Day 354: Reign-y Sunday

Ontario Reign oven mitt.

Ontario Reign oven mitt.

The last hockey game I attended was in the early ’90s, when Wayne Gretzky was playing for the Kings at the old Fabulous Forum. I sat a few rows behind goal and got to see The Great One do his thing. I’ll never forget how much better the game was live than on TV.

However, as much as I enjoyed that game, it didn’t stick. I occasionally watch the playoffs when the hometown Kings are involved, but outside of that I don’t really follow it.

(Side note: the number one thing I can’t stand about diehard hockey fans is when they justify their love of the sport by saying how “real men” play hockey. They play through injury, they’re tough, blah blah blah. Listen, I get it. Enjoy your sport. But when NFL games are regularly compared to car accidents and boxers/mixed martial artists practice the sweet science of causing major bodily damage to their opponents, I don’t want to hear a word about toughness.)

Fast forward to today, as my family and I scored tickets to the Kings’ minor league team, the Ontario Reign. We had a blast at this afternoon’s game. Once again, the speed of hockey is so much better in person and since this was the minor league, the arena was smaller and we could follow all of the action easily.

The experience was a first-class production from the moment we walked into the Citizens Bank Arena (much like the minor league indoor soccer and baseball teams in the area, the Ontario Fury and the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, respectively). While it’s not the highest level of professional sports, it’s entertaining and more fan-friendly both in environment and in ticket prices.

And fans get the coolest giveaways, as shown above. Nothing beats an oven mitt that looks like a hockey glove. Go Reign Go!

Day 203: Ube Flan Cupcake

Ube Flan Cupcake

Ube Flan Cupcake

This is my new favorite cupcake: ube with a leche flan topping. The last time I had an ube cupcake this tasty was from the now-defunct The Manila Machine. I’ve tried a few others since then, but Baked Dessert Bar’s was phenomenal. It wasn’t overwhemingly sweet, yet packed with flavor in every bite.

At today’s soft opening, my wife and I also ordered three macarons (Milo chocolate, salted caramel, and ube) that were all outstanding. We spent a total of $10 for the cupcake and macarons, which more than satisfied our sweet tooth. Normally I wouldn’t be too happy about paying so much for such a small amount of food, but I know how labor-intensive it is to make the macarons. For now, we’ll reserve our trips to Baked Dessert Bar for special occasions only.

Of course, I’ll be making up excuses for special occasions much more frequently.


Day 108: Riverside Tamale Festival

imageToday was one of those great random-type days. My wife had told me about the Riverside Tamale Festival earlier this year and we promptly forgot about it. This morning she noticed a reminder on her phone about the event. After a late breakfast, we drove out to Riverside and walked into the festivities at noon.

The festival was held at White Park and there was a terrific, low-key vibe throughout the area. There were a lot of families, all chowing down on tamales. I thought there might be more fusion/experimental tamales, but most were traditional (pork, chicken, chile and cheese, beef, along with some pineapple and strawberry dessert tamales). We were too full to try the cajun fusion tamale, but we loved the vegan sweet corn and poblano from Gourmet Tamales. Pictured above is the chipotle pork BBQ tamale from Me Gusta Gourmet Tamales, which lived up to its award-winning hype. The sweet masa in this tamale paired well with the pork.

We hung out for a few hours, enjoying the mariachi performances and all of our munchies. Since one can only do so many tamales on a warm day, we were grateful for the vendors offering pepinos (cucumbers served with chile and lemon) and raspados (snow cones with various ingredients; we shared a delicious coconut and tamarind mixture).

Afterwards, in keeping with today’s randomness theme, we stumbled upon the wonderful Center for Social Justice and Civil Liberties. Located next to White Park, the center is a resource for education about civil rights and social liberty in the mid to late 20th century. In a nice bit of kismet, the center is also the home of the Mine Okubo collection: Okubo was the writer and illustrator of Citizen 13660, one of my favorite books from my college days. I had no idea she was a Riverside native and the entire second floor of the center was dedicated to her artwork, which was bequeathed to Riverside City College after her death in 2001.

As we explored the exhibition, I thought about the first time I’d read Citizen 13660. My memory is a little fuzzy now, but I think it was for an Asian American history class. What I do remember, though, is how cool I thought it was that a graphic novel was being used in a college course.

I kept my copy for many years until recently, when I gave it to my stepdaughter. I hope it moves her like it did me; it’s a remarkable work and a classic of Asian-American literature.



Day 80: Train-ing Day


Metrolink Train to L.A.


I love public transportation, especially in the big city. While Los Angeles is known for its car culture, it has an underrated railway and bus system. The trains and buses run on time and they’re clean (for the most part). Whenever my wife and I decide to go to L.A., we usually take the Metrolink to Union Station, where we then take the Metro Rail (we love the Red and Gold Lines) to explore downtown and beyond.

Today we went to one of our favorite parts of downtown, the revitalized area around 4th and Main. Many moons ago I worked in this neck of the woods and I love seeing how different it is these days; it’s no longer a scuzzy part of town. Now, we can browse in the phenomenal The Last Bookstore, visit historical landmarks, and find great food.

Our lunch today was simply amazing. Or, simple and amazing. At Kazu Nori, you have a few choices of hand rolls, each one made right in front of your eyes. I love the simple menu, the easy ordering system (get in line, mark which combo you want on an order sheet, eat, then pay on your way out), and, most important, the delectable, delicious, and divine sushi. The interior is sleek and modern, the service efficient and prompt.

And that’s exactly why I love taking the train: it’s efficient and prompt. Not to mention that I save money on gas, don’t have to pay parking fees, and suffer no sitting-in-bumper-to-bumper-traffic stress.


Kazu Nori Salmon Hand Roll.


Day 44: Faux Meat Friday

Inside a Faux Carnitas Burrito

Inside a Faux Carnitas Burrito

While I doubt I’ll ever become a strict vegan or vegetarian, as the years pass I’ve become less of a carnivore. Sometimes it’s a conscious, health-based decision at mealtime, but mostly I crave less meat these days. Have my taste buds evolved? Am I paying more attention to my diet? Or am I feeling guilty about all of the delicious animals I’ve consumed in my lifetime? Whatever the case may be, the fact remains that I’m consuming less meat and not missing it at all.

The excellent vegan grocery Viva La Vegan (locations in Rancho Cucamonga and Santa Monica) has done a lot to change my perception of non-animal food. From the meat alternatives to the vegan versions of long-standing favorites, Viva La Vegan offers something for all tastes. I can’t get enough of their hot-food counter, where they serve a faux carnitas made from jackfruit. Yes, jackfruit! Every time I order it (either in a Chipotle-style burrito or bowl, with vegan beans, rice, veggies, and salsa), I’m amazed at how close the taste is to real carnitas. With food like this, I’m able to enjoy Meatless Monday any day of the week.

(Read my Yelp review of the Rancho Cucamonga location here)

Day 18: Rest and Relaxation


San Bernardino Golf Club


After a long day yesterday, I caught up on my rest and relaxation today. I had lunch with the family at the local Indian buffet, watched the Seahawks-Packers game (incredible!) and the Pats-Colts game (boo!), then started to catch up on The Walking Dead. Season 5 got off to a bang and I’m looking forward to being up-to-date with the series.

I’m still a bit worn out, though, so today’s blog will be short and sweet. Pictured above is a scene that always helps me relax: an afternoon at the golf course. The photo is from the San Bernardino Golf Club, a course that is one of the easier ones in the Inland Empire. If I’m going to reach my goal of breaking 100 this year, the SBGC will probably be the place I do it. At the very least, it’ll be a relaxing place to try.

Note: My photo was all tricked out by the geniuses at Google’s Auto Awesome.

Day 10: Minor League, Major Fun


Since moving to the Inland Empire years ago, I’ve become a minor league sports fan, thanks to the close proximity of two excellent franchises: the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and the Ontario Fury. I’ll write about the Quakes as we get closer to baseball season. For now, I’ll focus on the Fury.

The Fury began playing in Ontario in 2013 as part of the Professional Arena Soccer League (re-branded as the Major Arena Soccer League for the 2014-15 season). My wife bought tickets for my birthday last year and I was instantly hooked: it was soccer on fast-forward, with lots of action and an unexpected dose of physical play. What I appreciated most was that the Fury might be a minor league team, but the experience was as good as any major league sport. They play home games at Citizens Bank Arena, which is a diminutive version of the modern sports arena, with all of the amenities of the big leagues, yet better sight lines due to its smaller size. Like other minor league teams, the Fury offer a family-friendly event; local businesses sponsor giveways and silly halftime contests.

Last night we had VIP seating, compliments of my wife’s win in a Fury social media contest. She thought we’d won general admission seating and as an usher showed us to our seats, we were pleasantly surprised when we were seated at front-row, glass-side tables and had access to the VIP bar area. I enjoyed my beverage as we rooted for the Fury as they held off the Harrisburg Heat, 10-9. My favorite moment? Former UCSB Gaucho Tino Nunez scoring on an awesome bicycle kick. It was a major league play, no matter what jersey you’re wearing.

Note: I’ve tried for years to like hockey, but it’s just not for me. However, I should note that the Ontario Reign, the local minor league hockey team is highly regarded as well. Since they’re affiliated with the Los Angeles Kings and I love all things L.A., I’ll eventually get around to seeing them.