A Valentine’s Day Menu to Melt Any Chocolate & Pizza Lover’s Heart

Rocky Mountain Flatbread and Koko Monk Chocolates are offering a Valentine’s Day Menu that will melt any chocolate and pizza lover’s heart. Rocky Mountain Flatbread’s chefs have created a delicious three course menu for Valentine’s Day that offers over 75 combinations to choose from – with a twist! Every course begins with a raw handmade chocolate from Koko Monk’s Chocolates.

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Begin your dance with romance with the Diablo Del Amar – Mango raw chocolate with Chili – followed by a Fig & Goat Cheese Salad option or soup du jour if your heart so desires.

When you add the taste of Bacchanalia – Balsalmic vinegar, Caramel & Sea Salt raw chocolate – to one of our hand crafted Traditional Flatbread pizzas or pasta dishes you know you’ve got something to thrill the palate.

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And once in a Blue Moon – a Blue Moon Blue Cheese raw chocolate that is – you deserve that dessert option of baked cheesecake with toasted coconut base.

Maybe there is something to say about how we only use all natural ingredients with no preservatives and so does Koko Monk?

Rocky Mountain Flatbread is very family friendly, so bring everyone for dinner on Valentine’s Day! Make reservations online.

Now open on Kingsway: Dinesty Dumpling House

With three locations in Richmond and one in Vancouver, Dinesty Dumpling House has opened its 5th location in Burnaby, on Kingsway across from Metropolis at Metrotown.

Dinesty’s feature dish is their legendary “Xiao Long Bao”, or steamed pork soup dumpling. Their soup dumplings are skillfully handmade and feature natural broth, delicate and juicy pork filling, and an ultra-thin hand-kneaded wrapper.

This new location is a beautiful 3,800 square feet space, with its traditional architectural concept of a “flat-screen open kitchen” and a modulated mirrored ceiling.

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The first dish to arrive was the “Cashew Nut Chicken”, a stirfry of golden brown juicy chicken bites with celery and fragrant cashew nuts.

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Next was the “Deep Fried Tofu Pudding in Garlic Sauce”. The combination of the crispy crunchy exterior with the soft tender tofu inside, dipped in the garlic sauce was delicious. If you like the agedashi tofu at Japanese restaurants, you’d like this!

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This noodle soup may look super spicy, but don’t let its looks deceive you. The “Noodles with Sesame & Crushed Peanuts in Spicy Sauce” is a rich bowl of soft noodles with a distinct nutty flavour. The noodles were a little mushier than I prefer, but the sauce was bang-on slurp-worthy.

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And of course, their signature “Xiao Long Bao”, or steamed pork soup dumplings. There’s a very particular method to eat these, to help prevent you from burning your tongue or mouth. First, with the soup dumpling in your spoon or bowl, gently break open the thin casing to let the fragrant soup escape. Then after a few moments to let the soup cool, you can pop the whole thing in your mouth and enjoy the heavenly juicy pork filling combined with the thin yet chew casing. Delightful!

You can also opt for different dumpling fillers, such as chicken, shrimp, crab, fish, or a combination of these flavours.

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We also orded a pan-fried version of the Xiao Long Bao – “Shanghai Pan Fried Pork Buns”. It’s a little different, as the skin is not as thin and more thick and chewy, but it still has the juicy pork filling, with an bonus crispy bottom.

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This “Stir Fried Rice Cake with Salted Vegetables & Pork” is so addictive. The soft rice cake is chewy and glutinous, flavoured by the tidbits of veggies and pork. I was glad to see that it wasn’t too salty or oily (as it can often be).

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All in all, a great meal at Dinesty Dumpling House. It’s great to see another fantastic lunch/dinner option in the Burnaby/Kingsway area, and I will definitely be coming back for more dumplings. If you haven’t had Xiao Long Bao’s (XLB) yet, you gotta try it!

Dinesty Dumpling House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Visit California for Low Cost Adventures

From outdoor adventures, to free entry at museums, do-it-yourself walking tours and more, Canadians travelling to California can rest assured amid the weak dollar that the only thing they’ll need to worry about in California is if they applied enough sunscreen.

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NORTH COAST
Mendocino County
Outdoor Adventure
Relish the wild outdoors: Go on a hike at Point Arena-Stornetta Lands, the only coastal portion of the newly crowned 1,100-mile California Coastal National Monument. Look for wildflowers, earthquake faults and incredible geology as well as endangered species that inhabit the 1,665 acres. Free
Take in the view: Point Arena Lighthouse is the only Pacific West Coast lighthouse of significant height (115 feet) that visitors can access to the top and features breathtaking 360-degree views, museum and shop. General admission $7, children 11 and under $1
Explore Pygmy Forest: From Jughandle State Beach, step back through time as you hike the 2.5-mile self-guided nature trail “The Ecological Staircase” exploring five wave-cut terraces formed by glacier, sea and tectonic activity that built the coast range. Looking for somewhere to stay? Try Jughandle Creek Farm, a European-style hostel for $45/night
Spare some time for Bowling Ball Beach – rows of boulders carved by time and tide await at Bowling Ball Beach. Hidden, like the Terracotta Army, at low tide these concretions reveal themselves once the sea has retreated. The beach is part of Schooner Gulch State Beach. Free
Collect treasure at Glass Beach: An eye-popping anomaly, seek out sea glass on Fort Bragg’s unique trash into treasure beach. Formerly the city dump, over many years the tide and time have polished the glass from head- and taillights, jars, bottles, and more into tiny glass pebbles. Red and blue are the rarest! Free
Discover the Lost Coast: North of Fort Bragg lies California’s famed Lost Coast, Mendocino’s most wild and remote coastal wilderness. The new Shady Dell Trail invites visitors to discover the rugged region including the mysterious candelabra tree forest. Free
Size up the redwoods: Near Orr Hot Springs lies one of the state’s most magnificent groves of virgin redwoods in Montgomery Woods State Reserve. To stand among the redwood spires deep in the forest is to stand in the nave of one of nature’s cathedrals. High up in the canopy, past flying buttresses of enormous branches, the green treetops soar 300 or more feet above. Free

Culinary
Slake your thirst: Enjoy a flight of brews at North Coast Brewing Company, the north coast’s best brewpub. Ease into a tasting flight of four beers ($6) or splurge on the 14-beer sampler with a friend ($21)
Hit the Ale House: Visit Mendocino Brewing Company where a happy hour hot dog is just $2.49 and sampler of nine of the finest beers around is just $10.
Get organic: Take the old stagecoach road through Redwood Valley to Frey Vineyards Winery tasting room. This family-run winery is America’s first organic and Biodynamic winery and is a perfect place to sample sulfite-free wines and a picnic just outside the tasting room. Tasting fee $10, refundable upon wine purchase.
Wine with a side of bocce: Bring a picnic or pick up some cheese and charcuterie at the tasting room before stepping into the competition-grade bocce courts that grace the grounds at Balo Vineyards. Tasting room fee is waived with wine purchase.

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GOLD COUNTRY
Sacramento
Outdoor Adventure
Find your paradise: For a no-cost adventure in the great outdoors, joggers, cyclists, boaters, wildlife-enthusiasts and general adventure-lovers will enjoy the American River Parkway, a 23-mile, 4,900-acre park that runs through the county. Visitors can explore the parkway on foot or on water, or take in the sites with a scenic picnic lunch.

Arts and Culture
Discover Old Sacramento: The Old Sacramento State Historic Park is a registered national landmark off the banks of the Sacramento River. As you enter this 28-acre district constructed in the mid-1800s, you’ll step back in time to the California Gold Rush. Today, after strong preservation efforts, the nostalgic appeal of early American history is reflected perfectly by the wooden sidewalks, horse-drawn carriages, old-fashioned candy shops and a Mississippi-style riverboat–now a hotel. The B.F. Hastings Building (1854) houses part of the Wells Fargo History Museum, where docents in period costume present the history of the company, Gold Rush era and early Sacramento development. (To see an actual Concord Stagecoach, visit the Wells Fargo Center at 400 Capitol Mall.)
Visit the state capital: Guided tours of the California State Capitol Museum in Sacramento highlight the Senate and Assembly chambers, along with the rotunda, tiled hallways and ornate stairways. Free
Get a little nutty: The Blue Diamond Visitor Center in Sacramento introduces visitors to the largest almond processing plant in the world. The 20-minute video (in several foreign languages), tasting and gift shop are bound to give you a new appreciation for almonds.

Yolo County
Outdoor Adventure
Explore a living museum: The UC Davis Arboretum is a living museum of 22,000 types of trees, plants and shrubs. Check the website for free weekly docent lead tours or pick up a map and stroll the arboretum yourself.
Arts and Culture
Get inspired: Developed by the John Natsoulas Center of the Arts, the Davis Transmedia Art Walking Tour takes in more than 70 works of public art and a dozen galleries and arts venues. You can download a comprehensive guide map and learn more at www.davisartwalk.com
Culinary
Find your inner wino: With over two dozen wineries and tasting rooms (most offering free or low cost tastings) Yolo County is quickly becoming California’s newest wine destination. Another perk of tasting in Yolo County is that visitors frequently get to meet the wine makers during regular tastings.

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CENTRAL COAST
Conejo Valley
Outdoor Adventure
Take in nature’s beauty: Conejo Valley Botanic Gardens covers 33 acres of unique terrain in Thousand Oaks offering panoramic views of the Conejo Valley and abundant opportunities for education, conservation and recreation. While a significant portion of the Garden’s acreage is reserved to provide a natural habitat for birds and small animals, the developed area of the Garden incorporates eighteen specialty gardens that highlight water-conserving plants from California and other Mediterranean climates. Free
Hike Conejo: With miles of open space, hiking trails in Conejo Valley are a perfect way to spend the day. Recommended hikes include: Tarantual Hill, Angel Vista, Wildwood Park – Paradise Falls, Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa, Boney Peak, Point Mugu State Park. Free
Arts and Culture
Historical California: Reyes Adobe Historical Site is a cultural landmark highlighting the rancho period, oral history, and Spanish Rancho architecture. The Reyes Adobe’s hearth has drawn people from different cultures that have influenced the scenic and strategically located property along the state’s famous El Camino Real. Through restoration and research efforts, the City of Agoura Hills has created an interpretive center and museum for visitors to hear their stories for years to come. Suggested donation $3 adults, $1 Children 5-1, free under 5

Monterey County
Outdoor Adventure
Picnic with the pups: Head to Carmel Beach to watch the surf, see the sun set and get some quality time with Fido! This dog-friendly beach is a favourite among locals and tourist. This dog-friendly beach is a great place to watch the surf, see the sun set, and spot the stars.
Fly a kite: The Seaside section of Monterey State Beach is known for its steady winds coming off the water, perfect for kite-flying. You’ll see kites that are over 20 feet long; in the distance, don’t be surprised if you spot parasailers taking advantage of the same breezes.
Eye spy Monterey wildlife: Be on the lookout for sea lions, sea otters and other examples of marine life at the mouth of Elkhorn Slough. Sea lions have taken over what was intended as a public dock at the mouth of Elkhorn Slough; hundreds of them congregate daily. Pelicans, seals and sea otters all gather nearby; it’s one of the best places to spot marine life in Monterey County.
Go tidepooling at Point Pinos: Known as one of the richest tidepooling habitats in the world, Point Pinos in Pacific Grove has some exposed tidepools even when the tide is not at its lowest. You’ll see starfish, sand dollars, sea anemones, hermit crabs and more. For a guide to tidepooling and what you might see, download California State Parks’ free A Guide to the Side of the Sea.
Get wild with Dennis the Menace: The creator of the Dennis the Menace comic strip, Hank Ketchum, designed the famous Dennis the Menace Park at El Estero Park. It includes three large slides, a climbing wall, suspension bridge, a giant adventure ship, a Southern Pacific steam engine and more.
Go for a bike ride: Enjoy a leisurely bike ride along the scenic coastal recreational trail. Rent a bike at one of the fine bike rental companies along the trail and cruise hot spots such as Old Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row. $8/hour
Visit the National Parks: Pinnacles National Park is a great place to spot birds, bats and butterflies. It’s one of the nesting places of the rare California condor, and provides a home to deer, foxes, jackrabbits, bobcats and 14 species of bats. Take a free tour with a park ranger (see the schedule), who will be able to point out even more creatures you might not spot. Entry into park $15/vehicle

Arts & Culture
Wildlife immersion: Learn more about the animals you’ve just spotted at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. The museum features exhibits on native plants, animals and geography, as well as a real whale skeleton and a life-sized whale sculpture out front. “Science Saturday” on the last Saturday of the month offers children’s science activities structured around a specific theme. Adults $8.95, Children $5.95
Explore historic Monterey: Follow the Path of History through downtown Monterey to see the historic adobe buildings and gardens. See the unique boutiques, eateries and wine tasting rooms.
Get creative at MY Museum: MY Museum is home to over 8,500 square feet of hands-on, interactive exhibits and a variety of fun activities for the whole family. Entry $8, children under 2, free
Walk through history: Get a taste of what Monterey was like in the early days during a self-guided “Path of History” walking tour. Visitors can simply download the walking map or utilize the cell phone tour. The tour of Old Monterey is marked by yellow tiles set in the sidewalk and explores adobes, gardens and other sites of historical interest.
Enjoy the arts: Monterey Museum of Art has eight exhibits dedicated to American and early California paintings, photography and contemporary art. Adults $10, students, military personal and under 18, free
Culinary
Feast on clam chowder: Visit Old Fisherman’s Wharf for a bread bowl full of creamy clam chowder or try multiple samples from wharf restaurants – either way you are sure to stay on budget.
Spread happiness: Meet the locals and tourists passing through at one of the many happy hours in Monterey. Be sure to check out favourite spots Esteban’s and Hula Island Grill and Tiki Room which stand out amongst the Happy Hour crowd. An appetizer and two happy hour cocktails can be yours for under $25

Paso Robles
Outdoor Adventure
Spend your day on the links: Enjoy unlimited holes of golf with a cart to get around at River Oaks Hot Springs Golf for only $18!
Picturesque scenery: In Paso Robles any back-country road can serve as a beautiful hike or challenging bike ride, but local favourites include Long Valley Loop at Lake San Antonio, Oak Knoll and Quail’s Roost Trail at Lake Nacimiento and Salinas River Parkway at Larry Moore Park.
Arts and Culture
Lesson in aviation: Estrella Warbirds Museum is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of military aircraft, vehicles and memorabilia of those who flew and worked in the military aviation field. Adults $10, Children $5, under 6 – free
Art attack in Paso: PASO ARTSFEST will take place on Saturday, May 21, 2016. The day appeals to art fans of all ages, featuring the Local Stars Quick-Draw, an Outdoor Fine Art Show & Sale, a Wet Painting Sale & Auction, hands-on interactive art experiences all over the park, exciting musical guests, dance performances and many more entertaining and artistic surprises. Saturday main event, free
Tour historical Paso Robles: The main floor of the Carnegie Library and Historical Museum Paso Robles showcases the society’s collections through exhibits and displays which celebrate the area’s unique history. Docents are on duty to greet visitors, answer their questions and share their knowledge of the area. Free
Local artist culture: Studios on the Park is non-profit working artists’ studio featuring four studios with 12 working artists, six galleries and a fine craft and fine art gift shop. Free

Culinary
Experience organic farming: Mt. Olive Organic Farm offers free tours to its fruit garden, sprout house, open garden, greenhouse, herb garden, and earthworm beds. Concise fifteen-minute presentations on uses and benefits of beneficial microbes are also available.
Olive oil beginnings: Pasolivo offers free orchard ours, olive oil tastings, specialty foods, and luxurious bath and beauty products. Experience dedication to a time-honored craft of producing the best-tasting olive oil in the world.
Hope for more wine: Enjoy a wine tasting at Hope Family Wines where the tasting cellar offers a distinctive blend of eclectic decor, spacious atmosphere and cozy lounge-style seating. Tastings are free with the purchase of a bottle.

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY
Outdoor Adventure
Dip your wheels in the sand: Forget walking on the beach, the Oceano Dunes at Pismo State Beach is the only drive on beach in California. Rent a four wheeler and feel the breeze! Rentals start at $45 for 2 hours
Arts and Culture
Tour the city: Visitors can also explore historical treasures by downloading a free walking tour map via the app store for downtown San Luis Obispo, or they can take a free docent led tour of the Historical Atascadero City Hall.
Historical missions: San Luis Obispo County is home to two of 21 of the famous, California Historic Missions including: Mission de Tolosa and Mission San Miguel. The Missions can be visited all year long. Free
Culinary
Foodie favourites: Many local restaurants in San Luis Obispo County offer fresh, farm to table and spoon to fork dishes, paired with local wines. San Luis Obispo County also offers a variety of experiences at wineries, with tasting fees ranging from $10-$15 per person.

Santa Cruz
Outdoor Adventure
Enjoy seaside amusement: The legendary Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is always admission-free. Enjoy a self-guided free walking tour of this historic seaside gem.
Sailing at sunset: Have you ever watched sailboat races at sunset? Every week, from March through October, the Santa Cruz Harbor hosts the ever popular Wednesday Night Sailboat Races. Bring a picnic and a beach blanket and enjoy the beauty of the sailboats, sunset and sea.
Walk with nature: Weekly guided nature walks of the Wetlands of Watsonville are an up-close way to experience the area’s bird population. The Santa Cruz County Visitors Council’s free official Birding and Wildlife Kit is a great way to get your bearing on where to go and what to look for. Or, stroll to the end of the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf and watch a free sea lion show, as these lumbering creatures suddenly acquire a ballerina’s grace the moment they hit the water. Free
Hike amid towering redwoods: A number of parks in Santa Cruz County with great hiking trails are admission-free, including DeLaveaga Park, Quail Hollow Ranch and others. State parks like Big Basin Redwoods State Park or Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park charge $10 for parking.
Enjoy the beach: With 29 miles of coastline, find­ing an admission-free beach for playing in the surf or lazing away on the sand is easy. Favorites include Main Beach, Capitola Beach, Rio del Mar Beach, Twin Lakes Beach and Seabright Beach.
Travel with Fido: Visit www.santacruzpetfriendly.com to browse dog-friendly beaches as well as other attractions, restaurants, hotels and events that welcome your pup!
Arts and Culture
Tour the historic and eclectic: A variety of walking tours bring to life the history of Capitola, the logging days of Boulder Creek, the Vic­torian homes and public murals of Watsonville, the outdoor art and historical architecture of Santa Cruz, and more. Free
Learn about the O’Neill legacy: Visit the Jack O’Neill Mural near the Santa Cruz Wharf entrance and see the original site of the O’Neill Surf Shop, a California Historical Point of Interest. Adjacent to the 55 foot long mural is the Jack O’Neill Lounge located in the Santa Cruz Dream Inn, where you will find photos and memorabilia from the O’Neill legacy.
Get cultured: Learn about Santa Cruz surfing legends, the farming methods of a bygone era, and more at museums such as the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, Agricultural History Project, San Lorenzo Valley Historical Museum, and the Aptos History Museum. Free
The Museum of Art & History at the McPherson Center and Museum of Natural History are free the first Friday of every month.
Savour fine art: Peruse galleries exhibiting the work of local watercolor artists, metal sculptors, and more. The Pajaro Valley Arts Council, Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery at U. C. Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Art League, and Santa Cruz Mountain Arts Center are some of the free galleries you’ll find around town. Take a studio tour of Annieglass in Watsonville Friday-Sunday at 2:00 pm.
People watch, window shop and enjoy art: Stroll Downtown Santa Cruz, where pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined streets boast unique shops and sidewalk performers. Or pick up a Sculp-Tour Walking Tour Map from the Visitors Council and discover the new sculptures installed in Downtown Santa Cruz as part of a rotating public art exhibit.
Explore magical gardens: Wander through bamboo gardens, smell the scents of rare roses, and see exotic plants from around the world. Bamboo Giant Nursery, Roses of Yesterday and Today, Sierra Azul Nursery and many other gardens are free to explore. The Arboretum at UC Santa Cruz offers free admission the first Tuesday of every month.
In addition, visitors who choose to travel mid-week can save with lower hotel rates. The Santa Cruz County Conference & Visitors Council is making it easier than ever to plan a vacation online with lodging and booking information at www.SantaCruz.org.
If you’re on foot, head over to the year-round visitor center at 303 Water Street in Santa Cruz, where you can find free information on a variety of topics, as well as Santa Cruz County Traveler’s Guides, Bicycle Adventure Kits, and Birding and Wildlife Viewing Kits.

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LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Entertainment
Step into Hollywood history: The forecourt of TCL Chinese Theatre has been one of the most popular free attractions since the 1920s, when actress Norma Talmadge accidentally stepped in wet cement during the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s King of Kings. Movie fans from around the world compare their hands and feet to those of stars past and present.

Be a part of your favourite show: Join the studio audience of your favorite television shows and game shows like Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. Tickets are free, but must be obtained in advance. For more on how, visit: Get on a game show.

Outdoor Adventure
Hike near the Hollywood sign: Feeling uninspired? Try changing your perspective on a familiar sight. While the Hollywood sign’s grounds are barred from public access, some great nearby hikes allow for great angles for photos. From Franklin Avenue in Hollywood, go north on Beachwood Drive; turn left at Ledgewood Drive and twist and wind uphill. Then go right at the three-way intersection onto Deronda Drive.
Explore Griffith Park: With more than 4,210 acres of both natural chaparral-covered terrain and landscaped parkland and picnic areas, Griffith Park is the largest municipal park with urban wilderness area in the country, and provides a mix of free activities for the whole family. Picnic on one of the broad lawns, hike one of the park’s many free

trails or learn about stars that are out of this world at the Griffith Observatory. Free
Walk the walk in Venice: Chainsaw jugglers, swamis on rollerblades, street dancers…the most amazing street entertainers in the world are at Venice Beach.
Sunbathe at the beach: Take your pick, from Hermosa to Malibu, Venice, Santa Monica and more, the Los Angeles area has some of the nicest beaches in California to show off your tan, relax or catch some waves.
Go surfing: Fun for beginners or the seasoned rider, catching some of L.A.’s best breaks, is a top experience for every thrill seeker in California.
Arts & Culture
Enjoy L.A.’s murals: These city treasures tell stories of the cultural past, present and future, of the hopes and dreams of the City of Angels. Visitors can find many of L.A.’s murals in Metro Stations, or visit the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles for complete information.
Abbot Kinney First Fridays: Support locally owned businesses in Venice by stopping by what is becoming one of L.A.’s top art walks. Read more about the art walk. Free

Take a self-guided tour of Walt Disney Concert Hall: Though the stage and concert hall itself are usually off limits to even paid tours (due to rehearsals), the interior public spaces and garden are still quite spectacular to explore. Free
Out of this world exploration: Through hands-on experiences in the galleries at the California Science Center, you’ll learn about human inventions and innovations, the processes of living things and more. Opened October 30, 2012, the Space Shuttle Endeavor exhibit is also free, but advance, timed tickets are required, and a nominal service fee applies.
Coastal views with a side of art: Overlooking the California coastline and the L.A. skyline, the Getty Center surrounds guests with breathtaking views and a world-class art collection including European paintings, contemporary photographs and decorative arts. The magnificent Malibu property, the Getty Villa, includes an educational center and museum dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria. Free
Experience cultural and ethnic diversity: This museum is internationally recognized for its commitment to exploring the meaning of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the experience of Japanese Americans through exhibitions, public programs, an award-winning museum store, and resource center. Adults $9, Youth (6-17) $5, Children 5 free.
*Free general admission every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and all day every third Thursday of the month.
Adapt to art: Downtown’s premier art museum, Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), features one of the best permanent collections in the country, with works by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Rothko and more. Free admission every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Broaden your horizons: The Broad is a new contemporary art museum home to 2,000 works of art in the Broad collection, which is among the most prominent holdings of postwar and contemporary art worldwide. With its innovative “veil-and-vault” concept, the 120,000-square-foot building features two floors of gallery space to showcase The Broad’s comprehensive collection. Free.

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ORANGE COUNTY
Outdoor Adventure
Step up to the plate: Get a behind-the-scenes look at Major League Baseball’s Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Sit in the dugout, wander through the visiting team’s clubhouse, and check out the phenomenal view from the broadcast booth, all for less than you’ll spend on lunch. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for children ages 3 to 18, and free for children under 3.
Canyon adventures: Oak Canyon Nature Center is a 58-acre natural park nestled in the Anaheim Hills. Consisting of three adjoining canyons, four miles of hiking trails traverse one of the few remaining areas of oak woodland and coastal sage scrub in our region. A year-round stream meanders through the park. Free
Hop aboard the ferry: Blending local history and amazing scenery, this ferry has transported visitors across Newport Harbor from quaint and charming Balboa Island to family-friendly “Fun Zone” in Newport Beach since 1919. At the historic “Fun Zone,” kids can ride the Ferris Wheel for under $5 and play arcade games. Admission for the Balboa Island Ferry ranges from $2 for a car and driver to free for kids under 5.
Lift off in a balloon: The Great Park Balloon, located within its namesake park at the corner of Sand Canyon and Marine Way in Irvine, is a must-ride for Orange County visitors. The tethered helium balloon rises 400 feet above the ground, and can accommodate up to 30 passengers at a time. Tickets to ride are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 12 to 18 without an accompanying adult, and free for children 18 and under with an accompanying adult.
Urban oasis: The Fullerton Abroretum, located north of Anaheim, is where you’ll find more than 4,000 species of plants within a lush, 26-acre park. Founded in 1979, the arboretum has long been a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Suggested donation, $5
Laid back surf style: Walking along piers is Southern California at its most relaxing – a perfect opportunity to soak up some sun, sand and surf. Huntington Beach’s pier is awesome for checking out sunsets and surfers. The laid-back vibe at the Seal Beach Pier makes it a perfect destination for families. San Clemente pier is the best place to check out what the fishermen are reeling in. Free
Arts and Culture
Absorb OC Culture: MUZEO in Anaheim hosts exhibitions from around the world as well as shows focused on Southern California life. Touring exhibits range from spy artifacts to European fine arts. Adults $10, Children 4-12 $6, Under 4 free
Navigate OC’s art scene: Art walks are a great introduction to the thriving Orange County art scene and, oftentimes, the artists themselves. These afternoon and evening events are held throughout the county, including Laguna Beach, Orange, Santa Ana, Fullerton, Anaheim and Huntington Beach. Free
Celebrate world cultures: Founded in 1936, Bowers Museum houses more than 100,000 artifacts from all over the world, and features a spectrum of special exhibits. Adjacent to the museum, the Kidseum is dedicated to interactive, child-centric exhibits. Adults $13, children under 12 free
Culinary
Treat yourself: An unexpected treat and feast for the eyes and belly is the Anaheim Packing House. “The House,” as locals call it, was originally built in 1919 when it served as a thriving citrus packing house for Sunkist. Now the architectural marvel is home to 24+ micro restaurants from flavorful international cuisine to southern comfort fare to artisan cocktails at a speakeasy to handcrafted desserts. Communal dining is available on patios throughout the building – interior and outdoors. At every turn, there’s an awe-inspiring art installation.
Indulge locally: With year-round temperatures that hover between 70 and 85 degrees, any time of year is ripe for a taste of Orange County’s farmers markets. Markets brimming with local produce and goods are open every day of the week. The Downtown Anaheim farmers market happens every Thursday.

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HIGH SIERRA
Yosemite National Park
Outdoor Adventure
Explore natural monuments: Nestled among natural monuments, vineyards, and historic Gold Rush landmarks, Yosemite National Park is truly one of the rare wonders of the world. Located about 200 miles east of San Francisco, it is a must for any California tour itinerary. Here you can see some of the world’s tallest waterfalls, largest rock formations and enjoy the most epic hiking. Entry $30/vehicle for seven days
Travel the trails: Lace up your boots and venture along one of many Yosemite National Park hiking trails, including Yosemite Falls, The Mist Trail and Four Mile Trail. Bring a picnic lunch and dine in a meadow with world class views. Bike rentals are available for touring the Yosemite Valley floor while snapping photos of Half Dome, El Capitan and Yosemite Falls. $11.50/hour
Relax and unwind: At the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort you can enjoy an all day spa pass for as little as $15 including a yoga class.

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SAN DIEGO COUNTY
Stay local: Centrally located in the middle of San Diego with easy access to popular attractions like Old Town, Mission Valley makes for a fun and affordable place to base a San Diego vacation. 10 minutes north of downtown San Diego along the San Diego Trolley’s Green Line ($2.50 to ride), Mission Valley offers something for everyone, from sightseers and outdoor recreation enthusiasts to history buffs.

Arts and Culture
Leap into San Diego: Museum Month allows participants to enjoy half-off entry fees at 40+ San Diego museums. The savings encourages locals and visitors to explore a variety of arts, culture and science-oriented destinations. From Oceanside Museum of Art down to the Tijuana Estuary, there are ample opportunities for edutainment, creating memories and fun for the whole family. Tickets can be purchased for 50 per cent off regular admission at local Macy’s retail locations.

See where it all began: One of San Diego’s most familiar landmarks, the Junipero Serra Museum stands atop Presidio Hill overlooking Mission Valley, the site where California began. In 1769, Spanish Franciscan missionary Father Junípero Serra and a group of soldiers led by Gaspar de Portolá established Alta California’s first mission and presidio (fort) here. The Spanish Revival, mission-style museum showcases the collection of the San Diego History Center. Adults $6, Children 6-17 $3
Step back in time: Mission San Diego de Alcala, founded in 1769, was California’s first mission and relocated to Mission Valley from Presidio Hill in 1774. The self-guided historic site, open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., features beautiful gardens, a church, chapel, an excavation site believed to be part of the monastery and a museum. Adults $5, Children 6-12 $2
Get artsy in La Jolla: The Stuart Collection, a unique and captivating collection of site-specific artworks by leading contemporary artists, is located on the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) campus. You can also explorethe spectacular Murals of La Jolla. Featuring internationally renowned artists, the Murals of La Jolla was conceived in 2010 as a means to enhance the civic character of this charming seaside community by commissioning public art projects on private property throughout La Jolla Village. Free
Oh the places you’ll go: Enjoy the ‘Secret Art of Dr. Seuss’ at Legends Gallery in La Jolla. Dr. Seuss was one of La Jolla’s most famous residents and wrote most of his famous children’s books here at his Mt. Soledad hilltop home, dubbed “The Tower.” Free
Scenic sunsets: Enjoy spectacular 360 degree views of La Jolla and San Diego from high atop Mt. Soledad, the highest point in La Jolla and home of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial; a great place to catch the sunset. Free
Cinco de Mayo: A big annual weekend event is the Old Town Fiesta Cinco de Mayo on May 7-8, 2016, held in Old Town State Historic Park along San Diego Avenue, the area’s main thoroughfare. The festival features Mexican dancers, musicians, food and historical reenactments, celebrating the rich Hispanic heritage of the San Diego region. Free
Art festival central: Mission Federal ArtWalk – San Diego’s original fine art festival – on Apr. 30–May 1, 2016 in the streets of Little Italy, downtown San Diego. Featuring more than 300 artists filling 17 square blocks of the iconic urban neighborhood with art, craftsmanship and beautiful goods, this event now attracts artists from across the globe. More than just an art event, the festival is a family friendly opportunity to participate in interactive art installations and features live music and dance performances. Free
Outdoor Adventure
Visit Mission Trails: Visitors can explore the cultural, historical and recreational side of San Diego at Mission Trails Regional Park, considered the third jewel in San Diego’s park system along with Balboa Park and Mission Bay Aquatic Park. One of the largest urban parks in the United States, encompassing 6,800 acres, Mission Trails provides a quick, natural escape from the urban hustle and bustle at no cost to visitors. Free
Tee off: One of the oldest and most affordable golf courses in San Diego, Presidio Hills Golf Course at the westernmost part of Mission Valley features 18 funky, challenging holes of short-course golf, making it a perfect course for beginners and experts alike. Green fees are $10 Monday–Thursday and $12 Friday–Sunday and holidays.
Hike the pines: Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is known for its spectacular cliff-top setting, wind-swept sandstone formations, hiking trails and spectacular sunsets over the Pacific. The Reserve is home to the Torrey Pine tree, the rarest native pine in the United States – found only in La Jolla and on Santa Rosa Island off the coast of Santa Barbara. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve offers FREE guided walks on weekends and holidays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., departing from the Visitor Center entrance.
Splash in a water wonderland: Mission Bay Park, a 4,600-acre aquatic playground located just minutes from downtown San Diego, is the perfect destination for endless fun under the sun. The largest park of its kind in the world, this water wonderland features 27 miles of shoreline where visitors can swim, sunbathe, picnic, bicycle and fish. Free
Get outside: Sailing, wakeboarding, standup paddle boarding, rowing, kayaking, waterskiing, windsurfing, surfing and more – at Mission Bay Aquatic Center and Mission Bay Sportcenter. Both centers offer reasonably-priced hourly rentals (e.g. boogie board rentals starting at $3 per hour; kayak rental $13 per hour)
Watch for whales: From February 20-21 at at Cabrillo National Park celebrate the largest animals on earth as they migrate past San Diego’s coast during Whale Watch Weekend. There will be family-friendly activities, ranger talks, guided explorations of the tidepools, and viewing gray whales. $10/vehicle
Explore a desert oasis: A spectacular FREE floral display occurs annually between February and April in the 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego’s desert oasis of Borrego Springs as colorful wildflowers bejewel the sun-scorched desert landscape. Since the phenomenon depends upon the timing and quantity of winter rains, the blossoms are at their peak for just two weeks. Guests are advised to call the park’s 24-hour “Wildflower Hotline” at 760-767-4684 before planning a tour of the desert flora. Free
For more information on low cost adventures in California please visit www.visitcalifornia.com.

Dine Out Vancouver 2016 – Catch 122

Fresh, local and sustainable. That’s what you can expect from Catch 122 Bistro. $30 Dine Out menu. Located in historic Gastown, Catch 122 serves up rustic French-inspired comfort food in a casual setting.

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The menu includes your choice of appetizer, main course and dessert. For starters, try Catch 122’s famous Fried Chicken – glazed in maple, chilli dust and smoked mayo for dipping, Tender chicken bites in a buttermilk batter – it doesn’t get better than this.

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A refreshing alternative is the Marinated Beets Salad in maple vinegar sprinkled with goat feta.

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The third choice of starter is the Winter Vegetable Chowder – a hearty mix of winter squash and roasted vegetables. Perfect for winter dining.

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Moving on to entrees, we have a true West Coast dish: the B.C. Snapper with sunchoke purée,  roasted fingerling potatoes and baby carrots with  warm tartar sauce.

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If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, the Winter Mushrooms, farro and oat “risotto” with cauliflower purée and roasted cauliflower is for you.DSC_0048

For a heartier choice, the Confit Pork Loin with mustard spaetzle, Brussels sprouts in sauce charcutière.DSC_0046

And what’s dinner without dessert? Catch 122 offers three options with this menu, starting with their Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing, walnut toffee crumble and maple glazed carrots.

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This is one of their most popular desserts, and one that I’ve enjoyed before: The Lemon Curd with graham crumble, lavender meringue, whipped cream and lemon balm. Those meringues are simply fantastic and need to be tasted to be believed.DSC_0058

Decadence is just a spoonful away with their Dark Chocolate Pot de Crème with pickled raspberries, chocolate cookie crunch and whipped cream.DSC_0052

I truly enjoy coming to Catch 122. The menu is always innovating. Stop by for Dine Out or anytime. Your taste buds will thank you!

New Additions to Happy Planet

In my last post, I touched on Happy Planet’s new products and flavours at the Gluten-Free Expo.

In this post, I’m going a little deeper – having had the opportunity of tasting most of them now! And at different moments throughout the week which helped me test out how convenient they really can be.

Happy Planet

Fresh Soups to Go

The variety of these soups is great. They come in 5 different flavours – 3 being organic!

I have to admit, I don’t own a microwave so when it was time to give one of these soups a try in the comfort of my own home I was a little out of luck.

I first played with the idea of pouring it in a pot and stir but figured, that’s not really grab-and-go so I did the next best thing from a microwave (which I SO don’t recommend!). I put it in my toaster oven!

Yeah, BAD idea! The containers are most definitely made for a microwave.

I was pleased with the taste and texture of the Organic French Lentil Soup that I enjoyed with a slice of whole wheat toast – toasted right in that same toaster oven :) It looks homemade. It has little chunks of cauliflower, red pepper and thyme.

Happy Planet

The next day, I gave the Organic Portuguese Kale and White Bean Soup a go. It’s hearty and so tasty when it’s warm on a rainy, cold afternoon. I think this one could really go well with a little teaspoon of sour cream!

The last, but definitely not least, I took with me the West African Squash & Cashew Soup to work. Just the name makes my mouth water! It was pretty great waking up in the morning and grabbing one of these containers and putting it in my bag. Once lunchtime hit, I removed the seal and voilá!

Happy Planet

I like that they’re single serve so that you can customize it depending on how you feel on that particular day. A little bit of grated cheese for a richer feel or warm it up as is for a little something simple!

Nut Smoothies

Smoothies are my thang – I can’t get away with saying ‘thang’, can I? Anyway, they’re what I do and love to live on!

So when I saw these new additions to the Happy Planet family, I was a curious.

They’re made with almonds and cashews – dairy AND soy free.

The flavours are: chocolate (which I couldn’t personally taste – I’m allergic to chocolate!), coffee (which I just had), vanilla chai (need I say more?), and salted caramel (yuh huh!).

I’ve enjoyed them solo as well as in my smoothie recipes.

Nut Smoothie Happy Planet

My favorite has got to be the Salted Caramel. It has this defining hint of caramel that’s not too overpowering. It’s SO good on its own!

The mix I made with it was adding two stems of kale, a banana, and little protein powder for a fuller feel.

The second of my faves would be the Vanilla Chai. I like chai in general so I was pretty happy to learn about this flavour – you can really taste the chai.

With this one, I added a few frozen blueberries and blended it all together!

The other two landed in third for me – but again, I’m allergic to one so I didn’t get the chance to taste it myself.

Though a friendly neighbour gave it thumbs up!

I’m happy with Happy Planet’s new additions. I really am. At first, I thought I’d taste too much sugar in the smoothies but no, not really. I mean, you can taste they’re sweet but not yucky sweet – if you know what I mean.

And the soups, they do taste homemade!

Give them a go – they are available now at retailers throughout the Lower Mainland.

Eating and Drinking my way through a Brunch Crawl

Having brunch became a popular thing to do in this part of the world in the 1930’s, but back then in was primarily done buffet style. The next incarnation may just be in the form of a brunch crawl, which is what I did last weekend thanks to Vancouver Foodster‘s latest initiative as part of the Tourism Vancouver Dine Out Festival. The concept is simple (and the same as their previous Tasting Plates events): you get a map with 5 or 6 places in the area (a different neighbourhood is featured each time) and you have a 4 hours to spend visiting each place and sampling items they’ve chosen to feature from their menu.

The one I went to was located in Olympic Village and featured a variety of food and drink samples from 5 venues that were all within about a 6 block radius.

Whole FoodsWe started at the Whole Foods on Cambie where we picked up our menu (to find out what we’d be sampling) and tasting map cards (so we knew where to go and could only sample each place once). Here we were treated to West coast smoked salmon mousse with candied salmon bacon on a potato tuile and Asian braised hoisin beef on a Bellini.

Solly's BagelryNext we headed over to Solly’s Bagelry where we were treated to a great little assortment of Jewish treats including mini latkes with apple sauce and sour cream, a mini potato knish, and a mini cottage muffin. They made everything fresh so there was a wait at this location, but it was definitely worth it – and we bought some chewy spelt bagels while we were waiting to take home!

Milano CoffeeAfter that we got a bit of an energy boost (much needed on this rainy Sunday morning) by stopping in at Milano Coffee where we got Cognac Macchiatos, locally made granola made by Granola Girl (served with house made almond milk), and some Nectar cold press juice. They even gave us a cup of Cognac Stovetop to take away so we were sufficiently buzzed!

Bao Down GastropubThe next location was actually one of the newest restaurants in the area. This is Bao Down Gastropub‘s second location and they gave us the choice of either their Morning Glory Bao with sausage, bacon, chive omelette, cheese, banana ketchup, mayo, hashbrowns and scallions – or beignets (we each chose a different one so we could sample both)

Glory Juice CoAnd finally, we ended the crawl at Glory Juice Co (this being one of three locations they have in Vancouver) where we got to finish off with their healthy house-made seed bar and a couple samples of their juices. It was a nice, light way to end off the morning (well, now afternoon at this point) before we went off for the rest of our rainy Sunday activities!

Everything we had on this crawl was honestly so delicious. I enjoyed everything we had – my only complaint would be the size of the portions. My friends had been on the brunch crawl in Gastown the previous day and weren’t even able to finish everything whereas myself and my date weren’t exactly hungry, but we weren’t stuffed either. Bigger samples or one more location would have certainly done that for us. What the restaurants provide though is up to them so you just never know what you’ll get, other than really tasty food and drink – that’s always on the menu regardless of the portion size. And often there are 6 spots to visit so even if the samples aren’t huge, there’s more of them. Regardless, it’s a great way to sample a vast variety of brunch items from all kinds of venues in a popular neighbourhood, so check out what’s still available for the rest of the month and enjoy your brunch!

Happy Planet Foods at the Gluten-Free Expo

The Gluten-Free Expo is happening right now at Canada Place. It happens every year and, seriously, this year it was filled with new brands and the popular oldies.

Happy Planet falling in BOTH those categories!

Happy Planet Gluten-Free Expo

You may know Happy Planet for their ready-to-go smoothies and soups found at most grocery stores. You know, the ones found next to the produce or deli section.

Well, today I was introduced to a new line of nut-based smoothies from them AND a line of convenient soups to go!

Go Nuts Over These

Yeah! You read right. A NEW line with four different flavours that come in both 325mL and 900mL: Cold-brewed Coffee, Vanilla Chai, Salted Caramel and Chocolate.

Nut Smoothie Happy Planet

Made with all the goodness of almonds and cashews and free from dairy, soy and any preservatives, I’ve been told you’re sure to go nuts over this exciting, innovative addition to their smoothie category.

Only thing is that you’ll have to wait a few months before you can get them at your fave store. They’ll be making their debut nationwide in October.

BUT…

Grab & Go

Their delicious, healthy and convenient meals when you’re on the go will be available much sooner!

These are your favourite two flavours: Thai Coconut* and Tuscan Tomato*. Plus, three new varieties: West African Squash & Cashew*, Portuguese Kale & White Bean* and French Lentil.

Happy Planet Soups

Their gluten free soups come in a convenient single serve microwavable container! Which can really be the perfect solution for a delicious, healthy and convenient meal when you’re running around all day.

Specially noting that most people tend to go to their nearest coffee place and grab whatever bread item they can get their hands on to sustain them ’till dinner!

Made without any preservatives, you may want to add these to your shopping list.

*Also available in larger 500 or 650mL pouches.

Stay tuned for more posts about the expo!