Monthly Archives: July 2014

SunCafe Organic

Last Saturday afternoon, I headed to Los Angeles to visit some friends. I had signed up for the Art Of Chocolate class on Sunday at Matthew Kenney Santa Monica Culinary and I wanted to stay close to the area. Lucky me, it was also dineLA restaurant week.

Dine LA

What is dineLA? It’s a 14-day dining event that takes place bi-annually in the summer and winter. During dineLA, hundreds of fine dining restaurants in Los Angeles participate in this showcase of culture and diversity as they offer prix fixe meals for a fraction of their normal price.   This year dineLA takes place from July 14th to 27th. 

After a quick look at the impressive list of participating restaurants we decided to check SunCafe Organic Cuisine, a new restaurant in Studio City. All we knew about this restaurant is that they offer organic vegan and raw options. We had no idea it was awarded Top 10 Restaurant in L.A & Orange County.

From their website,  “SunCafe is a celebration of food prepared in their natural state. Our chefs start from scratch with the freshest organic ingredients to create rustic World Cuisine for the liveliest, most flavorful food you may ever taste. All of our dishes and desserts are gluten free, or they have that option”

We made a reservation for 8:30 pm but arrived fifteen minutes early. This was good since parking was a little tight and the restaurant was packed. We ended up  parking on the street, in an adjacent semi residential neighborhood. As we walked to SunCafe, we saw their big bright orange-yellow neon sign. In the background a billboard stating: SATISFACTION. “Will see!”, I told myself.

suncafe The space is gorgeous, open and welcoming. The food looks amazingly healthy and the atmosphere is fantastic. I really think they need to update their website because their pictures don’t do it justice ( except for the one I am posting below)

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Photo Credit: SunCafe

Their dineLA fixed menu was very attractive too. For appetizer, a choice of: Lettuce Leaf Tacos, Sun Nachos or Mezze Plate. For entree, a choice of:  Mac & Cheese, Zucchini Lasagna or Mushroom Spinach Quinoa Risotto. For dessert, a choice of: SunCafe Shake, Cast Iron Cookie or Key Lime Pie (raw). Al for $25 per person. What a bargain!

However, since we were six people, we decided to order from the regular menu and share. For appetizers, we ordered the (Raw) Sun Bruschetta with  fresh tomato, basic, garlic, cashew ricotta on raw sunflower & buckwheat “bread”, balsamic reduction. Simply delicious!

Bruschetta

We also placed an ordered for (Raw) Sun Nachos with chorizo, nacho cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo, jalapeño, green onion and cashew sour cream with both raw thin-sliced jicama “chips” and baked blue corn chips.  This is the best raw nachos I have ever tried! 

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For the main course, I ordered the Sun Pad Thai with golden beet noodles, sunflower sports, basil, cilantro, tossed with a zesty tahini sauce, topped with crushed pistachios. 

sun pad thai My friends ordered the Roasted Vegetable Curry, the Kale Colossus and a Pesto Pizza.

The winning dish of the night, however, was  the Mushroom & Spinach Quinoa Risotto. It was made with crimini mushrooms, shallot, garlic baby spinach and cashew milk. I’ve never tasted anything like it! Not even at Candle 79, my favorite vegan restaurant in New York City. This risotto is to live for. So rich and decadent, I spend the next 24 hours thinking about it. 

No wonder this was voted Top 10 Restaurant in L.A! As for the billboard, it was right: SATISFACTION guaranteed! 🙂

Matthew Kenney Culinary School in Santa Monica

I have been a big fan of Matthew Kenny for many years. He is a chef, an entrepreneur, an author of over a dozen delicious-looking raw vegan cooking books and above all a true artist.

Matthew Kenney BooksFor many months, I’ve been trying to figure out how to make it to the Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy  in Santa Monica.  In the perfect world, I’d have signed up for Level 1 ( Fundamentals of Raw Cuisine) , Level 2 ( Advance Raw Cuisine) and Level 3 ( Professional Raw applications). But I would have had to take a leave from work and move temporarily to Santa Monica since this requires 4 weeks or 120 hours for each level. I have the feeling my family would object to that too! Although lately they seem to enjoy eating my class assignments  (I am currently working towards my professional plant-based certification at Rouxbe Cooking School, a program lead by Chef Chad Sarno).

I have no doubt I will make it to Matthew Kenney Culinary full-time some day. In the meantime, I am “getting a taste”  of his weekend intensive courses including a Knife Skills and (Raw Vegan) Sushi Workshop on June 29th and The Art of Chocolate on July 20th. After all, like Lao Tzu said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”

Matthew Kenney Santa Monica

I want to be part of this picture. Photo Credit: Matthew Kenney Santa Monica

I signed up for these classes a couple of months ago and ever since I’ve been patiently waiting for the day to come. When last Sunday arrived,  I woke up with the biggest smile on my face, like a kid on Christmas morning. “Why have I waited this long to sign up for class?. 

I arrived at the Matthew Kenney Culinary Santa Monica around 10:55 am or five minutes before class started. I must say that this place is a little hard to find at first. It’s located inside The Market at Santa Monica Place and it’s adjacent to Matthew Kenney’s M.A.K.E restaurant.

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M.A.K.E restaurant and entrance (to the right) to Matthew Kenney Culinary.

The Matthew Kenney Culinary has a state-of-the-art kitchen with beautiful granite countertops and glass walls, allowing the curious shoppers at The Market to take a nice peek at the on-going class.

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Upon arrival, we were directed to our stations where we were given our high quality whites, black aprons and the program for the day. I was feeling like a professional chef already. I was also happy to learn that we were a small group, allowing for more 1:1 time.

Our instructor, Chef Sean Murray, proceeded with brief introductions and a quick overview of kitchen safety and the basics  ( how to hold a knife,  the “claw” grip, etc …).

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We spent the first couple of hours going over the different cuts and performing fine julienne ( 1/16 inch x 1/16 inch x 2-2 1/2 inches ) on carrots, red peppers and cucumbers. My previously acquired knife skills came in handy. However, I soon realized that I have a long ways to go before becoming a “lean mean cutting machine”.  For this class, we practiced cuts with a ceramic Pure Komanchi knife which it’s not as sharp as my chef  Global knife back at home. We discarded a lot of produce since we were keeping only  the best fine julienne cuts for our sushi. 

We learned how to make pickled ginger combining rice vinegar with agave, water, beet juice and salt.  We prepared smoked shiitakes with tamari and sesame oil.  We learned how to incorporate smokey flavor into the mushroom by using a smoke gun which intensified the mushrooms’ rich umami flavor. 

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After all ingredients were cut,  our instructor taught us how to roll sushi properly and plate it nicely with the previously marinated pickled ginger. Presentation is everything, after all! IMG_2955

The class split up for lunch for about 30 minutes or so. And what it took 2 hours to prepare, took 5 minutes to devour! 

My first attempt at making sushi

My first attempt at making sushi

I sat in the M.A.K.E restaurant with my new friend and classmate, Clare L. We enjoyed our colorful dishes and a little bit of chef treatment. As we were still wearing our chef whites, a couple of people stopped by our table  to ask us for our restaurant business hours.  This made me giggle inside. We could have told them that we didn’t work there but we assumed our “chef on a lunch break” role and directed them to “our” waitress for further info. At the studio where I practice yoga, I often get confused for one of the instructors.  I kind of like it!

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After lunch, we went back to class and spent the rest of the course learning how to make different rolls, including a jicama “rice” one, and Dragon roll ( with the avocado outside) and a Temaki sushi, also known as Cone Sushi or Hand Roll sushi.

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Chef Sean showing us how to prepare a Dragon Roll

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Our cooking instructor, Chef Sean Murray, was excellent. He was able to answer many of our questions but what I truly enjoyed was his focus on technique and presentation. Every single aspect matters when preparing sushi.

Temaki Sushi

Before we knew it, it was already 4 pm and class was over! I was feeling accomplished, happy, a little tired and  hungry. I grabbed a really quick bite and headed back to San Diego ( again) with a big smile on my face. I had just completed my Knife Skills and Sushi Workshop at none other than the Matthew Kenney Culinary Santa Monica! Oh, I really want to sign up for level 1,2 and 3!

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Many thanks to Matthew Kenney and his staff, Chef Sean Murray, for this amazing weekend intensive course! It’s all I ever wished for! Well, meeting Matthew Kenney will be next! 

I am looking forward to my next class in a couple of weeks:  The Art of Chocolate. Yes, (raw vegan) C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E! Now we are talking!

Arts + Artisans – Painting on plates and canvasses

Last Thursday, I was invited to my first Yelp Elite Event. Thanks to my friend, artist and devoted “yelper” Carmen Vega. The Art + Artisan event took place in the Distinction Gallery in Escondido. It was hosted by the ArtHatch Teen Program.  What is ArtHatch? It’s a local non-profit organization that provides a forum for at risk youth to become familiar with and appreciate other cultures.

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My friend Carmen Vega

This is the information that Yelp sent out prior to the engagement:

“This will be an Alice & Wonderland-like explanatory event: There will be something amazing behind every door in the gallery venue! Artist, local libations and more, you’ll be surprised at every turn. Artist in residence will be in house creating pieces before your very eyes”

Distinction Gallery

Distinction Gallery

The list of participating businesses included: Dolce Italia, Johnny Appleseed Cider, Vintana Wine + Dine and many more. They all offered samples to the “yelpers” visitors.  Vegan options? Not too many! But I had the most delicious 100% plant-based salad prepared by Chef Lance Roll also known as The Flavor Chef.  His salad included rainbow chards, strawberries and peaches drizzled with a delicate balsamic vinaigrette. He probably added a little bit of his business motto to the salad too: “Love is the ultimate spice”.

The Flavor Chef

The Flavor Chef

The featured artists included: Bryan Steward, Cathrine Edlinger-Kunze, Elena Karavodin, Jamie Kanes, Jennifer Anichowski, and many more.  I had the chance to talk to most of them about their inspirations and techniques.

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I am scared

Gallery Main Floor

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The evening went by really fast and Yelp’s promise of a “night of artistic adventure and delicious local businesses” was nicely delivered. I headed back home completely inspired and full of ideas.

As you know, I love spending quality time in my kitchen, developing new healthy recipes and experimenting with seasonal produce, color and textures. I enjoy the creative process as much as a painter does. At the end of the day, it’s all the same: My plate is my canvas. I truly believe there is art everywhere!

Over the next few months, I am going to be learning how to add color to my dishes by drying vegetables ( maybe some beets, cabbage, carrots) and grinding them into powders.  This is one of my most-anticipated lessons at Rouxbe Cooking School.

powders

Photo Credit: Rouxbe Cooking School

While I am looking forward to using these beautiful colors in my dishes, I am equally excited about applying these powders to real canvasses. A couple of artist at the gallery gave me some nice suggestions including mixing the powders with walnut oil and linseed oil. I am hoping to create highly concentrated pigmented powders that will stick nicely to the canvas. We’ll see how this all plays out. I haven’t painted in decades but I already know what I am going to call this one. It has something to do with Mise En Place!

This will probably be my fall season project. Stay tuned!