Friday, October 30, 2015

Mexican Brunch at Cocina Condesa (Studio City, CA)

by guest blogger @iam_robot

Los Angeles might be a beautiful melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, but its diverse residents all have one thing in common: we’re all suckers for good Mexican Food. Being a Los Angeles transplant the last 15 years of my life, I’d think I have tasted all the greatest Mexican food this world has to offer. But after trying out new places every week, I’m still constantly flabbergasted with the infinite variations, craftsmanship and dedication from all these great taqueros/ taqueras. Sure I have my favorite joints for certain Mexican food but when I discovered a new place with less predictable menu, I can’t help but thinking how many more bewildered moments like this I’d encounter living in this city.
Just for good measure, I’d like to share my brunch experience at Cocina Condesa in Studio City. 
Exterior
Situated strategically on Ventura Blvd, this bright yellow Restaurant features hearty Mexican street food and modern libations crafted by David Rubin..

No, this place is not your typical Mexican Food – you won’t see tacos-bean combos or brick size burritos with enchilada sauce. Instead, Executive Chef Eddie Garcia features finer specialties we rarely get enough of – ceviches, aqua-chiles, sopes, street corn, machaca, questo fundido, and braised chicken mole.  But Brunch is the way to go! I can’t specify a genre but the lineup leans towards a Cal-Mexican cuisine with some emphasis on healthier eating.
Interior
The vibe inside Cocina Condesa is festive and vibrant.  Huge red-framed windows are featured in the dining room to circulate the evening breeze while the wooden table and high-chair suggests a significant landmark (bar or saloon) you’d see in Mexico or other South American countries. Love how eclectic and kitschy the wall d├ęcor is – so many random things to look at: old Mexican hero sepia pictures, bullhead skeleton, antique guitar, Day of the Dead dolls, wooden Mexico map, sombrero, etc – you’ll always have a topic for conversation.  

Back to the brunch menu. My absolute favorite item is the Mayan Chocolate Pancakes. Three hearty warm fluffy pancakes topped with seared plantains and crushed Mayan Chocolates and Sugar.    
Mayan Choc Pancakes
2
And instead of drizzling the pancakes with ordinary maple syrup, you’re given Piloncillo Syrup, a homemade maple syrup made with brown / white sugar, cinnamon, and water. Definitely lower in calories!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

WOW Air Flight Review: Boston - Reykjavik - Paris

So I recently took WOW Air, the budget airline from Iceland. They currently fly to New York, Boston, and Baltimore (and soon adding Toronto) to Europe via Iceland. They have sales with prices that will make you go "Wow!" including $99 one way to Paris, which is the one I bought.

It's not exactly $99 each way, though. I did get $99 from Boston to Paris, but the return flight is slightly more expensive. Still, on select dates they're still pretty cheap and I ended up paying $309 for a round trip flight from Boston to Paris. Not bad at all!

As with other budget airlines, there are a lot of caveats. First, you only get 1 carry on bag free, up to 5 kg (11 lbs). I was only going to Paris for 3 nights, so I actually managed to carry everything with me.
They don't provide drinks or food on board, you have to buy whatever you need, including water. They cost about the same as water at the airport, so whatever. It's still a $300 ticket to Paris, I'm not complaining.
Wow Air
I think because they're a newer and a budget airline, they usually taxi to a spot not directly connected to the airport buildings. Passengers had to take a shuttle bus from airport to the plane at all three airports I flew into. Just keep that in mind when you pack, because you have to be outside for a brief moment, but Iceland can be cold and raining or snowing. Pretty much all three happened to me.

I like the cheeky touches of WOW Air. The plane itself looks like a character out of Pixar's movie, with a grin on its face, wearing an aviator.

So how's the flight itself? Well, on the first leg from Boston to Reykjavik, I got really lucky! Window exit row seat, baby.

Wow Air
Best seat in the house

Monday, October 26, 2015

Amsterdam Falafelshop, a Cheap and Quick Lunch in Fenway-Kenmore (Boston, MA)

Boston University students are lucky to have Amsterdam Falafelshop close to them in the Fenway Kenmore area. This place is perfect for a quick, cheap, and satisfying lunch (or dinner).
The menu is simple: you get falafels either in a pita or in a bowl, either small or large. There's also fries. But after you order you can go crazy with the toppings.

Amsterdam Falafelshop

Amsterdam Falafelshop has an impressive topping bar with hummus, garlic sauce, fried eggplant, various salads, sauces, and all kinds of other goodies to bury your falafel under! If you order a pita, you can fill it with as much topping as you desire/ can fit in. If you order a bowl, then you pay by weight.
Amsterdam Falafelshop

A small pita with 3 falafels is $6, and if you're good with fitting in your toppings you'll already get a filling sandwich. That's why this place is great for students (and postdocs like me)!

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