I’m Going To Be a Teacher??

First of all, I wanted to say thank you to those of you who have recently signed up for my blog. You make me smile and I can’t wait to share all of my crazy adventures with you. 🙂 2016 is shaping up to be one of my busiest years yet.

I wanted to take the time to catch up with y’all. (Did I really just say that?)

At the end of 2015, I took a leap of faith and resigned from the concierge desk and took on a temporary 9-5 position. During that time there have been many bumps in the road but those experiences have taught me some valuable life lessons which have helped me return my focus to some unfulfilled goals, hopes, and dreams.

  1.  Finish College – At the top of my list is finishing my college education. I’m now majoring in English with the end goal being a writer and teacher just like my mom!!
  2. Study Abroad – I would love to take the opportunity to go teach English abroad in Japan or Korea (or both)!
  3. Travel More – Of course the vacation breaks that teachers have are great times to travel and I fully intend to take advantage of this!
  4. Eat More – Whilst nom’ing on some really delicious food.
  5. Blog More – And sharing it with all of you!

Of course as my main page reads, I am currently in the process of re-branding so I can begin sharing more often with you.

The new name for my blog is a work in progress so let me know your ideas!!


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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!

macarons10.jpg (700×470)

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 “(é»žćżƒ 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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Taste of the OC: Anaheim’s Packing District and Downtown Disney

It’s time to talk food!

Orange County has always had great food but over the last year I have noticed most cities heavily marketing essentially watering holes for travelers and locals alike. Tourists coming to the area are becoming more adventurous, looking for those popular local hot spots. One of my favorite cities to recommend is Anaheim which is central beacon for most and is filled with something for everyone. As soon as I mention this most guests look at me and immediately begin to question, “Isn’t that where Disneyland is? I thought that was just for kids.” Well I’m here to say that there is more to Anaheim than the looming Disneyland Resort.

Let me first start with the newly built Anaheim Packing House located in the Packing District on the edge of downtown Anaheim:

Built in 1919, the once Sunkist orange packing house is one of the few surviving from the agricultural era for which Orange County received its name. The newly renovated building houses a food hall containing casual food options for everyone and even a “Speakeasy” (1920’s influenced hidden bar) behind a bookcase. Looking around you will notice the inside decor is reminiscent of an outdoor patio; look for the plants and swings (yes swings) surrounding the center of the lower level. Take your time looking around because there are lots of surprises along the way! I found the Packing House to be great for friends and families, casual date outings and even the business traveler.

The Packing District in its glory days as a Sunkist Orange Packing House during the Agricultural Era. /OC History Roundup

The Packing District in its glory days as a Sunkist Orange Packing House during the Agricultural Era. /OC History Roundup

When I was there last week with my mom we proceeded to splurge on a tasting frenzy; needless to say I was in a major food coma afterwards so my warning is to be careful, all of the food is beyond delicious. First stop was Black Sheep Grill Cheese Bar for an Original Grilled Cheese…it is what it says an original grilled cheese and my taste buds were happy but it seemed to lack the extra flavor to give it personality. Let me add that there are other unique options on Black Sheep’s menu which are probably more worth trying.

Next up was Orange Tei for a traditional Japanese style ramen bowl–and no you are not getting top ramen, believe me it’s a lot tastier. Orange Tei creates the perfect combination of noodle and broth in a huge bowl fit for a king. If you’re still hungry sides of shrimp are available, although I’m not much of a seafood eater myself my mom thoroughly enjoyed the tempura. This location is always busy which is expected from the popular food stand. Already being my second time visiting Orange Tei, I will continue to come back for that Pork Bowl. Tip: Go downstairs for some sake after your meal!

For dessert we went to Popbar which currently holds the record for the longest line. When you get up to the counter pick a gelato or sorbet popsicle from an assortment of flavors, have them dip it in a unlimited number of chocolate and finally add nuts and/or sprinkles. After careful consideration I opted for a peach sorbet dipped in milk chocolate, drizzled with white chocolate and doused with chocolate sprinkles. Incredibly fattening but worth it I assure you…after all what’s a cheat day for?

After spending all afternoon at the Packing House, I successfully converted my mother and will be back again soon! Preferably on a weekday early afternoon for lunch when crowds are smaller and parking is easier.

Get your food fix at the Anaheim Packing House today!

Get your food fix at the Anaheim Packing House today! – Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Today

As promised, I am covering two food hot spots in Anaheim. Now let’s move onto an outdoor shopping and food center much closer to Disneyland…Downtown Disney:

Being a local myself, I have seen these same restaurants year after year but one in particular that I never got around visiting until last Monday is Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen. Coincidentally this restaurant happened to be hosting the concierge association’s general meeting for this month so I was able to sample a few popular items…absolute bliss…

Cocktail Hurricane

Cruzan rum and Fresh Fruit juice served in a hurricane glass

Salad – French Quarter Salad

Mixed greens with a Steen’s cider vinaigrette, candied pecans and cherry tomatoes

Entree – Andouille & Pretzel Crusted Pork Loin

Mashed potatoes, bacon braised turnip greens, creole mustard buerre blanc

Desserts – Beignets

A New Orleans classic! French donuts topped with powdered sugar

*By Executive Chef Darrin Finkel

New Orleans Cuisine and Charm at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney - Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Today

New Orleans Cuisine and Charm at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney. – Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Today

With Cast Members you can always expect excellent service and atmosphere; they are what makes this particular experience different than the rest in Downtown Disney. The architecture brings its guests to New Orleans perfect for a casual dinner or a romantic proposal (ask for balcony seating–the fireworks add an extra touch). Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen also offers live entertainment every night from 6pm-10pm. Tip: If you’re driving over their just for the evening, Downtown Disney has free parking the first 3 hours and free for the first 5 hours with validation from participating restaurants including the Jazz Kitchen.

I will be honest, Downtown Disney tends to be my default as a biased former cast member for a late night stroll and good time but I promise there is a reason for it! Especially for our guests who don’t have the budget or means to purchase admission to the parks it still offers that Disney flare. If you walk around by the Disneyland hotel or are looking for a character dining experience, visit Goofy’s Kitchen–reservations at least 24-hours in advance are highly recommended.

Heading back towards where the shops and other restaurants are visit ESPN Zone to catch a game, have a beer, or play some games in their big kid sized arcade. Another popular stop is the Rainforest CafĂ© which provides a jungle experience complete with animated animals and rainforest sounds, a great stop for the kids. One of my favorite activities to do is to stop by Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel to rest by their fireplace and maybe visit Napa Rose for a glass of wine. Other highlights in the area include live entertainment, shopping, concerts at the House of Blues, Build-a-Bear Workshop for the kids, the largest Disney store in the area, and an AMC Movie Theater.

Downtown Disney/Disneyland Resort

Shopping and dining at the Happiest Place on Earth at Downtown Disney./Disneyland Resort

As I mentioned there is quite a bit to choose from and that’s just TWO of the shopping districts in Anaheim! Well I’m going to wrap this up since I know as a hungry traveler or local you’re probably getting a little hungry from talking about all this food. Here’s to wishing you a good time–happy and safe travels!

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