Recently, as some of you may know, I’ve been staying at an ashram in southern India. Kerala to be exact. And while I had my Julia Roberts fantasy of eating, praying and loving going into the experience- I didn’t quite come out of it with enlightenment (or a crazy Texan friend that was way too up in my business).
Despite these setbacks, I did come out of it with some awesome traditional Keralan recipes and increased flexibility (four hours of yoga a day does have some benefits, and being able to bend in weird positions is one of them).
The rules of the ashram were pretty intense (read: get your ass out of bed at 5:30am every morning) and the diet certainly matched this strict and regimented atmosphere. I’m talking no alcohol (fine), no drugs (that’s legit), only vegetarian food (no harm there), and no garlic or onions (wait *record stops* WTF?!).
Yup, no garlic. No onions. What else is there to eat you may ask? I don’t know. But I was not happy about it. According to some yogic principles of belief, onions and garlic fire up your system too much, whereas a yogi lifestyle should be more calm and relaxed. I think I would have been more relaxed had I not had to praise elephant and monkey gods every evening, but whatevs. I rolled with it.
What I found really interesting was the incorporation of coconuts into literally everything. Coconut chutney, coconut curry, coconut oil (amazing for your hair by the way), coconut juice, coconut gumbo (just kidding), and of course- coconuts! As a (coco)nut myself, I was loving it.
Me being very happy about this coconut
Keralan food is certainly delicious and the coconut is just one example of its unique flavor. Another traditional dish is the dosa, which is kind of like a crepe that you eat with other curries and vegetables. Idlis are spongy rice cake/dumpling things, and they’re also pretty good. We often had pineapple curry, red rice, and cabbage salad- though I’m not sure if that’s cheap ashram food or staples in Kerala- anyone any ideas?
Keralan Thali, served on banana leaf
All in all it was a nice experience. Different, but nice. I entered the ashram very tense, very hard and very angry from dealing with all that India is, and I left surprisingly refreshed, with a new attitude and reinvigorated for the last leg of my trip. Yes I could have woken up more for morning meditation, or learned the Sanskrit prayers, but I did what I could. And so I give myself an A for effort.
And a B for Biryani.
Remember that time I spent New Years Eve rocking out in the middle of nowhere Connecticut at a Jewish food conference? Oh yeah., that happened. Since 2010, I’ve been attending the annual Hazon Food Conference, and this year was no different than the rest- simply incredible. One of the many sessions I was able to attend was about making beer at home. And while I’m still working up the courage to make my home-brew dreams a reality, for now I thought I would share this interview with Baruch Rock, who taught a session on home-brewing during the conference.
When I was sixteen, I was a member of 6 person team who spent five weeks with the student conservation association in Clearwater National Forest, Idaho. At the end of our stay, as we were preparing to leave the wilderness, I recall our team leader talking to a ranger about some home-brews that he had left for the ranger in the fridge at the station. Curious, I inquired as to what that meant, and that’s how I learned about the freedom to create tasty beverages in one’s home was a possibility. Alcohol had nothing to do with it, the freedom of my wilderness experience was palpable and this seemed like another way to express the identity I was forging for myself at that time in my life.
For me, taste is more than just what the sensory areas of my tongue and the interpretive centers in my brain tell. Taste derives from the wholeness of any beer, where were the ingredients sourced? Are they local? Are they organic? For me, taste is also about associations, memories, experiences, surrounding the beer experience. I say this humbly, but the best beer I ever tasted was an all-organic porter that a friend and I brewed up in his kitchen in Alfred, New York when I was a Sophomore in college. It was delicious, refreshing, everything I knew home-brewing could be.
As Charlie Pappazan teaches in his home-brewing guide: “Relax, don’t worry- have a home-brew.” This advice is essential, have fun while you are brewing and brew with friends. I would also say, be clean, be clean, be clean- make sure your brewing materials are properly sanitized, it is time consuming, but worth it!
My house on Shabbat!!! Blue Mountain Brewery in Virginia, Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, California and Brooklyn Brewery in New York. ~Thank you Baruch for sharing your wisdom with us and letting us get a glimpse into the life of a home-brewer. Baruch’s message regarding taste is so beautiful, and a great reminder to all of us when indulging in the small pleasures of life! Enjoy, y’all!
As mentioned earlier this week, I had a ridiculously wonderful time exploring the ancient city of Tzfat and northern Israel. Below is a picture diary, and a glimpse into my week in the mystical Tzfat. Enjoy!
Part of a treasure hunt activity- I got pretty into it
3 Cheese Lachooch- A Yemenite “Crepe”
Tzfat Cheese- the Kadosh family has been making this cheese in Tzfat for SEVEN generations: that’s a lot of cheese!
Street Art all over the city
The Lachooch Man at Work
The Old City of Tzfat is all cobblestones- reminded me of Jerusalem, actually!
The organization I volunteered with (Livnot) rebuilds much of the city of Tzfat. Buildings with this emblem on them say that Livnot volunteers helped to restore it.
The best Sabich in Tzfat- no question. These guys will hook it up.
Cheese tasting at a goat farm in Rosh Pina- a small village in the north, close to Tzfat
This is actually in Neve Tzedek- Tel Aviv- but it needed to be included
Given the sad state of affairs today (read: the government not getting its act together and shutting down (?!?)) I wanted to share some love from my camping trip this past weekend at Zion National Park. Considering national park employees are not going into work today, I’d say I had pretty good timing.
I’m not going to get into the ridiculousness of this situation right now, but rather share some of the beauty that I found in Utah. Zion, the Hebrew word for redemption, is exactly that. In Jewish mysticism, Zion is interpreted as the spiritual point at which reality emerges.
And since I’m reading this book and just watched this movie– I’d say the gigantic sandstone cliffs parted by rough waters forming the largest slot canyon in the world were certainly a good dose of reality in the most natural form.
I was lucky enough to go to Zion with three wonderful women from my fellowship, one of whom used to work at the park and was able to give us the local insider information- like where to find a secluded swimming hole in the dry heat of Utah.
The weekend at Zion was simply incredible. And as I hiked around, first to Angel’s Landing- a steep 1400 ft. cliff that juts into the middle of the canyon and as the park described “unsuitable for those fearful of heights“, and then through the Narrows, I felt a sense of serenity that was missing for a long time. Its just incredible how being in the vastness of nature can make you feel so small.
When thinking about what to eat on this glorious trip, I admit, I had little input. One thing I did know was that of a recent package I received from Peanut Butter & Co, I would have to bring along a jar of peanut bar. I decided on Mighty Maple, and so glad I did.
We ended up finishing the entire jar in the first day by adding it to our morning oatmeal, making copious amounts of PB&J sandwiches, and just straight up eating it out of the jar. I met one of PB+Co’s reps at the Blog Her Food Conference this past summer and was so happy when they reached out to me about trying some of their vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO peanut butter.
While PB was HUGE when I was living in Nepal, I haven’t really eaten much of it in the past year. Let’s face it, Israeli’s love Bamba, but they don’t love Peanut Butter. It’s one of those paradoxes that we may never solve.
In any case, the peanut butter was a huge success and definitely a new staple for any camping trips. If you find yourself going on a trip, I would definitely suggest bringing along a jar of one these really delicious jars of peanut butter. Then again, that trip may have to wait awhile…
Today’s guest post I’ll admit is long overdue- Virginia emailed me this summer about sharing the best spots in LA, and I’m so happy to finally share this post. While I’m not living in LA anymore, these Mexican spots might be worth the drive! To be fair, I should probably write the best Mexican spots in San Diego too! Take it away Virginia.
When you are craving spicy salsa and flavor-packed food, but can’t afford to head south of the border, just turn your car in the direction of L.A. The options for tantalizing Mexican food are endless, with a delicious menu to tempt you seemingly on every corner.
No matter what you are looking for, with the amount of restaurants sporting authentic Mexican cuisine in the greater L.A. area, you will, in no way, be disappointed. These restaurants are some of the best-of-the-best, satisfying customers– one enchilada at a time. Take a look, but don’t think too hard—no matter which one you choose, the food will definitely hit the spot:
Located in Koreatown on Olympic Boulevard, this restaurant might seem like it has itself confused, but trust us—the food is anything but confusing. They are known for their delicious tortillas and one-of-a-kind asiento spread. To keep things happening and hip, live music tends to play nightly; however, Thursday nights are reserved for classic Mexican films– the entertainment abounds.
The food here is off the charts, and the chefs who work behind the scenes are no different. Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu are famous for their loaded enchiladas, are unlike anything you have had before.
The food here starts at breakfast and doesn’t stop until customers are satisfied after clearing away the dinner plates. At Loteria Grill, boring is not an option. Fortunately, the restaurant has more than one location: Studio City, Santa Monica, Hollywood, and Westlake Village, so there is no excuse to avoid this place if you are looking for truly authentic Mexican dishes.
From the outside, Babita may look unassuming, but after your first bite, you’ll think twice! The chef and owner, Robert Berrelleza, has truly perfected his food and his love for cooking spills over into his restaurant.
The backdrop to this restaurant is the San Gabriel Mountains. The soups will make you ask for more, but the true crowning glory? Why, the fish tacos, of course! For authentic fish tacos that make you think of white beaches along the Mexican Riviera, look no further. The fish is fresh and the cabbage slaw is a perfect balance of tang. Order up!
Customers from all around come here for, what else, the huaraches! When you perfect something this good, it’s only natural to name your restaurant after it.
Sometimes all you want is some nice, flavorful seafood. Well, look no further! Chef Sergio Penuelas delights in serving up plate-after-plate of amazing bites from the sea.
The carne asada here is so delicious that your mouth will water after every bite– not to mention the tamales, which will find you with an instant craving the first time you try one. At Yuca’s, customers feel like family. It’s no wonder people keep coming back for more.
No matter what you order at La Taquiza, the food is sure to please. Everything is created to taste authentic, full of flavor and spices, and the chefs definitely know what they’re doing.
Found in the San Fernando Boulevard, on Laurel Canyon Drive, you’ll soon learn that the meal of choice here is the goat stew. Some customers, first-timers of course, are usually squeamish about the idea, but almost everyone is soon smitten by this unique combination of flavors.
From the heart of L.A. to the San Gabriel Mountains, your quest for authentic Mexican food should start and end here. Get out there—and don’t stop till you’ve tried everything on the menu!
Virginia Cunningham is a writer for Northwest, a mother and yoga enthusiast in Los Angeles. After living in L.A. for quite some time, she’s tasted most of what the great city has to offer, especially when it comes to Mexican food.
There you have it! Has anyone tried any of these Mexican restaurants? Is there somewhere we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments!
It’s good to be back on the blog today! In a week I’ll be moving across the country from sunny San Diego to the front of Boston. I’m really excited to make the move, but I’ll admit it’s definitely bittersweet. I’ve had a beautiful community of genuine, interesting and motivated people for the past 15 months. Weekly potlucks, a shared community garden, interesting events and lectures, and the freedom to create meaningful work and projects. I’ll definitely miss it.
As I say goodbye to California (for now) I decided the proper way to celebrate would be a road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway. Here are some of the photos from our stops along the way- enjoy!
Thank you to everyone who entered the To Go Ware giveaway! I’ll be posting another special giveaway with one of my favorite Bay Area artists in the next week so stay tuned! Thank you, Emily, for sharing your farro and brussels sprouts salad while I was away, and happy 2019 everyone!!
A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to go check out Thirst Juice Co. a juice shop located right in Downtown Crossing in Boston. You all know how much I love green juices, and since moving from San Diego to Boston, I was starting to lose hope on what the green living scene here was.
I must say, the transition between California and Massachusetts has been tough. I moved in the dead of winter, and pretty much hibernated for three months. I didn’t venture out, I stayed indoors, ate terribly, didn’t move my body and treated myself so poorly. I remember when I lived in Philly I would get SAD, but never to this extent. The shock of the move really affected my body and as soon as the large piles of snow melted, the rain had dissipated and the sun decided to peak through – I was out.
I moved to a lovely neighborhood in Boston called Jamaica Plain, where I’m minutes walk to a yoga studio, plenty of cafes to write in, and an organic grocery store that has kombucha on tap. No joke.
I found out about Thirst Juice Co. from a friend of mine and knew I wanted to learn more about it. They have amazing juices like the BuddahBeet, Field of Greens and Kale-idoscope. Not only do they have great names, but these made to order juices are super fresh and ultra good for you.
Most juices contain several POUNDS of fruits and vegetables, so even if the rest of your day is crap, you at least know you got an abundance of greens in your system doing their magic.
What I love most about Thirst (aside from their friendly and knowledgable staff, beautiful and understated decor) is their Açaí bowls. If you have no idea what that is – I feel you. Let me explain:
Açaí (pronounced ah-sigh-EE) is a berry native to Brazil. It’s rich in antioxidants, heart-healthy fats and fiber. Açaí berries grow in clusters on tall palm trees native to the Amazon rainforest, and ancient Amazonian tribes would use these berries both medicinally and as food. Açaí berries have twice as many antioxidants as blueberries and also contain a broad range of vitamins and minerals and a naturally low sugar content.
Açaí bowls were all the rage in Encinitas (go figure) but I never actually ordered an Açaí bowl while living there. At Thirst, I ordered the Coconut Açaí bowl and let me tell you, it was DELICIOUS. Go there now, tell them I sent you, and order that thing. It’s a game changer.
Co-owners Chris and Heather started Thirst Juice Co. after careers working as corporate lawyers, feeling burnt out and wanting to try something new. While there may be a juice bar at every corner in Manhattan, Boston has been slow in keeping up with the trend, with only a handful of juice bars in the city. Heather and Chris are both multiple-time marathon runners (18 between them!) and want to spread the message on good clean eating.
I spoke to Heather about the fad of juice cleanses, mostly because I really want to try a juice cleanse myself. However, most people don’t realize that juice cleansing is more of a fast. And fasting should only be done if there is something seriously wrong with your system that you need a complete re-start. Not something you need to do once a month.
I also had the chance to take a wheatgrass shot (and chase it with an orange) which was delicious. Wheatgrass is rich in chlorophyll which is super detoxifying and rids your body of free radicals. It’s a great source of natural energy, and one ounce of wheatgrass has the some of the same micronutrients as five POUNDS of spinach. Wheatgrass is best taken in the morning on an empty stomach, but I think if you’ve never tried wheatgrass, give it a go anytime.
There you have it folks, I’ll be sharing one of Thirst’s Green Smoothie recipes later this week. If you’re in Boston, go check out Thirst Juice Co. and tell them Local Belle sent you! Have a beautiful day people!