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Growing up in Agua Dulce was amazing and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It was peaceful, tranquil, and since I moved to Valencia, I haven’t really been back other than passing through on the way to the Antelope Valley. That was until today, when I attended the Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival that took place at Reyes Winery.

My pass allowed me early access, so starting at around 11am, I checked out the various wine and food vendors that had set up. Reyes Winery is a family run boutique vineyard that is located on the outskirts of the Santa Clarita Valley. The land is vast, and the scenery is wonderful.

Now, its one thing to own a winery, land, and a vineyard. but its another to be an award winning winemaker and Robert Reyes is all of the above. Just the other day they won three medals at the Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.

Among the many vendors there were wine makers and small bites from well known businesses and some up and comers. Here is a sampling of what I saw. Starting with California Bakery and Cafe, which is located in Saugus in the shopping center behind ChiChi’s Pizza.

California Bakery & Cafe is a donut shop, and while it was under different ownership many many years ago, it was my go-to place for a breakfast croissant on the way to class when I was an undergrad. At some point in the last couple of years, new owners took over and it is now a donut shop and a Mexican bakery. It happens to be a fantastic bakery that serves a breakfast torta that I’m a huge fan of. I’ve been meaning to blog about it, and seeing them at this event has put them back on my radar, so look for a post soon.

The owner’s son was there, and was very nice and polite to everyone. They also had salsas, guacamole, and aguas frescas. This was one vendor that made a lasting impression. Thanks guys!

There was a Dove Discoveries booth, which is a new thing I had never heard of before. Essentially you can have chocolate parties at your house, like Pampered Chef style. Something different, I suppose.

I didn’t try any of the wines, but many people were enjoying pours from the different vendors. At the entrance everyone got a commemorative wine glass, and there was plenty of wine to go around. Agua Dulce Winery was also at the event!

Portos Bakery is one of my favorites, and it was so lovely to see them at the event. If you have never been to Porto’s, the closest one is either Glendale or Burbank. It is essential for anyone living in SoCal to head on over. They are a cuban bakery that has amazing pastries, meat pies, potato balls (best), and cakes. Whenever I head to a party in LA, I pick up a cake from Portos. In fact I was just at the Burbank location last week.

Portos had a variety of pastries. I had the chocolate tart and the flan. Phenomenal, of course. The ladies working the event were so kind, polite, professional, and welcoming! Fantastic all around.

An Agua Dulce staple, Le Chene was also at the event offering up some meats.

Sidenote, when I was in high school, our French class had a special lunch at Le Chene organized by yours truly. Since I lived just a mile or two away, my French teacher put me in charge of getting the details in order. I was 16 and already organizing group dinners. I guess long before “Lady Ducayne” I already had it in me, brewing. Anyway, that is my one and only Le Chene experience.

I don’t eat chocolate too often, but I do love love love toffee, so this next vendor was wonderful. It is called  Truffles n’ Toffee and they set up shop at Reyes Winery on the weekends, or you can do a direct order. Their toffee was FANTASTIC! They also infuse their other chocolates with wine.

The ladies from Truffles n’ Toffee were super sweet! Such a great local business.

Thelma’s Morning Cafe was also at the event, promoting their new restaurant named Thelma’s and Luis which took over the old Maru Sushi spot on Town Center Drive. It is currently in the soft opening stage (open to the public), and will have a grand opening next week. I’ll be checking it out soon and reporting back.

For the non wine drinkers (like myself) towards the back, the Naked Juice truck was set up offering samples. This is just a truck to promote the drinks, so you wont find it slanging along the sidewalk, but it was nice to see them at the event.

They were handing out coconut water, which is how I found out that I don’t like coconut water. Their pomegranate juice is my favorite though.

Since I had a VIP pass, I got to go on a small group private tour led by the owner, Robert Reyes. I learned so much about wine from this tour, it was really enlightening. And although I don’t drink wine, I can certainly appreciate all of the effort that goes into producing it.

We got to go into the barrel room where we learned about the process of bottling the wine.

Robert Reyes is also an artist and told us an anecdote about the Corvette painting.

As the tour concluded, we were led to a VIP area with shade and tables, as well as catered food.

People could also try a variety of wine and drinks in the VIP area.

By noon the event was in full swing. Many people came in from out of town like Santa Monica and Los Angeles for this event, which was nice to hear. I like to see my hometown Agua Dulce flourishing and to see what people have done with the land out there. This winery is open to the public, so if you are hanging out in Awesometown (shout out to my girl Marlee) and feel like taking a drive without going too far, this is only about 20-30 minutes away from SCV. Thanks to the Reyes family for hosting this event, it was fun.

Reyes Winery

10262 Sierra Hwy
Santa Clarita, CA 91390

(661) 268-1865

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Wow. That pretty much sums up El Huarique. This place is the epitome of hidden gem in an unlikely place. Last weekend my mom told me about a Peruvian place in Venice and we made plans to go eat there. I was thinking that Peruvian in Venice meant like a shopping center or something, so imagine my surprise when we ended up amongst tourists on Venice Beach.

As we walked along the boardwalk, I wondered where this place could be, and then my mom said to look for the Peruvian flag…do you see it?

Walk on the boardwalk until you see this and then go in through the hallway. You’ll soon find yourself at El Huarique.

Since this place is hidden, you can also look for someone holding up this ad to try to lure in more customers that are strolling the boardwalk. And yes, you are reading that right. 1/4 chicken plate for five bucks.

This place is a walkup counter food stall, and if you are lucky you can snag one of the four stools to enjoy your meal or eat standing up at a nearby counter. Either way, its worth it. This place is really good.

We ordered a couple of dishes and honestly, it was all very good. The kitchen is TINY but its awesome to see such great food coming out of this small food stand. Open kitchen means you can see everything!

This is the roasted chicken plate which is served with rice and a simple salad.

This is the lomo saltado dish:

Causa is my absolute favorite Peruvian dish to order, and this one was one of the best! And check out the presentation!

And then this came out of the tiny kitchen and I knew this place was truly special.

Such sophisticated food being served in an obscure hallway food stand along the boardwalk in Venice Beach. Hole in the wall places like this make me love LA so much. Passionate people opening up their humble businesses and bringing their food to the masses.

As you eat, if you look to your right, this is the view. The beach, people walking by, not even knowing they are steps away from some of the best Peruvian food I’ve had in recent memory.

The plan is to grow the business here (and it seems they are close to outgrowing this tiny space) and then move to a bigger location hopefully in Santa Monica. If you find yourself on Venice Beach and want to check out this food stall, look for the Peruvian flag on the boardwalk nearest to Groundworks coffee on Westminster avenue. It is nothing fancy, but the food is fresh and if you like supporting mom and pops, this is a great place to visit. While at El Huarique, I also stumbled upon The Wee Chippy just a few feet away. Also worth a visit. I don’t typically like visiting the boardwalk, I like to go off the beaten path (Abbot Kinney…I kid…I kid…kinda….) but for hidden gems like these I’ll gladly tolerate a tourist or two to get there.

El Huarique

1301 Ocean Front Walk

Venice, CA 90291
(310) 452-1254

Sometimes you stumble upon some hidden gems within the beautiful City of Angels, and that’s what happened to me last weekend. My mom told me about a Peruvian restaurant hidden on the boardwalk of Venice Beach and took me there. As we ordered, I walked around to check out some of the other food stalls and stumbled upon The Wee Chippy. I was drawn to the chalkboard with the flavors and the jars of seasoning lined up on the shelf. I knew that I had to try The Wee Chippy.

This is what you see from within the obscure hallway where there are about 5 food stalls. Only two of them were open on this particular Sunday (Peruvian and this). Look at those seasoning flavors though! Wouldn’t you be intrigued too?

The fries are hand cut and you get to pick your seasoning and a dipping sauce. I got a small order of California Rosemary + .50 for truffle mayonaise. Highly recommended.

Since the fries are cooked to order, you have to wait a little bit, but it is well worth it. When I got my order I couldn’t wait to dig in. So fresh. So AMAZING. Better than Wurstkuche (in my opinion). Simply amazing and such a GREAT snack compared to the other crap being sold on the boardwalk. And look how adorable the presentation is!

The Wee Chippy is hard to find, you have to remember that I found it in a hallway. As it turns out if you happen to make a right they have a “storefront” that faces Groundworks on the boardwalk. It looks like this from the outside:

If you happen to be on the boardwalk in Venice Beach and you want some fresh hot seasoned fries? Please go check out The Wee Chippy. So good! And only a few feet away you can check out El Huarique for really great Peruvian food!

1301 Ocean Front Walk

Suite 9

Venica, CA 90291

A couple of months ago I took a quick 18 hour trip to San Francisco with my parents. In those 18 hours I ate a lot of great eats. I would have blogged about it all, but as luck would have it? I forgot my camera (and my wallet) in my travel bag, which I left on top of my bed. All I had the whole weekend was my cell phone. So if you follow me on Instagram you saw photos from the trip, but otherwise, no go. One of the most memorable eats was the ice cream from Smitten. Ice cream that is made to order using a special Kelvin machine. The shop was constructed out of a shipping container and judging by the line, a cult following. I fell in love with that ice cream and its all I could talk about when I got back. It was so fresh and clean tasting, and it was by far the best ice cream OF.MY.LIFE. I wondered how long it would take to get a liquid nitrogen ice cream shop in Los Angeles, and lucky for me (and you) the time is now! Open merely a few weeks ago, Ice Cream Lab has found its home a few blocks from Sprinkles and Rodeo Drive, and judging by the lines last weekend, people are loving it.

They only had 6 flavors total, including one seasonal flavor and one special. Naturally I went with the special: Coffee Brittle. Coffee. Chocolate Brittle. Almonds. Perfection. They have Intelligentsia beans on the shelf, so I wonder if those are also used for the ice cream. Either way, it was GOOD! So good!

So, essentially your dessert starts out in liquid form, then they pour it into these machines, add some liquid nitrogen, and before you know it, it becomes ice cream! You can actually taste the milk and it is creamy. So fresh. So clean. And yeah, you can see all the magic happen right before your eyes. Don’t worry, the “smoke” wont hurt you. Some kids in line were totally getting a kick out of it though!

Pro Tip: Don’t trust an atom! Cute.

If you love ice cream and want to try a new take on it, check out Ice Cream Lab! I really liked it and it will hold me over until I can get back to Smitten.

Ice Cream Lab

9461 S Santa Monica Blvd

Beverly Hills, CA 90210

I love Sprinkles Ice Cream. I first visited when it was brand new but I’ve gone back many times since. I can’t get enough. I went back last weekend and had the cherry vanilla (amazing) and the whopper (wow). Go check it out if you haven’t already, but be prepared for the lines and the limited seating.

Sprinkles Ice Cream

9631 South Santa Monica Blvd.

Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Last weekend I was strolling Beverly Hills, and just as I passed the Sprinkles cupcake ATM, something new caught my eye. Beverly Hills now has (what I believe to be) its first juice ATM! It comes courtesy of Kreation  Organic Cold Pressed Juicery (located next to Sprinkles). This pressed juice craze has been taking over the city as of late, but I thought you guys would like to see a picture of this ATM! I think it’s pretty cool! I didn’t actually buy a juice from the machine because I was on my way to ice cream, but for $7.50 you can get your juice 24/7 at Kreation. The shop itself is gorgeous and they have a beautiful garden wall to the left of the ATM. Worth checking out. They have a bunch of location but this one is in BevHills.

Kreation Juice

9609 S Santa Monica Blvd

Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 777-3450

One of my favorite local business success stories in Santa Clarita is Bake You Happy! I couldn’t be happier for Kim and Kim who went from slanging their cupcakes a half dozen at a time out of a case at Its a Grind in Castaic, to slanging out of a shared commercial kitchen in Castaic, to winning Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, to opening up their own shop in the Barnes and Noble shopping center, to appearing on Cupcake Wars a SECOND time, and now, they have a SECOND location in Canyon Country!

Taking over the old Cupcake Tree spot, they have decorated the interior to suit their signature whimsical homey Bake You Happy look.

The greatest thing about this location is that they have room in the back to host birthday parties and offer classes!

For birthday parties they let kids decorate their own box, decorate their own cupcakes, and just have a good time with frosting.

They will even write the names on the chalk wall! This is a cute perk for kids!

Additionally they will offer workshops so you can learn how to decorate. As soon as my schedule clears up I am going to make it a point to attend these classes, and let me tell you why…

Kim Aeck is one of the most TALENTED people I know when it comes to creating BEAUTIFUL and ARTISTIC cakes. She can make a cake look like anything. So that means that we (SCV residents) can learn from the best. She’s like the fondant whisperer.  I’ve always admired her work.

So, for those of you on the other side of town, I believe this is the only cupcake shop in Canyon Country! Enjoy and make it a point to visit! They are located in the same shopping center as Edwards Cinema. What a perfect pre/post movie treat! Also, I always like to give a dozen as a gift or I’ll pick some up if I’m going to a party. Its a great hostess gift. Additionally, here is a pro-tip. Kim’s cookies are something else. The tahitian salt cookies she makes are some of my absolute favorites. So don’t forget to pick up some cookies too.

Bake You Happy

18836 Soledad Canyon Rd
Santa Clarita, CA 91351