Fine Print

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Look at this picture. Do you see the fine print? I noticed this the other day when I was at Chipotle getting a salad before rehearsal. My immediate reaction was: what DOES it contain? Then I started to think of how many people come through the line and either don’t notice or don’t question that fine print. They just fill up their cups and suck it down, oblivious. If you’ve been a long time follower of this blog, you know I’m a huge proponent of plant based lifestyle – pure, natural, whole foods you get from fields and trees, not boxes and freezers and instant powders. It has worked so well for me and I’m convinced its the real way to live. But even if you don’t buy into this (which is totally fine), surely we can all agree that we need to educate ourselves and really be aware of what we’re putting in our bodies. If you see that the juice you’re about to drink doesn’t have any juice in it, you should be alarmed. Always question the fine print!

Granulated Vice

Granulated Vice

Speaking of coffee, my roommate has a new vice. I don’t think my new culinary profession is to blame, but it probably is entirely to blame. He’s had more than a few Blonde Cubans. It started fairly innocently with his tiny little coffee maker and its tiny little coffee pot. The entire time he’s gushing over how good it feels to be jolted up on coffee and how it’s helping him get through a span of long days and nights of recordings. And honestly, I can’t argue with him. As someone who never used to drink any real coffee, it’s almost alarming how much it effects my internal chemistry. It’s what I would imagine it feels like to snort cocaine – my heart rate rises, I start talking really fast (which, as my parents would tell you, is really saying something), I can practically feel the blood pumping through my veins, and I have the inexplicable desire to stand on a balcony ledge wearing terrible eye liner while listening to 70s rock (Forrest Gump). Once after one of my first lattes, I woke up in the middle of the night, 12 hours post latte, my heart racing, sweating, anxious… Panic attack? Nervous breakdown? Schizophrenic onset? No, just espresso. And then I think of all the people who frequent my shop and/or Starbucks multiple times per day. Those who “can’t function” without it and get headaches when they miss a dose. I never ever want to be one of those people, but now I totally understand how it can get there. Just like any drug, you get used to it. Addicted. You need that fix to keep you going.

My roommate’s innocent little habit quickly turned into 3-4 tiny little coffee pots a day. I kept giving him shit for it, but more just for the sport…. until I noticed my sugar jar. You see, my roommate doesn’t just simply drink black coffee, he drinks his coffee on ice with tons of half and half and spoonfuls of sugar. The jar you see pictured above is my sugar jar, which holds just under two pounds. When the roommate first started he was using the extra sugar in the bag that I couldn’t fit into the jar. After working his way through that, he moved to the jar. As you can see, the jar is now over half empty… and it has been less than a month since he started his vice. When I saw the jar, it really hit me just how much daily habits add up. This half-empty jar indicates over a pound of sugar and untold amounts of cream he wouldn’t have otherwise been ingesting were it not for the coffee. When seen from this perspective, it’s pretty harrowing to consider just how much seemingly small habits add up to enormous quantities and consequences. Not to mention all the havoc the effects of the caffeine and the high acidity are wreaking on his body.

What vices (food or otherwise) do you have in your life? I could name roughly 37 food-related ones, but I’m determined to keep coffee off that list. I’m reserving it only for those days when I *really* need the jolt – no more than once a week. I think I already have a headache…

The Blonde Cuban

Blonde Cuban

So it’s about time I tell you about my new job…. my new job that I’ve had for almost 4 months. Yes, your favorite starving artist has done the cliche starving artist thing and got a night job working as a barista at a local hipster coffee hang known as the Bourgeois Pig. I have to say, I really lucked out. The shop is literally on the same block as my apartment. I walk 20 seconds to the end of my street and I’m at work. I make people coffee, sass them up, get some laughs, and generally have a great time while making some extra cash. I’ve even met a few producers and film makers – hot damn. It really is the perfect job both for my life (bank account) and my personality. And of course, I get hands on experience in a whole new culinary realm.

Funnily enough I’ve never been a big coffee drinker, particularly not espresso (we are exclusively and espresso bar btw). Generally it’s too intense and bitter for me, but I do love things that TASTE like coffee… like ice cream… and ice cream…. It should come as no surprise that a few weeks in I began to experiment with my own concoctions. The single life-changing discovery that I owe to the Pig is the Cuban Coffee – a shot of espresso that is made with cinnamon and raw sugar layered into the actual espresso. It’s divine. But, being the coffee wuss that I am, I needed to make it into a latte to really be able to enjoy it. Thus, my signature drink was born: the Blonde Cuban. It’s an iced double shot Cuban latte with two pumps of vanilla made with almond milk. Refreshing, a little sweet, with that essence of cinnamon running through. Yum. Stop on by and I’ll make you one. More to come I’m sure…

Pay Day Ahi

Ahi Avocado SandwichI know it’s common practice to associate “starving artist” with poverty. And rightfully so – I mean, they call it “starving” for a reason. This is no different for me, though, as you can see in this blog I am never *really* starving. And that’s because much of my life is spent being creatively frugal with what I find. But one of the things I love most about being a starving artist is that, every now and then, all the hard work and struggle pay off. The stars align, the paychecks roll in, and suddenly you find yourself with a bit of extra cash to spend. It’s a wonderful feeling. What’s even more wonderful is when you have enough cash to catch up on your bills and still have a bit left over to treat yourself to some divine cuisine.

July has found me in this very position and true to form, I have wasted no time in making a higher end food investment. Those of you who are loyal readers should be not at all surprised to find that it is seafood. One of my best friends, whether I’m rich or poor, is Costco, and one of the things that I’ve always looked longingly at is their fresh seafood counter. A bargain, yes, but still an initial investment beyond my normal budget… until a few days ago. I made two purchases. A beautiful large whole filet of wild caught sockeye salmon for $35. And a pack of two sizable fresh wild ahi tuna steaks for $20. Honestly, considering the purchase, these prices are a steal. Hefty, but not so much that I’m going to be totally broke and have nothing to do with it. And, what’s better, because there is so much, that means I have lots more to play with. Bargain AND multitasker? The starving artist’s dream.

For this post I’m focusing on the ahi. First, because I saw no point in freezing this gorgeous fish for later use, I decided instead to cook it right away and use it over the next few days in various ways. Cooking ahi is best kept simple – super super high heat, brush with a thin layer of olive oil, sear for two minutes on each side, done. No seasoning  (that comes later), no fuss, nice rare tuna with an even sear layer on all sides. Gorgeous.

Tonight I was inspired to make a sandwich. It turned out to be one of the best things ever created. The key? Simplicity. Above you see the fruits of my labor: seared ahi tuna sandwich with avocado and wasabi spread. Are you freaking out? You should be. Here’s the run down.

  • 2 slices of toasted Ezekiel bread (it’s flourless and low glycemic – try it)
  • 3 slices of ahi, cut against the grain, seasoned with kosher salt
  • sliced avocado, seasoned with kosher salt
  • 4-6 paper thin slices of cucumber (shave it with your vegetable peeler or use a food processor)
  • wasabi spread (1 tbs soy free veganaise, 1 tsp prepared wasabi, few drops soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, mix all ingredients thoroughly)

And that’s all there is, friends. Toast the bread, cover both slices with generous amounts of wasabi spread, layer on the tuna, the avocado, then the cucumber. Simple, elegant, and utterly divine. I won’t lie, I ate two of these, and also gave one to my roommate. It was so good that I felt he needed to experience it. And the best part? I still have another tuna steak!

Dinner in Numbers

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It’s been a really long time since I’ve posted largely because its been a really long time since anything has inspired me to write. Leave it to San Francisco to wake me up and remind me the wonders that a beautiful and bustling urban scene can bring.

Here to visit for a concert, I walked to the theatre from where I’m staying and on the way rediscovered why I love San Fancisco so much. Every block, every corner a collection of charming boutiques, cafes, small businesses, all enclosed with the picture windows and fire-escaped facades that make San Fran so…. well, San Fran.

On the same street as the theatre I encountered a myriad of dining choices, most of which were a bit too spendy for the Starving Artist’s humble wallet. On my walk I stumbled into a little scoop shop called Schulzies, which turns out was not an ice cream shop, but a BREAD PUDDING shop filled with incomprehensible combinations of bread pudding served by the scoop. I of course got the maple bacon bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Simply to die for.

As I scoped out options for some *real* dinner food (while eating my bread pudding) I noticed an annoying trend that I thought was just an LA thing. Two fun restaurants that caught my eye and that were actually in my price range were in fact counter service – dining by number as I like to call it. Order your food at the counter, take a number, and everyone is left to fight for a table. And on this night, with a concert crowd, it was indeed a fight. And not one I was particularly in the mood for.

The first place I really want to eat was The Grove, a local establishment blasting comfort food like pot pie and Mac and cheese. The problem? Dining by number. And absolutely mobbed. So on I went to Arlequin, yet more dining by number, but less mobbed and easier to find a nook to myself. I enjoyed a lovely vegetable wrap with sun dried tomato hummus. Mmmm veggies… by number…

I gotta say, I’m a little concerned that all accessible dining is moving in this direction. We’re sacrificing legitimate table service and for what? My wrap was still $10.50. And the staff is doing just as much work for way less tips. It’s true some of my favorite go to restaurants have counter service…. but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like a choice every now and then.

More soon dear readers.