Alotta Burrata

One weekend.

Two sisters.

Eleven restaurants.

Eighteen dishes.

(so many dollars spent, I can not even…)

They thought it could not be done. Hell, even we knew it was grossly ambitious. Or maybe just gross. IMG_8625.jpg

There are a few things you need to know about my sister and it will all make sense at the end.

1. She loves food just as much as I do. I am not sure if it is nature versus nurture, but it runs in the family. So naturally, when little sister (me) comes into town, big sister (her) has to show what Denver is made of.

2. She is a planner. I am talking about color-coding, laminating, by-the-minute itinerary.IMG_8627.jpg With this in mind, I present to you the ridiculous, out-to-lunch (literally) whirlwind trip that took place this weekend. I know coming to the Mile High city was a big deal, considering she has lived here for over ten years and this is the first time in my grown-up life that I have visited her. The food scene here is happening and there were so many places to be that we could not possibly do them all in three days. I was wrong.

We did it. I am so unbelievably shocked, frendshäm* and impressed that we were able to pull it off. Logistics, time and money (wallet is in tears) did not stand in the way of the Condell girls.

*Frendshäm is a term we coined (based loosely) on a German word to describe second-hand humiliation. As in the, “Oh Sweetie”-kind of embarrassment. Consider it the next thing to go viral, I promise you that.

On Friday morning, my sister presented me the itinerary of what would shape our time together. Please note that there are no sightseeing locals, no shopping, nothing. All of our touristy things revolved around ensuring that it did not interfere with our food schedule. A, sort of – what silly Denver ‘must do’ should we slog through to tick down minutes in between meals? January isn’t the best time to come to Denver because a lot of things are closed for the off-season. However, we surely did not let that get in the way of our fun.

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What made this so great was that it was literally my sister’s favorite dish at each place. I wish I had a window into her genius brain when she was compiling this list.. classic You Are What You Eat.

Swiftly after a Thursday night pick-up at the airport, we arrived at Pinche Taco’s for what might be the best tacos outside of California. Even remotely thinking this means that they were out-of-this-world delicious. I dubbed these as sexy street tacos, with ingredients such as Queso a la Plancha (mmm…burnt cheese), pan roasted scallops and carnitas that Zeus himself kissed before making its way onto our plate.

(Horrible lighting, as it usually happens when food is that good). pinche.png After hearing that my sister never finished the last half-season of Breaking Bad, we hopped on that quickly and watched an episode before getting into bed.

FRIDAY

Upon waking up, we were a little nervous for what we had in store and decided to play it by ear. We ended up at The Source, which is a local food market that can be compared to a mini Chelsea Market. Lunch was consumed at Acorn and we shared the kale & apple salad (candied almonds, parmesan, togarashi) and tomato braised meatballs (anson mills stone ground grits, burrata, basil).

We high-fived after a successful start and walked around to check out the collective of food artisans and retailers that offer everything from freshly baked bread to craft cocktails. I was impressed with the place and loved the vibe; it reminded me of a less-touristy and more modern Ferry Market building.acorn.png

Our one (1) sightseeing adventure of the whole trip came after lunch, we drove to Red Rocks Amphitheater where the most legendary concert hall is. They had a pretty badass view of the city.

Of course the one picture I did take did not highlight this gorgeous view I am talking about. IMG_8619.jpg

I do not know if it is the altitude or that I am just severely out of shape, but those pesky stairs really got to me and I was embarrassingly winded after the whole thing. IMG_8620.jpg

Another episode of Breaking Bad and a cup of Café Bustelo later, we found ourselves in downtown Denver and ready to roll up our sleeves to get this food coma party started.

With itinerary in hand, our first stop was Panzano for their Crespelle ai Funghi (Hazel Dell mushroom stuffed crepes, fonduta sauce and white truffle oil) and a glass of bubbly. At this point, we realized that our trusty friend was crusty bread. Crusty Bread would make a cameo at literally every single meal. No joke. No complaints. NOT a gluten free weekend.

We walked over to Osteria for their burrata (creamy sweet center, firm edge). Bartender overheard our tactic for the night and asked to see the coveted list. To say he was thoroughly impressed was an understatement; it was at this point in time that we began to think that our crazy idea was actually straight genius. dtdenver.png

Next stop at Bistro Vendome, a quaint French bistro that uses local and seasonal ingredients. We broke our one-plate-per-restaurant rule here and ordered the mussels (garlic, herb, white wine, grilled sourdough baguette) and steak tartare (tenderloin w/ aioli, Dijon, capers, red onion). As a non-seafood kind of girl, the mussels were hand-on-knee amazing and I do not even want to count how many pieces of sourdough I went through. bistrovendon.png

Our last stop of the night was at ChoLon, a fusion restaurant with a menu that is inspired by traditional dishes found across the Asian continent. We enjoyed the soup dumplings (sweet onion, gruyere) and Brussels sprouts (ground pork & mint). We also had the pleasure of chewing the proverbial fat with the Chef Lon (Denver Cheflebrity) and shut down the restaurant as we listened to the fantastical tales of this renown all-over-the-world-and-back chef. cholon.png

Friday’s Round-Up:

Restaurants: 5

Dishes: 9

Stomachs a calorie away from exploding: 2

Saturday

Somehow, someway, we woke up not feeling like death. The only thing on our mind was a cappuccino, which worked perfectly with the next step being butternut squash pizza (walnut, smoked mozzarella, sweet onion & arugula) at True Food Kitchen. The one thing I was uneasy about on the list ended up being delightful, especially with a fried egg on top. butternutsquashpiz.png

I would like to tell you exactly what we did after; however, everything seems hazy as I am typing this post. Almost as blurry as this picture taken by my beauty of a sister. IMG_8672.jpg

Although Saturday was not as ambitious the night before, I think my favorite thing that happened was at Z Cuisine. The last time I ate a cheese plate was less than a week ago at Maialino in New York (I found the restaurant name, yay!).

This cheese plate was something else. Something where my pathetic little words would only dull how outstanding this was. My sister and I had to stop for a second and make sure what was going on was real. Whoever chose the assortment deserves a round of applause, from the apple and cheddar combo to the contrast of creamy cheese and nutty texture . We wanted to go back the next day to eat more.

As mouthwatering as the cheese plate was, the star of the whole weekend was the cassoulet. Slap-your-mom delicious and worth every penny. Although this is only January, my intuition tells me that this is going to end up on my top-ten of the year list. 100% sure. The dish, prepared for three days, included duck leg confit and a pork belly & shoulder house sausage (andouille style) baked slowly together in a heirloom white beans and bacon ragout, served with wilted chard and kale. Z Cuisine, you hit it straight out the ballpark and need to open a location in San Francisco like yesterday.

And this is where our list took a left because we hit a wall. Fried chicken wraps were next, but we just could not do anymore. We had a drink at Old Major and ended up just talking for hours. Toward the end, an order of duck-fat fries made its way in front of us and we obliged. saturday.png

Saturday’s Round-Up:

Restaurants: 3

Dishes: 4

# of times frendshäm was used: too many

SUNDAY

Three words. Pork shoulder tostada. IMG_8686.jpg

Served with charred tomatillos, sunny eggs and queso panela from Beast and Bottle for a quick brunch before heading to the airport.

There were many times during the trip where my sister and I were unbelievably disgusted with ourselves for having moments of hunger after all this food, but overall I like to think that we killed it. Game, set, match to whoever (aka nobody) doubted our motives.

I apologize for this incredibly long-winded post, I know it is a lot to consume and digest (ha). The reason I did not split this into two posts is because I did not want to drag anything on and because I think I am going to a restaurant I have been dying to try on Monday and that deserves a posts of it’s own.

1. Thank you sister for everything. You are the best you there is.

2. Do not forget to enter the GIVEAWAY that ends on Friday! I am giving away a $50 Gift Card to a grocery store/restaurant of your choice!

PS: If this was a Word document, it would have been five pages. Run and tell that to the next person who says you need to read more. You are welcome.

Have you been to Denver? If so, what was your favorite restaurant?

Who are you rooting for in the Superbowl?

Oh, New York

I am currently flying back to San Francisco and was given complimentary WiFi (thank you!), so I wanted to pop in and type up a list of this-and-thats from the first half of my whirlwind week.

New York City was good to me, I must admit. A big part of it due to having friends nice enough to let me be in their presence and take over their apartment. 🙂

Aside from doing a million things in a day, the trip overall was very relaxing. I spent a lot of time walking around and exploring different neighborhoods, enjoying museums and eating everything in site. Is that not a good formula for a great vacation?

To save you from a ‘Dear Diary’ type of post, I will recap my thoughts in dash form.

-Blogger meet-up

I had the pleasure of meeting the famous and beautiful Ameena for coffee on Saturday! After getting in from a red-eye, I was so exhausted that I took a lengthy nap at my friend’s house and was afraid I was going to miss this occasion. Luckily, everything worked out and we met at Maison Kayser for an espresso (me), sparkling water (her) and delicious dark chocolate cookie (us, but mostly me).

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It was raining my first day there and there was even snow on the ground! Or do you just consider that ice? Whatever it was, Central Park was gloomy and it seemed as if my good friend Karl has followed me across the country.

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Notice that the pond is frozen. At first I was amazed because A. when does that ever happen in California and B. there was a small squirrel ice skating near me. I was worried for his safety.

Then, C. the rain started coming down and I got out of there before the French family next to me could even blink.

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Laziness will cause you to eat dinner at Bouchon, not that there is much to complain about there. Tomato soup for the first course and a lovely roasted chicken with braised Tuscan kale, white beans, crispy sunchokes, heirloom carrots and sauce Charcuterie.

PS: A lot of the photos in this post are going to be little collages. Usually I am against them, but if I did not group pictures together, then your hand will get carpel-tunnel from scrolling for so long.

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-Museum crawl

Can you call it a museum crawl if you only went to two? Especially if they were on two different days? I do not know and frankly can not think of another name besides ‘museums’ or ’two museums’.

Sunday was spent at the Met and holy anxiety when I walked in and saw the Egyptian exhibit. Of course this museum has a fine collection of Picassos and Van Goghs, but so does many other museums I have had the delight of visiting. I have never seen an Egyptian exhibition as large as the one I saw on Sunday; being impressed is an understatement. I was also very fond of their Magritte collection as well.

No Treachery of Images though, listen to this. I googled that night where it was on tour in NYC and found out that the MoMA’s last day of hosting the Magritte tour was that same day. If that is not sad, then I do not know what is. I missed it by a few hours.

With that note, I still had an amazing time at the Met and could have probably stayed there all day.

I visited the American Museum of Natural History on Monday and had an okay time. While there is no way I can seriously knock anything educational, there was a slight diorama overload and the way the exhibits are set up are a bit confusing. I had three people come up to me to ask me questions about the map that I could not answer because I was lost as well. The floor with the dinosaurs was really interesting, I do not think I have seen anything like it in my lifetime.

I also have a yearning to watch Night At The Museum again.

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-An Italian evening

I spent one night dining with my Italian friend. We ate an Italian dinner and then took a trip to Eataly after to see what a modern day Italian heaven looks like. I did not realize how amusing this was until I was sitting on my host’s couch at home. That is the short version.

The long version includes me squinting my eyes and zooming in Lightroom for ten minutes trying to figure out the name of the restaurant. As pretty as aperture makes a photo, it also makes it hard to remember where I have eaten when my memory is slightly forgetful. Does anyone recognize these plates? I will give you amor in exchange.

What is this restaurant called? A helpful hint for you is that it is part of a hotel and somewhere near the Flatiron building (which is pretty bad ass).

Starting at the upper left corner, you will find a divine cheese plate. I am pretty sure the harder one is a Pecorino, while the softer cheese is a cousin of Taleggio and the bottom is an ash-veined goat cheese that is milder than it looks. Forgive me if these are not correct, I am trying to go off memory and cheese is not one of my strong points (as delicious as it is).

As a reader, you should know about my endless love for charcuterie. Sometimes I wish I lived with a garde manger so I can have a plate waiting for me when I get home from a long day. Our two selections was a Soprressata Picante and Finocchiona (from SF!). Fantastic. Or as the Italians would say, fantastico. 😉

I originally ordered an ox-tail ragu, but we did a switch-a-roo and I ended up consuming the suckling pig and arugula served on top of malfatti pasta. They both were amazing and I wish you were there to try.

Last on the menu was a budino with hazelnut ice cream. This was the best meal out of my whole trip to the East Coast.

Looking back at all these pictures, it looks like we did it right. I am a lucky girl.

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Obligatory pictures of Central Park

One thing I like about New York is that you can take a picture from the same place during different times of the year and they will all turn out different. In California, the weather is pretty much consistent all year, besides May Showers in San Francisco and June Gloom in SoCal.

I have a picture of this lake back when I came for Jacq’s wedding and the contrast is remarkable. I remember in the summer that there were children racing little sailboats and now the water is frozen. It is just the little things, you know?

You are probably expecting a comparison shot but I cannot find it. Sometimes I wonder why you even put up with me, ha.

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I should squeeze in the fact that I tried Lauderée‘s macaroons for the first time. We did not have to wait very long, I heard the line goes out the door very easily. Chewy on the inside but still retained it’s texture overall, how a macaroon should be.

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What time is it?!

While having a meal with a cutie, I was informed of a certain performance act that makes all NYers subway riders invoke a panic attack. As much as these buskers can wear you down after a long day, I really wanted to see one. It would have been my ultimate tourist moment. I YouTubed ‘showtime nyc subway’ went I got home and spent an embarrassing amount of time looking through all the street performers and parodies. Can we talk about how their moves would make the raunchiest stripper jealous?

While I didn’t get any Showtime boys, the next day I did have (1) a quartet of Mariachi and (2) what I thought was an accordion player playing for money actually turn out to be an accordion player practicing his lessons while going to his teacher’s house. Luckily I only had to ride three stops for that one.

You keep me on my toes, New York. However, at least your subway performers do not attack people. Naked. (Do not click that link unless you want to see a naked acrobat attacking people on Bart, this is your warning).

-Lunch in the UWS

We randomly walked into a huge restaurant before she had to go to work on Monday and devoured this beautiful tomato soup with a side of grilled cheese.

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I also wandered into an Italian ceramic store by accident and walked out with two handmade espresso cups and saucers. I will just consider it a souvenir for myself. 🙂

-It is indeed a small world after all

I spent my last night walking The High Line in Chelsea and bumped into one of my first best friends from elementary school!! We have not talked or seen each other in years. If that is not a coincidence I do not know what is. We stood in the cold, catching up for fifteen minutes before realizing that dinner in a warm and cozy restaurant sounded much better. She took me to Pure Thai in Hell’s Kitchen and it was exactly what I needed. I have not had rice for about five days at this point and was starting to go stir crazy. They are known for their spiciness and house made noodles, the actual shop is pretty skinny so I do not recommend going with a big group but I thought the food was great!

Also realize that I was tired of lugging my camera around at this point and just had no aspiration to bring it out…cue the iPhone photography.

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-265 Riverside Drive

A family member of mind saw that I was in NY through Facebook and gave me the address of where my dad grew up. On my last day there, I took the subway there so I can see it in person. Definitely worth the trip, I love seeing little nuggets of my family history. Next time I go out there, I will have to look up my grandfather’s designs in the NY Public Library record archives.

I did not realize how creepy my eyes looked until I e-mailed it to myself. It was as far away as I could get in the picture, while still seeing the front of the building, without crossing a fence. Writing this entry made me realize that it is actually the only picture I took of myself the whole trip, so cheers! 🙂

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-Closing statements

1. The two things I was stressed about before coming was the weather and getting a cab. It happened to be (relatively) warm and I conquered my irrational fear of hailing one. In San Francisco, no problem, I can do it anywhere and anytime. New York is just a little more intimidating but I did it! My poor cab driver poured his heart out to me about his love life. I tried my best to console this crestfallen stranger.

2. I am upset at the passenger sitting in 13E for eating a tuna sandwich in the middle of their flight. 🙁 It is like they went to the terminal deli and ordered the most obnoxious thing to eat in an enclosed cabin with recycled oxygen.

Flying to Denver to see my sister on Thursday, it will be legen-wait for it….

Did you recently travel or traveling anytime soon? Tell me where so I can be jealous. +1 if it is out of the country.

What kind of activities do you enjoy doing when you travel?

Vineyards In Napa

I usually try to come up with a cool title to spice up this blog a little. Sometimes it is a pun, sometimes it has nothing to do with the subject and sometimes it has everything to do with the subject. Today is one of those days, my friends. I just can not think of a better title than straight to the point.

Last post, I mentioned that I was going to post on Friday. I spent time editing my pictures, writing up the post and something horrible happened when I clicked the publish button. Everything disappeared. I tried rewriting, but it just was not cutting it. Those pictures will just have to go into the folder and wait for another time. 🙂

My holidays have been amazing so far. I checked off almost everything on my to-do and my NYC trip is almost all planned out (I am just waiting on one more person). What better way to relax than a day in Napa, right?

For everyone that lives under a rock, Napa county is la creme de la creme of producing wine in America. The fact that it is only an hour away from San Francisco confirms that I live in the best city in the whole world.

Taylor’s parents were in town and invited us to go wine-tasting with them. We could not resist.

Napa is usually lush, full of greenery and an amazing place to photograph. In the winter, even though it was pretty warm, the grape vines are barren and looks deserted.

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Our first stop was to Goosecross Winery, which was one of the few open before our lunch reservations.

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There is suppose to be pictures of wine, cellars and more but I think I was too excited and forgot to take pictures. For you, is a picture of Taylor and I before our first tasting.

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We ate lunch at Lucy, restaurant + bar. They pride themselves on their seasonal menu and eco-friendly meats and poultry. Not to toot their horn, but they even have a garden where they grow most of their veggies and herbs.

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An espresso for Taylor

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and a morning Bloody Mary (edit: thank you, Kristina!) for Denise. This one had Sriracha in it, delicious.

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The Reuben sliders, assembled with cured brisket, spicy remoulade, sauerkraut and house-made rye, really caught my eye. I really enjoyed eating this with their handmade potato chips, but wish that there was not that much fat on the burgers. This is saying a lot because I am Chinese and we eat fat in almost every dish.

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Taylor and her mother ordered a Masami Ranch Burger with beef, picked veggies and herb fries. I had a bite and thought that it was delightful, she also had no complaints.

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Denise chose the Don Watson’s Milk-fed Lamb Sandwich with violet mustard, horseradish creme fraiche and sylvetta on an Acme herbed focaccia.

(Btw, if you never had Acme bread before, you never lived life.)
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We did a quick stroll around Yountville and wanted to grab a pastry from Bouchon. This line made us realize our priorities and we booked it straight right to go the next vineyard.

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I am a bad blogger because I can not remember the name of the next winery, but they had the coolest private rooms.

This was a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, dry with woody hints. If you ask me what that means, I have no idea. I am the worst at detecting aromas and slight tones in wine.

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Just wanted to show you a picture of Tay and her mama.

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Maybe for my next birthday I will class it up and go wine tasting. I am trying to convince Taylor to do it for hers.

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Can we just take a minute and admire this picture? Thanks.

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Happy New Years to everyone near and far. My next post is going to be my favorite post of the year. 🙂

Be safe and I will see you in 2014!

What is a good title for this post?

Do you like wine tasting? Let’s be honest. I love olive oil tasting a little more.

Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe

Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes! It was nice to get the e-mail alerts throughout the weekend. I am sure you are dying to know how it went (humor me), so here it goes!

FYI: I am currently driving up the 5 right now. For you non-Californians, it is probably the most boring and smelliest 5-1/2 hour drive you can do. I figured I would write up this blog post, but it is becoming a horrible idea because every bump makes me want to lay back and wake up in front of my drive way.

Going down to SoCal was a different story. Highway 101 is one of the most b-e-a-utiful drives there is, in my opinion. We have the sun setting behind the mountains, creating this beautiful Kodak image.

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Then 40 miles down, you have the sun setting behind the ocean WITH a mountain to the side. How lovely is that? The coastal view never gets old, take my advice and try it one day.

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As I said in my last post, I had a wedding to attend on Saturday. It was not my smartest idea to go for a plethora of reasons, but I told Chi back in May that I would be his +1 and I had to stick to my guns.

Usually, I look like a hot mess and can not even bother to comb my hair, but I like to think I clean up pretty nice.

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D + J had their wedding on a resort and she looked like a bombshell, her dress fit her perfectly. The groom, who is one of the goofiest people I know, was so emotional during the ceremony and it touched my heart (/end corny).

PS: I am excited to see what their half Korean/half white babies will look like in the future. 🙂 Mixed kids for the win.

I could not be assed to bring my camera, so you will have to make due with the iPhone.

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The next day, we made the drive from Irvine (aka BFE) back to Hollywood and the group unanimously decided that Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles would be our brunch destination. Thank you, Rocio, for driving from Santa Barbara to hang.

The original plan was to attack Porto’s, a LA cult favorite, but the lines were outrageous and we had some museum exploring to do.

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As a person who has taken the secret foodie oath, I have promised to treat each and every plate with dignity and love every carb, fat and protein the same. However, I can not get into the groove of chicken and waffles. I love fried chicken and I love waffles. Together? It does not make much sense to me.

I ended up eating the chicken, nibbling on the waffles and devoured the mac ’n’ cheese.

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When deciding between which museums I wanted to attend, LACMA (LA County Museum of Art) was on top of my list. The Treachery of Images, my favorite painting, is part of a permanent collection there. I was so excited to be able to see it for the first time, only to find out that it is on tour at the Met and a few other stops before returning to LA. Hopefully I will be luckier with attempt #2 next year.

Although a little disappointed, I did not let it get in my way. The LACMA is the largest art museum on the west coast and holds more than 100,000 works spanning from the ancient world to the present. Outside and center is the very famous, highly filmed, Urban Lights. Chris Burden installed over 200 restored street lamps from the 1920s and 1930s and set them up in front of the museum.

You can see them in a bunch of movies, commercials and music videos.

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I do not have much to say about each individual image, but you can see why it is so easy to spend the whole day at the museum.

Out of 100+ images, I randomly selected a few of my favorite pieces of eye candy.

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I really love retro posters in general. This was part of the final exhibit I got to see, the Latin American exhibit. I will find a way to be able to incorporate these into my future home someday.

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My friends always joke that I take pictures like an Asian tourist, so take that. Now that’s a photo taking pose!

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I inquired in my last post about ramen spots and one of my loves, Bailey, called me in the morning to tell me about a place her boyfriend l-o-v-e loves for ramen.

Sorry, Goretti, but it was hard to convince everyone to go vegan for the night. Maybe next time I am in town, you can take me. 🙂

The wait was not that long and one of my favorite hapas joined in on the birthday celebration.

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I liked how they decorated the interior to look just like Japan. I felt like I never left!

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I ordered the spicy miso ramen and also snuck food off everyone else’s plate.

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Mel and Rob did a six month Europe trip last year and told me they got me a special gift. A whomping 363 days later, they finally remembered to bring it. And I love it so much!!!

These are the kind of gifts I love getting. It is a handcrafted piece of ceramic from Nove, Italy.

Her words, when I texted her to get more info about this beauty: It is a little town in northern Italy, tiny tiny town in the boonies countryside but it has over 100 ceramic stores- everything you see in Macy’s, Tiffany’s etc…at factory prices! All gorgeous stuff! Wish we could have bought and shipped everything that caught our eye, but it would of been too much. We went to the largest store in the town and Robert was running through 1000’s of pieces and he didn’t know what to get you. Then, the tiles really caught his eyes and that’s when he knew. 😉

It can either be hung on the wall or used as a pot rest. The colors are SO vibrant in person.

I honestly think it is one of the best gifts I got in a while. Thank you so much Mel and Rob! Love you guys to the moon and back.

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Thanks for scrolling past all the pictures, I am starting to get queasy and it is time to put my seat back and take a cat nap. Goodbye loves!

How do you feel about chicken and waffles? What is the best present you received in a long time?