Recharge and Relax at The Springs, Los Angeles

Mural at The Springs

After many months of planning, design and construction, The Springs holistic wellness center finally opened its doors this past weekend. A one-stop shop for your personal well-being, The Springs offers yoga classes, organic cold pressed juices, organic raw vegan food, wellness treatments, and a space to just relax - all under one roof.

The Springs, Los Angeles

The Springs is located in the Downtown LA (DTLA) Arts District and is the brainchild of Jared Stein and Kimberly Helms, who met working on Broadway musicals in New York. While this is their first business, the pair (who are both business and life partners) have applied their experience in managing large scale Broadway productions to create this ‘Urban Oasis’. Stein and Helms first noticed the space in 2012 while touring in LA for work. Two years later, their vision for a holistic wellness community center turned into a reality.

Urban Oasis Design
The 13,500 square foot space was designed to look like a desert oasis, with indoor planters and cement being the main elements of the interior design. The space has such an airy and open feeling, it is hard to tell whether you are indoors or out. Design, Bitches is the company that designed this beautiful space.
There is also a cool graffiti motif throughout center. The artist behind the beautiful murals is Angelina Christina.

Lounge Area

Yoga
The yoga studio also features a giant graffiti mural and the Yoga Director is Gloria Baraquio. There are 11 different types of yoga classes offered, some of which are Kundalini, Restorative, Flow and Hatha yoga. There are also specialty classes such as yoga classes conducted in Spanish. If you are a hardcore yogi, you may want to consider the All Springs membership, which  includes unlimited yoga, one free monthly infrared sauna session, and 10% off all wellness services, juice and food.

Yoga Studio
Yoga Studio

Yoga Lounge Area
Yoga Lounge Area

Wellness Services
The wellness services here are complete offering reiki, acupuncture, massage, infrared sauna session, gravity colon hydrotherapy, cranio-sacral and The Grinberg Method.

Organic Food and Juice
All juices are organic cold pressed. They have a state of the art cold press machine in the back and bottle their juices the night before. The Forager is highly recommended – a juice blend of apple, fennel, cucumber, basil, cilantro, parsley, dill, lemon and lime. The food menu was designed by Chef Michael Falso (formerly from M.A.K.E.), and features 100% organic raw-vegan dishes. This means that the food is never heated above 118 degrees to retain natural enzymes, and to achieve maximum nutrition. Organic wine and beers are also served.

Juice Bar
Juice Bar

Cold Pressed Juices
Cold Pressed Juices

Pop Up Shops
On your way out, stop at the pop up shop area, a space that is for community use. Currently, the space is occupied with local products and crafts from Atomic Garden.

The Springs, Los Angeles

The Springs
608 Mateo Street
Los Angeles, California, USA
Telephone: 213-223-6226

Nobumasa Takahashi Wasanbon Sugar Skulls


Still looking for unique Halloween items for your upcoming gathering? These wasanbon sugar skulls would make a great conversational piece.

Designed by Nobumasa Takahashi, the sugar skulls are made of wasanbon, a very fine and expensive Japanese sugar with a texture resembling icing sugar. Wasanbon has a buttery creamy taste and can only be made in the Winter months, when it is dry. The sugarcane used to make wasanbon is harvested in December and the sugar is processed no later than February. The production of this sugar is complex , and the entire process takes approximately 20 days and is all done by hand.

Wasanbon means “Japanese three trays”, where at one point in the 8-step process, the sugar is laid out on a tray to be polished. This is done by adding water to the sugar and then kneading it until the sugar crystals are polished into a fine granular texture. Traditionally, this 'polishing technique' was done 3 times, hence the name wasanbon (bon meaning tray and san meaning three).When the sugar is polished, it has to be dried that same day to prevent molding.

The Nobumasa Takahashi wasanbon skulls are offered in a package of 18 pieces - 9 white and 9 black. They are all natural and bamboo charcoal gives the black ones its dark color.

The skulls can be purchased at Spoon & Tamago’s online store.

 

Plan Check Opening Downtown Location and Oktoberfest Special, Los Angeles

Plan Check, Los Angeles

I’m not sure if I can claim that Plan Check has the best burger in town but they sure do make a dam* good burger!

Featured in Jonathan Gold’s 101 list this year, Plan Check has 2, soon to be 3, neighborhood locations – one on Sawtelle, Fairfax, and on Oct 20th, one on Wilshire. The new location is going to do something a little different by featuring a special Korean BBQ burger made with grilled pork belly and “kimcheese”.

Overall, the food is good ‘ol American comfort food.  But the traditional menu has a few items that are the chef’s interpretation of regional flavors such as the Smokey Fried Chicken, an ode to Southern cooking, which consists of Jidori fried chicken, smoked milk gravy, yam preserves and spicy pickled okra.

The name Plan Check was influenced by the history and activity near its first location, which was adjacent to the Building and Safety Department. Designers, Architects, and Engineers would go to the Building and Safety department to submit their plans for review for permitting and hence became the inspiration for the restaurant’s permanent name.

The PCB, aka Plan Check Burger, is a really solid burger and is the item that is closest to the restaurants original roots – a perfectly seasoned patty with Americanized Dashi cheese, a slice of ketchup leather, schmaltz onions, pickles, and a crunch bun. They have a great list of craft beers, cocktails and whiskeys to help you wash down the meat and grease.

According to LA Eater, Plan Check at the  Fairfax location will offer Oktoberfest specials through the month of October. Only 15 are served a day and for $15, you can get a pint of Licher beer with a burger and brats mash up special. Don’t delay, the early bird catches the worm.

PCB
PCB (Plan Check Burger)  - Dashi Cheese, Ketchup Leather, Schmaltz Onions, Pickles

Southern Fry
Southern Fry - Smokey Fried Jidori Chicken, Spicy Green Pimento Cheese, Duck Breast Ham, Pickles 

Pickled Veggies
Pickles

Kale Salad
Baby Kale "Caesar" Salad

1800 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, California, USA
Telephone: 310-288-6500
(Other locations on Fairfax and Wilshire)

Plan Check Kitchen + Bar on Urbanspoon

Italian East Meets West at Scopa Italian Roots, Los Angeles

Fresh Oysters

With so many great restaurants in LA, Scopa Italian Roots in Venice somehow slipped behind the scenes. Open for nine months now, the absence of a restaurant sign (and purposely done so) makes it is easy to walk or drive by without noticing it at first pass. Scopa relies on word of mouth and feels confident enough to do so.

An upscale Italian eatery, Scopa’s menu might look a bit generic at first glance. The food, however, is anything but. Their dishes carefully blend both bold and subtle tastes, creating layers and layers of flavors to discover. The team behind Scopa are no rookies. Their resume rhymes off places like Black Market in Studio City, Pour Vous in Hollywood, and Harvard & Stone. Their Chef, Antonia Lofaso,  has also made multiple appearances on Top Chef. The concept behind Scopa’s Italian food is East meets West. Chef Antonia Lofasa, having grown up in Jersey, combines her Cali influences with her Italian-American upbringing in Jersey.

To give you an idea of how much we enjoyed Scopa, a group of us all went there for brunch one morning, and then went straight back for dinner a few hours later! 

They have an extensive drink and wine list, offering pages and pages of cocktails, whiskies, aperitifs and more to choose from.

Here is my force rank of all of the dishes we had with the best dish listed first:

  1. Veal Chop Milanese - "cooks garden" sorrel, dandelion greens, cress
  2. Soft Eggs - Italian sausage, cavolo nero, peppers, onions, polenta
  3. Manila Clams & Uni - toast, parsley, garlic
  4. Scallops Oreganata - garlic, parsley
  5. Chitarra Pasta - pecorino, black pepper
  6. Roast Chicken - creamed polenta, kale, calabrian chilies, shallots
  7. Fresh Oysters
  8. Italian Hero Sandwich - copa, prosciutto, salami, salami, provolone, lettuce, olive oil, vinegar
  9. Prosciutto and Burrata - olive oil, grapes
  10. Italian Chopped Salad - salami, imported provolone, ceci beans, oregano, peperoncini, radicchio, artichoke, red onion, roasted pepper
The first five on the list are must have's! It was incredibly hard having to force rank them, but there you go. The veal chop is only available for dinner and the soft eggs are only available for brunch. Their pasta was a perfect al dente and the simple rich sauce just made it heavenly.

Hero Sandwich
Italian Hero

Veal Chop
Veal Chop Milanese

Prosciutto and Burrata
Prosciutto and Burrata

Pasta
Chitarra Pasta

Chicken
Roasted Chicken

Clams
Manila Clams
2905 Washington Blvd
Venice, California, USA
Telephone: 310-821-1100

Scopa on Urbanspoon

Taste of Yucatan at Chichén Itzá, Los Angeles

chichen itza
Repeatedly mentioned by LA Times Jonathan Gold, Chichén Itzá, located in Mercado La Paloma in Southeast LA, is a great place for good Yucatecan food that is fast and cheap.

There are 2 reason why you want to visit this place:

1. Yucatecan cuisine has Mayan, Spanish, Lebanese and South American influences, giving it a cosmopolitan flare compared to the Mexican food you may be used to.
2. Mercado La Paloma is an experience. It is more than just about food - it is a marketplace that offers Mexican crafts, cooking classes and community events.

Cochinita pibil is the restaurant's signature dish. Unique to Yucatan, cochinita pibil is a slow roasted pork dish marinated in citrus juices (normally Seville or bitter oranges) and achiote, which are the two main ingredients that give this dish its characteristic color and taste. Cochinita pibil is served in one of three ways: with rice and beans, as a soft taco, or as a sandwich (torta) with toasted French bread.

Tamale horneado is another unique dish where the tamale is baked instead of steamed, giving it a crunchy texture. The horneado tamale is stuffed with achiote chicken, hard cooked eggs and tomato. The kibi (ground beef and cracked wheat patties) is a dish with strong Lebanese influence.

There are bottles of habanero hot sauces available (which you can buy to take home) if you want to add some heat to your food. But if you don't find it spicy enough, ask them to bring you something spicier. In the back, they have a similar sauce but with alot more heat! The secret is rolling the habanero peppers between the hands (to release more flavor), and then charring them before making the hot sauce. Add this to your cochinita pibil, with a bit of fresh lime juice and salt, and you will be golden! This is how the locals eat it.

Torta
Torta de Cochinita Pibil

taco
Taco de Cochinita Pibil

baked tamale
Tamal Horneado

habanero
Habanero Hot Sauce

A few miles from Chichén Itzá is an awesome market, ported over to LA from NYC this past year, called Artists & Fleas. Open on the 3rd weekend of each month at 647 Mateo Street, Artists & Fleas is an outdoor market with carefully curated local vendors featuring art, jewellery, housewares, vintage fashion and unique reclaimed wood work. It is an intimate setting where creative minds conjoin. A dedicated food area, featuring LA-based food trucks, is also set up for the hungry mouths.

artists and fleas

3655 S. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, California USA
Telephone: 213-741-1075

Chichen Itza on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup (Pho Ga)

Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup)

My mom LOVES to buy whole chickens for me. The only problem is that she is a bit excessive with it. She will out of nowhere call me up, tell me she is dropping off a chicken for me, and then all of a sudden, 3 whole chickens will show up at my door. But, it doesn't stop there. The next day, another chicken will show up. And the next day, another chicken is dropped off. And it won't stop until you firmly tell her that enough is enough.

As much as I should be grateful for all of the gifted chickens, I kind of get to a point where I just don't have enough space to store them.

Needless to say, my freezer is always full of whole chickens, which is perfect for making broth. This Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup (pho ga) recipe is one that my mom gave me. While it seems complicated to make, it is in fact very easy. It does take some time to make, but you can pretty much go on auto-pilot once you have everything cooking in the pot.

Pho Ga

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup (Pho Ga)
- flat rice noodles, fresh or dried
Stock
- 1 whole free-range chicken (4-5 lbs), skin and excess fat removed
- water
- 1/4 tsp of salt
- 5-7 Tbsp fish sauce
- 3 star anise
- 4-5 large onions, peeled and cut in half
- 2-3 pieces of ginger, approx 2 inches long with skin peeled

Garnish (All optional)
- fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- fresh green onion, finely chopped
- white vinegar with chopped birds eye chilli
- fresh white onion, cut into thin slices
- birds eye chilli
- fresh lime, cut into small wedges
- white pepper

Charred Onion and Ginger

Garnish for Pho

Method
1. Char the onions and ginger on a bbq grill or stove top (on high heat) until all sides are charred. Approximately 1-3 minutes per side. Use tongs to rotate.

2. In a large pot (5.6L), fill 3/4 of the pot with water. Add the chicken, salt, onions, ginger and star anise, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for an hour. Add the fish sauce and let it simmer for another 1-2 hours. Technically, you are done once the chicken is cooked but the longer the better. I like to simmer my broth for a total of 3 hours. Add water as needed (the broth tends to evaporate while simmering).

Chicken Soup

3. Now you are ready to construct the soup and noodles. In a separate pot, cook the rice vermicelli noodles according to package instructions. If you are using dried rice vermicelli, it is best to soak the noodles in a large bowl of luke warm water for a few hours before cooking. This shortens the cooking time significantly.

4. Drain the noodles and place in a large soup bowl. Add hot broth over top of the noodles. Add chicken pieces and your garnishes of choice. Serve hot with a large soup spoon and chopsticks.

Flower + Coffee at blumenstudio, Ottawa

Blumenstudio

I've been MIA for a few months because I have been getting ready for my move to LA! I am changing jobs and this new adventure is moving me from Ottawa to California. While I am very excited, the last few months were full of ups and downs. Change is not easy! It was a long 5 months for me, but I finally have everything worked out and I've decided on an end of May move date...which is coming fast, yikes!!

Now knowing that I'm not going to be in Ottawa for much longer, I want to post all of the yummy places I have eaten at lately so that I don't forget how great Ottawa is. I'm consciously trying not to stock up on food at home, so CK and I have been eating out a lot more lately.

Anyone that knows me knows that I am a HUGE coffee lover. One of my favorite places in Ottawa for coffee is blumenstudio cafe on Parkdale.

Blumenstudio

What's really cool about blumenstudio is that it is a flower shop and coffee shop in one. When you enter, you are surrounded by beautiful plants, flowers and sculptures, making it a very warm and inviting atmosphere.

Kat Kosk and Nathan Turner are the owners of blumenstudio. Extremely talented, Kat was trained in Germany as a professional floral designer, spending most of her time in Dresden and Berlin. She moved to North America over 10 years ago and is now living her dream.

Coffee at Blumenstudio

Blumenstudio is a cozy little space with great coffee and sweets. I love their marzipan balls and their coffee is consistenly good.

I recently found out that blumenstudio is dog-friendly, so little Pepper (newest member of our family) was able to join us for coffee, which was a lot of fun.

Check this place out. It is definitely worth a visit or two, or more!

Pepper the Dog

Blumenstudio Cafe
465 Parkdale Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Blumenstudio on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Cucumber Garlic Yogurt Dip

Cucumber Yogurt Dip

A friend made this dip for me the other day, and I went straight home to re-create it so that I wouldn't forget the recipe. This is super easy to make, and is a refreshing dip for the hot summer weather.

This is very similar to the Persian Mast-o-Khiar dip, but with bigger cucumber chunks and added garlic.

The amount of fresh mint you put into this dip will depend on taste. This is best served with pita bread or flavored rice.

I would avoid eating this dip if you have a hot date...just sayin :)

This recipe yields 1 cup.

Cucumber Garlic Yogurt Dip
- 1 cup of plain yogurt
- 1 seedless English cucumber, peeled
- 2-3 springs of fresh mint, leaves only (approximately 15-20 leaves)
- 1 garlic, minced
- salt and pepper

Method
1. In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, garlic and mint.

2. Roughly chop the peeled cucumber into small cubes or slices. Add the cucumber to the yogurt mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and serve cold.

Worth a Trip to Carp. Alice's Village Cafe, Ottawa

Alice's Village Cafe, Ottawa

The fact that I have been here 3 times in the last 2 months says alot! I am hardly in town because of my work travel and when I am, I usually try to get out to new places because I miss out on so much being gone all the time. Well. Lately, I've just been wanting to visit Alice's Village Cafe in Carp.

Why? I love Alice's Village Cafe for 3 reasons.

1. Their coffee is AMAZE-balls!
2. Their food is DELICOUS. I leave this place, everytime, feeling really full but really good at the same time.
3. It's peaceful out in Carp. I kinda feel like I'm on a mini getaway because it's in the exact opposite direction as the city.

Alice's Village Cafe, Carp

Alice's Village Cafe, Ottawa

Alice's Village Cafe is modern yet cozy. It's a family-friendly restaurant so you will see people and kids of all ages here, which is nice. The owners and operators of Alice's, Dustin and Crystal Therrien, are also the same people that own and operate The Cheshire Cat in Carp (which has re-opened for business).

For those that love coffee, they have a coffee club where your 10th coffee is free. My favorite dish here hands down is the breakfast wrap, a warm tortilla filled with egg, cheese, avocado, bean, onions and pepper. On the side are homemade hash, fresh fruit, fresh salsa and sour cream. They will change this up little depending on their menu. The first time I had this, the bean used was black bean. The last time I had this, my wrap was filled with a sweet delicious maple baked bean mash which completely made me melt. Two completely different experiences with the same dish.

One thing they are known for is their famous "Big Nasty" cinnabon bun. If you have a sweet tooth, this is definitely recommended.

Alice's Village Cafe, Ottawa


Veggie Breakfast WrapBreakfast Wrap with Hash and Fresh Fruit


CoffeeCappuccino


Eggs BenedictEggs Benedict with Salmon, Hash and Mapble Baked Beans


Big NastyBig Nasty Cinnamon Bun


Apple Almond Muffin
Apple Almond Muffin

Alice's Village Cafe
3773 Carp Road
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Telephone:613-470-2233

Alice's Village Cafe on Urbanspoon