About Rachael

I'm Rachael Faught, a food loving, globe-trekking geek girl extraordinaire. Based in Los Angeles, I am dedicated to the life of a true bon vivant, experiencing all life has to offer and then promptly writing about it. When I'm not on the go, I'm typically at home cooking up a storm and obsessing over Attack on Titan with strangers on the internet.

Vendange Carmel Wine Themed Boutique Inn

Vendange Sign 2

On our Coastin’ California Road Trip, mom and I were going no further than Carmel. These two days and two nights were the apex of our vacation before we began our way back home. Our first night found us sat Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley (but more on that later), and then our second night took us to Carmel-By-the-Sea at a cozy boutique inn called Vendange Carmel.

Located less than a mile from the renowned artisan village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Vendange Carmel is the first wine themed inn in all of Monterey County. Each room is named after a local winery, giving guests the opportunity to learn more about the premium wines the area has to offer. These partnered wineries design their own rooms in their own creative manner, providing guests with a memorable and fun experience with each stay.

Twisted Roots Room
Twisted Roots Room

See the wines hanging on the wall like an art installation? Enraged that the Twisted Roots tasting room wasn’t open and the key to the wine storeroom wasn’t on the premise of Vendange, Mom said, “To hell with art!” and took six bottles off the wall. I wish I had a snapshot of her hauling these bottles downstairs in her arms. Alas, I was too busy laughing. It’s all good, though; the wines are meant to be purchased. Twisted Roots, I hope you appreciate how brand loyal mom is! The room itself was a touch noisy for my liking (it faces the street), so if you’re after total peace and quiet, ask for a room towards the back of the property. Book Twisted Roots if you’ll be in and out frequently so as not to disrupt the other guests!

Joullian Wines

Owned and operated by the Lee family, Vendange is endearingly referred to as the “baby” of the family. This is more than a mere business venture to them; this is their passion, their very lifeblood. Like any parent swelling with pride for their child, general manager John Lee, son of the owners, told the tale of how his family once owned the property and let it slip from their grasp. Much to their dismay, it had not been treated with the kindness it deserved. Mercifully, however, the property fell back into their waiting arms and after a rebranding and much needed tender loving care, Vendange stands proud and utterly unique in design and theme.

Outdoor Area

While not a larger property, Vendange Carmel does utilize its space wisely with lush greenery and domiciles of tranquility where guests can commune with one another, a bottle of wine shared between them – bonus points for a fire pit!


Beyond the upscale fixtures and the wine, what won my heart over was the human touch – particularly by Mrs. Lee and her ample hospitality in the form of breakfast. Fruit salad, boiled eggs, bagels, cream cheese, a variety of beverages, yogurt, breakfast sandwiches (that’s a sure-fire way to win my heart over), granola, cereal and so much more. Mom and I ate our fill before checking out and hitting the road bound for home.

Flower Drop

Vendange Carmel may not be a big property, nor one dripping with luxurious amenities, but it is blended beautifully with the bountiful and fantastically colorful surrounding nature of Carmel-By-the-Sea. A prefect getaway for snowbirds looking to escape the harsh Eastern winters, book this slice of paradise for your vacation and enjoy off-season perks!

Vendange Carmel
24815 Carpenter St.
Carmel, CA 93923

Sweet Lolita Strawberry Vanilla Panna Cotta

Strawberry Vanilla Rose Panna Cotta

Wowza, it has been a long time since I updated – let alone threw a recipe at you. Sorry about that! Between preparing for Anime Expo, a sinus infection, preparing for my mom’s trip to Berlin, preparing for my trip to Europe, this summer has made me totally whack-a-doodle. That is an official term, by the way.

Some of you are looking at me askance, muttering, “What the hell is Sweet Lolita?” In Japan, there is a fashion-rooted subculture called “Elegant Gothic Lolita” that began gaining international traction in the early 2000s. Girls, boys and gender-neutral individuals don their fluffiest finest; sub-categories are as varied as the motifs they don: Gothic Lolita; Vampire Lolita; Elegant Gothic Aristocrat for more traditionally male silhouettes; Alice; Pirate Lolita; and the classic, Sweet Lolita.

Lolita runway-1374

Illustration by Kira Imai
Loli’s (as they’re nicknamed) typically incorporate a particular aesthetic that calls forth motifs such as tea parties, picnics, dolls, and all things slightly old fashioned and cute. There are variations, of course, but for the purposes of this recipe, I’m calling forth the basic Sweet Lolita style. While I haven’t the energy to dedicate my whole wardrobe, I do enjoy certain motifs and incorporate them as more of an accessory to my life as a whole. Such as this heart-shaped strawberry vanilla panna cotta – perfect for a sweet lolita tea party!


I arrived late to the Panna Cotta Party – having only given it a try maybe four years ago when I first tried it at my favorite Italian restaurant, Celestino. I’ve been a fan ever since, and only got it into my head to finally attempt to tackle the delicious dessert this year. Baking and I have a tumultuous relationship; cookies rarely make it beyond the dough stage and cakes are a source of stress for me. I can churn out a decent fruit pie, mostly because I am not above buying store crust. So this whole Panna Cotta business came about in baby steps. First: the desire to actually tackle it. Second: purchasing an adorable ramekin from Daiso (aka The Greatest Store Known to Mankind). Third: A Serendipitous team-up with Nielsen-Massey Vanillas for that extra push. Fourth: A killer, fool-proof base recipe. And lastly: Just doing it.

Strawberry Vanilla Rose Panna Cotta
Big squishy hugs to Nielsen-Massey for the vanilla!

In lieu of half and half or cream, I decided to make this Panna Cotta out of a recent find at my local 99 Ranch Market (a popular chain of Asian grocery stores): Strawberry Milk. When in doubt, make it pink and cute! This recipe makes two (I used a circular ramekin to make a back up in case the heart ramekin failed).

Sweet Lolita Strawberry Vanilla Panna Cotta


Cooking spray
1 cup milk (whole or 2%)
2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
1/4 cup sugar
1 box (6.8 fl oz) strawberry milk (I used Binggrae Flavored Milk)
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey pure vanilla
Pinch salt
1/4th teaspoon rose syrup (optional)

  • Lightly spritz the ramekins with cooking spray, then use a paper towel to wipe upward, removing most of the oil, leaving only a light residue.
  • Set saucepan on burner but do not turn on heat. Pour the milk into the saucepan, then evenly sprinkle the powdered gelatin across the milk’s surface. Wait until the surface of the milk is wrinkled and the gelatin grains look wet and slightly dissolved.
  • Set the saucepan over low heat and warm the milk gently, stirring/whisking frequently. Do not allow the milk to boil or simmer. The milk should get hot, but you ought to be able to stick a finger in for a few seconds. This step will happen quickly as gelatin dissolves as the milk warms.
  • CHECK: Rub a bit of the milk between your fingers to ensure smooth texture. Alternatively, dip in spoon and check its back for graininess.
  • Stir the sugar into the milk and continue warming until it dissolves; less than 5 minutes.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat before whisking in the milk, vanilla, (rose syrup if you’re adding) and a pinch of salt.
  • Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared ramekins and put in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
  • Wipe the plate with a damp paper towel before running a thin knife along the edges of the ramekin. Invert the ramekin over the plate and tap/shake very gently (if need be; I didn’t need to do anything. My panna cotta just plopped! right out) IF you have trouble, gently set the ramekin right-side up and fill a large bowl/pan with hot water before holding the ramekin in the bath for about 5 seconds. Try inverting again.
  • Garnish with fresh strawberries and enjoy with a cup of tea and some good company.
  • Alternatives: You can also primarily flavor the panna cotta with rose, orange blossom, or any other kitchen grade flavoring – also available from Nielsen-Massey.

    Panna Cotta Header

    Have you ever indulged in the lolita fashion or panna cotta?

    MOON POWER MONDAY! Recapping Sailor Moon Crystal ep. 24

    Are we still keeping up with Sailor Moon Crystal, everyone? I know I am, and I have been recapping each episode on my YouTube Channel. For the supremely lazy, here is the latest edition of Moon Power Monday:

    I don’t know about you, but if I were asked point-blank to pick between Sailor Moon R and Sailor Moon Crystal’s Black Moon Arc, I would pick the latter in a heartbeat. Most people would say blasphemy, but after being a fan for 20 years, I get tired of filler and irked greatly with Chibi Usa’s first animated personality. How about you?

    Vernetti – Larchmont Village

    Chef Steve Vernetti

    Restaurants in their infancy can be a tricky situation. Everyone is a bundle of nerves: the chef wants their food to be perfection; the public relations want rave reviews and the invited media is simply hoping for the best (and hungry). And the best is certainly what Chef Steve Vernetti and wife Joanna gave at the media preview of their eponymous Italian-American restaurant in Larchmont Village.

    Steve and Joanna Vernetti bought Larchmont’s beloved Italian restaurant, Girasole, in fall 2013, worked closely with its former owner during the transition, and have maintained the core kitchen and wait staff that made the restaurant such a special place.

    Spoilers: everything served this night was absolutely amazing. It was difficult to not eat all of absolutely everything because I would have been full very early on. So I’ll only add my notes where necessary.

    Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village

    Comments: Nice tang. Really worth ordering to give your taste-buds a wake-up zing.

    Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
    Olive Bread + Olive Oil

    Comments: Crusty and soft with big chunks of black olives. Delicious freshly hot out of the oven.

    Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
    Deviled egg crostini• white anchovy

    Comments: Anchovy mellows out the paprika spice.

    Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
    Ceci bean crostini• mint, pecorino

    Comments: Mint is potent. Tied with the deviled egg costini as my favorite.

    Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
    Roasted beet crostini • house ricotta, basil, toasted pistachios

    Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
    Salumi platter
    prosciutto, porchetta, bresaola, spicy calabrese salami, house giardiniera

    Comments: I could eat that bresaola until the day I die. The porchetta melts in your mouth. All of the meats are perfection.

    Intervallo:Tagliatelle, rigatoni, spaghettini, pappardelle and ravioli are made with Vernetti’s Rosito Bisani TR 95 Pasta Extruder, a workhorse in the new kitchen. Seafood comes from boat-to-table, sustainable sources, and premium meats from a local, specialty butcher.

    Vernetti Tasting
    Pappardelle con funghi • sautéed wild mushrooms, cream, parmigiano

    Comments: My favorite. Always has been, always will be. You and me, pappardelle + mushrooms. ‘Til death do us part.

    Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
    Rigatoni spuntature
    braised short rib ragu, marrow, crispy greens, roasted tomatoes, breadcrumbs

    Comments: I am not a short ribs fan; every time I have eaten short ribs, I have been pretty dissatisfied. This dish would have been my #1 favorite if my blind loyalty to mushrooms and pappardelle did not keep me on the straight & narrow. Seriously, I want a full serving of this. Mom’s favorite as well.

    Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
    Linguine alla vongole
    manila clams, white wine, garlic, crushed red pepper

    Comments: Another personal favorite and oh god even though it was a two-bite job, easily one of the best Linguine and clams I’ve ever eaten. It’s creamy rather than soupy, a task that is deceptively difficult when concerning pasta.

    Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
    Grilled octopus • creamy white beans, fennel and cabbage slaw

    Comments: I wish I could have eaten more than a couple of bites, but warm cabbage + I do not get on well. The octopus was lovely, though.

    Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
    Bistecca alla fiorentina
    dry aged prime porterhouse, baby arugula, shaved parmigiano

    Comments: I have nothing to say because I am too busy eating and making noises I’d rather not…describe. Use your imagination.

    Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
    Seared yam and sage polenta cake

    Intervallo: Chef Steve Vernetti’s take on Italian-American cuisine reflects a lifetime of diverse experiences and training. At age six, his mother taught him to cook on the family’s working ranch in Nevada, where they grew their own produce and raised livestock. As an adult, cooking became his vocation and Vernetti honed his art by traveling throughout Europe to Berlin, Paris, Venice, Florence, Amsterdam and Brussels. When Chef Vernetti and his wife, Joanna, now co-founder of a television production company and the restaurant’s creative visionary and business manager, moved back to the U.S. in the late 1990s, he cooked with The Patina Group in Los Angeles. The Vernettis settled in Larchmont and are now raising their three children here (adorable, by the way, as the proud chef shared photos with me).

    Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
    Cannoli • house ricotta cream, candied peel/pistachio

    Comments: I cannot tell you how difficult it is to find a decent cannoli in this town. Thank goodness for people like Chef Vernetti who get its simple beauty.

    Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village
    Panna Cotta • fresh strawberry composta

    Comments: Throwing all caution and stomach warnings to the wind, I ate this with gusto and nearly licked my plate. My favorite dessert of the evening.

    Vernetti Media Preview - Larchmont Village

    Comments: Took one bite before crumpling to the floor and slipping into a food coma.

    Vernetti is in the restaurant every day, creating both traditional and innovative dishes – building on Girasole’s legacy, and filling his restaurant with the happy sounds of his community. During the remodel, he traveled, researched and tasted to ensure every dish at Vernetti is made with the highest quality ingredients. He continues to try new variations to menu items and add nuances while keeping all the favorites that Girasole patrons came to know and love.
    “To own a restaurant right here in Larchmont Village, in the same neighborhood where we are raising our family, is pretty amazing,” said Chef Steve Vernetti. “Serving homemade pastas and choice cuts of meat and seafood, seasonal vegetables and baked goods, and seeing all that happens around a table set with a well prepared meal in a lovely setting is a dream come true.”

    225 North Larchmont Blvd.
    Los Angeles, CA
    Dinner: 17:30–23:00
    Lunch: 12–15:00 (beginning next week!)
    Weekday Breakfast: 09-12 (SOON!)
    Weekend Brunch: 09–14:00 (SOON!)

    Hello Kitty LIVE Supercute Friendship Festival

    Hello Kitty LIVE (photo credit: Sanrio)

    Did you know that Hello Kitty turned 40 years old last year? Los Angeles has been lucky enough to host so many Hello Kitty celebrations including Hello Kitty Con last October and the Hello! exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum, which just closed this past weekend. Now the rest of America will have the chance to experience Hello Kitty Live!

    Hello Kitty is hitting the road this week, with her first-ever live North American tour: Hello Kitty’s Supercute Friendship Festival. Sanrio and international tour producer VEE Corporation have partnered to create, design and produce this inaugural tour event. Going beyond a traditional live stage show, the event will offer a unique multi-component, walk around family-friendly festival atmosphere for Sanrio fans of all ages.

    For the first time in North America, Hello Kitty and her supercute friends Dear Daniel, My Melody, Badtz-Maru, Keroppi, Chococat, and Purin will appear in this unique celebration of fun, friendship and Sanrio surprises! Each event will feature Hello Kitty and her friends in multi-stage live performances and DJ-driven dance sequences, as well as interactive exhibits, animation, art, fashion, photo opportunities, event-exclusive merchandise and much more, all in one immersive festival environment!

    Hello Kitty and her friends

    Hello Kitty Live features the music of Bruno Mars, Kylie Minogue, Clean Bandit, Charli XCX, Echosmith, Nonono, Flo.rida and more!

    “The collaboration between VEE Corporation and Sanrio will invite fans to step inside a Hello Kitty wonderland in their hometown,” said Jim Waters, Senior Vice President of Production for VEE Corporation. “Together we’ve created an experience that Sanrio fans of all ages will enjoy.”

    Festival Dates:
    Denver, CO (June 5-7)
    Los Angeles, CA (June 12-14)
    San Diego, CA (June 19-21)
    and over 35 cities across the country.

    TICKETS & SCHEDULE: For full show schedule & tickets, please visit hellokittyfestival.com

    Join the fun, friendship and festivities as Hello Kitty’s Supercute Friendship Festival makes a supercute stop in your city soon. Download the Hello Kitty Events App to stay updated with event information, connect with fans and earn supercute badges.

    all photos are courtesy of Sanrio via Orsi Public Relations

    Beauty and the Beast – Inland Pacific Ballet

    Beauty and the Beast

    Happy very belated Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there. What did you do with your family? Usually I come up with a day of activities based around my mother’s whims and give my brother several reminders until the day of. This year we did things a little differently, as I was offered the chance to take my mother to the Inland Pacific Ballet production of Beauty and the Beast.

    I love ballet, but I have yet to expand my ballet viewing beyond The Nutcracker. No disrespect to the Christmas classic, but I am ready to expand my horizons – and bonus points for not having to drive further than Arcadia to attend this performance. Good thing, too, since Mother’s Day turned into a comedy of errors for the family as my sister-in-law and my mother’s car both decided to call it quits and required visits from our local friendly AAA representative. Least to say, we opened a rather large bottle of wine that evening. But first, the ballet…

    (credit: E.Y. Yanagi)

    The story borrows more elements from the original Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont fairy tale with only a few motifs from the Disney adaptation, chiefly Belle’s iconic blue and white dress and the wolves going after Belle – or rather, Beauty as she is called here. The ballet is broken into two Acts, three scenes in the first, four in the second.

    Wolves in The Enchanted Forest (credit: E.Y. Yanagi)

    The backdrops and scenery orchestrated by scenic designer Daniel Nyiri set the tone beautifully and presented the audience with just enough whimsy to transport us to the fairy tale setting of Beauty and the Beast. Snaps for stand out performances go to:

  • Meilu Zhai (Beauty) for her seemingly effortless grace and swan-like elegance. Her expressiveness was as en point as her flawlessly ethereal dance.
  • Cameron Schwanz (Beast) for successfully emoting the dramatic angst of the character while burdened with the cumbersome head of Beast.
  • Jonathan Sharp (Father) Sharp for commanding a bold presence despite his secondary role. I particularly enjoyed his fluidly graceful demonstration of the silent body language of ballet prior to the show’s beginning.
  • Beauty’s Sisters: Unfortunately, I am unsure who performed them as there were some cast changes that did not get corrected in the hand-out. It doesn’t matter because both of them were splendid, especially the taller of the two who walked (danced?) the fine line between comedic greed and insecurity without tipping the scale into slapstick.
  • Fairies were lovely and their movements gorgeously executed to convey the otherworldliness of their roles. They were my favorite part of the first act.

  • The Beast is really an Enchanted Prince (credit: E.Y. Yanagi)

    Despite all of the headaches with the cars, mom had a fabulous time. Really, that’s all that matters in the end! Beauty and the Beast has two performances left this weekend on May 16th at the newly renovated Fox Performing Arts Theatre in Riverside. BUY YOUR TICKETS TODAY!

    Photo credit: Copyright © 2014 E.Y. Yanagi. Used with permission.

    Reviewing Otafuku Okonomiyaki Kit

    Cooking Okonomiyaki with Otafuku Okonomiyaki Kit

    Otafuku Okonomiyaki Kit

    A few weeks ago I went bananas at my local Marukai and purchased this Okonomiyaki Kit by Otafuku. I’ve had Okonomiyaki once, maybe twice, but always felt it’s something I can easily make at home. The completely from scratch recipes are well over an hour in cooking time, and for a Spoonie like me, that is sometimes not an option…especially when I have a friend over and we just want to cook something super quick and weeb out with some damn anime. Which is what my friend and I did when I used this kit. We’re watching Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun and it’s hilarious. If you like self-aware slice of life, go for it.

    High school student Chiyo Sakura has a crush on schoolmate Umetarō Nozaki, but when she confesses her love to him, he mistakes her for a fan and gives her an autograph. When she says that she always wants to be with him, he invites her to his house and has her help on some drawings. Chiyo discovers that Nozaki is actually a renowned shōjo manga artist named Sakiko Yumeno. She then agrees to be his assistant in order to get closer to him. As they work on his manga Let’s Fall in Love (恋しよっ) they encounter other schoolmates who assist them or serve as inspirations for characters in the stories. – Wikipedia

    I decided to film the process of making the Okonomiyaki,and you can watch that video:

    I could have left it just as a video, but I wanted to provide photos of some of the steps, and include a recipe for homemade Okonomiyaki sauce. Japanese food companies use a LOT of high fructose corn syrup and I could not find a single commercially available Okonomiyaki sauce that did not include HFC. So, I chose to make it myself.

    So, here are (most!) of the step by step instructions.

    Step One: Prep the ingredients

    Cooking Okonomiyaki with Otafuku Okonomiyaki Kit
    1/2 head cabbage + 4 smallish scallions

    Cooking Okonomiyaki with Otafuku Okonomiyaki Kit
    Thinly sliced meat.

    Note: I used shabu shabu pork and did not have to prep beyond opening the package and having it at the ready.

    Step Two: Mix Your Ingredients

    Cooking Okonomiyaki with Otafuku Okonomiyaki Kit

    In order: yam powder + 5.4 fl oz water (mix); Okonomiyaki batter (mix to combine); cabbage, green onion, tempura flakes, 2 eggs (fold in these items gently; do not over mix!)

    Step Three: Grease & Griddle it up

    Cooking Okonomiyaki with Otafuku Okonomiyaki Kit

    I used a large nonstick pan, but if you’re going to use a griddle or skillet, be sure to grease it well before spooning the first pancake. You’ll want to try to divide the batter up evenly and ladle it onto the hot pan, taking care to keep it in a circular shape and no more than an inch in thickness.

    Step Four: Cook for 3-5 minutes, then lay on the MEAT!

    Cooking Okonomiyaki with Otafuku Okonomiyaki Kit
    I used 4 slices per okonomiyaki

    Step Five: After meat is secure, FLIP!

    Cooking Okonomiyaki with Otafuku Okonomiyaki Kit
    Flip #1

    Step Six: Cover & Cook the meat 3-5 minutes, then FLIP! Uncover & cook for 1-2 min

    Cooking Okonomiyaki with Otafuku Okonomiyaki Kit
    Make sure your pork is cooked through!

    Step Seven: Remove from heat, transfer to a plate, garnish as you please & enjoy!

    Cooking Okonomiyaki with Otafuku Okonomiyaki Kit

    The whole process takes less than a half hour, and I not only recommend the Otafuku Okonomiyaki Kit, I plan to purchase more in the very near future to have on hand when I find myself at home with a plus one – or just exceptionally hungry for modern Japanese comfort food.

  • Quick ‘n’ Easy Okonomi Sauce Recipe:
  • Mix 3 tbs of ketchup + 1 tbs of Worcestershire sauce + 1 tsp of Soy Sauce.

    There are a variety of other Okonomiyaki sauce recipes floating around there on the internet, and I will be experimenting with them as well as food to toss in and garnish Okonomiyaki with.

    Have you eaten or cooked okonomiyaki? What variation did you eat?