In-N-Out replay

In-N-Out replay
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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*!

Let the fruit overdose begin

Let the fruit overdose begin
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If ever there was a weekend when we overdid the fruit buying bit, this would’ve been it. I guess seeing so many fruits in season and so inexpensive, we just kept hoarding mindlessly and no one even noticed. This is seriously a case of too many fruits, too little time… to eat in one week?

First into our grocery cart were the bananas. Six of them, thankfully all still very green so they can wait. Then came the black plums. Six of them. They ripened on our way home, no thanks to 98 degrees. Well, to me, plums are best when they’re overripe, soft and mushy, and these were insanely sweet with a fragrance too, so I guess I’m not gonna complain.

On our way home, we passed by the farm market where we get our supply of grapes every year. And I’m not kiddin’ when I say these are the best grapes in the whole wide world. Go California! Incredibly sweet with skin so crispy they pop when you bite into them.

Let the fruit overdose begin

At our regular grocery store, we saw those watermelons waving at us and we went craa-azy and picked out 2 big ones! Goodness knows we really need this many watermelons to cool ourselves down, right? Yeah, right!

Well, this morning, I cut one in half and here’s the other half sitting in the fridge, and the other whole one waiting in the wings. Omg lol! Apparently whole watermelons can last a week on the counter top and 2-3 weeks in the fridge. Let’s hope this works out for us.

Let the fruit overdose begin

Next came the blueberries. I swear I have no idea how we ended up with 2 whole boxes – one box Canadian grown, and another from Oregon which I thought it best to freeze while we work our way through the other fruits. Blueberries will stay fresh longer if you don’t wash them till you’re ready to eat them. Between the two, the Canadian blueberries (left) are small and sour while the Oregon ones are bigger and pretty sweet!

Let the fruit overdose begin

And with that, we’re set to OD on fruits this week. Breakfast. brunch, lunch and dinner. Let’s go!

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles
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Happiness is finding a new place to add to the Pearl (Picky Eaters’ Approved Restaurant List). We stumbled on this great little Korean fast food place that passed our taste test with flying colors. Well, stumbled isn’t exactly the word. We’ve walked past it a million times and even scoffed at the menu a few times (that was before the Great K Revolution, of course).

The million dollar question is this: How could we have walked past so often and never thought to stop? Well, we couldn’t tell from the pictures on the menu if the food would be good. Thing is we’re not in the habit of staring openly at people’s food as we walk past their tables. It’s rude to stare especially when people are eating. My children were trained never to do that and if they did, they’d no doubt have heard from me!

I’m not sure what made us step in. As with all new places that we’re trying out, we didn’t order much. The Chicken BBQ came with rice in a K bowl (no less), seaweed soup and 3 side dishes  I wish it came with a Korean name as well, like maybe 치킨 바비쿄. But even without that, the grilled chicken is flavorful, mildly sweet and not too salty.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

The 닭 볶음 (dak bokeum), or stir-fried chicken in chilly sauce had a good mix of veggies in it. It’s reminiscent of 김치 찌개 (kimchi jjigae, or kimchi stew). The tangy, spicy sauce was lip-smackin’ good till the last drop. Even the Colonel would agree heh!

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

As for the 3 반찬 (banchan, or side dishes), there’s 김치 (kimchi), 밀치금 (anchovies) and a random third dish. The kimchi isn’t as crunchy as I’d like it to be but I love the anchovies.

The 파전 (pajeon, or Korean pancake) may look unassuming but don’t be fooled, there’s hidden squid in the batter, and veggies you can actually see. Most restaurants would just serve this ‘blank’, and charge more for the loaded version. I like the light crunch in this pancake. The sauce is okay, a bit too salty so we dip it in the dak bokeum sauce.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

On another occasion, I surprised myself by ordering their 비빔 국수 (bibim guksu). Remember I swore off cold noodles the first time I ate them because to me, there’s only one way to eat noodles – piping hot.

Then one fine day, I found a stash of buckwheat noodles in my kitchen (I didn’t buy ’em), concocted a meal with them and fell in love, either with the noodles or my own cooking, I don’t know which 😝. Yeah, that was random even for me. But I ended up loving every mouthful of those buckwheat noodles eaten warm, of course, not cold.

Fast forward to when I saw bibim guksu on the menu and jumped at it without even thinking. Thankfully they weren’t served cold but were room temp instead. Awesome, I wouldn’t have had them any other way. Yums.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

So it’s happy days. We’ve been back many times, and now even the restaurant staff know our faces and orders and give us a special discount. Yes, they have a customer-friendly team unlike the usual ones with fake amnesia. “Why you not early today?” the cute waiter asked when we strolled in on a weekend lunch hour and couldn’t find a table. He found us one pretty quick. Now that’s service for ya!

The sweet, the sour and the crispy

The sweet, the sour and the crispy
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We jumped for joy the day it rained movie tickets. I mean, what are the chances of scoring not one but two free movies? Hoobaheck, if it weren’t for free movies, we wouldn’t even be going to the movies.

Thrilled, we made our way early to Finding Dory. As in almost 3 hours early so that we could have dinner at 5pm. Ridiculous, I know, but it probably had to do with the sheer excitement of watching a movie with the brood again. Just like old times and definitely a far cry from that epic fail of a movie date.

Dinner was one of the best we’ve had in recent days, according to the picky eater opinion vote. While our last experience with this restaurant was bittersweet, it was quite the opposite this time.

Just when we’d lost hope of ever paying less for a bigger portion with no drop in food quality, surprise, surprise! for the first time in our history of eating out, this restaurant gets *drumrolls please* added back into PEARL (our Picky Eater’s Approved Restaurant List©).

The sweet, the sour and the crispy

Customer service aside, the fried chicken was everything we’d hoped for. Even I, notoriously known for refusing to eat with my hands, ended up licking my fingers unashamedly in public lol. That was how good this crispy double-fried chicken was (or should I say, is, since we can’t seem to stop going back for more?).

After dinner, we skipped off merrily to the cinema only to be greeted with more mouthwatering news. Free popcorn and soda each! Woah, as if Finding Dory wasn’t sweet enough on its own… with bite-sized lessons about friendships and family for savvy parents to initiate teaching points with their little kids 👍.

Now You See Me 2, on the other hand, left a bit of a sour aftertaste 😐. We’d planned to watch the 1pm but decided on the 10:15 instead even though we were a half hour late. Turned out we didn’t miss anything. I know everything else starts late in these here parts but movies too? C’mon!

As for the movie itself, we didn’t know what to expect. That’s what happens when you close your eyes and just pick one off the sad list. All it was, to me, was a bunch of magicians running around. And the dialog, well, it was kinda stilted, like they were reading off a script.

The redeeming factor was, of course, the air-conditioning inside the cinema. It was delicious given that the air-conditioning in the rest of the mall is non-existent these days. But yeah, all in all, it’s happy days!

Working weekend

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So there we are, wildly navigating the weekend mall crowd, trying to avoid body slamming any of the ten thousand people, faces buried in cellphones, walking straight into us, or trampling on random 2-year-olds toddling out of the woodwork. I honestly have a lot of trouble with this.

So when I hear someone mention the word lunch, I practically jump for joy. It’s only temporary relief, I know, but at least I can park myself somewhere…

… and put myself to good use! What, work on a weekend, you ask?! Let me explain.

At my girl friend’s suggestion, we wind up at a restaurant that I’ve passed by a million times without stopping. The place is always crowded but as you know, I’m not in the habit of assuming long lines mean good food. Umm, not necessarily.

We walk in. I’m not sure if we’re shown to our table or if we seated ourselves. Probably seated ourselves LOL. I’m not sure. I was distracted by the overpowering smell of pork in this place. We sit down and peruse the copies of menus strewn haphazardly across each table.

There’s the usual back and forth about what’s good here and my friend names a few things I should try, fried rice among them. Oh, and dumblings. Then she grabs pencil and order form, hands them to me and says, “Let’s fill this up”, and I’m like, “Oh, they make you work before they serve you, eh? Great concept!”

Okay so the customer has to fill out an order form, then wave like a marooned sailor to catch the attention of a willing passing server to pick up the form and send it along to the kitchen. Oh that’s right, I recall entering my order into a tablet at a couple of swankier places.

As we sit anticipating the arrival of lunch, I look around and imagine the food here must be pretty out of this world. I mean, if so many people are willing to line up and work for their lunch, there must be something special about this place. Here’s the spoiler: their food is meh! 맛덦어요 종말!

The server stops by with our bowls of noodles and dumplings just long enough to plonk everything at the edge of the table, then makes a quick getaway. Oh, more work, I see!?! Gotta give those biceps a workout before lunch, y’know! Like all good customers, we distribute the bowls between us, then help ourselves to the eating utensils sprouting from a stand nearby.

I look around the room and everyone is their weekend selves, including the wait staff. people are chatting happily away and having a good time. No one seems to be complaining. Well, I shouldn’t either. I should be lucky they aren’t hustling me off to the kitchen to cook my own noodles and steam my own dumplings!

Soon we’re done eating, chatting and fighting over who’s going to pay. Somewhere in the back of my mind, a giant question mark is popping up. Is there more work waiting for us? And bam, what do you know? My friend picks up the order form, physically transports it to the cashier’s desk and proceeds to hand over her hard-earned money, service charges and all.

You mean, all this time, I’ve been fooling myself into thinking that dining at a full service restaurant means I’m paying someone to cook and serve me without me having to lift a single finger? Haha, silly me!

Tigers in the woods

Tigers in the woods
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This is one of those weekends that Hip2Dad isn’t playing the El Nino Open. I say, what a great decision! Better to be enjoying a day in the comfort of home than chasing golf balls all day in this oppressive heatwave.

That said, I have to admit that at one point in my working life, I too had a golf club standing in my office. Scattered across that corner of my room were golf balls, each bearing the initials of my beloved boss, carefully carved out in permanent marker.

At random times of the work day, you could find me behind closed doors whacking the living daylights out of said golf balls✌. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe in violence any more than I believe them initials should be allowed to run amok in the workplace. But there were times when 5:00 pm was just too far away and I needed to de-stress pronto.

Speaking of which, I wonder why ‘coming home from the office to your kids’ isn’t listed anywhere as a stress reliever. For me, it wasn’t meditation or a vacation away from it all. It was my kids who kept me sane when work was a beech (oops, I’ve done it again, haven’t I? and this ain’t no Britney Spears song either!).

Back then, I did consider taking up golf. That was when Hip2bDad began telling me to stop calling golf clubs ‘golf sticks’. He introduced me to each golf club by name. Meet Dasher, Dancer and Prancer Putter, Driver and Iron! But that didn’t stop me from using a driver to putt. Duh!

And he showed me how to swing a golf club without killing anyone in the process. Good thing we never got to the real game where I had to drive the ball across the grass, I mean, green. Apparently someone drove a ball right smack into our K-friend’s head and he promptly fainted. See, it could happen even to experienced golfers. So don’t even try to imagine what I would’ve done!

Tigers in the woods

At some point, Hip2bDad began to think he saw potential Tigers in our three pre-teens. In fact, he was so sure he signed them all up for golf lessons. So began our suntanning sessions as I played doting golf mom! Soon we all began to look like roasted potatoes even as our sunblock investments went shooting through the roof.

Golf fashion quickly dominated our weekend lives. “Hey, why are you wearing that? Where’s your polo shirt?” our resident golf fashion police could be heard hollering up the stairs. “Belts please! Hey, hey, don’t forget to tuck in your shirt!” No offense but who even wears belts any more unless they’ve been living in the woods since World War 2?! You have no idea how much it pained me to see my poor kids dressed up like fusty old men with golf sticks!!

Never could understand golf fashion. Which is why it’s probably a good thing I never signed up for lessons myself. One look at Mrs K-friend in long-sleeved polo shirts and covering herself 머리부터 발끝까지 (from head to toe) in sun-protective garb and I was like, no no no, I ain’t wearing no hasmat suit!! There’s just no way!

To top it off, they even have golf fashion police patrolling the course in case you decide to get all New York Fashion Week-like. My kids got told off a few times but they just shrugged and carried on. Go kids!! Honestly, who the heck cares? It’s only a game! Or a work stress reliever, if you’re like me?

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