff through her Sorting Hat, ask her girlfriends for a second opinion, ya know, and wonder which color looks better on herself.

And so we went back after dinner and by then, the sky was dark and the temps had dipped. Still we saw no reason to let that stop us from carrying on… um, till closing time! Goodnight for now, we’ll be back tomorrow!

Labor Day shopping expedition

Lunch in Carmel

Lunch in Carmel

Over the long Labor Day weekend (was that really 2 weekends ago? wow), we snuck out of town early one morning just after sunrise on our little road trip to Gilroy, CA. Our mission: to catch the Labor Day sales… what else? But before that, we decided to make a quick turnoff to Carmel-by-the-Sea for lunch.

Lunch in Carmel

If the thought of lunch in Carmel, dinner in Gilroy somehow conjures up images of lunch in Paris, dinner in New York, well, this would be the poor man’s version. Gilroy and Carmel are less than an hour’s drive from each other, so we’re not exactly talking jetset here lol. Nevertheless, good try!

I’ve been to Carmel many times since college. You know, there’re places where no matter how many times you’ve been there, it’s still that same old sleepy town of beautiful houses, quaint stores, narrow streets, gnarled trees and uneven sidewalks. It seems nothing ever changes there. And it’s nice, seeing everything as you remember ’em from the first time.

Carmel sits on the California coast with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. On the drive in, I’m eagerly anticipating glimpses of houses and picket fences partially hidden from the main road by leafy vegetation and angled driveways. I admit I’m a diehard romantic and everything about this little town could’ve come straight out of a romance novel.

Soon the residential road gives way to artsy-craftsy stores with lattice display windows and painted doors lining the narrow cross streets. The next thing that hits you is that everyone is out walking their dogs. Yes, everyone! Okay, maybe not the people milling around outside the little hip restaurants patiently waiting for a table.

Lunch in Carmel

It’d be nice if I could remember the name of the restaurant where we had clam chowder, and fish and chips when Hip2bDaughter1 was three years old. I don’t even know if it’s still there. Probably not. But the Italian owner was so nice he gave Hip2bDaughter1 extra packets of those little saltine crackers he saw her reaching into my packet with her chubby little fingers, and there was none left.

On our last trip here 3 years ago, we discovered Flaherty’s. Quite by accident. They served the best lobster linguine carbonara we’ve ever tasted. In fact, we started with one serving and just had to order another because it was tha-aat good! And the owner, an older bearded man, promised us free ice cream on our next visit when we couldn’t stop raving about his food.

And this is what we’ve come back for this time. Sadly though, they seem to have changed owners because, heck, that one-in-a-million lobster linguine ain’t on the menu no more *bawls loudly and stomps feet*! There’s just no way! Devastated, we resorted to ordering their crab carbonara instead which tasted weird because of those, those pesky green onions in it!!!

Lunch in Carmel

I mean, who would put green onions into pasta and WHY?!! You know what, I associate green onions with Asian food and I would rarely, if ever, use it in Western cooking simply because the pungent flavor of the green onions would overpower the subtle aroma of the Italian herbs. So what kind of pasta would that be then?

The million dollar question is, what are those chopped green onions doing in that pasta? Well, we think we may have figured out the answer. We could be wrong but it’s probably to appeal to the palates of Chinese tourists so that when they see those familiar old green onions, they’d think, hey, there’s green onions in this so it probably tastes like Chinese food!

Aargh, I don’t get it! The very premise of spending so much money traveling to far-flung lands is to experience the different cuisines and cultures and everything else that’s new and unfamiliar. Take in a breath of fresh air, know what I mean?? It completely defeats the purpose of going all that distance only to snap a few photos and eat the same old stuff you’ve been eating every single day of your life! Am I making any sense here? Lol!

Anyways, back to my story. I had to have my clam chowder, of course and I honestly wasn’t prepared to be as disappointed as I was. This was clearly a case of too much potato, too little soup.

Lunch in Carmel

As for the fish and chips, the fish was fresh and flaky. Very nice. I would’ve loved to have eaten more but between the three of us, there wasn’t quite enough to go around. I guess we hadn’t taken into account the fact that Carmel being a touristy place, the portions might be a little smaller than what we’re used to.

Lunch in Carmel

Still we had a pretty good lunch. The weather was so nice – around mid-60F which meant we could walk around in light, long-sleeved tops – that we decided to stroll around town for a bit before we left for Gilroy.

Have you ever been to Carmel, CA? Did you find any good restaurants you’d love to visit again?

Bowled over

Bowled over

We had to make a trip to the k-mart to stock up on kimchi, gojuchang and some other supplies. The k-mart is kinda out of the way for us and it doesn’t open till 12:00pm on Sundays. So we decided to slip in lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant nearby.

We’ve been to this eatery a couple of times but somehow couldn’t really remember how their food tasted. There were probably things we liked and some we didn’t but we couldn’t recall which was which. So we did what any other seasoned foodie would do. We eeny meeny miny moed our way across the menu, then sat back and crossed our fingers hoping we’d made the right choices.

Well, we’ll see…

I’ll have to say the beef ball noodle soup wasn’t what I’d expected. There was wa-ay too much bean sprouts. More than flat rice noodles, in fact. To a diehard carb freak like me, that’s a bitter bitter disappointment. I WANT my noodles and I want them NOW! I thought the homemade beef balls would lift me out of my misery but nope, they were hard as rocks.

Bowled over

When Hip2bDaughter’s grilled pork and shrimp vermicelli bowl arrived, I eyed it cautiously. I didn’t know how they would taste but that bowl sure looked better than mine! The minute I tasted it, I about fell off my chair. Huh?!

Bowled over

These noodles were so-oo good and they weren’t even served hot. You know how I feel about noodles that aren’t hot. You’ve heard my gripe about cold noodles and my compromise with room temperature noodles.

Well, let’s just say this may well have sealed the deal for me. I will admit now that I’m totally sold on room temp noodles. Seriously! Well, I may go back on my word later if we find something better but for now, just give them this vermicelli bowl…

… bursting with shrimp, grilled pork (that tasted like char siew, or Asian style barbecued pork), veggies and there was even an egg roll thrown in for good measure. Oh man, that egg roll!! It’s making me drool right now thinking of it.

Although there are items on the menu we’re not crazy about, this place is going into our Pearl (aka Picky Eater Approved Restaurant List) if only for their tasty vermicelli bowl. We were sharing these two orders here. But the next time, I’m going to order my very own vermicelli bowl and I’d like to see anyone try to stop me *rubs hands together greedily*!

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