Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Best Places to Eat and Drink in Seattle

By now, you probably know that Seattle is one of my all-time favorite cities. Why? Because Seattle has some delicious food and makes for the perfect eating vacation, which is my favorite kind of vacation! Having been to Seattle 7 times in the last 6 years, I've eaten a LOT of food in the city and I figured it's time to tell y'all my list of the best places to eat and drink in Seattle.

I have a growing list of must-eats whenever I visit, and I always try to get in some new-to-me spots, but it's so hard sometimes - so many things to eat, so little time (and stomach space). Seattle has a bustling culinary scene, and there's something for everyone here.

So without further ado, here are my top picks for what to eat and drink in Seattle!

Some of the best pasta that I've had outside Italy. Ethan Stowell is alocal restauranteur who has several restaurants, each specializing in a different aspect of Italian food - Tavolata is his pasta joint. The pasta is always cooked to al dente perfection, and you can't go wrong with the Papperdelle or Rigatoni here. They also have a happy hour from 5-7 every day that includes most of the pastas on the regular menu for half off, which is a STEAL.

Walrus and the Carpenter
The Walrus and Carpenter was named by Bon Apetit magazine as one of the best new restaurants in America for 2011. If you are an oyster fan, this place is a must, because this is THE spot for oysters! Pro tip: They have an oyster happy hour from 4-6pm Monday-Thursday, which means 50% off the amazing oysters. Get there early (people were lining up at 3:45pm) and happy slurping!

Local 360
Local 360's focus is on using fresh, sustainable ingredients sourced within 360 miles of Seattle. I love the brunch here (their biscuits and gravy are on point), and have come for happy hour a few times as well. You have to get the PB&J bonbons here - they are fried balls of peanut butter, served on top of jam and a shot glass of milk.

Confession: The first time I went to Poppy, I totally decided to go because I was a sucker for their cute branding. Poppy does fresh Pacific Northwestern cuisine with a little bit of an Indian influence, highlighting fresh, local ingredients - they even grow some of them in the garden in the back of the restaurant. This is all served up as little thalis, which are essentially an Indian platter that is made up of small dishes - so basically, their spin on a tasting menu (and much more affordable). They even have these cute little dessert thalis for 2!

Salumi, which is owned by the parents of celebrity chef Mario Batali,  has been a Seattle institution for decades and always has a line out the door. Keep in mind that they have some odd hours (that always seem to work against me), but you have to go if you can get there! There are known for their Italian meats and specialties (like gnocchi). Grab a sandwich to go (it is a cramped space), and perhaps take it to the nearby waterfall garden (see this post for more on that).

Umi Sake House
I basically love this place because their happy hour is AMAZING - the menu is extensive, their prices a great deal, and the food good. They have both an early (4-6pm) and late (10:30pm-close) happy hour every day, so this tends to be my go-to spot when I'm wanting a pre-dinner snack or a late-night second dinner (which I tend to do in Seattle, because helloooooo, I go there for an eating vacation). Their sushi is fresh, and their hot items are delicious. Can't go wrong.

The last time I was in Seattle, I was craving ramen - hard! I did a quick Yelp search, and it seemed that Kizuki was the overwhelming favorite so I hauled my butt over there. You WILL be getting the garlic shoyu tonkotsu ramen here - it is rich, garlicky, and delicious. They also have a selection of izakaya-style appetizers and small places. I loved it so much that I went back a second time the very next day.

Pie Bar
Because it's a bar...that serves fresh-baked pies, and how can you go wrong with that?! When you walk in, you will be overwhelmed by that sweet, buttery smell of pies that are being baked fresh in the oven (isn't that one of the best smells in life?!). They make both savory and sweet pies here - their chicken pot pie and apple pie are AMAZING. They also have a selection of dessert themed cocktails.

Hot Cakes
I had been hearing about Hot Cakes foreverrrr but I never seemed to have the time or the stomach space to fit it in. Well, I finally fit it in on my last trip to Seattle - even though I barely had enough stomach space, I *had* to go. It was worth it. That gooey, rich, chocolate-y deliciousness was incredible.

Crumble and Flake
My ex-boyfriend used to say that this places had his favorite croissants outside Paris. As for me, I come here for the pistachio croissants, a perfectly buttery, nutty amazingness of a pastry. Heads up: they only make them on the weekends. They also have a paprika cheddar croissant that some of my friends are obsessed with, and their macarons are pretty tasty as well.

Macrina Bakery
Macrina has a large selection of fresh-baked pastries and breads that never disappoint. This is a great spot to stop in for lunch - their foccacia sandwiches are the BEST.

Beecher's Cheeses
This is usually my first stop whenever I go to Pike Place. They have a ton of artisanal cheeses that you can sample and purchase, which I should really do sometime. But what I come here for is the mac n cheese. You can't go wrong with the rich, creamy, cheesiness of that mac n cheese.

Piroshky Piroshky
What is a piroshky? It is a Russian pastry stuffed with a variety of fillings, both sweet and savory. Once upon a time, my friends went to Seattle without me (*sniff*) and while they were gone, I had a dream that I went with them and I had a piroshky from this place. When I woke up, I was so sad and had serious FOMO. The original flagship location inside Pike Place always has an insane line that rivals the line of the original Starbucks next door, but you'll be shocked at how quickly it moves. There are also a bunch of locations all around the area nowadays as well. The smoked salmon one is my favorite if you're in a savory mood, and the cinnamon is great if you're in a sweet mood.

Rachel's Gingerbeer
If you thought gingerbeer was JUST gingerbeer...well, you are wrong. Rachel's sells gingerbeer in such fun flavors such as passion fruit, peach, cucumber tarragon, and much more! They also sell gingerbeer cocktails, and gingerbeer floats - which you can also get as a  boozy float (and I totally did. And they aren't messing around with the boozy part).

Espresso Vivace
This is hands-down my favorite latte in Seattle, and probably my all-time favorite latte anywhere. Always consistently well-made, perfectly creamy, and perfectly roasted. So, soooo good.

Canon has consistently ranked in numerous best bars lists both nationally and internationally and for good reason - they have creative, unique, and well-made cocktails here. You WILL wait in line here - but they do a good job of controlling crowd flow inside, so you aren't cramped and constantly elbowing someone - you have ample room to sit or move around. We got in a conversation with the bouncer at the door once and he said his favorite cocktail here was a bacon and fig one, which I ended up not trying, but that gives you an idea of the creative concoctions they serve up here. Canon specializes in whiskey and bitters, but they have a huge selection here - in fact, they recently won a prestigious "World's Best Spirits Selection" award.

Bathtub Gin
Bathtub Gin is a speakeasy type place that is hidden away in an alley in Belltown. If you navigate to the address, you won't find it - the entrance is actually located in an alley between 1st and 2nd Avenue. I love the bartenders here and have always enjoyed chatting it up with them, and they know what they're doing. I always get the dealer's choice here - you specify a spirit and what kind of drink you're in the mood for (sweet, sassy, etc) and have always enjoyed the resulting creation. (P.S. The drinks here are STIFF.)

Anything Tom Douglas
Tom Douglas's popular restaurants have been a Seattle institution for years - and for good reason! I always say that I have to make a stop at a Tom Douglas establishment every time in Seattle. He has been recognized with the prestigious James Beard award for both best Northwest chef and Best Restauranteur for his excellence in Pacific Northwest cuisine. He has 13 restaurants in the Seattle area, but I've here are some of my faves:

Dahlia Lounge
Dahlia Lounge is Tom Douglas's flagship restaurant and specializes in Pacific Northwest cuisine with an Asian flair. My favorite here has always been the crab cakes - can't go wrong!

Dahlia Bakery
Right next door to Dahlia Lounge. You can get some of Douglas's signature coconut cream pie here...which is a must-have. I get a slice of this whenever I am in town (usually at Palace Kitche, see below). The cookies here are also divine.

Lola is Douglas's Mediterranean-influenced restaurant, and is known for their delicious brunch. I loved the omelette here...but what you MUST order are the donuts. Just divine. Trust me on this one.

Serious Pie
Douglas's pizza joint is, well...some serious pie. You can't go wrong with these wood-fired, thin-crust pies here. They have a lot of creative options, but my favorite over the years has always been the sausage. Never disappoints.

Palace Kitchen
Palace Kitchen is probably one of the less popular Douglas establishments, and I've never actually eaten a meal here. But they are open until 1 a.m., so it is the perfect place to stop in for a nightcap and a slice of that dreamy coconut cream pie.

Have you been to Seattle? Where are your favorite spots to eat and drink?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Why You Should Check Out OUE Skyspace LA

One of my favorite ways to see a city is from above - nothing beats being up way high and getting a bird's-eye view of a city.

I was so excited when OUE's Skyspace LA opened, because it finally gave me a chance to see Los Angeles - my hometown - from up above. Perched on the top of the US Bank building, OUE Skyspace LA houses an observation deck, some interactive technological exhibits, multiple lobbies, and a cafe and restaurant/bar. For those seeking a bit of an adrenaline rush, it also features a 45-foot glass slide that goes down the side of the building.

Being up at OUE Skyspace LA, being able to take in those panoramic views of the city, and going down the slide was definitely a memorable experience! Here are 6 reasons why you should check out this cool new attraction:

1. There are cool interactive exhibits even before you get up to the top
Your first stop at OUE Skyspace LA will be on the 54th floor, which is the Interactive Level. Here, you will find some a virtual reality time lapse of the view you are about to see from the top, some awesome light shows, and cool optical illusions, like one that looks like you are looking 54 stories down - so trippy!

2. It's the highest observation deck in California
OUE Skyspace LA is located on the 69th and 70th floors of the iconic US Bank building, which stands 1,000 feet tall over downtown LA. It is the highest open-air observation deck in California. You won't find views like this anywhere else in the state!

3. Those panoramic views can't be beat
There are two decks here that give you unparalleled 360-degree views of downtown LA, the valley, the San Gabriel mountains, the ocean, and everything in between. On a clear day, you can see up to 34 miles! The observation decks also provide free telescopes so you can REALLY get a great view.

4. The Skyslide is a thrilling experience
When you buy tickets to OUE Skyspace LA, you also have the option of purchasing an add-on to ride down the Skyslide, which takes you on a 45-foot long, 4-feet wide, 1.25-inch thick glass slide that gives you a view of the LA skyline while going down from the 70th to 69th floor. It goes by in a flash so make sure you remember to look outside at the view!

5. It's an amazing place to see the sunset
LA is notorious for its smog, but one great thing about all that smog? It results in some pretty epic sunsets. There's nothing better than seeing it from 1,000 feet above ground. Seeing the sun fall below the horizon while perched up so high was one magical sight.

6. It's still new-ish and not too crowded - yet!
OUE Skyspace LA opened in summer 2016, so it is still pretty new. It seems that not too many people have heard of it yet, because it wasn't packed at all (unlike when I went to Skydeck in Chicago). Now is the perfect time to check it out, before everyone starts to hear about it!

Things to know:
633 W. Fifth Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071

Parking is available across the street at the Westlawn Parking Garage, located at 524 S. Flower Street Los Angeles, CA 90071. The P7th Street/Metro Center and Pershing Square Metro subway stops are also located a few blocks away.

Sunday through Thursday: Opens at 10am; last ticket sold at 9:00pm.
Friday and Saturday: Opens at 10am; last ticket sold at 10:00pm.

Observation deck only, timed admission:
Adults: $25
Seniors 65+: $22
Youth 3-12: $19

You can also purchase flex admission, which is valid for any time for an additional $5. Add $8 for Skyslide add-on. Tickets may be purchased in-person at the box office on the 2nd floor, or you can buy tickets only here. 

Do you like seeing a city from high up above?

Photos of me: Photos of me by Melissa Teng. All other photos by me.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Tour of the Color Factory

If there's one thing you must know about me, it's that I LOVE color! Being surrounded by fun, bright colors always makes me so happy.

So, when I heard that the Color Factory was popping up in San Francisco, I immediately jumped on tickets. Created by the masterminds behind the popular blog Oh Happy Day (which I had been following for YEARS), the Color Factory is 12,000 square ft and 15 rooms full of interactive exhibits that celebrate color and material.

In other words - the Color Factory is full of fun and plenty of photo ops perfect for that Instagram feed of yours!

I checked out the Color Factory with my friend Natalie of Pastels and Passports (who helped me take the photos of me in this post). I had been giddy and excited about it since the day I bought tickets. The verdict? It totally lived up to the hype, and I had sooooo much fun!

Come along with me on my tour of this fun-filled, rainbow-inspired wonderland!

The Rainbow Staircase and Lobby

Confession: The suggested time for one to spend in the Color Factory is one hour, but it took us over 30 minutes to even get past the lobby and get our tickets scanned. Once you enter the doors of this building painted in rainbow colored steps, you will find a rainbow staircase, with each step painted in each color of the rainbow, and then basically leading onto a rainbow!

Once you get down the steps, you will find these fun dots on the floor. It kind of reminded me of a rainbow hopscotch, but almost more fun! Once you walk down this dotted walkway, you will get your tickets scanned.

Behind the ticket booth is this rainbow plaid mural by Erin Jang. Proceed to take a million photos here, because helloooo how fun is this backdrop!

Registration + Scratch and Sniff Room

After your tickets are scanned, the staff will instruct you to walk into the registration room and sign a waiver on one of the iPads. They will also hand you a nifty photo card. The Color Factory has several "photo booth" spots within in the exhibits, where you can scan your card and smile for the camera! This was handy because sometimes we wanted photos of both of us, and in some spots (like in the balloon room - more on that next) the lighting wasn't ideal.

The registration room is painted in vertical rainbow stripes, and also serves as the scratch and sniff room. Here, there are a bunch of scratch and sniff scents that are attached to each of the stripes, and are of anything from "your grandmother's perfume," to "your first trimester pregnancy craving," to "when life gives you lemons." It explores how different smells are tied to color and memories.

One thing that I loved about the Color Factory was that they gave you little treats from local food vendors - in this room, it was macarons from Chantal Guillon. These were served conveyor style on top of colorful coasters, and under a neon "Now Serving" sign. So much fun - and the macarons were tasty!

Black and White Laboratory

You will then walk through some doors that lead into the next room, which is the Black and White laboratory. Here, you will checkered black and white floors, and striped walls, both vertical and diagonal.

It has a laboratory theme, and you will find a contraption that dispenses charcoal lemonade from Pressed Juicery - a black liquid that looks questionable at first glance. I got over my hesitation and chugged my shot - it is actually a really tasty, refreshing drink!

Orange Room

Artist Tosha Stimage's exhibit examines the color orange as an analogy for black identity, the meaning of objects, and the relation to one other.

This super bright, orange painted room houses a ton of orange-colored objects, from a traffic cone, to a Ziploc bag full of Goldfish crackers, to a basketball. All these objects fall into the visual wavelength spectrum 590-620 NM.

Blue Balloon Room

Created by Geromino Ballons, who is famous for its large-scale balloon installations on building exteriors, this room houses an overwhelming number of blue balloons, all in varying shades and sizes. It almost has an underwater vibe - so very cool!

Disco Mirror Room
Exit the balloon room and get ready for a dance party! This disco dance floor features a sparkly glitter floor, and a mirrored disco ball ceiling that reflects light onto the floor creating a fun iridescent rainbow. Lots of sparkly fun in this room (and now I will have Justin Timberlake's "Mirrors" stuck in my forever)!

Lite Brite Room

Who else loved playing with Lite Brites as a kid? I sure did, so I was super stoked about this giant version of it!

Green Room

Illustrators Andy J. Miller and Andrew Neyer collaborated on this large-scale black and white mural, leaving the spaces black so that attendees can color in the blanks with giant, 5-foot tall green markers.

I call myself 5 feet tall...but I think these markers might be taller than me?! WHAT?! Anyways, it was fun to color for a bit with these giant markers for a bit, and I even got a great arm workout from it, which is always a plus!

The Ribbon Room

I've always had a thing for ribbon since my crafty/scrapbooking days, so I was super stoked when I heard about this room. Playing hide and seek while getting lost within some colorful ribbons?! YASSS! This installation, by Swedish artist Jacob Dahlgren, consists of a cube of 10,000 hanging ribbon strands, and celebrates everyday objects and materials. One of my favorite installations in the Color Factory!

Smiley Face Stairs and Rainbow Hallway

The ribbon room is the end of the downstairs part of the Color Factory. You will then head out the doors, go up a stairwell with a glowing hot pink smiley face smiling down at you. Go through the doors, and walk down the rainbow hallway, which brings you to...

The Stained Glass Chapel

I love playing with cool lighting, and when I saw photos of the neon colors streaming through these windows, I was so very excited to see it in person and take photos here!

The stained glass chapel consists of these colored stained glass windows, as well as some neon-colored plastic benches so that you can sit and soak in all those colors. Best seen on a sunny day, and the sun was definitely streaming through those windows that day. Such a pretty sight.

Purple Selfie Room

This room explores the instant gratification of today's digital world. London-based artist Tom Stayte set up a computer with a thermal printer that prints out every Instagram photo hash-tagged #selfie ever 12 seconds, piling up all over the floor. Natalie and I got involved in the selfie-taking as well, and I got so involved in trying to capture a Boomerang of our selfie printing out (which I missed - TWICE - epic fail!), that I forgot to take a photo of the actual room. I'm just going to say that I was too busy having fun ;)

The Confetti Room

Quite possibly my favorite room in the entire exhibit! Here, pounds of confetti are slowly sprinkled from the ceiling, accumulating on the floor. We spent quite a bit of time in here, and had soooo much fun (obvi) - because how can you NOT have fun when you are throwing bits of colorful confetti up in the air and then twirling in it?

(And yes, you WILL be picking out confetti out of your hair and stuff for a while. But I mean, #worthit).

The Yellow Room

If you've followed me on Instagram for awhile, you might know that yellow is my favorite color. So, maybe I lied - maybe this was my favorite room?

The yellow room features a giant ball pit, and come on - when was the last time you got to play around in a ball pit? I kept sinking in and getting stuck (and moving through it is a lot harder than I remember it being when I was a kid), but this was soooo much fun! (and resulted in some fun Boomerang videos)

This is the end of the Color Factory. (Insert sad face here). On the way out, there is a yellow store, which has a collection of perfectly curated yellow merchandise for sale, along with a super fun striped wall.

You will also receive some parting gifts - an mini cone from Garden Creamery, a postcard, and a map of some Color Factory bonus locations that are all over San Francisco. This map tells you where to find anything from bonus murals, where to get a Color Factory manicure, where to find extra treats, and more.

We checked out some of the stops in Chinatown, like this mural by Erin Jang, and I can't wait to check out the rest of the stops on the map to continue the fun!.

Tickets for the rest of August and September are sold out, but you can sign up for the mailing list here to hear of future dates/locations. Methinks that with the insane popularity of the event, this won't be the end of the Color Factory. (And this story says that they have an interest in taking the pop-up to New York as well).

What's your favorite room in the Color Factory?