The Crab Pot

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I was in Seattle for a couple days before I left on my cruise, and one of the best–and most fun–restaurants I have been to is the Crab Pot, a seafood chain based in Washington and California. It is messy and brutal, and after the feast of crab and seafood, your table will look like a murder scene, but it was oh-so-good!

The weapons of destruction

The weapons of destruction

The Crab Pot is one of those restaurants that seat you down around a big table and hand you plastic bibs. There is nary a utensil on the table save for a board, a lobster cracker, and a big wooden mallet. We ordered the Westport, and received a heaping bowl of dungeness crab, snow crab, shrimp, steamed clams, Pacific mussels, andouille sausage, corn on the cob, and red potatoes. The mountain of seafood was dumped unceremoniously on the table, and armed with our mallets, we dove in.

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The Westport Seafeast

The Westport Seafeast

It was a battlefield: bits of shell flew everywhere as I pounded angrily on the damn snow crab legs before finally resorting to ripping it apart with with my hands. But oh was it worth it! The seafood was delicious, and although I may have chipped a tooth on a mussel and wound up with shrimp in my hair, it was extremely fun and somehow tasted even better knowing I had to work for it.

The Crab Pot
1301 Alaskan Way
Pier 57, Seattle, WA
206.624.1890

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Dog-sledding in the Yukon

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On my Alaska trip, I was able to cross off something on my bucket list that I have been dreaming about for some time–dog sledding. Although it wasn’t through the snow and it was only a quick ride, I am extremely grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The ship docked in Skagway, Alaska–a minuscule town of 800 people–and we joined a tour for $99 per person to take us across the border into the Yukon Territory in Canada. The scenery and wildlife in the Yukon is unparalleled (that’s where I encountered the bear), but our final destination was the community of Carcross (formerly known as Caribou Crossing).

Yukon Territory

Yukon Territory

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During the winter, Michelle Phillips and her team of dogs race the Iditarod Trail–a 1,000 mile sled dog race across the Alaskan tundra. Spring and summer is training time, and that is precisely what Michelle and her winning team of dogs are at Carcross to do. Summer training for the dogs consist of building up their muscles by having them pull tourists (i.e. me) around in a 4-wheeled cart. Each cart seats about 8-9 people, with a team of 9 dogs to pull–which is pretty incredible if you consider the enormous amount of weight that these dogs can manage. So we get to help participate in their summer training, and in the winter, they are off to the races.

We were lucky enough to be paired with Michelle and her winning team of Alaskan huskies. We got in the cart, and the dogs were just as excited as we were to begin the journey. The team that was lined up at the sidelines jumped and pulled at their leashes, barking and howling as trainers clipped them to the harness. Once all nine dogs had been harnessed to the cart, Michelle signaled and the dogs leapt high into the air, starting the cart with a jolt–we were off. We rattled, bounced, and swerved along a snaking trail through the trees–the dogs received commands from their master when the road forked, but otherwise they knew exactly where to go.

All harnessed and ready to go!

All harnessed and ready to go!

As we were riding, she was more than happy to talk to us about dog sledding and her wonderful team. The Alaskan husky is noticeably smaller than the Siberian husky. These dogs are actually mutts: they are a mix of Siberian husky, malamute, greyhound, and various other breeds–all designed to give them the advantage when it comes to speed, strength, and survivability in the frozen environment.

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The two lead dogs are the smartest, they guide the whole team through the trails. The unpaired dog in the second row actually helps turn the cart, and moves from the right and left depending on which way the sled needs to go. The dogs at the very rear are the brute strength–large and strong beasts that keep the heavy sled moving. Each dog can run 8 to 10 hours a day, burning thousands of calories–thus requiring a protein intense, high calorie diet.

After a quick water break, they were ready to finish the trail.

After a quick water break, they were ready to finish the trail.

At the end of the ride, we got to meet these incredible dogs. They were so friendly and loved the attention! I admit, I had a hard time tearing myself away from these pups, especially the very friendly blonde lead dog.

The lead dog of our team

The lead dog of our team

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They also had puppies and off-duty dogs on the farm, and we were welcome to walk around and play with them as well. This was an unforgettable experience–perhaps when winter rolls around again, I’ll be watching and cheering for my team on the Iditarod Trail.

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Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska

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A short drive away from downtown Juneau is the Mendenhall Glacier, a 12-mile-long testament to the Ice Age. It was a cloudy day, but sunlight still reflected off the pristine blue waters of Mendenhall Lake. Icy cold water lapped gently at the shore while giant pieces of ice broken off from the glacier floated on the surface of the lake.

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Mendenhall Lake

Mendenhall Lake

The Mendenhall Glacier has been slowing retreating throughout the years, and the Mendenhall Lake is a result of the recession. The lake was formed in 1931 as run-off from the glacier and has slowly been growing in size since then. The texture of Mendenhall Glacier itself was interesting–layers of grit and dirt topped the surface while the glacier seemed to be glowing blue within. At the edge of the glacier, blocks of ice seem to be creeping along the surrounding mountains.

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

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Here’s an additional fun fact: did you know that Juneau is only accessible by ship or plane? No roads lead to Juneau.

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Tracy Arm Fjord

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At 6 in the morning on the 4th day, we sailed into the Tracy Arm Fjord, a 30 nautical-mile-long passage dotted with pieces of ice. I braved the howling Alaskan winds at the bow of the ship as the Grand Princess made it’s way through the narrow passage. It was freezing cold and the sun hadn’t come out yet, but as it turns out, the vibrant blue hues of the ice are best seen on overcast days.

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If you look closely, there is the head of a seal popping up from the piece of ice in front.

If you look closely, there is the head of a seal popping up from the smaller piece of ice in front.

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At the end of the passage is the Sawyer Glacier, looming between two mountains amongst the ice floes. The light hit one of the ice chunks just the right way, making it glow a particularly brilliant blue.

Sawyer Glacier at the upper right

Sawyer Glacier at the upper right

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The huge 950-foot ship lingered there for about half an hour, before making a 180º turn and we were on our way to Juneau. By the time we were exiting the fjord, the sun had come out and the ice was starting to melt. Waking up at dawn was well worth the experience of seeing Tracy Arm at the peak of it’s beauty.

Ketchikan, Alaska

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First stop on the cruise was Ketchikan, the southeasternmost city of Alaska. This quaint little port town is known was the “Salmon Capital of the World”, probably due to the fishing industry and the thousands of salmon that swim upstream to spawn along the creek that runs through town. While I waited to disembark, I spent some time on the ship’s deck watching the constant buzz of activity from the fishing boats, tour boats, and seaplanes coming and going on the harbor.

Ketchikan port

Ketchikan port

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With a few hours to kill and armed with a map of the town, I set out to explore. There are a couple places of interest in this town, all within walking distance of each other. The northeastern part of town has a salmon hatchery and eagle breeding facility that I thought would be cool to see, but unfortunately it was closed when I got there. I did, however, love walking along the Ketchikan Creek seeing the beautiful flowers along the way, and even met a baby bird that had fallen out of it’s nest.

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Downtown Ketchikan is not very large, only a few square blocks at the most. There is, however, Creek Street–one of the two major red-light districts in Alaska until the 1950s. It has now been turned into restaurants, art galleries, and gift shops, but it still does retain it’s “Old West” charm with colorful wooden houses strung along the Ketchikan Creek. Interestingly, Creek Street is also accessible by the “Married Man’s Trail”, the route that men took to escape from being caught in the police raids at the brothels. There is a sign at the entrance of Creek Street that details the history of prostitution in Alaska–it is definitely an interesting read if you happen to be there.

Creek Street, whose old motto was, "where men and salmon swim upstream to spawn".

Creek Street, whose old motto was, “where men and salmon swim upstream to spawn”.

Wildlife in Alaska

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Apologies for being missing in action over the past few weeks, I have been floating along somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. That is, I was on a week-long cruise to the beautiful state of Alaska. I got back last week, but I suppose I have been waiting for inspiration to begin this series of posts on my trip. The port was in Seattle, and along the way we stopped by Ketchikan, Juneau, Tracy Arms Fjord, Skagway, and Victoria Island.

I finally understand why they call Alaska “the Last Frontier”. There’s something surreal about a place where there isn’t a sign of civilization as far as the eye can see–only acres and acres of wild, untamed land. I suppose growing up in San Francisco, I’ve always taken city-life and modern conveniences for granted. But the first time I saw a bald eagle flying, there’s no describing the feeling of awe and wonder at nature. It is hard to believe that even in the 21st century there could still be a place so untouched by homo sapiens that the bear population could outnumber humans. Seeing a black bear sitting by the road eating dandelions, a bald eagle soar overhead, dolphins and whales spouting water 10 feet in the air–experiencing it in person is beyond anything they show on the Discovery Channel.

Dorothy, you aren’t in Kansas anymore.

Most of these photos, except for the bear, were taken while sailing through the Snow Passage and even with a 450 mm lens, it was difficult to see since the wildlife were so far off. I had the good fortune to meet a birdwatcher while I was sitting out on the deck, and with her guidance, I was able to capture a couple images of the local wildlife.

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Bald eagle sitting in a tree

Bald eagle sitting in a tree

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The tail end of a breaching whale far off in the distance

The tail end of a diving whale far off in the distance

This bear was seen as we were driving through the Yukon territory of Canada. It was sitting by the side of the road, nibbling on the dandelions. The bear angrily stomped its feet a couple times when a car passed by, but other than that, it continued its feast. We passed by the same place 4 hours later on our way back, and the bear was still there, happily munching away.

Black bear enjoying the dandelions growing by the road

Black bear enjoying the dandelions growing by the road

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I Have Finally Found the El Chato Taco Truck!

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I am pleased to announce–that after four tries–I have finally tasted the ever elusive, El Chato Taco Truck. It was at night, coming back from a friend’s wedding, when we decided to attempt one more try at finding the truck. Miraculously, there it was sitting at the corner of Olympic and La Brea, with newly painted cartoon characters on a white background–El Chato.

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It was ten o’clock, and the truck had barely been open for an hour, but there was already a crowd gathering. We got in line, and the heavenly scent of grilled meat gently wafted under our noses. They just wanted to tease us with the giant glass windows in the front, where we could see a giant spit of al pastor and steam rising from the grill–we were so close, but the line was so long!

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When the al pastor and carne asada tacos were finally in our hands, it was marvelous. The sauce has just the right amount of kick without overwhelming the taste of the salsa, the meat was juicy and fragrant, the onions and cilantro were sprinkled lovingly over the palm-sized tortillas. Tacos to-go? What’s that? I squeezed a quarter of a lime over my tacos and ate them right then and there on the hood of my boyfriend’s car.

Carne asada and al pastor tacos

Carne asada and al pastor tacos

El Chato Taco Truck
1013 S. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90019
323.202.6936

Rice Burgers at KoJa Kitchen

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It’s been awhile since I’ve been in Berkeley, so when we stopped by to pick up a friend last week, we opted to grab lunch at one of the new restaurants that had just opened up. A short walk from the UC Berkeley campus is KoJa Kitchen, an Asian Fusion food-truck-turned-restaurant known for their unique rice burgers.

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Who knew that completely pushing the definition of a “burger” would be so tasty? Korean and Japanese-inspired flavors between handmade garlic rice patties–it doesn’t sound like it works, but it does. The rice buns are unique unto themselves, they’re slightly crunchy, somewhat toasty, but still manages to retain the rice texture and chewiness. They hold up much better than a regular bread bun, and are well suited to soaking up the sauces and juices from the meats.

I tried my friend’s Bulgogi (BBQ beef) KoJa with sautéed onions, sesame vinaigrette, lettuce, drizzled with red sauce and toasted garlic rice buns. It was on the sweeter side, but it tastes just as good as it looks.

Korean BBQ Beef KoJa

Front: Korean BBQ Beef KoJa

I had the Braised Pork KoJa: miso-coconut braised pork with fresh baby arugula, topped with a crispy fried wonton chip and masago, drizzled with garlic aioli and of course, on their signature garlic rice buns. Of the two Kojas, this was my favorite–I especially loved the garlic aioli and the subtle coconut flavored pork, complemented with a crunch from the wonton chip and a subtle texture from the masago.

Braised Pork KoJa

Braised Pork KoJa

Another dish that KoJa Kitchen is famous for are their Kamikaze Fries: crisscut fries with Korean BBQ beef, sautéed onions, kimchi, green onions, drizzled with their signature sauce and Japanese mayo. With the slightest hint of spiciness from the sauce, a twinge of sweetness from the Japanese mayo, coupled with the bulgogi; it was heaven in a basket.

Kamikaze Fries

Kamikaze Fries

KoJa Kitchen
2395 Telegraph Ave.,
Berkeley, CA 94704
415.992.7394

Food and Craft Beer Pairing Festival

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I invited my dear friend, Adan, to share his photos and experiences at Bite at the Beach on May 24. All photo and writing credits to Adan P. 


The Bruery's Belgium style strawberry sour with panfried fish cake and citrus aioli from Simmzy's

The Bruery’s Belgium-style strawberry sour with pan-fried fish cake and citrus aioli from Simmzy’s

Last Saturday, Manhattan Beach hosted its inaugural food and craft beer pairing festival, Bite at the Beach, at the MBS Media Campus. This was not just another glorified beer garden, but rather an event that put local breweries and artisanal restaurants front and center, in a delightful and delicious exposition of collaborative culinary efforts.

Upon first entering, a short walk down New York St. (a small street with store fronts used for filming) will bring you to the booth of the title sponsor of the event, Stella Artois, where they were pouring their signature drink as well as Cidre, a refreshing cider. From there, the venue opened up to the left and right where you could find a different brewery and restaurant under each small tent.

The drink and food pairing of the day was a saison with ceviche/seafood combo that was apt for the start of warmer weather. A saison is a complex style of beer that is fruity in aroma and flavor, with some tartness, mild bitterness, and semi-dry, with many having a touch of sweetness. Although many flavorful saisons were present, Halia from Goose Island Beer Company stood out from the pack. Golden in color, mild carbonation, moderate (and pleasing) adherence to the glass, a light malt body, and a subtle peach flavor throughout made this my pick for the best saison–perfectly crisp and refreshing.

Sofie and Halia saisons from Goose Island Beer Company

Sofie and Halia saisons from Goose Island Beer Company

Circa, a restaurant in Manhattan Beach, had many attendants walking around the venue with trays of wonderful morsels to taste, including my two favorites at the event: beef tenderloin skewers and sea bass ceviche. The ceviche had a lime-based herb sauce with a touch of guacamole that was satisfyingly fresh and helped clear your palette; while their beef skewer paired exceptionally well with the hoppier and more full-bodied beers.

Circa's beef tenderloin skewer paired with Angel City IPA  and a cannoli from Grimaldi's Pizzeria

Circa’s beef tenderloin skewer paired with Angel City IPA and a cannoli from Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

Circa's sea bass ceviche

Circa’s sea bass ceviche

Throughout the event, Adam Gertler of Food Network fame, hosted a series of informative panels ranging from “How to Pair Beers with Food” to “Curious and Creative Uses for Beer”, such as washing your hair and even coaxing some life back into the yellowing patch on your lawn! The panels were a fun and educational distraction from the gluttonous festivities, and allowed for some digestion between all the delectable entrées.

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To close, the best eatery and brewery duet was Rock’N Fish and Ballast Point Brewery. The New Orleans Cajun-style shrimp and the highly-acclaimed Sculpin IPA contrasted perfectly, with the shrimp’s spices and herbs counter-balancing the strong bitter hop from the beer.

Cajun-style shrimp from Rock'N Fish

Cajun-style shrimp from Rock’N Fish

The stand-alone best beer goes to Blind Ambition, a wonderfully complex and well-balanced belgian dark ale from Ladyface Ale Companie.

Also of note is Pacific Gravity, a contingent of local home-brewers that exhibit a passion and exuberance to the craft that is rare in any profession. Besides having over a dozen beers on tap (no one else was pouring more than four), they also had an exquisite selection of mead, which is a wilder and unfiltered strain of beer.

Meads from Pacific Gravity

Meads from Pacific Gravity

Although I have previously sampled many of the beers from the brewers present, Saturday was a day of many firsts. I look forward to the next Bite at the Beach.

The Kolschtal Eddy brown ale from The Dude's Brewing Company paired with aguachiles ceviche from Coni'Seafood

The Kolschtal Eddy brown ale from The Dude’s Brewing Company paired with aguachiles ceviche from Coni’Seafood

Modern Times paired with Fresh Brothers pizza

Modern Times paired with Fresh Brothers pizza

Dessert pairing with beer

Dessert pairing with beer

With Santos Navarro of Tin Roof Bistro

With Santos Navarro of Tin Roof Bistro


The Bruery
717 Dunn Way
Placentia, CA 92870
714.996.6258

Goose Island Beer Company
1800 North Clybourn
Chicago, IL 60614
312.915.0071

Angel City Brewery
216 S Alameda St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213.622.1261

Ballast Point Brewery
10051 Old Grove Rd
San Diego, CA 92131
858.695.2739

Ladyface Ale Companie
29281 Agoura Rd
Agoura Hills, CA 91301
818.477.4566

Pacific Gravity
Home Brewer’s Club
4358 1/2 Sepulveda Blvd
Culver City, CA 90230

The Dude’s Brewing Company
1840 W. 208th St.
Torrance, CA 90501
424.271.2915

Modern Times Beer
3725 Greenwood St.
San Diego, CA 92110
619.546.9694


Simmzy’s
229 Manhattan Beach Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
310.546.1201

Circa
2001 Chestnut St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
415.351.0175

Grimmaldi’s Pizzeria
1 Front Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
718.858.4300

Rock’N Fish
120 Manhattan Beach Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
310.379.9900

Coni’Seafood
3544 W Imperial Highway
Inglewood, CA 90303
424.261.0986

Fresh Brother’s Pizza
4751 Commons Way
Calabasas, CA 91302
818.225.7555

Tin Roof Bistro
3500 N Sepulveda Blvd #100
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
310.939.0900

Camping Amongst the Redwoods

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Greetings from the Henry Cowell State Park near Santa Cruz! Last weekend, a couple high school friends and I decided to rough it in the redwoods for a few days. Well, roughing it as much as 5 city girls (and 1 guy) can.

Our neighbor for the weekend

Our neighbor for the weekend

We arrived at the campsite Friday afternoon, both cars laden with barbecue and camping supplies. After setting up the tents, it was time to make the fire. Another friend and I decided it was much more fun to try and spark a fire without matches, so with dried moss as tinder, we spent the afternoon hunched over the pit repeatedly striking the magnesium flint. Two hours and many sparks later, there was a roaring fire and we roasted hot links and sausages for dinner.

That night, we went on a night hike up to the observatory deck to see the stars. By the time we got there, the full moon was just starting to rise over the tree tops.

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The rest of the night was spent in the tent drinking and playing card games until 2AM. I also managed to catch this picture of the tent lit from within, lighting up the dark forest. I didn’t take very many photos on the trip, but out of the few, this one is my favorite.

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The next day we went hiking up to the creek about 2 miles away, tanned and played around in the water. There were really big crawfish in the stream! I’m not sure what the average crawfish size is, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t supposed to be bigger than my hand.

We were pretty hungry by the time we got back to the campsite, so we got the fire started (the “normal way”, with a lighter this time), and began the barbecue with sausages, short ribs, chicken wings, and marinated pork. We even wrapped yams and corncobs in aluminum foil and set them next to the coals to bake in the fire pit.

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At the end of the night, it was nice to spend some time around the campfire watching the embers die down as the last of the logs burned.

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