Becks Prime, Houston

One of the things that I find awesome and unexpected about traveling regionally in the US is the wide range of popular “chain-type” eateries to which I am completely oblivious. Californians are often cited for their self-centric tunnel vision in many areas, and I am not an exception. As a teenager, after having visited a Potbelly and a Soup Box (this was in Chicago), the experience was both eye-opening and left me wishing they each had locations somewhere in LA or San Diego (they didn’t).

These are the sort of chains that everyone nearby loyally knows and loves, but might not have national infamy (like McDonald’s or ChickFilA) or be so individualistic that they land on city culinary lists targeting visitors. Nonetheless, they warrant a mention and a visit because they are just good, solid places to eat. This is what a place like Beck’s Prime means to me.

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Mission Burrito, Houston

Earlier this summer I visited the great state of Texas. I was especially excited for this trip because Stephen, over the course of the past few years, has continuously extolled the virtues of authentic Tex-Mex cuisine, which is as delicious as it is ubiquitous in Houston, his hometown. According to him, Mission Burrito is the Mecca of his Tex-Mex belief system. We stopped by the Mission Burrito location that he dined at practically every day during high school right after our flight. The generous, Texas-sized portions, hearty, full-bodied flavor, and casual atmosphere was exactly what I needed.

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Peanut Butter and Blackberry Jam Thumbprints

Some of the younger kids in my extended family started school earlier this week, and though I’m used to later starts to the school year than usual, starting school before mid-August seems especially early this year considering my upcoming school year does not officially begun until the first week of October. Thanks, University of Oxford!

Nonetheless, for those heading back to the world of No. 2 pencils, spiral notebooks, and scientific calculators, I made these cookies in celebration of you. PB&J is such a expected back-to-school flavor that it needed to be upgraded with the ideal essence of summer. Readers of the blog know my affinity towards anything with blackberries, so blackberry jam with creamy peanut butter felt like a natural choice.

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Patina Restaurant, Los Angeles

Pricey. Pompous. Petite portions. These are all words that could be associated with Patina Restaurant, located right at the foot of the breathtaking Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. However, after a wonderful experience at Ray’s, which is one of the restaurants belonging to the Patina Restaurant Group, I was excited to try the famous LA establishment that is the namesake of the internationally renowned restaurant empire. The aforementioned adjectives can be used to critique fine dining in broad strokes, but Patina Restaurant allows you savor not only each delicious morsel of food, but also each careful pause in the warm, enthusiastic service from the waitstaff, and every word in the dinner conversation as a result of a relaxing, quiet restaurant environment.

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Oatmeal Ice Cream

Today was an unusually overcast and chilly for San Diego in mid-July and it was just as well because I have begun my preparations for my move to the United Kingdom. I will be gone for two years, so between packing winter clothes and researching bed sizes in the UK, my mom has been nagging encouraging me to use up as much of my accumulated baking supplies as possible. This means using up ingredients that are ideal for another season, like oatmeal, which I associate with apple pie, Thanksgiving, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Not wanting to just make more oatmeal raisin cookies, I opted for oatmeal ice cream, which is quintessentially summer. This cream is very subtle with a hearty texture and a refreshing lightness that cools off while alluding to the brisker months ahead of us.

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Lemon Ricotta Poppyseed Muffins

Happy Fourth! The best way to start a day filled with lots of quality family time and kitchen prep is to eat a solid breakfast. These lemon ricotta poppyseed muffins give you a little sweetness and tangy, zesty freshness on the go; just one muffin is substantial enough to get you going in the morning or to stave off your pangs of hunger before the grill’s ready in the afternoon. The ricotta is essential to its crumbly, scone-like texture and the light lemon flavor of each bite is bright and refreshing.

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Ray’s at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

In my opinion, Ray’s at LACMA is the most impressive museum restaurant in the city; so good that it actually doesn’t need to be qualified as a “museum restaurant” and can stand on its own with some of LA’s more acclaimed establishments. My boyfriend and I really enjoyed our relaxing weekend lunch together at Ray’s and our touring of some current exhibitions. The combination of fresh, well-prepared food and interesting artwork were central to a memorable and fun day. Ray’s is absolutely not the mediocre and depressing museum café with club sandwiches and canned soup. Though the prices are high, we left feeling like our splurge was money well-spent.

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