Sunday, July 21, 2013

Kanye West is Jesus: The Reasons the Second Coming of the Christ is Upon Us

I have some important news for you all, the second coming of the Christ is upon us, or at least that's what Kanye (that's Yeezus to you common folk) thinks. I was unsure at first, but after listening to Yeezus a few times, and seeing his recent behavior with some Los Angeles paparazzi it's obvious that Yeezus is convinced he's Jesus. So I must pose the question.......is he actually Jesus?

I mean the signs were everywhere people, how did we miss it? 
- He's been calling himself Yeezy (short for Yeezus, which is obviously just the way all the cool kids say Jesus) for years!
- He has a group of people that follow him around and do everything he says (some may call this his crew/camp.....others may call them his disciples.....it just depends on regional and temporal vernacular I guess).
- He is with a women who first became a household name because of some questionable sexual behavior, and has since proven more virtuous and wholesome than most people would have guessed (similar to Mary Magdalen.....).
- He's from Chicago, which houses the Nazareth Academy AND the St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital, so it's basically the Nazareth of today (you know....other than the actual city of Nazareth.....).
- In the Bible it says that Christ will find, fight, and defeat the anti-christ during his second coming; clearly the anti-christ is the paparazzi.....duh.
- The Bible says "his voice was like the sound of rushing water," meaning that it is moving, powerful, brilliant, and hard to ignore; yeah when I hear "Black Skinheads" playing on the radio I'm not gonna lie.....it's pretty hard to ignore.
- And lets not forget the most important thing of all: Miracles. Kanye has performed miracles. We know from watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians (because that's mandatory now.....you know, what with this whole Jesus thing) that Kim was going to have an uphill battle getting pregnant.....and then without even trying Yeezy miraculously impregnates her with the most anticipated baby of the century. Khloe Kardashian literally said that this baby is a miracle.
- Amongst other miracles, Kanye has pretty much attacked paparazzi in every way possible, yet always manages to get out of his many fights without any penalty. He was arrested once, but then the charges were dropped. Miracles people, Miracles.
With all these signs it's easy to see why he thinks knows he's Yeezus. However, out of consideration for all the people out there who aren't as brilliant as him, and can't piece this oh-so-intricate puzzle together, one of his songs in his latest album is literally about how he is a god. Literally. Also there's that one song called "Jesus Walks," don't know if you've heard of it but it's exactly what it sounds like.....a song about Jesus walking on earth.

So, Kanye is Jesus, but prefers to be called Yeezus. Yeezus is back and the paparazzi are the anti-christ. Lets turn our attention to this battle royal(even though we already know thanks to the Bible that Yeezy's gonna win). Kanye was recently filmed at the airport telling a Paparazzi: "Don't talk ... don't talk to me ... I don't wan't to hear paparazzi talk to me or anybody I know ... and tell everybody never talk to anyone that anyone knows ... don't talk to themselves .. DON'T TALK EVER AGAIN"
In his most recent battle with the Anti-christ
Well now, that is quite a statement there young Jesus, but I guess it's necessary in this epic battle. However, there's this little thing called the first amendment......don't know if our Lord Jesus has heard of it, but amongst other things it protects free speech. I mean I only know about it because I have had to learn American History numerous times, since I was raised in the blessed country that the Lord has chosen for his second coming. I could understand why Yeezy might not know about this, I mean God knows he has more important things to do than learn about the founding fathers and the constitution upon which this entire country was built. But this does bring up the question......is Jesus subject to the law of the nation within which he resides? Does Yeezy even know about these laws? If not......who should tell him? One of his apostles? A member of his klan? Or maybe we'll just have to wait for little North to get to first grade and break the news to him herself? Regardless of how it happens, it seems to me that our Lord Yeezus cannot continue to wage this battle with the anti-christ much longer without becoming aware of such laws; I'm sure with his ability to work miracles and his voice "like rushing water" these laws won't stop him in his takedown of the paparazzi.

And hey ya'll, that's the only obstacle, once that's done, we can all be raptured and enjoy eternity in Heazy! (That's what we're calling Heaven now, FYI). So eat that extra scoop of icecream (or 10), don't go to the gym today, buy that bag that you've always wanted but literally can't afford......because soon none of it will matter. We'll either be in heazy drinkin crystal with Yeezy or we'll be chillin with the paps in the pits of hell (or Woodland Hills, California.....since they're pretty much the same temperature all the time) getting all the dirt on everyone.....including Yeezus.
It's all about subtlety for this guy

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summertime Salads: Fresh Corn, Tomato, and Avocado Salad with Lemon Dressing

Scene from the Farmer's Market
I know most people like having hearty stews, mashed potatoes, and heavy casserole dishes during the summer, but I'm going to break away from the expected and post a summer salad recipe! I know, I'm probably the first person to think of this.....don't worry, my IQ is off the charts, so it'll probably work out.
Inspiration: Corn is cheap and in season, tomatoes are cheap and in season, and there are avocados growing on some giant green thing in my backyard (aka FREE and in season). I picked up some organic corn cobs and pear tomatoes from the farmers market, and they were cheaper than they are at TJ's which is a miracle. I love buying produce when it's in season, because especially with corn and tomatoes, you can totally taste the difference between in season and out of season.
Nutrition Note: This salad is light, but far from insubstantial. The fresh corn, tomatoes, and avocado all have a lot of fiber, antioxidants, and protein. HOWEVER, this salad does not contain a complete protein; I would recommend serving this salad alongside a bean/legume based dish such as these Edamame-Chickpea Burgers, or just a simple side of garbanzo, lima, or white beans with some dressing/sauce. All exciting stuff.

Recipe Time: Fresh Corn, Tomato, and Avocado Salad with Lemon Dressing
(This recipe makes a lot of salad, because when I make it we have it as our main dish and usually have some sort of bean dish on the side. You can easily halve all of the ingredients if you want to have is as a side dish)
Ingredients:
Ready to be eaten :)
- 4 cobs of corn, steamed and kernels cut off of cob
- 3 cups halved/quartered pear or cherry tomatoes
- 1 red onion, cut into about 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 avocados, cut into small cubes
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil (optional, I usually don't use this but I know some people like an oilier dressing)
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
Directions:
1. Mix the corn, tomatoes, red onion, and avocado in a large bowl.
2. Mix all of the remaining ingredients in a small bowl to make the dressing.
3. Pour the dressing over the salad, mix well, and taste. If you like your salad a little saltier, add a little salt at a time (mixing after each addition) until it reaches your desired level of saltiness.
4. Chill & serve.
5. Email me and tell me I'm awesome. (Just kidding.....well maybe not. Lets just say this step is optional)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Peace & Pie, Part 1: Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Lately I've been making a lot of pies and quiches, and I haven't been sharing any of the recipes out of sheer laziness. I have quite a few pie recipes up my sleeve, but I want to share the most seasonal one first so all 3.5 of my readers can make the recipe before the produce goes out of season. I kid, I kid, I know there are probably 2 readers.......the last 1.5 are definitely google searches gone wrong.
In case you've never encountered rhubarb before, it is that
pink, celery-ish vegetable on the right.
Inspiration: The inspiration for this recipe is pretty simple; I wanted to make a pie that wasn't too sweet using only super seasonal, local produce. I went to the farmer's market and let whatever I found dictate the type of pie that I made. I ended up buying rhubarb and strawberries.....and the rest was history.
Nutrition Note: Well, pie is pie. There is going to be some fat in the crust since we all know that the only way to make a perfect pastry crust is to use a 3:1 flour to fat ratio. There is also some sugar in the filling, but the rhubarb is quite sour so it really needs it. If you wanted a dessert that can be eaten as a healthy, well-rounded meal, then you're looking at the wrong recipe BUT if you were looking for a seasonal, fresh, relatively light dessert that is on the healthier side as far as the average dessert goes, then you're in the right place. The rhubarb and strawberries provide lots of antioxidants and fiber, while the white whole wheat flour used in the crust provides protein and additional fiber. White whole wheat flour, is not processed or refined any more than regular whole wheat flour, it is simply made from a different type of wheat that results in a lighter color and less nut/bran flavor than you find in typical whole wheat flour products. I often use it because I know a lot of people don't like whole wheat products, but using this type of flour makes it pretty hard to tell that it's a whole wheat product based on taste alone. All of the nutrition of a whole wheat flour, without the "distinct" taste....you can eat a slice (or 5) without feeling too guilty for indulging.

The Recipe: Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
This is what the mixture should look like
once you're finished mixed the oil/shortening in.
Ingredients:
Crust:
- 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) fat/shortening (chilled coconut oil and earth balance shortening both work, but I prefer earth balance because it doesn't melt as easily)
- 2 tbsp granulated brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup ice water
**Bonus: This recipe, minus the sugar if you are making a savory dish, is the ideal pastry crust recipe for all quiches, tarts, pies, and tartletts.....so go crazy with it. Or don't.....your call**
Filling:
- 3 cups hulled & halved (or quartered if they're big) strawberries
- 3 cups fresh rhubarb, chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
**Technique tip: The key to making a perfect pastry crust is both to use a 3:1 flour to fat ratio and also to keep the dough/fat as cool as possible until it goes into the oven. You want the fat to stay in tiny, solid lumps so that when it goes into the oven the high heat makes it puff up suddenly, resulting in a flakey crust.....and the best way to do this is by keeping the dough cold the entire time leading up to baking**
Direction:
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor or by hand.
3. Add small, chilled chunks of the oil/shortening to the mixture and process or mix by hand until there are only small, pea-like chunks of fat remaining. The mixture should resemble a course cornmeal. Transfer to a large bowl. **Technique Tip: Please, please for the love of god, do not over mix the fat. The important part of making a good crust is to make sure that there are still small chunks of fat left, as I explained earlier).** 
4. Add ice water to the mixture, 1 tbsp at a time, just until the dough starts to come together. Using your hands in this step really helps.
5. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
6. On a lightly floured surface role out the dough until it is about 1/8-1/4 inches thick.
7. Press the dough into a 9 inch pie pan and trim the edges. Roll the trimmings into a ball, and refrigerate both the pie pan and the trimmings while making the filling (at least 30 minutes). **Technique tip: You can roll out the trimmings and cut out strips of dough to make a lattice-top pie or simply cut out whatever shapes you like and place them atop the pie once it has been filled**
Pre-oven
9. Combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl and mix until very evenly combined. Make sure that you mix it well enough that the cornstarch is truly evenly dispersed, the cornstarch and the sugar can be the hardest things to mix well.
10. Pour filling into chilled pie crust and cover with any remaining dough if desired (this is where you can make a lattice topped pie).
11. Place in the oven on a middle or bottom rack, and set a timer for 20 minutes.
12. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 1 hour & 20 minutes. Remove sooner if the crust starts to turn too brown.
13. Let cool and enjoy.



Post-oven. This is one way to customize your
pie simply by making a design out of the
extra trimmings and placing them atop
the filling.

This is an example of a lattice topped pie.
Same recipe as the pie to the left,
just different way of arranging
the dough on top.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Wine Weekend: A Getaway to the Inn at Meadowood

Although father's day was a few weekends ago, we gifted our father a weekend trip to Napa Valley and a stay at the Inn at Meadowood.....okay, okay.....it was kinda a gift to ourselves as well, but let's ignore that part for now. Two weekends ago my brother and I went with my Dad to his belated father's day getaway and it was SO fun. I'll write a broad overview of our experience in this post, but there are some things (such as the phenomenal 3 Michelin Star meal we had at the Restaurant at Meadowood) that warrant their own post.
The Destination: St. Helena, Napa Valley, CA. Although the Inn at Meadowood is technically in St. Helena, the entire region is generally thought of as the Napa Valley. Geography was never my strong point.....but I think that Napa Valley is the entire region, and within it there is Napa County, Sonoma County, Yountville, St. Helena, Carneros, Calistoga, Healdsburg, and some other counties. All of these regions are known for producing great wines, and some are known for a specific type of wine. The valley itself is actually quite beautiful; even if you aren't a big wine person, it is an amazing place to stay.
View from our cottage.
(Click on images to enlarge them)
The architecture is quite varied, and is a mixture of rustic farmhouse meets tuscan meets craftsman style.....that probably makes no sense, but I'm no pulitzer prize winner so that will have to do. There is also a gorgeous river that runs through the valley, and wine train that allows guests to dine while taking in the various sites the valley has to offer. There are vineyards everywhere (surprise surprise), but there are also a surprising amount of fruit and vegetable farms and gardens. In addition, there are quite a few art galleries, museums, and specialty shops. There is never shortage of things to do in the valley, even for someone like me who has activity ADHD (which is a term I made up that just means I get bored if I'm doing the same activity for a long time.......watch, it's going to catch on). I may be stating the obvious here, but food itself is kinda a big deal in the Napa Valley....in case the fact that there are two 3 Michelin starred restaurants within 10 miles of each other didn't make that obvious enough. Every thing is all about artisinal foods, in season produce, organic/biodynamic foods, and specialty items; even there run of the mill grocery stores carry artisanal cheese, breads, jams, and local produce that those same chain store don't carry in the neighboring city of San Francisco (sorry to bum out all the San Franciscans, but the REAL artisinal stuff tends to stay within the valley).

Our little deck 
The Inn at Meadowood: This is a truly unique property, and I hope to be able to go back again soon. The property is huge, and it is at the base of a small hill covered in lush oak and evergreen trees. It almost has the feel of staying at a cabin in the woods, except that it is very well maintained, has maid service, and a 3 Michelin star restaurant. It is unique in that although it is extremely lush and comfortable, and provides all of the amenities and luxuries that a 5 star resort would, it's spread out over quite a large area of (borderline) forest.
The rooms, suites, and cottages are spread out all over the property, with a centrally located gym, pools, reception building, restaurant, tennis courts, cricket field,  and spa. Some of the cottages are high up on the hill tops overlooking the entire property, others line the beautiful golf course and tennis courts, and many more are hidden amongst the lush forest. All of the rooms/cottages are accesible by car, and each one has a parking spot nearby for the residents. You don't have to deal with any valet parking, which is always nice. The Inn (more of a resort if you ask me) is equipped with a stunning fleet of new mercedes SUVs that they use to shuttle guests around from their rooms/cottages to other parts of the property if desired.
Taking a walk around the massive property
Funny story: one of the staff members saw me walking around and offered to give me a ride back to wherever I needed to go, and I jokingly said I would take him up on that in a few days when I head back to LA since I hate driving on the I-5; he just smiled politely, laughed at my horrible, unfunny joke, and drove away (let me be clear that he didn't do anything wrong or rude.....this stor merely points out how much of a social genius I am). The property is quite espansive, so it is definitely nice to know that we have the option of being driven to/from places, although we never actually ended up using said option; it's so gorgeous that we just preferred walking everywhere. There are also lots of hiking trails and patches of forest throughout the property, and there is also a stream and a lake surrounded by lots of wild berries and fruit trees. Some parts of the property are much higher in elevation than others, and there is a beutiful 3 mile path that circles most of the property and has some stunning views. Although it is misleadingly labeled an "Inn" it is probably one of the most comfortable and luxurious places I have had the pleasure of staying; I honestly didn't want to leave. It almost feels like an uber-cool country club; it's decorated in a modern, luxurious, california cottage style......the decor is hard to describe but it's kinda of a blend of cape cod meets modern california luxury meets a french cottage......so basically awesome on all fronts.
Still on our walk around meadowood.....gorgeous
The staff are all so helpful and accommodating  and the depth to which they personalized our stay at the Inn was so heartwarming. This place is just ridiculous; they have a beautiful cricket field as well as great instructors, an immaculate gym and spa, many areas throughout the property such as meadows and indoor spaces that are perfect for weddings or special ocasions, multiple restaurants (all of them delicious), great tennis courts, gorgeous swimming pools, hiking trails with stunning views, a first class golf course, amazing in room dining 24 hours a day, a 3 Michelin starred restaurant, and they are willing to do anything and everything to make your stay amazing. If you ever have the opportunity to stay here you should do it in a heartbeat.....I would sacrifice my first born child to return here ASAP, so get yourself over there.

Barrels at Opus One
Wine Tasting: We only went to two wineries but they were definitely the best ones to go to. First we went to St. Helena Winery, where I tasted the BEST wine I have tasted in my entire life (which I guess isn't saying much since I've only been drinking wine for a few years.....but still). The winemaker there was just named winemaker of the year, and they only produce about 2000 bottles of wine per year. They make an amazing chardonnay that is true to the classic french burgundies, not too buttery or too alcoholic like the newer stuff coming out of a lot of California wineries.
The designated driver + me
This particular wine was the best one of the entire trip (and my entire life) in my opinion. I am and always have been a white wine person, but I found myself taken aback by how much I actually enjoyed their red wine (called "Scandal"). It  was a little fruity, but still on the drier side, and very lightly oaked. The best part about all of their wines is that they all were perfectly balanced. They were so round in mouthfeel and flavor, and they were smooth all the way through. I still feel like I could live the rest of my life only drinking this wine and be completely happy.
However, we also went to Opus One, a world famous winery which was started as a collaboration between Robert Mondavi (the guy who basically started Napa Valley) and Baron Rothschild (one of the greatest french winemakers).
This is an art piece at Opus One
that is mean to represent the
way shoots of some varieties are
grafted onto roots of a different
variety in order to produce a
pest resistent, high quality grape
The bottle are quite expensive, and they start at $250 each, but we just did a tour and tasting which is much more reasonable as far as price goes. The tour was awesome; the facilities are beyond state of the art, they are immaculate. Everything is a work of art in itself, and then when you consider the fact that they actually use these facilities to make wine it is pretty crazy.
Here comes the downer: I didn't really like the wine that much. Opus One usually makes just one varietal every year, which consists mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon with a few other grapes thrown in for good measure. I have to be honest and say that both of the Cabs I tasted at St. Helena Winery were far more balanced, smooth, and pleasant than Opus One.  Obviously, I do have to admit that this may just be due to my own taste preferences; the wine was pretty oaky and had some big tannins, and that is just not my thing. There was less blackberry (what I tend to like about red wine) and more licorice and oak (what I tend to NOT enjoy about red wine); I do enjoy some oak, and even that faint leather or tobacco that comes along with a good read wine, but the tannins and oak on this one were just too much for me. However, my dad, who is a red wine guy through and through also preferred the St. Helena Cab to this one.....and it is far more affordable. So there.

A shot of part of the Oxbow Public Market
Oxbow Public Market: This is a relatively new market that sits near a part of the river called Oxbow (hence the name). It has some restaurants, some specialty food shops, and some other types of retail as well There was a cute little market in the corner that made fresh juice and had lots of produce. There is also an Italian place called Ca'Momi Enoteca and a latin food place called Pica Pica that looked particularly good.
However, we ended up eating at Gott's Roadside since my dad and brother had never been before and I was pretty sure that they'd really enjoy it. We spent less than an hour there so I didn't really get to thoroughly see each vendor, but I wish I could go back and spend more time there. They have a spice vendor, a patisserie, a cupcakery, a chocolatier, a cheese merchant, an awesome looking coffee place, a vendor that focuses entirely on selling fine ingredients for cocktails (think bitters, essences, and all that good stuff) and much, much more.

Mushroom Statue Garden in Yountville
Yountville: We also spent some time walking around the main street of Yountville. It was quite charming and had lots of little specialty shops, restaurants, and art galleries. There was a particularly cool antique gallery/wine tasting room whose name I don't remember, but it was awesome. Yountville is also home to the world famous, 3 Michelin Star restaurant "The French Laundry" as well as michelin starred restaurant "Bottega". Both of these restaurants sit along the main street in Yountville. The weekend we chose to go up to Yountville was really hot, so we didn't walk around much outside, but I wish we had explored a bit more before returning to the oasis of our air-conditioned car. Yountville is definitely a must see; I would also highly recommend dining there (there are lots of great places other than the two that I mentioned) because we didn't do so and I wish that we had.

Little did we know as we walked through
these doors that we were about to have
the experience of a lifetime!
The Restaurant at Meadowood: Simply put, this was the meal of my life. This restaurant has had 3 Michelin stars for a few years, which is a pretty big deal. As far as food goes, this is pretty much the highest honor one can hope to achieve. The meal and experience were so mind-blowingly phenomenal that they deserve their own blog post, but I just wanted to include a little snippet of it in this post because it was too awesome to forego mentioning. Lets just say that as a vegan, I had come to terms with the fact that I would never be able to experience a 3 Michelin Star meal in my life, and I was proven wrong in the best possible way! Come back soon for a write up of our awesome ands surprise filled evening here!


The Trip: Overall this little trip was great. We spent a lot of our time relaxing/lounging at the Inn, because the property and amenities were so great that we really wanted to enjoy them fully. We also got a good amount of the wine country experience into our short stay, and I think we managed to strike the perfect balance between going out and exploring what the Napa Valley has to offer and relaxing in our wonderful haven called Meadowood.

Friday, July 5, 2013

I Solemly Swear That I am Up to No Good!

Sorry for the absolute lack of posts! I have been out of town the past couple of weekends, including this one, but I swear I haven't fallen off the face of the earth just yet.....
I've got some great recipe and non-recipe posts in the works, so look forward to those, but don't expect anything out of me this weekend since I'm out of town visitting one of my best friends. To be quite honest, I'd much rather not waste my time here writing a blog post that I can just as easily write in my free time......so there.

Hope you all had a wonderful Amurrica Day (also known to some as the 4th of July), and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

An Unofficial and Semi-inappropriate Review of "Superman: Man of Steel"

Christopher Reeve as Superman
A classic story, re-told time and time again, it started as  comics and ended up on the big screen.....multiple times. The story of an alien from another planet who looks just like any other human but due to the earth's proximity to the sun, he possesses a strength and indestructibility that is anything but human. That's right, I'm talking about superman. Yes, I saw "Man of steel".....and yes I am going to share with you my completely unprofessional and biased opinions on this film.
However, before we get to the knitty gritty, allow me to indulge myself for a moment.  It would seem that superman somehow manages to be blessed with the one in a million gifts of indestructibility  enormous strength, and a nearly perfect morality.....but this isn't where it ends. Another trait bestowed upon him, and potentially the only thing that is consistent in all of the many reincarnations of this story, is how ridiculously attractive Clark (superman) Kent is.
Tom Welling as Clark Kent
Somehow, they manage to find someone more and more attractive each time they cast the role. When I was a youngin I remember watching the old superman with Christopher Reeve and thinking "daayyuuum" he's got it goin on.
 Then I discovered "Smallville," the WB's series on Clark Kent's life before superman. A good five years of my pre-teen and teenage years were spent oogling over Tom Welling (the actor who played Clark Kent), the highlight of which was seeing him in person once at brunch. Fast forward a few years to 2006 and "Superman Returns" starring Brandon Routh comes out and all I can think is "Okay, now they've done it, they have finally found the most attractive superman.They can just stop looking now, cause it's over."
Brandon Routh as Superman
I developed a crush on this man halfway through the movie. Ummmmm......no I am NOT superficial, just an excellent judge of character (why yes, you can judge someone's character based on their acting in a movie and their physical features. It's a thing, I swear.) A subsequent googling left me oh-so-slightly dissapointed to find that he wore blue color contacts for the movie, but still super attractive nonetheless. However, don't you worry, because this time I've done my research and there are no color contacts here.......just 100% glory. So you've pretty much figured out that I believe this newest superman (Henry Cavill, since I know you're gonna do some googling of your own) is even more attractive than his predecessors, like mind-blowingly so. How is this even possible?!?
Henry Cavill.........the end
I mean, they are all literally too attractive, and now Henry Cavill comes along and makes all of his predecessors look like that kid in high school who you actually aren't quite sure what he looks like (he's always kind of just a blur, even when he's not moving; and his name is Melville, or Marcus....and all you know is that he's not the janitor because once he tried to ask you to be his lab partner and for a second you were confused about why the janitor is in your chem lab.....and then you connected the oh-so-distant dots......but he's still a blur, a blur who smells like hair and bandaids).
 Even if you can't identify with that super long parenthetical  you know what I mean.
This Henry Cavill is literally out of this world (haha, get it? Cause superman is from another world.....) I challenge mankind (mainly hollywood casting agencies, but anyone else who's up for the challenge too) to find a finer specimen of the human male......but if you do, definitely send him my way.

Okay, now that that's over I can tell you what I thought of the movie....
In a word: RIDICULOUS. Ridiculously, mind-blowingly, awesome that is. I like to think that I am quite a harsh critic of movies (my best friend and I have taken it upon ourselves to be very selective about movies, and we are critical of most films, even the ones that we like) and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is one of the best movies that I have seen in the last few years. The acting is superb, the casting is great (although I am somewhat ambivalent about Lois Lane as a red-head), and the depth of the plot is a revelation. Yes, there were the cliche "damsel in distress" moments and the cliche "superman questions his choices and has trust issues moments," but they are essential to the story and done quite well. The film strikes a great balance between explaining and tying in Superman's past and his planet's story with his growth into the [super]citizen of earth, Clark Kent, that we have grown to know and love. Although the overall story and the characters are nothing new, the director, writers, cast, and crew have managed to breath new and exciting life into this classic.
Another one for good measure.....
Lets address the action and special effects. Obviously this movie makes heavy use of special effects, but it is done very well. Everything was so realistic and the costumes were quite awesome. They gave the superman costume a mini-makeover (a little sleeker, a little less cartoon-ish) and I have to say it worked out for the best. Yes, there are fight scenes, but they really don't feel drawn out or overdone (or worse, over-acted) and the special effects just enhance what's going on plot-wise rather than overshadowing it (AHEM "Avatar" I'm looking at you....).
I don't want to write about any details because spoilers are actually the worst thing on this planet (other than vengeful villains who will stop at nothing to bring down superman), but suffice it to say that this film really is a must see. If nothing else convinces you, consider the fact that I have seen at least 30 new movies since the time I started this blog and this is the first one I liked enough to actually write about. Just be thankful I had the will power to focus on anything other than superman's ridiculously good looks for long enough to realize that this movie was actually awesome.

Monday, June 17, 2013

When you're at a Crossroads in life.......

I was recently at a Crossroads in life, and I know I'm not alone. Many people on different occasions find themselves at a Crossroads in life, where difficult decisions must be made and sometimes the advice of others cannot be relied upon. .......And sometimes, you may literally find yourselves at Crossroads (Kitchen), a new vegan restaurant in West Hollywood, where the menu offers such great options that it proves nearly impossible to make a decision about exactly what to order. Furthermore, it is best not to rely on your server's recommendations when deciding between two dishes, because they may well have different taste preferences than you. Ha....haha, see what I did there......? With the word crossroads.....? Yeah, I know, I'm really mature. Anyways, such was the case a couple of weeks ago. I was celebrating the birthday of one of my dearest friends and he chose Crossroads Kitchen as the place to celebrate! Neither of us had been there before but we both had been eyeing it for awhile, so this was the perfect occasion.
The Background: Crossroads Kitchen is a slightly upscale (but not remotely snobby) Mediterranean Vegan Restaurant with a great atmosphere and fantastic location. It was started by famous vegan Chef Tal Ronnen, who amongst many other things has served as Oprah Winfrey's private chef, has catered the wedding of Ellen DeGeneres & Portia De Rossi, and even catered the first Vegan Dinner at the U.S. Senate. He has also worked at many of the top vegan restaurants in the country and has published a cookbook that was on the Epicurious: Best Cookbooks of 2009 list.
Also found this on their website,
it's even better in person and when it's filled with people!
The Ambiance/Decor: The space was formerly occupied by Philippe Chow, and before that it was an italian restaurant called Dolce. The decor is wonderful, it's a perfect harmony of luxe meets modern meets rustic hipster. The lighting is perfect, some may consider it on the more dimly lit side, but it sets a great mood in the restaurant. It's full of people and has a warm, welcoming buzz; just enough to where you can tell it's an exciting, social atmosphere but not so much that you can't hear yourself think. The set-up of the tables somehow manages to make you feel as though you have all the privacy in the world despite the fact that the tabels are just as close as they would be at any other restaurant; maybe its the simple little lamps on each table, or maybe it's the plush seating, but from the moment you sit down you feel comfortable and at ease.
The Service: The service was pretty good. We were greeted by a welcoming, smiling hostess who didn't even mention that we were 15 minutes late for our reservation as she led us to our seats. The waitress came out very soon after to bring us water and introduce herself. She gave us some time to look over the menu, and came back to tell us the specials and get our orders. The only small complaint I have is that I ordered a salad with the dressing on the side, and I asked her if that was okay, and she said "definitely" but the salad came out already dressed. I didn't want to make a big deal out of it since it really isn't a big deal, so I didn't point it out to her, but that was oh-so-slightly disappointing Other than that small blip, she was perfectly attentive without being annoying; I honestly can't remember if she came by to see how our food was, but suffice it to say that the thought never crossed my mind "Hey, I've got something I would like to order or ask for, but haven't seen our waitress," she always came by at the perfect time.
Found this cool picture of their cocktails online......yum!
Cost: For such a great location, and a somewhat upscale restaurant, the prices are astonishingly affordable. For the two of us we ordered a total of 3 small plates, 2 entrees, and a "cheese" platter (which came with artisanal toasts, jam, and raisins), and it came out to $60 before tax & tip. If memory serves me correctly, all of the salads, soups, and small plates (both hot and cold) range somwhere from $5-$14 with most of them falling at $6 or $8. The larger entrees are between $12-$14, and the specials are priced similarly. Cocktails are $15 each, and the wines and bears are reasonably priced as well. Crossroads proves you don't need to empty your bank account in order to have a wonderful dining experience in an awesome setting and location.
Lentil Flatbreads with 3 Spreads
The Food: 
- Lentil Flatbread with 3 seasonal spreads: This is basically freshly made (still warm) lentil flatbreads/pitas that come with hummus, leek pate, and tomato braised banana peppers. The bread was warm and fluffy, and it smelled amazing. My friend ordered this so I only tried a bit of the tomato-banana pepper dip and it was awesome!
Pickled Veg
- Housemade Pickled Vegetables: These were so good! It sounds simply, but the vegetables are pickled so well, and they're not your typical pickles. There were whole white carrots, a couple of different types of radishes, cucumbers, and onions. They were pickled just enough so that the flavor of the individual vegetables still shines through, but the pickling itself has definitely done it's job.
Spring Chopped Salad
- Spring Chopped Salad: This salad had pea tendrils, celery leaf, parsley leaf, english peas, watermelon radish, and a whole grain mustard vinaigrette. Anyone who knows me knows I love salads and this one was awesome. I know you're thinking "Come on Mina......it was just an average starter salad, how good could it have been?" Well let me tell you, really good! I hate to be a drama queen but this salad was so good that it actually eclipsed my entree, which was pretty darn good (more on that later). The salad, although simple, blew my mind on a small level. I have actually never had fresh english peas prepared in this way, and they were surprisingly hearty and had a great bite to them. The watermelon radish was also another awesome part of the salad, they added a great kick as well as an excellent contrasting flavor. The celery and parsley leaf balanced it out, and the dressing itself was excellent, very light and it brought out the flavors of the components of the salad.
Scaloppini
- Scaloppini with Marsala Glazed Morel Mushrooms: This is the entree my friend ordered. I didn't try any because I was to busy being obsessed with my entree, but it looked and smelled awesome. He absolutely loved it and finished every last bite. He is an omnivore, but he couldn't stop talking about how great the scaloppini was, and he even wanted to try to re-create it at home........which actually isn't that crazy considering he's an amazing, classically trained chef who attended the CIA. Wait what?! A legit chef ate at a vegan restaurant and liked it? Yep.....that happened. The only complaint about the dish is that for a $14 dish, it was on the small side. Normally scaloppini is served with some sauteed spinach, roasted potatoes, or at least some steamed veggies...but this one came with nothing. However, the serving size is only a minor setback, because I honestly would love to order this when I return to Crossroads. Not only did it smell and look delicious, but I cannot for the life of my figure out how to get all the sand out of morel mushrooms when I'm cooking them at home. Somehow restaurant chefs always know how to do it, so it'd be nice to eat some morels without feeling like I just took a bite out of the beach.
Cassoulet
- Cassoulet: This dish is what I ordered as my entree. It has du puy lentils, wild mushrooms, english peas, carrots, leeks, and grilled spring onions, but this description does not do the dish justice. It really was SO delicious It was hearty and comforting without being too heavy. The english peas and carrots were cooked perfectly (not too soft, not too hard) and the grilled onions and leeks were also an amazing addition. The brightness of the grilled onions & leeks pairs perfectly with the unctuous, hearty, and dare I say meaty lentils and mushrooms. I almost ordered this dish a second time.....but I didn't because we still had more food coming.
- Kite Hill Cheese Plate: This is basically a classic cheese plate that you might order at any fancy french restaurant, except that everything is vegan. However, throw out your notions of weird, fake tasting soy cheese or oddly textured tapioca shreds.....this is actual cheese. Kite Hill is the brand of cheese that Tal Ronnen himself has started making, and it is even being sold in the fancy cheese section of some Whole Foods with the other artisanal cheese. What sets this cheese apart from the other vegan cheeses is that he actually makes it like a cheese.
Kite Hill Cheese Plate
Cheese is made when you process dairy (often by merely precipitating out the curd using an enzyme or acid), add some sort of bacteria/funghi culture (which vary depending on what type of cheese you're making), and age it. Tal Ronnen does the exact same thing but instead of using dairy, he uses almonds. I'm pretty sure what they do is blanch and puree the almonds, and then proceed as you would with any dairy product, but I can't be entirely sure. Anyways, sorry for that ridiculous food science tangent, but the end result is fantastic! Three unique cheese, served with delicious raspberry jam (I usually hate raspberries........what?), raisin-walnut crostini, roasted almonds, and raisins still on the vine! This cheese platter was so good and so unique! We paired every cheese with all of the accompaniments in every possible way, and everything was awesome......even the cheese by itself was awesome. I'm not going to lie, two of the cheese tasted almost exactly the same, but they both tasted good, so it wasn't really a problem. I would definitely order this plate again!
Overall Review: A fantastic restaurant, and dare I say......hotspot? The food is cooked and presented with care, and it tastes even better than it looks if that's possible. There is something for everyone on this menu, from the Meaty Lasagna to the Kale-Spinach Spanakopita to the Crab Cakes, and everything in between. All of the gluten free items are labeled and they are plentiful. I myself am a vegan and I came here with an Omnivore (and amazing, classically trained chef) and we both loved it; we both definitely want to go back soon! Even if you don't care about the food and just want to go somewhere with a great atmosphere, this is the spot; not only will you love the atmosphere but once you taste the food you'll forget it's vegan and the only thing you'll remember is that it's beautiful, comforting, and delicious.