Photo caption written by my dad, Francisco dela Cena Samson, Jr.
The picture was taken in our old house where your Lola Maring (Maria dela Cena} was weaving and selling mosquito nets to people to protect them from mosquito bites when they are asleep. During that time the incidents of dengue and malaria are very low because the mosquitos only come out during night time and the net protects people from being bitten. Nowadays, people depend on chemical repellents and window screens to protect them, but the mosquitos are so small that they go through small holes in doors and walls.
The art of weaving is a lost art and it is very rare to see people who have the skill and industry to continue practicing the art. It is very labor intensive and the advent of big commercial weaving companies producing and flooding the market with cheap nets practically killed the art.

Photo caption written by my dad, Francisco dela Cena Samson, Jr.

The picture was taken in our old house where your Lola Maring (Maria dela Cena} was weaving and selling mosquito nets to people to protect them from mosquito bites when they are asleep. During that time the incidents of dengue and malaria are very low because the mosquitos only come out during night time and the net protects people from being bitten. Nowadays, people depend on chemical repellents and window screens to protect them, but the mosquitos are so small that they go through small holes in doors and walls.

The art of weaving is a lost art and it is very rare to see people who have the skill and industry to continue practicing the art. It is very labor intensive and the advent of big commercial weaving companies producing and flooding the market with cheap nets practically killed the art.

Anonymous said: I was pleasantly surprise reading your blog as my dad was from Mambusao. Still have a lot of family there actually.. Last time I visited was about 40 years ago.

Nice. What’s your last name and your father’s name if you don’t mind me asking?

If you are looking for a good interior designer for your home or business, check out www.edwardvariasdesign.com.  He specializes in Feng Shui as well and is incredible!

If you are looking for a good interior designer for your home or business, check out www.edwardvariasdesign.com. He specializes in Feng Shui as well and is incredible!

Babycakes (NYC)

Located in Larchmont Village, Babycakes is a gluten-free, vegan bakery that headed west from NYC.  I stumbled upon Babycakes unexpectedly through a recommendation from a Pete’s Coffee worker.  After buying coffee one morning, I inquired about gluten-free pastries.  The worker informed me that they unfortunately didn’t have any gluten-free pastries but he told me if I were to walk up a bit more towards Beverly Blvd., I would find a gluten-free bakery.  The thought of this discovery evoked an excitement from within that I almost darted out the door before my boyfriend was able to get his coffee.  Anxiously, I asked him if he wanted to come with me in which he did.  

I did not know what bakery he was talking about since the only one that we ever knew about on Larchmont towards Beverly Blvd. was Noah’s Bagels.  After turning back towards Pete’s Coffee, we came upon Babycakes NYC and went inside.

Being my first time in the bakery, I asked which pastries were gluten-free.  The worker then asked me if it was my first time there in which I replied, “yes”.  Upon receiving this response he told me that EVERYTHING was gluten-free and vegan, as I stared at the donuts while my mouth watered from nostalgia.  Ya see, this is a big deal for me being gluten AND dairy allergic.  I can never eat pastries, and it’s been a LONG time since I’ve had a donut.  The thought of having any pastry in the store at my disposal brought fireworks to my imagination.  ANYTHING?!!  So I made sure I went for the coconut donut and the banana chip bread (as in vegan chocolate chips), both of which I was VERY pleased with.  Finally, to be able to eat some of the things that I’ve missed because of my allergies was a temporary “dream come true”, as long as I was able to enjoy the moment.  That’s all that mattered in that moment.  

I was invited to try the waffle next time on a future visit.  I can’t wait to return on my next pastry crave.  Thanks Babycakes!  Gluten-free is definitely for me :)

Echo Park Lake

Being a proud resident of Echo Park for the last 8 years, this is one of the reasons why I can’t leave.  It took about a year, maybe longer, to finish restoring the lake but when it reopened, local residents and outside visitors were found picnicking, jogging, walking and sitting around the lake marveling at how clean the park and the lake looked from years prior.  With a few additions like the Lady of the Lake statue, plaques that explain the history and the inhabitants of the lake, and a deck to stand and admire the scenery, the lotuses are growing renewed and protected.  Echo Park Lake is also home of the annual Lotus Festival and the Cuban Festival, which I wonder will return now that the park has been restored.  

I do hope that residents continue to keep it immaculate and preserved for the long haul.  I’m glad I was able to partake in it’s return taking my own stroll around the lake and reminding myself why I’m a proud Echo Park resident.

Otomi-san Restaurant

Otomi-san Restaurant is a Japanese culinary jewel located in the middle of Boyle Heights.  I call it a jewel because it is unlike other Japanese restaurants in nearby Little Tokyo.  The place is tiny but the feel of the atmosphere mimics the tiny restaurants that you can find throughout the countryside of Japan and the quality of food is just as similar.

I get a little nostalgic of Japan whenever I eat here.  The owners are very hospitable and nice, the way Japanese businesses are traditionally run.  You feel like you’re eating in their house because of the intimacy and the fact that the wife runs the business while her husband cooks your order in the kitchen.  Their refrigerator is behind the counter next to the TV which also gives you the feeling that you’re eating in their house.  They are known for their sukiyaki so I ordered it with my friend and ended up taking the leftovers home to enjoy the next day.  It was perfect for two people and the quality was good.

They close pretty early during the week, 9pm to be exact, and they don’t serve alcohol.  That’s the only small downfall.  With Japanese food, especially in the summer, a nice beer would be a great compliment to your meal.  But since they close early, your best bet is to drive to the nearby Artist District or Little Tokyo to wash your meal down with an added buzz.

Otomi-san is located in an unexpected place, Boyle Heights, where you don’t see too many other Japanese restaurants near by but apparently they’ve been there since the early 1900s.  The couple that owns it now is originally from Hiroshima.  Boyle Heights was one of the neighborhoods that opened up its doors to Japanese Americans after the internment camps.  It’s nice to still see that this community is still supported and embraced by the local residents who eat there and continue to keep it alive.

King’s Hawaiian Bakery and Restaurant


What does Torrance and the South Bay have that LA doesn’t have?  Paradise Cake and good local Hawaiian grinds like King’s Hawaiian Bakery and Restaurant.


There’s only one King’s Hawaiian Bakery and Restaurant and it’s located in Torrance, California.  I’ve enjoyed their Paradise Cake at numerous birthday parties, weddings and other special occasions.  My dad used to eat their sweet rolls with his coffee every morning when I was a child.  I have yet to eat in their restaurant (I’ll admit, I’m a bit biased when it comes to Hawaiian food.  I still think that Gardena is a hot spot for good local Hawaiian food that I hope to review in a future blog entry), but their bakery has some amazing treats to enjoy by yourself or share with others.  

I’ve heard about their Chocolate Dobash cake that a Torrance resident friend of mine said I’d have to try sometime.  Perhaps a reason to visit King’s Hawaiian again.  Nevertheless, I felt that I had to mention this place as a famous “local” spot in the South Bay of Torrance, California.

The Oinkster


My first visit to The Oinkster was during their annual Burger Week.  Although my intake of meat has significantly declined, I thought I’d give it a try since it was supposed to be their signature “Thrilla from Manila” burger which consisted of a lumpia-like patty made of lumpia meat, wrapped in a lumpia wrapper and served with a special relish that completed the savory experience.  I made sure to order their combination and try their fries which our friends were raving about in which I echo in agreement.  Although I felt the burger in my stomach still, the next morning, I thought that it was worth trying.

I would love to try their pulled-pork sandwich or pastrami sandwich someday, once I muster up the courage to have something hearty again. Being Filipino and having a history in Eagle Rock, it’s nice to be able to support Filipino-owned businesses in Los Angeles.  I look forward to the next Burger Week at The Oinkster next year.

Self Realization Fellowship (Mount Washington)


      After learning about the Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine site, I started to hear about the other sites, specifically the one located in Mount Washington.  I had a couple of friends that had gone there to meditate or spend time alone and had encouraged me to check it out myself.  There was a time period when I found myself unemployed and instead of just staying indoors to feel sorry for myself, I used this free time as an opportunity to travel and explore new places in Los Angeles, within my own city.  Prior to this period, I had devoted so much time traveling to other US cities or other cities worldwide, but now I decided to use that same adventurous energy to explore new places in my own backyard.  It was through this experience that I found the drive to discover for myself, the Self Realization Fellowship site at Mount Washington. 

       With its own touch of beauty, the Self Realization Fellowship site at Mount Washington is not exactly the same as the SRF Lake Shrine site.  It is different and beautiful in its own way as it sits on top of a hill and you could get a great view of the city on a clear day.  With more flowers and trees within the garden grove, there are benches and tables that allow you to sit and meditate either by yourself or with others.  As other SRF sites, it is open to the public and people from all religious and spiritual backgrounds and are welcome to visit the grounds.  I appreciate this small getaway as it is tucked away from the busy energy of the city.  I definitely consider it one of the gems in the Northeast part of Los Angeles.

       If you ever find yourself with some extra time, or if you need to get away and are in Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Lincoln Heights or any of the neighborhoods that surround Mount Washington, take a drive up to the Self Realization Fellowship site in Mount Washington.  It can definitely serve as your mini-retreat from a stressful day or aid in helping you delve further into yourself.

Meals by Genet
After my last post on Ethiopian cuisine in LA, my former neighbor tells me that I need to try his favorite Ethiopian restaurant in all of LA located in Little Ethiopia.  Having not ventured out enough to try the array of restaurants on Fairfax and being a regular at Merkato, I thought I’d give his suggestion a shot.  At first I perceived his opinion to be a little biased since he was good friends with the owner and chef but I thought I’d try it anyway, especially since he was raving about their vegetarian combination.  
The first sign of approval for me was their honey wine availability.  Now not every Ethiopian restaurant carries it, but they did.  I like to know that I can enjoy a good Ethiopian meal with some Ethiopian honey wine on the side and a glass will do just fine (thank you very much).  He had ordered before I got there informing me that although their meals take a while to prepare, since she prepares every meal with her own touch, it would be worth the wait.  I didn’t mind at all, wine in hand, sipping it slowly to prepare my palette for what we were about to enjoy.
When the veggie combination came out, since it was my first time, I had every vegetable explained to me.  Oh man, I was in heaven!  I couldn’t believe how good it was!  You could definitely taste the butter within each bite and the flavors were so distinct.  I couldn’t put my injera down  as I kept going for the variety of flavors within this tasty combination.  It was so good that for that entire meal, I forgot about any other Ethiopian restaurant that I had eaten at prior, so focused on the quality of Genet’s vegetarian combo.  I never thought the quality of Ethiopian food could be so high as what I enjoyed here.
A return to Meals by Genet is a definite must!  I can’t wait to take all my vegetarian/vegan and/or health conscious friends back here for another experience.  Maybe I’ll just use that as an excuse for a gluttonous Ethiopian experience ;)

Meals by Genet

After my last post on Ethiopian cuisine in LA, my former neighbor tells me that I need to try his favorite Ethiopian restaurant in all of LA located in Little Ethiopia.  Having not ventured out enough to try the array of restaurants on Fairfax and being a regular at Merkato, I thought I’d give his suggestion a shot.  At first I perceived his opinion to be a little biased since he was good friends with the owner and chef but I thought I’d try it anyway, especially since he was raving about their vegetarian combination.  

The first sign of approval for me was their honey wine availability.  Now not every Ethiopian restaurant carries it, but they did.  I like to know that I can enjoy a good Ethiopian meal with some Ethiopian honey wine on the side and a glass will do just fine (thank you very much).  He had ordered before I got there informing me that although their meals take a while to prepare, since she prepares every meal with her own touch, it would be worth the wait.  I didn’t mind at all, wine in hand, sipping it slowly to prepare my palette for what we were about to enjoy.

When the veggie combination came out, since it was my first time, I had every vegetable explained to me.  Oh man, I was in heaven!  I couldn’t believe how good it was!  You could definitely taste the butter within each bite and the flavors were so distinct.  I couldn’t put my injera down  as I kept going for the variety of flavors within this tasty combination.  It was so good that for that entire meal, I forgot about any other Ethiopian restaurant that I had eaten at prior, so focused on the quality of Genet’s vegetarian combo.  I never thought the quality of Ethiopian food could be so high as what I enjoyed here.

A return to Meals by Genet is a definite must!  I can’t wait to take all my vegetarian/vegan and/or health conscious friends back here for another experience.  Maybe I’ll just use that as an excuse for a gluttonous Ethiopian experience ;)

Berlin Currywurst
Ihad never even heard of Berlin Currywurst until we attended a baby shower at the Hollywood location on Cahuenga and I must say, it immediately got added on to my “foodie” list.  Although, for the most part I am a healthy eater, sorry to burst the vegetarian/vegan bubbles out there but I still like meat and am a sucker for sausages.  This is why my eyes turned into hearts when my order of Paprikawurst (all natural pork sausages with paprika and garlic) Kreuzberg (chipotle marinade) ordered medium spice level came out with my Austrian Steigl Grapefruit Radler (a.k.a. grapefruit beer in laymen’s terms).  My “Kool-aid” smile popped out with each bite as I washed it down with what tasted like “grapefruit drink” straight from a mason glass jar.  Oohwee, it was finger-licking good!  
If you put the bread to the side, you can make it a low-carb, Atkins-diet type of meal, but I like to order it with Fritten (their homemade fries made out of organic potatoes) and call it a complete meal.
So it’s not vegetarian/vegan-friendly, but at least it’s organic!
(The picture above was taken from the Silverlake location which was just as good with less seating available.) 

Berlin Currywurst

Ihad never even heard of Berlin Currywurst until we attended a baby shower at the Hollywood location on Cahuenga and I must say, it immediately got added on to my “foodie” list.  Although, for the most part I am a healthy eater, sorry to burst the vegetarian/vegan bubbles out there but I still like meat and am a sucker for sausages.  This is why my eyes turned into hearts when my order of Paprikawurst (all natural pork sausages with paprika and garlic) Kreuzberg (chipotle marinade) ordered medium spice level came out with my Austrian Steigl Grapefruit Radler (a.k.a. grapefruit beer in laymen’s terms).  My “Kool-aid” smile popped out with each bite as I washed it down with what tasted like “grapefruit drink” straight from a mason glass jar.  Oohwee, it was finger-licking good!  

If you put the bread to the side, you can make it a low-carb, Atkins-diet type of meal, but I like to order it with Fritten (their homemade fries made out of organic potatoes) and call it a complete meal.

So it’s not vegetarian/vegan-friendly, but at least it’s organic!

(The picture above was taken from the Silverlake location which was just as good with less seating available.) 

Cha Cha Cha

I have been going to the Cha Cha Cha on Virgil and Melrose for over 10 years and the quality today is still as good as it was when I initially ate there.  I have attended work lunches here to birthday dinners and casual meetups with friends.  I enjoy the colorful atmosphere and especially their Latin/Caribbean cuisine.  Their service has also been good for small to large parties.  It’s fun to munch on their appetizers along with a glass of sangria for happy hour while catching up with a friend.  I’m a fan of their sangria, paella (which is worth the wait if you don’t mind waiting), their guava goat cheese quesadilla, and their jerk chicken.  I haven’t ordered anything off their menu that I didn’t enjoy.  It’s always a fun atmosphere in the day and more romantic at night with the candlelight lighting.  

They have local street parking during the day and a valet service at night.  Cha Cha Cha is definitely a restaurant to check out if you’re ever in the Silverlake area and are craving a Latin/Caribbean cuisine experience!

Olympic Cafe - House of Breakfast
A Hawaiian-style “hole in the wall” breakfast spot in the middle of Koreatown?  Yes, that’s the best way that I could describe Olympic Cafe, better known as House of Breakfast, in one sentence.  On a random corner, tucked away on 5th Street and Olympic Blvd., you will definitely see regulars waiting outside of the restaurant to be seated on any given weekend.  The restaurant is definitely a “hole in the wall” in a sense that seating is limited.  But once you are able to get seated, you can enjoy anything from their: pancakes, to their spam and eggs or portuguese sausage and eggs served with their fried rice, which are my favorites and are apparently the favorites of others, as well.  I’ve never had their lunch but they also have sandwiches and burgers on their menu.  The owner is a cute Japanese American lady that knows her customers well and makes everyone feel at home as they eat, almost as if you were a guest in her own home.  
I enjoy House of Breakfast and it’s great whenever I’m craving the option of enjoying a Hawaiian-style breakfast while waking up in Koreatown.  Helpful hint: the key though is to make sure that you get there early on the weekend, as the wait tends to increase the closer it gets to lunch.

Olympic Cafe - House of Breakfast

A Hawaiian-style “hole in the wall” breakfast spot in the middle of Koreatown?  Yes, that’s the best way that I could describe Olympic Cafe, better known as House of Breakfast, in one sentence.  On a random corner, tucked away on 5th Street and Olympic Blvd., you will definitely see regulars waiting outside of the restaurant to be seated on any given weekend.  The restaurant is definitely a “hole in the wall” in a sense that seating is limited.  But once you are able to get seated, you can enjoy anything from their: pancakes, to their spam and eggs or portuguese sausage and eggs served with their fried rice, which are my favorites and are apparently the favorites of others, as well.  I’ve never had their lunch but they also have sandwiches and burgers on their menu.  The owner is a cute Japanese American lady that knows her customers well and makes everyone feel at home as they eat, almost as if you were a guest in her own home.  

I enjoy House of Breakfast and it’s great whenever I’m craving the option of enjoying a Hawaiian-style breakfast while waking up in Koreatown.  Helpful hint: the key though is to make sure that you get there early on the weekend, as the wait tends to increase the closer it gets to lunch.

Nawlins’ music (New Orleans, LA)

One of the fond memories that I had from my time in New Orleans was the prevalence of music. Just like Salvador, Bahia, music is everywhere here but more so, on the tip of jazz since it is known for the birthplace of jazz music.  On any given day, you could see a musician playing an instrument on the street as you walk through the French Quarter, witness a marching brass band as it accompanies a funeral procession on any given Sunday, or catch Rebirth Brass Band performing at a local venue.  The history of jazz music can be tracked throughout the city as you can still visit some of the venues where local New Orleans’ musicians like Louis Armstrong performed or were discovered.  Hip Hop artists such as Lil’ Wayne and Jay Electronica are also from New Orleans. 

I feel that you cannot talk about New Orleans or have a complete New Orleans experience without talking about the music that runs through this city.  With this topic, I end my review of my visit to New Orleans.  I know there was so much more to mention from the local cuisine, to the cemeteries, it’s history of slavery, the creole population, voodoo, Mardi Gras, and much more but perhaps that will have “to be continued” with a return visit and more photos to share in the near future.

Café Du Monde (New Orleans, LA)

A trip to New Orleans is not the same without a visit to Café Du Monde.  Café Du Monde is famous for its sugary beignets and righteously so.  There’s always a wait but once you wait and your beignets come out, it’s easy to devour these light pastries so fast you’ll wonder where it all went.

They’re best served with a Cafe Au Lait which you can order iced for those hot and humid days.  Trust me, you’ll need it after you put these yummy pastries in your tummy.  They’re quite big so it’s best to share and be ready for a little bit of mess as that powdered sugar falls from your lips or attaches to them with each bite.  

I’m not a big fan of donuts usually and can’t really have too much gluten or dairy these days due to allergies, but these beignets are worth trying because you can’t get beignets like these anywhere else.  It’s a perfect snack or dessert to enjoy in the morning or during the afternoon during your visit to the French Quarter.  There’s no point in going to New Orleans without catching a bite here unless you have food allergies.