Thursday, June 26, 2008

Eating food in Atlanta

So for the past days, I've been in Atlanta to attend a conference. The conference was decent - I actually walked away with a couple of things that I could use. I wasn't under pressure to make connections, so I didn't need to schmooze unnecessarily, which makes for a more casual experience. Unfortunately, I probably got a total of 9 hours of sleep from Sunday though Wednesday as I went to bed at 2-3am and woke up at 7am.

Insomniac + jet lag = disaster.

I was excited to go to Atlanta though. I've never been to the South (well actually, I've been to Florida and to New Orleans, but Florida doesn't really count and New Orleans is its own special little place). Atlanta is probably as South as I'm going to get... lol

Things I did...

Martin Luther King Center. Got to see his birth home (but had to sweet talk my way into the tour) which was much bigger than I'd imagined. I got to see his Nobel Peace Prize, his burial site, his personal bible, and see handwritten drafts of his speech. Heard/saw videos of him delivering his prescient "I've been to the mountaintop" speech the day before his assassination which never fails to give me chills. Also went by the Ebenzer Baptist Church, where I chatted with Marvin, an elderly gentleman who is a deacon at the church. He mentioned off-handedly that he knew King and that his brother is seated alongside him on the photo displayed on a placard in front of the church. He was charming, polite, and had that wonderful accent. It was awesome.

Birth home:
Grave site:

Things I learned:
  • MLK's favorite game as a child was monopoly.
  • MLK's family had a formal dinner every Sunday where they dressed up and ate only when the father came home.
  • MLK's house is less than a block away from the church where he and his father preached at.

I was reluctant to pay the $30 entry fee, but then offering to send a copy of my dissertation to a fellow conference-goer scored me two free tickets (she got them with the price of her hotel room, but was going to be leaving early and so couldn't use them.) Score! So I happily went after the conference was over and it was amazing. Even though there were kids running around, visitors snapping pictures everywhere you turned, and crowds galore - when you stood in front of the large viewing windows and gazed into the saltwater environment teeming with colorful fish, it was incredibly peaceful and a feeling of quiet enveloped me. Then someone jabbed me a stroller, and the mood was broken.

I bet that place would be amazing without all the people.

Things I learned:
  • A starfish is actually a "sea star" as it is not a fish, but a crustean. They feel soft and rough.
  • Beluga whales are the only whales that can turn their necks.
  • There are penguins in South Africa.
  • Sea anemones' suction cups stick to your finger when you touch them.

Hey! It's me. (This picture's totally fake. I was standing in front of a green screen. Too bad they didn't have one of me being faced with the gaping maw of a hammerhead.)

Coca-Cola Museum, er, the "World of Coca-Cola".

I had some time to kill - 2 hours until I was supposed to be at the airport. It was next door to the aquarium. I figured it would be an interesting sociological experience and was curious to see how Coke discussed their hegemonic influence on the world. So I did it. I paid $15 for the priviledge of being bomarded by advertisements and marketing.


Let's see. You could take a picture with the Coca-Cola polar bear, watch Coke commercials from around the world, see artists who have used Coke logos in their work, look at Coke memorabilia until your eyes bled, trace the Coke logo on a touch screen computer, see how they bottle Coke, and watch a 3-d film about something Coke-related with some animation in a theater with seats that moved around and sprayed water at you.

The thing I found most interesting were "Coke story" letters/notes that people had written. One man talked about Coke allowed him to get up the courage to talk to his future wife - "let me have a Coke. And your phone number." There were a couple from soldiers who mentioned that a bottle of Coke during World War 2 reminded them of home. Another one from a woman whose husband would wake her and her daughters up with a nice glass of Coke - so that no matter what they'd always have a nice start to the day and enjoy waking up. I got to thinking - what is my Coke story? One day when I was in seventh grade, my mother brought home a denim jacket that had a red ribbon running down along the button holes emblazoned with the Coca Cola logo. There was also a leather Coke patch on the back of the jacket. I was mortified and hid the jacket in the back of my closet and never, ever wore it to school. The end. Now, I acknowledge that I attachments to products and maybe even brands - I love my computer, for example, and cried my 92 Honda Civic and I parted ways (and then dreamed about it). That Coke stuff was just weird though. Maybe it's because my mom never let us drink soda - I don't know.

The "best" part though, would have to be the Coke tasting room.

You walk around with a plastic cup (made from corn of course) and visit soda dispensers spewing out Coke products from around the world. The floor of the tasting room is movie-theater sticky and my fellow visitors seemed hopped up on sugar. I took a sip of some sort of lychee soda from Japan, grimaced, and poured the remainder down the drain. I tried a couple more until I stumbled upon this one soda from Germany (I think) that started with a "b". It tasted like tonic water and was in stark contrast to the high-fructose corn syrup bonanza around me. At first I just stood back and watched people drink it. One woman actually spit it out back into her cup. Then I started nudging people towards it - "Have you tried this one? It's really interesting." Ah, it was great. I grabbed a souvenir bottle upon exiting, and gave it to a woman who was with some girl scouts, as I couldn't take it with me on the plane.

Things I learned:

  • People in Europe don't like things as sweet as Americans.
  • Coke's production lines are incredibly fast and the bottles travel through the conveyor belts in a blur.
  • There are people really like Coke. I mean really like it.
  • Coke used to be 5 cents.

Things I ate...

Okay - so can you tell I'm trying to stall with the whole "eating food" thing? lol
It was a friggin disaster folks. It started with me eating a large plate of fried catfish, barbequed pork, the best macaroni cheese that I had ever eaten (sorry Mom!), and collard greens and it ended with me scarfing down a styrofoam tray of roasted chicken, black eyed peas, and dirty rice as I sat in the airport waiting for my flight back to Los Angeles. When in Rome, I rationalized. And I didn't want to sound like an West Coast asshole by questioning people about the origins of their produce/meat - "yes, yes - but is this fried okra locally grown and organic?" Add to the fact that I was stuck in the touristy downtown area, with no use of a car.

Of course, if I had done a simple google search before I left, I could have found something like this. (sigh) I suck. It was pretty pathetic as I was really adhering to the plan prior to my trip. When I stay in hotels, everything goes to crap. Okay - enough self-flagellating. Tomorrow/today is another day... and I found this place that makes the best veggie burgers that I've ever eaten. The veggie burgers are actually better than the beef versions... I meant to take a picture of it, but by the time Mr. Insomniac reminded me, I only had a couple of bites left. Next time I will exercise more discretion.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Article: Nurture beats nature!

I read an article on this pretty interesting study on - granted it has a small sample, and I'm not familiar with the methodology, insert other caveats, etc. etc. - but it was interesting nonetheless.


In a small study, the researchers tracked 30 men with low-risk prostate cancer who decided against conventional medical treatment such as surgery and radiation or hormone therapy.

The men underwent three months of major lifestyle changes, including eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and soy products [emphasis mine], moderate exercise such as walking for half an hour a day, and an hour of daily stress management methods such as meditation.

As expected, they lost weight, lowered their blood pressure and saw other health improvements. But the researchers found more profound changes when they compared prostate biopsies taken before and after the lifestyle changes.

After the three months, the men had changes in activity in about 500 genes -- including 48 that were turned on and 453 genes that were turned off.
The idea that lifestyle changes can modify the expression of genes is fascinating to me. Most people don't understand that the whole nature vs. nurture debate is an ongoing interaction - that depending on your environment, you can have a completely different genetic outcome. In graduate school, we often talked about this process in utereo (e.g., Mom smokes crack, certain genes will be altered) or with intelligence (rich sensory environment vs. impoverished environment), but healthy lifestyle makes perfect sense too.

I wish I had documented some sort of health status before I started all this. I didn't check my blood pressure or cholesterol before I embarked on my whole EFNTMMP lifestyle change (Mr. Insomniac convinced me not to) - but actually now that I think about it, my blood pressure is on record from my visit to the ER for my sprained ankle (but it was rather high. My mom was all, see Insomniac... you need to exercise more. And I was like, Mom - I'm in a hospital! My ankle hurts! I fainted! Of course I have a high blood pressure - I'm stressed! I took some deep breaths and it was back at my normal reading - something like 100/70.

Oh well.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Trader Joe's Product Raves

Product rave #1:  Trader Joe's Island Soyaki marinade (large bottle $3.69)

Sorry for the pic - should have taken it before I poured half of it out... lol .  Rookie mistake.

Ingredients and nutritional information:

1 tablespoon has 30 cals and 1 gram of fat. Sodium 290gm, Carbs 4 gm.
Ingredients: Soy sauce, sugar, pineapple juice, vinegar, soy oil, sesame seeds , fresh garlic, onion, fresh ginger, sesame oil, onion, garlic and ginger powder.

Looking at the ingredients, nothing seems out of whack - no high fructose corn syrup - and everything looks pretty natural.  I decided to use it as marinate for the vegetables that I picked up at the Farmer's Market.  So I tossed some zucchini, Indian eggplant, shiitake mushrooms,  and red pepper with the marinade along with some seasonings and placed them on the GFG (our affectionate name for the George Forman Grill - welcome to apartment living folks!)  The resulting dish was surprisingly flavorful without being too cloying sweet.  A delightful summer dinner.

Product Rave #2:  I'm trying to stay away from prepared foods, but I recognize that sometimes you just don't have the time to cook a meal from scratch.  I had purchased some things from Trader Joe's to eat (in case of emergency, open box) if I couldn't prepare a meal.  Here's one of them: the Roasted Vegetable Multi-Grain Lasagna for $5.49.  You can see the nutritional information here.

Looking at the ingredients, it looks healthy enough and that it corresponds to the MP rules (no high fructose corn syrup, no unpronounceable ingredients, no artificial or natural flavors, etc.)

fire roasted tomatoes, fresh multi-grain lasagna noodles (wheat flour, durum wheat semolina, liquid whole eggs, water, multi-grain pasta mix (flax seed, triticale flour, oatmeal, rye flour, oat bran)), ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, roasted zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, roasted peppers (yellow, red, green), roasted onions (red and white), carrots, milk, canola oil, roasted mushrooms, garlic, cornstarch, salt, sugar, wheat flour, spices

You can heat it up in the microwave or the oven - I used the oven and sure enough, upon tasting it, it was delish!  I added a green salad and Mr. Insomniac and I split the tray.  Incredibly satisfying and a soon-to-be Insomniac staple purchase from TJs.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Beef: The Story of No. 534

Yesterday I watched the show 30 Days - an hour-long documentary/reality show series on FX created by Morgan Spurlock of Supersize Me fame.   The premise is simple - people step out of the comfort zone for 30 days and change their lifestyle.  lol - sounds familiar?  Okay, then.

Anyway, last night's episode featured a hunter living with vegans and engaged in an animal activist lifestyle. Some of it was a little much, like the performance art piece of a man in a chicken costume carrying a meat cleaver and chasing a bloody Colonel Sanders around in a circle or the woman who compared eating meat to Hitler killing Jews.  Not sure I'd go that far.  But they did show a commercial feed lot, which I thought was really interesting.  It stretched extremely far and the camera showed a few ranch hands manhandling some calves.  I don't know how common such an activity is, but it was pretty disturbing.  

I think meat is tasty.  I like to eat it, but lately I've been having some ethical issues eating it with my usual gusto.  I don't think I'll ever be a vegetarian, but I think even when this whole experiment is over, I'm going to commit to eating less meat.  I always thought that the single-serving shrink wrapped hunks of meat sitting in the refrigerated portion of the supermarket were a little mysterious.  So I did a little internet research and stumbled across this - a New York Times article by my main man Mike Pollan (I call him Mike now) entitled "Power Steer".  It's a little long, but it's a quick read and really fascinating.

In the article Pollan plays cattleman and details the life of a 8-month old calf (No. 534) that he buys from the Blair brothers, fourth-generation cattlemen who own a 11,500 acre "cow-calf" ranch in South Dakota.  Through the course of the article No. 534 hangs out with his mother eating grass, gets "backgrounded", heads to a feed lot, and then to the slaughter house.   Will Pollan make a profit on No. 534 after he's gotten fattened up?  By following the life and death of this specific animal, Pollan discusses many of the issues related to rearing animals for food - feed lots, the economic and ecological consequences of meat production, the use of hormones and antibiotics, the implications of corn-fed animals, conditions of workers, etc.  

An excerpt:

Cows raised on grass simply take longer to reach slaughter weight than cows raised on a richer diet, and the modern meat industry has devoted itself to shortening a beef calf's allotted time on earth. ''In my grandfather's day, steers were 4 or 5 years old at slaughter,'' explained Rich Blair, who, at 45, is the younger of the brothers by four years. ''In the 50's, when my father was ranching, it was 2 or 3. Now we get there at 14 to 16 months." 

Culver City Farmer's Market haul

So after going to the Hollywood Farmer's Market for the past couple of weeks, the Culver City market seemed rather quaint.  Whereas the Hollywood market as four rows of stalls, the CC has only one - but it's still a good time.  Mr. Insomniac stood me up because he was doing "surgery" so I had to go by myself and didn't have the use of his cell phone camera.  Boo!

Here's my haul for $18:

  • 1 bunch of organic spinach (following the dirty dozens)
  • 3 watermelon pluots
  • 2 apricot pluots
  • 3 indian eggplants
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 stalk of organic celery (ditto dirty dozens)
  • 1 carton of homemade roasted red pepper hummus
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 large head of cabbage

I was pissed that the chocolate man wasn't there.  I've been craving some really good dark chocolate - I blame my friend Bridges for introducing me to transcendent chocolate during her time in Belgium.  But alas, he wasn't to be found.  

A few of the things I picked up are staples (celery, spinach, pepper) but some I have never cooked before.  Like the indian eggplants or even cabbage - lol.  I've eaten cabbage, but just have never thought to cook it for myself.  Weird I know.  I even had to call my grandmother to figure out some basics ("how do I wash it anyway?").  I'm not ashamed - this is supposed to be a learning experience for me.  

I'm planning on marinating and grilling the eggplant, zucchini, and red pepper tonight for my Wednesday night dinner, and using the red pepper hummus and avocado in sandwiches for lunch for the rest of the week.  I cooked the cabbage for dinner on Tuesday, with some leeks, butter, salt, and pepper and it was tasty.  The spinach I'll eat raw as a salad one day and the pluots will make a nice dessert.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Restaurant Review - M Cafe de Chaya w/ WeeMo

Last night I had dinner with the famous weezermonkey at M Cafe de Chaya, a contemporary macrobiotic cafe featuring "balanced, nutritious, creative cooking which can be enjoyed daily by everyone, not just vegetarians or people with dietary restrictions... Our chefs prepare each item fresh daily, using only the finest ingredients without any refined sugars, eggs, dairy, red meat or poultry."

It took me about 20 minutes to find a parking place, 1o of those minutes were spent trying to figure out what the following parking signs meant: "No Parking 10-12 Tuesday. 2 Hour Parking 8am - 8pm, Permit. No Parking Nights." I mean, WTF? I was about to drag LSAT taking Weezer to my car and make her do some sort of diagram to help me.

Next to the macrobiotic cafe is Pink's Hot Dog stand. For those of you who don't live in Los Angeles, it is legendary for the throngs of customers queued up at all hours of the day.

I figured if the marcobiotic dining didn't go well, we could get some chili dogs.

Anyhow - the food. I got a California Club Sandwich, which consisted of savory tempeh “bacon,” lettuce, tomato, avocado, carrots, sprouts, and soy-mayo on house-baked multi-grain & seed bread. I was craving tomatoes - tell me I can't have something, and I want it even more. The sandwich was really tasty, although a bit unwieldy. After two bites, most of it had spilled out of the dainty club triangles. Bitch! So my plate ended up looking like a mess, while WM's was neat and clean. She got a Grilled Tuna Burger: seared ahi glazed with teriyaki sauce, dressed with sliced avocado, pickled red onions, daikon sprouts, spicy yuzu mayo, and fresh shiso leaf served on a house-baked whole wheat bun. It looked really good.

Here's WeezerMonkey's review - she took all kinds of fancy pictures. Pretend I said what she said. And pretend I took those pictures too.

Now my review of WeezerMonkey lol:

I relished the opportunity to see the behind the scenes version of More Fun Than A Barrel. I've always been impressed by the pictures weezer takes - she really captures the feel of where ever she is. And her food pics are especially great. Maybe I could get some tips for my own humble blog. So I sat back and observed closely.

For some reason, I assumed that she took pictures with her iphone. Not so! She pulled out a digital camera from somewhere (I guess her purse) and started snapping away - even going so far as to artfully arrange the food on her plate, prying open her tuna burger, rotating the plate to get the best angle, etc. All of this took about 3 seconds. I made her do my dish too. Then after we left, she whipped around and clicked off a couple of shots of the interior, the exterior, et voila! Elle est finie.

WeezerMonkey is pretty much exactly how you would expect her to be if you read her blog. She's incredibly funny, game for anything, expressive, bright, considerate, and has a great laugh. I enjoyed myself immensely.
When I got home, I showed Mr. Insomniac her blog and he was all, "Wow - that's a nice blog. See? I told you you needed a logo. Where's that plant picture I showed you? Yeah, her blog looks good. Where'd she get that barrel?" Always something with that guy.

Monday, June 16, 2008

NY Times article - Putting Meat Back in Its Place

LizzieB and another MMer pointed this article in the New York Times out to me - merci beaucoup!

Some of my favorite bits:

Remember that most traditional styles of cooking use meat as a condiment or a treat. This is true in American frontier cooking, where salt pork and bacon were used to season beans; in Italy, where a small piece of meat is served as a secondo (rarely more than a few ounces, even in restaurants); and around the world, where bits of meat are added to stir-fries and salads, as well as bean, rice and noodle dishes. In all of these cases, meat is seen as a treasure, not as something to be gobbled up as if it were air.

I'm due for a nice batch of black eyed peas, or as Grrlygrl informed me, some hoppin' john. The recipe is pretty simple - beans, onion, water, bay leaf, some garlic cloves, and some meat to season. You can eat them over rice, and/or accompanied with some corn bread or collard greens.

Nearly every culture has dishes in which meat is used to season rice or another grain. Consider dirty rice, fried rice, pilaf, biryani, arroz con pollo: the list is almost endless.

This is true. At the Charity Ball I went to on Saturday, they served heaping plates of jambalaya - rice seasoned with chunks of sausage and shrimp. I divided my plate into half and ate half the portion, taking out most of the sausage. It was very satisfying. Almost as satisfying as the crepe dessert bar. I was able to adhere to my new way of eating even when presented with a catered meal.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Note to self:

Martinis are not plants.

(How do you do hangover smiley? :S :( :O :@ X( - I give up. How am I supposed to drag my butt to the Farmer's Market like this? I'm not feeling particularly wholesome this morning. Ugh.)

Saturday night

It's Charity Ball time! Each year my dad and step-mom call me about a day before and beg me to go to the Charity Ball. This year, they only had one ticket - so Mr. Insomniac couldn't go. He was happy. I was pissed. I tried to beg off and get my Grandmother to go in my place, but she didn't want to go either. So I had to suck it up. And get glammed up. Insomniac style. lol. Which means I shaved my legs and painted my toenails.

They told me to be ready at 5:30. So I had to rework some plans, stop cleaning the house, etc. so I could fully prepare. And then they call me at 6:25 and tell me that they're just leaving the house. In Long Beach. So that means they're about, oh, 45 minutes away. So I threw on a pair of scrubs and went back to cleaning the kitchen. Finally they show up, and we're off to the Charity Ball. My dad's incredibly pissed, since they're late and spends the entire time swearing at the Westside traffic and fuming that he has to drive all the way to Hollywood. I was amused.

Anywho when we get there, they immediately get besieged by colleagues. I get pushed out front - "this is my daughter" x 10. It was a little funny though when someone called my dad Dr. DadInsomniac and he was like, actually, we're all Dr. Insomniac - I'm InsomniacPhD, he's InsomniacMD, step-mom is InsomniacEdD. But that stopped being funny after the third time. After they introduce me this guy named Paul who asked me what school I go to (My reply: I'm 31.) and tells me that he tried to get his dad to spend his college tuition on some painting ("It auctioned off for 1.2 million last week - not a bad investment! heh heh ha etc."), I decided I was done with all the mingling and head to the open bar.

Now this should explain the Sunday morning post.

We ate food, people got some awards, and my step mom won this:

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday night

*Heh - I figured out how to post date my posts... So now I can cheat and pretend like I updated my blog when I was supposed to.*

Friday I had dinner with Mr. Insomniac's partner/boss and a bunch of the boss's friends. One of them was the president of an organic food company, so we chatted a bit about organic food and my whole June challenge. He gave me his card, and I told him that I'd link it to my blog. But then I lost said card. Oh well. Anywho - I love a free meal. I also love a free meal at a restaurant I wouldn't normally go to/pay for.

Enter Crustacean.

It has an aquarium under the floor! A stream that snakes it way through the bar area with koi fish! People love that.

It looks like this:

But with about a hundred people milling around, college grads with their parents gazing at the floor, a four member band playing Marvin Gaye, and waitstaff all dressed in black. Strangely enough, with half of Los Angeles in that restaurant, I didn't see any celebrities. No "Ursher". Wait a minute - that's not true. Some Laker dude was there. It wasn't Kobe, so no one really gave a damn.

I thought about getting a salad (plants). But then I said (but not out loud) - hey, I can order a $50 entree and someone else will pick up the tab! So then I went with the signature dish:

Whole roasted Dungeness crab with "garlic sauce and secret spices" prepared in the "secret kitchen". Nothing says carnivore like breaking open the leg of a creature with a nutcracker (or crabcracker) and slurping up its meaty garlicky insides.

No munchies!

So the Roots / Erykah Badu concert went much better. No hot dog eating. Just chips and salsa nibbling.

Before the concert, I heated up a batch of my vegetable soup that I had stashed in the freezer for emergency times such as this one.

Stupid Erykah came out 45 minutes late and didn't play three of her major hits... and no encore. I was pissed.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Oy vey...

This has not been a good week.

Sunday I got to the Farmer's Market late, and wasn't able to buy much in the way of groceries.

Monday I ate leftovers and spent much of the time cramming a book in for my book club the next day.  Come Tuesday morning, I found out that I read the wrong book.

Tuesday I crammed and read the right book, and spent the night discussing it over a vegetarian tostada.  Nice.  Oh wait, someone bought in a box of cupcakes.  I ate three.  Not so nice.

Wednesday I went to a Sheryl Crow concert.  Look!  There she is on the jumbo screen!  All I ate prior to the concert last night was a bowl of oatmeal.  So I was pretty ravenous.  We stopped at a Chinese restaurant, and I got an order of mixed vegetables and tofu and a side of steamed dumplings.  Polished that off with the quickness.   But still, I wasn't satisfied.  And I was bored.  And had a looming project at work.  Enter the dreaded concert/stadium hotdog.  

You all know what comes next.  It wasn't my finest hour.  

Today I'm going to another concert.  (Mr. Insomnaic buys these tickets - I'm kind of anti-concert.  I hate watching people go woooooo!  And I hate being pressed up against people.  And I hate leaving concerts, especially when people blast music that we just heard 4 minutes ago live.  We get it - you like Sheryl Crow.  Now cut off the guy next to you so we can get the hell out of the parking lot.)   Is it wrong that all I could think about was the finale of Top Chef and So You Think You Can Dance?

But this one tonight is my concert - The Roots and Erykah Badu.  So there will be plenty of marijuana going around.  There was even some at the Sheryl Crow concert, which I found surprising.  My plan is to get a hearty salad for lunch and get home early enough to have a sensible dinner before I go a-concerting.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Hollywood Farmer's Market, week 2

So yesterday I went to the Farmer's Market in Hollywood.

We got there 15 minutes before closing time - one day, possibly when I go with Nester yeah4me next week, I'll get there at a decent time.  I did have time to get the things I needed though...

Packet of the ground bison from Kathy Lindner of Lindner Farms.  I was worried because the guy in front of me had a cooler (so you knew he meant business).  He bought 10 packs of the ground bison and a roast of some sort.  Fortunately, she still had some left, so I bought my one pack.  

I also bought a piece of pork from a local farmer.  He grows several varieties of fruits and veggies and until recently, had grown livestock only for his own consumption.  Now he has about 8 pigs and 15 cows (but he said that soon he'll have about 7 more as some calves are expected).  His pigs eat fruit, veggies, and some grain.  

I also bought a bag of organic yukon gold potatoes.  I was on the lookout for spinach, but didn't see any in my mad rush around the market.

Completely by chance, I ran into Nester pdx*ord*lax at the free range cage free egg stand.  I was trying to figure out if the fertilized eggs that the guy was selling meant that I'd see beak.  My step-mom's Filipino and I know all about balut.  I was going to stick a picture of balut here, but when I did the google image search and saw the results, I took pity on my poor blog readers (all three of you) and decided against it.  Let me just say, if you do the search on your own, and look at the pictures, I am not responsible.  Ugh.  

So if you see the pictures, you can understand why I would make sure that a fertilized egg contained no beak or feet or anything of that nature.  So while I was uncovering the truth, pdx sidled up next to me.  Too bad I didn't have a camera - but Mr. Insomniac was off somewhere eating pluots and as many of you know, I've lost my cell phone and I've had to rely on the kindness and mad photography skillz of Mr. Insomniac.  But anyway, it was great to see pdx - she has a whole bag full of stuff.  She obviously gets to these things and has plenty of time to shop.  Bravo!

With a little help from my friends...

Sadly, I have no one in my immediate social circle that's a vegetarian.

But fortunately, there are tons that hang out on the Nest!

And here are some of their delectable recipes that they've posted... I'd like to think that they're trying to keep me from eating only bread, brie, goat cheese, grapes, and apples during June. This post is to share their wisdom, but also to help me keep all their advice/recipes in one handy dandy place.

Courtesy of the lovely G_Hoping:

Gazpacho Salad
1 - medium to large Zuchinni, chopped
1 - medium to large summer squash, chopped
2 - medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 can corn (regular, not cream)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 - small avocados, chopped

Combine all ingredients besides avocodos, let marinate for 1 hour. Then add avocodos before serving (or add them with the rest of ingredients if you don't mine them browning)

Courtesy of envinoveritas:

For dinner tonight I made tofu stirfry with already cubed super firm tofu, (Nasoya brand from Whole Foods), a bag of frozen veggies and 1/2 a container of Thai Curry Sauce from TJs. I had to hold myself back from licking the bowl after I was done.

Courtesy of MrsP_2007:

Falafel mix (just add water and saute in olive oil); whole wheat wraps; lettuce and tomato; and hummus. The mix made enough falafel for 2 dinners and 2 lunches. Total cost was probably $10.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Native Foods - Restaurant Review

For lunch Mr. Insomniac and I went to lunch at Native Foods in Westwood, CA.

It's billed as California Vegan restaurant and they proudly point out that even the mayo is Vegan!   Mmm... vegan mayo - is your mouth watering yet?  The last time my father was in Westwood, he wanted to take us to Native Foods, but he couldn't find it and I was extremely relieved.  Remember the old Insomniac was anti-plants, but the June Insomniac thinks that they are tasty.

Entering the storefront, we placed our order at a cash register and were directed to a loft upstairs to wait for our server to come with trays of food.  I could look down and see the coo
ks prepare the food, as we were seated on the edge of the loft, behind the counter.  

[I should have taken a picture of the view.  It would have went here.  Oh well.]

I always find it unsettling to watch someone cook my food.  I keep waiting for them to drop something on the floor and then throw it onto the plate or something, I guess.  Most people who have that fear would probably relish the notion of keeping an eye on their preparation.  But for me, ignorance is bliss.  

The loft was a little cramped and hot, but it was fine.  They had a pitcher of water with lime, lemon, mint, and cucumber that was incredibly refreshing.  At first I thought that there was a melon in the water, but the server explained that the sweetness all came from the cucumber.  Go figure.

And here's the food!  I got a Malibu veggie burger with a side of seasoned fries.  The veggie burger is made on the premises and consists of soy, quinoa, oats, veggies, and seasonings.  Sprouts, carrots, onion, a slice of tomato and the infamous vegan mayo dressed the burger.

It was really tasty.  A dollup of organic ketchup (no high fructose corn syrup here!) and I was in heaven.  It's amazing how satisfying a non-meat meal can be.  I'm a believer!  (I was starving and immediately stacked my burger - but then I remembered that I had to take pictures for the blog.  So that's why 
the burger looks a little messy.  It was much neater looking before I got my grubby little hands on it.)

Mr. Insomniac got some sort of "chicken" wrap.  It was also really good.

Internet roundup, week 2

From my travels through the internet:

You can find folks to deliver locally grown produce to your doorstep.  Neat-o!  


Want to find fresh local produce in season in your area?
Try the epicurious peak-season map


The New York Times reports that red wine may slow the aging process.  Even Merlot.

Research found that sirtuins (protein agents in humans which might be responsible for tissue-preservation),  could be activated by some natural compounds, including resveratrol, an ingredient of certain red wine.  Although the research is reminiscent of the "reductionist" nuturition principles Michael Pollan characterizes in In Defense of Food, the article acknowledges that "red wine contains many other resveratrol-like compounds that may also be beneficial."  A mere four, five-ounce glass of wine "starts getting close" to the amount of reservatrol they found effective, stated Dr. Weindruch.


Underground dining thrives in cities, says Newsweek

Apparently folks in major cities are creating underground supper clubs, many of which focus on sustainable local ingredients.  Check out The Ghetto Gourmet or google "underground dining [insert your city here]" to see what's going on in your neck of the woods.  Or hey, start one yourself!  

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bison tastes goooood

My bison burger was a rousing success! I defrosted the meat over night in the fridge, then mixed it with some scallions and shitake mushrooms. I added some freshly ground black pepper and sea salt, along with a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce.

I made a small patty and threw that bad boy on what we call the GFG (George Foreman Grill) for two minutes. I dressed it with tomato, brocolini sprouts, and a hearty slice of avocado on a half slice of whole wheat bread. It was marvelous - juicy, with a nice texture. I only wish I had thought ahead and made some baked sweet potato fries and had a cold crisp pickle.

I rounded off the meal with a large spinach salad (leaves eaten raw to maximize nutrients), but that's not really interesting.

I feel good about what I ate. I purchased from a top-quality local ranch that uses humane practices. Awesome! My next step is going to try some other bison cuts - hopefully they'll be just as tasty!

It's bison time!

I'm excited - my first taste of free range, grass-fed and grass-finished meat.

Ever since watching Top Chef's porkapooloza, I've been having a hankering for meat.  My co-workers' trip to N and Out Burger didn't help matters much.

So here's my attempt to eat meat locally and more humanely.  Being grassfed is more natural for the animal, better for the environment, and better for humans (raises the nutritional value). has a detailed discussion of facts and links to suppliers of grass-fed meat.  

I bought my ground bison at the Hollywood Farmer's Market from Kathy Lindner of Lindner Bison...  They practice humane animal husbandry and the picturesque picture above is from their ranch.   

Information from their website:

What we do:
1. pasture raised, grassfed and grass finished bison
2. lush irrigated pasture during summer, dry grass (hay) during winter
3. smooth game fencing only; no animal can come in contact with barbed wire
4. fine sand for wallowing
5. salt & mineral supplements
6. salvage & erect used street sweeper brushes for scratching
7. natural parasite control through the use of diatomaceous earth (see future plans for heritage turkeys)
8. fresh well water in stock tanks with built-in 'small critter ramps' (if a mouse or other small creature should accidentally fall in while trying to get a drink, they can safely climb back out)
9. encourage strong family units by mimicing Nature's cycle; bulls remain with cows year round to produce robust calves in the spring and natural predator control year round
10. slow, low-stress management techniques

What we don't do:
1. no grain or corn - no feedlots or feedyards - ever.
2. no added hormones, antibiotics or animal byproducts
3. no barbed wire 
4. dehorn, castrate or artificially inseminate

Future plans at Lindner Bison's Heritage Ranch:
1. new paddocks for rotational grazing
2. handling facilities and equipment which are quieter & less stressful than traditional meth

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Why I don't cook

So this is what my kitchen looked like - hell, let's be honest - looks like after my cooking extravaganza last night.

Note the forlorn piece of swiss chard or whatever on the floor, the chopped carrots, the various bowls and trash.  It's a friggin mess.  If you look closely you can see the glass and bottle of wine which is responsible for my current headache.  I have to clean all this up when I get home.  Bummer.

But on the upside - my meal was really yummy!

  • Green lentils with shitake, porcini, and white mushrooms in a red wine reduction
  • Parmesean garlic Yukon Gold mashed potatoes

It looks unappetizing as all get out, but it was tasty - honest!

And I made a batch of lentil/split pea soup.  I'll freeze half and use the rest for lunch with my veggie sandwich.  I'm actually not missing meat and I've yet to use any of my weird tofu products.  

Tonight was going to be bison night - but we're going to a Sheryl Crow concert and I won't have time to devote to bison preparation.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Dirty Dozen

This article describes foods that should be bought organically because their conventionally grown counterparts retain a decent amount of pesticides, as measured by the Environmental Working Group.

Things to buy organic:
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes
You can get away with buying these items "regular" since they do not normally retain pesticide residue:
  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn (Frozen)
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Papaya

Walking the walk...

First meatless day!

Lunch I had a bowl of vegetable soup, for dinner I had some bean and cheese nachos, spinach/onion enchiladas, and dollar margaritas.  I ate too much and felt sick.  Again the "Not too much" part has bitten me in the ass.

Today will be different!

For lunch I'm having the swiss chard I bought at the Hollywood farmer's market.  I sauteed it with olive oil, garlic, and green onion.  Then I added organic tomatoes and pinto beans from Trader Joes.  I'm also having half of a vegetarian sandwich:  mozarella cheese, fresh sprouts, tomatoes, avocado, and hummus on whole wheat bread.  (I had the other half for breakfast.)  I am anticipating fabulousness.

For dinner I plan on making leek/lentil soup and lentils with shitake mushrooms.  If time permits, I'll make a bean dish as well.  Then I can just feast on leftovers.  I'm a real life plant eater, boys and girls!

Tonight I plan to go to the Culver City farmer's market and pick up some hummus and organic potatoes.  And maybe some artisan chocolate.

Tomorrow my plans are to cook some tofu.  

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A foodie's weekend - Saturday!

I know I'm going to be doing a lot of at-home cooking, so I wanted to get myself some decent fresh spices so I could give my veggies the necessary punch. I thought about going to Williams Sonoma or Surfas, but ended up going to Monsieur Marcel in the Farmer's Market on Third and Fairfax.

They have a great display of Nomu spices and set them out in little bowls so you can sniff them to your hearts content.

You don't want to sniff too much, though, cause you'll sneeze and spices will billow forth and people will give you dirty looks because it's nasty.  That didn't happen to me, mind you, because I instinctively knew this.

They have some basic spices but they're known for their blends which range from the common place (chicken rub) to the more adventurous (masala rub, smoky peri-peri rub).  Some of the blends have grinder so you can ensure that your spices are freshly ground. I ended up going with a general "one-for-all" blend grinder and harvested sea salt grinder.  Perfect for savory cooking.  

After our shopping expedition, we went to a Kay 'n Dave's, a fresh-mex restaurant that uses no lard or trans-fats in its cooking.  The outdoor patio where we ate was lovely, with beautiful Spanish tile and creeping vines covering the adobe walls.  

I had the lamb dish below (different types of meats like a good omnivore) and Mr. Insomniac had chicken mole tacos.  Avocado with salsa - a great natural way to get all the nutrient goodness of the tomatoes.  And damn tasty too.

And mojitos. Can't forget about the ruby red grapefruit mojitos.

A foodie's weekend - Sunday!

Sunday - June 1st!  The beginning of the challenge - whoo hoo!

Ah let me say that I am currently reeling in food goodness.... What a day!

We started off at the Hollywood Farmer's Market on Ivar Avenue in between Sunset and Hollywood Blvds
This Farmer's Market is the real deal - probably second to only the Santa Monica Farmer's Market on Wednesday mornings. In both cases - restaurant chefs buy their items from the market and there are literally tons of vendors representing farms, ranches, and dairies from all over Southern and Central California.  It is a food paradise and it was everything I could do not to spin around in dizzy circles with my arms raised.

Okay, so what did I buy?
  • 5 avocados for $2
  • Large bunches of dill, basil, and mint (can you say mojitos?) for $3
  • Bunch of organic spinach for $1
  • Bunch of swiss chard for $1
  • Second bunch of swiss chard for free - going to the market at closing time has its advantages. A guy behind the stand was like, hey want some swiss chard? I told him that I had just purchased some and he just handed it to me and said, just take it. Awesome.
  • A pound of ground grass-fed/grass-finished bison from Lindner Bison for $8.  Kathy Lindner herself was manning the booth and she gave me a fact sheet about the merits of grass-fed/finished meats for the eater, the animal, and the environment and answered all my questions.  She was a very charming lady and I look forward to eating my bison.  This will be my first time eating bison, so we shall see how it goes.
Not a bad haul!  My meal plans are to make a swiss chard, tomato, garbonzo beans dish; a spinach salad (since I learned that eating spinach raw is the best way to capture its vitamins and nutrients); garlic dill potatoes; fattoush; and yet to be determined.

I wanted to spend more time at the Hollywood Farmer's Market, but we were in a hurry to get to another event that a colleague of Mr. Insomniac's had invited us to - the Taste of the Nation, the "the nation’s premier culinary benefit dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America." Because nothing says child hunger than a bunch of people gnoshing on lychee infused caviar atop a bed of fennel and locally grown sugar beets. But 100% the ticket proceeds go to local and national charities, so I was able to get my eat on without much consternation.  Dozens of Los Angeles restaurants were representing - many that I haven't eaten at because they are too damn expensive.  So now was my chance.  Awesome.

Now the food. Lordy, the food. Let's see: highlights were the ahi tuna tacos and calamari salad from Asia de Cuba, a lump crab meat salad on top a dollop of guacamole, watermelon ceviche, hazelnut chocolate, various sushi rolls, and a chocolate espresso donut on a stick garnished with raspberries.  Oh and a grilled cheese sandwich that was perfection on a plate.

And now for the celebrities... lol

Antonia , a finalist on Top Chef, was representing her restaurant Foxtail. Her offering of mussels with pasta was tasty enough, but difficult to eat on the go.  She participated in a 30 minute cook-off against another local chef. Unfortunately, her offering of a Vietnamese duck spring roll (while reported as tasty) lost out to the other chef's raw food concoction of a salad with a spicy pepper dressing.  Here she is toiling away while some cameraman videotapes her:

Antonia seems just as likeable as on Top Chef and joked around with the audience and her sous chef (a local comic) during the cook-off. Sitting in the front row was her daughter wearing a XS white chef's jacket. The girl was adorable and looked exactly like her mom, except for her curlier hair.

Hosting the cookoff was Kirk Cameron, who still has his charm even though he's been reported to be a little loony.  Here he is doing his emcee duty:

And rounding off the celebrity spawn was Harrison Ford's son who is the head chef for Ford's Filling Station in Culver City. I pass by that location on a regular basis and never knew that the Ford represented Harrison Jr. Interesting.  Our hosts for the day (the folks that paid for the tickets!) were part-owners of a nearby restaurant and were hosting an after party.  So we stayed around towards the end of the event.  Wonder what those crazy chefs and wait staff do once the regular folk leave the building?

Wine relay racing.  Oh yeah, it's on.

The rules are as follows: three teams line up balancing trays of an opened bottle of wine and two glasses.  At the signal, the first runners walkrun 50 yards, and come back.  They must, and here the rules are specific, do a "two-inch pour" in one glass and then hand off to runner #2.  Who does the same thing and hands off to runner #3.  At no time may the tray be carried with two hands or a second hand touch the bottles/glasses during the walk/run portion.  And of course, a dropped tray is instant disqualification for the team.  

 So here's Benjamin Ford (Harrison Jr.) representing Ford's Filling Station as he balances a tray of 2-buck Chuck on a waiter's tray with two glasses.

Border's Grill emerged as the victors and only two teams ended up dropping the trays.  Well done folks!