Category: inspire


Whale Shark Diving in La Paz, Mexico

By Krista,

Holy cow you guys! I conquered my biggest fear — sharks! — when I went swimming with whale sharks in La Paz, Mexico at Playa de la Paz. Yes, I know technically these gentle giants are filter feeders and aren’t a threat to humans, but you try swimming next to a school bus sized fish with a gaping mouth the size of a sedan and tell me you aren’t at least a little bit freaked out. You can check out a video of my experience below. 

If you’ve ever wanted to go whale shark diving, DO IT! La Paz is one of the greatest places to do so. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a ton of time shooting south of the border, specifically in Baja California, this past year, and to me it’s a spectacular place to visit not just for the delicious food and the lovely people, but the WILD biodiversity and adventure opportunities. It’s no wonder Jacques Cousteau loved La Paz so much that he actually filmed two episodes of his show here. That’s the only place he ever did so, in fact. The biodiversity is absolutely unrivaled. And did I mention tacos?!?

The Weekender: 5 Things To Do in Scottsdale

By Krista,

 

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If you know me, you know that I’m a sucker for an undiscovered destination. Unearthing a gem that’s yet to be plastered all over my Instagram feed brings back that real sense of discovery that made me fall in love with travel in the first place.

Yes, everyone loves Palm Springs (guilty as charged!), but I have to admit sometimes it feels a little bit like a small desert enclave of L.A. rather than a getaway. I feel like I always run into someone I know — let’s just say the caftan curation has to be on fleek! — and that doesn’t really allow me to unwind.

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When I first visited Scottsdale, I found all those dreamy desert vibes and quirky style I seek out in PS, plus an added bonus of a truly Southwestern twist. And, a place where I can just relax.

So when I was invited out by the folks at the tourism board to take a ditch day, revisiting some of my favorite spots and exploring some new ones, I jumped at the chance. What I’ll tell you is this: Scottsdale deserves so much more than a single day! I definitely recommend tacking on a day off in addition to your traditional weekend, giving yourself some time to truly enjoy the Sonoran style.

Here’s what to do on your weekender in the desert: … Continue reading

Best Travelers To Follow On Snapchat

By Krista,

You guys! I’m so stoked. Uproxx just named me one of the top travelers to follow on Snapchat. I’ve been totally loving using this medium as a way to share all my culinary adventures around the globe, from farmers market tours to behind-the-scenes looks at some of the world’s hottest hotel properties.

Thanks so much for giving me a follow! And be sure to let me know on Snap what you want to see more of.

A Little Love From The New York Times For My Story On Shilajit, India’s Ultimate Health Drink

By Krista,

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A while back I wrote about an old Indian health drink called shilajit that is regarded by Ayurvedic healers for its restorative properties. This resin pitch is made of humic substance, and it’s very rich in fulvic acid, which is created by the decomposition of plant material. Translation: you’re drinking really old, hardened compost. When the weather warms, the stuff oozes out of the ground — mainly in Himalayan mountains between India and Nepal — to be collected by its believers.

Which is all well and good, but let me tell you, the stuff tastes gnarly.

At The Springs, an adorable multipurpose restaurant, workspace and wellness spa in DTLA, they dilute a brand of shilajit called PurBlack with water and sell it in a 1 oz shot form with a lemon wedge chaser for $4.  I couldn’t resist a taste when I heard the crazy story from one of the bartenders, and ended up writing about my experience sipping on the stuff for a story headlined “L.A’s Latest Bizarre Health Drink Tastes A Lot Like Bong Water.”

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Apparently the ridiculous recounting grabbed the attention of NYT writer Brooks Barnes, who did a bang-up job of making me chuckle in his story about The Springs, which you can check out here. I can’t blame him for poking fun of L.A. in this story. I mean, much as I am obsessed with the design of The Springs, the place offers everything a caricature of a health crazed Angeleno would need: yoga, food, juice, music, and colonics, all under one roof.

So, tell me, have you tried shilajit? What’s the strangest thing you’ve done for the sake of health?

 

Cool Cooking Classes Around The World For Every Kind of Food Geek

By Krista,

Photo by Felicia Freisma

That’s me in culinary school circa 2010 (Photo courtesy of Felicia Friesema)

Ever since I was a wee one, I’ve been totally intrigued with the concept of cooking. Perhaps I was watching too much PBS TV for someone that young, or maybe it was just the fact that my mom used to have me help her make dinner every night perched on a step stool so I could reach the stove. Whatever it was, culinary school was always one of those things I was compelled to do. So my senior year of college at UC Santa Cruz, I started looking into it.

And man, was it expensive.

The idea of going into debt immediately after getting my degree was off-putting, so I held off and waited for (what seemed like) a logical time to go to culinary school: when I had a full time job working as an editor for an alt weekly at the LA Times. (Can you sense the snark here? Well, you should.) Let me tell you, it was NOT easy. I know plenty of people out there do night school, and my hats go off, because it was exhausting. Being elbow deep in dishes at 11 p.m. and getting snapped at by a French chef is not exactly my idea of fun after a full day’s work, but I learned a lot. And I always want to keep learning.

That’s one of the reasons I love traveling. Every time I hit the road, I try to glean some sort of inspiration from the cooks I encounter. Whether it’s watching someone grill street meat in Southeast Asia or shuck oysters in Baja, there are tons of techniques to be learned. And even better if I can take some classes along the way.

Which is what brought me to this cool little round-up for Departures. There are so many great cooking class options for travelers these days, especially on-site at properties. I’ve picked out a few for every type of learner — from aspiring homesteaders to competitive cooks. You can read all about it here. 

And remember: Stay hungry. Stay foolish. And never, ever stop learning.

Wishing You A Very Homespun Holiday

By Krista,

This year I got really into the DIY holiday spirit and decked my apartment out with all sorts of homespun elements. Thankfully I was able to elicit the help of my favorite elves, Michael and Bento. All of these little projects were super simple to execute, meaning you still have time to add them into your repertoire before Christmas.

Here’s what we came up with.

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To save on paper, we wrapped our gifts using scrap fabric from Mood and recycled brown bags paired with some great ribbon from both Pulp Paper Goods and Mood. The gift tags are from one of my favorite local graphic designers Emily McDowell, who I wrote about here.

 

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I blinged out these pomegranates and pinecones with some of Krylon’s new chrome and glitter spray paints. You can read how I did that project here. I’ve also collected some seasonal release craft beer coasters over the years to pull out this time of year. Lord konws I love a good freebie, especially if it involves gnomes.

 

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We made traditional German hexenhouse, or A-Frames, using a cool kit imported from Germany by Trader Joe’s. They were a steal at $7.99 each, and are insanely aromatic even weeks later. They were super simple to assemble and taste pretty darn great, too.

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For my cookie platter this year, I used a few of my favorite recipes. First I started with my riff on James Beard’s bourbon spiced persimmon bread. I also used Martha Stewart’s technique for making swirled bark, but added stick pretzels, craisins, and macadamia nuts from Michael’s grandfather’s tree. I used the leftover white chocolate to do a white chocolate cranberry bark for a bit of color variation to the plate. I also did some white chocolate oatmeal cookies studded with pomegranate arils for a hit of tartness. Finally I whipped up a batch of Giada’s lemon ricotta cookies with a lemon zest glaze, which I discovered at the opening party of her new restaurant out in Vegas. They remind me of lemon bars, which are some of my favorite desserts, plus they add a bright hit of acid, which you rarely get on sweets during the holidays.

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I made this tablescape using mismatched cocktail glasses and those blinged-out natural pieces I mentioned earlier. If you glazed over that one, don’t worry about it. You can read how I did it here.
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I picked up this longhorn steer head from an artisan selling them on the side of the road in the hill country outside Austin. Michael disassembled the polished horns from the skull on the side of the road so we could pack it as checked luggage. Crafty guy! I then took these old poinsettia candleholders and slipped them on the horns for a festive flare. A little more exciting than the typical Santa hat skull, I reckon.

 

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A big selling point of my teensy apartment was the faux fireplace and mantle with Spanish tiling — so much so that it made me overlook the miniature kitchen. I loved decking it out for the holidays with all my homespun accents.

 

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The vintage bar cart makes a cameo next to the tree. This year I made a tree skirt out of an old Brazilian coffee jute sack that the folks at Blue Bottle DTLA so kindly donated to my cause. All I did was cut the seam to turn it into one large piece of fabric. I paired the rustic jute sack with a checkered tablecloth to match with my Soutwestern/Texas theme. (You can see more of the jute material in the photograph  of the wrapped presentes up at the top.)

 

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Now that we’re all decorated, I can enjoy what the holidays are truly about: spending time with your loved ones, in this case my two favorite guys: Michael and Bento.

We wish you all the merriest Christmas and a deliciously inspired New Year!

Turn Pomegranates Into A Festive, Affordable DIY Holiday Centerpiece

By Krista,

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Remember good ol’ Sandra Lee? Much as I despise her packaged, cookie cutter approach to cooking, that lush was on to something. And I’m not just talking about her affinity for cocktails, though we do have that in common. What I dug about that batty old blonde was her emphasis on tablescaping.

Though she might have gone a bit too over-the-top for many of her themed episodes  — her offensive mess of a Kwanzaa cake makes me laugh to this day — there is plenty of merit to having a statement centerpiece with elements that visually guide you to it, especially during the holiday season.

For my tablescaping, I’m all about mixing colors, textures, and heights of organic materials to make to achieve a unique homespun look. I did two centerpieces for the winter holiday season: one for my steamer trunk coffee table (above) and another for my dining room table. Both of them use pomegranates, which I gave a special sheen by spraying with Krylon’s new Glitter Blast spray paint in Cherry. It leaves a sheer glittery sheen that reminds me of Dorothy’s slippers.

I also chromed out some pinecones in silver using Krylon’s Premium Metalic spray paints, and did a hammered bronze look for a handful of other pinecones. So you have glitter, chrome, and hammered all with a pretty evergreen trimmings that not only look great and add an organic pop, but also smell fantastic. I arranged them in a wire nesting bowl that my mom gave me for my birthday a few years back; no need to buy an entire new collection for the holidays. Use what you have and save that money for holiday shopping. (Have you seen my gift guide, BTW? If not, you can check it out here.)

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For my dining room arrangement, I used a mirrored serving tray from Cost Plus that I’d been eyeing for the past few months as the base, then arranged varying colors of candles on top of mismatched cocktail glasses flipped upside down.

This cocktail glass candleholder trick is a great way to utilize mismatched glassware, because let’s be honest, there are times when things break, especially when there’s booze involved. The great thing is it creates varying heights, which is super important in creating a centerpiece and creating visual interest.

I interspersed those candles with more evergreen (noble fir, in case you’re curious, is my favorite type of tree), blinged out pomegranates, and chrome and hammered copper pinecones.

Since my dining room table table is teensy — as is my dining room — instead of placing the arrangement on a runner, I used a large Oaxacan wool placemat as the base. But you can use whatever you like: placemats, a festive charger, seconds from a fabric store, or even some used fabrics from Goodwill.

Again, use what you’ve got and if you’re lucky, you’ll have some cash leftover to get yourself something this holiday too. Because let’s be real, you’ve been a good kid this year.

 

What Is The Future Of Food?

By Krista,

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To mark the relaunch of their site, Eater asked food and beverage industry leaders how they want to change the world through food. As you can imagine, there were some pretty ambitious answers, including my own. 

Personally, I find it really frustrating that fresh food, like the gorgeous Cobb from Tavern pictured above, costs an arm and a leg. I really do hope that there’s a time that everyone has access to fresh, healthful food. And here’s how I think it could happen, as I put it to Eater:

I feel that the future of food is in independence, education, and equity. I would rip out all of the life-sucking lawns and golf courses, then seed bomb the heck out of them, especially the giant patches of useless grass in front of official public buildings. City hall and courthouse facades would be covered with Woolly Pockets. Sidewalks and street medians would be a place for fruit trees and vining veg. All of that food would be grown and maintained by the public – empowered by master gardeners and community educators – providing good, clean, fair produce for everyone. Then I’d covert swimming pools into fully sustainable ecosystems, complete with tilapia ponds and chicken coops. Sayonara, draught. Adios, food deserts. Say hello to the food system of the future!

Sure, some of these ideas might sound a little jovial our outlandish. But then again, if you told me 10 years ago that people would be devouring brussels sprouts with wild abandon or that we’d be growing meat in test tubes, I would have said the same thing.

I also can’t help but feel a tidbit guilty considering how much of an environmental impact all of my galavanting around the world has on the planet. I love exploring ingredients and inspiring people to travel through food, but there’s always a little voice inside of me that wants to scream every time I waslk by a hotel cart full of those baby plastic shampoo bottles, or use disposable cutlery at a street stall that doesn’t recycle. And let’s not even talk about the airplanes. Hooey!

There is, of course, the upside of cultural understanding and exchange, and the fact that tourism can be a good thing for developing countries if it’s done sustainably. But still, it’s something I wrestle with. I guess all I can do is try my best to live as consciously as I can, both when I’m at home and when I’m on the road.

So, little dreamers, how would you change the world through food?

Raise A Glass To Rhubarb With This End-Of-Summer Sipper

By Krista,

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Photo by Michael Kretovics

Some consider Labor Day to be the end of the summer, but here in L.A. it feels like the season is still going strong. Like, really, really strong. Blazing in fact. This weekend I found myself sweltering in my apartment with no sign of reprieve (or central air), so I decided to do what any logical person would do: make myself a cool, refreshing cocktail that sings of the summer and reminds me why we wait so anxiously for this season in the first place.

Perusing my bar cart, my eyes fixed on the gorgeous bottle of Art in the Age Rhubarb that arrived on my doorstep a few weeks ago, but I’d yet to try. (Yes, I can exhibit self-restraint. Sometimes.) I popped the cap, took a whiff, and was immediately enveloped by the tart, welcoming aroma of ripe strawberry rhubarb pie. The tipple itself wasn’t at all as sweet as it smelled. It was really nicely balanced, likely because the distillers build it like a traditional colonial era rhubarb tea, blending cane sugar, beets, lemon, cardamom, pink peppercorns, rhubarb, and more. (You can watch a video on the history of this Pennsylvania-based spirit below.)

Working with those base flavors, I figured Barkeep’s local fennel bitters and the Italian blood orange soda I’d been sipping on earlier would be a natural pairing. I had picked up some fresh mint from the Silverlake market in the morning, and added that for zip and freshness too. To keep things spirits-forward (and to help me forget about my stickiness) I used Silversun’s vibrant Hedge Trimmer gin, which uses watermelon rind and citrus peels in their botanical mix.

The end result was quite a treat. This drink would be the perfect addition to your long weekend festivities too, if pre-batched and placed in a pitcher for friends. So, take this as my gift for the long Labor Day weekend. May your last few days of summer be as lovely and pleasant and cooling as this delightful cocktail. And if you have central air, even better.

 

Ingredients:

2 oz Art in the Age Rhubarb spirits

2 oz Sun Liquor Hedge Trimmer gin

1 oz Trader Joe’s blood orange soda

4 shakes Barkeep Fennel bitters

2 sprigs fresh mint

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Method:

Slap the mint between your hands a few times, then add to the bottom of a boston shaker. Add about 5 cubes of ice, rhubarb, gin, bitters and blood orange soda. Stir for about 15 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a sprig of mint.

 

The Story of Art in the Age RHUBARB Tea from Art In The Age on Vimeo.