Monday, May 13, 2013

Rebirth

Hi World. It's me, Irene your favorite bargain hunter and rockstar extraordinaire. After much praying and contemplation, I have decided that I am going to close this chapter of my life. But rest assured that that does not mean the story has ended, but instead it is a beginning of a new chapter. Please come check out my new blog at 

http://yubargainrockstar.wordpress.com/ 

Just as I am figuring out and learning the ropes of this new format, my journey ahead will also take a new course. I also wrote my first entry and while it was a difficult one I am ready. Check it out here.

Yours Truly ,

Irene   

   

Saturday, May 4, 2013

What Money Can't Buy: Challenges, Transitions, and a New Journey

Hi Readers and YuBargainRockstar fans, I know I have not posted for a while and I actually have multiple entries in my drafts waiting to be uploaded. However, today I wanted to write an entry about "what money can't buy" and hope that this can serve as an inspiration to everyone (rich or poor, frugal or pimp-daddy status) because no one can escape the reality of hardships and heartaches.

Recently, I have been going through probably one of the most difficult periods of my life and problems seem to pour down like a thunderstorm daily. It's been difficult and there were many days when I just wanted to give up completely as the fires I put-out would only burn twice as hard. And perhaps that's the problem, I was doing this all wrong and relying on own strength and abilities to do it all by myself.

Since accepting my inabilities to do this alone, I have reached out for help and surrounded myself with people who love me as I am- flaws and all, and while the journey did not become easier the affirmation and positivity has really given me a jolt of energy and realization that I have an army of support who will stand by my side. But most importantly... God loves me and will not forsake me.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand
- Isaiah 41:10

I pray that while I cannot prevent challenges from arising, I will rise to the occasion and allow God's glory to shine through.  On a completely random topic, I am considering to transition from the Blogger Format to the WordPress System, as I had been advised on some attractive attributes on the later.  I have not made a firm decision, but would like input from my readers.  I hope that I can receive closure on some of my difficult situations and perhaps a new blog will help resurrect that old spark but wonder if continuing on with this platform
 will serve as a better outlet.  What do you think?


Should I keep the Blogger Blog or start fresh with WordPress?



Yours Truly,

Irene      

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Splurge: The Best Dinner Ever! 17 Course Dinner @ O Ya Restaurant in Boston, MA

I love food just as much as anyone and feel that you can get a great meal for a bargain price; however, after hearing so many rave reviews about this $$$$ restaurant in Boston called O Ya (Yelp Review) you can't help but be curious about what all the fuss is about. My favorite celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods, even stated that this was one of the "Best Resturant in America" (article here) and included it in his "Top 5 Highlights in Boston" (video after first set of pictures).

 
This restaurant had been on my mind for the past 2 years and I finally made an oath to try O Ya at least once when a worthy celebration presented itself.  That day finally came when my husband achieved a monumental milestone in his career advancement and we eagerly anticipated our 17 course meal catered to our dietary needs and taste preference.  I requested non-spicy items and while my husband and I shared many of the same dishes we diverged in a few items.   
 

The restaurant is a tucked away in a modest brick-building at the corner of Boston's Chinatown and while the decor and environment is not what you would expect from a $$$$ restaurant, the food will cease to amaze you. Be prepared to have your mind blown.  
*Warning* What you're about to see may cause severe cravings and be inappropriate for hungry readers on a diet. But if you're feeling a bit naughty and willing to indulge in a bit of food porn, embrace yourself... because you're in for a wild ride.


   

Dish 1. Kumanoto Oyster**: watermelon pearls, cucumber mignonnette (market price)
-I'd never think to put watermelon and oysters together, but this marriage is a match made in heaven



Dish 2. (Husband's) Hamachi with spicy banana pepper mousse ($14)

Dish 2 (My dish). Hamachi belly**: yuzu soy marinted santa barbara sea urchin ($18)
-Absolutely loved this dish



3. Salmon: unfilered wheater soy mormoi ($12)
4. Warm Eel: thai basil, kaboyaki, fresh kyoto sansho ($18)


5. Homemade fingerling potato chip: black winter truffle ($18)
-Gawd why does truffles taste so awesome...








6. Kohada Japanese baby mackerl: black olive puree aka shiso ($14(
7. Langoustine tempura: ao nori, spicy langoustine sauce, lemon zest ($18)
8. Wild Bluefin Maguro: soy braised garlic, micro greens ($17)



9. Kyoto style enoki mushrooms: garlic, soy ($10)
- I absolutely loved the marinade

 

10. Diver scallop**: safe tempura, olive oil bubbles, meyer lemon ($18)
-The scallop just melted in my mouth and I remember asking Alex "Is this what scallop is suppose to taste like? Good lord! What have I been eating all these years?!" LOVED!
11. Salmon Tartare: cucumber yogurt coulis, argon oil, dill ($17)
-I want to say that this dish was good, but not great, but I can't remember... oh the photos are just making me hungry again... 









12. Artctic char: yuzu cured, smoked sesame brittle, cumin aioli, cilantro ($21)


13. Bonito tataki: myoga, garlic, giner, ponzu ($19)
14. Chilled Main lobster salad: avocado, creamy yuzu dressing, peppercress, cucumber gelee ($24)


15. Grilled king oyster & Shitake mushroom**: rosemary garlic oil, sesame froth, soy ($24)

-The presentation may look a bit odd, but trust me on this, it tasted ah-mazing. I'm not sure how they made this fungus taste so delicious *drool*


16. Japanese Wagyu Beef- Seared petit strip lion (2oz) potato confit, sea salt, white truffle oil ($70)
So decadent and rich, it's difficult to find the right words to accurately describe the buttery goodness. 

17. Foie Gras**: balsamic chocolate kabayaki, claudio corallo raisin cocoa pulp, sip of aged sake ($33) 

and some complimentary chocolates on the house!


The 17 course dinner was a meal of a lifetime and probably the best meal I've ever had. Each dish was decadent and flavorful while still maintaining an impeccable presentation and the customer service was equally spectaculor.  Yet, a monsterous meal like this also came with monstrous check, total-ling to $469.90- Whew!! Nevertheless, I think that even bargain hunters like myself can enjoy the finer things in life.

Highly recommend this no-frills hole-in-the-wall for a major celebration, but definitely save for a meal like this otherwise it will eat a hole in your wallet.  


If you could splurge on one meal, where would it be?  My next possible target may be E by Jose Andres at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas NV, but we'll see :)


Yours Truly,


Irene 


Monday, March 25, 2013

Restaurant Review: Delicious Bacon Chicken Ranch Pizza @ Ernesto's Pizzeria in Boston, MA

While exploring the North End of Boston we decided to pop into a local award-winning pizzeria to see what the fuss was all about.  With the restaurant designated as a "cheap eat" with its single dollar sign and a 4 star rating on yelp, I thought this would be a good contender for a local value meal and boy did I hit the nail on the head!   

 
The spaces screams hole-in-the-wall and while the decor is a bit dated you shouldn't let the humble appearance prevent you from sampling their decadent pies. My husband and I shared "a slice" (a quarter of a full size pizza) of their Bacon Chicken Ranch pizza and it was heavenly and for just $5.  Check out my yelp review for the details!
 
 
This cozy mom n' pop shop is the type of place I'd imagine the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to hang out with electic art-decoesc portraits hanging on the wall and the crazy awesome pizza combinations. But then again when you combine Bacon, Chicken, and Ranch together you have the holy trinity :)   
 



Ernesto's is a fanastic spot for a bargain meal, but if you're looking for an excellent spot to indulge, check out Neptune's Oyster (yelp review) next door. They sell lobster rolls (as noted on the sign behind Ernesto's), but the oysters are the stars. Freshly caught, they exude flavors that frozen oysters would never be able to compare. But if you want an equally delicious oyster snack for $1 be sure to stay tuned on the upcoming posts!

    
What attraction are you looking forward to seeing most on my mini Boston adventure? Splurge? Bargain... Lets hear it! :)


Yours Truly,

Irene

Thursday, March 21, 2013

New Series Announcement: Adventures in Boston, MA

Boston... Home to the Red Sox, birthplace of the subway, birth control pill, and many others is a city rich with American History.  So, I thought to myself, why not bring my readers along on my adventure and highlight some of Boston's finest as well as the best bang-for-your-buck joints. 
 

 
I used the Freedom Trial as my guide, which is not only FREE, but also a great map to hit all the top sites.  There's an actual red line that you can follow, which you will see in upcoming posts :)
 
Additionally, my husband and I burned an insane amount of calories (from all the walking), which was perfect because we had a lot of eateries that we wanted to hit up and of course share with you all in the next entries.  Both tourist attraction as well as local spots will be featured, so get excited! 
 
 
What do you think is a must-see or do attraction in Boston?
 
 
Yours Truly,
 
Irene Yu

Monday, March 18, 2013

Restaurant Review: Gourmet Pancakes @ Griddle Cafe in Los Angeles, CA

I am definitely not a morning person, but I absolutely cannot stand LA morning traffic especially when the commute is from Orange County. Yuck! The traffic is just atrocious. But when I confirmed my 9am appointment in Universal City Walk, I thought why not wake up earlier and try a new breakfast spot in the area. I would not only try a new spot, but also beat part of the commute! Two birds with one stone!  So after a quick yelp search and an overwhelming number of positive reviews, I selected a local and celeb favorite- Griddle Cafe.


Celebrity Chef Rachel Ray enthusiastically endorsed it and it's made an appearance on almost every publication (including hot shots like New York Times to local columns like the Daily Trojan). So you can imagine how super excited I was about trying this neighborhood gem and sharing it with my readers.  Check out my Yelp Review on the details. 


My mom and I are all about spending quality time together, but what better way to do it than by enjoying a delicious and hearty breakfast.  First up was the Caberello, one of the largest breakfast burritos that I have ever seen. Stuffed with scrambled eggs, potatoes, green chilies, chorizo and topped with fresh salsa, sour cream, and avocados, mmm... And it is enormous!


And of course we had to try at least one house speciality, which are their critically acclaimed pancakes! And let me tell you there are definiteily some interesting combinations. From red velvet  to oreo-filled flapjacks, I think there's a pancake for every patron who yearns for their childhood.

However, after careful consideration I decided to go with a crowd pleaser and chose the "Tis the season" which is home-made pumpkin pie filled pancake concotion.  Tasted just like a pumpkin pie.  


Overall it was a great breakfast experience and definitely a great value for it's price. We could have easily split any one of these entrees and still have left-overs, but we wanted to maximize our trip and indulge in their offerings.  It took three people in two meal seatings to finish it all off. There was just THAT much food, good thing it was tasty :) 


Whats your favorite high value breakfast spot to fuel up for a long day?


Yours Truly,

Irene         

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Restaurant Week- Prime Cut Cafe in Orange, CA

I love red meat and while I don't frequent steakhouses regularly, my cousin and I decided to check out Prime Cut Cafe (Yelp Review) in Orange, CA during OC Restaurant Week, a week dedicated to allow patrons to sample an appetizer, entree, and dessert at a fixed rate. The Restaurant Week concept is awesome because it gives patrons an opportunity to sample a few of the restaurant's top selling dishes, in a bundle, for a fraction of the traditional total price--making this a great value!
 
There were many restaurant participants this year and we decided to try this establishment based on their expansive restaurant week menu (2013 Menu) options. My cousin and I decided to start off our meal with their house deviled eggs with bacon bits (pictured below).  
 

 
Next, we branched out and ordered a different entree. I ordered the filet minon tacos as it was highly recommended by the server.  While it was sophisticated take on local grub, it was a bit dry and needed some type of sauce to help balance the meal. The sauce next to the tacos was quite spicy and there was no indication of that on the menu. So, unfortunately, I could not enjoy it as most patrons would have. Looking back I should have asked for some A1 sauce to help with my dilemma.
 


 
I wished I ordered what my cousin selected as it was a perfectly balanced meal. You have your juicy protein soaking up the au jus that was originally presented on the side, then you have your fresh and lively spinach to accompany the traditional yorkshire pudding (the bread looking thing at the center) and garlic mashed potatoes. Absolutely delicious!
 

 
Lastly we finished off our meal with a slice of carrot cake.  The cream cheese frosting and coconut flakes were decadent without being overly sweet. Very tasty.
 
 
The atmosphere inside is very elegant and also quite spacious, making this restaurant a great location for group gatherings.  I only wished that I choose something else as my main entree as it wasn't my favorite. However, given how delectable my cousin's prime rib entree was I would definitely order that if I was invited to dine at this destination again.  
 

 
There are always hits and misses when you explore new horizons, and unfortunately on this occasion my experience was a miss, though I should gone with my gut feeling and tried the Braised Beef Short Ribs with Mascarpone polenta and roasted root vegetables versus the recommendation. *snaps fingers* Maybe next time.
 
 
Have you experienced a time when an opportunity of great value did not turn out as you had expected?
 
 
Yours Truly,
 
Irene