Vegan's Chronicles + [Vegan]

San Diego Trip!

Happy Friday! It's been an awesome week that just flew by so fast! On Monday, my sister and I went on a short trip (for me, a vacation within a vacation) to San Diego to see my older cousin who lives there with her husband.

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On the way down to SD, we made a pit-stop for lunch at Native Foods Cafe at the Camp in Costa Mesa. Going to the Camp brought back memories of when I used to volunteer at the Art Co-op that was there, and I also had some of my first paintings/illustrations in one of the group shows. It was weird yet good to go back and see how the area has (and has not) changed.

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Since my sister and I are on a budget, we decided to share the 'Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger.' We figured that if we were going to share a dish, it might as well be the most indulgent item on the menu, and indeed, it was a truly extravagant, astronomical burger. I mean, just read the menu description! "Our thinly sliced Native Original Seitan, melted cheddar, caramelized onions, and crispy tempeh bacon, on a bun slathered with BBQ sauce and ranch dressing, romaine, carrots, onions, and tomato. Topped with crunchy battered dill pickle chips." YUM! When it came out, my sister and I were both a bit dumbfounded as to how we would assemble, divide, and eat this delicious vegan monster, but we eventually figured it out. :)

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Here's my half. It was quite possibly the most loaded burger I've ever had, and also the most full-bodied, succulent, and satisfying. With every bite, I was in awe. ("How did they do that?!")

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And to balance our meal out, we ordered the Mini-Greens side salad. :)

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Parking lot signage.

After that phenomenal lunch at Native Foods, we resumed the rest of our mini road trip to SD, where we were reunited with our cousin, who I hadn't seen in 6-7 years! We've actually barely spent any time together throughout our lives because our families grew up in different continents (her family in Brasil, and my family in Ghana, England, Korea etc…). Even though I've only see her a handful of times in my life, we are still close family and I always have the best time when I see her. She is more than 10 years older than me, so she's definitely like this loving, care-free big sister who likes to pinch my cheeks and treat me like I'm still 9 years old. :) She’s such a generous person in every way and she lives without holding back. I love that about her. I don’t know if it’s the Brazilian in her, but she has so much life and energy, and is one of the most genuine people I know.

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For dinner, my cousin unnie took us to this Japanese sushi restaurant that had plenty of veg*an options. I ordered a simple vegetable roll which was filled with good things like avocado, cucumber, yellow pickled radish, lettuce, etc.

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San Diego 2010

I also ordered a side of seaweed salad, which was small but tasty and pretty to look at.

My cousin is quite the meat-lover, and was pretty surprised/fascinated to learn that one of her family members is a vegan. She likes to lovingly tease me about my veganism, but she is also totally respectful of my beliefs. She was worried that she wouldn't have any thing at her house for me to eat for breakfast, and kept rummaging around her kitchen and checking labels. :) Thankfully, her pantry was actually well-stocked with oatmeal, cream of wheat, soy milk, fruit, nuts, tortilla chips, salsa, dark chocolate etc. I was far from deprived!

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For breakfast the following morning, I had cream of wheat with soy milk, and a plate of delicious juicy pears.

During the day, my sister and I found ways to entertain ourselves and enjoy San Diego while my cousin was off at work. We weren't really in the mood to do anything super touristy, so we just kept things simple and checked out a few neighborhoods and mostly just chilled at the apartment.

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Purdy flowers in the guest room. :)

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On Tuesday morning, we went on an easy hike around Torrey Pines State Park which is running-distance from my cousin's place. My sister had gone there this past summer and wanted to take me.

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San Diego 2010

Unfortunately, the weather was less than ideal. The sky was overcast and it was quite cold, but even with the moody weather, the views were still beautiful. Really, just seeing the ocean was good enough for me.

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Heading down to the beach~

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San Diego 2010

We got a little sidetracked by all the pretty-colored stones all over the sandy beach and ended up bringing home quite a collection of unique rocks. :)

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We also checked out the Mission Bay neighborhood and grabbed a very light lunch at The Mission café. The menu there wasn’t very veg friendly. I was hoping that their foccaccia rosemary bread would be vegan, but after checking, the waiter said that it had milk in it, so then I just went with a salad and instead of the bread, subbed it for a tomato tortilla.

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This was not a memorable meal by any means, but it was healthy and cheap(er). I’ve been eating out practically every day so far and my wallet is taking a heavy beating. My sister is a starving student, and I’m also on a tight budget these days, so we’ve been trying to find the right balance between eating delicious vegan food, yet also not totally breaking the bank. Not only are many restaurants quite pricey, but you also have to add tax, and tip (something I don't have to think about in Korea)! For several meals, we’ve just shared one entrée order and maybe another small side order. However, I also don’t want to miss out on all the incredible vegan eats that I would never be able to enjoy back in Korea, so it’s tough finding the right balance between indulgence and restraint. Anywayy~ I digress.

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Walking around the houses at Mission Bay.

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While in SD, we also visited Stephanie’s Bakery to get some sugary goodness. We weren’t sure about their opening hours because several different websites give different times, but we got there at 3pm, which was right when they opened, so we were lucky! They had literally just opened their doors for the day, so they weren’t yet prepared and their display fridge was pretty bare. I was really hoping to get the NY cheesecake, but they didn’t have any, so then I went with a brownie instead.

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I could barely restrain myself from immediately tearing into my brownie bag, but patiently waited til we got home, made myself a mug of peppermint hot chocolate, and settled on the couch to watch some American TV. :) Happy face! Honestly, going out and looking around SD was nice and all, but the best part was just hanging out at my cousin's awesome homey apartment, doing things like talking, flipping through magazines, watching TV, and vegging out. This is what I believe everyone should do while on vacay.

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My handsome hunk o' brownie.

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Oh myyyy. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a proper vegan brownie, and this was amazingly good. It wasn’t overly dense, but it was the perfect balance between cakey and fudgy. Even my skeptical omni cousin approved! The brownie piece was really large and was so rich and chocolatey that I could only eat a little quarter-piece at a time. I actually felt the sugar-rush after just eating a quarter-slice! If Stephanie's brownie is this good, I can only imagine how mind-blowing their cheesecake is... . Sigh~ Eating delicious vegan cheesecake is on my bucket-list, so I’m on a quest! If anyone has any suggestions on where to get the best vegan cheesecake here in LA, hit me up~

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We also visited the Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market which was stocked with all kinds of temping vegan goodies. Health food stores such as these never fail to get me excited. I took the opportunity to stock up on chocolate:

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and lara bars:

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Oh America, the land of plenty of options.

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That night, my sister and cousin had plans to eat leftover non-vegan lasagna for dinner, so I had to find something for myself. When we went upstairs to the deli, I found that they had vegan lasagna!

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They even let me taste it before I committed to getting a piece, which I thought was pretty cool. I can’t imagine that ever happening in Korea- you know the hardcore ajummas would just ask for samples all the time and never buy anything!

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So while my unnies ate their non-vegan lasagna, I got to enjoy my own vegan version, which was probably just as good, if not better! It’s been forever since I last had lasagna, so this was pretty special.

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All the flavors melded beautifully and it was just as I remember lasagna to be.

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For one of our meals in SD, we hit up good ol' Whole Foods. Even though a lot of the stuff there is pricey, I LOVE WF! Especially their food bar which has a plethora of vegan options.

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I put a little bit of almost every vegan item in my to-go box. It doesn't look like much, but everything is piled up on top of each other to create a mighty tasty mess.

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Bibim-box?

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My sister got a vegan portobello mushroom sandwich on ciabatta bread, which was suuuper drippy yet incredibly flavorful. Whole Foods knows what it's doing when it comes to animal-free cookin'!

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Shelves of vegan cookies! O.o

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For dessert, I bought this scrumptious vegan peanut butter cookie. My weakness is anything peanut-related and this cookie most definitely hit the spot.

We also spent some time on Wednesday walking around La Jolla.

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My sister was craving some gelato, specifically from this one place called 'Gelateria Frizzante.'

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They had an entire separate fridge with water-based (vegan) gelato, which was fantastic!

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In general, I don't crave cold desserts like ice-cream of gelato, but if it's there, I'll eat it and enjoy it. Since my sister bought some, I ate it, and indeed enjoyed it. :) She got a mix of coconut and chocolate flavors. No complaints here.

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Even though it was bum-weather, the scenery was still gorgeous.

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San Diego 2010
San Diego 2010

Me and my sister posin'

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San Diego 2010
San Diego 2010

Jumpin' around and being silly~

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big-ass seal

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bark, bark!

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I found a space-invader! :)

Anyhoo~ So after three fun days in San Diego we are now back in LA, chilling in my sister's 'hood. It was really great to revisit SD (especially as a vegan now), and I am especially thankful to my cousin unnie for her hospitality. I hope I get to see her again soon~!