Serious about Sushi

Hey ya’ll. Welcome to the weekly Cali recap. Not too much has gone on this week besides making more trips to multiple stores, trying to figure out the furniture situation in our home, and, naturally, sampling new food places. I am still waiting approval to take my nursing boards, and DJ starts orientation next week. This allows us a good chunk of time to get settled before the craziness ensues. Wednesday we hit up Santana Row for lunch because we had some errands to run in the area. This is an upscale shopping area with tons of restaurants and an energetic, cutting edge feel. They feature unique stops as well as several chains (the mandatory Starbucks, LB steak, and Maggiano’s).

IMG_7543Our personal favorite is the Village California Bistro. One time we stopped there for breakfast before we moved to the area during our time of scoping out where to live. DJ ordered the most incredible crab cake benedict. I don’t remember what I ordered because I was so fixated on sneaking bites of his food when he wasn’t looking. This time around we went for “late lunch bites” around three. We both hadn’t had lunch, but didn’t want to spoil our appetite for the big dinner we had planned 😉 We sampled the lobster ceviche and shrimp louie. This meal was nothing short of FRESH. I think it was the best avocado and iceburg lettuce I have ever tasted. The ceviche was the perfect refreshing treat on a hot day with the mango and umami essence of the lobster.

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After finishing up our errands of the day and exercising, we geared up for an epic dinner experience: KULA Sushi.

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Since we have moved here, every time we pass this sushi place it is packed. ANY time of day there are at least twenty people waiting outside the restaurant to get in. Considering there are a million sushi destinations around here, we were wondering what the commotion was about. We get it now! First you walk up and put your name in their outdoor system. They give you a number and also send you a text when you are close to being called. Our wait time was eighty-two minutes. In that waiting time I assembled a lamp that I ended up returning. #productive. By the time we came back the wait was up to two hours if that tells you anything… This sushi bar, is not just any sushi bar, it is a revolving one (Yes, mom, we will go when you visit 😉 ). It has a conveyor belt that passes your table and you literally just choose whatever you want off the belt. The dishes are protected with a bubbled cover to keep the whole system sanitary and what-not. You simply press up on the dish and it pops out of the bubble when you want to try it. They have endless options of high grade “fresh, natural, and organic” sushi (per their advertisements). They have all the rolls one could desire, as well as nigiri, grilled items, side dishes, tempura, noodles, hand rolls, gunkan maki, and dessert!

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The best part is each dish is only $2.25, and generous servings for that price! If you do not see what you want passing through you press it on the screen, and it is sent through a zippy delivery system above straight to your seat. Welcome to the twenty-first century, ya’ll. Once you are done with a plate you put it in the “plate disposal” and it counts the number of plates disposed to keep track of your bill. Every five plates you dispose, a cartoon pops up on your screen and plays for you. It’s in Chinese, so I am pretty (totally) clueless what it says, but it’s entertaining nevertheless. If you manage to down 15 dishes, a little toy circles down into a slot next to the screen for you. Rumors have it that there are Hello-Kitty keychains in there, boys and girls. We were short by about three dishes (you can share a plate slot if you are paying together).

Here are a few of our most interesting samplings:

  • Salmon Roe: AKA Salmon Eggs. Conclusion: Not too much flavor, not offensive, probably will never order again.

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  • Tamago: Type of japanese omelette with an egg base. Conclusion: DELICIOUS. DJ was not as fond as I was, but I thought it had the sweetest, lightest taste and texture.

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  • Spider Roll: Your not-so-standard sushi roll with battered softshell crab tempura that claws out like a spider from the inside of the rice. Conclusion: We are addicted. Need.more.spider.roll.

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  • KULA roll. Conclusion: An explosion of all good things sushi in my mouth

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  • Negitoro (pink) and Masago (Capelin’s Egg). Tuna belly and fish eggs. Conclusion for Negitoro: One of the most scrumptious seaweed wrapped delectables I tried; may I have another? Conclusion for Masago: Fish eggs…

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  • Eel Hand Roll: Description: eel, avocado, rice and a special sauce wrapped in a flaky seaweed wrap. Conclusion: I have seen the light!

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For dessert we finished up with Japanese Donuts. I should have snapped a shot, but we were too eager to dig in. They serve about three of these little guys with vanilla ice cream and a carmel drizzle. DJ and I were thoroughly impressed.

Needless to say we loved Kula. So much that we made the decision to go back the next night. I justified this saying we had coupons! Well when we went to pay, I was all excited to get our 25% off, and the waitress pointed out the coupon is for another sushi place called “Kiku’s”. Guys, I was one of those obnoxious, brainless customers that looked like I was trying to scam the place. I felt so silly! Either way we got our sushi round-two and it was amazing. The second night we branched out and tried the Shrimp Tempura Udon. If you are unsure about the whole sushi, raw fish thing, this is a great option! (They also have beef options likes umami oil seared beef, wagu beef on rice, orange chicken, crispy chicken, and chicken gyoza dumplings).

DJ and I have a menu we brought home, and our goal is to try every single thing on it over the next four years. Not to brag, but definitely bragging, so far we have made quite the dent.

Wednesday night we finally got to watch our boo JoJo. We used to have viewing parties at our TOHO in Indiana. I miss those days as it was an excuse to bake all day and a respite from chaotic nursing school to spend time with our friends. We made sure to have the beef jerky and cashews for the guys and the wine with chocolate for us ladies. The cookies were a co-ed thing. Here is a pic from one of those bachelor extravaganzas:

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We still enjoy our bachelorette night, just in a simpler fashion.

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Look, I know the show is pretty trashy in and of itself, but you cannot help love this girl! She is just darlin’ I tell ya. The men, ehhh. I don’t know. DJ likes Jordan the best. I have doubted his sincerity for a while, but find myself warming up to him more and more. My favorite was either Luke or Chase, who sadly left. Now I don’t really care. Jordan is gunna win though- it’s pretty obvious. Men Tell All was hilariously ridiculous. I’ll just leave it at that. The best part of the show is just laughing together at the silliness of it all. I can’t act too cynical though, I always find myself in tears at one point or another during the season.

Thursday we were out and about running more errands so I scrounged up a Panera gift card we had for lunch. It was yum,yum,yum. You just can’t go wrong there. I tried their watermelon and feta salad. A lot of people have this habit of salting their watermelon. I think I understand why now! The salty nature of the feta complimented the juicy, light watermelon wonderfully. We also stayed inside most of the day because there was a smog warning out. Never heard of that, but hey, I’ll listen to the pros and stay inside.

Friday was filled with assembling our new dresser (yee-haw no more living out of hampers full of clothes!). Then I couponed the crap out of target (which has this great deal now, where if you buy a certain amount of a good you get a $5 giftcard). I only buy in bulk the things that we will need like toilet paper, paper towel, some cleaning supplies. I racked up about $30 in giftcards total that day, so I was pretty stoked about that!

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This morning (Saturday) Deej got up bright and early to go golfing with our Dad (his side). The apartment is coming together more and more. I cannot wait to share with ya’ll when it is done! But for now I am going to down this candy corn that I found at a Sprouts nearby. Who sells candy corn in July? They do apparently, and I am so bought in.

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Wishing you alotta those^,

xo <3

Mack

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The Cherry Capitol- TC, MI!

I am about to blog about one of my favorite places ever, and there is no way I can possibly do it justice, but you bet I will do my best! The first trip DJ and I took after graduation in April was to Traverse City, MI. I have taken a while to blog about this trip which severely throws off the order of events, but that’s okay because I want to make sure that I hit all the highlights and articulate accurately what a wonderful place this destination is.

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I have gone to Traverse City since I was a little girl. From hunting for the coveted Petoskey stones in the unusually cold water to sampling cherries from family friends’ cherry farms to soaking up the fresh michigan air in my lungs as I skied along the  most breathtaking views, my memories of this spectacular place are numerous. My mom is originally from this area, and I am lucky to have my grandparents live on one side of the notorious peninsula and my Aunt and Uncle right across the bay. **FUN FACT: DJ and I actually got engaged at my Aunt and Uncles’ beautiful waterfront home. I will have to share that story sometime ;). When planning our summer, Traverse City was at the top of the list.

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Why not do the most peaceful exercise in the most peaceful place?

The first night we arrived my aunt and uncle prepared us the most fabulous dinner. They are the type of people that seem to just excel at anything and everything they set their minds to. Cooking is no exception. My uncle prepared some of the most delectable salmon we have ever had followed by perfectly cooked veggies from my aunt and an absolutely refreshing salad. We still talk about “Uncle Pat’s Salmon” now. We have been to several restaurants for salmon and said, “Well- still not as good as Uncle Pat’s!”. The next day I was supposed to run the “run michigan cheap” half marathon. I may have forgone that race considering it was 30 degrees, snowing, and at 7 am. I decided to do instead ten miles on the treadmill and watch Flashpoint on Netflix. That show will keep you on the end of your seat (or on the end of the treadmill?). If you have Netflix, I highly recommend it. It made the ten miles fly by. We had a yummy parfait for breakfast and headed out on the town.

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At this point in time I was studying hard for my NCLEX (nursing boards), so DJ and I went to this delicious coffee shop called Aroma’s. It was the BEST almond milk latte I have had in my entire life. Look, I used to be a barista so I know this stuff ;). We studied for a few hours, I think DJ watched some games on his phone (or something sport related- who knows), then went back to get ready for lunch.

This is going to be a food post isn’t it? Yes, very much.

What was for lunch?! Well let me tell you… everything organic you could dream of. My Aunt and Uncle shop at multiple grocery stores and farmers markets to only buy the most organic and clean ingredients. I love staying at their house to eat all their food (…and hanging out with them is a major bonus, hehe). This little booger was the most delicious salad I may have ever had with multicolored carrots, tons of root vegetables, hummus, etc. etc.

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After lunch, I continued to study a bit and then relax. My Aunt and Uncle are super easy-going people; I feel that I can just veg-out and not worry about a thing when I’m in their home. DJ always jokes that I am going to be my Aunt when I’m older; we have very similar personalities, and I take that as quite the compliment. That night they treated us to a wonderful dinner at the restaurant Blu in Glen Arbor. I have never been anywhere like this. It has fine dining cuisine, but the most relaxing environment. You enjoy your meal overlooking the gorgeous water and are surrounded by only about ten other tables. It is the most quaint fine-dining experience I have ever had the privilege of enjoying. The staff was incredibly hospitable and knew many patrons by name. Ohhhh, and the food was insane. The menu isn’t super large, but anything you order will be fantastic. We tried a vast array of blue crab puffs with a sweet chili sauce, escargot with parsley and garlic butter, foie graus in a cherry sauce, and mixed greens with sherry vinaigrette. That’s a lot you say? Well those are just the apps. For our entrees we sampled (meaning devoured in their entirety) the walleye and a trout dish that was cooked to absolute perfection. I can’t give too much away because you just have to make your way there yourself. (HINT: order their flourless chocolate cake and myer’s rum soaked pineapple cake for dessert)! We wined and dined over amazing conversation, nonstop laughter, the most calming views, and exquisite cuisine.

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Are pant-suits back in style yet?

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I thought the pant suit was cute and all until I had to use the restroom. Then I realized what a struggle that would be-trying to unzip that thing! I held it all night, believe it or not…most would not.We all went back home with full stomachs and happy hearts. Nothing beats time with family.  And nothing beats access to the restroom after you have held it for three hours.

The next morning the two chefs went to work and made us huevos rancheros. Uhm, hello, how have I gone my whole life without these?! They made mine with vegan sausage (which tastes no different than regular- I am telling you!). We were stuffed like turkeys on thanksgiving, said our goodbyes, and headed off across the bay to see my grandparents (aka the coolest g-rents that ever lived).

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On our way to the other side of the Peninsula, we stopped at the cutest little winery. I told DJ I had to pop in. It looked like a mom-and-pop shop from the outside. On the inside it was a modern, sleek-looking wine tasting bar- I didn’t see any touristy little giftshop (you know- the ones with the spinning keychain holders that never spell your name right). So at 11 am on a Tuesday we are the only ones standing in this wine cellar. The girl that was working was super friendly, and we got to chatting for a while. I did end up sampling just a few sips of a couple wines because A. I felt weird if we just left without buying anything after chatting for that extended period of time and B. Wine.

Next, we went to the real touristy side of the city in downtown Traverse City. Downtown TC is my type of paradise. It has the cutest bakeries, gift shops, antique shops, unique family owned stores you can imagine. Despite the fact that I have been there a million times it never gets old! I usually spend hours upon hours just gallivanting through the numerous stores- especially Cherry Republic. *CUE DRAMATIC MUSIC*. This little shop is always packed because they offer cherry jams, cherry covered espresso beans, cherry salsa, cherry malted milk balls- need I go on? They allow samplings of many of the items and also offer a diverse menu of food choices. DJ and I ordered some soup to warm up while we were there. We also stopped in a coffee shop called Espresso Bay so I could squeeze in a little studying.

The trip in town would not be complete without visiting the olive oil store, Fustinis. I stocked up on their basil olive oil, 18 year old balsamic vinegar, and espresso balsamic (which is palatable on vanilla ice cream). I have tried my fair share of salad dressings but nothing tops combining some Fustini’s  basil olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

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My favorite discovery of the day was the bakery called Morsels. You know how sometimes you just need “a little something sweet”? Well that’s me all the time, and this place does the trick. It has a bunch of different delicious flavored “Morsels” you can choose from. Some of the best included: Brownie points (our personal favorite), Nuts and Berries (the TC award winning favorite), and Seventh Heaven which had graham cracker, coconut, and butterscotch chips. We went back right before we left (to go back to Indiana) and stocked up on a few more for our road trip home.

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I just loved this sign
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After exploring the great down town, we headed over to our Grandma and Grandpa’s for some quality time. We caught up on all the happenings while enjoying one of those home cooked meals only a grandma can whip up. They are two of the coolest individuals I have ever met. They have been together since they were teenagers and have the most incredible stories. As I get older the stories become more and more  fascinating. They also are incredibly sage; I call my Grandma often for advice and just to chat. She is a no-mess-around kind of lady and will give it to you straight coupled with the warmest heart and a generous spirit. My Grandpa is simply the kindest person you will ever meet (and the most hilarious). His famous line to anyone who walks through the doors is, “Me Casa es Su Casa“, and he means it. We are beyond thankful for them and treasure each and every second together.

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The next day DJ and I headed off to one of our all-time favorite locations- The Sleeping Bear Dunes. Our family would always make fun of us for how often we would visit the sandy hills during TC family get-togethers. When you experience the Dunes, you will understand why they are such a big deal!

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The two of us just turn into a couple of big kids when you put us in some sand. We could frolic all day in those parts. The sand dunes have a MASSIVE dune that you can go down and climb back up (the one we are playing on above). It takes about five to seven minutes to get down, but it can be anywhere from a thirty-minute to a two-hour hike back up depending on your condition. The dunes extend for what seems like miles, and there are multiple different starting locations you can go to in order to access the park. One year we did the strenuous four mile hike to Lake Michigan. Make sure to take water and a fresh set of legs if you ever do that one ;). DJ and I went to a couple of the side trails we have never been to before and saw a porcupine up in the tree. I’m not sure where I thought porcupines lived, but I did not expect to see one in Michigan.

On our way home we made a very necessary stop in the downtown area for Kilwin’s ice cream. This is at the top of my ice cream shop list. As soon as I am in the TC area, I begin craving the stuff like a Pavlovian dog. They also serve extraordinary truffles, toffee, fudge, candied apples, and many other goodies. I love sampling all the different fudge places on the strip too. DJ always laughs at me because I get grossly excited when I see a fudge store, but never actually buy any fudge. I think I like the concept of the tremendous amounts of flavors, the smell, and the feel of a fudge store more than the actual fudge. But I always try the samples *Guilty face*.

My grandma and grandpa are big on the traditional cocktail hour. As a kid my grandpa would make me Shirley Cocktails with a little cherry. That was the only time I ever had shirley cocktails (at Grandpa’s), so it was an absolute treat. This night we had an earlier reservation, so we skipped cocktail hour (in very Bachelorette-like fashion, all you bachelorette junkies know what I mean). However, when I was getting ready to go Grandpa knocked on my door and brought me a small glass of wine and big hug. He explained he gives Grandma wine to help her get ready. Those simple, special moments are memories I will treasure.

Wednesday night we went to an amazing restaurant called Apache Trout grill. This is a tourist and locals’ favorite in the TC area, and you best make reservations in advance to grab a table! The entire meal was beyond tasty. I am convinced their smoked whitefish dip was sent straight down from heaven. I was obsessed with the stuff and think it should be mandatory that everyone try it once in their lives. You also cannot go wrong with any of the seafood entrees. However, may I suggest the walleye with the caper beurre blanc sauce. I am a bit caper-crazy, so when I saw that the walleye came with them I jumped on board (or jumped ship- pick your pun). It exceeded my expectations!

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The next day it was time to head home. Though, we did dabble in a fantastic lunch at Poppycocks in TC before! DJ and I ran there along the Peninsula and met up with everyone (Uncle Pat, Aunt Terry, G+G). I ordered the falafel waffle. If that is not only fun to say, it was also super fun to eat! We also said our emotional goodbyes, and left with memories that forever will hold a place in our heart.

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Hope you guys find time in your lives to visit this magical place. Thanks for reading!

Wishing you more falafel waffles than you can handle,

xo <3

Mack