Thursday, July 29, 2010

Special Occasion Sushi

Last night, we went to Hachi Sushi & Robata in West Los Angeles with some friends for dinner.  We sat at the bar and ordered omakase from Masa San, who is the head sushi chef.  I've been to Hachi before but only with Nobu San, who I really like; he had the most amazing knife skills that I've ever seen and always dazzled us with his omakase.  We started with a trio of sashimi: amaebi (sweet shrimp) and tomato tartare, big eye tuna with diced jalapenos and wasabi, and halibut wrapped around daikon sprouts over seaweed:
All three were really nice; I love amaebi, and I thought making it into tartare with some tomato and drizzled with olive oil was really new and interesting.  The tuna was deliciously silky and the jalapeno / wasabi really pushed it to the limits of spiciness, almost too spicy, but not quite.  The halibut was mild and comforting after the bold flavors of the first two dishes.

Next was a trio of mirugai (giant clam) in mayonnaise with asparagus and sesame, aji (spanish mackerel) with some ginger, scallions and ponzu, the fried amaebi head, and strips of tai (snapper) with seaweed:
My favorite was the mirugai in mayonnaise; I felt that it was also very unique and sesame and mayo added unusual richness that you don't usually find with sushi.

Next, we had some Santa Barbara uni (sea urchin) on top of strips of ika (squid), ikura, in a seaweed dashi broth.  I've had similar dishes elsewhere and  also make it at home, but this was one of the best; the uni was extremely fresh and sweet and the dashi broth was delicate and lovely.
Next, we had a warm dish, a miso black cod with marinated daikon and pickled ginger.  This is another dish that is common to many Japanese restaurants, but this version was also one of the best; the fish was nice and flaky and the miso just perfect, not too salty.  The pickled ginger also added a nice bite and the daikon was a mellow contrast.
 We finished with a bunch of nigiri, including tai, hamachi belly (pictured below), blue fin tuna, uni, mirugai, a negitoro handroll (fatty tuna and scallions) and a piece of tamago (egg). 
Everything was beautifully prepared; so much thought and handwork went into every dish that was presented that night.  With the exception of the handroll, everything was carefully sauced and garnished by the chef; so much thought was put into the best accompaniments to bring out the individual flavors of the fish.  We savored every bite.  Every time I've gone to Hachi, the omakase has been different, which is really nice; the chefs make an effort to tailor the experience for every group.  Last night's omakase was $75 per person (it generally ranges from $65-$75 depending on what is served); expensive, but there are a lot of places around town that are more expensive and not nearly as good.  It's definitely a special occasion type of place in a rather garish stripmall near a tanning salon, but worth a visit.  We had a couple bottles of Asahi and a bottle of 2008 Curran Gewurtztraminer from Santa Barbara with dinner.  The wine was really good but perhaps just a little too sweet for the sushi.  Next time, I'll probably stick with the traditional sake and beer.  After dinner, we came back to my place and had more wine and cocktails; a lovely Wednesday evening catching up with friends.

Hachi Sushi and Robata
12009 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 473-9603

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Ricochet

Last night, a bunch of us went to Hollywood to attend the debut of a short film that a couple of wine clubbers and their husbands produced / edited / starred in, "The Ricochet" at the LA Shorts Film Festival.  It was so exciting to see their film on the big screen and it turned out really well! Check out their trailer on youtube.

The Perfect Summer Shoe

I got my pair first pair of Toms shoes yesterday! I've always been intrigued by Toms shoes, thanks mostly to their mission of giving a pair of shoes away to a child for every pair purchased, but never really liked their styles until I came across Toms wedges.  They came in a variety of colors including black, yellow, mint, red and white striped, and navy and white striped with most sizes selling out very quickly.  After much searching and calling around, I snagged the last pair of red and white striped Toms wedges in my normal size 7 online at Nordstroms.  I've been looking for a fun pair of casual summer shoes that aren't flip flops, which I pretty much wear everywhere, so these fit the bill perfectly.  I love them, they are nice and tall at 3.25 inches but very comfortable with just enough cushioning in the insole and the little elastic panel in the front ensures of comfortable fit in the front.  I don't wear heels very much anymore, but I've found the shoes to be very comfortable even after a day of running around.  At $69, I think that they are fairly reasonably priced; I'm tempted by their ash gray ones for fall.  They are just a tad big; I did read reviews suggesting to size down half a size for Toms shoes in general, but this was the only size available.  I think they'll be fine though; I can always put in some heel inserts if they really bother me.  I'm looking forward to pairing these shoes with cute summer outfits, from shorts to sundresses!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Total Eclipse

I finally managed to drag K. to see Twilight: Eclipse on Saturday night.  To keep in tune with pop culture, I read all four Twilight books, which honestly, I found to be pretty terrible.  I was surprised, given that I do have a soft spot for idealistic love stories and vampires (separately), but I found the books to be rather insipid and the characters irritating.  The fourth book was downright awful.  Of all the books, Eclipse was my favorite and I was convinced that the movie would be decent, at least with all the fight scenes.  I didn't bother to see the first two movies in theaters: I just borrowed both from the library and I'm glad I didn't waste the money.  I'm not sure if it's because K. was sitting next to me and I was just imagining seeing the movie through his eyes, but Eclipse was pretty bad.  It was incredibly slow and rather boring, and I found the acting / writing to be particularly cheesy.  I definitely cringed during several scenes.  Oh well, maybe we should have gone to see Inception instead.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hot in Cleveland

I had a couple of new flight options to choose from and I chose the flight with the normally unpalatable five hour delay in order to spend some time with my brother who just recently moved to Cleveland about a month ago. He picked me up from the airport and he gave me a little driving tour of Cleveland, driving by downtown and through the university hospitals where he works. We stopped by his new apartment in Cleveland Heights briefly which was great to see: brand new, spacious, well appointed and convenient. He's really all grown up now!
We had just enough time for a dinner before my flight so we went to Michael Symon's restaurant in Tremont, Lolita. I've been eager to try Michael Symon's restaurants in Cleveland ever since I read about him in Michael Ruhlman's book, "The Soul of a Chef," at least five years ago. It's a wonderful read, it also focuses on Thomas Keller and French Laundry for a good portion of the book. Michael Symon's subsequent fame from Iron Chef America and big personality only served to piqué my interest more.  I'll admit, the opportunity to visit his restauarant was another main draw of a longer layover in Cleveland. Since Lola, the first, more formal restaurant, is closed on Sunday, we went to Lolita, which was perfect as it is more casual anyway and we had to be in and out fairly quickly. We arrived just in time to catch the happy hour which ended at 6:30pm.  We ordered the entire happy hour menu: the Lolita burger, mussels and chorizos, fried Brussel sprouts, chickpeas and flatbread,  mac n cheese, and the Lolita burger, everything was just $5 each, a total steal.
The food reminded me a little of Gjelina: slightly rustic where fresh ingredients shine and the food is bursting with flavor. I actually liked it more than Gjelina; I felt that it was a little more nuanced and had more variety.  Also less attitude and hipster-tude, always a plus. The burger with the perfectly fried egg on top in an english muffin was juicy, salty and so good with the egg yolk oozing all over. I loved the fried Brussels sprouts which were perfectly charred and very interesting with anchovies and capers for some more intense saltiness and walnuts to mellow it out.  You can never go wrong with salty, crumbly chorizo and mussels, and I actually really enjoyed the chickpea spread which was different from the usual hummus, a little less creamy with some bite from the freshly chopped scallions.  The flatbread was awesome too, crisp and puffy in spots with sea salt, butter / olive oil and a hint of rosemary.  Surprisingly for me, I thought the only disappointment was the mac n cheese with chicken and goat cheese, it was a little too creamy and a little bland, like an alfredo sauce. It just was a little pedestrian, especially relative to all the other dishes which were complex and bursting with flavor.   Still, it was a great meal for only $33 total! You can't beat value like that. There are plenty more pastas, pizzas and entrees on the menu that look tasty and all reasonably priced, with everything under $20, and most items well under $15.  It's definitely worth a special visit to Cleveland.

I loved the decor of the place. It's in a cozy little Cleveland neighborhood (reminded me of the nice parts of philly) with a lovely copper bar (where we ate), hammered tin ceiling, filament light fixtures that emitted a warm glow and a nice open kitchen with a shimmering blue mosaic backdrop.  I loved the feel of the place, not too big, not too tight. Everyone was so friendly, and my highlight of the night was seeing Michael Symon!  My brother saw him first, having heard his distinctive cackle. My only regret is not taking a picture of him; it was more excited to me any regular celebrity sighting for me since I've been hearing about him for so long.  He disappeared back into the kitchen before I could catch him and his staff said he had to catch a flight.  He's just as he appears on tv, always laughing and looking like he's having a great time.

I like Cleveland a lot; there's a great restaurant scene and I've heard good things from my brother about the bar, arts and culture scene. It's a lot more green, clean and well-kept than I originally imagined.  People also seem very polite and laid-back; maybe a little too laid-back, there seemed to be a lot d slow, indecisive drivers out there and there are some ridiculously low speed limits in some places.  It does have all the convenieces of a city though, without some of the drawbacks like traffic and overcrowding (at least from 
what I saw). Now that I think about it, Cleveland actually reminds me a bit of Philadelphia, where I spent four years.  I loved living in Philadelphia and thought it was a great city with good restaurants, bars, culture and shopping.  I think Cleveland will similarly be a nice place for my brother for the next five years!

900 Literary Road
Cleveland, OH  
(216) 771-5652

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Is the third time the charm?

I do not get along with the Albany airport. Two Christmases ago, our flight out of Albany was so delayed that we would have had to spend five days including new years in Cleveland. We ended up renting a car and driving to NYC, spending the night, flying to San Fran, spending the night, and driving down to la in order to be home before new years. Last night, my flight from Albany was so delayed that I was going to miss my connecting flight from dc to LA. I spent another night in Albany and am now sitting at the Albany airport waiting for my flight to Cleveland. The negative is that I have a five hour layover. The positive is that even if my Albany flight is extremely delayed, I should have enough time to make my connection. It's not bad insurance, the flight before my flight is already delayed an hour; had I had a normal layover time like an hour, I probably would have missed my flight. The other positive is that I get to spend time exploring Cleveland with my brother who just moved there and bought a place there. Overall, not a bad outcome.

A couple lessons learned however. When possible, avoid connecting flights and try to fly direct. If possible, try to leave early in the morning. There's less likelihood of the incoming aircraft being delayed (which was my issue last night). Finally, leave ample connection time. For some reason, these smaller airports just seem more prone to delays. I was debating taking a flight with a 35 min connection in Newark, a busy airport. I'm glad I didn't take the risk as the flight before mine delayed by an hour is to Newark.

Anyway, hopefully I haven't jinxed myself and will make it safely back to la today.

Update: I probably jinxed myself slightly.  I ended up getting into Cleveland 40 minutes late as we had to return to the gate due to a "mechanical issue."  Good thing I didn't have a close connection like many on my flight.  My flight to LA left on time and we even got in early, but then had to spend a ridiculous almost 1 hour waiting for our gate to open up.  I've never had this happen to me at LAX, but it may be a more common occurrence as I noticed that only 3 of the gates in the Continental terminal 6 were occupied by Continental planes; every other spot was taken up by Allegiance / Jet Blue / United / Delta.  We had to wait for about 5 planes to pull away from various gates at various terminals before we could even get to our gate.  Then, we sat for another 5 minutes waiting for a jetway controller to arrive.  The other plane just pulled out of the gate and they retracted the jetway; why didn't they stick around to control the jetway as we pulled in right away?? That would be too logical I suppose.  Airport traffic was a mess, LAX was a zoo.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Little Piece of History

We had dinner at the Anvil Inn last night in Fort Edward.  It was a very cool old place, a former blacksmith's shop built in 1755.  The ambiance was wonderful; all old timber beams, miners lanterns, old forged iron pieces and flickering candles and old brick and stone walls.  I love places like this; you just don't get the same history in Los Angeles.  The food really hit the spot as well; we had pork chops, prime rib, filet mignon and scallops.  I had a warm cranberry pudding for dessert; normally I'm not a dessert person, but this was very different and delicious!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tacos on the Road

For dinner on Wednesday, I made some chicken and steak tacos for everyone.  For the chicken and steak marinade, I basically combined a few recipes: I used 1 thinly sliced orange, 1 thinly sliced onion and 5 cloves of smashed garlic scattered around the meat.  I then poured over the meat 1/2 a cup of soy sauce, 1 cup of light beer, and a cup mixed with juice from 1 lime, 1/2 cup of orange juice, 1 tsp of honey,  1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 TB of chili powder, salt and pepper.  I let the meat marinate for about four hours.  Ideally I would have grilled the meat if I had a grill, but I just pan seared them until cooked, tented and let it rest for a couple of minutes and sliced into strips.
I made a couple of different handmade toppings for the tacos: a corn and black bean salad based on Giada's recipe (I also added some garlic and chopped red peppers when sauteeing, used a little honey instead of agave, only 1 can of black beans, omitted the jicama, and chilled it in the fridge), pico de gallo based on Marcela's recipe, my usual homemade guacamole and chopped cilantro and chopped cabbage for some crunch.
I heated up some corn and flour tortillas wrapped in aluminum foil on low heat directly on the stove burner for a few minutes and let everyone help themselves.  Everything was great; the toppings went really well with tacos and there was good variety.  I've been impressed with the produce up here.  It was great to use fresh local corn from local farms which I shucked myself (there's no local corn in California!), and the organic selection in the supermarkets are pretty good.  For both meals, I was able to use pretty much all organic ingredients that looked fresh and tasted good.  For dessert, we had some fresh strawberries and blueberries, drizzled with a little honey and mint.  A simple dessert for a warm summer evening.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cooking on the Road

Last night, I made dinner on the road.  I really enjoy cooking for people and I feel like home cooked meals are relaxing and restorative, so I was happy that I had the opportunity to contribute.  I had a little time in the afternoon so I made a summery linguine bolognese, using as many fresh organic vegetables as possible, plus the watermelon feta arugula salad that I've been making a lot recently.  We paired it with a bottle of 2006 Lincourt Sauvignon Blanc from Santa Ynez; one of our favorite go-to summery wines.
I combined several recipes for the bolognese:
  • Saute over medium heat in a couple of TBs of olive oil for 5-10 minutes finely diced vegetables: 5 cloves of garlic, 1 medium sweet onion, 3 stalks of medium-sized celery, 3 medium-sized carrots, 2 bay leaves, torn, seasoned with a little salt and pepper
  • Add 2 diced zucchini and 8 oz of sliced mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are cooked down.  I added a splash of cabernet sauvignon to flavor the mushrooms and seasoned with a little salt and pepper
  • Add in 1.3 lbs of ground turkey and cook until fully cooked.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Add a can of tomato paste for some concentrated tomato flavor and mix through, add 1 cup of milk and simmer for another 10 minutes
  • Add 1 cup of low sodium chicken stock, 1 cup of red wine, and 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, and bring to a simmer
  • Simmer for 2 hours+, mostly covered, stirring occasionally and seasoning with salt and pepper to taste
  • Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil, grated parmigiano reggiano, and serve over linguine

Yoga on the Road

I've been doing a lot of yoga at home and now, on the road, using Yogis Anonymous' free online classes.  I've been to the studio before, taking both Brionhy and Ally's classes, but the convenience of being able to view the same classes on my own schedule in the comfort of my own home or wherever I am, is great (not to mention cost-effective).  So far, I've tried Charlie Samos, Kate Duyn, Kourtney Kaas, Ally Hamilton and Jesse Schein's classes online.  My favorite is definitely Jesse's class which I've actually done a couple of times; it's challenging, has a lot of variety and is fast paced.  Ally's classes are also consistent.  I highly recommend trying out some of these classes at home.  It's definitely a good way to get into yoga if schedules are too hectic that trying to make specific class times are difficult.  They have both classes streaming live as well as archived classes.  I'm not sure how long they will be free online for, so definitely check it out soon!

Real Food Real Good

In the middle of a busy day of errands, we had lunch Monday at Real Food Daily again.  I like RFD a lot; I think part of the appeal of these vegan places is that the flavors are relatively new to me, so I find it refreshing to the palate.  We ate in the cafe section where you order at the counter and food is brought to the table, which I prefer.  We ordered the Pizza Ya Can Eatza and the monthly special, the fajita.
I quite liked the pizza; the vegetable toppings including the tomatoes, spinach, basil were nice and fresh, complemented by the cheesy goodness of the mozzerella and cashew cheese and the sun-dried tomato pesto.  I liked the herb corn meal crust; it's a different texture of course from traditional bread pizza crust, but it's nice.  I really liked the sauteed kale with creamy cannellini beans; full of garlicky flavor. The seitan fajitas also had nice flavors with the variety of toppings, although the corn tortillas could be better; they were a little dry and brittle.  Overall a tasty meal.  I'll definitely be back to try more menu items; so many things still look intriguing that we haven't tried yet. I find it still expensive for lunch (though cheaper with counter seating since there's no waiter service), but I do appreciate that it is organic and the food is good.

Real Food Daily
514 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 451-7544

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Breakfast on the Go

Most days, I'm too busy to make and eat a real sit-down breakfast so I've been having a cup of low-fat strawberry kefir from Trader Joes with a sprinkle of flaxseeds, about 1 tsps worth.  I'm not exactly sure of the nutritional benefits, but that's what my brother eats for breakfast and he's a doctor, so he must know what he's talking about!  I think it's supposed to be nutritious and it gives me enough energy to accomplish my tasks for the morning.

Monday, July 19, 2010

LA Saturday

Z and I enjoyed a lovely typical LA Saturday.  We started with a free 9am yoga class by the pool at the W hotel.  The weather was perfect; it was warm and the sun was shining, but we were in the shade, so had the best of both worlds. It wasn't a very difficult class and I didn't particularly like the teacher (last week's class was better), but it was a nice way to stretch and wake up in the morning. After our free mimosas which we enjoyed in the cabanas by the pool, we went to Top to Top (again) where Z also picked up a new pair of running shoes; coincidentally the same pair as me!  Despite being across the country from each other, we will hopefully inspire each other to go running more.  After Top to Top, we spent a leisurely couple of hours browsing Fred Segal. Although we didn't buy any clothes, we enjoyed checking out the wares; Fred Segal always has such a well-edited, albeit pricey selection.  Still, the trip was much more inspiring than my last visit to the big department stores, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.  I was tempted by a couple of things, but ended up only buying these cool plastic stemless wine glasses by go vino; perfect for backyard wine drinking (picture from website):

 After shopping, we had lunch at Umami Burger which Z. really liked.  We ordered the Umami burger, veggie burger and cheesy tater tots.  I really liked the veggie burger; it was made with mushrooms and edamame.  It was a little messy, the patty was soft and tasty, and the truffle aioli and ricotta added a lovely richness and touch of indulgence.  I definitely didn't miss the meat; I would order the veggie burger again!  I really like Umami Burger; it's becoming one of my go-to places to take out-of-towners.
Veggie Burger
 Umami Burger
Cheesy Tater Tots
After lunch, we went for a little bike ride, then went swimming and into the hot tub.  Perfect relaxation after a busy day of running around!

Umami Burger at Fred Segal
500 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA  90401

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pizzeria Mozza

Friday night, we took our friend Z, who was visiting from New York, to Pizzeria Mozza for dinner to check out Mario Batali's food on the west coast.  Z and I have made many memorable trips to Lupa and Babbo in New York; visits which instilled in me a deep love and appreciation for Italian food.  I've had some of the best meals in my life with Z and miss her dearly now that I'm on the west coast.

Moving past the nostalgia to more importantly, the food: we ordered Nancy's chopped salad, the meat lover's pizza, potato and egg pizza, and mushrooms, pancetta and peas pizzette.  The chopped salad consisted of strips of lettuce and arugula, cheese, salame and cherry tomatoes:
Unfortunately, they overdressed the salad; it was soaked with dressing and they were extremely heavy handed with the dried oregano, like they accidentally dumped a jar on the salad, which is never pleasant.  We were starved so we ate most of it, but it was definitely a shame that it was so overdone.  The meat lover's pizza was filled with bacon, salame, housemade fennel sausage, pancetta, tomato and mozzarella: 
It was meaty, heavy and delicious.  The meats were all excellent in their own way and the acid from the tomato sauce nicely balanced out all the meat.  The real star of all of Mozza's pizzas is the dough.  Nancy Silverton, Batali's partner in Mozza, is formerly of La Brea bakery and known for her bread.  The Mozza crust is thick, chewy and very flavorful.  It has a crunch on the outside, but is thick and bread-y on the inside.  Usually I don't like to fill up on crusts, but I savor every bite of her crusts.  I could easily eat the crust alone.  The other full-size pizza was topped with egg, bacon, yukon gold potato and bermuda onions:
I'm always a fan of a soft cooked egg on pizza that oozes all over the pizza when cut into.  The pizza was like a perfect breakfast pizza with the egg, bacon and potato.  It's also quite dense, but tasty.  Not quite as many diverse flavors as the meat lover's pizza; I could see one getting tired of this pizza after a couple of bites, but one slice per person was perfect.

Finally, the king trumpet mushrooms, spring onions, peas and pancetta pizza was delightful.  It was quite tiny, half the size of a regular pizza, but very spring-ish.  We had a bottle of 2008 Vernaccia di San Gimignano by Panizzi which was a lovely crisp white wine that was deliciously refreshing with the rich pizzas and perfect on a hot summer day.  Z and I first discovered our love for Vernaccia's from San Gimignano (close to Tuscany; Z's actually visited San Gimignano) from one of our Babbo nights at the bar.  All and all, Mozza was a great meal.  A little rich and heavy, so not for everyday consumption, but a real treat every once in awhile.  It's unique and different from any of Batali's New York restaurants, so I think Z really enjoyed it!  We sat in the wine cellar room which is pretty mellow and quiet compared to the more raucous and crowded main dining room.  We didn't mind the quiet as it allowed us to focus on what was really important, catching up and the food!
Pizzeria Mozza
641 N. Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA  90036
(323) 297-0010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summer Lunch

It's hot for Santa Monica: 79 degrees currently.  I took the dogs on their usual 10 block morning walk and even I was a little winded at the end.  For lunch, I took a look in my fridge and composed a quick and tasty summer lunch.  I'm a little tired of salads and I wanted something warm without heating up the kitchen too much so I made slow-cooked eggs with some halved heirloom cherry tomatoes (that I added to the eggs in the pan for the last minute of cooking), fresh basil from my almost-gone basil plant, seasoned with some freshly ground black pepper and truffle salt.  I served in on top of some water crackers (too warm to toast bread) and it was a delicious lunch.  The cherry tomatoes were bursting with sweet flavor which brightened the warm and creamy eggs.  The basil added some freshness and the little bit of truffle salt added some depth and indulgence to the dish.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fashion Snooze

I stopped by Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills to check out the end of the season sales but came back empty handed.  There was nothing even remotely tempting, regardless of price, that I wanted to even try on, not to mention buy.  Good for my wallet considering all that I've picked up recently at Lululemon.  Speaking of, here is a picture of the previously un-pictured recent Lululemon purchases:
 L-R: Run: Tracker Skirt in Potion Purple, Mynah Jacket in Coal and Angel Blue, Cool Racerback in Potion Purple, Reverse Groove Shorts in lagoon, whisper blue, lime.
I'm not sure what is up with fashion in the department stores this season; the colors were dull and the shapes just did not look flattering.  In fact, the pickings were so slim that I was over a half hour early to my yoga class at Truyoga.  It actually worked out well as I got a chance to test out the elliptical machine for 20 minutes before class.  I was in flip flops so it was pretty much the only machine I could use without serious risk of injury.  Cardio + an hour yoga is actually a great combination!

On the plus side, summer is finally here in Los Angeles! Summer has always been my favorite season.  No more overcast mornings, just tons of sunshine all day; temperatures reached over 100 degrees in certain parts of LA.  Not here though; it is right about perfect in the mid-seventies in Santa Monica: that's why we live here!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Yoga for Yahoos

In our quest to check out as many yoga studios and teachers as possible in the Los Angeles area, Jen and I signed up for a $25 two week trial at Truyoga / Trifit studios at the Yahoo Center in Santa Monica.  The facilities are quite nice; they have a large gym with all the usual gym equipment, studios for spin, weight and boxing classes, a large pool, locker room and showers, and a separate fully equipped yoga studio and spa space.  Our yoga class we took today was a little bit too slow- paced and short for my taste, but it's catered to local office workers so it makes sense.  All their yoga classes are either early morning, lunchtime or after work, with no classes on the weekend, so they definitely have their target customer.  It's fairly reasonably priced: $78 for a monthly membership which includes pool and gym use and all the classes, but I won't be joining as I prefer my cardio outside of the gym, such as running to the beach, swimming at home, or biking around town.

Monday, July 12, 2010

What Does Otis Want?

Sometimes, Otis just comes over and stares at me. Not sure what he's thinking or what he wants.  I took him, Floyd and Toby on a 4+ mile walk this morning to the beach and back but I think he still wants more.  And yes, he has a snaggle tooth; that's why his bottom teeth are sticking out.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Best French Onion Soup Ever

On Friday, I had the best french onion soup that I've ever had at a friend's house.  Who doesn't love french onion soup: the melted cheesy goodness on top over the rich onion broth and broth soaked bread.  This soup was on a whole other level though: the broth was complex and incredibly flavorful; not overly one-dimensionally salty like most french onion soup, but actually more complex and savory.  The onions were cooked perfectly to the point where they were just about to disappear, but retained just enough structure and texture to add to the soup.  The cheese was gooey, deliciously charred in spots and actually silky, as opposed to the often rubbery cheese found on top of most soup.  I think the best part was the bread.  Most bread in french onion soup is just soggy formerly stale bread.  I was told that the bread was double toasted and it looked like he used brioche.  The bread soaked up all the broth, yet still was just slightly crisp in the edges (though not dry) and the bread maintained a soft fluffy texture despite being soaked through with broth.  It's hard to describe, but it was such a revelation and so delicious.  I was told it was a 6 hour process to make the soup; I think it was worth every minute.  We had the soup with a deliciously crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma, which was a nice match for the rich and savory soup.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Yoga by the Pool

A couple of us went to Lululemon's free class taught by Liz Arch at the W Hotel in Westwood bright and early this morning at 9am.  It was a great way to wake up and kick off the day; one of the best free classes by Lululemon that I've been to.  Often the free classes just feel too short and aren't challenging enough, but this class was pretty good.  I'm not sure that I liked the martial arts moves that she incorporated into the class, but at least it was something different.  It was also nice to practice outside by the pool; even though it was a little chilly and overcast when we started, we warmed up quickly.  While the free mimosas and discounted brunch at the W were tempting, I had to go run a couple of errands so unfortunately I did not get the opportunity to take full advantage of the freebies.

After errands, W and I took advantage of my 30% off Blackboard Eats coupon and had brunch at Bite Bar & Bakery, which I visited a few weeks ago for lunch.  We had the seasonal egg souffle cup baked in their delicious croissant dough, the eggy bread sandwich and a chocolate croissant.  I really liked the seasonal egg souffle, it was soft and fluffy in the middle but surrounded by the nice, flaky and buttery croissant crust.  The eggy bread sandwich was interesting, like a french toast breakfast sandwich.  The filling could have been a little more interesting; it was a little dry, but I still enjoyed the few bites I had.  I really liked their croissant; it has a great crispy, almost burnt edge on the outside with millions of thin light and flaky layers in the middle without being overly buttery or oily.  I liked their brunch more than their lunch and I found it reasonably priced, particularly with the coupon.

Bite Bar and Bakery
3221 Pico Blvd
Santa Monica, CA  90405

Friday, July 9, 2010


This week, I went to R+D Kitchen on Montana Avenue for lunch.  I've been meaning to try R+D forever as it is fairly close to my house, although I find the menu to be rather limited to more lunchtime fare like sandwiches and salads, which is what has kept me from visiting.  I'm usually not in the mood for sandwiches and salads for dinner and their food is slightly pricey for lunch (~$15 average for a sandwich or salad without any sides).  That being said, I really enjoyed the two sandwiches we ordered: the veggie burger and the special pulled pork sandwich.  R+D is known for having one of the best veggie burgers in town, and it did not disappoint: the patty was really flavorful and nicely textured.  The patty was thick and filled with mushrooms, brown rice, grains, carrots and peppers for some crunch.  It was huge and  really good and the rich jack cheese and soft fluffy bread definitely made it very rich and filling.  It's not a light or healthy sandwich (neither of the sandwiches were), but very tasty in any case.  We were famished and devoured the sandwich before I remembered to take a picture. 
  Pulled pork special
The pulled pork sandwich was absolutely delicious as well; my favorite pulled pork sandwich ever.  Normally I find pulled pork sandwiches to be overly salty and sauced, or dry and usually very one-dimensional.  It was definitely not the case with this sandwich; the pork was moist and flavorful and balanced so well by all the other ingredients in the sandwich; the creamy avocado, fresh tomatoes, thin slice of cheese, nice vinegar-y slaw and delicious fluffy bread.  I loved this sandwich and would order it over and over again.
The decor of R+D is nice, similar to the other Hillstone restaurants like Houstons and Banderas: clean and modern with dark woods with nice open kitchen.  They have three locations with the other two in Newport Beach and Dallas.  We got a perfect booth where we could also watch the second half of the semi-final World Cup match between Netherlands and Uruguay.  They also have a nice bar and wine selection, although I don't see this as much of a dinner place, though it is always packed for both dinner and lunch when I walk by.  There was a line out the door when we finished our lunch.

R+D Kitchen
1323 Montana Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 395-3314

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Giant Vegetables

Yesterday, I went to the Wednesday Santa Monica farmer's market to pick up vegetables for the week.  I'm cooking dinner for one for the next week, so I decided to stock up on vegetables and go green while everyone else is away.  The market was packed despite the the dreary day.  For the most part, not much change in the seasonal fruits and vegetables over the last couple of weeks, although cherries are pretty much gone, there are more and more heirloom tomatoes, and I saw my first pepper.  I bought a ton of salad greens, a big bag of arugula and a big bag of Italian mix (wild arugula, mizuna and radicchio), some heirloom cherry tomatoes, leeks, green onions and an avocado.
Last night, I made some soup with some abnormally large vegetables, a zucchini / squash from the backyard and some farmer's market leeks for a zucchini leek soup.  Unlike the East Coast which has been sweltering under a heat wave, it's actually been quite chilly here; mostly overcast with even some light drizzle - perfect soup weather.  I basically used the same recipe I always use, using 1 giant zucchini, 2 large leeks, 1 tiny onion, 2 cloves of garlic, and chicken stock.
I also made a quick heirloom tomato caprese salad with a small heirloom tomato from last week, fresh mozzarella, basil from my shrinking basil plant (those leaves are as big as they get now, any ideas on what I can do to make them grow larger?), balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  It was good, though I think the heirloom tomato wasn't as sweet as it should have been.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

June Wine Club

Michelle hosted June wine club at Bin 73.  Click here for more pictures and details...
For real, our waiter's tattoo


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