In the terrifyingly big city of downtown LA, it can be hard to find a relaxing place to spend the some time with co-workers or friends, waiting for traffic to die down.
But head on over to Chaya Downtown and you’ll immediately feel at ease in their Japanese Beer Garden. Continue Reading »
ISSUE: Spring 2011
DEPT: Mind and Body
STORY: Anna M. Park
Talk about overachiever. Fitness model Natalie Minh is not only a three-time European Physique champion, she’s a photographer and has an MBA and a master’s in finance. So she knows how hard it is to eat right in a hectic, modern lifestyle. “The most challenging part of keeping to a healthy diet is time,” says the 31-year-old Vietnamese American. “The best weapon we have is better organization and planning ahead.” Here, Minh outlines the top three nutrition failures of busy women today, and how to fix them.
It’s a strange combination: a cross between Chuck E. Cheese and a trendy cafe in Seoul, but it works — for kids and adults alike. Audrey contributor Kristen Chang checks out the Little Prince Cafe in Buena Park, Calif., and enjoys seeing the world through the eyes of a child … a trendy, spa-going child.
About a month ago, my mom handed me a Little Prince flier she picked up at the Korean spa she frequents. We both agreed that it looked absolutely adorable, so we recruited my young cousins to be our excuse to check it out.
Because Audrey Magazine is a small publication, we rely on the kindness of our many artsy friends and interns to contribute their talents to our team. And they’re so cool, they’re off creating other cool stuff when they’re not creating cool stuff for Audrey. Cool, huh? Here are where a few of our contributors are up to in their (limited) spare time.
I like my Thai food greasy, dirty and cheap. (But not my date.) That’s just how authentic Thai food should be. After all, in Thailand, platanas are served with a side of flies (not fries) and hot tom yum soup come in charred metal bowls. Greasy, dirty and cheap but totally mouth-wateringly delicious.
So when I was invited to try a classy little Thai eatery in the middle of the bustling Sunset Boulevard, I was hesitant. Is the food actually going to be… light? Clean? Costly?
Turns out Night + Market at Talesai is a happy medium.
I never have been nor ever will be a tiny Asian girl. I’ve always been a chubby kid — it’s evident in my baby pictures which bear remarkable resemblance to Notorious B.I.G as I sit there big-cheeked, big-thighed, staring into the camera with a scowl (I was probably hungry). It was evident from my pants split at the butt-cracks because I was so booty-licious, no amount of fabric or denim could hold it in.
“I prefer to be in the middle of the action and to actually see the ingredients and touch them. Hand-to-mouth, I think, really just turns me on a lot more.” – Kelly Choi
ISSUE: Winter 2010
STORY: Jimmy Lee
Hot in the Kitchen
In every kitchen she enters, Kelly Choi turns up the heat. She subjects chefs to the glare of the spotlight on shows like Eat Out NY on NYC TV, scrutinizing them as she sautés over a hot stove. And if she can torment world-class culinary artists as host of Bravo TV’s Top Chef Masters, with challenges like preparing a dish using in- gredients from a gas station store, well, she relishes that, too. “It was a riot,” she says with a laugh. “Seeing the expressions on [the chef’s] faces was priceless.”
Yet the angst Choi put her own par- ents through could be considered far worse, especially by those in their peer group: Korean immigrants. For one, there was going to grad school for — gasp — journalism. But before that, when she was around 8, after she and her family had set- tled in Virginia and her parents began running a grocery store, Choi wanted to make “American” meals for her folks. “I didn’t know anything about cooking American food, but I knew that I wanted to quote-unquote cook. So I would open up all these cans of stuff and then heat up beans and get mashed potato flakes,” says Choi. “My parents were like, ‘Uh-uh, we don’t like this American food. We’re going to eat Korean.’”
Her skill with processed meats (“Lots of pork and beans, lots of Spam — best things ever,” laughs Choi) didn’t exactly compel her parents to encourage a culinary education. However, they would end up helping to prepare Choi, who’s also worked as a model and a VJ for MTV Korea, for her meteoric rise in the world of television just by being at the dinner table. There, she had to preside over one of the most notorious of all critics: a Korean father. “My dad was always [telling] my mom what was wrong with the food and what was good,” Choi remembers fondly.
If only her late father could see how far her cooking has come, especially with the techniques she’s picked up spending every workday with chefs. “I can’t get enough of it,” says Choi. “It’s great to be around that sort of energy.”
In fact, for Choi, it can be an occupa- tional hazard. “Now I’m so used to going to the back of the house with the chef that going to restaurants [to just dine] makes me antsy,” she says. “I prefer to be in the middle of the action and to actually see the ingredients and touch them. Hand-to-mouth, I think, really just turns me on a lot more.” — Jimmy Lee
More stories from Audrey Magazine’s Archives here.
I don’t dread Valentine’s Day because it’s the only reason keeping Hallmark in business.
I don’t dread it because it’s another excuse for couples to parade their PDA around.
I don’t dread it because much like New Year’s Eve, this over-hyped holiday is downright boring. Spent either waiting in line for hours for a 9 o’ clock dinner reservation at an overpriced restaurant deemed “romantic” because they’ve dimmed the lights so low you can’t even see what you’re eating or exchanging the same ol’ gifts of chocolate, flowers and baubles. *Yawn.
And I am definitely not dreading it because I will be single on Valentine’s Day this year.
In fact, this is actually the first year where I cherish being single. I’ll admit, in the past, I’ve wanted to shake being single off me like it’s an angry bee but this year, I’ve learned to embrace the freedom that flying solo will entail.
Hence, I’ve concocted a bunch of great stuff for us single gals to do as we celebrate Singles Awareness Day or rather, Galentines!
Watch Obscure Foreign Films
Boys never seem to be good checking out truly great cinema- they always fall asleep or groan about it or what to make out with you through it. I’d check out these sexy South Korean films: Poetry by Lee Chang-dong or The Housemaid by Im Sang-soo by myself.
If you think about it, the person you will have the longest relationship with is…yourself. Why not make time for some self-reflection, journaling goals, ways to improve, memories?
Spend the season of love giving love to those who might not necessarily receive a lot. Volunteer at an elderly home, homeless shelter, non-profit organization. Do it by yourself because when you’re doing it alone, you’re not trying to impress anyone or prove how holy you are. You’re just doing it out of the goodness of your heart.
It’s time to bust out the pans and oven mitts and whip up some delicious sweets. You won’t have to worry about any sneaky muffin thieves who’ll creep into you kitchen while you’re not looking. I’d bake for ALL my loved ones, my mom, dad, sister and friends. Check out Sarah J. Gim’s mouthwatering site Tastespotting for more recipe ideas.
I hate jogging with other people, no offense. I either run too slow and have to overwork my body to catch up (or let down my ego and beg them to slow down) or run slower as I wait for my lagging partner. Jogging by myself gives me time to think and meditate.
Throw a Game Night
Nothing says the more the merrier like game night where people of all types, singles and non-singles, are invited to show off their board game prowess. Just don’t be lame and make it a couples’ night or anything. My favorite games to dominate at–err, I mean, play–include Cranium and Taboo.
Day spas, tea parties, salsa dancing, there’s plenty of ways to celebrate your singledom. Most of us will only be single for a limited time in our lives. Make the most of it!
Time spent with Aarti really is a party. The season six champion of Food Network’s number one series, The Next Food Network Star is full of life; from her cascading waterfall of dark curls to her lyrical British accent. Aarti Sequeira was born in Bombay, India and grew up in her mother’s kitchen. Though her mom’s flavorful Indian spices had always surrounded her childhood, Aarti didn’t try her hand at cooking until she got married and moved to LA. Instead, the TV personality worked as a journalist for many years, producing for CNN in Chicago and New York. After taking some classes at a local cooking school, Aarti knew that she wanted to make food her career. But how to go about it? Aarti decided to combine her love of journalism and food together- creating an online cooking variety show and blog called Aarti Paarti. The show caught Food Network’s attention and the rest is history. Or just starting. After winning the reality show, Aarti’s show Aarti Party premiered on August 22 for six episodes that ran through the end of Sept. to great audience feedback. 13 more episodes for a new season are currently in production. From conjuring up the perfect summer picnic to warming up a cold rainy day, Aarti brushes up classic American dishes with a touch of her Indian heritage. Audrey caught up with the next food network star in Culver City, CA, fresh from shooting her first season.
Audrey: So Aarti, you started as a journalist, what made you switch career paths?
I started working at CNN a week after I graduated from university. I loved working there. There’s so much integrity and intelligence there but when I moved to LA, I really had to hustle for freelance jobs. I realized that I’m not a lazy person but I don’t really have that drive anymore for journalism in that form. A couple of years after I moved here, I worked with a Peabody award winning director on a documentary about Darfur that ended up being bought by HBO. That made me feel like, “okay, this is what I was supposed to be doing.” The same journalistic ideals and we’re going deep, deep, deep into it figuring out what is going on. But right around that time, the economy was starting to tank and no one wanted to make docs about Africa anymore. So that was when I started cooking it became the highlight of my day. It really helped me realized that no matter what was happening in my life, when I was in the kitchen, that was my safe place, that was my quiet place. That’s where I could control things.
Audrey: How did your online cooking show and blog catch the attention of Food Network?
Food Network started doing their casting for The Next Food Network Star and people popped up randomly telling me to audition for this show. I was really hesitant. I didn’t think I had the culinary chops to compete with these people and the challenges that were requiring you to cook in 15 minutes or something. But my husband said to me, “listen, we’re going to make a video, we’re going to send it in and we’re going to see what happens. You have nothing to lose. And so we did and that was it.
Audrey: It seems like your husband is very supportive of you.
My husband has always been my champion. We’ve been together 14 years and he’s always seen so much in me that I don’t see in myself. When I happened upon this cooking show idea, he hopped on it. He’s an actor-director and he understands forging your own way and trying to do what you want to do until someone comes knocking on your door and says, “I like what you’re doing and I want to pay you to do it.”
Audrey: As artists, did you guys ever struggle financially? How did that reflect in your cooking?
Brendan and I have definitely struggled. A year ago, I wasn’t even sure if we could make rent so we’ve really had to make a lot of sacrifices. But it’s been entirely worth it. So that kind of thinking is always going to pop up in my show anyway. Even in the competition, they would give us a budget and I would always spend the least money out of everyone (laughs). Even though I was making these things that were- for lack of a better word-exotic, I always came up really under budget. That’s just the way I cook. With Indian food, at least the kind that I grew up eating, there are so many vegetables, lentils, beans and things in the cuisine- it’s really a budget friendly way of cooking.
Audrey: Speaking of Indian spices. How does your Indian heritage influence your cooking?
I think what I’m trying to do is open the door for Indian cuisine for America. There are people out there who have been championing Indian cuisine for years. What I’m trying to do is take those traditional Indian flavors and wrap them around some classic American dishes so they’re not that intimidating. Here is a whole new way to enjoy Indian spices without overextending yourself. I try to use the spices that you can find at the regular supermarket- tamarack, cumin, and oleander-all those things. I’ve been kind of astonished actually by how many people have run out, bought the spices, come home, made what I made and would upload pictures. I’ve just been floored by that.
Audrey: If you get a season 2, where do you think you will take your food to?
I’m always on my Facebook page. So I post on there, “what do you guys want to learn how to make?” I got 300 comments within a couple of hours and people are asking how to make these really traditional Indian dishes. They weren’t asking for fusion, they were asking me for the authentic stuff. That was so encouraging to me, I was like, okay, after this season, god willing if I get season 2, there’s an appetite out there. People are willing to order the ingredients online. Or they’re willing to hunt them down in Indian stores.
Audrey: Being a cooking show host is partially about the food but partially about the host’s on-camera personality. Have you always been this telegenic?
My husband is an actor and he would take these improv classes. I would go to his shows every week and I was floored that there were so many things about improv that was affecting his personality in a really helpful way. The great thing about improv is that there are so many things you can completely carry over into real life. Focusing on other people more than yourself or just making a decision and trusting your gut. So I took these classes and it really gave me a sense of confidence. It helped me realize I really do have good instincts and I just have to trust them. That helped in being willing to improvise in the kitchen and trusting my palate. It really helped with my personality because it pulled me out of my shell and it made me feel like I was worthy of being heard, I guess.
Judging from the positive reviews the show has been receiving, it would seem like the rest of America feels like she’s worthy of being heard as well.
Check out Aarti Party Sundays at 12PM ET/PT on the Food Network. You can also read more about Aarti at www.aartipaarti.com
You know something’s up when a Korean tells you your kimchi is better than what her mom used to make at home. And when your fried chicken gives Kyochon a run for their money.
Friday, September 3 marked the final night of LudoBites 5.0. The must- have dinner spot for the summer ended its run with a fire-engine red food truck parked outside downtown LA’s Gram & Papa’s, where a line snaked all the way to the side of the block and a packed house filled the insides of the eatery. LudoBites 5.0 is a guerilla restaurant run by chef Ludovic Lefebvre, where he takes over the casual breakfast and lunch spot during dinnertime and transform it into a fine dining affair that is in no way stuffy.
Lefebvre whips up about 16 appetizers, entrees and desserts that range from $4-$34. The cuisine has blends of Asian, French and Californian and has the ability to completely blow your taste buds away. There’s raw waygu beef but it’s combined with cold watermelon. Heirloom tomato salad is topped with mozzarella ice cream. The dishes are paired with wine that you bring yourself (and kept in paper bags because of LA’s drinking laws).
I’m a total foodie but not a food blogger so I left this feat to more capable hands-namely my dinner companions. The only reason why I even scored a spot at this elusive dinner party was because the lovely folks at Fooddigger extended an invitation to Audrey. Fooddigger works like Yelp but has an added bonus of personalizing reviews that fit more in line with your taste buds. Their observances of the food, plus a couple other ones from bloggers Epicuryan and KevinEats will provide you with more insights on my night.
The last night at Ludobites 5.0 was filled with food bloggers and friends and I couldn’t help but notice the abundance all the love that was in the room. Amidst the candle-filled room, people would bounce from table to table, sharing wine, sharing hugs. The essential joy of eating is found here, the ability to enjoy an experience together. These people truly love food. Good food. From the sight to the aroma to the texture. And Ludo definitely gives them good food to enjoy.
“I don’t want to eat this last piece. I just want to put it in my pocket and save it.”
That’s Will, one of the founders of Fooddigger. Will continues to make comments like this throughout the night because Will truly loves food and wine. “I’m going to have a stroke,” another guest comments due to the richness of the dishes we were enjoying. “Yes, but you’re going to die happy.” Will says. Our four hour dinner whizzes by as each dish gets devoured.
Looking around at all the smiling faces around me, I can’t help but agree with him.
Photos thanks to Helen Wong.
Additional pictures from the evening below: