Hello Yelp Elite Event: Cocktails & Cars Casino Royale Style!

So fancy! Busted out the cocktail dress, dancing shoes for one special night last night at the Automobile Driving Museum in El Segundo. It was the Cocktails and Cars Casino Royale Style Yelp Elite Event to kick off spring!

With the amazing drop box of this premier museum showcasing cherished old automobiles, all of us Yelp elites were in for one amazing treat. The night was full of entertainment and good times. Todd Elliot Entertainment brought a magician for some magic and amazement. The Swing Dames brought us back to the 40s’ with their lovely voices and LA Pix DJs had us all dancin’ the night away.

It was also foodie galore with some fabulous food booths. Feelin’ fancy and feelin’ full after all the delicious treats!

From Pink’s Hot Dogs, I got to enjoy a turkey dog with chili and cheese. Hearty, meaty and simply classic just like the classic cars we were surround with. It was perfect with Essentia Water

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Wanu Water put a little more fun in the night with their black cherry and peach passion water. 10 essential nutrients and 10 calories per serving!

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Tacos Primo gave us the VIP treatment with fresh made carne asada beef and  al pastor pork.

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These tacos were the perfect match with Siete tortilla chips.

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New York Food Company booth brought out soft and savory kimchi pork buns and cucumber shots.

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The fancy night continued with some fabulous drinks.

I was introduced to Tentera Coffee Roasters and instantly became a fan because of their good cause. Tentera means ‘good causes’. 2% of all Tentera coffee sales are currently donated to their partners which include the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and 1% For The Planet. I loved their pour over coffee and how I instantly had a fresh brewed medium roast.

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More fun drinks were to be found at Happy Lemon. Salted cheese drinks are their most popular offering and I was so happy to see that along with their Sunmerry Bakery rainbow roll cake.

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The rainbow roll cake from Happy Lemon was just the start of the delightful desserts that evening because there were not one but two places to get ice cream!

Smitten Ice Cream brought out some of their best flavored nitrogen ice cream flavors such as earl grey, cookie dough with pretzels and chocolate chips, strawberry buttermilk. They even had their chocolate vegan pops! I chose to get my all time uh-mazing favorite the cookie dough with pretzels and chocolate chips. I drizzled some brown sugar caramel over the ice cream and was in sweet heaven!

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Not to be outdone was Wanderlust Creamery. I felt like as I was in an around the world trip as I had Ube Malted Crunch flavor inspired by the Philippines, Sticky Rice Mango inspired by Thailand and Japanese Neopolitan inspired by Japan. The Ube Malted Crunch had malted milk and real sweet purple jam. The Sticky Rice mango had house made real milk coconut cream and swirls of alphonso mango puree. The Japanese Neopolitan had a trio of Japanese classics; match, hojica and black sesame.

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Cookie Zombie  incorporated our favorite kid snacks into their cookies! That night they had Snack Time cookies that had King size Twix, salty pretzels and Heath Bar bits, Circus animal cookies with Circus Animal bits; and Cookies and Cream can lies with Crushed Oreo cookies & Ghirardelli white chocolate chips. Their Cookies and Cream cookies were the winner of Best Homemade Cookie at Cookie Con LA!

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Cheesecake de Granger had cheesecake cupcakes. They had lemon, Welch’s grape and peanut butter and jelly cheesecake cupcakes!

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From entertainment to food; The Automobile Driving Museum was one happening place that evening. Surrounded with 130 plus vintage, antique and muscle cars; it was one classic evening. I could not have asked for a better way to kick off spring!

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For more smiles, please see my Yelp Review  on Cocktails and Cars Casino Royale Style Yelp Elite event.

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Hello Stonefire Grill Torrance!

Stonefire Grill is all about community and family. First started by sisters Mary and Maureen Harrigan in 2000, this fast-casual dining concept quickly grew to nine Southern California restaurants and now it’s opening up its 10th location in Torrance, California.

I recently had a chance to check out the newest location and quickly became a fan. It is the perfect restaurant to enjoy good eats and good times with family and friends.

Stonefire Grill has quite an extensive menu that has items every one in the family can enjoy. They’ve got pizza, sandwiches, pasta, signature salads, grill items and more. There is some thing for every taste bud.

I started my meal here with their chicken tortilla soup.

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The chicken tortilla soup is garnished with jack cheese, cilantro, avocado and tortilla chips. The small is a pretty fulfilling bowl that is sure to warm your heart and your tummy. They’ve also got a large that is perfect for sharing.

Speaking of sharing, perfect sharables are items from their grill section. From chicken to meat and seafood, Stonefire Grill’s grill items are slowly cooked overnight and finished over a live mesquite fire for their sauces. Each item is made to order and comes with a salad (Garden Caesar, Cartwheel or Greek), a small side item and 2 freshly baked breadsticks.

The breadsticks are Stonefire Grill’s signature item and is one that should not be missed when coming here.

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Breadsticks are freshly made and come out so soft and warm. Marinara sauce and buttermilk ranch are available as dipping sauces. I tried it with buttermilk ranch and instantly fell in love.

It was hard not to be full after the soup and breadsticks but I just had to save room for their grill items. My personal favorite from the Grill menu was their boneless chicken breast and tri-tip.

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The chicken can be garnished with mesquite bbq or lemon garlic. I chose to get my dish with lemon garlic. It was one of the tastiest chicken dishes I have ever had. The chicken  was perfectly tender and I loved the lemon zest it was flavored with. There were also small chunks of garlic on top that added a nice but subtle garlic flavor.

As for the tri-tip, one can get it with mesquite bbq or pepper garlic topped with gorgonzola butter. I chose to get it with mesquite bbq. Just like the chicken breast, the tri-tip was a winner. The beef cut was lean and every thing about the meat was on point. It was flavored perfectly and matched well with my side of garlic mashed potatoes.

The grill menu is not just about meat however because one can also enjoy some items from the sea. The Meditteraean sea bass is a Stonefire Grill favorite.

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It comes with sustainably farmed Branzino with fresh lemon, olive oil and red chili flakes and is served with a bed of farro salad. It’s a beautiful, healthy plate.

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The Farro Salad comes with farro, caramelized onions, basil, parsley, green onion, walnuts, parmesan, lemon and olive oil. I liked the mixture of ingredients. Each truly stuck out and enhanced the farro fabulously.

It doesn’t end with the savory items here however because Stonefire Grill has some awesome sweets as well!

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Their desserts are made from family recipes and are prepared every morning. They’ve got their signature carrot cake, cheesecake, fudge brownies and cookies. Each item can be served as a half or as a full.

The carrot cake was my personal favorite.  It was so moist and complete with walnuts and creamy cream cheese frosting. The heavenly cheesecake was indeed heavenly and nicely topped with fresh blueberry sauce. The fudge brownies were also great. Soft and chewy, it was chocolate bliss.

The food is something everyone can enjoy and it’s a great place to share some good meals. I also noticed that everyone at Stonefire Grill was pleasant and willing to give a hand; just like family. In fact when I came, tip proceeds went to the Pediatric Therapy Network. This place truly is about the community.

Stonefire Grill has it’s grand opening in Torrance tomorrow, February 6.

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Stonefire Grill Torrance.

Hello Georgetown Cupcake!

Good Ol’ Georgetown! There are so many visits to visit in this historic town. Among the many sights to see are the Old Stone House, Kennedy Homes, Tudor Place, Historic Churches and Georgetown University. No trip to Georgetown however would be complete without a visit to Georgetown Cupcakes.

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The famous cupcake shop opened in Georgetown in 2008. Since then founders and sisters Katherine Kallinis Berman and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne  have expanded their cupcake empire to include locations in Bethesda, New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. Georgetown Cupcakes was also the star of the reality show enter of a reality  “DC Cupcakes” that ran on TLC from 2010 to 2013.

Soon after touring the historic sights of Georgetown, I went to M street where Georgetown Cupcake is located. Spotting the bright pink signs, I happily made my way into the cute cupcake shop.  There was an abundant of delicious cupcake offerings that day. Their most popular, the red velvet cupcake, was of course offered. They also had some delicious offerings such as double milk chocolate birthday cupcakes, raspberry lemonade cupcake, lemon blossom cupcakes and coffee cookies and creme cupcakes.

After having quite a time deciding what to get, I chose to get their green tea butterfly cupcake and their raspberry swirl cheesecake cupcake.

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The green tea butterfly cupcake is absolutely beautiful. It’s the perfect cupcake for springtime. It’s a green tea and citrus-infused cupcake with green tea-infused buttercream frosting. It is topped off with candy and yogurt-covered pretzel butterfly. I really liked the touch of the yogurt covered pretzels. The sweet crunchy pretzel went well with the green tea infused buttercream frosting.

My favorite however had to be the raspberry swirl cheesecake cupcake however. It is a raspberry swirl cheesecake baked with fresh raspberries and a graham cracker crust, topped with a Madagascar vanilla buttercream frosting and a pink fondant flower. This cupcake looks simple yet it is packed with delicious flavor. It was truly love at first bite when I bit into the crispy graham cracker crust at the bottom. The cheesecake itself was delightfully creamy and light. This truly was one of the best cupcakes ever.

In a town where there’s so many wonderful sights to visit, Georgetown Cupcake is a breath of fresh air. It’s a sweet place with sweet treats for locals and tourists. Their cupcakes are sure to bring a smile to anyone visiting Georgetown.

For more smiles, please read my Yelp review on Georgetown Cucpakes

Hello Back Home in Lahaina!

It’s always nice to be back home…..

I last dined at Back Home in Lahaina a couple of years back. With life’s busy schedule, I haven’t had the chance to be back until recently during a lunch with friends. I must say I truly enjoyed myself and found myself thinking how there really is no place like home….

Our meals here started off with some delicious appetizers via lumpia and spam musubi.

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Lumpia is a favorite and classic Filipino appetizer. Being Filipino, I was pleased to see Back Home in Lahaina sticking to the traditional Filipino egg roll. Their version was packed with meat and vegetables just like how my mom makes it home. 🙂

For my main entree here I chose to get a combination of Lahaina fried chicken and beef katsu. My combo plate came with macaroni salad, ramen salad and chicken sausage fried rice.

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The Lahaina fried chicken has always been a favorite of mine. With its crisp, sweet batter and tender chicken; this Hawaiian fried chicken has delicious written all over it. The beef katsu was also another crunchy, delightful meat. Both paired well with the fried rice. Back Home in Lahaina has several options for their fried rice and I chose to get it with chicken sausage. It was very fulfilling. Last but not least was their ramen salad and macaroni salad. Both are very flavorful but it is the creamy, soft macaroni salad that wins me over every time! The whole meal just reminded me the comforts of home cooking and happiness with the ohana.

Aside from the drool worth savory eats, Back Home in Lahaina has some amazing desserts. Baked right it house, they have quite a variety. The cookie offering itself is amazing. They have  Kahelani cookies, rainbow cookies, Kylie’s paradise cookies, peanut butter cookies, chocolate crunch cookies, Mauna Kea cookies and Choco-coco oatmeal cookies! There is a cookie for every sweet tooth.

My favorite is the Mauna Kea cookies. The powdered sugar on top of the crisp shortbread is simply to die for!

If you’re more of a cheesecake or person versus a cookie person, than have no fear because there’s plenty of dessert offerings for you too! They have Haupia cheesecake, chocolate delight cheesecake and jello cheesecake. They also have Haupia cake.

The Haupia cheesecake and Haupia cake is great for anyone who loves coconut. The cake is so soft and moist and consists of angel food cake along with some coconut cake. The chocolate delight cheesecake has rich, chocolate mousse that is perfect for the chocolate lovers in the world. Last but not least is the jello cheesecake. This one is my personal favorite. I love the layer of jello on top of the soft cheesecake and crunchy crust.

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To go along with my savory and sweet eats here, I had a nice refreshing glass of passion orange guava. This drink is great for hot days like today.

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Back Home in Lahaina was an amazing place for dining with friends today. From their appetizers to their entrees and to their sweets, there was something tasty for every one! It truly is nice to be back home ;). Being back home makes me smile. 🙂

For more smiles, please see my recent Yelp review on Back Home in Lahaina.

Hello Happy Valentine’s Day @ The Cheesecake Factory!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the happy couples and happy singles in the world! I’m happy for my friends who have boyfriends/husbands who will do the sweetest things for them today. I’m happy knowing my friends are treated like queens. 🙂 One day I’ll be a queen too 😉 but in the meantime while this Hello Kitty waits for her own version of Dear Daniel to come into her life, I celebrate like a queen with my friends with a happy hearty dinner at The Cheesecake Factory

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My friends and I love The Cheesecake Factory! As many of my blog readers may have noticed, I’ve spent many special occasions with friends here. Although, I’ve been here several times, I still get quite overwhelmed with their 26 page menu! Luckily whenever I go here with friends, I have the chance to try several of their savory and sweet eats. For today’s blog post, I’ll share little tidbits of some of those items.

From the small plates and appetizers menu, one of my friends got the Chicken and Mushroom Lettuce Wraps. I’ve always been a fan of lettuce wraps and I was quite curious to see how this dish would be at The Cheesecake Factory. Six pieces of crisp butter lettuce leaves was accompanied with a nice mix of diced chicken, mushrooms, green onion, ginger and garlic. I liked that they used shiitake mushrooms for their lettuce wraps. Shiitake mushrooms tend to give a more rich, hearty flavor to dishes and this is exactly what it did for this plate. There was a little bit too much oyster sauce on this dish though but it still made for a good appetizer/ entree. It was also nice to see that these lettuce wraps are part of The Cheesecake Factory’s skinnylicious menu for items less than 490 calories.

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One of the other items that my friends and I got to try today was their Crusted Chicken Romano dish. This dish has chicken breast coated with romano-parmesan cheese crust. It is paired with pasta topped with tomato sauce. The cheesy pieces of chicken and the long, angel hair noodles made for a nice pair! The noodles were soft and the chicken had good golden brown crisp. The tomato sauce on the pasta was perfectly light and not overwhelming.

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Another tasty dish for tonight was the Shepherd’s Pie. One of my friends always cooks Shepherd’s Pie for some of our dinner parties. When I saw this on The Cheesecake Factory menu, I knew we had to try it. The Cheesecake Factory version has ground beef, mushrooms, carrots, peas, zucchini and onions underneath a mashed potato-parmesan cheese crust. Tender ground beef, wonderfully soft mashed potatoes and tasty dabs of ginger made for a very hearty and saucy dish (and yes it is just as good as my friend’s homemade version.) 😉

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Although, I loved the various savory entrees, I made sure to make room for the sweet treats at the end. This is The Cheesecake Factory after all and is one of the sweetest days of the year 😉 and so cheesecake was a must. We definitely had a lot of cheesecake love for this dinner!

The first cheesecake we tried was Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple. Honestly, I feel like we should have saved this for last because this was the most intense of all the cheesecakes we tried. This cheesecake had swirls of caramel, peanut butter, butterfinger and Reese’s Peanut Butter. The sweet caramel comes out at first bite and then next up is the rich flavors of peanut butter and butterfinger. This one had a very bold sweet kick to it.

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I really liked our second cheesecake! We got the Craig’s Crazy Carrot Cake Cheesecake. It is carrot cake and cheesecake swirled together, topped with cream cheese icing and roasted almonds. It’s a combo of two of my favorite desserts, carrot cake and cheesecake and so it is not surprising that I would enjoy this. The carrot cake was soft and moist and the cheesecake was super creamy. I also liked the touch of almonds in the cream cheese icing.

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Cheesecake love continued with the Wild Blueberry White Chocolate Cheesecake. This one is the original cheesecake with wild blueberries. It is topped with white chocolate mousse. The original cheesecake had a nice smooth texture and the blueberries added good tart touch. Very simple but classically tasty.

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Last but not least for our cheesecake love sweet treats was the Lemon Raspberry Cream Cheesecake. This one consisted of raspberry vanilla cake, creamy lemon cheesecake, raspberry lady fingers and lemon mousse. I really liked the luscious lemon flavor and the slight hint of raspberry. It was from this cheesecake that I realized that my preference for cheesecakes are the fruity based ones versus the chocolate types.

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It was once again love at first bite at The Cheesecake Factory. Their cheesecakes continue to be my foodie crush. It was a very happy hearts day today filled with sweet and hearty eats, heartfelt conversations and lovely times with friends. I hope that all of you too had a very Happy Valentine’s Day full of smiles and love! Thanks for reading my Valentine’s Day blog post. I heart all my blog readers! You all make my heart happy when you take the time to read my happy little blog. ❤️

Hello Grimaldi’s Coal Brick-Oven Pizzeria!

“She eats takeout with china and serves champagne with pizza.”

I’ve always liked the above quote from Kate Spade and walking into the newly opened Grimaldi’s reminded me of this quote.

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One of the first things I first noticed was the cool looking wine bottle chandeliers on the ceiling.

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The next thing I noticed where the red and white checkered tablecloths and the wine bottle candles on all of the tables.

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The whole restaurant has a very New York-ish feel that gives diners a feel that they just stepped into a simple yet sophistscated NYC pizzaeria. (Simple yet sophisticated like the Kate Spade quote from the start of this post ;). The New York-ish feel is very much appropriate because Grimaldi’s originated from NYC.

The pizzeria specializes in coal fired brick oven pizza and this location in El Segundo is the first location in California. It was nice to be able to try this place out today and try out the pizza that made “the Brooklyn Bridge famous.”

My taste of New York started with a personalized pizza that I split with a friend. Straight from the coal fired brick oven, we were presented with a nice pizza topped with their famous Grimaldi’s sauce, fresh mozzarella, pepperoni and mushrooms. It was all on top of a thin, crispy crust.

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To go along with my pizza, I got a latte.They offer illy coffee here. Illy is famous for specializing in espressos and I was very happy with my latte that had rich espresso topped with steamed milk and foam. It was my little cup of happiness.

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For dessert, my friend and I got the dessert trio and chose to get one of each of their popular desserts. Our choices were Grimaldi’s famous cannoli, oreo cookie cheesecake and tiramisu. The cannoli here is famous for a reason. A nice crisp shell, sweet cream filling with chocolate chips made for one good classic Sicilian pastry. The oreo cookie cheesecake was housemade and had a good oreo cookie crust as well as plenty of oreo mixed in the cheesecake. The tiramisu had distinct coffee flavor and very soft, sponge like layers.

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I’ve had my eye on Grimaldi’s ever since I spotted the sign and wrote about it in my very first South Bay Foodies article. I was quite curious to see and taste a little bit of NYC. I’m super happy that today I got to try the pizza, enjoy a latte and get dessert too…all while eating in a very Brooklyn like atmosphere. 😉

For more smiles, please see my recent Yelp review on Grimaldi’s.

Hello 85c Bakery Cafe Grand Opening!

Fresh bread!!!

What goes perfect with fresh bread? Fresh brewed coffee! They say 85c is the perfect temperature to serve coffee. It’s also where the name of the 85c Bakery Cafe comes from. A popular bakery cafe known as the “Starbucks of Taiwan,” it has locations in various parts of the world like Taiwan, China and Australia. Although there are already several locations in California, I along with others were long awaiting the opening of the newest location in the South Bay. My happy anticipation of the grand opening was evident in my recent South Bay Foodies article.

Today the awaited day finally came and 85c Bakery Cafe had its grand opening! Happy customers like myself were greeted with colorful red and white balloons all around.

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As we walked inside, we were each given a cute little red keychain.

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The concept of the bakery is cute as well. You grab a pair of tongs and white tray and you go around choosing your favorite pastries from the plastic bins around the store. The 85c bakery cafe workers bring out baked goods from the kitchen and happily yell out “fresh bread!!!” as they come out with the pastries. It adds to the happy and cute atmosphere!

Their tag line, “fresh bread” fits well with the bakery because each and every pastry from here is fresh, soft and delightful.

The chocolate chip bowl is literally a bowl in size and a bowl full of sweet chocolate chips.

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The premium milk bread is the epitome of delicate goodness .

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The snowflake breads are filled with sweet custard. The name snowflake comes from the shape and the snow white powdered sugar on top.

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The slices of raisin toast are so soft and nice.

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The taro bread is one of their most popular breads and it’s no wonder why. It’s very soft, sweet and Purpleicious ;).

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The boroh cream Danish is a crispy pineapple shaped bun with sweet butter coating and milk butter filling. It’s topped with slices almonds!

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I was so happy filling my little tray with various sweet treats. It was a lot of fun and I made some friends while there as I chatted with the folks next to me and we compared the breads we put in our respective trays.

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After choosing which breads would fill our individual trays. the happy food adventures continued on at the front counter where all the cakes are. It’s an amazing display. Each cake was beautifully decorated with various colorful toppings.

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I chose to get a blueberry cheesecake for my grandma. It got packaged in a cute little basket like red box. Similar to the breads, the cheesecake is so nice. It has a creamy top with swirls of blueberry and a buttery crust underneath. I think the happy smile on my grandma’s face best describes how good it is. I like when my grandma smiles :).

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I also had to get a pumpkin roll! My crush on all things pumpkin continued when I saw this beautiful roll topped with fresh whipped cream and a strawberry and filled with pumpkin cream!

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Last but not least, I had to try one of their famous drinks. They have various teas, coffees and boba drinks such coffee jelly milk tea.

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85c Bakery Cafe’s #1 drink is their sea salt drinks. They have sea salt green tea, black tea and coffee. I chose to get a sea salt jasmine tea. It has a white foam with sea salt and green tea specks on top and jasmine green tea on the bottom.

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I was one happy hello kitty foodie with all my purchases at 85c Bakery Cafe today. Yummy breads, tarts, cheesecake, sea salt drink (and a smile from grandma) made my day!

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As if all those purchases weren’t enough to make me smile, I got a free mug too! My new red mug will be filled with fresh coffee (that will be at 85c 😉

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85C Bakery Cafe, I am a fan! I’m very happy I got to be a part of today’s grand opening.

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For more smiles, please read my recent Yelp review on 85c Bakery Cafe.