Triple Celebration

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Saturday, the fourth of August, was my birthday and the first Saturday I was spending time with Ericke in my three years as a Los Angeles resident (I officially became an Angeleno the day after my birthday in 2015. I’ve been working all weekends since I found a job, and I just got my best gift ever. Nothing tops the taste of weekend… cheers to life, love and family!

Literally stopped and smelled the roses.

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Nothing better than The Ivy in Beverly Hills for my birthday brunch with Ericke. Still in mourning black, yet feeling the freshness of life without my father — celebrating the full and long life he had, and my new existence with a guardian angel who I believe was instrumental in the unpredicted new normal week for me.

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Ericke brought me to Glossier, and we took photos at the Canyon Room. As we were strolling along the chic Melrose Place, we hatched a new project.

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Never one to back out from challenges, I was pretty stoked but anxious to claim the initial funding for a more purposeful pursuit, my actual birthday present from Ericke which we got from Blick. Praying for an abundance of energy and an overload of inspiration. Hello, heaven!

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My mom and I had an AYCE dinner date in the evening. It felt good to be home.

Sunday night was reserved for my sister Nikko and Ed. They brought me to one of LA’s finest, Redbird in the downtown. The restaurant used to be a rectory.

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I’ve been craving for foie gras for years and I got one on rhubarb jam with crisp and light as air lychees. Hurrah to the lifting of the foie gras ban in California! We also had hamachi with teasing kumquat, calamansi and coconut cream fraiche, beef tartare with egg yolk jam, perfectly seared scallops on a bed of oxtail orzo and peas, squid ink bucatini in uni butter (the burst of flavors hits you after a while, literally orgasmic), and halibut with charred corn, potato cream and unexpected chicharon (fried pork rinds).

Food here, by Chef Neal Fraser, is all about a masterfully crafted singleness of various elements, textures and flavors. I have nothing unpleasant to say about the honest “degustacion” treat.

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A universal tradition… not one, but two cakes — Vietnamese coffee and not your basic banana cake.

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Birthday wishes do come true… chase them.

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Let me take you to Koreatown

Koreatown, Los Angeles

What started as one Korean grocery store on Olympic Blvd. in the 70s turned into a full–blown town. Not anymore LA’s best-kept secret, food-driven Koreatown is so huge in terms of cultural evolution. Not limited to bulgogi and bibimbap, there is a lot to be obsessed about in this town. I come here a lot, like 2-4 times a month. I have my hair done here, I love the melting hot oil massages here, I check what’s new at the trendy Korean stores and specialty markets. Even the Philippine Consulate is on one of the buildings on Wilshire.

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Food in Koreatown is quite complex. Other than bbq and other traditional Korean food that we know too well like in old reliable joints like Park’s Barbeque and Kubawoo, Koreatown is home to one of the best American burgers in the entire Los Angeles. At Cassell’s Hamburgers, in the revamped Hotel Normandie, you’ve got to try the juicy burgers!

Not to be outdone, hotdogs, a more spirited kind of hotdog sandwiches, a specialty of Japanese Sumo Dogs on Western Ave. to be precise, has a cult following. I’ve already tried three kinds, and I’m getting addicted to the signature sumo dog with pork dog, topped with pickle relish, strips of nori and a special teriyaki sauce.

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Among LA’s best donuts, California Donuts has the best maple bacon I’ve tried. They have a good selection of yummy sweet and savory donuts and cronuts. There’s always a line, so it’s best to go at off peak hours.

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Soft serve ice cream gets a whole lot of different trendy treatments in K-town. It’s a mood thing, like you can choose from cotton candy topped (a specialty of CottonHi), to powder-dusted (in Creme), to honey cube topped (in Honeymee), and at Bumsan, organic milk ice cream is held by pretty candy-laced cones

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Other non-Korean Asian food that makes me keep going back to Koreatown, besides the Taiwanese pastries, are Japanese curry at Coco Ichibanya, and katsu and cold soba at Wako Donkasu.

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High-end, quality K-bbq to affordable all you can eat, there’s always a bbq place to suit your budget. Yelping is always a good idea.

Have you ever tried Korean dumplings? Move over XLB! I swear by Myung In Dumplings delicious buns! I also like Myung Dong Kyoja’s pork and shrimp dumplings. Not to mention, their vegetarian guksu (noodles) in milky kong (soy bean) soup is wonderful.

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Manly sullungtang, ox bone soup cooked for days, is the specialty of Sun Nong Dan. But check out the video of galbi jjim below. It is the same hearty short rib stew that celebrity chef David Chang (of Momofuku and Majordomo fame) eats more than anything else when in LA. In a way, with cheese, it’s like caldereta back home in Ilocos.

Koreatown is not Koreatown without bingsu. My fave places to have this shaved ice dessert is Anko and Okrumong. There’s also Hwa Sun Ji for traditional patbingsu.

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Injeolmi comes in toasts (like in photo above) or sticky rice cakes covered in bean powder. There are really so many kinds of Korean rice cakes. I’ve tried a few, but with their long names, it is difficult to memorize all. There’s savory and there’s sweet like mochi.  The baked ones, black and white bean-filled, from Okrumong are so delicious that I can forget about other sweet stuff!

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Time at a Korean salon is deliberate in between food stops.

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It was fun sharing with you my trips to Koreatown, a place I so love in Los Angeles. I hope you will love it, too.

PHOTOGRAPHED BY BLAUEARTH COPYRIGHT © BLAUEARTH™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED