Reviews, Travel

Enjoy Los Angeles

I love Los Angeles, but I know there are a lot of people out there who have either had bad experiences, or just have zero desire to spend any precious vacation time in La La land.

There’s actually so much to do and so many ways to experience L.A. that, after a few trips, I think I’ve finally figured out how to experience the city in way that can even change the minds of nonbelievers:

Choose Your Location Wisely

Los Angeles covers a wide geographic area, so when planning a trip, try and stay in a location central to most of the things you want to check out. Otherwise, you’ll be spending A LOT of time in traffic.

For my last trip I stayed in this Airbnb guest house, located in Silver Lake. The location had a ton of perks including easy street parking (rare for L.A.), it was central to an infinite number of food options (I’ll touch on that later), and because it’s a residential neighborhood, the atmosphere is much calmer than staying in a hotel in Hollywood.

Silver Lake | getinmymouf.com

Such a calm street. I could totally live here.

If you’re a runner, staying near the Silver Lake Reservoir gives you an easy jogging path to start or end your day. As an added bonus, there’s a dog park nearby, so how can you run past dogs and not have great day? Oh, it is a reservoir, but don’t expect to see any water…

Keep Your Wheels Small

You’ll be doing a lot of street parking (you do know how to parallel park, right?), so make it easy on yourself and rent or borrow a car that’s on the smaller side. Thanks to DriveShop and Mitsubishi, I was hooked up with a 2016 Mitsubishi Lancer for the week (check out our car review here). The Lancer was nice because it was nimble enough to get around easily, yet wasn’t so small that I felt cramped.

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer SEL AWC | getinmymouf.com

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer 2.4 SEL AWC

Ridesharing is Your Friend

Although you’ll have to drive most of the time, it’s nice to occasionally not have to get behind the wheel. As much bad press as Uber and Lyft get, I still have yet to have any experience that is anywhere close to as awful as nearly every taxi ride I’ve had.

I also highly recommend using uberPOOL or Lyft Line to share your ride with a stranger. Sounds a little weird at first, but your ride costs will be cut in half AND you might meet some cool people. Thanks to sharing a ride one night, I got some sweet restaurant recommendations from two locals (shout out to Christine & Nick!). Unfortunately I didn’t make it out to their top pick, a new Nashville hot chicken joint in Chinatown, Howlin’ Rays, but I can guarantee I’ll be back soon…

Eat as Much as Possible

If you’re not eating well in L.A., then you’re doing something horribly wrong. I ate so well that it was almost painful (I didn’t wake up hungry once during the trip). There are hundreds of must-eat lists, celebrity chef restaurants, and local-filled dive joints to discover, but here are a few of my favorite bites:

The Fairfax breakfast sandwich from Eggslut (Downtown in Grand Central Market) – Almost custard-like scrambled eggs with chives, cheddar cheese, Sriracha mayo, caramelized onions, on the world’s softest brioche bun. And of course I added bacon. Easily the best egg sandwich I’ve ever eaten.

eggslut LA | getinmymouf.com

Good brews and great burgers from Stout (Hollywood) – Their signature Stout Burger did not disappoint and was topped with blue cheese, Emi Gruyere, rosemary bacon, caramelized onion, horseradish cream, and roasted tomatoes. And with over 30 beers on tap and 4 0z pours, you can sample nearly all of them in one night (thanks to Uber and Lyft). The staff is super friendly as well, and will happily share some celebrity sighting stories (everyone apparently has an Andy Dick encounter) and most of the waiters will even let you read their screenplay. Kidding, I actually didn’t meet any writers, but I did meet a stunt man, stand-up comic, improv performer, and a DJ.

Stout Burger - LA | getinmymouf.com

World class dim sum at Din Tai Fung (Glendale) – Din Tai Fung is a popular international restaurant with only six locations in the U.S. (all on the west coast). Man those soup dumplings…You think you’ve had dumplings, but you just don’t even know! Go with a group and order everything on the menu.

Din Tai Fung Glendale | getinmymouf.com

Cheap eats at Porto’s Bakery & Cafe (Glendale) – Porto’s is one of those places where–no matter how much you order–you always feel like your bill is way too low. This bakery has it ALL. Literally anything you could possibly want. My favorites were the fried potato balls filled with cheese or meat. And dessert…good luck picking one item.

Porto's Bakery Glendale | getinmymouf.com

Porto's Bakery Glendale | getinmymouf.com

Everything at Republique (Hancock Park) – With such huge range in flavors drawing inspiration from around the world, you will definitely find something that hits any craving you have. They cure their own meats. They bake their own pastries. They even have a daily house-made soda special. My Cuban sandwich was perfect and the Tangerine Vanilla Soda was like a liquid creamsicle on steroids. DO indulge in something sweet; my jam-filled bomboloni (basically a filled doughnut…also on steroids) was so good I cried a little.

Republique LA | getinmymouf.com

Indulging in ice cream at Salt & Straw (Larchmont) – Check out these insane flavors. Bet you’re craving ice cream now. I went with two of their staples:  Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache and Stumptown Coffee & Compartes Love Nuts (chocolate-dipped caramel-coated pecans). Ice cream nirvana was immediately achieved.

Salt & Straw LA | getinmymouf.com

A delicious marriage of French, Mexican, and California cuisine at Trois Familia (Silver Lake) – As my final meal in L.A., I enjoyed breakfast of a real champion: Crispy hash brown chilaquiles, sunny side up egg, cotija, salsa macho. I had tears streaming down my face as I took the last bites.

Trois Familia | getinmymouf.com

Take a Hike

With as much eating as you should be doing, you might want to hike off some calories.  Luckily, there are tons of trails to check out like Runyon Canyon, the Griffith Observatory hike, and of course the famed Hollywood Sign hike.

Echo Mountain LA | getinmymouf.com

Thanks to my L.A. hiking buddy (and cousin) Stephanie, I was directed to my new favorite spot:  Echo Mountain. It’s was a reasonable 30-minute drive from Silver Lake and wasn’t very crowded (although it was a weekday). The hike itself is a moderate five-mile round-trip adventure that rewards hikers with scenic views and the ruins of “White City,” a former resort at the top of the mountain. Bring water and sunblock, ’cause you’ll be in a lot of sun.

***

Still not convinced? Fine. Guess I’ll just have to go back for more ‘research’ to try and make a better argument…

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Reviews, Travel

Clifton Café – Clifton, VA

Clifton Cafe - Clifton, VA | getinmymouf.com

What do my Mom and my dog have in common?

They both love Clifton Café.

My mom always talks about The Magic Pan and how magical (GET IT?!) the crêpes were. Sadly, there haven’t been very many restaurants that serve crêpes around here (a few are starting to pop up now and I’m sure finding crêpes in DC would be easy, but getting my mom to go to DC would not be).

Clifton Cafe - Clifton, VA | getinmymouf.com

Chorizo & Sweet Corn Fricassee Crêpe

Luckily for us, we discovered Clifton Café, a crêperie in historic Clifton, VA that helps close that gap on those crêpe cravings. Crêpe options range from the savory Dan’s Barbarian Beef (roast beef, Havarti, onions, sautéed mushrooms, jalapeños, tomatoes, and Dijonnaise) to sweet favorites filled with Nutella, bananas, and fresh berries. You can also enjoy sandwiches, salads, wine and beer–and since coffee is a perfect match for crêpes–an extensive latte menu. My sweet tooth always leads me to their Crème Brûlée Latte.

It’s also a great place for  Mother’s Day Brunch and is quickly becoming a new tradition for us. This year, the brunch consisted of a three course prix fixe menu for $38 per person. For our first course, we all enjoyed the Heirloom Tomato & Burrata Caprese–I personally find it hard to turn down any appetizers with burrata.

For our second course, the table was filled with a Chorizo & Sweet Corn Fricassee Crêpe (roasted corn, red pepper and herb fricassee, sautéed chorizo, tomatoes, and gouda cheese), Salmon di Oliva Crêpe (Norwegian smoked salmon, feta, tomatoes, red onion, olive medley, and sautéed spinach with a lemon-basil sauce), and the BBQ Beef Brisket Crêpe (slow cooked BBQ beef brisket over mashed potatoes).

Clifton Cafe - Clifton, VA | getinmymouf.com

Salmon di Oliva Crêpe

To end the meal we all came back together and chose the same dessert, the Fresh Strawberry & Kiwi Crêpe (with lemon curd, powdered sugar and whipped cream). Needless to say, my mom was in crêpe heaven.

Photo May 08, 11 55 17 AM

Fresh Strawberry & Kiwi Crêpe

Enough about my mom. The dog-friendly patio is spacious enough to accommodate  75 pounds of fluffy labradoodle. I wish more places had patios, and of the few that do, I wish they had more room for big canines. The hostess and servers not only welcomed Cooper for lunch, they almost didn’t want him to leave. If he goes missing, I know the first place we’ll look…

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD | #DriveKia | getinmymouf.com

So, if you’re looking for a quaint lunch spot to take your momma to, or if you’d simply like to enjoy some sunshine with your pup, Clifton Café is a perfect choice.

***

Thanks to DriveShop and Kia, we were provided with a 2016 Kia Sorento to test drive for a week (click here for our car review). The epic panoramic sunroof made it the perfect SUV to take for a drive on the scenic and winding roads of Clifton, VA to one of our favorite places to grab a bite to eat.

Photo Jun 08, 1 06 29 PM

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD

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Events, Travel

Events DC Presents: Embassy Chef Challenge

Events DC - Embassy Chef Challenge

Photo Credit:  Don Tanguilig

What:  Embassy Chef Challenge
When
:  May 25, 2016 | 6:30 PM
Where: Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004
Cost:  $65
More Info:  eventsdcembassychefchallenge.com

Want to take a culinary tour around the world, but don’t quite have the million frequent flyer miles that it would take to get you there? Luckily, Events DC has partnered with Cultural Tourism DC (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization) to satisfy your mouth’s craving for world domination.

In its eighth year, Embassy Chef Challenge features 19 global culinary representatives from South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe, along with a solid showing from the Caribbean nations. Chefs compete for not only the Judge’s Prize (awarded by local chefs and food writers), but also the coveted People’s Choice Award based on attendee votes.

Events DC - Embassy Chef Challenge | getinmymouf.com | Photo Credit: Don Tanguilig

Photo Credit: Don Tanguilig

Here’s an amusebouche (in list form) of what you might taste at the event:

  • Filipino Bringhe  (savory seafood paella made with sticky rice and coconut milk)
  • Rum-Infused “Painkiller” Cocktail from the British Virgin Islands
  • Guatemalan Gazpacho del Enchilada
  • Bacon-Wrapped Duck Pâté from the Czech Republic
  • Uzbek Plov (hearty lamb and rice pilaf)
  • Ghanaian Black-Eyed Pea and Shrimp Fritters.
  • Arabic Coffee from Qatar

As you taste the world, you’ll also be surrounded by a vibrant atmosphere with live music and plenty of dancing. It’s sure to be a fun–and delicious–celebration of diversity and global cultures!

And seriously, it’s not like you have anything better to do on a Wednesday night, right?

Events DC - Embassy Chef Challenge | getinmymouf.com | Photo Credit: Don Tanguilig

Photo Credit: Don Tanguilig

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Reviews, Travel

Eat + Hike + Sleep: Monterey County, California

Big Sur | getinmymouf.com

Since the strong majority of our vacations primarily involve eating, hiking, and sleeping, it only makes sense to start an ongoing series aptly named Eat + Hike + Sleep. Yeah, you wish you could come up with a title as original as that. Didn’t even need a thesaurus.

The first location up for this series:  Monterey County, California. With all the times we’ve landed at SFO, we always ended up traveling north. There is tons of awesomeness up north like, duh…San Francisco, but also other cool places like Mill Valley, Sonoma, and Napa. I’ve never been, but I’ve also heard that Berkeley is a cool town to check out too. And if we’re talking further north, I enjoyed my time in Sacramento and its surrounding wine country.

Wanting to mix things up on our recent trip out west, we figured it was time to head south and check out what Monterey County had to offer. Specifically, we stayed in Carmel Valley and spent some time in Big Sur cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway.

EAT

Good to Go (Carmel-By-The-Sea)

Good to Go - Carmel-By-The-Sea | getinmymouf.com

Located in the Crossroads Carmel shopping center, this juice and smoothie joint was a convenient stop in between Carmel Valley and Big Sur. Also, with most of our other meals clocking in with a a maxed out indulgence level, grabbing some smoothies from Good to Go was a perfect way to start a day of hiking.

Café Rustica  (Carmel Valley Village)   Cafe Rustica Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cafe Rustica - Carmel Valley Village | getinmymouf.com | #foodstories

Cafe Rustica - Carmel Valley Village | getinmymouf.com | #foodstories

Herb-Roasted Half Chicken | crispy artichokes, au gratin potatoes, ratatouille, and kalamata olives

Café Rustica is such a cozy place. I felt like a foreign exchange student having dinner in a European family’s house. That kind of cozy. The portions were generous and my Herb-Roasted Half Chicken dish had like fifteen different sides (er, well four).  I was afraid they might be fattening us up for tomorrow’s special. And also, two words: Crispy artichokes.

Corkscrew Cafe (Carmel Valley Village)   Corkscrew Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Corkscrew Cafe - Carmel Valley Village | getinmymouf.com | #foodstories

Wild Mushroom Gnocchi | parsnips, arugula, pistachio, Brussels sprouts, chive lemon brown butter, & frisee

Corkscrew Cafe - Carmel Valley Village | getinmymouf.com | #foodstories

Roasted Tomato Pizza | mozzarella, basil, olive oil, goat cheese, roasted garlic, olives, tomato sauce

A sign of a good restaurant is one that you visit twice during a vacation. We did just that with Corkscrew Cafe. First of all, they have a bread basket on the menu. At first I was appalled that bread wasn’t free and was ready to fight someone. But the more we thought about it, we realized that if a restaurant is going to put bread on the menu, then it better be the best bread in town. After talking with the server, we found out that “Jason’s Bread” (as it is listed on the menu) is indeed made by Jason, whose sole responsibility at the restaurant is to make bread. He also confirmed that it was magical. So we got the bread and not only was the bread as brilliant as advertised, but the whole freaking meal was just perfect. The Wild Mushroom Gnocchi might have been the most memorable dish of the trip and the chili & honey braised Short Ribs just melted on the plate. I sent the knife back, because there was no need for it. It was so good and we returned the next night. Too bad they were out of bread, but I don’t want to talk about it…  Luckily the Roasted Tomato Pizza and Kale Salad did not disappoint.

Valley Kitchen (Carmel Valley)   Valley Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Valley Kitchen - Carmel Valley | getinmymouf.com

Located in the Carmel Valley Ranch, Valley Kitchen ended up being a perfect way to end the trip with a final dinner in Carmel Valley. The Honey and Goat Cheese Salad as well as the Asparagus and Wild Arugla Salad were fresh and filling. It was also fun playing a game of russian roulette with the cast iron pan fried shishito peppers. Somehow I ended up with all the hot ones. The real star was not the food, but our server (who’s name we forgot to write down)–He was knowledgable about the local wines in an unpretentious way and even allowed us to sample some of the ranch’s own Swing Pinot Noir. His friendliness also allowed us to find out a little bit more about the area and the ranch. The meal and service made it even harder to leave the next day, but I have a feeling we’ll be back soon.

HIKE

Point Lobos State Reserve (Carmel-By-The-Sea)

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve - Carmel-By-The-Sea, California | getinmymouf.com

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve – Carmel-By-The-Sea, California

With a lot hikes, you have to really earn the good views through steep climbs, spider-webs, and losing at least one boot to a mud puddle. But, at Point Lobos, within about five minutes of walking, we were met with landscapes that I wish we could bring back with us to the east coast. The trails are all fairly easy and your reward for what seems like no work at all, is an abundance of blue coves, towering trees, and magnificent cliffs. And as an added bonus, we’re pretty sure we saw a seal give birth. Check off “birthing seal” from the bucket list. A word of warning, parking is limited, so unless you want to park on the street and hike to your hike, arrive as early as you can.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (Big Sur)

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park - Big Sur, California | getinmymouf.com

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park - Big Sur, California | getinmymouf.com

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park – Big Sur, California

As easy and GORGEOUS (yelled with a British accent) as Point Lobos was, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park’s .64-mile McWay Waterfall Trail leads to a blue cove and a flowing waterfall that lands directly onto the beach itself. For a longer, more challenging hike, you can head inland on the 4.5-mile Ewoldsen Trail where you follow a stream along somewhat visible paths. You can park for free fairly easily along Route 1 near the park entrance, but why wouldn’t you want to support the park system? It’s only ten bucks…

17-mile Drive (Pebble Beach)

The Lone Cypress - 17-MIle Drive - Pebble Beach, California

The Lone Cypress – 17-Mile Drive – Pebble Beach, California | getinmymouf.com

2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD | getinmymouf.com

Checking out a beach along 17-Mile Drive with our fun buddy, the 2016 Mazda CX-3.

This is less of a hike and more of a “drive and stop to walk around,” destination, but 17-Mile Drive is still a fun way to kill an afternoon. It’s a surreal contrast between nature, tourists, and a golf course community where the average home price is in the double-digit millions.

SLEEP

Carmel Valley Ranch (Carmel Valley)

Carmel Valley Ranch | Vinyard Oak Studio | getinmymouf.com

The view from our Vineyard Oak Studio balcony at Carmel Valley Ranch

Carmel Valley Ranch | Carmel Valley, CA

Making good use of the double-sided fireplace

We had originally planned on spending our last night in San Francisco before we flew back, but we just didn’t want to leave Carmel Valley Ranch. From the indoor/outdoor fireplaces and outdoor soaking tub on our deck, to sweeping views and live turkeys, pregnant deer, and ranch-made honey, this place was almost as magical as Disney World–except Carmel Valley Ranch has heated bathroom floors. And that doesn’t even touch on the massive list of activities that the resort has to offer which include hiking trails, tennis courts, golf, food demos, horseback riding, and even a chance to collect honey from their onsite bee hives. You could literally stay here for a week and never leave. Yeah, it was totally worth it to wake up at 5 AM to drive two hours to SFO to catch our flight, just so we’d have one more evening here.

Obviously these are only a few of the hikes, eats, and sleeps that can be found in the area. Drop us a comment for your favorite places or suggestions for where we should head next time. There WILL be a next time.

***

Thanks to DriveShop and Mazda, we had a 2016 Mazda CX-3 to play with for a about 500 miles (check out our car review here). Its nimble handling made it a blast to drive along the Pacific Coast Highway.

2013 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD | getinmymouf.com

***

Disclaimer:  We were not provided any free food, lodging, or park entrances for this post. We liked all these goods and services and would gladly pay for more of ’em again.

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