Same name, only better

Same name, only better

We eat at Chili’s quite often (well, we used to) so it’s not like we absolutely had to eat at Chili’s while on vacation. In fact, I’d rather try something different. But sometimes, you go with what’s nearest and most convenient, and you might just surprise yourself that even though the name of the restaurant is the same, the menu choices and customer service is so much better.

We ordered the Bottomless Tostada Chips. This generous bowl of guac was rich, tasty and the avocado was chunky in sharp contrast to the chips which were thin and crispy. Heaven!

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Compare that with the wallpaper-textured chips at the local Chili’s which comes with only salsa. You want guac, dream on 😐 !!

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I had to have my pasta. The Cajun Pasta is penne with creamy garlic Alfredo sauce and chicken marinated in Cajun spices. Loved it. It was rich and creamy yet full of flavor.

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Mango-Chile Chicken is new on their menu. I usually steer clear of ordering anything that comes with rice. I mean, what’s with the rice? I went over a month without rice and I still didn’t miss it.

But this rice was so beautifully cooked you could see the individual grains, and it had a subtle fragrance. The chile-seasoned chicken topped with spicy mango vinaigrette and “their mango salsa prepared with house-made pico de gallo and avocado” was refreshing. And look at that mountain of steamed broccoli, green and soft.

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Compare that with this local serving of Chili’s chicken with… can you spot the 2 pathetically yellowed, overcooked pieces of broccoli? Ya, that!

barbecue chicken

Anyhoo, to finish off our meal in style, my kids suggested ordering this. Ta-da, the oven-baked Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie topped with a rich vanilla ice cream. Personally I’ve never seen a cookie this size. Such sweet decadence that my waistline says ouch 😉 .

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But it’s all good. We tucked it all in. Such a great meal with (surprise!) no leftovers!

Dinner at Applebee’s

Dinner at Applebee's

After a full day of shopping, we needed a place to plonk our tired selves down, grab a bite to eat and then continue shopping till they chase us out of the store at closing time. Applebee’s was conveniently nearby so we went for it. There was a good crowd but they managed to find us a table right away.

We ordered the 2 for $20 which comes with 1 appetizer + 2 main dishes (I think). The onion rings came with 2 dips, ranch and barbecue.

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We had the Chicken Tenders which were okay as chicken tenders go.

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And the Bourbon Street Chicken and Shrimp which Raine swears is the best thing ever and she would definitely go back for more of the same!

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And the Lemon Shrimp Fettucine that came with lots of shrimp and tasted pretty good.

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The servings were plenty for us and we went away with a box of leftover chicken tenders and onion rings. They kept well in the fridge at the hotel and even after more than a day later, they still tasted pretty good when we reheated them at home. A little greasy but still edible.

Ribs at Red Robin

Ribs at Red Robin

A while back, I posted a question on this blog asking for recommendations on where to eat at, and one of my commenters suggested Red Robin. So Red Robin it was! Steev has been there a couple of times before and said the food is decent. The place was crowded when we got there but we didn’t have to wait long before we got seated.

Water is free at all restaurants (in 3W restaurants, they charge you for water which is and should rightly be a basic human right!). Steev ordered a Coke and ended up getting 7 free refills. Gotta love great food, great service and unlimited refills that come with a smile (not a long face) and in a fresh glass every single time.

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I love ribs but it’s something I rarely order because I don’t like paying through my nose for a rack of skin and bones from some poor, malnourished animal. How happy I am that these ribs are meaty, succulent and full of flavor, and were beautifully grilled and didn’t burn a hole in my wallet. A huge rack of ribs with salad, chicken, fries and an endless supply of ranch, y’all!

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Raine had the chicken and shrimp.

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Steev’s burger and fries which he chomped up in no time and started diving into our portions. A growing boy needs good food, right?

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Of course, we still had leftovers for the next day. Meals in Cali come big and you can’t help but go home with huge bags of leftovers unlike in some places where you lick the platter clean, run up a huge bill for a tiny meal, then go home and be hungry 2 hours later 😆 .

Of stereotypes and luggage space snatchers

And so it is that when some people find out you’re going away on vacation, they’ll stay up nights to draw up their shopping list for you to take on your vacation so you can shop for them. It’s inevitable that something like this would happen. Growing up, I’ve seen often enough how the grown-ups have been “obligated” to take on such burdens for the sake of not offending someone.

I don’t like to impose on people. I say it’s their vacation, let them enjoy themselves without the burden of your demands hanging over their heads. Since I don’t do it, I don’t appreciate people doing it to me either. If it’s not out of the way and luggage space is not an issue, I might do it but no guarantees. I’m certainly not obligated to do anything on my vacation time except to have myself a great time. Fair?

Inadvertently the friend of a friend (Friend#2) who lives in the Bay Area heard about us coming to town and immediately informed us they had some gifts for us to bring back to our mutual friend (Friend#1). Apparently Friend#2 visits Friend#1 three times a year and he can’t bring those gifts himself? Amazing how some folks think nothing of inconveniencing other people!

Oh, Friend#2 offered to put us up in their home and show us around San Francisco. Being that we don’t know Friend#2 + wife from Adam+Eve, I’m not particularly keen to stay over at their house or have them show us around. This is our family vacation. If we’d wanted to travel with a bunch of strangers, we’d have signed up for a guided tour. And we know San Francisco like the backs of our hands so we really have no need for a couple of self-appointed tourist guides.

As expected, he insisted. We said no. How about lunch or dinner? he insisted. Obviously some people can’t take no for an answer. Finally we had to spell it out – we’ve planned our hotel booking and agenda, thank you very much. I know some folks are all up for exactly this sort of free ride with complete strangers anywhere in the world. I’m not “some folks”.

The issue remained that we still had to meet up somehow so they could pass those gifts to us. Friend#2 suggested we met at the Coach outlet where his wife wanted to do some shopping and where, he told Steev, he was “sure your mom would be shopping” too.

So here’s the thing. Without ever having met me, how could he presume to know me or what I like? Big question mark there! The only thing left to say is, so sorry to disappoint you, old chap, but I don’t do Coach! *faking a British accent, just for the LOLs*

Well, I do own one Coach bag, only one, which I bought wa-ay back in 1997 long before Coach was cool. Beautiful black leather! Classic design and very classy! Coach bags in those days were simple and classy, and rare, a far cry from what they are today. I’m so done with Coach!

But I’m glad he suggested meeting at Coach because it gave me the perfect excuse to send Steev as the messenger and not show up myself. Friend#2 had been insisting from the very start that he wanted to meet me. Unfortunately for him, the feeling is not mutual. I’m a very busy woman with a long shopping list to fulfill. At some store other than Coach, I’m afraid.

It was a bright sunny day but as soon as Steev showed up, it started to rain questions. Friend#2 wasted no time launching into a fullscale interrogation about our family. So typical. My kids know the drill. If you don’t make a hasty enough retreat, you might find yourself charting your family tree up to 5 generations back right there on the sidewalk.

Shopped till we dropped, literally

Shopped till we dropped, literally

There was no way we could go to San Francisco without working in a bit of retail therapy. Okay, so a bit is a bit of an understatement. First off, the Memorial Day sales are not to be missed. Second of all, this spree constitutes our entire year’s worth of shopping. Once we get our hands on everything our hearts desire, we’re done… for this entire year!

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We snagged a few, only about a dozen pairs of Levi’s jeans (the only brand our family officially wears, for some strange reason), a dozen pairs of shoes (including a pair of Chinese Laundry for myself hohoho), and I-have-no-idea-how-many tops, hoodies and lingerie. This is part of the stash. I don’t think we did too badly 😆 .

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Shopaholics are ingenious at figuring out ways to trick their minds into believing there’s always room for more shopping. So here’s what we did. We would unpack and put away each day’s shopping so when we woke up the next day, it’s like we’d not even started shopping and then we’d be off again, completely guilt-free 😆 .

But first, we had to make room in our suitcase. To do that, we donated several suitcasefuls of unused (I won’t say old because some of the clothes were practically brand new and had not been worn) clothing to Goodwill. At least we know whatever we can’t use is going to a good cause. This is the first of the suitcases we dropped off.

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Next, we ordered 2 more big suitcases online. All in all, we’re very happy with our haul. One of the best ever. Love the prices and quality, and the cool weather that didn’t tire us out. Man, do I love a productive shopping spree! And so we’re done shopping for the year. Yep, you heard me! Done for the rest of the year. How’s that for self-control, huh? 😉

Can’t get enough of San Francisco

Can't get enough of San Francisco

Just ahead of Memorial Day weekend, we took a road trip to San Francisco. Yes, you heard me – a road trip. This from a person who does not drive long distance, period, but when I’m in Cali, I’m a whole different animal. This is one place where I could do road trips every day. The roads are safe, barely any idiotic drivers to stress over, no toll, the radio stations rock and the scenery is awesome 😀 .

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San Francisco is beautiful this time of year. The weather is chilly, windy and sunny all at the same time. Here we are, approaching the Golden Gate Bridge which stands as majestic as when I last left it. Not a big parking lot here and it was full. Still we managed to get a parking spot within 10 minutes. Now tell me, how amazing is that!

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A short drive from the Golden Gate Bridge is the Palace of Fine Arts. It was love at first sight for me when I visited it during my college days. I’m a sucker for Greek and Roman architecture, what can I say? I could sit on a park bench and soak in the beauty of the fountain, swans and the buildings themselves for hours… and I’ve done it before too. The people who live in the homes just across the street are so-ooo lucky.

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We made a quick stop at Fisherman’s Wharf which is a lot busier than before, partly because the road running through it is now under construction. We walked around looking for my regular clam chowder joint but couldn’t find it *sobs*. But we did chance upon a sub (not the kind they serve at Subway). This was the real thang, the USS Pampanito, docked so close to shore I could stretch out my hand and touch it, almost.

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I’ve been to San Francisco countless times, yet its roller-coaster roads and oh-so-cute homes never fail to mesmerize me. They’re even prettier at night when the lights are on and you can get a sneak peek of the cozy insides.

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Can you tell that I love San Francisco, “the city that rocks, the city that never stops, we built this city….”? No? Well, okay 😀 .

Quick lunch at Whole Foods

Quick lunch at Whole Foods

Whenever we want a quick, healthy meal without having to roll up our sleeves, Whole Foods is the place we head to. Aside from the fact that Whole Foods is where many Hollywood celebs do their grocery shopping, they have a buffet spread that’s always interesting and always changing so you never know what you’re going to find on any particular day.

My lunch selection of a nut and berry salad, steamed broccoli, chicken tikka and potatoes. It doesn’t look like a lot but it’s pretty filling.

whole foods

Raine’s had mac and cheese, steamed broccoli, chicken tikka and potatoes, and some cantaloupe. She was disappointed they didn’t have those yummy turkey cubes that we all love.

whole foods

Whenever Steev ate there, he would also grab a few boxes to go so he wouldn’t need to cook for the next few meals. The food is charged by weight and features quite a selection from salads to pastas and pizzas. And the plates, boxes and napkins are earth-friendly too 😀 .

Have you ever tried the food buffet at Whole Foods? What do you think of the selection?

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