On Location: San Marino, California

by Tamara Mendoza – Owner and Creator of Suitable Travel Today

     updated 12:43 AM PST, Mon November 11, 2014

 

Being a college student, it’s always busy at about this time of the year with midterm exams and it was no different for me. With that I wanted to apologize for the lack of posts recently, it’s been a very busy month. If you watched my introduction video on the home page you know that I mentioned a very exciting new development…my first column in an internationally published magazine is being released within the following months! I’m ecstatic about this opportunity which will be a stepping stone in my career as a travel writer. As I discussed in the video the exposure will direct others to the Suitable Travel Today website as well as the social media I have available. It’s a incredible time in my career and I’m anxious for all the remarkable things to come and even more so to share it with everyone.

Aside from the current events I mentioned, I have also put myself on what my mom calls a “spending freeze”. This is a term we use for saving our money instead of spending it on extra activities, fast food, or unnecessary things we want in the spur of the moment. I usually do this right before a trip and its been a system that has helped me tremendously. This weekend, however, was an exception since I only spent about $50…

About a week ago, I ventured to San Marino in Los Angeles County for breakfast and boutique shopping with my mom and sister and concluded our half day adventure with an exploration of the tree lined neighborhood streets. Although we’ve spent more time in the Pasadena area we wanted to explore a more quaint San Marino, away from the hustle and bustle of L.A.

Patrons sitting on the patio of French bistro, Julienne, in beautiful San Marino.

Patrons sitting on the patio of French bistro, Julienne Fine Foods and Celebrations, in beautiful San Marino.

I made my first stop at the popular French bistro, Julienne Fine Food and Celebrations, well known for their delicious breakfast menu. Julienne has an impressive 4.5/5 rating on TripAdvisor and is also rated the #1 restaurant in San Marino on the website. A Yelp reviewer noted that due to the popularity and smaller size of the restaurant visitors dining at Julienne experience anywhere from a 20-60 minute wait on average for breakfast. Their breakfast menu is served from 7 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., so unless you don’t mind waiting outside the patio area taking in the wafting smells of the food being brought out to the seated customers I strongly urge you to arrive as early as possible.

When I arrived with my mom and sister around 8:30 a.m. we ended up having to find street parking which was (luckily) just a few minute walk away. We were immediately seated on their outdoor patio with functioning heaters and leisurely enjoyed several mouthwatering dishes which we all shared, served by Julienne’s friendly and attending staff. Paired along with lattes and mimosas here are two of the dishes we enjoyed:

Baked Crème Brulee French Toast with Fresh Strawberry Sauce and Crème Anglaise •  15

Baked Crème Brulee French Toast with Fresh Strawberry Sauce and Crème Anglaise •
15

Bittersweet Chocolate Chip Waffles, Honey Vanilla Crème Fraîche, Shaved Chocolate, Strawberries •  12.5

Bittersweet Chocolate Chip Waffles, Honey Vanilla Crème Fraîche, Shaved Chocolate, Strawberries •
12.5

During the entirety of the meal I had to remind myself to savor each and every bite. I’m constantly impressed by the restaurants I’ve been to in the Los Angeles area and Julienne is now another of my favorites. Next time you are in the area please take the time to stop in at Julienne Fine Foods and Celebrations and take your taste buds on a trip to France.

Stuffed and happy, we also took some time to explore their adjoining gourmet market and bakery where you can purchase wines, delectable desserts, lunch specials, and even gifts for your friends and family.

My mom browsing through the gourmet market/bakery and gift shop.

My mom browsing through the gourmet market and gift shop.

The gourmet market also serves bakery items like these delicious lemon custards.

The gourmet market also serves bakery items like these delicious lemon custards.

Julienne Fine Foods and Celebrations is located at 2651 Mission Street, San Marino, California, 91108. The restaurant only takes reservations for parties of  8-10 and be contacted at 626.441.2290. www.juliennetogo.com

Waddling to our car it was time to head on to our next stop…boutique shopping! There are a few shops along Mission Street next door to Julienne but if you are looking for a variety of shops head to Lake Avenue where the well kept streets are lined with not only old fashioned boutiques but large retail stores too. We only stopped in a few of the boutiques since our time was limited but I’m in love with San Marino and its neighboring city, Pasadena!

During the remainder of our adventure my mom and I decided to explore the neighborhoods and then it occurred to me…San Marino is the setting of one of my favorite romantic comedies of all time, Father of the Bride (1991) starring Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, and Martin Short.

 

 

I have always been a traveler at heart but one thing that has influenced me a great deal has been films created by the magic of Hollywood. I’ve recently made it a hobby of mine to research filming locations used in some of my favorite movies. Father of Bride was filmed in San Marino and also in parts of Pasadena, Hollywood, Burbank, and Los Angeles.

The residence of fictional character, George Banks (Steve Martin) was very easy to find and was only a short drive from where we were on Lake Avenue. Immersing us even further into the world of the Banks family I began playing the soundtrack to the movie as we drove down the timeless streets. A few minutes later we turned onto South El Molino Avenue and suddenly…there it was…

Filming Location: Father of the Bride (1998)

Filming Location: Father of the Bride (1991)

If you have not seen this movie already then I highly recommend it! If you’re a big fan of this movie like I am then adding a stop at this home on your Hollywood Home Tour is well worth the drive. Even with the Halloween decorations up the stunning $1.35 million home brings its visitors right into the heart of the film. Any minute I expected to see the characters walking on and off the drive.

The Father of the Bride House is located at 843 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91106.

As I mentioned earlier I was only out and about for half a day so following our stop at the Father of the Bride house it was about 2:30 p.m. when we started to head back home. After having been at home a lot recently, plowing through my midterm study material, the day out was much needed. In fact, I’m convinced I enjoyed the day out more because I’ve spent so much time at home. With that being said, even if you’re busy and only have time to stay close to home you can still plan out an eventful itinerary. Since my mom is a teacher and doesn’t have as much flexibility as I do to travel most of our adventures are close to home! It amazes me when locals here in Southern California look at me in such wonder when I retell some of my most recent adventures. It’s incredible how many things you can find near by! It has nothing to do with being hipster–it’s about being well acquainted with where you live.

Happy and safe travels!

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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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