The Lab Anti-Mall

Alright you hipsters and trend seekers…

There has been a lot of buzz about The Lab Antimall for quite some time and finally I made it there myself. Just a short five minute car ride away from South Coast Plaza in the city of Costa Mesa, The Lab is a unique shopping destination worth stopping by. **Disclaimer, these photos are not mine–due to marketing policies in place I was not allowed to take my own photos.


 

Located at 2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, California; just shy of 5-minutes driving distance from South Coast Plaza.

If there was such a thing a dessert foodie, I would be one. That being said let’s face it, my sole purpose for visiting was to try a cute little macaron shop called Honey & Butter. The store is in a vintage airstream decorated with popular Japanese characters like Totoro…my kind of place!

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The charming airstream in which Honey & Butter serves their delectable sweets.

Kawaii character macarons are featured on a daily basis. Follow @honeyandbutter on Instagram for updates!

Not only are these macarons simply adorable but they are delicious too! Make sure to get in line early before their opening time to try and “catch ’em all.” Their non-character macarons are also excellent with flavors such as Matcha, Pineapple, and Enchanted Berries.

After about an hour wait time with my macarons in lieu, I headed out of the airstream and into some of the other nearby shops. The Lab is a smaller shopping experience with a hip, eclectic feel and local art lining the outdoor center. This is also reflected in the types of stores which can be found there such as Heirlooms & Hardware and Creme Tangerine.

Heirlooms & Hardware sells furniture, hand crafted jewelry, typewriters, and vintage cameras…for great prices!

There is something about typewriters and cameras that intrigue the writer in me. Walking into Heirlooms & Hardware was like being transported into an antique paradise. I was strolling around the store until I happened upon a beautiful Remington typewriter! Before I knew it, I had purchased it for a low $125 and took it to get repaired a nearby shop the store works closely with. For the condition of the typewriter this was very reasonably priced in comparison to the standard $300+ a more battered version would cost. Thank you Heirlooms & Hardware!

Vinyl has made it’s comeback!

My obsession with vinyl is real, guys. The answer to my addiction is Creme Tangerine who sells only the best for LOW prices! One of the items I bought was an autographed 45″ LP of “I Love Rock N Roll” by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts…for only $1.99! The employees are incredibly well versed in all genres and are extremely helpful; definitely my new favorite place to stock up on the classics.


It can be very difficult to find time to travel when I am needed at the hotel during our peak season, so my goal for the summer has been to visit a new place every week. During my training to become a Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) for the Anaheim Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau (AOCVCB), I heard many wonderful things about The Lab Antimall.

Orange County is as diverse a community as it’s beautiful beaches and towering sky scrapers. To the habitual spender or window shopper–if you are looking for a shopping experience like no other, I strongly urge you to add The Lab Antimall to your list. I know I’ll be back very soon!


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Dumpling Crazed Fans Flood Din Tai Fung in Costa Mesa

     by Tamara Mendoza – Owner and Creator of Suitable Travel Today

     updated 5:33 PM PST, Sun September 21, 2014

 

During my early childhood I met someone who has influenced much of my life, one of my closest friends and web developer for Suitable Travel Today, Karyn Vo. As a young Hispanic girl, my eyes were opened to the rich cultures of Asia as Karyn introduced me to many different foods and products all of which I still love to this day. Din Tai Fung, the popular Chinese dumpling house began construction well over a year ago when I got word that it would be opening at South Coast Plaza, a shopping destination in Costa Mesa. Imagine my excitement as I waited on the edge of my seat for the restaurant to open.

Finally the day came and on my birthday I ecstatically waited in line.

For those of you not familiar with the term dim sum, BuzzFeed describes it as “(點心 in written Chinese, and pronounced dian xin in Mandarin) is a meal—usually taken on a weekend morning—that encompasses a vast roster of small dishes selected from carts.” (Read more in their Essential Guide to Dim Sum.)

Din Tai Fung: Steamed Juicy Pork Dumplings

Once inside the restaurant, I noticed that the carts were not being utilized but instead a long sheet of paper listing the à la carte menu items. Visitors mark each item with a tally to indicate their selected portion and quantity. This change makes ordering significantly simpler to order and if you are unsure what the food you are ordering looks like, there is a full menu for you to browse complete with photos. If you are still confused the servers are always available to answer questions and make recommendations in perfect English.

Din Tai Fung has managed to perfect the art of the dumpling…as each steamer basket is laid out in front of you, one cannot help but gorge themselves on everything, including the non-dumpling menu items. There are an assortment to choose from so allow me to provide you a copy of the menu to peruse. Some of my favorites were the standard Juicy Pork Dumplings, Chicken Fried Noodles, Sauteed String Beans with Garlic, the Pork Bun (pulled pork with BBQ), and the Pork Fried Rice. Enjoy a pot of tea or fresh brewed beer with your meal as well to get the full experience!

Now that we’ve talked about how scrumptious Din Tai Fung’s food really is, I wanted to devote some time to the service because they deserve it. Most will agree that no matter how good the food, the service is the determining factor on whether or not a restaurant makes the cut in the eyes of the consumer. Din Tai Fung does not disappoint in that category, they excel in it. Some visitors may argue about the long wait to get into the restaurant but I infer that it may be because those of us here in Southern California are not accustomed as those in Northern California, Chicago and New York are with waiting more than an hour to be seated. Din Tai Fung, unfortunately, does not take reservations but I urge you to be patient it is well worth the wait. To prevent yourself from running rampant from a severe case of dumpling fever, I recommend arriving earlier than you intend on eating, put in your name, and enjoy a nice stroll around South Coast Plaza. As a convenience, Din Tai Fung will take down your cell phone number and text you as soon as your table is ready.

As you walk through the main lobby of the restaurant there is a bar worth stopping at and a window–which reminded me of a fishbowl–where you can watch as Din Tai Fung’s world famous dumplings are being prepared. Continuing on to the main dining area you are seated among the Chinese style decor while you are waited on hand and foot by the incredibly friendly staff. What really struck me was how present the managers were, in fact one of them was consistently returning to our table to fill up our glasses of water and recommending menu items himself! That my friends is excellent service.

Patrons feast on Din Tai Fung’s world famous dumplings.

Din Tai Fung staff preparing fresh dumplings through a glass window available to peek through in the main entrance.

At the end of our meal my family felt as stuffed as those dumplings and as we waddled back to our car we enthusiastically chattered about when our next visit to Din Tai Fung will be…believe me it will be sooner rather than later.

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“Light in the Piazza” Lights Up South Coast Repertory’s Stage

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The cast of South Coast Repertory Theatre’s “The Light in the Piazza.” — Debora Robinson / SCR

 

“Say it Somehow,” would be the song that perfectly describes how speechless this cast left me after their performance. Being a common theatergoer myself I was surprised I had never been to a performance at South Coast Repertory before. Most of the actors in the cast had Broadway experience underneath their belt and were perfectly casted for this larger than life show.

In case you are unfamiliar with this musical, “Light in the Piazza,” is the story of Margaret Johnson (Patti Cohenour) and her daughter Clara’s (Erin Mackey) vacation in Florence, Italy during the 1950’s. Clara meets Fabrizio Naccarelli (David Burnham) the love of her life while touring the sights with her mother. The events following make it more difficult for Margaret Johnson to handle as Clara exhibits the constant desire to be treated as an adult despite mental and emotional complications.

Patti Cohenour is hilariously realistic as Margaret Johnson, the controlling but loving mother. Erin Mackey complimented her very well as her daughter Clara—the two shared effortless comedic timing. David Burnham’s brought the romance to the show with his Italian serenading and beautiful voice—the perfect Fabrizio. And let’s not forget the actors who nearly stole the show providing the comic relief, the family of Fabrizio portrayed by Perry Ojeda as Signor Naccarrelli, Mary Gutzi as Signora Naccarelli, Christopher Newell as Giuseppe Naccarelli, and Melina Kalomas as France Naccarelli.

“Light in the Piazza,” is the perfect combination of comedy and drama, making it a realistic appreciation of life, love, and hope. South Coast Repertory states the performance is appropriate for middle school and above as it does contain herbal cigarette smoking. I would however suggest it for high school and above as the show does have mature content. The entire performance runs about two hours and 15-minutes including one 15-minute intermission.

Since South Coast Repertory is located conveniently across the street from South Coast Plaza, there are shops and restaurants to enjoy prior to the performance. Looking for a restaurant with ambiance and style, try Scott’s Seafood or Mastro’s Steakhouse.

Parking for South Coast Repertory is $10 in the parking structure located by the venue. Do not park in the South Coast Plaza parking lot as they are now implementing a new rule prohibiting those watching a performance from using their parking lot. Vehicles will be towed at the owner’s expense.

Tickets to go see “Light in the Piazza,” can be purchased online at: http://www.scr.org/calendar/view?id=6096. Looking for a discounted ticket? Purchase tickets right at the box office two hours prior to show time. Performances run until February 23rd so don’t miss the opportunity to see this wonderful production!

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 South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa — Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Today