Swingers in Santa Monica: Trying something new…veggies for lunch!

Trying something new…veggies for lunch – cobb salad!

Deru Market – Kirkland, WA

I have the attention span of a gnat sometimes. Which is why I go through long periods of blogging and then stop. I suppose it’s a good thing. It usually means that I’m busy living my life as opposed to just writing about it. 

Since I wrote my last post I now have a boyfriend, I have a new nephew, and I started my own business. I’ve been to Korea, Amsterdam, Brussels, New Orleans…I’m sure I’ll blog about it eventually. Don’t hate me I try my best! Hopefully this-better-late-than-never post about Deru Market in Kirkland, WA will tide you over until I get a chance to write about everything that’s happened in the past year. Everything.

As I mentioned I have since gotten myself a boyfriend…who lives in Seattle. No biggie. That just means a new location to explore for even better eats! 

Deru Market is located in a random industrial type building in the middle of a residential area. The boyfriend and I only ever seem to come here when they’re in the middle of changing over from breakfast to lunch. And be advised I believe they only have brunch on Saturdays. We happened to go on a Friday around that awkward aforementioned time. I wanted to eat somewhat healthy and get the half chicken unfortunately what’s available is only what they have in the deli case and since it was that random time period, essentially nothing was really available. 

We ended up ordering the chicken pesto pizza  in order to tide us over. We’ve had the mushroom pizza in the past and it was overly salty (still edible since I have a salty palate). This pizza was done just right. How can you really go wrong with roasted chicken, goat cheese, mozzarella, and sun-dried tomatoes.   

Randomly broccoli was available in the deli case and in keeping with our healthy kick, we ordered a batch.  


Not much to say about this except that they were roasted well and the shallots provided a nice sharpness to the savory nuttiness of the broccoli. 

Finally after about a half hour wait our roasted chicken arrived! At first I was a little disappointed by the simple looks of it…But then, my knife made a cracking sound as it broke through the crispy skin and the juiciness glistened as I sliced through the meat. This was heaven. A simple roast chicken topped with a little bit of arugula dressed in just the slightest hint of lemon. 


Deru is by no means cheap. But you do get quality for your money. I’ve found that the food in this part of Seattle can be quite lumberjack-like. And the variety of organic or healthful fare can be somewhat limited. So to have an option like Deru is a great addition to the neighborhood, in my book.

FYI – it can get pretty packed on the weekends. Get there early if you want to snag a table.

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Featured Hotel Kamp

Hotel Kämp – not exactly “luxury”…

We all have our roles and I’ve long since figured out that mine is that of pre-planner while my sister, Iris is the day-of executor. I plan for all eventualities and make sure we have done as much as we can before we even depart. After that, any problems are Iris’ domain. I’m simply not a confrontational person unless I feel truly wronged. Now, flashback to our arrival into the beautiful city of Helsinki…

AA130 ORD to HEL: 11 Helsinki View

AA130 ORD to HEL – View

From the airplane, Helsinki looked like Missouri – open, green and flat. Gorgeous.

Since Helsinki is English-speaking-friendly, we had no problem hopping in a cab and finding our way to the Hotel Kamp a member of the Starwood group via their Luxury Collection. Having stayed at the Hotel Kamp, I can say that “Luxury Collection” should more appropriately evoke images of old and staid rather than truly luxurious. Hotel Kamp reminded me of a stately grand dame…seemingly put together and proper until you look closer and note the cracks and wear and tear. The worst part though was that we arrived early in the A.M. having not gotten much sleep on the airplane. Even though we had advised the hotel of our early arrival, they were apparently completely booked and wouldn’t have anything available for us until the check-in time. Luckily, they did have gym facilities for us to use and freshen up. We both got a workout in and then showered and changed. Even though we were super tired, we didn’t want to waste our short time in Helsinki. So, we headed out to explore! More on that later…

After checking in every hour or so, our room was finally ready…right about at check-in time. The first room we received was a double bedroom. It was totally serviceable…except that it was super hot and stuffy. We couldn’t get the air conditioning to work for the life of us. We booked the room on points and while we weren’t expecting anything luxurious, we at least expected working amenities. After numerous attempts by various staff to get the A/C to work, one lady (the supervisor) came up and said the solution was that they would provide fans. Obviously, this was totally unacceptable. Fans merely blow around the hot, stuffy air! I’m convinced my body temp is that of a menopausal lady as I like the room temp to be downright chilly. But even my sister couldn’t take the heat! So, it wasn’t just me!

The shit had hit the proverbial fan. Iris politely but firmly let them know their “solution” wouldn’t work for us. Eventually, the manager came up and moved us to a Jr. Suite. He was also nice enough to give us a complimentary bottle of red wine and free breakfast for the two of us the next morning. Frankly, he went above and beyond. The A/C worked better in the new room…in the sense that it was actually on…but the air really wasn’t very cool. The new room, however, was nice and spacious.

Double doors led into the foyer with double closets!

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kamp

Hotel Kamp – Jr. Suite

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kamp 1

Hotel Kamp – Jr. Suite

The bed fit into its own nook. It felt a bit claustrophobic and cramped but at least the bed was super comfy.

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kamp_03

Hotel Kamp – Jr. Suite

Directly across from the bed was the TV and sitting area. Note my checkered blue roll-on suitcase? It’s next to my sister’s big check-in bag for scale. Yes, I indeed brought only that small roll-on for my one-week trip. Suffice it to say, I travel as light as flippin’ possible!

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kamp_02

Hotel Kamp – Jr. Suite

The view from the room was beautiful. Helsinki is such a lovely city. It’s almost like an old world Seattle – lush and green with a seafaring vibe.

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kamp_04

Hotel Kamp – Jr. Suite

The next morning, we got up bright and early for our hard-earned, free breakfast before our 9am flight to Moscow. And by bright and early, I mean, the restaurant wasn’t even open yet! It seems there were a lot of older folks as part of a cruise group who were also waiting on the restaurant to open. We all congregated in the hallway as if worried there wouldn’t be enough seating or food for u s all.

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kamp Breakfast

Hotel Kamp – Breakfast

The breakfast, I’m happy to report, was well worth the wait. The food was delicious, varied and generous. And the setting couldn’t have been more chill and relaxing.

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kamp Breakfast_1

Hotel Kamp – Breakfast

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kamp Breakfast_03

Hotel Kamp – Breakfast

The rain was just starting at this point and to sit in the glassed atrium drinking a nice cup of coffee was the perfect salve to my frequent flying soul.

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kamp Breakfast_02

Hotel Kamp – Breakfast

Buffet eating rules applied. My first plate was a bit of everything. In clockwise order starting with the easily identifiable scrambled eggs at “6’oclock”. Next to that was a piece of cured white fish and then salmon. There was also a poached salmon. Then, 2 kinds of sausages, bacon and ham. In the middle was the karjalan pie (Karelian pasty) which is a traditional Finnish dish. It’s a rye pie crust with a rice filling and you top it with boiled egg mixed with butter (egg butter)…we mistakenly thought it was just boiled egg and took heaping dollops. We soon realized our mistake and scraped most of the butter off.

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kamp Breakfast_04

Hotel Kamp – Breakfast

Iris’ plate was a bit more varied than my meat-a-tarianism. Her’s included cheese, a variety of pickles and a croissant.

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kamp Breakfast_05

Hotel Kamp – Breakfast

Next, I went for some cheese from their handful of options as well as a boiled egg and some sort of jam.

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kamp Breakfast_06

Hotel Kamp – Breakfast

The egg was amazing! How, you ask, could a humble egg be considered amazing? Well, they boiled it perfectly. The bright orange yolk was just south of being completely done which is how I like it.

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kamp Breakfast_08

Hotel Kamp – Breakfast

Iris capped her breakfast with some fruit and juice.

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kamp Breakfast_09

Hotel Kamp – Breakfast

Despite my lack of affinity for healthy food items, something made me try the yogurt here. I don’t know what they do to the yogurt in this part of the world (and in Russia!) but it’s so yummy! It’s rich and thick and so full of flavor!

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kamp Breakfast_07

Hotel Kamp – Breakfast

After breakfast, we had to pack up and ready ourselves to leave. Having ambitiously bought a bottle of wine at duty free and not realizing how truly knackered we’d be after our jetlag flight, we didn’t even drink it! Plus, we had the free bottle of wine from the manager as well. Being the frugal Asian I am, I resolved to take it with us to Russia as wine in Russia is apparently expensive. I magyver’ed the hell outta some hotel slippers and packed it away!

Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kamp_05

Hotel Kamp – Jr. Suite

Onwards to Russia!

AA130 ORD to HEL: Featured - AA130 Dinner

AA130 – ORD to HEL [Business Class]

We purchased our roundtrip flights for about $1,285 each. I flew from LAX to ORD to HEL. This was the tail end of summer and still the height of the travel season. So, I didn’t think the price was too bad. Sure, we could’ve saved that money if we had used points to purchase our flights, but we needed the mileage for elite qualifying as we hadn’t requalified yet for Executive Platinum status on AA.

There are a lot of travel bloggers out there who are fortunate enough to be able to focus solely on maximizing their frequent flying returns by mileage running only when the price is X cents per mile. Unfortunately for my sister and I, we don’t have that luxury. We travel when we can get away and that means we’re at the mercy of the market price at that time. Because we care about attaining and maintaining elite status, we have to purchase our tickets until we’ve achieved status for the year and then we can coast by using miles instead.

I like front loading my flying in the first half of the year so I don’t have to worry as much about qualifying towards the end. I’ve definitely done the whole fly-45K-butt-in-seat-miles -in-2-months thing and it is exhausting. The added perk is that by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, I’ve usually requalified and can use my points for the most expensive travel time of the year…holidays!

This flight earned us 12,362 elite qualifying miles and cost us about $0.10 per mile. The modern day frequent flyer considers $0.05/mile a steal and $0.07-ish/mile the norm. So, we did pay more but again, we flew during peak travel season. Plus, when I consider it was in business class (using my system-wide upgrades), I didn’t feel too bad about the upcharge for the season.

Now, One Mile at a Time does a great review of what American Airlines offers on its flight from Chicago to Helsinki. So, I’m not going to focus on that. As a foodie, I’d rather get to the real meat of the matter for me…the food! I understand that certain people may think that airplane food is well…airplane food. But as with anything there is a spectrum of seriously inedible to startlingly seasoned fare across airlines.

All AA business class meals start with salad and a little appetizer. American Airlines offers the choice of a cream based dressing or balsamic vinaigrette. I can’t help it; the fatty in me always goes for the cream sauce. I justify it by saying I’m on vacation…but with how often I fly, I really don’t think it’s a viable excuse anymore. But this time was no different. I went for the pepper cream dressing.

AA130 ORD to HEL: 2 Salad

AA130 ORD to HEL – Salad

I loved the pickled onions and savory pecans. Truthfully, I could barely taste any pepper in he dressing and I wish they topped the salad with more bleu cheese. But overall, I’m a sucker for a wedge like salad of plain iceberg lettuce.

The salad came on a tray with the appetizer which was smoked salmon with some creme fraiche. It tasted pretty fresh and wasn’t too smokey. The salty slices worked really well when eaten with the warm cheese bread and butter. The bread was slightly too toasty with the edges a bit tough but that’s okay. I just cannibalized the innards instead.

AA130 ORD to HEL: 1 Dinner Starter

AA130 ORD to HEL – Smoked Salmon

AA130 ORD to HEL: 3 Cheese Bread

AA130 ORD to HEL – Cheese Bread

Lucky for us, the menu for the flight included a Richard Sandoval signature dish of Adobo Chicken served with achiote truffle sauce, purple mashed potatoes and vanilla-scented corn. I went for that one even though I usually go for the beef option. My standard rule for airplane entrees is usually the same rule I apply to wedding food…never go with the chicken; it’s almost always dry and unappetizing. However, American’s chicken dishes consistently make me reconsider. They use bone-in, skin-on chicken which really helps to retain the moisture. I also have no doubt they brine it to keep its juiciness.

AA130 ORD to HEL: 4 Chicken

AA130 ORD to HEL – Adobo Chicken

The plating was a mess. If you ever fly the Asian airliners in business or first class, you’ll notice a marked difference in attention to detail and customer service. In the grand scheme of things, as a flight attendant, is it hugely important to clean up a plate and ensure the food is plated as intended? Probably not as they are “there for our safety” and not our comfort. However, as an airline business, it is important as it affects the product they’re trying to sell to the public and that, in turn, affects the revenue of the company. I don’t want to rant about it but whether or not they want to be service providers or safety personnel, flight attendants for all intents and purposes are actually both. To behave differently only affects their own job security as they live or die with the airline’s success or failure. Ok, rant over. Back to the food.

My sister ordered the grilled beef tenderloin with charred Romesco sauce, corn puree and haricots verts (another Richard Sandoval dish). More often than not, AA also does a good job of serving their meat medium rare. I have had only a few occasions where the meat has been more on the rare side (which is fine by me!) and even fewer occasions where the meat has been overdone. This one came out just fine. I felt the Romesco sauce needed more seasoning. The corn puree was delicious. I sometimes wonder if I could bring my own condiments with me on the plane…and if that would be weird…because the corn could been super awesome with a hit of truffle oil. The green beans were crisp and fresh, albeit flavorless.

AA130 ORD to HEL: 5 Filet

AA130 ORD to HEL – Grilled Beef Tenderloin

The best thing about an AA long haul flight in biz/first class is the ice cream sundae to finish the meal! I get mine with extra fudge and a dollop of whipped cream. I wonder what kind of fudge they use…and then, I also don’t as I would turn into a giant dough ball if I found their supplier.

AA130 ORD to HEL: 6 Sundae

AA130 ORD to HEL – Ice Cream Sundae!

After the meal, I snoozed for a bit and woke up for breakfast about an hour and a half out from Helsinki. I generally like American’s breakfast options. I went with the quiche which, much to my surprise, was pretty freaking amazing. The quiche was custardy and rich. The tomato’s acidity helped to cut that richness. I ignored the asparagus as I hate asparagus. The only thing to complain about was the quiche’s soggy crust. But you can’t really prevent that with an airplane steam oven.

AA130 ORD to HEL: 8 Breakfast Full

AA130 ORD to HEL – Breakfast Quiche

Iris went with the three cheese omelet and sausage with potato cake. I’ve noticed that when the eggs are in omelet form, they tend to maintain their eggy consistency vs. when they are scrambled and become rubber chewy bits closely resembling badly cooked calamari. I can’t say much about this breakfast except to say that it was unexceptional but well executed.

AA130 ORD to HEL: 9 Breakfast 2

AA130 ORD to HEL – Omelet

Breakfast was accompanied by fruit and a choice of bread. Because we’re huge fatties…I mean, foodies…we went with the croissant…even though we hadn’t moved our bodies in about 9 hours (beyond the energy it takes to raise multiple glasses of wine to our lips). Oh well…we were on vacation! 😉

Helsinki & Moscow bound!

With expiring Hyatt suite upgrade certificates from signing up for the Chase Hyatt credit card while I was a Hyatt Platinum status member, I needed to book something fast! Each suite upgrade cert is good for a week. Basically, you book a paid room at the lowest category and it is upgraded to a suite (depending on availability). FYI – you can’t book a room using the Hyatt prepaid certificates and then use a suite upgrade cert. I trolled travel forums for that lil’ tid bit.

My Asian side kicked in and buffet eating rules applied – I had to get the best value for my money! After an exhaustive search for last minute availability, I settled on the Park Hyatt Moscow. A suite there cost $1,600 per night while a basic room rate was $380 per night. For 4 nights, I was basically getting $4,880 for free! Sweeeet! <–get it? See what I did there?… Continue Reading

Dinner collage!

Meal of the Year: David Chang, Roy Choi and Wolfgang Puck @ Bel Air Hotel – Bel Air, Los Angeles, CA

When I found out that David Chang was coming to LA for one night only to cook a dinner with Roy Choi (A-Frame, Lukshon, Kogi, etc.) and Wolfgang Puck (Spago) at the Bel Air Hotel, I had to get a reservation. I subscribed to the Bel Air hotel Twitter feed and linked it to text me every time they tweeted. Do you know how utterly annoying it can be to receive tweet updates along with your every day messages, emails, et al? But I braved it. I weathered it in the name of scoring one of the best reservations of the year!

Unfortunately, on the day they announced the dinner on Twitter, I was in NYC meeting with a client in a building inhospitable to cell reception. I kept excusing myself to try to get a signal and make a simple reservation. Alas, by the time I got through to a human, they were already wait listing. I was aghast with horror. I had to have a reservation! I was placed on the waitlist. Continue Reading

Father’s Day brunch a.k.a. ‘mostly’ ladies’ lunch @ home…

An impromptu plan to get together turned into a homemade brunch spread of smoked salmon tartine, custard french toast, chicken sausage & kale frittata, and a nice bottle of rosé. The gorgeous California weather cooperated and we enjoyed the sun and sea views from the deck. I will definitely be posting my custard french toast recipe soon! It was a-m-aaaaaa-zing. What’d you do on your Father’s Day?

Father's Day Brunch

Father’s Day Brunch

New wedges!

Cute wedges finally arrived at my doorstep by Matisse from Ruelala!

Most of my friends know that I spend more time fooding it around than shopping. It’s rare for me to buy apparel in lieu of something tasty. But there’s something to be said about such deliciously appealing shoes, eh?

New wedges!

New wedges!

These are the Matisse “Joss” Leather Wedge Sandal which I bought on Ruelala for $49.90! What a steal! In a price comparison, they are $137 on Amazon, $69 on DSW (limited sizes available)…and they WERE $27.99 on Overstock (now out of stock)?? Unfortunately, the Matisse sale is now over at Ruelala but they always have affordable flash sales, so, if you don’t want to miss out, sign up for an account if you don’t already have one via my link: Ruelala. Full disclosure, I’ll get credit for your signup. Whoop whoop!

Haitian Coffee!

Awesome Island feel and Haitian flavor at TiGeorges! – Downtown L.A., CA

Remember that morning meeting that went AWOL last Monday necessitating my solo brekkie at PDC? So, we rescheduled and I again made my drive to downtown L.A. As usual, he was running late and so I took the opportunity to pick up some lunch for us. Scanning my list of Yelp bookmarks, I opted to cross one off my “To Try” list and TiGeorges Haitian cafe was it!

I am part Cuban (in spirit) so any opportunities for island cuisine, even Haitian, is totally right up my alley! TiGeorges suffers from a somewhat unfortunate locale – not close enough to the business downtown AND a bit hard to spot. Based on their mostly empty dining room, I would say other potential customers might agree if they knew about the place! The thing is, once you find it, it’s seriously awesome. Having run restaurants, bars and clubs in L.A. before, might I suggest stepping up the social media presence and offering delivery to all those business commuters in the heart of the L.A. financial district? I think it’d really help considering their fantastic lunch specials!

Business hat aside, let me get on to the most excellent restaurant and food! The decor is cheery and tropical. It was a bit stuffy as the A/C wasn’t running but I’m sure if I had asked they would’ve turned it on. :) Continue Reading

Sirloin medium rare!

Fancy 24/7 nostalgia at the Pacific Dining Car – Downtown L.A., CA

A client of mine wanted to meet over breakfast at the Pacific Dining Car in downtown Los Angeles. They have another location in Santa Monica as well. Unfortunately, my client was totally AWOL! *sigh* Not one to waste a new food opportunity, I settled in for a relaxing breakfast solo.

Be advised, there is seriously no signal (with Tmobile) inside and even though I see a PDC_LA locked wifi available, apparently it’s not available to customers. Luckily, they do have many different newspaper options. So, I chose a copy of USA Today and perused the menu. Continue Reading