Tasty Places :: La Vida Cantina

Tasty Places :: La Vida Cantina

It is finished. And that means that I’m just beginning again. I finished my half marathon on Sunday and I did so without my knee exploding or falling off. And this means that training for the (full) Los Angeles Marathon is back on. Yay.

Can you feel the enthusiasm?

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I do this. Groan when I’m ailing – bemoaning the pain, jealous of those jogging the parks, the sidewalks as I drive; but lazy, hopelessly tired when well; full of gripes. But if running were easy, I suppose everyone would do it.

A big motivator for these runs – in addition to the heavy medals we get after crossing the finish line – is food. I eat plenty of it while training, and always enjoy a hearty meal after one of these big races. Sunday’s Surf City Marathon was no exception, three of my favorite homies heading to Costa Mesa with me to replenish and refuel after 13.1 grueling miles.

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It was a first half marathon for my friends Sandy (aka the work wife) and Julio, both of whom survived and are hungry for another medal (OC is up next in the Beach Cities Challenge). Our friend Kristina, Julio’s partner Gil (who brought a congratulatory cake from 85 Degrees), and two of our kids met us at our restaurant of refuge, La Vida Cantina at The Triangle. I admit that what kept me going on Sunday was knowing that, eventually, I’d have my lips wrapped ’round a straw, sipping a salty-sweet margarita post-race. Maybe my runner’s high was still kicking in; maybe it was my beloved company; but I have to say that my experience at La Vida was one of the best I’ve had in a while.

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The service was part of this. Perhaps we got lucky, but our waiter (didn’t catch his name) charmed us; treated us to fabulous service. Funny and responsive, he and the rest of the crew made us feel comfortable and welcome.

We also enjoyed the setting, our seats outside The Triangle’s rooftop patio. You can’t beat a SoCal February, the temperature a idyllic 70 degrees. I could have chilled there all afternoon, and probably would have had it not been Super Bowl Sunday and in a hurry to get home (more for the commercials, though I crashed and missed the entire first half). If close to home, La Vida would be a definite “kick it” spot, especially on Sundays for their brunch, the “B” word bringing me to a third reason for my La Vida love…

Their food! Both sumptuous and reasonably priced. Those who know me are aware of my fondness for enchiladas suizas, especially from Los Compadres – all other suizas are compared to theirs. This is what I ordered at La Vida, and I have to say that their version held up pretty well to LC’s; not as creamy but with more fire to them. Don’t know if I can really compare, truthfully. The La Vida suizas certainly satisfied and left me wanting more. And their margarita delighted me; made me forget about my heavy fatigue, my pain (while not acute as it had been, my knee still gave me a little trouble). Lesson learned here, La Vida Cantina is a wonderful go-to spot after a race, and anytime. If it weren’t so far away, I’d designate it as my crashing spot after LA. I have a feeling however that, after 26 miles, I will stop, drop, and eat at the first alcohol-serving hole-in-the-wall I’m able to find near the finish line. But thank you, La Vida Cantina, for treating us to a wonderful time after Surf City!

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La Vida Cantina
1870 Harbor Blvd. in Costa Mesa

Tasty Places :: Boudin Bakery

Tasty Places :: Boudin Bakery

It’s a wonder I haven’t written up this place before. I’m a regular here. This is my place. I eat here morning, midday, and evening. Only the staff here doesn’t know it. And that’s because I live some 300 miles plus away from Stockton’s Boudin Bakery. When I visit my hometown in the summer and during the holidays, however, I stack up the visits, making up for the many days I’m too far away to stop in for cookies or a tangy, nutty salad or hearty sandwich, along with a cup of coffee (they serve Peet’s). image It’s the morning of New Year’s Eve, my 4th of six official vacation days, mixed in with two holidays, which equals a week and a half-long break from work. I’d planned to spend my vacation in many a coffee shop and cafe, filling up page after page of verse, making much progress on short stories and a new novel and several essays in various degrees of incompletion. Instead, I was stricken with a shrewd bout of sinusitis – an ailment that tricks you into thinking you just have a cold or allergies, and after a few days rest convinces you you’re feeling better, only to yank you back down into idle days in bed, the lethargy and pain so bad that it kills you just to pick up the remote to switch the channel once Live with Kelly & Michael ends, forcing the voices of Whoopie and now two different Rosies (when did Perez join The View) into your hazy nap dreams. Now firmly on Day 3 of my antibiotic regimen, I finally got myself up to write, to sip, and to eat, well rested and feeling closer to normal after one night on my parents’ sofa bed, snuggled deep into several layers of covers since the dryness of the heater causes the fragile little blood vessels in my nose to bleed. All this to say, I got to my happy place this morning. imageimage Yes, give me a plate of French Toast and potatoes served alongside a cup ‘a joe, and I’m a happy gal. Drop off a notebook and a pen, and I can keep myself busy for hours (I’d similarly be sated if one were to leave me in a room full of Star Wars Legos). What finally got me up out of my booth seat was the burden of errands I needed to complete today – taking my mom to the AT&T store, and grabbing fabric from JoAnn’s. Oh, life. But I did get some writing done, after eating of course. I always take pictures of my food at its most pristine, but thought I’d take some shots of my table when I’m in the trenches – first I separate (gotta get rid of the blueberries since I’m allergic, then I set aside the remaining berries because I like them cold; and then I like to cut up the toast all at once rather than as I go to expedite the eating part), then savor (although today, with all the photos – DSLR and then IPhone, then all the separating and arranging, my toast had reached an internal temperature of negative five by the time I stuck my fork into it), then push back the leftovers to write along with a refill of coffee. imageimage I’m lucky to have offices away from home such as these, the sounds of the real regulars laughing as they played some sort of game; the smell of simmering clam chowder, some folks already ordering bread bowls of it so early in the morning. Boudin is my kind of place, with tasty options, friendly staff, and a chill vibe. There are actually locations a bit closer to home – including a store that I always walk past on my way to Nordstrom Rack in Costa Mesa – but logistically the Stockton one might just be easier to get to on a regular basis (have you ever tried to find parking at Metro Pointe?!). And it’s home – even though I’m only in town two or three times a year, the same lady takes my order, the same lady offers me water while I’m waiting on my to go order. image So tomorrow and the next day and the one after that, don’t be surprised to see “diateit” Instagram posts of chowder and flourless peanut butter cookies and chicken pesto sandwiches. Boudin SF 5616 Pacific Avenue in Stockton and other locations

Ladies Who Dine :: Taco Asylum

Ladies Who Dine :: Taco Asylum

If the name didn’t clue you in, the choices at Taco Asylum are quite demented. It’s a place my fellow LWDer Sandy has been chatting up since it opened back in 2011, though her fear of the menu kept her from trying, with options back then for tacos stuffed with grilled octopus, lamb, beef heart, curried paneer, and duck. While perhaps gourmet, I wasn’t interested – those unusual fillings did not get me hankering.

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Enter Summer 2014, an adventurous and tasty summer for a more courageous me. It was William’s pick for our August outing, one that he did not seize, instead over-analyzing, debating, second-guessing. As Sandy and I mused aloud as an assist to him, Sandy again threw out the idea of Taco Asylum. Remembering their menu, I didn’t immediately co-sign her suggestion, giving instead a non-committed maybe, determined to come up with a better pick for William when I had some Googling time. But at some point, I thought it might be fun to look up Asylum’s menu to see what had had me so scared of this place years before.

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To my surprise, I found that TA had had a change. The duck taco was still there, and too was the paneer, but there’d been additions. Playful, less intimidating tacos, like the Bacon PB & J with carrot ginger jam; or the Fried Chicken with a watermelon-feta salad and a Fresno chile hot sauce. Although my palate has come a long way in the last couple of years, their new menu was just my speed. So it was only then that I seconded Sandy’s idea for William’s choice (basically, he let us wrestle his choice away from him), and the rest was history.

With five us us there, we were able to order plenty of tacos and several mixings of flavors, textures, and heat. The Banh Mi was tangy and citrusy, the Wasabi Shrimp surprisingly (at least to me – I didn’t read the description first) luscious and sweet to temper the heat of the wasabi, I suppose. But it was the chile sauce from the Fried Chicken taco that, while perfectly unctuous and flavorful, got me sweaty, caused me to chug down my ice water faster than I did┬ámy chilled cider.

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Speaking of hot, William ordered the Firepig, a Ghost chile-braised pork taco that comes with a warning to its consumers. He told us his reddening skin was due to his beer, blaming his ethnicity; but I think it was the taco, which he said was pretty darn spicy. Torrid.

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My favorite taco of the night was the BBQ Chicken, with peach salsa and scallions. It was initially forgotten by the kitchen so I had to wait for it, but that turned out to be a good thing as it was served fresh and steamy. There was a slight crispiness to the chicken that I really appreciated and the sweetly acrid sauce made me dance in my seat. Full as I was, that taco went down in a couple-few minutes. Next time I’m in the neighborhood, I’ll surely pick up another one. Or seven if my husband’s treating.

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So our last LWD outing of the summer ended with a fiery bang wrapped inside a toasty flour tortilla. And a little bit of shopping, thanks to all the boutiques at The Camp, where Taco Asylum lives. Hope your summer’s been as tasty as ours.

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Taco Asylum
at The Camp, 3947 S. Bristol St. in Costa Mesa

What we tried:
Bacon PB&J
Banh Mi
Meat & Potatoes
The Shortrib
Fried Chicken
Firepig
Shrimp Pad Thai
BBQ Chicken
Paneer (Indian Style Cheese)
Mushrooms and Brie

Corn Off the Cob
Brave Potatoes