Tag Archives: sushi

Trying to Eat Healthy Ruined Friday Night Dinner : Why We Need a Change

carbseatornoI spent Friday night out at a movie and dinner with a dear  friend whose partner didn’t want to see Thor in a dark world or a dark theater. We Since we’d forgone the pleasures of GMO popcorn laden with insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, fumigants, trans fats, artificial flavors, artificial flavoring and preservatives, we were hungry by the end. Which is where the night took a distinctly different turn from any other “dinner out” night I’ve ever had.

“Pizza?” Tess asked as we buckled up in my car.

Now pizza is my favorite food group in the whole wide world—right after popcorn. Could I dodge both bullets in the same night? I mean it was Friday and party time. Come on!

For once in my life there wasn’t even an inner struggle. “Um. Well. Maybe not.” What’s wrong with me? Somehow a carb fest of gluten with BGH-laced cheese just didn’t seem appealing.

“You’re joking. You love pizza.”

Tell me about it. “Yeah, well, not tonight, I guess. How ‘bout sushi?”

We live in a small town and food and entertainment options aren’t far apart. I drove the short way to the Japanese restaurant where the night’s theme of Consumer Apprehension continued to play out

Ordering a beer and saki wasn’t difficult. But then came the menu. I swear, it could have been labeled, “Pick Your Poison” the way we both eyed it. Tuna? Too much mercury. Crab? Sorry, it’s imitation (red-dyed Alaskan Pollack). Unagi (eel)? Yellowtail?

“Where’s the yellow tail from?” Tess asked the waitress. Another trip back to the sushi chef and we had the answer: Japan.

We looked at one another, the deadly word Fukushima hanging unspoken in the air between us. Forget the yellowtail. Forget the eel. What about the Northwest fallback favorite, salmon? I shook my head. Since Fukushima, for the first time in the 24 years I’d lived in the Pacific Northwest I hadn’t made the annual November pilgrimage to my fishing connection at the local Nisqually Indian tribe to buy the fresh-caught silver salmon that ran upriver from the Puget Sound estuary only 15 miles away.

Just say no to Pacific salmon.

Shocked at our dilemma, we continued to plod through the menu. Chicken? Neither of us could stomach the idea of eating agri-business chicken because of the ghastly tortured existence the birds endured. Same with beef and pork. “Shall I come back?” the restless waitress inquired.

“Sure.”

“Christ. I can’t believe this,” I murmured. Eating out used to be so much fun.

“You know, I went to Safeway the other day and walked through the whole store and couldn’t find one thing to eat that wasn’t processed, filled with sugar or artificial crap,” said Tess.

“Really? What about their organic section?”

“Trucked from God know where with a carbon footprint the size of Texas?” she shook her head. “I finally drove to the co-op, bought a bunch of local organic vegetables and we made a stir-fry.”

“Maybe we should just get uki-udon noodles and some veggies?” I suggested unenthusiastically. Maybe we should go to my house and cook?

The waitress came back. For lack of any other real choice, we both ordered miso soup and east coast shrimp. By that time all I wanted was another beer—or something stronger.

But dammit, I’ve numbed myself long enough. Last night was inevitable. It’s been coming ever since Rachel Carson first started blowing the whistle in her book Silent Spring way back in 1962. And although we’ve come a long way on the environmental front, we’re far from a widespread populist movement demanding clean air, clean water and healthy food on our tables. Hell, state amendments to label GMOs have been beaten out in the two most progressive states in the US through the vast injection of Monsanto Money into ad coffers.

We’re being sold bad health with a vengeance and we’re buying it with hardly a blink.

What will it take to change? Glow-in-the-dark caviar appearing on Elitist Corporate Tables worldwide and them finally waking up? Maybe. Or maybe more of us just need an educational Friday night out now and then.

Nourish your Friendships with a Girl’s Getaway

Remove the male influence and women, regardless of age, suddenly become girlfriends again. Concise conversation becomes giddy gossip. Deeply logged secrets are liberated to surface as effervescent laughter fills the room. Yes, in this time of fast-paced overachieving, the occasional girls-only getaway seems essential to maintain our sanity.

 

So just where do the girls go to getaway? Some choose exotic locales where you lounge by the sea lifting little more than a finger as cabana boys continuously fill up your drink and offer chilled towels to quell the languid heat. I prefer another type of escape, one that allows for a balance of doing nothing poolside, having my muscles expertly prodded at the spa, and dolling up for an evening of mingling amidst the people watchers and those deserving of being watched. And the newly face-lifted Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills embodies each and every one of those needs, and then some…

 
Throngs of valet were immediately at my service the moment I pulled up. A gloved hand opened my car door and reached out to help me from my seat to my feet. As I approached the entrance to the hotel, the bell boys, with synchronized movements, pulled open the grand doors where I was greeted by yet another smiling Four Seasons face standing just beside the table-sized vase of fragrant flowers.
 
In the lobby there were dark glasses-donning celebrities and their handlers, and discreet billionaires and their hangers on, plus my dearest girlfriend who could hardly wait to begin our long overdue vaca. The hotel had just undergone a discreet facelift to the tune of $33 million, which is exactly the point of a facelift- You have no idea just how much has been “done,” but you know that it looks fabulous and feels fresh.
 
Instead of separate suites, we chose to make it a slumber party and share the recently renovated Presidential Suite West designed, no doubt, with old Hollywood glamour in mind. We were like two newly minted BFFs wide-eyed and visually overwhelmed by the gorgeous furnishings- the mirrored coffee table, cream and black lacquered cabinets, silver leaf dining table, white-tufted bed headboard, and the most statement making piece of all, the Swarovski crystal chandelier that looked like a delicate cherry tree branch hovering above the dining table. It was truly magical. But, as much as we were in awe of our environment, there would be plenty of hours to kibitz that evening, we had massage therapists awaiting our arrival to spa!
 
The Manipura Experience translating into “beautiful, shining jewel” in Sanskrit, energetically focuses on the solar plexus chakra located in the stomach. The idea is to cleanse and revitalize the “energy field,” no I’m not kidding, through a two-phase, total-body scrub and massage (including massaging the abdomen) in order to get the lymphatic system moving. It may sound like hocus pocus, but I will tell you that this “experience” sent my head to a delirious state and left my body feeling, somehow, lighter. Perfect to slip into my black slinky dress and red-heeled pumps for a night at the newly unveiled Culina, Modern Italian Restaurant.
 
Sexy isn’t enough to describe the setting of Culina, the hotel’s newest jewel sure to lure locals and travelers alike. We started in the lounge sipping house-made limoncello to commence the evening. Soon the beautiful people, the same who were being ushered around earlier in the lobby, slipped in, situating themselves along the crudo bar (essentially Italian-style sushi)- apparently the place to be. We followed suit and were decidedly and officially in heaven once dished the Aragosta (lobster, grapefruit, pink peppercorns, chive oil), Dentice (red snapper), and Gamberetti Marinati (shrimp) before digging into a shared brick-oven pizza and finally, (my mouth is watering just thinking about it) olive oil gelato made with Umbrian EVOO. Once suitably stuffed we did our best to not look like it as me made our back to our suite, plopped ourselves onto our massive bed and, as if we were 15 again, filled the room with laughter before falling asleep. We had another big day of pampering tomorrow and needed our beauty rest.
 
Four Seasons’ Alter Eco
Fallen Magnolia
The wine tasting communal tables and Chef’s table (which seats 10) at Culina, Modern Italian, were hand crafted from a 200 year-old Magnolia tree that fell in Sacramento.
 
Rose Extracted
The Spa has the exclusive rights in North America to use the organic ila skincare products. Taking pride in going “beyond organic,” the artisan line is 100% synthetic and chemical-free, sourcing the finest ingredients directly from local producers who farm and harvest in harmony with nature. One key ingredient that exemplifies the line’s essence is Damascena Rose. Known for its heart nourishing and nurturing properties, ila’s rose is sourced (similar to wine) from a single spot in the Himalayan foothills. It takes 30 roses to produce a single drop of extracted rose oil. The ingredients are then hand-blended in the English countryside in order to preserve its holistic energy.
 
Salt and Succulents
The 4th floor infinity-edged pool is saline (instead of chlorine) with a cushioned floor! The surrounding gardens are a passion of The Cohen Family who owns the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. Mr. Robert Cohen was originally in the flower business and is still very involved with the landscaping of the succulents and flowers. 

Save the Planet or Eat Toro?

Earlier this year, I decided to eliminate seafood from my diet. I had already stopped eating meat from farm animals for the last two years, and giving up fish seemed to be the next logical progression.

My parents were perplexed when I told them.

"Fish aren’t really animals," my mother scoffed to me. "They actually want to be eaten by people."

This, of course, is coming from someone who grew up in a country where whale hunting is still going on in spite of international pressure to stop this traditional practice. When I was working abroad in Japan, I saw the whale sashimi and whale jerky being sold at the local supermarket, along with whale meat bento boxes proudly displayed at a big train station stop along the southern tip of the Chiba prefecture.

If Shamu and Moby Dick aren’t lovable enough to be saved from human consumption in Japan, imagine what that spells for the rest of the underwater animalia kingdom.

I consciously delayed my no-seafood policy until after I moved back from Japan. I decided that while eliminating meat from your diet may be a tolerable quirk in this country, the complete exclusion of seafood from your diet feels like giving a middle finger to the very pillar of Japanese society.

I know this because I grew up with this. I can’t think of another nationality that eats their fish with such religious fervor as the Japanese do. Before our fish is consumed with our taste buds, we supposedly take them in with our eyes – as works of art that complete the delicate symphony of taste, color and composition.

Our fish is more than our lifeblood. Our fish operates on a higher plane of aesthetics.

This principle is more apparent when you enter the world of sushi. In my very brief stint as a sushi waitress in Los Angeles, our bald and cranky sushi chef yelled at us anytime we set the sushi platter before our customers the wrong way. Getting this wrong was worse than hanging a Monet painting upside down.

Never mind that most of the customers probably couldn’t care less. In accordance with tradition, the specific arrangement of the sashimi had to open before the patron like a floral arrangement, with the wasabi and ginger dabs always on the right side of the plate.

"It’s shameful when we get it wrong," the sushi chef snapped at me in Japanese when I messed it up a second, third time. There are few cultural offenses worse in Japan than the gross mishandling of sushi.

As many of you know, the popularity of sushi has exploded exponentially on a global scale. In the days before the term "globalization" was on everybody’s lips, sushi used to be a weird delicacy, the gross-out foreign food that was up there with duck embryos and monkey brains. Now sushi is everywhere, and even the landlocked folk on the other side of the world just can’t get enough of it.

Which is good for the farmer in Idaho who gets a weekly hankering for toro. Which is bad for our planet at large.

Our bluefin tuna population is now only 10 percent of the population than it was at in 1960. Just last month, conservation group WWF announced that unless we dramatically curve our overfishing, the entire species may be wiped out in three years.

Of course, the question of whether Japan can give up its sushi is a microcosmic example of the greater rhetorical question that all of us face, regardless of where we live or what we eat.

Can America give up its dependence on foreign oil? Can developed nations give up their out-of-bounds material consumption of stuff? Can we give up our own apathy, our individual indifference to the dire state of our one and only planet?

These questions won’t be rhetorical forever. Sooner or later, we’re all bound to find out.

Originally published in Pacific Citizen May 1, 2009

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