Tag Archives: los angeles

Native Foods Cooking Demo

23 Oct

On Sunday morning, I woke up early to catch the bus to Westwood for my second Native Foods cooking demo. I attended one soon after my arrival in LA at the Culver City location, which you can read about here.

Anyway, I arrived about 15 minutes early and chose my antisocial seat hidden behind a poll, ’cause that’s what I do. Here’s what the cooking set-up looked like:

While we waited, I had two sample cups of their awesome chai:

And then the Hulk — I mean Chef Kendall — showed up:

Blammo. She was a hoot. Her manner was very engaging, which made the demo very exciting. We got to work trying our first samples: Mummy Meatloaf with Bloody Mary Sauce.

The meatloaf was seitan-based, and it tasted good, but it wasn’t terribly exciting. The sauce, however, was insanely good and really easy. I can see myself attempting a lentil/tempeh loaf and lathering it on, or using it as a tofu marinade, or making a twist on patatas bravas with it. So good!

Next we tried the Dragon’s Blood Punch:

Also tasty, though I’m not the world’s biggest fan of punch. It had cranberry, mixed fruit juice, and ginger ale.

And then we did dessert number 1 — Goblin “Sweet” Bread Ginger Pudding:

This was really tasty. I especially loved the addition of crystallized ginger. I did have to pick out/eat around the currants (raisins’ slightly less offensive but still reprehensible cousin), but I would definitely make this at home with leftover homemade sourdough and maybe chocolate chips instead of the ginger.

And dessert number 2 — Ghastly Gourd Parfaits:

This was tasty, too, but very hard to eat with a fork! It was a tofu-based pumpkin pudding with a spiced cookie crumble.

And then I won $10:

That’s me next to the Hulk

Technically, the people behind me won the $10 gift card. However, they left early — thank goodness, as they were some of the most annoying people I can remember encountering in a while — so I totally cannibalized their winnings. Bwah ha ha. No shame.

I had a good time at this demo, and while I thought Chef Kendall was an amazing host, I would have preferred a better balance of savory to sweet food. I felt pretty sugar-loaded by the time I left.

Since it was Sunday, my bus was only running every hour, so I spent about 55 minutes walking around Westwood. It was beautiful outside — 70s and overcast — so I did a little window shopping, logged two meandering miles, and stumbled across this lovely courtyard:

It was a great start to a Sunday.

Vegan Mac & Cheese Showdown

15 Oct

I owe you a meal planning and CSA post, but my computer was held hostage all day yesterday for football. I used the good camera (i.e. not the iPhone) to take photos, and now I’m at work, so I will have to see if Mr. X can send them to me when he eventually rises and shines. Anyway, it feels wonderful not to be sick any more. I took Friday off to recuperate, which was a good choice. I was still feeling crappy on Saturday, so clearly I just needed the rest (and extra neti potting).

I did venture out briefly on Saturday, though, for LA’s Best Vegan Mac & Cheese Showdown hosted by Chica Vegan! I have been looking forward to this event for a month, and there was no way I was going to miss it. We’re talking $5 for five samples of vegan macaroni and cheese hosted at a space I love that is walking distance from my apartment. I sucked up my sniffles and the fact that I was flying solo while X had an audition and headed down.

So, like I said, you fork over $5 to receive a ticket book for your samples:

Each restaurant had one for you to tear off and exchange for your cup of faux cheesy goodness. The system was very organized. I tried to get a shot of the action, but I’m a pretty terrible photographer, as you know, so this is what I got:

Anyway, I had my first sample from Hugo’s, which I have visited twice though strangely never written about:

Theirs was so brightly colored and is a regular menu item. It featured: “Fusilli pasta with garlic, sliced mushrooms and sweet peas in a creamy cashew and sunflower cheese sauce. Topped with crispy onions.” It was really, really good (and HUGE! My eyes were much bigger than my stomach. I honestly believed I could power through every bite of five of those things without getting sick, but I was wrong.). I really like Hugo’s — especially their brunch — but had never sampled their well-known mac ‘n cheese. I’m so glad I did!

Next was M Cafe de Chaya, which I have also visited and enjoyed and not mentioned on the blog:

Theirs was the most non-traditional spin with rotini, asparagus, and sun-dried tomatoes tossed in a light white sauce and topped with arugula. I enjoyed this take and would definitely eat it again, but it would have been more to my taste with some crushed red pepper or even just black pepper. I think that’s a macrobiotic thing, though.

The third one I tried was from SunCafe Organic, a new-to-me restaurant that Lynn from The Actor’s Diet recommended before:

Theirs was a tweak of a regular menu item, and here’s how they describe it: “ANDEAN DREAM quinoa pasta, tomato, cashew cheese sauce, garlic pecan crumble” (minus the “lemon basil tossed baby greens”). This was hands down my favorite. It was so flavorful and creamy, and the pecan crumble was insane. I was already feeling a little full by this point, but I couldn’t stop myself from eating every delicious morsel. I am so, so glad to discover SunCafe!

As I said, I was feeling more than a little full at this point, but I still had to try the last two contenders so that I could vote with accuracy. I grabbed them both at the same time, had three nibbles of each, and then saved the rest for Mr. X. Here is Doomie’s Home Cookin’, one of my favorite vegan restaurants that I’ve blogged about once before:

This was your basic Kraft mac ‘n cheese except veganized. To be totally honest, it was my least favorite, which isn’t to say it was bad, but I have just never been a fan of the basic recipe. Even as a kid I didn’t eat boxed macaroni and cheese. (I was weird and incredibly picky.) I know I’m the odd one out, though, since Doomie’s won second place in the people’s choice vote.

And finally we had Southern Fried Vegan, which was totally new to me:

Like Doomie’s, theirs was pretty traditional, though it did have a nice little sharpness to it that set it apart. They apparently participate in a lot of events — they don’t have a brick and mortar shop — including this week’s Vegan Taco Thursday at Eagle Rock Brewing that I will have to check out soon.

After we sampled (or gorged ourselves on) the choices, we voted for our favorite. There were two prizes: the people’s choice and the judges’ favorite. The judges were:

  • Judge of Top Chef Masters and Food Editor at LAist.com: Krista Simmons
  • Mohawk Bend’s Executive Chef: Mike Garber
  • Hot Knives Cookbook Writers and Chefs: Evan and Alex

The winners of the people’s choice were SunCafe Organic in first place and Doomie’s Home Cookin’ in second place. The judges’ favorites were Hugo’s in first and SunCafe in second.

Here are my picks in order:

  1. SunCafe
  2. Hugo’s
  3. M Cafe de Chaya
  4. Southern Fried Vegan
  5. Doomie’s

So that was the event. Since I was feeling poorly and was by myself, I left pretty quickly, but I had an amazing time. I want to give a huge shout out to Chica Vegan for organizing such a great event, to the five restaurants who participated, and to all the volunteers to ran such a perfect event. I hope to see more showdowns in the near future!

Saturday. Sunday.

25 Sep

Saturday started with a burger from Umami:

I got the only veggie option, the Earth Burger (“mushroom and edamame patty, white soy aioli, truffle ricotta, cipollini onions, lettuce, slow-roasted tomato”). Frankly, I was unimpressed. It was decent, but I was expecting so much more because of the hype. Mr. X said his burger was really good, though, so maybe it was just the vegetarian option that was lackluster.

Anyway, we were then off to the beach:

Unlike the previous Saturday, it was cool and cloudy, so the crowds were much thinner. It was perfect weather for lying down and reading, but we still got plenty of swimming in, too.

Saturday night was the gourmet meal I posted about yesterday. Sunday morning was my CSA pick-up, which you saw the day before that. The market is right by Trader Joe’s, so I park in their garage, do my pick-up, and then get the rest of the groceries (followed by Ralph’s, when needed). My favorite thing about the underground parking is this genius contraption:

Yeah, a special escalator just for your cart. It’s freakin’ awesome.

I came home and made brunch, my other favorite weekly tradition. For Mr. X, it was an omelet stuffed with roasted zucchini, cremini mushrooms, smoked Gouda, and fresh basil:

Mine was the same ingredients, but I had a scramble instead:

We both had home fries on the side. To make them, you just saute onions. Add garlic and peppers. Saute some more. Add chopped potatoes. Saute even more. Season with salt and pepper. Easy.

The rest of the day was spent in a haze of cleaning (me) and watching football (X). Dinner took about 12 seconds to prepare. His:

Two slices of homemade sourdough bread with Dijon, jalapeno-jack cheese, and avocado, with Snapea Crisps on the side. Hers:

Almost the same, except I had barbecued tofu instead of cheese.

And then I passed out. The end.

Random weekend shots

18 Sep

A lot of other bloggers do photo posts of their weekends, which is something I’ve never really gotten into. For one, I don’t take nearly as many pictures as they do, and — frankly — I don’t do a whole lot. That whole being broke-ish thing keeps us spending as little as possible most of the time. I do have a few random shots from the last few days that I wanted to share, though.

I attended a forum on Thursday that included a free lunch (yay!). They were boxed meals from Quiznos, including a sandwich, an apple, and a bag of chips. Apparently someone managed to design, get approval for, and print thousands of lunch boxes with this glaring typo:

Or maybe I’m being too harsh. Perhaps Quiznos is very philosophical about their food. “Who IS lunch?” It almost seems pro-vegetarian. Almost.

On Friday, I was driving home from Girls on the Run recruitment and saw this not-at-all-ominous cloud of smoke in the distance:

Fun California fact: Shit catches on fire here and stays on fire. This particular blaze was about 10 miles from my apartment, just east of the 405 near the Getty. Yikes.

On Saturday, we decided to beat the heat — 100° outside with no breeze = at least 10 billion° F inside my apartment — by heading to Venice Beach. It was significantly more bearable out there in the direct sun and surf than at home, so this was a big win. Mr. X didn’t want to be in my photo, so here was our view for the burning-our-pasty-skin portion of the afternoon:

The crowds were the perfect size. They were never overwhelming, and I liked being around a decent number of people. We spent a lot of time in the water, which was lots of fun. To the Pacific we sacrificed two pairs of sunglasses, a headband, a hair tie, and three bobby pins. It was worth it, though, even when we got knocked down by waves so hard that we scraped our backs on the rough bottom.

On Sunday, I picked up our CSA share and bought a dozen eggs from the market while I was there. At home, I made us a nice little brunch of Sourdough Pancakes and fried eggs:

I should have photographed X’s plate, since I gave him the prettier (and larger) serving, but by the time I plated mine, he had inhaled his. I used this recipe for the pancakes, but made the following tweaks:

  • Halved the recipe to serve two
  • Used a whole egg, so I reduced the oil by half again (so 1 egg and 1 tablespoon olive oil)
  • Cooked everything in my non-stick pan sprayed with a little oil. The recipe made seven pancakes that were about 1/4 cup of batter each.

For the spices, I dumped in a hefty amount of cinnamon (maybe 1/4 to a 1/2 teaspoon), 1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa powder, and a dash of cayenne to make a Mayan chocolate-inspired dish. We topped them with some Kerrygold butter I found lurking in the fridge.

As you can see, my plate looks mangled. I took the first pan of the ‘cakes, which I did a poor job of flipping. I noted it took about a  minute and a half for the first side to cook and then another minute on the other, so the subsequent four pancakes looked much prettier. The eggs also look crazy because they were room temperature, so the whites spread A LOT in the hot pan. They still tasted great!

That’s a glimpse into my weekend. The beach — and seeing our great friends from Bakersfield, who I will mention again tomorrow — was definitely the highlight, especially since the heat was RELENTLESS until Sunday evening. I know I have talked a lot of crap on Angelenos who can’t handle the extreme temperatures, but 100° feels a lot different, even if it’s not humid, in an apartment without air-conditioning than it does in a home with central heat and air. I’m grateful to see highs in the 80s this week!

Sunday thoughts

25 Mar

It is 10:30 in the morning, and my day is off to an exceptionally wonderful start. I hopped out of bed at 8:00 ready to run — literally — which is a good thing, since I have my second 5K in two weeks. By 8:30, I was out the door. Since I’ve been slacking off with training, I decided to enlist the help of my Couch to 5K app and did Week 4. I am not ashamed to admit that it totally kicked my butt. I am out of shape, but pushing myself this morning felt wonderful.

Afterward, I stopped by the apartment to grab my market bag, some moolah, and a warmer shirt and then headed back out on foot. I needed to make a detour to break a large bill, so I grabbed some lavender tea at Groundwork:

Groundwork is about half a mile from home, and it has sensational coffee, sandwiches, and looseleaf teas. However, I tend to find the service unfriendly at best. Today was a nice surprise, though. The guy was very nice and accommodating. Today was my first tango with their hot teas. They give you the hot water, and then you go scoop your own choice of a dozen or more looseleaf varieties into little bags. It was fun and oh so tasty. I almost mixed my lavender with Earl Grey, probably my favorite combo, but I plan to make coffee later, so I wanted to limit my caffeine. Next time, though!

After that, I headed straight to the Hollywood Farmers Market. Today is far from an example of a perfect, sunny SoCal day:

But there’s something about the moodiness in the sky that makes me feel happy, vibrant, and alive. It is just cool enough out for a bit of bite in the air, but not enough that I was uncomfortable in my running clothes. Plus, I love walking the longer-time Angelenos in their coats, scarves, and hats when I’m wearing crops and a tech shirt.

There is so much beauty around us every day, and it can be so hard to see it, but I can’t help but find the joy in little discoveries:

Yes, on the same street where these bloom, all full of fire and delicate strength, it’s normal to smell a little human urine. And yes, two blocks up is the hustle and bustle and weird commercialization that is Hollywood Boulevard. But today, today I feel centered on enjoying what is around me, even in the big, scary, dirty city.

Do you spy the sign in the distance? That’s the view from the end of my street.

Today I want to breathe in life and breathe out negativity. Today is a new beginning. Today I stop to smell the roses.

Today I celebrate a month of marriage with the greatest guy in the world. Happy Onemonthiversary, baby!

Review: Ekkamai Thai Restaurant ****1/2

28 Sep

Very shortly after we moved into our LA home, we decided to explore Culver City, where I work. We were hungry and feeling adventurous, so our empty tummies led us to a Thai place nearby. ‘Twas called Ekkamai.

Their menu is very broad and diverse, and it took us a long time to make our decisions. We started with the Veggie Fresh Rolls, which came with a wonderful peanut sauce.

The veggies were fresh and crunchy, the tofu had a wonderful texture, and that sauce was delectable. In fact, we had to get a second helping of it. Yum.

My attractive dining companion got a dinner special, which came with Tom Yum soup as a starter:

He’s a sweetie and ordered it with tofu so I could sample it. Man was it delicious. It was so tangy and flavorful. I must learn to make it, especially for sick days.

For my entree, I went with the Spicy Mint Noodle (Pad Kee Mao):

Described on the menu as: “Wide flat rice noodles stir-fried with Thai spices, chili, onions, bell peppers, basil leaves, and mint leaves.” Holy. Crap. This tasted like heaven. I mean, seriously. I never thought of putting mint in a stir fry, but I certainly will from now on. It was delectable.

He got Green Curry with Shrimp:

Since it was the aforementioned dinner special, it came with rice, salad and a veggie egg roll. He loved it. I tried the veggie egg roll, which was lovely. The salad was basic but tasty. He loved his entree, but obviously I didn’t sample it.

All in all, we left full, happy, and with leftovers. I call that a success.

Rating: a ***** for veggie options and **** for deliciousness. (See this post for scoring guide.)

Ekkamai Thai Restaurant is at 13223 W. Washington Blvd. in Culver City/Los Angeles. Their hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.