Beer Tasting in Paso Robles (Firestone Walker and BarrelHouse Brewing Company)

When it clocks in at 100 degrees in Paso Robles, you tend to stay in with the air conditioning blasting on, but not today. My cousin and I decided to change up the scene by skipping wineries and going to have a ice cold refreshing beer instead. We were on our way to Morro Bay, but we glanced over at Firestone Brewery and decided to check out the “Tap Room” In a casual conversation the other day, she mentioned that there have been a lot of cars parked around the “Tap Room” so there must be a big buzz about it.


Ambience: We walked in and I was taken aback by the industrial feel of the place. The inside space was super modern and clean with a lot of cool metal work. To the left of the door entrance was a bar with several booths and plenty of bar top tables. If you look up towards the ceiling, there is a conveyer belt moving with several beer bottles in motion. Super cool if you ask me! I should have taken a picture or video, I regret that! Will do it next time I go sometime this week. Also inside the restaurant space, we noticed that the design included kegs that were sliced in half and were designed into the wall. The kegs also had taps still included on them. There were lots of  Firestone Walker signs and advertisement posters. There was also a few pieces of artwork showing the beautiful landscape of Paso’s Wine country. I also really like their logo with a bear and lion. The bear and lion reminded me of some of the beer halls that I visited in Germany.


Lunch: There lunch menu is not overwhelming which made selection much easier. Some of the selections were: burger with fries,  margherita pizza, bbq brisket sandwich, fish and chips, fish tacos, cobb salad etc. Something enticing like a maple bacon grilled cheese sandwich caught our eye, but I’m sure the calorie count was not favorable. I saw some other tables nibbling on some gorgeous looking onion rings. They looked like they were fried with panko bread crumbs. I also saw someone eating a calzone, so there is a great selection for everyone with all kinds of different appetites. As we talked to our friendly server, she mentioned that there is a dinner menu and a dessert menu. She was kind enough to drop off the menu for us so that we could salivate over their dinner menu.

Beer: Of course, this is a brewery and what kind of visit would this be if you didn’t order a beer? We asked for recommendations from our lovely server. She recommended the Walker’s Reserve and also the Double DBA. There was also an unfiltered Double DBA. I loved how they served the beers in the proper glasses. The Walker’s Reserve was served in a tulip glass and my 16 oz “805” glass had a “FW” for Firestone Walker etched on the bottom. As I was finishing my crisp and refreshing “805” my eyes saw a sparkling etching at the bottom of my glass and it was a special eye treat for me which I appreciated. Of course there are many other beers to choose from, but that is for you to go and experience. They do sell out, so don’t hesitate. You can always walk across the street and go to Firestone’s Tasting Room. Lots of cool merchandise to buy with great logos and designs on their t-shirts. Click here for Firestone Walker Merchandise. 

Verdict: Great place to visit! Family friendly as well. Nice and spacious and very clean. Moderate prices, but nothing that will break the bank. Happy to see this place in Paso Robles. I will definitely be going back there to try out their organic fuji apple cobbler.

BarrelHouse Brewing Company

My cousin also mentioned for us to go check out this cute little brewery off of Limestone Way. She mentioned that they had some gardens. This brewery is located in a small industrial area right off of the freeway. As you approach it, you’ll see red cloth umbrellas and some grass patches. There were several picnic tables outside accompanied with multi-colored plastic chairs.




They open at 2:00 PM on Wednesday and Thursdays and we arrived at 1:52 P.M. The owner happened to be walking by and let us in early. Immediately upon entering, you could smell the fresh hops and grains doing its magic for a fresh batch of stout. It was rather warm inside the brewery because they were just finishing up some beer making and there was no air conditioning. The kind lady at the beer counter welcomed us and told us where to sit for some fan action and some local breezes. We ordered a $10 beer flight and a $5 Kolsh beer (light crisp beer).


We were the first guests so we had plenty of room. Since it is an industrial space, you can bring your own food. On Fridays and Saturdays, the trendy food trucks come for a visit.


The lady serving us beer was super nice, friendly and made sure that she greeted every customer that came in. She was very observant about people’s beers and made sure that everyone was content. It was too hot to go outside, so we stayed inside and camped out barstool style. She talked about the BarrelHouse hosting concerts and many events. The place felt super casual, chill and relaxing.


So if you want a little break from wine, go check out some local beer spots. Guaranteed you will have fun!




Little Tokyo Los Angeles

My mom had to renew her passport so we went for an adventure in Little Tokyo.

Lunch: The Curry House. We miss this place terribly. We had a location in Convoy, but they closed. They serve lots of curry dishes that you would typically find in Japan. Omrice, which is an omelet with fixings of rice and topped off with some Japanese curry. They serve hamburg, which is a Japanese hamburger patty that is served with a side salad, and corn pottage. I usually get the chicken curry set. It comes with rice, curry with chicken, corn pottage and a salad. I love their tropical iced tea, but most people order the green iced tea.

Tonkatsu Curry set. Tonkatsu is breaded pork cutlet. Just watch the calories on this one

Weller Court: After we had a reminiscent Japanese curry lunch at the Curry House, we walked to Onizuka Street. In case you are not familiar with with the last name, Onizuka street was named after Ellison Shoji Onizuka, the astronaut from Hawaii that lost his life in the Challenger explosion back in the 80’s. I remember being a little kid going to the multipurpose room to watch the Challenger take off into space, only to see the Challenger explode. Us little kids were confused and were quickly asked to leave the multipurpose rooms to go back to our classes. I remember Christa McCauliffe being one of the first school teachers to go up in the Challenger. As for Ellison Shoji Onizuka, he was one of the first Japanese Americans to go up into space. He had been to space before, but his second expedition did not serve him well. The Japanese American Community made a memorial street for him in Little Tokyo.

Go check out Kinokuniya Book Store in Little Tokyo. If you are looking for books like Japanese folk tales, anime, manga, how to learn origami or Japanese cook books this is the place to go. Be prepared to shell out a little more money, but these are books that are difficult to find. They also sell cute stationery items and various types of Japanese gifts.

While you are in Little Tokyo, also go check out the various shops around. You can find your signature Hello Kitty Items along with fake samurai swords, chopsticks, Japanese dishes, Japanese festival wear and crazy t-shirts. Walk around to find a few bargains. Most all of the shops carry the same type of souvenirs, so focus that bargain eye of yours.

So the locals say that Daikokuya has the best Japanese ramen. The only way I discovered this place is when my mom and I stayed in Little Tokyo. We saw a line that was at least an hour, so we waited. The interior felt like a Japanese diner for ramen. The hipsters were definitely showing up in their trendy clothes and we knew that there would be good food here.

My favorite type of ramen. Chashume Ramen. Chashume is the small pork cutlets that are placed in your ramen.

Coffee: When you get tired, go check out a place for coffee. I yelped this one: Demitasse Coffee Shop. It’s on the corner of Onizuka Street. If you like good coffee, then this is the place to go. This place fits the bill of serving designer coffee in small setting that reminds me of Europe. The Japanese are coffee snobs, so it seems appropriate that it is located in Little Tokyo. What I love about this place is that there is a coffee bar. I saw at least 5 customers come in, sit down, bust open their newspapers, sip their coffee, talk to the coffee barista and then leave to go back to work. My mom and I sat on a couch, relaxed and rested.

Demitasse Latte

Coffee Bar

Japanese American National Museum: I didn’t get to go this time, but I used to work there. Go check out this museum because it is essential to the community of Little Tokyo. The presence of the museum serves a great deal for the community in Little Tokyo and for the outer community of Japanese Americans. To make a long story short in history, the Japanese Americans lived in this area and thrived in the 1920’s-1940’s. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, there was intense racism and prejudice that ran through Japanese American communities. In the U.S. Japanese Americans were forced to go to internment camps. The once bustling community of Little Tokyo was taken over by African Americans and became a pretty popular jazz community. After internment camps were closed by the government, the Japanese Americans wanted so bad to come back to their beloved community. They fought blood, sweat and tears to gain back their community and took some legal issues to court. They won and received Redress and were given $20,000 for their their losses in WWII. Each Japanese American family received money from the government, but most decided to help their kids with education or gave their money to help educate people about the injustice that took place. The lessons that I learned from Internment camp survivors will forever be etched into my brain. I met some amazing people and worked with them.

Of course there are so many other things to see and do, but give it 1/2 a day to go and explore Little Tokyo. Other places in Los Angeles to go check out are Sawtelle Street and Torrance for a good Japanese experience. Matta Ne! (translates to again, some other time)

Before you head home: Grab some Japanese groceries at Marukai or Nijiya. These two grocery stores have all the Japanese essentials from dashi (Japanese fish sauce), goma (sesame seeds), shoyu (soysauce), rice crackers, various Japanese produce to rice cookers, tofu, natto (fermented soy beans). I know that a lot of people are really into mochi ice cream and you can find many different varieties.

Henna Hands

One of the joys of teaching my students is when they teach me about culture! One of my students came to talk to me about a topic that we covered in class. As we got to talking, my eyes automatically gravitated towards her hands. What did I see? HENNA!

What is Henna? It is a plant that has been used for centuries to dye skin, fingernails, cloth etc. In America, we see henna once in awhile at street fairs and festivals. I often talk and discuss henna in class when I lecture on the Middle East or India. The student beat me to my lecture.

Just from common knowledge and from speaking with others, henna is used a lot in Egyptian culture, in Persian culture, India and a few other Southeast Asian countries. Personally, I have only encountered henna from my Indian students and friends. My friends have talked about how henna is heavily used in Indian weddings. A couple of my students have even brought back authentic henna from India that supposedly stays on MUCH LONGER (months) as opposed to weeks.

The holiday known as Karva Chauth just happened a few days ago (November 2nd) The date coincides with harvest times which happens to be about 4 days after a full moon around October and November. Hindu or Sikh women will fast for their husbands. To me this gesture is very romantic. They fast as a way to show their dedication and loyalty to their husbands. I believe they also pray for a long marriage and a prosperous marriage. When the moon comes up, a full feast is shared between husband and wife. My student told me that a lot of single women will do this for a future husband or significant other. Henna hands also become part of the festivities.


The picture shown is from both hands of my student that I currently teach. She gave me permission to photograph her hands. I wanted to share this with others. Look at the beauty and detail in the henna designs. Truly a beautiful display of art on the hands.

For those of you interested in this type of art, you can get your own hands henna’d. Look for your local Indian community. In San Diego, the location happens to be right off of Black Mountain Road. They have a shop that sells Saris (Traditional Indian Dresses) They henna hands for $20 and up.

Try :Little India Center
Black Mountain Rd,
San Diego, CA 92126

Great Breakfast in La Jolla: The Cottage: San Diego

For all of you serious breakfast eaters, looking for great breakfast spots is critical. My boyfriend and I judge breakfast joints by their bacon. I also judge a breakfast joint by their pancakes and fresh fruit. The Cottage in La Jolla is one of the best breakfast spots in San Diego!

The Cottage in La Jolla


By far, you cannot go wrong with this place. I honestly don’t think I have ever heard a single complaint about this place, except for the wait. I have been living in La Jolla for almost 8 years and this is my “GO TO” spot. It’s a cute cottage that has a Cape Code feel about it. There is outdoor patio seating and I would say that it seats about 40-60 customers if completely filled. There are booths,   2 tops and several 4 tops that can be combined for parties of 5 or more. When the weather is gorgeous outside like it has been this whole summer, it is bumping with business. Their portions are good sized and the ingredients are fresh. They usually have complimentary coffee, and some coffee cake for people who are eagerly waiting for a seat. There are a few benches in front of the restaurant to sit down and wait. If you are going to have breakfast here, after 9:00 A.M. you are most certainly going to wait and if the weather is great, you could wait for 30 minutes or more. If you are an early bird, come here at 7:30 A.M. when they open, you’ll get a table within seconds. Even by 8:00 A.M. you should have a prime seat. They have indoor seating if the weather is cold, rainy or if you just prefer to be indoors.


I highly recommend their fruit bowl. It runs about $8.95 and is filled with luscious strawberries, fresh bananas, tangy blueberries, sweet pineapple, firm grapes and delicious creme fraiche. I swear I could drink the creme fraiche by itself it is so fantastic! The fruit bowl can be easily shared with 3 people. When my mom and I ordered the fruit bowl the other day, we asked for a to go box and took it to the beach with us for later.

Source: (This pic of the fruit bowl is missing the creme fraiche in the middle. Served in a ramikin)

Their iced tea is super refreshing. It’s more of a tropical iced tea if you are the traditionalist. Before I leave, I ask for an iced tea to go. They garnish them with oranges.

Source: (Refreshing Iced Tea at the Cottage)

Their french toast is a major talked about item on the menu. I have ordered it only a couple times because the portion is SO BIG! You can order a 1/2 portion, just ask your server. It’s a stuffed french toast and could literally feed an army! This is a perfect breakfast item to split with a hungry friend or loved one! Look at those luscious strawberries and fresh bananas!


Of course, there is always my top recommendation, the fried egg sandwich! It was recommended to me by one of veteran servers at the Cottage. I was always in the habit of ordering the same thing. She broke me out of my mold and got me to order something different. Boy, was I glad I did! This fried egg sandwich has fresh arugula nestled within the sandwich and has thinly sliced red onion that gives it a zest in each bite. The Fried egg is either cooked over easy or over medium and oozes yellow yolk with each bite. Sounds kind of funny, but is SOOOOO GOOOOD! Also featured on this sandwich is lemon aioli, gruyere cheese and apple smoked bacon! The grilled sourdough crunch along with the running egg yolk is a taste of heaven.


Their benedicts and their omelettes are always a favorite with locals and tourists. I have tried their California benedict. When I’m not that hungry, I can order just one benedict and a side of something. It’s a perfect healthy breakfast for someone watching their calories. It never hurts to just ask the servers, who are SUPER NICE!

Source:  (Tuscan Omelette filled with brie, chicken, mushrooms & tomatoes)

If you are the Continental Breakfast type of eater, you can go for something like their pumpkin nut muffin, their delicious sugary crusted top scones, their king kong bran muffin or their delicious steel cut oatmeal with a topping of fruit.

Source: (Steel cut oatmeal topped with walnuts & bananas)

Indulge, unwind and enjoy the beautiful setting of the Cottage while sipping on a crisp and tangy Mimosa! It will make your breakfast even more special.


Other pics to get you on that bicycle or car so that get to the Cottage sooner than ME! Have a great breakfast!


Source: (Benedict)


Of course, after having breakfast, you have to make your way to the cove and check out the beautiful gem like colors of the ocean! Have a great time at the Cottage and in La Jolla!

Parking in Old Town for Jury Duty in San Diego

You walk to your mailbox and BEHOLD…..da da da da……JURY DUTY. It’s that Jury Summons that everyone gets once a year. You won’t see people jumping up and down. You’ll hear rantings and large sighs and the infamous “CRAP!” But its something that we gotta do and here are a couple pieces of good advice to make jury duty more bearable (mostly about parking in San Diego)

If you live north of Old Town, this is for you:

Jury Duty reporting usually is pretty standard and it starts at 7:45 A.M. Factor in possible traffic so I gave myself an hour to play with. You are better off trying to find free parking, unless you like paying $15 or more at the standard parking lots like ACE or AMCO. It can get pricey. I parked at AMCO on the first day downtown located across the Westin and paid $15 for the early bird special. That’s a lunch folks! That would be a 1/2 sandwich, tropical iced tea, a little dollop of potato salad and a cup of soup a the Cottage in La Jolla!

PARK FREE: So by 7:15 A.M. I arrived at the Old Town Trolley Center. If there is something big going on in San Diego, you can bet that the spaces will be filled. But on a Friday at 7:15 A.M. I can honestly say that there were about 100 spaces open. The early commuters had already come for their spots. I wasn’t sure what parking would be like, so I arrived a LOT EARLIER. Make sure you lock up your car and don’t leave anything valuable in the car or leave anything that looks enticing. I’ve heard people getting their cars broken into around Old Town. From Old Town to American Plaza, it takes about 11 minutes. The Time Table for the Trolley to San Ysidro (Blue Line) has all the times for the week. The Blue Line to San Ysidro is the trolley to take and it appeared to run about every 15 minutes.

When you check in for Jury Duty on your first day, make sure you listen for the moment where they pass out the free MTS bus/trolley card, also known as a Compass Card. The Compass Card that gets handed to you in the Jury Waiting Lounge will be titled “Juror”. I used this Compass Card today. You must look for the small “Tap & Ride” stands located close to the pay machine for the Trolley. You literally place the Compass Card on the Compass Circle and on the left, it will tell you “activated”. Make sure it says “activated”, otherwise if you ride on the trolley and they audit, you might have a hefty fine. Was super easy to use & convenient.


Picture of American Plaza 


Make sure you get off at American Plaza. Walk on Broadway towards the Hall of Justice. About a 7-8 minute walk. Flash your Juror Badge and “You’re in!” Hope this saves a few people some $. Have fun at Jury Duty!

The information is below.

Old Town Transit Center  Blue
 Special Event
4009 Taylor St. 412 free spaces + 350 overflow spaces (additional parking at CalTrans at 4050 Taylor St.)

AVID College Trip 2012

We started off in San Diego with about 6 kids. My colleague is AMAZING! She planned the whole trip and asked if I could help chaperone and keep company! She arranged the whole thing from the hotel rooms, to rental cars, to meeting up with students at certain colleges etc. She planned out times and everything to ensure that we would meet up with students and also see all of the colleges. I have now been two times with her and her AVID students and it has been life changing!


Get in the car right after school and book it up from San Diego to San Francisco! Super Ambitious! First stop, BERKELEY!

ARRIVAL in Oakland: 2:00 AM. Driver and I, super tired! What kept us up? Listening to tunes like Lady Gaga while the kids were sleeping in the back part of the mini-van.

  1.  Day 1: University of California Berkeley
  2. Day 1: USF (University San Francisco)
  3.  Day 1: San Francisco State University
  4.  Day 1: UC Santa Cruz
  5. Day 1: Cal State Monterrey Bay
  6. Day 1: Stanford University
  7. Day 2: Santa Clara University
  8. Day 3: UC Santa Barbara
  9. Day 3: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
  10. Day 3: Cal State Dominguez Hills
  11. Day 3: Pepperdine University
  12. Day 3: Chapman University
Recommended Hotel that is cheap and reliable. I have stayed here almost every year. It’s close to University and Shattuck. QUALITY INN
They have always been super nice to us and we have made sure that our kids have been nice and respectful. They have continental breakfasts available in the morning. They have cereal, svenhards pastries, apples, oranges, bananas, yogurt, coffee, tea, hard boiled eggs etc and a juice machine. Much appreciated for kids who have to save their pennies for souvenirs and other food experiences.
Quality Inn hotel near UC Berkeley
Free full Breakfast | Quality Inn University Hotels Berkeley, CA
Hotel in Berkeley, Quality Inn
WIFI is included with stay. The kids were able to work on their homework at night. There is a Trader Joes up the street and also a hamburger restaurant across the street. Be careful walking around at night. I recommend walking in groups. This is not the safest of neighborhoods, so once we were in for the evening, we were in. The kids were honestly so tired from the drive, that they went to bed straight away.

Day 1: TIP: Parking can be tricky early in the morning. We parked in a car garage close to the gym. It was about a 5 minute walk to campus. The parking was on Bancroft Street. The picture above is the Life Sciences building at Berkeley. You can definitely tell that sciences get a lot of money! The building is amazing! One of the science buildings has a full size dinosaur skeleton.

This skeleton is worth seeing if you take a tour at Berkeley. If you go on the official tour, you definitely will stop by the dinosaur.

Lots of trees around campus, be careful for those crazy squirrels! Wear comfortable shoes. The tour guides walk backwards on the whole trip! It’s crazy!

With the official tour, you will be walking with a group of about 30. The kids mentioned that they would have maybe had a better experience hearing a tour from a kid that we knew. They felt that the tour was too planned and to large to freely ask questions. Between my colleague and I, we have plenty of former students to ring up for a impromptu tour. We had a couple students meet up with us just to say “hello”. Occupy Berkeley happened to be going on. Our kids got a small taste of what Berkeley is like. Berkeley is the home of the “Free Speech Movement”

After Berkeley, we piled back into the car and drove to USF (University of San Francisco). As soon as we got there, we met up with my colleague’s former AVID students. It was exciting to see my colleague get so excited to see her former students. We went to the brand new cafeteria. Pictured below is a taste of the new setting. The cafeteria was gorgeous, modern and clean.

USF is a private school. It is also a Jesuit School. Here is their Mission Statement:

“Our vision, mission and values statement is the best expression of USF’s mission. It’s a detailed and carefully constructed document, but what it boils down to is relatively simple: USF exists to provide arigorous, world-class education to a new generation of leaders, who will work to create a more humane and just world.”

The Campus is gorgeous. A lot of the students assumed that it would be smack in the middle of San Francisco. They were surprised to see the school on top of a hill in a more “manicured” area of the city. If you are expecting the school to be city like, its almost in its own type of setting. The houses surrounding the area are nice and you have a great view of Twin Peaks from one of the highest points on campus. If you go walk around, make sure you peak your head into the Church of St. Ignatius.

It was hard to snap a proper photo of St. Ignatius at this time of day on my iphone.

The kids mentioned that food prices were expensive. I did however notice that the food ingredients were great quality. I purchased a panini and sat down with my colleague and her former students and we chatted about life. The high school kids got a chance to sit down in the cafeteria away from us and tried to blend in with the college kids.

Next Stop, San Francisco State University where my former student gave us a FANTASTIC TOUR and did a good job selling the school to all of us.

The kids and I were pleased to hear about SFSU receiving money in a time of budget crisis. The school was one of the only schools on our tour to talk about improvements to their campus. Pictured here is their new library that is probably open by now.

SFSU really stands out as a school that embraces diversity. You can see a picture of Cesar Chavez in the background. The cafeteria and this building is named after Chavez.

Pictured above is the dorms that most freshman live in. They appear to be in pretty good shape and really nice. We didn’t get a chance to go inside, but they looked very nice from the outside. Apparently SFSU students really decorate their windows with post it notes and in pretty cool designs.

My former student on the far right all grown up! He impressed the students with his knowledge of the campus and enthusiasm. His friends tagged along and also helped out. They were fantastic! Off to Stanford before nightfall, hopefully.

We met up with a former student of mine and she helped us walk around Stanford for about an hour. She walked around with her bike and literally answered questions and talked to the kids about her experience. First stop, library.

Yes, GOOGLE was created at Stanford, here is proof to show all of us! Amazing brains and talent are fostered at Stanford. My former student kept telling us about the pioneering spirit at Stanford.

Gorgeous church on campus. I heard something about Leland Stanford building this church for his son. I still haven’t researched it entirely yet. There definitely is a Spanish feel to the campus. The plaza area here is gorgeous. Next Stop, SLEEP!!!!!!!!!! Drove to Santa Clara and stayed at a hotel close to Santa Clara University.

Santa Clara’s campus is absolutely stunning. It exudes serenity and peace. The campus is spotless and there tends to be a feeling of focus and responsibility. This is one of the missions in California.

 You can get a pretty good feel of this campus by just glancing at the pictures I provided. All the facilities are newer. They have a robot that gets books for you in the library. Pretty crazy! Random Fact, you will take approximately 9-15 more classes before you graduate because of their quarter system. This really allows for you to do a double major and more minors. It also allows for you to really find what you are passionate about.

The Cafeteria here was also new like USF’s. This sandwich shop was extremely popular and super efficient. The line looked deceiving, but it actually went pretty quick. Our kids complained again that food was expensive. There were higher quality ingredients being used here. Next stop, UC Santa Cruz.

My good friend Paul who is a TA at Santa Cruz for the math department. He was gracious to take time out of his schedule to give us an in depth tour. THANKS PAUL! He told us about a rare white albino squirrel that lives in the forest of the school. He also told us about banana slugs, class choices, and safety. Apparently, UC Santa Cruz has a great safety rating compared to other UC’s. I got quite scared thinking of what it would be like to literally walk to my dorm at 10:00 P.M at night alone and he said people do it all the time. The school is situated in the middle of a forest. One way in to this school and one way out. Very outdoorsy feel. Ran into a former student while walking around. Bought a Banana Slug sweatshirt! Next step, Cal State Monterrey Bay.

This campus literally used to be Fort Ord. My dad was stationed here for awhile. He told me how it gets really cold here. The buildings are all fairly new. Super close to the beach. Lots of outdoor activities. This is definitely a campus where most students have cars which means it is a commuter school. They had a unique car rental service for students here. They told me that if you wanted to borrow a car, you literally just pay for gas. Lots of kids go and visit other friends at Chico or close by.

The visitor center was super nice for Cal State Monterrey Bay. They had restrooms, brochures, free chapstick with Cal State Monterrey Bay logos on them. The girls working the front desk were super nice. Off to Cal Poly Slo for the evening.

 Yes, that’s right a BOWLING ALLEY! Yee haw. We bowled with the kids for the evening and had a great time. Some of the students played Dance Dance Revolution and hung out at the arcades. Some air hockey matches took place too! We drove towards Santa Barbara and stayed there for the evening. Didn’t take pictures of UCSB. I’ve been there too many times and was feeling a bit tired. Pictured below is at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Pictured below is Pepperdine University. A way of life at this school is walking up a lot of stairs. It is a Christian college. They have pretty set rules here. One of the most beautiful campuses in the U.S.

It is hard to tell from this picture, but the views from the cafeteria are AMAZING! You literally feel as if you are in Greece or the Mediterranean. Stunning views of the ocean. Last stop before going back to San Diego, Chapman University.

Chapman is a private. Close to Disneyland. Super clean, quaint and SO CUTE! The town of Orange feels like you are stepping back into the 50’s. Cute boutique shops, restaurants and a gorgeous east coast looking school. One of my former students is a film major and loves it here. Great connections with Disney if you want to go here.

TIRED………………..We got home around 7:00 Pm to 8:00 Pm…..Long trip, but SOOOOO WORTH IT! I appreciate my colleague for her driving and for inspiring these kids to choose their colleges wisely. So much fun!

Izakaya Sakura in San Diego (Authentic Japanese Food)

Where do you go for authentic Japanese food? Izakaya Sakura in Convoy, San Diego! If you are looking for a sign outside for the restaurant, forget it, they don’t even have a sign on the awning. It’s a word of mouth place. It’s literally located in between the Military Recruiting Center and a Hookah Lounge (I think its called Mirage). It’s located in the parking lot of where the Original Pancake House is. WATCH OUT! Parking can be pretty terrible. They open for lunch at 11:30 A.M. If you are going for a quick lunch break, good luck. Timing is always important for going into this complex.

So what makes this place authentic? The servers are Japanese and the sushi chef is Japanese. It’s getting harder and harder to find Japanese sushi chefs. The food that comes out of here tastes just like something my Japanese Grandma or aunt would make. They have bento boxes, unagi (eel), sushi, real miso soup, tsukemono (pickled cabbage appetizer dish), curry rice etc….All the big hitter Japanese traditional dishes are here.

You’ll be greeted as you come in the door with an “irashaimase” which is another word for “welcome”.

Some tips that you will need to know before you go!

  1. If you are going solo, bring CASH. They need a minimum of $10.00 for a card. So if you are going with others, an ATM or Credit Card is not a problem.
  2. They DO NOT OFFER FREE REFILLS (Their iced green tea is not refillable, so drink sparingly)
  3. The place is not designed for ambience, it is designed to eat “good” Japanese food. There are a couple “tanuki” (raccoon dog) statues. Can’t remember if there is a maneki nekko (good luck fortune cat)
  4. Not 100% fast service (good food takes time) Not always consistent w/delivery of everyone’s dishes at the same time. Again, I don’t mind because I go there knowing this.
  5. Approved by my Japanese mom
  6. Go during lunch, because they have an extended menu. The lunch items DO NOT SHOW UP in the evening. The Evening is where the restaurant turns into a Japanese Pub (Izakaya) It’s all appetizer plates and sushi and the price goes WAY UP!
  7. Be ready for parking to be a possible problem
You can get great quality Japanese food at good prices. If you like to explore and try new things then go for their daily bento box. It will consist of some kind of protein, rice, side pickled dishes, possibly tempura. In the case of the bento below, you see things like an egg roll, umeboshi (pickled plum), a 1/2 of a boiled egg (yude tamago), a folded up egg that has a little seasoning of sugar (tamago yaki), Japanese meatloaf, konyaku (Japanese health food that has traces of potato), a croquette (a fried potato cake), some spaghetti noodles, etc…You can tell that it is very balanced and gives you a lot of different nutritional value.
I started going here several years ago because a Japanese teacher friend of mine showed me this place. When I ate this dish, I fell in love. Buta Shoga (Ginger Pork) has a special flavor that you don’t taste when eating a traditional pork chop. The pork that they use is sliced paper thin so it is super tender and juicy with ginger. If you do not like pungent tastes, and especially ginger, then try something different. All the fresh green scallions, bits of dancing ginger and savory pork make the flavors burst in your mouth. The salad accompanied to the side has a special yellow carrot/onion salad dressing that is super flavorful. The rice salad that has vinegar in it along with some spicy pepper is so delicious!
Their iced green tea is pretty popular here. I’m guessing that they use a top of the line green tea because there are no free refills. The tea pictured below is a very famous and top of the line green tea in Japan. My mom informed me about this one. Iyemon is what you ask for if you cannot read Japanese characters.
Coming into this restaurant, I know that it is a “mom and pop” shop so I am supporting a local. Also, I know that I will get a traditional Japanese balanced meal. I know that I can practice some Japanese. Also, I will see the majority of customers be Japanese which is a big statement in itself. I’ve been told that some of the Japanese baseball players come here for a bite to eat when in town. We’ve even brought some of our Japanese friends from Japan here when they need a taste of home. It’s definitely a a place that gives you a glimpse into the heart of Japanese cooking.
Here is their menu with prices. I have put a ♥ next to what you should try if you are still new to Japanese Food:
< Fish Combo> 
  • Broiled Salmon 9.00 ♥
  • Teriyaki Fish 8.50
  • Grilled Mackerel 8.00
  • Mackerel w/ Miso 8.00
  • Grilled Saury 8.00
  • Fried Fish w/ Mushroom Sauce 9.00
  • Cooked Yellowtail w/ Daikon Radish 8.50
  • Deep Fried Shrimp 9.00
  • Deep Fried Oyster  8.50

< Beef & Pork Combo>

  • Japanese Meatloaf w/ Ponzu Sauce 9.00 ♥
  • Japanese Meatloaf w/ Tomato Sauce(w/Egg) 9.00
  • Deep Fried Pork 9.00
  • Deep Fried Meatloaf 8.50
  • Ginger Pork 8.50 ♥
Chicken Combos
  • Karaage 8.50 ♥
  • Teriyaki Chicken 8.50
  • Chicken Saute w/ Garlic Sauce 8.50
  • Veg. Saute w/ Chicken Liver 8.50
  • Steamed Chicken w/ Onions & Jalapeno 8.50
  • Chicken Katsu 8.50 ♥
 < Donburi (Bowl) > 
  • Chicken Katsu Don (Chicken Cutlet Egg Bowl)  ♥ 9.00
  • Katsu Don (Pork Cutlet Egg Bowl) 9.00 ♥
  • Sukiyaki Don w/ Egg 9.00
  • Tempura Don (Shrimp, Vegetables & Egg) 9.50
  • BBQ Eel Don 9.50 ♥
  Omelet & Rice Combo
  • Omelet & Chicken Ketchup Rice 9.00
  • Omelet & Rice w/ Hashed Beef Sauce 9.00
  • Omelet & Rice w/ Curry Sauce 10.00
  • Hot/Cold Tempura Udon w/ a Rice Ball 8.50 ♥
  • Hot/Cold Tempura Soba w/ a Rice Ball 8.50 ♥
  • Nabeyaki Udon 9.00
  • Curry Udon 8.50
  • Chanpon 10.00
  • Sara Udon 10.00
  • Spaghetti w/ Sea Urchin 12.00
  • Spaghetti w/ Salmon & Scallop 13.00
  • Spaghetti w/ Clam & Mussel 13.00
  • Yakisoba 7.00 ♥
  • Cold Chinese Noodle (only summer) 8.50 ♥
  • Sakuramen 8.50
 Ground Beef Curry Combo
  • Curry & Rice 8.50 ♥
  • Curry & Rice w/ Eggplant 9.00
  • Curry & Rice w/ Deep Fried Chicken 9.50 ♥
  • Curry & Rice w/ Deep Fried Pork 9.50 ♥
  • Curry & Rice w/ Deep Fried Shrimp 10.00
  • Mix Tempura 9.00 ♥
  • Kimuchi Hot Pot 8.50
  • Veg Saute w/ Pork 8.50
  • Subula (Veg Saute & Pork Ball w/ Sweet Sour Sauce) 8.50
  • Tuna Don  12.50
  • Tuna, Natto & Green Onion Don 12.50
  • Spicy Tuna Don 12.50
  • Sea Urchin Don 18.00
  • Chirashi Don 20.00 ♥
  • Mix Sushi 20.00 ♥
  • California Roll 6.00
  • Spicy Tuna Roll 8.00
  • Shrimp Tempura Roll 10.00
  • Caterpillar Roll 10.00
  • Alaska Roll 12.00
  • Seared Albacore 8.00
  • Spicy Fish Salad 8.50Chirashi Bowl
  • Source: Alice Q. Foodie
 < Side Dishes> 
  • Karaage 3.50
  • Stuffed Cabbage 4.00
  • Gratine Croquette (2pc) 4.50 ♥
  • Grilled Mackerel 3.50
  • Cooked Mackerel w/ Miso 3.50
  • Fried Spanish Mackerel 3.50
  • Gyoza (5pc)  6.00 ♥
  • Potato Salad 3.50 ♥
  • Fried Tofu  3.50
  • Cold Tofu 2.50 ♥
  • Natto (Fermented Beans) 2.50
  • Mekabu(Seaweed) & Natto w/ Yam 6.00
  • Tonjiru (Pork& Veg. in Miso Soup) 6.00

Works Cited:

“Alice Q. Foodie: A Sunday on Convoy with Candice, Kirk and Friends – Nijiya, Izakaya Sakura and Sage French Cake.” Alice Q. Foodie. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <;.

Foodie, Alice Q. “My Chirashi Platter at Izakaya Sakura.” Flickr. Yahoo!, 02 Mar. 2008. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <;.

Izakaya Sakura. Digital image. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <,r:0,s:0,i:69&tx=103&ty=41&gt;.

“Iyemon Cha.” Suntory. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <;.

Iyemon Green Tea. Digital image. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <;.

“Izakaya Sakura Menu – San Diego, CA 92184.” Izakaya Sakura Menu. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <;.

Izakaya Sakura. Digital image. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <;.

Izakaya Sakura Parking Lot. Digital image. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <;.