Thursday, March 12, 2015

Article Alert: Online Grocery Shopping

The sacrifices Angeleno's makes for farm fresh food

When I interned at Los Angeles magazine last summer, I had the opportunity to get acquainted with a variety of Los Angeles-based online grocery stores that deliver to your front door. At the time, the goal was to make a cohesive list, but since then, LA Weekly has compiled an awesome master list—making foodie matters easier for everyone.

I love purchasing my food in a grocery store—believe it or not, it's probably one of my favorite past times. I can spend hours walking up and down the aisles, pouring over the ingredients in containers of sauce, salsa or soup. I’ve been known to spend just a little too much time lurking near the sample stand at Trader Joe's, trying their latest and greatestThere’s also something special about seeing, smelling, feeling (and tasting!) the produce; I get a warm, almost calming feeling when I tell the deli man how I’d like my meat cut. I like to think of it as a "family and friends to table" opportunity, because when you go to one grocery store repeatedly, you begin to make friends with the staff. All that being said, for busy, time challenged college students, online shopping is often an option that makes more sense.

In the past three months, I have purchased groceries from GoodEggs, Instacart and Summerland. I have been more than satisfied with the service, and the produce that I have purchased from GoodEggs and Summerland really do taste fresher than produce that I could have bought at Ralph's.

Instacart is my go-to for last minute meals. If I am stuck finishing a paper and don't have time to walk to Fresh & Easy or Ralph's, I can trust that when I can order something from the Instacart website, my food will arrive at my apartment two hours later.  Instacart delivers from a variety of grocery stores, depending on your location—I have access to Ralph's, Whole Foods, Super King, Costco, Gelson's, or Fresh & Easy. Additionally, depending on where you buy from, your total grocery cost could vary, but delivery is typically $3.99. You can choose the two-hour time window you would like and then check out.

Lately, I have become a super-fan of GoodEggs in particular. I like to know what’s in my food and where it is coming from. GoodEggs lets you know and everything on the site is farm fresh and organic. GoodEggs sells unique grocery finds and also bundles of your favorite produce or a ready-to-prepare meal. I find the fruit and vegetable bundles and bulk items to be the most convenient (and the best priced), otherwise I would spend well over my grocery budget. When you're done with your purchase, you pick a day and a time for delivery and you're all set. Though GoodEggs' prices are more expensive than the average, I believe that paying a little extra to support a small business is ultimately worth it. Besides, it's free delivery.

Like any grocery store, GoodEggs isn't perfect, but they most definitely try their best to do so. A recent "snafu" with Los Angeles County has rendered customer's ability to purchase groceries. The worst part? The problem most likely will not be resolved for another four weeks or so—a slight imperfection in GoodEgg's otherwise faultless farm to table system.

Message from GoodEggs CEO, Rob Spiro, about the "snafu."
Because of the "snafu," I had to find another store to purchase my fresh produce. After much investigation, I decided to try, Summerland. Like GoodEggs, Summerland offers "essential boxes"—filled with either a variety of all fruit, all vegetables or a 75/25 ratio of vegetables to fruit—and "specialty boxes" that are items paired together to create anything from a delightful dinner for two or a healthy back-to-school lunch. But that's not all that they have. If you were looking for an ingredient in particular, Summerland offers the option to "Make Your Own Box" where you can choose from a variety of produce and pantry ingredients. For my first purchase, I bought the 75/25 box ($37) and a "Back to School" box that had sourdough bread, eggs, apples, bananas, carrots, granola, strawberries, and cucumber ($60).

The only problem that I had with my purchase is that, though I picked the delivery day, I was unable to pick a time, so I had the delivery guy show up randomly at my front door when I wasn't home. Luckily he called me, but I still found it extremely inconvenient. With that being said, word to the wise, make sure you plan on being at home all day if you order from Summerland.

I found that groceries from Summerland are more expensive than GoodEggs, but sometimes the sacrifice for farm fresh food is worth it—and hey, free shipping!

Online shopping makes my life easier. I am able to plan meals ahead of time and determine when I would like my next batch of groceries to arrive. Another bonus: It's difficult to order something unhealthy from these sites because of the amount of the healthy options outweigh them.

I recommend buying local. You'll help our nations economy, you'll help the small business world and you'll get healthier! What a concept. Happy eating!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Article Alert: Biking in Los Angeles

I got in a bike accident this morning.

This isn't the first time that this has happened. The bike is about 10 years old and has only been acting up in the last three years or so. Despite the bike shop visits and the tune-ups, the thing is still giving me trouble – thank you, poor bike chains and breaks. At this point, I am starting to think that the problem is me.

My back bike wheel stopped suddenly and I flew over the handle bars and hit the pavement faster than you can say, sriracha lime fried chicken. Thankfully, I didn't actually hit anything – my possessed bicycle decided to have a mind of its own. Yes, don't worry, I'm fine – just a couple bumps and bruises to my legs (and my ego). Other than that, I'm golden.

I felt like a damsel in distress, though, which is not normal for me. Usually, I am the Type A, GDI (Gosh Darn Independent) who can handle the world without any assistance but this morning, in my state of peril and utter mortification, I was grateful for the Good Samaritan who appeared out of nowhere and helped me to my feet, assuring me that everything would be ok. Thank you, kind stranger!

What happened next is so "first world" that it's hilarious. 

I stood up and immediately knew that my bike was broken. The chain was wedged into the gear changer thingy; some other chain-like thing also dangled off the frame (how’s that for being descriptive? I don’t know what these gadgets are called…). I attempted to move my bike back to my apartment, 500 feet away, but the back wheel would not budge so I limped and front-wheeled it, tears streaming down my face, back to my place. All the while, I kept telling myself to pull it together. What else could I do? Once the bike was back in the rack, I sucked it up and trudged — in pain and on foot — to class. 

This lovely turn of events inspired me to do some research on bike safety. In light of what happened to me, bike maintenance tips (or even advice on how to dispossess one’s bike) are in order. I found some handy tips from Bicycle Safe, "How Not To Get Hit By Carswhich is useful but doesn't necessarily apply in this instance — and then I found some simple  bike maintenance rules that street bikers should probably abide by. Oops.

  1. Keep your bike indoors. Okay. I wish I could, but my apartment isn't equipped to hold multiple bicycles in our living room. Plus, since I go to a university where bicycle riding reigns supreme over all modes of transportation, there are bike racks ready and available for my bike to be kept outside -- it's a vehicle after all.
  2. Bicycles ridden in rain and/or off-road typically require more frequent and extensive service. Pssh. Says who? How do I even do this? Maybe, I'll go all out and buy some handy-dandy kit of some sort and become Ms. Biker Fix-it Lady-thing.
  3. Don't use WD40 on your chain! Do people actually think that WD40 works on bikes? Even I know that this is not a smart idea. Good thing I don't do that, but then again I also don't touch my chain, which could be a problem. 
  4. If your bike has been crashed, or you purchased a used bike, we recommend bringing it in for a thorough check-up to ensure that it's running properly. This is where I'm at. Looks like a trip to the bike shop is in order, then I'll go visit a priest and have him bless my two wheeled transportation device to ensure that it will not cause me any more problems.
  5. Enjoy! Enjoy? I'll do that when my bike doesn't cause me any more problems. 
 Here's some positive reinforcement to ride my bike again. Happy riding!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Article Alert: How To Celebrate Fall featuring Lauren the Roommate

Happy fall and happy October! 

If you're reading this from a location that is fortunate enough to experience seasons, get excited – we Californian's just figure that once the weather drops 20 degrees, we're allowed to break out the sweaters, boots and scarves. What's snow anyway?

Fall has to be my favorite time of year. Sure, I was born a summer baby, I should probably enjoy 85 degree weather, palm trees, shorts, crop tops and flip flops, but instead I love to bundle up, get cozy and enjoy the food, warmth, family time and colors that this lovely season brings. Think about it, unless you're obsessed with a white wonderland, there is nothing better than the sound of the leaves crunching underneath your feet as you walk and the sweet smell of pumpkin pie baking in the oven. Mmmm.

I'm starting this new thing – I refer to it as sharing the wealth, but the wealth in this sense is the space on my blog. 

"OMG! It's purple!"

Say hello to my roommate, Lauren. She's a coffee snob, health foodie, beach bum and also a spend thrifty runner who loves farmer's markets and Trader Joe's. On a regular basis I can find her concocting something healthy and delicious in our kitchen like meatball subs, tacos, omelets and salads – not to mention her colorful sautéed vegetable platters. Unlike me, she'll choose homemade meals over an evening at Cecconi's, but everything she cooks is equally as delicious and she'll point out that she knows exactly what will be fueling her body. 

Her recent lunch concoction? Fall inspired sautéed vegetables and nothing but the freshest, most in season vegetables in all of SoCal.

Lauren's Ingredients
  • beets
  • purple sweet potato
  • red bell pepper
  • mushroom
  • onion
  • tomato
  • Guy Fieri's Tequila Lime Sausage
  • kale
I have a confession: everyday, I crave a double bacon cheeseburger. Lucky for me, I have Lauren – she is super enthusiastic about healthy living and goes gaga over organic vegetables – she inspires me to watch my eating habits and not give in to the possibility that there might be a sale on bacon at Ralph's. Our food adventures always consist of collaborative banter about what we are making and how we are making it.

She approached me with a medium sized purple root-like thing and asked, "How do you think I should cook this?"
"Is that a purple sweet potato?" I asked.

I suggested like most any potato-like, root vegetable, depending on what you wanted to do with it, your best bet is to soften it up first. She stuck it in the microwave with a little bit of water and let it warm up. From there, she decided to peel it to reveal its vibrant purple color and get a little messy.

Beetle juice – Lauren's hands turned pink after dealing with this hearty fall vegetable
She got sautéing. 

Remember what I said about fall and all its lovely colors? Well, here's the final product.

Colorful cornucopia of squash, beet and sweet potato
Wanna know what vegetables are going to be the freshest this season? No problem. Here's a condensed list!
  • apples
  • quince
  • winter squash
  • mushrooms
  • shallots
  • sage
  • sweet potatoes
  • pears
  • pumpkins
  • brussel sprouts
  • cauliflower
  • figs
Happy eating!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Music Alert: j.viewz playing Teardrop with vegetables

Hipsters are so hipster they make music with vegetables. Well, sort of.

When it comes to music, you can listen to just about anything and confidently know that the instruments behind the scenes are the usual percussion, bass or string ones that we are used to – but what if the music we heard did not involve any true instruments at all? That's right. I'm talking musical edible arrangements or in this case, j.viewz's cover of "Teardrop" by Massive Attack made with electric current filled vegetables and a key board. Thanks to Thomas Edison we are able to put electric currents in just about anything – this musical hipster figured that out. This video is one that I have cherished for a year or so and I am very fond of the fact that food is directly involved in this musical art process. Of course, there are still tribal people who may make flutes out of squash, but come on, we've got electricity over here. Come on. This isn't the stone age.

Check out more of this Brooklynite's videos here.
>>>>And his campaign to start something fab. He needs your support and only has a few days left!!!<<<<

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Restaurant Alert: Old San Juan, PR – Foodie Tested Eateries for Every Occasion

Foodie gang by Alegra Hueso
It has been over a month since my arrival back to the City of Angels. Post my epic Puerto Rican summer excursion, I decided to jot down some foodie/travel junkie musings that ultimately resulted in a master list of some of the great eateries in the Old San Juan (Viejo San Juan) area. When I was in VSJ, I didn't realize how many restaurants I had checked off my bucket list, but at the end of my journey, I realized that even though I couldn't fit into my jeans, I had become cultured in the Puerto Rican foodie scene, I made great friends, great connections and I had a blast. 

Ten years ago, Old San Juan was not the hip town that it is today. Though the city boasts all of its vintage Spanish and French inspired architecture, you could probably identify the food scene and night life as hipster, trendy and totally foodie friendly. Here's the inside scoop on some of the best places to dine for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Old San Juan area.

Cafe's/Great spots for coffee, tea and breakfast

Pineapple french toast // Caficultura 

  • Caficultura – Tropical inspired breakfasts, boozy cups of coffee and expresso and great wait service is something you should look for in every brunch spot. I had the luxury of treating myself to a lovely birthday breakfast here, where the waiter recommended the french toast platters – you just can't go wrong with heaps of pineapple coconut french toast. 401 Calle San Francisco, 787-723-7731
  • Waffle-era – When your waffle is slowly charred with a blow torch, you know you're in for a treat. The menu is reasonably priced and has a wide variety of waffles both dessert and brunch styled. Whether you're in the mood for something savory like the salmon, goat cheese and cherry tomatoed Pink Pam's or the sweet guava cheese Puerto Rican classic, the options don't seem to end – guaranteed that you won't be disappointed with what you order. I was happy to find that Waffle-era was not only a great gourmet waffle joint, but it is also the only "registered" tea house in all of San Juan. A word of caution, their Sunday brunches have a tendency to become a mad house, so get there early. 252 Calle San José, 787-721-1512

Puerto Rican Cuisine

Chocolicious | Casa Cortez's chocolate spinach salad topped with fried goat cheese and pan seared ahi tuna with pickled mango and peppers with wasabi and dark chocolate bits.
  • Palmas Restaurant – If you're a musical theater geek, much like myself, you will recall the Havana scene from Rodger and Hammerstein's "Guys & Dolls" where the lead couple are dancing, drinking and eating with locals. That same environment is what you will encounter at Palmas – there's an open air bar and an ally with live music and dancing. Make sure to ask for the mango margaritas and maybe they'll give you a pitorro shot – but you didn't hear this from me. 281 Calle San Sebastian, 787-630-4725
  • Cafe Puerto Rico – I don't want to call this place an Old San Juan staple, but considering its popularity and the quality of food served up, it's one of those places that you have to go to. They serve traditional Puerto Rican cuisine, generous portions and great drinks; on top of that, it's great for families and large groups, but make sure to book ahead of time to get yourself a spot because it does get busy. 280 Calle O'Donnel, Plaza Colon787-724-2281
  • Caferia Mallorca – This is my "When in Rome" pick – or in this case, "When in Puerto Rico," because you have to at least eat like a Puerto Rican once, right? This little blast is a great place to eat like a local and not drop mad cash at the same time – know what I mean? If you want something light, grab some $3 oatmeal and some coffee ($1.50) to kick start your long day of touring. 300 Calle San Francisco, 787-724-4607
  • Cafe Manolín – Serving both authentic Puerto Rican breakfast and lunch, this friendly spot is an affordable pick for budget traveler or adventurous eater looking to try some great mofongo and arroz y habichuelas. I grabbed lunch with a friend here where I ordered the biftec de lomillo con arroz, habichuela y mofongo and he got some fish thing and a malta – basically a molasses tasting Coca-Cola, but hey, doesn't hurt to try. 251 San Justo, 787-723-9743
  • Casa Cortez – If you are in need of some chocolate, this is the place for you. Casa Cortez is not your average family owned chocolate business, on top of being a restaurant, Casa Cortez is proud to boast it's family museum and confectionary process. Known for its chocolate infused Puerto Rican fare as well as some fusion, Casa Cortez is every chocoholic's paradise. From their all chocolate breakfasts to their salads with chocolate vinaigrette, it is guaranteed that your stomach will be full and your cravings satisfied. 210 Calle San Francisco, 787-722-0499
  • Mojitos – This family owned gem seems to get bypassed by tourists fresh from the docks because they normally head to the more popular eateries like Restaurant Raices and Lupi's, but Mojitos is a place that you must check off your foodie list. Its plates of savory Puerto Rican fare are affordable, the portions are filling and it's a great place for friends, family and even kids. Most people would say to head over to Raices, but if you really want more bang for your buck, then this is the place to go. Calle Recinto Sur 323 

Vegetarian Needs/Seafood

Café Berlin's coconut dorado on top of a bed of savory mashed potatoes
  • Cafe Berlin – Don't let the name fool you – in no way does this joint have any connection to German cuisine of any kind. When traveling with food sensitive individuals, it is always to good to have a safe back up for all of your healthy, vegan, vegetarian needs. Cafe Berlin just happens to be one of two great vegetarian options in Old San Juan, but that doesn't mean that it is all vegetarian. Much of the menu features fresh fish, chicken and pasta, so it's guaranteed that you will be able to enjoy a healthy meal and still have a little room for dessert after. They have great sized portions, so make sure your eyes aren't bigger than your stomach. Calle San O'Donnel, 787-722-5205

Great Places for Beer Snobs/Bars

College hangout – Complete with live music and salsa dancing located in the interior, this famed college hot spot is the place to hang out on a Friday night.

  • La Taberna Lupolo – My fellow beer snobs, welcome to your paradise. I present you with your one stop shop for all of your craft beer needs. With popular local brews from breweries like Sothego Corp. (Dacay), the Ingeniero Microbrewery (Porter Rican) and refreshing picks from Old Harbor Brewery as well as stateside favorites like Founders, North Coast and Stone, Lupolo prides itself on having nothing but great craft brew with staff that knows their beer. Need a snack? Lupolo can cover all of your munchie needs with their empanadillas con guava. 151 Calle San Sebastián, 787-721-3772
  • Pirilo Pizza Rustica – When in San Juan, you wouldn't expect to get a craving for pizza, but when the restaurant is a hot spot for craft beer and craft pizza, what more could you want? Not to mention that you can watch the fútbol game. Ha. 201 Calle Fortaleza, 787-721-3322
  • La Factoria – Located at the helm of night life in Old San Juan, La Factoría is not only one of the best bars in all of Puerto Rico, but they pride themselves on organic ingredients, great service and a fun night life experience. La Factoria is essentially three bars in one: a main bar in the front that serves classic house cocktails like the Old Fashioned with bourbon, a lavender mule and a "Get Lucky," a wine bar in the middle and a great opportunity dance floor with bar in the back.
  • La Boricua – Okay, so this place doesn't exactly have an address that you can easily google, nor does it look like anything remotely special from the outside, but if you know a guy or two and or you can spot the massive letters spelling out, "Bori," on the wall, you'll probably end up at the hippest, college bar known to man. There are not too many college bars that offer as much culture, passion and love as La Boricua does. Being the UPR Rio Piedras student favorite, I ended up here with some friends for a night that I will never forget. Start your night with some craft brew or cocktails while listening to a live band, then, when you're ready, work your way to the dance floor in the back of the building and get your salsa on. Rio Piedras (San Juan)

Other Great Places

Classic Quesadillas // La Madre

  • La Madre – If you can't get away from those SoCal cravings and are in need of some south of the border cuisine, this snazzy joint will fill your void. It's Mexican food in Puerto Rico! Okay, so it's Mexican fusion, but its still great. They have a mean duck quesadilla that comes highly recommended, but for me, I'll just order a margarita. They come in a variety of flavors from coconut to the island favorite, parcha (passion fruit) and when one costs $6, you can't help but want to try them all – so, order a margarita, or four.  351 Calle San Francisco, 787-647-5392
  • Il Bacaro Venezia – Island fever got you going and you have a hot date? What about a nice, romantic candle lit dinner the Italian way? Il Bacaro has the best Italian food in all of Puerto Rico and comes highly recommended. I liked the seafood risotto and their white wine, but don't be afraid to do things family style and pass a couple of plates around. 152 Calle Cruz, 787-977-5638

Honorable Mention
Marmalade – 317 Calle Fortaleza, 787-724-3969
Bodega Chic – 51 Calle del Cristo, 787-722-012
La Verde Mesa – #107 Calle Tetuan, 787-390-4662
But hey, don't just take my word for it, check out Foodie's PR for all of your foodie needs.

Buen provecho! 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Music Alert: Bebe – Siempre Me Quedara

Sharing the music that I will vibe to this weekend...

In the midst of longing for life in a Spanish speaking country as well as some island life, I can't help but listen to music that evokes nostalgia as well as inspires me to write and create. Lately, I have been listening to a lot of vocals and instrumental guitar, so for the next couple of weeks, you can expect to hear some fun and relaxing music picks every Friday.

Bebe is a Spanish singer who got international fame because of her two songs, "Ella" and "Malo." I was introduced to her by a friend of mine who added the Bajofondo radio station to my Pandora where I found her music. From there, I was hooked. I have found that a lot of her music is super versatile and fits into many aspects of my life – because of this, I can listen to her just about anywhere. I am bewitched by her vocals and her musical style, but I think it is the spanish guitar that suckers me in. 

Vibe with me.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Restaurant Alert: Cafeteria Mallorca

The Wannabe Puerto Rican Diaries: Eating breakfast like a local

Cafeteria de Mallorca 

I decided to have a locals breakfast at this little place that I had walked by a few times, Cafetería de Mallorca. When I walked in, I felt like I was thrown back to the fifties – it was one of those blast from the past places – you know, the ones where everyone knows everyone and you have el mesero as your best man. I sat at the bar and ordered a tocineta y huevo ($5.25), basically a bacon and fried egg sandwich and I drank some hot tea ($1.50)As a Mexican American, I wanted to ask for salsa, but I knew I couldn't, that's basically against all rules of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, but we Mexicans, hot sauce on everything. Literally.

Here's what they did: Fried an egg (overcooked), cooked some bacon, slapped it on some thick buttered bread and put it in, what seems like, a panini press smooshing the nice bread and presto (see below). From sitting there as long as I did, I noticed that this sandwich pressing business was done to every sandwich. A Puerto Rican thing I suppose, similar to la tripleta

At the end of my breakfast, I realized that I had my breakfast paid for by one of the musicians staying at the hotel – Juan Carlos Fernandez Nieto. He's a cool Spanish dude who just happens to be a famous pianist who graduated from Yale (no big deal). Check him out. I felt special. >> 300 Calle San Francisco, San JuanPuerto Rico, 787-724-4607

Men update: 
  • Whether the men are old, young, fat or just plain ugly, they will make it apparent that they are checking you out. Notice that I didn't mention the attractive ones – yeah, they don't pertain to what I am saying.  If they notice you, they will walk right up to you and buy you a drink because if you're attractive enough, otherwise, don't get your hopes up that some exotic man will walk right up to you and show you how to salsa. Life just doesn't work that way.
  • Varieties: Like Los Angeles, you have the two extremes (super buff dudes and the dudes who have never lifted in their lives) and then everyone in between – the machos, nerds, pot heads, in betweens, the ones that know they're hot – Ladies, don't fall for the crazies!