Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Restaurant Review: Burma Superstar

During Thanksgiving break, we went to the city (San Francisco) on Friday (yes, the day after Thanksgiving) to eat some more. :) I had always wanted to check out Burma Superstar and was glad that we were able to finally try this restaurant. We came a little early around 11:30 AM to beat the lunch hour rush and were seated immediately. The restaurant was a little small, and the tables were pretty close together. It was quite nice though for an Asian restaurant, and prices were slightly more expensive than a typical Asian restaurant.

The best way for me to define Burmese food is that it is a combination of Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian. There's a lot of noodle dishes and curries on the menu. Some of the dishes looked very familiar while some looked very foreign.

We chose the following for our lunch. Here's the description from the restaurant's website.

Platha and Dip 
Multi layered bread served with a coconut chicken curry sauce

Tea Leaf Salad
Featured on Food Network. Yes, we really do go to Burma to get the tea for this salad, and it's worth the trip. With textures from fried garlic, peanuts

Nan Pia Dok
Flat flour noodles with a chicken coconut curry sauce, string beans, split yellow pea, cabbage, and chilis

The Platha and dip is a thicker version of Roti Prata, and the curry is on the sweeter side and a little thicker than what we're used to, but still very delicious. I LOVED the thick Platha. It was very doughy and chewy on the inside, and slightly crunchy on the outside. The combination with the curry sauce was marvelous!

Platha and Dip

Sorry for the blurry tea leaf salad picture. :p Anyways, this dish was probably the most popular dish in the restaurant. Almost every table ordered it. It's basically lettuce with flavorful tea leaf, tomatoes, various kinds of peanuts, and garlic chips--mixed together with lemon juice. It was very light and refreshing, and we loved the various crunchy texture from all the different nuts.

Tea leaf salad

For our main course, our waiter recommended the Nan Pia Dok. It's a flat noodle dish with chicken, curry, and fried crisps and shallots. YUM! The curry tasted very similar to the one that accompanied the Platha roti.

Nan Pia Dok
We really enjoyed our meal at Burma Superstar and would definitely return. One more thing to mention, the service was pretty attentive, and all the waiters were really friendly (which is not usually the case for Asian restaurants), so another high mark for Burma Superstar!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Palm Springs Weekend Getaway

I had never been to Palm Springs before, while Dan has gone a couple times a year (before we were married) with his BFF. So when we were faced with expiring hotel voucher coupons, we decided to go to Palm Springs as our destination!

Palm Springs is famous for their golf courses, spas, and shopping. It is also famous among older people (we saw a lot of nursing homes), probably due to the mild weather (at least in the winter time). The greater Palm Springs area included Rancho Mirage, La Quinta, Indian Wells, etc. When driving around, we noticed that the buildings in Palm Springs were older, and there were no tall buildings at all. In the downtown area, almost everything was 1-2 stories high. There's almost no new construction, so the whole area felt like an older town. The surrounding areas were actually quite new, and in a way, a little nicer.

Palm Springs

Day 1: Getting to Palm Springs & the Riviera Palm Springs Hotel

We arrived REALLY late on Friday night, like midnight, so by the time we got to the hotel, we were really tired. Since we flew Southwest Airlines, we actually flew into Ontario airport, which was about a 1 hour drive away from Palm Springs proper. For this trip, we actually succeeded in not checking in our luggage. It's been too long since we did not have any checked luggage, and it actually felt good not having to wait for our luggage, especially since we arrived really late! I made a mental note to TRY and not check our luggage for short trips like this.

We stayed at the Riviera Palm Springs, which was an older hotel but has been nicely renovated. I actually liked the retro decor throughout the hotel. As I previously mentioned, most buildings in the Palm Springs area were older, including our hotel. They did a really good job with the renovation though.

Bright, modern lobby
Upstairs lobby area

Our bedroom was a little bit on the small size, but the retro-chic decoration made up for it. The bed was HUGE and there's a flat screen TV as well as a small refrigerator. We were in building 7, which was towards the back of the building. We self parked which actually turned out better since there was parking close to our building. Valet would have otherwise cost $20/day. One thing to note, in addition to valet (if you choose to do so), the resort charges a daily resort fee of $26 in addition to the room rate--something to keep in mind.

Retro style bedroom decor
Good sized room

The bathroom area was also on the smaller side, with a tub and no separate shower. But it had been nicely renovated, although the tub started to show some sign of aging.

Bathroom was a little small but in pretty good condition
Another view of the bathroom
The hallway does look a little old

Day 2: Biking, Potato Salad, Spaetzle & Schweddy Balls!

Since we got in really late the night before, we woke up a little later and ate breakfast at the hotel. We shared the breakfast flatbread and the pancake. The flatbread was quite yummy. It was scrambled eggs & canadian bacon, over flatbread, topped with hollandaise sauce. It reminded us of Eggs Benedict. When it came, it was served with these potato balls, which Dan thought was similar to Gregoire's fried potato balls (which has the BEST creamy potato balls you can imagine) - but, it turned out to be just a regular potato, not Gregoire's version. :p

Yummy breakfast flatbread
So-so pancake
We sat next to the fire pit since it was a little chilly!

We wanted a nice, relaxing weekend, so I didn't over plan on activities! Palm Springs is known for golf/spa and shopping. Since I don't golf, we nixed that option. I would have loved to do a spa day but finally decided against it since we already had a spa day planned for my upcoming birthday. When researching, one of the top activities on Trip Advisor for Palm Springs is biking.We found a highly recommended bike rental place called Bike Palm Springs. We went there and there was a BIG group in front of us (10+ people), so we ended up having to wait for a while before we could get our bikes.

Bike rental place

The bikes that they had were all in really good condition--probably the nicest bike rental conditions that we've seen. We were really happy with our bikes, and we chose the upgraded one with the hand brakes (vs. the manual back-pedal brake). The bike rental owners gave us a map and showed us the trail that we could go on. I was happy to hear that it's FLAT in Palm Springs. :) After our previous biking trips to Golden Gate and Angel Island, it was nice to know that this bike ride would be much easier!

Our trail

We were unable to find the Coachella trail that the owner suggested, which was supposed to be nice since it would be a dedicated bike lane. So we ended up doing the Tahquitz Canyon loop, which was nice, but there were some busy roads involved.

Taking a break to take picture!

We ended up biking for around 2-3 hours, and towards the end Dan was ready for lunch! We rewarded ourselves with burgers! Ha ha. I found this place on Yelp called Tyler's Burger which was supposed to have the best potato salad! and really good burgers of course. We went around 2 PM and there was still a line. We managed to snag the last potato salad of the day (yay) and it was really good! Most potato salads are too mayonnaise-y, but theirs was mostly potato with the right amount of mayonnaise and a slight crunch from the celery.

Delicious potato salad

We waited a while for our burgers since the restaurant was pretty crowded. We started of eating our potato salad, and finally the burgers arrived. They were definitely good, although not the best that we've had.

Tyler's Burger

After lunch, we planned on relaxing at the pool and swim for a little bit. Unfortunately, the weather was getting chilly, and we were not brave enough to swim (although the pool seemed to be somewhat heated). So we ended up taking a nap at the pool and then got ready for dinner!

Nice pool area! Too bad it was too cold!

A friend of ours recommend Johannes for dinner. The restaurant was located in the downtown area, close by to where the burger place was. The vibe of the restaurant was pretty trendy and somewhat more upscale. Their menu was interesting since they had Spaetzle and Wiener Schnitzel, which made us thought that this was a German restaurant, although the rest of the menu didn't look German-ish. I later found out the chef is Austrian, so it all made sense afterwards.

Cheese Spaetzle! One of my favorite dishes!!

We ordered a salad appetizer and the cheese spaetzle. Oh my gosh, the cheese spaetzle was sooo good! It's probably one of the best dishes I've had in a while. It tasted somewhat like a macaroni and cheese, but a more sophisticated version, and the combination of the spaetzle and the crunchy onion rings worked so well! I basically finished the whole "appetizer" and gave Dan only a couple bites...:p

Crispy Duck

By the time our main entree came, we were almost full from the salad & the spaetzle. I could only take a couple bites of my crispy duck, which was excellent. Dan finished half of his schnitzle before giving up.

Wiener Schnitzel

When we were walking to the restaurant, we passed by Ben & Jerrys and noticed that they carried the infamous Schweddy Balls ice cream. If you haven't seen the Saturday Night Live's segment on Schweddy Balls, you can watch it here. Dan was really excited to finally find it, so we came back after dinner for our ice cream fix!


The ice cream itself is vanilla with a hint of rum, rum chocolate balls and malt balls. It actually tasted pretty good! Dan said this was one of the highlightsof the trip for him. :)

Dan was so happy!

Day 3: Cheeky's Breakfast, Southwest Church & Aerial Tramway

We had breakfast at Cheeky's, which was quite popular it seemed like. We got there around 9 AM and got seated immediately. A line started forming about 10 minutes after we arrived.

Famous breakfast place

Apparently the menu at Cheeky's changes weekly, and they serve organic/locally sourced ingredients when possible. When ordering breakfast/brunch, we always try to order 1 savory and 1 sweet to balance it out. This time, we ordered their Custard egg with homemade sausage and cheesy biscuit for Dan, and the Waffle with banana and nutella for me.

Custard egg, home made sausage, and cheesy biscuit
Nutella Waffle

Food was pretty good. The ingredients tasted very fresh, and I've never had sausage that doesn't taste frozen. This sausage taste almost like a hamburger. The biscuit was wonderful, and I loved the consistency of the egg scramble. The banana nutella was pretty good, but it taste almost exactly like you would imagine, nothing out of this world. :p

After breakfast, we stopped by the Southwest Church in Indian Wells for a quick Sunday service. Dan usually visits this church whenever he's down here. After service, we went for a quick bite at Bouchee. They are famous for their grilled artichoke & gruyere panini, so that's what we ordered.

Grilled artichoke & gruyere panini at Bouchee

After lunch, we had a couple hours to kill since our flight wasn't until later that evening. I wanted to check the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, since it's listed as the #1 attraction on Trip Advisor. Dan reluctantly agreed. :p From the main entrance, we drove in for about 2-3 miles. And at this point I could tell that we are already at a higher elevation. We parked our car and walked to the main building. This walk was actually quite tiring, maybe because I'm out of shape. :(

Parking area

The tram runs every 15 minutes and costs $23.95 per person. The floor of the tram actually rotates so passengers get a well rounded view of the area. The journey up the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon was about a 10 minute ride from the Valley Station – elevation 2,643 ft. – and ending at the Mountain Station – elevation 8,516 ft.

Our tram
Inside the tramway

By the time we got to the Mountain Station, we could tell that the temperature dropped by about 30 degrees. There was actually snow up in the mountains. The mountain area is actually a state park, and in the summer, you can go camping, hiking, picnic, etc. In the winter, you can do winter activities (snowshoeing, skiing).

It's snowing!

Originally we wanted to walk around a bit, but the 40 degree weather was too cold for us since we didn't really come prepared.

The wilderness area

In the end, we're glad we went, but probably we won't go back to this attraction. I can see how it would be a nice trip for families who live around Palm Springs to take their kids to see snow by just riding up the tramway.


The Palm Springs area was surprisingly a lot smaller and the buildings were much older than I originally imagined. The majority of the people we see were older couples or gay couples.

Palm Springs itself was quite small, and unless you are really into golf/spas, there really isn't much else to do. If we go back, I would probably make it into a spa trip.

As usual, our trip revolved around food. :) Some of our food highlights from the trip:
  • Potato salad from Tyler's Burger: this was truly the best potato salad we've had. But then again, it's still just a potato salad, so don't expect too much! :D
  • Cheese spaetzle from Johannes: I would say this was one of the best dishes I've had in a while....I would go back to Palm Springs just to eat this.
  • Schweddy Balls from Ben & Jerry: Since Dan had been looking for this ice cream for a while, he was so ecstatic to finally find it. And it actually tasted pretty good!
Until next time....

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pismo Beach Girls Trip

I went with 3 of my girlfriends to the Central Coast area for a bridal shower/bachelorette party weekend getaway. We chose Pismo Beach area since it's pretty close by, and there seemed to be a lot of things to do around the area. We ended up not doing much other than eat and walk around during our trip though. :)

Day 1

Our adventure started on Friday when we drove down - the drive was around 3.5 hours. We stopped for dinner at a restaurant called Villa Creek in Paso Robles. Dinner was pretty good, a little bit on the pricey side (considering the area). Downtown Paso Robles was really small, although surprisingly very crowded. Parking was a bit hard to find, and we were surprised considering how small the town is and it didn't seem to be such a "happening" town.
Butternut Squash Enchiladas, Vegetable Succotash and Refried Black Beans
Boneless Grass Fed Short Ribs, sage gnocchi, chanterelle mushroom, french onion cream
Fig tart with vanilla ice cream

After dinner, we drove down to Pismo Beach, where we would be spending 2 nights. We booked an Ocean Front Deluxe room at the Sea Crest Inn - which was one of the higher room categories at this Inn. My first impression of the hotel was that it looked like an older renovated inn. The main building was 2 stories high, and the lobby area was nicely renovated, although quite small. We arrived really late and the hotel actually called us during dinner to confirm that we were still coming. The receptionist told us that our room had one of the best views. The room was pretty big and looked newly renovated. The size was surprisingly pretty big - definitely big enough for the 4 of us. The view was wonderful (especially in the morning)...and we could hear the waves crashing at night.

Sea Crest Inn
Small lobby area
Newly renovated room

Day 2

We woke up and strolled down to the breakfast area since it was included in the room rate. Breakfast was pretty basic (english muffin, bagel, cereal, juice). We only had a little bit since we knew we were headed to the Old West Cinnamon Rolls for a 2nd round of breakfast. :)

The weather was really cold that day, even though it was sunny. Originally we planned on spending some time at the beach/pool, but none of us felt like it due to the weather.

Beautiful view from our balcony

Us in front of the Cinnamon roll store

The Old West Cinnamon Rolls store is definitely a local favorite. There was a little bit of a line when we went but it moved pretty fast. There were cinnamon rolls being rolled in the store, cut into perfect sizes, and baked to perfection. The baked rolls were on display, and we decided to split 2 rolls among the 4 of us. We ordered the original with cream cheese on the side, as well as the walnut cinnamon rolls. They were both sooo delicious! Very gooey and just the right amount of sweetness!

Yummy original cinnamon roll with cream cheese icing on the side
My favorite: walnut cinnamon roll

Next stop was downtown San Luis Obispo. The downtown area was pretty nice, definitely bigger than downtown Pismo Beach area. There were lots of unique mom & pop stores, as well as chain stores (Sephora, Barnes & Noble, Gap). We accidentally stumbled upon the "Bubblegum Alley" - I previously read about it but didn't know where it was exactly. We're glad we found it, although it definitely was a little gross. :p

Downtown SLO and Bubblegum Alley

After walking around downtown for a bit, what else was there to do but eat??? A friend recommended Firestone Grill which supposedly has a really good tri-tip sandwich. When we got to Firestone grill, the line was already out the door. We ordered the tri-tip sandwich, pulled pork sandwich, a side of fries, and a side of onion rings.  The tri-tip sandwich was really good, definitely one of the better ones in California. Although I'm still slightly biased towards Texas BBQ and sandwiches--my all time favorite is still Rudy's BBQ in Austin.

Firestone Grill - before
Firestone Grill - After

After lunch, we wanted to do an afternoon activity and originally planned to go to Hearst Castle. Unfortunately, by the time we left San Luis Obispo, there were no longer tours available after 3:30 PM (we didn't know that the last tour ended at 3:30 PM). So, we reverted to Plan B which was to visit Solvaing, a cute Danish town about 1 hour south of San Luis Obispo.

I had previously been to Solvang and remembered it as a cute, small town. There really isn't much to do in Solvang other than to walk around and pretend you are in Europe. :) Wine tasting appeared to be pretty popular here too, although we didn't do it.

Solvang - Danish Town

We drove back to Pismo Beach area, grabbed dinner to go from Rosa's (delicious Italian food), and then went back to our inn room for the Bachelorette party. Don't worry, we didn't do anything too crazy, but I won't blog about what we did here. :)

Day 3

We all woke up late and ended up skipping breakfast. After checking out from our hotel, we made a quick stop to the Cinnamon roll store to buy some to bring home. Next stop was Splash cafe for lunch. They are famous for their clam chowder. We ordered one with extra seafood ($1.00 extra, but definitely worth it). The unique thing about this place is that they toast the bun, which made it even more delicious! This was probably the best clam chowder I've had.

the best clam chowder at Splash Cafe

After lunch, we walked towards the Pismo Beach pier, but didn't last long since it was really cold! The Pismo Beach area reminded me of Santa Cruz.... lots of surf store, a little "dirty", probably not one of my favorite beach towns. :p

Pismo Pier
On our drive back home, we stopped by Avila Farms, which was a quaint farm with several caged animals and a small market. We were too full to try their corn but did save room for some home made ice cream.

Avila Farms

We had a great time in the Central Coast. It was definitely a great destination since there were quite a few things to do around the area. If you are considering visiting the Central Coast, there are several areas to visit nearby, which made this a pretty good destination - and it is halfway between SF and LA if you are driving down the route.

Activities wise, there are actually a lot to do in the area, contrary to what we did--just walked around and ate--which is not bad in itself. :p
  • Paso Robles - wine tasting, hot air balloon tour
  • San Luis Obispo - downtown, mission, bubble gum alley
  • Morro Bay - kayaking
  • Pismo Beach - ATV
  • Avila Beach - water activities
  • Solvang - Danish town
  • Santa Barbara - wineries & beach town
Some food highlights from our trip (thanks to my friend, Pat, for recommendations):
  • Walnut cinnamon roll with cream cheese icing at Old West Cinnamon Rolls
  • Tri tip sandwich at Firestone grill
  • Clam chowder with extra seafood at Splash cafe
Overall it was a fun girls trip - although it was a little different to be traveling without Dan :p